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“He truly is a hero!” Fleetwood did not hide his thoughts.
“Just call me Brendel.” Brendel interrupted.
“Brendel, I’d like to hear your opinion on the current situation, if you would?” Princess Gryphine picked up the porcelain teacup from her desk. She raised her head, her wide bright eyes a gleaming silver.
Brendel’s eyes swept through the entire room. The members of the Royal Faction were composed. The princess, while she seemed naive at times, actually had a very sharp mind. Only the little prince showed an ounce of fear, peeking at Brendel from behind his sister. However, there was one person whose piercing gaze made him feel uncomfortable. Maynild stood behind Gryphine, her intimidating presence causing Brendel to shift his line of sight away from her.
“To be honest, things aren’t looking good for the Royal Faction right now,” replied Brendel. “The north had long since belonged to Duke Seifer, the empire's two greatest armies, the White Lion Squad and the Black Blade Squad, are controlled by the noble families of the north. The southern troops have yet to recover from Madara’s attacks, which is probably why Count Radner still hasn’t signed the treaty with Yinstar Dragon.”
Brendel paused. He wanted to say that the south still had Duke Viero, Duke Karsuk, and Duke Grinoires. However, amongst the true powers in the north and the south, the only one who still raised Covardo’s flag was the princess and her followers. Once the winter has ended, the ice would melt and the army in the north would march south, destroying the princess’s hopes.
But that was precisely why the empire had decided to ally themselves with the Arreck region, so he relented.
“The situation is dire as the kingdom is surrounded by enemies, and this meeting isn’t going anywhere. The true reason everyone is here at the conference is to convince the Merchant Guild of Ampere Seale and the Holy Cathedral to remain neutral, isn’t it?
The silence was deafening. Everyone looked at Brendel incredulously. Everyone, even the commoners, knew about the Royal Faction’s weakness. However, to be able to discern their true goals just by assessing the current situation, Brendel was truly an anomaly. The average citizen would think that the Royal Faction was trying to win the Ampere Seale conference by borrowing Arreck’s power, but somehow this youngster in front of them was able to recognize their intentions without a shred of doubt in his words.
Makarov’s and Fleetwood’s blood ran cold, thinking that this youngster would make a dangerous enemy. On the other hand, Oberwei looked at him with admiration. Brendel was picked out by Oberwei when they were escaping the castle, the more outstanding he was, the more it proved that Oberwei’s judgment was correct.
Gryphine too had nothing but praise in her heart. She really wanted to get closer to Brendel. The others did not know about the secret between them. When both of them were still exchanging letters, the half-elf couldn’t help but think of the princess-knight trope of a classic romance. Back then the Royal Faction wasn’t doing too well either, so after lots of pondering, she decided to knight him.
“I’ve met Princess Magadal. I’ve also heard that she is a close friend of the princess,” replied Brendel. He actually knew about the Royal Faction’s true purpose. After all, this had already happened before. However, he did not reveal this fact, lest they become more suspicious of him.
Makarov, Fleetwood, and Oberwei nodded their heads in understanding. The Nun Princess had close ties to the Holy Cathedral, and the Holy Cathedral had great influence within the Merchant’s Guild, so it was quite simple to see the connection. However, while most people were only concerned about the main talk of the conference, Brendel did not let the smaller details slip past him. This composure and perceptive nature were enough to cement his ability as on par with some talented nobles.
“You guessed correctly, Mr. Brendel. As my elder brother’s army marches south, there are only two routes available to him. If we can get the support of the Holy Cathedral and the Merchant’s Guild, at the least they will remain a neutral party, then the noble families of the north will have no choice but to pass through the mountains of Arreck.”
“So you’ve decided to join houses with Arreck by marriage. The nobles up north know that they are no match for Arreck when battling in that mountainous region. Then, the tables would turn. Viero, Grinoires, and Karsuk would be forced to ally themselves with the Royal Faction. That way, surely the Royal Faction would be the biggest benefactor.”
Brendel raised his head, his eyes were devoid of emotion. “Then I offer my best wishes to Your Highness.”
“Why? What did I do that you find unacceptable?” Gryphine’s face paled. To the rest of the Royal Faction, Brendel’s approval held close to no weight, but to Gryphine it meant the world. She thought that Brendel would be able to understand her plight.
She thought he would be able to understand her sacrifices.
Yet at that moment, Princess Gryphine had never felt more lonely. For so long she had been holding on to her belief, believing that Brendel was the light that would rescue her from the dark. She thought that they were kindred souls, as their letters would show, yet the person standing before her was nearly unrecognizable, a cold disapproving look on his face.
The princess sucked in a breath. “Can you tell me why?” Her voice was soft as ever, but the tremble in her eyebrows showed her displeasure. If Brendel could not give her a satisfying answer, the princess’s disappointment would multiply twofold.
