The trios led by Daughn stepped on a damp pine needle into his manor and old Scott's mill is on the banks of the Bucce River. It was shrouded in a lush pine forest, but by this season a pine needle had long been dyed light brown-and-yellow. Through the woods, from this direction can be seen a wood-stone structure of the water truck mill and one-third of the huge water truck immersed in the Bucce River, slowly turning with the white splash. The Bucce River is flowing rapidly, but it is so clear that the bottom of the fine pebbles can be seen.
In Brendel's memory, this is only a corner of the manor, there are some houses in the woods, a warehouse behind the house, and a piece of farmland behind it. The end of the farmland is connected to the endless dense forest, which is the south of Praguesse stag forest; this is a land full of his childhood memories, even without the initiative to recall, these pictures will automatically surface in his mind.
Daughn has been nagging about what happened in Praguesse over the past two years - he was an old servant on the manor, in fact, a farmer. In this small estate, the identity is not so meticulous after all. Brendel only knew that before he was born, ever since his grandfather's era, this man has been working on the estate. He also has a wife called Noosa, working in the manor as a cook and Brendel grew up calling her Aunt Noosa. Other than that, there are several other servants in the manor who have similar situations.
Brendel deliberately looked at this uncle-level figure man whom he has known for nearly two decades. The man remained just like how he remembered; long-winded like a woman, bitter-mouthed good-hearted admonition. In short, Daughn would never let him run away without any news for such a long period, but to put it bluntly, Daughn’s attitude to this little master is still very humble.
Brendel had only a slight smile on his face, not giving much focus to those words. However, he paid special attention to Daughn’s palm, which is by no means a pair of hands that holds agricultural tools. Only a long-time swordsmen will have those scars on his hands, especially those that wield heavy swords. He knew that both Aouine and Kirrlutz soldiers preferred heavy swords to fight, especially the Highland's cavalry.
This so-called Uncle Daughn had at least a potential of a Silver rankerd and could be a captain of the Highland Knights. Brendel thinks that he himself was so ignorant of these details in the past that he didn't know what to say.
He did not expose Uncle Daughn, but chose to silently follow him, listening to him nagging. In fact, Brendel knows about the incidents that were mentioned, after all, he stayed in Praguesse for a long time after the War Of The Black Roses. It was the most turbulent period in Praguesse. The undead retreated, followed by the influx of refugeesand the loss of Bucce, the huge changes in the southern Grinoires had a great impact on this border town. But hearing that his mother cried almost every day after he went missing, Brendel's heart burst out in guilt.Brendel had a grim look. Daughn noticed his master's shift in expression, therefore he reassured him, saying, "It’s good as long as you are back now.”
Both girls followed in the back and listened quietly. They have known Brendel for a long time, but were still curious about his mysterious background. The nagging old servant, the little manor hidden in the woods, and even the squeaky water cart over there, had greatly satisfied their curiosity. Amandina didn't learn of her lord's background until the Ampere Seale, but she never knew that the legendary Sword Saint Darius would hid himself in such a place after his disappearance to become a miller. While Freya on the other hand speculated that Brendel may be a noble son from the beginning, she didn’t know if he’s a grand noble or a small time noble, she only speculates the owner of the manor to be a powerful figure. She thought to herself that her guess of Brendel was right, not to mention when Brendel is the grandson of Lord Darius.
Daughn indeed noticed the two girls but he did not think much, he just felt that his little master is indeed a capable figure. Although the noble’s daughter and lady knights are not the prettiest, in the Praguesse terrestrial, they are a rare beauty, especially Amandina who was born the daughter of a duke. Every move she made exude noble elegance. As a person who understood how society works, he knew that Amandina could not have been someone with a common background, which got him to mutter in his heart, “how did he even kidnap this daughter of some duke?”
Freya’s identity shocked Daughn even more. He knew at an instant that she’s a soldier, and is a knight at that. He accidentally caught a glimpse of Freya's shoulder badge, and he cursed in his heart, wondering where did his master find this lady knight captain. Born into the Highland knighthood, Daughn naturally understood Aouine’s military system. He knew that Freya must at least be in the Silver peak stage. However, Daughn couldn’t tell Brendel’s potential. After all, after reaching Elemental Activation stage, all signs of one’s strength disappear. Currently, Brendel looks like an ordinary person to outsiders, and nobody will think of a twenty-year-old young man as someone in the Elemental Realm.
Even he wasn’t sure what level his master has achieved. If Brendel told him that he has reached Elemental Activation since one and a half years ago, he would definitely burst out laughing.
It was at this point that he remembered about the guests in the manorand got a headache. Due to how amazing these two ladies are, it sure will be troublesome to deal with the other people.
Of course, he didn’t speak out his mind, but Amandina and Freya felt Daughn’s abnormal glance at them and understood what was on his mind.
As soon as the trio stepped into the manor, Brendel teared up. There was a familiar silhouette blended within the stables. That person was around forty or fifty years old. A tall man wearing the common farmer's hat and a smoking pipe in his mouth. That person did not notice that someone was behind him, as he slowly brushed the donkey’s mane. But as soon as he heard the rustling noise coming from behind, he turned around with his eyebrows frowned as he looked at Brendel.
This was Brendel’s father, Old Scott.
Brendel was still hesitating on how to start the conversation prior to arriving at the manor. But as soon as he saw that man’s face, he subconsciously blurted out, "I'm back, old man..."
His voice was almost a little squeamish. His chest pumped with a strong urge telling him that this was his home, his father. His closest family member. He wanted to continue speaking but he was dry of words.
Old Scott only looked at him in silence before dropping his brush and turned around to get into the house, leaving Brendel to stand there awkwardly.
"Well, " said Daughn, who couldn't help but sigh when he saw this situation, "Brendel, Mr Scott he..."
