Marquis Yoakam stood in the corner, watching Brendel and Freya leave the place. “Who’s that woman?”
“She seems to be a knight that serves the princess, my Lord.”
“That must mean that Count Yanbao is siding with the Royal Faction, doesn’t it? Are they trying to outplay us under the tables?” he furrowed his brows. It seemed like he still thought of Brendel as the true Count Yanbao, and that this move really threatened him.
“It’s just Yanbao. Why are you shaking in fear?” A hoarse voice came from behind him. He turned back to look at its source, only to see a bearded man. He recognized the person to be Count Vitokin from the Black Blade Squad, and also Count Seifer’s number one follower.
“Marquis Yoakam,” there was a kid with bright lips and white teeth next to the count, bending down politely to the marquis. Yoakam looked at the boy who was radiating an aura that resembled a soldier, with sharp eyes like a soaring eagle.
Marquis Yoakam fidgeted, You’re-
He did not answer Count Vitokin’s question. He may not be afraid of Brendel, but he was fearful of Archbishop Wood who backed the boy. But he smirked in his mind, I’ll never tell this old brute about it. On the contrary, he smiled widely, “Cecil? I had thought that you would not come today. I will not forget the days when we hunted together, back in the Grey Mountains. That scenery, that atmosphere…it’s totally better than the Royal Family’s hunting grounds! When can I come to visit you once again?”
Count Vitokin was puzzled. Cecil was his first name, but most people would call him ‘Count Vitokin’ and the ones who would call him by that name were his enemies or close friends. But Marquis Yoakam was neither his close friend nor his enemy. He knew of the marquis’s infamous reputation with the other nobles, and when the marquis mentioned the hunt in the Grey Mountains, his face immediately darkened.
It was an embarrassment to his family. The last time King Oberg had brought men to his territory for surveys, Marquis Yoakam had unexpectedly had his way with his sister. Of course, it was no big matter, but the thing was that his brother-in-law was back in the mansion as well. Of course, Count Vitokin did not dare say anything to the king, and had let his sister bear the responsibility alone. That’s why until now, she was still in the church working as a nun. At that thought, Count Vitokin was boiling in anger.
But he knew that there was nothing he could do to the marquis. There are no reins on this person, and if I really do anger him, there’s definitely going to be trouble ahead of me. Also, he does have a powerful backing now.
“You flatter me,” he forced a smile. “How can my place compare to the Royal Family’s hunting grounds? By the way, that youth must be the person you met just a few days ago, isn’t he?”
Marquis Yoakam’s complexion changed. How does this guy know so much?
“Which one?” he asked as if he knew nothing.
“Marquis, there’s no need to hide. That youth is truly a genius. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about even if you lost to him,” Count Vitokin stroked his beard. “But it may not be such a good thing to be that strong. There’s a saying among the Elves, ‘The strongest beasts will usually be the biggest prey’.”
Seeing how kind the Count was at the moment, Marquis Yoakam’s face darkened this time. This fat old fox. He must have something in mind. But then he looked to the side at the young boy, acting pissed, “But I really am unlucky. Just where did that countryside bumpkin come from? How can he gain the Archbishop’s favor that easily? I think that in just ten or twenty years, he will be at the peak of Aouine.”
At the last sentence, both the Count and the boy became moody. How could they not know what he was implying? As the Black Blade Squad leader, the Count was favored by the previous Archbishop. It was also thanks to that favor that he got to be the leader of it. But in reality, he was a lot weaker than Brendel. That was a fact that he knew, and it was not hard to think that the youth would surpass him so soon.
The Count arched his eyebrows, This guy sure has a sharp tongue. He looked at Marquis Yoakam to see him having a smirk on his face, like everything he said was on purpose. Vitokin hesitated, But thinking back, with him being Marquis Yoakam, he must not have planned anything at all.
Then, the young boy laughed, “That is indeed correct. Just based on personal strength, I’m afraid there’s no one in Aouine who’s stronger than him. But in politics, it is never just about personal strength. I don’t think the nobles in the north will gain a lot of strength with just the addition of one person into their ranks. Even a strong entity like a Sword Saint is nothing but a mere pawn on the battlefield.”
