Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
For a time, My Home was silent, even the sound of a needle dropping could be heard.
All the mercenaries there, or more appropriately, all the Disaster Swords stared, gazes unmoving and in disbelief, at the fair-skinned man who just said something shocking.
“The heir of Constellation”
Many people inhaled sharply. Shawn the mercenary snorted behind Marina and said, “I thought we were the crazy ones for wanting to break into the prison.”
Thales saw that after Stake had voiced that shocking plan, Ricky (who was actually ‘Crassus’) furrowed his eyebrows extremely tightly. Klein, the Northlander beside him, had stopped polishing his sword sheath. Masked Man’s eyes became colder and colder.
The Disaster Swords. Thales had heard of this organization, too. But he heard the other name morethe Tower of Eradication.
For hundreds of years after the Battle of Eradication, this place served as a legendary holy land that assiduously cultivated all kinds of fighters for humankind and passed down their skills in preparation for war.
Among all the people Thales knew, Kohen, Miranda, Wya, and some other people were the ones who had spent a considerable amount of time in the Tower of Eradication and obtained their skills there. That place was indeed incredibly renowned, to the point that everyone was used to calling all swordsmen who possessed the Power of Eradication and used the longswords that represented their status as graduates from the Tower of Eradication (and favored by nobles), Swordsmen of Eradication. And you only needed to mention that ‘you had spent time in the Tower of Eradication’ to be sought after by all the major employers, whether they were from mercenary camps on the frontier, or from the local city defense teams.
As for the Disaster Swordsthis was what Stake called themthe name made Thales feel extremely unsettled. According to Wya’s knowledge, which relied on hearsay, they were the Tower of Eradication’s archenemy.
Thales marveled internally. ‘So they can plan to break into prison without hesitation in Blade Fangs Camp, and even get in touch with the Shadow Shield, whom are regarded as taboo.’
“Shit, shit, the second prince” Tampa seemed like he had abandoned himself to despair. “No matter what, can all of you not talk about such a huge matter without attempting to hide it at all? I still want to return safely and sell alcohol…”
Thales and Quick Rope exchanged a look. They could sense each other’s moods, and they completely differed from one another.
And Stake, who was in the center of attention, was unperturbed in the face of everyone’s stares; he seemed nonchalant.
“The discipline and organization of your party really exceeded what I imagined.” He rubbed his hands together. Met with so many strange stares, he smiled modestly and said, “Even in front of so many people, and confronted with such a huge secret, you’re not worried at all”
Tampa’s sorrowful complaints and Stake’s mutterings were cut off.
“You want him to die.” The taciturn Masked Man suddenly stood up. He slowly inched closer to Stake. It was hard to look straight into his eyes which shone brightly and was framed by wrinkles. “The Prince of Constellation?”
“If possible, we want to try our best to capture him alive.” Stake smiled. He was gentle and courteous as usual.
“Capture him alive?” Masked Man went in front of Stake and looked down into his eyes. “Are you saying that we are to break through that tight encirclement, capture the prince of a kingdom in Constellation’s military station, and leave safely along with that precious hostage while being chased and besieged by hundreds of their soldiers?”
Thales noticed that there was a slight hint of indignance and fury in his voice.
Beside him, Marina could not help but say, “This can’t be done at all.”
Stake stared at Masked Man with furrowed eyebrows and stepped back slowly in face of his aggressiveness while speculating his identity.
“I didn’t say that this was very easy.” The man from Shadow Shield shrugged and dodged Masked Man’s body while sweeping his glance over the mercenaries in the tavern with a smile. “But at least it isn’t harder than robbing the Prison of Bones.”
Masked Man suddenly extended his hand at that moment!
He pressed down on Stake’s shoulder. Stake’s face immediately went pale and the part where he was seized trembled slightly. He jerked and grabbed Masked Man’s arm with his backhand, then tried to push Masked Man away…
…but Masked Man’s arm did not move at all, like it was made of metal. Masked Man slowly exerted more strength, and the trembling Stake could not help but whimper and inhale.
“Because you can’t do it on your own so you want us to help you achieve your aim by seeking death and becoming your bait and buffer.”
Stake stared in disbelief at Masked Man before him. The mercenaries who were watching from the side only scowled. No one said anything to stop him.
The atmosphere in the tavern grew more and more suffocating, and Thales, who was watching from the side, became increasingly anxious.
