Although Jaini did not announce herself as a noble, nor show off in fancy clothes, Cassel assumed that she was. It was obvious from her natural posture. Cassel has never seen nor lived with knights. Thus he could not mimic things such as posture or knightly behavior.
Cassel did not possess the dignity of a knight.
‘The farce is over. I guess my life is as well’
Cassel thought back to when Falcon spoke to him. He had brought up unnecessary topics such as Jaini’s husband and Excelron’s past. He wanted to say something, but was waiting for Cassel to point it out first.
‘No if he wanted to kill me he wouldn’t speak of such things.’
Meorix, Kamorte’s King, the captain of the royal knights, being a Vigilante for the nation. These conversations were not to kill Cassel but to merely expose his identity. Why is Falcon curious of my identity? Why did he let himself be easily fooled that he was a guest from Alantia and willingly lead him into the village? Why talk about the king of Kamorte?
No these questions are unimportant if it is assumed that Falcon is devoted to his nation. But why bring Cassel in and try to expose him by talking about the past?
Falcon is hoping with all his heart that Cassel will be someone who can help his nation. Fortunately for Cassel had no need to lie as he already experienced what the war brought and truly hoped for the war to end.
“Since you have been treating me as captain I will continue to go on as Captain Wolf and I do not feel much guilt over it, Falcon.”
Cassel dropped his pretentious strong and arrogant tone and spoke in his normal voice. Being pretentious to Falcon will only make the situation worse.
“I don’t know what it is you want but can’t you at least tell me why you are keeping me alive?”
“For one you didn’t flee from the village.”
“The sword is here, even if I flee it would be while holding the sword.”
“And you didn’t harm Jaini.”
“Oh my…. You were using the wife of Meorix as bait??”
“3 Men who specialize in stealth were surrounding that house”
‘If I tried to flee before I would’ve been captured by those 3 in an instant…’
Cassel spoke in relief,
“Well now I’m pretty insensitive to that kind of thing. So what are you going to do to me?”
“You don’t plan to make excuses?”
“That sword is the only thing that can define who I am. No matter how you see things I must meet up with my friends and head to Normant with the sword.”
“What are you going to do when you are there?”
“That is a secret.”
“You are only arousing suspicion.”
“We were already attacked by assassins on our way to the Deserter’s Village. Thanks to that I was separated by my friends as I searched for this sword, which is where I met you. Until I figure out why the assassins came after me, I intend to keep everything a secret.”
“You met assassins?”
Falcon frowned. Cassel nodded his head.
Falcon asked again,
“Where are you planning to meet your friends?”
“Corholloon. I was planning to go immediately, but I missed the cart.”
Cassel hoped that, as he told Falcon this information, his expression matched what he imagined it to be in his head.
Concern for the Kingdom. After hearing that a guest from Alantia was attacked by assassins, there would be too much risk to continue suspecting him.
Overall, all the things Cassel told were things that only a true White Wolf would know.
“Why would assassins attack the White Wolves?”
Cassel felt relieved and talked even more seriously,
“It’s not a matter of why, but how. It was top-secret that we would be in Carmort, yet the assassins knew this and attacked us.”
“It must’ve been someone who didn’t want the King to meet with the envoy of Alantia.”
Falcon stroked his chin and handed Cassel the sword,
“It is much too complicated, I need to take a rest first. You can go rest or enjoy yourself in the meantime.”
“You are allowing an unidentified individual walk around the village with a weapon?”
“Why? Are you going to ambush my men, then hang the children upside down, assault the women, and set fire to the village?”
“Don’t speak nonsense!”
“Then it’s fine. If you have nothing more to say, you can leave the village. I just hope you will keep this village secret.”
Falcon stood up and laid in his bed. He did not seem to care that Cassel was wielding a sword.
It seemed as though Falcon had figured out that Cassel was unable to use a sword or that he trusted him completely, seeing as how he began snoring as soon as he lay down. It may just have been that he was tired. Or maybe the 3 men were still keeping watch over him.
