Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
At night, Thales ran forward speedily across the training field, took out his weapon, and swung it vertically as well as horizontally!
Two clashing sounds were heard.
Thales successfully parried two pendulums that were hanging in the air, with one at the front and the other behind him.
Thales took the opportunity to move forward after the pendulums were sent flying away. He then used his practice sword to thrust at the man in front of him!
His blunt sword hit his opponent’s thick wooden shield, and a dull thud was audible.
In terms of what he had sensed, the effects were not too bad.
But he had no time now.
From the narrow view through his helmet, Thales gritted his teeth and stepped back via the path he came from. He retreated quickly!
He needed to go back to the starting point without getting hurt.
The swinging rope released creaking sounds.
The pendulum that was closest to the young man swung back and got nearer.
Thales was tense, and he could only increase the speed of his movement while he tried his best to maintain a precarious balance in his retreat.
The Sin of Hell’s River sensed his anxiety. It started to become restless, but Thales paid no attention to it.
The pendulum grazed past his shoulders, but it did not hit him.
Thales sighed in relief.
‘Good. Now, there is only…’
Before he could finish thinking, Thales sensed pain in his eardrums!
His helmet was hit by the second pendulum, and it vibrated.
‘What the hell…’
Thales felt great discomfort and crouched down. He threw away the longsword and swiftly pulled off the helmet from his neck. He kept rubbing his left ear, which was still suffering from tinnitus and was in great pain.
Directly ahead of him was a middle-aged guard who was currently sparring with him. He was thirty-year-old Vanguard Vladivostok, who always held back from laughing when the prince made a fool of himself. He put down his shield and looked at the commanding officer around the area.
“You must have a stable footing.”
Mallos walked forward and patted the white spots on Vladivostok’s shield, which were formed from limestone powder. He seemed to be in deep thought as he watched the swinging pendulums that were entangled with one another.
“You must put more stress in your strength, your sword thrust must be accurate, and your movements have to be proper.
“Most importantly, you must not be hit by the swinging pendulums.
“Out of these five criteria, if one of them is not properly done, the practice will not be considered valid.”
Mallos unsympathetically moved his sight away from the prince who was suffering and being tormented by tinnitus. Then, he knocked on Vladivostok’s shield and gave an instruction to Protector Kommodore, who was beside him.
Kommodore walked down to the field and replaced the thick limestone-covered shield in Vladivostok’s hands with a brand new shield.
Thales finally felt his tormented left ear get better, and he stood up in annoyance.
“I do not understand.
“Why is the training so stiff and rigid? And I have to only swing my sword either upward or downward. I can’t swing it however I want to block attacks, and I can’t bend my body down to tumble as well, all so that I can compete against two swinging pendulums in terms of speed?”
Thales felt aggrieved as he looked at the metal pendulums that were moving back and forth like swings.
‘Thanked goodness, or rather, if I were to say this in a politically correct manner, thank Sunset. Not too long ago, I finally said goodbye to standing around like a log and sparring training.
‘…But it has been replaced with practicing against dummies.’
Thales looked at the pendulums that were airborne with their weights swinging downward while being attached to the movable pulley.
Over the past few days, he had moved from training with the pendulum to hoop crawling, dodge training, and thrust training…
There were more than seven or eight types of practice targets, and there were also multiple choices with different levels of difficulty within different types of training. There were all sorts of gimmicks in the training he received.
Thales was definitely beaten up with new methods every day. The shape of his helmet, for instance, was altered after he was hit by the pendulum; he got beaten up so badly by the rotating wheel that he foamed at his mouth; he was covered in dust after being smacked by the sandbags that dropped down from the sky; he was confused by the positions of the targets that did not come out in sequence…
He had to say something that he did not want to admit.
He was starting to miss that dead face.
Nicholas’ training was meant to destroy his confidence through endless obstacles.
In contrast, Mallos’ training was to wipe away his patience through boring repetitions.
On the training field, the guards who were used to it stared at each other. Logistics Officer Procca, who was guarding the machines by the side, immediately passed Thales a cup of water to help him fight for more rest time.
Over time, although there were many problems that he needed to deal with each day (which were really his lessons), the young Duke of Star Lake slowly started to become familiar with his twenty or so Star Lake Guards.
