‘When facing the leader of a hundred thousand men army, you do not need to fear him.’
To Cassel, it looked as if the bandits were that many in number. That is why he recalled those words, but it was near impossible to not cower in fear in front of that many archers. However, when the knights beside him looked just it scared, he felt a little relieved.
‘Looks like I'm not the only one afraid.’
He then quietly spoke to the Rose knights.
“Let us give in to his demand. If he was going to kill us, we would have been pierced by dozens of arrows already.”
The knights hesitated but then dropped their swords to the ground. Cassel reached for his sword as well but stopped mid-way. The bandits were oblivious of the sword. He did not know how to use it in combat anyway, but it gave him an idea.
‘It might be possible if I time it right.’
He did not drop his sword like the rest of the knights and the bandits took no notice of this.
“Now get off your horses. Hands above your head.”
Falcon gave strict orders.
Cassel obeyed, and while the knights did too, their unwillingness showed in their faces.
One of the knights asked Cassel.
“Do you know about this Falcon?”
“I heard about him two or three times.”
“Then you must know this is not a wise thing to do? He has never let out a hostage alive.”
“He doesn’t seem like the type to me.”
Appearances aside, his manner of speaking and actions seemed more like a nobleman rather than a bandit. Even Tiger had more of a brute look than him.
One of Falcon’s men approached them with a sword in his hand, and started to frisk Cassel, then the knights. The blade was right beside the neck to remove any resistance. He was well-trained and did not seem to fear the name ‘knight’.
After checking there was no weapons, he signaled Falcon with his head. Falcon then gave an order.
One of the knights yelled.
The others joined in.
“The only person we kneel to is the Red Rose earl.”
“You amuse me. You would kneel before the earl and not the King of Karmorte?”
In Falcon’s sarcastic tone, there was a scent of anger.
The knight did not back down and shouted toward Falcon.
“You talk knighthood when you are a mere bandit? Kill us if you must.”
‘I could see why Falcon does not let a hostage live.’
He kneeled down first. The knights looked around toward him, surprised.
If they knew he was a farmer who did not listen to his father, left his home, participated once in a battle he did nothing in, this would mean nothing. However, right now, to them, he was a more renowned knight than they were.
“W-what are you doing?”
One of the knights whispered.
‘What am I doing? Our lives depend on Falcon, that is what!’
Cassel made an awkward smile and replied.
“In Arantia, we put our survival, our future honor to protect, more value than the past honor we protected.
To the knights, it was sophistry, and made their faces contorted.
His words attracted the attention of Falcon.
Falcon asked while getting of the horse. Cassel was ready to speak.
“There must be a reason to let us live. Come say it. The reason I kneeled down was to listen to whatever you wanted to say to us.”
“You speak like you are going easy against us. Quite prideful, are we?”
Falcon smiled and came close.
Cassel’s next words were ready.
‘Do you know who I am? I am the captain of the Wolf Knight of Arantia. Release me, or face your doom!’
After that, showing off the sword of Arantia was his plan.
Suddenly there was one concern. Will this threat work to this man?
It would have worked against a man like Tiger, but not Falcon. As their conversation prolonged, it seemed more and more likely that it will not work against this man.
“Pride. Maybe so…”
Cassel hung his words intentionally.
‘Falcon. This man is no bandit. Will this kind of threat work? Hm, a non-bandit doing bandit’s work. Does that make sense?’
He continued to speak.
“Let’s say pride. Knights call it honor, and it could mean pride in a sense, won’t it?”
This made Falcon amused. Cassel regained some confidence, made a small smile and added.
“So if a knight like me hold pride or honor valuable, what is it you, a bandit, hold valuable?”
That phrase was from an epic poem, ‘If a knight like me hold promise valuable, what is it that a King holds valuable?’ Back then a sage replied, ‘A King holds himself valuable.’ And the great knight beside him answered, ‘The King is the nation himself and nation are the people themselves.’ It was a masterpiece; words describing the crying king in front of kneeling knights touched him.
‘Please tell me you didn’t read the epic.’
He waited for Falcon’s reaction.
“Why are you asking this?”
Falcon tilted his head, as if he did not understand the meaning of the question.
