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Book 4: Chapter 3 (3)

The night before the march, the black shadowy figure was confirmed dead, and since the fire had not caused much damage, a grand festival was held in the fortress.

However, on this night, there was a confrontation between the old and new vassals of Gieve and Isfan. It was more of a duel than a confrontation.

After drinking, it was easy to argue and fight. However, this was not a good enough reason to forbid people from drinking, as that would be too unreasonable. The smell of wine, mead and ale filled the hall, and the smell of barbecued lamb wafted through the air. After the Crown Prince left the table for an early rest, the whole hall became a banquet where people drank and spoke without formalities, and loud conversations and boisterous songs could be heard everywhere. However, even in such a lively banquet, if one looked closely, you could find that the people who have followed Arslan since the beginning and those who have recently joined the army are gathered together, but there is still little communication with each other.

What broke this status quo was the actions of Gieve, who was known as the "wandering musician”. He slowly approached the seats of the new recruits and, regardless of their disturbed expressions, spoke with Isfan. Isfan is the younger brother of Marzban Shapur. Half a year ago, Shapur, who had become a prisoner of the Lusitanian army, was brought to the gates of the capital, Ecbatana, and it was Gieve who killed Shapur at his own request, with a single arrow.

At this time, Gieve himself explained the cause and effect of this incident.

This was the beginning of the commotion.

"Damn it! You were the one who shot my brother?"

There was a bright light in Isfan's eyes, strongly resembling a wolf. It seemed that rage overpowered the drunkenness.

"Don't be angry. I was the one who put your brother out of his misery. You should be thanking me, there’s no reason to hate me."

"Shut up!"

As soon as Isfan stood up, the knights around him were supportive. They didn't like this wandering musician of unknown origin.

To Isfan, his late brother, Shapur, was his savior and his mentor in battle and tactics. Sometimes his older brother seemed strict and stubborn, but he did everything according to reason, did not lie, and died a noble death. These were Isfan’s thoughts. It was only natural that Isfan would get angry when someone made such a comment about his brother.

On the other hand, Gieve accepted his opponent’s anger with great grace.

    "I've seen a lot of people who talk big just because there are a lot of companions around. Are you one of those people?"

"Do you ever stop talking?"

Isfan leapt up from his seat.

    "I'll quiet that tongue of yours for you!"

Isfan kicked the floor hard, drew his sword, and lunged towards Gieve's head. This single continuous movement seemed to be done in a flash.

The people around saw that Gieve was about to be split in half. However, it was only a momentary fear. Gieve avoided the sword by no more than the thickness of a piece of top quality paper of the country of silk, and the expression of mockery and malice on his beautiful face looked abominable in the eyes of the other party.

"I'll say this up front, you should blame the Lusitanians for killing your brother!"

"I know! But, it's not a Lusitanian that is in front of me right now, but you!"

Isfan shouted and lunged towards Gieve.

The speed and intensity of the blow exceeded Gieve's expectations. He avoided Isfan's attack with the agility of a snow leopard, but he lost his balance. A few hairs flew away with the wind of the blade.

When Isfan regained his posture after the attack, Gieve had already unsheathed his sword. The smooth blade was aimed straight at Isfan's throat with amazing accuracy.

This time, it was Isfan's turn to be surprised. He also dodged his opponent's blow with a wolf-like movement, but his whole body fell to the ground as he lost his balance as well.

Both sides skirted across the stone floor, dancing with their swords. Sparks burst out in a blueish-white glow, tearing through the shadows of the night, and the ringing of metal resounded off the floor. And two, three fierce attacks later, one of Isfan's feet bounced up and swept across Gieve's.

Gieve fell to the side. This was a move he had not expected. Isfan not only had honorable sword skills, but also used unorthodox tactics.

The sword swung down, hitting the stone floor and bursting into sparks. Gieve, who escaped the fatal blow, rolled on the ground and swung a powerful chop towards Isfan's knee. There was another burst of sparks, and Isfan held his sword vertically to deflect Gieve's attack.

Gieve jumped up and thrust his sword in the nick of time. The moment Isfan tried to block it, Gieve's sword changed its angle like magic and wrapped around Isfan's sword, knocking it to the ground.

Isfan bent his upper body, barely avoiding his opponent's blow. However, in a split second, he changed from a defensive position to an offensive one. He caught Gieve's sword with his right hand and struck at Gieve's left hand. Gieve couldn't help but let go. As a result, Gieve's sword was now in Isfan's hand. However, Gieve immediately picked up Isfan's sword that had fallen to the ground. Just as both sides were about to launch another attack, a sharp shout rang out.

"Both of you, lower your swords! You are in the presence of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince!"

"…Ah, Lady Farangis."

The role that had been played by Kishward just half a month ago was now taken over by Farangis. However, this time, the two sides had even drawn their swords.

"I’m glad that Lady Farangis is worried about me, but I would not lose to this guy."

"Don't speak nonsense, faithless man!"

This was unexpected of Farangis. She took a graceful step back and Arslan's figure appeared in front of everyone. Before the Crown Prince could speak, Isfan dropped his sword and knelt down. Perhaps because of his brother’s strong loyalty to the royal family, he was sincerely frightened and regretted his rash actions.

