Chapter 198: Price Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Lampard descended the carriage alone, then the carriage door was closed tightly once more.
It was obvious that he did not intend to allow Thales to go down with him together.
Still immersed in the information disclosed by Lampard, Thales tried to right himself in his astonishment and confusion. Under Little Rascal’s concerned gaze, he stuck his face to the coach’s glass.
‘Lampard said someone wanted me alive. Who is it? Who wishes to keep me alive? Is it really who I think it is—’
Thales’ thoughts were interrupted by the scene before him.
They were in a small alleyway that had been emptied into a slightly larger clearing by the Black Sand Region soldiers clad in patrol uniforms.
Archduke Lampard resumed his solemn and stern expression. He walked to the middle of the alleyway with steady footsteps, holding his sword.
There, a fair-skinned man wearing a thick, cotton-padded jacket with a relaxed face awaited the archduke’s arrival.
Thales twitched an eyebrow. ‘I don’t recognize this man, he’s almost no different from a regular Northlander.’
The man smiled as he raised his hand to his chest, bowed in salutation to Lampard, and moved his lips slightly. Lampard nodded slightly and said something.
“Who is that?” Little Rascal’s head came to Thales’ side.
“Don’t know.” Thales frowned. Both Lampard and the man did not speak very loudly, he could not hear from the coach at all.
But this was related to his survival, Thales told himself, ‘I must hear this. I must…’
Hence, Thales clenched his fists, gently closed his eyes and repeatedly recalled the unique sensation he always felt when he was caught in a life-and-death situation.
According to Black Sword, he had to recall this feeling with the implication to himself that there was another person residing in his body.
‘This is for survival. Help me.’
One second, two seconds, three seconds…
Finally, the familiar fluctuations emerged again. As if it was alive, Sin of Hell’s River surged into his head as Thales tried hard to concentrate it around his ears.
In that instant, he first felt as though some parts of his body were heavy, and the other parts light.
But a sound that would usually not be heard drifted into his ears.
Initially, Thales heard the unsteady heartbeats belonging to Little Rascal and himself, followed by the sound of Little Rascal rubbing her hands restlessly. But then, Thales quickly mastered the trick and turned his ear around to push it against the coach. Within all the noise in the alleyway, he could barely hear the voices of the two men conversing.
“Yes, he is satisfied and pleased with the cooperation between us.” An unfamiliar man’s voice traveled into the air slowly. The owner of the voice seemed confident and calm. “It looks like things are progressing smoothly…”
But the person who answered did not seem to have much patience to chat with him.
“Let’s get into the main topic.” The melancholic and rough voice of Archduke Lampard drifted over, “The boy is in the carriage.”
Thales felt a shiver run through his body. He opened his eyes, raised a hand and gestured at Little Rascal to keep quiet, who was poking him out of curiosity.
“The boy?” the stranger’s tone rose abruptly, as if he just found a long lost treasure.
Thales raised his head and looked out the carriage window. There, the man in the thick jacket turned his head and cast a glance towards the carriage.
This glance seemed to penetrate the glass and made Thales shudder in fear. They were eyes filled with greed and desire, just like a viper before it hunts.
The stranger’s eyes lit up and turned back at Lampard. “Thales Jadestar? Is that him?”
Lampard kept quiet and continued to watch him coldly.
“That fast?” The man squinted, then got his answer two seconds later. He clasped his hands together and raised the corner of his mouth. The previously neutral and courteous smile immediately turned affable. “The last gatehouse and Heroic Spirits Palace are certainly still in the hands of Dragon Clouds City. Don’t tell me that you just snuck in and kidnapped him here?”
A thought appeared in Thales’ mind. ‘Heroic Spirits Palace is still in the hands of the Walton Family.’
Lampard snorted through his nose.
“I have my ways.” The Archduke of Black Sand Region’s emotions remained in its original state as he did not care at all about showing the man in front of him a pleasant face. “What say you?”
With eyes bright and full of expression, the man stared at Archduke Lampard. It was like a small merchant looking at his biggest customer.
“Of course it’s great!” the man clapped once and laughed out loud. “We are extremely grateful for your help, Your Excellency. You shall receive our eternal friendship—”
His words were rudely interrupted by Lampard.
