“Well, it’s your own damn fault regardless,” All the while Brendel stood silently and attentively waited until Teste ended his narration before he finally responded. But he was nevertheless baffled that he was only now informed of the past events involving the Lionheart Sword before it ultimately ended up in Freya’s possession. Back when he first met Master Bosley, the Sage Slate began to resonate, it must have been then that the All for One reactivated the Lionheart.
But if that was the case, his entire narration would sound too smooth sailing to be believable. After all, the protector of the Lionheart sword then was Knight of the Lake Krentel, and before he was an Elite Elf he possessed ability on par to that of Mephisto.
Notwithstanding the determination that came with the swearing of the oath of protection, which would undoubtedly further stoke the will for war in its defense. If Teste, a Gold-level individual single-handedly picked a fight against such monstrosity, not much more can be blamed but his own foolish decision making.
Otherwise, if he were to know that the Lionheart Sword was buried within the vicinity of the Lake of Fog, why wouldn’t he just search there, but instead went through all the hassle to get to the Sage Slate?
Speaking of the legendary knight by King Erik’s side, Brendel was instantly reminded of the spirit that once loitered in Freya’s shadow that was noted far less since. It appeared to have finally fully acknowledged Freya as the rightful owner of the Lionheart sword. Occasionally the knight spirit would still present itself in the courtyard of Coldwood castle, which by then due to the increasingly rare encounters would spook the castle servants into treating it as a ghost story.
Teste noted Brendel’s remark and did not rebuke, but dispiritedly he added, “Milord, I shall not deny it, it is indeed my own damn fault, but I cannot recall at all what made me search for the sword in the first place. All I could think of myself now is as a bumbling fool. Ever since I left the Lake of Fog I have been following that person, my whole conscience is muddled, it was...it was as if somebody was ordering me to do it against my will.
I can’t think for myself, I can’t rest, I kept moving day and night as time flew past me, but I have no say in it. It was as if I was trapped in an endless loop of nightmares, and every moment of every day I loitered in the depths of my fear, like a ghost in the shell of a man. It was pure agony and suffering.”
“But you sure look pretty awake now,” Brendel looked straight into his eyes as he remarked.
Teste did not disprove his deduction as he nodded, “It is because when I have awoken today, I could feel myself close to the Lionheart sword,”
“You can feel it?” Brendel was rather astounded.
“I don’t know.”
“Now when I look at you, Milord, of course I could deduce that the Lionheart sword is nearby. But much earlier on, I could only feel an intense calling, as if the world before my eyes was a crumbling, rotting mess, and on the barren wasteland there was only one path of purity, and by following that path I was let straight here.”
“But you don’t seem to be unfamiliar with what is happening in the world outside.”
Only after the Battle of Ampere Seale was he knighted as Count, but from Teste’s tone, he did not seem like he was devoid of any information from that point of time since.
“I can’t tell for sure, but everything that correlates with the sword is almost naturally absorbed into my mind, whether my conscience cares for it or not,” Teste uttered in a coarse voice.
Brendel’s eyebrows lifted ever so slightly from the comment, thinking that it might be due to a connection with the Lionheart sword, yet perceiving it as less about acknowledgment but more of a curse.
He was promptly reminded of a myth related to the Lionheart sword. Legend had it that if anyone not acknowledged by the sword lays a finger on the holy artifact, they would be cursed for their entire existence, the last victim being the last emperor of the House Seifer. The sword was lost since, until it reappeared recently.
But this man before him, his situation bore great resemblance to a Nameless soul. A Nameless soul is one who has lost all faith and beliefs, and as time went on would eventually lose their own sanity. Brendel would never have expected the Lionheart’s curse to have such effects. Even though the members of the All for One were psychopaths, one thing they all had in common was that they were all adamantly faithful to their faith.
He decided to further evaluate the unwelcomed guest as he pursued, “I assume your visit isn’t just to tell me all this?”
“Naturally, Milord. If the voice brought me here today, there must be a deeper meaning that lies within. All I need now is a release, to break free from this dogged life of slavery,” Teste, appeared destitute as he pleaded.
“I suppose you don’t need to come to me for that.”
“Death doesn’t solve anything, Milord,” Teste took large gasps of air as he sighed. A once formidable man, now appearing with a foot in the grave, “I died more times than I’d like, but this is like a dream, after every end, I will wake up and find myself in a different place.”
“I bet you feel like a walking-dead now,” Brendel nodded. He felt no liking towards the members of the All for One, but not to the point of rubbing salt on their wounds, but neither did he feel sympathy, “So when you said you’re gonna tell me a secret from the past, I suppose it’s to strike a deal?”
Brendel sighed for a moment. He was genuinely interested in hearing the secret, but he was not as familiar with curses as most would think, notwithstanding one that was associated with Nameless Souls, it was far too great a risk to take.
Back when he was still in Deadwood forest, he entered the dreamscape of a Nameless soul, but that was because he was familiar with the copy. To solve the issues the Viscount was entangled in he will have to enter the dreamscape of the man. And if he had any disagreement with the host his journey within would be a death trap.
If the Viscount was just a random stranger, he might have considered it, but he just happened to be an All for One cultist.
Brendel was still not that selfless as to sacrifice himself for the life of an enemy, and after a good round of thought, he unwaveringly rejected, “Frankly, I don’t want anything to do with people like you. I would even offer a token of friendship to the Nobles I so despise, or tolerate the agonizing pride of Kirrlutzians, but never to the All for One.”
“Yes, I know our religion often carries a bad reputation,” Teste responded weakly alongside his frown, but his tone visibly grew more anxious, “Milord, I understand that it might be hard for you to accept, but…”
“No,” Brendel cut him off, “Not just that, you lot are fanatical.”
“Fanatical? No, Milord, all we seek is the truth of this world. Some live their entire lives in search of power, but not us. I can safely say we are far better than some of those despicable Nobles you deal with from day to day,” Teste might be frail, but his words at times were still firm and self-righteous.
“Those men and women and their selfish pursuits at the expense of their own people and community, despicable, undoubtedly. But at the very least they do not leave the people in constant uneasiness and fear,” Brendel reasoned, “No one wants to broker a deal with fanatics.”
“Stop beating around the bush with me, Count Brendel, I know you’re interested in this secret that I have…”Teste could tell that Brendel was not offering him the benefit of a doubt as he anxiously cut him off, then continued, his voice gradually higher,
“But why wouldn’t you consider giving me a chance? Give us a chance to prove ourselves, I guarantee you’d appreciate the revelation! Milord, this affects one of your beloved associates, the safety of a lady closely tied to you hangs in the balance!”
Brendel stared blankly at the hapless old tramp as his heart skipped a beat. The first to appear in his thoughts was Scarlet, the young maiden who had been gone for quite a while now, leaving no trace behind as if she vanished into thin air. None of the Lantonilan or Coldwood envoys, spies, or patrols caught any resemblance of her thus far.
Even with the help of the Buccians, given that the Azure Lance was involved, were more than enthusiastic to help, but still, no sign of her was noted.
His gaze then turned stark cold as he questioned, “What’re you trying to rally here?”