The overwhelming number of Brute Devils that were circling mid-air flew towards the humans near the second Door of Flame, like a devil’s claw sweeping across the sky. Brendel could not help himself thinking about the Great Locust Plague of Solaniland that took place in the Year of the Second Trade Wind, when the locusts covering the sky was a scene similar to today’s.
The second Door of Flame crumbled completely into fragments, blending with the rain as they fell like thousands of golden butterflies, dissipating as they do so. As Gryphine stood in the rain looking up at those falling sparks, a glimmer of hope lit up in her eyes, and she pursed her lips and clenched her fists.
The remaining knights remained to be excited, their vanity and morale made it possible for them to seemingly forget about the situation they were in. Only Nicholas and Leider grew doubtful. They looked back at Brendel, knowing full well that Garlock had lost the majority of his troops on his way to the third portal. If they wanted to get to the third portal now, they could only hope for another miracle from Brendel.
The rain was so heavy that it even masked the shrieks of the devils in it.
Brendel stood in the rain and tried to keep an apathetic face. Although he wasn’t confident in his own ability to escape the predicament, he knew he should not look pessimistic and desperate. At least he could not show that side of him to his men.
"We have to slaughter a path out of here," He gently spoke.
"H-how are we going to kill our way there?" Nicholas and the knights asked in unison. But unlike the knights, Nicholas’ voice wavered. Although the two of them were still going for each other’s throats just a few hours ago, he knew nothing about Brendel. Instead, he could only rely on the seemingly calm look Brendel had on his face as he faced the devils.
There aren’t many young swordsmen like Brendel in Aouine anymore… He’s just like me back when I was just learning how to spar with swords, although he may have accomplished more than me. He did not harbor any jealous thoughts to the young swordsman before him. Instead, he felt relieved at how dependable the boy was.
How shall we get out of this? Brendel thought.
It was a core issue for him. He looked at the red tide sweeping across the green meadows under the rain, and he could even feel a slight tremble from the ground. Even with the others beside him, their forces surmounted to a small number of twenty to thirty people at best. Besides, there were also many wounded and personnel incapable of combat, as well as non-combatants like Amandina and Dilfieri.
Even Brendel himself wouldn't believe if someone told him that a group of his size managed to get past the devils. It would be a joke to attempt at defeating these monsters with pure perseverance.
There was only one chance now.
Buni’s Concealment Cloak could only last another 30 breaths worth of time. Or less than a minute. It was no problem for the Giant King’s Cloak to accommodate a few people, the problem was that one minute was definitely not enough for them to reach the other portal from this one.
Although the distance to said destination was not far, walking through the devil army would have been suicide.
"We’ll split into two groups." Brendel silently considered for a moment before he replied. His goal was simple: to use one group as cannon fodder to draw the devils' attention while the other group would use Buni’s Cloak to escort Amandina and Ciel to the third portal.
Although he only explained his thoughts briefly, Nicholas and Leider understood instantly. The ex-leader of the White Lion Legion gave his own opinions as well, "This is indeed the only solution now, but I wonder how does Mr. Brendel plan to split them?"
Brendel went silent, but he already had a plan in mind.
His idea was really simple. First of all, Amandina and Ciel were included in the 'demolition' team while having another person to deal with the Longhorn Devils by the portal.
Amandina and Ciel included, he planned to have Dilferi, Princess Gryphine, as well as Garlock and the Sugar Jar to be part of the escort group. Of course, Brendel didn’t deny that he chose Her Highness for his own selfish reasons.
However, if Her Highness died here, everything he had done up till this point would become meaningless.
History would follow its previous path and there would be no devil invasion at all, just like it did when he had not meddled with history.
However, to make up for those who died here today, he had no choice but to continue with his plan.
His reason to include Sugar Jar and Garlock's in this group was even simpler: he wouldn't let a young and unconscious girl who die in battle. Besides, she had saved his and the princess' lives before. The same could be said for the old’s witch’s case as well.
