The dungeon returned to a state of terrifying silence.
At this moment
“That’s not right.”
Samelthe only person among the Royal Guards who avoided imprisonmentinterrupted coldly, “If your aim was to only let the king to see the situation clearly, why didn’t you go alone with the legendary anti-mystic equipment to assassinate the queen you claimed is a calamity?”
Samel was now cold and resolute. He no longer looked like he was part of the former Royal Guards.
Thales was struck by a thought; he was reminded of the disaster the Jadestar Royal Family faced during the Bloody Year which Gilbert told him about before. He could not help but frown.
“Why did you use such an extreme method?”
Zakriel did not speak. Samel continued to interrogate Zakriel, “And why did you put the entire Jadestar Royal Family on your extermination list? Why did you refuse to stop until you killed all of them?”
Zakriel’s lips quivered. All blood faded from his face as he stared at Samel blankly.
“Yes.” Tardin joined the conversation with a pale face. “You know, even the most innocent wives of the princes, the royal grandchildren, and the lively and naive Princess Constance, even they” He bit his lip, he could not continue.
Zakriel stared at Samel and Tardin for quite some time. Then, he sighed. “That was not my intention.”
When he saw this, Thales felt conflicted, but he immediately thought of another question.
“Then whose intention was that?” The prince’s words drew the others’ attention. “You did not tell us the complete truth.” Thales said loudly, “Tell me, who were the group of people who worked with you to assassinate the king and intended to overthrow Constellation? Who were they?”
‘And most importantly’
“Just what kind of scheme were the group of calamities plotting with King Aydi that would bring them such disaster?” Thales asked through gritted teeth.
Zakriel seemed to have been rendered speechless by this questions. He remained silent for a long time, but in the end, he only shook his head and remained silent.
Samel spoke up again, “One more thing: If what you said was true, then why?” The former vice flag bearer stared fixedly at the former Knight of Judgment. “Since you fulfilled your goal why didn’t you stand out that year and admit that you were the traitor?
“You are not a person who is afraid of shouldering your responsibilities, and you fear death even less. You were even willing to bear my punishment when I fled. With your personality, shouldn’t you have told the truth frankly and received your punishment with dignity, just like what you’re doing right now?”
Zakriel pursed his lips tighter, but the prisoners were slowly noticing this strange aspect. They all frowned and looked at him.
“Why did you hide this for eighteen years? Why did you let us be tortured for eighteen years?!” Samel delivered his questions one after another. Indignance and a refusal to accept what Zakriel said as the full truth could be heard in his words. “Why then did you wait until now? Why did you suddenly come out and tell us these things, and also that you’re the damn traitor? If I didn’t step foot in this place and they didn’t let you out, did you intend to continue staying quiet until you died?”
Zakriel did not make even the slightest movement. He just buried his face in the darkness where no light could shine.
“And…” Samel gritted his teeth and waved his arms. It gave Thales a scare. “Why is your target this prince?!”
At that moment, Thales was shocked!
‘Shit. Why the prince?’
“What else are you hiding from us?” Samel roared. “What kind of secret is it that you’re willing to bring to Hell’s River instead of telling us?”
Thales darted a glance at Quick Rope, who was moving restlessly because he wanted to flee. The prince felt that things were about to become very bad.
‘Why did we come back to this topic?’
Everyone in the Royal Guards, including Barney Junior, scrutinized Zakriel with questioning glances. Quite a number of them cast their gazes on Thales again.
‘This is very bad.’ Thales gritted his teeth discreetly. ‘Zakriel didn’t spill my secret before this. It might have been because he still felt guilty towards the royal family and did not wish to tarnish the Jadestar name
With an uneasy heart, Thales shot a glance at Zakriel, who seemed to be hesitating. ‘Now, he has already spilled the truth of the alliance between the Mystics and King Aydi the Second. He already has no reason to hide my secret, right?’
