Nathan Felix was the first and only son descending from the Felixes, a middle-class family who had long dedicated their lives to commerce, serving as merchants who provided goods and services to towns and cities all over the Kingdom, often donating to underdeveloped towns with little money of their own. The young boy had his parent’s same desire to do good, although he lacked the skill of trade needed to follow in their footsteps. However, he would find another way to serve.
His earliest memories were of traveling around the country, with no defined place to settle down and call home. To help the young boy cope with this sense of not having one, his parents gave him books of tales about heroic knight-errants. While these men also had no place to call home, they ventured far and wide, saving damsels in distress and slaying monsters that threatened the peace. Almost immediately, Nathan was captivated by their stories. Yearning to be a hero like them, he firmly decided to train as a swordsman so that when he came of age at fifteen years old, when he was allowed to enlist in the Kingdom’s army of knights, he would be ready.
Faced by the determination and desire to do good that they bestowed upon their son, Nathan’s parents eventually allowed the boy to go down that very path at thirteen years old. With nothing but a sword that gathered dust amongst his parent’s wares, and the will to strive for a fantasy most boys his age would’ve given up on, the boy left his “home”.
For the next two years, Nathan spent almost every hour of the day swinging his sword, devoting himself to achieving his thoughtless dream. During that time, he registered as an adventurer, which allowed him to take on quests such as monster-slaying to apply his skills. Though the child-sized goblins and flimsy kobolds were not on the level of dragons and evil wizards, Nathan liked to think that his idols had also started out small like him. He not only gained strength, but also discovered within him an aptitude of the mysterious arts called magic. The newfound magic-user could only cast a few spells, but each carried exceptional strength. As an adventurer, he was reckless. Impatient. The kind who would charge straight into battle, regardless of the enemy he was facing. His over-adventurous attitude did not go unnoticed, and by the time he was fifteen, Nathan was known by a different name bestowed upon him by other adventurers.
“Impulsus...” That was the name whispered amongst several of the knight candidates, when they noticed the adventurer standing amongst them. At long last, the dream he had for so long was finally within his grasp. But to actually grab it would mean to be among the best of all who were gathered here. The selection of knights took place as a tournament of sorts. All the candidates were separated into five blocks, and the thirty-two candidates in each block were pitted against each other one-on-one in a single-elimination tournament. The final two from each block were chosen to undergo training and officially become knights. Most candidates in Nathan’s block were nervous. However, the boy’s heart was beating wildly in anticipation and excitement, but it almost stopped beating altogether when, as his eyes surveyed his competition, one candidate caught his eye.
She was the only girl there, roughly about Nathan’s age, and looked extraordinarily beautiful. Her black, silky hair seemed to flow with the wind. Above her black raiment, she donned a set of light iron armor consisting of a breastplate, vambraces, and knee-high boots, with a sheathed sword tucked at her left side. It easily put Nathan’s own armor to shame, which consisted of nothing but a leather tunic over a layer of chainmail.
“...You’re staring.” A voice as smooth as silk escaped her lips as her focus turned to Nathan, whose eyes had been affixed to her for a solid minute.
“Ah, s-sorry about that! It’s just that I wasn’t expecting to see a woman here… n-not that women can’t be knights! I don’t mean that at all!” He desperately tried to sputter out a proper apology, but the words mixed up in his tongue and stumbled and tripped over each other until what he was babbling was barely intelligible.
“I see…” The girl’s view away from him, apparently satisfied with his reply.
“So, um… what brings you here…? I-I mean, why’re you signing up to become a knight, I mean… I mean, I know that you’re here to enlist and all...” At this moment, Nathan realized how truly pathetic he was at interacting with the opposite sex. His idols who frequently had damsels swoon over them would undoubtedly be howling with laughter if they could see him now.
“I’m here… because my father wants me to become a knight,” she answered. “It’s all to fulfill his wishes.”
Nathan couldn’t help but notice the monotonous tone in her answer that told him something was off about her. “What about your wishes? Don’t you want to become a–”
“My own desires are irrelevant,” the girl said, cutting him off abruptly. “It is and always has been my duty to become a knight who surpasses all others. There is no other reason for it, and I do not need one regardless.” Nathan was speechless, taken aback. He could not find the words to say to her, and only stood in silence as he chewed on her words.“...The matches are about to begin. Good luck to you.”
With those final words, the girl departed from the boy’s view. Shortly afterwards, the selection began. There was a formal greeting delivered to all the candidates, followed by the random matchups, and the official declaration that the selection had begun. Without realizing it, Nathan climbed up the tournament ranks swiftly, defeating his competitors with ease, but he wasn’t concentrating on his fights. All he could focus on was the girl whose sword flowed as fluidly as fire, but had no love for the sword at all. Truly, her skill and proficiency with fire magic were deserving of the nickname she was introduced in her matches as: Ignis.
