Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
Heroic Spirit Palace, the Hall of Heroes.
“You know, I have a guess,” Thales said absentmindedly. “The Bloody Year was a disaster that almost destroyed Constellation. Filled with internal conflicts and contradictions, the entire kingdom was in a precarious situation.”
Raising his gaze, his voice trembled slightly.
“Until all of you invaded the south.”
At that moment, Thales noticed that the archdukes’ gazes were peculiar and puzzled.
“What do you mean?” Olsius asked coldly.
‘Good,’ Thales thought.
‘Interests and threat The two largest weapons Lampard used to convince the other archdukes have already been eliminated. All the archdukes probably understand now that on a certain level, Lampard is a bigger threat compared to Constellation.
Thales glanced at Saroma. The girl clenched her slightly trembling fists and nodded at him slowly. She tried to put on a firm face.
Now he had to convince the archdukes that the gains Lampard promised them were not as attractive as they had imagined.
Thales raised his head.
“I didn’t see the miserable spectacle twelve years ago.” Thales remembered how Gilbert told the story of the Bloody Year, and said with a stern expression, “But, I can imagine it from the elders’ description. The Jadestar Royal Family’s catastrophe brought the disaster of the Bloody Year to a peak. The nineteen nobles only cared about protecting themselves as rumors circulated among them, the army was without a leader, there was public anger in the kingdom, and Eternal Star City went into its most critical state. Constellation was probably at the brink of destruction.”
Thales sighed once he said all these things.
“Mindis the Third probably never thought that his strategic planning would cause such a tempest after more than a hundred years either.”
The archdukes exchanged a few worried looks. On the other hand, Lampard tightened his grip on his saber.
“But during the winter twelve years ago, when the great army of Eckstedt invaded the south for whatever reason, all of Constellation was probably stupefied. Especially when they heard that Broken Dragon Fortress fell into Eckstedt’s hands,” Thales continued saying.
“I reckon that the war disrupted the original situation in Constellation and brought on a new motivation for the country, which was at the brink of destruction.”
Archduke Lecco’s murky gaze brightened a little. His expression became increasingly solemn.
Olsius and Trentida stared at one another, unsure.
“The strongest kingdom in the Western Peninsula, Eckstedt was staging a full scale invasion. This was unlike the internal conflicts caused by the rebel armies or the assassination of the Royal Family.
“Shivering in fear, most people in Constellation had no choice but to compromise including the vassals, nobles, officials, traders, armies and farmers.” Thales derived his argument step by step using logic, based on the information he knew and the ideas that the archdukes agreed with. He thought hard on his next words, so that he sounded more believable and convincing.
“Under the shadow of the Great Dragon, they quickly reached a consensus to end the chaos at hand as soon as possible. They brought the last prince back to the capital city and crowned him amid all the gore and death. The forces of power that were once fragmented within the borders of Constellation united as one just to ward off the threat of the Great Dragon of the North.”
Archduke Lecco’s pupils constricted. “What do you mean?”
Inhaling deeply, Thales tried his best to make himself look more neutral instead of too caring about Constellation.
“It’s very ironic, but also very possible that Eckstedt’s aggressive invasion was precisely what forced us to mend internal contradictions and conflicts, hence saving Constellation from the fate of being divided and declining.”
The moment Thales said that, all the archdukes held their breaths.
Even though years of high status had given them the self-restraint to remain calm, Thales could feel the odd vibe in the air.
“All of you are older and wiser than me. Additionally, you have personal experiences in regards to what happened that year. There is no harm in thinking about what would have happened to Constellation, whichwas leaderless, in great chaos, and had just lost its king, if all of you did not invade the south twelve years ago,” Thales said flatly.
“And earlier, when Lampard advised all of you to cause Constellation trouble and dispatch your army along with his, did he coincidentally tell all of you that Constellation is at its most awkward and disharmonious stage right now? That it’s the best time to invade the isolated and helpless Northern Territory?
“Will all of you really achieve the effect you have in mind by dispatching troops to invade Constellation?
“Unlike a certain archduke who cannot wait to tell all of you the answer and order all of you around.” Thales nodded slightly at the archdukes. “I have raised the question, and now I’ll stop talking. Please think for yourselves and make your own decision.”
Lampard revealed a strange and complicated expression.
