Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
As early as six years ago, before Thales was conferred the title of prince, he was informed by Gilbert in Mindis Hall about this: The history of Constellation was never short on bloodshed.
‘Bloodshed. Is this the real bloodshed?’
Thales’ eyes were fixed on the agitated Samel. The man’s current behavior reminded him of the former Duke of the Northern Territory venting his despair in Renaissance Palace by roaring. It was the same kind of resentfulness, pain, sorrow and last gamble.
The atmosphere in the storage room reached a point that was so oppressive that even Beldin, who was blocking the path to Thales, also put his weapon down in a daze.
Samel’s panting carried a long, unresolved fury, Nalgi bit his lower lip, and Barney Junior raised his head in a perplexed manner, as if he was a traveler who lost his way in the fog.
As for Zakriel, he merely held his temples tightly as he bowed his head deeply. He did not say a word.
Even Quick Rope, who tried his best to pretend that he was unaffected by what happened, could not help a pensive and surprised look that did not belong on low-ranked mercenaries. He cast a glance at Thales.
‘What are you going to do?’
However, Thales ignored him and only stared unwaveringly at the center of attention in the room.
Finally, after the dead silence, followed by the incredible outburst, the voices that had disappeared for some time rose falteringly.
“What are they talking about, Zakriel?”
Thales, whose feelings were complicated and could not describe how he felt, shifted his gaze.
Barney Junior, who was kneeling on the floor, widened his eyes. They looked as if they had been wrecked by a storm. He inquired with a confused look on his face.
“Father? Jadestar? They”
Zakriel did not say anything. The knight quivered and turned his head slightly in the direction of that voice. He concealed his expression in a second so that his comrade did not see it.
He did not want his comrade to see his expression. Never…
But Barney Junior already sensed something from Zakriel’s silence.
“They were loyal to another Jadestar? Another member of the royal family?”
Barney Junior repeated his words in a daze. He ignored the dejected look shown on Nalgi’s face and the indignation reflected in Samel’s eyes.
The other person’s unusual silence provoked Barney Junior, causing him to speak faster than usual.
Nalgi snorted. Barney Junior turned towards him, as if pleading for help.
“Go ask your father; ask our honorable vice captain,” Nalgi said softly. He still could not get rid of the sarcastic and accusatory tone in his voice. “He was the instigator who secretly met with both sides, received orders from above, and made promises to the ones working for him… It was a pity that he did not tell you about it.”
Barney Junior’s unfocused gaze refocused. Meanwhile, Naer sighed as if he was resigned to fate.
“That is enough.” Finally, Zakriel’s dull and robotic voice rang out hollowly. He lowered his hands from his temples, allowing his face to be illuminated by the flames. His gaze was distant, the torch burning on the floor was reflected in his lifeless eyes. He was numb and unresponsive, just like a dead person.
“Why can’t you just let go of everything in the past?” asked the Knight of Judgment dazedly. “Why can’t all of you leave everything exactly as it is? Not a bit more or less, but just right.”
In the end, some slight fluctuation still stirred in his steady but hollow voice. “Let them end once and for all… Why can’t you just do it?”
His words caused a slight change in many of his comrades’ expressions.
Nalgi’s shoulders trembled. He stole a glance at Barney Junior, and revealed a mocking and bitter smile.
“Indeed. Why can’t we?”
Barney Junior got up from the floor and swiftly to his feet! His senses which were tortured immensely by the Alchemy Ball, caused him to stagger for a second before he was able to stand firmly on his feet.
“Because Zakriel, if what he said is true” In that moment, the flustered Barney Junior’s numb eyes showed a spark of agitation, which was rarely seen on him.
“If the Bloody Year is indeed That means means”
He eagerly looked at his other comrades, longing for his answer. Canon sobbed, Burley whimpered, Tardin looked desolate, and Beldin and Naer exchanged glances.
Barney Junior looked like he was hoping for some support… but his comrades did not respond. Only Samel sneered in disdain.
Thales sighed softly. He cleared his throat and opened his mouth in the unbearably still and quiet darkness.
