Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
Thales did not feel well, not at all.
Aches rose and subsided continuously all over his body; cold irritated his joints so much that they trembled; hunger burned at his stomach and it felt as though it was well on its way towards burning a hole through him; the pain, itch, and numbness caused by old and new healed wounds tormented him; and the dizziness and fatigue that came after he had exhausted all his mental strength
All kinds of negative senses invaded him like a flood.
The guards’ cries and gasps sounded like faint echoes in his ears.
The sounds provide such great stimulation that Thales’ field of vision began to waver.
The Sin of Hell’s River, ever restless and wild, lay dormant within him, lifeless, as though it was a seriously-ill beast that refused to offer more help.
Thales knew that this might be the side-effects of the Sin of Hell’s River’s recovery power; it might also be the residual effects from abusing his mystic energy; it might even be the aftereffects of the Alchemy Ball exploding earlier.
He had tortured his young body far too much, but he had no other choice. None.
While Quick Rope called out to him worriedly and Beldin watched him nervously, the teenager used every ounce of his strength to stand firmly on his feet.
‘I cannot fall.’ In his daze, Thales felt a heavy weight press down on his body and soul. He waved his hand and refused the help offered by the others. ‘Not yet.’
He bit down on the tip of his tongue several times, which provided a stimulation great enough to jolt him. It was as if he could absorb enough energy from the almost numbing pain to focus his thoughts. In this different form of silence, Thales turned around with great effort while lifting the torch in his hand.
Thales glanced at the man who looked desolate and about to collapse as he sat against the wall and pressed down on the wound in his arm. Following Thales’ gaze, the people turned to the poor man who did not say a single word, and only stared dazedly at the two bodies.
Beldin’s eyes were bloodshot as he stared at that person like he was anticipating something. Canon and Tardin’s eyes were filled with shame as though they did not dare face Barney Junior. Samel’s gaze carried indescribably profound meaning.
However, as Thales’ torch drew closer, that man retreated and curled into himself. He even went to the extent of turning his head away to avoid the torch, as if he feared light itself.
“Quill Barney… Chief vanguard.” Thales let out a sigh that was filled with exhaustion. “I know that you have had a long day.”
That indifferent figure seemed to have felt something. He shrank backwards instinctively.
Thales stopped moving. In the teenager’s blurry vision, Barney Junior’s figure gradually grew clearer.
Not long ago, it was this man who reached out to him with a rough callused hand. But at this moment, the spirit and energy that brimmed in the man’s eyes were no longer present.
It was replaced by gloom… A gloominess that was filled with despair, remorse, pain, and perplexity.
“No, Your Highness.” Barney Junior pushed the side of his head against his shoulder, and the back of his head against the wall. Half of his face was immersed in darkness. He looked surreal. “No.”
There was hatred in his words, and it made the brand on his face even more clearer.
“Do not play that sentimental trick with me Do not comfort me, and do not forgive me”
Barney Junior did not go on. He held his wounded arm, curled up in the corner of the room while on the verge of death, to hide away from the rays of light, as though he was a beast that was dying.
It was like he had reached the end of his rope. He was currently only a walking corpse.
What took his life? What was it that took this man’s life? What took the life of this man, the warrior who firmly and violently brandished his sword and shield while he attacked the enemy ranks without holding back? What took the life of the supreme class elite whose expression did not change even when he was forced into a corner and was drenched in blood?
Thales sucked in a small breath and threw away the torch in his hand gently.
The dim and blurry light and shadows flickered. Without the torch irritating his sight, Barney Junior finally turned his head back to face Thales.
“Of course not”the teenager put on a pleasant smile”and I am not about to do that…”
Thales stared at Barney Junior. His tone was steady. “…because you have done nothing wrong.”
The trembling Barney Junior was dumbfounded for a while. The prison quieted down.
Then, Thales’ words continued to rise into the air.
“Since eighteen years ago, Barney, as the vanguard of the Royal Guards who is always loyal, your path has always been clear, straight, travels only in a single line, and has always been the only path you will take.
“You lived in the simplest world; you only needed to be true to yourself and protect your comrades. You never had to make a difficult choice.”
Barney Junior’s gaze gradually stiffened, but he remained still. The teenager turned to the others in the prison. His voice was deep, as if he was sighing in sympathy. “…Unlike them.”
