Brendel and Freya ended up sitting together in silence for the whole night. The former seemed to have a lot on his mind, the latter, on the other hand, was willing to speak up, though she didn’t know where to start. She was unsure of her feelings towards the man that was sitting right in front of her right now. She admired him, but she felt no deep affection for him. Also, she knew that Brendel and Romaine were in an official relationship, so she didn’t want to interrupt them. However, she was quite angry when she sensed instinctively that Brendel and Amandina had a thing going on.
She sat on a wooden bench as she flipped through the pages of a booklet absent-mindedly for the whole night. The booklet wasn’t thick, so it didn’t take long for her to get to the last page. She then lifted her head and caught Brendel looking at her with his bright eyes. It startled her and she immediately looked downwards at the booklet again. She gritted her teeth as she thought to herself, This damn playboy. She then flipped through the booklet again frantically and thought, Why is he staring at me like that? That’s so rude!
Poor Brendel. He was actually just thinking about what Viscount Teste had said and the letter from his mother, and he was gazing at the wall behind Freya instead of her. And just like that, he’d given the War Goddess the impression that he was a black sheep of the nobles.
Both of them remained silent for the entire night till the next morning.
The first light of dawn was seen above the roof of the tall building that was located opposite this shabby wooden building. It then shone through the windows and fell onto the desk. Before the sunlight covered the entire desk, there was a knock on the door. Brendel was the first to react and sat bolt upright. He then noticed that Freya, who sat opposite him, had her hands on her knees with the booklet placed on top of her hands. Her head was facing downwards and her long ponytail dangled over her shoulders, it seemed like she had fallen asleep. It was amazing that she was still sitting upright, no wonder she was entitled ‘The Knight of the Kingdom’.
He couldn’t help but laugh. He then patted her forehead. She was very alert and her eyes opened immediately. As she was about to draw her sword subconsciously, the booklet above her hands fell onto the ground with a loud thud. She got startled at the scene and her face flushed in embarrassment.
“No worries, I fell asleep just now as well.” He smiled. Because of their fitness, it didn’t really matter much if they hadn’t slept for a day or two. But a person’s habits were difficult to change in such a short time, plus the one week of continuous battles had taken a huge toll on them.
“Was there a knock on the door?”
Brendel listened to the rhythm of the knocks, nodded and replied, “It’s the guy I hired.” He then walked towards the door and opened it. Sure enough, the young man whom they met last night was standing awkwardly outside the door with a basket filled with bread and cheese in his hands. As soon as Brendel noticed the basket, the teenager quickly explained, “Master, I was just wondering if you all wanted to have some breakfast.”
Seeing how business-minded he was, Brendel burst out laughing. He then immediately straightened his face and said, “Just leave it here. Since you’re here so early, I’m sure you’ve already done what I’ve told you to do yesterday.”
The young man quickly put the basket down. Although he still seemed a little reserved, he was able to cotton up to him. “Of course, master. I wouldn’t slack off on your orders. I’ve already inquired about it.”
“Do you have the information on the miller named Scott?” Brendel asked. Scott was actually his father’s name in this life, but the outsiders usually called him old Scott.
“Yes, and I came here as soon as I’ve gathered some information. I didn’t even get to sleep for the whole night,” replied the young man quickly. It was as if he was talented on this matter. He then continued in detail, “There’s indeed such a person. His manor is located by Bucce River, at the southern part of Praguesse. But I’ve heard that his mills were just built decades ago and his family members were still foreigners when the former King was still on the throne. They also seem to have some ties with the Karsuk nobles.”
It was quite a lot of information considering that he’d just inquired about them in one night. Fortunately, his father was a miller who was somewhat well-known in the neighbourhood, otherwise, it wouldn’t be that easy to gather that much information if he was just a nobody. “Is there anything else?” He asked.
“Uh…” The young man furrowed his brows as he tried to recall more information. He scratched his head and said, “Oh yeah, I’ve also heard that his son went missing during the war. That’s unfortunate.”
Brendel knew that he himself was the missing son that was mentioned. It seemed like not many people knew about it. After all, most outsiders had only heard about Count Trentheim’s deeds and not of his real name. Even if they had, they wouldn’t think that the descendants of Sword Saint Darius would have ties with a miller. Based on the culture in this era, it was very common for people to share the same name, including the nobles. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be names like Anson the Tenth and King Oberg the Seventh.