“Is that so?” Marquis Yoakam showed a disgusted face. “I do have to disagree with your saying that there is no other talent like him in Aouine. I heard that there’s a youth in Trentheim that stepped into the Gold rank just under twenty. Plus he had shown marvelous talent in leadership. I wonder if you know of him?”
The boy’s face reddened immediately. He dares compare me with a bandit in the countryside? How dare him! If it was not for Count Vitokin warning him to not say anything offensive to the marquis or that he did not know of his standing with that person, there was no doubt that a battle would break out even before the one between House Seifer and the Royal Faction.
That was why, even if he was boiling in rage, he did not say anything. He had nothing to deal with the aftermath of offending the previous King’s brother. But it did cause him to grow some ire for Brendel. He hated the fact that he was being compared to the ‘bandit’ that the marquis called a ‘prodigy’. In his eyes, Brendel was a speck that could not be compared with him.
It was then, Vitokin realized something was amiss. Damn this marquis. But he immediately changed the topic, “Alright, Trentheim is a problem for Duke Radner to deal with. It should not matter to us, should it?”
“Of course,” Marquis Yoakam’s shoulders slouched. “I was just mentioning that as a fact.”
Vitokin bit his lip as he could not bear with the marquis’s horrible childish personality, “Alright, we know you’re relaying the message from Duke Radner. Back to the main topic — my lord is unsatisfied with the scapegoat you prepared. It can be easily exposed. Oberwei and Makarov are really sharp people; aren’t you afraid that it will alert them easily?”
“So what?” Marquis Yoakam smiled. “I didn’t support this method in the first place anyway. But I don’t think my niece can cause any trouble in the first place. Can’t you guys just simply overthrow her?”
“She’s not even coronated yet, so how can she be overthrown? If anything, it should be Haruz’s concern.” Count Vitokin scolded in his mind that this person was spouting nonsense, but he continued, “Don’t tell me you want our people to have the impression that our leader was forced to retire by our enemies, the Kirrlutz?”
“So what of it? Isn’t that the truth in the first place?” Marquis Yoakam smiled. “I’m just supporting your cause. Since you want the throne, don’t tell me you’re going to get it so easily.”
Count Vitokin finally spoke aloud, “You’re insane.”
“What did you say?” Marquis Yoakam’s face turned cold.
Vitokin suddenly remembered the person he was dealing with, and tried to reclaim his statement, “Nothing. It’s just…madness. If the masses think that the nobles of Aouine can be influenced by the Holy Cathedral of Flame or Kirrlutz, it would be difficult for the future when House Seifer takes over the authority of the Kingdom. Just think about your niece. Can’t you be more considerate about her future?”
“And what does that have to do with me?” Marquis Yoakam smiled coldly. “You guys want to reap the benefits, and yet would not like to put in the effort; does this imply that you guys want to put the blame on Duke Arreck and me? It will not be that easy. To be honest, the plan this morning was really unexpected, but I don’t think Duke Arreck was surprised about it. Just eight Gold rankers? Did you really think you can capture Makarov and Princess Gryphine with just that? Don’t look down upon my Royal Family. Now you only have two choices. One is to ally with the Kirrlutz and force my niece to back off, and the other is…going to war with the north.”
“I believe Arreck would want for you guys to take the second option,” Marquis Yoakam smirked like it had nothing to do with him.
Count Vitokin’s face flushed red and white. He was exuding cold sweat and after half a beat, he raised his head to look at Marquis Yoakam, “So that’s your plan. Don’t worry, I will relay that to Duke Seifer.”
Marquis Yoakam’s shoulders shifted, “Do you guys really think that I’m afraid of the Kirrlutz like you?”
“You’re correct, Duke Arreck is never afraid of anything,” Count Vitokin scolded before leaving in a hurry. Just as he turned, his smirk died down and was replaced with a cold look. He rubbed his long arms, his eyes bloodshot.
“My Lord, do you recognize that young boy?” a tiny voice squeaked beside Marquis Yoakam.
“That should be Vitokin’s heir. Just so coincidentally, I do. He fought well against the Lion Beastmen and is truly a prodigy. If nothing goes wrong, there’s no doubt he will be the next leader of the Black Blade Squad. Such a lucky boy.”
