Chapter 156: Horrifying
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The Second Prince of Constellation looked at the old king with surprise.
“Nonetheless, I’m here now.” King Nuven turned around to look at him. His tone was calm, yet his eyes were complex. “Bear the entire future of your family on your shoulders as Constellation’s prince.”
Thales suppressed his nervousness and heaved a long sigh.
With a bleak expression on his face, he said, “My two sons… their fate, or should I say their misfortune, have been strikingly similar. Yet, I have to stand here, tinkering with my bargaining chips to win a future for the Waltons.
Upon hearing King Nuven’s words, Thales shook his head quietly. “The nobles and rulers are a different kind of animal. They breathe power—that is what Putray told me.”
“So, you better get used to it as soon as possible for your own good.” King Nuven kept his bleak expression to reveal a tough but cold face.
Thales closed his eyes lightly.
King Nuven’s expression changed.
He squinted and looked at Thales in a mysterious manner.
“Speaking of which, they didn’t tell you, did they?” The old king clasped his hands. “The truth… about that ‘Bloody Year’ of yours…”
Thales opened his eyes in surprise and stared at King Nuven.
What he recalled from his memories was firstly, the hysterics of Queen Keya, followed by the names, Charleton and Shadow Shield.
Then finally there was the Jadestar Family Tomb in Renaissance Palace.
The second prince slowly shook his head. “They didn’t say much.”
King Nuven snorted lightly.
“In that case, maybe I shouldn’t say too much.” King Nuven turned his head. “It is best not to intervene with the education of the Jadestar Family.”
‘You’ve actually interfered quite a lot,’ Thales retorted sarcastically in his heart.
‘The Eckstedt Kingdom, these invaders from the North were a direct participant of the Bloody Year.’
Thales secretly thought, ‘Maybe he knows something?’
“Do you have any special news for me, Your Majesty?” Thales cautiously utilized honorifics and shrugged. “Umm, if you really see me as your future grandson in law…”
Upon hearing his title and choice of words, King Nuven revealed a thought-provoking look, following which he laughed.
“See?”—the old king winked at him—”You adapt very quickly.”
Thales responded with an ugly smile.
“You will understand the rest from your instructors, from Constellation and from your father.” King Nuven stretched his elbow out with a subtly mysterious expression on his face. “But I can tell you one thing as one of the pawns attached to the allies.
“Even your kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department doesn’t know about this.”
Thales’ expression changed.
‘Even the Secret Intelligence Department doesn’t know?’
His breathing accelerated.
“Who do you think would assign such a murderer to the Jadestar Royal Family?” King Nuven smiled mysteriously. “The real mastermind.”
Doubt began to surface in Thales’ heart.
‘The real… mastermind?
‘That mysterious organization of assassins, and also “Shadow Shield”, which Poffret mentioned before?’
Gilbert gave him a rough idea once, but he only told him that King Kessel the Fifth had already “avenged whatever he could”.
Thales slowly shook his head.
“The reasoning is simple. So simple in fact, you would not believe it.” King Nuven looked at him intently. “Members of the Jadestar Royal Family suffered strategized assassinations almost simultaneously. There was only one exception.”
“I’m not sure about the other cases, but if his plan had gone smoothly, it would seem like he was the only one who benefited from the Bloody Year?” King Nuven said with a strange tone.
‘Member of Jadestar Royal Family… One exception?’
Thales’ heart skipped a beat, but he recovered immediately.
“You’re not the first person to accuse my father in my face in an attempt to drive a wedge between us.” Thales snorted.
King Nuven continued to lock his eyes on him. Bizarre colors seemed to dance in his eyes.
His stare raised terror in Thales’ heart.
“Think about it, future Guardian of Dragon Clouds City,” a few seconds passed as King Nuven satirized him, “I don’t mean your father.”
Thales frowned as he snorted. “Then, who are you accusing? Twelve years ago, all the Jadestars were…”
Suddenly, a shudder ran through Thales’ body. He was stunned.