“Enough with the nonsense.” Chapman Lampard, donned in martial attire, snorted coldly. With a cold look, he gazed at the man before him. “What do you plan to exchange him with?”
The strange man froze for a moment. He seemed to not quite understand. “Exchange?”
The man lightly clasped his hands, his expression shifted slightly as if he was slowly thinking this word over. Immediately afterwards, he laughed without restraint. “Please forgive my long-windedness. But since the start, our assistance to you has already—”
“Assistance?” Lampard started again without showing the man any respect, making the man’s words die in his throat. The Archduke of Black Sand Region snorted in disdain. “You did not do anything apart from contact a reliable killer.”
Lampard lifted his chin slightly, his eyes piercing. “You want the boy? Then you had better exchange him with a price.”
The eavesdropping Thales shivered slightly. ‘Contact a reliable killer?’
“A reliable killer?” The man quickly answered Thales’ question. He frowned slightly, wearing a resigned smile that seemed to say “How can this be?” He tried to reason with Lampard, “We’re talking about the Assassin’s Flower, and I promise you that you will not find assassins more outstanding than them in this world, especially since you were aiming for the most difficult target.”
Lampard did not say a word.
“And excuse my bluntness, but due to the lapse in your intelligence, the Migratory Locust wasted too much time searching for the target in Heroic Spirits Palace.” The man sighed and shook his head. “If it weren’t for our men who discovered the target’s whereabouts in time, the Migratory Locust wouldn’t have been able to complete the task at all, it wouldn’t have been possible for you…”
The man’s words came to a stop. He frowned when he saw Lampard slowly shake his head.
“As far as I know, Bannette Charleton is not one of your members. He lives by his own blade, so I will discuss the remunerations with him personally.” Lampard’s voice was not loud, but it came with a hint of unquestionability,
“As for all of you, stop using other people’s chips to bargain with. If you still want to take that boy away, that prince…”
As Thales heard those two sentences about him in the coach, he suddenly figured out a critical point in his head.
‘Bannette Charleton. He descended at high speed from Cliff of the Sky and assassinated King Nuven in Shield District. But according to the man’s statement…
‘In other words, the reason Lampard would appear before me with an army…’
The man did not speak again. He just looked at Lampard silently as his eyes revealed a complex look. Lampard continued to return his gaze expressionlessly.
In the end, the man was defeated by Lampard’s eyes. He sighed. “You’re so greedy.”
“We’re not having a casual conversation here,” Lampard shook his head and coldly threw these words behind as he turned around to leave.
The man’s face changed. ‘Such a stingy and petty archduke,’ he thought impatiently in his heart.
“Alright, alright. Your Excellency!” He stopped Lampard, somewhat frustrated. The strange man shrugged, as if he was resigned, a strange light came to his eyes.
“As long as you are willing to give us the boy…”
The man exhaled slowly as his expression recovered its previous strange smile.
“We have a wide range of resources and manpower from the Anlenzo Dukedom to the Vallier Gang, and from Crystal Jade City to the Three Demon Islands. It is the same even in Eckstedt,” the man said with a chuckle. “I bet the newborn Eckstedt will need us for many things. After all, not everyone will serve a fierce suzerain suspected of regicide. We can help you with pacifying domestic affairs. If there are any idiotic vassals that you find are difficult for you to get rid of…”
‘Resources. Manpower. Not easy to deal with…’
Thales’ heart clenched in terror. In that instant, he suddenly knew the identity of the man before his eyes.
Lampard’s reply was only two cold words, “Not enough.”
The man was slightly stunned. He frowned as he seemed to be pondering carefully. After a good while, he relaxed his furrowed brow and said with a rare cautiousness, “If this doesn’t satisfy you…
“We still hold plenty of intel. Whether it is a political scandal or state secret, with just some manipulation or even adjustments, it is enough to set off a huge ruckus in a few small countries.”
The man’s tone was no longer as relaxed as before. In Thales’ ears, the rate of his speech grew faster.
“As far as I know, Eckstedt has always been quite concerned about the West and the situation of the frontlines at Golden Passage. We can also make the Alliance of Freedom sink into civil unrest, unable to extricate themselves from it for several years. We can even get White Mountain into trouble, if your wildest ambitions are more than…”
Thales clenched his fists tightly and gulped a mouthful of spittle. ‘This is not right. This sounds like…’
Beyond Thales’ expectations, Lampard’s reply remained the same two cold words.
