Edessa the maid looked out the terrace, concerned. The sky was blue but a light veil of clouds invoked a sense of unease hidden in the rising harbor. Red-tiled roofs stretched far into the distance, the magnificent buildings outlining the peculiar landscape of the Pasha Road district.
It showcased the flamboyance of the nobles, refined and comforting in every way. But the marks left by the storm were still there, and the broken tree branches strewn about in the uncleaned courtyard seemed to belie a bad omen.
"I'll have them cleaned up, the people downstairs are really stubborn." Edessa sighed softly.
She looked towards the man on the terrace. His long, dark brown hair was almost black as it flowed like a waterfall over his red cloak edged with snow-white fur.
"Don't bother, Edessa. It's not like I’ll notice anyways, you know that. You don't really need to be so particular about things." The man opened his mouth, his voice was as gentle as flowing water. He looked up as if he was taking in a deep breath, "Well...do you smell it? It's the smell after a storm. Only now the air at its cleanest, like the world has been reborn."
"But it's actually dirty outside this time of year, with broken branches and debris scraped off the roofs," replied Edessa." It's also a dangerous thing for ordinary people to be on the streets right now."
"O Edessa, if you do not tell me, how shall I know? You are always like this - is the world so useless in your eyes?” The man couldn't help but laugh bitterly. Edessa was a little disturbed to hear his words, but she still replied, "My task is to tell you what I see, Your Highness."
The man smiled slightly and did not reply.
Suddenly she saw a flock of white pigeons towards the Nussock Street square. The attendant was startled to see the birds fly. She could only gaze at their freedom with amazement while her heart remained shackled and grounded. She turned back, looked to her master, and asked somewhat worriedly, "Your Highness. Many days have passed."
"Don’t worry." The man replied. Edessa could tell that he didn't sound very confident, but she knew her master's temper well enough to stop talking. Instead, she buried her anxiety deep in her heart.
She had already gotten used to this.
The house was silent for a time, and Edessa watched quietly as the flock of pigeons flew away. She suddenly remembered a story she had heard from an elder when she was a child. The birds from the north will migrate south through the storm, fighting their destiny day by day amidst thunder and lightning - but was it really possible? She couldn't help but look at the silhoutte.
Outside the carriage, bustling shops formed a unique atmosphere in the port. Although the smell of war seemed to have only faded just slightly, merchants once again filled Ampere Seale with prosperity and vitality.
Brendel opened the carriage door and then carefully helped Amandina down from the carriage. Amandina was slightly embarrassed, as - being his follower - the situation should have been flipped around.
The merchant lady was next. Romaine jumped perfectly from the carriage into Brendel’s waiting arms. The merchant lady giggled out loud, causing Brendel to pinch her cheeks mischievously.
"Ah!" Romaine’s little eyebrows immediately shot up.
Brendel looked up, glancing toward the carriage on the other side of the square. The curtain of another carriage was lifted slightly as the half-elf girl watched them from behind and gave him a slight nod.
Although Her Highness was anxious to find a way to quell the chaos in the north as fast as possible, the meeting with Archbishop Wood eventually was dragged on to the next day.
The current Ampere Seale was created by the clash of forces from all sides. But in the end, it was the Princess's side which prevailed, triumphing over the Holy Cathedral and the northern nobles. After everyone learned of the once-great Holy Cathedral’s catastrophic blunder, the organization was forced to keep a low profile.
And as the person ultimately responsible for this incident, Wood was no longer the most important person from the Holy Cathedral of Fire in Ampere Seale. After he left his position as Archbishop, the Holy Cathedral had decided on a new candidate. The new Chief Archbishop, Gladys, was quite inconspicuous within the Holy Cathedral, but Brendel was familiar with this consistently neutral character. He was an old man who had later served as Archbishop in the Kingdom of Antoburo. He had always pleaded for the Holy Cathedral to remain impartial and neutral, and his delegation to Ampere Seale also showed how Kirrlutz had changed their way of handling the relations between the North and South. However, the newly inducted Chief Archbishop would not arrive until at least mid-year, so Wood still took care of some of the Chief Archbishop’s daily routines.
When the princess had taken him to meet with Wood - who had been the acting Chief Archbishop yesterday - she had not expected he would happen to be out of town on an appointment to pacify the people of the community. The Chief Archbishop’'s invitation was only delivered to her by a servant the next morning.
This time Brendel took Amandina with him, but the merchant lady clamored to go along for some reason. It was mostly because after a series of discussions about the ownership of the Titan's wreckage, and as the lady who blew everyone’s minds with her performance during the previous war, Romaine was considered to have played a very important role. The great lady's name was now well known throughout the port, so it wasn't a big surprise Brendel brought her along. Of course, the most important thing was that Brendel knew that he would never be able to defeat the mischievous merchant lady no matter what.
Princess Gryphine, on the other hand, had brought her brother with her. The four carriages soon met in the central square, and at the invitation of Her Highness, Brendel, Romaine, and Amandina exchanged carriages. The three of them squeezed into the carriage painted with lilies and a crescent emblem. Brendel immediately saw little Prince Haruz who sat besides next to the princess.
The historical Prince Haruz sat quietly beside his sister, and just as Brendel remembered a few years ago, he was still a meek teenager - or rather, a child. Both of his hands rested somewhat sharply on his knees, his head drooped downwards. The soft hair on his forehead almost fell to the collar of his chest, and if he was not wearing a white shirt with the royal coat of arms and a sword with the lion's crest, it was hard to believe at first glance he would be the future king of Aouine.