“What I’m saying is, if you are a common thief or one who held hatred toward the noble’s knights, why do you keep us alive? And why does the word knighthood anger you?”
Cassel aimed for two things here. One was finding out Falcon’s intentions and the other was to mask his identity. A ruse to implant a message that he was actually a knight himself, although in dirty bard’s clothing.
“Don’t you dare ask such questions to our boss!”
The bandit with the sword gazed as if he was going to strike his sword down. The rest of them were riled up as well, but Falcon’s face was serious.
“I got angry?”
“Did you not?”
“I don’t know. Did I?”
Falcon asked his subordinate. This bewildered him and made no comment.
Cassel spoke instead.
“I heard your name a few times. A bandit attacking the army! Attacking the army? How inefficient is that? If you ask me, I would raid the spice merchant moving from Garnelocke to Iropeace.”
He shook his head and pressed on.
“If you are not plain stupid, isn’t there a different purpose?”
“Huh, a spice merchant? That is some idea. So what?”
“Your men are different from the bandits I saw yesterday. What was his name, Tiger, was it?”
“Tiger? Is he still around?”
“He was. He talked about you, talked about vengeance.”
“So what did you do to him?”
“I killed him, several of bandits surrounded me to threaten. I had no choice.”
Falcon was impressed, and nodded.
“Good job. I was going to if I was to see him again.”
The lie has taken its form as Cassel did not stop talking. One misstep would cost his neck.
‘Falcon is no ordinary bandit. He must be. If he is not, he would just kill us.’
Cassel was experiencing excruciating pain inside, but composed himself.
“So, who are you, Falcon?”
“If I asked what do you mean, I am declaring myself as a mere bandit. Seems like you have to tell who you are first though.”
Falcon looked at Cassel’s tunic and continued.
“You seem like a bard, but that silver tongue is a rare quality among the low class.”
“I can’t possibly convince you in this cloth. Check my sword on my horse’s harness.”
“Didn’t I say to lower all swords before?”
Falcon feigned his anger.
“We don’t trust each other. We had no chance to talk and you aimed your bow against us. We had no obligation to listen.”
“Obligation? That was an order and this is serious, my friend. What would an disobedient guy do and can I even trust him?”
His words had strong, clear points. Now Cassel was really curious about who he really was.
“Well, I apologize for that.”
He shrugged and hit his knee.
“But can I stand up and talk now? I am not used to this posture.”
Falcon accepted and told his subordinate to check the horse. He was then handed the sword. He glanced at it.
Falcon unsheathed the sword and its black blade reflected by sunlight. That was the first time to see the black blade for Cassel as well.
“Ten years ago? Arantia’s Wolf knights’ captain had a black blade sword which everyone recognized. Not that the young knights know, but once there were even fakes of this sword. Either that was a rumor or my eyesight has become so bad to not recognize a treasured sword, then this must be the sword of Arantia which slew Welch from the Excelron knights.”
Those words surprised Cassel.
‘Welch fell before that sword.’
Falcon sheathed the sword and asked.
“Will you kill us all with your legendary sword skills if we return your sword, Captain wolf?”
“No way, I’m not even sure I can take you.”
Cassel hoped to get the sword back, but Falcon took the sword next to his horse’s harness.
“It might be a bit late to ask, but what are you doing in Karmorte?”
Falcon stared at him for a while. A piercing gaze as though it would reveal any lies.
“A long story, huh. Will you come with us if I invite you?”
‘Yes my ass!’
Cassel wanted to cry, but it was an offer he had to take.
“What about the rest of them?”
The subordinate asked, and the Rose Knights were surprised as though he said ‘How do we kill them?’
Cassel spoke first.
“These knights are not related to me. I only met them by coincidence, so there is no need them to tag along. Let them go.”
“Is that an order?”
“A request, of course.”
Falcon did not think for long.
“Let them go.”
Falcon ran off with his horse. Cassel had no time to be relieved; he got up to ride the horse, and turned around to the knights and spoke.
“You return to your main base.”
“You can’t go in there alone!”
The knight whispered.
“Let us fight together, now!”
Cassel was frustrated by this, and spoke.
“That is suicide. I just saved your lives, are you going to throw it away? I won’t fight.”
Then the other knight whispered.
“You wait until we get our reinforcements. It will take six hours.”