On the other hand, the rest of the archdukes looked at him.
Thales breathed an internal sigh of relief. Nonetheless, he had an ominous feeling that he could not get rid of. What he said just now about Eckstedt’s invasion was only a supposition so that the archdukes would once again consider the price they had to pay to invade Constellation.
‘But’ Thales kept trying to convince himself that what he said was just a supposition. ‘…what if it’s true?
‘What if Eckstedt’s invasion really forced the Constellatiates to temporarily unite?’
He could not help but recall what the Born King, King Nuven said when telling him about Soria’s death.
‘”Thales, twelve years ago We sent troops down south to Constellation for a good reason.
‘”The assassin came from Constellation”‘
‘When Constellation was in an extremely precarious situation, a suspicious assassination by Constellation triggered Eckstedt’s invasion of the south.
‘King Nuven mentioned the assassination
‘Prince Soria died from the assassination
‘Nicholas and the Red Witch mentioned the assassination during their negotiation
‘Even Putray hinted that he was involved in the assassination when parting with me just now
‘What’s the secret behind the assassination?’
Thales slowly clenched his fists.
Lampard fixed his gaze on the prince.
If his gaze could kill, Thales would probably be nothing but ashes by now.
Despite that, Thales paid no heed to him at all.
“So, as Tormond, the King of Renaissance’s descendant, I, Thales TherrenGirana Kessel Jadestar am standing here, earnestly requesting all of you with a humble wish and hope for peace, to reconsider the war between our kingdoms. Think about the price you have to pay and the meaning behind it.” Thales raised his chest and showed a stern expression. He thought of the time he faced all the vassals at the Hall of Stars and tried his best to act in an imposing manner befitting a prince of the kingdom.
At that moment, the four archdukes stared at Thales with an equally serious gaze. Their expressions were solemn, as though the one standing before them was not a weak child, but the ruler of a land who was equal to them.
“All of you can’t ensure that it will bring the most desired result whether it’s for all of you or for us.” At that moment, Thales thought of many people whose fates were changed by the war. He spoke desolately.
“No one can ensure this.”
There was silence in the hall once again.
Another brazier was extinguished.
All the archdukes remained silent and were deep in thought. This time, they did not even communicate with their eyes.
Lampard did not say anything as well.
But from the back of his hand that held the saber, his knuckles were visibly pale. His veins popped up across his skin.
A few seconds later…
Archduke Lecco shut his eyes and sighed softly. “Please do not continue speaking, Prince Thales. I reckon that all of us already know what you mean.”
Thales relaxed. His knees buckled, and he swayed a little.
Saroma supported his waist from the back, preventing him from making a fool of himself there.
Thales turned around in pain and gave her a forced smile.
“What do all of you think?” Archduke Lecco’s voice echoed throughout the hall.
It sounded hollow and weary.
“It’s very obvious, isn’t it?” Archduke Roknee was the first one to raise his head. His tone was hazy and resolute, “I would rather be a lion’s enemy than to share a boat with a jackal.”
Lampard eyebrows became increasingly furrowed.
“You know, Chapman, even though your offer is very attractive…” Trentida shrugged a little. His expression was very complicated. “I don’t want my descendants to wake up one day and find that they’re lying in a pile of ruins. So”
Lampard snorted coldly without any facial expression.
Archduke Olsius’ expression was frozen for a very long time. After quite a while, he spoke bitterly.
“We shouldn’t have come today, and more importantly, we shouldn’t have joined this damned meeting of archdukes.”
Lampard slowly lowered his head.
‘It’s precisely these people’
Archduke Lecco tapped the table.
The old archduke’s pale face seemed even more worn down. “No matter what we’re about to do, let’s put aside the matter of bringing trouble to Constellation and invading the Northern Territory for now Of course, today’s matters must be handled properly.
“Especially those related to King Nuven’s death.”
His gaze refocused, and he gazed at Lampard. “If we’re not going to frame Constellation, we need to have a good excuse.”
Lecco’s gaze was cold.
At that moment, even Saroma could feel the atmosphere becoming as cold as ice.
Everyone’s position in the hall had already changed.
Without realizing, four of the archdukes stood together with Roknee and Olsius in front. Thales stood beside them.
On the opposite, Lampard stood alone in front of a brazier.
The light from the fire and the shadow divided his face into two portionsone bright and the other dark. It was strange and unsettling.
