Chapter 555: Unfulfilled
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
In the brightly lit hall, Thales overlooked the venue while enduring an infinitude of shocked gazes, but he was focused on the dazed Anker.
Waiting for his reaction.
After a good while, Anker looked up incredulously.
Thales was still staring at him coldly. His posture was composed but his gaze was domineering.
Like a hunter who had released his arrow then confidently lowered his bow.
“Your Highness, dueling as a proxy.” Anker finally wrapped his head around what had just happened.
His eyes were red and his breathing quickened. “Me… and you?”
Thales narrowed his eyes.
“No, no…” Grief and agony filled his eyes as the disruptor of the banquet hissed, “No!”
In the hall, after the initial shock, everyone started anxiously discussing what had just happened. But their voices became more restrained; even the way they looked at the Duke of Star Lake changed.
Val Arunde, who was in shackles, was no longer drinking. His gaze was locked on the prince, the meaning behind it vague.
Zayen frowned and kept turning around to question his butler.
One-Eyed Dragon Koshder seemed to be half smirking, and was still in the mood to respond to the private queries of other guests.
Thales brushed aside these scenes that he glanced from the corner of his eye and scoffed. “Why not?”
The young duke strode forward. The royal guards behind him wanted to follow suit, but was halted by Mallos with a firm gesture.
“Isn’t this what you want?”
Thales broke from the guard formation that encircled him and slowly walked down the steps, continuing piercingly, “Dueling with the second prince himself will shock the entire kingdom as news spreads, and you will be able to achieve your goal of seeking justice—Is such a banquet dish…”
“Not to your taste?”
Anker clenched his teeth. The short sword in his hand started to quiver, and his eyes seemed like they were going to burst into flames from rage.
He wasn’t the only one who couldn’t believe what was happening.
Doyle stood paralyzed as he watched Thales descend the steps and gradually walk towards him.
The lingering aggressive aura on Doyle gradually faded, replaced by frustration.
“Your Highness, you don’t have to. I mean, you don’t have to duel on my behalf. I can, can…”
Thales stopped and looked displeased.
At the other side of the hall, Old Baron Doyle, after experiencing a double whammy of grief and shock, was overjoyed in disbelief. He pulled himself together and kept signaling to his son with his eyes.
But D.D was oblivious to his father’s actions. He stared blankly at the imposing Thales. He raised the scabbard in his hand then lowered it again and stuttered mechanically as he still hadn’t fully snapped out of it, “You don’t, don’t have to, I should, guard, protect you…”
Until Thales cast a frosty sideway glance at him, leaving those words stuffed in his mouth.
“I did not ask any of you for your opinions, Danny Doyle,” Thales impassively called his personal guard by the latter’s full name, “I am ordering you. I want to duel as your proxy.”
Thales scowled at the crowd. “Ordering as a Jadestar, towards a Seven Jadestar Attendant.
“Do any of you…object?”
At this remark, the guests in the front seats were equally stunned. They instantly became the focus of attention:
The young and promising Viscount Adrian let go of his wife’s hand and looked sternly at Thales.
The old and frail Viscount Patterson opened his cloudy eyes and pushed aside the two scions who were supporting him.
The graceful Lady Elainor held on tightly to Luther Barney, who was playing with his head lowered, and did not speak.
Baron Stone bowed his head a little and glanced at the prince, seemingly sneering indifferently.
Lozano Glover stood upright with his hands folded, unmoving.
Thales’ gaze brushed past them like a keen blade.
A second later, there was a flurry of movements from these five nobles. Some bowed their heads and placed a hand on their chest, some kneeled; all were deferential and acquiescent.
But no one reacted faster than Baron Doyle.
“No, Your Highness. No objections. None!”
Thales’ forehead twitched.
