Emperor Richard VII hurried briskly into a large, brightly lit room that was filled with advisors, generals, and commanders sitting around a gigantic, circular meeting table. As he seated himself at the huge, comfortable armchair at the head of the table, he looked over the men and verified that everybody was present.
Seeing no empty chairs, the emperor cleared his throat quickly and said, "Well gentlemen, you've heard the terrible news. I need not remind you what is happening. What are your thoughts on this matter?"
A tall man with a thick mustache who was sitting to the emperor's right spoke up first, saying, "We must proceed with caution, your majesty. After all, we are looking at the prospect of losing a third of our empire."
The emperor shuddered and looked at his men with genuine fear in his eyes, possibly for the first time in his reign. "That is a terrible thought." he declared. "What can we do to prevent this calamity?"
Tanuk Bidrele, head of the Haskarsian knights was next to speak up. "Your majesty, our first priority is to stop the mouth of Serena Delquez, the foolish Talbaran representative behind this separatist movement."
The emperor nodded. "I have already seen to that; she's been captured and placed in the war criminals' prison. However, the problem does not start with her. I believe the main problem is that these rebellious countries look to Localaku for inspiration. They see her as an example to follow."
"Exactly!" interjected Paulo Feliz, Tanuk's energetic, ambitious young student. "Since they see Localaku as an example, let's make an example of her!"
Emperor Richard looked at Paulo curiously. "Explain yourself, young man. As you know, we cannot attack Localaku straight-on by any means; their de-atomizing weapons are much too powerful for us. So how do you propose we can make an example of her?"
"We need to focus not on the country, but her people. We should send out assassins to kill off the former members of LIO, the organization responsible for the success of the Localakan rebellion years ago. Once they're all dead, we can announce that any new rebels will meet the same fate."
The emperor nodded and smiled. "Go and do as you have spoken. Report to me when you have finished."
Paulo bowed. "Yes, your majesty."
After Paulo exited the room, the emperor turned to Tanuk. "You have trained the young man well."
Tanuk nodded. "He's very outspoken about his ideas these days. He's become cleverer than even I in some cases."
After slowly nodding, Emperor Richard turned to some of his other men and continued making plans.

About an hour later, Paulo stood in a dark alley, having a conversation with an assassin named Voy Morus. Voy was a Rostacian man with an extremely rugged appearance. He had cold blue eyes and a short, coarse beard, as well as bristly, black hair covered by a brown cap. Additionally, he wore thick, dark green armor that resembled a turtle shell over his body, which had openings for his arms, legs, and head to move freely. Clipped to his belt and concealed in various pockets and pouches on his outfit, he had all sorts of weapons and gadgets for every situation.

Paulo handed Voy a piece of paper and said, "This is a list of the former members of LIO that have made their residence in the Moreskoan Kingdom. You are to go there and kill them all before reporting back to me for your pay and your list for the next country."
Voy nodded. "What'll my pay be for this one, boss?"
Paulo shrugged. "Same as always. 100 jinglofarians apiece."
Once more, Voy nodded before looking down at the paper and counting the names. He looked up and said, "Good. I'll end up with 1,200. Just enough to pay off a couple debts and still have enough to pay rent afterwards."
Paulo nodded now. "Nice. Well, have success."
Voy started to walk away before turning around and asking, "Do I have a deadline?"
"No, not really, just try to finish up before these rebellions begin in earnest."
"Oh, alright."
With that, the two men parted, with Voy going deeper into shadows of the alley and Paulo exiting onto the brightly-lit main road of nighttime Ruby City.

The next afternoon in Aroria, the chief island of the beautiful Moreskoan Kingdom, master swordsman Nat Parks landed his plane on the landing pad in front of the base of the Knights of a New Era. His young student Dustin Rickland sat beside him. They were here because Dustin was now halfway through the intermediate part of his course, which meant he was ready to begin his trial to become an official knight. Moments after Nat shut the plane off, the two swordsmen stepped out and looked up at the building in front of them. It was a relatively large two-story brick building with plenty of windows. From the outside, it reminded Dustin of a school he used to go to, but inside, of course, it was very different.

When the two swordsmen stepped through the pretty glass doors, they took a look around. Knights walked to and fro, some with their pupils at their side, others with comrades, and others by themselves. Some knights sat at tables eating food in a common area in the middle of the large courtyard, while others waited in line for their food in a cafeteria to the right of the front door. Several of the knights bowed respectfully to Dustin when he passed, recognizing him as their prince.

Nat and Dustin began to walk up a big flight of stairs near the middle of the courtyard that led to the upstairs area. Up here, the main attraction was the large meeting room for the knights to sit and discuss issues both national and international. Down a hallway around the corner were several offices for some of the highest-ranking knights. Nat led Dustin into the meeting room, where they found about a dozen knights sitting at an elliptical table with the capacity to seat about fifty.
A middle-aged man with light brown hair and a grave expression who sat at the head of the table greeted them, saying, "Greetings, Mr. Parks. We've been expecting you."
Nat smiled. "Naturally. It's nice to see you again, James." Then Nat turned to Dustin and said, "This is James Johnson, leader of the Knights of a New Era."
Dustin reached out to shake the man's hand. "Nice to meet you sir, I'm Dustin-"
He stopped short because James held up his hand, smiled, and said, "I know who you are, young man; you're Prince Dustin Rickland. Sit down and make yourselves comfortable."
After the two men had seated themselves, Nat cleared his throat and said, "So, as I told you, Dustin here has made it halfway through the intermediate part of course, and I believe he's ready for his trial."
James nodded and looked at Dustin. "Just for your information, your trial will basically be a small, relatively easy mission that you'll do on your own. You'll pass only if you succeed in completing the mission without breaking the Manfredian Code of Conduct."
Dustin nodded, indicating that he understood.
James then smiled pleasantly and said, "Well, with that said, we have a rescue mission for you. I know they'll seem very generic to you after a couple dozen times, but these sorts of missions often need to be done." After taking a breath, he continued. "A few nights ago, Haskarsian authorities captured and imprisoned Serena Delquez, the Talbaran representative to Ruby City. They hate her because she is one of the leading members of the new, rapidly-expanding Haskarsian separatist movement. We want you to go and rescue her from their clutches and bring her safely back to her homeland."
Dustin nodded. "Sounds easy."
"It may sound easy, but it most likely won't be so easy. Be very careful never to underestimate the power of the Haskarsian Empire."
"I won't sir." Dustin assured James as he and Nat rose from their seats and exited the room.

After they were out of earshot and began walking down the stairs, Nat smirked and said, "James was right. Rescue missions like this one are really generic. I'll bet at least half of these knights are only married because of their success in one."
Dustin smiled. "Really?"
"Oh yeah. You read about missions like this in books all the time. But just know, things like this are easier said than done. Be careful out there."
"I will, Mr. Parks."
With that, the two men parted. Nat returned to his plane, while Dustin continued to explore the large, spacious base of the Knights of a New Era for a bit before embarking on his dangerous rescue mission.

Author's note: Alright, there's chapter one! I really hope you enjoyed it, and if you did, please remember to comment and follow! :)

I plan to update on Mondays and Fridays, so stay tuned for new chapters on those days. And if you want to read about Dustin's previous adventures, please check out the first book, "Beginning Of The End".

As for more specific questions, how did you like Nat almost breaking the fourth wall in talking about rescue missions?

What do you think of Voy Morus so far?

Do you think Dustin will follow James' advice about underestimating the Haskarsian Empire or not?

Anyway, I hope to see you in the comments, and I hope you have a great day!