Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
He managed to remember.
Thales fixed his gaze on the floorboard beneath his feet.
‘Six years ago in the secret passage beneath the gatehouse, once we fled from danger, we were stopped by the Red Witch and could neither go forward nor turn back. At that time
‘With a tired expression, the Star Killer went forward alone and obtained safety for us in exchange for “a very largebargaining chip”.’
Thales could not help but feel extremely doubtful.
‘What in the world did Nicholas tell the Red Witch that made Madam Calshan turn and leave without hesitation? It made her abandon and pay no more heed to the existence of the Prince of Constellation and Miss Walton, as though they were only outsiders who were unnecessary to this game in Eckstedt?
‘Is the Secret Room really so independent in their thoughts and actions? They were determined, just a moment before, to overthrow King Nuven who insisted on doing things his way. But in the next moment, they withdrew themselves without hesitation. They even stopped having anything to do with this entire affair
‘If it’s just as Lampard said, Saroma’s existence is only to’
Thales sucked in a deep breath. The veins in his hands were visible.
“Ridiculous.” He glared coldly at King Chapman who was right in front of him. “The heir to Dragon Clouds City who is publicly known to be dead for six years is still alive? The fact that I traveled north alone, was held hostage for a total of six years, and that we had an intense battle to the death six years ago in Heroic Spirit Palace is just part of some conspiracy?
“You expect me to believe what you said? This utterly baseless kind of tale?”
With an offended look, the prince gazed into the king’s eyes with dissatisfaction and refuted, “Why would Moriah deliberately fake his death, causing his family to be on the verge of falling apart and Dragon Clouds City to be in complete turmoil? And why would King Nuven think of such a strategy where the loss outweighs the gains, and die for nothing when you struck back?”
“Because he did not deliberately fake his death, and neither was this Nuven’s intention!”
King Chapman punched his sword sheath and responded to Thales’ aggressive words with a frosty expression. “Do you think that this is fun? Do you think that I’m so stupid as to fabricate such lies to sow discord between you and Dragon Clouds City? Ever since I received this damned news, God knows how many tactics and resources I used, how much time I spent getting to the bottom of the matter just to find out whether that useless prince is dead! Just to find out how much longer I can hold on to this crown that I got six years ago?!”
The king’s gaze was forceful, fierce and murderous. “Trust me, if he’s not dead, there’s no one in the world who wants him to disappear foreveras soon as possible and without anyone knowingmore than I do.
Thales stared dubiously at the fury and coldness that the king’s face harbored. He had a vague feeling that his opponent was not faking his emotions.
There was a few seconds of silence in the carriage.
“So, he ‘did not deliberately fake his death’.” Thales calmed down. He tugged on his sleeves. “What do you know?”
King Chapman snorted coldly and said, “This information is from the Secret Room or more precisely, from my planted agent in the Secret Room. It is said that the Red Witch had investigated this matter at all costs for a whole six years, and only managed to get the results half a year ago.”
As though deep in thought, Thales repeated slowly, “Six years…”
The king nodded solemnly.
“Six years ago, when Prince Moriah returned to Dragon Clouds City from his fiefdom, he had a heated argument with King Nuven in Heroic Spirit Palace Even though King Nuven got rid of most of the people in the palace before he died, there were still people alive who can vouch to this.” Having said that, King Chapman’s eyes shone with a strange light that alternated between contempt and hatred.
“A few days later, Moriah left without saying goodbye and disappeared without a trace.”
Thales’ gaze sharpened.
“He ran? Why?”
“Yes, Thales.” King Chapman snorted disdainfully. “A prince who bore the heavy responsibility of a kingdom ran away from home in anger because he was scolded by his dear father.”
The prince took a second to digest this information and stared at King Chapman with a glimmer in his eyes.
“Can you imagine Nuven’s expression at that time? The king’s son irresponsibly abandoned everything, including his status and his original mission, to go to Constellation as an envoy. He disappeared from Nuven, Dragon Clouds City, and out of Eckstedt’s sight overnight. To allow himself to escape safely, he even revealed his route of travel to Poffret so that Poffret could cover for him. That’s how everything after that came about.