Zakriel stared blankly at the two corpses on the floor. His gaze was difficult to understand. Samel kept his head low. He seemed to refuse to accept what Thales had said, though only a little.
“You are unlike Nalgi, who was filled with regret and guilt, who yearned for peace but could not have it.”
Canon, Bruley, and Tardin’s faces showed troubled looks.
“You are unlike Naer, who was in constant discomfort because he knew the truth, and was tortured by of his hesitation to speak.”
Thales’ eyes were fixed on Barney Junior’s face. The man’s expression still had not changed. In the end, Thales sighed.
“You are unlike… unlike your father.”
Once that word was uttered, Thales saw Barney Junior begin to shudder violently.
The prince sighed in his heart. “So, you think that your father should have told you the truth back then, right?”
Thales watched Barney’s expression, which was filled with conflict and changed from time to time. He said softly, “The problem is: if he had revealed the truth to you, what would you do, and what decision would you make?”
‘If he had told me the truth…’ Barney Junior’s facial features contorted. It was illuminated by the flames on the floor.
But the vanguard still turned around his head furiously, and stubbornly faced the wall. He avoided the light, and did not say a single word.
He only showed the brandthe ugliest part on himto the flames.
Thales looked at the other man’s reaction calmly and continued to say, “Let me guess… Would you listen to him as he shares his difficulties, stand by him, and, like him, fight until you breathe your last and die in front of the palace, then be buried with your decisions and wrongdoings?
“Would you enter eternal rest with the blood debt of regicide bearing down on your shoulders?”
Barney Junior still had his face turned away, and he remained silent. The brand on the side of his face twitched for some strange reason.
Thales’ tone became heavier. “Or would you remain loyal to the late king and stand against your father? Would you fight against your family with weapons in the name of righteousness while bearing disappointment, sadness, confusion, fury, and pain with you?
“Would you carry with you your father’s stigma and live in a nightmare for the rest of your life?”
Barney Junior’s face moved a little. Visible veins bulged up on his fist.
Thales laughed softly. “Or would you do the same thing as what you are doing now? Would you lose yourself in perplexity and hesitation, refuse to accept reality, walk away alone, and run away from everything that is about to happen? Would you carry with you the pain and guilt only felt by a coward, and waste away your life?”
The teenager’s gaze shifted to the sword on the floor, which he had seized from Barney’s hand with his mystic energy.
“Would you even consider settling everything by taking your own life?…”
‘Settling everything by taking your own life.’ The vanguard who held his wounded arm while he tried to run away from everything shivered a little.
He seemed to be a little unwilling to accept what Thales had said, but he could only mumble a few ambiguous words from his mouth.
“It does not matter anymore”
But Thales did not let him finish his words. “I think this was his fear and worry.” The prince’s voice became downcast. “He knew and understood you, which was why he was afraid that when you knew the truth and his decision, you would be left with limited options”
Thales was a mess. He looked exhausted, but his eyes were the only part of him left that still sparkled.
“I think this was the tacit agreement and promise made between your father and your brothers who kept you out of the loop.”
Barney Junior’s breathing stopped for a few seconds; he was stupefied. He ignored the serious injuries in his shoulders and arms, and turned his head around again to look at Tardin and the rest… But all of them lowered their heads and avoided his gaze.
Thales ignored Barney’s perplexed and pained gaze. Instead, he stared at a non-existent place in the distance and sighed softly.
“Your father did not have the intention of betraying and deceiving you, Vanguard Barney. He did not do something like what Nalgi said either; he did not place bets on both sides of the conflict while trying to please them from the middle.”
There was regret and sorrow in the teenager’s words. “The truth is, he loved you. He wanted to protect you.”
Thales’ voice paused for a little while to serve as an accompaniment for Barney’s increasingly erratic breathing. “He just… did not know how to show it.”
The prince’s voice was calm and contained a deep, underlying meaning. There were also emotions in his words that were difficult to identify.
“So, he made a decision for you.”
No one knew that, in that moment, Thales had clenched his fists fiercely.
‘…Made a decision for you.’ Barney Junior’s thoughts stopped for a moment. The vanguard was in a daze.
