Both of them fell silent. It seemed like they were both thinking about the same thing.
A few moments later, Brendel asked, “Amandina, do you know what has your father done before?”
She shook her head gently. “I’m not sure. Our lives have been quite peaceful and substantial, it was similar to the other families of the same social class. My father had several properties in Praguesse and his source of income was quite stable before he disappeared. I only know that my father was financially crippled when he was young, but I don’t really know the details as my parents had never told me about it."
Brendel pursed his lips.
A few things popped up in his mind. What did 'the truth and the fragmented puzzles are finally coming together to form a complete picture’ mean? What had they and his grandfather gone through? Who was the princess that was mentioned in the letter? He was sure that it wasn't Princess Gryphine as she and Haruz weren’t born at that time yet. Lastly, why did these insignificant cultists have this letter in their hands? All for One was secretive and did things meticulously, it was highly unlikely for Magusk and Teste to let a group of minions handle such an important matter.
Seeing that these outlaws had kept this letter carefully within the cover of the Code of All Things, it was obvious that they knew how valuable the letter was.
“Amandina, do you think that there is any chance that they could’ve found a way to read the contents of this letter?” asked Brendel as he waved the letter.
Of course, he was referring to the cultists. Amandina looked over there and shook her head firmly. “There’s no way they could see it. Only my father’s family is able to make the texts appear."
"By the way, how did you recognize this letter?” Brendel suddenly remembered.
"Because my father has left a special seal on his letter. They can’t see it, but I can,” replied Amandina.
“But you’ve never seen this parchment before, right?” Brendel was confused.
Amandina froze for a few seconds before answering, “My Lord, Dean told me earlier that these men were the ones who broke into my house and they’ve even found my father’s old mansion in Juan District, so I’ve suspected it since then. I think they’ve heard about my father’s inheritance, that’s why they’ve gotten the letter. But I don’t think they’ve read the letter, otherwise, they wouldn’t have wasted their time and efforts looking for it."
Brendel pressed his hand on the parchment. He was interested in what she’d said. “You said that their efforts were in vain, so you knew a long time ago that your father’s inheritance wasn’t there. By the way, where did your parents first live?”
“An old city in Grey Mouseman Street."
While Brendel and Amandina were busy having a discussion, Freya and Phineas assisted the Patrol Knights to keep an eye on the restless cultists. After a chaotic night, the eastern sky turned bright as Tadesha sank below the horizon. A new day had arrived.
The Patrol Knights cleaned up the hunter’s campsite before dawn, and Eugene thanked Brendel repeatedly before leaving. The Patrol Knight’s captain kept fawning over him, it seemed like having a good relationship with the count was more important to him than getting a small credit.
Brendel didn’t expose him. Instead, he thanked him sincerely as well. Both parties parted outside the forest. The Patrol Knights really liked this humble count, they reminded him over and over again to visit them during the outlaws’ execution. Brendel couldn’t understand why they were so excited for their execution, it was as if it wasn’t a punishment but a kind of entertainment for them. Eugene had even promised to convince the House of Nobles to give him a bronze Starflame Medal, but Starflame Medals were ubiquitous since Anson’s era and they weren’t as valuable as the Candlelight Medals that were only awarded by the Royal Family and the Holy Cathedral of Fire.
The old city in Gray Mouseman Street had completely changed after the Year of the Howls and had merged into the public cemetery, which was not too far away from Amandina’s residence in Gravedigger Street. They just had to cross the street that faced the underground crypt, which was sparsely populated and chilly even during the day. The cemetery was located behind a cathedral that belonged to the God of Death, which was located at the junction of Gray Mouseman Street and Gravedigger Street. Dean had to bribe all the monks in the cathedral so that they were allowed to go into the public cemetery. An old monk in a grey-brown robe led them through the corridors that were supported by numerous arch beams, and they arrived at the back of the cathedral through a small door. After walking through a forest, they finally arrived at the cemetery.
The place was quiet and surrounded by trees. There were many anonymous and named gravestones lying around. A few stone paths encircled that area which led to the foggy and unknown depths of the forest.
“Is he not worried about us?” Freya couldn’t help but ask in surprise when she saw the old monk returned to the cathedral and close the door.
“He’s just scared. I’ve heard all kinds of rumours about this cemetery. There are many strange things roaming around here, and people get killed around here every year,” replied Phineas rather disdainfully.