Lampard slowly raised his head.
‘These people they’re what’s stopping Eckstedt from moving forward.’
He swept his gaze across the other archdukes and they stared back at him with varied expressions.
“All of you have made a decision, right?” Lampard said in his calmest tone. “The decisions of four shrewd and wise Eckstedtian Archdukes were swayed by the words of a little brat from Constellation, causing the tables to turn.”
He snorted softly and shot a glance at Thales. “Pathetic.”
Thales gripped Saroma’s hand tightly and quietly watched the archdukes’ interaction.
He gritted his teeth, knowing that the situation was already unsalvageable.
“He couldn’t have turned the tables with just his words,” Archduke Lecco’s tone turned cold too.
“No one can.”
The old, bald archduke narrowed his eyes. “But, Chapman Lampard, wasn’t it you who affirmed his words with your actions and the truth?”
“So, this is your answer?” Lampard said gloomily and mockingly.
“At first, all of you decided to cover up the king’s death together for Eckstedt. A few minutes after swearing an oath of allegiance by placing our palms together and becoming allies with me, all of a sudden, you become conscientious and decide to put me under the guillotine for the regicide crime again?”
“We can still talk about this” Trentida said gently.
Lampard directed his gaze at him, and it cut into him like a sharp blade. It made the words of the man with the bowl cut die in his mouth.
Lampard turned his head around again, sweeping his gaze across the archdukes with a serious expression, again and again, as though he wanted to see through their souls.
‘These people. Eckstedt grew to its current state by relying on these people?
Finally, after a while, Lampard lowered his head and let out a bone-chilling laugh.
Thales felt unsettled. He knew that the matter was far from solved.
“Chapman.” Olsius furrowed his eyebrows and uttered only one word, “Don’t.”
Lampard raised his head abruptly.
“Do all of you really know what you’re doing?” He faced the archdukes, and the Archduke of Black Sand Region’s tone became scarier than ever, “Your hesitance and cowardice is causing a rare chance to slip through your fingers.”
“You heard what he said about Constellation’s current state too,” Archduke Lecco replied flatly. “Your plan is not necessarily the best for Eckstedt.”
Lampard slammed the sheath of his sword onto the floor again.
“Then, do all of you believe in what he’s said just like that?” Lampard said coldly.
“Don’t all of you understand that if we work together, all problems regarding power, riches and status can be compensated by the gains seized from our enemy.” His gaze was fiery. “For Eckstedt, we must”
Archduke Roknee’s expression suddenly changed. He cut Lampard off with a loud voice, “Listen up, king slayer!
“I’m also the master of this kingdom, and I too, own Eckstedt.” Like a tenacious warrior, the long-haired archduke stood in front of the other archdukes. “And you have neither the rights nor the means to tell me what I must do for my country.
“Also, you can’t force the rest of us to follow your method and be loyal to ‘your’ Eckstedt.”
Lampard clenched his fists.
“There are ten of us, hence ten Eckstedts.” The Archduke of Black Sand Region gritted his teeth. “This is where the problem lies!”
Archduke Roknee replied him with a sneer, “So, you admit it in the end that you want to kick the rest of us out of our seats of power?”
Lampard’s expression was icy. He held the hilt of his saber so hard that it almost broke.
Trentida sighed and chipped in on the conversation like a mediator, “Chapman, you have to understand our point of view. What if one day, a son or grandson from the Lampard Family ends up in the streets like the lowliest”
“So what?” Lampard said abruptly, cutting Trentida off like a furious lion. “Will it be worse than it is now?”
Trentida was at a loss for words. Staring at Lampard, his expression became increasingly strange.
The other archdukes furrowed their eyebrows and stared attentively at Lampard.
In that moment, the four archdukes finally had a clear realization that the Archduke of Black Sand Region was not one of them. Instead, he was a totally different kind of existence.
Roknee coolly answered Lampard’s question, “For those who will benefit from it, of course it’s better Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.”
There was a silence.
Lampard took a deep breath as though he was trying to suppress his rising anger.
“Heh, heh” He let out an unsettling laugh through his nose.
“It’s been six hundred years.”
He coldly swept his gaze across everyone, not even leaving Saroma out.