Ah, it’s the pride told in legends. Brendel thought, but without that trait, she would never have made it this far.
“There are a few problems.” He replied.
Oberwei sat up straighter. Truthfully speaking, he did not like the plan at all. However, Fleetwood and Makarov agreed to the plan. Fleetwood had a lot of influence in the Royal Faction, and he was the only Elemental Awakener in the Royal Faction. On the other hand, Makarov represented the alliance, so neither of them could be easily swayed.
“Firstly, the Holy Cathedral of Fire and the Holy Cathedral of Earth are on the brink of war, Kirrlutz would loathe seeing Aouine collapse due to political reformation. Aouine has been freed from Kirrlutz’s control ever since independence was achieved, but we cannot deny that we are part of the Holy Cathedral of Fire,” replied Brendel. “Right now, the Holy Cathedral cannot directly interfere with Aouine’s political affairs, but what they can do is let the nobles residing in the north pass through their land easily. After all, most people think that the north is stronger than the south, so the quickest way to end the war would be to let the north win.”
“We have definitely thought over this problem, young man.” Fleetwood decided to speak up. “Once House Arreck and the Royal Faction have joined hands, then the northerners would find it hard-pressed to achieve complete victory too. If the Holy Cathedral interferes without thinking things through, then the current situation would only worsen. Furthermore, the Lion Beastmen still need more time to stockpile their supplies, and the conflict between the Holy Cathedral of Fire and the Holy Cathedral of Earth might not even come true.”
Brendel did not reply immediately. This was exactly how history played out, but he had another reason for not speaking. Should I say that Arreck is only using them? No, they aren’t stupid, I’m sure they already know that Arreck isn’t doing it out of kindness. The problem is that she is getting used to getting anything in return. She thinks she can succeed, but I already know that she won’t.
However, Brendel could not say it out. He couldn’t let them know that he was from the future.
The longer he stayed silent, the more disappointed Gryphine appeared. She clenched her fists lightly. She had hoped that Brendel would be able to support her in her decision. For weeks she had been losing sleep over this matter, yet she constantly reminded herself that it was the only way.
The room was plunged into silence. Freya felt extremely awkward. While her knowledge had expanded a lot compared to back then, she still did not understand the exchange between Brendel and the Royal Faction. The young lady from Bucce was miffed at Brendel’s attitude. Why are you stirring up trouble? Even if you do not agree to her methods, the least you could do was not say it in front of her face!
However, she still leaned towards Brendel’s side more. She was much more concerned about Brendel’s safety than the survival of the Royal Faction.
Oberwei and Makarov could feel the tension in the air. They were also unhappy with Brendel, thinking that he was exaggerating the situation. However, there was a person amongst the crowd who looked at Brendel with astonishment. Before anyone could detect her emotions, Maynild immediately schooled her expression back to normal.
During this awkward exchange, someone knocked on the door. Everyone’s eyes looked towards the door, and a servant carried a letter in. The princess opened the letter, furrowing her eyebrows while pouring over the contents of the letter. She paused for a moment, eventually breaking the silence, “The results from the morning have arrived.”
Everyone was surprised at how efficient the Holy Cathedral was as the assassination attempt had just happened in the morning. Only Makarov was frowning, as if he was hiding something.
Brendel perked up. He was also very interested in the incident as it deviated from the original history.
“The person who ordered the assassination was a man named Xerves.”
Oberwei frowned. “I know this man. He is from a minor noble family in Ampere Seale.” His expression immediately changed after he finished his sentence. If he dared to order such an assassination, then the person backing him must have a lot of power as well. A minor noble would not be able to cause such a huge commotion.
This unlucky man must be a scapegoat, however such was the results procured by the Holy Cathedral.
At the same time, everyone’s face turned sour, realizing what the situation meant. Only Brendel’s expression remained neutral, as if he had predicted this.
Brendel had already met an Assassin of the Cross, so he knew that the Holy Cathedral must be involved in some way.
“The letter also mentions Mr. Brendel.” Gryphine took a deep breath before continuing. “It says that not only did Mr. Brendel bring a weapon into the Holy Cathedral, he also summoned two Vampires. The Holy Cathedral suspects Brendel of working with the Evil Cultists and wants us to hand him over for further investigations.” The princess’s face was a mask of stone, her expression unreadable.
Brendel was furious. He had yet to cause trouble with the Holy Cathedral of Fire, yet they had already come knocking on his door. He felt that the situation was unfair for him, but he kept his mouth shut, looking for everyone else’s reaction.
Oberwei sneered, “Not allowing us to bring weapons eh? What a convenience for the assassins! And when did having Vampire underlings equate to scheming with those Evil Cultists? Aouine is just beside Madara, I’m sure there are some nobles took in some of their men as their underlings, are there not?”
The rest of the Royal Faction glared at Oberwei.
“Princess?” The servant’s meek voice called out.
