For an unusually long time, Medissa’s attention was drawn to a group of queerly-dressed knights. The knights had halted at the roadside, taking in the surrounding scenery from atop their horses. While their facial expressions varied from person to person, most were merely curious.
In Trentheim, it was rare to see such colorfully dressed knights besides the White Lion Battalion or Brendel’s subordinates. But even members of the White Lion Battalion wouldn’t have a fire shaped badge on their chest armor. Additionally, the design of their armor made it clear that they weren’t native to Aouine.
In contrast to Aouine’s typical suits of plate mail, the knights’ armor was almost entirely dark red and covered in many decorative elements made from fur, leather, and horns. This was classic Kirrlutzian armor style. The armor’s hue stemmed from the fact that Kirrlutzian iron contained a high concentration of the fire element.
“We have some strange visitors.” Medissa thought for a second before realizing who they were.
Why else would diplomats from Kirrlutz appear in Trentheim at this time of year?
Laurenna lowered the iron wristguard she was using to block out the sun and looked over a vast expanse of farmland, a windmill slowly spinning in the distance. But when her gaze landed on the ramshackle Coldwood Castle, a trace of disdain appeared on her expression - Coldwood Castle had been in need of repair ever since Gaudin’s rule and Brendel only used it as a temporary resting place, so he never considered renovating it. Therefore, the young female knight from Kirrlutz could all too easily easily notice every one of the thousand-plus holes in the dilapidated castle.
“I didn’t think that there’d be a place like this so far south in Trentheim’s countryside. Compared to Trentheim, some of the places we visited in the north of this country were nowhere as prosperous as this place - far from it. Didn’t the books say the southern regions were all abandoned and barren fields?” She muttered to herself.
Her attention was drawn to a nearby tournament. The crowd surrounding Coldwood City milled about, and she turned around to carefully examine the knights which happened to be entering the ring.
“The records you read were from years ago. It is not out of the ordinary for things to have changed.” A female voice answered her.
Laurenna didn’t have to turn her head to know who that voice belonged to. It was, without a question, a very unique voice and memorable in every way. The calm and steady tone seemed languid and elegant. It was a voice you heard once and never forgot.
As if the owner of such a voice only spoke once she had considered matters from every possible angle.
If Brendel were here, he’d recognize the owner of the voice. The woman, protected by a ring of Kirrlutz’s knights, looked only to be eighteen or nineteen, but there was something transcendentally mysterious and alluring about her. She was Delphine, the daughter of Kirrlutz’s prime minister, whom he had met by chance in the Black Forest.
The daughter of the Prime Minister observed her surroundings with a composed gaze . Her black hair draped down like a bolt of the finest silk, and her eyes seemed to bear within them endless mystery. Everything about Delphine gave her an impenetrable sense of serenity.
Sitting on top of her horse, she naturally drew people’s gazes towards her. After all, a beauty of her caliber was rare not only in Trentheim; you would rarely come across someone with her beauty even in the most prosperous towns of either Aouine or Kirrlutz. This meant even the locals couldn’t help but sneak glances at her. Their curiosity mainly came from the realization that there was a woman more beautiful than their leader’s fiancee or Her Royal Highness.
But Delphine was wearing the long robes of a noble Kirrlutz official and seemed more like a diplomat than the usual noble lady. Her robe was dyed deep purple, the vibrant golds and reds of those who worshipped Holy Cathedral of Fire wholly absent.. Her outfit made it even clearer who she was.
“Lady Delphine, do you know something?” Laurenna turned around and asked.
Delphine nodded and explained, “As far as I know, the Count only became the leader of this region recently. So the changes around here could very well be because of him.”
She answered in a steady voice, only hesitating slightly when she mentioned Brendel.
Laurenna glanced at the daughter of the Prime Minister and remained silent after a period of thought. She knew the person Laurenna loved had died in the Black Forest, indirectly because of this leader they were about to meet. It was very likely that the diplomat’s request to come here was not just to deliver a simple letter.
The female knight changed the topic and pretended to ask, “It’s him? I didn’t think this leader had such talent for politics. Is it true that he’s very young?”
“Yes, very young. I had the opportunity to meet the Count.” Delphine answered nonchalantly. “But it would be too hasty to call him with political talent. The Count has possession of the silver mines in Trentheim, and there are rumors he recently discovered a crystal mine. Everything you see now is but a temporary illusion crafted out of riches.”
“I thought so. This is just a third-rate tournament, but at least it’s exciting.” The young knight sitting behind Laurenna yawned and looked at everything with boredom in his eyes. Then he forced himself awake and said, “Looks like we’re lucky to have arrived just in time to join the festivities of these hillbillies. Maybe the leader will have the courtesy to treat us to a rich meal. Ever since we left Ampere Seale, the taste of wild weeds has become a constant companion to my taste buds.”
“Those weren’t weeds, they were wild vegetables.” Laurenna glared at him in frustration.
Any other knight in their group would never dare to be this disrespectful in front of their captain. But the one who just spoke was the younger brother of the emperor, the first-born heir of Prince Barrano, and also her fiance.
His name hadn’t been on the original list of personnel assigned to this mission, but Prince Barrano used protecting her as an excuse to tag along. Marsha above, but heavens knew she didn’t need his protection. As an official captain of the Azure Skies Squad, she was worth two of him.
