Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
As curfew drew nearer, the number of customers in the tavern decreased, but the mercenaries of Blood Whistle entered My Home one by one. It seemed like they were there to get drunk.
Dante’s Greatswords came downstairs one by one. Louisa and Old Hammer greeted Thales and left, Simon and Mickey walked straight out of the tavern without any intention to greet Thales.
When Dean came down, he was called out by the people from Blood Whistle.
“Hey, Dean.” Ricky snapped his fingers and raised his wine goblet at the bald mercenary. “I heard that you guys had some trouble out there?”
These words drew everyone’s attention.
“Normally, I would say that we’re still ‘okay’.” Dean walked down the stone staircase with a serious look. “But now I guess there isn’t much significance left in denying it.” He darted a glance at the two mercenaries beside Ricky.
“Yes, we did run into some trouble,” said Dean calmly.
The mercenaries in the tavern all turned quiet. They looked at each other full of worries or doubts. Ricky frowned.
“So the rumours are true, then? Williams and his dogs are out again What is it this time? A second Battle of Elimination? Marching north to fight against the Eckstedtians? Providing reinforcements to the Alliance of Freedom? Or is the King of Constellation not happy with the Tower of Eradication that he’s determined to get rid of them? Do you think that they would hire groups of hundreds to fight for them? Or will they just grab some people from the Prison of Bones to form a suicide squad?”
When Thales heard Ricky’s description of the baron and the Stardust Unit, he could not help but raise his eyebrows.
Obviously, the mercenaries were not on very good terms with the Baron of Blade Fangs Camp.
“I’m not too sure, but if I were to say anything”Dean shook his head”then I’ll say this: they’re serious this time.
“As for hiring I don’t think they’re lacking in fighting men, Ricky.” Dean swept his gaze over his colleagues from Blood Whistle with a warning look. “Even if it is the Blood Whistle, you still won’t be strong enough to withstand the charge of ten armed cavaliers, and I think they have at least a thousand of them. When they increase their speed, they don’t care about which side you support.”
Ricky became silent for a moment, then he looked at his friends.
“A thousand cavaliers I’ll remember that. Our lives have been pretty terrible lately.” Ricky shook his head, then pointed at the bar counter. “What can I get you? Rye? Altbier? Blood Grape? Don’t tell me you want Chaca”
However, Dean just waved his hand in dismissal and rejected his offer. He said, “No, we have been through enough these past few days.”
Ricky put his finger down. “Dean, you know, if you feel” He looked at Dean seriously, and lifted the corner of his lips. “Blood Whistle will always welcome you. We’re about to move, and we happen to be in need of a leader maybe even… someone with a much higher position?”
Dean spread his arms, a telling sign that this was not the first time he encountered this type of conversation. “Thanks, but I already have a leader.”
Ricky laughed. “Obeying a woman, Dean?” The mercenary from Blood Whistle took a swig of his beer and laughed. “You will eventually die in her hands.”
The mercenaries beside him all started to jeer, “Maybe it’s to die ‘on top’ of her?”
“Or ‘in her’?”
Everyone in the tavern laughed happily together.
Dean just shook his head, completely unbothered. He waved his hand to bid Ricky farewell, then went to Thales.
Once he raised his head, Thales placed his beer glass down and asked, “Is it over?”
Dean just nodded his head and sighed. “Most likely. It wasn’t a very pleasant conversation with the team, we lost too many people.”
“How about you, Wya?” The mercenary asked rhetorically, “Do you have any clues yet on where your family might be?”
Thales exhaled and answered him with the same tone of voice Dean used to speak to him, “Probably. I’ll familiarize myself with my surroundings, settle some things, then set off to find them tomorrow.”
“Settle some things Sounds great.” Dean raised his eyebrows. “How about tonight?”
“I don’t know yet, maybe I’ll ask Tampa for a bed.” While saying this, Thales cast a fierce glare at Tampa. “…As long as I have enough money with me.”
Tampa gleefully showed his teeth. Dean laughed, too.