In his distant memories, the familiar figure that often visited him in his nightmares during the past eighteen years reappeared. That firm and strong figure that he thought would never collapse.
And the voice of the past. Serious, strong, grave, and earnest.
“‘Your grandmother wrote you a letter. She wants you to go back… I think this should be decided by you.”‘
Barney Junior’s gaze became unfocused under the firelight.
‘”…go back should be decided by you.”‘
Barney Junior instinctively hugged himself. He shivered, and an indescribable fear rose in his heart.
In the next second however, he heard a rather weak and helpless voice, traveling into his ears. It was one that he rarely heard from his father, and it was no longer as firm and unyielding.
“‘No, we can’t escape… my son.”‘
The other man’s voice grew more and more indistinct while his face became clearer.
‘Should be decided by me No.’
Barney Junior’s expression slowly morphed. He held his wounded arm while enduring unbearable pain, and his breathing faltered.
“No” Barney pressed his face against his shoulder. He could not stop them from twitching. His voice quivered so much that his pitch had changed. “Father”
As though he did not want to appear too weak, with a twisted face, Barney Junior stuck his left index finger between his upper and lower teeth and bit his finger firmly to stop the sobs in his throat from spilling out of his mouth.
The guards watched Barney Junior while he was immersed in pain, grief, and resentment. An indescribable sorrow spread out in the air. Thales sighed slowly. There was all sorts of emotions in his heart.
“His plan clearly failed.” The prince tried his best to speak in his most pleasant and most serious tone. “Even though it might be eighteen years late, you still faced the truth. The cruel but real truth…”
Barney Junior started to tremble again. The vanguard closed his eyes, as if this would help him prevent something from happening.
“I know your tricks, Your Highness.” He snorted obstinately. “A noble’s usual trick, just like how you dealt with the others earlier, you took advantage of their weak spots and offered conditions that they could not refuse in exchange for what you want the most.”
On the other side, many of the guards’ expression changed slightly, including that of Canon, Bruley, Tardin, and even Beldin.
Barney Junior snorted through his nose and said to Thales, “Right now, you are taking advantage of how I feel about my father.”
Thales paused for a bit. He appeared to not have the heart to continue with this conversation. However, he still took a deep breath in the end and slowly said, “In that case, is your father your weak spot… when he deprived you of your chance to make your decision so that you would be free of the pain of making a decision, and could even avoid the consequences of the decision made?”
Barney Junior’s arms began to tighten around himself. He sensed the pain of the fracture in his bone grow stronger.
‘No.’ He unclenched his teeth while cold sweat trickled down his face. He opened his bloodshot eyes and glanced at the prince indignantly. He seemed like he wanted to speak, but did not.
“Is what he did of extraordinary significance to you?” Thales shook his head. “Don’t answer me,” the prince said. “Answer that question for yourself.”
Barney Junior was a little stunned.
Thales turned his head around and swept his gaze past Samel, who had a complicated expression, Beldin, who had hope in his eyes, Tardin, whose emotions were difficult to decipher, and Zakriel, who underwent a drastic change just now and and was currently in a daze.
The prince inhaled deeply to relieve his dizziness slightly. “For example, would you do the same thing as you did just now?”
Thales turned around and arduously stretched out his hand to pick the sword off the floor.
“Would you be like the cowardly old veteran Quill Barney who lost his will to live, sank into despair, became dejected and only wanted to die, just as your father predicted, worried about, and feared?”
Barney Junior’s eyes were fixed on the sword in Thales’ hand. His whimpers gradually turned softer, and his trembling stopped.
Thales let out a soft sigh. “Would you?”
The prince looked down. His voice grew a few pitches deeper as well, and there was grief in his words. “If you had done so it would only mean one thing: your father was right.”
Barney Junior trembled violently!
“Regardless of whether you admit it or not, you did what your father was worried about, and you confirmed his judgment: you cannot bear with what he had to deal with.”
Thales stepped forward, withstood the dizziness, inhaled, and said, “It means that you approved of your father’s idea, agreed to the decision he made for you, and followed the path he paved for you.”
The vanguard gritted his teeth. His expression grew more pained, and his face contorted even more.
His gaze moved back and forth from the bloody longsword lying on the floor, and the prince who was firm, and whose words allowed no refutation.
