Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The uproar caused by the return of the prince to Eternal Star City had already subsided (or perhaps it was merely suppressed and bubbling within the people, who were just waiting for the next commotion). At least Mindis Hall, which had shut its doors and refused to accept all visitors, was no longer crowded like the marketplace. Thales was able to enjoy a rare as well as precious moment of peace and quiet.
But, that did not mean he felt comfortable.
Since the second day began, Prince Thales had not been able to enjoy the power brought by the grand status of being the owner of Mindis Hall. The royal education group led by Gilbert, or rather, the character setting company designed to make royal fresh meat, as the indignant duke himself described them, had entered Mindis Hall in an orderly fashion.
Firstly, he had an instructor who was fluent in the national language of the Empire as well as the common language of the elves for his grammar lesson. The man was renowned in the Royal Grammar Academy as their grand scholar.
It was an evidently sweet deal to be able to hire him.
One, the sleek bald head of the Bonar Grand Scholar could reflect light, saving Mindis Hall a tremendous amount of lamp oil, which allowed them to preserve resources.
Two, his voice was soft and low, whereby he spoke intermittently as well as vaguely. D.D had mentioned in a harsh tone that he was about to die and because of it, forever dared not to speak loudly anymore. His voice forced all of Mindis Hall to maintain absolute silence when he conducted his lessons, bringing a great benefit to the environment.
Three, his broad and profound knowledge helped him to practically compress the five lessons the prince needed to receive—syntax, logic, rhetoric, the national language of the Ancient Empire, and the elven language—into one, allowing Thales to realize the answers to the following questions.
In the case of the troublesome national language of the Ancient Empire and the accursed elven language, even their subject-verb-object structure was completely different from the lingua franca. How great of a change would such structures bring to syntax? And how would they affect the principles of logic and expression? What sort of challenges would they bring to the current language and the style of speaking, thus changing a person’s habits in thought? Lastly, how did they cruelly and ruthlessly devoured Prince Thales’ precious sleeping time?
“Your Highness, y-you said y-you cannot remember it all? Th-Then just sl-sleep a little later… After all, all you youngsters lie when you say you sleep early. Once you are on your bed, you do everything except sleep… What? It is not good f-for hair? Ah, that is not important… Your Highness, do you know what a wig is? Who in the palace does not wear fake wigs and fake breasts…? What, you will not be able to grow taller from sleeping late? Sigh, Your Highness, wouldn’t you be tall enough when you put on the crown…” These were the stuttering words of the Bonar Grand Scholar, who managed to make the prince change his expression thrice with just one sentence.
Gilbert personally put himself to the task of conducting history lessons. Compared with the Bonar Grand Scholar who quoted texts from various sources and had great vision, the Foreign Affairs Minister had a simple and clear goal: turn Prince Thales into the human form of [From the Ancient Empire to Constellation: The Encyclopedia of the Comprehensive History of 2,000 Years of Two Nations] in two months.
‘Index! Your Highness, I must dismiss your joke. If you are only the index of an encyclopedia, you can only take it to sca… Ahem, it will be sufficient to show off your knowledge,” the stern Gilbert said.
As for the mathematics lesson, it was perhaps one of the few lessons that brought comfort to the Duke of Star Lake. Scholar Julio was quite surprised with Thales’ standard in geometry and algebra, especially under the circumstances where the prince had wasted six years in “that godforsaken place, Eckstedt”.
However, what gave Thales a headache was Julio’s increasing confidence in him. The excited man who had the purpose of educating an unprecedented Prince of Mathematics was passionately and swiftly expanding his course outline after reminding Thales to provide him money once Thales was crowned. At the same time, he would say that the mischievous formulae were very beautiful as well as cute, and that they seemed to be smiling at Thales, all while he gestured at Thales with his third finger pressed daintily against his thumb.
