Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The fire in Blade Fangs Camp grew weaker, but black smoke continued to rise from it.
The subordinates of the Legendary Wing stood in formation and bewilderment as they watched the prisoners next to them gobble down their food. The mercenaries, on the other hand, stood in a corner warily and kept their distance.
“What happened?” Tardin stuffed a piece of field ration into his mouth desperately. He did not even bother to wash it down with water. “Does this count as… our last meal?”
As he ate, he glanced at a remote spot below the sand dune. There were three figures there: two adults, and a teenager. The former two stood stiffly, while the smaller figure sat cross-legged on the ground. He was also gobbling up his food as well.
Next to Tardin, Beldin shook his head and continued to gorge on the field rations. “Does it matter?”
Barney Junior picked up a piece of hardened bread with a contemplative look in his eyes. “I can’t think of anything worse than what happened today.”
Zakriel sat a little further away from them, chewed on a mouthful of jerky, and watched the three figures in the distance warily.
“If I were to be… thrown… into the Prison of Bones…” Quick Rope devoured his food with tears all over his face. “I should at least leave no, sob… can I have a bite of your jerky? Thanks… sob, I mean I want to leave no…. f*ck, it tastes horrible… leave no regrets, sob…” His heartfelt crying made everyone frown.
At this moment, Barney Junior put down the bread in his hands and asked quietly, “Why did you come back?”
All the Royal Guards froze, only Quick Rope remained busy stuffing himself.
Barney Junior looked up at the Knight of Judgment. “Are you assuming that we will return to the way we used to be after taking down some enemies together?” There was a spark in the vanguard’s keen, fiery eyes. “You think everything will still be how it used to be? The brotherly bond? Our camaraderie?” Beldin patted Barney Junior on the shoulder with a troubled expression. The latter let out a bitter snort.
Zakriel did not speak. He merely gazed into the distance without moving. The wounds on his face and shoulders were discernible under the daylight.
“So, what are you up to?” Barney said sarcastically. “Do you still want to kill the prince?”
The Knight of Judgment jolted slightly.
“You still refuse to tell us anything, even though we already know his secret?”
Beside him, Beldin sighed. Intending to convince the former to stop asking question, he said, “Barney.”
Zakriel remained silent, as did every other Royal Guard. Meanwhile, Quick Rope had shamelessly finished his own food, and proceeded to sneakily reach for the other people’s food, but his hand got swatted by Tardin.
Eventually, the Knight of Judgment raised his head with a dazed look in his eyes. “Barney… stop asking questions.”
Barney was startled at first before he clenched his teeth immediately after. “You bastar—”
But he was interrupted.
“Do you know that there used to be a calamity with no physical form and had an everlasting existence? Because it lives in every single person’s thoughts.”
In that instant, everyone including Quick Rope was dumbfounded.
“Even one as wise as Prince Tormond and as valiant as the Hero Raikaru were powerless against it.” The Knight of Judgment stared into the empty sky. There was an undefiable chill in his voice. “When it comes to certain things, the fewer the people who know about them, the safer Constellation will be, ” he finished. All that was left was a lingering silence and the endless desert wind.
However, the atmosphere among the three people under the sand dune a distance away was drastically different.
When Thales laboriously ripped apart his fifth jerky, he could feel the sharp, blade-like coldness radiating from the two pairs of eyes above him. It forced him to chew the jerky hastily and wash it down with water.
The prince wiped his mouth clean with his sleeve, completely unconcerned with his own image. He winced when he accidentally touched the swell inflicted by Quick Rope.
The Legendary Wing, and the leader of the mercenaries watched him eat. One of them had his hands behind his back, while the other stood with his arms crossed. The two men exchanged glances. They were growing more and more impatient.
Thales gave a loud belch and began to speak before he was torn into shreds by their glares.
Once they heard that, both Roman and Ricky were startled.
“What?” Ricky asked, puzzled. What Thales said next made his expression change.
“The key that unlocked Black Prison and opened the exit. If I remember correctly, you told Stake earlier that you have coincidentally found another key outside the camp?”
The prince watched the gradually changing looks on their faces closely.
“But when you told me that fate is a bigger prison, and you have the only key to unlock it…” Thales narrowed his eyes and gestured to the Legendary Wing, whose expression darkened with every passing moment. “I could not help thinking: what if there is truly only one ‘key’?”
At that second, it felt as though someone had struck the air heavily with a hammer. Ricky furrowed his eyebrows tightly. The Legendary Wing stood still dazed.
Thales let out another belch. “Ah, I overate, sorry. So, I followed the clue, retraced our footsteps, and recalled everything that happened.”
The teenager slowly moved his finger to point at the exit of the Prison of Bones, which had already been closed a while ago. Thales’ eyes lit up.
