Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Under the sun, Thales watched the smiling Moriah. He stared at Moriah dazedly while he pondered over his shocking words.
A few seconds later, the Prince of Constellation exhaled and smiled. “When did you learn how to lick someone’s boots?”
“Lick someone’s boots?” Moriah snorted lightly. His eyes were filled with faint nostalgia. “Six years ago.”
Moriah looked up at the sky and sighed sentimentally.
“I learned how to do this when I was beaten severely by a few thugs in an alley in Vallier and was on the verge of death, and I crawled to the passers-by on the street side, trembling and begging for food.”
Thales’ smile faded. ‘Is that so?’
He stared at Moriah in front of him. The man was still smiling as usual, even though he looked disheveled, and his body was covered with bruises and wounds. Thales tried to imagine how he used to look like.
‘If this is the case, the past six years, when I was under Lisban and the Star Killer’s surveillance in Heroic Spirit Palace… this man…’
Thales suddenly recalled what the man said.
‘”Laugh, Thales. Laugh.
‘”Because life is a burden heavy enough on our shoulders.
‘”You need to smile so that the burden will become lighter.”‘
When he thought of this, the way Thales looked at Moriah changed. He inhaled deeply and tried to make his words of farewell sound lighter.
“Then why is it that you can never draw in clients to save money?”
Moriah’s expression instantly froze. Thales watched him with the ghost of a smile on his lips. Moriah looked down and scratched his hair, which was covered in dust and sand. Some of the dye also seemed to have come off.
After a few seconds, his cheeks relaxed. “Alright then, to show my sincerity before we part…” Moriah looked up, and his face revealed a hint of relief, which was rarely seen on him. “…Twenty nine.”
Thales did not understand. “What?”
Moriah chuckled. There was something new in his gaze as he stared at Thales.
“Over the course of two months, I got Tampa twenty-nine clients who deposited their money with him in case they perished.”
‘What?’ Thales was dumbfounded for a moment.
“Twenty-nine?” The prince immediately registered what he meant and said in amazement, “But I remember Kant was your—”
Moriah laughed faintly before he finished the words for Thales, “The very first deal that I closed by begging pathetically and working laboriously?”
Thales nodded skeptically. As he saw the puzzled expression on Thales’ face, Moriah shrugged. “Yes, but…” A shrewd look rarely seen on Quick Rope showed up on him. “All of them thought so when they came to see me in private.”
Thales was stupefied. ‘All of them thought so?’
“But you cried to me in the tavern when you were drunk last night…” he recalled instinctively.
Moriah sighed. He looked the teenager up and down with a gaze filled with compassion and resignation.
“Yes, because you were supposed to be my thirtieth business deal. A young nobleman who is sympathetic and has some money to spare should make up for the loss we suffered because of Kant, regardless of whether this nobleman is ‘eaten alive’, ‘skinned’, ‘imported’ or ‘sold off by provider’.”
Thales watched the young man dully. ‘What is he talking about? The thirtieth business deal… Eaten alive or skinned… Imported or sold off by provider…”
Moriah registered what he said. He glanced away apologetically and scratched his chin. “Pardon my use of insider language. Tampa said you are a friend of his old mate, and you obviously come from a higher rank, so we let you go. So, we wanted to observe you a little more, and we decided to continue our act without playing any cheap tricks on you, regardless of whether it was drugging you, deceiving you, or some other thing.”
Thales was at a loss for words. He suddenly recalled Tampa’s ‘first lesson’, and his ‘Western Desert Altbier’.
‘Insider… Cheap tricks… Drugs or deceit… Hold on. This man…’ As he figured out the situation slowly, Thales’s gaze on Moriah grew strange. ‘So this is why Tampa was the man Quick Rope thought of at the very moment he “killed” Dean and wanted to destroy his body to wipe off the evidence. This is because… they were in this together… They were con men who scammed others for their money?’
Thales’ expression immediately became extremely sour. In disbelief, he glanced at Moriah, who looked innocent.
“But Dante’s Greatsword… They would never let you do that…”
Moriah coughed. “Captain Louisa. Remember her?”
Thales was stunned again. He immediately recalled the female warrior who led the group of mercenaries, Louisa Dante. Moriah revealed an awkward smile.
“According to the rule, if any sellsword picked up a ‘piggy bank’ in the desert and referred him or her to Tampa, regardless of whether Tampa will ‘eat him alive’ or ‘import him’—like kidnapping him to sell him to the human traffickers in Blood Bottle Gang or in the Prison of Bones—that sellsword will get one-fifth of the share, so Louisa would profit from you.”
‘What?’ Thales was stunned once again. ‘Picked up… piggy bank… share?’
“If we worked with Tampa and ‘skinned’ or ‘sold you off ourselves’, we would get a quarter of the share, which is possible since you looked rich.”
