Kingdom's Bloodline Chapter 130


Chapter 130: The King and His Archdukes
Chapter 130: The King and His Archdukes
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

"The place you're heading to is not too far from here, but lately things have not been very peaceful in Dragon Clouds City," said Big Leather Belt with pursed lips. He shook his head as he spoke to Kohen and Miranda, "You all know that Prince Moriah went missing for a month, then all of a sudden there was news of his death from Constellation. Rumors flew everywhere and the men were eager to be enlisted, ready to venture south to fight the Empire.

"Next thing we know, there's no more war.

"And then today, just now in fact, the Prince of Constellation arrived to make things right. We also heard that the King of Constellation swore if his son was harmed, there would be no peace between the two kingdoms until one fell."

Kohen and Miranda exchanged glances. The former's eyes were filled with worry, while the latter fell into deep thought.

"But, hey, is this some kind of joke? Shouldn't they be apologetic? He's here to apologize after all! Did he think Northlanders were people that could easily be threatened?

"If I was His Majesty, I would cut the bullsh*t and hang that prince. Then, I would call for every soldier in the country and storm into Eternal Star City. We'll see what the Empire has to say about that!" Big Leather Belt grumbled, pounding the table.

"There's just one problem though..." Kohen minced his words. "The prince is only seven years old, turning eight after the new year."

"Seven?" Big Leather Belt scratched his head, appearing to be ill informed. "Okay then

"Anyway, the chiefs have already ordered their men to be on alert for the next few days. Those with connections have heard some rumors saying that King Nuven is livid, and that young prince is going to be you know."

Miranda scowled. 'Who is spreading this unfounded information?

'Is this some sort of scheme against His Highness? Or, is it to drive a wedge between King Nuven and the prince?'

"And let's not forget that His Majesty just lost his only heir. God knows how he must feel." Big Leather Belt sighed. "Putting aside the next Archduke of Dragon Clouds City and the selection of the next king, who knows what would happen if His Majesty unleashes his fury, haih"

"Wait, you just said 'the chiefs'. Do you mean chiefs of the local syndicates?" Kohen asked. "Kaslan told me that he has connections with all the powerful people in this city."

"Yeah, Kaslan has made quite a big name for himself. He had some nerve, clashing with His Majesty in front of all the ministers and courtiers. He got kicked out of the White Blade Guards for that." Big Leather Belt cackled. "Still, lots of peoplefrom the administrators in Heroic Spirit Palace to the local gang leaders in the cityhold Kaslan in high regard After all, all those former subordinates of his, who are now flourishing or in retirement, used to receive help and guidance from him.

"Which is why he directed you to me," he continued, nodding at the two. "I am frequently in contact with the local gangs, so he knew I could help."

"Before we head out, please tell us about them," Kohen said with a solemn expression. "It's important that we know."

Big Leather Belt looked at Miranda and the latter nodded at him.

"Alright"he flung his arms open"let's do it district by district Starting from where we are now Shield District and Hammer District are resided by the natives of Dragon Clouds City; these districts are absolute slums. But they are the turfs of Gleeward and his men. You wouldn't want to piss them off."

"Gleeward so he's a gang leader? And, he's governing these two districts?" asked Officer Kohen, following protocol. "The government officials and guards have no jurisdiction over them?"

"No, it's not like that. I mean, he is not the suzerain and he is not working for the government. So, he doesn't have the authority to govern the place. Plus, Gleeward would not purposely challenge the power of nobility or the government," Big Leather Belt explained, waving his hand. "However, Gleeward used to be a decorated soldier before he retired, and that has contributed to his current standing in the community. Things happen as you would expect. Cheating outlanders, neighborhood scuffles, which aristocrat has his eye on someone's daughter or starving households during winter in any case, his men will handle all these things.

"He always has the people's back. That's why folks in those districts are willing to place their trust in him. Even the disciplinary officers have publicly acknowledged Gleeward's contribution to the two poorest neighborhoods and recognized his authorityalthough I believe that it is because Gleeward was previously in the army as a heavy swordsman. Lots of his former peers are higher-ups now. Some even work in the Inner City and Heroic Spirit Palace.

"Gleeward doesn't have a gang in the physical sense, or regular followers, but if he shows up in the middle of the street one morning and says 'Give me a hand', I assure you, there'll be at least several dozen men putting aside their own work to help. After an hour, another group of people would rush over from outside the city and by afternoon, he would have a huge party mind you, half of these volunteers have served in the military. They are strong as well as tough, and they are willing to do anything."

