It was early morning on the road towards the Northern City Gate in Eternal Star City. A troop of city defense team's soldiers tactfully avoided a bunch of people standing in the vacant space ahead. They were also conscious in stopping other people from approaching the space.
"Be rest assured that I am not stupid enough to harm and kill the prince under the public eyes of the capital."
The Guardian Duke of the Land of Cliffs Region, Koshder Nanchester, was seen standing tall and upright in the middle of the road. He shook off the snow that covered the Great Deer Antler symbol on his cape as he said coldly, "I just want to meet him."
He stood in front of the continuous fleet of carriages and stared at the Jadestar Private Army, who had vigilant expressions on their faces while waiting for their master's reply.
Gilbert got down from the carriage and looked over at the Great Deer Antler carriage as well as few protectors of the Nanchester Family, who were close by. He also noticed that there was another carriage with a Tricolor Iris Flowers symbol, stationed at a distant spot. He furrowed his brows.
"Sir Nanchester, if you want to see the diplomat group off, you can wait at the Northern City Gate Stopping the diplomat group halfway is not the sort of manner the suzerain of a land ought to have."
Koshder looked unhappy and he pointed towards the carriage a distance away. "I am not the only one. That Tricolor Iris Flowers brat is also here."
Gilbert immediately pondered over the current situation.
Koshder shook his cape impatiently. "We all know that he is not some normal child even though he is only seven or eight years old. Pass the news to the second prince and let him make the decision."
The voice of a young child could then be heard from the third carriage.
"It is alright, Gilbert! Let me handle this."
Thales pushed the carriage door open and with the company of both the anxious Wya Caso and the guarded Midira Ralf, Thales walked towards Koshder with a calm, composed look on his face.
Koshder looked at the child with a perplexed gaze and stuck his chin out towards the direction of the roadside.
Thales inhaled deeply and nodded. He gestured towards his attendant and the Phantom Wind Follower before following Koshder to the side of the road.
"What kind of drama is this again?" The vice diplomat of the group and the prince's instructor, the thin Lord Putray, got down from his carriage impatiently. It was as though his lovely morning had been disturbed.
Gilbert shook his head. "Internal struggle of the kingdom."
"Why is it so peaceful?" Putray squinted his eyes and looked over at the two different figuresthe Duke of the Land of Cliffs and the second princewho were standing in the distance.
"Peaceful?" Gilbert glanced at his old friend with furrowed brows.
Putray pursed his lips and sneered. "It is so peaceful that I almost want to cry. You should go to the Eastern Peninsula, to Kirin Holy Capital. See the internal fights of the Chen Royal Family with the eunuchs and officials, who were given honorary titles in the Mane et Nox Dynasty.Of course, you have never been there, so it is normal for you to have such shallow knowledge and experience on this."
Gilbert snorted resentfully as he could not seem to find a valid argument to refute Putray's words.
Thales stared at the Duke of Great Deer Antler, who was wearing a hostile expression on his face while he pondered about the duke's intention.
'He must have some sort of motive for coming.
'But we are already destined to be enemies.
'I have to be vigilant.'
"I did not expect you to be the first person to come," Thales said quietly.
"I did not want to meet you before so many people since Fakenhaz's ridicules are very annoying." The One-Eyed Dragon stared coldly at him. "Brat, I know you are very intelligent, so I will cut the nonsense. Listen
"I do not like you. Never before has anyone dared to call me a hypocrite."
Thales helplessly spread out his hands. "Then, what do you want me to call you? A liar? Deceiver?"
'Or skilled actor? The best actor? The leader of the Mount Hua Sect, Yue Buqun ?
Koshder ignored his words. The scar on his blinded left eye was hideous.
"Nonetheless, I can still abandon my prejudice. In the future, the Land of Cliffs Region can fully support you to be the supreme king and suppress those restless nobles as well as suzerains with ulterior motives. The Great Deer Antler will serve you as our master, and Jadestar will continue to be the Royal Family."
Thales was momentarily stunned.
Thales' brows wrinkled in confusion. "I thought the Great Deer Antler and I were already absolutely irreconcilable."
However, Koshder still did not pay any attention to him.
"There is only one condition," The One-Eyed Dragon said in an irrefutable manner.
