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It was already late into the night when they arrived at the Mar Highlands; the silver moon hung high in the skies, reflecting moonlight into the mountains. The forest was silent and trees covered the mountains and rivers on both sides, but at the intersection of the foothills, the river opened wider, forming a valley.
The officers of the Royal Calvary Academy planned to investigate the terrain throughout the night, but they were stopped by Brendel. Brendel told everyone to rest where they were, and get up in the early morning instead to prepare their defenses. The noble private army was alright with this. After a long night of walking, they were already exhausted and praised Brendel’s orders. But the young officers whispered among each other - how could they lay defenses without exploring the terrain first? Even the most rudimentary line of defense needed to be adapted to the local terrain. This was basic military practice written clearly on the Infantry Handbook. What was the commander thinking? But since commands were absolute, no one could challenge Brendel. They could only fall asleep, full of doubts.
In the early spring, when the snow and ice had just begun melting, the mountain glades were particularly cold at night. Due to the lack of preparation, the officers only had a thin blanket with them; naturally, in this temperature, the consequences of this were as could be expected. Brendel many of the young people’s faces turn blue from the cold, neither they nor Audine’s private army had tents with them, so it could not be helped. As for Brendel himself, all he could do was just to patrol around the campsite, looking for any other things that he could help with.
Count Audine’s private army, the Nagas, the officers of the Royal Calvary Academy, and the Dragon Calvary of the Southern Army did not bond well. The military discipline of the private army was not as good as expected. Considering many of the Royal Cavalry Academy’s officers were girls, Count Audine was afraid something might happen and therefore personally placed restraints on his army. The Dragon Cavalry needed to take care of their mounts too, so of course, they wouldn’t allow outsiders near them. The Grey Fin Nagas from the Shining Sea, on the other hand, could get used to the cold climate, but the dry land made them uncomfortable. Thus, they all rested under the river bed, curling up their body.
For Brendel, once his physical fitness reached the Gold-rank, sleep was no longer an absolute necessity. His metabolic system was constantly self-improving, so it was fine to not sleep for several days and nights. He walked slowly along the edge of the black pine forest. The sky was littered with stars; such a sight was rare in the other world. Brendel could not help but stop and enjoy the beauty of this scenery.
However, cold winds blew from the south pass, and the storms outside Ampere Seale were gathering again, inevitably bringing a dark and dreary air to the impending battle before them. Brendel suddenly heard the crunching noises of feet stepping on dried wood behind him. He pulled out his long sword and turned around. A bright outfit entered his vision, the half-elf Aouine princess now clad in a set of silver armor and a modified skirt. Standing in the woods, she looked elegant and heart-stopping.
“Your Royal Highness,” Brendel was slightly taken aback, not having expected he princess to forgo sleep and look for him instead. He did not think this was a coincidence; the princess would normally not come for a walk in the forest at this time of night. He smiled awkwardly, “How come Your Royal Highness would be here?”
Loneliness flashed past in Princess Gryphine’s eyes. She too knew that she was not supposed to be here, but after she left Ampere Seale, she had trouble falling asleep. Brendel had done such rude, uncouth things to her that day, and she was so disgusted by him at the time she wanted nothing more than to strike him with her sword and have him slain on the spot.
But for the sake of Aouine, she finally forced herself to calm down and made compromises for the greater good. She told herself that there were even more hideous people in this kingdom , even suppressing her emotions after Benninger’s betrayal. But the scene at that time had become a nightmare, leaving a dark scar on her mind she could never forget.
<i> It would be nice if this person had a worse track record, but he just had to be so accomplished in so many areas. </i>
Princess Gryphine’s silver eyes reflected Brendel’s figure. Her heart was full of mixed and complex feelings. She had never seen unjust love and hatred in her life, and everything which had transpired that night made her believe there was no such thing as unconditional help in this world. But if so, why was he pretending he did not want payment for his efforts? His real intentions had long been exposed already, had they not?
And the identity of Brendel of being a descendant of Darius made her feel deeply worried; what should she do if he had bigger plans? But Brendel’s plans were her last chance. She hoped to hear an answer from him. She would continue persevering this battle even if it meant giving up even more, only for the sake of Aouine and the sake of rescuing Haruz.
Brendel felt Princess Gryphine staring at him fixedly, and could not help blushing a little. He did not know how complicated her thoughts were, but he probably could guess why. His thoughts had been such a mess that night, and before he knew it……
One wrong step could cause lasting hatred, and his actions were too shameful to even think about.
