As they walked in, the whole stadium echoed with the cheering for their prince.
But Freidrech couldn't hear the cheers. His mind went blank when he saw a large number of people present. Beads of cold sweat began forming on his forehead.
Then Sir Riquier and some soldiers in casual clothes called out across them. "Boy, we're excited about this battle. We're here to cheer for you and Prince Theodrech."
"I already bet for you yesterday, kid, so you gotta win this," one of the knights said as well. More hollers resounded from their side, warming Freidrech's blood and loosening his tension.
"Prince Theodrech, win this and make him your slave, so we can spank that kid's butt," one of Prince Theo's guards shouted. Waves of laughter and jeering followed after, making the people's mood lighter.
Theo waved back to them, sending more cheers and whistles. Freidrech smiled too. He couldn't deny, he was touched by this bunch of rowdy soldiers.
As for the spectators, after witnessing the knights support on Freidrech, their interest on this challenger increased. Yet, there were a few who would not stop wagging their vulgar and dirty tongue from saying unpleasant statements and reached Freidrech's ears.
"The peasant had the gall to walk in that door with Prince Theodrech as if he was also from the royal family."
"Just because Prince Theodrech was kind to him, he now thought he was a prince as well. He's a true sucker and an asshole."
The comments struck Freidrech's ego. A seed of doubt found its way in him and buried itself in his subconsciousness. He began doubting Theo's true intentions for befriending him.
While Freidrech was mulling over his doubts, guilt began troubling Theo when he heard the belittling hushes from the students.
He couldn't deny his mistake for overlooking the possible outcome for letting Freidrech passed through the exclusive door for the royal family. He should have known better. Just like Freidrech said, "It is not the norm." People won't easily accept anything out of the norm.
Besides, he now realized it was unfair to Freidrech to have the battle in the school arena. At most, he was now ashamed for rejoicing after learning Freidrech was not used to a large crowd.
His face turned to crimson; he was angry with himself. Theo could not believe he placed his new friend in a disadvantage due to his incompetence as a leader.
Freidrech was restless. He had to hear a clear explanation from Theo before the battle would start. "Your Highness,…" but before he could continue, Theo interjected.
"I'm sorry, Freidrech. It's my mistake. I didn't see this coming…" he said. "Let me handle this but don't let those people bother you."
Freidrech saw Theo's genuine concern and felt relieved.
'So, it was not intentional.'
"Thank you. I really appreciate it," said Freidrech.
Then Theo went to the students' area and explained.
While Freidrech was alone in the middle of the hall, he closed his eyes and meditated in silence.
'I imposed the challenge, so I must face this. Pops said I must never cower in every challenge I make. I must not disgrace him now as the son of the honored Griftein Knight Louvel Gerboud. Prince Theodrech is also standing with me. Win or lose, I will continue.'
After that short self-reflection, all of his nervousness and worries slowly diminished.
While Freidrech was in this state, Theo turned around and saw him. He smiled, relieved as well.
Out of a sudden, an announcement sounded from the door where they entered.
"His Majesties King Thierri and Queen Reyhaenna have arrived."
The king walked in with the queen in their splendor.
Then more announcements about the princes and their princesses arrival but Theo's father and mother were not among them. He stood in silence beside Freidrech.
The king caught a glimpse of the two and smiled at them before he brought the queen to their designated chairs. The rest followed behind them.
The last one who came in from another door was the academy's headmaster wearing a red coat. He gestured to an elder and the latter went to the two youths and instructed them to seat in their allotted seats, facing each other in the middle.
Freidrech was in his best behavior. Still nervous, but not as much as when they entered.
Now, he could observe the whole audience with less tension.
He noticed the sitting arrangements base on a person's status. Those nearest to the arena were the nobles. Next on the way up he believed were the students out from the logo on their coats. It was the same crest in Theo's insignia.
Men wearing dark blue outfit, equipped with weapons, enclosed the inner circle while a few stood at random on the bleachers.
The headmaster stood between them. He turned at the king's direction and bowed.
"Your Majesties, King Thierri, Queen Rayhaenna. Your Highness Prince Lowis, Prince Theodrech…," he continued to name all princes and princesses present.
In response, the king stood and gave a short speech and waved at the headmaster. "Let the battle begins," said King Thierri.
"Thank you, Your Majesty. Very well, as the Headmaster of this academy, I will stand as the judge for the Riddle Battle. Before we start, I will lay the rules and each one of you must abide with this. Disobedience will not be tolerated. The rules are simple. Both must submit ten riddles with the answers. Each answer must be relevant to its corresponding riddle. Both of you will take turns giving your riddles and same with when presenting your answer. Every answer is final. So consider it well."
He paused and looked at the two if they understood before he continued.
"If one passes or makes a wrong answer then it will be a point against him. The one who reaches ten points first will win. I won't tolerate any mock games here. Both of you must uphold this sacred arena where the greatest philosophers and kings of Xaviel had once stood. Are we clear?"
"Yes, Headmaster." The two bowed. Two students gave them each a set of paper and a magic feather quill pen.
"You may start writing your riddles now."
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Reminder: If you have words you don't understand or can't pronounce in your minds, just go to Glossary of Terms in the auxiliary chapter above Chapter 1.
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