Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
When Thales summoned up his courage to walk past the heavy layers of guards, he endured pairs upon pairs of eyes, which were fiercer than usual, especially when it came to a warning look from Nicholas. He passed through the heavy, old-fashioned, arched doorway to step into the incomparably familiar Raikaru’s Library. Once he did so, the Prince of Constellation fretted over the supposedly casual and relaxed meeting.
‘Does Saroma clearly know about the political whirlpool she’s in?’
Without her knowledge, the young girl was already part of an inescapable chess game. What she faced were shrewd and ruthless chess players the likes of Lampard, Roknee and the vassals of Dragon Clouds City.
Thales did not know how much Lisban had told her. He also did not know the archduchess’ current state. He did not even know what sort of attitude and standpoint he should use to face Saroma, that lady who was once a girl.
The library looked the same. The arched cloister filled by rows of tall bookshelves flitted past his field of view amid the interweaving light and shadows. The passage by the bookshelves was bright and clear under the illumination of braziers as well as reflective gemstones, which were suspended from the ceiling. On the other hand, the spaces between the bookshelves that blocked light were left in darkness and obscurity.
Just like that, Thales walked among the light and shadows in anxiety. He walked past row after row of bookshelves to arrive at the place he met the two girls for the first time six years agothe glass cupboard that stored the first treaty between the two countries.
The Archduchess of Dragon Clouds City was sitting in a chair in silence. A thick book lay open on both her knees, which were pressed together.
Thales looked at his surroundings hesitantly. Unsurprisingly, he saw the figures of Ginghes the female officer and two maidservants on both ends of the corridor. The former was like a statue. She had her hands placed together as she looked straight ahead with grace and an air of nobility.
The prince took a deep breath, walked over to Saroma and lowered his voice.
“Saroma, listen, I”
Without even raising her head, the archduchess interrupted him. Her expression could not be seen clearly, but her voice was calm, “This batch of books was just brought here by merchants from Dragon-Kissed Land. I heard that most of them are ancient texts and hand-copied manuscripts.”
Thales raised his brows. He was a little surprised at the matter that Saroma interrupted him for.
He merely hesitated for a while before he pulled a wooden chair over. Then, he turned the back of the chair towards Saroma before he sat down with a heavy expression, placing both arms on the back of the chair.
In that instant, the prince felt like his mouth was dry.
“Hey,” he spoke stiffly. It was a rare sight on him when he spoke to his old friend of six years. “I I heardabout what happened on the day of the council hearing.”
The teenage girl did not reply, but her hands had stopped flipping the pages.
“I want to say, uh…” After truly seeing Saroma, Thales found himself tongue-tied. He had a bellyful of words, yet he did not know how to start. Nonetheless, he awkwardly said, “Thank youfor protecting me.”
The archduchess still did not raise her head, but she let out a small snort from her nose. If it was not for Thales’ outstanding hearing, he would have thought that she was lost in thought.
“But.” Thales sighed. “I also heard that”
“I just flipped through the index for the new batch of books…” Yet, the archduchess interrupted him again. “The contents are all things you care about, like the Battle of Eradication Also, the Great Dragon”
Saroma still had her face deeply lowered. It was nearly parallel to the books.
Thales’ face tensed.
‘She’s not in a good emotional condition.’
“Saroma, about the day of the council hearing…” Thales recalled the two segments of conversation he had with Putray and clenched his jaw. “You I”
Thales was stunned. “Huh?”
Saroma slowly lifted her head and revealed a smile laced with a faint bitterness.
“This was what you wanted to talk to me during today’s training, wasn’t it?” The archduchess sneered softly.
Thales could not help but notice that there were traces of red in the young girl’s eyes.
He subconsciously nodded. “Yes.”
Saroma closed the book on her knees and sighed softly.
“So, what do you want to say?”
She put the book on a table by the side, then cut straight to the point, “How about you recommend me a husband?”
When she finished saying that, Saroma raised her brows, making her appear rather overbearing.
Thales’ words were a little stagnated. He opened and closed his mouth, but could only spit out a few words in the end. “I-I want to ask”
Saroma tilted her head slightly and stared motionlessly at Thales with her jade green eyes behind a pair of pince-nez.
For the first time, Thales found that even this young girl’s gaze could be overbearing.
A few seconds later, the prince, who was still unable to form a single sentence, could only let out a breath. He pretended to be relaxed as he said, “So, what did they say about your marriage? Do you have any candidates in mind?”
This time, Saroma only stared at him firmly. She stared for a good ten seconds, causing Thales to feel nervous in his heart.
In the end, Saroma exhaled a puff of air from her nose. She shook her head and averted her gaze.
“Those people, the lords of the immediate vassals such as Count Hearst,” she said faintly.
“Hearst?” Thales scowled. “The Count of Flatiron County? That golden beard?”
