Chapter 155: A Bargaining Chip You Cannot Refuse
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Thales stared at the black ring with an unpleasant expression—the Emperor of Poison’s ‘Triumph’. He did not know what to feel about this.
‘That battle filled with so many changes with a twist at the end, and which could be said to be the battle that affects the fate of two countries actually…’
A few seconds later, he said with some difficulty, “So… is this how you…’triumphed’ in the duel?”
King Nuven smiled slightly, his eyes showing a hint of sly pleasure.
“You’re right. After all, it concerns such a large kingdom. What if there was an accident?” He repeated what Thales had said a while ago.
Thales’ mind was a mess.
The elderly yet heroic and brave image of Nuven the Seventh that Thales had in his heart from the duel just now…
…was completely shattered.
It was replaced by the image of a shrewd and crafty old king, rotating his ring beneath the long table.
King Nuven said meaningfully, “Remember, young Thales, a king must never be hot-headed and replace rationality with impulse. You must not take gambles that you are not confident of winning just for the satisfaction of it. You are not only yourself, but also your entire kingdom.”
Thales paid no heed to Nuven’s words; at this moment, his mind spun rapidly. Thales only managed to recover from the shock after quite a while. He tried his best to grasp some clues from his chaotic thoughts.
Based on his understanding of Northland, the moment this secret is leaked, King Nuven would become a target of millions of people’s rebukes.
It would be enough to destroy the Walton Family’s reputation, end the rule of Dragon Clouds City, and even jeopardize the dignity of Eckstedt and the Northlanders.
‘But…’ Thales turned his head and looked at King Nuven who did not say anything and wore a complicated expression. He said in an unconvinced manner, “Why are you telling me this?”
‘Isn’t this a secret that should be kept away forever and taken to the grave?’
“Do you know how serious this secret is?” Thales felt his heartbeat speed up and unknowingly clenched his fists softly.
However, King Nuven only watched Thales calmly and flashed a pleasant smile. He did not show the type of solemnity and unease one does when someone else finds out about their weakness.
“Of course.” King Nuven chuckled softly and nonchalantly said, “This is most shameful to the way of the Northlanders. It is also disrespectful to the Gods and contemptuous to the archdukes.
“Even the lowliest Northlander would despise their once beloved king for this. Once a new king is crowned, he can even take this as a reason to banish the Walton Family from the ranks of the archdukes forever.”
Once he finished talking, King Nuven narrowed his eyes slightly and stared at Thales with a profound expression.
“However, you now know this secret, don’t you?” the king said in a playful tone.
Thales frowned. He felt increasingly puzzled and anxious as he endured King Nuven’s gaze.
“Your Majesty, what-what exactly are you trying to do?”
At that moment, Thales felt that the old man in front of him was like a pitch-black, bottomless whirlpool, while he himself was like a small boat in that whirlpool.
A few seconds later…
“This is a show of good faith,” the old king said flatly.
“Good faith?” Thales repeated, puzzled.
King Nuven scooped up a goblet of wine and calmly took a gulp.
“I gave you an opportunity.” King Nuven’s expression was calm and his tone was composed. “With this, you can destroy the Walton Family beyond redemption at any time.”
“What do you mean?” Thales felt even more confused.
Right at this moment, King Nuven changed the topic again. “Before this, you seemed to have mentioned to Nicholas that… after you cooperate with me to find out who the culprit is, you want to receive some benefit from me?” King Nuven paid no heed to Thales’ expression and he spoke softly.
Thales creased his brow a little and gritted his teeth lightly.
With some difficulty, Thales answered the question with another question. “Is this your so-called benefit?”
“Of course not, how can this qualify as a benefit?” King Nuven could not help but laugh. He said, “This will only make you very anxious, especially since you are still in Dragon Clouds City which is my territory. You will constantly worry about your safety because of this secret.”
Thales took a deep breath, his tongue felt dry. He felt as if he was sitting on pins and needles.
“The Dragon Spear Family is never stingy.” King Nuven stopped smiling. His words sent a chill down Thales’ spine. “So, after seeing it yesterday evening, are you satisfied with your ‘reward’?”
Thales’ head shot up.
“Yesterday evening?” Thales’ brow was deeply furrowed.
“Yes.” King Nuven stared at him with a deep look. “Yesterday evening.”
Thales’ expression changed.