Seeing her brother in this state, Gryphine couldn't help but sigh. In her opinion, Brendel was bound to eventually occupy an significant position in the kingdom, and she had wanted her brother to first form good connections with the kingdom's important ministers. n fact, she even wanted Brendel to become Haruz’s teacher. This was certainly not only a fantasy! Brendel was now fully qualified to take on the position. If Brendel was still unwilling, then no one in all of Aouine except for an old monster like Tulman from the Medieval Era would be qualified to teach the prince.
But Gryphine also knew her brother's capability. Official knighthood was difficult to obtain, and a poor student would adversely affect the reputation of his or her teacher. She knew Brendel did not need a royal pupil to boost his reputation, but he definitely wouldn’t be happy to take on an unworthy pupil and destroy it.
Of course, some people might covet the position to show favor to the crown. Gryphine was used to seeing instances like this. It was part of the reason why Oberwei was willing to teach her the Sword Art after all; the world knew how much King Oberg the Seventh favored his daughter.
But unfortunately not everyone is like the Wolf Baron or Brendel. Princess Gryphine thought to herself, and sighed begrudgingly.
But what she didn't expect was that while she was feeling a little hopeless about things, Brendel would have a big interest in the prince. Her Highness did not speak for a moment. He sat next to Amandina; the merchant lady was curiously opening a drawer on one side of the carriage to look for snacks. It obviously wasn't the first time she'd been in Princess Gryphine’s carriage. No one started a conversation in the carriage for a moment either, and in this brief silence, Brendel took a closer look at the future king of Aouine.
It was the first time he had met the young prince in this life, and even in his last life, he and the prince only had a handful of encounters. Although he had been in contact with the upper echelons of the kingdom during the last period of the Aouine’s rise to power at that time, he was never familiar with the prince.
Nominally, Haruz should have been considered the king of Aouine at that time.
But for well-known reasons, such as the obstruction of the Duke of Arreck, the future king was robbed of independence. Besides the fact that he lacked the ability to secure his freedom, the Prince Haruz in Brendel’s memory was just as introverted as the present prince sitting before him. Cowardice was the most fatal flaw of a royal - or even a noble.
The Lord of the Kirrlutz lowlands, Hordelan, had a famous line in the game: "Nobles can be vicious, sinister, and greedy. They can even be ineffective. But they must never be lacking in determination!"
Unfortunately, Prince Haruz happened to be one such person.
This nature of his was said to be closely connected with the new queen of King Oberg the Seventh. This was only a rumor, but the court struggle in the palace had more or less bred the prince's timid temperament. Although Princess Gryphine had much favor with the old king, Brendel knew that it had actually been Seifer and the queen's side that had prevailed in the royal court.
Prince Haruz in history finally came to his senses when his sister, Princess Gryphine, fell into dire straits. But it was all too late. And when Madara invaded Aouine for the third time, Aouine fell.
After that, Brendel left this depressing land. It was later rumored that Eikkel and Youla’s daughter Ellara re-formed the rebellion. Some said that Prince Haruz was in the King's Capitol when the fire broke out, but he did not die. He was allegedly rescued by Buga the Cross and later married to Ellara.
Despite that, all these were all just rumors, and no one had ever seen them together with their own eyes, much less Brendel who was already far away in Sanorso by then.
But history didn't make Brendel despise the prince. Rather, it deepened his curiosity. He had read an article on the Internet by some Aouine blogger about the prince, and it was said that Prince Haruz, though shy and introverted, was actually outstanding in many ways, and especially gifted in learning magic and Sword Art.
That article even hinted that the prince might be a Chosen One.
Of course, this was only a one-sided, propagandistic story to Brendel. But it didn't prevent him from discovering the truth, and as far as he knew, Prince Haruz had tried to start learning Sword Arts as a child under the guidance of Princess Gryphine. It was said nothing had been working. His apparent ineptitude caused even Her Highness to despair, so where did the argument for that article come from?
Or was it just clickbait?
Brendel looked at the hands of the young prince. They were white and slender, like a woman's. He couldn't help but shake his head. These were not the hands of a man who used a sword all the time, much less one who was gifted in Sword Art.
It was well known that any talent came from painstaking training. Even a Sword Art genius like Buga was the fruit of countless hours of training; there was no such thing as getting results without labor! Of course, Brendel knew his situation was an exception, but he didn't think Prince Haruz was like himself - an otherworld transmigrator.
But did the young prince in history hate swordsmanship, or was he simply lacking in talent? Exactly which side of the story was right? As Brendel sat in the carriage, Haruz seemed to notice his gaze and shrank his hands back in fright.
"What's wrong?" Her Highness immediately realized her brother's abnormality and asked with some displeasure. The royal family's education required their descendants to maintain a minimum level of decorum under all circumstances, and today Haruz’s indecency was clearly a little too much.
She knew her brother had always been introverted and fearful, but it was too much to be so sensitive. Especially since she didn't want Haruz to leave a bad impression in front of Brendel.
Seeing his sister’s sudden serious composure, Haruz was shocked and stammered a reply, "No...nothing, sister."
"Your Highness, the young prince is only ten years old this year, right? At this age, it seems a little too early to be practicing magic." Brendel suddenly narrowed his eyes and spoke.
The nobles often had their children study magic and knowledge with famous court sorcerers, such as Grandmaster Fleetwood, who had been Princess Gryphine’s teacher before his death at the battle of Ampere Seale, and the mystic Garlock, the mentor of the first prince and his sister.
But the fact remained that all Vaunte’s magic ultimately involved drawing power from the sea of magic. While intended to weave the laws, dark magic would affect the caster’s body, so most wizards were physically weaker by comparison.
For this reason, while most started learning about magic theory at the age of four or five, actual lessons usually took place after adulthood. At very least, magic lessons were in most cases delayed until after the age of thirteen.
But Brendel had found something interesting about Haruz.
He was almost certain that the young prince had practiced black magic.