“Brendel, your father should be the one telling you these.” Windsor touched the faint scars on her son’s cheeks. They were from the Calamity of Wolves. Though no longer obvious, she still felt a pang of heartache from looking at them. “It’s time to tell you about our family matters, but now, why don’t you tell me what happened in the past few days? You must’ve suffered a lot, right?”
“No such thing. Mom, are you going to make me stand here and talk?”
“Oh, look at me. I’m getting old and forgetful.”
“You're not old. Everyone knows you’re a beauty who’s prettier than the Deer Demoness with everlasting youth. Those from Cielmann, Bucce, Manoweir, and Castle Kirkuk envy Dad.”
Windsor grinned at his words. Freya and Amandina giggled too. They had never seen Brendel act like that. The lady of the manor held the two ladies’ hands and brought them into the cozily decorated living room. There was a fireplace by the wall, with racks of flowers, and even spider plants. Next to the living room was the kitchen with rows of condiment jars in the cabinets. In the middle of the living room was a sofa, a coffee table. A spread of freshly prepared desserts was placed on the table.
Brendel still remembered the taste of his mother’s desserts. Freya and Amandina lavished praises on them, but their refined manners stopped them from overeating.
Then, Brendel recounted his past experiences to his mother. Though he wasn’t a good storyteller, his words were clear and easy to understand. When he spoke about how he escaped from Fortress Riedon, Windsor sighed in relief.
“I heard from your father that a mercenary brought the refugees out of the fortress, but I never imagined you to be one of them. Why didn’t you look for us? Your father is still upset over this.”
“I wanted to.” Brendel blushed. “You’re also aware of the trouble I might bring upon our family if my identity is exposed. After all, I’ve crossed All For One.”
“My poor child.”
“Mrs. Windsor, I can assure you that Brendel’s telling the truth. He got into trouble with that cult because he wanted to save me. It was all my fault for being reckless. Please put in some good words to Mr. Scott on behalf of Brendel.” Freya mustered up the courage to chime in.
Windsor smiled at her. “Silly girl, I don’t blame you or Brendel. Brendel’s father is just sulking. He’s stubborn, and he’ll get over it soon. Freya, Amandina, if you don't mind, just call me Mom. This is now your home.”
The girls flushed, too embarrassed to call her that. Nonetheless, they felt a surge of warmth in their hearts. Freya managed to compose herself, whereas Amandina almost burst into tears again.
Brendel knew what his mother was up to, so he quickly diverted her attention. “Mom, I’m not done with my story.”
His attempt was a success. “Oh? Oh, right. Where did you go next?”
“To help the refugees settle down, I went to Trentheim.”
“Trentheim? I think I’ve heard of this place. Oh, they had a bigwig there, called Count Trentheim. I heard he took advantage of the Kirrlutzan at Ampere Seale and even defeated Madara recently. Then, he helped the princess to defeat Raldner’s army, so I guess his name will be changed to Count Raldner soon.”
Brendel was well aware that his mother was wise, as an ordinary peasant would not know about Raldner or Trentheim, nor could they know about the complicated relations between those two. Judging from grandfather’s identity, Mom’s background should be rather impressive.
Nevertheless, he was more surprised to learn that she was clueless about Count Trentheim’s identity. Bunide didn’t tell her?
“Mom, you don’t know who Count Raldner is?”
“How would I know that? Silly child, I only know about this because I heard the rumours in town.”
“Huh?” That gasp came from Amandina, not Brendel. She exchanged glances with him.
Brendel wondered why did the Highland Knights not inform his family. What is going on?
Questions flooded his mind, and he could not help thinking about what was up with that strange group of knights.
“Brendel, do you know Count Trentheim?”
He nodded and was about to speak when Daughn walked out of the room. “Brendel, Mr. Scott asked you to go in,” the latter said.
Brendel shut his mouth and glanced at Windsor, who nodded at him. “Go on. Let your father take a look at you. He might be acting in this way, but he has been worried about you all this while. He even asked for favours from his old acquaintances. Your grandfather... Nevermind. Go on. Your father will tell you everything.”
