Freya's eyes were still red from crying. She had gone to see Aunt Ciel and her uncle’s graves. The cemetery was located in the forest and it was just made up of wooden headstones. Most of the graves had no owners, they were just there to console the souls of those who’d died in the war. The Patrols Knights squatted in the square while being under the surveillance of the guys from Bucce. Though they didn’t give them a hard time and even took care of the wounded knights.
Brendel and Madden stood together while having a conversation. The old man rushed over as soon as he heard the news and bumped into Brendel and Freya unexpectedly. This veteran of the Eleven Months War and the captain of Bucce’s police force was very pleased with how successful Brendel and Freya were, especially in terms of their current status and position. They were the hope of the people in Bucce. Madden knew the personality of Aouine’s nobles quite well and he felt that it wasn't a problem for Freya to change the situation that the people in Bucce were in right now without the help of Trentheim. With her status as the captain of the Royal Cavalry, Count Nagin wouldn’t be willing to offend her with a piece of forestland.
This was a matter of life and death for the people in Bucce, but it was just a matter of reputation for Nagin. As a noble, he obviously didn’t want to let a group of refugees have the upper hand. But it would be different if this group of refugees had a princess who got their backs. Once Freya revealed that she was from Bucce, Nagin would naturally withdraw his proposal from the noble council without her reminder.
The news of the battle between the Patrol Knights and the people from Bucce spread like wildfire.
This wasn’t a small matter. The people from Bucce knew what the nobles in Praguesse thought of them. Everyone was worried and rushed over to them. They didn’t know what was going on and thought that the noble council had already come to the conclusion to evict them. It was soon crowded and all kinds of rumours were spreading. Most of them were sad and angry, but nobody made a commotion. It was very depressing because nobody knew what to do next. The atmosphere was heavy and filled with anger. When the Patrol Knights saw this, they realized that they’d just caused trouble.
Fortunately, Freya spoke up for herself. As Brendel had said, she was Bucce’s daughter after all and she’d led the Rideon refugees out of the siege with Brendel before, so many people recognized her. They were still sceptical about it when they found out that she was successful and had made a name for herself, but they felt relieved and less agitated.
Brendel let out a sigh of relief. In the past, during the Month of Frost in the Year of Rain Swallow, the conflict between the Praguesse nobles and the refugees intensified after it had been ongoing for three long years. When the nobles started to evict the refugees, the refugees couldn’t hold it any longer and started multiple riots around Praguesse. There were a lot of deaths, and the living condition of the people in Bucce worsened under the suppression of the natives and the nobles. Grinoires was also badly affected by it, but the worse thing was that everyone had suspicions and was indifferent to the people in this area, causing the kingdom to lose its prestige.
But it seemed like history wasn’t going to repeat itself today.
Freya, however, looked somewhat dispirited when she returned to Brendel’s side. "Brendel, this is a little different from what I’ve imagined,” she said softly.
“Do you remember what I’ve told you? One day, you’ll be able to use your own powers to protect Bucce, so that the people in Bucce can take charge of their own destiny and no longer have to listen to the nobles’ orders.” Brendel seemed to understand what was on her mind and quickly comforted her. “Everything you’ve done today proved that your efforts are not in vain. You’ve set a goal for yourself and you’ve finally achieved it."
"I can't help but think what would've happened if I’m not where I am today. Brendel, I really want the people in Bucce to have control of their own destiny, but it seems like the power to determine their fate is just being transferred from the nobles to my hands. They may be able to live a peaceful life from now on, but they may not realize that everything will be the same again if I push them into the fire pit one day,” replied Freya.
"My child, but you wouldn't do that, would you?” asked Madden.
"I know, but..."
It seemed like the old man knew what she was about to say, he interrupted her, “This is the nobles’ rule. You are one of them, so you must abide by it. You’ve done well, my child."
Freya pursed her lips. She wanted to say something, but she didn’t know where to start. She always felt that something was wrong, but she didn’t know what the problem was. What Uncle Madden said was right, but she felt aggrieved. She felt like she had already done her best, but the outcome wasn’t what she wanted. Though she had a vague feeling that if there was a person here who could answer her doubts, then that person must be Brendel.
Every time she felt confused, she would look at Brendel first.