“And guess what? Every strange detail and discrepancy became interrelated.”
The prince wore a smile on his face. There was a hint of lightness and dramatic flare in his tone of voice. Nonetheless, the other two men obviously did not have much sense for humor, because they did not find what he just said funny. They merely looked Thales coldly. As it appeared, they were not in a very good mood.
Thales glanced around, wiped the smile off his face awkwardly in front of his unresponsive audience, and gave a dry chuckle or two.
“Ricky, when you got out of the prison, instead of taking flight immediately, you stayed here and waited unhurriedly for the ‘right moment’?”
The mercenary leader’s face became increasingly grim.
“Meanwhile, Sir Williams, you were supposed to lead a group of light cavalry to find in the desert, but somehow, you arrived here out of sheer coincidence.”
The Legendary Wing’s face gradually darkened before him. But Thales went on, delivering one sentence after another, and he startled the two of them.
“After Williams arrived, he did not even bother with my presence. Instead, he discreetly yet anxiously pressed you for the result of your ‘mission’, and also asked about an ‘accident’.”
The teenager looked at Ricky, seemingly pleased with himself.
“Before the overwhelming presence of an army of cavaliers, you, without being conscious of your actions, used me as a your leverage, even though, technically, I am no longer your hostage. You used me to threaten the infamous Legendary Wing in a haughty manner. Perhaps because you were not threatening him at all, but you were reporting back to your employer?”
Thales inhaled deeply and narrowed his eyes.
“Just now, I deliberately mentioned the Prison of Bones to the both of you.”
Roman and Ricky were startled again as they recalled the incident earlier.
“Williams, you were indifferent to the strange fact that he appeared in the desert with prisoners from Black Prison, and disregarded the question of how Black Prison was infiltrated.
“Ricky, you were similarly completely unconcerned about Samel, who wears the same brand as the others, as if you were confident that he would be able to get out of this in one piece despite the fact that his identity has been exposed.
“Also, both of you seem to have forgotten about the damn exit of the Prison of Bones that we just came out from. See?” Thales waved the jerky in his hand and took a bite. “There are too many suspicious and strange things about this, and so, the truth became plain and clear.”
In the beginning of the their conversation, Roman and Ricky would still exchange glances, share their frustration and anger, and even intended to interrupt Thales. However, as Thales went on, his reasoning became more solid, and they stopped directing their gazes at each other. Instead, they stared at the ground in bewilderment.
Thales held the tip of the jerky he just bit into, and pointed at Ricky before he pointed at Roman.
“The two of you were in this together from the start, right from the moment you effortlessly obtained the key to Black Prison, to this moment when he stands here and watches Blade Fangs Camp burn.”
After finishing his long speech, Thales looked at the two men, who looked petrified, and nodded contentedly at last. He picked up a waterskin and took a mouthful of water.
The two men were silent. Time ticked by as though centuries had passed. Eventually, the Legendary Wing closed his eyes and heaved a long sigh. He extended a hand to Ricky, palm up.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Disaster Swords glared at the teenager resentfully with a grimace. He took out a green rectangular rod from his bosom, one that Thales recognized right away.
‘The key.’ Thales smirked.
“As expected of a product from Renaissance Palace.” Roman took the key to Black Prison from Ricky in a stone-cold manner. “You are born cunning.”
Thales raised his eyebrows and put what remained of the jerky into his mouth.
“No, this is just the most basic of all observations and deductions,” he mumbled as he chewed. “I think any ordinary person can see it.”
Roman’s expression became even more unpleasant when he heard these words. Beside them, Ricky heaved a long sigh.
“A key?” He began to laugh in resignation, he shook his head, and snorted. “Hahahahahahaha… All because of a goddamn key?”
Ricky stopped laughing. He clenched his teeth and huffed before he looked at Roman with frustration and resentment.
“That’s why I told you that you shouldn’t neglect this detail just because very few people know the truth about Black Prison. We should at least stage a theft, but because of your bloody pride…”
Roman gave a cold snort and retorted, “You’re the one who took a bunch of ‘tourists’ in for a free tour, waved the key around, and bragged about it for five minutes in front of everyone.”
Thales watched the two of them squabble from the corner of his eye.
‘They… actually know each other quite well. That’s unexpected.
While he was distracted by their squabble, the Legendary Wing turned to look at Thales. “So, you know the truth, ‘prince’,” Baron Williams said coldly, “We destroyed the Blade Fangs Camp.”
In that very instant, Thales felt a chill down his spine under Roman’s sharp, intense glare. The Legendary Wing looked up at his surroundings and signaled with a gesture to his subordinates—who were anxiously waiting for him—to stay put.
