Sorry for the delay on this chapter, it is mainly because of two reaons.

1) Though I was recently hospitalized for gallblader surgery it was only a minor inconvenience, the main problem is: 

2) After the family of 4 made it to the captial, I treated it as the end of the prelude. Now that they are in the capital I want to get the ball rolling a bit more.

I've written about 10 chapters over and over again but didn't like the feel of the direction. Even as I currently write this message, I'm still trying to figure out how the first arc is going to conclude. I have a concrete idea but the implementation is what is slowing me down.

Again, I'd like to remind those reading that I am only writing this story because I enjoy the process and will not stress myself by trying to "Push X chapters per Y time".

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Chapter 25

Gaius looked around the harbor district and found its size incredible. “Those cranes are even bigger than the ones in Bant!” he spoke aloud thinking it a whisper. 

Duncan smiled and tussled his hair as they moved through the crowded district. 

“Why is this place so much bigger than the other two cities we’ve been at?” Gen asked.

“Well, do you see those buildings over there?” Tulia responded as she pointed to several large fortified structures, “those are military barracks. Security here on the island is very important, so almost every normal facility you see also has some form of protection, which takes up more space. Take that building for example, in a normal harbor district that would be a small restaurant. But here, you can see the fortified walls, turrets, and murder holes that enclose that area, protecting the restaurant and other nearby buildings from an attack.”

“This is nothing boys, wait until you see the castle,” Duncan said off to the side. 

“Do you think we’ll be able to see the inside?” Gaius and Gen asked at the same time.

“I’m sure the royal family will set something up for you all,” a voice suddenly spoke nearby.

The power of the soft cold aura radiated around Gaius but by the time he noticed it the man speaking was very close. This startled Gaius as much as it did Tulia as she had been on alert since they docked. 

“Ah, very sneaky,” Tulia said as she let out a sigh of defeat.

“What is that? My 112 to your 110?” the voice continued to speak as he stepped in front of the family of four.

“Grr, something like that,” Tulia grumbled as she embraced the man before her. The man unveiled his hood and looked at Tulia and her family with a warm gaze and smile. 

“Boys, I’d like you to meet your uncle—my brother Viktor,” Tulia said warmly. 

Gaius and Gen stared in surprise at the short tanned bald man before them, his goofy smile taking up his whole face.

“It is such a pleasure to finally meet my two nephews. Come, give your uncle a hug!” the man said joyfully as he approached the two with open arms. Gaius and Gen slowly backed away as they saw his crazed bulging eyes and wide grin coming towards them. 

“Stop it, you’re scaring them,” Tulia reprimanded.

Confused at his sister’s remark, Viktor looked towards the boys and finally noticed their cautious expression, “Ah, forgive me. I was carried away. Haha,” he said as he turned to Duncan. “It’s been a while brother-in-law! The last time I saw you, you were taking my sister away to be married far far away.” They shook hands but before they released their grips, they began to squeeze tighter and tighter, neither of them relenting. 

Gaius and Gen noticed their father and uncle struggling in some contest and found it amusing. Sweat began to form on their faces as it slowly trickled down. 

“Okay, enough you two. Why is it that the two boys are better behaved than you two? Don’t you two find it embarrassing?” Tulia said mockingly. 

“All right, come! The rest of the family is dying to meet you all,” Viktor said with great enthusiasm. 

“All of the family?” Tulia asked with a hint of iciness. 

“Just my kids. No need to worry, I sent mom and dad out of the country on an errand,” Viktor reassured his sister. 

“Err, just mom would have been fine,” Tulia said under her breath. 

“Well, you know how they are. Never one without the other,” Viktor just smiled as he walked with the family of four. 

“So mister, where do you live? Are we going to stay with you?” Gen asked.

“Oh? Your mother hasn’t told you?” Viktor curiously looked over at his sister and smiled, “well, my family and I live here on the island, and you all are welcome to live with me on the condition that you call me Uncle Viktor.”

Gaius eyed the joyful man before him with scrutiny, “I apologize for my brashness, but uncle seems too familiar a word to address someone I just met.”