One day, Scholar Julio decided to combine algebra and geometry lessons together. He began planning to let Thales use algebraic equations to measure the trajectory and changes in the movements of astronomical objects.
“These basic equations do not fit in, do they? The motions of the Bright Star is just too bizarre… and you must think, do we stand a chance to grasp these immeasurable mechanics? A few scholars of Dragon Kiss Academy have thought that as long the motor process is separated into different parts, we will be able to get an answer if we keep separating it down again and again. Let me show you the different arithmetic expressions proposed by them separately… Uhm, Your Highness? What happened to you, Your Highness? Wake up, wake up Your Highness! You need to complete the exercise first before you pass out!” screamed the young and talented Scholar Julio. His face had turned pale out of panic.
The lesson materials they used had expanded from mathematical exercises in classical texts all the way to applied mathematics related to national affairs and people’s lives. There were even several times where Julio suggested that Thales try to calculate the future annual revenue of the country by looking at the previous annual revenue, or evaluate Constellation’s data based on the population growth in the Central Territory. Thales had reasons to suspect that if he did not pretend to be slightly stupid or slow down the pace of the lesson, it would truly be only a matter of time before some sort of terrible bell-shaped curve appeared in his books, along with a series of other mathematical concepts.
Thales thanked his lucky stars when it came to nature lessons. The experienced and knowledgeable Lord Monton was humorous most of the time when he talked about astronomy, geography, and the cultural customs of the people. It was fascinating… if the prince did not often interrupt him and cause him to feel embarrassed.
“Why is Bright Star located to the east? What is the composition of the Crystal Drop Ore? Would we be out of Eternal Oil if we killed every single whale in the entire world someday? Are werewolves and vampires really cursed creatures? Do they have any connection with wolves and bats? So, if Dragon-Kissed Land is a basin, would the weather there be a little strange? Were the great mist and the whirlpool across Two Misty Seas really formed naturally? Didn’t anyone ever doubt anything when the legends about the sea monsters in Demon Sea claim that they have been witnessed by multiple people before? How are the beliefs and temples from Sunset and Bright Moon able to coexist? So, the Cannibal Flowers are basically the same thing as the Great Dragons. How do they handle their energy consumption? Is the Capital of Triumph and the homeland of the Empire really underneath the Eye of the Sea of Eradication? How does the Blood Clan of Grand Banquet Hill rule its land? There must be different kinds of weather and geographical structures in the internal section of Great Desert, right? Is Caligri real? Why didn’t the great impact, which caused the Great Crack and Sink to happen, cause the formation of a vortex that would suck the two peninsulas in? Where did the outbreak of the plague in Three Kingdoms of the Mystery Sea begin? Why was the interval between the two eruptions of Sanlast Volcano so short? Is the direction of the ocean current the reason that affects the speed of arriving at the Eastern Peninsula from different harbors?” These were all questions from the prince.
As for the art lessons, after seeing the paintings and listening to the lute performances meticulously prepared by the Duke of Star Lake, the prestigious Master Uhran gently told Thales that there was no need for a person to be an artist to learn art. They could also learn to be an art lover. To him, Thales was very suited to be an art lover who would leave his name in history.
All in all, the refresher course that week did not give Thales any room to breathe, and he realized that he missed the life he used to have at Heroic Spirit Palace… except for that dead face.
‘Why didn’t I kidnap Little Rascal to attend lessons with me back then?’
Thales could feel his body being sucked dry every single day, and he thought about it silently while he wept in his heart.
It would have been better if they let him return to the desert.
At least the orcs would not force him to memorize the seven types of morphological rules, three types of speech parts, four types of tenses, three types of voices, four types of grammatical persons, five types of word orders, eighteen different types of sentence patterns, which changed form depending on the situation, and the complicated pronunciation rules in the national language of the Ancient Empire. In comparison, the modern language of the Empire used by that useless general in Black Track was much simpler.
He did not have to be proficient in the elven language’s twenty-two types of interchangeable tones either. Ah… that was basically a music lesson in itself.