Old Baron Doyle startled everyone by crawling and sobbing. “With you here, as a Seven Jadestar Attendant, Doyle family of Mirror River swear our devotion to you, waa waah uh huuh huuh sniff sniff—”
The badly battered and sniveling old baron was about to go on before his shrewd wife reacted quickly by covering his mouth and dragging him back into the crowd with Doyle’s help.
He turned around and continued pacing forward.
The crowd around him, whether guard, servant or guest, instinctively gave way to the prince.
Until Thales stepped into the venue, reached the lowest tier, and stood on the same level as the tense Anker.
“As for you…”
But Thales did not stop; he continued to stride towards the center of the hall.
Anker looked up distractedly and seemed a little surprised.
He realized that, if he took two steps forward, his blade would be able to reach the prince.
Closest to them, Doyle was the first to react. He let go of his father and rushed forward exclaiming, “Your Highness!”
The guards that discreetly trailed behind Thales noticed too that something was amiss. Mallos frowned and shouted, “Your Highness, that’s close enough!”
Count Godwin panicked. “Prince Thales! Your royal presence…”
Beside Mallos, Vogel, who had been infuriated by this series of unexpected incidents, immediately commanded, “Surround the prince! Protect His Highness!”
In the hall, the dumbfounded guards and anxious royal guards acted simultaneously. Their hurried footsteps alarmed the guests around them.
Until Thales halted every unsettled person with a roar, “Stop!”
He turned around and pointed straight at Doyle, “Step back!
“All of you!”
The royal guards stopped in their tracks.
In the spotlight, Thales turned around, ignoring Mallos’ frown and Vogel’s anxiety.
He looked towards Anker, who had subconsciously raised his sword.
“Since my guest is daring enough to come alone and bring a sword to the banquet,” Thales’ gaze shifted from Anker’s sword to his eyes as he continued pacing, “Then I should naturally have the courage to stand before him and look him in the eyes.”
“Keep calm!” In the chaos, Mallos ignored Vogel’s (“Get him back here!”) furious protests. “His Highness has spoken!”
He raised his fist and stood his ground, indicating for the royal guards to stand down.
Seeing Mallos openly setting the tone, Vogel could do nothing but clench his teeth, keep his mouth shut, and glare at the watchman’s reckless behavior.
Finally, Thales stood in front of Anker and directly confronted the latter’s anger and misery.
“Duke Thales.” Anker lowered his sword and looked at the duke with resentment. “Why?”
Thales’ expression was impassive as he said unhurriedly, “Why?”
He scoffed. “Anker Byreal.
“Did you think you could saunter into my territory, justified, and do whatever you want? Did you think you got hold of my Achilles’ heel, and could it to harm me, threaten me?”
Anker clutched his sword tightly.
His gaze had been hovering around Thales’ chest and neck.
This made Vogel even more nervous. He kept urging Mallos to take action, but the latter stayed still.
Just like Thales, who was equally unconcerned.
“I don’t know who gave you this rotten idea, but, duel?”
Thales chuckled and glanced at the crowd half intentionally. “Just because I returned from the North?”
Thales indifferently turned his back towards the sword-wielding and emotionally unstable Anker.
“You, and the people supporting you from behind, you don’t know that, all my life I have encountered such adversities and problems, and I always fight for survival when faced with the last and most desperate choice.”
Thales scanned the guests around him, then turned back around.
He looked at Anker, who was stunned speechless. The latter seemed to be hesitating whether to take the opportunity to burst into a fit of violence and kill the prince.
“Now, Anker, no matter who you are, or who you work for,” Thales went on coldly. He ignored Anker’s blade and approached the latter amidst the sound of the crowd breathing, until both of them were within two feet of each other.
“Whether you’re doing this for yourself, or for someone else,” Thales said gravely, “Choose.”
At such a close distance, Thales realized that Anker had been trembling. His breathing was chaotic and his expression was volatile.
He wasn’t all there.
Using hell’s senses, it was clear to Thales just by taking a glance: in his current state, he couldn’t even properly execute a sword style, let alone duel.
“Choose?” Anker finally gave in and asked angrily.
