Chapter 504: Only One Day Left
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Gilbert cast a profound glance at Thales.
“I cannot simply jump to conclusions.”
Even when they were only in the presence of each other, the Foreign Affairs Minister continued to speak cautiously and in moderation.
“Perhaps they do have some old scores to settle, perhaps they do not see eye to eye, perhaps it is just a coincidence that the royal authority has not been exerted well and royal power is not strong in Western Desert…”
Gilbert narrowed his eyes.
“However, from your point-of-view and your father’s as rulers, Your Highness, does it matter whether they have conspired, whether this is all just a coincidence, whether both elements are present, or whether it is all due to tacit agreement?”
Thales looked flabbergasted.
Gilbert took a deep breath and spoke in his most serious tone, “Western Desert is like a large flat bread that is rough, unevenly distributed, and is both soft and hard at the same time. Sometimes, it may be so smooth that it slips from one’s hands; sometimes, it is so stubborn; sometimes, it is hard to chew; sometimes it is like a dense paste that is hard to cut. Regardless of whether you chew on it slowly or want to gorge yourself on it, it is rather difficult to be eaten no matter which angle you look at it, much less be digested in your stomach. In comparison, Arunde in Northland, who takes the risk out of desperation, Nanchester in Land of Cliffs, who exposes all his weaknesses when he puts on a strong front, and Covendier in South Coast, who is in the prime of his youth…”
Gilbert shook his head. The wariness and concern in his eyes only grew further.
“Therefore, do you understand the significance of Baron Williams in Western Desert now?”
Thales, who had not registered what he just heard, was dazed as he watched Gilbert.
“Actually, in contrast to his fame that has spread across Great Desert, people who have windows to the truth know that the Legendary Wing thinks just because he is talented, he can be arrogant and hostile. He thinks he can offend others all he wants, and he is indignant towards forming friendly relationships.”
The words Gilbert used were accurate and straightforward.
“He does not even consider Renaissance Palace to be of any importance, he has no respect for noblemen and does not care about traditions. When he is furious, he can mobilize forces; when he is happy, he can break down the walls of a city; he is willful, and even the king cannot hold power over him… He naturally does not care about cheap political tricks in a place as small as Western Desert.”
The scene of Roman grabbing Norb with a cold face and publicly threatening to charge into Renaissance Palace appeared in his mind.
‘”Next time, if they want to involve my territory in some power balancing political game… they’ll see me in Renaissance Palace.”‘
There was faint indignation in Gilbert’s tone. “When he gained the support of the Royal Family and military, he became absolutely unrestrained. Regardless of the Black Lion’s unyielding attitude, the Crow’s experience and viciousness, or the Four-Eyed Skull’s unpredictability, after the Desert War, they paled in comparison to the Legendary Wing’s uncontrollable madness and maliciousness.”
Gilbert’s eyes lit up in the manner of a fox who had caught its prey.
“Under these circumstances, if a malicious man who does not even accept the king’s authority over him has gained a firm footing in the complicated and chaotic Western Desert…”
He did not go on but only watched Thales with a smile.
Thales, on the other hand, looked at him in astonishment.
“So, what you needed was not a Western Desert where people are at odds and entangled with each other, but a Western Desert that is united under heavy pressure outside rules and regulations? So that you could hold the reins and take the opportunity to solve problems once and for all and trap the beast? And Williams happened to be heavy pressure?”
In front of him, Gilbert continued to smile as usual.
Williams, Fakenhaz, Kroma, Bozdorf…
Now, Gilbert, and…
Kessel the Fifth.
Thales sank back against his seat weakly and rubbed the area between his eyebrows in distress. He felt that his brain was about to explode.
After a while, he put his hands down.
“But does it work? The noblemen in Western Desert, even when we are talking about the most radical ones, would not simply surrender just because there is a trouble-making lunatic in front of their house. Instead, they would only be angered, and grow more…”
Thales could not find the right words. So he used an example to explain what he meant. “For instance, Gilbert, this time, the arrogant Williams almost burned down half of Blade Fangs Camp, defrauded all the supplies left by the suzerains of Western Desert in the camp, but they…”
At that exact moment, a terrifying thought flashed in Thales’ mind.
