Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
When enemies meet, it is like being enveloped by a gust of spring breeze.
When close friends reunite, their eyes blaze with hatred.
Living under someone elses roof in Dragon Clouds City, Thales dreamed of returning to Constellation countless times. But if there was anything that could extinguish his homesickness, the graceful and perfect smile of Zayen Covendier, Duke of Iris Flowers, is probably one of them.
Prince Thales will never forget his bizarre encounters in Constellation when he headed north on a diplomatic mission six years agobe that the bloody mouth, sinister pupils and bloodcurdling shrieks of a mummy-like vampire witch, or being crushed under the weight of a pure white, limbless blood-sucking monster and being bitten on the neck by it.
Both incidents stated above constituted the surprise finale of most of his nightmares for the past six years, second only to the occasional secret level boss (in ultimate nightmares) Giza. These nightmares inadvertently encouraged him to sleep and wake up early, as well as stay optimistic.
Every time his thoughts reached this point, Thales would feel a phantom pain in his neck.
It felt like he was being strangled, yet also as if he was being bitten.
And that was why Thales will never forget the main culprit of it all.
I didnt expect you to come, my Duke friend, Thales beamed. He put his right arm across Zayens back and on Zayens right shoulder. In the eyes of others, they looked like brothers out on a stroll. Not this early, at least.
Zayen returned with an equally warm smile, and wrapped his left arm over Thales neck, as if he was hugging his own brother, natural and affectionate.
Ive missed you dearly for the past months, Your Highness. I couldnt wait to see you, my Prince friend, Zayens voice sounded just like it did before, gentle and elegant, friendly and easygoing.
It could even be said that it sounded better.
Thales face broke into a grin.
So what is it this time?
Thales put on the persona from his experience in Quick Rope salesa warm smile, an enthusiastic toneand asked softly, A poisoning? An assassination? False accusations? False rumours? A framing?
Thales spoke so softly that Glover, Doyle and Zayens elderly butler Ashford who were right behind them could not make out a word of what he said.
He leaned closer to Zayen, Or take a page out of the Northeners bookroll up your sleeves and do me in?
Zayen burst out laughing in public.
The guards and servants stood guard at the periphery. The guests waiting for admission nodded hearteningly upon witnessing this harmonious scene.
Many people discussed this scene tacitly. Obviously, the Duke of the South Coast was amused by the Princes joke. What was rare was that the Duke showed his true emotions and did not put on airs.
The Prince was also sincere and unpretentious.
See, important people are people too. They live the same lives as us, have similar joys, and face similar troubles. If you do not believe me, just look at those friendly smiles. How is that different from yours and mine?
This tells you that there is merely a difference in position between us and the Prince and Duke; neither is better than the other. Everyone is an important member of the kingdom, striving for the future of Constellation.
Seeing as how they give their blood, sweat and tears in leading and governing the kingdom, we should have hope and put our confidence in them.
Even where they fall short of perfection, we should empathise, be lenient, and be patient.
This is the right way to love Hey mister, please stop crowding me, there isnt any more space over hereIts none of my business if you cant get a good view! Im here today to get a glimpse of His Highness and the Duke! Hey, they are leaving, hurry! Hey you in front, let me through! Youre blocking my view! Prince Thales! Duke Zayen! Slow down!
Thales! You Zayen ignored the minor commotion outside the venue. With his arm still around the Princes shoulder, Zayen affectionately shook the latter and leaned towards his ear, You know, Ive been thinking for the past six years
He whispered softly, as if hoping to convey a subtle message, If you return with glory to a heros welcome, what will our dynamic be?
There was a subtext in his words.
What will our dynamic be?
Thales let out an inaudible sigh. Inexplicably, his mind flashed back to when King Nuven swore to avenge his sons death by duel.
We should respect each other, live and let live
They steadily walked on.
But in an instant, Zayens warm and gentle tone turned cold, Or should we entangle ourselves in hatred and hold on to it till our deaths?
There was a slight lag in Thales footsteps.
Zayen slowed down accordingly.
Zayens words sounded like an armistice request.
Thales turned his head around slowly. He maintained his smile, but his gaze turned cold.
Dont worry, Zayen gave Thales a friendly pat on the shoulder, like a brother encouraging another. The attendants and guards that witnessed this scene felt relieved.1
Youll have time to think about it. What you should worry about todayIsnt me.