“You proved with your actions that your father should have never told you the truth. He should never share the need to make decisions with you, and you, who are weak, should never and do not deserve to know this secret!”
Thales’s words were firm and unyielding while his gaze was fierce. It shocked the people behind him. Beldin and the others looked at each other, at a loss.
But Thales was not done speaking. His tone grew stronger. “Because you, Vanguard Quill Barney, cannot endure such pain and cannot bear the consequences! You do not have the right to make your own decisions.”
Barney Junior subconsciously clenched his fists and his breathing became faster.
The vanguard and the prince stared at each other in silence. One man was conflicted and hesitant, while the other was firm and cold.
Against his expectations, in the next second, the prince’s intonation fell, and exhaustion crept back into his voice.
“But… Are you?” Thales inhaled deeply, turned the sword upside down with trembling hands, and handed the hilt to Barney. “Are you?”
Barney Junior froze.
“‘Your grandmother wrote you a letter. She wants you to go back.”‘ A familiar voice echoed in his ears. “‘…Very well. Don’t go back, then.”‘
His gaze as it fixated on the sword changed repeatedly. Sometimes, it were perplexed, sometimes, it was in pain, and sometimes it was grief-stricken.
Then, Thales gently lowered the hilt that no one took. The prison quieted down again, and all that was left was the sound of breathing.
It felt as though a decade had passed before Barney Junior opened his mouth and drew a heavy breath in the dull prison as he tried to calm down.
“But what if…” Barney Junior’s next sentence carried with it a strong sense of sarcasm and disappointment. “What if I am? What if I am the man who cannot bear it all when the truth is out?” Barney’s nasally voice was heavy, dreary, and rough. “What if I am the sort of coward who has no right to make a decision for myself?”
But Thales smiled. He tossed away the sword gently and let it clatter on the floor.
“You once said it, Barney.” The prince’s voice was gentle but hoarse, as if he was afraid he would wake someone from a deep sleep. “Those brothers whom you treasured are the reason why you have struggled to live until now in the darkness, and why you have prolonged your feeble existence, are they not?”
When they they heard this, every guards’ breathing becameuneven.
Barney Junior’s figure swayed under the light provided by the fire. The man followed Thales’ gaze and swept it over his two comrades’ bodies. His gaze was numb, and he looked lost in his thoughts.
With great sadness, the prince watched Nalgi and Naer’s bodies. They were slowly becoming cold on the floor. He said softly, “But I somehow feel that it is the exact opposite.”
Barney Junior’s fingers curled slightly, and his breaths grew increasingly chaotic.
Thales looked up and glanced at the Prison of Bones’ underground storage room. All he saw was dust and chaos. The guards all noticed that the prince’s gaze had become unfocused, and his expression was one of perplexity.
“Nalgi said that everyone has suffered enough in this underground prison, which runs so deep that the end could not be seen, and is shrouded in darkness…
“But there is also this one man who is the one and only person who lived in a place where light shone on him.”
Barney Junior’s gaze froze for a moment. The Royal Guards were all momentarily taken aback. Thales’ voice was soft, and he chose his words carefully.
“While he was there, he had what they all lost, and it was what they desired the most.”
The teenager whose face was bruised and scruffy lowered his head to reveal a calm and relaxed smile in Barney’s direction. Barney Junior was dumbstruck.
“Compared to the others who knew what happened and chose not to voice it, or had their own secrets, you always maintained the purest determination, belief, and sincerity.”
Beldin lowered his gaze, bewildered. Tardin looked down in agony, Samel pressed down on the hilt of his sword, while Canon and Bruley were silent.
Thales spoke with his clearest and most regretful tone, “This is what they lost long ago. This is what they envy, what they are jealous of, admire, and long for the most, even though it is out of their reach. It is the most precious thing to them. It is the spark that has been saved for you, and it was built upon the premise of your father’s downfall, along with the price of your brothers’ lifelong guilt.
“It is the spark that makes them ashamed of themselves; it is what they seek, but cannot obtain, and what they do not dare to look straight into.”
Every single word was spoken clearly, and they lingered in the air. Barney Junior did not speak. He was stunned as he remained where he was. The rest of the Royal Guards were either perplexed or indignant. Each one of them had different expressions.
