Chapter 158: Betrayal
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The Hall of Heroes was filled with silence.
“You know, Thales, when Soria passed away…”
As he watched King Nuven, Thales tried to calm himself down.
“Anger, madness, hatred… compelled me to spread the wrath of the Walton Family and Dragon Clouds City.” The old king stared blankly at Thales, as though he was staring through him at another world. “Compared to that, the benefit of conquering Constellation seemed less important.”
Thales did not respond. In fact, any kind reply seemed inappropriate now.
King Nuven looked up at Mirk who appeared devastated.
“Mirk, why didn’t you protect him? Why didn’t you protect Soria?” The king’s expression darkened. “You are a White Blade Guard. You should have been by his side, ensuring his safety.”
Mirk lowered his head. The sadness on his face deepened.
Alex seemed bothered by this topic. She peeked at the sorrowful King Nuven, then at the despaired Mirk. Her breaths quickened, while Little Rascal seemed relatively calm.
“Mirk,” the king’s granddaughter pleaded softly, “I—”
“Not now, Lady Alex!” Mirk silenced her as he squeezed his eyes shut, panting heavily.
Alex paled and flinched. She pursed her lips and her chest trembled. She abruptly clutched at Little Rascal’s hand and the latter became terrified.
“I couldn’t bring myself to talk about Prince Soria’s demise.” Lord Mirk clenched his teeth miserably. “Your Majesty, you pardoned me for my mistake. Nicholas merely imprisoned me for a few days for the sake of the protocol. Nevertheless, for the past twelve years, the guilt…
“That sort of guilt torments me… at every single moment of every single day.”
King Nuven stared at him wordlessly for a long while, then exhaled.
“Yes.” The old king swirled the goblet in his hand. “I had no reason to punish you. Instead, I entrusted everything to you and even promoted you to Imperial Administrator.
“Because I know,” said King Nuven gloomily with a grim expression, “you were the person Soria trusted the most. He trusted you with his life and the safety of his family.”
The administrator trembled. He bowed down with his right fist on his chest and said, “I shall devote the rest of my life to you, to Lady Alex, to the Walton Family and Dragon Clouds City.”
Thales heaved a small sigh.
At that moment, a dozen faces came to mind—from King Kessel, Queen Keya, Duke Arunde, King Nuven, Archduke Poffret, Count Gilbert, and Lord Mirk, to Madam Jines, the Kingdom’s Wrath, the Fortress Flower, the old veteran Genard, Private Willow, and so on.
What happened twelve years ago had changed the fate of many people, the destiny of Constellation and the Great Dragon, the lives of the nobles and commoners.
King Nuven sighed. “Since his day in the White Blade Guards, you have been with Soria for many years, have you not?”
“Mirk.” Alex tugged lightly at the corner of Mirk’s sleeve. Her lips quivered. “I feel…”
Mirk re-composed himself. He turned around to comfort Alex. “Please be calm, Lady Alex, it will soon be…”
Alex gave a sudden jerk. Thales furrowed his brow.
The next thing he knew, the girl’s eyes rolled back and she collapsed.
Terrified, Little Rascal let out a scream.
Mirk paled. He kneeled down beside Alex and propped her up. “Lady Alex! Lady Alex! What’s wrong?!”
The girl merely stared vacantly at the ceiling. Her limbs swung back and forth and her torso spasmed violently. Thales hopped down from the staircase, watching her in astonishment.
‘What just happened? Does this girl have some kind of medical condition? Is it epilepsy?’
Little Rascal could not stop shaking.
Panic-stricken, Mirk held Alex in his arms. He looked up at his king and frantically said, “Your Majesty! Lady Alex is… we need to get her to…”
“Yes.” But King Nuven seemed to be immersed in his past. His gaze was unfocused and, as if he did not hear what Mirk said, he continued, “I remember you were best friends, as close as brothers. You went everywhere he went—to the battlefield, or to banquets—”
“Your Majesty!” Seeing Alex’s worsened condition, Mirk raised his voice with dread.
Alex’s face had blanched into a lifeless shade. She opened her eyes and stared at Mirk, frightened. Her trembling arms stretched out and clawed at Mirk’s clothing, like a drowning person holding onto a straw.