As soon as Brendel explained his thoughts, silence fell around him.
He expected as much. After all, who would be willing to charge towards their death? Even Brendel himself wouldn't be so willing to do so.
Unlike the other times, their mission this day was to die.
He looked up at the soulless expressions on all the people around him. It was as if he was looking at the faces of every like-minded comrade who was sacrificed in the middle of Crimson Canyon back in The Amber Sword.
"I'm sorry, but there is no turning back," Brendel said. "And I want all of you to help me one last time. I will not outwit you all. Today, while I hope to emerge victorious and leave, I can only be glad to die with you all by my side.
Brendel believed that he had no right to demand anyone to die for a purpose, no matter how noble that purpose might be. Half of him, Sophie, came from a cultured civilization, and the morals of that world were passed onto Brendel, and he could only see the people in the same light.
At that moment he felt, for the first time, that his values as a player did not fit the situation. He could not treat them as NPCs, but rather living beings. To this day he was living his life just like how he did back as a player. But today, he had to bear the lives of everyone here.
He did not possess Princess Gryphine, and neither was Aouine. So how could he decide other people’s livelihood?
For these people who had lived on this land for generations, surviving was perhaps their most important concern. At that moment, he felt enlightened.
To demand from others, one must at least learn to take responsibility first.
In the face of death, Brendel finally understood this.
It was only now that he suddenly somewhat understood Leider’s thoughts. He couldn't help but take a look at that old man.
Leider was looking at him as well.
There was only admiration in the old man's eyes.
Leider’s was also silent as this old man suddenly realized where he had gone wrong. If it was just to ensure the people’s survival, then what was the need for this ancient kingdom to survive? The Aouine people also descended from the Flame King, and they left Kirrultz to fight against the tyranny of the nobility.
If such ideals cannot be maintained. Then what is the meaning of Aouine’s existence?
Whether it's Brendel in front of him or the young men of the White Lion Legion, they are the brightest souls this kingdom has to offer and there was no reason for them to fight each other.
In fact, Brendel had made a miscalculation. He made his plan based on his values in his past world, and those values were not upholded here in Vaunte.
The knights stared at the young lord in stunned silence. And there was only one thought that went through their minds: ‘why did he apologize?’
To them, his noble act of raising that flag for Aouine was something to be proud about., and it was Brendel who had brought all of this. And that flag that he held up still shone brightly in their minds.
So how was he at fault?
Everyone tangibly felt the same respect towards him. They chose their own paths, and in their eyes, Brendel was a person who chose to share his glory with them to become heroes for the future generation.
What did they have to complain about?
They felt nothing but endless reverence in every one of their hearts. After all, there was nothing more noble than the act of sacrificing.
"My lord, there is no need for you to apologize," the knights replied. "If we did complain, what would the ancestors of Aouine think of us?"
"The noblest deeds are all here, and I will only be honored by my choice." The old mage also exclaimed, "Please remove me from the other list, as you, my lord, have no right to deprive my old bones of glory! Even though I am a mage, I have my burning passion as an Aouine citizen.”
"Are the Aouine people the only ones who have glory?" Stephen the Paladin looked deeply at Brendel, "The ancestors made an oath on the Holy White Plains, and we descendants can only succeed that legacy of glory with blood." He replied with a slight bow to Brendel.
There was both obedience and respect in his salute.
It was the reverence of a fanatic following in the footsteps of the Flame King. Only the same people could understand one another, and it didn’t matter if they were Aouine people or Kirrultz people.There were those among them who pursued the same goals and Brendel wanted to prove it.
Babasha didn't answer as she stood on the sidelines and just smiled mysteriously. The Darkness Dragon was once called The Fool. Then just who are these fools in front of her who did not mind sacrificing themselves?
Brendel was stunned.
The words of the knights echoed in his ears, like the oaths that echoed in his heart night after night. Those like-minded people had such a trait. It did not matter if they were men or women, old or children, powerful or ordinary, ideals were not judged to be noble or lowly based on one’s opinion.
