White smoke was filling up the room. Although the candles were lit, it was still too dark that only the red dot from the smoking pipe was floating alone in the darkness.
Cassel cleared his throat, pressured by the atmosphere. However, the giant was sitting still on the chair, gazing at Cassel and saying nothing. He was absorbed in deep thought, tried to say something, and then kept his mouth shut and repeated doing so. The huge iron spear on the side pressured Cassel as did the silent gaze did.
"May I ask your name? My name is Cassel Noy."
To Cassel's surprise, he said his name with no hesitation.
"Um, are you mad about using you? My deepest apologies about that."
"I am not mad."
He replied with a hint of anger.
"You know, as I said before, I did not steal this sword and ran away. I came all the way here to return to the owner."
Cassel spoke desperately, in hopes of clearing the misunderstanding. But Shaden just kept letting out smokes in the air.
"We will talk once my colleagues arrive. That sword is very important, mind you. You could get your two hands chopped off for just touching the sword, although it never happened before. But that is no importance right now. So wait."
Cassel shut his mouth, and the room was once again filled with deep silence.
A woman with long braided hair came in, fiercely opening the door.
"Oh, what a terrible night. Searching day and night for three days.."
And she stopped right after she saw the two.
Cassel's eyes went wide in surprise. He recalled vividly when he saw her first at the village of runaways.
"Who is this?"
She crossed her arms and laid her back on the wall. The huge man who followed her was there before at the village as well. Once Cassel remembered, he could recognize them even in dark, candle lit room.
"I know you people."
He spoke first before they could.
"Is that so? How?"
"At the village of runaways. You guys won't know. The lady came in the tavern I was in and mentioned a sword she was looking for. That's how I knew this sword belonged to you and came here to return it."
"And spreading some legends at Coholloon?"
The huge man let his axe on the floor, and said.
"So we heard. Overwhelmed the Rose Knights with mere shouts, made a bandit's leader his underling.. It was fun to hear, whether or not the information was reliable."
She spoke and laughed. She sat on the bed next to the chair Cassel was sitting on. The bed made her body and hair shake up and down.
He was briefly lost in her unusual charm.
"All those are just rumors."
"I know, I know. We are going to hear from the source."
She looked around and asked Shaden.
"Where is Roil and Dunmell?"
"At the castle outskirts. Coming at dawn. They won't complain even if we decided things here ourselves."
The huge man came close and sat on a chair while the woman spoke.
"Should we briefly introduce ourselves? My name is Azwin Wolf. All of our knights' last names are Wolf, by the way. Just in case you didn't know."
"And I'm Gerald Wolf."
The huge man said.
"My name is Cassel Noy."
"Cassel, hmm, nice name. Are you from the village of runaways?"
"No, from Ruworune. You won't know, it's on the countryside."
"Where did you get the sword?"
Cassel handed in the sword toward the woman.
"From the village of runaways, I picked it up."
She murmured to her party 'I told you that I lost it there.'
"As I am telling you again, I didn't steal this, but came to return it to the owner."
"Did we say you stole it? You don't have to make excuses. And you can keep the sword for a while."
Azwin spoke, smiling.
Cassel hesitated, thrown off by this unexpected behavior. It seemed like they did not capture him to get back the sword. Shaden and Azwin were not trying to get the sword, which Cassel thought of most importance.
He was forced to put the sword back on his laps. He comforted himself that he is not in a dangerous situation as he originally thought.
He slowly regained his composure, but not letting his guard down. It was impossible to do so when three knights in front of him were White Wolf.
"We know you only through rumors. Exaggerated and nonsense. We want to hear from you, nothing left out and only the truth."
He was thankful at the chance to explain and started his story. Come to think of it, it was the first time to say the truth for him after he became a runaway. He did say something of a sort to Falcon, but not like now when he was saying everything. From the bard, Tiger the bandit, Black Lion knights, how he lost them after retrieving the sword, went along with Rose knights and how he met Falcon.