“Either kill you, or, or…”
His breath was so heavy it could almost reach Thales. “You didn’t give me much of a choice, did you?!”
Anker’s eyes were red and he looked sinister. The short sword was still quivering in his hand.
This unnerved onlookers, who worried for the prince—Mallos had to hold Vogel, who was gnashing his teeth, back firmly. Mallos’ fist was still raised to restrain the crowd.
But Thales paused and said softly, “Not true.”
The prince’s tone became stern, “I’ve already given it.
“I gave you more than a choice. I gave you a chance.”
Thales stared into Anker’s despair-filled eyes, mustered all the sincerity he could and continued, “The best chance, another choice.
“You know it.”
There was inadvertently a trace of anxiety in Thales’ voice. “You know it!”
But Anker, who was looking right back at Thales, was unmoved. His gaze turned from warm to cold, from bright to dim, from resentful to disheartened, from anguished to numb.
Finally, Anker gently shut his eyes.
“Your Highness, do me a favor,” Anker said quietly, as if his voice was immersed in gloom, “And kill me?”
The onlooking crowd and vigilant guards were stunned.
Thales’ gaze was grim.
In the next moment, Thales’ tone became ruthless again, “But only in duel—according to the conditions we agreed on.”
Anker fell silent.
One second, two seconds…
At the third second, Anker suddenly opened his eyes!
Concurrently, the blade in his hand moved, whistling as it cut through the air.
It was pointed directly at Thales!
The engrossed crowd gasped loudly!
“Protect His Highness!”
“He’s going to kill again!”
Some from the frenzied crowd retreated while some moved forward. They obstructed the view of the royal guards who were poised to rescue the prince and impeded them!
“Damn it! Mallos! Your rotten idea…”
Vogel shoved a guest aside and yelled anxiously, “If the prince—you’re finished!”
Mallos did not say a word but merely clenched his fist and signaled his subordinates to maintain order.
Suddenly, a voice cried out from the center of the hall, from the heart of chaos, “In the name of Thales Jadestar, I said, stay back!
Thales never sounded so livid. His voice shook the domed ceiling. “I can handle it!”
The disorderly scene was reduced to silence.
It took the guards a few seconds to regain control of the crowd. The royal guards, led by Mallos and Vogel, rushed to the front and kept the crowd securely back.
Leaving the two who were practically attached together in the middle.
Witnessing the scene before them, many guests gasped in horror:
Anker’s blade hovered right between both of their necks—his wrist was firmly being held by Thales and stuck.
They were staring at each other. One was composed, the other desperate and shaking from the tense confrontation.
Vogel was shocked and furious. He was about to instruct his men from the Flag Bearer Division to advance, “Damn it, hurry up and—”
But Mallos’ voice was louder than his, “Steady!”
The watchman raised his fist again to halt them. “His Highness’ command shall not be defied!”
Vogel, who was taking a step forward, froze.
Mallos said coldly, “His Highness is handling it.
“Do not interfere.”
Vogel staggered as he said in a hushed tone, “Handling it? You’re his personal guard captain! If anything happens to him…”
This time, Mallos did not suffer in silence, but replied coldly, “Then I will still be his personal guard captain.”
This shoved the vice-captain’s words back into his mouth.
Thales delicately appeased the Sin of Hell’s River that was imbued his arms, preventing the Power of Eradication from transforming into a bloodthirsty beast whilst curbing Anker’s intentions.
“Anker, don’t do this.”
Thales shook his head. There was warning in his gaze. “The Sentinel has not been brought here yet. Our duel has not begun.”
But Anker shook his head.
“Let go. Let them kill me,” Anker lowered his voice and sounded despondent, “I have to die. I can’t walk out of here alive.”
In that moment, he was transported back to Prison of Bones.
Before him, Barney Jr. was pressing a blade against his throat.
“True,” Thales dismissed that unhappy memory and said firmly, “But this is the choice they gave you.”