“You heard them. Blood Whistle reserved the whole tavern.” The bald mercenary looked at the people in My Home. “Come with me, we rented a small house nearby. It was once the temporary quarters for our group. It will at least accommodate you for a night.”
When he saw Dean’s expression, a thought struck Thales’ mind. He slowly clenched his fists, but unfurled them afterwards.
Thales showed him a smile. “Sounds great, since I don’t have anywhere else to go to.”
Dean waved his hand, then gestured that they can now leave. Thales moved off the bar counter and carried his own luggage.
Thales shook his head at Tampa, then turned to say seriously, “Hey, Dean… Thank you… for all that you have done for me, from the Great Desert until now.”
Dean looked at him for about a few seconds. “You’re welcome. I’m also planning for my own future.” Dean examined him. He then said jokingly, “You’re an aristocrat, so you might be rich, right?”
Thales replied with a smile.
“But before that” Dean frowned, and looked at the other side of the tavern. “How on earth did he manage to drink so much?”
Thales followed Dean’s line of sight and stared. Quick Rope was walking unsteadily, and he stumbled about before falling headfirst onto a table, bringing on himself some unkind looks from the customers.
“We ran into too many things in the Great Desert.” Thales sighed gently.
“Yes.” Dean frowned even more. “For a newbie who has only gone out with us for the second time.”
When a bunch of customers rolled their sleeves up with the intention of giving Quick Rope an unforgettable night, Dean turned around and walked towards him.
“Come, give me a hand. We can’t let him stay here.”
Thales shrugged and followed.
After a few hours, Thales lay straight in the small house that belonged to Dante’s Greatsword. As he felt the hard sensation of the bed under his back, he stared blankly at the moonlight shining through the window.
The mercenaries’ quarters was, just as Dean said, not very impressive. It was a small house with four beds, mud walls, a thatched roof, and spider webs all around. The fence looked like it was going to fall apart, and even the simple outhouse made Thales remember the moments when he was staying at the Abandoned Houses.
Still, it was better than staying outside.
Ten meters away from him was Quick Rope, and his steady breathing traveled to Thales’ ears. It came together with some drunken speech and sleep-talk.
Dean was sleeping in the room next to theirs. Old Hammer went to look for his old pals whom he had not met for a long time. They were most probably going to drink until daylight. Mickey had never liked staying in a crowd; the Barren Bone kin were few and were looked upon unkindly in the camp, so they had their own places to go to. As for Louisa, according to Dean, she went to her mother and her stepfather’s house.
Thales breathed in deeply. He could not believe it, but he escaped Dragon Clouds City and passed through the Great Desert, though it was just a small part at its periphery. He lived through the Black Track, fought the Star Killer, the Raven of Death, and even experienced hunger, loneliness, scorching heat, cold, orcs, and mercenaries. And finally, he had returned to Constellation’s territory.
He was back.
Thales looked at the melancholic moon hanging above the Great Desert, enjoying the silence in Blade Fangs Camp during its curfew.
Quick Rope flipped over and fell off the bed, but he was still muttering something and did not wake up.
Thales exhaled and sat up.
With hell’s senses, he could clearly hear Dean’s breathing as he slept in the room next to his.
In the dark, he looked at Quick Rope’s figure forming a complicated K shape on the ground. He smiled, and shook his head.
‘This group of people, mercenaries What kind of life do they live?’ Thales thought in his daze.
The prince slowly sucked in two breaths, and in the next second, he grabbed his luggage and the Crossbow of Timeat the corner of the wallbefore he stood up with light footsteps.
He carefully walked over Quick Rope’s body. Without making a single sound, he walked out of the shabby and dilapidated hall, and opened another door.
Before his eyes, a bald and fit man slept on his side on the bed with his arms crossed. His chest rose and fell evenly, and there was a gentle noise coming out from his nose. He slept without moving, unlike a certain Quick Rope in the next room.
Thales shut the door and walked to the man’s bed. The prince stared at him for a very long time without making a sound. He remained standing there for so long that the moon even started to move. Dean’s breathing remained deep.