After he exited the Hall of Heroes, he got lost in Heroic Spirit Palace, and then…
Under Thales’ disbelieving gaze, the old king ran his fingers over his ring and said slowly, “Why, did you think that I would let a foreign prince who just arrived… Wander freely without restrictions in my palace?
“And even coincidentally wander into Raikaru’s library?” King Nuven glanced at Thales from the corner of his eyes. A bright light flickered in his eyes.
Thales’ heart pounded. He stood frozen to his spot.
“Mirk deliberately led you there,” King Nuven said calmly.
“So you have met my granddaughter now, Thales.”
Then, Thales sat dazedly on the step as the calm and composed King Nuven spoke slowly.
“Your future wife… and queen.”
The hall was silent once more. Thales was motionless where he stood. The scene in the library appeared in his mind…
That wilful and unreasonable little princess, Alex Walton, who beat and scolded her servant as she pleased.
But an even more memorable figure appeared afterwards—the unkempt girl with the black-rimmed spectacles, a face full of dust, and who lay face down on the floor reading a book.
King Nuven said no more. He calmly took another gulp of wine. Thales took an entire minute to straighten out the situation at hand.
Thales’ breathing grew rapid and he raised his head. “Why? What is going on? What do you mean?”
King Nuven softly inhaled a breath, then raised his head to look at the fireplace on the other side of the hall. He then looked at the shelf above the fireplace, at the ferocious weapon that was passed down from Raikaru the Hero to the Walton Family.
The Soul Slayer Pike.
“Among all the lies you told Olsius and the other archdukes, at least one was correct.” King Nuven’s eyes burned with an unknown emotion. He turned his head and fixed his sharp gaze on Thales with a determined expression. “For the continuation of the Walton Family… I must put my stakes on a powerful person, a future king.”
Thales’ face was pale and he dug his fingernails deeper and deeper into his palms. He suddenly understood something.
King Nuven did not say anything; he was waiting for Thales’ response.
After a while, Thales only said quietly, “The Walton Family is facing demise. You want to ensure the continuation of the Dragon Spear Family by uniting it, through marriage, with Constellation’s Jadestar Royal Family?
“You want me to marry your granddaughter.” Thales had raised his voice without realizing it.
“So that I, so that Constellation, can take over this burden?”
King Nuven clasped his wine goblet as he stared at the Soul Slayer Pike. He snorted softly, as if in disapproval.
The king’s aged voice rose again. “No. What I am giving all of you is an extremely rare opportunity—an opportunity you cannot refuse.”
Thales instantly shuddered, surprised.
“Think of what all of you could gain.” King Nuven’s gaze was profound yet ice-cold. “As the blood relative of the Archduke of Dragon Clouds City’s family, the royal family of Constellation…
“Would be able to meddle in Eckstedt’s internal affairs from then on.”
At that moment, Thales felt a chill travel down his spine.
King Nuven’s voice was cold and indifferent, as if he was talking about something that had nothing to do with himself. “One of the descendants between you and my granddaughter will inherit the Walton surname as well as the power to become the future Archduke of Dragon Clouds City.
“As for you, Thales Jadestar, you will be able to do something the Oath Keeper Midier the Fourth and Chara the Hero could not do even if they combined their powers. You will become the Supreme King of Constellation, and also the first regent of Dragon Clouds City in the kingdom of Eckstedt.” King Nuven’s expression did not change as he said words that caused Thales to feel utterly upset.
Thales stared at King Nuven in a trance. Even though he possessed memories that were completely different from those of everyone else in this world, even though his mind was working frantically, Thales was unable to react at once to this information.
King Nuven’s expression became unprecedentedly solemn. “And before this… if all of you want to hold on to the Walton Family as a bargaining chip, and desire to control Eckstedt through Dragon Clouds City…”
Thales exhaled in disappointment and finished King Nuven’s sentence.
“Constellation and I will have to do our best to ensure the Walton Family’s dominion and status in Dragon Clouds City, and protect the Dragon Spear Family from withering away in Eckstedt, correct?”
King Nuven showed a satisfied smile.
“If the future king plans to use reasons like the ‘lack of a male heir’ to strip the Walton Family of their rights, he would have to think twice.” King Nuven continued to speak. “He would have to take into account the attitude of the Western Peninsula’s Shield to the south, because it’s your cheese that he would be moving.”