".. and arrived at Coholloon."
Gerald was the first to speak.
"Amazing. I can't even imitate that."
"Can anyone here do it? Lots of people were tricked, including you Shadi."
Azwin chuckled and poked Shaden's side. Her laughter seems to push out the heavy atmosphere of the room.
"Can't deny that I was tricked."
Shaden scratched his nose, replied to Azwin and asked Cassel.
"So who were the thieves threatening you before?"
"They were out to steal the sword. I am sorry that I let you take care of that treating you like a bodyguard. In truth I thought you were an another thief to steal the sword."
"I understand. But because of you I could've committed murder unnecessarily."
Shaden spoke with a hint of anger in his voice and Azwin asked, her feet on the bed.
"So what did you do with the thieves?"
"Well.. I didn't kill them."
Azwin asked again, in a tone seeking other interesting tale.
"How did you get him? From his story, he seems to be good at getting out of tight spots."
Shaden shrugged his shoulder, and spoke while looking at Cassel.
"It wasn't easy. I asked while I was grabbing him by the collar, and he said forcefully to reveal myself first if I knew what this sword was. I answered, thrown off by orders never received but our master."
Gerald exploded with laughter.
"I recall that I fought with someone about who should reveal their names first and killed the person in the end. That is when .."
"No one asked."
Azwin cut short of his story and spoke to Cassel.
"We will tell our story as it seemed you have told us all. First, the origin of the sword. You know a blacksmith called Lugo? No, you don't need to. He is quite an impressive one but that is not important here. He is the Arantian blacksmith who crafts all the weapons we use."
She patted on the sword she had on her waist. The blade was wide and short.
"So this sword was crafted by Lugo.. No, let's start over. This is before I got the surname Wolf. Probably before the war started."
She said as if Shaden agreed to this, and spoke again.
"A mage from Lutia, the mage city, gifted a magic metal to the queen, saying that we need a sword to represent our kingdom. A metal that is supposed to truly glow when a great hero wields it.. they say it glowed like the sun when our master defeated captain Welch of Excelron. I don't know the details."
Azwin made a weird gesture of tapping her chin with her finger, and continued.
"Lugo forged that sword from the metal and the dragon's jewel, which was a gift from Garnelocke kingdom. The sword glows even without light; it is the most beautiful sword I've ever seen."
Cassel looked closely at the blue jewel on the grip of the sword, maintaining its glow even in darkness. Azwin's unorganized story kept on going.
"Strictly speaking, it is a sword belonging to the kingdom, not to the Wolf knights. But our queen insisted that if the Wolf knights are the protectors of the kingdom, then it is right to give the sword to the Wolves. That's how our pops, captain Quayion got it."
"Pops? Can I let him know how you called him 'pops'?"
"Anyway, the sword became the treasure symbolizing the Wolf knight. You follow?"
Cassel was listening without really thinking, and quickly replied.
"Yes, I follow."
"Few days ago there was a secret invitation from the Karmorte kingdom. Asking about reinforcements."
Azwin continued hastily.
"Queen thought about it, and sent us White Wolves as reinforcements and gave the sword as well to show that our words and behavior represent the queen's. The sword is not crucial to our mission to succeed, but is a rare treasure that if lost forever, we would've beaten up to death by our master."
"And the important part is the beating is literal, not a metaphor."
Azwin and Gerald high-fived each other like they did at the village of runaways. Shaden grinned, and spoke.
"You make our master sound really awful. From the start, I knew this sword will come back to us. Arantia's treasured sword is said to find its way on its own, so it came to us .."
Shaden stopped when Gerald and Azwin made faces which indicated that they were not interested at the slightest.
"Hmm, I will stop here."
Shaden started to let out white smoke from his pipe. Azwin, at her limit, snatched the pipe, threw the ash on the ground and stomped with her feet. Shaden did not say anything, but merely licked his lips.