Thales felt tremendous pressure in Mindis Hall. The situation even caused him to forget about the banquet that he was supposed to attend two months from now, let alone the power vortex in Renaissance Palace.
It was the same for some of the “special” lessons that were supposed to be rather relaxing, just like right now.
“Do you feel it, Prince Thales? As your weapon, it is so strong, straight, tough, yet it does not lose its tenacity and flexibility…”
A gentle and casual voice traveled into his left ear before it slowly reached his right ear. It made his ears itch a little.
“On the other hand, it is also extremely impulsive, wild, and has an endless desire that it is unable to hold back. It longs to release itself, to be chaotic, and to conquer… but you must not give in easily. Take control of it. Do not allow this wild horse to get out of its cage so easily…”
Thales’ face was flushed. His breathing was rapid. He did not have the time to care about the voice next to his ears.
“Use the strength in your waist. Hold the sword steadily with your hands. That’s right, just like that. Keep the pose and direction. Try to stay straight, do not shake…”
Sweat dripped down Thales’ cheek. He suddenly felt his entire body shiver.
The voice grew stern.
“I know that this is difficult, but you must persevere! Tense up your body! Straighten your back! Raise it high! Do not let it fall down..”
But Thales felt that he was already…
The uncontrollable numbness was spreading to every part of his body.
‘This is bad.’
He could no longer persevere…
Thales could see the area before him spinning.
He was about to… about to…
Finally, with a dull thud, the training sword that Thales held in his hand and the weight hanging around its hilt fell to the sandy ground at the same time.
The Duke of Star Lake was breathing rapidly. His arm was overwhelmed with soreness and numbness while his gloves were soaked with sweat.
The sound of footsteps rose. Mallos walked to him from behind and fixed his eyes on the sword on the ground. He seemed to be thinking about something.
“The time… is a little short, huh?”
Thales swung his aching arm around in frustration and stomped his feet on the training ground, which had been temporarily emptied in the courtyard, in order to soothe the numbness.
“It is all right,” the prince said resentfully. “I am just not used to it. The Northlanders do not teach in this way. They are more inclined to… sparring.”
Mallos let out a soft snort.
“Then perhaps… you should return to Northland?”
Thales was instantly rendered speechless.
The light from the setting sun slid into the courtyard of Mindis Hall, extending Mallos and Thales’ shadows on the ground.
Doyle stood right beneath the pillar behind the two of them. He appeared to be talking to Glover about something.
“Apparently, our prince has never experienced any systematic training before.”
Doyle shook his head.
“It looks like the capabilities of a Northlander who excels in battle are rather limited.”
Glover pursed his lips.
Indeed, at that very moment, Thales was listlessly attending the martial arts lesson personally conducted by Lord Mallos. Apparently, after experiencing an entire day of having his brain tormented, the duke was not very keen about receiving an entire lesson solely on retaining his stance.
But Mallos seemed to find pleasure in it.
“Sword style and sword stance are important segments in the training for ancient knights.” The watchman still had a polite smile on his face. He was not frustrated at all with the prince’s failure and attitude.
“It is especially so for the Seventeen Swords of the Knights, the ancient and traditional skill for knights. It has been circulating in the palace since the age of the Empire.
“After Constellation was formed, it was reformed through meticulous studies by countless masters before it gained its current form.”
Under the attentive eyes of a few members of the Royal Guards who came to join the training, Mallos walked into the field. He lifted the prince’s metallic training sword elegantly. He hesitated for a brief moment, but he did not pick up the weight together.
“Every movement and stance has been carefully considered and verified countless times.” Mallos turned the hilt of the sword around and handed it over. He was gentle and elegant, not showing even a single sign of impatience.
“You are required to concentrate fully and follow through. Perform them to the limits. Let them be branded deeply in your body and turn them into your instincts.”