Moriah touched his ears, rubbed them with his hands like he did not know where to put them. He seemed to feel embarrassed.
“It is very rare that we would… take you in as one of us.”
Thales’ cheeks were stiff. His lips were still fixed into a grin that twitched in a way that made him look like a robot.
Moriah pointed at Blade Fangs Camp helplessly. “But Big Dean insisted that we should not ‘sell you off’ immediately. Instead, we should wait until we get to the camp. Of course, now we know why.”
‘Sell me off?’ Thales watched Moriah dumbly. One second… Two seconds…
The young man before him revealed his teeth with a grin that still appeared careless and silly. From that moment onwards, Thales could no longer see honesty and clumsiness in his eyes, but shrewdness and craftiness.
“I told you: both the Great Desert and Blade Fangs Camp are equally dangerous.” Moriah stared at Thales’ expression and tried his best to put on a resigned look. He then smiled awkwardly.
Thales realized that he was completely speechless. He could only remain rooted to the spot, dumbfounded. His thoughts were in chaos.
‘So… Louisa Dante. That mercenary captain with the bright smile, does not back away from orcs, and looks energetic and responsible; the rookie, Quick Rope who stands before me, appears innocent, likes to fool around, and whom I always thought was “in charge of joking”; and Dante’s Greatsword who saved me… All of that was just a ploy. A ploy!’
In that instance, Thales felt lost.
‘From the baron who leads the camp, to the mercenaries who work for him… In that case, Blade Fangs Camp is indeed filled with people who practice a “simple and honest” way of life.’
The corner of Thales’ lips twitched as he thought, while complicated emotions welled up in his heart. But the haze of complicated thoughts did not linger in the prince’s mind too long.
A few seconds later, Thales took a deep breath to eliminate his gloomy thoughts before he burst out laughing in front of Moriah, who was shocked. “Hahaha…”
As he faced the bewildered and surprised Moriah, Thales, laughing continuously, suddenly realized that when he looked back on the details of the scattered interludes in his life, what filled his heart was no longer the indignation and wrath that used to occupy it. Instead, it was relief and magnanimity, both of which were emotions he had not experienced in a long time.
It was as though the ups and downs and unease in the past six years disappeared along with his long string of laughter. He no longer felt gloomy.
‘So… this is who I am.’
“Hahaha…” Thales’ laughter grew louder. Moriah was shocked, and his expression slowly changed. He wondered if Thales had gone mad.
Finally, after a few seconds, Thales stopped laughing and looked at Moriah, whose face revealed a strange expression. “So, what you experienced in Camus has been helpful to you, hasn’t it?”
Moriah’s face turned gloomy. “Yes.” The other prince nodded with dim eyes. “It has helped me tremendously. At least, I am getting closer to renting my first ship.”
Moriah looked up. He dispersed the gloominess he felt and put on the optimistic and joyful mask Thales was familiar with. “I believe that both my father and brother cannot do this, at least not without any titles attached to their names.”
He narrowed his eyes, pointed at Thales, and revealed a cunning smile.
“Same as you.”
Thales looked at him and began to laugh loudly again. But this time, Moriah also laughed with him. They did not know how much time had passed, but at some point, Thales put away his smile and said profoundly, “You know, Moriah Walton…”
When he was abruptly called by his full real name, the man who was laughing loudly was somewhat astonished. He paused to listen to Thales.
“You are probably the most unique and mysterious Prince of Eckstedt.”
Moriah lowered his head and stayed quiet. Thales studied him carefully.
“You are wrong.” A few seconds later, Moriah looked up again and revealed the large, white teeth unique to Northlanders.
“My name… is Quick Rope. I’m a sailor and… a sellsword.”
‘Quick Rope.’ Thales sank into silence. As he watched Quick Rope, who was contented and happy, a void he could not describe grew in his heart. ‘Moriah Walton. He’s Quick Rope. Then… what about me? Thales Jadestar. Who am I?’
The sand blown by the wind swept past the vacant land. Thales stared at Quick for a long time. In the end, he nodded before he swung his right arm. In the next second, Quick Rope instinctively grabbed the item Thales threw at him!
As he studied the weapon he held in his arms, he looked up in great surprise. “What’s this?”
Thales smiled and pointed at the Crossbow of Time in the man’s arms. “Your thirtieth business deal.”
‘Thirtieth deal…’ Quick Rope was stunned before he asked in disbelief, “A-are you sure? Do you know—”
Thales responded with a hum and nodded. “This item has always belonged to the Northlanders, and I don’t want to have to worry about being killed by this thing again at some point in time.”
When he mentioned the secret, the duo did not talk for a while. Quick Rope sighed, but he swiftly and put the bow on his back without hesitation.
“As a cala-that thing, you’re really generous.”