“Oh ho, a bit distrusting aren’t we. Good, I like it. I just hope to earn your trust one day my nephew,” Viktor said with a warm smile. The five of them continued to slowly make their way towards the center of the island while Viktor was making small talk. 

Somewhere within the castle island.

“What do you think his big secret is?” a high-pitched childish voiced asked.

“I don’t know, keep quiet and we’ll find out soon enough,” another childish voice responded. “There, I see him. Why is he wearing such raggedy clothes?”

“Who cares, just don’t lose sight of him.”

“Ah! Where did he go? Argh,” a sigh escaped.

“Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Can’t even follow an old man around!?” the second voice chided as he slapped and kicked the first voice.

“So what now? Do you want to look for him?”

“There’s no way you can find him if you can’t even keep track of him. Let’s just go back home.”

As the two little boys made their way up the steps a shrill voice echoed throughout the halls. “Brady! Dante! Where have you two been? You two need to be presentable before His Majesty gets back. Come hurry and don’t tarry.”

Bray and Dante follow their housemaid to their rooms to be made presentable, and along the way Bray asked his brother, “So what do you think he’s doing? Do you think he went to get us a present for our birthday?”

“That has to be it, why else does he sneak around with a secret when our birthday is next week. He’s so obvious. The real mystery is what he got us for a present,” Dante asked seriously.

“You think the present this year will be better than last year’s?” Dante asked his brother.

“No way. We had our Awakening party last year so the two swords we got are extra special. To be honest, I somehow don’t think he’s hiding a birthday present from us,” Bray thought aloud.

The housemaid chuckled as she listened to the two boys chatter. 

“Ah! Do you know the secret?!” they both shouted.

Down the hall two girls were sitting within a room, one reading a book while the other polishing a sword.

“There go the boys again. What do you think they’re excited about this time?”

“Hmm? Did you say something Tali?” a girl asked while putting down her book.

“I asked what you think the boys are excited about this time to cause such a ruckus,” Tali reiterated.

“Well, their birthday is around the corner. Maybe they found out where we hid their presents?”

“No way! I hid mine very well this year. There’s no way they could find it, you probably won’t be able to either,” Tali said smugly. 

“Oh? Is that a bet?”

Tali’s expression immediately brightened as she thought of a fun game. “Hmm, how about this. We each search for the boys’ presents, and whoever finds the other’s first wins. Kay?” Tali said with a grin. 

“Sure, I’ll even give you a head start. I’ll move after I finish this book.”

“UGH! I don’t need a handicap Nyah! But don’t cry that it was unfair when I beat you!”

Nyah sat with a slight grin as she continued reading her book. Tali tied her sword around its familiar place at her waist before she started. Tali began by slowly walking through the current room while emitting a soft pulse of her Aspect—trying to detect any falsehoods. 

Nyah sat quietly reading her book with a furrowed brow. When the soft Aspect of Light pulsed nearby it caused her a bit of discomfort as it slowly dispersed her own Aspect of Darkness she kept around herself. Though she was earnestly reading her novel, that didn’t mean that she also couldn’t search for the boys’ presents. As she sat there concentrating on repelling the pulses of light, every shadow within the room started to erupt with slender tendrils. These tendrils began to slither around the room. When the occasional pulse of light collided with the tendrils, they began to negate each other—the tendrils would disappear while the pulse of light grew dim. 

Nyah began to resist the prickly pulses of light while Tali began to resist the feeling of fear and danger lurking within the room. They suddenly eyed each other and Tali said, “I thought you weren’t going to start until you finished your book?”

“I said I wouldn’t move until I finished my book, doesn’t mean I can’t do two things at once,” Nyah coldly replied. 

A bit of silence passed between the two as they continued to stare at each other, and then all of a sudden Nyah jumped to her feet and bolted to the door. Tali reacted just as quickly and beat her sister to the exit. With the two of them staring at an empty hallway and then back at each other, they split up and began their search in earnest. 

At the entrance of the castle.

“All right, here we are at last,” Viktor said with a wide grin.

“Do you work here Uncle?” Gen asked innocently.

