The great hall had been turned into a hellish scene filled with red blood that stung the eyes looking at it. The soldiers in white and red robes slowly walked over the piled-up corpses and the small rivulets of blood. Those cold metal boots stomped in unison across the carpet, turned sticky by the amount of blood it soaked up, and attempted to surround the corner where Brendel stood.
The half-elf Princess still attempted to struggle free from Brendel’s vice-like grip. She struggled but to no avail. So she quickly calmed down and demanded in a cold voice, “Viscount Cauldell, what exactly do you want?”
Among the panicked look coming from Haruz, Brendel placed the black sunstone-like blade of Halran Gaia against Princess Gryphine’s neck. He waited until the two approaching knights stopped their footsteps before answering, “Of course it’s to fight my way out.”
“Fight your way out?” Princess Gryphine looked dubiously at those soldiers. To her, they belonged to the same gang as Viscount Cauldell.
Brendel didn’t explain anymore. He used the sword to quiet the princess’ knights and the handmaiden around her. Then he said, “If you don’t want your Crown Princess to come to harm, then do as I say. You follow me. We’re going to retreat towards the stairs and go up to the second floor.”
Because Princess Gryphine didn’t know what “Viscount Cauldell” was up to, she let out a light snort.
“Princess, if Bessidine has a chance of survival, that’s what you want too, right? So I want you to work with me. I believe that you are smart and calm enough to calculate the odds right now. For all of us to die right here would benefit only your enemies…”
Haruz looked at him, conflicted, but Brendel glared back at him.
The expression on the Crown Princess’ face said clearly that she would not trust ‘Cauldell’ to change camp suddenly. She’d rather believe it was a trick. But Brendel got at least one thing right. Ever since Princess Gryphine left the Kinten Palace for the first time at the age of sixteen, she had always possessed the qualities of the very best politicians. She could calmly analyze the situation and accept any choice, as long as it wasn’t the worst choice.
She had always considered personal emotions as a rare luxury. Sometimes her logic was like a well-oiled machine; she was stubborn and coldhearted toward herself and yet she carefully guarded the hope in her heart. She had once sacrificed everything; that had created the Crown Princess in history that every player in Aouine empathized with.
Therefore for Brendel, it was enough that she neither rejected or accepted his plan. Brendel knew that Princess Gryphine did not abandon her guardedness when it came to him, but she also knew that at the very least, she would not intentionally work against him.
There was a bloody battle coming up. He didn’t want there to be someone who was always trying to find ways to stab him in the back.
He immediately walked with Princess Gryphine toward the staircase. As expected, the Crown Princess didn’t struggle but she only breathed a sigh of relief when the two disheveled knights surrounded ‘Bessidine’ in protection. Right now, as long as Bessidine could leave this place, nothing else mattered to the Crown Princess.
In her plan, the loss of the monarchy would cause Arreck to become the biggest threat to the nobles. This kind of threat would, over time, evolve into opposition and become the prelude to war. But the leader from the Plains would not be as easily cowed as the Covardo Royal Family. The battle between royals would inevitably lead to losses on both sides and a compromise. Madara, ever restless, would not let such a valuable opportunity pass by and the Undead army would sweep through the scorched earth.
After that, Kirrlutz would not want to directly face the Emperor with the Mercury Staff. Therefore, they would most certainly choose to support the oppositional forces within Aouine.
As long as Bessidine was alive, the Kingdom could hope to be reborn from the scorched earth.
Though her homeland was destined to be swept up in a sea of flame, she couldn’t worry about that anymore. She could only see the brightly burning flames. Whether it was her, Duke Arreck, or even those greedy nobles, they would end up dragging this kingdom into the depth of hell.
She could only choose the better outcome.
Gryphine quietly experienced the cold blade of the sword pressing against her neck. She calmly lowered her head, but her heart was weeping. She reflected on her life and realized that she always seemed to be making the lesser of evils.
Every compromise seemed to plant a seed for the next failure.
For an instant, she suddenly wanted to go back. Go back to the year when she was sixteen. Maybe she should have chosen a different path and the kingdom’s future would not be like this.