"Captain Madden is not wrong, Freya,” said Brendel calmly. It was as if this wasn’t a problem to him at all. “According to the rules in our era, this is the best solution we have.”
Brendel's words were like fire, illuminating the darkness in Freya’s heart. She suddenly lifted her head and asked, “Brendel, does it mean that we can change the rules?"
He smiled and said, “Isn’t this what we’ve been doing all this while? Me, you, the princess, and everyone else is looking for ways to move forward."
Madden also seemed to get the hint of what he meant. He couldn’t help but look at this young man whom he’d only come into contact with twice during the War of The Black Roses. He felt that he knew more about this young man every time he met him, but he would always be surprised by him each time.
Brendel continued, “So, Freya, stop belittling yourself. You have to know that what you’re doing right now is much more glorious than you think. Your origins and qualifications are just like a grain of sand which is insignificant compared to your dreams and beliefs. Those who mock you don’t understand you at all because they don’t know that the glory of the ancient times of Aouine was led by ordinary people, just like the vow that the late king made in front of his sword."
"Young man, is this what you believe in?” asked Madden after a while.
Brendel nodded. “I’m sure of it because I know that many people have given it all to fight for this dream and belief. I dare not say whether it will succeed or fail, but I definitely know that I’ll not let it end halfway for sure."
He turned and said to Freya, “Freya, do you remember that day when you made a vow to fight for an autonomous destiny for the people in Bucce so that those who seek happiness and goodness can one day be free from being controlled by others? Do you remember what I’ve said to you that day?"
“Yes, I do.” Freya nodded vigorously. It was as if the troubles in her mind were just like a layer of mist, and they disappeared with a gentle blow. She then continued saying, “Brendel, I get it now. I will never give up and even if my blood runs dry one day, I’ll never regret it. Brendel, do you trust me? I will make it."
“You’ve already made it, silly girl.” In Aouine’s history, this War Goddess had indeed shed her last drop of blood for this ancient kingdom.
The past glory of Aouine was just what the legends had described it as. Madden dared not imagine how Aouine would be like in the future, but he wouldn’t criticize the enthusiasm and impulsiveness of these young people easily. Anyway, he would already be satisfied as long as the people in Bucce can have a better life in the future. He'd already heard of a lot of unrealistic ideas and he was getting old, so he no longer believed in this so-called beautiful dream. He felt that it was just a delusion, but he knew for sure that Freya was a good person and she would never push the people in Bucce into the fire pit.
The people in Bucce, who’d gone through war and sufferings, only wished for a peaceful life like before.
The crowd gradually dispersed, but the Patrol Knights dared not move an inch. A while later, these young people finally figured out the identities of the two people in front of them, and they all felt like they were in bad luck. Praguesse had just gone through a war, and it was Trentheim, Lantonilan and the Vierans who’d rescued them. They all knew how prestigious Count Trentheim, the princess and this War Goddess were. They had relationships with the nobles and the army, so they definitely had heard of both of them. Once they found out that both of them were from Bucce, they all felt as if they’d been kicked onto the iron plate.
They couldn’t blame Count Nagin for this because it seemed like he was unaware of it as well. After all, they were the ones who ran into both of them, and if the Count wanted to punish them, no one would dare to stand up for them.
The Patrol Knights were still in fear, but Brendel and Freya had already forgotten about them. After all, Brendel wasn’t that petty-minded and he knew the customs of Grinoires and the Karsuk region well. It was common for these vigorous young men to fight each other and both parties were still quite disciplined. Although there were some injuries, no one was dead, so he didn’t really care about it. It was common practice for the Patrol Knights to come here and make some extra money, so he couldn’t stop it even if he wanted to. Plus, he believed that after they knew about his and Freya’s background from this incident, they wouldn’t make the same mistake again. There was no need to offend them for no reason as the people in Bucce still had to live their life there. If they really offended the Patrol Knights, both of them couldn’t always be there to take care of things.
Besides, Freya never even had the thought of fighting them at all. It was rare for her to return to her hometown and see all those familiar faces. Little Phineas and the militiamen surrounded her and demanded her to tell them her experiences when she was gone and the story of her and Count Trentheim, though she and Brendel didn’t have much to tell. Her face flushed red in embarrassment and she started stammering.