It looked hilarious, but Cassel pretended that he did not see anything and asked.
"So the five of you came as mission to the kingdom?
"Told you. Not mission, but as reinforcements. Er, did I mention that we were five people?"
"You mentioned two people who weren't present, so I assumed. Is White Wolves five in total?"
"Um, that's right. You are quite smart."
"I kept hearing about assassins."
"Funny story. We don't have any reason to be in mortal danger in foreign lands. Now, I have to think about everything, like the bread we eat and the water we drink."
Gerald, who held up the cup to drink water, twitched as she said that, and held the cup down.
Azwin explained further.
"The moment we crossed border of Karmorte, we were attacked by some black-clothed guys. Our guide, mission from Karmorte died then. We figured something ill has happened, and thought about going back. We pressed on, as their purpose might've been to turn us back."
"The problem is they all died."
"So what? We shouldn't have killed them?"
"Thought I explained already.."
Shaden looked at Azwin and Gerald, as if he wanted the two to remember what he said, but the couple blinked their eyes, oblivious. He gave up, and explained again.
"There were forty of them, and it doesn't make sense that they fought to their annihilation. Normally they flee when half of them die."
"They didn't notice their friends dying as we killed them too swiftly. There was one runner though. But Dunmell killed him by throwing a sword at him."
"Aah, he didn't hear when we shouted not to kill."
Azwin nodded, and continued.
"Anyway, we were bewildered by the assault and then we lost the sword. A mistake by someone who isn't here."
"To add, the black ones are same as the ones who chased you and stopped by me. They were here in this city too."
Shaden added. Azwin whispered, 'Who the hell are they?'
"To be exact, this assault was for Cassel. He is known as captain of the White Wolf to outsiders."
Shaden explained, and stopped. His gaze met with Azwin's.
Gerald intercepted, and spoke.
"That previous attack was no coincidence then. How dare they attack the Wolf knights; they didn't hear about our superior skills?"
"If their target was Cassel, then they really don't know about White Wolves, and acting on rumors. They are bewildered as much as us by Cassel's appearance. Hmm, quite a surprise."
Shaden stood beside a window and stroke his chins, absorbed in thought. Azwin came close to Cassel, sat and asked.
"I expect you want some kind of payment for that sword?"
"N-no, nothing of a sort."
Surprised about the fac that Azwin came close up to him rather than the question, he mumbled.
"I meant nothing ill of the question. We will do what we can. Money? We don't have much now, but we will once we talked to the knights."
"Lies. What money does our knights have?"
Azwin got up suddenly, and pointed her finger at him.
"Yes we do! Probably. Some will say the Wolf Knights are poor beggars if they hear what you say!"
"Who said such things? I just meant to not make promises you can't keep to a person who made an effort to return the sword. I am considerate, unlike you!"
"Dragonshit! The senate's money is same as the Wolf Knight's money. Didn't you know that?"
Cassel's chest was pounding while the two were arguing. There were lots of things he wished for. A knight training in Arantia, or a recommendation to be a trainee in Karmorte kingdom knights. If he is to be greedy, a squire to them. A squire to the White Wolves would open a lot of opportunites to be a knight than staying as a trainee.
If all else fails, he wanted a lot of money. Then he can return home without losing his face. It seemed like a good idea to get a few years' earnings for a farmer than to become a knight against his father's will.
'I thought missions and rewards came from grave-looking Kings in a large hall with pipe organs.'
This was no kingdom hall, but a shabby inn room. Instead of a silk-clothed prince and princess, a shabby dressed beauty and giant were swearing at each other.
They were not like knights at all. However, Cassel could not doubt that they were indeed White Wolves.
'I now know why everyone fell for my lies when I showed non-knight features.'
Suddenly, he came across the thought that this might be one in a million chance for the likes of him. They were White Wolves, no other. And they were willing to make up for his service. Is it wise to ask for money for farming?