Finally, Thales’ face started to turn cold. He stared at Dean’s wide back, then slowly reached out to Dean’s waist and pulled out the JC dagger.
The sharp edge was shining with a weak light. Thales could not help but frown slightly.
It had been six years. This sharp dagger was given to him by Jala, and had been with him for six years.
Quide, the Blood Clan, Dragon Clouds City, the calamities, Lampard, the Great Desert
During those six years, no matter what kind of dangers he met, every time he reached out to touch this dagger, he felt its cold and firm texture and a strange sense of relief would appear in his heart.
It was a strength that made him to grit his teeth, square his shoulders, and face everything before him. However, those instances were all out of self-defence. He was forced to retaliate and fight back.
On this day, Thales suddenly realized that when blood flowed down the sharp edge of the dagger, the surface of the dagger revealed not just its name, but also its nature…
…as a weapon for murder.
Every time, when Thales steeled his resolve and built his courage, when he swung the dagger and stabbed his enemy, he would be reminded of the sensation when he first took a life using the JC dagger: the slippery, boiling blood flowing through his gauntlet, spurting onto his forearms, and then flowing to his chest before it squirted at his face.
‘But those sensations have never felt as prominent now. Taking away a life is so easy; it’s not like I haven’t killed anyone before. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, I’ve killed many,’ Thales thought in his heart. ‘Starting from my life in Abandoned House in Lower City District, to the assassination on King’s Street, and to the bloody life-and-death fight in the Great Desert’
Nevertheless, he had always deliberately ignored the feeling from taking a life for a long time now.
He did not have a choice, did he; kill, or be killed.
Thales raised the JC dagger slowly, narrowed his eyes, and positioned the tip of the dagger at Dean’s neck.
With his hell’s senses, he could sense that the blood in Dean’s carotid artery was boiling with strength and full of life. Thales still had his dagger raised. He aimed at Dean’s neck with no expression on his face.
He had no choice. He secretly told himself that. A simple stab, and he could then deny the man’s meaning in life, strip him of his existence, make his value of continuing to live in this world disappear. He will then be gone, dead, non-existent, and would never again appear in any place, before anyone, at any time.
Just as what Quick Rope said: He would then never have any thoughts, feelings, conscience, and nothing would be left of him. He would know nothing as well. He would disappear completely and lose everything from then on, including his future and all his prospects.
Thales came to his senses and looked at the sleeping, living man before his eyes.
He just needed a light jab and everything about this man will disappear immediately.
As for the dagger-wielder himself, Thales, he could get much more. Vengeance? Benefit? Or just pure satisfaction?
Or, the pleasure you will feel once you got rid of your opponent, bringing all the unhappiness, disappointment, hurt, pain, and depression you experienced because of him to an end with the opponent’s life? And the kind of pleasure from reaping great rewards once your schemes to eliminate your opponent came to fruition and you had achieved your goal?
Or was it that the feeling of strength, power and authority you would feel, knowing that you can control the life and death of a person with a flip of your palm, to toy with his fate, and to decide everything about him?
Thales glared at Dean’s neck, and he shivered slightly. He had no choice. He told himself this the third time. It was just another necessary killing, that was all.
‘Is it… the pleasure?’
Quide’s scary and abominable face appeared briefly in his mind.
King Nuven’s cunning smile passed through his mind.
This time, Chapman Lampard’s cold and merciless expression was presented before his eyes. Thales took a deep breath, and moved the dagger to the best angle for stabbing someone.
‘For the pleasure of vengeance, for the pleasure of reaping benefits, and even for that bullsh*t authority? Who cares? Only those thrice-cursed freaks would care about those. I just need one gentle stab, and everything will be over. Once I kill him, I won’t have to worry anymore’
During that moment…
…a pale and terrified face appeared in his mind. It was a face long ago, so long that Thales nearly forgot him.
It was Kellet… one of the people in the sixth house. That poor child had charged forward to protect that young girl courageously during the last moments of his life.