“It’s actually not that horrifying. They just said that to deceive outsiders because there are people who do illegal things here, such as murder and carrying out secret deals. The old monks know what's going on as they’ve heard all the conspiracies and malicious schemes that were discussed in the forest. Anyways, they wouldn’t care what we’re up to as long as they were paid,” Dean said with a smile.
"But aren't they afraid...?" Even though Freya had seen a lot of these, she still couldn’t believe it.
“Grave-robbing and selling corpses are all open secrets. There are even necromancers who secretly buy corpses from the monks as materials for their research. There is a huge underground black market here, so how could these monks not know about it?"
Freya exhaled gently and scoffed, “What a blasphemy."
"The necromancers believe in Marsha as well, don't they?” asked Dean.
Freya furrowed her brow and glanced at him. The young man realized that he’d said the wrong thing and quickly added, “Those monks and the Holy Cathedral of Fire have an inextricable relationship, so even the nobles are not willing to mess with them. Plus, since the nobles have a family crypt, they’re not willing to interfere with this matter, so we can’t do anything about it. Also, most of the necromancers are members of the Grey Realm, so nobody dared to offend them."
Although Freya knew that he was telling the truth, she didn’t want to hear it. She furrowed her brow and gritted her teeth so tightly that it seemed like she would draw her sword and stab it through the old monk’s heart if he ever appeared in front of her again.
On the other hand, Brendel’s face was expressionless as he was used to seeing these types of things. Though he felt that the cemetery was still quite dangerous as a normal place wouldn’t be as foggy and gloomy as here in the middle of the day. Plus, the visibility in there wasn’t more than 10 metres. The cemetery was canopied by tall trees and it seemed like the sunlight couldn’t even penetrate through the leaves. It was only noon, but it was gloomy and it felt like it was very late in the evening in the cemetery. There was also a mysterious underground cemetery that was larger than the one they were at. The underground public crypt in Praguesse was perilous as it was full of ghouls and moving skeletons. Not many people dared to go down there ever since the Year of the Howls.
Though that wasn’t their purpose of coming here today. He asked Amandina, who was standing beside him, “Amandina, are you sure that it’s in here?"
The temperature in the cemetery suddenly dropped drastically and Amandina was freezing. She covered herself with her shawl and replied softly, “The neighbourhood around there was demolished twenty years ago and had turned into a cemetery, but I heard that my parents were lucky enough to keep the house that they’d originally rented and there’s a grave keeper living there now."
“There’s a grave keeper here?” Freya was surprised. She thought that this place was only occupied by outlaws.
“Well, nominally.” After all, Amandina was a local and she’d heard about what Dean had said as well. She just didn’t want to say it out. She frowned and said, “I heard that he helps the tomb raiders to run this under-the-table business by transporting the corpses out."
“Business,” she scoffed. Freya was fuming.
Brendel could hear her gritting her teeth.
After a short walk, they found the house where the grave keeper lived. Amandina still remembered the directions and Dean knew where it was. After walking through the lush forest and past the gravestones, they saw a two-storey wooden house standing alone in the misty forest. Dean had contacted the grave keeper beforehand. He obviously didn’t know Brendel’s identity, but when he heard that he was a noble, he thought that he’d gotten a great deal, so he waited for him in front of the house respectfully.
The grave keeper was called Old Slick. Nobody remembered his real name, it was as if it was buried into the ground like a skeleton. His appearance looked exactly like what Brendel had in mind for this type of profession. He looked like a living ghoul with a hunchback, similar to Quasimodo from Notre Dame de Paris. Though the latter had a noble heart and the former was just pure evil. It was hard to guess his age, his face was full of wrinkles but his eyes were actively moving around, it was as if he was constantly having eerie thoughts. He was bald and there were only a few strands of hair sticking out on his head, it looked a lot like a replica of the misty forest.
Freya looked at the guy coldly, but Brendel didn’t bother to make things difficult for him. Sometimes they might not be willing to do this under-the-table business voluntarily, they just didn’t have the choice but to do so. He knew that everyone must’ve had lost something in this era and he shouldn’t put the blame on a person, otherwise, it would be indignation. But this didn’t mean that he would be willing to be close to this kind of person. He looked at the guy and asked him directly without even bothering to greet him first, “You know what we want, right?"
