Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
“Is this another joke of yours, clown?”
After a long time had passed, Count Cotterson was the first to speak among the shocked group of vassals.
Under the hostile gazes from around the hall, Ian turned around and smiled happily at the archduchess.
“Answer carefully,” Cotterson’s tone was full of anger and malice. He continued speaking without waiting for Ian’s reply.
“Your answer may kill you.”
Thales, who had been silent, noticed that although most of the nobles and vassals were surprised, there were still a few people who reacted in a unique fashion.
Being the one with the most information at hand, Regent Lisban frowned, while the old-fashioned Nazaire looked stunned. Karkogel, who had always been silent, stared at the archduchess this time. He still remained motionless.
A thought then crossed Thales’ mind. Next to the archduchess was Nicholas, who glared at the Prince of Constellation in the corner with a cold expression.
That murderous look on his face seemed to say, ‘You.
‘I know it’s you, young prince.’
Thales showed a friendly and weak smile as he faced the ever present vigilance and hostility from the Star Killer.
“These are my sincerest sentiments,” Ian interrupted his thoughts. “I am here”
Ian did not get to finish his arrogant words.
“How dare you?”
This time, the person who spoke was the golden-bearded Count Hearst. He was obviously not as calm as most of his colleagues. He leaned forward and clasped his knees tightly as he gnashed his teeth. His gaze traveled back and forth between the overwhelmed archduchess and the smug Ian.
“In Dragon Clouds City? Insulting our fief lord in front of her vassals?”
“I cannot see how this is insulting.” Ian rolled his eyes. He looked at the ceiling and spread his hands in a relaxed but resigned fashion.
“More than six hundred years ago, Kulgon the Seeker was the most powerful and trusted knight of King Raikaru. He was sent to conquer the most remote and unruly western side of the peninsular, so is it strange that their blood descendants, the Roknee Family and the Walton Family, get married?
“At least I am more qualified than all of you here, correct?”
Many of the nobles let out disdainful and hateful snorts. Thales could even hear the creaking of their fists.
Thales glanced at the vassals in the hall and concluded that Ian had caused the people to erupt in anger.
Count Nazaire, who had led the conversation earlier, coughed heavily, and the vassals kept quiet.
“I believe that Archduke Roknee did not give us any relevant reminders regarding this,” the old count said slowly.
“So, I suppose this is just your personal impulse?”
In front of Nazaire, Ian put away the disrespectful expression on his facea rare sightand nodded demurely.
“Oh, about my father… I do not think he will object to this.”
Count Nazaire glanced at the archduchess. Whether intentionally or not, it was unknown.
Saroma could only stare forward in a daze as the conversation went on. Her thoughts were muddled.
“My Lady, I think we should call it a day,” the Regent of Dragon Clouds City spoke steadily. “This visitor from the City of Faraway Prayers is asking too much.”
Lisban was standing on the vassals’ side, a rarely seen sight. He looked coldly at the relaxed Ian. His words were impolite, “There may need to be a change in the envoy for negotiations between the City of Faraway Prayers and Dragon Clouds City.”
The moment this was said, the diplomat group from the City of Faraway Prayers became as anxious as ants on a hot pan.
However, Ian laughed out loud.
“Asking too much?”
The Viscount of the City of Faraway Prayers appeared to have heard the most boring joke. “Do you not see it? I am using the victory against the Alliance of Freedom to propose to the archduchessthis is a good deed that will ensure a win-win situation.”
Immediately, there were disdainful scoffs and curses from the vassals.
“Win-win? Good deed? I am impressed you can even say that.” Count Lyner, who had an indifferent expression the entire time, continued in order to get straight to the heart of the problem, “Dragon Clouds City does not need your charity, and we are not so kind as to let people take advantage of us so that we can satisfy the despicable thoughts of the City of Faraway Prayers.”
“Despicable thoughts?” Ian huffed in contempt. “Who was the count who tried to force the archduchess into marriage using army deployment as the condition? Who’s the more despicable one here?”
He narrowed his eyes and shook his head. “It is you, the influential men of Dragon Clouds City.”
Count Lyner looked at him in silence and did not utter a single word.
On the other hand, Count Cotterson’s face became gradually contorted.
A few seconds later, Count Cotterson’s voice rang out loud, and it was laced with hatred as well as anger.