Thales shivered slightly, it was as if he was back to that moment, during that night: that damn Quide gleefully cut Kellet’s neck open, the child’s face was filled with terror, but the killer’s face was filled with ridiculously disgusting joy and pleasure.
To Quide, it must have been nothing. He just needed a gentle stab, and that pleasure derived from killing…
Another face appeared before his eyes. It was a little girl standing in the Hall of Heroes in Dragon Clouds City. She hugged herself with an upset look on her face, but there was also a bit of pride there too, along with a hint of delicateness. She was a girl whom people found unpleasant at first sight.
Alex Walton, an innocent child born out of sin.
After she was fed poison, her upturned lips were replaced by pained spasms and a contorted face.
Thales stared blankly at the sleeping Dean, but before his eyes King Nuven’s cold smile, Mirk’s desperate cries, Nicholas’ expressionless and aloof face, and Little Rascal’s terror and shock-filled sobs
For King Nuven, he, too, felt pleasure with just a cup of wine that allowed him to put an end to his past humiliation and hate.
Thales closed his eyes gently.
Dean’s neck faded away from his eyes, replaced by the image of the Dragon Clouds City six years ago. In the burning and dipiladated Shield District were corpses and endless wails.
With those things happening, that scary man with his cold face, the Archduke of Black Sand Region coldly wore his blood-stained crown.
Beneath his feet was the Born King’s head, rolling on the ground. It fell into the countless bodies in Shield District. Among them were commoners, nobles, craftsmen, farmers, White Blade Guards
‘”Don’t be aloof, Qiren, don’t be aloof. Humans are creatures who would get used to many things slowly, such as apathy and certain perceptions, even though we know they’re not right.
‘”You’ll become used to foul smells after prolonged exposure to it, right? Once you have relaxed and gotten used to it, you would then be unable to feel the difference between yourself and the world outside, and you would no longer be able to find your original self. Hang on, Qiren, don’t compromise, don’t let world enslave you.”‘
‘”Hey, lady, why were you suddenly so so ‘Wu Qiren’?”‘
‘”Should you really be mocking yourself? Then again, isn’t that your professional forte? From a completely new angle, you discover new things about a certain topic. Then, you will shake the grounds of what you already know. You will renew your impression of the world. You will cast aside the wrong perceptions and shallow understanding of the world you originally believed without any hesitation or doubt, almost to the point of it being a religion. You will discover how a certain thing is actually quite ridiculous, and that you have also been incredibly ridiculous in your method of perceiving that matter. You will then unfold a new world before your own self to discover a new relationship you did not know you shared with the world, and from there, improve yourself Hey, once I said all these things, I suddenly feel like I’m really amazing.”‘
‘”Oh well, can’t be helped, after being with me for so long, even if you were as dumb as Spongebob Squarepants, you would still improve, right? So can we go now? Don’t touch my head. Your cat is in your house, you can touch it for free, and you don’t even have to stand on your tiptoes to do so We already donated before, there’s no need to stand in front of the donation box for five minutes again, right?”‘
‘”Ah! My comic fair! Come on, hurry up!”‘
Thales opened his eyes swiftly!
In the silence, Thales panted quietly, with sweat beading on his head. His expression was one of conflict.
The JC dagger was getting closer to Dean’s carotid artery. It was just a palm away.
He held the dagger tightly in his hand. The tip of the dagger was shaking incessantly.
A long time seemed to have passed. He sucked in a sharp breath and slowly breathed it out.
The prince put the dagger down, feeling exhausted. Thales touched his wet forehead, and bit his lower lip while feeling conflicted and in agony.
Eventually, he put his dagger away and cast one last glance at the sleeping Dean.
Like a religious devotee who had just experienced arduous hardships, the prince turned around slowly and headed towards the door with a sorrowful look.
However, right when Thales took his first step to leave
The sudden voice made Thales’s hair stand up!
“Why did you give up?”
Thales shut his eyes and sighed heavily, then he turned around. Under the moonlight, he could vaguely see Dean sit up and lean against the wall while he stared at him coldly.
