Port Gris was no longer what it was before, melancholy had long ceased to exist, and in its place a crowded port and bustling streets. The fifteen trestles of the harbor were now deep at the bottom of the crystal blue waters, now a full-fledged port deep enough for huge cargo ships.
Rows of cobblestone streets stretched out to all directions as huge hooded carts weaved through the streets from the port through a neat grid leading outwards.
Just like back in Coldwood city, the old shantytowns had long been demolished, and in their places were sturdy constructions, rows and rows of brick and mortar houses in impeccable grids, now a symbol of the city’s rebirth. At this point in time, the only part where old fishing villages could be found was by the northern forests.
The Bucce Herders, the guesthouse opened by Romaine’s merchants’ guild, located within close proximity to the city center was the only one by the port that had official status, notably for not being constantly overwhelmed by crowds like the others around town.
The reason for that was because only traders approved by Count Trentheim were allowed to reside within, which occasionally include Medissa and Amandina, or the others from the castle that was visiting.
Henceforth, to call it a guesthouse was quite a stretch when it was operated more akin to that of Trentheim’s official lodge.
Nonetheless, recently there had been an uptick in guests occupying the guesthouse, the only difference however was that they were mostly blonde.
Even though their interactions with the general public were still courteous and respectable, the Aouine people found the snobby attitude of Kirrlutzian people, particularly towards outsiders displeasing, even though it was less of their personal behavior, but more of tribal pride that was built up through generations.
Regardless, the owner of the guesthouse, an aged war-savvy veteran, had enough of their revolting behavior and chose to just declare himself sick, and thus leaving the bulk of the guesthouse processes to his subordinates, and had been gone for over a week since.
Brendel’s carriage finally arrived by the guesthouse entrance, and they were promptly greeted by several sights.
By the entrance was the apprentice, Shido, hugging a drawing board in her arms as she captured the view through painting, which she found interesting. Trentheim’s scenery was a spectacle to behold for the young foreigner.
What amazed her more was the thought that this entire port city was nothing but a backwater fishing village of less than a hundred people until less than a year ago.
Up until that point, the only Noblemen that the villagers would see were tax collectors from Coldwood city, something that was well documented from all parts of Aouine.
Yet right here Count Trentheim had provided her with a vastly different outlook of the kingdom.
A few young knights voluntarily stood by the young maiden as her bodyguard of sorts, all of which recognizing Brendel almost immediately as he appeared, yet in truth were closer to Maynild and Freya.
As he stood within reach, the knights had all came to pay their respects, which was rare given the Kirrlutzian mentality of things. If the owner of the guesthouse was here, his eyes would fall off from shock and would undoubtedly idolize Brendel more than ever.
Brendel respectfully replied with a smile and personal acknowledgments to each of them while Amandina tailed closely behind. Amandina being more accustomed to Brendel’s reputation was only mildly surprised by her lord commander’s fame within the Kirrluzians, but she naturally did not find it too hard to believe.
It instead was Shido that had laid down her brush as Brendel walked by. She promptly stood up, gave him an earnest bow, which left Brendel slightly dumbfounded, given how Shido’s form of greeting was that of a student to her mentor, which he felt was rather excessive.
He couldn’t help but stare blankly at the young Kirrlutzian.
Shido then proceeded to explain, “My mentor once told me that respect should be given to all that is virtuous. You, Milord are an honorable man and a role model to all Nobles of my generation. Upon our return to Kirrlutz, your deeds will be brought forward to all my teachers.
For now I am finally aware that the Ancestral nobles have not taken all glory away from this land. All that was taken and defended by the gracious King Erik is evidently still nurtured and presented among us today!”
Brendel noted the determined gaze within her eyes and responded with a shake of the head paired with an awkward smile.
The young Noblewoman was as pure and innocent as always.
Got to say that’s a little too much! Pretty embarrassing to hear that in person, but just can’t get mad at this pure-hearted girl!
Even if he was delighted to witness all of this, some that have happened on this land were not his intention and were done at the spur of the moment.
He shook his head from the convoluted thoughts. Just then, Lenarette appeared at the junction to the stairs leading to the second floor of the guesthouse. The moment he spotted them, he lightly nodded, yet no words were uttered.
Brendel understood that it could be the female squad leader’s orders, and there shouldn’t be anyone else with Veronica at the moment besides the crown prince, maybe even Shito, but the female apprentice does not seem like one that could be kept in one place for too long.
He promptly bid his farewell to the rest and went up the flight of stairs.
Lenarette was surprisingly quiet as he led in front, and right their room, cracked open the door, what Brendel would witness next left him genuinely terrified.
Veronica was indeed but not alone, but her partner was beyond his wildest expectations!
He knew exactly who that was, a bald man with a thick beard paired with an eye patch, an appearance many could instantly recognize. It was Mangrove, the squad leader of the Black Legion, the Legion commander of the third Holy war.