“From the moment we were born, we’re like tied-up, collared hounds. We rack our brains to scheme against other vassals and make every attempt to fight against our king, both with open fights and covert strife.
“Even if we become king, we’ll just be repeating the same fate. We will still be bound by these sorrowful shackles.
“For six hundred years, generation after generation, we have been going in circles like headless ants.” Lampard’s face was twisted. “Aren’t you sick of it?”
“The Joint Ruling Pledge? I’ve staked everything I have to break this miserable cycle for this kingdom’s future.” The Archduke of Black Sand Region gritted his teeth hard. His hands trembled.
“In the end, I still have no choice but to watch all of you destroy Eckstedt’s way out of this cycle with your selfishness and short-sightedness.”
The archdukes stared at each other and felt a surge of inexplicable emotions rise within them.
At this moment…
“Your Grace,” Thales said softly, “please stop making excuses for yourself and making yourself sound so noble, selfless and mighty.”
Lampard turned abruptly. His gaze was icy as he stared at the prince.
“If this can save Eckstedt, why does it have to be you?” Thales said calmly. “Why can’t it be someone else? Such as King Nuven?”
Lampard’s breathing paused.
The other archdukes were also momentarily startled.
“Yes, I only realized after that You weren’t the only one who understood Constellation’s current situation.” The prince sighed and recalled how King Nuven talked about the Virtuous King a few minutes before his death. “There was also the supreme commander who led the army and crossed the fortress that year, Nuven Walton the Seventh, the Born King.
“If there’s only Eckstedt and nothing else in your heart, why didn’t you take the opportunity to give up your power to King Nuven?”
Thales stared at Lampard, whose face was twisted, and enunciated each word clearly, “In the fight between vassal and the king, you could have accepted the king’s officials, his orders, and how he meddled with Black Sand Region. You could have willingly become the next Beacon Illumination City, thereby allowing all of Eckstedt to be even more closely united under the Cloud Dragon Spear Flag.” The prince raised his hand abruptly and pointed at the stone inscription of the Cloud Dragon Spear on the ceiling. “Then, you can let the most powerful among you, the Born King, to become the only ruler of Eckstedt!”
The hall was silent once again.
Lampard’s expression became colder.
“But you weren’t willing. Your family wasn’t willing,” Thales said softly. “And that led to today’s tragedy.
“You think that your past, your brother and mother’s deaths gave you an excuse to despise the Joint Ruling Pledge That they would make your actions different, outstanding, tragically moving and heroic?”
Lampard turned his entire body towards Thales with one single step.
His gaze was scary, and his face was hideous.
‘How dare he.
‘How dare he!’
For the first time, Thales faced the Archduke of Black Sand Region and endured his almost suffocating presence without holding anything back.
He inhaled deeply and raised his head with gritted teeth.
At that moment, Thales remembered everything that happened in front of Broken Dragon Fortress, as well as Arracca and the Fury Guards’ sacrifices.
He then thought of the tragedy in Dragon Clouds City and the destroyed Shield District. He recalled the White Blade Guards falling one by one, and their brave figures as they fought without turning back.
“No, Lampard. Without your shell, there’s not much difference between you and the others.
“You’re just a creature who struggles for power, serving your own interests and pretending to do it ‘for Eckstedt’.
“Someone who neither shows solicitude for the lives of the people around him, nor treasures the land he rules, but indulges in idle talk about his kingdom and the future doesn’t have the right to act all high and mighty,” the prince said coldly.
The prince shut his mouth and ended his speech.
At that point, the Archduke of Black Sand Region and the Prince of Constellation met eyes. The former’s gaze was murderous, while the latter’s gaze was firm and resolute.
Lampard stood where he was. It was as though the temperature of the air around him was dropping rapidly.
Lampard spoke slowly as he stared at Thales. His tone was cold and filled with hatred.
He uttered through gritted teeth, “You!”
Saroma was so frightened that she was about to cower behind Thales.
However, she did not manage to do so as Thales grabbed her hand and dragged her back next to him, forcing her to look into Lampard’s eyes.
“My name is not ‘You’,” Without showing any signs of weakness, Thales replied coldly.
“Listen up, Chapman Lampard.
“My name is Thales Jadestar.”
Lampard’s pupils contracted a little.
“I’m a child who’s not able to drink alcohol.” The prince took a step forward. His expression was firm.
“And your mortal enemy.”