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 "Well, that's good because only with brothers like them, can you protect yourself from cunning foxes like Hendrickson. There have been times when I saw your father marching into a deadzone and it was only Sir Julian's support which made it possible for him to return alive. Anyway, Sir Julian was never supportive of Hendrickson's plans and strategy and often questioned it afterwards, often in my room with your father, and frankly speaking, it was clear as day that Hendrickson was trying to kill your father by giving him those kinds of missions. One mission directed your father to take the frontlines and to charge at the Caliph's forces, nearly killing him there. Now, I don't think that you would believe every words of mine, but I will warn you for one last time, do not trust Hendrickson. And... there's another thing... which I think might be the cause of all of these troubles..."

Felix joked, "Something more dangerous than Sir Hendrickson?"

"Quite so," replied Princess Yasmina. "Have you seen the Fabled Crown?"

Almost immediately, Felix's smile disappeared. He frowned deeply, but didn't say anything. She understood it immediately that he had seen it. She sighed deeply.

"So, you've seen it..."

"How do you know?" Felix asked with a stern tone, quite skeptical, but it was actually quite 'open' to others given his expression.

"And first of all, how do you know about it? I've heard that it was given to my father by the King of Sindhu and not Yasmin."

She sighed again and closed her eyes. After a moment, she opened her eyes and said in a strong tone,

"Listen carefully, because I'm not going to repeat it again. That Fabled Crown, which was gifted by the current King of Sindhu is a cursed object. I can't speak much of it, but please believe it. We, of the Yasmin kingdom was gifted those jewels and ivory by a certain adventurer who has visited the Fabled Lands of The Origins and had ... kind of forced us to make it into a crown. The adventurer was a strange and eccentric person and told us that the crown will be cursed, even before we made it.

My grandfather was the ruler of the principality then and was a healthy man and a religious man. He believed that The One would protect him and so he gathered the finest jewelers and engravers to make the best crown he could. And as you can see it, that's the result. But, right after the crown was made, strange things started to happen. The engravers who made it all died of a mysterious disease, the jewelers all went insane and an extreme greed of money and jewels birthed in them. These strange sightings were reported to the Sultan, but it was already late. My grandfather had already fell in love with the crown and never seemed to be able to remove it and it wasn't only him. It went same for the people around him, the generals, the advisors even the petty soldiers, all of them stay cooped in the courtroom for days, even weeks to gaze at the crown in admiration. There have been times, when servants were needed to feed the ministers personally. The occurrence had frightened my father, the Crown Prince extremely that he started planning ways to get rid of the crown. And the most strange thing about this crown is that it chooses it's victims, like a living person.

Finally, after a series of fake mishaps and incidents, the court was finally able to dismiss itself, but right after that, my grandfather turned insane. He stayed like that for 3 decades, but suddenly, he was killed mysteriously, just like those engravers the previous night of Sindhu army's siege. My father; the new Sultan was right away put incharge of the battle and saw the Sindhu army as an opportunity to get rid of the crown.

The Yasmin army was quite powerful then, but my father intentionally issued some foolish and tactless commands, which led to Yasmin's eventual defeat. As a mean of surrender, my father used the Fabled Crown as a bargain and quite amazingly, the Sindhu King withdrew his army. He had also been charmed by the Fabled Crown.

The generals criticized the King tremendously but he silenced them all. Later, words came that the kingdom of Sindhu was hit by a terrible plague and it was then, the Warlord of Garbu, Gazel was ordered by the Caliph to attack the Catholic empires, capture the Jasper Pass and thus, start the 36th Mucadas Antiqam or Holy Revenge.

But the strings of fate are so strange. Who would've expected that the person who defeated Sindhu and was rewarded the Fabled Crown would also defeat Yasmin. But alas, your father wasn't ... anyway, that's the basic story of the Fabled Crown. A very dangerous object, which is cursed yet people try to posses it. We, of the Heathens also believed in demons and presumed that the crown was haunted by a genie, but the ... curse was anything we've seen. We tried to hide it as much as possible, but now, it has been seen by the world and I presume, a war for this single crown isn't too far away."

Felix listened to the story calmly and quite seriously, firstly because the story was very unbelievable and secondly, because there are instances in the story which seems so cliché. He folded his arms and asked, quite logically, "Well, then if you've seen it, why aren't you affected by greed? As you say that it's been 3 decades since it was made, I wonder why you haven't fallen like the others?"