Thales gaped at them in disbelief and only managed to snap out of it after a few seconds. In the meantime, King Nuven just stared into the distance with an empty gaze.
Alex’s mouth opened and closed. Cold sweat streamed down her cheeks. Her face was twisted in pain. She widened her mouth, gasping for air as though she was suffocating. What came out of her was a string of ominous wheezes. “Hah, hiss…”
Little Rascal who watched from beside her covered her own mouth with both hands and could not help but move back. She was extremely terrified.
“No, no…” Mirk held Alex in his panic, she looked as if she was suffering great pain. His eyes wide with fear. “Lady Alex…”
The administrator no longer expected any response from King Nuven. He lifted the girl in his arms, turned around sharply and shouted at Little Rascal, “Don’t just stand there! Summon the physician now!”
Badly shaken, Little Rascal instinctively turned around.
However, Thales’ reaction was faster. The prince dashed towards the exit of the hall, clenched his teeth and yelled as he ran. “Help! Somebody! We need a doctor—”
“Don’t bother. The toxin from the Blue Vine Grass is potent and deadly.”
Words that were even colder and terrifying made Thales’ pleas for help die in his mouth.
“You can see the effects in just a few minutes. Three hundred something years ago, the Alluring Archduke and the royal family in Constellation twelve years ago died from this poison.”
Thales felt a violent jolt. He stopped in his tracks and turned his head around with incredulity.
Lord Mirk lifted his head in fear, and with the most disbelieving gaze, he looked towards the stairs.
Over there, King Nuven opened his ice-cold eyes. He stared at Mirk and his convulsing granddaughter and, as if he was placing a callous curse on them, said darkly, “She is already dead.”
As though to prove the validity of his words, in the next instant, Alex threw her head back violently. Her neckbone nearly snapped in half.
She widened her terror-filled eyes and stared at Mirk, as if she did not know why this would happen.
Then, gradually, Alex Walton, the sole heir of the Walton Family, closed her eyes. Her body went limp and eventually stopped twitching. Her hand fell to her side and swayed in the air. Her head tilted to one side, facing Little Rascal. Seeing her mistress’ face, Little Rascal shrieked and fell on her posterior.
Thales instinctively took a step back, his breathing quickened.
‘Why? It’s impossible. How?’
Thales could not accept what was going on. He widened his eyes and fixed his gaze on Alex’s body for a few seconds. He then averted his attention to the sombre-faced King Nuven, particularly the ring he twiddled around his right pinky finger—the formidable ‘Triumph’ that once belonged to the Emperor of Poison, Kessel Karlose the Sixth—and the wine goblet beside him.
“It was you?” Thales panted heavily and glared at him in alarm. “YOU poisoned her?”
“Hmph, of course.” King Nuven gave a muffled, dejected snort. “And do not forget that YOU were the one who handed her the wine.”
Lord Mirk jolted, then started trembling uncontrollably as he stared at the girl in his arms.
Thales clenched his fists so tightly he almost heard his knuckle crack.
‘Handed her the wine?’
He gnashed his teeth and shot King Nuven a death glare. A strange feeling bubbled in his chest.
“Bastard!” he hissed at the king.
However, the latter pursed his lips, completely unconcerned, and looked at Mirk again.
A few seconds later, a stone-faced Mirk who seemed to be in a daze lifted his right hand and placed a finger below Alex’s nose. Then, as if he had touched a scorching flame, Mirk shuddered and withdrew his hand.
With Alex’s body in his arms, Mirk fell on his knees. The administrator raised his head and shot the king a pleading stare.
“No, no, no…” Mirk shook his head, looking down at the unmoving girl in his arms, his face contorted with grief.
He raised his head in panic and fear and stared at the king, then at Alex, who looked as though she was in a deep slumber.
Thales gawked at the dead girl. Meanwhile, Little Rascal, who sat beside Thales, was scared silly. She gazed at Alex’s dead body and shuddered.
Mirk’s face scrunched up in distress.
“I beg you, Your Majesty.” He kneeled on the floor. His voice cracked as he spoke, accompanied by gasps and pauses, like that of an asthmatic patient. Tears trickled down his cheeks and fell on Alex’s face.