Saroma added expressionlessly. “Among the immediate vassals of Dragon Clouds City, his age is about the same as mine.”
Grabbing the back of the chair, the prince straightened his lower back.
“Your ages are about the same?”
Thales widened his eyes and exhaled subconsciously. He spoke in disdain after his initial astonishment, “Right, he’s only twenty years older than you.”
Saroma glanced at him with a thought-provoking look.
“Or perhaps one of the noble’s sons. Count Nazaire has a son in his early twenties. He’s the family’s heir.
“Nazaire junior?” Thales frowned again. “Hah, I heard that everyone, from the city maidservants to the sows in the outskirts, knows about his womanizing reputation”
The archduchess narrowed her eyes. “How did you know?”
Thales snorted lightly and shook his head. “Gossip from the scullery. At the banquet, the maidservants all wanted to Never mind, it’s not important.”
Saroma pursed up her lips. She appeared dissatisfied. “If it really doesn’t work, there’s still Ciel”
This time, Thales interrupted her.
“Count Lisban? The regent?”
It seemed as if the prince had just seen the most inconceivable thing. “Oh my God, that old man already has a grandson!”
Saroma seemingly had enough of Thales’ tone as she coldly said, “The candidate I’m talking about is Ciel’s grandson.”
Thales was speechless.
Discontented, Saroma stared at the ground. The embarrassed Thales propped his chin on his arm and remained quiet for a while.
Finally, the silence between the two individuals was broken by the archduchess. “Thales.”
She was heard asking softly with her exhausted voice, “Don’t you want to see me get married?”
Thales did not speak immediately.
“Saroma,” Thales only slowly spoke up a few seconds later. The tone of his voice was dejected, “Tell me the truth, do you really want to get married?”
Saroma raised her head immediately. Her expression was tense.
“Is that important?”
The words the young girl used sounded to Thales as if she was throwing a tantrum. “You know that I have to get married.”
Thales frowned a little. He straightened his lower back and shifted the chair closer.
“We’ve known each other for six years, you know” The prince looked serious. “I don’t want to see you unhappy. I don’t wish to see you forced into doing something you don’t want to, because”
Saroma stared at him blankly.
‘Because I was the one who caused you to be in this state,’ Thales shut his mouth and said to himself dejectedly.
The moment Little Rascal agreed to help him six years ago, and also the moment Little Rascal was declared Archduchess of Dragon Clouds City surfaced before his eyes. Thales sighed and leaned his chin against the back of the chair.
A few seconds later, the archduchess tilted her head and looked in another direction.
“Even if I don’t want to, so what?” Saroma’s voice rang abruptly. “What can you do? Can you stop them from marrying me?” The archduchess’ head remained tilted. Her expression could not be seen, but her shoulders were trembling faintly. “Or can you stop me from marrying them?”
Thales lifted his eyes. There was melancholy in his heart.
‘She doesn’t like this,’ he told himself.
Thales sighed. “If you’re not willing, then don’t marry them.”
Saroma turned around suddenly and stared at him coldly.
“Hmph.” She snorted.
“If I don’t marry them, who should I marry then?” The teenage girl’s gaze was very strange.
Thales could only feel his eyelid twitch.
Before the archduchess said anything weird, he suddenly got up from the chair.
“About that, what I meant to say was you’re an archduchess.” Thales coughed once. Imitating the expression of a certain big police officer from his memories, he scratched his head. “As long as you are firm with your own will, nobody can force you to do anything you’re not willing toif you don’t want a husband, then there’s no need to force yourself to get married.”
Upon finishing his words, Thales felt uneasy all over. He shrugged and smiled awkwardly.
Saroma stared at him deeply and did not say a word.
The archduchess only spoke up softly after a good while, “You saw the Black Sand Region envoy today too Ciel told me that matters of the Alliance of Freedom aren’t as simple as they seem Ciel also said that Dragon Clouds City has no choice. If I want to win the support of the vassals and uphold the authority of the archduchess”
“That’s more reason why you shouldn’t marry carelessly!”
Thales interrupted her and hurriedly added a sentence, “You cannot put hope in winning support with marriage. Think about it, you’re only one person.” The prince took a deep breath and endured Saroma’s gaze, which was fixed on him. “And there are only six counts in Dragon Clouds City. Regardless of who you get married to
“Perhaps you’ll be able to suppress the unrest for a short while and get through this crisis, but the price is you’ll be swept into a deeper layer of the internal strife in Dragon Clouds City.” Thales sighed.
“Because your new husband will be a part of that strife, so you will be unable to stay out of the vassal’ relationships. You’ll unable to become a supreme and just arbitrator, unable to become their suzerain to rule this piece of land anymore. Also, an archduchess who uses her own marriage to compromise with the nobles is an archduchess who cannot bring loyalty to her side.”