'Will I be satisfied with that?'
Cassel asked himself.
'Let's look at this calmly. They have no intentions of killing me. No doubt about that. Gerald could say petty jokes and abruptly say I will have your head now with this axe. But that seems very unlikely and even if he does, what can I do? I'm safe, that's for certain. Let's buy time. I need time to think. My life is not at stake here.'
He opened his mouth carefully.
"I have one question."
Azwin and Gerald stopped their fierce argument and looked around. Shaden, who was looking out the window, turned around to Cassel as well.
"Why don't you take this sword?"
"Heavy for you?"
Azwin shrugged, and asked.
"No, not like that."
Cassel made an awkward smile.
"Well, yes, it is quite heavy. I mean the responsibility and meaning of this sword. Yes, I am a farmer. If you asked for this sword, I would gladly have done so. Reward? Sparing my life would be grateful. Well, I wouldn't have objected. In fact, I would've considered a great honor to meet you all. I mean that."
"Ooh, this guy is quite philosophical."
Azwin chuckled, and continued.
"Say more, you tend to lengthen your speech."
"D-do I? Sorry. Anyway, you got some reason not taking the sword? Well.. there is a reason for me to have this sword still, yes?"
Azwin looked around to Shaden. Shaden loosen his arm and scratched his rough beard.
Cassel glanced at Gerald. His expression did not change.
"So what if it's true?"
Again, Azwin spoke. It felt like a test.
Cassel took a deep breath, and spoke.
"That was my first hypothesis. The one where you guys let me have the sword, even when you said about your master beating you to death and the sword is Arantia's treasure. The second is the one about you got assaulted by assassins. But they took as me as captain."
Cassel found an answer when he was blabbering whatever it came to his mind. Then he quickened his speech.
"I heard a rumor about me in Coholloon as well. Exaggerated tales about me. Rose Knights think I am the captain of Wolf Knights because of what happened in Falcon's territory. That rumor is the third hypothesis."
Cassel knew from the start, but it still scared him when saying so.
"The three hypothesis, at least at Karmorte, officially.."
Cassel bit his lips, and spoke.
"I am the captain of Wolf Knights."
"That conclusion is from the second and third hypothesis. So what about the first one, the reason we aren't taking the sword from you."
Shaden widen his eyes, as if he was angry, and continued.
"Add that to the conclusion as well."
"Speak! Why did you mention the first one then? You knew that what I, no, we were going to say."
Cassel shook his head, almost crying.
Gerald extended his two hands excessively, and spoke.
"Why are you making him cry? I will summarize."
"Don't. Only makes it confusing when you do it."
Azwin mocked. Gerald picked up his axe. At first, Cassel thought Gerald was about to attack her. She running up towards the door and laying her back on the wall seem to support this view.
She moved as if she slid on a moss-covered rock, silently. Cassel was stunned.
"Hm? How did she move like that?"
A person requires using their two legs to move. However, it seemed like she skipped that part when she moved.
The door opened towards inside. A person came rushing in with a sword.
It was Ike Anfleur, the guardian knight of earl Gotimer. He tried to say something - like freeze, we are the guardian knights, or Captain Wolf, I came to save you. However, those words were never spoken.
His sword was knocked off by Azwin's hand. Nearly at the same time, Gerald took Anfleur's collar and forced him against the wall. He let out a short gasp when he collided against the wall. Other guardians tried to follow, but as the situation went dire, they stopped. Ike's sword was picked up by Azwin, and Gerald was using his other hand to wield his axe towards the door.
A giant spear, right up Cassel's shoulder, was aiming towards the door as well. Although only three weapons were present, it felt like a cavalry was readying to charge as the room was quite small.
Cassel swallowed, and spoke. Anfleur replied, clutching Gerald's thick arms with his two hands.
Cassel regained composure, and spoke.
