As if being driven forward by unseen spirits, Brendel listened to Maynild’s orders and directed the gang to set up camp on the spot. But he didn’t bother taking Ciel, Medissa, or Hipamila with him; he simply chased after Maynild into the Anserra Forest by himself. The two warhorses crossed the forest grounds in the night and passed through an even patch of ground -- these were the Vielle Hills to the north of Shallow Water Town that Brendel that Brendel was familiar with - but very quickly, the trees began to thin out. A small path, cutting across the forest like a silver line, appeared in Brendel’s field of view. In actuality, that was reflection from the moonlight. The silver moon hung in the skies and its light traced the cedar trees of varying heights. The withered leaves piled up beneath the trees.
The willowy figure of the female knight remained constantly ahead of Brendel, keeping up a tempo that was neither too fast nor too slowly. She remained quiet and kept riding ahead in silence. In the end, Brendel couldn’t push away the questions in his mind. He sped up, shortened the distance between them, and asked, “What is it that you really want, Lady Maynild --”
The female knight slowed down and answered without turning back, “Didn’t I say that I knew where the Crystal Stag was?” Her voice flowed like the clear stream in the mountains.
This was not the answer that Brendel wanted. He wanted another one, “But how did you know..?”
This place was getting very close to a valley called the Holy Silver Valley in his memory. There, many Moonlight Blossoms bloomed. But more important, that was the habitat for a creature that was even more beautiful and enchanting.
There was a local Anserra legend about an enchanting Crystal Stag that lived in the forest. During each night of the full moon, it would wander between the forests and nourish itself on moonlight. Very few people have seen its figure, but every hunter who encountered it, without fail, would have good fortune in the next month.
But a legend was just a legend. In Amber Sword, the Crystal Stag was just an elemental being made from water. There were a few of them in Warndt. In Anouine, they mostly resided in the southern part of the Stained Frost Forest Labyrinth Forest, which encompassed the Anserra Forest and the Falling Needle Hills. Their food was pure magic, so when the Magic of the Moon was at its fullest, these enchanting creatures would migrate, following the flow of the magic in the forest.
They were a level 55 elemental being and had simple “healing” elements. Worth mentioning was the fact that they weren’t as peaceful as the legends made them out to be. In fact, Crystal Stags were extremely territorial and would often attack invaders. In addition, they would also work together with the Frost Demons in the forest and therefore, they were not a type of prey suitable to being captured.
But activating the elementals in regions northward of Manoweir usually involved just one single task, which was to get possession of the crystalized blood from a Crystal Stag.
The key to the question was: how did she know all of this?
The female knight looked sideways at him and the milk-like moonlight traced the contours of her face; she looked at him and there was a glint of light in her eyes, but she was still calm when she answered, “I also know that you need the crystalized blood.”
Brendel grabbed the reins so hard the tips of his fingers turned white. “Who are you?”
“Give and take. Before I answer your question, I’d like to ask you a question.” Maynild turned around while her horse continued moving forward. Her voice was steady, as if she was discussing something trivial.
Brendel fell silent for a moment, his thoughts all tangled up with each other. He tried to make sense of everything, but all the questions surrounded a single point. He hesitantly opened his mouth and said, “... ask.”
“Some people are racing. Just then, a rider passed the original second place. What place is he now?”
Brendel didn’t expect such a baffling question. Without thinking about it, he blurted out, “First?”
Maynild stifled a laugh and said. “I got it. You’re Sophie, aren’t you?”
Brendel froze on top of his horse like a statue. He stared, stunned, at the female knight and his teeth clacked against each other. He forced a name out from the deepest part of his throat, “Bai Jia… uppperclassman?”
Maynild stopped and looked at him.
“I’m not her.”
“That’s impossible!” Brendel was frustrated. He almost recognized her -- why else would Maynild not exist in history, why else would she look exactly like Bai Jia, and why would she know who he was?
But why wouldn’t she admit it?
“But I know her --” Maynild answered calmly.
Brendel hesitated. Maynild’s tone was very quiet and it seemed to calm his agitated heart. He looked at the woman with slight confusion -- that familiar figure. He asked, “What is going on?”
“I don’t know…” Maynild let out a deep sigh. “But I’m glad that I didn’t guess wrong. If you don’t think it’s boring, I can tell you about myself --”
“Please do.” Brendel tried hard to suppress his emotions. He felt like he was about to go crazy.
