Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
“What do you mean?”
Count Hearst looked at the king with a hostile glare. He was not the only one, all the nobles in the great hall were infuriated by the king’s provocation.
…Except for a few of them.
Thales forced down the tremors in his fists, then stared at King Chapman’s terrifying eyes.
What was he trying to do? Exposing Saroma’s identity at this time is he tired of being a king?
Once he thought of this, Thales looked at King Chapman in anger. There was a warning look in his eyes.
King Chapman noticed Thales’ gaze.
Amid the perplexed and enraged expressions from all the nobles in the great hall, the king let out a cold snort, its meaning was unknown.
‘No.’ Once he saw this, the prince suddenly understood. ‘He doesn’t seem like he wants to fight against these people and cause both sides to be heavily wounded in the end.’
As he watched Saroma, who was stood on the stage, simultaneously perplexed and anxious, Thales kept his desire to interrupt the king under control. His identity was already sensitive enough; speaking more meant making more mistakes, and it would just bring him unnecessary suspicion.
“Because the remaining sixth person, was not an archduke,” King Chapman said coldly, but for some strange reason, his words stopped in that moment. During that second, all faces in the great hall were reflected in the king’s eyes.
A few seconds later, King Chapman put on a pleased look, and the topic of his conversation changed.
“…But an archduchess.”
Thales’ nervous heart then became relieved. He released a breath as if a burden had been released from his shoulders.
At that moment, the young prince swore thatwith the supernatural hearing he was given by the Sin of Hell’s Riverother than himself, he heard at least four other people with different rates of breathing let out a barely noticeable breath once the king said these words.
‘Saroma, Lisban, Nicholas Wait, who is the other one?’
Saroma frowned, not knowing how to respond. The feeling she had right then made her feel as if she was looking at a person, who had always been so strict and cold that he seemed to be made of ice, suddenly try to become humorous.
Derisive snorts came from the nobles in the hall, revealing their displeasure towards the king’s lame joke.
The archduchess stared at the king with a tense expression. Her teeth chattered slightly, but eventually they grew quiet.
“Archdukes and archduchess? This joke is not funny.” Count Lyner’s face darkened. “It only shows that our king lacks respect towards Raikaru’s bloodline.”
“Be careful, Chapman.” Regent Lisbanwhose face had grown cold since earlierretorted brusquely since he was the one who had the greatest right to speak at that moment. “If you joke around too much, one day you might die for one of them…”
The king ignored them.
“Little girl, as the first archduchess in the history of the Northland.” King Chapman gently rubbed the sword handle at his side, he was obviously talking to Saroma, but he cast a look at Thales. No one knew whether he did it intentionally or unintentionally.
“You are walking a path no one has ever walked before. Every word you say and everything you do will shock Northland and Eckstedt.”
Ian, who was busy drowning himself in his failures, could not help but lift his head. Many people frowned at the same time.
The king said nonchalantly, “As the Archduchess of Dragon Clouds City, your marriage will be different from the marriage of any ordinary archduke. It involves a matter of the exchange of many families’ inheritance rights, as well as the issue of the balance of power in Eckstedt.”
Thales stared at the king with a confused look, but within a few seconds, he understood the king’s motive. The prince used every bit of power in him to hide his worry, making an effort to gaze at the archduchess indifferently.
Under the watch of countless people, the king said in a profound manner, “Just like this time, this viscount from the City of Faraway Prayers traversed the distance and came all the way to propose to you, and this has caused me great worry. What if you married someone you are not supposed to marry…? This would shake the foundations of Eckstedt.”
The six counts of Dragon Clouds City looked at each other for a few times, there was worry on their faces.
“I have rejected Viscount Ian’s proposal.” Saroma breathed in slowly, then said with a cold countenance, “You do not need to worry.”
King Chapman sneered in a disapproving manner. “I do not think you understand me, little girl. I have heard plenty of rumours on my journey here.”