This time, the man’s expression finally stiffened. He scrutinized Archduke Lampard for a good few seconds.
The man closed his eyes and exhaled a hot breath through his nose. When he opened his eyes again, there was a harsh, cold intention in addition to the cold, grim look in his eyes.
“Then what do you actually want?”
There was already a hint of impatience in the man’s words. His previously relaxed and pleasant tone began to fade steadily.
“Power? We can serve as your spies and henchmen. We can be your blades, swords, shields, horses and serve you so that you can achieve all your wildest ambitions. Wealth? Though our inventory is unlike a country’s, we have certain rare treasures that even every country’s royal families have rarely seen. Beautiful women? We can… no, I believe you’re not someone with such inferior interests. So, Your Excellency, what’s the price in your heart?”
The man took a deep breath. The smile on his face had disappeared without a trace.
“Say it, we can negotiate on anything.”
Lampard kept a steady gaze on him. At some unknown point of time, a taunting smile hung from the corner of his mouth.
The Archduke of Black Sand Region snorted, causing a trace of displeasure to flash in the man’s eyes.
“As the figurehead of an assassination organization who even relies on selling information and secrets for a living; you are willing to pay such a price without the slightest hesitation. All just for that boy.” Lampard suddenly took a step forward and gradually approached that stranger. His eyes burned like a ferocious beast that had been secluded for a long time.
“This only proves one thing.”
A chill crept into the man’s heart as he felt Lampard’s extremely oppressive eyes on his person. He involuntarily took a step back.
Inside the coach, Thales heard Lampard say one word at a time, “This boy’s value is much greater than all of that combined.”
With his supernatural hearing, Thales heard his own breathing begin to accelerate.
‘My value… What is it? And what does it have to do with them?’
The man’s face changed once more. His eyes widened as he watched Lampard slowly grab hold of the sword at his waist. The martial attire on the archduke’s body let out a frictional sound.
“There’s a secret about him that I don’t know about,” Lampard said in a deep voice. His eyes were fixed on the man’s face, whose expression changed constantly. “My request is very simple: I want that secret; the reason why all of you schemed and racked your brains to get him.”
As Lampard’s words ended, both men stopped talking and the negotiations returned to silence. Only the indistinct voices of people from outside the alley could be heard in that clearing. The mood of the conversation had turned strange. Both of them remained motionless in their stalemate. It had even made the anxious Thales unable to bear it, and he wanted to get down from the carriage to urge them on.
Finally, the strange man slowly uttered these words. In his voice was an indifference and callousness that was unsettling. “Your respected Excellency, you haven’t even solved your current predicament—conquering Dragon Clouds City and Eckstedt—and you’re already thinking about something else.
“The future is full of promise, as are you. Why bite off more than you can chew?”
Thales could not help but purse his lips.
“I’ve revealed my price.” Lampard did not have the slightest inclination to negotiate with the other party. The Archduke of Black Sand Region watched the man coldly. “Tell me, why is he so important to you all?”
The man glanced at the carriage, then immediately lowered his eyes. He did not say a word.
“I’m on a tight schedule,” Lampard coldly added, “You have ten seconds to make a decision.”
The man’s eyebrows twitched uncontrollably, his Adam’s apple bobbed; he was hesitating. In that moment, even Thales held his breath.
The man let out a breath and slowly said, “You know he is a prince… Princes are naturally precious.”
Lampard snorted with disdain. “Don’t tell me that you want to bring him to Constellation to exchange him for a ransom.”
“What’s wrong with that?” The smile that had been long gone from the man’s face appeared on his lips, but a gloom spread across his eyes. “The Jadestar Royal Family’s wealth is common knowledge.”
“Then I might as well just personally kidnap him in exchange for the ransom.” Lampard rebutted swiftly, his voice imposing. “Why should I deal with you?”
The man lightly clenched his teeth.
“Your Excellency, I thought we came here today—” The man responded with an unpleasant expression, but Lampard interrupted his sentence once more without consideration for his feelings.