He nodded in a pretending manner. “I’ve also asked you to find out if they had any visitors recently, have you inquired about it?”
The young man quickly nodded. “I think so.”
“What do you mean by that? Were there any visitors or not?” Brendel wasn’t satisfied with his reply at all. His previous questions were just to check if he’d really gone to ask around for information and he wasn’t blabbering nonsense. The last question was the key question, but to his surprise, the young man’s reply to his question was somewhat ambiguous.
The young man was a little taken aback by his reaction. When he looked at his facial expressions and realised that his ‘very well-established’ employer wasn’t actually angry, he quickly licked his lips and said, “I think they had visitors. I’ve asked those who had come into contact with that family, and all of them said that there weren’t any visitors or strangers around there recently. But I believe that those visitors might not want others to know their existence.” The young man then observed Brendel’s expressions carefully. When he saw that Brendel was slightly surprised as he gave a nod of appreciation, only then did he let out a sigh of relief and continued, “So, I changed my way of questioning.”
“You changed your way of questioning?” interrupted Brendel.
The young man nodded.
“How did you ask them?”
“I asked if there were any caravans, mercenaries or any strangers who passed by old Scott’s mills recently. As you know, outsiders rarely come here. So it’s very easy for the locals to recognise outsiders such as adventurers, mercenaries and foreign merchants. Guess what, I found out that a group of knights passed by the mills a week ago. The road that leads to that place is a dead end, so most people will usually not go there.”
Brendel knew that the road wasn’t actually a dead end. It stretched southwards to the sawmills which led to Fortress Riedon. He used to practice swordsmanship there with his grandfather when he was young, but the road was completely abandoned ever since they were invaded by the Undead. So it was understandable to say that it was a dead end.
“A group of knights? What did they look like?” he asked.
“They were wearing green tabards, but the locals couldn’t tell what heraldic symbols were on them.”
“Green tabards,” murmured Brendel. He knew who they were. Only the Highland Knights wore green tabards in the whole of Aouine. Of course, there was a possibility that they were impersonators, but it was very unlikely for that to happen as it would be too bold of them to offend the Highland Knights. He’d actually impersonated them once as a last resort, and it was almost impossible to find another daredevil like him in Aouine. “Were they really the Highland Knights?” He shook his head. He still couldn’t figure out why they would look for his parents instead of him. Could it be that it was because they wanted to regain the relationship with his grandfather so that they could get closer to him? It didn’t seem necessary for those knights to do so though.
He put away his thoughts and looked at the young man in front of him. “Is your name Dean?”
“Yes, master,” replied the young man respectfully. It seemed like he’d noticed something, he then continued astutely, “I’ll always be at your service, whenever and wherever.”
“Oh, really? Are you willing to leave Praguesse then?” Brendel was impressed at Dean’s inquiry skills and he was talented at observing others’ reactions and expressions. He’d just gotten Sue from Ciel and he was planning to build an information network in Kirrlutz and Madara, so he needed a talented person like Dean.
Dean’s eyes lit up when he heard the question as he knew what Brendel was implying, but he hesitated for a moment, shook his head and said, “I’m afraid not, master.”
Brendel was curious as to why he’d refused because he could tell that Dean was interested. He then asked, “Why not? Are you afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone and broadening your horizons?”
Dean immediately shook his head and explained, “Not really, master. It’s just that I have to take care of my mother. She’s not in good health, so I can’t be too far away from home.”
Brendel suddenly glanced at the food that was in the basket on the ground. He chuckled and asked, “So, did your mother make these?”
Dean blushed. He didn’t realise that Brendel already knew what he was up to. He then explained embarrassedly, “My mother’s cooking is comparable to the hotel chefs’.”
Brendel looked at the young man again and became more interested in him. Although Dean always bummed around the streets, he wasn’t a thug, so he made up his mind and said, “You can head home first, and I’ll send someone over to look for you later on. Don’t worry, you can bring your mother along if you have to leave Praguesse. I think your mother would be worried about you as well.”
Dean looked at him in surprise. “Master, are you serious?” He’d guessed Brendel’s intention of hiring him as his attendant, and he was more than happy to work for a generous master like him, though it was his first time hearing that a master would allow his attendant to bring his family members along.