“Moriah Walton, Nuven’s useless son,” The king said scornfully and angrily through gritted teeth. “He’s literally the biggest disgrace in the six hundred something years of the Walton Family’s history. Even if you search all of Eckstedt, you probably won’t be able to find a worse piece of trash than him.”
‘My God. A prince left everything behind and ran away from home?’
For some reason, another figure suddenly appeared in Thales’ mind. It was Madam Jines from around ten years ago, when she was not as mature and charming as she was in the future. Penniless and disheveled, she resolutely walked out of her family’s manor and followed the prince’s group towards an unknown future.
The king took a few seconds to calm his breathing and come around from his fury and resentment.
“Therefore, while searching for his son, the anxious Born King could only use a similar looking stand-in as his runaway son’s replacement for the visit to Constellation. After all, the prince only needs to smile, since he is just a symbol.
“We found information about the stand-in. He was born to a family of low-class nobles on the outskirts of Dragon Clouds City, and his ancestors were related to the Walton Family by blood. The White Blade Guards found him eighteen years ago, and he entered Dragon Clouds City to ‘work’ since then. Of course, he was actually trained to become Prince Moriah’s stand-in.”
King Chapman continued coldly,
“You know what happened after that: Moriah’s stand-in died in Constellation. I reckon that Nuven was very surprised, but he played along with it and pretended it was true. He put on a seemingly furious front and demanded equal compensation from Constellation. Meanwhile, he dealt with the restless archdukes in the country.”
Thales tried his best to recover from the shock Moriah gave him. He stared at the king with ineffable emotions.
“That was why I started suspecting the archduchess’ identity. It was unreasonable that Nuven would leave behind an archduchess and a son who’s able to overthrow the former at the same time, causing Dragon Clouds City to sink into the terrifying vortex of a succession dispute. Trust me, this is the most fearsome disaster in a noble family. You can get all the examples on this ranging from Olsius of Prestige Orchid Region to Rose Chinensis of Anlenzo Dukedom.
“Of course, Thales, his biggest surprise would have been you. A prince of Constellation who can save the Dragon Spear Family in the future, during the period when Moriah remains missing, when Dragon Clouds City will face difficulties both internal and external, and when his power as well as his influence will slowly weaken until he passes away. You were an excellent tool.”
The king stared at Thales with a complicated look, as though the prince before his eyes was an item.
“Just like that, Nuven trapped you and Constellation with a fake archduchess, stabilizing the Walton Family’s rule over Dragon Clouds City, and allowing the Dragon Spear Family to safely survive the years when the Born King isn’t around. At the same time, he hid the greatest secret from all of you: that perhaps one day, when Moriah is tired of playing outside, Lisban or the Star Killer would welcome him back. Dragon Clouds City will be back in the Walton Family’s hands, and all of Constellation’s plans will be for naught.”
King Chapman stopped talking and stared quietly at the prince. Thales said nothing. His brow furrowed many times and he was thinking quietly for almost two minutes.
‘How can this be?’
The back of King Nuven’s figure appeared before Thales’ eyes. That bold and shrewd late king turned and sneered bone-chillingly in Thales’ mind.
‘Nuven Walton. He could resolutely engage in a duel against another person in front of his vassals, and also carry out a venomous scheme without hesitation.
‘He could poison a young girl to death without batting an eye, and nonchalantly place the inheritance of his family onto Little Rascal’s hands and mine.
‘And now Nuven, the Born King What kind of person were you, really?’
“Is this what you want to say?” The second prince said in a weary tone, “That everything that happened six years ago, the complicated relationship between our kingdoms, the conspiracy in Renaissance Palace, the stalemate before the fortress, and the disaster in Dragon Clouds City They all happened because Moriah wilfully ran away from home?”