Brendel nearly cursed out from shock, rather annoyed that none of his subordinates even noticed his arrival. It felt like a serpent slipping into his pond and he had absolutely no knowledge of it.
As one of the four Great Squad Leaders of the Empire, skill level even above the great Veronica herself, only behind his mentor Mephisto. Having an individual of such capacity in the kingdom was like having a nuclear weapon at their disposal.
And this nuclear weapon was now right under his nose, and he wasn’t the slightest aware of it!
He couldn’t help but turn back to look at Amandina, her face appearing sickly, clearly already identified the unexpected guest, and unsurprisingly already knowing who he was.
“Great, Brendel, you’re finally here,” Veronica finally noted Brendel’s arrival, along with Amandina closely behind. Mangrove and Veronica were both sitting by a low table, the former biting on a cigarette butt.
The cigarette was giving its last hurrah as it lit and dimmed, as Mangrove subsequently breathed out a cloud of smoke, leaving the indoor venue hazed.
Brendel frowned at the sight, knowing Veronica well, as a mildly mysophobic person herself she wouldn’t have tolerated the current environment they were in, but did have two deductions.
First, Mangrove sure is way above her in terms of seniority.
Second, there must be something that’s so deeply troubling for her that she couldn’t care less about trivial things like the cloud of smog in this room!
Veronica seemed to have noticed Brendel’s solemn grimace, instantly understanding what he was eager to know, then promptly indicated the crown prince to close the doors, leaving only Brendel, Amandina, and the two legendary squad leaders inside.
Brendel noted as the door closed shut behind him. Feeling slightly uneasy that Lenarette wasn’t even allowed to sit in the discussion they were about to hold, certain that the incident seemed to have exceeded his imagination, he tried to refrain from his emotions and first allow Veronica to take the initiative.
“Brendel, this is, well whatever I’m sure you already knew who this is, let’s skip the introduction,” The squad leader cut herself short.
Taking a sigh, notably frustrated at Brendel’s cautious demeanor, she continued whilst glancing over at him, “I can see that you’re very keen about the situation in the kingdom, and I can sense the walls you build around us.
I can’t exactly say why, but you can calm down, Mangrove here is selected through exclusive measures, evading even the Holy Cathedral of Fire, so it’s understandable if you weren’t aware of his arrival.”
Brendel noticed that Mangrove was carefully staring at a map of Kirrlutz without even batting an eye at himself, which was rather typical for a Kirrlutzian nobleman, notably given his identity as a mere Count of the hapless Aouine kingdom.
He then turned to Veronica, seemingly acknowledging the female squad leader’s explanation. If even the Holy Cathedral of Fire was oblivious of his presence in Aouine, Brendel himself wouldn’t dare consider himself to be superior to the network within the Holy Cathedral of Fire.
But Veronica’s voice somehow appeared to carry a tinge of lurking danger.
Mangrove was a special envoy sent by the Kirrlutzian Empire’s internal military sect, so something must have happened internally within the ruling class for a significant figure like Mangrove to be sent under such risk to meet with Veronica, even so far as to creep under the noses of the Holy Cathedral of Fire.
Brendel’s mind then began to spur. Is there an internal conflict between the religious sect and the royal sect? Is the Kirrlutz Empire heading for a civil war?
That would be the perfect scenario, for Aouine that was almost godsent! The weaker Kirrlutz was, the less pressure it had on Aouine. It was a known fact.
Yet Brendel shook his head, contemplating that the world would never have offered such an obvious advantage towards them. Ever since the father of the current Kirrlutzian king clenched the true authority from the scheming hands of the Cultist sects nearly a century ago, the royal sect had been rather secure in position.
Furthermore, as the national religion of the Kirrlutzians, the Holy Cathedral of Fire, the order of culture and belief within the nation would never have taken such a treacherous route. Even if there were a few at the top with heinous ploys, the majority of them should have known better.
From what Brendel has known, the current person at the driving seat was still ‘Valar the Farsighted’, and if it was that man heading the Holy Cathedral of Fire, he would never have allowed such blunder to happen.
But it was possible for the Queen.
Brendel was actually not too familiar with the queen of the Kirrlutzians, but instead more acquainted with Lenarette Aurelius, the future king of the Kirrlutzian empire. The Queen might be known for her iron fist, even earning the nickname ‘Ironheart queen’, but it was just her stern way of conducting daily tasks.
Nevertheless, she never had more than two years in the commanding seat, and as long as Lenarette Aurelius returns to the kingdom, he will be coronated as the true king, and then the Kirrlutzian empire will enter an era of rapid industrialization, which simultaneously meant the beginning of the Aouine tragedy.
So what chord are they playing now?
Brendel watched the two famous characters before himself and instantly sense something ominous in the get-go.