Before he even realized it, the selection in Nathan’s block was over, with him and Ignis coming out on top as the two top candidates. Both were called out to the stage for formal congratulations and a ceremony of sorts, where they faced a cheering crowd in the arena where they stood. But before it ever happened, the adventurer made an impulsive decision befitting his name. Nathan was aware that he was being foolish and idiotic. He would surely be scorned for his actions. But if he could prove his point to the girl before him, he didn’t mind at all. So without hesitation, he slipped off the glove of his right hand and hurled it at Ignis, landing at her feet.
It was the declaration of a challenge to a duel.
The crowd’s cheers turned into dead silence at the declaration. A moment later, soft whispers and mutters erupted. Some said that he was riding on the high of fighting from his other battles. Others said that he envied Ignis’s strength and wanted to face it head-on. Not a single one of them were right. However, the whispers of rumors did not reach the adventurer’s ears. They were entirely, solely focused on each other.
“...Why?” was all that Ignis asked of her opponent to-be.
A long silence passed before Nathan answered her.
“Because… no knight should have to wield a blade with the look on your face,” he finally said, after pondering his answer for some time.
“I… see…” There was no further explanation needed. With the duel accepted, the two candidates stood on opposite sides of the training grounds where the matches had taken place, both with their blades drawn.
“By the way… I didn’t get your name,” Nathan added, gripping his sword tightly in his left hand and pointing it towards his opponent.
“...Angela Vesta,” the girl replied, holding out her flamberge in front of her.
The boy nodded, and took a deep breath before making his declaration.
“Angela Vesta! Ignis! My name is Nathan Felix, the adventurer Impulsus, and with this sword, I will make you reaffirm your wishes to become a knight!”
A split-second later, the distance between the two closed, and sparks flew with the clash of their blades.
Angela Vesta was the first and only daughter descending from the Vestas, a family who had long dedicated their lives to knighthood. Her father had deemed that the young girl had the skill to follow in the footsteps of her predecessors, although she lacked his burning desire to serve her Kingdom. Regardless of her own wishes, this was how her father had decided she would serve.
Her earliest memories were of wielding a blade, of practicing the same swings, over and over. One after another, she learned and mastered skills, but it was never enough. To her father, an old man embittered by war injuries preventing him from taking up his sword for the King, it was never enough. Every learnt skill was never something to rejoice over; it simply meant another had to be perfected. In other words, becoming content with what she knew would be disgraceful to the Vesta name. Time and time again, her father had spoken about the glory and honor of being a knight, of cutting down the foes before her King, but every word seemed to blur when he admonished her for being content with only the most basic and simplest of skills and ordered her to once more set out to the grounds.
What was a knight? What were they supposed to protect? What did she want to protect? As she was, Angela could not find an answer. All she could do was swing a sword in an emotionless haze, as a dark shadow enveloped her heart. By the time she had grown up, she had become the flame-wielding Ignis, one of the finest warriors bearing the Vesta name. And now, much like her predecessors, she was about to take her place as a knight, a place predestined since birth. And to do that, she had to take care of this difficult obstacle that stood before her.
The world seemed to shake with the clash of their swords. Impulsus’s swing carried enough force to push Angela back a few meters, even though her heels were dug into the ground. She quickly jumped back to respond to a diagonal swing from the right. When she noticed he was bringing up his sword for an upwards swing, she batted his blade away with her flamberge, successfully pointing it away from her, although she was still very much on the defensive. But Impulsus, thinking quickly, switched to a horizontal strike. Angela blocked it before it could reach her neck, trying her best not to succumb to her opponent’s superhuman strength.
However, both were equal in speed. She responded in time to every move he made, sidestepping every overhead strike, parrying every slash, and redirecting every swing. Eventually, both constantly switched between offense and defense, the adventurer becoming noticeably eager to end the battle. Then, he took a wide swing at her, forcing her to jump back, and when both were distanced, he began to chant. “Awaken, Ice!”
Angela’s eyes widened in surprise with disbelief. At first she thought Impulsus was trying to end the fight with a quick incantation, but those thoughts were quickly dispelled by the forceful swing of her opponent’s blade. No normal person was capable of casting a spell and moving at the same time. It was a rare skill amongst humans, which was why Angela had a hard time believing it. Concurrent Casting. The name of the adventurer’s trump card escaped her lips as she leapt back. Simply put, casting a spell used mana, or energy, in the same way the body used physical strength. Using both at once could put a serious strain on a mind. The boy before her was nowhere near as disciplined as those who did Concurrent Casting were said to be. Impulsus simply forced it out of himself through sheer will, pushing himself above and beyond human limits.