Among the vanguards, it remained uncertain whether it was due to family origin or personality, but Caleb Glover had indirectly become the leader. Zombie was introverted, dependable when it came to handling matters, and he did not complain at all (which was totally opposite from D.D.). Mallos trusted him completely, and the watchman had entrusted him to many matters. With Glover’s leadership, all eight vanguards under Duke Thales were resolute in their duties, and their personalities were very clearly distinguishable from each other. Among them were the left-handed Swordsman Jonveled and Vladivostok, who was practicing with him right now.
The six-man protector squad was the closest to Thales. Unexpectedly, the comedic and cynical Danny Doyle was doing quite well in the group (“Who wouldn’t want to be friends with a rich person?” That was what Mallos said during mealtime), and he had full intention of making every single one of the rogues in his group band together with him. Kommodore, who fought against Thales with the sword in the past and had been promoted from a police officer to a guard, became one of their members too after the prince risked being called someone who bullied others.
The Discipline Division and Logistics Division had a total of six people. Gray Patterson was a bald man who loved nitpicking. Below is an excerpt of what Doyle said while he badmouthed Patterson until thirty seconds later when he ran into said man around a corner.
‘”Hey, do you know why his nickname is Gardener? That’s because there was a time when he caught someone having an affair with a maidservant, then… Oh wow, hey Commander Patterson, you’re here? Hmm… I need to go and relieve myself, haha!”‘
Logistics Officer Dreider Stone who served as a coordinator was always cheerful, and he used to grin while he asked Thales whether he was satisfied with his meals and various expenditures.
‘”How much of an idiot are you to believe that the people who keep accounts and manage money are good people?”‘ Doyle said while he bit down on his bread with great force.
As for Hugo Fuble from the Flag Bearer Division, he always wore a gloomy expression and always appeared out of the blue. He also walked without sound.
‘”He probably died at a young age and now, what we see is his ghost spirit floating around in the air. We just don’t know it,”‘ Doyle said while he picked at his teeth with a satisfied expression.
He and his two other subordinates in the Flag Bearer Division only dealt with Mallos, and they were rarely involved directly in Royal Guard affairs.
Meanwhile, according to Thales’ ill-intentioned assumptions, his personal guard captain who always said that he had a 50/50 chance of winning against anyone who challenged him, the Watchman of the Royal Guards, the most respectful Wang Yuyan (just a joke), Lord Tormond Mallos brought his three direct subordinates under him as well as the above mentioned elites of the five divisions and organized these complicated divisions that formed the Star Lake Guards and had only just been assigned to guard Prince Thales at Mindis Hall into well-organized group with well-distributed workloads, especially during the times when the feast was getting nearer. It had to be said, he truly had his own tricks when it came to this.
“Practicing with dummies does not mean you can resort to trickery or make up fake stories.”
Mallos did not think that he was doing anything out of bounds as he looked at Procca while the man handed a cup of water to Thales. D.D., who was supposed to serve the prince, had not finished his punishment in the scullery.
“In the past six years, what you learned from the Northlanders was to counter skills with desperate and reckless moves, along with responding to danger.
“Maybe that allowed you to Awaken to your Power of Eradication…
“But that also means that you need to spill your blood in exchange for your opponent’s blood and grab the chance to win in danger, which also means that you must continue attacking even if you have descended into a killing frenzy, grit your teeth even your sword is broken, leave no way of retreating for yourself, and fight without regard of what is importance. You fight while gambling on your luck as well as madness.”
The watchman had his eyes focus slightly.
“In real life, this kind of situation will only happen when you are fighting against people who are stronger than you are. Even if the chance of winning is extremely low, you will need to fight to win or die, because you are already forced to a corner.”
Thales passed the cup back to Procca while relieving his sore muscles.
“But most of the time, you will probably have quite a lot of advantages at hand even if you are facing complicated enemies or have other things holding you back. A slight move may affect the whole situation. You may have many choices, but it is difficult to make your own decision.”
Mallos narrowed his eyes.
“At this time, all you need is not just a will to sacrifice yourself, but also what you have learned during your daily practice, such as your movements, habits, focus, calmness, sensitivity, and courage.