Miranda frowned while Officer Kohen nodded, processing the information on the organization of local forces. It was completely different from that in Eternal Star City.

"As for Sword District, Bow District and Armor District, these are commercial areas. They are highly populated and comparably affluent. Things get a little complicated there.

"The merchants in the market of Sword District for example, are folks from outside the city or faraway places. Even those from Constellation do business there. The man in charge there is Vlad. He has a disciplinary officer, and is responsible for the markets in the city. He has his own pack for underground operations, but it has far fewer men and it's not as strong compared to Gleeward's." Big Leather Belt shook his head again. "Rumor has it that he is affiliated with Black Street Brotherhood in Constellation, operating in a legal grey area. He apparently earns from taking bribes in the smuggling business between the two kingdomshe rarely intervenes in things, but folks are mostly scared of him."

"Black Street Brotherhood?" The name sparked Kohen's interest. "They've extended their business to Eckstedt?"

"Yeah. This name was unheard of a few years back. At that time, Blood Bottle Gang was the one you looked for to get any southerner-related matter settled." Big Leather Belt gave a weary shrug. "But one day, the Brotherhood surfaced out of nowhere. They marched into the city and had a talk with Vlad as well as Gleeward. We thought these outsiders were Southern geezers, folks from the Empire, who were coming to take away our territories or look for a fight.

"But none of the chiefs said anything in the end. The Brotherhood did not set up shop down here either. The only thing that changed was they later became one of the supply chains to the local businesses.

"If you ask me, it's true that their business grew quickly and extensively, but it's not entirely secure. Neither Vlad nor Gleeward trust themthis time for instance, when rumors of the war spread, Vlad immediately cut off their smuggling operations. Now the Brotherhood and merchants they worked with are all gone."

Kohen narrowed his eyes. "If they expanded at such a rapid speed, perhaps developing the business was not their intention. Maybe it was never their purpose to trade or fight for territories?

"No way." Big Leather Belt grinned, unconvinced. "What kind of gang would they be if they're not interested in territory, profit and business?

"Now, back to the topic. The Dragon Wings Plaza in Sword District is where caravan merchants from Camus and some quick-witted Northlanders occasionally gather. These people often engage with all sorts of customersfrom aristocrats to fugitives. Their goods also suit the locals' fancy, so this place is naturally a local hot spot, spawning lots and lots of stores for certain services, you know." Big Leather Belt gave a suggestive, knowing grin as he grabbed the air with both hands.

"Squeezy and spongy, soggy and oozy..."

Kohen laughed at the lewd statement cooperatively, while Miranda huffed in disdain.

"So what I'm saying is, there's a chamber of commerce formed by Camus merchants and locals based in Dragon Wings Plaza. The Bow District, particularly West-Express Avenue, is a different case. To put it simply, Bow District is a blend of other districts, jam-packed with small workshops and stores. The same could be said of Armor District. These two places are constantly in shambles. It's hard to tell whether there's a presence of a local syndicate. If things do go wrong, people there usually turn to a Far Easterner for help."

"A Far Easterner?" Kohen and Miranda shot Big Leather Belt a curious gaze.

"Yeah, a Far Easterner. He's a butcher named Gu. He has settled down here for more than ten years." Big Leather Belt shrugged. "He doesn't seem to have much influence, but connections are what he has. He has been in contact with Camus merchants, Northlanders, and even Constellatiateshe's the first to know should anything unusual occur. Therefore, he is also a middle man, who sells intel for a living.

"As for Arrow District, Spear District, and Axe District, these areas are quite a distance away from the rest. Their residents are powerful and influential, often accompanied by guards during their daily commutes. Commoners like us, affiliated with gangs or not, would have to enter these districts with caution."

"The location Kaslan mentioned, your destination... It's the butcher shop run by the Far Easterner in Armor District," said Big Leather Belt. "Some acquaintances of mine told me that there have been a number of new visitors lately. I figure that they may be the people you're looking for?"

'That's where Kroesch was ambushed during her investigation.' Miranda touched the sword by her waist.

"Is there anything suspicious around that location?" Kohen asked anxiously. "Fights, for instance? Between groups of swordsmen in the middle of the night? Perhaps, even involving Swordsmen of Eradication?"