Brendel had always thought of those simple ideals as games, but he found out that he was wrong.
And he encountered those flaring ideals once more.
Right here, beside him.
He remembered that drive that he had seen in his fellow teammates back in The Amber Sword. Setbacks, failures, and death couldn't stop them. The others laughed at them for being fools, fighting for a virtual number that didn't matter in real life. But the world itself was no different. No one was born special.
The only thing that everyone strived for was the persistence of the heart, and this kind of persistence is neither noble nor lowly. Brendel had no intention of refuting others, but if he couldn't stand up for himself in the virtual world, how could he not lose himself in the bigger world?
Retreat was just a cowardly expression.
Princess Gryphine’s clear voice suddenly interrupted Brendel's thoughts.
"It's a noble idea, but it's not perfect."
The half-elf maiden gently inhaled and spoke, "The predicament is now before all of us, and there is no room for even a single mistake. Therefore we must do our best out of every little detail."
"There is nothing wrong with Mr. Brendel's arrangements, but you’re the one who’s the most familiar with the cloak of the King of Giants, and in the battles to come, that cloak will come in handy. All it takes is one tiny and everything will turn into a disaster."
"Aouine can't afford to fail like that."
"So I suggest that Mr. Brendel trade places with me as commander of this battle. you, on the other hand, will escort Miss Amandina until the mission is completed."
Her Highness said calmly. Indeed, the crowd gasped as if they had just realized this, but despite the fact that Brendel was the one to propose this plan, the core of the plan was not to attract the monsters with a group of people packed with firepower, but rather how to flexibly apply the Giant King’s cloak to reach the other end of the battlefield.
It was definitely not an easy job.
While Brendel claimed that the cloak was easy to work with, anyone could see that it was only because of his selfish desire to keep Her Highness safe.
Such selfishness would only be respectful, but not necessarily applicable.
Brendel felt Her Highness's incredibly calm eyes on him and suddenly realized what the other was going to say, "Wait, but-"
"I know what you're going to say, Mr. Brendel."
They had already spent a fair amount of time leaving her with little time to debate with Brendel. Princess Gryphine lowered her eyelids and continued, "Although I never asked what you were up to, I could feel that sincerity. I thank you very much for that, Mr. Brendel."
"However feelings are not the first factor to be considered at a time like this. If it were to be a choice between Aouine and myself, I would prefer for Aouine to survive. I do not represent Aouine, Brendel. The only people who can represent it are its people."
Her Highness's words caused everyone to gasp, especially Nicholas and Leider who felt like they were getting to know the princess for the first time today. Amandina tightened her grip on Brendel’s sleeve, as if it was only at this moment that she understood why Brendel chose to let the princess follow her along.
But she did not understand one thing.
Why does it seem like he had anticipated this? And that he is so afraid of it?
Brendel looked at Her Highness, and Her Highness continued, "So please promise me that the operation will be successful."
"Your Highness." Brendel couldn't help but speak up.
However, Princess Gryphine turned back. The rain fell on the young woman, causing her long silver hair to be plastered on her shoulders. She looked up at the others,
"The future king of Aouine is too young to lead you into battle for now. So today, as the Princess Regent, I will lead you to overcome the difficulties ahead."
"This is an honor that belongs to me, a duty that no one can take away from me."
"If I die in battle today, then at least let me say one last time -"
"The blood of Covardo is shed for the sake of Aouine."
In the midst of the silence, the knights suddenly shouted out.
"Long live the princess!"
"Long live the regent!"
"Long live the Kingdom of Aouine!"
The voice echoed through the downpour, and Brendel found himself speechless. The five words of the Princess Regent fell upon his heart like thunder and lightning. History was miraculously coincidental. He could still remember the same downpour of rain and the same attitude she bore.
The declaration remained the same. word for word. Her persistence and stubbornness was always so distinct and shining.
As if it had never once faded from his heart.
Perhaps this was fate. Brendel thought.