No one could see it, but Zayens smile was slightly restrained.
At least, it isnt just me.
Thales fell silent.
But in the next instant, His Highness the Prince, with a slight movement of his brows, burst into laughter!
Zayen lowered his head and started to smirk.
Their strides reverted to a regular pace.
In the eyes of onlookers, the jokes between the Duke of the South Coast and the Duke of Star Lake obviously became more and more relaxed, and the conversation flowed smoothlycant you see them laughing so heartedly?
Mallos, who was leading the way, frowned in distress.
The butler, Ashford, who was behind them, remained expressionless.
The watchman signalled to Thales that he could take over in leading the Duke into the banquet hall. But the overjoyed Prince waved his hand and insisted on accompanying the Duke till the end.
The guests on the other side noticed this and was deeply moved by their friendship and relationship.
You know, there was a time when I couldnt understand why you wanted me deadeven when there wasnt any conflict between us anymore, Thales gradually restrained his laughter. He patted Zayen hard on the back and started to whisper.
The pat swayed the Duke of Iris Flowers, but he maintained his smile.
But eventually I figured it out. Thales leaned on Zayens shoulder and blinked slyly, What do you say?
Figured it out?
At that moment, Zayen broke his stride.
The Duke lowered his head slightly, as if pondering something.
Thales slowed down considerately and waited for Zayens response with a smile.
A little advice, Your Highness. A few seconds later, Zayen looked uphis expression unchangedand with a slight movement of his lips said, Take care of yourself, kid. Dont butt into other peoples business.
Even though he was smiling, the coldness of Zayens tone effectively reached Thales ears, sending chills down his spine.
Zayen merely glanced at Thales, but it seemed like a cold flash of light, Dont go asking for trouble. Youll regret it.
Thales heart skipped a beat.
The Duke of Star Lake fell silent.
The next moment, they stepped into the banquet hall.
Many of the guests that arrived earlier were already seated. They were waiting gracefully and patiently, occasionally greeting each other. Quite a few stood around in small groups, chatting jovially and politely.
The arrival of the Duke of South Coast and the Duke of Star Lake undoubtedly attracted everyones attention. The guests closest to them bowed in respect; the crowd further away from them paused their conversation. Perhaps it was because the guests never expected the VIP entrance to be so soon, a few seconds later a minor burst of cheers broke out in the banquet hall.
The more privileged gueststhe ever-charming Doyles, Viscount Lozano Glover, as well as Elainor Barney, who was with her son (when the crowd caught a glimpse of the Nine-Pointed Star Emblem on the young dukes arm, a group of ladies started gathering around Mrs Barney)stood up and bowed in respect.
The atmosphere heated up in an instant.
Zayen and Thales naturally loosened their grip on each other, tacitly bowing in respect towards the guests in return, and occasionally responding to their greetings.
Unlike the mixed crowd at the National Conference six years ago, only the elites were invited to attend the Day of Holy Pursuit cum Return of the Prince Celebratory Banquet. Even the guests around the periphery were friendly, behaved appropriately, and capable of holding their own. The attendants and guards fulfilled their duties diligently, giving way and watching the Duke and Prince as they walked past without disrupting their conversation.
However, Thales knew better.
In this moment of eagerness and harmony, where the hosts and guests interacted amicably and presented a united front, the underlying confrontational stance between Zayen and himself had reached a fever pitch.
The young man walked in shorter but quicker strides.
Zayen walked in longer but slower strides.
The two marched along in parallel, each adjusting their pace to the others from time to time. But inexplicably, their footsteps could never fully coordinate.
But at that moment, Thales smiled from the bottom of his heart.
Does Zayen know?
Thales pondered silently.
Duke Zayen Covendier, member of the respected Iris Flowers family and ruler of the South Coast.
His threat, his warning, his urgent tone
Compared to those people
A series of faces flashed across Thales mind
King Nuven caressing his ring, King Chapman lightly stroking his sword, the cunning and sinister Stake, the terrifying and strange Ricky, Legendary Wing and his decorative skulls, the Duke of Western Desert sneering
Compared to them
The young man smiled on the inside.
The excitement caused by the two entering the banquet hall gradually subsided; the guests spread out and went back to their small groups.
The next second, Thales toned down his smile, put down his greeting hand and grabbed Zayens shoulder unceremoniously.