“There is no need.”
“You are a guest to the Kingdom of Karmorte. We can’t just let this go by.”
Those words provoked Cassel.
“It is strange. The knights should be protecting their own civilians but ignore them because of their own war, and tries to protect other kingdom’s knight when he refuses it.”
The three knights were dumbfounded.
‘Will they have made those faces if the farmer Cassel made the same comment?’
Cassel felt bitter.
“I am young but this is like a daily routine for me. Do not worry about me and leave. I cannot take responsibility for your lives anymore.”
“We don’t know what to say, captain wolf.”
The knights knelt one knee to him abruptly.
“My name is Farby. Right now I am under earl’s command, but I have dreamt of being a true knight. I hope to see you again to make my dreams come true.”
“My name is Milen. I would never forget your courage today.”
“My name is Nichelle. You have taught honor of a true knight.”
Cassel was stunned.
‘What did I say to make them do this?’
He was not familiar with the rules of Rose knights, but there was no way they knelt because they thought he was a foreigner captain. There was no rule anywhere to kneel before anyone who was not a King. Only in Iropeace, which was governed strictly, taught their knights to never kneel except to the King.
“Get up. I… I am not your King.”
He said curtly. But there was no way to hide his shock, so he hastily followed the bandits.
‘I keep making things worse.’
He was just worried about the future.
Falcon took Cassel to his lair. It was a strangely normal village, except for the secret passageway inside a cave or fortification with sharp spike walls. It was its common looks that surprised him the most.
There were women and children living normal lives as well. There were farms at the rear of the village and it seemed fertile and large. It seemed like they can feed themselves.
A white blanket on a rope waved along the winds. There were black mushrooms dried up on the roof and white smokes from the chimney mixed with air. Flowers and trees were well gardened in front of the village that they could enter a beauty contest of villages.
It was the first normal village he came to after all the preparations of battle. It was as if he had returned to Ruworune village.
“Feels like home.”
One of Falcon’s men proudly explained when Cassel muttered unaware to himself.
“It took a whole year to make this place like this and call it ‘home’.”
“Isn’t it open to any enemy attacks?”
“This normal appearance makes it safer. We are taking certain risks. We can fight as well.”
There were two young men acting out in front of the village, but when they saw Falcon, they immediately changed their posture like a well-trained soldier. They must have been faking the earlier act.
The villagers welcome Falcon with sincere smile. No one saw him as a leader of bandits. Falcon greeted them as well, children followed his horse in rows. A brave prankster was joking with Falcon. One of Falcon’s men got angry to him, but it was because it was dangerous to come near a horse.
Falcon was like a popular townsfolk.
Cassel thought about Lucci. His pompous behavior, using his armor and knight status. Back then, Cassel envied it, but Lucci was no knight. He acted the same, being a nuisance, drinking and picking a fight, going for girls. The only thing changed was his knight status made no one touch him.
He was like that since he was young. Cassel had some displeasures around him. Cassel gave up his resistance, and Lucci’s mockery went away.
Cassel did not know why, but It was a delight.
‘No showing off.’
Recalling the previous situation, Falcon did not threaten the knights to overpower them, did not force his men to do something and popular among the villagers.
Cassel experienced this atmosphere once in his life. It was when the Excelron knights came into Ruworune village. They did not threaten or showed off and stayed only for a night, but they changed villagers’ fears into revers.
Looking at Falcon’s back, he recalled the knight from the past.
Falcon went into a hall very inside the village. The village youngsters stared at Cassel as they moved the horses to the stables. Cassel was not threatened nor cuffed up, but he could not help but to feel uncomfortable and scared.
The round hall was quite spacious. They had various kinds of weapons and shields hanging around the walls. Falcon rested his giant sword on the wall and sat down in a chair. The rest of his men proceeded to sit down.
“Would you care to sit?”
Cassel sat down at the very end, dozens of gazes toward him. Fortunately, there was no animosity in Falcon’s eyes.
‘That can be more terrifying.’
“How do you like my village?”
“Even knowing that a wonderful village like this exists in Karmorte makes me feel great.”
He decided to be politer toward Falcon.
Falcon did not change his tone, and asked.
“How do you know it is wonderful in a glance? I wasn’t asking about how it looked.”
