“This is the Crystal Wight?”
Princess Gryphine witnessed Brendel turning the gray man's body over to reveal a patch of amethyst-colored skin beneath the robe that had been cut apart. She looked up silently to see that the break at the corpse's neck was like broken glass; the whole part was crystallized, with nary a trace of blood oozing out.
"This is the Crystal Wight." Brendel stayed by the corpse for a moment before replying. "The living beings in certain magical crystals are affected by the Magic of the Moon. They become distorted and twisted into monsters. This Magic Beast is not common and is only occasionally found in magical crystal veins and crystal forests."
"But it looks like a humanoid creature." Princess Gryphine looked at the corpse quietly. "And what in the world does that have to do with anything? Mr. Brendel, are you aware of what's happening at Yanbao?" She stood outside the door, not wanting to soil her hands with the blood that was everywhere in the house. Even though the beast's body had already been hauled out and disposed of, the countess told the Coast Guards that a devil - which had fled during the Ampere Seale War - attacked her brother, before proceeding to let these guards see the body, which was clad in gray robes. All of those present couldn’t help but feel an anxious chill upon seeing the tragic state Akel was in; since such cases have been happening recently in the port of Ampere Seale from time to time, no one suspected anything then.
“He was a human when he had still been alive,” Brendel replied without hesitation, and he picked up a shard of crystal. “But it was the Crystallization that turned him into this.”
“Crystallization Disease?” Princess Gryphine lifted her head slightly and looked at Brendel with her beautiful silver eyes.
"I saw a case like this when I was learning about the scrolls. Some creatures living in the crystal veins gradually went mad and got the disease. Crystals grew on them and they became insane, then they began attacking humans." Brendel stared at the crystal shard, the flowing light casting a narrow, glowing line on his face. "This was the earliest case of Crystallization, which happens in the Wilderness of the Four Realms."
"This sounds like Demonization," the princess replied with a frown.
"This is demonization." Brendel nodded, but then sighed. "It’s because of the denseness of the magic gathered in the crystal veins. It is easier to trigger a Magic Erosion like this. However, crystallization is very specific. No one is sure why creatures such as the Crystal Wights exist, Theoretically, the existence of any species in Vaunte has a continuing history, but only the history of the Crystal Wights is blank. There has been some research on them, but so far we still have no clue about their past.”
The princess naturally assumed that the ‘we’ was referring to the Black Tower Mage, but in fact, Brendel had subconsciously used the player’s pronouns. In ‘The Amber Sword’, the Drama Party did investigate the Crystal Wights in-depth, but like Brendel said, all investigations led to the year before all glory was lost, then everything came to a dead end.
Some believe there was a great secret hidden behind the Crystal Wights, but more experienced players asserted that prior to the official further release of the history before the Lost Era of Glory, the origin of the Crystal Wights could only be a mystery. However, it was not easy to trace the history of the Crystal Wights before the Lost Era of Glory, and one of the players’ main sources of information was actually the library of Buga. Despite this, knowledge of the Crystal Wights prior to the Lost Era of Glory was still an unattainable thing, even to the wizards of Buga.
Where exactly do these Crystal Wights come from?
Brendel didn't really care about that. He only cared about the reason behind their sudden appearance in Aouine. There was no record of this in history at all, and it seemed that something was changing in the north, slowly deviating from the familiar course of history which Brendel knew.
After listening to Brendel’s reply. Princess Gryphine also fell silent, but after a while, she asked again, "But Dilferi also said that there is no Crystal Forest in the vicinity of Yanbao.”
"That's where I’m curious about," Brendel replied.
Princess Gryphine frowned in unease. She looked at Brendel. "Why do you say that?"
"Because I found similar marks on Akel’s body. Some crystals were growing on the back of his neck. Nobody noticed this because of the bloodstains." Brendel turned back to meet her eyes. He replied with great certainty, "That would explain why this guy suddenly became so deranged, Dark Magic amplifies the evil in the human heart. It's not an isolated case; the crystallized disease is definitely spreading around Yanbao. Baron Dahl might already have decayed as well."
The princess's frown deepened. "How did this happen? What do you think will happen to Yanbao? What should we do?"
