Chapter 561: Cannot Escape the Sheath
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Thales ruminated these words for a while.
‘A style that is able to go head to head against ‘Temple’.
‘Is it the style of the Empire, or the style of the Emperor?’
“Now, do you understand?”
Mallos gently placed his hand on the hilt of his sword. There were mixed emotions in his gaze.
“The significance of Imperial Style—this line of martial arts inherited from the Age of the Empire—to Constellation, to the Jadestar Royal Family, and especially to you?”
There was barely anyone on the Training Field, and silence filled the courtyard. Behind them, the main stone hall was standing majestically under the gloomy sky.
Thales pondered for a long while before he spoke.
“That means, ‘Imperial Style’ does not merely represent martial arts, but also history. It has an extraordinary significance, and is equivalent to the Jadestar Royal Family heritage style…”
‘So this was another historical parable for me to learn from…’
At this thought, Thales’ words were stuck in his throat.
‘Wait a minute.
‘Jadestar Royal Family heritage…’
Thales’ expression changed slightly. Mallos, on the other hand, did not say anything.
“Doyle of Mirror River…” Thales uttered this family name out of the blue for no apparent reason.
“Last night, the duel between Doyle and Byrael…”
Thales looked towards the watchman and wondered aloud, “Even though his weapon and style were different, but I seem to recall, Doyle’s sword style… Is it also part of the Imperial Style?”
Mallos narrowed his eyes slightly.
After a few seconds, the watchman nodded.
“Danny Doyle was the last disciple of Sir Joaquin, the knight. Before his death, Sir Joaquin was the chief swordskills instructor of the private army on the home territory of the Jadestar Royal Family. He was a master-level figure in Imperial Style martial arts.”
Swordskills instructor of the Jadestar Private Army.
Having his query answered, Thales gaze changed as he immediately followed up with another question. “What about the others?
“Apart from Toledo and Doyle. Glover? Bastia? And yourself?”
Thales stared at Mallos.
The watchman smiled plainly and confirmed Thales’ speculations, “Yes.
“Glover, Morgan, Vladivostok and Oscarson of the Vanguard Division…
“Bastia, Franzuke, Ferri, and Kostad of the Defence Division…
“As well as Townsend and Chevanov under my command.”
Mallos still had a palm on the hilt of his sword as he sighed, “Not just them. Your Star Lake Guards, or to be more precise, the entire royal guard staffing structure, is mostly made up of Imperial Style practitioners.”
‘Most of the royal guards.’
Thales had a moment of realization before he was lost in thought, frowning.
“As for me, the instructors who taught me martial arts were also Imperial Style knights,” the watchman explained slowly, “Thanks to the Jadestar Private Army, even the regular soldiers of the royal family—which have been established for no more than a few decades—have more or less been influenced, resulting in many practitioners from commanders to foot soldiers.”
Thales was silent for a while.
He contemplated the reason behind all of this.
Mallos did not rush him, but waited patiently for the prince’s reaction.
“Mallos,” After a few seconds, Thales started softly, as if in a daze, “You mentioned that people choose their own school of thought between Temple and Imperial. Do they look for anything in particular?”
Mallos’ gaze turned hazy.
He gently released the hilt of his sword.
“My thoughts are that, in the rise of authoritarian powers and troubled times, the skills taught by the Tower of Eradication will often be popular for a time, propagate, and become a prominent school of thought.”
The watchman shook off his hazy gaze and reverted to a calm demeanor. “While in the height of peace and prosperity, the orthodox style of the Empire will become the trend that people pursue.”
Mallos looked at Thales. He was calm as usual, but there was something different about the pauses between his words. “Do you understand?”
Thales took a deep breath.
He corrected his seating posture and solemnly faced his personal guard captain cum martial arts instructor.
“What are you actually trying to tell me through this lesson today?”
The edges of Mallos’ lips curved upwards, but he shrugged and put on an innocent look. “The two main representative schools of thought, of course…”
But Thales cut him short.
“You could have been more straightforward. You didn’t have to be so obscure and careful.”
The Duke of Star Lake glared at him. “It’s not as if I’ll do a keyword review.”
Mallos was slightly taken aback.
He scoffed. “So what do you—with your profound wisdom—think I’m trying to say then?”
The two exchanged a glance.
Thales took a deep breath, closed his eyes gently then opened them again.
