Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
Once he stepped into the Hall of Heroes, Thales immediately saw the large fireplace, which was inexplicably tied to him through fate, and that black and imposing long pike on the pike rack above it.
In the great hall, many Dragon Clouds City vassals who were qualified to participate in the hearing had already arrived.
Thales observed the scene in the Hall of Heroes and frowned.
The formation of the grand hall had changed. Except for the seat of the archduchess in front of the fireplace, many seats were placed at the two sides of the oval-shaped, stone hall. If anyone sat on them, they would have the side of their bodies face the archduchess, while their heads would be directed to the seats across them. The only space empty was the center of the hall.
Even in this stately place, the Northlanders still presented their barbaric side.
Obviously, there were some nobles who were displeased with their seating, and after they sat, they deliberately adjusted their seats by one or two steps, as if they were challenging the one who assigned their seats to them. While he watched from afar, the originally three-sided pocket shape the meeting place adopted to hold its regular meetings gradually turned messy, and, in addition to the noise of the first-time greetings between nobles, or the meeting of old friends, the great hall turned into quite a chaotic mess.
This made the prince think about the banquet in Eckstedt.
However, Thales noticed that, the six nearest seats to the left and right side below the archduchess’ seat were left untouched. It did not matter how many vassals were shifting their seats at the back, no one dared overtake or even touch the six seats.
‘Six’ Thales, who came prepared, knew what that signified.
As Thales entered the hall, the noise from the Northlanders dwindled.
The Prince of Constellation’s arrival startled many. Several nobles of Northland turned their heads and stared at this foreign prince who seldom appeared in these past six years, and there were all kinds of reactions on their faces.
The prince lowered his head to purposely avoid eye contact with these people.
Under the guidance of Lord Justin, he came to a seat which was located at the most remote spot in the hall, far away from the closely gathered Northland nobles, Ralf was behind him, leaning against the wall while he stood.
“Listen, just lay low like this,” Lord Justin said coldly, “I’ve already given instructions to the people around us. If anything happens, they know what to do”
The words of the lord died away in his throat.
A seat was dragged across the hall and the sound from that action echoed noisily in the air. A young man brusquely dragged his seat to Thales’ side and sat down with a loud plop.
Thales was also stunned.
“I never liked the Northlanders’ meetings. Every one of them is like a fight between gorillas.” A familiar voice came from his side. He chattered incessantly and vividly, “You know, those male gorillas in rut beat their chests, and roar at their enemies”
When Thales became dumbfounded, Lord Justin’s face turned very unpleasant.
“Viscount Ian Roknee, you are the diplomat from the City of Faraway Prayers, your seat does not belong here.”
At Thales side, Ian, who was learning how to beat his chest like a gorilla, formed an exaggerated ‘O’ with his lips. The viscount retracted both his hands, and nodded, completely unbothered and uncaring.
“I know, my seat should be there.”
Following his finger, Thales turned to the other side of the great hall. The Raven of Death, Nate Monty, whom he saw days ago, was sitting in a relaxed and crass manner on the seat belonging to the diplomat from the City of Faraway Prayers while laughing loudly.
Behind him were the nobles from the diplomat group of the City of Faraway Prayers. They were glaring from afar at their figurative leaderIan Rokneeat Thales’ side with steely looks.
“I promised to introduce him to a few ‘easy-going’, pretty widows from Dual Wind City, only then did Monty agree to help me hold that group of old coots back.” Ian sighed. “But I did not tell him that the people of West Billow in Dual Wind City have a different standard of beauty from ours.”
Thales sighed, he already had no words to say to this improper heir of the City of Faraway Prayers.
As the Prince of Constellation and the group of people from the City of Faraway Prayers took their seats, the unique clamor belonging to the Northlanders returned to the great hall once again.
It lasted until the messenger’s loud voice reverberated throughout the hall and stunned the crowd.
“The Count of Phalen Castle, Shawlon Cotterson!”