He continued to speak, but the speed of his speech slowed down without him realizing. “They… They… He…”
The prince’s words came to a halt.
He watched Gilbert in a daze.
“Gilbert, if the Legendary Wing was part of your plan…”
Thales stared at his former teacher incredulously.
“What do you expect from Western Desert?”
Gilbert seemingly sensed something as his smile gradually faded.
“Your Highness, it is late…” He cleared his throat.
However, Thales appeared to still be in his own world. He just continued to mumble in an absentminded manner, “I have always thought that Blade Fangs Camp was not your target, but a bait, and your goal was the great losses Western Desert noblemen suffered and them having to give the camp over to you. But what if I’ve been wrong all this while?”
Thales’ eyes were fixed on the scattered and ripped food on his plate.
Gilbert did not speak. He only watched Thales worriedly.
“What if… What if Blade Fangs Camp is not a bait, but only a betting table that has rules written on it, waiting for Western Desert noblemen who think they know the rules to place their gaming chips on it?”
Thales smoothed out his thoughts slowly. While he made inferences of the situation, he also narrated his thoughts, and the more he spoke, the more fearful he became.
“They will continue to place their chips on the table until Williams swallows it all, because he ignores all rules. What if that is the real bait, that is, if your real goal is not to merely to force the suzerains of Western Desert to give up Blade Fangs Camp? What if what you want is to launch a counterattack once the suzerains are fooled, defeated severely, and forced to rip away all their reservations under the heavy pressure, and have nowhere to go?”
Gilbert frowned and shook his head.
“You overthink matters, Your Highness. Why would we—”
Thales interrupted him again. “Gilbert.”
Thales was dazed as he stared at his tray.
“The thousands of Royal Family regular soldiers that were dispatched from the inland, Northland, and Central Territory to follow you and Mallos… They were not sent to relieve the other soldiers from Blade Fangs Camp, or welcome me, am I right?”
Gilbert schooled his face. His smile seemed a little forced. “I do not understand what you are saying. Of course they were sent to receive the heir of the kingdom.”
Thales continued to stare at his tray in a daze before he shook his head subconsciously.
“Perhaps they were sent to go to war against the Western Desert noblemen who have been planning for a counterattack after they suffered a night filled with despair.”
This time, the silence at the dining table lasted a little longer.
Thales remained in his seat absentmindedly. He did not move.
As he glanced at the second prince, Gilbert sighed heavily.
“You overthink matters, Your Highness. The noblemen are not foolish, or are they impulsive, even if we are talking about the most radical Bozdorf.”
Gilbert coughed loudly. “Why would they take such a foolish step when they have no confidence in defeating the Legendary Wing, as well as no chips to force Renaissance Palace to give way and give up Blade Fangs Camp again?”
Once he finished speaking, Gilbert glanced at the prince worriedly.
This time, Thales returned his gaze with a blank stare.
Six years ago in Mindis Hall, compared to Yodel, who did not reveal himself, and Jines, who made no pretence with what she thought and felt, the polite and amicable Foreign Affairs Minister was one of the few ones whom Thales could trust whole-heartedly and respect sincerely. During the six years in Northland, when he thought of his time spent in Mindis Hall, he would have a clearer sense of belonging toward his hometown and journey back home, even though the memories of both his hometown and journey back home had become blurry over time.
However, for some unknown reason…
After six years in Northland, after the halo of meeting someone familiar was gone… he did not know why, but he found Gilbert’s gaze to be unfamiliar all of a sudden.
“Yes, you are right.”
Thales stared at the edge of table blankly and spoke like a robot, as if he was repeating Gilbert’s words. “Even after suffering a great loss, without bargaining chips, the people of Western Desert would not be so unwise as to provide a reason to the royal family to punish them for no reason and to take their power away from them completely.”
The people of Western Desert did not have bargaining chips.
Bargaining chips that could lure the Western Desert noblemen to make a counterattack.
In that moment, he suddenly came to understand something.
Thales looked up, looked straight at Gilbert, and forced himself to smile. “I have indeed been overthinking matters.”
Gilbert avoided Thales’ penetrating gaze seemed to be able to see through him and said stiffly, “My young Sir, your meal is turning cold, and we still have to be on the road tomorrow…”
Thales’s heart beat slowly.
