The moonlight cast a silvery sheen on the floor.
The little prince stood self-consciously at the border between light and dark. In the darkness, all that was visible was only the pointed chin - like that of a young girl’s - and the vague outline of a slender top half encased in a long gown. His silver eyes glinted in the darkness like jewels. They were filled with an awkward shyness and both his hands grabbed the two sides of the dress.
Though it was just an outline in the dark, Brendel was very satisfied.
Haruz hesitated for a moment and then slowly walked out. A pair of silver shoes, tied with a ribbon, appeared first. Then came the lace edge of a silver dress and then the tiny upper-body -- he dressed like an elegant princess. The silver gown and the giant bow on the chest did nothing to hide the slender collarbone and the rounded shoulders of a young girl; his hair had also gotten longer. The long hair was tied up in a ponytail with a curled tendril of hair framing each side of his face. The ponytail was likewise made up of many puffy silver curls, which looked very elegant.
The moonlight shone upon him and both his snow-white skin and the silver outfit reflected the pale light. He looked like a holy mountain elf. Haruz stared at the ground and the blush spread all the way to his neck. His pointed ears trembled out of embarrassment and he slowly blinked those dewy big eyes.
Brendel stared dumbly in amazement.
It wasn’t the shy little prince Haruz who stood in front of him but a miniature Princess Gryphine. Actually, no, Her Royal Highness never had this air of fragility about her. That air only served to compliment the little prince’s female clothing. Brendel never dreamt that he would ever be able to see such a gentle and calm Princess Gryphine.
He couldn’t back the cough. “This… should I call you Prince Haruz or her highness?”
Though he had been the one to suggest this plan, he regretted it a bit now. Brendel had never thought that Haruz would look like this after changing into women’s clothing.
Hopefully there wouldn’t be any lingering side effects.
“Sir Brendel… teacher. If you keep saying this I’ll get angry.” Haruz frowned and answered a bit angrily. He examined his outfit and the blush remained on his face. “Thi- this is just a choice I have to make to get out of the dream. It’s not an opportunity for teacher to laugh at me --”
Brendel was slightly surprised. He didn’t think that for someone as shy as his little student, he could come out with a speech like that. Even in their regular days together, the little prince rarely talked back to him.
For a second, he thought he was seeing things. He couldn’t help but stare at Haruz.
The little prince lowered his head and asked quietly, “Ladies aren’t allowed to wear swords when attending a party, right?”
“Then would you please pack away the Lion’s Fang for me?” Haruz handed his sword to Brendel. Then Brendel seemed to realize that his student did change. He took the sword and put it into his Dimension Space while asking, “Harzu, you look a bit like your sister just now --”
“Yeah, I don’t know why I thought of my sister.” The little prince nodded red-faced. “But you’re right, one can’t always be dependent on other people for survival. I have to work hard in order to leave this dream. There are so many people suffering in Aouine. In comparison, this is just a small difficulty.”
Brendel’s eyes glinted.
Before, he hadn’t really spent a lot of effort to persuade Haruz. He had merely told his student about one possibility. They could, of course, spend a lot more time and try to discover that nebulous fiancee. But a descender’s dream itself is a collapsing world. Every second they spend here increases its ability to threaten them.
The depresser let Harzu enter the dream, maybe for the same reason. Though they didn’t know what it planned on doing, the mission in the dream had to be closely tied to every person in the dream. It won’t be a single-person mission. So Brendel laid the danger out for Haruz and let him choose. He also reassured Haruz that he would share in all the dangers with him.
In the end, Haruz chose this simple approach.
He had originally assumed the little prince compromised out of his weak nature; he hadn’t considered that this would be his train of thought.
Brendel felt proud. This little prince had always been quick to back down, so much that it was almost disappointing. He hadn’t thought there’d be a day when the little prince became enlightened, though the process was a bit laughable. When the future Aouine king talked about what changed his life, would he mention that it was all because of a dress?
Though personality was hard to change, as long as there was the will to do so, at least they’ll gradually grow stronger. Historically, Haruz had become independent once and even took Ellara as his wife. Then in this world, he might even become a real king. All he needed was a catalyst.
Brendel smiled, “It’s surprising that you would say so, but your sister would be happy. At least now you seem like a suitable king.”
But would a king wear a dress? As a player, Brendel’s mind couldn’t help but go down weird alleys.
“That- that was because teacher made me realize that I can use my own sword to battle and win…” Haruz answered quietly. “Actually I’m grateful. I don’t know whether I - I’m doing the right or wrong thing. But I think, I need to choose to face this first.”
“Well said. It’s gratifying to have a student like you. Since you have these thoughts, then let’s take on this mission together.”