The discussion and the noise in the great hall instantly diminished. Thales and Ian turned their heads.
Following this declaration, a man of around fifty years old walked into the hall. This noble had very clear features belonging to a Northlander. He was actually in martial attire, and sharp glares shone in his eyes, making Thales unable to help but frown.
The nobles present all turned toward the large door. Many nodded in respect to this Count of Phalen Castle, or greeted him respectfully.
The man named Cotterson moved forward in large strides, and with an arrogant expression, responded to the greetings from the other vassals. Under the eyes of all the nobles, he walked to the frontmost section of the stone hall until he reached one of the six seats nearest to the archduchess, then sat down on it without hesitation.
“The ball is starting,” Ian whispered into Thales’ ear in a voice dripping with sarcasm. Thales glared at him.
Cotterson was the beginning of many. Following the messenger’s declaration, a few nobles, whose importance was immediately distinguishable, walked into the great hall one after the other, as if they had agreed to come together. They would either walk quickly or slowly into the hall.
“The Count of Wild Woodland, Stone Lyner!” Count Lyner seemed to not be much younger than Cotterson, he slowly walked to the six most highly ranked seats. He was dressed infitting clothes, his expression was solemn, and he looked straight ahead, as if he was going to battle.
“Wild Woodland is near Defense City and Sentry Region. It is the land with the worst conditions in Dragon Clouds City. It may bear the name of a woodland, but it is actually just filled with barren trees on a frozen plain. It is worse than Defense City,” Ian introduced the place softly to Thales. “Like its name, the people there are a bit ‘wild’.”
Thales raised his eyebrows.
The messenger continued announcing names.
“The Count of Flatiron County, Bruggin Hearst!” This was the youngest guest. He was around thirty years old and had a golden beard. There was a smile on his face, complementing his clear, sharp facial features, and making a deep impression on people.
“Flatiron County is on a road you must pass from Prestige Orchid to Dragon Clouds City. I believe you passed it when you came here.” Ian looked at the young Count Hearst with a complicated face. “My God, I’m really jealous of this guy, I heard he inherited his title and his fiefdom when he was ten.”
Thales rolled his eyes at him.
“The Count of Hunting County and Origami County, Kahn Karkogel!”
This middle-aged guest had a medium-sized stature. He looked indifferent and his steps were slow. He was without an attendant and he walked forward alone. It was as if he was not moved by external things, but what caught people’s eyes was his left sleeveit was empty. The count had one arm.
“Whoa, Count Karkogel, a man of significance.” Ian’s voice traveled into Thales’ ears. “The man who was best at fighting under King Nuven. In King Nuven’s countless declarations for war, many were just empty threats, but once the Hunting County and the Origami County mobilized their troops, that meant Dragon Clouds City is serious about war.”
Thales could not help but look at the one-armed count a few more times.
“The Count of Rubble Hill and the Laughter Court County, Holt Nazaire!”
This was an aged noble. With the support of his attendant, he walked forward slowly, but the nobles on either side of him subconsciously avoided, clearing the path for him to walk.
“Be careful, Thales.” Ian looked at the somber-faced old noble who walked in. “Nazaire. This old grandpa is someone from King Nuven’s generation. He, together with Count Lisban, are called the left- and right-hand men of King Nuven.
“I heard that King Nuven once made a joke to his underling: If Lisban betrayed Dragon Clouds City, then King Nuven will lead the army to stop the revolt in anger until this prime minister, whom he trusts the most, pays the price.” Ian then changed his topic. “But if Nazaire betrayed Dragon Clouds City, then what King Nuven should do is to go back home and sleep.”
Thales was momentarily stunned. “Why?”
Ian shook his head and said, “Because Dragon Clouds City would be doomed.”
Thales knitted his brow a little. “Would it be that serious?”