Brendel nodded. He initially wanted to bring Amandina along but thought it was too suggestive. Instinctively, he glanced at her, who read his mind immediately. “I’ll stay here with Mrs. Windsor.” She offered.
“Mom.” Windsor corrected her.
Amandina blushed and muttered something incoherently. Windsor laughed and ushered Brendel. “Go on, Brendel. Let your father take a good look at you. You’re a grown man now.”
Only then did Brendel stand up and follow Daughn. They walked past the house and arrived at the backyard. His father was standing under a tree with someone. He recognized the other person as the mercenary commander of Highland, Bunide. Then, he saw a young lady standing not too far from them. The moment he caught sight of her face, he stood rooted to the ground.
The young lady dressed in a silver dress noticed him too. She tilted her head and sized him up. Her pointy ears were peeking out of her silver hair as she stared at him calmly. “It’s been a long while, Brendel.”
Brendel thought of all kinds of possibilities, but he never expected Princess Gryphine to show up before him.
Why is Her Highness here? It felt like he was struck in the head. His mind went blank, and he lost the ability to think. The visit of the Highland Knight did not come to him as a surprise. After all, his grandfather was Darius, and his mother was born in a noble family in Cardiligial. That information had hinted that he was born into a family of Highland Knights. However, the knights were not part of the political system in Aouine, so how did they become associated with royalty?
Brendel glanced at Bunide, Gryphine, and his father.
His brain was short circuit as everything was beyond his comprehension.
He looked towards his father, hoping to get an explanation from him. Scott was wiping his sword meticulously. Once his sword became shining clean, he raised his head and met his son’s gaze. “I heard that you went through a lot in the past year. Her Highness has also made you a count. Has your swordsmanship improved?”
Bunide chuckled. “Scott, your son cannot be underestimated. I am no match for him.”
Shock flashed across Scott's eyes, though his face remained stern as he looked at Brendel. He knew his son ran off to the rural areas in Bucce because he could not handle the harsh training. Even if Brendel had talent in swordsmanship, he was lazy and refused to work hard, which infuriated him many times. Back when his father was alive, he was the one who trained Brendel and even prohibited everyone else in the manor from showcasing their swordsmanship. That was why he could not intervene with Brendel’s training. However, with the passing of his father, Brendel ran off to Bucce like a reinless horse.
Scott assumed Brendel was dead after everything that had happened until Bunide showed up at his door.
He then glanced at the sword in hand. It had accompanied him for many years. For the past twenty years, he had stored it safely, and today was the first time he could use it again. He raised the sword, swung it in the air a few times before looking at Brendel.
“Dad, what’s going on?” Brendel was getting more and more puzzled.
“If you truly wish to know, defeat me, and I’ll tell you.” Scott raised his swordand struck a defensive stance. “If you wish to inherit something, you have to show me that you're worthy of it. Otherwise, I’d rather have you stay as an ordinary person. Come.”
At first glance, Brendel knew it was Aouine’s military sword art, but it was a dual-wielding technique. Frankly, his father was in the Gold rank and was considered an elite in Aouine, yet, he spotted many flaws in his pose. Dad is lacking a lot compared to Grandpa.
Despite that, he flashed Scott a sheepish smile. “Dad, forget about it.”
He was not afraid of losing. Rather, he was afraid of embarrassing Scott. Besides, Gryphine and Bunide were around. With how stubborn Scott was, he would probably be in trouble if he defeated his own father.
“Mr. Scott, let me do it.” Gryphine suddenly spoke.
“Your Highness?” Scott was startled.
“Scott, let Her Highness try.” Bunide smiled.
After hesitating for a moment, Scott glanced at his son and Gryphine and nodded. “All right. Please be careful, Your Highness.”
Brendel had been keeping an eye on Bunide. When he saw the sly smile on his face, he could not help but wonder what kind of tricks the latter was up to. Gryphine took the sword from Scott and lifted her skirt to stand before Brendel. “Count Brendel, you’re Haruz’s teacher when it comes to swordsmanship, and that makes you my teacher too.” She raised the sword and bowed.