“In fact, I’ve roughly guessed some parts of it already.” The archduke raised his head slightly, the sword in his hand reverberated. “At first, you arranged for a spy in my army to assassinate him, and you did so without hesitation. Yet today, you say you want him alive instead.”
Thales gritted his teeth.
‘That’s right. Lampard was talking about the assassination of the Mystic Gun Unit at Broken Dragon Fortress. Then, if we make a connection with Poffret’s final words…’
“Initially, it was thought that it was fine as long as he was dead. Now, you want to have the prince alive in your custody,” Lampard said, “Your conspiracy is related to Constellation’s kingship designation, isn’t it?”
The man narrowed his eyes. If anyone looked at him from the distance, they would find that he resembled a viper whipping its tongue out. However, Lampard’s next words caused the man’s colors to change abruptly,
“What you have all done in Constellation twelve years ago… has something to do with this?”
It was not just the man who had a dramatic change in complexion… There was also Thales in the carriage.
‘The Bloody Year.’
He did not imagine that, under such circumstances, he could access this secret which has plagued him for a long time.
Lampard had complete control of the rhythm of the conversation. He leaned his head over, his eyes seemed to contain the entire winter’s ice and snow. “And the reason you were fickle-minded on whether to put him to death…
“…is because a certain important person in your organization came and completely overturned the expectations of all you little lackeys, correct?”
The man’s complexion grew more and more unpleasant.
Lampard plainly said, “It’s ‘him’, isn’t it?”
Thales raised his head slightly as questions surfaced from his heart. ‘Him?’
The man gaped. He took a deep breath first before he raised his eyes.
“We do not wish to trouble you with this.” The man’s expression was filled with aloofness and a refusal to answer. “We’ll make this clear: We need that boy.”
“Of course.” Lampard lifted his left hand slightly in the carriage’s direction and gently said, “With the premise that you tell me—in its entirety—why exactly you want this boy.”
The man stared at Lampard silently, trying to read his emotions and thoughts from his weary face.
“Yes, that’s correct,” the strange man said very slowly, “Gaining control of this boy means we gain control of the throne of Constellation, right? When that time comes, you too can receive great help—”
Lampard did not allow him to continue.
“I’m fed up with your nonsense, errand runner.” The Archduke of Black Sand’s words were placid and rather uninterested. “What about that important person of yours, where’s the person in charge?”
The man’s face changed again. Lampard watched him expressionlessly.
“Your Excellency, you are an ally we highly value and cherish.” He heaved a long sigh as he seemingly made a resolve about something.
“For the sake of having more collaborations in the future that involve more depth and hold greater importance, why don’t we show some sincerity and goodwill, and leave some leeway for each other?” the man silently said.
As he watched the man’s expressions, Lampard took in a deep breath.
“The principle of a collaboration is fairness.” The archduke’s face remained unchanged and he plainly said, “Having done nothing, you wish to take away such an important bargaining chip from me?”
The man’s eyes widened slightly, his eyes reflected with a different sort of chilling intent.
“Having done nothing?”
The stranger sneered a little. “Trust me, Your Excellency, if we reach a point where we really want to do something… you would not want to see that day.”
A strange light flashed across Lampard’s eyes.
“You… What is the meaning of this?” The Archduke of Black Sand spoke slowly and gently, one word at a time, and in a low voice… As if he was afraid of waking the people sleeping soundly in the early morning.
Thales subconsciously felt that something was amiss. However, that man seemed as though he was unaware of the archduke’s expression and tone. Thales saw him raise the corner of his mouth slightly.
“I mean no matter how confident a person is, it’s best that they think twice if they wish to defy us.”
The strange man raised a hand and straightened his robe. His words contained a deep, steely chill.
“Let’s look at Constellation’s Aydi the Second.” The man snorted. “And that dreaded eldest prince, see where they are now…”
Thales’ eyebrows slowly drew together.
Lampard stared at him, not moving an inch. There was not a single fluctuation in his expression. The only sign of his emotions were the indescribable flashes of light dancing in his eyes.
The man lowered both hands, raised his head, and looked directly at Archduke Lampard. His tone held a strange emotion. “Are their examples not enough to attract your attention?”
Lampard did not reply the man; he used the most straightforward action to respond.
Right before his eyes, Thales saw Lampard lift his right arm abruptly and seized the stranger’s neck.