‘What should I do under this situation?’
“Not bait, but reliable external assistance.”
Stake gritted his teeth hard. He had to suffer through Masked Man’s iron grip on him as well as his threats, but Stake still persevered and said, “At the same time, we will provide our resources to your party. Then, with a perfect plan we will take down the Prison of Bones and the Jadestar prince simultaneously We will shield each other… Kill two birds with one stone, and help each other.” He spoke falteringly.
Masked Man snorted coldly. “Just this? Nothing else?”
Stake forced a smile while under unbearable pain.
“Perhaps, it can also be a good beginning for our future partnership?”
The mercenaries in the tavern watched the scene quietly as if they were quite used to such a spectacle.
A hand was placed on Masked Man’s shoulder. Masked Man furrowed his eyebrows a little.
Ricky stood beside Masked Man and shook his head with an indifferent expression. Masked Man looked at Stake who had a pained expression and snorted softly. He then relaxed his grip and stepped back.
Stake heaved a sigh of relief. He tilted his body and massaged his shoulder with an extremely unnatural expression.
‘Damn it.’ He knew that he was at a disadvantage in this negotiationwhich he had decided on all by himself. ‘But’
“Why?” Ricky took Masked Man’s place and stood before Stake. “Eighteen years ago, you all destroyed the Jadestar Royal Family regardless of the costs, and you pursued your cause to the bitter end. Even the other branches under your organization were affected.”
These words gave Thales a shock.
The leader of the Disaster Swords said flatly, “Everyone in the circle is speculating who in the world is the client behind all of you, and who would want the Jadestar Royal Family to be annihilated.
“And now, you are telling me that you want to capture the last Jadestar prince alive? Why?”
Ricky stood unmoving in front of Stake and stared at the man’s right arm which had grown stiff. “What in the world are Teng and the people behind him thinking, and what do they want to do?
“Could it be that the so-called Empire’s blood that has been passed down till now is really as bright as gold and can cure all diseases?”
Behind him, Klein chuckled mockingly. Stake forced a smile.
“My esteemed Crassus, why do you care about this?”
Even under such a disadvantage, and after experiencing such a rude threat, Stake was still so brave that it shocked Thales.
“Your aim is just the Prison of Bones. Pardon me for saying so, but this is most definitely going to offend Constellation, and will not be tolerated by King Kessel.
“In such a situation, wouldn’t it be a wise move for you to work with us on the basis of increasing the chances of success for your goal, which in turn would help their enemies and shake up their political stance? It suits your interests, after all.”
Behind Ricky, Masked Man sneered.
“And push us entirely to stand as enemies of Constellation with no choice but to side with you?” Masked Man clenched his fists. “Just like the Charleton Family, the Assassin’s Flower from eighteen years ago?”
‘Charleton.’ He had not heard this name in a long time. It caused Thales to sink into deep thought.
Stake was still smiling. “Sometimes, when you want a certain something, you have to choose a certain side to achieve your goals. It’s either this side, or that side.”
He still looked amiable, as if he was saying “I’m sorry, but this is reality.”
Like a dedicated and diligent yet helpless home tutor.
“Moreover, all of you have already chosen your side when you took hold of this tavern, and planned to go a step further by breaking into the prison.”
Stake exercised his shoulder, inhaled deeply, and straightened his body. He was like a man filled with noble spirit, but was about to be brought to the execution ground. There was a hint of an indifferent smile on his face that made others unable to help but stare. “Isn’t it?”
The mercenaries started to become restless. Masked Man and Klein’s eyes met. Ricky still had not moved at all. He gazed silently at Stake.
Thales and Quick Rope exchanged looks beside the table.
The Disaster Swords were affected by their leader’s silence, and the tavern slowly became quiet. Everyone looked towards Ricky. Stake waited calmly, he would only occasionally sweep his gaze over the people.
After a while, Ricky’s gaze moved and he stopped staring at Stake. The leader of the Disaster Swords smiled and swayed his head slowly.
“Just like him, just like him…”
Stake was surprised. He had expected Ricky to interrogate him. “What?”
Ricky snorted softly and turned around. “Hilarious.” He sat down again, as if he did not care about the person in front of him at all.
“At that moment, the way you talked and the things you said were almost exactly like Teng’s.”