Thales, whose mind was still overwhelmed by word orders and cases, as well as arithmetic formulae, sighed while he attempted to take the sword from Mallos.
Yet, when Thales tugged at it, the longsword would not budge!
Thales was shocked. He recovered from his listless state.
He raised his head and noticed that the hilt of the sword was tightly wedged in Mallos’ hand. He did not let go.
“This is all so that you will be able to return to the safest stance you are most familiar with at any moment during battle.”
Mallos focused his eyes on him, and he became serious.
“For instance, regardless of the outcome of the battle, with every strike you deliver with your sword, prepare to defend yourself instinctively and remain vigilant.”
In the next second, Mallos suddenly loosened his hand. Thales’ body swayed a little because of the inertia before he managed to stand firmly.
In the face of the not-so-friendly reminder, Thales forced himself to smile as he brandished his sword in a familiar motion. “Even when the enemy is already dead?”
Meanwhile, Mallos’ eyes suddenly turned cold. “Even when the enemy is already dead.”
Thales felt a chill run up his spine.
Mallos continued to speak, “Let me guess, the Northlanders have never taught you about belated strikes, am I right? Even when you have beheaded your opponent, his body will continue to swing the sword due to inertia. He could potentially complete the move he was performing right before his death one second after his demise, like lobbing off your head as you did with him.”
Thales was slightly stunned.
“In truth, the Northlanders have taught me that.”
The young duke looked around. He noticed that Doyle and Glover were observing from afar. Doyle even yawned without showing him any respect.
“You know that they have to face the agonizing counterattacks from orcs.” Thales shrugged. He decided to put an end to the topic and quickly complete the portion of his training for the day. “If you allow a counterattack with such a magnitude to be performed, regardless of whether you block it or not, or whether you performed the block with a strong or weak blade, it would basically happen in just a moment. There is little significance in defending yourself.
“So, they speak of using offense as their defense. They worship the idea of suppressing their enemies with the situation and chasing after them while they are victorious.
“They believe that the most perfect battle would be to leave the opponent with no chance of fighting back from beginning to the end.”
Thales shook his head. ‘Star Killer Nicholas, Fire Knight Tolja, Raven of Death Monty…’
Yes, among the masters of Northland he encountered before, none of them seemed to be especially good in defense.
On the contrary, in Constellation, there were people like Fortress Flower, Legendary Wing, even the Knight of Judgement in the Prison of Bones…
As for Kingdom’s Wrath…
All right, he was a different matter, an existence whom even the Northlanders feared.
Nevertheless, Mallos still stared at Thales with a profound gaze. Then, he took two steps forward, pressed down against Thales’ shoulder, and drew close to his ear.
“Then you better keep this in mind, your life is far more valuable than most people’s. You need to survive, Your Highness, not die one moment later after your opponent.
Mallos sounded vigilant and mysterious. He gave off a vibe of someone who was in some sort of horror story, causing Thales to subconsciously shiver.
“Also, if most of the opponents you encounter from now on are humans, if there are any at all, when you face their delayed attacks, striking up defensive stances in time and in an intelligent manner is incredibly important.” Mallos released Thales’ shoulder with an expressionless face.
The smile on Mallos’ face was long gone. “After all, you are learning swordsmanship, not suicide-ship.”
Thales furrowed his eyebrows. He could sense the displeasure from the other person. It seemed like his inattentiveness earlier on had provoked him?
Mallos walked out of the field. He opened his mouth coldly and said, “Return to the previous sword stance. Put on the weight. Attempt to hold on for half an hour. Let your body become familiar with it.”
‘Half an hour?’
Thales instantly pulled a long face.
From six in the morning until now… He just experienced a full twelve hours of…
Would he even be able to eat dinner?
Mallos did not turn his head around.
“I know that this process is very boring, very dry, and very difficult. There is no opponent or target. There is only you.”
The words of the watchman held a cold meaning.