“Why… why…” he pleaded.
Thales tightened his fists, lowered his head, and let out a swift exhale.
Mirk wailed as he bellowed at the king in agony, “Why?!”
King Nuven, who was previously in a state of deep contemplation, looked quietly at Mirk and spat,
“Byrne Mirk, are you not aware of that?”
Mirk was startled.
“If it was not for Moriah’s death, I would not have looked into the Walton Family lineage again.” King Nuven squeezed his eyes shut in dismay and continued, “The High Priestess of Bright Moon Temple would not have discovered that she was not of Walton Blood.”
Mirk’s eyes widened as he stared at the king in puzzlement. Thales’ jaw dropped, gaping at Mirk and the dead girl.
‘Not of Walton Blood? Does that mean the six hundred year-old Walton bloodline…’
“This has made me recall many things,” King Nuven said coldly. “Soria liked to hunt, but he never brought women along—not even his wife.
“Speak,” the old king commanded, “Tell us what really happened in that assassination twelve years ago.”
Staggered, Mirk tightened his arms around the girl, weeping. His tears continued to stream down his face.
King Nuven lost all his patience. With a murderous grimace he roared like a lion. “Speak!”
Horrified, Little Rascal recoiled timidly while Thales tried to assess the situation at hand. He exhaled, walked towards Little Rascal, and pulled her off the ground. She gripped Thales’ arm—her only support—and her eyes watched the fierce confrontation unfold before them.
Mirk sobbed and his eyes brimmed with despair. He gazed at the girl in his arms, and let out a sound that sounded like weeping sounds.
“Twelve years ago… Soria brought Lady Adele out of town… because…”
He muttered, wheezing in the manner of a dying person delivering his last words.
“Because?” King Nuven peered at him.
“Because…” Mirk placed a hand on her hair and stroked it. “Because Soria found out about…”
“Found out about what?” The king’s voice was frosty.
Conflicted, Mirk’s face twitched, as though he was tormented by his worst nightmare.
“He found out about… us… About Adele and I.”
Thales gawked at the warrior with the butch cut.
Little Rascal jerked at Thales’ arm, hid behind him, clenched her teeth, and watched the exchange between the king and his administrator with great disbelief.
“Yes,” Mirk cried. “Alex… she was… my daughter…”
King Nuven could no longer control himself. He flung the wine goblet away with immense fury. The metal goblet fell and rolled on the floor with a sharp clang that blended with the administrator’s cries.
Thales inhaled deeply, trying to process what he had just heard.
Only Mirk’s sobs of despair and the king’s heavy breathing were left in the hall.
“Hahahuha…” A repressed, dejected laugh, laced with a hint of desolation, rolled out of King Nuven’s throat. “You? Soria’s most loyal subordinate, best friend, and most trusted comrade?
“You repaid his trust with betrayal and deceit!” The king’s roar echoed in the hall.
Mirk, who was kneeling and crying on the floor, lifted his head all of sudden.
“No!” Injured by such an accusation to his honor, he bellowed, “I did not betray him! I didn’t betray Soria!”
Thales watched him from afar. His face crumpled and his heart ached.
“I…” Mirk gazed at his dead daughter in his arms, sobbing. “Prince Soria… Soria was a great companion. I would die for him!” He growled. “We were trained by Kaslan to be the toughest warriors in the White Blade Guards!
“Once, when we were at the Thirty-Eighth Sentry Ground, he crawled his way towards me with a fractured arm, just to block a fatal hammer strike for me! When my mother fell sick, and my sister came to the city to seek my help, it was he who hired a physician and saved my mother’s life!
“When we were trapped by the enemy in the White Mountain, with my left shoulder and his right one pierced by the Pointy Ears’ arrows, we complained about each other’s luck, retreated with our backs pressed together, and waited for Dominic’s backup…”
Mirk said, chuckling as his tears crawled down his cheeks, “I remember the day I went home for my wedding. That bastard… without informing me beforehand, Soria brought along our comrades from the White Blade Guards, with carts upon carts of rye wine and roasted meat, marched into my village with a Black-Based Red Dragon Flag and a Cloud Dragon Spear Flag…
“The local counts and knights attended the ceremony. Our village chief’s reaction was close to hysterical, even more so than when his son became an excise officer. My mother was thrilled. She felt as if her son had finally accomplished something…
“Soria… I always saw him as my dearest friend, comrade, my prince!” he thundered, tearfully. “I would never ever betray him!”