Thales, who was frightened by the One-Eyed Dragon's abnormal behavior, let out a sigh of relief. "As expected, you would never express goodwill to me for no reason."
"War comes with a price, and victory comes with rewards ." Koshder narrowed his only eye. "This is Nanchester Family's motto, spoken in our native language."
The second prince lifted his head to meet the One-Eyed Dragon's gaze.
"So, what 'price' do I have to pay in order to get your 'reward'?" asked the extremely vigilant Thales cautiously.
"It's very simple," Koshder said in a strict manner.
"King Kessel has to step down from his throne, and you are to be crowned the king in advance."
'Step down coronation
Thales took an entire three seconds to understand what was just said.
Then, his face changed color due to agitation!
Koshder did not show any signs that he was joking, as he kept staring at Thales solemnly.
The two of them stared into each other's eyes for a full five seconds.
"Ha, how dare you attempt to incite discord between the only father-son pair in Jadestar." Thales laughed with his mouth wide opened. "Do you not know that the reason why I own everything I have now is all because of His Majesty my father?"
"This is not an attempt to incite discord. This is a sincere suggestion and invitation." The One-Eyed Dragon's expression remained the same and his tone was serious.
"What we fear and hate is not Jadestar, or you. Our grudges are nothing when it comes to the kingdom. What we fear and hate is your father, the Iron Hand King."
Thales stared intently at the One-Eyed Dragon with bright eyes.
Koshder was unprecedentedly serious when he continued speaking, "Why do you think the New Star was established? Do you think that Arunde's actions entirely stemmed from his personal hatred and dissatisfaction? The suzerains were doing this out of self-preservation! In order for the families that have existed since the country was founded to this day, to continue existing"
Thales cut him off without a sign of hesitation.
'What a joke, this degree of provocation'
Thales replied coldly, "I can only see all of you persistently persecuting my father, and the Royal Family that is suffering. Questioning my identity, obstructing me from getting the power and authority I deserve"
The One-Eyed Dragon's suddenly appeared to be angry and cut Thales off with a loud yell!
He could be heard yelling, "Brat! If you can only listen to the story of the sorrowful king and the determined Royal Family, fed to you by the king's partisan, you might as well dig both of your eyes out and only leave your ears to do the job!"
Thales was stupefied for a moment.
The One-Eyed Dragon lightly exhaled a few times before saying to him word by word, "You underestimate your father, the Iron Hand King and underestimate the fear he brings upon the whole of Constellation."
Koshder slowly said, "Ever since the end of the Bloody Year, Kessel has become increasingly tyrannical. He is almost crazy about seizing power.
"From supporting the Duchess of Blade Edge Hill, who previously could only survive by relying on the Royal Family's prestigious reputation to indirectly controlling the two great clans of the southwest, then moving up to control Piranha of the Kingdom's Southwestern Coast and the wealthiest Sunflower.
"Then moving to breaking the rules and enlisting the Three Commanders as well as building the Royal Family's regular army to an astonishing scale.
"After that, he weakened each suzerains' Central Tax Bill, set up the Enlistment Bill, and greatly gave rise to the County Development Bill proposed by the new nobles.
"Not to mention his use of the National Conference, which is his favorite. He forced the suzerains to give in and hand over their power to the royal family by utilizing the pressure brought about by thousands upon thousands of public opinion. It was the same for the Desert War, and also the inheritance of the kingship. The combined voices of the suzerains during the Higher Parliament Meeting was useless. Only the king's voice and the cheers from the plaza could be heard when the final decision was made.
"He even wanted to interfere with the inheritance of the Six Great Clans and Thirteen Distinguished Families.
"There were even traces of his involvement in the internal fight of the Covendier Family two years ago."
Thales' heart trembled.
'What is this?'
Koshder continued with a dark expression, "Do you really think that we do not care about Constellation's survival, especially when no one is willing to send out their soldiers for the king even though war is imminent?
"Your father and his methods are too scary.
"If we let him do what he wants for another twenty years, he will completely swallow up the power, fortune, status, people and territories of all nineteen noble families We can only surrender or be destroyed, or both Constellation will return to imperialism! With the presence of such a king, how can we not be frightened, how can we not fight back, how can we not do our best to protect ourselves?"