“That Stupi…ahem I mean, respected young master Kohen of the Karabeyan family in South Coast Hill,” Thales stared at Mallos and continued in a serious tone, “From what I gather, he’s a disciple of the Tower of Eradication.
“And based on what you’ve told me, a ‘Temple’ practitioner.”
Mallos’ eyebrows twitched but he did not comment.
“Miss Miranda of the Arunde family in the Northern Territory.
“And Anker Byrael of Crow Caw City in the Western Desert from last night.
“As well as Ness. Like you said, before moving to the Central Territory, he was originally from Blade Edge Hill.”
Thales’ tone was certain as he pushed on.
“Oh, and Eckstedtians.”
Thales recalled what Wya told him.
“As far as I know, the legendary ‘Ground-Shaker’ Kaslan Lampard learnt skills from the Tower of Eradication in his youth.”
Mallos shifted a little when he heard this name and looked pensive.
He looked up and casually replied, “You know a lot indeed, Your Highness.”
Thales frowned. “And last night, when you said the assassin’s martial arts originated from the Tower of Eradication, your nemesis’—apologies, I mean Vice-captain Vogel’s—first reaction was: he’s a foreign noble.”
Thales paused, but Mallos remained calm.
“As for Imperial Style…”
Thales felt that he had caught hold of the thread, and was pulling it tighter, until he got closer to the crux. “Of my guards, D.D and Glover’s family are from Central Territory. More accurately put, they are Seven Jadestar Attendants.
“And you mentioned that Toledo is the descendant of a branch of a Seven Jadestar Attendant family.
“Even you yourself, Tormond Mallos, are a descendant of a Seven Jadestar Attendant.”
Mallos’ breathing staggered.
“Along with ‘most’ of the other royal guards.”
Thales continued solemnly, “Temple and Imperial.
“Their practitioners are so divergent. Is this a coincidence?”
But Mallos did not take the bait, instead responding with a rhetorical question. “What do you think?”
Thales furrowed his brows and thought to himself that this guy was definitely taking revenge against the prince for interrupting him earlier by refusing to speak much right now.
“I think…” Thales tried deducing, “At least in Constellation, local nobles are inclined to send their children to the Tower of Eradication to train in the Temple style martial arts?
“Central suzerains, on the other hand, mostly adhere to the Imperial legacy to butter up to the Jadestar Royal Family?
“Is that it?”
Mallos chuckled but did not affirm one way or the other.
“Delving a little deeper…” the prince went on with a frown. “The skills of the Tower of Eradication have spread throughout the kingdom, and is especially prevalent among long-established, local aristocrats who are used to a divided rule.
“The Imperial Style is firmly based in the Central Region of Constellation, with Eternal Star City as its base, and is highly revered amongst knights who surround the throne.”
There was a gleam in Thales’ eyes.
“Temple and Imperial, these two martial art schools of thought, I think I understand them now.”
Thales no longer cared about Mallos’ reaction, and started to contemplate on his own.
‘For thousands of years, especially during the Age of the Empire, Temple and Imperial have stood opposed to and competed against each other.
‘But this was not a contrast of sects or battle of swordsmanship between different schools of thought like in wuxia novels of his past life’
“Just like the Power of Eradication,” Thales recalled what Ricky had said in the dungeon, and subconsciously repeated them, “It is not merely itself, but also the warrior themselves.”
Mallos frowned slightly.
Thales sped up his speech. “The Temple of Knights originated from the Ancient Northland. Its skills spread through rangers and traveling warriors to all corners of the world.
“Their rival—Imperial Style, originated from The Ancient Empire. It benefitted from royal power orthodoxy, was passed down by legionaries, and was favored in the court and Central.
“Right from the start, these two schools of thought stemmed from different beings, then developed and grew amidst the struggle between these beings.”
Thales continued distractedly, “Until a thousand years passed, their faces changed, and they became the two major martial art schools of thought within and around the core of power and throughout all hierarchies in Constellation.
Mallos stared fixedly at the prince.
Thales ignored him.
He was immersed in thought in that moment.
‘That’s right. Just like what Ricky said.
‘The Power of Eradication is closely related to the warrior themselves, embodying everyone’s experience and personality…
‘Martial art schools of thought, on the other hand, is intimately linked to the real world, reflecting everyone’s inclination and choices.’
Thales said in a trance, “Because they are not just two main schools of thought, and their competition is not only a battle of honor or of reputation. It’s also actual, raw politics.