King Nuven stood up abruptly, fuming. “Bullsh*t!”
Thales felt a jerk on his arm. It was Little Rascal, who had begun to shake again. All he could do was grasp her hand in a gesture of comfort.
“You had an affair with the wife of my son—the person you served—behind his back.” King Nuven’s eyes flared. He shouted with frenzied rage, “And conceived a child with her!
“You have tainted the pride and blood of the Walton Family. You think this is not a betrayal? You never saw him as your companion—the one man you should have served and protected with your life!
Mirk, kneeling on the ground, heard the king’s words. He stared at Alex in his arms, his daughter. Tears streamed down his face and roared in grief.
He squeezed his eyes shut in anguish.
Thales ground his teeth, scowling at the two of them. He felt a wave of melancholy wash over him.
“It’s not like that! Adele, she was so kind… and gentle, so…” Mirk was on all fours, pounding the floor with his right fist. “She should not have come to Dragon Clouds City… should not have met Soria!”
“You mean she should’ve met you instead?” King Nuven’s words radiated an air of ferocity. “A shameless traitor?”
“Adele… Adele… it-it was a mistake!” Mirk’s teeth chattered. He caressed the face of his dead daughter with a conflicted expression, as though he was looking at another person through her. “Her relationship with me or Soria was a huge mistake!
“She shouldn’t have left Camus, Vine City, and the greenery and the blue sky she loved. She belonged there!
“As for Soria, he was a great friend, a great warrior, but he never really cared about women… It didn’t matter if she was a prostitute, a prisoner of war, a servant, or a noble woman. They were all the same to him…” Mirk cried, pressing his cheek against Alex’s.
“In Soria’s eyes, life was merely about booze and battles, politics and victory. He cared only about other warriors, his friends and enemies…
“During the night of their wedding, Soria was wasted. I was guarding the entrance of their bedchamber… The sound… it sounded just like rape… Adele’s cries of resistance… I guess Soria saw the consummation of their marriage as a celebration after a battle.
“The next morning, Soria left for a hunting trip. I stayed behind to watch Adele. Her expression… it was not how a newly-wedded wife was supposed to look like…” Thales listened to Mirk’s painful confession with a grimace. “One day, I caught Adele trying to slit her wrists with scissors…
“I told Soria about it, hoping he would treat his wife better… but Soria thought she had disgraced the Dragon Spear Family… he picked up his whip, wanting to teach her a ‘lesson’…
“I was standing at their door at the time, clenching my fists, listening to Soria’s roars and Adele’s screams, feeling angrier than Soria, more miserable than Adele, every time… it’s always like this every time…”
Mirk hugged Alex’s dead body tightly. His eyes shut as tears cascaded down his cheeks like floodwater.
“Since then, Adele never stopped attempting suicide, and I stopped her more than once. I kept this a secret from Soria, because I didn’t want him to hurt her again…
“Adele… she was like a blossom that was ravaged and abandoned. Soria’s treatment of women was so much worse than the cruelest Northlander. When he was in the mood, he would force himself on her; when he was not, he cast her aside and did not even bother to look at her.”
Thales shut his eyes and heaved a heavy sigh.
“Adele… she was so lonely and so pitiable.” Mirk stroked his dead daughter’s hair, his eyes filled with sorrow. “She travelled all the way to Dragon Clouds City, but Soria did not appreciate her. Instead, he saw her as a puppet and a pawn, a part of his diplomatic bargaining with Camus.
“I was just… I was just looking out for her, trying to make her happy so that she would not try to kill herself again…” Mirk mumbled. “Magic tricks, flowers, getting some Camian girls to keep her company… and at nightfall, getting Soria too drunk to even touch her…
“Adele was thankful for what I did for her. She did not attempt suicide again, and she even smiled quite often—although only in front of me. When my wife back at my hometown passed away, when I had no idea how to take care of the then five-year-old Kroesch, it was Adele who helped me. From that point onwards, Soria’s attitude towards her had changed for good…
“We began talking more often. She played with Kroesch in the room, I stood outside giggling like an idiot. She spoke to me from her room, I replied her from outside.”