"Fight? Swordsmen Eradication?" Big Leather Belt mumbled. "Never heard of it. It isn't our territory after all. Our intel on that is insufficient." He sighed. "I suggest you ask for Gu's help. It was his turf. Nothing there escapes his eyes and ears but of course, you'll have to pay him for the info."

"Alright." Miranda nodded solemnly. "We're leaving now."

Miranda and Kohen walked out of the house with Big Leather Belt's blessing.

"The structure of the local forces in Dragon Clouds City is messy. It is unlike the division between the two major underground syndicates in Eternal Star City, and the aggressiveness of the Brotherhood as well as Blood Bottle.

"But these are the sole sources of the intel we need. Since Disaster Sword is hidden deep amid this chaos, it allows us to lurk around unnoticed as well," Kohen said with concern, rubbing his chin as he ambled down the street. He watched as patrons conversed about the Prince of Constellation's arrival.

"Here we have a champion of the poor, an officer involved in the smuggling business, a group of greedy traders, an informant, and middle manToo bad, Prince Thales being here has heightened the restlessness in this city; these local leaders would be more guarded than usual, much more towards outsiders. It's going to be difficult for us to get information from them."

"We could ask the Far Easterner," Miranda said, changing the subject. "Have you met our second prince?"

"Absolutely!" Kohen flushed with excitement. "I witnessed how that child dealt with the Six Great Dukes back in the Hall of Stars" He halted abruptly, recalling the relationship between his colleague, Miranda Arunde and her father.

"Uh" Kohen scratched his head. "Anyway, he is a fine boy. It's a good thing that the royal family found an heir."

"True." Miranda nodded, seemingly unaffected as she walked past a shabby tailor shop. "That child left quite an impression on people, just like that time in Broken Dragon Fortress."

The mental image of the dark-haired Thales Jadestar surfaced.

'He is probably in Heroic Spirit Palace as we speak, negotiating with the ruler of Eckstedt.

'One day, he shall be our king.'

Miranda frowned, clenching her right thumb and index finger.

'Becoming the ruler of the Northern Territory.'

Kohen came to know Miranda back when they were in the same cohort, so they understood each other very well. Witnessing Miranda's predicament, he sighed.

"It has been a crazy few days, Miranda and I haven't gotten the chance to ask you" he said softly, "are you alright?"

Miranda whipped her head up and glared at him.

Kohen scanned their surroundings, leading Miranda behind a tavern's giant signboard. He appeared hesitant as he stammered, "I heard from the old man about your father that he and some Ecksetdtians"

"There's nothing much to discuss. He has to pay the price for what he did," Miranda snapped as she furrowed her eyebrows. "All these years, we hardly saw each other. I don't remember much about him, so I don't see how this matter affects me."

Kohen said nothing, eyeing her silently. 'Is that true?'

Raphael once told him about what Miranda went through during the Bloody Years

She was sent to the Tower of Eradication by her father as a child.

'But now'

"So," Kohan began, rubbing his head sheepishly and deciding to carry the conversation forward, "what will happen next? I mean, I know you have lots of distant relatives who also carry your family name. If your father is stripped off his title"

"It's not like the Kingdom has never had a duchess or a queen." Miranda's eyes flared. "I am a true Arunde, the sole rightful heir to the Dukedom of the Northern Territory, as Thales the Prince isnot even King Kessel can deny that."

'The burden of her family name' Kohen pursed his lips as his eyes were filled with worry. "Miranda, you must know that you're not alone.

"For one, I'm your trusted friend. Kroesch and Misadun may be Northlanders, but that does not affect our friendship. You have Teacher Chartier too, and don't forget Lady Sonia at the Fortress. Moreover, there's Raphael"

Kohen's voice faltered. He realized he had said the wrong thing, again.

"Anyway, I know you are tough, with excellent swordsmanship and all," he said awkwardly. "But you shouldn't have to face all of this alone"

Miranda tossed him a piercing glare.

"All this while you've avoided mentioning Raphael's name until now." Miranda narrowed her eyes.

Kohen was startled. His heart was pounding.

'This girl is ridiculously perceptive.'

"I wasn't avoiding it on purpose I was afraid that you would be upset. After all, you grew up and trained together, but then he left without a word"

Before he came up with more excuses, Miranda interrupted, "He's back? He went to see you?"

"Absolutely not. He would go to you first if he did, since you're a couple" Kohen ran a hand through his hair, laughing. "Speaking of which, I felt like a ladies' man recently! Let me tell you, I met a cool lass in the capital. She was as swift as lightning with her two blades"

"You're just like Guru Zedi." Miranda sighed. "You touch your head when you're feeling uneasy."