You know, Ive been taking Math lessons from Julio the scholar recently. So Im curious, It looked as though the prince recalled an interesting trivia; he leaned over and whispered to the duke. His lips barely moved as he spoke through his teeth, Im curious. Six years ago when I headed up north and got into some trouble, and you transferred those duchies and Crystal Drop Ores to the royal family in exchange for my fathers forgiveness How much income did you lose per annum? His voice fell silent.
The rhythm of Zayens breath was slightly disrupted.
Crystal Drop Ores.
Zayens arm muscles contracted slightly.
Ah this matter. He smiled and turned to face Thales. I thought we were done with it
But the prince replied with an even bigger smile. Do you know how I have survived these past six years in the violent and perilous Northland?
In that instant, the patriarch of House Covendier felt his shoulders tighten.
Times have changed, Zayen. Thales moved his lips closer towards Zayens ear and smirked malevolently. Dont go asking for trouble. Youll regret it.
Zayen fixed his gaze upon Thales; his expression began to stiffen.
In the eyes of many, Prince Thales was overjoyed and kept speaking in Duke Covendiers ear, while the latter was patiently and indulgently listening to what the young man had to say without a trace of displeasure, let alone coldness.
As close as brothers.
This scene conjured a sense of comfort in those that witnessed it; they grinned.
Since the prince and the dukeone being pure, lively and cheerful, the other being refined, wise, gentle and honestwere developing a friendly and eager atmosphere, this naturally affected and resonated with the guests by the periphery.
Hate would never be grouped together with these two leaders; they were the model of nobility unity.
Hence the banquet hall turned into a sea of joy: mortal enemies of the past were no longer, their hatred replaced by smiles as they embraced and forgave each other like brothers; strangers who would never usually cross paths conversed as if they were old friends, merely pausing to sigh that they didnt make each others acquaintance sooner.
At this moment in Mindis Hall, the unique spirit and zeitgeist within and beyond the Constellation Royal Court and the entire aristocracy were in full display-solidarity and high morale.
Thales and Zayen finally stopped walking.
They were still staring at each other with a smile on each of their faces, as if everything left unspoken was fully understood.
Mallos, who was stood ahead of both, had to raise his voice to remind the two who were engrossed in staring at each other that the guest had arrived, and that His Highness should head back out to receive the other guests.
Finally, Zayen reached out to grab Thales by the shoulders with a smile, and said with a softened tone, I understand, Your Highness. Ease your concerns.
Zayen lowered his head and grinned. As long as Constellation exists, the empire will last forever.
Thales raised his eyebrows.
He proceeded to break into a smile and reached out to embrace Zayen tightly!
Very well. Let us rather die for friends
Zayens expression stiffened; he felt the grip on his waist tighten gradually.
Thales buried his head in the dukes chest and, out of sight from the public, continued coldly, than perish as foes.
A second later, the prince let go of the duke and reverted to that happy and sincere Thales, laughing away.
Zayen laughed along at this sight.
In coordination with the prince and the duke, the courteous nobles surrounding them-whilst secretly observing the two-raised their voices so that the laughter didnt stick out like a sore thumb.
Thales seemed really happy; he was howling with laughter as he bid Zayen goodbye and walked away. He quickly walked between Glover and Doyle, the latter observing the Prince with an odd stare.
When no one was looking, the young man relaxed his facial muscles that were numb from smiling too much.
He sighed a long sigh of relief deep inside.
It was strange.
As he felt Zayens piercing stare from behind, the fatigued Thales quietly pondered to himself, Zayen Covendier.
As one of his most annoying enemies, this guy was still as insidious, prudent and repulsive.
But in his memory the Duke of Iris Flowers never seemed to be this proactive?
Thales was deep in thought as he walked towards the banquet hall entrance, accompanied by his guards. He was ready to return to his place at the entrance to continue fulfilling his duty of welcoming guests.
But before he could finish his thought
The incident happened.
When he passed a group of foreign guests, a tall and muscular figure-a good deal bigger than Glover suddenly appeared!
The man had a menacing aura about him as he barged into view.
In an instant, the expression on Glover and Doyles faces changed.
However, both guards were well trained: they immediately kneeled and put their hands on their swords. They had to be ready to draw their swords and eliminate the threat before the assassin approached.
This was before Mallos stretched his powerful arms out and gripped Glover and Doyles shoulders.
Mallos actions prevented the public embarrassment of a bloodbath on the day when the Prince of Constellation makes his debut.
