Chapter 156 – Hostage
Brendel’s cogs were spinning as hard as they could. There were a number of things that could prove his identity, but the most persuasive proof was the White Raven Sword Arte and the princess’s brooch.
The White Raven Sword Arte was a closely guarded technique of Aouine’s royal family. Anyone who recognized it would suspect his relationship with them. In addition, the White Raven Sword Arte was derived from the Wind Empress, and it had no relations with the Kirrlutz Empire.
The brooch that Gryphine gave was the symbol that represented the royal knights. Even if anyone from the Kirrlutz Empire obtained it, they would not use it for a disguise. If they attempted to do so, even the current weakened Aouine would never take this matter lying down.
In the first place, the high nobles of the Kirrlutz Empire would be loathed to disguise as Aouine’s citizens, but in the event where one wanted to do it, they would have to consider the consequences. Even though the Kirrlutz Empire protected their own and was not afraid of Aouine’s strength, they would hardly want to enter into a war without a proper reason.
This was why the White Raven Sword Arte or the brooch of the Royal Knights were his best proof of Aouine’s citizenship.
[But which is the better option? …… White Raven Sword Arte. The brooch is a secret promise between the Regent Princess and me. Based on the game’s history, the nobles supporting the Royal Faction are not of one mind. Oberbeck and Benninger are loyal retainers, but Fleetwood and Makarov are neutral parties. The worst lot comes from the people under Duke Lantonrand, everyone has their own plans. I’m certain that many are opposed to the idea that I’m somehow linked to the princess, and would even employ means to block me from her.]
His guesses were close to the truth. The princess went against the opposing voices and privately bestowed the brooch to him. It was an insignificant gesture of support and trust.
Since he was someone from another world and lived in an era of modern society, he did not have the same level of loyalty as a knight who would pledge himself to the princess, but he was indeed delighted to have the princess’s confidence.
Using the brooch carelessly would most likely put her in a disadvantageous position.
Even though it did not matter to him right now, he avoided the decision to use it subconsciously.
“Ser Mephisto,” Brendel took a deep breath and adjusted his dismayed expression of being wrongly accused and took on an earnest tone: “I believe you have mistaken one thing.”
“Oh, you recognize me?” The Sword Saint of Ashes scoffed lightly. He glared at Brendel and spoke in an icy tone: “Enough with the chatter, where is Veronica?”
Brendel’s mouth dislodged itself once again.
[You’re here to pick a fight with her? So you heard rumors that she brought out a group of men from Kirrlutz and followed her all the way?]
Brendel felt goosebumps all over his body. Mephisto must have put a ridiculous amount of effort into stalking Veronica. There were at least ten different routes that included land and sea options from Kirrlutz to Aouine, and it was impossible to track her down in the Dark Forest. Just how much hatred did he have for Kirrlutz’s people to able to do this?
[I have no words. Where am I supposed to find Veronica for you? I even lost the three stupid nobles from Kirrlutz under my nose, and two are dead because of Andesha. I can’t even wait to avoid these nightmares, and you want me to search for them. Do you want me to die?]
But Brendel’s lapse into internal monologues only served to confirm Mephisto’s suspicions. Even though he hated the people from Kirrlutz, he knew that most of them were extremely proud and stubborn. It was rare for them to back off because they were threatened.
[This boy here reminds me of the squires I fought back then. None of them died with their backs facing me.]
The battle left a deep impression on him. It was also why he did not expect Brendel to give Veronica’s location away.
“Hmph. You don’t wish to reveal her location? Then I’ll have you come along with me for a trip. I’m sure Veronica will not abandon such a talented youth of the Empire.” Mephisto said.
Even though he could not see Brendel’s swordsmanship in detail because he was observing from a far location, he definitely could see how the latter led his forces against the Winter Wolves. The boy was more than enough to be called as talented.
[A-Analyze! Shit, it’s not working at all!]
“Wait!” Brendel called out urgently, but Mephisto had already swung his greatsword. A burst of wind exploded in his face, which forced him to narrow his eyes in pain. The hair on his back stood and he leaped backward into the air in response.
Mephisto would have made Brendel’s retreat impossible if he dared to block his sword; none of the men could have protected the youth if that happened. But the Sword Saint of Ashes did not expect the youth to escape as though he was impossibly afraid to engage in a battle with him.
[Even Analyze works on Veronica to a certain extent! At least show me something!]
Brendel’s body could not help but tremble. This was a swordsman that exceeded any opponents that he ever met in this world. Even Veronica was no match for him.
The only reason why he could dodge the attack in the first place was that he researched his habits when completing his quest. It was unlikely that Mephisto wanted him dead, so it was easier to guess what was coming. If the latter truly wanted to cut him down, he did not even need to touch him physically; just his Sword Energy alone would have sliced him into two.
But leaping into the air made it impossible to dodge Mephisto a second time. There was not enough time to prepare to receive the second move, even if he knew what was coming next. The level difference between them was just too big, let alone the level of swordsmanship.
Defeat was the only outcome.
Mephisto’s pause upon witnessing Brendel’s jump only lasted a short moment, and he swung his greatsword without any more hesitation. A white Sword Energy in the shape of a crescent was unleashed from the blade. It swept across the ground in a beautiful arc, but it suddenly shot up and went past Brendel as though it was alive.
[Sword Arte, Dragontail!!! Fuck!]
Countless gamers died under this technique and it generated much interest. The old Brendel was no exception. He had tried copying it back then but it was half-baked at best. In fact, no one had ever succeeded in copying Mephisto’s techniques, at least not to his knowledge.
There was no choice but to stay where he was when he landed. If he tried moving back, the Dragontail would smash into him like a hammer. The fight was going to be concluded when this result happened.
Mephisto disappeared where he stood, moving in a blur towards Brendel with his greatsword pointed at the youth. A violent gale assaulted Brendel’s face, forcing him to shut his lips and close his eyes. It caused him to force the ‘wait’ word back into his stomach. The ghastly sensation made him feel like he was going to choke.
This was indeed Mephisto’s plan to force the youth to cross swords with him. As soon as they did, Brendel’s sword would be knocked away and he would have caught him by his throat.
[Quickly, you stupid moron, stop being scared and think about your next move!]
Time seemed to dilate when he urgently sought a way to turn this situation around. That was when he realized that time slowed for a different reason.
“Hmm?” A familiar voice spoke in his mind.
Orthlyss was awakened by Mephisto’s strength from her deep slumber in the Ring of the Wind Empress. When she reached out with her senses, she found Brendel in a precarious position.
“I have never seen this type of swordsmanship before, but this fellow certainly appears to be very strong.” Orthlyss stretched her limbs before she spoke leisurely: “Boy, how do you get into trouble all the time?”
[It’s my fault!? This crazy airhead is the one who’s picking a fight with me! I can’t even speak because he doesn’t want to hear what I have to say. Where the fuck is justice? S-shit, it’s coming, I can’t waste any more time.]
But no matter how slow time was, the greatsword was on its way to going through his chest. There was no other choice but to parry it with Halran Gaia.