Thales snuck a glance at Nalgi and Naer, laid on the floor with their eyes closed, but he smiled.
“The truth is, Quill Barney, before I came here, you are your comrades’ light in the darkness. You were bright and glaring, burning and dazzling. You represented the brightest and most wonderful part of being a Royal Guard. You represented their refusal to admit defeat. They did not dare lay covetous thoughts on that spark, much less have the courage to destroy it.”
Every sentence Thales said caused Barney Junior’s chest to heave while the others looked down and sighed. Even Zakriel was no exception.
“Whether you admit it or not, Quill Barney Junior” Thales bent down laboriously. His palm stopped for a second above the blood-stained, broken sword. Then, he slowly moved his palm sideward…
He picked up the torch by his side.
“You are the only presence that still hopes to remain loyal in this desperate world where betrayal is commonplace. You are the only coordinate that remains while they are immersed in self-reproach and guilt, and when they doubt themselves in this meaningless future. You are the only light that they can see as they look up when they struggle in this darkness that reeks of blood, and are covered in cuts and injuries all over their bodies. You are the only existence that they respect, love, admire, get jealous of, and look up to without any reservation and apprehension.
“You are the last bit of comfort for when they look back on the rest of their bitter, cold, and dark lives.”
Thales let out a long sigh and said, “In these eighteen years, you are the reason that has got them to continue living. Once all that has happened today passes, will you”
However, Barney Junior cut the prince off, “It is false.”
He seemed somewhat ashamed, although that shame was born out of anger. His limbs and expression showed that he did not know what to do in this situation.
“It is all false! It is all false. It was all made up by their despicable behavior and betrayal.” Barney Junior shook his head in his daze and clenched his fists, as if he could stay a little more clear-headed by doing this.
“It never existed.” He growled with a rasping and weak voice. “Be it my father or someone else Back then, th-they did not even give me a choice! They did not!”
Barney Junior was a little worked up. What he said led most of the guards to look away in shame. They did not dare look at him directly in the eye.
At this very moment, Thales suddenly strode forward. He lifted the torch in his hand high in the air. As the flame drew closer and flickered continuously, Barney Junior was overwhelmed by the light. He instinctively raised his hands to hide from it.
“No, they did not give you any choice,” the teenager said faintly, “But your life gave you one.”
Thales spoke very slowly. It allowed Barney Junior, who had become worked up, to calm down unknowingly.
Thales sighed softly again. “However, compared to the others, the choice that belongs solely to you came much later, but it matters much more compared to them, and is more significant. It is at this exact moment, right here, eighteen years later…”
Thales turned around and looked at every single person in the room, including Zakriel, who was immersed in dreariness.
“Yes, Barney. When the truth comes to light, when all pretenses are resolutely ripped to shreds and cruel confrontation is called upon…” Thales said faintly, “You will then understand that what you went through in the past is to lay out the groundwork for what decision you will make on this day.”
As he bore with the pain in his body, Thales recalled everything that happened in the proximal world, which had seemed like a dream. He turned around again.
He gazed firmly at Barney Junior, who was avoiding talking to Thales. The second prince said softly,
“And the decision is this: what kind of person will you choose to be when you face all the darkness in this world, when you are filled with anger because of betrayal, when you feel indignant because of lies, when you feel pain because of hatred, when you are in despair because of failure, when everything you have been fighting for leaves you?”
No one said anything. There was, once again, an indescribable silence.
However, Barney Junior’s gaze was no longer unfocused. He only stared at the prince firmly. His expression was complicated, and the meaning behind it was difficult to decipher. He snorted through his nose. It was sorrowful and filled with resignation.
“It is easier said than done…” Barney Junior gritted his teeth and tilted his upper body forward as though he was resisting something with all his might. “…because you were not there!”
He gritted his teeth fiercely.
“If it were you, if you had to experience all these: betrayal, lies, hatred, failure” Barney Junior raised his voice and said to the prince in indignation and resentment, “What about yourself? What decision would you make? What kind of person would you become?”
However, he was soon interrupted.
“It is easy.” Thales sighed. “In Constellation, my master who taught me my sword told me this on the first day of my lessons.”
In the next moment, Thales’ arm moved!