"Because the crown chooses it's victims. It has some kind of ... sentience within it, just like a demon or a genie and it chooses his victims. I don't know what is its true criteria to choose its victims, but I do know for sure that it has a special attraction for 'court-people.' I don't know whether it's just the entire court or whether it's people with power, but I've even seen useless court servants, falling into its curse almost instantly. There've been many patterns I've figured about its victim but I'm neither going to discuss about it nor am I tell you what it is. As for me, frankly I don't know why I'm not a victim and that goes for my father too. Other than the two of us, all the rest of the Royal family fell into its curse and died miserably."

"Oh! That's quite sad, but how is telling me all these, going to benefit both you and me?" asked Felix with a prospective merchant-like view.

"As for benefiting me, there are none. I'm only trying to prevent a massacre from happening again and perhaps a war. As for benefitting you, there are many. One of which is that, you might be able to save your mother."

"!!" the moment his mother was mentioned in the conversation, Felix was again alerted. He clutched his Greatsword and asked with a stern tone, "...What do you mean?"

"I mean what I say. I'm pretty sure that your mother has fallen into the crown's clutches. The hesitation on today's ceremony is a clear proof of it. It may not seem like that to you, but to me, it's as clear as day that your mother has been ensnared. I've also seen you staring at the crown and frankly, I don't know how you're able to talk to me so calmly about the crown, but I did try to talk about it with your mother once and she ... she was clearly a victim. All I can say is that, please take care of your mother and try to persuade her away from the crown as much as possible."

Her words threw Felix's heart deeper and deeper into the Abyss. He certainly remembers the first feeling he got when he looked at the crown and the least, he could say about it is that the crown is cursed. He agrees with it completely and this is what throws him into a dilemma.

Should he trust this foreign woman who has come into his life all of a sudden after his father's death?

Or should he believe in his mother's iron will and dump all these talks about curses into water?

He was thinking hard when Princess Yasmina bowed slightly and said, "It is getting late, Felix. Now, I must return to my quarters or your mother would worry. But before that, I've got to at least thank you for all the care that you and your mother has shown to us, Heathens."

"Uh... but I didn't do anything." Felix said awkwardly, because he really didn't do anything. From morning to night, he has been either practicing with Aslak or pondering silently on the fickle matter of death and life. He has not even asked for their names or talked to them once. He only got to know about their names because he sent Aslak to gather information because he was shy. So, on the point of hospitality, he sure didn't treat them quite right.

Princess Yasmina smiled and replied, "It's not the fact that you didn't do anything. It's the fact that you didn't reject us, as Heathens, you treated us fairly and your mother... she is a nice woman. She not only cared about us, but also about our servants, who are really just some petty girls of 15s, whom we wanted to save from their miserable fates and of our unborn child. I'm really happy that ... that my unborn child wasn't killed in my belly during the entire war and ... and that's all thanks to your father. Therefore, as a mother, I'm really thankful to you and your family."

All of a sudden, her beautiful face turned melancholy and she touched her belly gently. A loving smile blossomed on her face, as she caressed her belly. She then again faced Felix and said gently, "Thank you for accepting us. I hope that you will be able to call the child born from me and my sister Aarti, as your brother or sister, with pride."

"..."

Felix chose not to answer the question, but Princess Yasmina didn't mind it. She bowed down and left the courtyard silently. Sir Celyn stared at Felix for a few second and said, "Vesuvius mountains in north-western frontier of Lugrade Empire. If you ever find yourself homeless, do give a visit. Later."

Saying that, he also turned and walked into the darkness, leaving Felix alone. Felix wasn't sure that the last statement was an invitation or not, but it did seem like one. At least an informal one, even though it was quite a harsh one.

"Sigh..." Felix sighed and returned back to his seat. He sat down and picked up his helm which he has dropped and stared at it for a moment. He then looked up and stared at the moonless night and at the countless stars glittering around. The fire of the big torch was dimming, making the stars more visible and brighter. He smiled faintly and muttered, "Will I be able to call my father's own child, his own blood, my brother and sister, proudly?"

He asked the question to the firmament, quite vainly but like a miracle, a shooting star streaked through the sky. Shooting stars like these weren't quite uncommon, but for some reason Felix felt like he knew the answer of his question.

"What does pride have to do with family. No matter who is born into this world in my household, he or she will always be my brother or sister, regardless of color, race, ethnicity or caste. Regardless of anything, that person would be my siblings. Sigh... why did I need to think about it so much..."

Saying that, Felix wore his armet, closed its visor and in the complete darkness of his helm, he closed his eyes to sleep, unaware that he was still outside in the courtyard. And the result-

...

"Achoo!!!"

"That's what you get for sleeping outside in a tinsuit. What a numbskull you are, Felix!!"

"Oh! Shut up!! Sniff! First and foremost, why didn't you wake me up and secondly, why didn't you carry me?!"

"Who would in their right minds carry you in ... that tinsuit of yours?"

"A*SSHOLE!!"

...

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