In that moment, he felt that his heart pounded very slowly, too slowly.
Thales snapped out of his daze.
He forced a smile, inhaled deeply, and resumed taking his meal.
The Foreign Minister Affairs seemed to have sensed something, but he only opened his mouth hesitantly and did not speak.
Gilbert looked up.
It was clear that Thales had something on his mind when he cut his food with a knife, and he seemed to be feeling down.
“Why did the Duke of Western Desert give me a sword that is his family heirloom? Why did the Legendary Wing get mad when he saw it? Why did the Count of the Single-Winged Crow come to receive me personally and send me off with extreme courtesy?”
Although they were questions, his intonation suggested that they were not questions.
As he watched the silent and hesitant Gilbert, Thales appeared to have figured something out.
“About this…” Gilbert paused for a while before he explained patiently and pleasantly.
However, Thales could not hear what he said anymore.
He recalled the story the watchman told Derek when he first met Mallos on the day before yesterday
‘”Then, from that day onwards, the people from Western Desert will be free from the threat of the desert. Blade Fangs Camp will have its vitality restored. The suzerains who inherit the land will be a lot more benevolent, they will be wiser, loyal, and amiable than all its former suzerains. The king’s rewards will benefit the people, and everyone will live as well as work in peace. They will live happily forever after. How does that sound?”‘
‘So… It was not merely a story.’
Thales looked down. His mind wandered.
‘That ugly old man is right.
‘My father is indeed a genius, isn’t he?
Thales clutched the knife in his hand.
“…So, these tactics, methods of currying favor to someone, and enticement are what the noblemen commonly employ among themselves.”
Gilbert finished his words amiably, and Thales was pulled out of his deep thoughts.
The prince lifted his head like a rusted puppet and forced a smile.
Thales said bitterly, “Indeed. So, in no time, the whole kingdom will know that the Duke of Western Desert and the returning Prince of Constellation talked cheerfully together and gave each other gifts in Blade Fangs Camp. And the little conflict between the Baron of Blade Fangs Dune and the suzerains of Western Desert that happened the night before disappeared without a trace. They… have achieved their goal.”
He did not pursue the line of questioning.
Gilbert watched Thales’ bitter expression but did not say anything. He only exhaled and turned his head.
“So, do you understand now?” The Foreign Affairs Minister looked down. His expression was unclear while his voice was deep and low, “That sword had better be returned.”
Thales’ hand, which held the knife, stopped moving.
He took a deep breath.
The lights in the main hall dimmed.
“No. You said it in the National Conference six years ago, Gilbert.”
Thales stared at his tray while his heart was filled with mixed feelings.
“In politics, it is not a brilliant and proper way to govern a state when one, in the face of his opponent, plans to exterminate him to his heart’s content and leave no room for that opponent. I have gained a deeper understanding about this principle in the past six years.”
Thales inhaled deeply.
When the prince looked up, his smile resumed his nonchalance and naturalness.
“I think I will keep it. If ever there is such a day, I want to save some room for negotiation when both of us are forced into a tight spot.”
Gilbert was a little surprised.
“As for this sword, no matter what the intention behind it may be,” Thales said while his gaze dimmed a little before it immediately regained clarity. “At least, there is a possibility that it could be the room for negotiation.”
Thales was dazed when he said, “As long as there is a strand of hope, I do not wish to give it up.”
When he finished his words, the main hall fell silent for a long time.
After a while, Gilbert let out a long sigh.
“Your Highness, you have grown up.” The Cunning Fox of Constellation watched Thales with relief.
Thales curled his lips and tried hard to pull himself together. “You have said this before.”
Gilbert smiled, but one could tell that his smile was a little forced. “Yes, Your Highness, but…”
Gilbert looked straight into Thales’ eyes and sighed again. “You have indeed grown up.”
This time, Thales did not object to what he said, he only smiled again before he shifted his gaze to his tray.
Just when both of them became quiet as they looked at each other…
“Gilbert. Has my father thought of it?”
The prince chewed on a piece of food slowly, but he did not pay attention to what is was.
“What if I died on my way home?”
Gilbert’s face tensed up.