Kohen's hand froze on his head.

"And then, you blabber some nonsense to change the subject," she said.

He lowered his head regretfully.

"Kohen Karabeyan, once we settle the matter at hand, we have to talk about Raphael, and everything else you are hiding from me," Miranda said sternly, holding her saber as she poked his shoulder with the sword's hilt.

Kohen bared his teeth, smacking himself on the forehead.

'Is this what Master Shao meant by "being trapped in a cocoon weaved by one's self."?'

"Let's focus on our mission for now. Do you find it strange, Kohen?" Miranda uttered. "First, it was the appearance of Disaster Sword, and then there's King Nuven. Looking back at the rumors flying about this city, and the assassination attempt on the Prince of Constellation's life. There's something odd about all these incidents."

"Huh?" Kohen looked up at her, confused and still upset about their conversation earlier.

Miranda tapped the hilt of her sword, pondering.

"The Prince of Constellation set out for Eckstedt and he was nearly assassinated near the fortress. This incident is related to Disaster Sword," she said. "Hence, the former Head of the White Blade Guards, Master Shao's old acquaintance Kaslansent us a message. That's why we were ordered to travel here.

"On the other hand, the prince is currently in Dragon Clouds City, speaking to King Nuven, whom Kaslan used to serve.

"Around the same time, Kaslan found evidence of Disaster Sword's activity in the city.

"What a coincidence," Miranda, who was always vigilant in Kohen's eyes said grimly. "Everything is piled together."

It was indeed a mess, but there appeared to be a thin thread in between all these seemingly coincidental occurrences and clues, stringing them together.

Kohen was gawking at Miranda. He was not sure what she was talking about.

"What do you think?" she asked all of sudden.

Kohen's delayed response came a second later. "Ohhhh! Right!" He faked a cough and thought, 'What Miranda's saying does make a lot of sense I guess I just need to support her theory'

"I feel the same. I mean, there must be something shady going on!" Kohen said. "I've definitely gotten a strange vibe from what's been happening." He inhaled deeply and his gaze sharpened. With a vigilant look, he thumped his palms after each word he said. "They're all part of a conspiracy!"

Staring at Kohen, Miranda gave a weak sigh. Her eyes were downcast as she shook her head.

'This idiot.

'He couldn't possibly know.'

...

The bearded archduke was gnashing his teeth and staring at Thales in disbelief.

The archduke with the bowl cut took a puzzled glance at King Nuven, and then at the young prince.

The bald, and long-haired archdukes exchanged glances as they knitted their eyebrows.

The brunet archduke was eyeing Thales oddly, hesitating to speak.

'That's it.' Thales sighed in relief.

He was not sure where the situation was heading. Plus, he could not confirm what King Nuven's thought of him currently, or the temperaments of these five archdukes...

However

A smile emerged on Thales' face as he lifted his chin, and glanced at the archdukes.

None of them dared to get their hands dirty and taint themselves with the blood of the young prince.

King Kessel's oath, which protected Thales like an aegis was still unyielding.

Moments earlier, when King Nuven ordered him to kill himself, the archdukes seemed entertained. They even had a hungry look on their faces.

Of course, they would not feel the same if the honor of butchering the prince was bestowed upon them

Imagine a group of people, who happened to be up to no good; to avoid bearing the consequences, they ought to be discreet with their under-the-table plan, and fan the flames when someone else takes the blame.

But no one would have dared to do it alone, in full view of everyone else.

"Jadestar's little bastard." A vicious glint flashed across the bearded archduke's eyes, which were brimming with hatred towards Thales. "We've heard many stories about you: cunning, manipulative, nothing a child is capable of. Looks like they are true."

"Enough. We are done testing the seven-year-old," the archduke with the bowl cut said, feeling amused. "Someday, this brat will be a thorn in the flesh; I bet all six counties in the territory of the Reformation Tower on this"

'Test?' Thales frowned.

"No."

The man with the bowl cut was interrupted shortly after.

"I, for one, think it is an interesting idea," King Nuven broke the silence much to the archdukes' astonishment. There was a cold gleam in his eyes. "The idea of a duel...

"Where did you get it from?"

Thales slowly regained a sense of security and comfort. Adjusting his breath, he said to King Nuven, "I've heard about your King Selection Congress, and the Heirship Duel in Black Sand Region."