“That is exactly the reason why you are here today.”
Alright, Thales admitted. Mallos was at least leagues ahead of the Star Killer when it came to his oratory skills. He sounded very reasonable…
As for the others…?
“Battles are things you engage in after you have made ample and meticulous preparation earlier. You must plan it through in every regard. You must take into consideration every aspect and include every factor. The preparation should be complete and not just get by,” Mallos said airily, “This is the suggestion from the former watchman. His skills were fantastic, and he used to be responsible for guarding Mindis Hall.”
Thales’ mind stopped for a while.
The prince turned around and looked at the spacious, meticulously made, and unique court of Mindis Hall with complicated feelings.
A gentle breeze blew in. At night, under the Everlasting Lamp, Mindis Hall looked like a tourist attraction instead of a serious and cautious royal court.
The former watchman guarded Mindis Hall.
Thales turned his head around. “The one before you. You know him?”
Unexpectedly, Mallos’ gaze turned profound, and he seemed to be in deep thought. “Yes. I know him.”
When he saw Thales’ surprised expression, Mallos added in a relaxed manner. “From history records.”
A second later, Thales sighed and rolled his eyes. ‘You know jack squat.’
“Certainly, I do know that practicing against dummies is boring, and it is not as interesting as fighting against real people.”
Mallos took over Thales’ waterskin,
“You have encountered the three great military fighting styles in the country before, the martial arts faction, the modern style, and the attack and defense faction.”
The Watchman turned his head around to look at Procca and Kommodore, who came for their shift duty of practicing with the prince.
Both of them had their expressions change.
Mallos waved to the old logistic officer and the short protector, and he smiled. “This is enough for him to digest for some time.”
Procca and Kommodore sighed in relief and smiled again. They nodded at the prince politely.
“They can only be counted to have unique styles, but they are not in the mainstream of current martial arts.” Mallos turned his head around. “How about this? When you finish and pass the first phase of your practice with dummies. We can start with sparring again. We have plenty of talented men and can demonstrate or teach you the two main martial arts styles in Constellation and even the Western Peninsula. They surpass the influence that will usually be brought by different territories leading to differences in style, and they occupy dominant positions in the main fighting styles learned by the people.”
Thales had a thought appear in his mind. “Dominant? Two main styles?”
“Yes. They came from the age of the Empire, and they have fought against each other for thousands of years. They encountered much during the process, witnessed all sorts of changes, and have been passed down until now.” Mallos’ words were alluring, just like a grandmother’s story.
Thales kept asking, “And they are?”
Mallos did not answer. He only shook his head and hinted to Vladivostok, who was at the other side of the pendulum.
Vladivostok pursed his lips and quietly picked up his shield. Then, he went back behind the pendulum.
Thales sighed, stood up as he accepted his fate, and wore his helmet.
Under the moonlight and light from the lamp, the sounds of footsteps and someone swinging the sword were heard in the training field again.
Finally, once an unknown amount of time to Thales passed, after an unknown number of times he struck the shield, and after an unknown number of times he was hit by the pendulums, Mallos said gently, “Okay, the moves these few times were not too bad. Passed.”
‘Thank Go—Ahem, thank Sunset.’
Thales exhaled, and his longsword was placed on the ground as a support for him to stand.
“Then, let us do this for another twenty times.”
Mallos was all smiles.
Thales’ small and gloomy face became tense again. “What?
“But I did the footsteps, the exertion of force, accuracy, movement, and I also dodged those damn pendulums well!” the young man opposed angrily.
Mallos grinned and said, “That is true. Your Highness, you have done very well in all five sections. Therefore, in order to keep you in this kind of good condition, we should strengthen your foundation a little more.”
Thales felt that the night was incredibly long.
Finally, after performing twenty standard pendulum reps correctly, and that was excluding the multiple times he failed, where the total far exceeded the number of times he succeeded, and the number he failed had also increased by leaps and bounds further into his training he was, Thales was so tired that he lay on the ground flat and could only gasp for breath.
“I heard that the Wrath of the Sea was providing immediate responses during the life and death moments.”