Cassel stood up and opened the door silently. Jaini was waiting outside.
“Would you like a tour of the village?”
Jaini joyfully gave a tour of the village. Before cultivating a strong army, Falcon stole travelers belongs. He later stole military supply from the two Counts. She also explained to Cassel how those were used to trade between other villages . She even told him how the army defending the village was trained and what sort of strategies were used in emergencies. Cassel only gave a half-hearted reaction.
“You aren’t listening to me”
Jaini sulked. It was a cute reaction unfitting for someone of her age.
“Sorry I was preoccupied thinking about your husband’s identity”
“Falcon told you about Meorix?”
“That son of a ….”
Jaini was infuriated.
“I asked him to tell me. It’s not Falcon’s fault. But how did…”
“He didn’t mention he died?”
“You did just now”
Jaini let of a sigh and walked ahead. Cassel knew she was angry and was about to apologize, but the one who spoke first was Jaini.
“It was 2 years ago in another village, before this village was even formed. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call that village a den of bandits. The Red Rose army immediately heard of the village and invaded us. Back then there was no way we stood a chance against a fully trained military. Meorix evacuated all the town’s people and stayed to fight. In the end, he died.”
Jaini tried to stay composed as she spoke.
“That’s a shame…”
“He was always like that”
Jaini waved both hands in the air as if the image of her husband was standing before her, then continued to speak in an agitated tone.
“Always! He would look after others more than himself and forget that I was there with him. It’s better that he is dead. I won’t have to anxiously wait for someone that I don’t know is alive or not”
Cassel silently walked alongside her.
Jaini became quiet and tried to settle down.
“Jaini did you know Meorix….”
“…before he was a Carmort knight?”
Cassel just continued to speak.
Jaini replied in an irritated tone.
“We were childhood friends. When I was 15 and he was 18, we got married. He ran into the war right after the marriage.”
“For a man with a wife, he was reckless to take on the entire Excelron army by himself.”
“He really was a terrible husband.”
“I’m quite envious.”
Cassel gave a lonely smile as he stared into Jainis’ dull eyes.
“He fought to protect you.”
“No, he was fighting for the nation!”
“I see, Falcon hasn’t told you.”
“He never spoke of my husband in front of me as I would never listen.”
Cassel gave a faint smile.
“I have never risked my life in a fight to protect someone, nor have I truly loved someone passionately ……”
Stories of great knights do not only exist in great battles. Cassel could almost visualize the moment Meorix fought with the entire Excelron army. How was he feeling at the time? Did he imagine he would gain fame from this fight or wish to be worshipped by Falcon? No, he was probably just concerned about his wife that would be left alone in the world after his death.
What about Falcon? He wouldn’t be relieved to leave a man that would risk his own life to save him.
Tears welled up in Cassel’s eyes. He tried to look away, but was caught by Jaini immediately.
“You are a very honest person.”
Cassel usually would not blush from embarrassment, but this time he felt the blood rushing to his face.
“I don’t know which part of my story touched you, but looking at you in tears will bring out my tears as well, so please stop.”
“It’s ok. Follow me. It’s time for the storyteller to speak to the villagers.”
In front of the giant tree, in the middle of the village, kids and women in aprons were sitting down. Some elders were also sitting. In the middle of the crowd a long bearded man was speaking and made great motions with his hands.
“We have a lot of time in the village, so to make up for it someone always comes out and tells a story. Of all the storytellers, that man is the best at telling stories. He even forgot his name, so everyone just calls him ‘Donkey’.”
“That’s an interesting name.”
“His stories are far more interesting. Just listen.”
Donkey was an old man with only one leg. He spoke of his experiences in the past, full of exaggerations, to the kids with sparkling eyes. His ability to tell stories was so great that even the distracted Cassel was immediately drawn into the story.
The story was about a dragon from ‘Sky Mountain’ that accidently came down to earth and became king. Cassel had already heard this story from his own grandfather, however, Donkey skillfully delivered the story as if he was the magician that fought the dragon.
