Haruz displayed some objection, merely frightened by his sister's sternness that he almost cried out. With a fierce glare from Gryphine, he held back his tears and nodded.
On the other hand, Brendel returned to Trentheim while harboring some gratitude for the princess and began to select the 'attendants and deputies' that would accompany him. He knew full well that this so-called diplomatic mission was just a cover, and everyone around him knew exactly what he was really going to do, so this so-called group of envoys needed not true diplomats but an army that could turn Kirrlutz upside down.
This 'army' was small in number, and he already had the right people in mind.
"Since almost all the money in the territory is invested in preparation for the war–mainly the recruitment and training of the White Lion Battalion, the forging of weapons and armor, the expenses for Magic Crystals, daily maintenance, the acquisition of rare materials, et cetera. All in all, the construction within the Black Forest has basically come to a halt now, and this situation will last for about three to four months. In less than six months, our previous achievements will be affected."
The carriage was lurching, shadows of the passing forests fleeting across the windows, leaving dappled patterns on the black gown as the wheels moved forward. Brendel's face lighted up and darkened by the transition between light and shadow. With his chin propped in one hand, he listened to the merchant girl reading him a report. It was a rare moment as it was something that could not have seemed more boring to Romaine, judging by the way her eyebrows were knitted into a knot. As part of her interest as a merchant, she did not mind reading mountains of accounts or literature of similar type, but having to read them all out loud like an audiobook was beginning to make her mouth feel a little dry.
However, that was what Brendel wanted her to do, so she used that excuse to convince herself for about five minutes but immediately found a new excuse. Brendel always liked to see her troubled expression, and it made her very unhappy. When she began to realize that, she raised an eyebrow and moved her lips quickly to read. "The White Lion Battalion suffered almost a hundred casualties in the previous war…"
Brendel glared at her. "Wait, what was the second half of what you said? I totally missed it."
"That's what the second half is about, isn't it? You didn't hear it clearly because I spoke too fast, but I've finished it." The merchant girl began to act unreasonably as usual.
"You're being cheeky. I thought it was agreed that you would read the report to me this afternoon. I have to know the recent events in the territory," Brendel replied without a smile.
"But I've already read it, using what my aunt taught me–‘the witch's way of speed reading'. You didn't hear me clearly because you're not a witch. That has nothing to do with me." Romaine swiveled her eyes around and shoved the stack of reports into Ferlarn's hands. "But you can have Ferlarn read it for you, she doesn't know 'the witch's way of speed reading', so you don't have to worry about not hearing it clearly."
Brendel was sure that her "the witch's way of speed reading" must be made up at the last minute, but he rolled his eyes and did not bother to expose her. Anyhow, she would be able to round everything up. It was a special skill of Romaine, which ordinary people could not learn.
He looked to Ferlarn, who sat across from the two, ignoring their dramatics, including her lord's, as she silently organized the papers and continued to read, "The casualties of the White Lion Battalion have been made up by recruits drawn from Trentheim, the Mirtai regional Patrol Knights. Besides, we've recruited another five hundred men, so in total, we now have a total of fifteen hundred men. These recruits are still training in both Trentheim and Radner and will not be available for a short time."
"Carglise did a good job," Brendel praised.
The scenery outside the window had long since changed to the serene mountains. This was his second day back in Trentheim, and he found himself feeling more relaxed back in his territory. It was very cozy at home in Praguesse, but he found it still very awkward to face his father. After all, this was the place he had built up single-handedly. He had wanted his parents to move to Trentheim, but Scott stubbornly refused to accept. On the other hand, his mother, Windsor, had seemed a little tempted, but it did not work out in the end. Nonetheless, Bunide had promised to send someone to look after his family, and with the protection of the Highland Knights, he need not fear the possible reprisals from Madara.
Brendel could not bid Gryphine farewell, for she had to come to Trentheim herself to examine the party he had picked out for the diplomatic mission, in case the count was really bringing an army to Kirrlutz. Of course, this was only an excuse since it was, in fact, somewhat unorthodox for the princess to travel privately to a vassal's territory, and it would have a detrimental effect on her reputation. Regardless, everyone knew that Trentheim and Radner were close to Frada, and it was not unreasonable for her to insist on a detour through Trentheim.