Thales continued lying down without moving. He laboriously raised his head and changed the topic of conversation to avoid Mallos trying to strengthen his foundation again. “And this is the best training you can give me? To train me until I die from exhaustion?
“Does it really reflect the meaning of true battle?”
Mallos snorted gently and hinted at the others to start packing. “Your Highness, in terms of the meaning of true battle, as the Duke of Star Lake and the Second Prince, how many chances do you have to go to the battlefield and fight the enemy directly?”
‘Chances of going to the battlefield and fighting the enemy directly as the Duke of Star Lake and the second prince?’
Thales sat on the ground and stared at the sky. He frowned and recalled. ‘Seems like… there’s quite a lot of it.’
Thales looked as though he had lost his meaning of life. In front of him, Mallos said in a mocking tone, “So, according to what you said, you should just learn how to blow the most grating whistle and shout ‘Help’ loudly so that you can let others come and kill your enemies and protect you in the most critical and dangerous moment.”
Thales curled up the corners of his lips.
‘I wish too. But that’s just wishful thinking.’
“We live in different times compared to the times when ancient royalty led their armies personally and fought at the front line. Today, the martial arts lessons do not aim to shape you into a warrior who can fight against ten alone or a vanguard who needs to personally go to the fray.
“That is now the duty of others.”
Mallos glanced at him.
“That is our duty.”
The watchman’s attitude became serious.
“In the royal family and even in most of the high class noble families, this lesson is just for you to know and sense what the warriors in the past who fought while facing death beside your ancestors felt as well as what your warriors who will fight with their lives on the line will feel in the future.
“When they do their best to fight or die on behalf of all of you, you must know what they have encountered or what they need to face later in order not to forget.”
Thales gasped while lying on the floor and thought back about the bloody scenes in the past, such as the birch tree forest, Broken Dragon Fortress, Archduke of Dragon Clouds City, Blade Fangs Camp…
Thales sighed and said,
“Regardless of whether you believe it or not, I know much more than what… you and others know.”
Mallos walked to his side. He appeared upside down in Thales’ vision and blocked the stars in the sky. “I do not have any intention to doubt you, but that is not all.”
The watchman whispered, “All of us, including us the Royal Guards, had sworn this, and we also have this belief: when danger comes and war is imminent, we will sacrifice everything to protect our master.
“But only one of them must not think in this way.” His tone suddenly became serious.
Thales’ expression changed.
“You,” Mallos still spoke calmly, as if he was not bothered by it. “You have to think and prepare for the situation that when we cannot fulfill our duty and cannot stay by your side, what should you do?”
‘Cannot fulfill your duty and cannot stay by my side…?’
Out of nowhere, the dark and silent Black Prison beneath the Prison of Bones appeared in Thales’ mind.
The young man closed and reopened his eyes.
“Are you saying that even my closest and trusted Royal Guards will betray me and leave me?”
At that moment, the atmosphere in the training field seemed to freeze. The guards who were on shift duty at the training field were all stunned.
Mallos remained silent for a second. “I did not say that.”
But Thales ignored him. “And would you?”
The duke stared at the captain of his personal guards who was above his head. “Maybe there is a better or more reasonable excuse to betray me?”
Vladivostok subconsciously looked at Mallos from the side.
It was hard to continue this sentence.
Mallos continued staring at the price and remained silent for a few seconds.
Perhaps it was because it was autumn now, and the temperature in the training field was not high. Thales lay on the floor, and he could feel a chill on his back.
“You should go and bathe.” Mallos still sounded as indifferent as before. “Rest well, because your welcoming feast will start in fifteen hours.
“I hope the feast tonight can relieve your anxiety.”
‘That’s right, the welcoming feast.
‘The damn feast.’
Thales sighed and had his head thud against the ground.
The Royal Guards started to smoothing out their attire.
There was a figure who looked very tired as he approached the field with a limp. Another fit figure followed behind him.
“You already ended?” Doyle felt exhausted. He arrived in front of Mallos. The one behind him was the expressionless Glover. “At least give me a chance to get closer to the prince. Otherwise, tomorrow, my father…”
Mallos did not bother to look at him and kept walking forward.
“How was it?” Doyle looked at Mallos in disappointment.
