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“The Archbishop will be leaving Ampere Seale after three days. He is currently in the meditation room and won't entertain any guests Ms. Magadal.” The guard soldiers of the Holy Cathedral wore a red robe, their silver chest plates and spears shone brightly under the sunlight. Their stern looks made it clear that their polite smiles was just for formalities sake.
The Nun Princess sighed lightly.
She turned her head back, and took one last look at the Holy Cathedral.
The dome of Holy Cathedral bathed in endless radiance, but even that light seemed to be the last rays of the Kingdom. Bells rang in the background, as if to mark the end of an era. Within Rokshbe Hall, the six Dukes and their envoys sat around the table, discussing the way they should split the Kingdom and the spoils in it.
The babbling sound of discussions filled the room, even the obsidian pillars that held the dome up for ages began to sigh. Among the many voices, one could be heard with clarity, “Since the establishment of Aouine, King Erik had led his men to overcome many challenges, obtaining glory in this piece of wilderness. He made an oath alongside the other people and nobles that followed him to determine the fate of this Kingdom.Today, that very same Kingdom they swore on is on the brink of destruction. To those of us who could not tolerate the lives of the innocent being lost in wars, I urge you to form a new pact, in the name of Aouine!”
Duke Seifer raised his head after reading the plea, looking into a silent crowd. There was a wild, cold glow in his eyes, “My people! If any of you still stand by the decisions made in this old parchment, I urge you all to raise your hand with me! Prove the blood of Aouine's nobility coursing within you!”
He raised his hand like he was wielding a sword pointing to the skies.
The monster had begun to bare its fangs.
The crowd began to stir. Except the two bishops, everyone else had raised their right hand. Just as how their ancestors did it, the nobles crossed their swords together and swore an oath in front of the Lionheart Sword.
‘I pledge to lead my people –‘
‘- away from fights and murder, away from the arrogant and greedy nobles. I swear I will not redo the mistakes of the past. I will let the nobles of this new Kingdom be reborn with righteous spirits– fair and impartial, honest and brave, kind and generous. And I swear to uphold this vow till my last breath!”
Brendel was the last to act.
He raised his hand just now, but he just silently looked over the entire scene. These people did not only lose the Lionheart Sword, but they’re also about to give away their swords as well. Seems like they had forgotten about the sacred pact made in the past. The pact lost its effect, and the Kingdom would be nothing but a shadow of its former self, disappearing from the lands and remaining only as an echo of the past.
Brendel closed his eyes slowly, Halran Gaia was vibrating near him, as if feeling its master’s agitation. It was about to burst out of its sheath, but Brendel calmed down. It’s not time yet. He could feel a ball of raging flame boiling within him, as if it was magma that wanted to devour everything.
But now was not the time to act.
“Two hundred and sixty years ago, my ancestor, the last king of the Seifer Dynasty, handed the throne over to Luxson the First after losing the Lionheart Sword. That was the pioneer for the Covardo dynasty, the reason for Aouine’s current glory. He was no doubt a wise man who created a magnificent century for Aouine.But after two centuries, history is being repeated. The kingdom is facing its downfall once again-”
Duke Seifer continued, “-My niece, Princess Gryphine, descendant of Luxson the First, do you agree with me?”
Just as he finished, the silent crowd became a rowdy mess once again. Everyone knew that he was being sarcastic and mentioned her intentionally, but it still attracted a lot of noise. Undeniably, House Covardo had to bear the responsibility of Aouine’s downfall.
Everyone looked at Princess Gryphine. She just lifted her head, her face still apathetic like usual, “ I’m afraid I don’t, Duke Seifer.”
Brendel focused his sight on the Princess. She had a noble ambition, but she’s currently in deep trouble now… I do wonder how she’ll overcome this adversity and persist with her ambitions. Compared to the Aouine after the civil strife, there is no doubt that the current situation is really perilous. As it was said, the gloom before the dawn is always the darkest.[T/L: Chinese saying for the glorious future will only come after the toughest times.]