But in the end, Laurenna had sighed and given in. It was a political marriage arrangement, and though she didn’t really think well of him, she wasn’t completely opposed to him either. Even though he was somewhat tedious, he at least was tolerable compared to some of the other noble sons in the capital.
The young knight shrugged his shoulders, “Fine, your call.” He looked around and stated, “I wonder if there’ll be the rumored bonfire party tonight. I’d love to see it and maybe a passionate Highlander girl will fall in love with me.”
“That’d be exciting,” He turned around and said in a louder voice, “Don’t you think so, Laurenna?”
The female knight answered coldy, “Enough, Filas. Don’t cause any trouble. Nobody here cares whose heir you are. You should remember whose territory you are in.”
Her tone wasn’t friendly to say the least; clearly, the rascal had already caused her lots of trouble on the way here. But Laurenna also knew very well that her words had no deterring power for him. Luckily, this was just Aouine and not within Kirrlutz’s borders. In this tiny country, the most the leader could do was verbally protest about their behavior.
“Of course I know. The Count is now famous thanks to Ampere Seale. He took so much from us. Didn’t Duke Flowerleaf and Duke Norske both say that Kirrlutz has never lost so badly before? Kirrlutz will never forget such a ‘gift’...”
Filas’ thoughtless remarks were suddenly cut off as Laurenna shot him a cold stare in warning. He shivered and quickly said, “Okay, I get it… on behalf of Lady Veronica, I won’t go cause trouble with them. Even though I promised little Vahina… fine, fine, fine, I get it, I’ll listen to you, my dear Lady Laurenna.”
“Filas, if it weren’t for your father, I would never marry you.” The female knight answered derisively.
“I know. I know! I’ll be quiet, okay?” The young knight hurriedly tried to appease his fiancee’s anger. At the very least, he knew very well that it was an honor to marry the genius daughter of a duke from the capital.
The female knight thought the troublemaker in the group would give it a rest for a bit. She turned around to try and find the leader of the territory, but before she even had the chance to take a breath, she heard the troublemaker give a long whistle from behind her.
“Laurenna, look over there!” Filas whistled and suddenly shouted in excitement.
Usually when the young master was this excited, nothing good was going to happen. True to form, when Laurenna turned around, she saw a crowd of people escorting a young girl down the road.
She had to respect her fiance’s eye for beauty, because that girl was indeed a rare beauty. The young girl was about sixteen or seventeen; and just like many of the girls in the countryside, she tied her hair up to make working easier, and it revealed her smooth and pale forehead. But she wore a thick merchant’s leather outfit that was commonly seen in the southern parts of Aouine, which made her stand out among the crowd and drew people’s eyes to her.
“Filas, don’t bother others.” Laurenna knew that her fiance really did care about her, but his impulsive nature often made him unable to resist flirting with other girls. At least it was all just verbally.
The guy had once suffered greatly because of a certain young lady, but he didn’t seem to have learned his lesson.
But clearly her words had no effect because Filas was now in the mood. He whistled loudly. Since leaving the Empire and passing through so many regions, he’d never seen a girl this remarkable -- of course, his fiancee and the untouchable prime minister’s daughter were the exception.
The son of the prince from Kirrlutz had, of course, caught sight of Romaine. The merchant girl had finally managed to rescue a few pieces of roast meat from the kitchen, but she ran out only to discover Brendel was nowhere to be found so she started to just sell beer along the streets by herself.
Because she’s always shown her face in public, most residents of Coldwood knew the personable fiancee of their leader, and nobody dared to take advantage of her. Instead, they cheerfully paid up for some of her beer -- after all, it was a kind of honor to drink beer personally made by the leader’s wife.
But Romaine held an empty bowl in one hand and held the standard of the Silver Elf Princess, which she had tricked out of someone’s hands, in the other. She was chatting happily with the people around her and clearly did not perceive the Kirrlutz knights.
Of course, she wasn’t to blame. After all, it was such a lively time of year and there were knights and guards of honor dressed in their finest holiday wear everywhere. Not many commoners knew the difference between armor from Kirrtluz and armor from Aouine.
As for the merchant girl, she was even more clueless.
They all looked like a tin can and none of them had the pointed ears of the elves, so they all looked more or less the same. Who would have thought Kirrlutzian knights would appear in such a remote place?
It wasn’t until a shadow fell across her, as if blocking the sun that Romaine lifted her head slightly and saw the stocky Kirrlutzian knight blocking her way.
Filas urged his horse forward to halt in front of Romaine. He held the reins tightly with one hand and turned his horse around. Since this was a beautiful demonstration of skill, the knights from other regions cheered. Filas, of course, was also very satisfied. In his recollection, this was enough to shock any of the hillbillies from Aouine.
“My beautiful lady, may I have the honor of knowing your name?”
He looked up and wanted to see the look of admiration he imagined he deserved. He was in the middle of nowhere, and he had done this trick so many times along the way it was as familiar as breathing. Every time, he had successfully won cheers and applause. But this time, Filas discovered he was about to be disappointed.
Because, as he squinted his eyes, herealized the Aouinian hillbilly in front of him wasn’t looking at him in admiration -- but rather it was as if she was looking at an idiot.
Her eyes seemed to say -- where did a country bumpkin like you come from?