“Your Highness, the whole kingdom goes all out to ensure your safety…”
Thales hummed before he raised the corners of his lips bitterly. “Yes. You have said this before too. Six years ago, in fact.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister was instantly rendered speechless.
After a few seconds, Gilbert continued the conversation with an unnatural tone. “This-This is why Yodel has been with you all this while.”
He forced himself to say, “His Majesty is worried about your safety and has sent you his most trusted secret protector… He believes that Yodel can protect you well, just like how he trusts that Yodel can protect His Majesty.”
Once he finished speaking, Gilbert turned his head around, and his gaze swept past the air around him, as if seeking affirmation.
“Am I right, old friend?”
But there were only the two of them at the table.
Only the noises of cutlery hitting the dishes were heard in the air.
There was no reply.
Gilbert’s smile slowly grew stiff.
Thales looked up to glance at his former teacher, whose emotions were unknown to him at that moment.
“Perhaps Yodel is not here at the moment,” the Foreign Affairs Minister said with a wan smile, “Or perhaps he just…”
Gilbert took a glance around him, and, in the end, had to lower his head in embarrassment and signed in resignation.
“…does not wish to talk to me.”
At this exact moment.
“It is the latter.” A coarse voice suddenly rose.
The Foreign Affairs Minister was taken aback.
Gilbert subconsciously turned and looked around but what filled his vision was only emptiness.
Thales curled his lips.
Gilbert sounded sorrowful.
“By the way, mission complete, old friend. You did not let His Majesty down and have ensured that his heir returned safely.”
There was still no reply.
Gilbert could only sigh again and turned his hr ead around resentfully.
Thales suddenly put his fork and knife down, and stared blankly into the air.
“What is the matter?” Gilbert expressed his concern.
Thales did not look at him. He picked a spoon up and scooped a spoonful of beans.
“It is nothing. It is just that…”
Thales was dazed as he studied the beans. He smiled subconsciously.
“I miss Northland a little.”
Especially… when it was dining time.
Gilbert raised his eyebrows as he came to realize something.
“You know, since the Fortress Treaty was signed eighteen years ago, for a long time… I felt the same.” The Foreign Affairs Minister nodded, and there was endless nostalgia in his tone.
An old man and a teenager took a walk down their own memory lanes at the dining table.
After a few seconds, Thales registered what happened, and he put down the spoonful of beans down gently.
He picked up the fork and knife that were difficult to use.
The second prince revealed a polite smile to Gilbert and took a piece of meat covered in sauce with perfect etiquette.
Gilbert returned a relieved smile.
But only Thales knew that the meat was left on the table for too long.
It was bitter and hard.
Count Bozdorf stepped into a dimly lit room in a travel-worn manner.
A guard in armor with the Four-Eyed Skull emblem on it hurried forward but was pushed aside impolitely.
The guard was furious and was about to draw his sword.
“It is alright.” A sharp and cold voice traveled from the room and forcibly stopped the guard from drawing his sword.
“He may enter the room.”
Count Bozdorf did not even look at the guard who had to step back on orders. He just walked straight to the owner of the sharp voice and stared at the man who was dining.
“You have come unannounced.” Cyril Fakenhaz swallowed a mouthful of fruit before he raised his horrifying face and narrowed his eyes as he watched the guest.
“If Gotham were here, he would have beaten you to death with his fists.”
But his guest seemed unaffected by his threat.
The master of the Black Lion Family, Lewis Bozdorf said with a cold voice, “My father respects you, Cyril, but I do not.”
The Duke of Western Desert cackled coldly.
“What a coincidence. I also respect your father, but not you.” His tone was cold when he looked away from the tray before his eyes.
Bozdorf snorted in anger.
“Was it you who sent the Crow to travel night and day and rush to the camp to take him away?”
Count Lewis gritted his teeth. The fury in his eyes was practically overflowing.
The Duke of Western Desert laughed softly again, but he did not answer him.
But Bozdorf did not plan to let him off just like that.
His fists were clad in steel gloves, and he used them to hit Bozdorf’s dining table. It caused a plate of fish to flip over, and the sauce splashed all over the place.
The Duke of Western Desert did not panic, nor was he angry.
He only took out a handkerchief quietly and wiped his face that was splashed by sauce.