King Nuven put on a determined expression. “What you need to do now is to draw attention to Constellation’s presence and retain the Walton Family’s rule, even if there is only one girl left in the house and even if the other Archdukes are against her. Then, you will be able to obtain the greatest chip and advantage when you are against Eckstedt.
“At the same time, this can also strengthen the Jadestar Royal Family’s influence and status in Constellation, raising its prestige… considering the current situation.”
Thales suddenly recalled his conversation with Gilbert when he first arrived in Mindis Hall. At that time, Gilbert had schemed and set up an alliance between Thales and Serena Corleone.
Thales subconsciously repeated Gilbert’s words in a low voice. “Obtaining allies by binding them to you using benefits… is the essence of politics.”
“I can still live for eight or nine years. By then, Constellation should have begun to recover.” King Nuven nodded in praise. “After that, the final direct descendant of the Walton Family, my granddaughter and your wife… I entrust her for you to protect.”
Thales stayed silent for a long time.
‘United in matrimony. Constellation and Eckstedt. Jadestar and Walton.’
“What if I said ‘no’?” He raised his head coldly and stared at King Nuven. “What if I don’t want to be dragged into this dangerous mess? Those who dance with the dragon often have their lives hanging by a thread,” said the second prince flatly. “Besides, until now, those who wanted to form an alliance with me either caused me a lot of harm, or were horribly harmed by me.”
‘And…’ Thales recalled what Zayen Covendier told him before he departed for the North. “If you share a boat with a jackal and a wolf, you will run the risk of having your boat overturned.”
King Nuven stared at him. There was a strange emotion in the king’s green eyes that was difficult to distinguish.
Thales stared back at the king without showing any signs of weakness.
Finally, the old king nodded slowly. “This has nothing to do with your wishes. A messenger crow carrying my warrant will fly to Eternal Star City tomorrow. Your father will be the one making the decision.”
Thales could not help but tremble.
Thales clenched his teeth and asked in a hoarse voice, “What if he… What if my father, too, does not agree? What if he does not want to bring Constellation into this mess?”
“Oh well,” replied the old king nonchalantly, “I told you the secret of ‘Triumph’, didn’t I?”
Thales’ pupils constricted. He stared at King Nuven, dazed.
“This is leverage Constellation can use anytime to destroy the Walton Family. This is enough to gain his trust,” King Nuven said slowly in his old yet firm voice.
“When you find treasure, you might be apprehensive about it being a trap and give it up. However, if you possess the power to destroy it at the same time… would you still give it up because of your fears?”
Thales was speechless for a moment. In the face of such an Eckstedtian King and such a situation, as clever as he was in dealing with people, he, too, felt that he could not handle the situation. His intuition also told him that King Kessel would definitely agree to such an alliance.
Thales took a deep breath and picked up from where the old king had left off. “However, with your death, the effectiveness of ‘Triumph’ as a bargaining chip will slowly fade. Then using ‘Triumph’ as leverage will yield fewer and fewer benefits. In comparison, Kessel-my father, will prefer the benefits that come with a marriage, so he would be more inclined to provide support and guarantee the Walton Family’s status.”
“Holding leverage over the Kingdom of the Great Dragon, turning the tables for Constellation which has been declining since the Bloody Year!” King Nuven raised his eyebrows. He scooped up another goblet of wine and drank it.
“I reckon that the nobles in Eckstedt would not be happy,” Thales said dejectedly. “Including all the archdukes.”
“Of course not. Every single one of them cannot wait to see the decline of the Walton Family.” King Nuven’s eyes had a bright twinkle. He put down the wine goblet and wiped his lips.
“However, I am the King of Eckstedt, and I will remove the final obstacle from our cooperation,” said King Nuven calmly. “The men in Dragon Clouds City who have reached the age of enlistment will not be quiet for the next few years. Getting rid of Lampard is only the beginning.”
Thales suddenly realized it… From Nicholas’ probing to the so-called ‘test’ the king gave him.
“So… You have planned everything from the beginning.” Having said this, Thales sighed.
“Don’t put me on the same level as those shameful, scheming scums who only care about profits.” King Nuven snorted softly in dissatisfaction. “This is not a conspiracy but—in the words of the Far Easterners—an overt strategy. A bargaining chip you can’t refuse.”
“Yes.” Thales lowered his head. He felt an unspeakable sense of loss. “Things like plans, conspiracies, and overt strategies… You are all good at these.