“Do I look like someone who has the time to joke with you?” replied Brendel grimly.
“Master, you’re the kindest person I’ve ever met,” Dean said sincerely.
Brendel spent another silver coin to send his new attendant off. He then carried the basket and closed the door. When he turned around, he realised that Amandina was already awake and she was lying on the bed. “I’m sorry for not being much of a use, my Lord.” She whispered after he turned around. As a gentleman, Brendel didn’t make a fuss about it as he should let her rest on the one and only bed there. Instead, he shook his head and asked, “Did you hear everything?”
“What do you think of it?”
“He’s probably not lying. This means that your mother was referring to the Highland Knights in her letter.” She said softly.
“But it’s weird. Why did they have to visit my family if they wanted to look for me?”
“Perhaps they wanted to avoid the other nobles, my Lord,” replied Amandina.
Brendel could only think of this possibility as well. But he was curious as to why the Highland Knights had to avoid the other nobles to look for him. In fact, these knights had piqued his curiosity ever since the first battle of Ampere Seale. Although he was Darius’ grandson, they seemed to be too friendly towards him. Darus was once the marshal of the United Army and he was prestigious in Aouine, but he was never the commander of the Highland Knights. They also didn’t have any relationships with his grandfather, let alone with him. It was kind of ridiculous that they were very enthusiastic towards him and would even get involved in a war just because he was the descendant of a Sword Saint.
From what they’d found out today, it seemed that there were some secrets between the Highland Knights and his grandfather’s family.
“Ciel is very tight-lipped as well,” complained Brendel. He’d tried to sound Ciel out before this trip, but he just played dumb and acted as if he’d forgotten everything that had happened before this life. Brendel knew that this was impossible as Medissa was a classic example. He ended up sending him back to the territory out of anger and didn’t even bother bringing him along to Praguesse.
He was definitely relieved when he knew that the visitors were indeed the Highland Knights instead of someone else who’d coerced his family. After letting out a sigh of relief, he said, “Well, we’re going to find out what they had up their sleeves later.”
“Brendel, are you going to visit them?” asked Freya curiously.
“Yes, of course. What other choice do we have?” replied Brendel grimly. “Plus, it’s been a long time since I last went home. It’s now time for me to go home and meet my family.”
“Are we tagging along as well, my Lord?” asked Amandina.
He nodded. “Of course, you’re both my assistants. Both of you will have to help me out.”
Although Brendel didn’t think of it as much of a big deal, Amandina thought otherwise. She hid under the blanket and fell silent as her face flushed.
After packing their things, the three of them headed out of the city. Brendel remembered that his house was located at the southern part of Praguesse, along the ‘dead route’ to Fortress Riedon and the sawmills in Stag Forest. It matched accurately with Dean’s description. He thought that he would have to rack his brain to remember the way home as he’d been away from home for two years, and if he was Sophie’s soul, he had never visited that place before.
A while later, he could see the familiar pineland around Bucce River. There weren’t any major changes to this area in the past two years. He strolled slowly along the river as he observed his surroundings. Every black pine and even every pattern of the rocks along the river coincided with his memory. It felt very strange. It was as if he’d been there more than once in his dreams.
He looked at the scenery quietly and felt a feeling that he’d never felt before.
It was guilt.
It’d been almost two years since he left his home, and his family hadn’t heard from him since a year ago. He suddenly realised that his parents would be very worried, especially his mother, who was a Cardiligial noble. Although his mother was quite knowledgeable, she was a gentle and reserved woman. Apart from doing house chores, she devoted almost all of her energy to her son.
He was a troublemaker. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have gone to a remote area like Bucce alone.
All of a sudden, he seemed to remember his grandfather’s sustenance and his parents’ expectations. He was initially hesitant to return home, but he felt something different right now.
The feelings were sudden.
It was as if something was awakened in his blood. His mouth opened and he felt a little excited and scared at the same time. He then took a deep breath and stopped walking.
A voice with a hint of surprise was heard from not far away. Brendel trembled slightly and looked toward that direction. A middle-aged man who was walking towards him with a donkey suddenly stopped and looked at him as if he’d seen a ghost. When Brendel saw the familiar face, he blurted, “Uncle Dowen!”
“Brendel, is it really you? You’re alive and you’re back home?”
“Yeah, I’m back home.”
At this moment, Brendel felt something welling up in his eyes.