“We are in a bad year of farming, nobles taking foods and taxes and officials are not caring about civilians. Won’t you call being well-fed a wonderful thing in this time? I can see the villagers were well fed.”
Being well-fed meant they were living well! That was the thought crossed Cassel’s mind at the army. In that sense, the Ruworune village was living well.
“Well, we don’t pay taxes for one thing. Is there no place like this in Arantia?”
Falcon laughed out loud, and asked.
‘Is this a test, or is he really curious?’
Cassel erased the thought, scared to be made with sharp gazes from everywhere. Right now he needed to forget the fact he was lying.
“Arantia is no different from other places. Countryside where the king’s control does not reach has more bandits and official who feed on civilians, but less than here. Probably has less chance to be raided by bandits.”
The word bandit made Falcon’s eyebrows twitch.
“Sounds like you are accusing me of being one.”
“I can tell you are no ordinary bandit, but that does not mean you are not, does it? This village is a result of your pillaging, built of your victims’ blood and money.”
“You don’t know how to be indirect.”
“I’m sorry. But I am just saying what it comes to mind, I am too scared to filter anything.”
The bandits murmured for a bit. Falcon crossed his arms and scanned Cassel.
“I wanted to ask you about the situation before. I had no intentions of leaving you knights alive. Never a good idea to leave them alive. They never kneel, so if I asked them to kneel, they would charge on to fight, and I was going to honor their last moments. But you intervened and I could not kill them.”
He pointed at Cassel.
“Of course, I almost killed a valued guest from Arantia. Were you confident that I won’t kill you?”
“No, I wasn’t. I had a feeling that you were a person I could talk sense to.”
“And what if that feeling was wrong? What if I liked to fight like that fat pig Greydog?”
Cassel smiled instead of an answer, and told the scenario he had in mind when he first hid the sword.
“Didn’t I gave you my sword willingly? If it was a pig who loved to fight surrounded me, talking wasn’t the only solution I had. A common thief’s common men would not have stood in my way.”
His words caused unexpected commotion. Everyone looked surprised, and Falcon looked in dismay.
“So you were ready to fight fifty men?”
‘Did I exaggerate too much?’
There was no turning back, so Cassel replied.
“Well, against your men, I would not have lasted.”
There were unpleasant murmurs from all sides which Falcon held out a hand to calm everyone down.
“What was your name?”
There were too many lies told, and if Cassel also lied about his name, it would be hard to maintain those lies. He told the truth.
“Whoever you are, you will be treated equal from me. However, I give praise of your bravery and rashness. So to the main question.”
“If I can answer it.”
“Why are you here at Karmorte?”
“Same goes for that question. I didn’t come here to cause harm, but I can’t specify the reasons I am here.”
“An answer making me want to test your rashness.”
Falcon’s smile was quite vicious and full of confidence. Cassel tried to look laid back and smiled, but he was slightly overwhelmed by Falcon’s confidence. He did return Falcon’s gaze, though.
“I’m sorry if you took it that way, Falcon.”
Cassel made a single nod, apologized, and asked swiftly.
“So why do you ask that, if you are a mere thief?”
“If you are a mere thief, you should be focused on stealing people’s money, raiding villages, and killing innocent people. My objective is directly related to the Karmortes. Top secret. Why do you care for a story that would put you in danger?”
One of the Falcon’s men stood up abruptly. He slammed his human-sized crescent sword on the floor and yelled.
“You speak too much. Shut up and answer the questions Falcon has asked.”
“I am speaking to Falcon, not to the people inside this hall. If you are not going to answer instead of Falcon, don’t interrupt me.”
Cassel replied indifferently and faced Falcon again. He stood still.
Ordered Falcon, and spoke to Cassel.
“You would be wise not to provoke my men, Cassel.”
“If I was going to use force I would have fought earlier along with Rose knights. I didn’t think this would provoke them. I would choose my words more carefully now.”
Cassel crossed his arms together, leaned on the chair and asked.
“So? Why did you ask about that?”
“Let’s say I have a duty to serve this country.”
“Then I have to say Arantia sent me here for Karmonte’s sake,”
“Can I trust that you aren’t here to help one of the two earls?”
“A flying bird can be a goldfish if you start to make suspicions.”