Despite the glinting sword in her hand, the half-elf resembled a blooming lily, causing his heart to flutter. However, when she straightened her body, her aura had changed to one of a knight. As she looked at Brendel with her silver eyes, she took a step forward and plunged her sword towards him.
Scott nodded to himself when he saw her move. It was a firm movement, which meant she had put a lot of hard work into the basics. Brendel wouldn’t be able to take this blow. He could not resist the urge to look at his son.
Contrary to his expectations, Brendel was calm. He took a step back and dodged Gryphine’s sword. Then, he bumped the sheathed Staff of Earth against it, causing the sword to skew. She looked at him in surprise, having not expected him to counter her attack so easily.
She could feel that he had not put much strength into it. Even his speed was average. All he used was a technique.
Scott frowned. To a knight like him who was experienced in battles, what Brendel did was more than a simple technique. Along with it was combat experience. Only an experienced knight could deflect a sword attack so nonchalantly. At that point, he could not help but look at his son incredulously. Though Bunide had yet to tell him about Brendel’s achievements, he could guess that he had impressive encounters in the outside world.
Seeing that she had failed the first attack, Gryphine aimed for Brendel waist. A silver arch formed in the air as she swung the sword, but it was less captivating compared to her dancing skirt, which caught Brendel’s attention. Her second attack was different from before, and he could not dodge it. Instead, he used the sheathed Staff of Earth to press her sword down. Then, he took a step forward to block her path. The moment she felt something heavy on her sword, Brendel had stood before her. She tried to retract her sword, but it was too late. With a clunking sound, the sword fell to the ground.
That attack was a rather renowned move in the White Raven Sword Art, known as the Circle of Wings. Brendel was extremely familiar with that move, and instinctively, he countered her attack with the one he was the best at. However, with his sheathed sword pressed against her neck and one hand around her wrist, he was practically hugging her from behind. As soon as he realised his foolish act, he froze on the spot.
That was the only thought he had in his mind.
He wasn’t the only one surprised by the turn of events. Scott almost jumped in place from shock. He never thought his son could be that bold, defeating Gryphine and even taking advantage of her. At that moment, regret washed over him. I should've taught him how to act like a gentleman! Nevertheless, he felt relieved that he did not insist on sparring with his son. Otherwise, it would have been a test for himself instead of the other way around. He would never be able to keep his head up before Bunide.
At the same time, he was proud of Brendel. As a family of knights, swordsmanship represented their dignity. Not only did Brendel not embarrass the Kardiloso family, but he also exceeded their expectations.
Silence blanketed the backyard.
After being momentarily stunned, Gryphine struggled softly. “Could you let me go now?” There was no sign of indignation on her face.
Brendel snapped out of it instantly and let her go. His face turned red as he thought, Oh my gosh! What have I done! Then, he recalled the time he made a fool out of himself at Ampere Seale and wished the ground would open up and swallow him whole. He snuck a glance at Gryphine, but she seemed unfazed. She picked up the sword from the ground and glanced at Brendel silently. Once she stopped panting, she said, “Mr. Scott, Commander, could I talk to Count Brendel in private?”
Scott and Bunide exchanged glances and nodded.
Before leaving, Bunide told Brendel smilingly, “Your courage is admirable. I’ll pray for you.”
Scott’s reaction was more subtle. He merely glared at his son and reminded. “Mind yourself.”
Even after the two had left the scene, he still could not understand why Gryphine had requested to talk to him in private. He turned around and saw her standing under the tree with the sword as support. Rays of sunlight shone through the leaves, creating a mosaic pattern on her shoulders. As she looked past the field and forest outside the manor, she uttered, “Mr. Knight, can I still call you this?”
Brendel’s face was still hot, and he felt awkward being alone with Gryphine. Though his mind was wandering from the earlier incident, he still nodded.
She looked at him with an unfathomable gaze, and he wondered if the emotions within those beautiful silver eyes were joy or sorrow.
“You must be wondering why I showed up here with a Highland Knight, right?”
Brendel nodded in response.