“In ancient times, the people who used them were entangled in the division between the central and local regions of the Empire.
“In those times, practitioners of both revolved around the distinction between the royal power of Constellation and the divided rule of vassals.”
Thales looked up and stared resolutely at Mallos.
“This is not just martial arts.
“It’s politics and power, history and change.
“This is the truth and significance of the legacy of these two major schools of thought.
“And also what you actually want to tell me, right?”
Mallos smiled. It was a smile of relief.
He looked towards the courtyard in the distance, which was sparse and deserted due to the change of season from autumn to winter. “To be honest, I’m not good at interpreting politics, and I do not wish to mislead Your Highness…”
Thales interjected, “Nonsense, you are thoroughly aware of it.”
The prince was no longer looking at Mallos. His gaze was hazy.
‘Thousands of years ago…
‘The current of times rolled on and gathered into a tide.
‘Humans were about to flourish, thus the Temple was bright.
‘What the genteel favored, those below them would be even more fervent about.
‘The throne’s partiality realized the Imperial Style.’
Mallos looked at the prince who was lost in thought and fell silent.
Thales glanced into the distance at Ness and Toledo, who were wiping off their sweat and drinking water after their fierce battle. Ness seemed to still hold a grudge, while Toledo seemed unbothered.
The sound of their weapons clashing rang again in Thales ears.
Thales was stunned.
Ness’ lightning-quick blade, Toledo’s tenacious defense.
That wasn’t just a duel between two persons, or even a confrontation between two major schools of thought.
In that battle, he glimpsed the scenery from a thousand years ago.
‘Emperor and dukes.
‘Empire and rangers.
‘Unification and chaos.
‘Iron blood and ostentatious displays.
‘And now, after a thousand years…’
Thales’ thoughts drifted further.
‘In a world of divided rule, there is no chaotic warfare.
‘So the Tower of Eradication is established, and their disciples are widespread.
‘Constellation is restored, and royal power is duly exerted.
‘Passed down through knights, the Imperial Style continues its age-old legacy.
‘Local nobles choose the Tower of Eradication. The Seven Jadestar Attendants choose to cozy up to the Imperial Style.
‘Central and local.
‘Centralized and divided rule.
‘King and vassals.’
Thales thought about all of this in a daze, and began to have a better understanding.
‘No existence in this world is illusory or castles in the air.
‘Even martial arts and swordskills—which are seemingly innocent and independent, and external objects or tools that are purely related to personal interest and choice—are no exception.
‘The emergence of Temple and Imperial Styles was closely related to the times. The competition between them was by no means isolated and static, but the result of the combined action of history and politics, reality and power.
‘Their diametrical opposition is a faithful reflection of human relationships on martial art legacies and realistic violence.
‘The times made them what they are.
‘And they reflect the times.
‘Such is martial arts, and even more so, people.’
At this thought, Thales sighed, “Looks like Gray Sword Guard got it right.
“Since ancient times, swords cannot escape the Sheath.”
‘Gray Sword Guard?’
Mallos was dumbfounded when he heard this sentence which assessed an elite of yesteryears.
But Thales merely shook his head.
“For every martial art, every school of thought, no matter how mighty or impressive, how astounding or prominent…”
“The background of the era and the soil of society, and even the people who use them, are the true ‘sheaths’ that they cannot escape.”
Mallos contemplated this and nodded slightly.
At this point, Thales suddenly recalled what Scholar Bonar said in the grammar lesson earlier:
Language is a tool, is the result, but also the master, and the cause. It is the best example of a guest that usurps its host and profoundly influences its users in changing times…
Subconsciously, Thales was stumped for words.
Be it martial arts or language.
They were not just insensate tools.
On the contrary, the user fits them into their sheath, stamps their mark on them, and assigns them the characteristics of the era and the society.
Thereafter, they become one with the user, inseparable, and even exhibiting…humanity.
They have even usurped their host by influencing more people through legacy and practice, continuing to strengthen and driving the tide of times forward.
Theology, ultimately, is a field of study about people.
Priestess Melgen’s words rang in his ears.
“Just like Temple and Imperial Style,” Thales said intuitively, “The significance of their opposition to each other has been passed down through the bodies of millions of practitioners from ancient times to the present, germinating and looking for an opportunity to flourish, whether the practitioners themselves realize it or not.”
‘They are constantly evolving and endlessly entangled within myriad outlines of reality and politics.
‘They resonate in every round of military encounter and echo melodiously.’