The king gestured at Thales with a cold smile. “Such as how you have been protecting this Constellatiate prince, how you grew up with him, and how you helped one another…
“Such as how you lived under the same roof as him, even having meals and going to classes together”
The archduchess was shocked. Thales’ face darkened and he stared fixedly at Saroma.
‘Remain composed, Saroma. You have to remain composed. Remember what I said.’
In the next moment, the king narrowed his eyes and said softly, “You and him Could it be that both of you have slept with each other?”
Once this was said, the hall fell into complete silence.
The archduchess’ lips quivered slightly, but not a word would come out, she could only grind her teeth in anger and shame.
The silence lasted until…
As the people’s expressions changed drastically, the first to react was the former commander of the White Blade Guards who was now in charge of protecting the archduchess.
Nicholas had even disregarded the king’s honorific title. He could not contain his hate for Lampard any longer and lost his composure to shout at the king angrily, “Shameless coward! Are you done being presumptuous? Because I am more than willing to have you”
But he was stopped by Lisban who had a cold look on his face.
“Calm down.” The regent forced down his own anger. “All acts of anger are meaningless.”
Nicholas was not the only one who reacted this way. The once quiet great hall rose into an uproar again.
“What did you say?”
“Kill him, my lords!”
“Bullsh*t! Just because he is the king, it doesn’t mean that he can do anything he wants!”
Under hundreds of curious gazes, Thales tried hard to maintain an indifferent faade, but his hands were holding on to his knees tightly while they were hidden under his sleeves, but his knuckles jutted out clearly.
Among the nobles of Dragon Clouds City, Count Hearst’s golden beard shook violently while he panted fiercely. He could no longer bear this.
Hearst jumped furiously from his seat, and his eyes when he looked at Lampard were full of hatred. “In the name of the Count of Flatiron County, Bruggin Hearst, for the sake of our Lady’s name, Chapman Lampard, I challenge you to a sacred duel!”
He waved his arm, angrily pointing at the king’s nose and rebuked him loudly, “I will have your blood wash away the shame you brought on us, kinslayer!”
This sentence caused the flames of rage among the people in the hall to burn even greater.
Kroesch’s face grew tense. She pushed down on her weapon and stood in front of King Chapman, performing her duties.Viscount Kentvida also frowned. He wanted to walk forward, but she pushed him back.
King Chapman nevertheless only let out a heavy snort. It was as if there was nothing in front of him. The king simply flung his left arm out and pointed at the agitated Hearst from afar.
It seemed like he wanted to respond to the challenge!
The noise in the hall instantly went quiet. But in the next second, the king gently retracted his left arm and pushed Kroesch, who was still in front of him, aside. Then he pushed her sword, which had already been drawn a few inches, right back into its sheath.
“In the name of the King of Eckstedt cum the Archduke of Black Sand Region…” The king stared coldly at Hearst who was trembling with anger, and with a level-headed tone, he said, “I refuse your meaningless challenge with my authority as king, Hearst.”
He then put down his arm to look at the archduchess again with a completely calm expression.
“Hah!” The enraged Hearst roared, “You despicable coward!”
“Calm down, Hearst.” Count Nazaire let out a cold snort and patted his shoulder. He then pushed Hearst, whose face was livid with rage, gently back.
However, the old Nazaire also looked at the king unkindly, “Your Majesty, due to your disrespectful words and misconduct, in the following year, all those who will pass through Rubble Hill and the County of Laughter Court en route to Black Sand Region will be taxed heavily as a sign of our protest.”
King Chapman’s nonchalant attitude changed slightly. The sparkle in his eyes was altered and when he looked at Nazaire, his gaze turned hostile very clearly. His slightly upturned lips revealed his current mood.
Thales lowered his head, revealing a smile that no one could see.