"Gerald, let him down. He is Ike Anfleur, a guardian knight of earl Gotimer, lord of Coholloon. He came to save me."
Gerald let Anfleur down, still having a suspicious look on his face. Anfleur finally set his two foot on the ground, trembled and lay his hand on the wall. He gave an angry look on Gerald, but looked away when Gerald gazed him back.
Azwin and Shaden lowered their weapons as well. However, it seemed it did not matter if they lowered the weapons or not, given the reaction time of them. The soldiers outside lowered their weapons, following their example.
That was the sound of earl Gotimer. He squeezed through the soldiers and came inside the room. He gave a start when he saw three other peoples with Cassel.
Cassel pointed at the three and swallowed once.
"These are my friends."
"Oh. T-that's right."
Earl Gotimer seemed relieved.
"Sorry for the sudden rush. I heard you were captured by a man wielding a spear."
"Who would take the captain of White Wolves other than the White Wolves? Are you all right?"
"I hurt my arm a little, nothing of a concern."
He raised his bleeding arm. Cassel showed a slight smile and continued.
"That is a relief. But it is quite late, and seems everyone is in rough shape, so what do you say we talk tomorrow? Not an ideal place to discuss about today's assassins or your purpose of meeting with me."
The earl carefully replied, glancing on the three.
"My thoughts exactly."
"Should I come by your place tomorrow?"
"Yes, at any time you want. Oh, and if you want, I can leave some guards here."
"Thanks, but no need."
Earl Gotimer smiled understandingly.
"See you tomorrow. Ike, you all right?"
Ike slowly left the room. He looked around at the last second, not looking at someone particular.
Earl waved once more and silently closed the door.
Cassel spoke before the White Wolves' attention came to him.
"As I explained before, there are some complicated problems.. Earl Gotimer mentioned that there could be a war in this city if I wasn't captain of the White Wolves. So.."
Cassel kept talking until he bowed his head abruptly.
"Sorry. I lied again."
"So do you want to go after him and say everything was a lie?"
"What? If it's that what you want.."
"Step outside for a bit. We have some discussing to do."
Shaden spoke with certain authority.
Cassel got up quickly.
"So am I to go after him and tell the truth?"
"Don't be stupid when you continued to be smart. Just stand outside the door!"
Shaden spoke. Cassel got up and tried to leave the sword. However, Shaden shook his head.
"You held on to that. It isn't something you just leave anywhere once you wield it."
Cassel could not object, and held on to it.
He stood still until they said to come back in. He did not dare to run away.
In the room, discussion to decide his fate began.
"What do you think?"
Shaden asked with a small voice after Cassel left the room.
Azwin grinned, and pointed the door.
"Did you see? His words to the earl were quite natural to be a lie."
"It was our captain for sure."
Gerald agreed and Shaden nodded.
"What would an ordinary man have done? Lie? No, most of them would have waited on us to do something or say something themselves to worsen the situation."
"He seemed very nervous on the inside."
"That's what is incredible. When you are nervous, words don't come out straight. What about you? Can you wield a sword well when you are nervous?"
Shaden asked. Gerald glanced at his axe, and shook his head.
"Axe or sword, you don't think when you are nervous. Your body just reacts. That is why we don't stop training."
"Exactly. If we take his word for it, he is a farmer. A position where you bow to the nobles."
Shaden made an awkward gesture of bowing and continued.
"See this, me being awkward? When he was caught by us or when the earl appeared, he could not breathe because he was nervous. Then what happened? He seamlessly continued his lie to the earl. With straight shoulders. Like Gerald said, his body just reacted, with his head blank."
"In his case, his mouth reacted."
Azwin chuckled, and continued.
"I hate loud-mouths. Or silver tongues. But I like that guy."
"His words are not for boasting. You don't feel ill toward actions trying to survive."
Gerald nodded, as if he realized something.
