Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
Thales could not believe his own eyes.
Yodel, who always hid in the dark, who killed in one single blow was detained?
The Shadow Shields behind Stake lit two torches, lighting up this small corridor brightly.
Even though Thales could not look through the mask to see his expression, he could tell that Yodel’s struggles were becoming weaker.
He had to endure his limbs getting pulled in four directions. His body was becoming fainter, trying to enter the Path of Shadows, but under the pull of the chains, his attempts failed. He was forced to reveal himself.
“Spying, sowing discord, reaping benefits from it. You really have lived through a joyous period of time doing all these things, my dear peer.”
Stake appeared to sigh in relief. He revealed a somewhat savage smile while he stared at his masked guest, brought to him in chains.
“Perhaps you still think that it is a pity we did not fulfill your desire in battling to the death against the Disaster Swords under the discord you sowed?”
Yodel did not reply in the dark and gloomy Black Prison. His dark purple mask was turned towards Stake who was at least five steps away from him. His silence made Stake frown slightly.
‘Sh*t.’ Thales forced himself to calm down. He gritted his teeth, bent his knees, and raised his silver sword until it was parallel to his line of vision.
There were not many two-handed sword techniques in the Northland Military Sword Style, and most of these two-handed sword techniques were desperate attacks for after the user’s shield was broken.
He held his sword with his hands and looked at the nearest chain-bearer. ‘I only need to defeat one of them.’
Thales summoned the Sin of Hell’s River and made it spread to both of his legs. He prepared to strike.
“Ah, no no no.” The observant Stake did not miss this scene. He quirked his eyebrows and raised his index finger at Thales in a cordial manner, then he shook it left and right. “If I were you, I would not do that, Your Highness.”
Stake shook his head, his smile still as polite as ever. As he spoke, he pushed the awl in his hand slowly forward, and pointed it at Yodel’s throat.
This action made the anxious Thales stop moving.
“After all, you have a precious status.” Stake shook the weapon in his hand. The curve of his lips grew wider. There was a hidden meaning in his words. “If there is any injury, I could not bear to be responsible for it.”
When he saw Stake’s pleased and confident smile, Thales sucked in a deep breath. He lowered his longsword. He had to give up his attempt to break through and save Yodel and himself from this predicament. He tried hard to eliminate his anxious thoughts. Then, he began to wrack his brains for a way to rescue Yodel.
Yodel struggled with his right arm again. The tip of the Supreme Sword pierced into one of the chain links, but the assassin who held the chain immediately exerted strength into the opposite direction. This forced Yodel into an angle that was difficult for him to attack, and crushed the Masked Protector’s attempts to free himself.
“You said so much nonsense just to lure him out?” Thales watched Yodel struggle against the four assassins, and he found that they were in a very troublesome situation.
Stake shook his head while clicking his tongue.
“Your Highness, what I said was not entirely nonsense.” The leader of the assassins bowed as courteously as before, but Thales could no longer sense the respect he had in his words earlier. “Please do believe in my sincerity.”
It was as if at this moment, Stake had already secured the last move on the chessboard, and was about to declare checkmate.
‘Stay calm, Thales. Stay calm…’
The prince took a deep breath. He listened to what Stake intended to do using the hearing provided by hell’s senses. The four assassins who struggled against Yodel all had unstable breathing. Their strength was being depleted. The two assassins behind Stake were regaining their strength quietly; they were recovering.
Stake’s left arm was still shaking slightly. It seemed that he did not come out unscathed during his short fight against Yodel.
‘But’ Thales looked at the darkness behind Stake. He felt worried. ‘There are still countless sets of breathing over there.’
His greatest support was suddenly lost, and he could not fight against many people in one go to save the hostage.
‘What should I do? What should I do to?’
Thales stared at the trapped Yodel. He rubbed against Ricky’s diamond-embedded silver longsword and sensed its near-perfect balance, but he knew that he was in a situation that was most disadvantageous to him.