“Listen carefully, you shameless clown.”
Cotterson stared fiercely at Ian.
“When you go back, just tell your father, ‘Dragon Clouds City is not the City of Faraway Prayers. The tradition of marrying the lowly troubled citizens of West Billow for political reasons is not popular here.'”
With this statement, low, mocking voices echoed from the vassals of Dragon Clouds City.
Ian’s gaze darkened and his shoulders quivered.
Thales narrowed his eyes. ‘Wait a minute, the Roknee Family is clearly a famous noble family in Northland, but why did Cotterson talk about them marrying the lowly troubled citizens of West Billow for political reasons?’
Thales glanced at Ian, who had an unpleasant expression on his face. He thought about what Ian said about his mother being a native of the City of Faraway Prayers.
“Lord Ian, we all know your goal. But you know, we are not just talking about marriage and war.” Regent Lisban stood in the middle of the hall. He used his gaze to warn everyone there to stay put.
He then said to Ian, “This is politics.”
Ian sighed. The grimace on his face faded away, and he chuckled. “What I’m talking about is politicsthe politics of marriage and war.”
Count Lisban did not speak. He cast a glance at Thales, which was unexpected from him.
The prince felt anxious under Lisban’s gaze.
Did this old man know what they were up to?
“Forgive me for being rude, Count Lisban, but” Ian shrugged and slowly began to speak, “Why are you all in such a hurry to talk on behalf of the archduchess?”
In the hall, the faces of the vassals, including Lisban, changed.
All eyes were back on Saroma, but the latter only had a sullen look on her face. She did not say a single word.
The heir to the City of Faraway Prayers had a solemn expression, as though he had changed from a cynical young master to the calm Viscount Ian,
“Is it not you who claimed that you wanted to show the cruel side of the world to her?”
Ian lifted his head and looked at the archduchess on the stage with a serious gaze.
“Saroma, I am speaking to you as the heir to the City of Faraway Prayers.
“I only accept answers from you.”
His voice was cold and straight to the point.
Saroma instinctively bit her lower lip.
Count Cotterson, who had become livid again, was about to speak, but Lisban and Nazaire held up their hands at the same time, stopping him.
Cotterson understood their gazes.
This was not their turn to speak.
Lisban and Nazaire simultaneously looked up at Saroma, waiting for her response.
The air in the hall seemed to be frozen, and it no longer moved.
On the stage, the pale Saroma’s breathing quickened, and she glanced around at the people in the hall until she met Thales’ gaze.
Thales could understand her gaze.
It was that gaze he was once so familiar with, that panicked and awkward gaze.
The Prince of Constellation smiled and gently raised his fist before placing it against his chest.
‘You can do it, Saroma.
‘You can do it.’
The vassals still stared at her closely, and their eyes were full of scrutiny and inspection, like how one would look at a stranger.
Amid the chaotic situation, Saroma and Thales’ eyes met.
Thales bowed his head and sighed in his heart. ‘Of course, Saroma, if you can’t’
He looked at his right palm. On his palm were two scars left behind by a dagger when he was young.
He took a deep breath. ‘It’s okay, I am here.
‘I am your last card.’
After a few seconds, the archduchess stopped biting her lip. She curled up her lips slightly and nodded.
Her tensed face finally relaxed.
“My vassals, their meaning is very clear” Saroma exhaled and said with a straight face, “Viscount.”
She spoke slowly, one word at a time, “The marriage between us is impossible.”
There was a change in Ian’s expression.
As if someone had opened the window, the air in the Hall of Heroes finally started to flow again.
Thales could feel many of the vassals breathing a sigh of relief.
The six counts reacted in an especially unique way. Nazaire looked at Lisban on the opposite again, but the regent just avoided his gaze.
This made Nazaire fall into deep thought.
Saroma lowered her head and took a deep breath. “I am very grateful for your appreciation and your decision to court me, but after all, you are the heir of the City of Faraway Prayers, and I am the Archduchess of Dragon Clouds City. Even someone with as little knowledge as I knows this is something that has never been seen before in history.”
Under the much friendlier gazes of the vassals, the archduchess cleared her throat. She used the energy she had when she answered questions in Hicks’ lessons and slowly spoke.