"Ooh, so that's what. When I first heard about the rumor of Captain Wolf, I was going to punch the guy without thinking. But I didn't feel like it when I first met him. Maybe it was because he looked really weak, but I tend to get even madder when weaklings blabber."
Gerald nodded several times more. Azwin spoke with curiosity in her eyes.
"What an unexpected person. What should we do, Shaden the genius?"
"What would the master have done?"
Shaden got up and went back and forth.
"Master wouldn't have new ideas. He would say what he always say gravely. Leave it as it plays out."
Gerald imitated with a thick voice.
"All jokes aside, we should decide carefully. Honor of Wolf Knights depends on our choice."
Shaden's words made Azwin laugh.
"We have honor in our knights?"
"What about being laughed at?"
Shaden mentioned something else instead of retaliating. Azwin became solemn for once.
"Oh, that's serious."
"Let's say this in Cassel's tone. Hypothesis one, outsiders know him as our captain. It won't look good if they find out someone impersonated the captain. Second hypothesis is that assassins took him as our captain too. No one survived seeing us."
"So what about the first attack?"
"The Karmorte mission would've been the target."
"What if someone survived and looked at our faces?"
Azwin asked this time.
"We weren't attacked for three days in Coholloon, but Cassel was attacked right after he appeared."
Gerald and Azwin understood at the same time.
"Why do you act as you hear this the first time? I explained it several times."
Azwin's eyes were glowing when she asked.
Shaden let out a sigh, and continued.
"We have to assume there are more assassins in the city. And they know who the captain is. They lose the ability to differentiate between real and fake when the target they looked for so long appear. We still don't know who is behind these assailants. So we should set up a trap ourselves."
"Adding hypothesis one and two. And adding that, impersonating our captain seems useful. Hmm. So you really want to?"
Azwin asked, her eyebrow twitching.
Gerald made a baffled face.
"Do we really need to?"
"Then maybe you should be our captain?"
Shaden suggested provokingly. Gerald immediately raised his two hands in the air.
"Roil was burdened by his forced position as captain. Now we need to unburden. When no one wants to take up that position, we can just take it to someone else."
After Shaden's words, Azwin asked after chewing her lips a bit.
"Can you take responsibility? It could mean disrespect to other Wolf Knights."
"I will take it. Some of it can be our masters, as he gave full authority to us, right? Maybe the queen can be dragged into this as well, like saying that queen is a fool to trust us!"
Shaden nodded like he wanted to make accomplices. Azwin nodded as well to show her agreement. Shaden then asked Gerald.
Instead of answering, Gerald asked.
"Do you think he would fare well?"
"He made a lot of people believe that he is the captain of Wolf Knights. That is saying something. We can reveal that he isn't later if we have to."
"That's cruel, isn't it? We just ditch him when there's danger?"
"Quite a gamble."
Gerald worried as well.
"Let's hear what he has to say."
Shaden stopped when he reached for the door, and spoke.
"What's more, he knew my intentions by just a few words, and tried to refuse."
"Oh? Did he?"
Gerald and Azwin asked at the same time.
"We can tell that he is more observant than you two, judging by your reactions."
Shaden opened the door before they could say anything.
Cassel was waiting on the corridor, anxious. Shaden nodded to him and called.
"Come in, Cassel. We will continue our talk."
Azwin realized late and cursed.
"That bastard, didn't he just make fun of me?"
"Don't you be a White Wolf?"
That was the first suggestion Cassel heard back in the room.
"I thought so."
Cassel clenched his hand and spoke.
"What did you thought so?"
"I surmised what we spoke earlier outside. Firstly, I impersonated the captain of Wolf Knights. That is a huge mistake. I apologize."
Cassel bowed his head, and Shaden replied.
"I accept your apology."
"You didn't take back the sword. You mentioned this sword knows where to go itself. What kind of magic is that? Does the sword move alive? Anyway, your actions could only mean that you will leave this sword to my hands for now, isn't it?"
White Wolves were just staring at him. Cassel swallowed, and continued.