"Hmph, Black Sand Region!" An irrepressible hint of abhorrence spread across Nuven the Seventh's face. "Lampard, that bastard had the nerve to ask for ration supply and a place to station the troops that escorted you here."

The archdukes exchanged glances swiftly, and that reminded Thales of the Archduke of Black Sand Region's collaborator.

"That two-faced, pathetic scum," said King Nuven darkly. "Does he not know that he's partially responsible for what happened?"

The five archdukes remained unmoved.

The grim-faced king slammed his hand onto the table and the clash resulted in a sharp sound as his ring collided with the table's surface.

*Bang!*

Everyone in the room was startled.

"A duel, why not?" The king turned to the archdukes, whose faces had already paled. "Who among you is willing to fight in my place to prove your loyalty to the country? Dye your hands red with his blood, and you should be able to cast aside all your worries as well as prove your allegiance to Dragon Clouds City."

Thales clenched his teeth.

He was starting to get King Nuven's drift.

The archdukes' expressions turned sour.

But the king did not give them a chance to retort.

"Reybien Olsius, my loyal Archduke of Prestige Orchid." He turned to the bearded man, who had been exaggeratedly hostile to Thales, and calmly said, "Go, win the fight and avenge your king."

'Prestige Orchid' Thales remembered the place.

'It was where the Battle of Dawn took place three hundred years ago.'

Lord Olsius looked at the king, then at Thales.

The prince watched as his face turned grim.

"I assumed you were just testing him... Nuven." Lord Olsius scowled. "We've discussed this. Everyone would gladly feast on the blood and flesh of Constellation, but no one wants an endless war Do you really want to kill him right now, right here?"

Thales was relieved.

Testing

They really were just testing him.

His life was spared once again.

But what followed the sense of relief was a slight confusion.

From what he heard from the archduke, these six men had been talking about waging war against the south?

"What's wrong with that? I even sent Nicholas to tie him up and parade him around the city!" Nuven had a frightening, wild grin on his face. "Walton is going to fall, now that I have lost my rightful heir. Can you not do one last nice gesture for Eckstedt?"

The faces of the five archdukes were ashen.

Thales tried to put himself in their shoes.

Long before this, Constellation experienced the same plight during the absence of an heir. They could not predict who their new ruler would be.

"Olsius, it is your sword he is holding," King Nuven said. "Have you also forgotten that six hundred years ago, it was Tormond Jadestar and his army who banished your family off the Ancient Chauvinistic Territory to the North, and built Eternal Star City on your ancestral land? Killing the prince perhaps counts as an act of honor to your family?"

Olsius gave a laugh of mockery. "Your Majesty, if you should ever declare war on the Southerners, Prestige Orchid shall stand with Dragon Clouds City and pledge allegiance to the Dragon Spear Flag." Stroking his beard, the archduke shook his head. "But now, you are demanding us to you shan't force me into this gory business."

"Hmph, our honorable Lord Olsius refuses to get his hands dirty?" Thales flashed a cold grin. "Were all those excuses you threw at us not meant to justify your cowardice?"

Olsius stammered and his stare on Thales hardened.

King Nuven sniggered, turning to the archduke with the bowl cut, who was mercilessly sarcastic to the young prince earlier. "How about you, Archduke of Reformation Tower, Porpheus Trentida? Kill the boy, and we shall be one."

'Reformation Tower' Thales thought of Lampard's story.

"I refuse to," Lord Trentida's response was quick. "You cannot demand that from me." He shook his head warily. "The Trentida Family seconds the decision of warring against Constellation for one reason onlythat the Reformation Tower could stand to benefit from the war. But killing this brat and having to bear the hatred of the enemy? That is a no-win bargain.

"If a war is started because of this, Lampard will get away with what he has done, while I take the heat." Trentida waved his hand and laughed. "Great payout. Minimal risk. We'll agree to send troops under these conditions. Or else, why would we get involved in this nightmare?"

"You are the frankest person I've ever met, Trentida." The bald archduke sighed. He continued, before King Nuven even responded. "What you just said is shamelessly selfish, but true. I cannot refute that.

"I, Rogers Lecco of Defense City feel the same" His bald head flashed a blinding gleam as he turned. "Engaging in warfare or a killing of a child for no good reason? You all may go ahead. I, for one, do not want to bear a blood debt to Jadestar."

