Prologue, Chapter 5: The Attack

1

 Baldo arrived at Lints.
 It was a port town, located on the banks of the Great Orva River.
 Though there were many such towns on the Orva’s eastern shores, none were as bustling as Lints.
 For by crossing the Orva River from the port of Lints did one arrive at the trade town of Padelia, in the Palzamic Kingdom.

 Of such scale was the Great Orva that one could not see the other side from its banks, and thus was even crossing this river a great feat.
 The lord of Lints had in his possession a fleet of several large trading ships and used them to travel back and forth from Padelia to do commerce.
 By coming to Lints could one purchase goods from the various countries of the midlands, at the center of the continent.
 This town thus naturally prospered, and its lord fancied himself an earl.
 Though he lorded over but a single town, the financial might that this single town represented put that of even the lords of the greater regions to shame.

 As he walked down a street lined on both sides with food stalls and vendors, Baldo was shocked at the vigor of the town.
 There was something so uplifting about being surrounded on all sides by such delicious smells.
 Currently in his hands were boiled meatballs on a stick.
 It was a mixture of a gamey wild fowl, torn into small pieces, some kind of fat, and what seemed to be mashed mountain yam.
 There was a rich savoriness from the fowl mixed thoroughly into the meatballs alongside the fat.
 There were traces of green inside too, likely lohas, pelis, or some other herb that was finely chopped and added to the mix.
 It concealed the gamey aftertaste, and even accented each of the various flavors contained therein.
 Of the three meatballs that were on the skewer, only the one closest to the top was covered in a thick brown sauce, and what an experience it was.

 Baldo strolled down the street, smacking his lips with satisfaction, when a peculiar sight entered his eyes.

 On the side of the street sat a man with a sign hanging from around his neck.
 On the sign were the words: This man is for sale.
 Many of the passersby would find themselves staring at the curious scene.
 There were even some there jeering at the man.
 One particular young man went up and inquired as to the price.
 The man who was sitting down replied,

 “A million geil.”

 The crowd howled with laughter.
 It was a sum not even the Earl of Lints could easily prepare.
 It could only mean this man did not truly intend to put himself up for sale.
 Perhaps it some manner of joke, or a peculiar advertisement, were the thoughts that ran through the heads of the crowd.

 Baldo felt the man’s voice to be familiar, and when he studied his face more carefully was he filled with shock.
 So too did the man recognize Baldo, and for a moment their gazes were locked.
 Baldo hinted with his eyes for the man to follow and continued to make his way down the street.
 Staboros trailed behind him, belongings on its back.
 The man removed the sign from his neck and facing the crowd he said,

 “Shop’s closed,”

 and then he picked up a straw mat that was rolled up, carrying it under his arm as he left to follow Baldo.
 Upon leaving the bustling downtown and arriving at a place with no prying eyes did Baldo stop.
 The man walking next to him then said,

 “We meet again, Baldo Rhowen.”

 This man was Venn Ulir, the Rolo Spia.

2

 This battle-crazy fiend, yet a peerless swordsman he was, had attacked Baldo slightly less than two months back.
 Yotish Peyn was slain by Baldo, however so he instead retrieved the corpse and returned to his employer, Cardos Coendela.
 Cardos was furious upon learning of his nephew’s demise, and soon after delivering this news did Venn Ulir request payment.

 “I fulfilled the obligations listed in the contract, so I had the right to be paid.
 A right halfwit the man was, to ignore our preparations, disregard my attempts to stop him, and then act so foolishly—he was begging for death.
 Instead Cardos screamed at me, ‘I have no coin for a bodyguard who couldn’t even protect my nephew,’ and demanded that I bring him your head.
 I told him that I would only allow additions to the contract once my initial fees were paid, but the man refused to compensate me.
 This job was to supposed to pay a large sum, and originally he promised to pay me after.
 I am in desperate need of money.
 And so I set out to sell myself.”

 Venn Ulir told this story in a wholly uninterested manner, and Baldo replied once he was finished, An incorrigible fellow indeed.
 The man seemed utterly detached from reality in his conversation with Cardos, and so too was it strange that he immediately sought to sell himself in the middle of town upon needing money.
 This was a knight of far-reaching renown.
 Though a million geil was perhaps out of the question, were he to simply display his prowess to the Earl of Lints could he likely manage to fetch himself a large sum in service.