“Then, how did you gain the courage to recklessly expose our scheme?”
Roman lowered his head and kept an eye on their surroundings as he said threateningly, “Did you really think that Nameless can protect you?”
Ricky flashed a wicked smirk at the teenager while he stood next to Roman. Thales felt his heart freeze. He gulped.
“No, but I think that what you want could help my case.”
The Legendary Wing gave a cold snort. “What do I want, then?”
Thales endured his stare and raised his finger with difficulty. Roman and Ricky turned their heads at once and looked towards the direction Thales pointed at, they then immediately scowled.
The prince pointed at a cluster of distant fortresses across the desert, and said softly, “Blade Fangs Camp.”
Roman and Ricky became silent again. Thales took a deep breath.
“My past experience tells me that if a series of events occur one after another, then they must be interrelated. There must be a common thread among them that links them to one another.
“In the beginning, I assumed that I was the common thread, because the Secret Intelligence Department wanted to guarantee my return, the Shadow Shield wanted my secrets, and the Northlanders wanted the value of my identity.” Thales raised his head and looked at Ricky. “But then, all of you appeared one after another. You entered the scene for some unknown reason. Your presence jumbled everything up, and nothing made sense. It made me believe that it was coincidence that brought us here together.”
The leader of the Disaster Swords sank into deep thought.
“But what if… it was not a coincidence?” Thales changed the subject. There was a hint of wariness in his eyes. “What if your appearance was a result of my presence?”
Roman and Ricky exchanged glances. The teenager’s lips turned up.
“Then, I thought of you Disaster Swords, no, Blood Whistle, were a mercenary group first, and a support group for losers second.”
Ricky was immediately taken back. He protested at once, “Hey!”
But Thales ignored him and spoke as he pleased, “Right, you are just a bunch of ‘sellswords’.” With a serious expression, he struck his own palm with a fist. “What if your primary goal last night was to fulfill the wishes of your employer? And your second goal was the Sin of Hell’s River, followed by Black Sword, the secret in the Prison of Bones, and lastly, Zakriel?”
Thales raised his head. He had become rather stern. “So, who was most likely to hire you, a powerful group of one hundred men, able to fight through a series of battles nonstop, and are even capable of throwing Blade Fangs Camp into chaos?”
Ricky had already pursed his lips. The teenager was already thirsty after speaking for so long. He raised the waterskin only to find it empty, and could not help but frown slightly.
Unexpectedly, in the next second, a heavy waterskin was thrown into his arms.
Thales looked up just in time to see the Legendary Wing retract his arm. “Go on.”
The teenager raised an eyebrow. After taking a mouthful of water, he immediately continued,
“Ricky, you told Zakriel that a hundred years ago, your leader and the Red King of Constellation struck a deal, allowing the Disaster Swords to stay in the Western Desert as a mercenary group to hide their identities.
“You also told the tavern owner, Tampa, that you knew about the tavern’s origins. You knew that it was the base of the banished Queen Erica, Conqueror of the North, and what was left of her forces. The way you said it made it seem as though you witnessed all of it with your own eyes.”
Ricky’s expression changed slightly. Thales sighed.
“I guess they were not coincidences either, am I right?”
The look on Ricky’s face became more and more somber as he stared at Thales. Thales took a deep breath, and stood up after he felt that his sense of balance had recovered slightly.
He looked at Ricky with a serious expression. “So, I am guessing that a hundred years ago, the Disaster Swords came to the Western Desert solely because they were hired by the Red King to dismantle the remaining supporters of the Conqueror of the North?”
No one said a word. The sand stirred in the wind. The horses in the distance neighed uneasily.
All of a sudden, Ricky spoke, “Even simpler.”
“What?” Thales asked in puzzlement.
Ricky raised his head and stared at the rising sun above the desert. He felt the wind against his face, and lamented, “The Red King was a rather simple person. He sent Hill Crassus to the Western Desert to bring back his blood sister, Queen Erica’s head.” The mercenary’s gaze turned fierce.
Thales instantly felt a sense of grave terror. ‘To bring back his blood sister’s… head.’
The image of King Chapman’s old sword surfaced in his mind. Thales could not help but begin to contemplate the so-called origin of the ‘Red King’. He also remembered what Gilbert told him when he was young.
‘”There was never a lack of bloodshed in the history of Constellation.”‘
Roman did not say a word. There was a chilly look in his eyes. Thales fought back the urge to look at the skull on his shoulder and asked tentatively, “Then, did Crassus succeed?”
Ricky merely responded with a cryptic smile. It made Thales feel rather uncomfortable.
Thales let out a cough and tried his hardest to dispel all his other thoughts so that he could return to the main subject.
