"Shall he be the hero?"
"Thy becomes the guiding light."
"My precious child, hardship shall meet in the domain of fate."
These cryptic voices echoed in my dreams every time I visited the Dragon Garden, a revered sanctuary known as the resting place of the first guardian dragon. Within its boundaries stood statues of dragons, majestic beings sitting in regal upright positions at each corner of the garden. The Dragon Flower, the sole plant cultivated there, served as a tribute to these mythical creatures.
But it was the recurring dreams of a man and a woman that intrigued me the most. They would engage me in conversations while we sat in the open grassland, but despite my careful listening, the true meaning of our exchanges eluded me.
Someone called my name. I turned to see who it was, but there was no one there. When I faced the man and woman again, they had vanished, and the grassland scenery along with them. I found myself adrift in a hollow, dark space until I opened my eyes.
"Are you all right, son?"
I opened my eyes to the agitated face of my mother, her concern evident.
"I'm fine, Mom."
"Have you had a nightmare? You were yelling."
"Oh, Mom, don't worry; it's nothing serious."
"If you say so, I won't trouble you any longer. But I believe you should reconsider your excursions to the Dragon Garden. You tend to have nightmares whenever you visit."
"It's nothing major, Mom. Dragons will never harm us; Father always said they've been our protectors since time immemorial."
Father often spoke of dragons being our guardians, but I couldn't help feeling a mix of disappointment and anger. He hadn't visited us for over a year, and it had been even longer since he last saw my mother. Her enduring love for him puzzled me.
"Oh, Amethyst, I forgot to mention that your father has sent word that he will attend your birthday party."
While I was delighted to hear that Father would be present on my birthday, I knew his true purpose. He was coming solely to witness my Mana Heart examination, with no interest in celebrating the occasion.
"Why now, Mother? Father has never been available during the day."
"He's been preoccupied with a year-long border dispute with the Anaratian Kingdom. Though we are his family, I am his concubine. You'll understand when you're older, my darling."
"It doesn't matter whether you're a concubine or not, Mom. I'm known to everyone as the 4th Prince, which means I have the same rights as my siblings who are always by Father's side."
My father had one official wife and four concubines, resulting in seven children, including myself, the youngest of them all. The queen, his official wife, bore two children—the first heir to the throne, Prince Alfonso El Evanes, and the second princess. The remaining five children, three boys and two girls, were born from concubines.
Despite comprehending my mother's words, I couldn't quell my anger toward my father. He had visited me only a handful of times since my birth, never once on my birthday. The seventh anniversary held great significance for humans as it marked the ceremony that determined our magical potential.
Magicians conducting the ritual assessed the child's Mana Heart capacity and growth potential. A capable Mana Heart opened doors to various opportunities, including admission to the Royal Academy, where future leaders were nurtured by esteemed professors from across the kingdom.
I had eagerly awaited this moment for months, as had my father, I was sure. If I possessed an exceptional Mana Heart capacity, I would become one more asset in our lineage, renowned for high-end Mana Hearts. I yearned for power, knowing that my mother and I would be targets for the queen and other concubines. The queen detested my mother and me, viewing me as a contender for the throne.
Time passed swiftly, and the big day arrived. I donned the regal attire gifted by my father to attend the celebration—a black coat with tunic sleeves and black slacks adorned with a tunic outline running from the waist.
Father had dispatched a carriage to escort me to the event, and as it approached the site, I marveled at the legendary Dragon Bliss. My birthday was to be celebrated in this palace dedicated to revelry. The Royal Residences consisted of six palaces; the Royal Family occupied three, while the others served military, administrative, and diplomatic purposes. The final palace Dragon Bliss.
Dragon Bliss, once a bastion of opulence and grandeur, stands as a testament to the regal legacy of our forebears, although its glory has been waning in recent decades.
This towering marvel of architectural prowess boasts multiple stories that pierce the sky with their sharp, towering silhouettes. At its heart, a formidable Guarding Dragon, its form gracefully coiled around the structure, symbolizing both protection and majesty.
Within the vast expanse of Dragon Bliss, a tapestry of gardens and personal sanctuaries awaits, meticulously designed to cater to the comfort and pleasure of our esteemed guests and the Royal Family alike. Here, amidst this fading splendor, echoes the history and heritage of a realm once resplendent with power, wealth, and pride.
As my carriage halted and the gates swung open, a man in military uniform stood waiting, the one who had pushed open the gate. Though I had never met him before, he recognized me and greeted me with a grin.
"Allow me to extend my congratulations, Prince, on your 7th birthday."
With those words, he presented a pendant adorned with a flying dragon carved on it.
"It would give me immense pleasure, Prince, if you would accept this gift from your humble servant. It is a seal found during one of my visits to an ancient dragon shrine."
I questioned him, unfamiliar with his face, and he introduced himself as Alberezo Helerbard, explaining his absence due to recent turmoil on the western border.
Curiosity piqued, I inquired, "How did you come to know me, Sir Alberezo Helerbard? This carriage lacks the royal emblem."
"Prince, while it lacks the royal family insignia, it bears the Kiezer family insignia."
"You've met my mother, then."
"Yes, Prince, I am a servant assigned to protect Lady Ameala."
His absence from our residence did not escape my notice, and I voiced my concern.
"You haven't been present in the residence where my mother and I live."
Alberezo bowed slightly. "Please accept my apologies, Prince."
"Very well, we can discuss this later. I must proceed to my birthday celebration."
We made our way to the entrance of Dragon Bliss, where the guards issued a grand announcement:
"His Highness Prince Amethyst El Evanes Enters."