King Nuven’s expression remained grim. He said nothing.
“Eventually… the day we won the battle between the White Elves and the Alliance of Freedom, we returned to the city triumphant. Soria drank with us all night long…” Mirk said softly, sobbing,
“But I was preoccupied with thoughts of her that day… thoughts of Adele.” Holding his daughter’s body, Mirk’s eyes couldn’t stop tearing up. His right fist tightened until his knuckles turned white. “When they were all dead drunk, I headed to Adele’s room, wanting to hear her voice. But my wound ripped open just then, Adele let me in to tend my injury…”
Thales’ gaze darkened. A memory fragment surfaced from an unknown part of his mind.
‘”Oh! Mr. Straight-A’s is reading chick lit!”‘
‘”What chick lit? This is a bestseller written by an American sociologist…”‘
‘”The book title… Weird, why are you reading this? What are you thinking, huh? Hehe…”‘
‘”This… don’t dwell on it too much. It’s because a classmate of mine asked about it…”‘
‘”No, wait, could it be… Ohohoho, why are you blushing?”‘
‘”The weather is very hot…”‘
‘”Hahaha! Why are you touching your face? I was just messing with you! Hahahaha, you’re hilarious. Let me share some of my vitality with you… hahaha! I can’t stop laughing at you! Oh my, don’t be mad. Come, explain this to me in layman terms!”‘
‘”Um… how am I going to dumb it down… Alright, this book mentions something interesting: in the Western realm, the concept of romantic love originated from illicit affairs…”‘
‘”What the hell? Affairs? How exciting…”‘
‘”Here’s an example. In the Arthurian Legend, this is how the story of Lancelot and Guinevere began: The union between King Arthur and his queen is politically motivated. There is no affection in their marriage. The true romance lies in the forbidden relationship between a knight and his queen—that is the emotional, passionate, genuine love. Another example being ‘Don Quixote’; the protagonist dreams to become a knight and romance the wife of the master he serves. This ideal also originated from the Middle Ages, particularly among the Crusaders…”‘
‘”Alright already, you can shut up now! I still ship Saber and Berserker together. Shirou can get the f*ck out of my face! Guinevere  can get the hell out, too! Yup, I’ll have to watch it again… By the way, does that mean that we’re having an affair now?”‘
‘”We are in a modern society, you can’t compare us with them, sister!”‘
The memory faded. Thales stared at Mirk and gave a helpless sigh.
Mirk continued to weep on the floor. “God knows I regret everything… but Adele…
“Shortly after Alex was born, Soria began to suspect us. Soon enough, he found out the truth…” The administrator swept a strand of hair on his dead daughter’s face aside. His voice cracked. “I could see the pain and hesitation in his eyes. I wished he would just stab me to death…
“That night, Soria told me that he was willing to let me and Adele go. He would cover for us and handle the rest,” Mirk said, punching the ground in distress.
King Nuven listened to him wordlessly.
“The next morning, Soria took us out of town to settle this matter once and for all. It was that fateful day, when the assassin…”
Thales sensed that Little Rascal had started to shiver behind him again.
“The first stab was not lethal. The assassin spotted Alex and stopped attacking…
“But Adele…” Mirk continued, shouting in pain, “Adele didn’t know Soria’s initial plan. She thought His Highness was going to execute us… so when she saw him collapse, she… she took out her dagger…”
Hearing this, King Nuven went limp and flopped back down on the staircase. Mirk’s sobs echoed in the Hall of Heroes.
Seeing how this confrontation, which was difficult to put into words, had turned out, Thales felt his heart grow cold.
1. Saber, Berserker, Shirou, and Guinevere: They are all characters from the Fate/Stay Night series. Saber, Berserker, and Guinevere are Servants, and Shirou is the Master to Saber. Saber in-universe is King Arthur, Berserker is Lancelot, and Guinevere is still Guinevere.