“This so-called king is getting more uncontrollable Count Karkogel, your land is nearest to his,” Count Cotterson said to his partner softly, all while there was a cold look on his face.“I was thinking, if the king met an accident once he’s out of the city and returning to his territory”
“Calm down.” Although furious, the one-armed count shook his head. “Regardless of who makes a move against the king, if he dies within the vicinity of Dragon Clouds City, the one suffering will be the city.”
Count Lyner, who sat next to him, nodded. “Do you think that the other archdukes would be grateful and happy for what we did?”
Count Lyner stared at King Chapman. There was a deep chill in his eyes. “I dare say, while they would mourn for the king’s demise, they would also secretly plot for ways to exploit Dragon Clouds City using that chance.
“After Black Sand Region, we will be the ones who will suffer.”
In the chaos of the great hall, Lisban remained the calmest. He patted Saroma’s arm lightly. “My lady.”
The archduchess sucked in a deep breath and, under the regent’s cold gaze, she managed to control her emotions. “Your Majesty, your words just now were highly inappropriate, it is enough to cause a hatred that will last for many generations between the Walton Family and the Lampard Family.”
King Chapman shrugged.
“Look at your vassals’ reaction, this is what I feared. Sometimes, a marriage between two people could destroy two countries.” The king looked around him and said slowly, “Certain matters bring serious consequences, and they must be stopped beforehand.”
He turned and his gaze became serious, “Or else, judging by how old most of us here are, in this hall Many years later, Dragon Clouds City, and perhaps even all of Eckstedt, might not be able to stop a Constellatiate king from becoming the Regent of Dragon Clouds City.”
These words made the vassals’ breaths grow heavier.
Thales let out a cold snort brusquely, attracting many hostile looks.
This was the condition that King Nuven had given him. Now Lampard was using this as his leverage and a method to stir up the vassals.
“All your vassals may be ashamed of telling that to your face, but as an elder who personally saw you become an archduchess, I cannot pretend to be courteous and polite any longer.” King Chapman looked at Saroma in contempt. She was so livid with anger that she could no longer speak.
“As a king, I must act while I still have the authority, when my words are still effective”
Saroma took a deep breath. “What you mean is”
“Saroma Walton.” The king’s eyes shone with a fierce glare. “In the name of the King of Eckstedt, I hereby order you to hand Thales Jadestar over to me. For Eckstedt, and also for Dragon Clouds City.”
The hall became quiet again. Saroma glared at the king.
“Well, then.” King Chapman raised his head and asked softly, “Your reply?”
‘My reply?’ The archduchess felt it, everyone’s eyes were on her. But their gazes this time were different from before.
Saroma scowled deeply, she bit her lower lips and exchanged a few looks with Lisban. She only felt that the feeling of her cheeks burning was becoming stronger. But she did not dare to meet the young man’s gaze.
At that moment,a long sigh suddenly rose from the crowd. “Aren’t you extending your reach a little too far, Chapman?”
Thales walked out slowly while under the people’s gazes, bringing with him weariness and tiredness. He shook his head. “When did you become so silly as well?”
He looked at the crowd in the great hall disdainfully, then gestured at the archduchess by jutting his bottom lip in her direction in a rude manner.
This immediately caused some of the Northlanders to quite passionately ‘greet’ Thales’ ancestors.
When she saw Thales walk to the center, the archduchess was somewhat stunned.
‘What is he trying to do now?’
“Are things not chaotic enough for you, young prince!” The angry Nicholas, who was in a foul mood, clenched his fists tightly and shouted in an agitated manner, “Shut your mouth!”
But Thales just gave him an unconcerned look, making the Star Killer even angrier.
“I am not being silly.” King Chapman looked at Thales interestingly, then laughed coldly, “But if both of you really fell in love…”
Thales raised his eyebrows.
“Hahahaha.” He laughed in resignation, “Hey, Saroma, that means You’re infatuated in me, is it?”
Saroma stared at Thales’ teasing expression incredulously. She parted her lips, but did not know what to say. She knew by instinct what Thales was going to do.