The Count of the Black Lion Family bent his elbows while his upper body leaned toward the duke slowly.
“I have even gotten that brat’s family flag all ready. It is a very big one, and it is just for the purpose of ‘receiving’ him.” Lewis spat out the words violently while his gaze remained as sharp as a knife.
The Duke of Western Desert snorted and laughed.
Count Bozdorf had his eyes fixed on the duke who appeared indifferent. Then, he sneered.
He appeared to be laughing out of anger.
“In Blessings Town, that brat was just in front of me; he was as close to me as you are to me now. I could have slit his throat.”
Bozdorf tilted his head to one side. His gaze was fierce while he looked into the Duke of Western Desert’s eyes, which were sometimes clouded and numb, but sometimes clear and sharp.
“He was still as full of himself as he was six years ago. He was showing off his laughable eloquence to me proudly, and had no idea that he was only a mile away from danger.”
Fakenhaz was oblivious to the threat. He laughed instead.
“You have to admit, that brat is indeed good at speaking, is he not?”
Bozdorf gritted his teeth, as if he did not hear what he said.
“That damned Crow and his equally accursed and young subordinates stood there between me and him like a wall. They were all within the reach of my army while they smiled at me like a f*cking bodyguard.”
Bozdorf’s voice was cold, and he held back his emotions in his words.
“All. Because. Of. You.”
Fakenhaz’s smile faded. He seemed to be in deep thought.
“Hmm. Derek is still good at what he is doing. Praise the Sunset! He is a good Crow, is he not?”
Lewis’ fists punched the dining table again!
“I could have taken him down!”
This time, Bozdorf did not suppress his anger anymore.
“You clearly knew that my army, the Black Lion’s infantry regiment, who are the best at storming and seizing enemy fortresses, had arrived in Blessings Town. You knew that the time left before I got to Blade Fangs Camp, to him was…” Bozdorf was furious. He could only complete his sentence after panting for a while. “…only one day. One. Day.”
He gritted his teeth as he said each word.
Fakenhaz seemed to have become serious as well. He snorted lightly and scornfully.
Bozdorf stared at the Duke of Western Desert.
“That was Renaissance Palace’s life-line, the foundation of their regime, and our best bargaining chip in more than ten years.”
The Count of the Black Lion Family was aggressive. The rage in his eyes was clear.
“We could get Blade Fangs Camp back and even chase that sissy away. At least, we could tell them our attitude…”
The Duke of Western Desert, who was always calm, suddenly looked up and said resolutely, “Then the time left before the Bozdorf Family of Brave Souls Fort is exterminated is also only one day away!”
His words were harsh, like a strong and cold gale.
The conversation between the two men paused for a few seconds.
This time, it was Bozdorf who started to laugh coldly.
“Do you know what has happened in Blade Fangs Camp? Would someone like you, who is a man who revels in a high position and indulges in comfort, know?”
The Count of the Black Lion Family straightened his body and widened the distance between himself and the man, but the ferociousness in his eyes only became greater.
“Byrael lost his income for a year, and quite a lot of that money is loans. Eymoir lost their family heir. New Offering Land lost the assistants for fall harvest. Todd said that he will never join our expeditionary forces again. Lugo even risked everything from his clan.”
Fakenhaz turned his head around and avoided looking at the count.
The words from Bozdorf’s interrogation sounded as if it was ground from his teeth.
“This is us. Does it make any difference if we die today or tomorrow?”
Fakenhaz looked up slowly.
“Of course it does.”
At this moment, the Duke of Western Desert’s gaze grew profound.
“If you die today, you get nothing.”
Fakenhaz narrowed his eyes.
“If you die tomorrow, you will at least have the hope that you will live until tomorrow.”
Lewis Bozdorf opened his mouth and laughed coldly and continuously.
Two seconds later, his laughter stopped abruptly.
“The hope of living until tomorrow? Is everything that you have done for the sake of this so-called hope?”
His smile turned icy cold.
Cyril Fakenhaz paused for a moment.
He reached for his cane while his gaze froze on the hook that was used to hang a longsword sometime ago, but was empty now.
The duke said faintly with the most complicated emotions, “It is for tomorrow.”