Chapter 556: Chess Player
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
In the hustle and bustle, Thales stared blankly at the short sword in his hand. He silently walked backwards, allowing innumerable guards to pass him by.
The prince’s figure adorned the dense pack of armors that rushed past, looking solitary and out of place.
It was glaring and prominent.
In the next second, as if a ban had been lifted, the long-silent guests burst into life again.
Myriad sounds filled the hall; continuous waves of cheers, chatter, applause, and whispers could be heard.
“My god, I swear, this banquet is the coolest thing I’ve encountered this year…”
“He’s not a Jadestar for nothing, eh? This reminds me of forty years ago…cough cough cough…”
“Indeed. Let me tell you, when Polaris was still in the North… That was really…kings and archdukes were no match for him… We at Elaphure City idolize him!”
“Remember, if anyone asks about what happened here today, don’t blab. Just say that the royal guards managed to control the situation…”
“His gesture was so brave. Ah, alright Senni, I’ll let you in on a secret. I really want to be pressed up against a wall and kissed by His Highness… Huh, what do you mean you too? Hmph, shameless! Bitch!”
“Let me tell you. Invest in the glass makers trade association when you get back, especially those manufacturing wine glasses…”
“No, listen to me. Before Renaissance Palace gives any response, you are not to come to Mindis Hall and not to comment on this incident…”
“Before that bitch Enossa strikes, we have to inquire about His Highness’ life details in the North, particularly the type of girl he likes…”
“Sure enough, he can’t ditch his Northland barbarian methods. A word of warning, be careful in the future…”
“Mama, I want to study abroad in Eckstedt… Huh? Otherwise, I’d be happy to just be a hostage!”
“Did you write it down? Yes, in that order: quail eggs, roast goose, lettuce, especially the lettuce…”
“Tell your father to wrap up your family’s loan shark business… Loss? You’re still fucking thinking about lost profits? Doyle’s incident should serve as a warning!”
“Did you hear that? Did you hear that? ‘I should have the courage to stand before him and look him in the eyes’?”
“No. Don’t even mention it when we’re back. Especially about that bet…”
As if they had their enthusiasm temporarily drained, and it had now returned after the situation had finally been resolved.
“Thank goodness, thank goodness, oh Sunset… That damned scoundrel, I swear, I swear…” Hugging his son and wife, Baron Doyle openly wailed, which made D.D feel awkward.
Many started to reappraise the Prince of Constellation, who was surrounded by guards and had his back to the hall.
But Thales said nothing.
He gently raised his head and looked towards the highest seat that was left empty after the king’s departure.
As if immersed in his own world.
Undisturbed, not to be disturbed.
“Alright, the Flag Bearer Division will take it from here… Send him directly to the Secret Intelligence Department,” Vogel instructed the men who were escorting Anker. He glanced at Thales with mixed emotions. “Obviously, many people will have to work overtime tonight.”
Soon, under various gazes, Anker was escorted away by the guards who handled the situation with utmost solemnity. Even though he did not struggle, the length of the escorting team was comparable to that of a military procession.
Thales listened to the sound of Anker being led away, but did not meet his gaze.
On the other hand, after evading tragedy, the Doyle family wept tears of joy.
Thales did not react.
It was as if there was a boulder on his chest, making it difficult for him to react.
Mallos beckoned Glover to put the Duke’s cloak on for him, but Thales raised a hand to stop him.
As a core member of the king’s party, Count Godwin coughed, walked up to Thales and consoled him like an elder, “Your Highness, you’ve done well tonight…
“If you don’t mind, I think the banquet should end here…”
But Thales suddenly spoke. “Apologies, everyone!”
The Duke of Star Lake’s sudden loud voice interrupted the buzz of the crowd.
Thales turned around.
His cold expression made everyone shudder inside.
Mallos frowned at this sight.
Thales knew, and more than one person had told him: a smile is the best armor.
But Northlanders taught him:
It’s not enough to go into battle with just an armor.
The prince left the flummoxed Count Godwin and walked towards the crowd.
“I know, perhaps my opening remarks today were a little too gentle.”
There was an unprecedented frostiness in Thales’ gaze. “Which could easily have been misunderstood.”
The banquet hall fell completely silent.
Thales lowered his voice, but against the silence, his words were extremely clear, “But to those who don’t understand me, or dislike me, or are unwilling to see me, even…”
A gloom shrouded Thales’ face. “I don’t mind repeating my welcome speech.”
He paced lightly as his keen gaze skimmed past every guest.
Thales suddenly raised his voice. Fortitude and authority—once a habit but intentionally forgotten—seeped through the gaps in his teeth. “I am Thales!”
He surveyed the crowd with a sullen gaze.
“A name you won’t find even if you look through 700 years-worth of Jadestar family genealogy!”
Whispers could again be heard, but quickly faded under Thales’ gaze.