“Our abrupt marriage will lead to unexpected consequences: Eckstedt may have an archduke in the future, and at the same time, obtain the right of inheritance to two territories as well as titles. This will make the whole kingdom unbalanced and cause unnecessary trouble for us”
But she was interrupted by Ian’s soft chuckle.
“So you’ll just be manipulated by your vassals and let them make your decisions, Saroma?”
Thales saw Count Nazaire and Count Lisban frown again.
Ian clicked his tongue and shook his head, then his voice rose.
“Oh no, no, dear Saroma.” The viscount raised his index finger, waved it, and sighed. “Don’t think about your worries and concerns first, think about the consequences you are about to face. There is no point in worrying about the imbalance of the kingdom when the position you are in right now is not even stable.”
Saroma was stunned, and the expressions of the vassals turned even more unpleasant.
Ian’s gaze swept past the six counts, and he sneered. “Oh, ‘Archduchess’, you know exactly what the dilemma you’re facing is. Your status is not stable, and the Alliance of Freedom is a rare opportunity for you after your six-year rule. If you fail, the damage to you is far more than just your reputation and your family’s reputation.”
Ian’s smile had become a little disconcerting, and his words had also become sharp, “And today will be especially different. You have a hearing, plus all your vassals are gathered. You are faced with uncontrollable vassals, but you are still only able to stand by and do nothing, allowing them to easily dismiss your commands. You will end up wasting this rare opportunity.
“From then on, the entire Dragon Clouds City, and even the entire kingdom will know that you are a ruler with no power. Your vassals will act worse than before. They will be even more enthusiastic in forming their own armies and they will refuse to obey you.
Thales could see that the expressions of the six counts had changed.
The archduchess did not say a word.
“Saroma, you wanted to avoid becoming an archduchess who has no opinions of her own, who can only be manipulated, and be surrounded by wolves,” said the heir of the City of Faraway Prayers. “Is this not your purpose of gathering your vassals today to participate in this council hearing?”
“So, my good girl,” Ian said plainly, “think about my proposal and think about what you can get. As long as this war is fought by us, by the City of Faraway Prayers, the inaction of the Archduchess of Dragon Clouds City will only become a romantic and shy support to the City of Faraway Prayers. You can be freed from the blame of humiliating your family, and the Waltons’ fame will not be damaged.”
Ian smiled a little. “And after my victory, this will be a beautiful discussion in Eckstedt. It will turn from a depressing classic of a suzerain and her vassals going against each other to a romantic story of love.
The hall was quiet for a moment.
The archduchess still kept her complicated gaze fixed on Ian, as though she was thinking about his proposal.
Count Lyner and Count Cotterson looked at each other. Both of them had a bad feeling about the situation.
After what seemed like a century, Saroma slowly raised her head, and her tone was rather desolate, “Yes, at that time, Iwill have to marry you in the name of love.
“Because you are the sincerest suitor who has defended my father’s honor for me, am I right?”
In that instant, all the vassals stopped breathing together.
“My Lady!” The young Count Hearst could no longer bear it. His golden beard was quivering. “I swear, as long as the Hearst Family is still here, no one can force you into anything against your will!”
Saroma gave him a reluctant smile.
“Then, can you rely on these people?” Ian pulled his head up.
“If marriage can be used to restore the reputation of the family, then why is it that the City of Faraway Prayers is not a better choice?”
Young Roknee, who acted as if he had already won, smirked and shook his head. “Also, with the support of the City of Faraway Prayers, those with the desire to look down on your authority in Dragon Clouds City will have to consider the cost of doing so in the future.”
The atmosphere in the hall changed again as soon as Ian stopped speaking.
The vassals’ whispers on both sides were now softer and much shorter.
Nonetheless, Regent Lisban and Count Nazaire both remained silent.
Thales took a deep breath and moved his scrutinizing gaze away, driving the unnecessary thoughts out of his brain.
‘So far, everything is going well.
‘As long as there are no incidents’
No, it was not wise to be too optimistic.
He gritted his teeth.
‘Think about all the incidents that could occur.
‘For example, the relationship between Lisban and the vassals is far worse than imagined.
‘The impression Northlanders have towards women are etched deep into their bones, and it is far greater than their thoughts of their loyalty to their mission, their glory, and their duty to the archduchess as well as Dragon Clouds City.’