Ian whispered into Thales’ ear, “These five people, as well as Regent Lisban, were the six most trusted and most important counts when King Nuven was alive. The power behind every one of their families is equivalent to a small nation, and these six people can gather an army of twenty thousand to start a war without hesitation. They are almost two times bigger than the House of Walton.”
“They look like they are experienced rulers,” Thales said softly.
“King Nuven did not allow anyone who was low in ability and lazy to be under him. So, you see, these are the people who helped spread his name in Dragon Clouds City to all of Eckstedt during their decades of serviceunlike our City of Faraway Prayers, never mind, forget it. In conclusion…” Ian shook his head. “This is also one of King Nuven’s legacies.”
Thales studied the five counts carefully, and said, “This is why Dragon Clouds City is Eckstedt’s most powerful and feared force.”
“That is in the past, when King Nuven was still alive.” Ian shook his head in disagreement. “And now? Hmph. For the past six years, except for King Nuven’s funeral, the five counts had never set foot in Dragon Clouds City. They always only sent envoys to the hearing until today.”
Thales nodded. But immediately, he heard the interaction between the five counts.
“How is your territory, Kahn?” Count Cotterson, in martial attire, spoke with a voice that was as cold as steel. “Since His Majesty wrung their former archduke’s neck, the bastards from Beacon Illumination City dared not come to pick a fight with you again, right?”
“Enough with the small talk.” The one-armed Count KahnKarkogel did not care about being tactful with Cotterson, and his facial expression was unchanged. He looked as if he did not want to associate himself with anyone. “We all know why we are here. Stop wasting our time with pleasantries.”
Cotterson, who had just invited ridicule upon himself, snorted coldly and turned his head away.
“The Soul Slayer Pike is still as sharp as before.” Nazaire, who seemed to be the most experienced, focused his eyes on the Soul Slayer Pike behind the archduchess’ seat and sighed. “But the one seated under it is no longer there, the one we served is no longer there.”
These words made the expression of the five counts turn gloomy in unison.
Nazaire shook his head and his gaze was sorrowful. “When was the last time we gathered together?”
Behind him, Count Lyner, who was as cold as steel, answered coldly, “Six years ago… First, it was Constellation, then it was the calamities, then the dragon came, and then Black Sand Region When we arrived with our men, only His Majesty’s funeral was left.” He then shifted in his seat violently, as if his surroundings were making him uncomfortable
The five of them remained quiet for a moment.
“Funny.” Before Lyner could finish speaking, he shook his head coldly. “Our common-elected king is chosen in such a ridiculous fashion. With just five outsiders and Lisban, the lord of our territories is decided, making the greatest joke out of the mightiest Dragon Clouds City in Eckstedt”
“Lyner!” The gold-bearded Count Hearst interrupted him angrily. “Stop, for the sake of the Sunset Goddess! Save your complaints for later!”
Upon hearing this, a gloomy feeling came suddenly to Thales heart.
‘Saroma. What kind of vassals did you face during these six years?’
Count Lyner then sneered lightly and disdainfully, but just as he was about to speak
“The Count of Eagle County and the Blood Lands!”
The voice of the messenger came once more. “Regent of Dragon Clouds City, Ciel Lisban!”
Finally, Thales saw someone familiar. The level-headed and serious Count Lisban walked into the great hall, bringing with him a dignity and bearing that allowed no one to argue with him.
The moment Regent Lisban entered, all the nobles quieted down, a spectacle that was different from when the other counts entered. Only the five counts at the frontmost seats showed no signs of weakness when they looked at him.
Count Lyner even sneered softly.
Regent Lisban walked to the front of the five counts. His expression was indifferent. “Everyone, welcome. It is my pleasure to have you here.”
“Not you, Ciel.” Count Nazaire shook his head, revealing a hideous smile. “Not me. We came to respond to the ruler’s call.”
Lisban turned and looked at Nazaire.
“Of course,” the Regent said gently, he turned and walked past the seats of those five people, then sat in the place nearest to the archduchess.