“Barney, it means that perhaps the men who vowed their loyalty to the Jadestar Royal Family did not betray the country, including your father.” The prince’s words resounded in the underground prison, causing the sparkle in Barney Junior’s eyes to grow brighter.
Thales sensed the weariness and pain all over his body, and he tried to make his voice stable, and make himself sound amiable. He hoped that this could bring comfort to the poor man before him who was terribly wounded by the truth.
“Or at least, their betrayal was not that absolute and thorough.”
The prince’s voice caused different reactions among the guards, some of them looked down and kept quiet, some of them opened their mouths and wanted to say something, and some of them closed their eyes and sighed.
But Thales did not bother them and only spoke slowly. His tone carried a loneliness and sorrow rarely found on him.
“They are still loyal to the Jadestars, they only did as ordered. They chose a side in the royal family’s internal strife, each serving his own master…”
‘And they died fighting.’ Thales buried the last sentence in his heart.
Barney Junior’s expression face relaxed a little, acting as if he had somehow been liberated.
The guards quieted down, regardless of whether they knew about the event, and whether their ranks were high or low.
The underground prison sank into silence again. Quick Rope, who was observing all this from the side, felt that the stillness this time around was less unbearable.
“Is that so, is that so?” Barney Junior nodded faintly and repeated blankly. “They only they only…”
On the other side, Zakriel let out a long sigh. “Do not blame them, Barney.” There was sorrow in the Knight of Judgment’s eyes. “Especially your father. In those chaotic times, families, vows, virtues, loyalty, tradition, royal power, close relatives, the kingdom, the king, the princes… They were only, were only unsure about to whom”Zakriel paused a little as he seemed to be organizing his words”among these many factors they should be loyal to.”
As he finished the sentence, the Knight of Judgment closed his eyes desolately and unfurled his fists, which had been clenched tightly before this.
Barney Junior watched the floor tiles blankly. He was filled with conflicting thoughts and realizations, and he seemed no longer able to say anything.
However, at this exact moment, Nalgi began to sneer disdainfully again. “Hahahahaha”
All of them looked up.
“You are too optimistic, Zakriel.” Nalgi shook his head, and his eyes were filled with a gloomy look. “You left out one part, the part that is most terrible for us.”
Barney Junior was stupefied.
Thales’ face stiffened. ‘…What?’
Nalgi’s voice was laced with a pain that made others feel as if they were suffocating. “If this is the truth of the Bloody Year, that means that means we”
Nalgi paused as though it was difficult for him to continue speaking. Zakriel did not speak, but the muscles on his numb face started to tremble.
Samel seemed to understand what Nalgi meant as well, and he picked up where Nalgi left off,
“I get it now.”
Samel’s resentment had long disappeared. What followed next was him sinking into low spirits. “If the Bloody Year is a family’s bloody internal strife that involves patricide and fratricide Barney, even if I have exhausted all possible means to break out of imprisonment and persist tirelessly in seeking help and revenge, even if you make painstaking efforts to atone for your crimes with meritorious deeds by sending this Jadestar prince back to the capital”
A few seconds later, Barney appeared to have figured something out. Some blood had crept back to his previously pale face, but his expression froze again.
The relief on his face faded. Next came a fear which refused to leave his mind.
The guards reacted in different ways. Some of them displayed relief at having whatever was troubling their hearts removed from them, some shook their heads numbly, and some furrowed their brows.
“Even though we found out who was the mastermind and who was the person from within the country who worked with outside forces behind the political coup; even though we may have proven the innocence and loyalty of ourselves and the rest of our comrade-in-arms; even though we”
As he spoke, Samel choked on his emotions. He lowered his head and dispiritedly said, “It doesn’t matter anymore.”
Barney Junior’s body swayed violently as if he had been struck by a heavy hammer.
“For the sake of the royal family’s rule, reputation, and, even more so, the authority of Renaissance Palace; regardless of whether it is King Kessel, his heir, or even all of Constellation, none of them would allow the ugly truth of the Bloody Year to be exposed, not to mention disclosing it to the public and letting the world know about it.”
Samel glanced at Thales from a distance. Too many emotions were contained in that one glance: hatred, indignation, misery, despair… All these caused Thales to feel his heart grow even heavier.