Stake seemed to have suddenly completely recovered from the ambush. He took a few steps to the side and examined the bound Yodel. He clicked his tongue.
“Six years ago, two groups of my men accepted a request from Val Arunde. We went south even though we had not dared to set foot on the inner territories of Constellation for years.” He sighed gently, then narrowed his eyes as he stared at Yodel. “In the end, after a failed attempt to assassinate some people in a horse carriage, we were ambushed by the Secret Intelligence Department. Only two scouts came back alive.”
When he heard this, Thales was somewhat stunned. ‘Six years ago. Val Arunde. The assassination on a horse carriage. Isn’t that?’
Stake snorted coldly. He swept his awl past Yodel’s mask.
“What a coincidence, my scouts had described a similar mask during their trip to Constellation as well. So who are you?”
Yodel remained silent but Thales could tell that the barbs on the chain which had sunk into Yodel’s flesh were now stained with drops of fresh blood. Yodel’s struggles were becoming weaker.
…But the Masked Protector shook his head at Thales.
“Hmm…” When Stake did not get his response after a long time, his lips curled up. “I can tell that you are not an orator.”
‘Damn it!’ Thales’ breathing became quicker. He raised the longsword in his hand slightly.
Yodel still remained quiet, as though someone had used a soldering iron to seal his mouth. Under the dim light, that familiar yet unfamiliar dark purple mask appeared simple and dull.
The leader of the assassins finally gave up on trying to communicate with the strange masked man. ‘Maybe he’s dumb. I can’t really tell.’
“Now, since this uncertain element which affects our conversation has been rid of, can you come with us now, Your Highness?” Stake slowly turned his head and looked at Thales.
He maintained that genial smile while he stood among the hooded assassins, before the impenetrable darkness. He reached out to Thales who stood far away from him.
However, the prince could only feel a chill down his spine.
“We can work and cooperate together well.”
Thales stared at his palm. His eyebrows knitted together as tightly as possible. He was practically gritting his teeth so firmly that he almost shattered them.
He swung his hands. The longsword drew an arc in the air while he tried to get used to the weapon’s characteristics.
“Ambushing my guard is not a good sign for a cooperation.”
Stake lowered his palm and said with a smile, “I believe so, too. After all, when he swung his sword at me, he did so without hesitation.”
Thales was struck dumb for a moment. He changed his attitude and said coldly, “Listen, Stake, if you want to get out of here alive”
When he said these words, Thales suddenly stopped talking. He held the remaining half of his sentence in his mouth, and that sentence was, “The Secret Intelligence Department already has this place surrounded.”
Telling Stake this news would only make him more desperate. He would be even more mindful of acquiring hostages and bargaining chips into his hands.
‘What should I do?’ Thales looked at Yodel, but he could only see inverted images on his lenses.
After he had summoned his courage, Thales said, “We can still discuss what you said, but as the first step for this negotiation, I would be more willing to see that my guard is healthy and safe.”
Stake stared at him again for a long time, he then immediately laughed, quite happily, too. As he laughed, the chain-bearing assassins bound Yodel even tighter.
The Masked Protector shuddered slightly. He shook his head again in Thales’ direction.
“There is only one way to guarantee his safety, Your Highness.” It seemed that Stake was tired of Thales’ words. His smile became a little cold. Stake narrowed his eyes into slits, and he cocked his head slightly. “…And you know what it is.”
Thales tightened his grip on the sword hilt. ‘Damn it! This man is so stubborn and fixated on his goal, none of the talks about working together, negotiations, or profit can divert his attention. He only wants me! Me!’
Stake watched Thales. He did not seem to be the slightest bit worried. “To be honest, I heard a lot about you from Baron Lasalle, and he heard a lot about you from King Chapman, including your personality.”
When he heard that name again, Thales suddenly felt that things were turning bad very quickly.
Stake took a step forward smilingly. He looked at Yodel, and then at Thales. “…Such as your benevolence, loyalty, determination, and courage.”