He balanced the force of his arm to prevent Anker from moving at all, while staring fixedly into the latter’s eyes. “The person who gifted you this sword, he is not worth dying for.”
Anker seemed offended. His pupils shrank, revealing anger. “I’m not doing it for him!”
Thales did not back down. “I know!”
The prince stared at the pair of eyes that went back and forth between anger and despair, hoping that Anker could read his intentions.
“That’s why I gave you a chance.
Thales sounded a little impatient.
Anker slipped into a daze.
His breathing slowed and his pupils regained focus.
“Because I know you are not his chess piece,” Thales replied resolutely, “I know what you really want.”
With a tug, Thales drew him closer and whispered so that only Anker could hear him, “You’re not here for revenge, nor personal gain.
“And not for your father either.”
Anker was stunned, then incredulous.
“How, how did you…”
Thales responded icily, “Because I believe we are cut from the same cloth.”
Cut from the same cloth.
Anker’s palm trembled. “What?”
“But the person who gave you the sword,” Thales stared into his eyes, “He is not.”
Separated by a horizontal short sword, the two stared at each other; one was insistent, the other at a loss.
Anker’s hesitation persisted only for a split second.
He gritted his teeth and lowered his eyebrows. “They gave me a sword, and you gave me a ‘stake’,”
Anker glared at Thales, “You’re both forcing me to take the step you each want.
“How are you different from them?”
Thales was silent.
A second later, the strength in the prince’s arm weakened.
“He wants to be a chess player and win the game,” Thales whispered.
Anker laughed sarcastically, “And you want to lose?”
Thales looked up slowly. “No.
“It’s just that I, I understand…” he said wearily, “other chess pieces.”
Anker was dumbstruck.
“I told you, we’re cut from the same cloth,” Thales strained to get his words out, “Anker Byrael.”
Anker loosened his grip and both of them returned to being an arm’s length apart.
But the short sword remained horizontal between them.
The prince looked at Anker with a burning gaze. He speculatively touched the latter’s weapon. “Now, let go. Give me the sword.”
Anker looked bewildered. He glanced around: the royal guards were eyeing him like a prey and seemed like they were prepared to go into combat.
He said through gritted teeth, “I can’t”
“Chess pieces can’t,” Thales pressed on the hilt of the sword with his left hand, and said with a firm gaze, “You can.
“Anker Byrael, you can.”
Anker lowered his head.
“If I let go,” Byrael’s eyes were clear and bright again, but he instantly felt distressed. “What should I do?”
Faced with this question, Thales fell silent for a while.
But then quickly looked up. “I don’t know, but I’ll try my best.”
Anker scoffed. His emotions were indiscernible; he seemed to be happy yet sad.
“I tried my best.”
“No, you didn’t.” Thales unequivocally shook his head. “You haven’t met me.
“Me,” he repeated firmly.
This time, Anker stared at him for a long while.
Under Thales’ watchful eye, their gazes transitioned through a series of confusion, agony, torture, struggle, rage, and resentment.
Finally arriving at relief and serenity.
In the next moment, the weight on Thales’ hand felt lighter.
Before him, Anker’s body collapsed forward.
There was a muffled thud. Under countless gazes, Anker closed his eyes and fell to his knees beside Thales, his body limp.
Thales breathed a sigh of relief. He held the short sword in his hand and turned around with mixed emotions.
“Looks like the duel won’t happen after all.”
He raised his voice and transformed back into the implacable Duke of Star Lake, driving away the piercing gazes of spectators.
The duke strode forward towards Mallos, who was still clenching his fist.
Thales nodded. While he could not find the words to express his emotions, he forced himself to adopt his usual tone and said, “The bet is unfulfilled.
“What a shame.”
As the crowd looked on in shock, Mallos waved a hand.
The well-prepared royal guards swarmed forward and unceremoniously pinned Anker—who had given up resistance and looked numb—to the ground and trussed him up.