Unfazed, Cassel returned Falcon’s intent gaze. Cassel made a strange comparison when he had to stare at his father, asking where was a bale of wheat gone.
“Did you eat?”
Cassel laughed at this.
“My meal was ready at the camp you destroyed.”
“Well, I am sorry for that.”
“Those soldiers. Did you kill them all?”
“Only those who resisted. Rest of them were thrown to the field, naked. Would take them half a day to reach their home. So let me get you a meal instead.”
When Falcon made a hand gesture to the woman outside the lobby, the prepared meal came out quickly.
The feast happened right there. The bandits were spread out and were eating freely, as if to compensate their abstinence earlier on. The food wasn’t the highest quality, but had plenty of food and meat, a rare sight these days. Women who carried the meals sat down next to men and started to eat with them.
His high anxiousness made his hunger vanish, but he forced food down his throat. Someone sat down next to him, and in reflex he moved his chair away.
It was a woman, more than ten years older than him. There were fine lines near the eyes with a charming face, but its gaze was cold. He looked at her, chewing meat, and the woman stared at him intently, one hand supporting her chins.
“I heard there was a swordsman who overpowered our warriors. They said they brought him here, so I am looking at him.”
She felt his wrists abruptly.
“You may be small but got some muscle.”
‘A routine life with restricted diet, and an almost over-working in a farm grant you this body.’
He almost made that joke, but refrained.
“My name is Jaini.”
“Your clothes cover your good face.”
“I was undercover.”
Those words were funny to Cassel, in spite of saying that himself.
“But there is no need now, is there? Follow me after the meal.”
He was flustered by her unhesitant approach, and gave a look to Falcon. However, Falcon was busy putting spice over a big lamb meat.
‘Falcon is not a person you can fool for long. Let’s stay out of sight.’
“Is there anywhere to wash?”
Jaini held his hand and let him up. It was not particularly strong, but had magic-like attraction. He then stopped to ask to Falcon.
“When will I get my sword back?”
Falcon replied with meat in his mouth.
“When you speak the truth.”
Cassel’s heart sank.
“Once you wash yourself, come to my room, Cassel. We will continue our conversation there.”
Cassel nodded, and followed Jaini as if he was running away.
The smell of outside air was oddly refreshing. This made him realize how anxious he was inside, in the heat.
‘When I speak the truth? Did he notice that I was lying? Or is there other intentions?”
Jaini was waiting at a hall where you can see the whole village. She pointed the village which continued routine villagers’ life and spoke.
“All of them were refugees.”
“Falcon saved us.”
Villagers who went past the hall were smiling and their walking was light. Their clothes were clean and road was well paved. This was a heaven compared to countless villages he saw by following the army.
“Some villages are wiped clean by the earl’s army and some are raided by bandits. I don’t know if you knew, but when something like that happens, the village dies out. People live on, but the village loses its life. Women lose their body, men lose their lives, children lose their dream, and elder lose their past lives.”
Jaini took a deep breath and continued.
“Falcon made this village by gathering those people, one who survived but lost all hope.”
“So that’s why they follow Falcon.”
“Yes. Anyway, I was listening from outside. You were something, talking back to our boss like that, when you were a captive.”
“Yeah? Didn’t I seem like a scared young chick?”
“I’ve seen capable men unable to say anything in front of Falcon. Either you are more capable than them or you don’t know Falcon.”
“Guess I’m the latter then.”
He made an awkward smile and nodded.
“How does our boss look, from your point of view?”
“A righteous bandit who is concerned about this country? But if he is truly worried, he should be headed first in resistance, this kind of small resistance is nothing but thievery in a bigger scale.”
He talked about poems about righteous bandits and theory of politicians concerned about the country. However, Jaini made a soft smile and shook her head.
“If Falcon was to leave and rage war to save the country, where would all these people go?”
Cassel had nothing to say anymore.
‘I talked like those nobles I hated.’
Jaini’s house was not far from the hall.
She gave out a towel and guided Cassel to a wooden tub filled with warm water.
“It’s a bit small. But it is the best in this village. Falcon use it often. I will put your new cloth in front of the door soon. We should that old tunic away.”
Cassel was about to undress when he saw Jaini still standing in front of bathroom.