“Hard to believe, isn’t it?” King Chapman sneered. “But the origin of everything is so ridiculous, hilarious, and completely unreasonable.
“You were held hostage in the north and was stranded for a whole six years because of an unjust accusation. I risked almost everything, and almost lost everything”
With each sentence, the hatred in King Chapman’s eyes became more focused.
“Arunde became a prisoner, Poffret had his neck twisted off, and Eckstedt even has a new king. All the bloodshed and complete turmoil after that, all this originated from the fact that a piece of trash ran away from home!”
The king suppressed his resentment. His gaze was vicious, like he was going to destroy someone in the next second.
There was a few seconds of silence in the carriage, as though reminding them of the solemness of that moment.
The prince closed his eyes gently and opened them slowly.
“But what Nuven did not expect was that his nephew in Black Sand Region would end his life and take the crown at a time when he just began to lay things out. That’s why you’re sitting here and telling me all this.” While he stared at the king, Thales’ gaze became calm and unperturbed.
In the carriage, King Chapman slowly stopped panting.
“Not just me, Thales.” King Chapman leaned back in the carriage seat. His gaze was ferocious. “You, too.”
Thales narrowed his eyes.
“Don’t forget that we both forged my crown together,” the king said flatly.
Thales sighed softly and then snorted.
“It’s still totally baseless bullshit.” The prince rubbed his forehead drowsily. “Moriah’s death Everything you told me are just empty words.”
“Yes, so I’m going to stop talking now,” King Chapman said without hesitation. “But I believe that you have your own verdict in mind. You have stayed here for six years and know the people and matters in Dragon Clouds City better than I do. You can absolutely find the truth yourself.”
Thales lowered his head. His mind felt exhausted.
Moriah’s survival, Saroma’s identity, Nuven’s plan, and Chapman who was right in front of him All this gave him the misconception that his mind had exploded due to an information overload.
‘This is too much, I’m so tired.’
“Let’s say that this is true, that means I have been deceived and made a fool of by a dead man for a whole six years?” The prince chuckled, unsure of what to make of it. “This feeling is really quite peculiar.”
Across from him, the king’s expression changed somewhat. “It has only been six years. It’s not too bad.”
Thales raised his head. “What do you mean?”
King Chapman only stared quietly at him and snorted, soft yet cold.
“Don’t forget that generation after generation of ambitious, brutish and bold Eckstedtian archdukes, and group after group of Constellatiate nobles who were good at planning, were experienced and astute… They were all deceived and fooled for over a century by a seemingly mediocre and cowardly King of Constellation who died over a hundred years ago.”
In the next moment, Thales’ gaze became clear and bright again. He stared seriously at Chapman Lampard.
“Lampard, what do you want?”
Finally, King Chapman leaned his body forward and he smiled faintly as though the conversation had just begun.
“Lisban and the Star Killer keep too close a watch on Heroic Spirit Palace, and I can’t approach that young girl. But you can.” The king’s gaze was profound. “You know what I want.”
Thales snorted softly. “It isn’t easy to fight against the condemnation of the four archdukes, is it? Roknee, Lecco, Sentry Region’s Stustel, and Glacier Sea’s Cameron.”
He shrugged. “And that’s why you’re putting in a lot of effort to provoke the Alliance of Freedom, and scheming so that Dragon Clouds City sides with you.”
King Chapman nodded.
“I told you before that this isn’t an easy errand, and that the archdukes are not easy to deal with,” he said seriously. “But if”
Thales cut him off.
“You know, you said six years ago in Heroic Spirit Palace that every single one of you were born into a pair of shackles where the king and the archdukes are in constant battle, shackles that you can’t free yourself from for the rest of your life And that you want to break those shackles.”
Thales spoke in a tone that the king had never heard from him before. It sounded as if he was lamenting something, but there was a faint hint of derision in his voice as well. “I don’t know why, but everything you’re doing now keeps reminding me of King Nuven.”
For a moment, Thales saw that the tendons on King Chapman’s hands tremble slightly.