The other four did not even look at Lisban, as if he did not belong with them. He was not one of their comrades.
As he watched the interaction between the six counts, Thales frowned.
“Ian.” The prince shifted his seat one step towards Ian and said softly to him, “Tell me that Dragon Clouds City is not your only hope in this matter.”
Ian, who was waving at his diplomat group, was slightly surprised.
He turned, showing a puzzled face. “What?”
Thales’ expression was firm. “Tell me.”
Ian wrinkled his brow and it seemed like he thought of something. “You look like you don’t quite trust us.”
Thales shook his head and his emotions were indecipherable. “Just tell me.”
Ian narrowed his eyes. In the end, the heir of the City of Faraway Prayers let out a light snort. “Of course not. Dragon Clouds City is just one of our possible plans.”
His expression became a little dark. “At this time, my older sister should have probably taken her mission to Defense City.”
Thales remained silent for a while.
“Defense City. Archduke Lecco.”
He thought of that bald archduke and the fuss he made in this great hall six years ago. “Of course, twenty years ago, they were also a part of the reinforcements to attack the Alliance of Freedom.”
The prince raised his head. There was worry on his face. “But if you can think of this, then Lampard would have thought of it as well. Just like how he predicted you would come to Dragon Clouds City.”
Ian whistled, then waved his hand, completely unconcerned. “My sister will have her ways. Who knows, maybe she will use that big pair of tits to seduce the old baldy to send his troops, or use her mouth. Who knows which mouth she will be using, though.”
Thales frowned. He noticed that Ian’s gaze slowly froze on a spot in the air, as if he was thinking about something else.
“You don’t seem to like your older sister.”
Ian snortly lightly, as if he did not agree with Thales’ statement.
“Don’t get me wrong, we used to be very close to each other.” The younger Roknee looked at the stone carving of the Cloud Dragon Spear above his head, then scoffed gently from his nose, “But now, we’re like enemies.”
His expression was one of extreme mockery.
Thales raised his eyebrows. “Do you mind if I ask why?”
Ian did not speak, he just cast a glance at Thales with a complicated expression.
At the same time, a shout louder than before came from the door.
“Raikaru’s and Chara’s bloodline…”
The Northlanders in the great hall all turned. All the Northlanders stood while countless chairs knocked against each other. The six counts did so as well. They all grimly clenched their right fists and pressed it tightly over their chests.
“The heir of the Dragon Spear…”
Ian sighed and slowly stood up. Thales, too, quickly stood up because many pairs of displeased gazes urged him to do so.
“The ruler of Dragon Clouds City…”
Amid the thunderous shouting, Thales saw a young figurefrom a gap through the many layers of shoulderswalk into the hall slowly with heavy footsteps.
That young lady whom he knew like the back of his hand walked past the vassals at both sides to her seat, accompanied by Nicholas.
The only seat.
The young girl’s face was calm. Her demeanor was graceful as she moved forward.
“You ask me why?” Ian’s voice traveled into his ears. “See, this is why.”
The Prince of Constellation was suddenly shocked and he turned his head around. “What?”
Ian lifted the corner of his lips and revealed a mocking smile.
“Six years ago, Eckstedt welcomed her first archduchess in history, in Dragon Clouds City, in this great hall.” Ian’s gaze grew cold. He turned and looked at the Soul Slayer Pike above the fireplace, he then looked again at the young girl walking slowly down the middle of the great hall, his voice was filled with a sad tone.
“ArchDUCHESS… From that moment on, my dearest twin sister, the woman who was nurtured with me in my mother’s womb, no longer saw me as her dearest brother.”
Thales was dumbfounded.
*Thud, thud, thud”
The Archduchess’ steps continued among the crowd. She withstood the numerous wanton gazes from the men, passed through them while they discussed about her openly and discreetly, walked past the crude tiles of the historical Heroic Spirit Palace, and into the place where those qualified to enter for hundreds of years had only been men of nobility. Step by step, she walked to her seat.