Donkey concluded the story by skillfully persuading the dragon with his words to go back to the Sky Mountain. Once the man, who had fended off an existence no less than a God, had ended his story Cassel regained his senses.
“It seems we have a new guest in the village, someone who even Lord Falcon has taken a liking to. How about we hear his story today?”
The old Donkey pointed at Cassel. Everyone clapped and the children cheered in excitement.
“They heard that you are a knight of Atlantia. A self-introduction should be sufficient if you cannot tell a story.”
Jaini lead Cassel to the center of the crowd while trying to ease him. The stares, full of anticipation given by the kids, were almost unbearable. All the lies he told so far were necessary to survive, however, he felt that lying here would be a grave sin.
Jaini waved her hand to Cassel who kept his silence. Cassel gave an awkward smile and began to tell his story.
“Well I have never had a way with words so this is difficult for me. As you all may know I am a knight of Alantia.”
The audience chuckled.
“My own stories are quite boring, so I will also tell a story that I heard a long time ago. My story is also about the ‘Sky Mountain’.”
The kids gave a wow and looked at Donkey. The old story teller was clearly flustered, but Cassel gave a smile and eased Donkey. He had no intention of making a fool out of the kids’ hero.
The Sky Mountain had existed from the birth of the world and it is said in that place beings from legends, that people did not know, of existed. No one had been past the mountains in the south so it was always a good source of material for minstrels. Some said that it was the end of the world, and others said that it was a forest inhabited by fairies with the wings of dragons.
Many challenged the cliff like mountains that formed the border for Arcland, but no one succeeded. Very few returned alive.
“This is a story about my grandfather. He travelled a lot when he was young. I will tell you the tale about the fairy with wings. Yup that’s right. Past the Sky Mountain there are fairies... This is a story about how a fairy accidently wandered down the mountain and met a human.”
Cassel who started his story awkwardly, began to be absorbed in his own story and told the story more passionately. The kids were listening to the story intensely with their mouths wide-open.
The name of the traveler was Cassel. His grandfather had been moved by the story he had heard from a traveler and set out on his own journey. This story was passed down from him through his father who had heard it from his father before him. The story was more than enough to inspire anyone, burning a desire to travel the world to the young Cassel.
‘Is that true? Are there really fairies with wings in the Sky Mountain? Did you meet one?’
Cassel would ask the same questions, even though he had heard the same story a hundred times.
It didn’t matter that he was an adult. Cassel would still feel his passion ignite whenever he thought back to those moments.
“Of course it is. You are named after that traveler, Cassel.”
His father always said that Cassel would go on a journey, as if by fate. He never pushed or pulled Cassel from an adventure.
‘The soldier who died in front of me yesterday was younger than me, wasn’t he...’
Cassel felt remorseful when looking at the eyes of the young soldier that pointed a spear towards him.
Cassel also held a spear to the young soldiers face and let out a cry, but he couldn’t bring himself to stab the young soldier.
Cassel lowered his spear,
‘This is not why I left the house’
Charge. Follow my lead. Go and stab a spear into that young child’s face for honor and glory!
This was not what Cassel had been hoping for. In his imagination, he was elegantly standing wearing a white cape, without a single drop of blood on him. That wasn’t what war was about. To him, this was not what being a knight was about.
‘I guess I just wanted to muck around dad…..’
As Cassel told his story to the kids of the village, he broke into tears remembering his dream.
The past month flashed before his eyes. An unsightly and immature kid’s tantrum.
‘I just wanted to have an adventure. Just as the Cassel in the story did, as my grandfather did, and as my father did. I just wanted an excuse to have an adventure.’
He just wanted to have his own story to tell to his grandchildren like his grandfather did. He had no intentions to kill or be killed.
‘Do I have any right to talk about chivalry? I,u who can’t even understand Meorix who died in this village without leaving his name behind?’
Cassel finished his story and stood in tears. The kids who were listening to his story began to whisper in confusion.
The adults who were listening to Cassel’s story absentmindedly couldn’t approach him either.