There was no need for the princess to lift her hands and personally end his life. Even one sentence from her was enough to make him kill himself from shame. But the mental strength of the modern person was much tougher after all. Brendel could act as nothing had happened just after a day.
Except, now that he was being stared at so intently by the half-elf princess, he still felt a little embarrassed. He coughed and turned his back.
This subtle movement caused Princess Gryphine to be surprised. She was born in the royal family, and she was intelligent and brilliant. Not only had she witnessed plenty of deception and conflict, but she had also inherited the elves’ sensitivity towards shifts in emotion, instantly detecting the meaning behind Brendel’s action.
“So, it seems like Mr. Brendel is capable of feeling embarrassed after all.” Princess Gryphine’s voice was gentle and soft, but as crisp as a nightingale’s song amongst the trees.
‘I’m sorry, that ……” Brendel was on the verge of breaking into sweat and thought to himself - <i> Your Royal Highness, you’re making me feel ashamed. Although I did something wrong that day, you shouldn’t go overboard either. </i> This soul of his in this world was only nineteen years old, and even in his last life, he was just a hapless otaku unpracticed and unfamiliar with the intricacies of expressing his feelings. Though some of his personality had shifted and matured over time, he was unable to avoid feeling a little helpless right now. [TL: Do you guys prefer to use the word otaku? Or NEET? Comment down below!]
<i> This guy actually blushed? </i> Princess Gryphine thought to herself and could not believe her own eyes. She suddenly became curious and asked, “Since Mr. Brendel also knew that it was …… it was something rude to do, then why did you still do it?”
She could not help but grit her teeth a little, “It’s…unforgivable! I’ve always thought that Mr. Brendel was a real knight, clearly, I was wrong.”
Brendel was suddenly at a loss for words; how could he answer this? ‘The pursuit of romance is the destiny of a real knight’? No, that was too absurd. How about ‘I will take responsibility’? It did not seem to be a good idea either. Putting the question of whether the princess even wanted his ‘responsibility’ aside, what about little Romaine? It was his senior who had influenced him the most in his past life, but it was not good to chase after the past, and he couldn’t just sit and just let things happen. Brendel knew very well what he felt.
Princess Gryphine stared at him for a moment.
She could practically see the stress oozing out of Brendel.
At last, the half-elf princess gave out a soft sigh and said, “So that’s how it is. Now I understand.”
“Huh? What do you understand?” Brendel froze, looking back at the princess in confusion. He took a closer look at this noble and elegant princess, the future queen of Aouine; she was still just a girl who had only just turned sixteen. She inherited the unique slenderness of the elven bloodline, which made her appear more fragile.
Princess Gryphine seemed to have untied the knot in her heart now. She looked up into the dark skies. Her silver hair gleamed slightly, bathing in a river of moonlight. With a slight smile, she lifted her skirt and walked out of the woods and came to a stop next to Brendel, watching the glimmering stars in the dark sky as well.
“Is Mr. Brendel watching the stars as well?”
“I guess,” Brendel answered half-heartedly. He did not understand what the princess was trying to imply.
“The Star Warlocks say that people will turn into stars after death, so our ancestors and my father are probably watching us from heaven.”
This story sounded romantic, but Brendel knew that stars were just massive balls of flaming gas. Of course, he would not ruin the mood by saying that out loud. Besides, the Star Warlocks were a legitimate group of mages in this world.
“You don’t believe in fate, Mr. Brendel?”
“No, I do believe in fate.”
“Hmm?” The princess was slightly shocked and turned to look at him. She was not tall, so all she could see was Brendel’s broad shoulders.
“I believe in the fate created by the poets of Kirrlutz; fate is a struggle.” Brendel quietly recounted the words that his senior had told him.
“Fate...is a struggle……” Princess Gryphine mulled over this sentence carefully.
Brendel saw Maynild’s figure in the distance. She was giving out some of her own blankets to a few female officers. This small gesture surprised Brendel a little; he did not expect this cold-faced knight would have such a gentle side to her.
Brendel was still a little baffled as he escorted the princess out of Aouine. The half-elf princess said nothing at all throughout the escort mission; she merely sat next to him and watched the stars. He still had not figured out what this attitude was yet.
But all in all, it seemed that her Royal Highness was not going to inquire about that matter anymore, which was a good thing at last. With her silence ensured, Brendel breathed out a sigh of relief. if it was not for her willingness to keep secrets, he would have lost his reputation.