The grave keeper quickly nodded and handed a bunch of keys to Brendel respectfully. Dean had told him about this beforehand, and although he didn’t know why the young noble wanted to borrow his house, Dean had given him a large sum of money, and he knew that it was obviously not Dean’s money. He also knew very well that he couldn’t ask anything about it as it would be more dangerous for him to know more. Who knew what this noble was up to? Plus, some nobles had odd fetishes. He glanced at the two beautiful ladies behind Brendel and had some shady thoughts, though he didn’t express them on his face.
Getting the money was all that mattered to him.
Freya watched the grave keeper walk further away and into the mist. She clenched and unclenched her fists several times as she thought about how that guy looked at her with his greedy and filthy eyes and thought that she didn’t notice it. There were a few times where she couldn’t hold herself back and almost threw a fit, but she wasn’t the little girl who’d just walked out of Bucce and didn’t know much about the world anymore, so she just put up with it. Brendel looked at her and Amandina a little apologetically, and both of their anger gradually dissipated.
As the three of them entered the house, Dean and Phineas stood guard outside. Actually, Brendel didn’t need to avoid Phineas, but the latter knew that he had to stay and look after this teenager, which Brendel had instructed him to do so beforehand. Amandina entered each room one by one and looked inside in hopes to find the traces of her parents’ life in this old house, but she was doomed to disappointment as the house was filled with coffins and smelled disgusting. After heading upstairs and back to the living room, her face turned green and she felt like throwing up.
"Is it over here?” Brendel asked with concern when he saw how uncomfortable she looked.
Amandina nodded quietly.
“Do you where is the exact place?”
“There’s a black pine tree behind the house. It should be right underneath the tree if I’m not mistaken. There’s a small pond there, so I don’t think it has turned into a cemetery. My father told me that he met my mother at the Baden Ball, and they had their first date at this very spot…” She paused at looked at the place with some disgust, “Of course, it was still a residential area here back then. You can see Bucce River over there."
“Let’s head to the backyard then,” said Freya as she furrowed her brows, “I really don’t want to stay here any longer. How could this guy turn the place where Amandina’s parents used to live into this? It’s a mess!"
Brendel grimaced. He didn’t think the same way about what Freya had said. It was normal for a grave keeper’s house to have the stench of corpses and it would be unfair if he was criticized for this. But he didn’t dare to say this in front of the ladies because he saw Amandina looking at Freya gratefully.
It seemed like they became closer friends after the day they cried in front of their own mother.
The house had the same traditional structure as the ones in Praguesse. After passing through the kitchen to the back door, Amandina brought them to the backyard. There was indeed a sturdy black pine tree behind the house, but the pond had already dried up. Fortunately, the grave keeper didn’t turn his backyard into a graveyard, so nothing much had changed in the yard. Though Amandina wasn’t exactly sure where her father’s inheritance was buried, so Brendel and Freya had to dig around the tree. Luckily there were shovels in the grave keeper’s house and both of them were full of energy.
They couldn’t find anything after digging for two hours. It seemed like Amandina’s father had buried it very deeply, or maybe they were wrong and it wasn’t there at all, or maybe it’d already been dug up. Whatever it was, there was still no sign of it no matter how deep they’d dug. But after Freya dug about two or three meters deep in a specific location, she suddenly heard a clang and the shovel seemed to have knocked into something hard. She immediately realized that she might have found something and quickly swept the soil away with her hands. Sure enough, there was a rusty iron chest buried underneath.
The chest was only as big as a suitcase. Freya quickly called Brendel and Amandina over for help and the three of them dug the chest out together. After cleaning the chest, they could see an emblem embossed on its surface. The shield-shaped emblem was divided into four parts and there was a crescent moon on each of the two interlocking parts. Brendel was shocked when he saw the emblem. The crescent moon was the symbol of Aouine. The royal emblem of House Seifer was a crescent moon that was embedded in a full moon on the shield, while the emblem of House Covardo was derived from the royal Seifer emblem, which was three diagonal crescent moons on the shield. Any emblem that had a crescent moon on it was related to the royal bloodline.
Brendel looked at Amandina. He didn’t know that her family had some sort of collateral relationship with the Royal Family. It was unfortunate that he didn’t know much about heraldry, otherwise, he could've probably recognized which royal family he was descended from.
“My father is a noble from Seifer, my Lord,” explained Amandina softly.
When he heard this, he wasn’t surprised anymore as the nobles from Seifer obviously had some ties with the Royal Family. Though this doubt only lasted in his mind for a short moment. He quickly dropped his thoughts and looked at Amandina. She was the most capable of opening the chest right now.