 He could even ask the other great lords.
 There were myriad ways by which a talented swordsman such as him could earn money.
 Even if choosing to sell himself in the town’s marketplace, all he needed to do was display his great skill with the sword and surely would that attract wealthy buyers.
 Yet he choose to sell himself while keeping his blade hidden, wrapped inside the straw mat.

 Is it pride that compels him to act in such a manner?
 Or is it a prayer of some sort, rather?

 thought Baldo, though he did not ask.
 Instead did Baldo reach into his belongings strapped to Staboros’ back and toss the coin pouch contained within to Venn Ulir.

 Does this amount satisfy your needs?

 Baldo asked.
 Venn Ulir unrolled the straw mat and placed the coins atop it as he counted.
 Then he closed his eyes for a moment as if pondering something.

 “Hm.
 Ninety-three coins, I see.
 Not even a tenth of the million geil I hoped for.
 Still, you are the very man the rumors purport you to be, Sir Galdegarsh Gwera.
 This amount may suffice.
 I’ll give up on the million for now.”

 He put away the coins, stood up, and then continued,

 “My lord,
 I apologize, but I must request some time away.”

 I did not give you that money with the intent of buying of your service.
 You are free to do as you will.

 “My lord,
 where will you head from here?”

 I have no plans.
 Perhaps I will travel north.

 “I understand.
 I will require at least two months, and possibly half a year at the greatest.
 Once I have resolved my business, I will make my way to your side.”

 As he said these final words, the man walked briskly away, allowing nary a moment for retort.
 What a truly peculiar man.
 I am quite fond of it however, Baldo thought.

3

 Baldo brought Staboros back with him to the town’s marketplace.
 There were many things he wished to taste.
 Never before had Baldo journeyed so far from depths of the frontier in all his days.
 There were no pressing matters to attend to as well.
 Baldo could not suppress the fluttering in his heat, the excitement of being in such a busy town.
 Baldo was considering all of the stalls with a discerning eye when a voice called to him from the side.

 “Pardon my asking, but did you perchance arrive here from Pacra?”

 It was a young man who spoke, his appearance giving the impression of a servant belonging to an established trade family of some sort.
 He was dressed in neat attire and possessed a well-mannered bearing.
 Baldo replied,

 I am from Pacra, as you say, but what business do you have with me?

 “Lord Jourlan awaits you,”

 was the reply the young man gave.

4

 Baldo was brought then to the manor of the Earl of Lints.
 They passed through the grand central gates and proceeded to the most distinguished building there, located deep in the property.

 The structure was integrated excellently into the natural terrain of the land, and upon climbing the stairs did they arrive at a large room.
 The door at the far side of the room was left open, and it led directly to a balcony overlooking a steep cliff.
 From the balcony was a view of the Great Orva.
 A truly exquisite view.

 There were two chairs on the balcony with a person in each, and they were drinking tea while gazing out at the river.

 “Hey gramps.
 Took you long enough.
 I’ve been getting sick of waiting,”

 were the words that came from a smiling young man, one named Jourlan Telsia.
 He was the son of the sister to the previous lord of Pacra, Vorra Telsia.
 He was a brilliant twenty-eight year old man, gifted both in the military arts he learned from Baldo and the academic studies he performed with his mother, Eidra, and so too was he a close confidant of the current Lord Galiera, earning a great deal of trust.
 The elderly man sitting next to him made particular effort to stand up from his chair and bowed to Baldo.
 To do so was to recognize Baldo as a knight.

 “This is the first time we have met.
 My name is Simon Epivaris.
 Sir Baldo Rhowen, it is my greatest pleasure to meet you.
 I would love to share drinks when the opportunity arises.”

 This was the Earl of Lints.
 He spoke with thunderous gusto.
 Though somewhat older than Baldo, he was just as tall, and so too was his body sturdily built.
 The man’s demeanor radiated magnificence in every sense of the word.
 Baldo assumed the man would be a capable one, skilled at moving goods and gold, yet he was clearly of a warrior mold.
 Once they finished greeting one another, the three sat down in chairs on the balcony.