Like the first time he saw King Kessel in Mindis Hall, Thales felt that resignation and helplessness at having his fate and choices firmly controlled by others. That helpless feeling of being carried along with the tide and drifting with the wind.
King Nuven watched him quietly.
After a long time, under the light of the fire, the old king said slowly, “You are a special child, Thales.”
King Nuven sighed. It was obvious from his voice that he was worn down by the vicissitudes of life.
“I can feel that you are sharp and firm like Soria, and, at the same time, unrealistic like Moriah.”
‘Sharp and firm. Unrealistic.’
“Hmph, thank you for your praise,” Thales replied tiredly, he even chuckled. “I reckon that you think I am more of the latter?”
Talking about his two late sons, King Nuven gently breathed in a mouthful of air and exhaled it slowly.
“You are not weak, Thales, even though you are still young,” the old king said earnestly. “From what I have seen, and from what Nicholas and the others reported about you, you are a survivalist, and you have all the qualities needed to become a powerful man. But what you need is time, training… and a heart that is firm, callous, and unyielding.” King Nuven clenched his fist and tapped his chest at the spot right above his heart.
‘A firm, callous, and unyielding heart?’
Thales furrowed his brow. Not able to take it anymore, he asked, “Aren’t you tired? Things like the royal court, the kingdom, the archdukes, conspiracies, plans, assassinations… God knows what else is waiting for you.”
Since his escape from Red Street Market… up to now. The Mystics, Blood Bottle Gang, the Blood Clan, the Iris Flowers, the Black Prophet, the Six Great Clans, Eckstedt…
He had to face ill-intentions, dangers, and tiring conspiracies as well as schemes time and again. Even though Thales braved through them over and over, he felt as though he was reaching his limit.
This life made Thales mentally and physically exhausted. Even his life as a child beggar in the Abandoned Houses did not give him this sort of feeling—of having a difficult road ahead.
“I reckon that…” At this, Thales hesitated for a moment, but he blurted it out, “If Prince Moriah was really the kind of person Poffret spoke about, he probably felt tired, too.”
King Nuven’s expression slowly stiffened. There were deep emotions in his eyes.
There was a few seconds of silence.
Finally, King Nuven said slowly, “It is normal for you to feel tired. Everyone gets tired. However, for people like us, when we feel tired and want to stop, or even give up, we will feel… pain.” The king pressed down on his injured shoulder and panted heavily from the pain.
“Whether it is the pain of being caught in the current and losing autonomy over your own life, or the pain your enemies inflict on you when they see that you are weak…”
King Nuven pursed his lips, as if recalling something.
“That sort of pain which etches deep into your bones will push you back to many battlefields. You will get sick and tired of them, until you are used to this endless cycle of pain and fatigue.
“These are the burdens we were born to bear. It is not just us…” The old king showed no emotions as he continued to speak.
“Before becoming an archduke, Olsius was poisoned twice by his stepbrother. Trentida married a boorish woman from the Yamamu Tribe so that he could develop a piece of wasteland from the Sighing Mountains for the barren Reformation Tower. The bald old Lecco was forced to marry off his youngest daughter to Camus Union for the sake of the economy. In the end, his daughter died there, tragically. The day Roknee became an archduke, he made a personal order to have six arrogant and domineering counts and viscounts executed. They were the people Roknee’s father trusted the most. On the other hand, Lampard is a heartless creature who thrust his sword into his elder brother’s heart in front of everyone to seize the position of archduke. However, they all rose again and again from within the pain and weariness.”
“Was it the same for you? Rising up again from the pain and weariness?” Thales lowered his gaze. “Like… your son.”
King Nuven did not say anything for a full ten seconds.
After a momentary silence, King Nuven raised his head and stared at the Soul Slayer Pike which had an awe-inspiring reputation. “Did you know about Soria, my eldest son who was the most likely to inherit this position? He died twelve years ago.”
Thales stared at him blankly.
“Miss Alex’s… father?” With hesitation, he carefully asked, “I heard from Lord Mirk that he died in a hunting accident—”
“No.” This time, King Nuven swiftly interrupted the second prince. His face was ashen. “The accident is only something we tell outsiders.”
Thales creased his brow a little and held his breath once more.
“He was assassinated while he was hunting,” the old king said in an ordinary manner. “To be more precise… the assassin came from Constellation.”
When he heard this, Thales trembled violently.