"Outsiders know me as the captain. That made Coholloon in threat of war and the Rose Knight must've reported back to the Red Rose earl. Maybe even to the Black Lion earl. If you turn back now, you will be in a complicated position. You need a cleaner, a solver."
Cassel, although horrified by his own words, continued.
"You want to know about why and who is behind these attacks, and you need bait."
He concluded with a stiff look.
"As a result, I should continue acting as the captain."
"Did you hear everything from outside?"
Gerald foolishly asked.
Cassel did not elaborate.
"I already answered. I cannot."
Shaden opened his mouth but Azwin interrupted.
"No one is forcing you to, but we are asking you to. Actually, we don't know anything about Karmorte. Word is you know a lot."
"Only rumors and short stories I heard in short time. It won't help much."
"Do you want a reward? Arantia kingdom can give out officially, or we can give out personally."
Cassel thought about being a knight trainee, but erased the thought quickly.
"This is not about the reward."
"Then what is?"
"They will find out. Didn't I say? Falcon found out about me. I don't have the unique atmosphere of a knight who served for a long time. The impression of a knight even if you don't utter a single word.. I don't have that."
"Look at this guy. He looks at us and sees us as knights."
"Cassel, you should see Roil. No one is like a knight in Wolf Knights. All hoodlums."
"And you are the best in that, boss?"
Azwin mocked but Gerald was unfazed.
Cassel was actually in conflict.
'Wow, you idiot. Do you have any idea what you just refused?'
However, he resolved to do what he originally planned in Falcon's village. Return the sword and go back home. Be satisfied about meeting the legendary White Wolves. In one piece..
Shaden said abruptly.
"The knight-ness, or whatever."
"You don't learn something like t-.."
"What was that apology then? You wield the sword and impersonated as a Wolf Knight. Captain Wolf? Ten years ago that man defeated captain Welch of Excelron knight. Now he is the guardian knight of queen of Arantia and a god of sword to those who learn swordsmanship."
Cassel could not understand what Shaden was imposing. Shaden made a nod towards the window to address someone who was not there.
"The next captain Wolf was Roil. The best of us and our master recognized his abilities."
"Who said that Roil is the best?"
Gerald asked, gazing.
"Don't confuse him and stand down!"
Shaden spoke commandingly.
"I would've if you said something that made sense. Who are you calling the best when I am here?"
Azwin also objected. Shaden flew his hands up.
"Let me finish! Anyway, Captain Wolf is something incredible. And you, Cassel, will end after tarnishing his name? Take responsibility."
It seemed like a gentle suggestion even with his stern tone. Maybe it was because Azwin and Gerald were jesting. Cassel was reconsidering.
"I was refusing to stop tarnishing his name further."
"It is courtesy to clean up after tarnishing something."
"What if.. I fail?"
For the last time, Cassel asked.
"Don't look for an exit before you start."
Cassel knew what the next words were.
'If you have an exit, you always run toward it.'
His father's favorite saying. You do not have to go all-in on everything, but some things you have to. When that time comes, you should not look for an exit beforehand.
His heart was pounding hard again. It was not fear or shock.
It was excitement.
His yearn for adventure, sprung out. It was different from when Lucci the knight provoked him. He had a choice, like returning to his home.
Shaden did not try to persuade him anymore. No one stopped him. Either enter the world of assassins, war, nobles or return to Ruworune village and farm. Becoming a farmer was not so bad. He knew that in the future, he will become like his dad, farming. However, he wanted to do something beforehand.
'Your name is from that adventurer, Cassel.'
He held forward the sword of Arantia to Shaden, and spoke.
"I will do it. I will take full responsibility about what happens after taking this job."
Azwin smiled radiantly.
Cassel asked with a worried face.
"So is there something I should do now?"
"Hmm, like this?"
Azwin put her hands forward.