 “It’s because you were always telling mother that you wanted to see the Orva at least once, gramps.
 I remember you were always talking to her about traveling the world and eating all of its best foods too.
 If it’s about the food then, Lints is the only pace that comes to mind.
 I figured you had to be coming to this port.
 I told the servants here what you looked like and had them walk around the stalls everyday,”

 Jourlan explained with a strangely proud expression.

 “Mother passed away.
 One day she said she wanted to go out into the inner courtyard, as her condition was a little better.
 It was while her attendant was preparing some tea that she drew her last breath.
 From her expression, she seemed happy and at peace.”

 Baldo heard the news of Eidra’s passing, and the first thing that went through his mind was,

 So I was too late.

 Baldo had wanted to write about all of the wonderful delicacies he had eaten and drank on this journey of his in a letter and send it to Eidra.
 The corlulose dishes from the gants of that salt-mining town.
 The jabo and that quality red wine.
 Baldo could almost imagine the smile she would have once she read it.
 The next thing that went through his mind was,

 Now does it truly feel like I have severed all my bonds with Pacra.

 She seemed happy and at peace, were the words by which Jourlan tried to soothe Baldo’s heart.
 To have such a son by your deathbed, knowing you can entrust everything to someone like him, no wonder she could be at such peace, thought Baldo.

 “I’ve brought you a letter from mother that was addressed to you, gramps.
 Apparently, she wrote it just before going into the courtyard.”

 Jourlan mentioned that he was here primarily to sell furs and silver, as well as to deepen his relationship with the Earl of Lints, and just so happened to deliver the letter as it was convenient at the time.
 Baldo knew, however, something like that was not nearly enough to prompt Jourlan to come at a time like this, especially not in person.
 He most likely came with the express purpose of handing Baldo this letter.
 He must have thought that he alone had to deliver this letter addressed to him.
 Thus did he have his porters return early and give his knight escorts vacation so that he could wait alone for Baldo’s arrival.
 These actions warmed Baldo’s heart dearly.

 It was when Baldo reached out to take the letter that it happened.
 A boorish voice came from the entrance, ruining the peaceful mood, and it said,

 “I knew it had to be you, Baldo Rhowen.
 Hand over the letter.
 Princess Eidra must have given you something before you left, too.
 Give it here.
 I couldn’t find anything that seemed to be it in your belongings.”

 It was Cardos Coendela’s bother and powerful vassal, Gyenzala Peyn.
 Behind him filled in soldiers armed with weapons.
 Both Gyenzala and his trips were filled to the brim with bloodlust.

 For him to barge into the place where the Earl of Lints received his guests, accompanied by an armed entourage no less, was to imply that the man was serious.
 He meant to slaughter all present.

4

 “Explain yourself, Oswald!”

 roared the Earl of Lints with a thunderous bellow.
 His glare was directed at an individual standing behind Gyenzala Peyn.

 “I’m simply following your advice, dear Earl, that in business, one must never let an opportunity pass you by.
 Or should I call you father?
 I’m afraid to tell you that I’m calling the shots now.
 Could I trouble you to leave?
 —leave this world, that is,”

 said a rather young man, a wide smile plastered over his otherwise expressionless face.

 “Sir Oswald.
 If you kill your father, the Earl of Lints, you will never have the opportunity to become a knight.
 You will as such never be able to inherit his title and domain.
 Would those in the Earl’s service even agree to follow you?
 I do not believe those across the river would be so fond of you either.”

 “If it isn’t Lord Jourlan.
 I do appreciate your concern.
 I have of course made ample preparations.
 When I am to be knighted, Sir Peyn here has offered to observe.
 I care not about the fictitious title of Earl.
 What I desire is the key that opens the small pocketbook that never leaves my father’s possession.
 With that key will I gain access to the receipts of his transactions.
 For with that will I have no problems trading with the Palzamic Kingdom.
 As for my relations with the lords of the frontier?
 Lord Coendela has assured me he will take care of the entire matter.
 Any servants of my father who wish to run their tongues will find themselves sustenance for the fish of the Orva!”

