The sound of the brass doorknob seemed to pierce through emptiness and loneliness in the dark; Princess Gryphine opened the wooden door and came out of the room, her silver curls resting against her beautiful face. Although there were still faint red circles around her eyes, she had mostly returned to her usual cold look.
"Magadal… has she been sleeping like this all these days?"
"Yeah, I heard she appears no different than the dead. She’s maintained basic physiological functions, though that's only superficial." An overly conscious girl's voice replied before Brendel could answer. Looking to the direction of the voice, Princess Aloz’s curls shone like gold in the darkness as she took a red, wild fruit and took a bite, juice running down her mouth and chin; But the little female Dragon did not care, she just stared at Brendel and Gryphine with her golden pupils, "In fact, one can almost say that what’s lying on that bed is nothing more than a body with no soul - according to you humans, that description should be quite fitting, right? If she were a human, she should have already died."
“The princess is asking me, Aloz,” Brendel replied with a stern face. Ever since this little female Dragon came to his territory, she had been using his name and the power of the Dragons to scam people for food, and the only commendable thing she had ever done was checking up on Magdal - but that too was driven by her curiosity. It was obvious that, despite her long travels in human society, she had not learned how to talk to people more tactfully and less bluntly.
"If she was asking me, I wouldn't have answered. What do you take me for, Brendel?" Aloz narrowed her eyes ferociously, though the thirteen-year-old girl's height was hardly intimidating.
"No need to argue, it's nothing." The Princess spoke up to interrupt them, she didn't want Brendel to annoy the Dragons because of her. She asked quietly, "Countess. Do you have any thoughts on the alliance between Arreck and Radner?”
Brendel was startled; he had expected Princess Gryphine to ask him about the Nun Princess first and not bring up this old matter. He had already figured out this issue in the carriage and decided that the most suitable tactic to deal with Count Radner was decapitation.
It was different now, no longer like the time he had first arrived in Trentheim when Count Radner had completely overpowered him. Right now, power-wise, Duke Arreck and Count Radner together might not even be a match for him. Duke Arreck had the famous Hawks and Silver Knights under him, as well as several well-known swordsmen, plus some retainers, while under Radner, there were only seven or eight Golden-ranked lackeys left, and even if Devard had not died in Ampere Seale that day, Brendel could have easily finished them off.
This was Vaunte after all, where personal strength accounted for a considerable portion of the war, such as some higher up commanders in several of the Holy Wars in Vaunte’s history. The majority of them were also people of outstanding strength, many of whom were equally matched with his grandfather Darius.
The only problem was that trickery and conspiracy in the war were mutual. As he was plotting against the other side, Duke Arreck might also be planning retaliation. Brendel’s show of strength in the first battle of Ampere Seale was already astounding. While most of the world believed that Williams had died under the fire of Aouine’s First Navy, the subsequent encounter with Devard the Hawk, as well as his achievements concerning the Titans, was enough for people to notice this rising star of Aouine.
The name of Count Trentheim had already spread throughout Aouine, and his name had become familiar even among the higher-ups of the Kirrlutz. Whether it be the northern tundra or the southern countryside, no one was unaware of Aouine’s newly risen Sword Saint.
Furthermore, he’s a descendant of Darius.
Naturally, such news could not escape the ears of Duke Arreck, not to mention that the old fox was present in the battle that day. If he dared to appear despite knowing the gap in strength, he was either too arrogant or had other plans, and as far as Brendel was concerned, he would rather believe the latter.
Therefore, in addition to decapitation tactics, it was best to prepare for conventional warfare. It was just that the fighting in the vast territory of the province of Arreck and the mountainous territory of Radner would take a lot of time, not counting help from the Kirrlutz. Count Radner had been fighting against Duke Viero for many years and had maintained a private army in his territory. Even more so, Duke Arreck, who had been planning for a long time, had a large gathering of elite soldiers.
On the other side, the Princess's side, besides the Imperial Navy which was still resting in Ampere Seale, the only forces she could rely on was Vlada's army and the Southern Legion, in addition to the support promised by Duke Anthony and the Highland Knights. But the Southern Legion had long been unsupplied and the establishment was mostly incomplete, while Duke Anthony’s army had also been badly wounded in the First Battle of Ampere Seale. So, the only ones who could even fight were Vlada's noble army and the Highland Knights' reinforcements, plus Trentheim's pitifully small army.