Arreck was still emotionless and did not utter a word. Everyone seemed to be on Duke Seifer’s side, while the princess was the sole advocate of the Royal Faction. As for the others from the same faction, they could not even utter a single word.
“Are you suggesting that you’ll ignore the voices of everyone here and act according to your will?” Seifer’s face was cold, but his voice was powerful like thunder.
“House Covardo will continue to fulfill our duties, but if there were people who wanted to break the pact first, I will not back off and let them do as they wish,” she replied, unfrightened.
“What did you say?”
“Supposedly, my younger brother should be the legal successor to the throne, and no matter how you twist the truth, you, as my uncle cannot change this fact. As for my elder brother, we will never let someone who would do anything for the throne, including murdering his own father, as well as his stepmother the Queen. So long as I live, I will not tolerate you all for breaking the sacred pact, and letting Aouine fall into evil hands.”
As her speech ended, it was met with pin-drop silence. The people here knew that there was something fishy behind King Oberg’s death, but they did not expect Princess Gryphine to be so blatant and speak aloud the ugly truth behind it. Duke Seifer sucked in a breath of cold air, his face turning snow white.
“What nonsense!” Duke Seifer bellowed, “Princess, please mind your status!”
“Mind my status?” Princess Gryphine gritted her teeth, and her hand curling into a fist.
She was angry.
“Duke Seifer, you want me to mind my status? Then let me ask you this. When my father passed away, where were you? And when I received his letter for aid and was blocked outside the palace, where were you? As his child, I could only see him slowly die in the hands of sly foxes… And now, you’re asking me to ‘mind my own status?’”
She was almost whimpering at the end of her sentence. Everyone was silenced by the supposed steel-like princess crying. Her body shaking, and her hands clenched into fists. Yet she still held her chest up high with pride, straight forward as if she was arrogantly facing her enemies. At that moment, she was not the Princess of Aouine, but just a girl crying for the death of her father.That pride was a splitting image of Oberg at his prime, and people saw the illusion of him with his head held high back when he reprimanded the late queen for her wrongdoings.
Everyone was staring at each other.
Then they shifted their eyes at Duke Seifer and the Holy Cathedral representatives that backed him up.
Duke Seifer's face paled, as if Gryphine was stabbing him with a blade with every word. He took a step backwards, and exchanged looks with Moros not too far away from him before holding back his anger. “Princess, I think you are too agitated. The late King Oberg's condition has been declining for a while now, so there may be some misunderstandings here...” He knew just what his sister did back then, and could not help but speak embarrassingly.
Gryphine bit her lips and glared at him.
Finally, Moros stepped out to resolve the issue, “Your Royal Highness, I understand how you’re feeling,but we are currently not discussing King Oberg's death. Could you please consider the lives of the millions of people living here in Aouine? If a war breaks out here, the people who would be sacrificed are your father’s subjects. I believe if King Erik is here, he would not like to witness such a scene. All of you here, do you still remember the oath you made?”
The newly appointed Archbishop may not look the part of a kind soul, but his voice was surprisingly calm and could almost delude the people who heard him. He’s good! I never really noticed him back then, but he’s really smart. He struck the princess’s soft spot with just those few lines. The people at the top of the hierarchy in the Holy Cathedral sure are powerful. Now, how will you react, Princess Gryphine? Brendel thought as he looked at the half-elf.
Princess turned back her head with the tears,tears glistening on her cheeks as she smiled sadly, “Once our Kingdom falls into war, Aouine will become poor and weak, and yet all of you don’t have a hint of regret for that. If war is to break out here, in hundreds of years, this place will only be a wasteland. By then, how can we face our ancestors? How can we face King Erik?”
There was an uproar.