“On the contrary, the people we have pledged our loyalty to will use whatever possible means to hide the truth, conceal facts, and twist justice… Because in the people’s impressions, the noble and wise Jadestar Family cannot be held responsible for the Bloody Year.
“The ‘true culprits’ will and can only be the legendary Jadestar Royal Family’s mysterious ‘sworn enemy’. ‘It’ will always stay behind the curtains and not show itself.”
Barney Junior listened to Samel’s words in a bewildered manner, as if he was a dead man standing.
“As for us Our comrade-in-arms who died in battle could not live to see the arrival of justice, the thirty-seven men who starved, or died due to illness would never see the day when they are cleared of the crimes they were accused of, and the survivors will have to carry on their backs the stigma of betrayal for the rest of their lives.
“As the Royal Guards of Constellation, we can only be and must be the traitors who communicated with the enemies!”
Zakriel shuddered violently as though he was struck by lightning. All of his comrades were pale. They had a sorrow in their eyes like they were receiving their final trial.
Samel’s words tumbled out of his lips even quicker, and they became even more cold and merciless. “We can only be the sinners who neglected our duties; the incapable cowards who failed our duties! We will never be able to reopen the case, even after we die.”
The prison was still and quiet in a horrifying way. The only sound was Samel’s voice.
Samel gasped for breath for a while before he regained his breathing and slowly got it stable, but the bleak despair in his tone was already at its peak.
“No matter how innocent and pitiful the ignorant ones were, no matter how pure-hearted and devoted lone officers like Barney were, no matter how the dissatisfied men like me received unjust treatment and had no way to voice our indignation, no matter how miserable and sorrowful a chess piece like your father was when he was forced into this situation; no matter how unfair this is to us”
Barney Junior’s hands started to tremble nonstop.
Samel’s gaze was empty. “Because as Royal Guards, we are destined to be sacrifices and scapegoats under the Nine-Pointed Star.”
Thales listened quietly. He recalled the numb and frozen expression of King Kessel the Fifth when he stood before the stone jars of the Jadestar Family in the Jadestar family tomb.
‘”I do not know how much you understand about us, nor do I know what you are imagining in regards to the Jadestar surname.”‘
Thales took a deep breath. He only felt that the air in his lungs had become colder and denser.
Zakriel turned his head around as if he could not bear to listen to Samel’s words anymore. No one could see his face.
Samel raised his head. “This is why Zakriel would rather keep his lips sealed, say nothing, and accept being a scapegoat; this is why Nalgi did not want to seek justice and only wants to walk away quietly; this is why, when the prison break was achieved and when we had reached the critical point of the situation, everyone decided to play dumb, and were completely numb to the situation… because they knew there was no meaning to it,” Samel said in a heartbreaking manner.
Barney Junior watched his other comrades in disbelief. Many of those who met his gaze looked down in shame. Zakriel still did not say a word.
“Barney, over those eighteen years, the thoughts that kept us alive, thoughts of clearing our names, seeking justice, and even that laughable revenge, were all illusions. All the struggles we made, hopes we embraced, wishes we clung to, and all the answers we have searched for: righteousness, justice, truth, innocence, freedom”
Samel’s voice was accompanied by his panting. He spoke falteringly, and there was pain in his words that could not disappear.
“…all of them are meaningless.”
Barney Junior turned around mechanically. His gaze became stiffer, and the emotions in his eyes number. Samel inhaled deeply and finished his words with a broken laugh while he stared at the dark corridor, which was so deep that the end could not be seen.
“In the corners of history, we, the former Royal Guards, are destined to be buried in dust. We will never see justice.”
The airy words seemed to carry an unprecedented force that hit Barney Junior and made him fall to the floor again right after he just stood up.
Naer exhaled softly while Beldin did not move at all. Tardin, Bruley, and Canon appeared to have sunk into permanent stiffness and silence.
The prison was quiet again.
Nalgi stared at the torch beside him with the ghost of a smile. While the flames illuminated his face, he turned his head away, unused to the light, and groaned.
“Do you know what I am most jealous of about you, and what I hate most about you, Barney?” Nalgi asked in a downcast tone. “For eighteen years, even though you lived foolishly in lies, at least, you still lived with the hope you weaved for yourself.