“Only loneliness, solitude, forbearance, and persistence. You will not have any assistants or enemies.”
“Truth be told, your greatest enemy is living beneath that willpower of yours.”
Mallos suddenly whipped around, and his tone grew extremely determined.
“Take back your willpower.”
Thales could not help himself from raising his eyebrows.
‘Why did his speech sound like a motivational story even though this is just a training lesson?’
Criticisms aside though, Thales could only obey obediently, hold the standard knight’s sword conferment stance, and try to get his body to reach the required standards.
Despite that, his mind wandered a little.
Thales thought in resignation.
It did not take long. Less than ten minutes later, the tip of his sword began to tremble. Thales was covered in sweat while he looked forward to the moment it would come to an end. His stance started to go out of shape. It was a little hard for him to persevere anymore. Muscle strength had never been Thales’ forte.
But this time, Thales quietly summoned his most familiar comrade.
It did not take long before that familiar surge obediently obeyed his orders secretly. It spread up to his right arm, soothed the soreness and the burden on his muscles. It also constantly fueled him with new strength.
Thales clenched his teeth and let out a breath. ‘Not bad, I’m feeling much better now.’
The trembling tip of the sword slowly stabilized as well.
He tried to pull and stretch his body so that he returned to the most accurate form of the knight’s sword conferment stance.
Mallos had been observing meticulously outside the field, and his eyes lit up. He started to nod his head.
Even Glover and Doyle were attracted.
“Wow, I’ve underestimated him.” Doyle scratched his head. “The Northlanders still have some skills.”
Even though he had yet to tap into Hell’s senses, it still enhanced his hearing, and those honest words reached Thales’ ears.
The prince quirked up the corners of his mouth.
“Not bad…” Mallos walked into the field, filled with interest. “Very good, Your Highness. Truth be told, this far exceeded my estimation.”
Thales could not help but straighten his arms even further, so much so that the tip of the sword was also straight.
Then, Mallos nodded in understanding. He smiled mysteriously and said, “It is truly not bad at all, your Power of Eradication, that is.”
The watchman stared at his steady arms and Thales’ standard stance. He used his most gentle and elegant tone to voice his compliment.
In that instant, Thales, who was focusing on retaining his sword stance, felt terrified!
‘What… did he say?’
The tip of his sword trembled slightly.
Glover and Doyle looked at each other on the other side, appearing puzzled.
Mallos smiled gently.
However, he suddenly reached out and seized the hilt of Thales’ sword!
Immediately, the Sin of Hell’s River, which was already actively surging in Thales’ body, gushed up, causing him to subconsciously pull his wrist back!
The tremendous strength came charging forward. Mallos’ expression changed before he instantly quirked up the corners of his mouth, and he let go of the hilt.
He had seemingly discovered something.
Thales took two steps back due to the inertia. He looked at Mallos in surprise and bewilderment.
Another muffled sound was heard. The weight slipped off the sword again to the ground. It made its final roll on the sandy ground in despair.
The captain of Thales’ personal guards calmly moved his arms. He nodded slowly because he seemed to still be mulling over his contest of strength with the prince a moment ago.
Nevertheless, his expression later returned to that of calmness, as though he had learned the truth.
It looked like Thales understood something when he saw that. He found it increasingly difficult to believe.
It all began six years ago.
It had begun since the first time the strange power called the Sin of Hell’s River awoke inside his body…
Other than Black Sword, who had the same power, no one else had ever taken the initiative to discover his secret.
Regardless of whether it was his enemies in Northland or the desert, or his acquaintances in his homeland, Constellation.
Plus, Thales was also content with keeping it a secret to preserve his trump card. Whether it was the time he fought against the Star Killer, the Raven of Death, or Shadow Shield, his trump card, which he always revealed in the end, had always brought about pretty good effects for him.
Thales looked at Mallos in a daze.
Today, the Sin of Hell’s River… had finally… been discovered.