Stake’s facial expression changed slightly. He raised his awl slowly. “But I always wondered how these traits could exist in a person at the same time… Well, today we will have a chance to test this.”
Right before Thales’ unpleasant expression, Stake gently placed the tip of the awl against the Masked Protector’s neck. The assassin grinned.
Yodel remained still, his arms a bloody mess. The four assassins who stretched his limbs taut used more strength.
“What is the meaning of this?” Thales’ face was pale. He spoke faster.
“As I said, I am a businessman.” Stake spread out his arms, seemingly resigned. The awl in his right hand suddenly pressed against Yodel’s throat!
This made Thales involuntarily clench his fists tighter.
“Business deals are always formed by two willing parties. So, I hope to see you follow us quietly and willingly. Do not cause any trouble, do not try to exploit any loopholes, do not play any tricks. You must understand that we know and have experienced just how troublesome you are.” Stake lifted the corners of his lips in a profound manner. He gestured at the silent Yodel.
“Choose, Your Highness.” Stake may be smiling, but there was a chilling glare in his eyes. “Will you show us the magnanimity and kindness of a king, or the resolution of a king?”
‘Magnanimity and kindness…’ With a pale face, Thales cast a glance at Yodel, who did not have the strength to move anymore. ‘…Or resolution?’
His gaze swept over the awl Stake pressed against the Masked Protector’s throat.
‘Damn it!’ Under the dim light, Yodel shook his head in a barely noticeable manner again. Thales looked at him in anguish.
‘Damn it. No.’
Thales sucked in a breath slowly and suppressed the anger filling his heart. ‘Calm down… Stay calm, Thales. Be calm!’
He sucked in a few deep breaths. His gaze swept over each of the Shadow Shield assassins. ‘They want me,’ Thales subconsciously repeated in his heart. ‘They want me. Me’!’
After a few minutes, the Prince of Constellation’s lips quirked upwards. He smiled in a very confident manner. Stake watched the prince behave this way, and wondered whether he should move his awl to urge the prince to act faster.
“I do not have any problems in following you, but I have a question.”
Stake raised his eyebrows, showing that he was willing to listen.
Thales asked in a murmur, “You do not care about me, do you?”
‘What?’ Stake was somewhat startled.
“Regardless of what you wish to get from me, be it wealth, secrets, leverage, power, hostages, or protection, do not forget that I am, first and foremost, the heir of Constellation.”
Thales turned his gaze away. With the coldest and most distant tone he could imagine, he said, “Shadow Shield, you should take into consideration how a king will act and view this situation. What would I do if I manage to ascend the throne after the events of this day, and about to give orders to my subordinates?
“Stake, take a guess. After today, what kind of future will Thales the First give you compared to Lampard and my father?”
Stake’s expression changed slightly. His expression slowly turned cold.
The prince raised his longsword coldly and pointed it at Stake. “And during the decades where I rule the country, what kind of future will Constellation give you?
“If you truly value me, then you will not use the life of a guard to threaten me, but you still did it, perhaps because you do not care,” said the unyielding Thales coldly.
Stake narrowed his eyes slightly. “Your Highness, we”
Thales quickly spoke up and interrupted him. His voice was calm and stable. “There is only one explanation to this. Perhaps you are not afraid of killing him, not worried about angering me, and unafraid of the consequences your actions will bring in the future.”
Each of his words made Stake frown even tighter.
Thales cast a glance at the incredibly disheveled Yodel in the distance. What came to mind was the scene where Yodel carried the young and severely injured Thales while he moved through the roofs, streets, watchtowers, and city walls of Eternal Star City.
Thales subconsciously clenched his fists.
“Perhaps serving me and working together with me is just a lie, because right from the beginning when you came to me with that pretty little excuse, you never planned to let me ascend the throne; you do not want me to be crowned and become a king who would cause trouble for you, right?” Thales said with a cold sneer. “Perhaps once you are done using me after you take me away, you intend to kill me.”