“Sorry I just gave into my emotions for a moment.”
Cassel tried to smile and left the area.
Jaini tried to ask Cassel about something, but stopped.
“The meal is an hour later. You can rest at my house and return to the place we were telling stories.”
Cassel silently nodded his head then headed to Jaini’s house.
“It’s the Army!”
A man screamed as he entered the village gate. The villagers were frozen for a second staring at each other, then as if a sudden realization hit them they began to rush as the children screamed.
“Calm down just do it like we practiced!”
Jaini shouted on the top of her lungs
Cassel stopped in a daze and looked at the village. The women all stopped what they were doing and grabbed the children and ran towards the mountain while the men went into the houses and quickly changed into their armour and wielded their weapons. Cassel finally realized what was going on.
The location of the village had been found.
“How many are there?”
Falcon who was definitely a sleep was already in his gear as if he knew this would happen.
“15 men on horses and about 50 soldiers as well.”
“So they are certain that the village is here. This is going to be tough.”
“Don’t you think we can take them on? We’ve been training hard as well.”
The villagers who had finished getting ready asked with a strong look in their eyes.
“Do you think we have ever gone head to head with the army? We have done it once and Meorix sacrificed his life in the process. This time it is not a surprise attack, they are ready for a full scale battle. The only thing that can handle an army is another army. If we were to engage in head to head this time we would suffer great losses despite our training.”
The bandit who was wielding a lance twice his size spoke in an enraged voice.
“Why are you accepting defeat before even attempting to fight?”
“We are not alone. There are people who cannot live without us. Go with the usual plan. Evacuate the villagers through a safe route. Send escorts for the villagers.”
No one willingly stepped forward. Falcon picked out the escorts.
“Dey, Block, Raru, you three will escort the villagers”
All three tried to rebel, especially Raru,
“That doesn’t make sense I am the most talented in fighting among anyone here.”
“This is an order”
Falcon spoke in an icy cold voice
“Wasn’t all that training for a case like this?”
Dey joined in. He was younger than Cassel, yet twice as reliable.
Cassel gritted his teeth, enraged while watching the situation from the corner.
“There is no time for quarreling. You three cannot fight. We have already decided this in the meeting. You are too young and have too many people to support. Especially you Raru. You have a pregnant wife, so you will just drag the team down. Leave. Kids have no place here. The rest of you will follow the plan.”
“I cannot do that Falcon.”
Raru resisted, but Falcon got on his horse. The rest also abandoned the 3 and stuck to Falcon.
An elderly man hurried the 3 men.
“What are you doing? We aren’t going to our deaths, we are merely executing our plan.”
The three left without a choice and rushed towards the mountains. After confirming this Falcon turned his horse, however Cassel blocked the way with his horse.
“I would have liked to speak with you more. However, luck does not seem to allow it. You may leave now Cassel.”
“There is something I would like to ask you Falcon.”
“Move, there is not enough time.”
Jaini was the person most surprised by Cassel’s course of action.
Jaini prepared a horse so that Cassel could escape, but he had instead used that horse to stop Falcon in his tracks.
At the gate, the soldiers were shouting that the army was almost here. All the villagers had fled to the mountains. Among the uproar, all the villagers ran to one direction, so it was clear that they had done many drills to prepare for this.
“No it cannot wait, answer my question.”
“Why did you throw away your title as a knight aad become the leader of a gang of bandits? What did Meorix die for?”
Cassels stared at Falcon with his eyes that are bloodshot from the tears from before.
“When one wields a sword, it is for one of two reasons. To steal or protect. I merely wanted to protect. The reason Meorix threw away his title and died was because that title could no longer protect people.”
Cassel smiled weakly. He spotted the flag of the Red Rose within the dust cloud from far away.
“You asked me who I was before, right Falcon? I am a nobody. It was all a lie. I am not Cassel Wolf, I am Cassel Noi.”
Cassel spoke as he led his horse into a different direction.
“At least tell me you name Falcon.”