Another example would be the one he was worried about the most. Once he thought of it, Thales narrowed his eyes as he looked at Ian. ‘This Viscount of the City of Faraway Prayers could suddenly change his mind.’
Perhaps, getting a marriage agreement with Dragon Clouds City was more profitable than getting Dragon Clouds City’s aid?
Thales was wracking his brains, thinking about every possible incident that could occur.
‘I hope I don’t have to take that step. I hope
‘Please let there be no incidents.
Thales turned around and cast a glance at the entrance.
Ralf noticed his gaze and replied with a questioning look.
Thales shook his head and gestured.
“No, never mind.”
They were fine, for now.
Ian sighed and shook his head at Saroma with great elegance. “In addition, I hope you understand that at least compared to your vassals, I do not mean to force you into anything.
“What we need is just an emblem that Dragon Clouds City is standing with the City of Faraway Prayers, and a symbol that the Roknees are fighting for the Waltons.”
He nodded very amiably. “If the marriage is too hasty, we can also omit this step first. But with this step in mind, I will first get your permission to take the Waltons’ Dragon Spear Flag. I am not in a hurry. Once I return victorious, I will then send forth that romantic request again.”
The extremely solemn looking Saroma could not help but feel slightly surprised after hearing that remark.
She spoke hesitantly, “Viscount, you are very confident.”
Ian laughed. “Because I believe that no suitor is more qualified to stand beside you than a person who has personally defended your family’s honor.”
He looked around at the audience and laughed under the wary gazes of the vassals of Dragon Clouds City.
“Besides, which suitor is more trustworthy than the one who has come forth during times of crisis without hesitation to stand in front of you, protect you from all harm, and fight for your safety and glory endlessly?”
‘In times of crisis
‘Protect from all harm
Saroma sank into a daze for a short period of time. She subconsciously lifted her head and looked in Ian’s direction.
Ian frown as if he had thought of something.
Thales lowered his head and avoided the gaze of that one person, feeling extremely uncomfortable.
He unfurled his fists and tried his best to get rid of all unnecessary thoughts. He forced down all the unnatural feelings in his heart.
Yet, when he looked down, he saw Ian’s boots. It was not the same as the boots worn by those nobles in Northland.
At that moment, Thales could only think that the boots were really ugly.
“This is a very easy choice,” Ian said calmly as he straightened his collar.
In the hall, the vassals saw the archduchess stare at the guest from the City of Faraway Prayers with a complex look. Their expressions changed.
Count Cotterson’s disgusted gaze had escalated into hatred, and Count Hearst was gritted his teeth so much that the sound was audible. He was doing his best to suppress his anger.
“No, My Lady.” Count Hearst gasped louder and louder. “Please reconsider”
“Your Grace, I am sorry.” Nevertheless, the archduchess just stretched out her hand and shook her head as she interrupted Hearst.
She put away her contemplative expression, cleared her throat, and turned to Ian again.
Saroma then said, “That is why you are using your proposal for my hand to fight in the war? So that you can protect my name and my power, then have the both of us married?”
Ian’s eyes brightened, and he nodded. He continued to speak in a drawl, “Exactly. With this reason, I can bring the Cloud Dragon Spear Flag to Fort Libert. Not only will you not need to waste a single soldier to spread your influence in Eckstedt and redeem your family’s honor, you will also be able to obtain the strongest support. The City of Faraway Prayers’ wide and spacious territory will become your support. There is no longer any need for you to be If you understand what I mean.”
The entire hall felt like an icy plain with Eternal Oil flowing in it. The instant the oil was lit, the flames of anger and cold hatred rose at the same time.
“Who in the world does he think he is?” Cotterson’s face was sullen. He hissed to Count Lyner, who also had a frozen expression on his face.
The vassals from Dragon Clouds City felt their emotions flare in anger. Thales could even hear some people cracking their knuckles.
The envoys from the City of Faraway Prayers all fell into deep thought after being constantly confused by their young master, who never acted according to conventional standards since their journey started.
Thales frowned. He suddenly understood why Ian intentionally sat near him. To protect the safety of the Prince of Constellation, Lord Justin had placed a sufficient number of men in his corner to ward off most of the vassals, or else the tragedy of a Roknee noble dying in Dragon Clouds City would probably spread throughout Eckstedt the next day.