Once he heard what Thales said, Stake’s expression became even more unpleasant. At that moment, Yodel’s mask shook slightly. The light from the torches was reflected off his lenses.
“It seems that I do not really have a choice.” Thales raised his longsword through gritted teeth. “Once you kill him, you will show me your attitude.
“The only thing I can do for my future and for my throne is to fight to the death, until my blood runs dry.” He looked at each assassin coldly and resolutely. “Right?”
Black Prison suddenly became very quiet. The only noise which came from the distance were the barely discernible sounds of fighting.
Yodel struggled once more. Stake moved his awl upwards slightly, causing him to be unable to move again. Stake stared at Thales fixedly, as if this was the first time he came to know him.
A few seconds passed. Stake finally sucked in a deep breath and tried to force out a smile.
“Your Highness, we do not need to make things so tense between us”
Thales interrupted him again, “But you do have a choice.”
Against their expectations, the Prince of Constellation, whose face was as cold as ice just now, smiled. “I was just talking about a possibility, Stake, a possibility where you killed him.”
Stake’s brow furrowed once more.
“But I believe you are not the kind of person who would willingly follow in Teng’s footsteps right to the end. So, you should start now to prove your sincerity; to prove that you are of use to me, and for me to have no need to fight to the bitter end, Stake.”
Stake pinned his gaze on him, his face was frozen. Thales put away the forceful expression he wore just now. He lifted a finger with a serious look.
“There’s only one way to ensure your future…” Thales lowered the tip of his sword. He stretched his palm towards Yodel, his gaze not leaving Stake. “And you already know it, Stake.”
When he heard the prince returning his words at him,Stake could not help but scowl. Thales stared at him unwaveringly.
Yodel’s mask remained gloomy and dull. Only a faint light could be seen reflecting off his lenses.
Stake’s face contorted.
“Choose, Stake.” Thales’ eyes sparkled brightly at that moment. He deliberately spoke in a deep voice. “There are two paths ahead of you: One path allows us to have a friendly working relationship, and the other will be one where you will fight against me to the death.”
He curled his lips, his left hand gently touched the back of the diamond-embedded silver sword, and he gestured with his chin towards the bound Yodel.
“Do you want a king’s pardon”Thales raised his finger and pointed at his head in a very calm and relaxed manner”Or the life of a king?”
At that moment, Stake’s face turned livid with rage.
The Black Prison was silent, to the extent of being scary. It was as though the people in the distance had all been separated from them.
Even the sounds of battle between the Disaster Swords and the Shadow Shields did not reach them for a very long time.
The Prince of Constellation, and the leader of the assassins met each other’s eyes a few times under the light. The Masked Protector slowly lowered his head and did not move.
Finally, after struggling internally for a while, Stake’s expression completely relaxed. He tried hard to curl his lips, revealing an indignant smile. “You are indeed as the rumors say, Your Highness.”
Stake heaved a long sigh. He withdrew the sharp awl pressed against Yodel’s throat in resignation, and left the Masked Protector’s side. At that moment, Thales sighed with relief in his heart while he still held on tightly to his longsword.
He heard Stake put away his weapon, rubbed his chin, and said in a profound manner,
“You threw the difficult situation of having to make a choice back at me, rendering me helpless, and forcing me to retreat. Who taught you all this? The passionate, brainless Northlanders?”
Thales snorted mildly. “My father.”
He lowered his longsword. An absent-minded expression appeared on his face while his thoughts returned to the past. “Six years ago, he used this method to call off a bloody battle between Constellation and the Dragon.”
Stake nodded. However, at that moment, Thales felt a chill down his spine. His hell’s senses instantly felt something strange.
At that moment, the somewhat battle-seasoned prince turned his head around subconsciously, and swung his longsword! The Sin of Hell’s River surged into his body; it filled his brain, and it was as though time had been slowed down in that moment.
As his sleeves swept over air, Thales became angry and shocked when he saw his attackers clearly. ‘Assassins.’
During that slowed second, Thales saw the situation around him clearly and was shocked.