 His manner of speaking was initially calm yet before long did a venom seep in, and by the time he had finished talking, his thin eyes were open wide, and his mouth was warped with emotion.
 Through Jourlan’s provocations did Oswald lay his entire traitorous scheme bare.
 Oswald was the adopted son of the Earl of Lints.
 Encouraged by House Coendela, he decided to try and wrest control of the house from his father.
 He of course intended to murder everyone here.
 Baldo suspected that there soldiers en route to the Earl’s blood-related child as well as the homes of his inner circle.

 Were this a normal trade family, one could not hope to continue to manage the business upon murdering their siblings and parents.
 House Epivaris, however, was also a house of knights, a member of the nobility.
 There were a fair number of examples in the past in which a member of a noble house successfully managed to wield their strength and claim the head position.
 The frontier in particular often espoused the idea that those without power had no right to talk about what was just and good.
 A paternal kinslayer would never be permitted, perhaps, but dead men tell no tales.

 Coendela and Oswald were accompanied by twelve soldiers.
 The balcony overlooked a steep and treacherous cliff.
 Baldo had surrendered his sword upon entering the manor.
 Jourlan and the Earl had nary single piece of defensive equipment, let alone weapons.
 Their backs had been truly driven against the wall.

 Yet there was not a trace of panic or fear on Baldo’s face.
 Swiftly he stood up and strolled with nonchalance toward the attackers.

 What happened to the Rolo Spia?

 he asked Gyenzala, to which the man’s face contorted with rage.

 “We got rid of that worthless good-for-nothing!
 He failed to protect my son and then dared ask for a reward.
 Then he cut down the two skilled knights that we had send him off.
 I never want to see that mug of his again!”

 was the reply.
 Baldo had no need to inquire as to the nature of the “send-off.”
 Baldo sighed in deep resignation and muttered, What an exquisite fool.

 “Are you referring to the Rolo Spia?
 Or perhaps to me?
 No, that must not be the case.
 For how could there be a greater fool here than you, rushing so expertly to your doom.
 You killed my son, Baldo Rhowen.
 And now you will join him!”

 Four lance-wielding soldiers rushed out at that moment and surrounded Baldo, pointing the tips of their weapons at him.
 Gyenzala and Oswald both took a step back.
 Behind Baldo, the Earl of Lints and Jourlan stood up.
 Without turning around did Baldo predict their actions and commanded with strict authority,

 Stay there!

 It was not the kind of thing one said to their lord.
 It was but a command from mentor to pupil.

 “Yes, master,”

 came Jourlan’s reply, a hint of amusement mixed into his tone.
 Baldo could sense that behind him, Jourlan was starting to move.
 He was mostly likely doing so to protect the Earl.
 While he was moving to do so without a single piece of armor on his person, he was to wait for Baldo to procure a weapon.
 This was what Baldo had implied with his words.

 Baldo was thoroughly astounded by all of this.
 It was as if the greatest catch of one’s life had simply jumped into the Coendela’s pockets, only for them to release it back into the waters.
 Had the Rolo Spia, Venn Ulir, still served them at this moment, Baldo, Jourlan, and the Earl would have never stood a chance, even if all three were armed.
 They would certainly be cut down in an instant.
 Perhaps things would be different had they the proper armor, but even then was Venn Ulir’s swordsmanship exceedingly strong.

 Could one say the same for these twelve men?
 There were four soldiers with spears in the front.
 There were six soldiers with swords in the back.
 Their eyes were bloodshot and cloudy, not a hint of clarity could be seen within.
 Did they hire a gang of thugs, unqualified even for banditry?
 There was one individual of particular note in the back row—his leather hat covered his eyes and his sword shook as if poised to drop at any second, such an amateur was he.
 The final two soldiers seemed to be of slightly higher quality, as they wore leather armor covered with several metal plates and stood as if protecting Gyenzala.
 Baldo nearly pitied the men for thinking they could kill Jourlan and him with such a pathetic display of force.
 Not a shred of martial prestige could be felt from their person.
 Neither did the spears and swords they wielded seem to be of any respectable quality.
 To pass up on Venn Ulir for these twelve men was to Baldo a decision that seemed to defy the limits of idiocy.
 It was to toss aside a gorgeous gem in favor of a crude rock.