Just at that moment, Zakriel spoke up softly; the Knight of Judgment said plainly, “To advocate for the dead.”
This made the others, especially Thales, stunned.
‘Advocate for the dead? What does that mean?’
Zakriel slowly drew a breath. Deep wariness formed in his eyes. “None of these things were a coincidence, regardless of whether it is the infiltration of the Prison of Bones today, or the presence of this prince, the Disaster Swords, Shadow Shield, or even the Dragon Breaker in this place.”
A thought appeared in Thales’ mind. ‘It’s not a coincidence?’
Zakriel raised his head swiftly and looked at Thales. “That dagger of yours, Your Highness.”
‘Dagger?’ Thales gulped involuntarily. ‘What?’
While he had to bear the other people’s skeptical gazes, Thales resisted his urge to reach for the JC dagger.
The Knight of Judgment’s tone was indifferent, and there was a coldness laced in each of his words. “I know that, it was crafted using the dark steel purified underground by the dwarves, and made with a similar material as the one used for the Supreme Sword. But special Crystal Drops were fused into the steel for other purposes. It’s a very extraordinary blade.”
Before Thales could react to the situation, Zakriel revealed his JC dagger’s origins with his next sentence.
“That is a weapon which belongs solely to the Assassin’s Flowerthe Charletons. It is also the evidence which proves that a Charleton has completed his or her training, and has formally begun their life as an assassin.”
The crowd was utterly stunned! Even Quick Rope looked fearfully at Thales.
As the theme of the conversation, Thales himself felt stiff. He could not move.
‘He knows. But’
Zakriel’s eyes were full of wariness and fear, as though the unstable prisoner who had just escaped from prison earlier was only a figment of their imagination.
“Your Highness, the appearance of that dagger in your hands, including how the Shadow Shield assassins tried to threaten and cajole you into leaving with them just now, is enough to tell us something.
“I don’t know what reason could have possibly driven them to infiltrate the Jadestar Royal Family again to approach such a unique individual such as yourself, even though they participated in the assassination that year.”
When he mentioned how unique Thales was, Zakriel stopped talking again. It frightened Thales so much that he broke out in cold sweat.
“But this must be connected to the misfortune the calamities brought, along with the scheme they didn’t manage to successfully execute that year.”
The prisoners’ eyes glinted as their gazes moved back and forth between Thales and Zakriel. This time, the Knight of Judgment’s face was full of caution as if every single person before him was his enemy.
“I can sense that there are people filled with indignation. They refuse to let the tragedy that once happened come to an end.” Zakriel’s eyes glinted. “They are still trying to unearth the taboo of the past, trying to look for the legacy all those years ago, trying to advocate for those who died eighteen years ago in the disaster”
‘Advocate for those who died?’ Thales stared at Zakriel blankly. ‘No… It’s not like that.’ Thales forced himself to turn his head away. ‘This dagger was given to me by Jala in the past’
But when he thought of this, Thales’ thoughts stopoed for a moment. ‘Wait a moment. The JC dagger and the Assassin’s flower may just be a misunderstanding, but Shadow Shield’
Thales could not help but think of the words Stake said in the tavern.
‘”From madly assassinating the royal family members, to giving his all to ensure the prince’s survival the drastic change in Teng’s attitude before and after only proved one matter: The prince’s existence must mean something.”‘
Zakriel no longer paid attention to the prince’s abnormal behavior. He continued speaking in a headstrong manner, his words as cold as ice, “They must be stopped.”
He emphasized on the word “stopped”, saying it firmly in a tone that allowed no argument.
“They must be stopped before the tragedy of the past reappears and the next mistake is made.” When Zakriel finished speaking, Thales felt a chill crawl down his spine.