Thales caressed the short sword in his hand, appreciating its precious materials and how it felt in his hands, then said in a somber tone, “So you might not be aware…
“That for the past six years.
“I am neither the Prince of Constellation nor the Duke of Star Lake.”
The guests exchanged looks.
Thales fiddled with the short sword and did not look up, but his every word was grave, inadvertently forcing the guests to listen carefully. “I saw dukes turning against dukes and Nuven’s death.
“I experienced the descent of the Great Dragon and the burning of the city by Calamity.
“I witnessed the military revolt and Chapman claiming superiority.”
Thales’ pupils narrowed as he turned around abruptly. “Black Sand Region hates me like a mortal enemy, and Dragon Clouds City treats me like I’m a plague!”
His unexpected cold tone made everyone quiver.
Thales strode forward. His resolute gaze stabbed at everyone who made eye contact with him.
As he approached, the crowd retreated subconsciously.
“And the entire Eckstedt, millions of souls, call me—”
His voice was still lingering in the air when Thales flashed the short sword and planted it firmly into a long table in front of him!
Thales roared over the terrifying sound, “Polaris!”
With the help of Sin of Hell’s River, his voice reverberated throughout the banquet hall and made the lights flicker, beneath which shadows danced.
The hall was quiet enough to hear a pin drop.
Hundreds of people, including many nobles, did not dare to even exhale.
Thales stared at the sword on the table. His breathing was erratic.
Thales finally released the short sword.
Only the hilt was left vibrating.
But silence remained; the guests did not speak.
Until Thales said coldly, “Esteemed guests, welcome to my… Mindis Hall,”
He turned around, expressionless, and concluded icily, “I hope you enjoyed yourselves.
“The banquet is over.”
No one moved.
Until Mallos sighed, stepped forward and instructed the royal guards and Mindis Hall guards to orderly guide the guests out.
Vogel and Count Godwin came forward too and arranged for everyone to leave.
The banquet hall gradually came alive again as chatter and footsteps could again be heard, but this time it was more orderly and restrained, as if intentionally avoiding the Duke of Star Lake who was in a bad mood.
Thales was still standing in the hall; behind him was the short sword that messed up his banquet.
“I remember asking you to fetch Sentinel,” Thales did not even bother turning around as he asked Mallos, who was behind him and seemed to have something to say, “Why isn’t it here yet?”
Mallos nodded to passing guests and apologized to them on the duke’s behalf while answering distractedly, “That sword is hidden in the locker in your study. I don’t have the password.”
Thales was slightly stunned.
“Why didn’t you ask me earlier?”
“Because,” Mallos glanced at the short sword behind Thales, “You never planned to use it in the first place.”
Thales paused, then let out a laugh.
“So you weren’t worried, worried that he would really want to duel me?”
Mallos chuckled, raised his still-clenched fist and looked up.
Thales raised his head and followed his gaze.
Soon he saw that high above the banquet hall, half a dozen Star Lake guards appeared from the shadows. Each of them was holding a crossbow and looked towards them vigilantly.
Mallos gradually unclenched his fist.
The royal guards in the shadows gathered their bows.
“That’s…Toledo, Morgan, and Italiano who are usually by your side…”
Thales was surprised as he recognized the men.
“Your ad-hoc sniper squad,” Thales said in sudden realization. “I thought Vogel stopped you?”
Mallos scoffed and looked towards Vogel, who was bidding a few nobles goodbye in the distance.
“He thought he stopped me.”
“Before, did you think about the price of doing this?” Mallos asked softly.
Thales shook his head. “No.”
Thales felt a weight in his heart and fell silent.
Mallos did not say anything. His expression remained indifferent.
Guests in the hall were gradually starting to move around. Many crowded over to bid Thales farewell with a bow, but more dawdled around as if reluctant to leave so soon.
For example, the Seven Jadestar Attendants.
“Well handled, Your Highness. You’re not the favorite pupil of Count Caso for nothing.”
This was Baron Stone of the Seven Jadestar Attendants. He had a gloomy expression; his thoughts were indiscernible.
“What a crafty scoundrel. How dare he,” the elderly Viscount Patterson said with disdain, “Your Highness, you must forge ahead and set an example, otherwise such treacherous schemes will only grow rampant.”
“This is no trivial matter. Take care, Your Highness.” In contrast, Viscount Adrian’s farewell was straightforward.
“The Doyle family will never be able to repay Your Highness’ benevolence… We can only…” This was the wailing old baron. But before he launched into a speech, he was dragged away by the observant D.D, who apologized profusely to Thales as he left.
“Your Highness, your act of kindness towards your subordinate was very moving,” Lady Elainor led her son Luther over to bid goodbye. She continued gently, “Blessed be the benevolent master.”
Facing them, Thales was expressionless, nodding slightly at most.
Until Val Arunde, in shackles, was escorted by guards to him.