“Just rest assured. Over the past few days, while I was in the scullery, storage room, and the haunted rooms in Mindis Hall, I followed Stone all over the place. I did not even shift my gaze from him but followed him tightly. I even built a good relationship with the maids, I mean, the servants to understand the situation, I know that no one can harm the prince and his guests through poison during the feast tomorrow, but no one can be sure about aphrodisiac.”
Mallos chuckled softly and ignored Doyle’s indirect complaints.
“I have coordinated with the Police Station, regular soldiers of the royal family, and the guards in Renaissance Palace. There is no problem in manpower and the arrangement in positions, even after His Majesty leaves,” Glover said coldly from behind Doyle, “No one can threaten him, not even by assassination.”
Mallos remained silent for a while.
The watchman turned around and looked at Thales, who lied on the ground and gazed at the stars. “That is not the thing I’m worried about the most.”
It was the 30th of October today. This was to remember the Day of Holy Pursuit, the defeat of the Orc by humans for the first time in history.
It was said that in this traditional festival, the people from Crystal Jade Island, Demon Sea, Sighing Mountain, Flame Ocean Land, and the entire world would celebrate this day.
Thales still remembered that this was what the child beggars claimed as Rich Target Day. On this day, the city residents would celebrate happily. They were the cutest when they did not even care about where their wallets were.
Unfortunately, to Prince Thales, today was not a Rich Target Day. Instead, it was the damned day for the feast for his return to the country.
Ever since he was young, Thales only ever attended one feast.
And he could not use that one experience as his reference. The Duke of Star Lake could not roll up his sleeves, lift his wine goblet, and shout at the people in Mindis Hall to eat, drink, fight, f*ck, and do whatever they wanted, right?
However, it had to be said that when the next day’s afternoon arrived, as the master of the feast, when Thales stood beneath the portraits of the three kings to receive guests, he noticed just how hard the job actually was.
“Look at you, you are a proper man now.”
Before him was Viscount Patterson. His face was old, and his body was even older. He was supported by two nephews to attend the feast. His eyes were glazed over, but since he had an important position, he was among the group of guests that Thales had to personally receive. This man ruled over Ford Fort, and it was an important eastern communications hub in Central Territory. He was also a direct vassal of the royal family.
He was among the Seven Jadestar Attendants.
Among all important VIPs, he was the first person to arrive, and he even arrived before the designated time for the feast. This caused Thales, who had been in his waiting to get dressed and tidy up while he memorized the flow of the feast and all sorts of etiquette, to descend into a flurry of motion. He had to throw chaos into his plans and hurry to meet him.
Viscount Patterson pushed away the two nephews who supported him falteringly and brusquely. He leaned forward and seized Thales’ arm in a tight grip.
“I still remember… watching your father being crowned king… while I sat in the Hall of Stars eighteen years ago. Now…” The old viscount panted.
Glover and Doyle nervously stood beside the prince and bent their knees slightly. They leaned forward slightly, and they looked as if they were about to charge forward to support him at any moment.
However, Thales did not think that they did this to protect Thales, but they were worried that this old man who even had trouble speaking would just keel over and die.
[The prince held a feast, and he is ruthless and merciless. While he had a conversation with an old vassal, the old vassal died.] It would be best if there were fewer of such news.
Thales continued smiling based on the standard royal family’s etiquette Jines taught him. He retained his elegance, but did not lose his amiability. He held the old man’s palm, which felt like it was covered in keratosis pilaris, and constantly paid attention to the old man’s balance. He also gently asked after his health, but the viscount was a little hard on hearing, and his nephews had to repeat the prince’s question loudly a few times.
Thales acted just like how a typical Duke of Star Lake should behave.
“I know my own body, Your Highness. I will not be able to last much longer, but it is fine.” At that moment, Viscount Patterson’s murky eyes shone with a hint of light. “Because while time flies, Constellation remains the same.”
Thales felt the hand he held tighten its grip. Viscount Patterson bowed, and with great effort, he propped his chin heavily on the prince’s gloves.
The viscount, who had white hair and wrinkled skin, panted rapidly, gritted his teeth, and said, “The country is young, it is an opportune moment for us to grow.”