This time, Saroma stared at him for a long time.
Her stare caused Thales to feel somewhat embarrassed.
“You know,” the teenage girls’ voice was slightly airy, “Ciel said that too.”
“Lisban?” Thales quivered due to shock. “He’s also against your marriage?”
Saroma did not directly reply him. She laughed in spite of herself and said, “But the vassals would be very unhappy.”
In a dispirited manner, she added, “What should I do? What about Dragon Clouds City?”
“They have always been dissatisfied with me. They say that my bearing is unsteady; I do not have enough grace; the way I dress, and the way I converse isn’t mature if I still refuse to marry them and have a son”
The archduchess sighed faintly. She was somewhat dejected and exhausted. “I know that in the future, whether it comes to sending troops or orders, they’ll never cooperate obediently.”
For some unknown reason, after learning that Lisban was also against the suzerain’s marriage, he inexplicably felt a lot more at ease. However, when he turned around, he saw the archduchess’ depressed and agonized expression. Thales clenched his fist lightly and sat on the chair again.
“No, Saroma,” the prince said seriously. “This has nothing to do with your bearings and charms, or does it have anything to do with the way you dress and the way you converse. It even has nothing to do with whether you are married and have an heir, or not. Your vassals only have such an attitude because”
Saroma raised her head and looked at him in a stupefied manner.
Thales clenched his fist tighter and tighter as he took a deep breath.
“It’s because, because”
But before he could finish, he was interrupted by the archduchess again.
“Because I am an archduchess.” Saroma laughed in spite of herself. She leaned her head backwards against the back of the chair and looked towards a bookshelf in the distance. “I’m a woman; a woman they look down upon.”
Thales was stunned.
“Yes, I know,” Saroma’s voice was downcast, and no emotion could be heard when her words first entered Thales’ ears. “I’ve always known.
“They’re not used to it, and they don’t like having a female ruler. Whether it be them or the enemy, they feel that a Dragon Clouds City with such a ruler is unstable. They feel like I’m puny and ignorant so they urged me to get married. The archduchess will marry a local Dragon Clouds City noble. Then, he will leave a seed in my belly, label it with the Walton name and eventually, hand him the power and position of the archduke. After that, Dragon Clouds City will be considered stable.”
Thales did not say a word, but his grip on the back of the chair grew stronger.
“During the council hearing, no matter what I said, everyone’s attention was always only on Ciel,” Saroma’s words made her sound as if she was sleep talking. “When I said something right, they cast praising glances at Ciel. When I was wrong, they gave him condemning looks. It wasn’t just this one time, it was the same in the past, and it will be the same in the future.”
Saroma’s shoulders quivered gently, and she could not help but laugh. However, it was in a manner where she appeared emotionallynumb.
“None of my so-called vassals care about me,” the archduchess’ voice was very weak. She leaned her full-body weight against the back of the chair as if she had lost all strength to support herself. “What they care about is just the title of the archduchess and the Walton bloodline. As for me, I’m completely unimportant apart from my belly, because it can give birth to the Walton seed.”
Thales gritted his teeth slightly.
Saroma took a deep breath and looked at Thales with reddened eyes. Suddenly, she snorted.
“Perhaps they are right, Thales.”
Saroma bit her lower lip in an expressionless manner. “Maybe I just can’t be an archduchess and all the things associated with that title… Maybe I was born to be utterly weak and rely on someone else.
The archduchess’ voice grew increasingly indiscernible.
In the massive and unadorned library, she sat tilted against the chair as she said faintly, “When I was a child, I depended on Alex and just did my part as an unknown little maidservant. After I grew a little older, I depended on you and King Nuven. With your influence, I became an archduchess. Now, I’m depending on Ciel to rule Dragon Clouds City on my behalf to settle those matters I’m incapable of comprehending. In the future, I’ll also have to depend on my husband, on the bloodline in my belly to make Dragon Clouds City stable and finish living the rest of my life. Furthermore, I’m not even a part of the Walton bloodline”
The prince hit the back of the chair.
“Saroma!” Thales exclaimed sternly, chiding the stunned teenage girl.
“Saroma, Little Rascal.” The prince took a deep breath and presented the most serious expression he could imagine. “Do you know why I wanted to drag you along when I skipped class? Especially Lady Ginghes’ etiquette class?”
Without waiting for the other party’s answer, Thales opened his mouth. “Because you’re an archduchess.” The young man clenched his fist tightly. “But they were teaching weaving, sewing, embroidery, playing musical instruments, singing, dancing, and housekeeping. They’ve been treating you as an archduke’s wife. Archduchess and archduke’s wife, they may be the same part of speech.” Thales gritted his teeth. “Yet, they are as different as the sky and earth, completely unalike!”