Thales sighed. ‘Right now, the Prince of Constellation may no longer be the most unwelcomed person in Dragon Clouds City, but will we succeed?’
Nazaire, who had not spoken for a long time cast a profound glance at the archduchess. Then, he turned to Ian.
The old count coughed. “I did not expect Kulgon Roknee to have a son like you. He married a local woman. I suppose it can be counted as a win.”
Ian’s expression froze, but he quickly forced a smile.
“Enough!” By the side, Count Lyner coldly said, “If this marriage is about proving Dragon Clouds City and the City of Faraway Prayers’ stance in this battle against the king, then I believe we can find someone of suitable age in the branch of the Walton Family. However, the archduchess has an important task in Dragon Clouds City. She cannot marry you.”
Ian snorted softly.
“Here we go again. You are speaking in the archduchess’ place, as though you are her father or her husband.” The viscount swung his arm, and his gaze became sharp. “But can you really protect her?”
Count Hearst punched into his seat, and a fierce expression appeared on his face. His blond moustache quivered slightly due to the air he exhaled.
“Why are we wasting our time on this?”
Count Cotterson snorted in agreement. “Guards! Send this Westerner out!”
At that moment.
“All of you!”
The archduchess’ clear voice broke off the conflict that was about to erupt. “As masters of the city, let us maintain our civility.”
Thales lifted his head, and along with the other vassals, turned his gaze to Saroma.
‘It’s here. The final strike.
‘Let’s hope that no incidents will happen.’
“Your Grace, I have to say that you’ve given me a very interesting suggestion.” Saroma sighed.
“In fact, it is very tempting.”
The vassals’ expressions instantly turned sour.
“Without sending a single soldier, I can solve the problem regarding the Alliance of Freedom, redeem my reputation, my family’s honor, and even obtain the support of the City of Faraway Prayers.” Saroma forced a smile with great difficulty. She sounded exhausted. “I only need to act in a so-called romantic story.”
Ian bowed cautiously. “It is indeed so.”
Saroma stared at him quietly before she nodded her head.
The vassals could no longer sit still.
Unable to control himself, Hearst cried out in surprise. “My Lady!”
Count Lyner narrowed his eyes and looked towards the regent. “Lisban, as the head as the regent, you have the duty to prevent the Lady from acting blindly.”
But Lisban only pretended to not hear or see anything. He continued to stare at Saroma, and there was an unfamiliar look in his eyes.
“Damn it.” Cotterson felt anger rage in him. “Lisban, we know that the Lady listens to you! Stop pretending to be dead and say something!”
Nazaire frowned as well, but his gaze was directed towards Lisban.
Only Karkogel, who had always been silent, remained quiet. He silently watched everything that went on in the hall.
The remaining vassals reacted differently. They were either feeling worried, anxious, or gritting their teeth.
Thales stared at the expressions on these vassals’ faces and clenched his fist.
Saroma smiled and continued to stared at Ian.
“So, my dear Saroma, have we reached a consensus?” Ian happily raised his hand.
“Are we going to form the great union between the Waltons and Roknees?”
Saroma’s smile grew brighter and even gained a look as if she had been freed from her burdens.
Thales closed his eyes.
Under the gazes of the people in the Hall of Heroes, the Archduchess of Dragon Clouds City gently leaned against her seat and stared at the carving of the Cloud Dragon Spear above her.
Then, her voice drifted into the air like it came from the horizon. “No, Your Grace.”
That instant, sounds of breathing with different rhythms first filled the entire hall, then everyone immediately fell silent.
Ian was dumbfounded. “Saroma, what did you say?”
The next second, Saroma sat up straight, and her expression became stern once more.
Count Nazaire narrowed his eyes, while Count Lisban frowned.
“I said no, Your Grace.”
The archduchess stared at the heir of the City of Faraway Prayers and enunciated her words. “As the Archduchess of Dragon Clouds City, I refuse to accept your suggestion, much less marry you. If the Great Dragon wants to reclaim his honor, there is no need for him to use another person to help him do so.”
“Also, please refer to me as the Archduchess or a Lady,” Saroma said indifferently.
“We are not so close to refer to each other by our names.”