Barney Junior was startled, but he reacted quickly and caught the object Thales threw at him.
It was a torch. The one Thales had picked up from the floor.
The torch burned obstinately before Barney Junior’s eyes and illuminated him from head to toe, showing the blood flowing from his body, his scars, cuts, marks, and the brand.
The darkness surrounding him was driven away.
“She told me, ‘Hold up your shield.'” Thales spoke calmly, but there was no room for doubt. “I can only put it down in two situations.”
In that moment, Barney Junior shuddered as he held the torch. The flames flickered violently and swayed back and forth, but he never lowered the torch.
“No matter how f*cked up this world is, Barney, no matter how they try to persuade you, lie to you, and tempt you into opening up to hostility, fight an eye for an eye against hatred, surrender to anger, submit to despair, and turn into captives and slaves to their rule”
Quick Rope, who was silently observing all of this by the side, was the first to notice that Thales’ emotions had changed.
“No matter what reality does to you, no matter how others attack, hurt, and torture you, no matter how limited the choices life gives you, and how painful they are
“No matter how many times this damn world betrays, double-crosses, harms, and persecutes you”
While under the illumination of the fire, Prince Thales, who went on several adventures with Quick Rope over the course of the few days they had been together, had a rarely seen, complicated expression appear on his face.
Grief, sadness, numbness and vulnerability.
These were the emotions that Quick Rope thought would not be associated with Thales, who was optimistic, humorous, resolute, and who had a thousand tricks up his sleeves.
After he paused for a few seconds, Thales took a deep breath. “Only one thing matters the most…”
Before Barney Junior’s expressionwhich made him seem as if he was perplexed but also aware of somethingThales pulled a faint smile, of which other people could not tell whether it was because he felt more resigned or melancholic.
“Others can forget about changing you. They can forget about asking you to put down the shield.”
In the silent, gloomy, and dim prison, Barney Junior watched Thales with a blank expression. A scene from a very long time ago suddenly flashed before Barney’s eyes: it was of when he just joined the Royal Guards.
Back then, he was young, smug, proud, and confident.
He was annoying.
That day, he brandished the wooden sword in his hand and pointed it at the girl from the village who was in a disheveled state because she had fallen multiple times on the sand, and her entire face was full of pain
That vain girl whom he once thought married above her rank into the royal family, gained the crown prince’s favor, and was personally handed to him in a seemingly joking manner by the prince to ‘learn some military skills’.
“‘Trust me, My Lady, the extent of how much I hate this mission is the same as the extent of how much you hate me.”‘
He still remembered how he had to withstand his comrades pointing fingers at him at the training field. During that time, he said to the ‘trainee’ appointed to him by the crown prince with disdain and loathing,
“‘Now, honorable Lady Jines, please hold up your shield.”‘
He still remembered the gaze that girl had when she struggled to her feet through gritted teeth.
“‘Only in two situations can you let it down”‘
He remembered the sweat on her face, mixed with dust and bloodstains, and the shield she gripped firmly in her hands and never let go, no matter how badly she was beaten up by him.
“‘…You die, or your enemy dies.”‘
Barney Junior felt his vision blur.
Thales raised his voice and said, “You do not need words of comfort and forgiveness, vanguard… You only have to face yourself.”
A few seconds later, Barney, who seemed unable to withstand the prince’s hopeful and bright gaze, subconsciously lowered his head and avoided his gaze.
At this moment, his heart was in turmoil, and he did not know what to do.
“Is that possible?” Barney Junior turned to the other side and stared at the two bodies on the floor with doubt and sadness. His tone became a little hesitant.
Thales looked at Barney Junior, who gritted his teeth and held the torch high. Thales smiled faintly. “Of course. Because that was what I did.”
Thales turned around slowly and left the vanguard to look at his back, which swayed as he laboriously moved forwards. Before everyone’s gazes, the teenager took a step forward and looked up with a smile.
“From the first day, until the last.”
1. There is a slight change in this from the raws. The original says that Zakriel was the one who knocked his sword away, but in ‘Where the Sun Does Not Shine (Two)’, it’s very clear that Thales used his mystic energy to seize his sword, so we decided to say here that Thales was the one who seized the sword instead, just to keep to consistency.