Keep calm, Mallos ordered in a low voice.
At that instant, a coarse and rude voice, with a tone familiar to Thales, boomed within the banquet hall, Look who it is!
The muscular guest stood in front of Thales and burst into laughter.
The anxious Glover and Doyle were shocked. They turned to Mallos who had halted them from acting. Only then did they notice that the muscular man, despite his imposing figure, was unarmed and stood at a safe distance apart.
They had overreacted.
On the other hand, Thales was stunned at the sight of the stranger before him. The man had a beard as substantial as his body; his clothes were thick but slightly rustic. He looked like a large bear.
An old friend of the Eckstedt people, Price Thales!
The bearded man opened his muscular arms wide and cheerfully boomed, Polaris!
Thales was stunned.
Wait a minute
He turned around confusedly and looked at the guests around him. The onlooking crowd who were initially curious now turned away to avoid his gaze.
But this didnt prevent Thales from recognizing the bearded mans familiar accent.
He was from
Look at that! The bearded man let out a boorish and manly laugh, then boomed, A prince that was raised drinking the milk of us Northerners, is indeed remarkable!
Thales was again confused.
What what milk?
Pardon? The prince was finally able to gather himself and responded politely, Actually, when I when I arrived at Dragon Clouds City, I was alreadyalready
Thales continued awkwardly in his head, weaned.
Wait a minute, in this world, when he was a child, did he ever drink milk?
But what greeted him was another bout of rude laughter.
Im Jorge, no surname.
The northerner that referred to himself as Jorge beat his chest; it sounded so much like rumbling drums that it startled several Constellation aristocrats nearby, who subconsciously distanced themselves.
I am an administrator sent by Archduke Gaddro. I bring with me the generosity and well-wishes of Elaphure City!
Thales expression changed.
That once-familiar northern geography now came back to him.
Of the ten Main Territories of Eckstedt, if the region furthest west was the City of Faraway Prayers, the region furthest east would be Elaphure City.
In fact, the Gaddro family estate in Elaphure City was located in a remote area, but was backed by mountains and cliffs, and adjacent to ice and sea. In a situation where quality ports were rare and conditions near the coast were harsh, the family arduously guarded the narrow coastline that was scarce within the entire empire of Eckstedt.
To the north, they are able to send reinforcements to Sentry Region and Glacier Sea to repel Glacial Orcs.
To the south, the Elaphure City fleet could support Reformation Tower and Black Sand Region to remotely control the various Eastern Sea ports of Constellation.
To the east, the vassals of the Gaddro family battled Kassaian pirates, known as Sons of Maidens, that roamed the islands, to protect maritime routes.
In the most extreme of times, they even had to sound the first bugle horn in the Peninsular War when faced with threats from across the Ocean of Eradication.
Six years ago, Archduke Gaddro did not take up King Nuvens invitation to visit Dragon Clouds City to witness the night that shook the Western Peninsula.
But Thales remembered what Count Lisban referred to him as: the Dignified Goatee.
Thales looked at the familiar yet unfamiliar northerner Jorge thoughtfully.
He is here to attend my celebratory banquet?
Its a great honor to meet you. Even the moon would be moved! Jorge spouted a bunch of nonsensical grammar, but laughed heartily as he reached out his arms to Thales. My Polaris!
Thales frowned. PoPolaris? he repeated, puzzled.
What form of address is this?
Yes indeed! Jorges every word seemed to shake the ground under their feet. You were in Dragon Clouds City for six long years, you of the Jadestar family!
He clapped his hands vigorously, ignoring the glares of contempt that Glover and Doyle shot at him.
So when you returned, everyone called you Polaris Because you were the most courageousthe one that has survived in the North for the longest Jorges expression was excited, his voice shook the roof, King of Constellation!
In that moment, the entire banquet hall fell silent.
Everyone shifted their attention and stared at this corner.
One second. Two seconds.
Jorge noticed that the sudden silence and was dumbfounded for a second.
He carefully inspected his surroundings.
The administrator from Elaphure City took a deep breath before allowing his gaze to fall back on the sorrowful-looking prince, whose face had stiffened.
He seemed to have sensed something.
Erm, what I meant was Jorge opened his mouth and clumsily rubbed his protruding belly, looking like a big bear in the shower. He then shrugged and awkwardly blurted with a chuckle, The king in waiting?