Arslan's eyes turned to the musician.

"What’s going on? Gieve, why would comrades fight each other?"

"We are just people with completely different outlooks on life."

Unlike Isfan, Gieve remained standing and answered extremely nonchalantly. Flashing a brave gaze, he continued.

"I’ve travelled with His Highness Arslan for a long time now, but I always knew very well that I was not meant for life at court. With my personality, it is best for me to do what I like and be on my own. Instead of having to socialize with others, it is better for me to travel alone."

"Gieve…?"

"Think of it as a good opportunity. I will bid farewell to Your Highness here. Please take care."

After picking up his sword and putting it back in its scabbard, Gieve solemnly saluted and started to walk out of the hall.

"Gieve, please wait a moment! Don't be too hasty! If you’re dissatisfied, we can discuss it!"

The Crown Prince spoke out, and Gieve stopped in his tracks.

"I'm sorry, Your Highness. Ah, Lady Farangis, if you spend your days in tears after my departure, it will cast a shadow on your beauty. Only a smile can reveal one's true beauty, so please keep smiling for my sake."

"Why would I cry for you? Don’t waste your breath, if you want to go, just go."

Then Gieve smiled faintly, walked to the balcony, leaped gracefully over the handrail, and disappeared.

Looking at Arslan's face, still frozen by the suddenness of the incident, Daryun, after the crowd had been dismissed, approached the crown prince with determination and said in a low voice.

"Your Highness, Narsus had asked me to keep this a secret, but I must tell you that it was just an act."

"An act?"

"Yes. Narsus and Gieve decided to perform this act after discussing it at length."

Arslan had no words. It was a long time before he asked in a low voice.

"Why would they do this?"

"For the sake of Your Highness, of course."

"For my sake? Did he think he would make things difficult for me here?"

"It is true that Gieve is not very popular with the newcomers. If Your Highness shelters him, it might be perceived that Your Highness is biased, and it might be difficult to maintain internal peace."

"So Gieve left for the sake of the harmony of the whole army?"

"There were other purposes as well."

Narsus had wanted to send someone wise and brave who could be trusted to spy on the inner workings of the capital, Ecbatana, and the Lusitanian army. He’d discussed with Gieve to create a situation where Gieve would leave Arslan’s camp and give him the opportunity to act alone.

Those on the other side were not aware of these things. However, despite the fact that he had saved Shapur from pain, it was indisputable that Gieve had shot Isfan's elder brother. This incident might become a problem in the future, so before the whole army was torn apart by this incident, Gieve was allowed to leave for a while, so that the internal feelings could be dealt with in a way that no one would disagree with. That was Narsus' idea.

"Is that so? I was so unwise that I added so much trouble for Narsus and Gieve."

Muttering to himself, Arslan turned his eyes to Daryun.

"When will I see Gieve again? Will it be possible to restore his honor by that time?"

"Gieve had said that he would run to Your Highness anytime, anywhere, even if the world was ending, as long as Your Highness needed him. If Your Highness wants to see him again, then we should take back the royal capital as soon as possible."

Then prepare beautiful women and wine in a beautiful mansion as a token of appreciation for Gieve's efforts, and call him back. Arslan listened to Daryun's words and nodded repeatedly.

After taking Arslan back to his bedroom, Daryun returned to the hall and saw his friend standing on the balcony.

"I'm sorry, Narsus. I told His Highness about your scheme."

"How unexpectedly talkative of you! Gieve put on such a convincing performance for us, and you went and exposed it all?"

Despite his words, Narsus was not really angry. He picked up two small bunches of grapes from the fruit tray by his side and tossed one to his friend.

"His Highness is an incredible person! It's amazing that three people with such different temperaments and ideals, like me, you and Gieve, are all willing to serve him."

Narsus brought the bunch of grapes to his mouth and ate three fruits in one gulp.

"For the record, Narsus, I have always been devoted to the king's family. I'm not going to quarrel with my lord and then run away like you did."

Daryun ruthlessly drew a line between himself and his friend, and Narsus indifferently erased the line drawn by him.

"I just happened to have a good reason! You can’t convince me that you have a milder temperament than me. Surely you don’t really believe that!"

"Well…"

Daryun laughed bitterly and bit into a grape bunch just like his friend.

On the other hand, Arslan who was lying in bed could not sleep all the time. He tossed and turned, his mind still haunted by several thoughts.

Daryun, Narsus and Gieve all had their own ways of living. They were all older than himself, and all possessed excellent skills, yet all served him equally well. Arslan felt lucky, and he wanted to give something back to them.

"I hate it when people in high places take for granted that they are being served by others."

Gieve had criticized so bluntly. Arslan, on the other hand, did not suffer from this malady. He often found it a joy to be treated kindly by others, and so he treated them as kindly as possible in return. It was a very sad thing to be treated coldly by others, so he reminded himself not to be indifferent to people. Although this seemed to be a simple matter, it was not so easy.

Arslan thought of his cousin Hilmes. When he was holding a sword against Arslan, what kind of expression was under that silver mask? Arslan found it difficult to imagine.

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