However, Brendel knew in his heart that she would not leave so easily when she came to Coldwood City this time. Him leaving Aouine for Kirrlutz was an unsettling factor for the situation within the kingdom. At least on the surface, in the eyes of the world, the princess was still backed by the people of Trentheim. If he, the Count of Trentheim, was no longer in the kingdom for a short period, then she might face the danger of being stripped of power by the Royal Faction once again.
She had come to her territory this time, namely with the intention of inspecting his territory when he was away and also to show the outside world their close relationship. Regarding her considerations, Brendel had not thought too much about it at first and only thought that she had come to bade him farewell. Only after Amandina reminded him did he understand. In fact, Trentheim and the royal family were also interdependent. During the period when he was not in the kingdom, this territory of his especially needed to be approved by the royal family, which was related to the legitimacy of the territory to avoid being taken advantage of by the Royal Faction.
Thus, after understanding the princess's considerations, he tacitly began to act in cooperation.
For this reason, Gryphine had conferred him the title as Count of Radner on his first day of arrival in Trentheim. It was actually compensation, as Trentheim had never been the territory of a count. Originally, Brendel had little ambition for Radner. In his original plan, it would have been better for Radner and Arreck to be incorporated into the royal domain to strengthen the central power further and serve as an example to the rest of the land. Besides, Arreck had the second-best troops in the kingdom, the Highlanders (the main source of troops in Aouine came from Grey Mountain). With these two territories, the royal family would have a significant say in Aouine.
As for himself, the title of Count Trentheim was nothing more than a ruse. The explored Land of Order in the Loop of Trade Winds was nearly half the Southern Realm's size. Once it was fully grown, it would not be difficult to recreate an Aouine. Most importantly, it contained tempting minerals and resources that made him have little interest in running other territories at all.
However, Gryphine's actions had him dispelled that idea. She had told him gravely told him the title itself was not only a reward but also a recognition. With his current status and relationship with her, if he did not receive the title of Count Radner today, it would easily arouse suspicion from the outside world, making the situation within the kingdom unstable. After hearing this, Brendel realized that his thoughts were a bit too naive and thus followed her advice.
Having been bestowed upon the title of Radner's count, nominally, he was given a part of the command of the Southern Legion, and this expansion was, in fact, carried out under that name.
Gryphine just pretended not to see it and did not mention a word about the former Southern Legion, which was still resting in the area of Ampere Seale, and Brendel, too, played along. Just like that, the two of them kept a tacit agreement to act out this show. Outsiders merely thought that the two young people had not yet understood the operation of the local forces of the kingdom, including the Royal Faction. Almost no one reminded them of this, as if they were waiting to see them make a fool of themselves. However, there were quite a few people within Trentheim who understood that their lord had obviously received some kind of mandate and was ready to have the local nobles and military forces in the Southern Realm in check.
The plan was just getting off the ground, but Brendel had to put it off for a bit and hand it over to Carglise or Gryphine because of the trouble Kirrlutz had caused him. He interrupted the elf before him and skipped right over the paragraph to ask, "In terms of preparations for war, the stockpiling of supplies can be slowed down a bit. If we do go to war with Kirrlutz, it can't just be a matter of Trentheim alone. Her Highness will find a way to help. The focus of the resources and finances should be on Valhalla. Ferlarn, if I need to use all the War Goddess, how long can the territory afford to do so?"
"If we slow down the pace in other areas, with the supply from that Magic Crystal mine within the Black Forest, it should be no problem to sustain for a year, My Lord," The elf maiden replied without a change in her expression.
"What if we have to keep the facilities within the Black Forest?"
"Three months to six months."
Brendel nodded. "What about the acquired materials?"
"At the moment, only the Phoenix's Feather and Silver Tune are available, but both in very scarce quantities. As for the other materials you wanted, there is no sign of them yet," Ferlarn said as she looked at him.