Brendel reached out a hand. “Actually, I have this vague feeling that this mission might have something to do with you Haruz.” Brendel frowned slightly. He thought about Her Royal Highness in Castle Monsterros and a strange feeling welled up in his heart. “How would this scene play out in this timeline?”
“Does it have something to do with me?”
Brendel nodded. “I think Viscount Cauldell wanted you to dress up like this for a certain reason. Though everything in the dream is bizarre, there are connections between things and events.”
The little prince didn’t dare argue against that. He only murmured a quiet agreement.
Brendel reached out his hand and looked at Haruz.
Haruz paused and looked at his teacher. Brendel sighed, “Rest your hand in mine. You wouldn’t want people to think that Viscount Caudell is someone without manners who behaved in an ungentleman’s manner?
“But… but…” The little prince stared wide-eyed.
“You’re wearing gloves. What’s there to be afraid of? Besides, this is a dream. What are you thinking? Practice now so that we don’t slip up in a bit.” Brendel said as he stared at his student. This wasn’t said in jest. In previous missions, they had all dressed up as various kinds of people; players used to have a self-deprecating saying amongst each other -- to be a player, you had to have the qualities of a thespian.
Of course, this was especially true for those who played as night swallows.
Men dressing up as women, women dressing as men… those were common occurrences.
Only then did the little prince make a sound of agreement and then force himself to place his hands in Brendel’s. Brendel didn’t behave any strangely. He was completely in mission mode. He carefully checked over the prince’s outfit and then asked, “Do you know how noblewomen in the upper echelons behave?”
“Yeah… a little bit.”
“Walk a couple steps for me.”
Haruz blushed and awkwardly walked forward a few steps. But Brendel immediately stopped him, “Stop ---”
Haruz looked up in confusion and Brendel shook his head. “Forget it. Walk as you normally would. Actually, you looked more like a girl like that…”
The little prince paused briefly and then glared at his teacher with gritted teeth.
But Brendel didn’t notice at all. His thoughts were already on its way to the palace within the capital. In his previous life, Prince Haruz should have been at the festivities as well. What had he seen? Brendel had the vague thought that his memories, the prince’s memories, and Cauldell’s memories were all twined together. There must be a connection hidden somewhere.
But in order to solve this puzzle, they had to go to the epicenter of the event.
So after they practiced for a bit at Garments for Saintly Ladies, Brendel took the young prince out among the crowd. Because they were in the dream, he directly copied Viscount Cauldell’s carriage, hitched up four snow-white stallions, and headed straight for the center of the capital.
The carriage drove on the main street of the capital, Aouine’s old capital. Every street of Monsterros seemed so familiar to Brendel, as if the deeper he went into this memory, everything that had been forgotten became alive again.
It was as if during the process of recovering Viscount Cauldell’s memory, he was retouching his own. Brendel scanned the familiar shops, fountain and plaza. This route was just like the path he took with Bai Jia that day to head towards the celebration. The blurred details gradually came into focus.
As if he was back in that part of history again.
Brendel’s breathing became rapid and shallow. He frowned and looked at the lights shining in the night. He felt like he was back on that day in Aouine. The War Goddess had been slain in battle and the entire kingdom was enveloped by grief.
But the nobles were so deep into their life of luxury and glamor, as if the magnificent palace and the bright lights made up the elegy of the kingdom.
“Teacher?” Haruz turned around. He noticed that something wasn’t quite right with Brendel’s expression.
Brendel came back to reality and shook his head at his student -- honestly, the little prince really did look like a mini Princess Gryphine. He hesitated and then said, “Haruz, in a little bit you might see some things beyond your imagination.”
“Because we’re in a dream?”
“More or less ---”
“No matter what happens, you cannot be impulsive. A dream, at its core, is a weird but also logical world. Its logic is tightly interwoven with memory. It would be meaningless to change the dream -- our mission is to make up for the regret in Viscount Cauldell’s heart.” Brendel paused. “Do you understand?”
He said this more to remind himself than anything. Of course, he knew what happened during the festivities, but he also understood that he had to control his emotions.
Because this was a dream, just a world made of memory.
Haruz nodded, not quite understanding everything.
Only then did the carriage finally come to a stop.
Brendel opened the carriage door and his hand immediately froze. He stood looking at the person outside the door in stunned surprise, as if he saw a horrifying nightmare.
Maynild -- no, a woman who looked exactly like the female knight -- stood underneath the carriage and looked at him. She examined the paper in her hand and then
“Viscount Cauldell, is it?”
Brendel thought a tsunami was sweeping through his heart.