Stake’s pupils immediately shrank. ‘Teng.’
Thales heard the monosyllabic name again.
Ricky leaned back against his chair and lifted his chin. His gaze while he stared at the ceiling became unfocused. “I’ve met that man, if Teng is still considered a man. Sometimes, he’s experienced, shrewd, sinister and cunning. Sometimes, he’s bold, intense and wildly ambitious. His existence is practically the embodiment of how the world mercilessly taunts and mocks mankind.”
Stake slowly lowered his head. “You’re an old acquaintance of the Shadow Master?”
Ricky curled up his lips. “Yes… Teng. I’ve been on the receiving end of his tactics and have seen how he does things before. I have no choice but to say that they are quite… ‘unforgettable’.
Stake smiled and was about to answer, but in the very next moment, Ricky revealed a frighteningly fierce gaze.
“So, I absolutely do not believe you.”
Ricky lowered his head swiftly and stared directly into Stake’s eyes. He spoke quickly and firmly, and in such a manner that had never been heard from him before. “I absolutely do not believe that any contact or encounter with him is by ‘coincidence’ or ‘luck’. More than that, I don’t believe that any cooperation with him will bring about a ‘win-win’ result. Even if there is temporary gain, it wouldn’t be able to cover the greater losses we will face in the long run.”
Stake looked surprised.
“Leave immediately, Stake.” Ricky’s face was dark and his tone was growing even firmer, leaving no room for refusal. “Out of admiration for your bravery, I won’t make it difficult for those associates of yours hiding outside.”
Upon hearing this, Thales let out a small sigh of relief.
‘Fortunately, as long as it doesn’t directly involve me, there’s still a chance for me to deceive these people and get myself out of this situation.’
Stake stared at Ricky, dazed. He looked into his icy gaze. “I beg your pardon. I’m not very clear on what you’re”
Ricky snorted coldly and spoke crisply, “I don’t trust all of you… especially Teng.”
He straightened his body, and he seemed to have become as cold as a block of ice right then. He said through gritted teeth, “So go and worry about that bullsh*t prince by yourself. Both of us have nothing to do with each other. Is that clear enough?”
Stake fixed his gaze on Ricky, as if he could not believe that they had rejected him.
“But” There was astonishment and hesitation in his tone. “All of you are isolated, you have no one to help you, and the process of breaking into the Prison of Bones will be very hard. Even if all of you get lucky and succeed, in the future there wouldn’t be any place for the Disaster Swords to take shelter in Constellation”
Klein snorted softly. “If we’re worried about what you said, we wouldn’t have come here at all. And don’t call us Disaster Swords. No one here likes that form of address.”
Faced with Stake’s grim expression, the middle-aged swordsman from Northland put down his longsword, Twilight, and crossed his arms.
“We are scions from beyond the Tower, not sewer bugs who hail some eunuch from Mane et Nox as their leader and adopt their predecessors’ undeserved reputation.”
As he spoke, the Disaster Swords snorted in agreement one after another. Their voices and expressions were defiant, wild, and prideful.
On the other hand, Stake had his head lowered, and his cheeks trembled slightly. Ricky snorted softly, as if he did not know whether to laugh or cry.
He waved at Stake. “You may go now.”
Without needing to be told, a few mercenaries went forward and surrounded Stake from three sides…
But the next moment, Stake raised his head abruptly!
“Wait!” Stake looked as if he had just straightened out his thoughts. At this moment, there was a hint of ineffable hesitation and conflict on his face. “I roughly know your impression on the Shadow Master now, but this”
Ricky shook his head and did not even look at Stake. “I said, you may go now.”
Masked Man snorted softly and scornfully, while Klein continued to pay close attention to his Twilight.
Shawn the mercenary walked forward. He stared at Stake coldly. “You heard him, insect. Are you going to help yourself out, or do we have to help you?”
Even though he said that, he did not have the intention to let Stake walk out of the tavern on his own at all. Two well-built mercenaries stretched out their hands, grabbed Stake’s shoulders, and were just about to drag him out when a hint of strange determination appeared on Stake’s face.
He raised his head suddenly and looked over the mercenaries’ shoulders at Ricky, who was not swayed by his words.
“What if this has nothing to do with Teng?”
These words made Ricky stir slightly.
“What if this isn’t some bullsh*t collaboration, but only a deal between me and you, Stake and Crassus?”