There was a moment where Thales wished that he did not have sensitive hearing and clear vision… because he could see the men in the hallregardless of their age and statusstaring at the archduchess’ figure and her face from top to bottom, and from her front to her back without any fear.
He even heard them sneer, joke, make dirty comments about the archduchess’ figure, face, and even her…
A strange anger rose in his heart, making Thales involuntarily clench his fists tight.
…And tighter still.
But the young lady was still moving forward.
*Thud, thud, thud*
Her feet stepped over the tiles of Heroic Spirit Palace that were hundreds of years old, and each time her feet landed, the sound would travel very clearly into the people’s ears. The tiles in Heroic Spirit Palace were still as solid as ever, just like it had always been these past few yearsstill indestructible.
Still, the young lady continued to move forward.
*Thud, thud, thud*
Her boots continued to step on the tiles. Even if the tiles were never broken or shaken by her steps, she continued on without stop. She would not even back down.
“You know, from that moment on, my sister’s eyes…” Ian’s voice continued to travel into Thales’ ears. The heir of the City of Faraway Prayer’s eyes shone with a dangerous spark.
“That pair of beautiful eyes never again looked upon cosmetics and clothes, at dowry and money, at those young and handsome men who can be her reliance and shelter, at those things which girls should care about and mind about since birth. But she turned her gaze to my father, and to me…”
Thales did not speak.
The young girl was graceful in her demeanor, her facial expression appeared calm, but the sound of her footsteps was still heavy as if they bore a burden that weighed a thousand tonnes.
“You changed the rules, Thales.” Ian’s rate of speech was neither slow nor fast, but was filled with a sad tone that could not be resolved. “You and Lampard together…”
He looked at Thales’ eyes and revealed a gaze that brought discomfort to others. “It was you. All of you took my sister away.”
The young lady finally made it to the stairs leading to the archduchess’ seat. Nicholas stood resolutely on the first step. As her most important personal guard, he could only stand there and was not allowed to take another step forward. The young lady walked up the stairs to her seat, alone.
Once Saroma walked up the steps, the messenger deliberately dragged out his announcement of her arrival and finished his announcements.
“The Archduchess Saroma Walton!”
Under so many gazes, Saroma sat down slowly, but it was difficult to cover up the pale look on her face.
Everyone under the stairsthe vassals affiliated to Dragon Clouds Citylowered their heads and bowed. They showed a sign of respect to their suzerain.
Still, Thales heard. With help of the Sin of Hell’s River, he could listen clearly…
*Thud thud thud*
There was a strong pulse from the archduchess’ chest, and that sound was traveling to his ears without end.
That was Saroma’s heartbeat, lively and full of energy. Even the chaotic voices of the people sitting in the hall could not drown out that sound.
Thales sighed long and hard.
“I see.” Thales sat down. Then, while looking at Ian beside him, he put on a face as if he was deep in thought. “Due to the Alliance of Freedom’s crisis, you came to Dragon Clouds City, and your sister went to Defense City. If you failed”
“No,” Ian cut him off coldly.
The heir of the City of Faraway Prayers had a flame that Thales could not ignore burning in his eyes. “I will not fail. She will be the only one who will fail, only her.”
Thales turned his head around and stared at Ian before he slowly lifted his head. His words were profound.
“You just said that I snatched away your sister?”
Thales sighed long and hard again. He slowly clenched his fists. “You’re right.”
The prince sucked in a deep breath and stared at the archduchess who was trying to force herself to be calm while she sat in the archduke’s seat. “I did indeed snatch away YOUR sister.”
Thales smiled. He turned his head around and cast a glance at the archduchess, ignoring the puzzled Ian.
Just now, when Saroma strode to her seat and when Ian spat out his and his sister’s story hatefully, Thales came to a sudden realization.
‘So, six years ago, Lampard and I… didn’t just come to a compromise in this hall.’