‘Generous.’ Thales snickered. “Yes.”
‘After all, I’m not the who’s generous.’
(In a corner of a tavern in Northland, the Raven of Death, who had a thick layer of bandages wrapped around himself, choked on his liquor as he chugged the stuff down his throat with a gloomy look. He threw the mug away and coughed violently.)
Quick Rope snorted faintly as if he knew what Thales thought of. “Don’t be too pleased with yourself.”
The Prince of Constellation cast a glance at Quick Rope like he wanted to thoroughly examine this person who traveled with him—even though he failed as a traveling partner—after they met in the desert. He then sighed and said, “If I die, according to the rules, you will lose a lot.”
Quick Rope put away his smile and looked at him quietly. ‘Lose a lot… Is that so?’
“So…” Quick Rope said faintly, “Don’t die.”
Both men stood quietly for a while. A few seconds later, Thales said softly, “Alright.”
For some reason, Thales suddenly felt that this was their last goodbye. The Prince of Constellation exhaled.
“As for you, don’t forget the Secret Room wants you, and Lampard wants your life.” Thales looked at Quick Rope seriously and said, “Don’t get caught.”
This time, Quick Rope was also quiet for a while. He glanced at the bruises on Thales’ face, and answered slowly, “Alright.”
A soft breeze blew.
“So, are we even?” Thales asked faintly.
Quick Rope watched him with a profound look and nodded. “Yes.”
However, just as Thales and Quick Rope gazed at each other without a word, the sadness of parting almost spilled out of their bodies in the form of tears…
An arm suddenly wrapped around Quick Rope from behind him!
“Do not disturb His Highness any further. We still have a long way to go…”
Tardin of the Royal Guards appeared out of nowhere and forcefully dragged Quick Rope away, not giving him a chance to speak, and he did so while Thales watched them with a stunned expression and Quick Rope struggled!
“Don’t worry, Your Highness. We will take good care of him!” Tardin gritted his teeth as he dragged Quick Rope away, as though he harbored a deep grudge against him.
Thales was astounded to see that Quick Rope did not forget to wave goodbye at him as he struggled and called for help. “Ahhh, hey, Thales…”
The muddle-headed Prince of Constellation subconsciously nodded.
“Oh. Good then…” Tardin’s tone suddenly changed, and it was filled with worry. “And, um, Your Highness…”
With a hint of hesitation and uncertainty, Tardin held himself back from speaking further. Thales raised his eyebrows to show his puzzlement.
Tardin glanced at Quick Rope suspiciously before he looked at Thales nervously. In the end, he braced himself and said gravely and earnestly, “It is time for you to get yourself… a girlfriend.”
‘Huh?’ Thales was stunned.
Tardin gave him a look with a troubled expression. “You know… a woman.”
Clueless, Thales blinked. Before he could answer, Tardin threw Quick Rope over his shoulder forcefully and started jogging towards the Royal Guards’ group!
“My good nephew Wya, eh? It’s been a long time since we met. Come, let me take a good look at you!”
“Ahhh, you’re my un-uncle? Am I right? No, no, no, uncle, please don’t do it!”
As they went further away, Tardin’s furious yelling and Quick Rope’s anguished wailing rose and fell in succession. Thales watched dumbfoundedly.
He then understood something, and the prince laughed. He suddenly realized that the Royal Guards in the distance were split into two groups: One group consisted of members like Barney Junior and Beldin, who rushed towards Tardin and Quick Rope with unpleasant expressions on their faces; the other group was Zakriel, who moved about alone on the sand, going further away under the morning sun, and he never looked back.
They seemed like two lines that stemmed from the same vertex, and they drifted apart in different directions and would never meet again.
Thales sank into deep thought.
In another direction, the mercenaries from Blood Whistle started to leave. Before Ricky left, he gave Thales a profound gaze, which startled him. ‘That man…’
At that instant, a sharp screech different from the ones before rang in the sky!
The cavaliers in the distance got into action immediately; they equipped their weapons, got on their horses, and got into their battle formations.
Thales could not help but become nervous. The Legendary Wing frowned.
A cavalry courier who rode towards them from afar said, “Put down your guard! Those are allies”
The extremely nervous cavaliers then let down their guard and became at ease again. However, soon after that, two horses drew closer from the direction where the sharp sound came from.
Thales was puzzled to see the two fast horses. The two men on the horses were lightly-armored and did not look like soldiers. But in the next second, the voice that traveled from the horse caused his expression to change drastically.
“This is the kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department!”
The man on one of the horses rushed over, holding a scroll up high. He stared at the men who were moving away from the sand dune in different directions, and spoke in a tone that was filled with rage and indignation, “In the name of King Kessel and Lord Morat Hansen, all suspects and targets present… must not leave!”