"It is definitely not a good thing and for the time being, there's nothing we can do but keep it a secret from Lady Dilferi, at least until we're done with the mess in the north. Your Highness, you also understand the distance from Yanbao to Ampere Seale. We cannot and do not have the ability to meddle with Yanbao’s business." Brendel did not choose to reveal all of his worries, because some things were just a prediction to him, not to mention that he had no way to explain his vision of the future.
He paused, only to remind her again, "Besides, I’m sure that Your Highness doesn't want anything to happen to Dilferi."
Princess Gryphine sighed quietly. "When I was a child, Dilferi was my best friend. She didn't treat me like everyone else did, with their hidden motives and such, and I always thought of her as my sister. However, when she needed help, I couldn't do anything to help her. If anything happened to the Count, she would be devastated. I met the Count of Yanbao once when I was a child. He was a good father. Dilferi must have loved him dearly."
The half-elf maiden's tone was weak, and Brendel knew it was because she was reminded of her father, the historical King Oberg the Seventh, who had terribly spoiled his daughter. It could be said that Princess Gryphine once had a family that could be considered happy. But before he could think of any words to console the princess, she had already hardened her resolve.
Princess Gryphine drew in a breath and replied. "We have to resolve the mess in the North quickly, Mr. Brendel.”
Brendel was slightly startled. He hadn’t expected the princess to recover so quickly. In truth, he wasn't exactly good at politics, but the good news was that it was a 'historical problem'. He thought for a moment before he spoke. "Your Highness, the key to solving the mess in the North isn't us, but rather the Holy Cathedral of Fire. The Holy Cathedral of Fire was hoping to pressure us through the northern nobles, but it must be obvious that the Kirrlutz people are not happy to launch another war in recent times. It's just another game between the two sides."
Princess Gryphine narrowed her eyes. She looked particularly mesmerizing this way, but the cold glint in her slitted eyes showed a certain clarity in the princess's mind. She understood this of course, but what annoyed her was that the Holy Cathedral of Fire was clearly playing with fire. The northern nobles were not one of Kirrlutz’s dogs. On the contrary, they were a pack of wolves. These short-sighted beasts could disrupt the balance of power at any moment for the slightest benefit. The people of Kirrlutz arrogantly thought they could control everything, but in reality, none of them could really control anyone.
Even so, she had to be concerned about that.
An endless stream of compromisations was out of the question. Brendel assured her that this time no concessions would ever be made to the northern nobles, which was actually what the princess had been thinking as well. First, consolidate the forces in the south close to the royal family of Covardo, and then hold the entire north hostage to make them all bow down.
But what price would she need to pay to make the Holy Cathedral support her? Those wretched Kirrlutz people, the stability of Aouine is what they truly need, yet they still wish to obtain even greater rewards.
Ever since the Ampere Seale War, she had been working on ways to limit the Holy Cathedral’s influence in Aouine, which was actually one of Brendel’s ideas. However, the Holy Cathedral of Fire was clearly aware of this.
She didn't want to make any concessions on that.
However, Princess Gryphine suddenly thought of something. She looked up to Brendel. "Mr. Brendel, will you wait here for a moment?”
"What's wrong?" Brendel asked.
"Help me with the matter here," replied the princess. "I want Count Janilasu to look into this matter. Yanbao is on the edge of his territory. He'll be able to think of something.”
That was one way to look at it, but Brendel had a feeling that the princess was hiding something. Before he could ask her about it, the princess had already walked down the stairs. Brendel looked at the corpse at his feet. Exasperated, he had no choice but to examine the gray-robed man's belongings. There were some bits and bobs, but he didn’t find anything that could prove the man’s identity.
He straightened up and heard a familiar sound in the back - it should be the sound of Dilferi’s wheelchair. He looked back, and indeed saw a maid pushing the countess through the doorway.
"Have you gotten rid of those guys?" Brendel put down the odds and ends in his hands and looked at her with compassion. He couldn't imagine how big of an impact this incident was to the countess, but he was sure that it would cast a dark shadow upon the days to come.
Dilferi nodded. The Coast Guards were pretty easy to get rid of. After all, those present were all nobles and there was even a princess as well. Her story was solid; the evidence was all there, and with the devils being active in the port of Ampere Seale recently, no one had any questions.
After all, no one could tell if there was a crystal-like being among the devils, and that certainly wouldn't be human anyway.