Three assassins dressed in Shadow Shield’s attire attacked him from two directionshis southwest and southeast. They were either wearing cestuses or held blunt weapons. And on the other side, Stake put away a uniquely-shaped, soundless bone flute with a pleased smile.
‘This is a distraction. They want to capture me alive. They did not intend to negotiate with me,’ Thales subconsciously thought in his heart. ‘Sh*t!’
His Sin of Hell’s River surged inside him, and filled his arms and legs. He swung his longsword at a speed that exceeded what he could usually manage, and parried the attack from the ambusher to his left.
However, this was his limit. Thales did not have the strength to care about the other two people. ‘No. No! Sh*t! I don’t have enough time.’
In that second, Thales thought absent-mindedly, ‘I learned another lesson: Never try to reason with assassins.’
His Sin of Hell’s River had reached its limit. It retreated from his brain, and the flow of time returned to normal. But unexpectedly, Thales did not fall to the ground with a muddled mind. What happened instead was…
The dull sound of metal directly entering flesh suddenly rose into the air.
Thales was shocked. He saw a weapon being hurled though the air, flying towards the two assassins he did not manage to defend against. The two assassins jolted as if a charging warhorse had crashed directly into them. They came to a complete stop in their ambush!
The two of them flew back in opposite direction. They crashed against the wall, one on top of the other.
Thales stared at the two assassins in shock. They were like pork skewers, impaled on the wall with the weapon that had flown towards them. The weapon was an ordinary longsword that pierced through their chests. The only thing they could do was twitch.
Stake and his companions could not register the situation. They could only watch with stunned looks on their faces at the longsword that was shot at the two like a bolt of lightning. The longsword that was used like a javelin and seemed to have descended from the heavens quivered continuously on the wall.
*Thud! Thud! Thud!*
Before Thales could think more into this, an unfamiliar figure suddenly appeared by his side. The prince slowly turned his head around.
The unfamiliar figure shot out an agile arm and accurately seized the third assassin’s throat. The assassin seemed to be in disbelief. He struggled and tried to fight back, but his opponent did not give him any chance to do so. He was thrown diagonally against the wall to his side.
The unfamiliar figure retracted his arm. He still had hand wrapped around the assassin’s neck. He slammed the assassin against the wall again.
The assassin’s opponent pulled the assassin back once more, and then rammed him against the wall for the last time!
A strange, ominous, crisp sound traveled into Thales’ ears.
In the next second, the assassin slid down feebly from his opponent’s arm and fell fell to the ground. He did not move.
Peace returned to the air. Thales looked at his surroundingswith a dumbfounded expression. Two assassins were nailed to the wall, moaning in pain, and by the looks of it, were beyond rescue. Another was limp on the ground and made no sound.
Only barely a second had passed, from the moment the longsword appeared, to the moment the final assassin fell to the ground. The three assassins who prepared to ambushed him had all died.
“My skills have really grown rusty.” The newcomer arrived next to Thales. He flung his left arm and complained. He was trying his best to fling his left hand, and grumbled indistinctly. The prince stared at this person with a flabbergasted look.
Stake and the Shadow Shield assassins also stared at him. Their shock and anger could not be hidden. Under the faint light from the fire, they saw that this uninvited guest was a man. A very special man.
He wore the slightly damaged, lightweight leather armor unique to mercenaries, but there were eight weapons on his person. The man had two crossguard sabers in his right hand, one long, and the other heavy. Tied to his back was one rather old one-handed axe and a quiver of arrows. A strung infantry crossbow hung off his left leg. Tied to his right leg was asheathless saber. At his waist was a claw hammer stained in blood, and a chipped, straight sword.
He even had his teeth clenched around a shortsword the length of an elbow.
‘He looks just like a human-shaped armory,’ Thales thought absent-mindedly. ‘He’s dressed like a mercenary. Is he from Disaster Sword? No… doesn’t seem like it.’