 It seemed like father like son, neither of the Peyns despite their status as knights possessed even the slightest talent in combat.
 If only they had sent two or three knights with but a modicum of competency.

 “Do it,”

 commanded Oswald.
 The four men with spears surrounding Baldo thrust their weapons.
 Their breathing was rough and disjointed.
 Though chaff they may be, even their attacks could occasionally prove fruitful if done in unison.

 Baldo grabbed the spears of the rightmost solder and the one second from the very left with either of his hands and then leapt toward the chest of the latter.
 The third soldier’s weapon pierced naught but air, and the fourth soldier managed to correct his aim and land his thrust upon Baldo’s left flank.
 The wound was not deep, however, for the man didn’t move the spear with enough force to fully piece his leather armor.
 Baldo pulled the second soldier’s spear with his left hand and swiftly robbed the weapon, then jabbing the end of said spear back into his chest.
 This soldier was sent flying.

 The first soldier pulled back his spear and thrust forward a second time.
 Baldo grabbed it with his right hand and held it tight under his arm.
 So too did the third solder lunge forward a second time.
 Baldo courageously allowed the weapon to strike him in the center of his leather chest-piece where the material was the thickest.
 He then spun the spear in his left hand around and struck the forth soldier square in the throat just as he was about to attack once more.
 The spear snapped cleanly in two when it made contact.
 The force of the impact, enough to splinter wood, sent the solider sprawling to the ground, convulsing in agony.

 The third soldier started to pull his weapon back.
 Baldo tossed aside the shattered remnants in his left hand and grabbed the spear currently piercing his stomach.
 The third soldier used all the might he could muster to pull the weapon from Baldo’s grasp, but within his grip did it refuse to budge.
 With a deep grunt, Baldo then used all of his strength to lift up the spear he currently held captive under his right arm.
 The first soldier too was being lifted into the air, and he started to scream in fright.
 Baldo launched the man over his head, and into a wall he flew, striking his head upon its surface and slumping motionlessly to the ground.

 He then pulled the third soldier’s spear closer to him.
 There the soldier was, falling down toward Baldo after losing his balance.
 With his left hand still clutching the spear, Baldo balled his right hand into a fist and send it upward into the left side of the man’s head.
 In but a single instant did the man lose consciousness and fall to the floor.
 Baldo then retrieved a sword from the waist of a felled soldier and tossed it behind him with a single, Catch!

 “Ha-ha!”

 was the oddly-gleeful reply from Jourlan.
 Baldo assumed Jourlan managed to deftly catch the sword by the hilt, but he did not turn around to check.

 “Wow!”

 exclaimed the Earl with incredulity.
 Watching Baldo throw the sword without looking and seeing Jourlan catch it with almost-practiced ease—surely was he captivated by such a feat.

 All of these events happened within but the span of a measly several breaths.
 The soldiers in the back line were dumbfounded, jaws hanging open and rendered unable to move.

 Baldo spun the spear in his left hand around, pointing its metal tip at the aggressors.
 It was a rough, shoddy spear, but in Baldo’s hands did it appear to be the fangs of a savage beast.
 Holding this weapon at the ready to confront the ruffians, he asked,

 Is it fine if I kill the one called Oswald?

 The Earl realized the question was directed toward him and succinctly replied,

 “Yes.”

 It was then that someone suddenly gulped.
 The hunters were now becoming the hunted.

 “K-K-Kill them!”

 Oswald’s order came shrill as a scream.
 At the same time did Gyenzala also yell to his two bodyguards,

 “Go!”

 With swords in hand did the eight soldiers then rush at Baldo.
 He brandished his spear in a wide arc at the same height as their heads.
 It was with a force that threatened to remove their skulls from their necks.
 The soldiers all recoiled with fear at the swing and tried desperately to halt their advance.