“In conclusion, since Blood Whistle was founded, it was always closely affiliated with Constellation, or more precisely, you are closely associated with the interests of the kingdom’s sovereigns when it comes to the border of the Western Desert.”
Under the increasingly solemn gaze of the two men, the teenager turned to face Roman. “A veteran who was also a ‘sellsword’ told me that since the Desert War and after the Bloody Year, Blade Fangs Camp answered directly to the Baron of Blade Fangs Dune under the jurisdiction of the royal family.” Thales stared at the Legendary Wing keenly. “For the past dozen years, with the royal family’s support and the threat at the borders, your regular army from the royal family has truly turned the camp into your private property. Blade Fangs Camp now belongs to… the Legendary Wing alone.”
Thales stared at Roman, who still maintained his composure. “This is also the sovereign of the kingdom placing a sharp blade in the weak spot of the Western Desert, and it dangles above and holds sway over the suzerains in the west in terms of military, political, and commercial affairs.”
The Legendary Wing did not speak. He merely stared at Thales with gleaming eyes. His angular, nearly blade-like facial features looked like the most marvelous sculpture carved by nature.
Thales sucked in a breath and breathed out in an instant. “However, within this month, on my journey from the desert to Blade Fangs Camp, I have noticed many curious details.” Thales stared into Roman’s amber eyes that resembled a vortex. “For example, the rescue party that entered the desert to escort the prince back to Constellation was made up of the regular army of the royal family, and recruits employed by suzerains in the Western Desert. They usually do not get along. Now, they work together by keeping each other in check.
“For example, the people who guarded the entrance to Blade Fangs Camp and are in charge of collecting tolls, are the soldiers under the command of the Fakenhaz Family, and they have overstayed their period of military service. The amount of supplies shipped by the army from the other regions of the Western Desert is ridiculously huge. It is more than enough for some dishonest merchants to smuggle goods out of the camp and sell them at much higher than the usual price. The men who are in charge of patrols and law enforcement in the camp, and are responsible for sending the criminals into White Prison, are the recruits of Blade Fangs Dune, but it has been a long time since they participated in the affairs in Blade Fangs Dune. They are not even familiar with the standard of punishment in the laws.”
With each sentence from the prince, Ricky and Roman’s expressions darkened a little.
Roman took a deep breath. “You have observed many things, and you looked into their details.
“So?” Thales smiled. He lowered his head and recalled the wicked old man with his smoking pipe. “When I was still held hostage in Dragon Clouds City, a subordinate of mine told me that, to ensure my safe return from Eckstedt to the desert, my father made a deal with the suzerains of the Western Desert, led and represented by three of the six great clans, and those people are definitely trustworthy.”
Roman furrowed his eyebrows tightly. Ricky breathed quietly. He seemed somewhat astonished. Thales exhaled.
“He said that Renaissance Palace paid a heavy price to gain the complete support of the nobility in the Western Desert, and they will all receive me upon my return to the kingdom.”
The air had seemingly frozen. The wind stopped moaning. But the thick smoke, being the only proof of the passing of time, still rose in the distance.
In the next second, Thales turned his head around. A sharp glint sparkled in his eyes. “Blade Fangs Camp, am I right?”
Roman did not speak at that moment, but a flicker of complex emotions never seen before in him flared up in the Legendary Wing’s eyes. This made Thales feel even more certain than before.
He observed the man’s facial expression as he slowly said, “King Kessel either handed over the royal family’s complete or partial control of Blade Fangs Camp, or gave up his authority over the Western Frontlines in exchange for support from the suzerains in the Western Desert.”
Thales pondered over everything he had been through since the day of the state affairs hearing in Dragon Clouds City. He was lost in thought.
“For this, he received the greatest military and logistics mobilization from the families of the Western Desert after the war. He formed an alliance between the forces of the Western Desert and the royal family, and that army ventured venture deep into the desert. He closed in on the Alliance of Freedom, and threatened Eckstedt. He received a chaotic region in the eastern portion of the desert. For two to three months, that area was barren of people and plants.”
Thales felt his heart sink. ‘And for that, he also… got me to return.’ The teenager was no longer distracted by unnecessary thoughts. He raised his head.
“But you, Roman Williams.” Thales directed his gaze at the Legendary Wing. “You are not happy with that, especially when the deal has been completed behind your back, and the suzerains in the Western Desert have marched in boisterously to set up their tents in Blade Fangs Camp.” Thales’ tone was firm and unwavering.
Roman returned his gaze slowly with a chilly look in his eyes.
“It’s because you see Blade Fangs Camp as your exclusive possession since a long time ago.”
Thales shifted his gaze to the orc skull on Roman’s left shoulder and paraphrased the words the latter had said to Stake earlier on.
“And whoever attempts to mess with it will pay the price.”