The man was not young, and not really cleaned-up either. In fact, his messy hair went past his ears, and it was tied behind his head with a dirty cord. He looked shaggy and unkempt, and he looked badly battered. There was a patch of skin missing from the right part of his forehead. There was even a bruise that looked like a frame over his left eye.
Aside from the rather new leather armor, he was dressed in torn and tattered clothes. Thales could even see a few clear signs of blood and injuries on various parts of this person. There were all sorts of wounds on him, from lacerations to bruises.
At first glance, he seemed to be covered head to toe in injuries. He looked as though he had been tied behind a horse and was dragged on the sand by the horse before he came back to this place.
The most unique part on him was his chin. Even though he appeared to be dirty and slovenly, even a little too hairy, the man shaved his chin cleanly. There was only a black patch left on his chin, and it formed a stark contrast with the upper half of his face.
‘Wait, stubble?’ Thales suddenly had a thought. He looked at the man’s forehead and instantly jumped. ‘As I expected.’
There was a hideous and terrifying blood-red brand on his foreheadan alphabet of the Ancient Empire.
Thales stared blankly at the man beside him; watched as the man took the shortsword from his mouth, stretched until his back formed an arch, bared his teeth, and swung his arms. He looked like a war horse exercising its joints after having not left its stable for a long time.
‘It’s him,’ Thales thought blankly, even though the prince had not managed to recognize him at first glance because of his shaved stubble. ‘It’s him.’
The Knight of Judgement, Zakriel, stood by Thales’ side with a calm expression.
He narrowed his bruised left eye slightly and scanned the Shadow Shield assassins before him. With the dull voice unique to him, he coldly said to the prince, “Letting your mind wander is very stupid, by the way.”
The area around him became silent for a while. At that moment, Thales stared, mouth agape, at Zakriel, the man had changed his clothes and appearances.
On the other side, Stake looked at his fallen subordinates. He could not believe his eyes as well. Even the bound Yodel shuddered slightly.
“Who are you?”
Stake suppressed his shock and put on his guard. He stared at Zakriel with his entire body tensed up. He signaled for the assassins to bind Yodel even tighter. This man gave him really bad vibe.
Zakriel snorted coldly, as if he was not interested in paying any attention to him. He just stared at the captured Yodel, and slowly shook his head.
Stake scrutinized this new guest and asked his subordinates while on his guard, “Where are our scouts?”
Zakriel frowned slightly. ‘Scouts?’
Zakriel shook his head and mumbled, “I didn’t see them.”
‘Hmm while I was on my way here, besides running into some idiots hiding in the dark, I don’t think I saw any normal scouts,’ Zakriel thought. ‘Like… the extremely troublesome Glacial Sentries.’
When he thought of that unpleasant past, Zakriel scowled. Beside him, Thales heaved a long sigh.
“Y-you found your shaving knife? Ack, I mean you’re still alive?” Thales could not believe his own eyes. He had scrutinized Zakriel from top to bottom before he asked, all stiff and clumsy.
“Yes.” Zakriel’s eyes were still unfocused as though he did not even deem Thales worthy of his attention. He let out a huff as his reply, sounding just like a tired patient.
Thales blinked in shock. “Where are your enemies?”
‘Those who surrounded and attacked you?’
Zakriel rubbed his own eyes like he was not too used to light. “They ran,” he replied drearily.
The Prince of Constellation blinked in confusion. “Ran? They ran? Just like that?”
‘How could it be? All eighteen Disaster Swords just… let you go?’ Thales could not understand.
Zakriel tugged at his leather armor which were supposed to only be for the mercenaries. He exercised his shoulders in great discomfort.
‘Right, they ran.’ The Knight of Judgement who had just come out of prison thought about the earlier battle, ‘Those sellswords, they ran how many ran?’ Zakriel scratched his head. ‘Two, or three? Maybe four? Ah… I can’t remember.’
When he thought of this, Zakriel exhaled in displeasure. He rapped his forehead in agony. He found, to his sadness, that he was probably old now.