When he heard this, Ricky could not help but turn his head around. “What?”
Once he asked his question, the mercenaries’ grip on Stake also loosened.
Ricky narrowed his eyes as thought he just met Stake for the first time. “What do you mean?”
Stake freed himself from the mercenaries’ grip and struggled forward without caring about how pathetic he looked.
“It’s just as I’ve said, all of the matters we spoke of today, whether it was the kidnapping of the prince or our collaboration, has nothing to do with Teng.” Stake gritted his teeth. His expression was resolute. “The Shadow Master, no, Teng doesn’t know everything that is happening here at all.”
When they heard this, Klein widened his eyes in astonishment. Masked Man even let out a soft hum of surprise.
Ricky was the only one who remained unmoving… but his tone changed.
“I have to say, you’ve captured my interest,” the leader of the Disaster Swords said slowly. “What happened to Teng?”
In the suffocating silence, Stake flashed a dreary smile and shook his head in resignation and resentment. “Teng is finished.”
Ricky’s eyes flashed brightly! He leaned his body forward subconsciously. “Come again?”
Klein and Masked Man exchanged looks of astonishment.
Originally, Thales was preoccupied with finding a way to get himself out of this situation and lacked interest in these mysterious organizations… until he heard Stake’s next words.
“That day six years ago…” Stake turned abruptly and stared rather agitatedly at Klein. “You know it, Klein. Both you and I were in Dragon Clouds City at that time. We saw the upheaval that shook the Western Peninsula with our own eyes on the day the Great Dragon and the calamity both appeared.”
Thales felt as if his heart had skipped a beat. Even Quick Rope stopped moving.
“On that same day, while everyone was focused on King Nuven’s death and the ownership of the Dragon Scale Crown, a lot of things that were not revealed to the world happened in the shadows of Dragon Clouds City,” Stake spat.
The lights flickered, and the tavern became quieter and quieter.
Ricky tapped his chin, his gaze focused. “Continue.”
Stake snorted coldly and glanced at the mercenaries around him. He observed their varying expressions, and then said coldly,
“That day, Teng lost miserably to the Black Prophet, be it in terms of the reception of information or their head-on confrontation.
“The Shadow Shield’s channels of information in Dragon Clouds City were all destroyed, and there were even slips in King Nuven’s assassinationa very important matter to us. Lisban and the archdukes found out too early about the conspiracy, and the residual power of Dragon Clouds City escaped Black Sand Region’s tight encirclement with the Secret Intelligence Department’s covert assistance, and regrouped.
“We were practically blind in Dragon Clouds City, unable to even spare men to pursue the Walton Family’s granddaughter and the Prince of Constellation. Lampard was even driven to the end of his rope and could only put himself at risk.
“We didn’t even get to use any of the chess pieces we left behind to force the archdukes to obey Lampard and shift the blame onto Constellation. The plot we relied on Lampard to carry out in Northland was almost a total failure.”
The mercenaries began whispering among themselves.
Thales furrowed his eyebrows and ignored the shocked look Quick Rope gave him. On the other hand, the Disaster Swords frowned in unison.
‘What? According to what Stake said that night, that dawn… Dragon’s Blood. The things which happened that day’
Ricky did not react. He stared coldly at Stake and waited for his next words.
Stake’s gaze was piercingly cold. “Not only this… that day, the Secret Intelligence Department found him, too.
“Teng, he was ambushed in Dragon Clouds City. The Secret Intelligence Department cornered him and dealt Teng a fatal blow which had injured him badly and almost killed him,” saod Stake coldly. There were indescribable emotions in his voice.
At that moment, the three Disaster Swords were all shocked!
“All of that man’s forces, including his trusted followers who followed him from Mane et Nox, suffered huge losses.”
Ricky turned to look at Klein. Klein shook his head, showing that he knew nothing about it.
Ricky furrowed his brow. There was suspicion in his gaze.
Before his scrutinizing gaze, Stake chuckled with indecipherable emotion.
“Sometimes, I even suspect that, to the Black Prophet, the power struggle in Eckstedt was perhaps just something he took advantage of to get himself involved in.”
He smiled drearily and said tiredly, “That night, the Shadow Shield, especially Teng himself, was the Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department’s number one target… They wanted the secret Teng held in his hands.”