“Or did you think I’m infatuated in you?” Thales ignored the rebukes and curses of the nobles in the hall, he crossed his arms over his chest and put on an amiable smile.
“If it’s the former, I can only say that I am very grateful for your love”
Thales coughed, then with an indifferent but sincere expression, he continued, “But if it’s the latter”
He sighed slowly. “Saroma, I have to say It’s time for you to put a stop to your girlish dreams.”
Under the eyes of every noble in the hall, the little girl felt a burning sensation on her face. Saroma knew that her expression must be extremely unpleasant at that moment.
‘He’s obviously acting. Yes. I know that It’s for For’
Still, at that moment, the young girl could only feel an indescribable heartache.
As the prince continued speaking, the Northlanders’ gazes on him became even more terrifying. It was hard to tell, at that moment in the great hall, who was more unwelcome between the two, Lampard or Thales.
“Dragon Clouds City protected you for six years, you so-called ‘prince’.” Count Hearst took a deep breath, and his eyes burned with anger. “And this is how you repay us?!”
Thales stopped laughing.
“Protection?” The prince mulled over this word and his expression changed slowly. “I do not know how you could say that with a straight face.
“My greatest enemies, the ones who kept me imprisoned for six years in this place, are you Northlanders who treat me as your bargaining chip, no? Why would you think that I should be grateful to you and that little girl sitting on the seat belonging to the archduchess?”
Saroma’s breathing stilled for a moment. All the people in the great hall stared at Thales with cold expressions. Nicholas was shaking with anger, the red flush on his face did not fade.
The archduchess pursed her lips. She looked sad, and she ignored the countless looks from the people, be it blatant or subtle ones.
‘This is your decision? Your contingency plan? Is this what you meant when you asked me to choose the path best suited for an archduchess?’
But it was King Chapman who watched the prince in that moment, and his expression became more interesting with each passing moment.
Only Nazaire sighed softly. Across from him, Lisban saw what he did, but only frowned and shook his head.
“I understand.” Saroma lifted her head, schooled her face, and spoke with much effort, “Prince Thales, you want to go Black Sand Region, yes?”
Thales stopped smiling.
“Yes, so?” The prince sighed gently. His tone made him sound as if he could do nothing about this situation. “Are you telling me that you cannot bear to part with me now?”
“Bah!” Count Hearst turned his head away as if he was too disgusted to even curse Thales.
The young girl closed her eyes. There was an expression of conflict on her.
Cotterson said angrily, “My Lady, if you give the word, we could still have him leave an arm. It is still not too late for that.”
Karkogel let out a cold snort. “Disgraceful.”
Count Lyner shook his head coldly. “You little bastard, I do not care about how you are collaborating with this kinslayer in secret”
It was right at that moment when the archduchess suddenly opened her mouth, interrupting their conversation.
“Enough, everyone!” Saroma’s voice reverberated in the great hall, then spread outwards. The subsequent silence lasted for a while until the Lady’s clear and solemn voice rose again.
“Then, I wish you a smooth journey, Prince Thales.”
Saroma opened her eyes. Her expression was cold.
At that moment, the Saroma in Thales’ eyes had finally put away that hesitant and mournful look that made her seem as if she had something to say, but could not. Thales’ tensed nerves slowly relaxed in that moment.
‘Very good, Saroma.’ He sighed to himself. ‘Choosing the path most suitable for an archduchess was the right thing to do.’
“He is yours now, King Chapman.” The archduchess’ voice became strong and firm, just like how she dealt with her vassals trying to force her to get married earlier.
No one expressed their disagreement. It was as if all the nobles in Dragon Clouds City had agreed to this decision unanimously.
King Chapman raised his eyebrows slightly. He took in a deep breath, then let out a light snort.
“Very good.” The dignified bearing the king had when he entered the hall returned to him.
The archduchess placed her hands on the armrests. Her words were determined. “With him in your hands, please make sure that Constellation will not cause us to suffer any unnecessary losses while we have our expedition to the west.”