Brendel sprang out of his seat, staring wide-eyed at the girl that was barely 17 years old. She was standing all alone and helpless, but her eyes seemed to penetrate the fog surrounding Aouine’s history. She can see the outcome of Aouine?! She can see it? She can see it!
All this time, Brendel thought that she was leading Aouine down a wrong path, bringing it to a darker abyss as time progressed. But he did not expect that she had long perceived the endless destruction and flames dancing around the pools of blood the future has to bring…
Just how is she still moving forward? Is it because of her ambition? Or is it her responsibility as royalty? Brendel looked at the half-elf, amazed.
“Princess Gryphine, you’re causing distress to the people here,” Moros replied. “The Holy Cathedral of Fire will not let Aouine fall under its watch.”
Gryphine looked at him calmly and said, “Sir Archbishop, please continue. I’m all ears.”
“Aouine requires another master now. As all the nobles are here right now, I suggest we let them decide who it will be, just like olden times,” Moros replied. “May the voices of the old Kingdom resound in this hall once more. Let them sign the pact, and all will end with fairness and pride.”
Duke Seifer was elated while Duke Arreck still had the stone-cold look. The other nobles nodded to Moros’s suggestion, and only Viero’s envoys did not show any standing. As for Count Janilasu, being the commander of the navy, she did not show any signs of agreement.
It was one sided.
The Royal Faction was depending on Duke Arreck, but that did not elicit any sort of reaction out of him. Brendel saw that scene and was shocked. This is different from the past as well. This will be unfavorable for the Royal Faction! He stared at Duke Arreck coldly and his grip on Halran Gaia in the Dimension Space loosened a little.
The situation was changed once more, and he had to force his murderous intent in case a problem breaks out.
Let’s continue to observe the situation longer.
“I will not allow this.” She seemed to have seen this coming and was adamant with her standing.
“Princess, I would suggest you to not be stubborn,” Moros’s expression changed. He did not expect the princess to bring him that much trouble. “Even if you’re royalty, you would need nobles to govern this country. Continuing your act would mean betraying House Covardo, I believe you would not want that, would you?”
Evidently, it was a threat.
But Princess Gryphine did not show any signs of backing off, and she replied calmly, “When a day comes that no king sits on Aouine's throne, and one must be chosen from her people, there is another requirement that must be met. I believe all of you had forgotten that line?”
The Lionheart Sword.
Everyone’s expression changed. According to the pact made by King Erik: ‘If there comes a day where the nobles in Aouine were to lose themselves, this sword shall return to where it came from and protect this Kingdom no more!’
That sword was the Lionheart Sword, the same one that had been lost for more than two hundred and sixty years.
It was due to its disappearance that the Seifer dynasty ended, and also why House Covardo got to become the Royal Family. Unless the sword was to return to House Seifer’s possession one day, they will never have the right to return to the throne.
Everyone was stunned. The pledge was a shackle that bound the heart of Aouine’s nobles. It was the foundation for Aouine,and none could deny it. Doing so would mean denying the existence of the nobles.
When she said it, silence resounded through the hall.
Suddenly, everyone remembered something and looked at Brendel’s direction.
To be exact, at Dilferi Odinar.
Brendel shifted, turning to look at the Countess. She was not shocked, like she was already anticipating it. Her eyes were calm, but she seemed to be a little nervous. She looked at Gryphine not too far away, and there was a hidden mix of struggle in her gaze.
“Mr. Brendel, do you think that Marsha will watch over the ones who are righteous and pure?” she whispered.
Brendel hesitated a little.
Dilferi was currently in the sight of everyone else, the emblem on her chest showing a broken sword. Brendel suddenly remembered one thing. It regarded her family, one of the most mysterious noble families in Aouine, And his face paled.
But it was too late, Dilferi had already spoken up, “The Holy Sword Guardian Family greets your Royal Highness… Three months ago… The pedestal for the Lionheart Sword shattered…
It’s time to choose a new ruler.”