“A person who wanted to break the shackles binding him racked his brains to study the structure of those shackles, and in the process went mad when he tried to free himself from the game,” Thales said softly. “Then, one day, when he realized that the shackles binding him had already become part of his body, he was no longer able to leave the shackles he once wanted to break.”
Thales subconsciously snorted and asked another question that he had once asked the other king six years ago, “Don’t you feel tired? Or would you say that the pain those shackles give you makes you no longer able to feel its weight?”
King Chapman said nothing. The expression on his face, though hidden in the dim carriage, did not change at all. The silence continued for a long while.
Thales exhaled and laughed despite himself. He directed his gaze elsewhere and paid no more attention to King Chapman, who still had the same expression on his face. Thales shook his head.
“This reminds me that perhaps hisMoriah’schoice to run away from home had allowed him to escape those shackles and be free forever.”
‘Unlike us. Whether Lampard finds him or not, to a certain extent, Moriah Walton, that wilful prince who abandoned everything and fled far away, had already distanced himself from the shackles that came with his bloodline.
‘But what about me? What about Thales Jadestar? When will I be able to free myself from these shackles?’
At that moment, Thales suddenly thought of the Air Mystic, of the Mystic’s hand that reached out to him.
However, the thought was then followed by High Priestess Holme’s seemingly admonishing gaze in Bright Moon Temple.
King Chapman’s expression was so grim that his face practically resembled a thundercloud.
A few seconds later, the king spoke through clenched teeth, and tightened his grip a little on the sword sheath. “Walking away from a problem doesn’t mean that one has escaped it, and avoiding something like a coward doesn’t mean that one is free.
“But he will be.” King Chapman’s tone became even more solemn. There was a terrifying meaning contained in his words. “…After we find him.”
Thales let out a long breath and tried to focus on the vortex of problems at hand instead of his emotions.
“If it’s like you said, that Moriah is still alive” The prince forced himself to remain focused and made himself gaze into the king’s eyes. “Where would he be?”
When he heard this, King Chapman also recovered from his anger and resentment. He tapped his hand-and-a-half sword softly.
“The last we heard, there was an appearance of a person who matched Moriah’s characteristics at the southern part of the Great Desert near the Sera Dukedom. That’s all that we managed to investigate as the location is Constellation’s territory. Even the Secret Room had difficulty reaching it.
“But we won’t stop. Thales, let’s find Moriah together, and then kill him,” the king said coldly. “Regardless of who does it, let’s get rid of this baffling threat, and let Nuven and his little trick that deceived the whole world go to hell.”
King Chapman inched his face closer to the prince. “Thales, after this incident, I hope you understand who your friends and enemies are in this seemingly serene Dragon Clouds City. I hope you understand who sees you as a worthy opponent, and who sees you as a puppet in a comedy.”
Thales curled up the corners of his lips and imagined how the prince was hiding his identity and roaming freely all over the world. He then thought of how Lisban and Nicholas were like.
“You have a very good point there, killing two birds with one stone.”
The prince shook his head and threw him arms open, leaning against the carriage seat with no regards for his image. “But you know, I can still scream loudly right now, or simply shout the truth you just told me inside the carriage to those outside. And then, your words, your secret, and your ideals”
Thales narrowed his eyes. “Will go to hell with you.”
Chapman stared at him without averting his gaze for a long time. The temperature in the carriage seemed to drop to freezing point again.
After an indefinite amount of time, the king said slowly, “Thales, I have a question: Once Moriah returns, what will happen to that little girlfriend of yours?”
Thales’ mood darkened.
“You know the answer. Did you think the ‘kind-hearted’ Lisban and ‘merciful’ Star Killer would give her a certificate of commendation to honor her contributions to Dragon Clouds City’s stability those the six years when she sat in Heroic Spirit Palace pretending to be the archduchess?”
The king continued to laugh coldly.