Koshder's only eye was flaming with rage and he took an oppressive step forward.
"You saw The Northern Territory was forced to rebel, Blade Edge Hill had several parts of its territory become property of the Royal Family. The strength of South Coast Hill was greatly weakened due to its family feud, Eastern Sea Hill was so terrified they became cowards, Western Desert just barely managed to protect itself due to the importance of the Western Battle Line." His gaze was stern yet solemn. "As for the Land of Cliffs Region, we do not want to resign to fate.
"New Star taking advantage of Eckstedt's power in restraining Kessel's royal power was the last method we could use besides taking up arms when we were forced to a dead end."
Koshder clenched his teeth tightly together. "It was a small matter that we failed to succeed
"But if Kessel continues to act willfully"
Thales stared at the Duke of the Land of Cliffs in shock.
This was another version of Constellation's current situation that he heard.
It was totally different from the version Gilbert instilled into him.
Koshder's voice sounded mournful. "The Bloody Year changed him. Kessel became a true Emperor of the Empire. He wants to dominate everything in this nation.
"He treats every suzerain like his enemy and never shows mercy when he suppresses or schemes against them. He treats Constellation as his personal carriage, without controlling his usage of the horsewhip and spurs
"People whom he can take advantage of will become bargaining chips whereas people whom he cannot take advantage of will be suppressed or eliminated. Those who obey him shall flourish, and those who oppose him shall perish."
Thales was furrowing his brows tightly, recalling the few counts who questioned the king's power when the National Conference had just started.
"This is not something good, regardless of it is for us suzerains or Jadestar, or even the whole of Constellation
"If this continues, it will lead to a disaster sooner or later in this old nation!" Koshder gritted his teeth, his only eye gleamed as if there was lightning inside.
"You are heading to Eckstedt soon. This is not some good errand But it will make you view Constellation from another perspective. Go and take a look at how the children of the Northern Wind and the Dragon see us."
Thales lowered his head as he tried to calm his own breathing.
"Why did Tormond decide to rule with the suzerains? Was it not exactly because after two generations of tyranny, the Empire fell to its own final demise?"
Thales opened his mouth, but then, immediately swallowed the word 'calamity' back into his stomach.
He had a feeling that the end of the Empire was not as simple as 'an attack from the calamity', something which Gilbert claimed.
Koshder turned around coldly and tugged his cape tighter around himself. "If your goal is just to become a tyrant like your father, disregarding the possibility of Constellation's downfall, just pretend that I did not tell you anything today."
The One-Eyed Dragon stared at Thales with a complex gaze. Thales was already deep in thought. "But what you said the other day If you really care about Constellation's safety and stability, peace and prosperity If that is your wish instead of only becoming the supreme king
"Then, my suggestion is always in effect."
Duke Nanchester spoke his last sentence before he turned around and left.
"Have a safe journey. Do not embarrass Constellation."
Thales stared at the departing One-Eyed Dragon in a trance.
This Koshder was totally different than the Duke of the Land of Cliffs at the National Conference, who coerced the king to appoint an heir.
Thales told himself, 'No. These are all ruses from the other party. Their motive is to ruin Kessel's image, to drive a wedge between me and my father'
'Also' A voice from a very long time ago sounded in his mind.
"Moving from a feudalistic country to a country that practices absolutism with centralized state power is a road that almost every European country has to take"
Nevertheless, Thales still clenched his fist lightly.
He lifted his head to watch Koshder, who was walking farther away, and also at Zayen Covendier, whom Koshder passed by.
"I hope I am not interrupting you." Zayen bowed gracefully.
Koshder replied coldly, "No. I will be perfectly satisfied if you stop being fooled by others, and stop thinking of me as the person behind the assassination."
Zayen's expression stilled as he watched Koshder walk into his carriage.
Thales, who was feeling a little faint due to how troublesome this matter was, sighed deeply. In a bad mood, he looked at Zayen and asked, "And what do you want?"
Leader of the Mount Hua Sect, Yue Buqun: A character from The Smiling, Proud Wanderer.
The original version provided by the author in English was "War comes in price as victory comes in trophy", but it didn't quite make sense to us, so we tweaked it slight.