"You are now Cassel Wolf, a temporary captain until the job is done. This decision was made by the White Wolves and will stay valid until we overturn in agreement. Over."
Cassel stared at Azwin's hand for a while. He rarely held a woman's hand before.
Azwin did not rush him. He carefully held his hand forward and grabbed her hand. It was not soft or smooth. It was a scar-filled hand that looks more like a man with veins pulsing out. Her strength was quite something, even though she held it light. He followed her words.
"I am now Cassel Wolf, by the decision of White Wolves. I will stay as captain until all of the White Wolves agree about my retirement. Over."
"Wow, did you get all that?"
Azwin laughed out loud.
Cassel was filled with odd excitement.
"Don't get comfortable. We don't trust you fully yet."
Gerald spoke coldly. Cassel immediately returned to the real world.
"Of course, I don't believe I have earned your trust yet."
He calmed down his excitement, but didn't hide it.
"It is quite nice to be Captain Wolf, although I tried to turn it down."
He asked urgent matters first.
"So I want to hear what your real mission here was. Why are the knights of Arantia at Karmorte?"
He added to avoid misunderstanding.
"I should know this to act as captain convincingly."
"You should. Else our lives are in danger."
Gerald said. Shaden gave Gerald a chance to explain as he spoke first. He let out a cough, and continued.
"Actually, we didn't get much detail. There we were, in training as usual, and our master came in and spoke. 'You guys should go to Karmorte for a while.' So we asked, 'Why?' Then he said, 'We got a mission from Karmorte, and stated that two earls were raging war ignoring the king. The king wanted to put a stop, but have no army to do so. So, he called for reinforcements here, and our majesty called upon you. So go.'"
Azwin slightly opened her eyes, reliving Gerald's words, and shook her head.
"Wasn't his speech longer than that?"
"I only mentioned important points, the points."
Gerald hit his palm with his fist and spoke.
"Azwin, the problem with you is that you always simplify my intentions. Oh well, anyway, so we had our sword instead of a document of our majesty's will, we were ambushed, and you know the rest."
"Then... You have no idea about Karmorte?"
Cassel asked seriously.
"I suppose so. That's why we are in a bind. We don't know what to do. To march into their palace, or to find the sword, or to turn back to Arantia."
"Hey! You explained like we were some pitiful lot!"
"Not like, but pitiful! Very pitiful!"
Gerald emphasized on 'pitiful'.
"That's true. Dammit!"
Azwin waved her hands and let her rage cool.
"We only learned swords, not diplomacy or negotiation."
"I can't speak when there are more than ten audiences."
Gerald trembled, unfitting to his huge appearance.
"So my job.. won't be a simple guide, will it?"
"I take that your decision of me being the captain isn't impulsive, and if it is, can I speak about my thoughts on the matter?"
"We will follow your orders, unless it is something really weird."
Azwin spoke in a light tone.
"So, what should we do now?"
Few days ago, Cassel could not sleep to imagine about becoming a knight and what to do after that. A lot of things crossed his mind, but most of them to show off in front of women.
A promise in front of a lady, kneeling? Teaching bandits a lesson with his cloak flying? Waving his hand to a flower-throwing crowd? Nothing mattered now.
Cassel could not think of anything else than continuing his actions.
"First thing we do is visit earl Gotimer."
"He did invite us, but do we have to?"
"You came here because Karmorte's king sent a mission to stop the war of two earls.. That means the two nobles are the ones who will be most displeased about your arrival, isn't it? It is likely that one of them hired those assassins. But earl Gotimer already knew about the assailants, got worried, and tried to contact in secret."
Cassel concluded with confidence, although it was all conjecture.
"Earl Gotimer might know who is behind these assassins attacked us."
He said 'us' as a mistake, but three White Wolves did not take offence. Rather, his suggestion was so natural that they looked each other's faces.
"So when are we leaving, captain?"
Cassel replied, and gave a start.
Gerald's referral as captain came heavier than he thought.