“It is my duty…” King Chapman shook his head in contempt, then looked straight into each of the hostile gazes without fear. “And I will naturally perform it.”
Thales stood where he was and raised the corner of his lips while he watched the indifferent archduchess from afar.
At that moment, Thales’ gaze and the archduchess’ met.
One was calm and seemingly free of burdens, and the other was indifferent and cold.
“Next time, if you have any plans to get married, please inform usthe king and the archdukesand let us take a look at your prospects,” King Chapman said in a satisfied tone, “After all, if you act rashly for your own gains just like this time, I cannot guarantee what sort of chaos the country will fall into because of your actions.”
Lisban spoke respectfully, “Black Sand Region need not worry over matters concerning Dragon Clouds City.”
The king shook his head. “What the archdukes should mind is not something YOU can decide. If you still care about Dragon Clouds City, then remember this.”
The archduchess raised her head and cast the king a cold glance, making King Chapman frown slightly.
“The hearing is coming to end, we will pick another date to discuss matters regarding the expedition to the west,” the archduchess said faintly, “Your Majesty, you do not need to stay here anymore.”
The vassals were exchanging glances with each other filled with complicated emotions.
King Chapman narrowed his eyes slightly.
“And, little girl,” the king said with a profound tone, “As I have spoken, as the first archduchess in history, you are walking down an unexplored path. This path is difficult. You will face challenges and dangers everywhere, and there are always those who do not like change. So I advise you to stay away from those people. Their ways are different from yours, and in the end, they will part ways with you.”
These words upset many of the nobles in Dragon Clouds City.
Saroma’s expression became unpleasant.
“Is it, now? But there is always a first for everything.” The archduchess swept her gaze over everyone in the hall. She hesitated for a moment, then said, “Four hundred years ago, when Queen Erica of Constellation was crowned, no one expected that a country ruled by a woman could have the power to take away our Cold Castle.
“Three hundred years ago, when Lycile Anlenzo became the Countess of Long Chant City, no one could believe this ‘Alluring Archduchess’ could build the first official nation in the Dragon-Kissed Land.
“Forty years ago, when the Empress Dowager Yorwall, Regent of Mane et Nox, reigned over the country, no one could foresee that she would eventually become Queen Yao.”
The crowd in the great hall listened to the archduchess quietly.
“Such a thing has already happened in Constellation, in Mane et Nox, and even in Anlenzo Dukedom” Saroma’s voice was gentle, but her words contained an indescribable strength, “As for Northland, I believe the people will eventually get used to it.”
Thales noticed that behind the king, Kroesch gazed at the solemn archduchess standing on the stage with a complicated expression.
King Chapman seemed slightly surprised. After a few seconds, he nodded, revealing a pleased look. “I will remember today.”
“Of course.” Saroma nodded. She avoided looking at Thales and said in a low voice, “Just like how Dragon Clouds City will remember today.”
The vassals all frowned and they found themselves unable to put the emotions in their hearts to words. In the next moment, the archduchess rose slowly.
“Gentlemen, this will be all for today.”
All twenty of Dragon Clouds City’s vassals followed her actions and stood, bringing with each of them a different expression and breathing pace. Then they looked once more at King Chapman and Thales.
The archduchess lowered her voice, and sighed softly. “The hearing is adjourned.”
The vassals raised their right fists with respectful looks and all of them beat their chests with fists.
This time, compared to the start of the hearing, those thumps were synchronized in such a manner that had never occurred before among them during the entirety of the hearing. It sounded as if all those thumps came from one man.
The large door opened and the vassals all bowed and left one by one.
King Chapman stood as if there was no one else beside him in the middle of the great hall while he endured the looks cast on his person when the vassals left.
As for Thales, he lowered his head and looked at the floor, not paying his surroundings any attention.
‘It’s over. At least This round is over… I hope.’