Falcon replied as if being hypnotized,
“I am sorry for deceiving you.”
Cassel immediately rushed towards the Red Rose army. Behind him he could hear the villager’s questioning,
“Wha…what should we do Falcon?”
Followed by Falcon’s reply,
“For now, get in formation! Why are you still here Jaini? Follow the villagers! The rest….”
Cassel could no longer hear Falcon as he continued to rush towards the army.
As the army drew near Cassel calmed down and realized his mistake.
Cassel had a plan to stop them. However, this would only work if the army was standing still, not in a situation like this, where the army would just chuck spears at him as soon as he was visible. But it was too late.”
‘Guess I have no choice.’
Cassel drew the black sword and raised it into the air while pulling on the horse’s reins to slow it down. The horse rose to its hind legs then landed twisting his body sideways.
Cassel shouted with all his might,
“I am a White Wolf from Alantia. Captain Cassel! Stop!”
The spear reflected the sunlight as it approached him at tremendous speed. Cassel calmed his horse and held his sword high in the air.
It didn’t seem like they were willing to slow down. He wanted to run away, but he had put himself in a situation that was impossible to run from. He closed his eyes slowly, before reopening again. When he opened his eyes again, the spear was close enough to penetrate his forehead.
About five steps before him, the army had begun to slow down. A yellow cloud of dust engulfed the army. Cassel gulped. He was out of breath despite doing nothing.
“I am Captain of the White Wolves, Cassel Wolf. Who is the leader of this army?”
“I am the leader for the rose army Captain Cassel, my name is Lirote.”
Lirote spoke as he raised his spear.
“We nearly attacked you. We are here to save you.”
“So I am guessing you will lead me to Sir Pabi, Sir Millen and Sir Nichell.”
“They were the ones who told us of this location and asked that we save you. It is good that we weren’t too late.”
It was Cassel who wanted to say it was a good thing. As things were, he could progress as he planned.
“What do you mean it is good?!”
Cassel barked. Lirote flinched and stepped back. The remaining army looked at each other in confusion as well. They were certain that Cassel would thank them for saving him. Cassel took advantage of this moment of confusion.
“They were very kind to me and treated me well. The 3 from the Red Rose army questioned me as if I was a criminal and even tried to kill me, they asked that I prove myself Captain Wolf. I was basically held captive by those 3.”
“Tha…That cannot be!”
“Yesterday I was chased by assassins and this morning I was almost killed by the Red Rose army. I am wondering just how I should report this to the King of Carmort. AH! Is the count of the Red Rose army so powerful that he does not fear the King? I have no words. The man named Falcon in this village was different. It was the first time that I properly received any hospitality from anyone in this country. Then you come charging, ready to rip me in half and say it’s a good thing??”
Lirote, who was at first very friendly, was enraged.
“What on earth are you saying? If that’s what this is about, we will talk about it later.”
“Why? Now you are going to officially kill me and go?“
“I said no such things, don’t be unreasonable.”
Cassel purposely blocked the path of the army and spoke in a very arrogant, hateful tone. It was simple since he was mimicking Luchi.
‘Get angry Lirote! Get angry enough to stab this arrogant brat!’
“This is quite interesting. You claim that a normal village is bandits hideout and plan to annihilate it, well too bad. I already told them I am a knight from Alantia and I already wrote a letter about the villages I visited and that soon I will head to Normant…… But the Captain who went to Normant is missing and the final village he stayed in is destroyed? More than few witnesses escaped already, so it’s only a matter of time before you are labeled as the army that killed me.”
“No-one spoke of killing you! Our mission is to save you, then capture the gang of bandits! Why would we kill you?”
Cassel pointed to a soldier who was still pointing his sword towards him. The soldier who had merely forgot to raise his weapon dropped it as if to escape it.
Lirote glared at the soldier.
Cassel condescendingly spoke again,
“I will repeat what I said, there were no bandits in that village”
“We already confirmed that you were dragged here as a captive. If you continue to resist, we will drag you down from your horse by force!”