In that moment, Thales recalled the battle earlier between Ness and Toledo.
But in the next moment, he saw the scene from last night’s banquet in which D.D and Anker dueled furiously.
‘No, not just them.
‘Mallos, Doyle, Glover…
‘Kaslan, Kohen, Miranda…
“They live in every warrior, every weapon, every battle,” Thales said distractedly, “Continuously rising and falling, competing throughout the millennium without a clear outcome.
‘They never left, never faltered, never declined.
‘It’s only that the people are immersed within them.
‘Using them daily without realizing.
‘Unaware even as time passes.
‘Unable to escape the sheath.’
Mallos contemplated for a moment then suddenly smiled. “It seems that I no longer need to say anything more.”
Thales smiled too.
He glanced at the weaponry rack in the Training Field, then looked up at the dreary sky that was bearing down on him.
In that moment, he felt that everything in the atmosphere was enveloped within it.
‘Perhaps these were the strings of the instrument that was the epoch.’
Thales sighed deeply.
‘These strings played the notes on every detail in history.
‘Tiny and imperceptible, but leaving behind a vast shadow.
‘Faint and hardly noticeable, but dense and unbearable.’
“Mallos, the schools of thought that you mentioned before…”
Thales let out a long sigh.
“I looked them up.”
Mallos looked at the Duke of Star Lake, and felt the gravity of the latter.
Thales continued slowly, “The attack and defense faction, or the northern faction, emerged from the successive conflicts at the border between Constellation and Eckstedt.
“The martial arts faction was a legacy of the church militancy that was in vogue during the Age of the Empire, and were the guardians of temples of faith.
“The modern faction is embodied in the mercenaries and adventurers of recent times.
“These martial arts each have their own origins, don’t they?”
Thales stared at Mallos.
“Just like the Temple and Imperial Styles that we have talked about today.”
Mallos returned the stare then said quietly, “War and chaos, peace and prosperity, all these factors can give rise to different martial arts and martial art practitioners, which could turn out to be vibrant and incredible, or orthodox and uniform.”
The watchman looked up into the distant sky. “It is said that, in the Eastern Peninsula and foreign lands, the farther away it is from us, the more different their martial arts are.”
Thales chuckled, feeling somewhat relieved.
The progression of the times has influenced and shaped everything,” the prince lamented, “Cause and effect repeat as one follows the other. There are no exceptions.”
‘As for those technological means that transcend history and can still develop smoothly…
‘Those tactics and hacks that transcend the times and can conquer all…’
‘Sure enough, it can only appear upon rebirth and in fantasy novels.’
“But in any case, there is one thing that will never change.” Mallos stood up. His expression was solemn and his tone was cold. “All martial arts, ultimately, are violence.
“All violence, fundamentally, can kill.”
The watchman went on profoundly, “Your Highness, be careful.”
‘Power originates from violence.
‘Is that so?’
Thales lowered his gaze. “Why did you tell me all this? And even staged a demonstration?”
Mallos took a deep breath and slowly uttered, “Because, this is your lesson for the day.”
He looked towards the main building of Mindis Hall; his gaze was dim and his thoughts imperceptible.
“Are you ready?”
Thales did not reply immediately.
His thoughts were on another matter.
‘Since martial art styles and the Power of Eradication both bear the mark of their practitioners, have the trace of the epoch engraved into them, and reflect the power shifts in reality.
Thales’ gaze turned keen.
‘In the era when Magic Towers were still standing, when wizards had not died out, when magical knowledge had not been classified as taboo and was still the paramount knowledge of the world…
‘What did magic look like?
‘How did it interact with humans, relate to the times, and intertwine with reality?’
Right when Thales was engrossed in thought, a voice called out, “Commander, Your Highness!”
In the distance, following the sound of his footsteps, Bastia’s nervous, deep voice rang across the Training Field, “Renaissance Palace sent someone over!”
Thales and Mallos fell silent in unison.
Bastia’s sturdy body stepped onto the Training Field and stirred up a cloud of dust and sand.
“His Majesty has given a direct order!
“Summoning the Duke of Star Lake to see him in the palace immediately!”
Thales was silent for a while.
Mallos was motionless as well.
They disregarded the protector’s anxiety.
Finally, just when Bastia was about to repeat himself out of desperation, Thales gradually stood up.
Thales took a deep breath.
He smiled and responded to the watchman’s question earlier, “I’m done warming up.