 Baldo then sprinted forward to the right.
 Standing there were the two personal guards of Gyenzala.
 It came as no surprise that the two swiftly managed to regain their composure and slice toward Baldo with their weapons.
 The guard on the right gripped his sword in his left hand.
 As he raised his weapon to strike down at the enemy did Baldo then grab his raised left wrist, using the man as a shield as he dashed into the guard on the left.
 The two bodies collided and fell entangled to the floor.
 As he let the wrist of the left-handed soldier go, so too did he rob him of his sword.

 The remaining six soldiers were attempting to surround him.
 Baldo immediately spun around to the right and with his sword sliced the soldier standing right behind him over his shoulder.
 The blade went through the man’s arm, sending his hand and the blade it still gripped flying.

 Then did he flourish the spear in his left hand like a whirlwind as he partially twisted his body to the left, driving the sword in his right hand through the tip of another soldier’s shoulder.
 Into the left shoulder the sword dug, traveling through the man’s body and reaching the chest before the sword snapped in two.

 Humph, what a piece of junk,

 grumbled Baldo out loud.
 One of the men let loose an odd cry and swung his weapon at him.
 Before the blade could even begin its descent did Baldo slam the broken sword atop the man’s head.
 The sword, possessing only half of its original length, rent the soldier’s leather helmet in two and deeply fractured the man’s skull.
 As if frozen, the man continued to hold his blade high before slowly slumping back lifelessly to the ground.
 The man was cross-eyed now, looking almost as if he were glaring at the hilt that now protruded from his head.

 “Aieee!”

 came a pathetic screech as Oswald bounded for the entrance.
 He pulled along one of the soldiers as he did, no doubt to use as a shield.
 Baldo gripped the spear with both hands now and lunged forward.
 Into the stomach of that soldier did he drive its tip.
 It plunged entirely through the man, and out came it from the other end, skewering Oswald alongside him.

 Baldo continued to rush forward and stabbed the spear up into the wall next to the entrance.
 There was a twang, and with that were the two men now fixed in place.
 Both of the men were writhing in immense pain.
 The spear could no longer endure the weight of the two men, and quickly did it break in two.

 Perhaps seeing an opportunity now that Baldo was once more without weapon, Gyenzala and his two guards sprinted toward him in attack.

 A fine decision to attack in unison with the three of you.
 Yet, it is not quite sufficient, I’m afraid.
 All of you are too close together.
 And three is not enough.

 The two guards raised their swords above their heads.
 Standing in the middle, Gyenzala pointed the tip of his shortsword at Baldo as if intending to thrust it.
 Gyenzala was at the end of the day a knight.
 These pathetic excuses for swordsmen could not hold a candle to the pressure that he radiated.

 Baldo took two steps back and then suddenly leapt forward.
 The strikes from the two guards could not descend in time, for they were thrown into confusion by the sudden closing of the gap.
 With his right foot, Baldo kicked at Gyenzala’s hands.
 With his hands, Baldo grabbed the raised wrists of the two guards on either side, locking them in place.
 With his sword repelled did Gyenzala crash into Baldo’s body, sending the man flying back.
 Baldo crushed the wrists of the two guards with monstrous force, causing both of the men to drop their weapons.
 Their bones started to snap with several small pops, and Baldo then lifted them both up, spun them around, and slammed them into the wall.

 A sword was sticking straight out of Gyenzala’s chest.
 Baldo had originally intended to kick the sword away, but perhaps he had unintentionally drove the blade back into the man.

 The rest of Oswald’s soldiers lost the last bit of their fighting spirit and did not move.
 A single soldier stood up.
 It was the one who had been trembling so fiercely before, one who had not made a single attack.
 Baldo lauded the man for standing up, but noticed he wasn’t holding a sword.
 Perhaps one of Gyenzala’s guards had taken it from him.

 Then the cowardly soldier started to run.
 —run toward the balcony.
 He was clearly disoriented.

 He ran outside with great momentum.
 Jourlan stepped into the man’s path, as perhaps he felt bad letting the man run to his death.

 The cowardly soldier slipped by Jourlan.
 As he did, he snatched the letter from Eidra that peeked out from from inside Jourlan’s breast pocket.
 Before anyone present could come to their senses did the cowardly soldier jump off the side of the balcony.
 The moment he did could everyone see a smiling face looking back at them.