“You will be trouble, kid,” Duke Arunde scoffed as he looked at Thales, engrossed, “Trouble to many. Huge trouble.”
Thales felt a jolt. He looked up and stared intently at Duke Arunde, “Bigger than you?”
Val raised his eyebrows, chuckled, but did not reply. He instructed the people escorting him, “Let’s go. I’m beginning to miss my deluxe single room.”
After Val left, another Seven Jadestar Attendant, Lozano Glover came over.
“The problems in Mirror River and Crow Caw City are deep-rooted, Your Highness, and by no means recent, nor an isolated case. This will implicate many. Please keep that in mind when you handle it.”
Thales nodded despite being dumbfounded inside.
Viscount Lozano paused. He glanced at Glover, who was coordinating on the other side of the hall.
“My brother, Caleb. He’s reserved and inarticulate. He often works too hard to the point that he neglects rest, and seldom comes home,” Lozano looked at his brother with complex emotions, “Please regularly allow him some vacation time to come home, in order to better serve the royal family.”
Thales’ gaze shifted.
Lozano nodded, and took his leave with a bow.
Thales turned around. Koshder Nanchester was blinking his sole eye as he looked at the prince disapprovingly.
“No,” Thales calmly replied as he tried not to think about the haze deep in his heart. “It’s just the beginning.”
“I will return to Steep Forest City soon,”
The Duke of Land of Cliffs smiled. “Among the gifts I gave you tonight are a few special stones from the Land of Cliffs. Find some trustworthy people and keep it safe.”
Thales furrowed his brows in doubt.
“Because they are military-use messenger crow orienteering stones,” Koshder replied casually. “Together with a few military intelligence messenger crows that have never been recorded on file at the postal stations and not even the Secret Intelligence Department knows about.”
Thales exhaled. “Why didn’t you mention this earlier?”
Koshder shook his head and scoffed. “Because your banquet hadn’t started then.”
He took a glance at Mallos who was sorting out matters not too far away, “Because you didn’t need it then.”
Thales was stumped for a moment.
But One-Eyed Dragon left without another word.
Hurried figures bid each other goodbye. Thales wearily and passively watched on as today’s “groundbreaking” banquet came to a close.
Until he saw a certain figure.
Thales took a deep breath and recalled everything that had happened tonight.
Amidst the hustle, Thales looked up and called out to the figure who was prepared to leave, “Dear Zayen!”
The hall fell silent again. Many stopped in their tracks and looked over.
In the crowd, the affable Duke of Iris Flowers turned around.
His etiquette was proper, his bearing elegant.
Thales looked at him and suddenly said, “You forgot something.”
Zayen was baffled. “Something? I don’t unders…”
But in the next moment, his expression changed.
Because Thales turned around and, without hesitation, pulled the short sword out of the table with a backhand!
The steel short sword flew a few meters across the hall and fell onto the stone floor. The clanging sound echoed endlessly.
Bystanders had to hastily avoid being hit.
“Your sword,” in front of everyone, Thales did not bother with pretense and said coldly, “Aren’t you taking it back?”
Everyone was shocked by these words.
The hall fell completely silent.
Zayen’s eyes widened as he looked at Thales in surprise.
Amidst the swarm of hurried figures, Thales and Zayen’s gazes cut through the crowd unhampered and met mid-air.
Almost instantly, the surprise in Zayen’s gaze receded, leaving behind harshness.
As if there was a tacit understanding, after a bout of alarmed and wary whispers, the remaining guests scrambled to leave in batches, including Vogel.
As if there was a plague in the banquet hall.
After a short while, almost all the guests had left.
Mallos frowned. He gestured for the equally surprised royal guards and servants to leave, while he himself retreated silently.
Zayen groaned as he turned around to dismiss his old butler.
“Do you know, for the past six years,” Thales chuckled, “what I have learned from Dragon Clouds City, from the Northland barbarians?”
Duke Zayen furrowed his brows.
He did not speak, but his expression became more severe. The elegance and calm from earlier were gone.
In the empty hall, Thales spoke softly in a stern tone, “You fuck with them,”
Thales shot Zayen a piercing stare. “And they fuck you right back.”
In the messy banquet hall, the Duke of Star Lake’s voice was steeped with a terrifying chill, and reverberated in every corner.
“Only, it’s harder.
“And it hurts more.”
All of a sudden, the banquet hall plummeted into a suffocating silence.
Leaving the two who were facing each other from afar to duel with their sword-like gazes.
Until Zayen sighed and smirked. “How did you find out?”
Thales did not speak.
He frowned, stepped back, and sat down in a chair. Staring at the dagger, his thoughts were unclear.
“You told me,” the prince hissed.
“Is that so?” Zayen was laughing louder and louder, entirely unbothered. “When?”
After a few seconds, Thales raised his head to look at Zayen again. He said with a straight face, “Just now.”