Thales watched these men in contempt as they argued in front of their king and an outsider just like the housewives he had seen in his past life, who gathered and gossiped whenever they bumped into each other.

Thales frowned. 'This scene why is it oddly familiar?'

"Alright, I've finally witnessed what Northland's dignity means," said Thales to Archduke Lecco as he eyed him with open disdain and chuckled. He then shifted his gaze to Archduke Olsius. "And Northland's standard."

The two archdukes did not reply and merely looked away.

"Hmph, if this boy is not here to apologize, we would be excused from embarrassment, would we not?" King Nuven laughed a mirthless laugh. "Would you all then send your troops down South in the name of my late son?"

The archdukes remained silent.

Thales knew the answer nevertheless.

"Kulgon Roknee?" King Nuven stared at the long-haired archduke and said, "Kill the boy, and Dragon Clouds City will vow to grant Roknee Family all the benefits it can get from the war."

"The act of laying a hand on a child this young is a disgrace to my prominence," Lord Roknee huffed. "City of Faraway Prayers is far from the menace of Constellation. Besides, my family has certain virtues they must uphold."

The more Thales heard, the more he grew to be aware of the archdukes' tone of voice when they spoke to the king

Through the utmost objective and direct observation, he discovered the fundamental difference between the king-vassal relationships in Eckstedt and Constellation.

In the former, archdukes and the king were both held in high regard, having similar positions and power. Some of them do not even bother to be courteous to the king, as opposed to Constellation Thales recalled how back in the Hall of Stars, vassals of the Six Great Clans and Thirteen Distinguished Families kneeled down to kiss Kessel's ring.

As it seemed, the Archdukes of Eckstedt formed a regime of their own. Thales thought of Putray's remark: 'They are more powerful than we can ever imagine.

'Their dominance of the kingdom rivals that of the king.'

"Now, that's enough!" The brown-haired man heaved a sigh. "I am the suzerain of Beacon Illumination City, Conkray Poffret. Your Highness, it is regretful that you have to witness all of this." He flashed Thales an apologetic smile, then said to King Nuven with an expression of concern, "Your outrage is understandable, Your Majesty. But you must also consider the future of our kingdom The Prince of Constellation is here; we have lost a justifiable reason to wage war. And killing him will only worsen the situation."

Nuven said nothing.

He glanced at the archdukes, then at Thales as he spoke ponderously, "Bunch of cowards you are. Even with my approval, you are still hesitant about the war, afraid of soiling your hands with a child's blood."

'It was your approval that made everything about this suspicious,' Thales mused.

"Northland does not take pride in the slaughter of children," Archduke Roknee of the City of Faraway Prayers replied coldly.

"Fine. Then, we are done here." The grim-faced King Nuven ended the conclave. He peeked at Thales with relentless hostility and aversion in his eyes. "Put down that pathetic sword, Prince of Constellation. You will not need it for tonight's event."

"Ah?" Thales was surprised. "Tonight's event? What event?"

"What else would it be?" The King of Eckstedt shot a chilly glare at the five archdukes. "These cowards refused to do anything. What other choice do we have?

"Get ready for your welcoming banquet, Thales Jadestar," the king uttered these words with a hateful tone and left his throne.

The archdukes looked at each other, standing up from their seats with strange expressions on their faces.

Thales was watching them, bewildered.

'That's it?'

"Hey, you." The bearded Archduke of Prestige Orchid, Olsius shuffled towards Thales, glowering. "When do you plan on putting down my sword?"

*Clunk!*

The sword fell onto the ground from Thales' hands.

His palms were numb.

When he walked out of the stone hall and spotted Lord Mirk who was waiting for him, he realized that he was soaked in cold sweat despite the freezing weather.

It felt as though he had just finished a marathon. Thales could barely feel his legs. He clutched at his knees and exhaled deeply.

'Bloody Northlanders.'

"Please come with me, Your Highness," Lord Mirk said. "I will escort you to your room to get ready for tonight's banquet. Your entourage will be there as well."

Thales raised his hand.

"Before that, can you bring me to Lord Nicholas and Marquis Shiles?" Thales smiled an eerie smile, much to Mirk's intrigue. "During my journey to Dragon Clouds City, the two of them have been taking good care of me."

"Um?" Mirk hummed, feeling curious.

"To repay their kindness." Thales' expression was unpleasant. He lifted his chin and with determination, he said, "I must express my tremendous gratitude to their families."