‘Kessel aside, there was indeed one Jadestar…
‘Who did not die from political murder…
‘A Jadestar who was not assassinated.’
Thales recalled Gilbert’s words.
‘In the tragic event of the Bloody Year, there was only one prince whose death was not by assassination.
‘It can’t be.’
Thales felt his heartbeat accelerate.
A shade of white akin to the dead cast itself over his face. He looked at King Nuven in disbelief.
“Twelve years ago, after we broke through Broken Dragon Fortress, we captured Rudolf Nanchester,” King Nuven said silently, emphasizing the triumph.
Relevant information regarding this name began to surface in Thales’ mind…
“He was the Duke of the Land of Cliffs Region at that time.” King Nuven caressed his own ring and plainly said, “That man was strong-willed, but the Northlanders despised his refusal to send troops—a cowardly act of watching Prince Horace’s destruction.”
Thales recalled his conversation with Putray at Rayman Pass as they paid homage to the former second prince, Horace Jadestar.
The former Duke of the Land of Cliffs Region—one of the directors of Broken Dragon Fortress and the one who watched the destruction of the second prince was also the ‘One-Eyed Dragon’, Duke Koshder Nanchester’s older brother.
According to Putray’s theory, he was held captive by Eckstedt and he later died in prison.
“We threw him in the dungeon and forgot about him. We waited for the arrival of spring and continued south towards the Constellatiate hinterland.” Sure enough, King Nuven’s narrative was similar to that of Putray’s.
And then the king followed up with, “But when news of the Jadestar Royal Family’s assassination arrived, the half-dead Rudolf struggled to meet me.” King Nuven’s expression grew heavier. “In the fortress, he told me an unexpected secret while he cried.”
Thales clenched his fist as he silently listened to the king’s narrative.
“Back in the day when Rudolf and Horace jointly guarded Broken Dragon Fortress, your Duke of the Land of Cliffs Region realized something that made him so uneasy, he was unable to eat or sleep.”
King Nuven’s gaze grew sharper.
“Horace Jadestar, the Second Prince of the Constellation Kingdom, your pride and joy, the Sword of Reversing Light. He once secretly recruited, organized and trained a special squad of mercenaries from various countries as well as regions. Mainly because outside the establishment of the kingdom’s guards and Jadestar Private Army, Prince Horace had always loved making friends with many elites and brave men. Over the years, Constellation did not manage to detect it until the day Horace officially utilized that squad,” King Nuven said.
“Rudolf then noticed some clues.”
Thales could not help but get nervous.
“Rudolf noticed that within that year, the squad was entrusted with a mission,” King Nuven’s tone sounded indifferent as he spoke each word, “They were to stealthily sneak in, then hide, then infiltrate, and eventually invade a fortress whose structure was the most enclosed, whose guards had the tightest patrol system, whose defenses were the tightest, and who was famed to be the fortress that was the most impossible to break through.
“Huh?” Thales voiced out astoundedly.
The doubts in his heart grew stronger.
“When Horace led his troops out to attack and harass our supply line, the skeptical Rudolf Nanchester discovered many things in Prince Horace’s bedroom.” King Nuven nodded with his brows deeply furrowed. “He found everything from coded letters to secret account books.”
King Nuven pulled his robe over and took a thick, folded piece of paper out from its inner pocket. In a cold manner, he said, “And also this little thing.”
Thales looked at King Nuven in amazement. “You… were prepared?”
King Nuven did not say a word but shook the folded piece of paper in his hands.
Thales took a deep breath and suppressed his trembling hand. He took the folded piece of paper, spreading it open.
The paper was made out of a good material. It was smooth, yet solid to the touch. It seemed like it could be preserved for a long time.
It was two meters wide, so Thales had to lay it on the ground and spread it open with his arms to be able to read it.
There was an illustration of a map on the paper.
It was the map of a square building with its top and side views.
Thales could immediately see that the map was very intricate. Different colors and indications were used to clearly label the white walls, ubiquitous sentry towers, terrifying crossbows that defend the city, a few narrow entry points as well as all the important entrances, exit passages and rooms of the building…
Thales’ pupils immediately contracted!