I have to stop him… before he completes the incantation! Angela charged towards Impulsus with greater intensity than before. Her flamberge danced around in the air with incredible speed, raining down repeatedly on her opponent, but each strike was met with a parry from his silver blade that batted it away before it could strike him. His chant continued.
“I beseech you, enshroud my foes…” The attacks continued, almost in a panic, when Angela realized that it was too late. “...in a glacial howling wind! [Subzero Shocker]!”
Quickly, in a risky move, Angela locked her blade with his, and with her free hand, grabbed his wrist and pointed it away from her. Suddenly, an incomparably cold blast of wind and ice exploded out of Impulsus’s hand, encasing almost everything in the spell’s path in ice, just barely stopping short of the audience. Even from behind, she felt like her wrist was about to freeze. It spoke volumes about her opponent’s power. Almost out of fear, she pushed him back, distancing the two once more. Both were tired out from the battle dragging on, but her opponent was noticeably smiling. How long had that smile been on his face…? Angela wondered.
At that moment, she realized something. He was undeniably stronger and powerful, but Angela had bested him with technique, and almost every other manner that one needed to become a knight. However, the flame in his eyes was ablaze, and felt pride in that he swung his sword with an almost innocent joy to it. Could there really be joy in wielding a blade to protect the lives of others? The question seemed to haunt Ignis throughout the battle, but she realized that it must be so for her opponent to swing his sword so passionately. She wanted to see with her own eyes if such a thing could really be true, with the adventurer who taught her that at her side. The fire in Impulsus’s heart had sparked a fire of her own, and in that moment, Angela had truly decided to become a knight, not to face an enemy to vanquish, like her father had said…
...but to protect the person whose bravery and valiance had captivated her. And without knowing it, Angela’s lips slowly turned up in a small smile as her flamberge met her opponent’s with a passion to rival his. With a final charge, her blade cleaved her Impulsus’s blade in half, and to finish it off, Angela hooked her sword around her rival’s, twisted it out of his grasp, and pointed the edge at his throat as the disarmed blade clattered against the ground.
The duel had ended in her victory.
At first, Nathan was surprised that he had lost. His rival did not even use magic. But then he slowly, genuinely smiled as he faced her, raising his hands to show a lack of resistance. “...You did great,” he finally said. “It looks like you had fun, too.”
“Fun...?” Angela asked. Then she realized she was exhausted, having pushed herself to her limits, something that had never happened during her fights with anyone else.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I didn’t challenge you because I think you don’t deserve to be a knight. I just didn’t want you to become one solely for your father’s sake.” His relationship with his parents were completely different, so while he understood her situation, he could not empathize with her. He merely intended to help her find a proper reason to become a knight.
“Is… that so…” Angela muttered, looking at him with surprise, wonder, and gratefulness. However, Nathan recognized a fiery passion in her eyes. The suffering that he saw in her eyes when they first met had dissipated. He could not tell what had happened to her during the fight, but the fact that she found a real reason to become a knight lifted his spirits more than she could imagine.
“...A pretty smile like that really does suit you better.”
“Eh…?” Angela suddenly looked at Nathan, her eyes wide in surprise. A moment later, he realized that his thoughts had turned into audible words.
“Ah, s-sorry!” he said, flailing his arms wildly in a way that shamed the name of Impulsus. “I-I don’t know what came over me…!”
“I-it’s fine!” Angela insisted, who was not used to compliments in the slightest. Both candidates were blushing scarlet. “A-anyways, it seems we’ll be training together as knights. I look forward to it… Impulsus.”
“Hey, you don’t have to call me that, you know,” Nathan said, feeling his face heat up from embarrassment. “You can just call me by my name… Angela.”
Angela was startled by the exemption from formalities, something her father was rather strict on.
“V-very well,” she relented. “I-I’ll be in your care, then… Nate.” Tentatively, she reached out her hand for a handshake without even realizing that she had called him by a different name. However, Nathan did not mind in the slightest.
“Same here…” The adventurer accepted her hand with his own and shook it, a tingling sensation running up his palm at the moment of contact. The soft and gentle touch of her hands were simply unbelievable. Without the two of them even realizing it, sparks seemed to fly between them, although they were different from the ones from when their swords clashed. The two warriors were clueless on how to deal with the warm feeling enveloping their hearts.
In the end, Nathan, Angela, and eight others were chosen to undergo the special training required to become knights. The legendary duel between Impulsus and Ignis did not go unnoticed amongst the audience, and many people foresaw that in the future, they would become rivals that would push each other to become stronger.
Little did anybody know, the bonds between them would become much stronger than that.
the sparks that light a fire