“With a stab in the back, you can finish off your enemy before he sees you. This is always the best choice,” the bald mercenary said nonchalantly.
He curled one of his legs and had it step on the edge of the bed. He then placed his right elbow on his knee. The axe was right beside his hand.
“Or is it because you must capture me alive?”
Thales looked at the mercenary with much difficulty due to his conflicted emotions.
“You’re awake,” he said bitterly.
“What then? You thought that I should put down my guard completely and hand my life to you?” Dean laughed coldly and asked, “Just who are you?”
Thales opened his mouth, and for a moment he did not know where to begin. “Me, you”
“Or let me ask you in a more direct manner.” Dean flicked the axe next to his hand. His gaze was sharp. “Who sent you here?”
Thales stared at him fixedly, his gaze was conflicted.
Eventually, Thales slowly let out his breath. He put away the complicated expression on his face, and his most nonchalant and cold expression returned.
“Dean, right? You were saved by Old Dante from the Great Desert a few years ago. Since then you have become one of them, and as for your past”
Thales watched Dean coldly.
“A normal mercenary, but one who knows how to read, and you are very knowledgeable,” the prince said softly. “You came from Northland, you swing your axe well, and when you confronted the orcs, the set of feints you made made me think of a certain famous White Blade Guard from Eckstedt.”
Dean did not speak, his eyes were focused on the axe next to his hands.
The house under the moonlight was quiet; the curfew on the street made their surroundings so quiet that it was not like the Western Frontlines, but a farm in a village.
“Not only that, you also know quite a number of orc languages, and it wasn’t the ‘Good day, damn it, I’ll kill you’ picked up by the soldiers after they ran into those orcs.” Thales continued speaking, “What you know would require a very long time of systematic learning.
“You even shaved your head, as if you’re trying to do so to conceal the color of your hair.”
Dean was impassive. He raised his left hand and touched his head. Thales stared at him.
“Your understanding to and preparation for the country’s issues and political atmosphere were far beyond a block-headed soldier who just wants to survive.
“Even Tampa had said so; that you being a mercenary was too much a waste, to the extent that even Blood Whistle wants to hire you.”
Thales sucked in a deep breath, and with great effort, voiced his greatest suspicion,
“Dean, mercenary Dean, don’t you think that these traits far too obviously show just you who are?”
His voice resounded through the small room and it was very clear. Time seemed to be frozen.
Dean lifted his head and he stared into Thales’ interrogative eyes without backing down.
“Obvious?” There was anger and disdain forming on Dean’s face. He asked directly, “Hmph. So, who sent you here? Lisban? Or the White Blade Guards?”
Thales’ gaze froze.
“Or someone else?”
Under the moonlight shining through the window, Dean slowly opened his mouth to speak and his gaze grew darker. “The order you received was it to find me or to kill me?”
Thales frowned deeply. He remained staring at Dean without moving.
“Even Mickey had said it: this deal with Tormorden was a mistake. He was not an easy partner, and the blockade order from Constellation made your trip even more ill-suited.” Thales did not answer, but continued softly, “Yet still, you came with your mercenaries, why? This does not match up to your wisdom.”
Dean clenched his fists.
“Is it because you know about the Alliance of Freedom, the storm that Eckstedt and Dragon Clouds City are going through? Is it because you are worried for your home and your country, so then you took the risk to go north, to confirm the situation with your own eyes?”
Dean did not speak. So Thales spoke up once more.
“Answer me, Dean.” Thales sighed. “Are you him?”
This time, Dean slowly lifted his head.
“Him?” Dean said nonchalantly, “Who?”
“You know who I’m talking about.”
Dean laughed. He slowly lifted his arm and pointed at Thales.
“You You are quite suspicious too, no? A person travelling alone from the north, and you somehow fell in the Great Desert.” Dean tilted his head. He swept his gaze across Thales’ body. “In your hands are a military crossbow which is very clearly not one used by commoners, and a sharp dagger which cuts through metal as if you’re just cutting through clay.”