‘This… Could it be…’
With a face full of terror, Thales brought the map close to his face. He stared intently at every inch and did not leave a single detail behind.
The map was also marked with densely packed numbers, figures, and arrows from the building’s front door to its interior.
In disbelief, he read the words on it.
‘Change of guards, number of guards, secret hiding spots, functional entry points, patrolling hours of the front and back doors, evacuation routes…’
Thales was dumbfounded.
‘This cannot be.’
A few minutes later, the Second Prince of Constellation gently got up. The astonishment and shock on his face had yet to dissipate.
King Nuven took in the look on his face.
“In view of our ongoing war with Constellation, I kept this a secret. I took Rudolf into custody at Dragon Clouds City until he died in prison.” King Nuven, who had just revealed a frightening secret heaved a sigh.
“You can use this information as a bargaining chip. Use it when necessary,” King Nuven whispered. “A coward who was constantly reviled, the Duke of the Land of Cliffs Region who did not provide relief during trying times was misunderstood for way too long…
“From the beginning till the end, Rudolf Nanchester was the one truly loyal to Aydi the Second.”
Thales rolled the map up as his frown became even tighter.
‘How could this be?’
“Even your father is most probably unaware of this piece of information.” King Nuven sighed. “In a sense, we Eckstedtians eliminated the murderers for you—you may want to send your thanks to Nicholas.”
Thales breathed irregularly as he recalled the Jadestar Family Tomb in Renaissance Palace, Aydi the Second’s big stone urn and the little ones on its side.
It took a while for him to snap out from his bewilderment.
“I don’t think you could have forged this map,” Thales said absent-mindedly.
“What do you think?” King Nuven said in disdain. He chased his words by draining his goblet in one gulp.
“Who exactly were those people in the mercenary squad set up by Horace?” Thales lifted his head and murmured.
“I don’t know. Rudolf did not elaborate.” King Nuven stared at his empty goblet. “He only mentioned that the mercenary leader was peculiar…
“He carried a strange sword.”
Thales sat expressionlessly on the steps as he subconsciously gasped.
He could hardly speak because he was horrified by this secret.
“Why would he do such a thing?” The second prince blurted without realizing.
“I think he had his own reasons.” King Nuven gently shook his head, his eyes filled with languish. “And they were good reasons.”
“What do you mean? His own reasons?” Thales looked up.
“You will find out in time. Your father will tell you about the cause of the Bloody Year,” King Nuven sneered. However, Thales felt like the sneer contained more sorrow than ridicule.
“The Jadestar tragedy.”
Thales frowned and gradually clenched his fist.
A few seconds later, he slowly released it.
Thales hung his head and sighed. He bitterly handed back the paper to King Nuven.
“You keep it. This little thing is way too ominous.” the Eckstedtian king shook his head and pushed it back.
“And after all, it’s the map…
“… of your Renaissance Palace.”
Dragon Clouds City, half past four at dawn.
Under the pitch-black night sky, in a shop by West-Express Avenue.
“Let’s just say that the doctor you’re looking for is really in Heroic Spirit Palace —God knows how you’re going to sneak in,” beneath the weak light of an Everlasting Lamp, Gu, the meat shop owner from the Far East gloomily said to the man in front of him. “But, do you understand the cost of rescuing someone from Heroic Spirit Palace?”
The man before him just kept his head down. There was a strangely-shaped, fully black sword on his lap and he was wiping it attentively, in an almost nitpicky way.
Gu exhaled. With his Northlandic retroflex take on the common language, he patiently emphasized, “You will have to crawl up the slope the whole way, avoid the disciplinary officer on night duty as well as the patrols on the main street, cut through two private army-guarded noble districts, then cross layer after layer of towers and sentries. If you are discovered you will be attacked by crossbows or hacked to death by hundreds of people. Before that happens, rush to the gatehouse separating the city district and Heroic Spirit Palace…”
The man stood up and dropped the cloth he used to wipe his weapon. He raised the strange black sword and pointed it at the ceiling.