 The face of Julchaga, the Gorra Cheyzara.

 He had grabbed the railing the instant he leapt over the side, killing his forward momentum and dropping directly down.
 Both Jourlan and the Earl of Lints looked over the side, down to the rocky crags below.
 So too did Baldo come over.
 They saw the thief in the distance, jumping from rock to rock with dexterous ease down the cliff, headed toward the banks of the Orva.

 “Wow!
 What an incredible fellow!
 Look at him go as if he were a monkey,”

 exclaimed the Earl.
 He had truly seen something incredible.
 He then turned around to examine the room and looked at Baldo with a sense of wonder.

 “Truly.
 You possess incredible strength.
 We were but three unarmed men against fourteen fighters.
 I thought for sure we were done for,”

 he continued, his voice quivering with emotion.
 Jourlan replied as if nothing of note had happened,

 “If even a hundred yimela1 banded together could they not do battle with a golaon2.”

 For a second, a smile appeared on the bewildered Earl’s aged face.

 “Ever since I was young have I heard tales of the gallantry of Sir Galdegarsh Gwera.
 It has always been a dream of mine to see the strength by which he fought.
 I never would have fathomed that dream would be fulfilled in such a manner.
 You have showed me something incredible.
 What bliss this is, truly what bliss,”

 said the man with a magnificent smile.

5

 Oswald made it sound as if the manor was surrounded on all sides by his men, but in reality there were not so many.
 All of those who had learned of or at least had an inkling of his demise had already ran off, and the rest simply had no idea what was transpiring.
 So too were there assassins sent after the Earl’s son and most trusted retainers.
 Some of them escaped back into the shadows after learning of the plot’s failure, and the others were revealed through their suspicious behavior and had been taken into confinement.
 Thus did none of the assassinations succeed.

 Gyenzala too died before long.

 “Just what is the double spiral?
 Just where is the seal?
 Tell me, Baldo Rhowen.
 Tell me!”

 were the last words from his mouth.
 Baldo knew naught of a double spiral or seal.
 Jourlan did not know either.
 Before the fight had taken place, Gyenzala shouted for Baldo to hand over the item that Eidra had entrusted to him, yet there was no such thing.

 After he died, the three men then met with the Earl’s most powerful retainers to discuss how best to proceed, eventually agreeing to deal with the matter directly and above board.
 The Earl then wrote and sent a letter detailing the events of that day—how Lord Jourlan Telsia, Lord Baldo Rhowen, and he were enjoying a fine afternoon when they were suddenly attacked by Gyenzala Peyn who announced he would take their lives, only to be defeated by the courageous Baldo—and asking what Lord Cardos Coendela made of such events.
 Until he received a reply would he hold on to Gyenzara’s corpse, he added.

 To House Coendela, the trade routes that the Earl of Lints oversaw were of critical import.
 To Lints, House Coendela was merely a single customer among many, albeit one of slightly larger size.
 Were House Coendela to lose their place as a distributor of goods among the region, the neighboring domains would surely start to have items delivered directly to them instead.
 The financial foundation of House Coendela would then start to crumble.
 By no means was House Coendela in the position to earn the Earl of Lint’s displeasure.

 “I await his excuses with baited breath,”

 the Earl said.
 Baldo had a feeling the eventual response would only infuriate the Earl, but he kept such thoughts to himself.
 Jourlan was filled with constant remorse that the letter from his mother to Baldo was stolen by the thief, but Baldo was not so crestfallen.
 It did not eat away at his heart as much as his own failure to send her a letter before her passing.
 The next day, Jourlan left for home.

 “It has been a good while since I last saw gramp’s exciting swordsmanship.
 It made for the perfect parting gift,”

 were the words he apparently left with the Earl before setting off.
 Baldo had initially intended to browse the food stalls, but it was not meant to be.
 He could not even get up from his bed at this moment.
 It was because he went all out without consideration for his frail body that his hips and right shoulder cried out with pain.

 I suppose even the mighty golaon cannot defeat the passage of time,

 sighed Baldo with resignation.

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