Thales felt his back and waist suddenly go tense.
“Your demeanour is very formal, very courteous, very particular towards details. At first glance, I can tell that you’re well-educated. This is why during the first few days, the others did not wish to talk to you. Ah, perhaps with Quick Rope as the exception. He is a block-headed young man who was scared by the great sea.
“As for you, you’re smart. At least you fabricated your own background to match your demeanour. At first glance, whatever you said sounded quite reasonable.”
Dean laughed coldly.
“But what puzzled me was that you’re different from most of the nobles. No matter how hard the sand is or how cold the rock is, you could still lie down and fall asleep easily. We gave you dried jerky for a few months, bread so hard that you couldn’t bite into it, stewed vegetables with a rancid smell, or burnt food, but no matter how awful the food was, you could still swallow them effortlessly, and you ate them as if they were normal food.
“It was as though you have long since become accustomed to it. At the very least, you are unlike those important men in the castles I know.
“So, you were either born into a family that turned rich overnight and did not have time to be like those bastards living in castles, who become dumber and more selfish with each generation…” Dean narrowed his eyes, his expression was stern. “Or there must be a wise and rational man in your family who obtained his wisdom from experience, knowledge, time, and hardship. He chose to use the cruel, chilling gales to form the next generation of his family into tough men instead of using food and fences to feed you into a pig.”
Thales was still, and he listened in silence.
“And as for Wya Caso?” Dean laughed disdainfully, and the look he gave Thales was as ice cold as before. “Next time, when you tell another Northlander your name, you better not use the same surname as the Cunning Fox of Constellation, Gilbert Caso.”
Thales was slightly shaken.
“That year in Broken Dragon Fortress, that Constellatiate came alone, withstanding the anger of Eckstedt and the six archdukes. They talked, debated, and at last, when the time came for them to sign the treaty, he gained quite the reputation.” Dean lifted the corner of his lips.
Thales shook his head regretfully. “Sorry. It’s the first time I left home. Too many things happened suddenly, I was a little nervous.”
Dean’s eyes shone.
“So, who are you, then?” he asked in a whisper. “You’re only around ten, but you possess extraordinary agility and sharp reflexes. I suspect that is due to the Power of Eradication. You’re even a secca who can manage not to pee his pants despite his first meeting with the terrifying orcs, and even went through their murderous coming-of-age ceremony.”
Dean lowered his head and hid his expression in the darkness where the moon did not shine. “According to what Tormorden said, those Constellation cavaliers are after you, isn’t it?”
Thales breathed slowly. He clenched his fists tightly, then unfurled them slowly.
“Listen, I don’t intend to make this matter complicated.” The Constellatiate prince opened his palm, then used his calmest and most serious tone to say, “I originally thought that I could find the army in Blade Fangs Camp and let them do the job but I did not, I waited until now.”
Dean nodded gently and his lips curled into a smile. “So you do have a high status, and you even have quite a deep connection with the officials.” The bald mercenary sneered. “But you hid your name up to this very moment, was it because of me?”
Thales ignored what he said. “I just need you to answer me a simple question, Dean,” he said in a calm manner.
Dean looked at him with much interest. The mercenary nodded. “What a coincidence. I, too, Wya.”
In the suffocating silence, both of them watched each other silently in the dark and sealed room. It lasted until Thales opened his mouth again.
“So, Dean…” The prince cleared his throat, and finally asked his last question seriously and warily, “Are you Moriah Walton? That wilful prince who escaped from Dragon Clouds City six years ago?”
Dean did not answer, neither did he move. In fact, he did not even bother to spare Thales even the slightest hint of unnecessary emotion. He just stared at Thales coldly.
While he lifted his head and let the moonlight shine on his clear, angular facial features, he opened his mouth to ask slowly,
“What about you, Wya? Or should I call you… Thales Jadestar?”
Thales tensed up.
“The culprit who threw all of Eckstedt into turmoil, who changed all of Dragon Clouds City?”