Lirote spoke in a threatening tone.
“Drag me down?”
Carasel snickered and showed off the sword of Alantia.
“Are you confident you can stand up to a White Wolf?”
A wolf army soldier could take 10 soldiers by himself. The elite white wolves were known to be the strongest of the wolves. This was a well-known fact in the army. It was unlikely Lirote would want to test that. If he did the results could be disastrous.
Lirote continued to argue.
“Even if you are a guest from Alantia, we are on a mission and you are in the way.”
“Your mission was to save me and now you have.”
“My mission was not only to save you, but to also end the lives of those bandits that kidnapped you.”
“And I told you that they are not bandits.”
“They are! Falcon is the most notorious bandit in this area and that village is their hideout.”
“Bandits are those who steal from the innocent by killing them then use what they stole to fulfill their desires is it not?”
Cassel explained in a slow manner.
“Rumours say Falcon steals from other bandits. What sort of crime is it to steal what has already been stolen, to steal things from those that did not own it in the first place?”
Lirote realised that those ‘other bandits’ included his army, as well as the 2 counts, and glared at Cassel.
‘Damn, did I go too far?’
Cassel regretted this, but his aim was to slow the army down to buy enough time for the villagers.
“You made a grave mistake Capatin Wolf. By siding with the bandits, you drag the honour of the Alantia knights though the mud.”
“Wow how remarkable, openly bad mouthing others now are we?”
Cassel continued to be unreasonable. In some ways he felt a bit sorry for them. They did come to save him, but were greeted by insults.
Lirote spread his hands and all his soldiers pointed their weapons forward.
Cassel was flustered.
“I don’t know about the legendary swordsmanship, but let’s see how many men you can take while sitting on that horse. If you are who you say you are, prove yourself not with that tongue, but with your sword.”
Lirote growled as he extended his spear forward.
In Cassel’s head, Lirote should have retreated. But different people make different decisions and in Lirote’s case, he would take action first before thinking, once he is enraged.
‘Ah… maybe I should've stopped there.’
Cassel swallowed due to nervousness, but before Lerote could bring his hand down to order the attack, he stopped. The other soldiers were also surprised and got out of position. The spears that were pointed at Cassel were all over the place.
While Cassel had been buying time, Falcon’s men had surrounded the army. The foot soldiers could not reach the area due to Falcon’s archers blocking their path. It was truly a plan that took a long time to prepare, but in the eyes of the Red Rose army it seemed as though a trap had suddenly sprung out of nowhere.
Lirote’s face distorted in anger and his lips were shaking. Cassel did not assume victory after seeing this expression. Lirote was, more than likely, willing to fight to the death as Phabi, Millen, and Nichell did.
“Let us stop here.”
Cassel withdrew his sword,
“Neither side needs to die nor surrender. You came to save me? You may.”
“How can we trust you?”
Cassel slowly rode his horse towards Lirote without a reply. He stopped right at the tip of the spear. If he had gone even a bit further, he would’ve been impaled.
“I will march mixed into your army. Falcon’s group won’t shoot me and I have no wish to be killed this fight. So you may save me.”
Lirote slowly withdrew his spear, but he continued to glare with rebelling eyes.
Cassel approached him and spoke softly.
“You need recognition? Leave with me, they too will retreat. If you engage now they will come at you with nothing to lose. That will only lead to unnecessary casualties. They too will leave, then you can come back later and set fire to the village. All you need is evidence that you destroyed it.”
Lirote took in a deep breath and commanded his troops,
Cardel followed behind Lirote.
“Your actions are still directly opposing Carmort, Captain Wolf. We will see how this plays out in the long run.”
“I will be ready with my explanations.”
Cassel looked back at Falcon on his horse. He was too scared of the Red Rose army to wave goodbye.
Falcon will surely abandon the discovered village and rebuild in a new area.
‘I guess we won’t see each other again.’
Cassel regretted the fact that they could not share more stories.
Cassel stopped looking back and marched forward with the knights.