Eugene, the captain of the Patrol Knights, stood there in fear and anxiety for a long time as he waited for someone to announce their execution or receive a pardon. At first, he thought that the Count had purposely left them there, but after waiting for a while, he realized that this was not the case. He then found the courage to ask a young militiaman, who had previously surrendered to him, about this matter. After the young man asked Brendel how he wanted to deal with those Patrol Knights, only then he remembered that there was a group of people waiting there for their punishment.
Brendel found it amusing when he saw how scared Eugene was. He knew these guys very well from his past life as a player and later on when he met these arrogant cavalrymen in Fortress Riedon. In the early years, the Patrol Knights were responsible for the security and defence of the kingdom, but after the police force was established, they became a job opportunity for the nobles’ children, therefore the aristocratic nature of the army had inevitably led to corruption and lax attitude toward discipline. After the Year of Summer Blossoms and Leaves, the Patrol Knights were not essential in many cities anymore. The Patrol Knights in border cities like Praguesse still had some combat power, but those who were in the cities that were further away from the border were basically useless.
Actually, he’d forgotten about those guys because he thought that they’d already escaped. He was a powerful Count, so the Patrol Knights didn't have the guts to leave without asking, even if they were the most courageous group of people.
Eugene was a little surprised when he first saw Brendel because he couldn’t believe that the legendary Count was so young. But he felt relieved when he recalled the stories about Count Trentheim and some rumours about him and the Royal Highness Princess, and he knew that he was the grandson of Sword Saint Darius. Plus, he’d often heard that this Count was a once-in-a-century young prodigy in Aouine, and Brendel’s appearance fitted that title well. He coughed and immediately fixed his posture, bowed to Brendel, and said “My Lord, today’s incident… is actually, in fact, a misunderstanding."
"A misunderstanding?” Brendel was still wondering how this guy would apologise to make up for it, and he wasn’t expecting such a lame apology with no creativity at all. He yawned and asked, “What kind of misunderstanding?"
“Oh, everyone thinks that we’re here to help Count Nagin to get rid of them from the forest. This is indeed just a rumour. Even if it is true, it’s not our duty to evict them. In fact, my lord, we’re here for other businesses,” said Eugene hurriedly.
"My lord, we heard that there is a group of vicious outlaws in Praguesse, and they left the city around evening. Later on, our informants told us that they’d spotted them around here, which is why we’re here right now."
"Let me guess, then you bumped into little Phineas and had a fight with him incidentally, right?"
Eugene nodded in embarrassment. He could’ve actually shifted the blame onto something else, but he knew that he might not be able to fool this young Count, so he might as well be honest and tell the truth so that he wouldn’t offend anyone. Brendel nodded and roughly understood the cause and effect of this matter. The Patrol Knights searched their way here and bumped into Phineas and his group of men. Both parties already had a grudge against each other and the Patrol Knights had more people in their group, so they wanted to seize the opportunity to take revenge on them. This was a more reasonable explanation. Brendel knew that their mission didn’t mean much to these nobles. They would take the credit if they had caught the vicious outlaws, but it wouldn’t matter much to them if they didn’t manage to catch them as they didn’t lack money anyway.
But he was a little curious about what kind of people the outlaws were. Theoretically, there were many outlaws in Praguesse, and they must meet at least two conditions to attract the attention of the Patrol Knights. Firstly, they must not be locals as most of the local outlaws, bandits and organizations in the grey area had connections with the local nobles, so the Patrol Knights wouldn’t go after their own people. Although Brendel couldn’t understand why the Patrol Knights would side the local outlaws, it was considered as one of the cultures in Aouine in this era. Secondly, there must be a number of them. The Patrol Knights wouldn’t care if there were only one or two outlaws. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to care, but it was because they wouldn’t notice the existence of only one or two outlaws based on their work efficiency.
The situation at hand, apparently, was that a large group of outlaws had entered the city. If the Patrol Knights were aware of this, Brendel felt that they might be the Evil Cultists.
When he asked about this matter, Phineas ran over to him before Eugene could say anything. “Brother Brendel, I think I know these guys,” said Phineas.
Brendel looked at him curiously.