Gu continued, “Immediately climb the ten-meter-high gatehouse…”
“It’s banquet night in Heroic Spirit Palace today.” The man raised his head and squinted his eyes at his sword, as if evaluating its curvature. His uncharacteristic voice traveled into Gu’s ears as he spoke. “That gatehouse will open at dawn, so there won’t be a need for me to climb. An opportunity like this is as good as it gets.”
“How will you do it? Are you just going to walk into the place in full view of the palace guards inside, outside, and even above the gatehouse? Under the moonlight and flame’s glow, are you going to pass by the guards whose eyes are opened wider than their fists?” Gu tried to control his breathing, but he could not help raising his voice.
“Even if you break through the gatehouse, you still have to face a countless number of palace guards—they are all stringently selected aces among the local recruits, and have been personally trained by the White Blade Guards’ instructor. Fierce, loyal, courageous, alert, sharp—”
The man hung the clean sword back on the sword belt around his waist. He then tightened the bounded weapon on his back.
However, Gu was still trying to stop him.
“Let’s assume that you don’t alarm them, what happens after you sneak into Heroic Spirit Palace? You have to face the White Blade Guards and the Dragon’s Imperial Guards! There may only be two or three hundred of them dispersed across the palace, but all of them in there are veterans, rich in frontline experience. Also, there are countless transcendent experts and even supreme class Severing-Souls-Blade-wielding Star Killer—”
The man stretched his joints and turned towards the door.
Gu tailed him and profoundly exclaimed, “Do you know what the word ‘veterans’ means? It’s not going to be as simple as participating in a battle and seeing blood. Based on Eckstedt’s standards… once you wound up with one of them…”
The man did not listen to Gu. He put his hand on the door as a strange power surged within him.
In that instant, he could see everything on the street outside, from the patrols in the distance to the nearby hounds.
“You, you want to simply walk into a heavily-guarded, invulnerable palace without the help of an insider… and then drag someone out…” The long-winded Gu heaved an extended sigh and massaged his forehead. “You’re really crazy.”
The man did not reply. He stood up, cast his gaze on the frowning Gu and nodded.
“Gu, look for a better reason the next time you want to lie to me—at least don’t use the Sensory Mystic,” he plainly said.
Gu was stunned. He revealed a puzzled expression.
In that moment, only Gu himself knew that stormy waves had set off in his heart.
“What did you say?” The Far Easterner responded as though there was nothing wrong. With a face full of questions, he asked, “What reason?”
The man patted Gu on the shoulder.
“I don’t know about the Sensory Mystic, but I understand you, Gu.” The man revealed a rigid smile.
Gu was slightly startled.
“You’re good at hiding various emotions, but I can identify them…” The man applied pressure on his black sword and shook his head lightly. “The man who lives with a mask on lives with pain as well.”
Gu clenched his fists under his sleeves.
The man then turned around, pushed the door open and said his final words.
“Also, send my regards to Morat—we haven’t met in twelve years, I really miss him.”
In that instance, Gu froze.
Gu stood there in a daze as he watched the man disappear through the door into the deep darkness.
Just like him in the past.
The next minute, the man’s shadow appeared atop the roof of a low house.
There was fallen snow as far as the eye could see. The man raised his head, looked towards the sky and cast his eyes upon the dark moon, which was shrouded in clouds.
Then, his eyes swept past the districts of Dragon Clouds City that stretched along the mountain range. His gaze traveled across several city gatehouses, up the peak and finally locked on the magnificent palace.
‘That’s the residence of the Walton Family, the great family of archdukes in Dragon Clouds City.
‘It’s also the whereabouts of the current Common-Elected King of Eckstedt.
‘Heroic Spirit Palace.’
The man recalled Gu’s words.
‘To overcome layer upon layer of guards and sneak into a heavily-guarded, invulnerable palace?’
He patted the black sword on his waist lightly as his lips curled up in a smile.
‘In this regard…’ The man closed his eyes.
‘I’m already very experienced.”
The next moment, his shadow disappeared into the snowy terrain.