Gaius’s furrowed his brow in concentration. His early mistrust of this stranger gave him a perspective which allowed him to question his origin. “This isn’t right. Viktor is too strong to be an ordinary staff member of the castle. There’s something not right, something I’m missing,” Gaius thought to himself. 

“Ho ho, work here? Don’t be silly. I live here,” Viktor said with an even wider grin. 

“Live here? Like the cook?” Gen asked confused.

“Live here?” Gaius thought, “only the royal family ‘lives here’. . .” and then that’s when the missing piece fell into place. “If he’s part of the royal family somehow, then he must have bodyguards, they should have been following him since we’ve met.” Gaius conjectured and after a bit of thought he decided to test his theory. While the five of them began their ascent, Gaius slowed down his movements to a crawl and eventual standstill with eyes shut. He reached his senses out as far as he could with as much control as he could. He could feel and see the faint auras that reside within everyone, though 12 of these auras were bright and lustrous. 

Gaius concentrated on these 12 auras, the other hundreds of nearby auras disappeared from his mind’s eye. He saw that these 12 were equidistant away from each other while he was at the center. “Guards,” he whispered. His mind began to race as he slowly began to accept the stranger in front of him as someone important.

“Gaius? You okay?” Duncan asked as he noticed his absent son. The question caused the rest of the party to turn around and look at Gaius.

“Who are you truly?” Gaius asked as he stared at Viktor with seriousness. 

“I did not realize that I have lied to you, I am your Uncle Viktor,” he replied.

“You are royalty, but I do not know why you would keep that from us,” Gaius claimed.

“Oh ho, royalty eh? What makes you say that?” Viktor asked with a smile.

“You claim to live here, which seems true as you were not stopped nor questioned at the gate. Secondly, if you were a cook, I doubt the guards would allow you to bring guests. Lastly, only the royal family would need bodyguards, though 12 seems excessive especially considering this is your home,” Gaius narrated to the surprise of everyone present.

“So, I ask again. Why hide your identity?”

Viktor smiled and turned to Tulia.

Suddenly, Tulia narrated, “I forfeited my royal name a long time ago, and your uncle here wishes to honor my decision by keeping things informal between family members, which is why he met us at the docks. He also agreed to hold a small intimate family meal for all of us to get to know each other, instead of the banquet that is required for noble guests.”

Gen’s expression erupted, “Noble guests? We’re royalty? Wait, does that mean you’re a princess, mom?”

A soft chuckle escaped her as she replied, “I was in another life.”

Gaius looked at his mother and noticed her calmness as she finally unveiled a bit of her past with them, though behind that calmness was a torrent of anger that Gaius and Gen did not see.

“Remarkable,” Viktor said, “how were you able to discern my bodyguards? Guess there’s no need to hide their presence anymore.”

Gaius stayed silent as he eyed this strange man that was slowly becoming his uncle. “Mom was a princess? Of Alir? Why has she never spoken about it?”

With the bodyguards out of hiding they all seemed to regard the boy that could spot them with some interest. But what surprised Gaius the most was a 13th man approaching the king. Gaius stared as a seemingly-old man with black and white hair took his place besides his uncle.

Gaius concentrated with all of his might on the old man but could not find any trace of an aura at all. The old man made Gaius feel like he was missing one of his senses—his aura sight, and it was only now that he realized how heavily he relied upon it. Gaius could physically see the old man, yet was not able to sense him like he could everyone else when he shut his eyes. 

The old man studied Gaius for a bit before he whispered something into Viktor’s ears. “What?! Truly?” he shouted.

The old man nodded.

Viktor stared at his sister while rubbing his black gemstone-studded ring. Gaius noticed that the ring radiated with a black aura for a moment before it stopped, then he noticed that a similar ring around his mother’s finger radiated with a white aura for an instant. A light but perceptible nod could be seen as Tulia affirmed Viktor’s telepathic question. 

“Wonderful! Let’s all get settled in first before we take care of business first then, shall we?” Viktor said with newfound joy and excitement, “Gaius. Gen. You two need to meet your cousins.”