"And so the great ancestors - Aranya of Water, Niellen of Fire, Iraelin of Wind and Geoxer of Earth understood that eternal disputes were the quickest path to damnation, and they reached consensus; it was obvious the four purest elements had to join forces in order to vanquish their barbaric neighbors," Xystar said in a tone he probably deemed as dignified and ceremonious; Sarthas, who had trouble staying awake, didn't share that opinion. How exactly does he manage to talk about centuries long conflict that has shaped entire nation and make it sound like the topic of his speech was something like mucking out the stables? Actually, no, scratch that nonsense. That would probably be one hundred times more exciting, the blond-haired guy thought while supporting his chin with his hand in a manner suitable for a cheap pub rather than for a classroom. Xystar, the only one fascinated by his own story, didn't notice. "The foreign tribes, ineffectual in their loneliness but too foolish to acknowledge it, faced a bitter loss when Aeterna was forged from the elemental unity. Aeterna concentrated..." Sarthas' consciousness finally gave up the battle against boredom and his green eyes fluttered closed as he drifted off to the blessed land without History classes. Of course, the state of bliss wasn't supposed to last for long; a well-aimed slap brought him back to reality. "Ouch! What was that for?!" Sarthas protested, rubbing the side of his face. "How dare you sleep during my lesson, young man! You should be thankful I'm too soft-hearted to tell your father," Xystar exclaimed, his expression so furious it could likely repel the fiercest of demons. "Those who don't learn from the history are bound to repeat past mistakes, and we wouldn't want that considering there's a very real chance of you getting chosen for the mission, right?" Sarthas sighed, annoyance creeping into his expression. Hadn't they covered this issue before? "I mean no disrespect to you, Xystar, but I'd say those chances are pretty much microscopic. I mean, I'm the chief's eldest son. I'm obviously no mind reader, but I'd imagine he would want to keep me... well, alive, and sending me to retrieve a bunch of old artifacts hidden gods-know-where doesn't seem like the best tactic to achieve that," he smirked cheekily. It was the kind of smirk that often made girls weak in their knees, but the old teacher only wished to punch him in response. What had this tribe done to anger the powers running this universe to deserve such an irresponsible future leader? "Sarthas, I've explained to you many times that getting chosen for the task of renewing our dominance over the land is the greatest honor you could possibly achieve, not some kind of elaborate death sentence. Moreover, as you very well know, it will be up to gods to decide, so you can hardly count on...." Blah, blah, blah. Are we seriously gonna pretend the selection process stems from some sacred arcane ritual rather than from, say, common sense? Come on, Xystar. If you want to scare me into actually paying attention, you'll have to try harder. Plunging the entire tribe into chaos by sacrificing the only suitable heir when you have whole crowds of eager, much more expendable volunteers waiting for the opportunity to throw their entire existence away just to serve the higher good? I don't think so. Sarthas opened his mouth to deliver yet another cutting remark - pointless arguments with his old teacher was his greatest hobby if you didn't count drinking himself to oblivion and bullying anyone stupid enough to show a hint of weakness in front of him - but young man gasping for air suddenly barging in their yurt distracted him from spitting more poison. Huh? Before he could voice that profound question, the guy was on his knees, his gaze practically glued to the ground. "Mister Sarthas, your father requires your immediate presence. Members of the Fire tribe have been spotted by our scouts, and you are to participate in preparations of their welcome." What? Already? Sure, the Sparks - as Sarthas laughingly called them in the privacy of his mind where no one could scold him for his horrid manners that could potentially serve as a declaration of war - had been invited the celebration along with two other tribes, but they weren't supposed to show up until after tomorrow. Almost nothing was ready for their arrival, and yet they were apparently knocking on their door and expecting to be treated like royalty! Typical Sparks, really. If it were up to Sarthas, he would have given a giant middle finger to the laws of hospitality and refused to let them in until they could receive them, but knowing their friends, this would more than likely end in unsolicited display of fireworks. 'Allies' didn't automatically translate to 'friends'. Sighing heavily, the young heir nodded and stood up from his comfy couch. "Alright, let's take care of our dear guests. Lead the way." *** After few hours of uncontrolled chaos which sowed various particularly interesting thoughts into Sarthas' head - thoughts like 'I wonder what would it be like to live as a recluse somewhere in the wilderness' or 'Does suicide hurt as much as they say it does' - the preparations were finally finished and our hero in shining armor was standing next to his father, firmly determined not to add yet another diplomatic conflict to his already scarily impressive collection. Okay, that shouldn't be too difficult. I just need to refrain from asking any fat chicks whether they're expecting twins, inquiring if those complex hairdos don't attract lice and... fine, I should probably keep all of my comments to myself, Sarthas thought with a hint of annoyance. It was hardly his fault these people were so freaking sensitive! "Welcome, my friends," his father Ostrel spoke in an enthusiastic tone of someone who had just found out there was a river consisting of beer flowing behind his house, "welcome to our humble village. Words can't possibly express the happiness we feel at seeing your faces again. Servants blended into the crowd of visitors, offering them glasses of cold beverages from tinny trays. "Let us drink to our reunion," he suggested, betting on the certified idea that some alcohol could never ruin anything. Of course, that notion was ultimately dead wrong, and fate was about to prove it. Sarthas put a glass to his lips, unaware of approaching catastrophe, when a careless servant bumped into him. The boy staggered in a chain reaction and the red liquid from his cup spilled forth, decorating dress of a nearby lady. He had to gather his entire willpower in order not to laugh aloud, but even so, his lips were twitching slightly. "Sorry about that, but don't you think your dress needed some bolder adornment anyway?" he remarked with his usual tact. Well, so much for not creating drama.