“If what happened to Moriah is true, this secret won’t be buried together with my death. And one day, together with your enemy, it will deliver a violent backlash against you and that girl. That is the significance of the choice you’re facing today.”
Thales stared at Chapman without moving. His gaze was dim and without emotion.
‘Choice. Another choice…’ He clenched his fists.
The prince said coldly, “I can totally withdraw myself and watch on the sidelines without doing anything, and all of you can go ahead and play this game of chess.”
The king laughed.
“You won’t, Thales. You’re different compared to many people.”
King Chapman shook his head confidently. His gaze was as sharp as knives as he stared straight into Thales’ heart. “As long as you have the ability, strength, and belief, you won’t withdraw yourself and be impassive. You won’t leave a hell behind you and watch apathetically as other people cry out in pain from it, all while hypothetically consoling yourself about it being the best and most realistic choice.”
In the darkness, he raised his hand and pointed outside the carriage at the highest point in Dragon Clouds City. “Or else, six years ago, you wouldn’t have come walking right into the trap and return to Heroic Spirit Palace.”
Thales clenched his fists with growing strength, almost tearing into the skin of his palms.
‘Damn it.’ He sighed wearily in his heart.
No one else spoke in the carriage and the silence lasted for a long time. It was as though a century passed.
“If you have nothing else to say, then let’s end this talk.” Thales shook his head with a gloomy look. “I’m already tired.”
“Of course.” Staring at him quietly, King Chapman simply nodded as though they were not enemies at all. “If you know where to find me.”
When he heard this, Thales snorted.
“Still unwilling to leave? You know, the storm is coming, the oncoming days in Dragon Clouds City won’t be peaceful ones.”
At that moment, the king’s gaze became filled with subtle emotions. There was an indescribable meaning contained in his eyes.
“Thales, I’m not the one who’s unwilling to leave,” Chapman Lampard said while staying calm. His words provided much food for thought. “As you said, the storm is coming.”
Thales furrowed his eyebrows, his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. He then rose and placed his hand on the carriage door.
“Another thing, Thales.”
With his back to the king, Thales stilled, then turned a little. King Chapman tilted his head and stared at him with a strange gaze.
“Six years ago before Broken Dragon Fortress, you dared to risk your life to charge towards the opposite direction, gambling with me without leaving any route to retreat on that ruthless battlefield.
“But six years later, today in the tranquil Dragon Clouds City, you don’t dare to wage with the archduchess’ life, don’t dare to stay stubborn, or gamble to the end with me on this battlefield that has a storm brewing right under it.”
The king smiled and said, “Well, Thales? Could it be that it’s easier to make a decision during a situation of extreme peril and violence compared to a situation where it is confusing and has indistinguishable elements mixed in? Or is it harder to choose when it involves someone else’s life instead of your own?”
Thales gritted his teeth and scowled.
‘That was different. That year, me and the people by my side were all doomed. That was why I could risk my life without hesitation since I had practically no hope for survival.
‘But today Saroma’
“Or is it because throughout these six years in Dragon Clouds City, you have become cowardly, hesitant and benevolent?” Chapman asked softly.
He kept his hand on the carriage door, but Thales’ expression turned solemn.
“Lampard, we’re different.” The second prince did not turn around. He still only had his side-profile turned towards Lampard, and he said coldly, “You are a cold and heartless gambler.”
King Chapman raised his eyebrows a little.
“Then, what about you? What are you?”
This time, Thales did not hesitate anymore. He pushed open the carriage door and walked down without turning back.
“Thales, be careful.” The king’s voice echoed indistinctly from behind him. “When your enemies smell your weakness”
Thales shut the carriage door without a pause, keeping all the words in the carriage shut behind him. He had heard enough today, there was no need shake up his mood any further.
Remembering the Black Prophet’s horrifying look, Thales’ heart clenched.
In the carriage, King Chapman stared at the carriage door that was slammed shut. He lowered his head to examine his sword sheath and finished his sentence, seeming nonchalant about how Thales had left.
“…They won’t let us go so easily.”