These miscellaneous armies together could not form an absolute advantage over the troops under Duke Arreck and Radner, and even without accounting for Arreck's conspiracies, conquering both Radner and Arreck was probably a task that would last for years and years. The problem was that Brendel knew very well Aouine could not spare the time to conduct such a protracted war.
The only way to do so was to find help.
The best choice, of course, was Duke Viero, who had a personal grudge against Count Radner.
Princess Gryphine listened to Brendel’s thoughts in silence, and as the sunlight passing through the courtyard shone on her face, the half-elf girl stopped and turned back, “I see… I will give you the sole charge of the war with Radner, Brendel. Merge Vlada’s army into Trentheim’s and command them together.”
Brendel suddenly stiffened, "Your Highness?"
Of course, he understood what that meant, but he seemed yet to process it, and unconsciously stopped in his tracks to look at the Princess.
The post-noon sun had just spread over the wild grape arbor in the courtyard, bringing a lush green color across the last stretch of the corridor in front of the archway and onto the princess's long skirt.
Time seemed to stop for a moment, it was dead silent.
Princess Gryphine looked at him, her silver eyes calm, “Say no more. I trust you, Mr.Brendel.”
“But-” Brendel’s mouth went a little dry. Although the princess had also handed the Keystone to him that day in Ampere Seale, this was different from that time of crisis. Now, when Princess Gryphine handed over almost all the power she had to him, it felt like she was indulging him.
It was not the behavior a sober-minded politician should have had.
But it seemed as if the princess didn’t want to give him the chance to open his mouth. She lowered her eyelids with her thick lashes and blinked slightly, “There’s one more thing.”
Brendel let out a soft sigh of relief, it was a good thing that the little female Dragon, Aloz, had already walked away uninterested. Otherwise, she would have been the first to laugh at how he had just made a fool of himself.
"Magadal... is my best friend, and I know that her current state was my fault. In any case, if there's even the smallest glimmer of hope, I hope you can save her."
"You're the only one on my side that possesses that kind of power."
"So, can you promise me that?"
Brendel did not look at the princess’s expression, but he heard a rare hint of weakness in the tone of her voice. He did not say much and just nodded. Even if Princess Gryphine had not asked him, he would’ve looked for a way to wake Magadal up.
Having fought side by side, two can be considered companions. Those were the words of the senior herself.
"I see." He replied.
The princess lifted her head and looked at him closely, then took two steps towards him. Reaching out her hand and pressing it to his nobleman's neckerchief, she smiled somewhat reassuringly, "Thank you, my knight, you have never disappointed me."
Then she backed away, gave him one last look, and went down the stairs holding her skirt. She disappeared into the courtyard in a flash, leaving Brendel standing somewhat dazed under the archway.
"Her Highness seems to have taken a liking to you, Brendel." A brittle voice inserted itself into his thoughts.
Brendel’s eyebrows jumped slightly and he looked back, and he saw a certain familiar face. Romaine, dressed in her thick merchant's outfit, stood behind him with her arms folded, watching Gryphine’s disappearance with as much curiosity as he did.
There was no telling when this fellow will arrive.
As soon as Brendel saw her lost little face, he could not help but ask somewhat unkindly, "So, you're not at all jealous?"
"A little bit."
Brendel glared at her.
“Was that the wrong answer, Brendel?" Romaine looked at him and tried to sink her head into her neck.
Brendel sighed and held out his hand, "Give me your hand."
"That's an order."
The merchant lady thought for a moment and wiped her hand aggressively on her leather jacket before placing her hand onto his. Brendel felt the slight coolness of her palm and couldn't help but look at the lady, his heart softening, "Have you been out on the streets?"
"Not yet. Ferlarn won't let me out again. If I'd known, I wouldn't have borrowed that gun or whatever it is from Scarlet. It's outrageous, I've already given it back to her." Romaine was full of displeasure.
"I'll go out with you."
"Really?" The Merchant Lady asked in surprise.
"Then... Brendel, can you save Princess What's-Her-Name? Sounds like a knight's tale to me, Prince and Princess. Will she marry you when she wakes up, Brendel?"
"It's not something you need to be concerned about,"
Brendel replied in a bad mood.