“Mind if I close the door?”
“I could rub your back if you want.”
“I respectfully decline.”
He closed the door trying to ignore her, leaving her amused. His spirits soared when he entered the bathtub and blood going up to his head. He could not remember when he last took a bath.
“I will leave the clothes outside the door. Good thing you are of similar height as my husband.”
He could hear her voice.
He leaned on the end of the bathtub. Concerns rose again when his body became relaxed.
‘So now what? I made it this far. How can I get out of this village?’
Falcon’s last remarks was killing him.
There was no one at the living room after he dried himself and carefully opened the door. He took the clothes and went back in.
It was not some cheap clothes for countryside. He had never worn such a fancy clothes in his life, and had a hard time buttoning himself up. When he came outside toward the living room, Jaini was standing, smiling.
“Looks like a perfect fit. Come here. There are more buttons there. It is quite hard to wear, different from Arantia’s knight wear.”
“Is your husband a knight?”
“Was. All done, now.”
Jaini put her hands on her waist and scanned Cassel’s body up and down. She made a satisfactory smile after she arranged his hair a few times.
“I was right to think that you would shine in a good wear. Did you shave?”
He left those to make him look older.
“Well, it suits you.”
Her confident smile made him confident as well.
Although she was married and over thirty, she was more beautiful than twenty-year-old Janet. She was not so proud as Janet. She did not decorate herself with jewelry or makeup, like that baron’s wife he once saw. In spite of all this, she looked more noble than them.
If her husband was a knight, Jaini must have been in an upper class in the past. It did not matter to show your dignity what you wore or your current status was.
At that moment he was terrified.
‘Right, dignity! I don’t have that.’
The source of uneasiness when taking a bath was this.
“A sword would accompany you nicely.”
She picked the sword on the wall and fixed it on his waist.
“Now no one will doubt that you are a knight by the looks.”
He twitched, although there should be no ill intention by this remark.
“Will you go meet Falcon now?”
“Didn’t you say you were going to meet him?”
“Right, I did. I forgot about it from the relaxing bath.”
He spoke in a joking tone but was not so on the inside.
‘The natural dignity! Yeah, Falcon must’ve seen my true self through it!’
He stripped the sword off his waist. There was a crest of the kingdom for some reason.
“Where is Falcon?”
“Just go back to the hall where you dined. The door on the backside of the lobby is Falcon’s room. Everyone else went to sleep. There was a hard battle yesterday.”
He came outside. No one was watching him and he could just run away with no one trying to hold him back. One problem was that Falcon held the sword of Arantia.
‘Do I have to take it back? I should just go look for the White Wolves. They can take care of the rest!’
However, he did not find the courage to run away. What is more, he did not have the confidence to convince the truth to the White Wolves.
‘Let’s take the sword back and run.’
The hall consists of only a few people cleaning up. They did not take interest at Cassel.
Falcon’s room was not hard to find. There was only one room there. After a brief hesitation, he knocked. There was the voice of Falcon to come in.
‘Aren’t I unprepared for this? What do I do?’
He opened the door.
Falcon’s room was small, and only consisted of one bed, a drawer, and a desk with a map. Various weaponry was hung on the wall with no decorations. From the dirty handles and broken pieces, they were not just for decorations.
Falcon was holding a glass, sitting on a chair.
“You look much better on that. Bard tunic was the worst.”
Falcon shrugged and said.
“Jaini gave it to me. I didn’t know if I should accept it or not.’
Falcon nodded knowingly and spoke.
“Keep it well. It is a keepsake of Jaini’s husband.”
Cassel asked, as if he was guilty just by wearing it.
“She didn’t tell you?”
“In a past tense… Can I ask which family he was in?”
“Karmorte’s Royal knights. I was the captain.”
Cassel almost let out a scream.
“Why, are you surprised? Where are you surprised at?”
Falcon seemed more soft than before, both in words and actions. His sharp tone was gone, maybe due to his drinking.
“Both. But I never seen one, or heard about one before, so it is hard to grasp an Image of one. To be frank, I knew you were in some place high, so Jaini’s identity surprises me more.”
Falcon let out a laughter.
“Said like a true captain. Normally people get intimidated when I say I’m from the Royal knights.”
‘Yes, I am intimidated.’