“In this dark and bottomless prison… you lived in the only one place that could be illuminated by light.”
As a light crackle rose, the torch on the floor died out. Nalgi’s figure was absorbed into the terrifying darkness again.
Thales closed his eyes gently so that he did not see the bloodless expression on Barney Junior’s face.
‘”There is no lack of bloodshed in the history of Constellation.”‘
In the past, Thales only retained a superficial understanding of the word ‘bloodshed’. When he contemplated the word, the scenes he thought described the word most accurately were the lives of child beggars in the Abandoned House in Lower City District, and the underground gang fights.
As his identity changed, as he traveled far and wide, and as his knowledge and exposure widened (regardless of whether he wanted to it or not), Thales eventually grasped the crux of the Bloody Year from different angles: The lifelessness in the Jadestar family tomb; the Duke of the Northern Territory’s roars of despair in Renaissance Palace; Rayman Pass’ silent homage to the deceased; the veteran Genard’s nostalgia in his gaze towards the days of old; the Fortress Flower’s gaze, which was both cheerful and solemn; Willow’s absent-minded behavior when he talked about his late sister; the scene of the Kingdom’s Wrath’s lonely back against the setting sun; the chilly desolation of Ghost Prince Tower; and Marina’s pale, quivering face when she presented her case.
There were too many people who were caught in the Bloody Year, and could not escape from it.
Before this, Thales thought he had started to understand the cruel side of the Bloody Year… until now; until he saw the cruel and merciless distrust and confrontation among the Royal Guards before him when they were reunited in the Prison of Bones.
This was the true essence of the Bloody Year. It was a nightmare that was eternal, one that enveloped everything, and seemed as though no one could ever wake from it.
“Hahahaha” Barney Junior’s sorrowful laughter interrupted Thales’ grave thoughts. But against his expectations, there was no longer gloominess and sadness on Barney Junior’s face, all that was left was a smile. “Hahahahahaha”
A numb, frozen, fake, and indifferent smile. He looked like the clown in a circus; that smile of his resembled the smile they drew on their faces with paint. It was a smiling face that invoked a faint uneasiness in the other people’s hearts. No one knew what was hidden under that smile.
This made Thales feel his heart clench in pain.
“I see!” Barney Junior laughed while he spoke loudly in a bleak tone. “Allen, Walker, Bobby, Morion, Laure, Gold, Skull, Rogo”
In a neurotic fashion, he mumbled the names that were unfamiliar to Thales. He did not look at the people beside him, and only stretched his arms towards the pitch-black ceiling as he laughed madly.
“Eighteen years of imprisonment. We shed so much blood, and persisted for so long but actually actually, it meant nothing!” Barney Junior laughed so much that the brand on his face contorted a little. “Just what do we fight for? What do we live for? What do we die for?”
No one could answer him. Nalgi watched him coldly, while Samel snorted softly through his nose. Zakriel seemed like he had turned into a statue. He stayed silent towards Nalgi’s accusations, Samel’s vindication, and Barney Junior’s questions.
Tardin and the rest looked distracted. They had lost all hope.
Thales shook his head and gave an answer in the negative towards Quick Rope’s enquiring gaze.
Barney Junior’s laughter turned listless and fragmented before he collapsed on the floor again.
“What exactly did we do it for?”
Beldin watched his former chief vanguard, dazed.
“Barney” He spoke in a troubled manner, as if he wanted to comfort Barney Junior, who seemed to have lost his composure completely, but when the words reached the edge of his mouth, he found it difficult to say them.
Nevertheless, in the next moment, Barney Junior’s actions shocked Beldin’s heart and soul!
Barney Junior, who had had his fill with laughing, stopped smiling as well. He picked up the longsword that he had dropped on the floor.
Everyone was taken by surprise. Even Zakriel also looked up.
Barney Junior’s eyes were bloodshot. His entire body trembled. He placed the blade on his palm. He gazed at the tip of the sword. After experiencing multiple battles, the blade was a blade, and certain parts of the blade was missing.
He then turned the sword around
…to his neck.
At that moment, Thalesrealising what Barney was about to dochanged his expression out of agitation!