“If nothing goes wrong…”
The black tea in the white ceramic cup had long since cooled off, turning into an agate color. There were only a few people left in the study room, and soft light seeped in through the window panes and onto the carpet. It formed a line with Freya and Brendel on one side, facing Princess Gryphine, as well as Maynild, Makarov, Fleetwood, Oberwei and another bald noble whose name Brendel could not recall ever knowing.
And the future King of Aouine, Haruz, was standing next to this man.
It was the first time since he came into this world that he had time to assess the princess. The impression of her being mysterious was gone, and the half-elf’s beauty gradually became more evident. He had seen his fill of beauties before, and was relatively resistant to that sort of stuff. But compared to his memory, he found the princess to be more than just an unwavering, determined image that he had always thought her to be. She had become an icon of beauty.
And from the sight before him, she seemed even more gentle and kind.
If Brendel were to evaluate her, she would be that beautiful half-elf girl, with her curly silver hair glistening under the sun, her shoulders seeming to give off a mellow and gentle vibe. But behind those eyes, there was a sort of anxiety that was hard to perceive. She seems to have quite her fill of troubles.
Brendel, being half a modernized person [T/L: reference to Sophie], could not understand just how a young girl like her could be involved with such dark politics. He read an analysis back in his previous life, and there was a recording about the princess objectifying herself, seeing her own position as the princess to be a burden rather than something to be proud of.
He had never met the princess back then, but from his senior sister, he learned that she was just a foolish girl. Back in the hall, Brendel looked at the young girl before him that was glowing with intelligence, Is she really as foolish as she was described?
Brendel was the type who respected and feared people like Princess Gryphine.
But now, he could feel some sort of pull that was attracting him to her, like a moth to a flame. After many such experiences, Brendel felt normal about such things. He looked at the princess and then retracted his gaze.
In truth, he did not agree with the Royal Faction, with the princess included.
But there was no one better for the throne beside her now in Aouine. Brendel was a lazy person himself. He just wanted to help Aouine overcome the calamity and not let the cataclysm back in the game to happen once again. I just hope that this Kingdom can survive for at least one or two hundred years. That shouldn’t be a problem, should it?
For anything beyond that, he had never considered anything of the sort. There would be a rise and fall in everything, and he believed that nothing lasts forever. He just wanted to make up for the regret he had back then, and in truth, he wanted to explore the unknown world.
“To begin with, I want to thank you for your rescue this morning, Mr. Brendel,” Princess Gryphine said, breaking the silence in the study room. It was a mellow and reassuring voice, “It is really difficult for me to say that. You’re not affiliated with the Royal Faction, but you’re still giving us so much aid. I never had the chance to thank you, and now that I say it out, I’m truly sorry for that—”
“Your Majesty Princess Royal.”
Brendel opened his mouth by reflex. He noticed how she, as well as the others, were shocked. Brendel realized his mistake: it wasn’t until Haruz became the King of Aouine that she got the title of ‘Princess Royal’. And that meant it was really inappropriate for him to address her with it right now.
Although the other members of the Royal Faction seemed to find his choice of words odd, they saw it as though he had agreed with Haruz becoming the king, and that he had sided with them. It was a taboo to be affiliated with no faction in politics, and the way he displayed his alignment with the Royal Faction pleased the others, including Makarov and Fleetwood who always seemed to disagree with him.
This youth is truly wise. To have come up with such an interesting way to declare his standing, they all thought.
Brendel did not realize that his mistake would lead to that many misunderstandings, but he smiled bitterly and continued, “I did use Princess Royal’s name back in Trentheim. And I hope you can forgive me for that.”
“Is that it?” Gryphine’s mood turned better. She smiled, “But thinking back, I don’t really know you well. I did hear that you’re a Highland Knight, is that true?”
I'm starting a new discord server for TAS and some other works by my friends. Link's here: https://discord.gg/HnA74MB. Join it and have fun catching up with all the news in TAS! Also, you'll get a special role, Grandchildren of Weather, there. And you just have to introduce yourself as a fan of TAS.