“From the time I could remember things, I started having dreams. Weird, unbelievable dreams. Sometimes in the dreams, the empire would collapse and everything would be devoured by flames. Sometimes, I dreamt that I was somebody else -- in those dreams, I was like an observer, but I still struggled against this impossible to understand destiny. In the end, history returned to the same path…” Maynild slowly described her experience. Her tone became sad, “... it was in that history that I learned about your upperclassman.”
Brendel felt like he just woke up from a dream. The first thing he said was, “That’s not possible!”
“Out of all her teammates, you were the stupidest. You’d always get every single trivia question wrong. But she liked you the best because you were naive and idealistic, just like a piece of blank paper.” Maynild answered. “I more or less guessed who you were, but I only became sure today of who you were -- Sophie.”
Brendel tightened his hold on the reins and stared at the woman.
“If you aren’t her, then why tell me this?” His voice sounded like his soul had been sucked away…
“Because I’m afraid.”
“In my dream, I saw many weird and unbelievable things happen. I don’t know which ones are real and which ones are fake. Until what I dreamt slowly became real, one by real. I started being afraid of the final end. I gave myself a name -- Maynild. In the few memory fragments of the dream, this word meant ‘revenge.’ I hope to fight against my own destiny.”
“Wait…” Brendel felt like he was listening to a far-fetched story. He found himself understanding what Maynild was talking about. They matched up with what happened in the previous world. But just as he was about to say something, he was interrupted by the female knight, “Don’t interrupt me.”
The female knight continued, “Because of this wish, I went to find the princess. But I realized that this was a bit of wishful thinking. I joined the royalists, but just like in my dreams, the royalists couldn’t stop this from happening. Aouine is like a boat, about to sink from the storm. Everyone on the boat can only watch helplessly as the boat gets dragged into the eye of the vortex.”
Here, she stopped. “Do you believe what I am saying/”
Right now, Brendel felt exactly like he did the day he crossed over. His mind was the same mess it had been then. He vaguely felt that these two events were connected, but he had no clue how. He stiffly nodded in response to the female knight’s question. “This is a bizarre story, but…”
“But you believe it, right? Because you have personally experienced part of it.” Maynild calmly continued. This question made Brendel shiver.
He stared at her.
“Because I had the same kind of catalyst.” Maynild didn’t avoid Brendel’s gaze. “There was a day when I realized that everything started detouring from the original tracks of history.”
“... From what day?” Actually, Brendel could guess but he still asked the question in a faint, ghostlike voice. His voice shook.
“From the day Graudin died.”
Brendel shivered slightly.
The female knight sighed quietly, as if she had never spoken for so long in her life. “Do you understand, Mr. Brendel? I know that you’re the only catalyst that could have changed it all. Only you can stop the ending in which Anouine sinks into destruction, because I know that you and I have experienced the same history --”
“Even though I don’t know where you come from and maybe you had the same dream I did, but at the very least, I understand your motivation.” She turned around and looked at him with clear and bright eyes. “You won’t let it happen again, right?”
Brendel rode quietly on his horse and didn’t answer.
“Why are you telling me this?” After a long moment of silence, he asked the same question he did before.
“Because I want to help you--”
That dream was clear but also vague. It let me know some fragments of things even though I can’t remember when the war between Aouine and Madara occurred, or who is my enemy and who is my friend. It feels like there’s a veil between history and myself --” she paused briefly, “But, you know, she knows more than you do. I can help you, Brendel.”
“Just like now?” Brendel quietly took a breath. He knows Maynild wasn’t wrong. Bai Jia knew more than he did. Before Lin Mao, he had just been a novice. And all the information he had about the years before then came from the records on the forum.
But before the first War of the Black Roses happened, Bai Jia had already been an experienced battalion leader.
He just never thought that even in another world, she’d be standing beside him, just like she did before.
Brendel suddenly felt stinging at the corners of his eyes. He blinked and asked, “Can you remember everything, Lady Maynild?”
“I cannot.” The female knight answered calmly, “But I can at least remember some of it.”
“That’s enough,” Brendel smiled slightly. His mood was completely calm now. He stopped his horse and reached out a hand, “As Marsha is our witness, let’s have a great time working with each other.”
Maynild also stopped. This was the way players formed teams in the game. She hesitated and felt like a lifetime had passed.
But she merely reached out a hand and gently touched Brendel’s fingertip. “Same, but don’t try and take advantage of me -- “
Brendel fell silent.