Samel laughed. “Advocate for the dead?” Samel repeated with a shake of his head. He seemed to regard Zakriel’s words with contempt. “What a lousy excuse. You haven’t answered me”
“Enough!” Just at that moment, Barney Junior seemed like he had lost his patience, and interrupted Samel without hesitation. Samel darted a displeased look at Barney Junior, but the latter ignored him. “If that’s the case, you aren’t prepared to be arrested without putting up a fight; you still want to attack the prince, right?” Barney Junior looked straight at Zakriel.
Zakriel remained silent for a second. He did not reply directly, and just repeated the words he had said earlier,
“They must be stopped.”
When he heard this, Barney Junior’s eyes turned colder. “Very well.”
The former vanguard removed the shield on his back, raised his longsword, and pointed it directly at Zakriel. He looked murderous.
“Then you must be stopped.”
All hesitation and sentiment was removed from Barney Junior. He coldly said, “In the name of the Royal Guards, we must purge evil and punish the traitor to bring justice.”
Thales immediately felt everyone’s bodies and minds tense up.
Beldin, Bruley, Tardin, Canon, Naer, and Nalgi slowly spread out. The Royal Guards held their weapons once more, stood in formation, and showed their killing intent, which they were no longer directed at Thales and Quick Rope.
Their weapons were directed towards the Knight of Judgment in front of them. Even Samel slowly drew his sword while he stood by the side.
It was like they had returned to the state of when they were at war, as though the scene where they met their old friend a moment ago was just an illusion.
Thales instinctively tightened his grip around Ricky’s sword. Quick Rope’s eyes sparkled, showing that he was thinking. He lifted the crossbow in his hand.
“Are you ready to accept your punishment, traitor?” Barney Junior stared at Zakriel harshly, the hate and disgust in his eyes practically seeping out.
The Knight of Judgment silently bore their gazes. “Of course.” Zakriel sighed. He slowly picked up his own axe. As he spoke, the sadness on his face turned bit by bit into determination. “I have been preparing every day, every hour, and every second of my life.”
At that instant, it was like someone had pushed the rewind button, causing time to return to the earlier moment where the Knight of Judgment and his former comrades were enemies against each other.
Quick Rope tugged Thales, signalling him as to whether they should flee while the others fought.
But Thales shook his head. He sensed the tension and gravity in the hall but that tension and gravity did not come from both sides in confrontation; those feelings came only from one side.
“Barney?” Nalgi raised his weapon and stared at the former watchman before him. He gulped, troubled, before he spoke carefully, “There’s only one of him, and there’s seven of us.”
“No, eight.” Samel interrupted mildly. With his sword in hand, he arrived next to Zakriel. Anger burned in his eyes. “All debts must be settled today.”
Zakriel darted Samel a look. An unknown emotion shone in his eyes, but he did not say anything.
Barney Junior also cast a glance at the coward who ran away, and whom he looked down upon. He pursed his lips, shook his head, and said,
“Very well, eight.”
And so, the former nine members of the Royal Guards; the nine people who had their faces marked with Constellation’s brand for criminals; the nine people who had not seen each other for eighteen years raised their weapons against each other at that moment.
“One against eight… No, the disparity in strength is too great,” Nalgi sighed gently as he mumbled to himself.
The rest of the Royal Guards frowned.
‘The disparity in strength is too great?’ A thought stirred in Thales’ heart. He heard just how grave Nalgi sounded.
Zakriel swept his gaze over the group and examined all of them again as if he was observing the battlefield.
“Yes, I know.” He spoke softly while he cast aside all the emotions he should not have while he fought. Then, he became that calmest and scariest Knight of Judgment again. “Me, against the eight of you, alone.”
Zakriel flipped his battle axe over and held it in a backhand grip before he stepped forward.
*Tap, tap, tap.*
“Indeed, this is”
His aura and the pressure he brought to the others accumulated bit by bit as he walked. He was like a tidal wave that was bound to hit the shore in the end, even though it seemed like it was moving slowly forward from the distance.
“…more or less, a bit”
Zakriel raised his axe and faced his opponents, who were ready to fight him. His gaze was serious.