"I already knew that Akel was notorious, but I didn't know that he was so insane. And Niya just told me something before it happened… I blame myself for not protecting her." Dilferi sighed in guilt.
Brendel had more or less figured things out. When the female knight made that request earlier, he had already guessed the possibilities that might happen.
However this was, after all, someone else's family matters, so he could only nod along awkwardly.
"But Mr. Brendel, I know Akel and Baron Dahl very well. I'm worried about my Father, though the Princess said..." Dilferi was somewhat worried again. It was apparent that she was most concerned about this question.
Although Princess Gryphine had consoled her with the Holy Cathedral’s attitude, the countess was no fool; after much contemplation, she still thought that Brendel’s predictions were more accurate; otherwise, her brother wouldn't have been in Ampere Seale. After all, Yanbao was still some distance from this port, and after factoring the time from her brother's departure, the war in Ampere Seale should not have happened by then, let alone these rumors right now.
Brendel looked at her and sighed. "Dilfe-"
"You're going to lie to me again, aren't you?" Dilferi stared at Brendel and whispered, "Mr. Brendel."
"I..." Brendel was embarrassed. What do you mean I'm going to lie to you again? However, he wasn't really sure if he'd lied before when he thought about it. After all, his own past was one hell of a lie. Besides, it seemed unlikely that he would tell the truth when he had previously invaded the lady's estate.
He thought about it and replied, "Dilferi- may I call you that? I actually have some analyses of your father's situation that I don't know if you'd like to hear."
"Certainly." The countess meekly, not knowing which question it was to which she was answering. "You can just say it, Mr. Brendel.”
"Your father is most likely already in trouble," Brendel replied.
Dilferi gave a soft whimper. Brendel saw her grip the armrests of the wheelchair tightly, her hands white with exertion.
"You want to return to the territory immediately?" Brendel asked.
"Of course," replied Dilferi, breathing softly. "Mr. Brendel, if it were your family and your father is in danger, would you be unbothered by it?"
Brendel shook his head. "Of course not, but I don’t suggest you go back."
"It's simple. One of the possible situations your father could be in right now is that he is imprisoned, or that he has already been killed." Brendel saw Dilferi’s complexion paling, but he continued. "In the first case, once you return to the territory, your father will also lose his value.
"And in the second case, do you think you can avenge your father's death by returning to the territory in your present physical condition? It will be nothing more than an additional trophy for your uncle."
After Brendel had finished speaking, he stared at the countess closely, afraid that she would not be able to accept it and suddenly faint. However, Dilferi showed an unusual strength and resolve, and only after a while did she reply. "If I die, will you, Mr. Brendel, avenge my death?"
"Of course I will." But Brendel shook his head again. "However, what would be the point? If you really think that vengeance could solve the problem, why don't you avenge him yourself instead?"
"Avenge him myself?" Dilferi was slightly startled, but then she got emotional. "Can I? Can I even get revenge with my own hands, even in my present condition? Mr. Brendel, do you have any ideas up your sleeve?”
Brendel nodded. "Dilferi, you're just tired of life. Your current physical condition isn't irreversible. Besides, it's not like the count was necessarily killed, but as long as you live for a day more, he has a chance of being saved."
The countess fell silent.
Brendel saw her take a soft breath. "I see. Can I have some time to think about it, Mr. Brendel?"
"Take your time," replied Brendel. "But I also have to tell you that whether you agree with me or not, I am not going to allow you to go back to Yanbao alone. Please believe me. I am responsible for taking care of the hero of the port of Ampere Seale.”
"Mr. Brendel, you..." Dilferi had tears in her eyes, but she still couldn't help but laugh. "Thank you, Mr. Brendel. You are so obnoxious."
"I’ve always been like that," Brendel replied without blushing.
At this moment, he saw Princess Gryphine walking back from outside. The princess, who seemed to have finished her announcements, looked at the two of them, and though she had heard their previous conversation, she made no comment. Rather, she only posed a question to Brendel.
“Mr. Brendel, would you accompany me to meet someone?”
“Meet someone? Now?”
The princess nodded.
Brendel was slightly stunned. He had vaguely guessed that the person Her Highness wanted him to meet might be related to the peace talks with the north. Right now, it was the only thing that could change the princess’s decisions, and only by solving the mess in the north could both Yanbao and this kingdom's future be saved.
“Who?” he asked.