Dilferi’s body was shaking when she spoke. Being a close friend of Princess Gryphine, those words may have hurt her friend.
“I’m sorry, Princess Gryphine. I do not know why that happened either. Now that it’s broken, my family has lost their purpose, your Royal Highness...” Dilferi began to tear up just as she finished her sentence.
“It’s fine, Dilferi. The Kingdom will help you regain your honor. The Lionheart Sword will never let anyone who was loyal to it down-” Gryphine smiled, raising her head with a triumph look as she turned to Duke Seifer and a sulking Moros.
“Princess Gryphine, the truth is right here in front of you,” Duke Seifer gloated. “The pedestal broke. House Covardo is not the rightful person to the throne now. Seems like the Kingdom would have to re-elect a new king.”
“According to sacred charter, the right to choose falls under the nobles’ discretion,” Moros nodded.
“Is that so? Then who do you guys think should be the new king?” she declared.
“Of course it’s – ” Duke Seifer opened his mouth, thinking that everyone in the hall was bought over by the Holy Cathedral, with Arreck included as well. Having the Holy Cathedral of Fire backing him up was as if he had the help of the gods, and the sword pedestal shattering further proved that point. He was full of glee, thinking that there was no way he would not be the next king of Aouine.
It was right at that moment his jaw dropped as if he had seen a ghost. And he gulped down the words he was about to say.
His pupils reflected the silhouette of a girl.
Or to be more accurate, a probational female knight. That knight was standing next to Princess Gryphine and was looking oddly familiar to Seifer. She has the uncanny resemblance to the wielder of the ‘Staff of Fire’ Everton. Don’t tell me she’s his descendant?
But then, his focus shifted to the sword she was holding up high above her head. Four feet long, with a guard like widened wings, and a male lion biting onto the sword, as well as an icy cold blade like that of silver snow.
It reflected a ray of sunlight right into the eyes of everyone in the hall.
The Lionheart Sword.
“That’s impossible!” someone yelled from amongst the crowd.
“If there comes a day where the nobles in Aouine were to lose themselves, this sword shall return to where it came from and protect his Kingdom no more! But as long as there’s someone who’s still loyal to the sword, it will protect this piece of land and everything on it-- House Covardo had never forgotten this oath. But I wonder, what about all of you right here?” Gryphine looked at the sword, and felt a little dizzy. But she kept herself up and spoke with confidence.
Duke Seifer was confused with everything that was going on in the span of a few minutes, “No! That’s impossible! The Lionheart Sword has been lost for centuries now, and without a single clue, there’s no way you guys could have possibly found it! Archbishop Moros, please believe me. It’s a fake!”
Archbishop turned and looked at Gryphine with sharp eyes, “Your Royal Highness, can you prove that the sword in your arms is truly the same Lionheart Sword that King Erik had?”
“Archbishop Moros, are you suspecting me for lying in this sort of place?” Princess Gryphine said coldly.
“Not at all. I’m just keeping everything fair and just, your Royal Highness.”
Princess Gryphine frowned. The hall fell silent too. The Lionheart Sword was the embodiment of Aouine, but no one expected Duke Seifer and Archbishop Moros to be that persistent even when the sword is shown. Some of the nobles felt that the two sides would not stop until the other is dead. They just looked at the two, waiting for the outcome.
Even Arreck lifted his eyelids with curiosity.
But then, a deep, heavy voice echoed across the hall, “I can prove the authenticity of the sword.”
All of them turned back, surprised as the doors of Rokshbe Hall opened gradually while a silhouette stepped out as soon as sunlight filling up the room. His back facing the light, everyone had to squint their eyes because of the light rays that were like sharp knives. But their vision began to clear and they could make out who it was- a knight with an emerald armor.
“Ah!” Dilferi was so shocked she fell back into her chair. “How’s that possible?!”
It’s the Guardian of the Lake! Brendel too was shocked and jumped out of his chair. This timeline is truly too unpredictable!