Brendel could sort of sense what the princess he was holding hostage was feeling since this was part of his memory. Or maybe it was because he had the same wish. It was because of this wish that he wilfully changed Aouine’s original destiny, which had been to decline.
It was also because of this same wish that made him firmly believe he could leave his dream. In his heart, he already had his own answer.
With one hand, he controlled the Crown Princess. With his right hand, he swung his sword and swept away the sword of the soldiers warming them. Then, he simply slashed a straight line in front of him with his sword.
As the blade passed, the soldiers didn’t have time to block or withdraw. They could only watch helplessly as the sharp blade, dark as black sunstone, cut open their battle robes, cut through the metal rings on the chainmail underneath, and cut at the flesh and bone underneath it all. Blood splattered out, as eye-catching as red roses, accompanied by a crackling sound and the sight of metal chainmail being flung through the air.
The blood was the same color as red wine, just murkier.
Just one strike but seven or eight soldiers flew through the air. They fell into the crowd and knocked even more people into the air. Brendel took one step and blocked the access to the staircase, but he didn’t hurry up the stairs. Instead, he dragged Harzu over and then waited for the two knights and the handmaiden rushed over before falling behind and covering their retreat.
Princess Gryphine seemed to recover her wits. She looked in surprise at the scene, “What exactly do you want to do, Viscount Caudell?”
This is the second time she has asked this question, but it was with a completely different tone. Though she still had doubts, at least she believed that Viscount Cauldell was not colluding with Arreck.
“I told you.” Brendel stood at the to pof the stairs and sliced downward, knocking a soldier and his sword down the steps with a single strike. The blade cut through the guy’s helmet like it was tofu. Blood spewed out from the gaps between the metal pieces like a waterfall.
He yanked out his sword and the corpse down. Then he walked up a few steps and answered, “Fight my way out.”
“But you and Arreck --” The Crown Princess frowned. Brendel did understand the doubt in her eyes. The sentence could be translated as: I don’t think you’d betray Arreck for Bessidine --
Some people will do anything for love, but Viscount Cauldell was not one of them.
Since he was now Viscount Cauldell, Brendel had no choice but to accept the question though the difference between his current identity and experience gave him trouble that he couldn’t voice. He understood very well that his choice could make him get stuck in the dream forever but he still did it. Right now he wanted to laugh bitterly:
“Your brother might be charming dressed-up as a girl, but he was still in fact a man.”
But Brendel vaguely guessed there was another possibility. It was this possibility that made him unhesitatingly take the princess and her followers and fight his way up to the second floor. He was very familiar with the Kinten Palace. The great hall on the second floor connected to the villa behind it. There was a secret path that led to the forest outside the palace grounds.
That forest, if he wasn’t wrong, would be the forest where Viscount Cauldell was assassinated, which is also the forest where they found the carriage.
The directions didn’t match up, but dreams were weird like this.
So the entire conclusion to the dream should be played out there. Brendel didn’t have the capacity to care whether he died or lived. Sometimes, in the face of your own confusion, you had to gamble. His confusion, Viscount Cauldell’s confusion, and Haruz’s confusion were all tangled up together. Brendel still didn’t have a clear-cut answer.
No matter what, they just had to move forward to reach the conclusion.
The two knights kicked open the tightly-shut wooden door on the second floor. The door made of black wood was of supremely good quality. As the two Golden Rank experts sent the door flying, it pretty much retained its shape. Brendel escorted the little prince inside, followed by the two knights protecting him and the elderly handmaiden. Then Brendel hesitated but finally decided to no longer hold Princess Gryphine as hostage. He released the Crown Princess of Aouine and let her walk in by herself.
Princess Gryphine paused briefly and looked up at him in slight disbelief.
“We can talk later.” Brendel turned around. He raised his right hand and aimed the Wind Ring on his index finger at the staircase in the middle of the great hall. As the gang of soldiers swarmed up, he started chanting… an explosive hurricane shot out from the ring and struck the arched staircase. First, the wooden planks that made up the staircase bent inwards and then split open from the middle, creating a giant hole in the middle. The wood turned into sawdust and fell down to the floor beneath.
But at the same time, blood also seemed to rain down in the great hall.