“Aouine has never handed over a guest to Kirrlutz just because they demanded it, and this will not be the first time.” The princess stated. “However, they are trying to test our allegiance right now. Tell them that Mr. Brendel is our guest, and they will not have him as long as it stays that way.
As he looked at the servant scurry out of the room, Brendel was slightly touched. Although some part of that scene was for appearance's sake, he saw that the Royal Faction’s ideals were in the right. Looking at Oberwei, Brendel felt any animosity due to their argument just now evaporate.
“It seems that the Holy Cathedral is not as righteous as it seems.” Brendel couldn’t help leaving a snarky remark, then stared at the members of the Royal Faction. After all, he wasn’t a politician, and he still held onto the part of Sophie who would laugh at others’ misfortunes.
The half-elf’s expression sank further, her barely audible sigh made Brendel feel slightly guilty, but she did not dwell on the matter. “Mr. Brendel, as you already know our situation truly is laughable. That is precisely why we want to seek your help.
“You are a Highland Knight, so I ask that you help us obtain the support of other Highland Knights, is that possible?” The princess let go of her status and pleaded sincerely. She knew that Brendel held no grudge against the Royal Faction. What happened was merely a misunderstanding, and she believed that the results would be able to prove it.
Brendel shook his head.
“I’m sure all of you know that Highland Knights are different from you. I can give you my support, but trying to get the help of the other Highland Knights is nearly impossible.” He wasn’t a true Highland Knight, but a bit of confidence and some preparations had already brought him so far.
Even if Ciel were here, he would not be able to find any holes within his story.
The members of the Royal Faction knew that Brendel spoke of the truth, so they could only nod in silence. Fortunately for Brendel, he was still in possession of Trentheim, which was the only thing stopping Count Radner, or else the rest of the members would have thought twice about going against the Holy Cathedral for this kid.
Brendel chuckled, “That doesn’t mean there isn’t any other way. Karsuk has always been threatened by Madara, and the nobles up north have already caused much dissatisfaction among the Highland Knights. As long as you don’t antagonize them, I believe that they wouldn’t mind supporting the Royal Faction. The only issue is that not everyone would want to join the losing team.”
Gryphine nodded, but she still knew not how to solve the problem. She did not actually take Brendel’s suggestion into consideration. The only reason why the Royal Faction met up with Brendel was to gain the support of the Highland Knight. Since that hope was gone, she could feel her heart start to waver.
She looked at the hourglass. There was only a little time left until the conference would begin.
“Mr. Brendel, I have one final question to ask. It’s a private question, would you be willing to answer it?” Gryphine raised her head and asked.
Brendel nodded his head.
“You and Yanbao…?” she asked, a hint of concern in her voice. House Yanbao had yet to show support for the Royal Faction. She knew that Brendel was Dilferi’s vassal, yet their actions said that they had long crossed the line of vassal and lord. Furthermore, Brendel was her knight, so she was thinking of trying to convince Dilferi to support their cause.
If she was able to gain the support of House Yanbao, it would greatly benefit the Royal Faction.
“Actually, I have no relationship with Miss Yanbao. On the contrary, I’m only using her so that I can enter this meeting.” Brendel let out a slight smile.
Everyone was shocked.
“I know it sounds rude, but the invitation was only sent to Duke Karsuk. A mere Highland Knight like myself has no place in the Sophora Garden, I hope that my lords can empathize with me.” Brendel added on while shaking his head.
The members of the Royal Faction stared at Brendel. This kid dares to coerce a noble below the nose of the Holy Cathedral? Is this courage or stupidity? If they weren’t so certain that Brendel had nothing to do with the assassins, then he would have been their number one suspect.
However, the princess chuckled. She knew that Brendel was not speaking the truth. She was close friends with Dilferi, and anyone could see that the duchess was worrying about Brendel in the morning. Would someone who was kidnapped be concerned for her kidnapper? Perhaps there was, but this situation was not one of them. Albeit so, she did not expose Brendel, instead saying, “A desperate person would go through desperate measures. Your actions in Trentheim have already left us a deep impression. Who would’ve thought that you would surprise us once again here in Ampere Seale. I really pity Dilferi, it seems that Mr. Brendel does not know how to treat a lady well.”
Brendel broke out in cold sweat, remembering the duchess’s furious gaze.
It’s not all my fault! How could I have known she was such an innocent young girl?
At the same time, he breathed out a sigh of relief as Princess Gryphine’s expression returned to a state of calmness. Brendel knew that his plan had failed. Even at first, he did not dare to carry too much hope, after all, he was an outsider compared to the princess’s trusted advisors. If she could be swayed by a few words from him, then the half-elf princess must be a fake.
Brendel had to prepare for his next move. However, he was rather uneasy with the way things were progressing, especially when the Holy Cathedral announced that they wanted him. Brendel did not think that Archbishop Wood would turn back on his words so quickly.
There must be something else going on...