"You don't have to say it, Uncle Daughn, I understand. " Brendel laughed bitterly. He knew it was his fault considering that old man's stubborn temper, which he prefers to call it a soldier’s fortitude now. Just from that surprised glimpse, he had understood that the secret of this family is probably hidden from him only. His father is not just a miller, his level was even higher than Daughn’s. Plus, the professional aura that he’s exuding can only be found among the Highland Knights in Aouine.
He now understood that his father might have fought in the Eleven Months War and was even his ancestor’s subordinate.
He looked back and saw Freya looking a little uneasy, while Amandina only gave him a suspicious gaze. He just sighed, "Uncle Daughn, you should go ahead and do your work first.”
"Sure, sure." Daughn knew of Brendel’s temper. He took a last glance at Brendel and the two other girls as he led the donkey to the back of the farm. He had other plans originally, but those are just trivial matters now that his lord is back.
"Brendel, are you all right?" Freya saw Daughn leave and asked Brendel in a somewhat uneasy way.
Brendel gave her a comforting look, assured that it’s fine, but they could tell that their lord, who stayed calm while facing large armies back then, was really nervous now. Amandina looked at her lord's appearance and wanted to give him a few words of comfort
But she didn’t know what to say. After all, it was her lord’s matters…
After a while,a woman hurriedly ran out of the house. She froze on the spot after she saw it was Brendel standing outside. At that moment, Brendel felt his chest get stuffed. It was a feeling that couldn’t be described by words. He didn’t expect her face to age as he had only left for half a year. His mother’s name is Windsor, a known beauty in this neighbourhood. However, she has wrinkles in the corners of her eyes, silver strands in her hair. It was a small difference, but it was evident that time had passed.
At that moment, Brendel feared the worst. Will this be the last time I see her?
Windsor was already in tears when she carefully asked, "Brendel, is that really you?”
Brendel completely broke down upon hearing that. He pursed his lips. He wanted to say something, but he didn’t know what to say. His vision blurred, and he only nodded to agree with his mother.
"Silly boy, silly boy, " Windsor rushed to Brendel's side, fondly touching her son's face. " It’s fine as long as you are back, you don’t have to be sorry.”
Even with all the words that are in his head, he could only utter that one word. All the memories that he had, both as Sophie and as Brendel, flashed back in his head, the emotions pumping out in his chest. He has done many things, even changed this country and the fate of the people in it, but it wasn’t until this moment that he realized how blessed he was.
He had everything…
A home. A shelter that represents all those who are waiting for him. He once felt estranged from this world, but only till this day that he realized it was nothing more than a bulwark representing his fear.
And the warmth he felt from his mother can tear down even the strongest walls in his heart.
Brendel finally awakened at this moment. Some things are just waiting for the right opportunity before it arrives. And when it does, it will explode like a scream of desperation from the heart, drowning away all sense of rationality. Brendel and Sophie’s past entwined together, and he finally made sense of this crazed world.
This world is not an illusory realm.
It’s definitely not a game.
It exists somewhere in the universe.
It’s the Vaunte that belongs to everyone, including him, in this world.
Brendel silently bent down, allowing his mother to caress him like a child, her tears to fall on his shoulders. His heart was finally at peace. All the lethargy was put down and he finally felt as if he returned back to the era while everything was void of worry. Amandina looked at this scene in an envious manner. She once had everything like this too. But eventually, that life was gone everywhere except for her memories. She remembered the last time her mother was in the sickbed, putting her child’s hand in her own while calling out her name, “Amandina. Amandina..." The voice was so weak yet so gentle, her mother's palm was so cold that it made her heart feel just as cold. Without realizing it herself, she suddenly bit her lip and cried.
Suddenly, she felt someone tug on her hand from behind. She turned and, to her surprise, saw Freya teared up as well. Freya was raised by the Cecil family and she never once saw her real parents. She looked as if she didn’t once care about that fact, but the scenes she was witnessing today seemed to have tugged on her heartstrings.
Brendel spent a lot of effort comforting his mother, but he did not expect the two ladies to cry as well. He looked at them somewhat inexplicably, but he soon came up with an idea and whispered something to his mother.
Windsor had already noticed Amandina and Freya who came alongside her son. In one glance, she realized they were fine girls. She couldn't help but glance at Brendel, blaming him for the lack of care he’s treating them. She felt even more pitiful upon hearing Brendel’s explanation and went over to grab the palms of both the girls.
Amandina calmed down very quickly. She wiped away her tears, and introduced herself in an embarrassed manner to Brendel’s mother. She claimed to be Brendel's assistant, only to have Windsor glance over at Brendel in a distasteful manner. Brendel can’t help but cry bitterly in his heart. He winked at Amandina for her to pity him, but she only snickered.
"Fuck," Brendel realized that Amandina was just being toying with him all along. While he had never seen a noble act this way, he figured that all women are the same all along.
On the other hand, Freya was still that innocent Bucce country girl she was in the past. When Windor grabbed her hands, her face reddened and she was so embarrassed her lips cramped up. Brendel witnessed everything and was feeling puzzled by his mother’s actions. Just when he was about to point out that fact, Windsor suddenly looked back at him with a serious look and said, "Brendel, Freya and Amandina are good girls. You better not fail them.”
As soon as she said that, Amandina looked at Brendel with blushing face while Freya got so shy that she almost buried her head in her chest.
"Wha-what a-are you talking about??" Brendel was just about to explain something when his mother glared at her. "So, how are you going to explain to Uncle Bunide?”
"Uncle Bunide? What do I have to explain to him?” Brendel was a little confused. It took him a while before he remembered just who that was: The Highland Knights’ Captain, Bunide!
They are indeed in this manor, but…
He looked back at his mother and asked,
“What is it that I have to explain to him?”