Cassel coughed, and spoke.
“Can I sit down?”
Falcon drank a sip, and Cassel sat down.
“You look younger now. Twenty-five? seven?”
Cassel did not mention he was three or four years younger than that.
“I was nearly forty when I was the captain of Royal knights, so you must possess great skills to be a captain in such young age. Isn’t master Quayion quite old now?”
“Well, yes. But first, tell me about Jaini’s husband.”
Cassel did not have the confidence to lie about someone who he had never seen, so he changed the subject. Fortunately, Falcon did not object.
“Meorix. A valiant knight. Someone much more than I, a mere captain! We faced each other as enemies. I was in Excelron knights when Lontarmon went to conquer Arcland and Meorix was guarding the castle of Karmorte as a Royal knight.”
Cassel showed most emotion after seeing Falcon. An Excelron knight, in front of him, a symbol of his childhood dreams about becoming a knight.
“I know you are not surprised, so don’t act like it.”
Falcon let down the glass, leaned on the chair and clasped his fingers. He recalled of his past and started his tale.
“It was right before King of Karmorte was about to sign a treaty accepting his defeat. When general Gilter died to Excelron’s captain Welch, it was already over. Lontarmon’s main forces went to their next target, Garnelocke, and only my unit attacked Norumant.”
His eyes were wet, as if he returned to that age.
“It was nothing compared to the countless battles we had. King’s knights were small in numbers, and we got an order to quickly get the treaty from the King and rejoin forces with the main army. But when one of the Karmonte’s knights killed our unit’s leader, this battle prolonged.”
“That was Meorix?”
“Yeah. He knew the weakness of the Excelron knights of how they value honor and battle and exploited it by doing one-to-one duels. Isn’t it great? I would have given up. When he faced me, he was worn out, and I easily captured him. But I didn’t kill him… It was a waste, I suppose.”
Falcon smiled, and continued.
“I asked him later. Why was he so desperate? We would let them live if they just surrendered. Then Meorix spoke. He heard that Excelron knights were evil demons who feast on woman and children and he had to protect his newly wed wife.”
It was perplexing for Cassel to hear all this, from an Excelron knight himself. It was a shame to listen to this when he had to pretend this story did not interest him at all.
“A lot of things happened then, and after the war, I officially seeked refuge at Karmorte and became a knight, and become close friends with Meorix. It was insane, really. An enemy knight, came by and asking to be their knight. Most of them advocated for execution, but to my surprise, knighthood accepted me.”
“Is it just because you were attracted to this Meorix?”
“I can’t deny that.”
Falcon smiled, and continued his story.
“When I became one of Karmorte’s, I was ready to be loyal. But Karmorte was in a mess after duke Shyfield died. The King lost his power, as he was relying heavily on the duke. That is when the two earls started the war. Their justification of war was just ridiculous…”
Cassel did not know the exact reasons of why the two earls started this war. He wanted to hear about it but Falcon moved on to another story, and he lost his window to ask about it again.
“What is important is the people who live there. Two earls have forgotten in. I kept telling the King that he should reinforce his own army, but I got deprived of my knight status. Probably because I’m from Excelron. Meorix lost his as well. Francis got the captain, but he is inexperienced. I’m afraid he isn’t capable of going through current situation.”
Falcon stared at the wall, like an old man recalling thirty years ago, and ended his story.
“So I wanted to take things in my hands, and this is where I ended up. As a bandit.”
“Sorry, Falcon. I insulted you with no prior knowledge.”
Falcon rested his chin with his drinking hand, and stared at Cassel.
“But I started to wonder who you really are."
“What do you mean?” Cassel tilted his head.
“You are not a knight.”
‘The time has come.’
Cassel hesitated a bit, and asked.
“So what am I if I am not a knight?”
“I have no clue. You aren't like any swordsman I know of. I know nothing of a soft knight like you. Or are you so strong that you can just kneel to anyone like me? No, you have never been a knight. How do I know? Your walk, your gestures.”
Falcon lifted the sword of Arantia and spoke.
“And when you handed me this sword. It was too awkward. A man with no knowledge of a sword.”
Cassel could not answer. He did not expect this and was not prepared for these kind of questions.
“Answer me, Cassel. Who are you really?”