Chapter 577: Lie
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Thales continued pushing the wheelchair subconsciously. His surroundings were muddled by the darkness. Only the figure of the old man in front of him was clear as ever, which made him uneasy.
This was the first word that occurred to the youth.
He stared solemnly at Morat in the wheelchair. His hand accidentally touched the black-veined vines, causing the latter to constrict.
Even after knowing the truth about mind reading, even after six years of experience, even after thinking that you are well-prepared…
The Black Prophet was still the Black Prophet.
Even if there was no clue or evidence, he could still trace the smell of deception and lies and smell the truth.
His father, his grandfather, rulers on the supreme throne, how did they face this wily monster?
How could they be at ease with such a viper—this grim figure that had ‘sinister’ written all over him—holding an important position in their Imperial Conference and being in control of intelligence?
Thales gripped onto the wheelchair.
In that moment, everything that happened at Blade Fangs Camp and Prison of Bones, along with the figures of Quick Rope, Zakriel and Barney Jr., flashed across Thales’ eyes.
“You have suffered greatly, and after experiencing great tribulations, you escaped from prison…not to obtain another pair of shackles…”
The cross they bore, the agony they have suffered, the pain they have experienced…
Thales contracted the muscles on his arms.
Morat kept looking ahead, leaving Thales with a view of the back of his head, which was hollow and frail.
A stark contrast to the endless gloom that he brought along with him.
Thales looked up slowly.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.
‘No,’ the youth silently repeated to himself, ‘No.’
No matter how intimidating The Black Prophet was, he could not let him break him.
He had to hold the line.
Whatever the cost.
Morat sneered, “I believe Yodel must have told you, to never…”
“Lie in front of you?” Thales interjected swiftly, cutting the Black Prophet short.
Morat cast a sideways glance at him.
“You’re right.” Thales decided to not overthink anymore. “I did lie.
“Just now, right in front of you.”
The prince looked impudent as he continued in an aloof tone, “So what?”
The Black Prophet froze.
The corridor was cold and dim. Only Thales’ footsteps continued to echo back and forth, masking the hair-raising sound of the demonic vines.
With a resolute and reckless will, Thales said coldly, “Because I didn’t want to tell you the truth, but still hoped to maintain civility between us.
“Yet that damned mind-reading psionic ability of yours—I don’t know how much of it is true—has to rip this tacit understanding to shreds every time, uncompromisingly, and force both of us into a corner?”
Morat turned around slowly and began to appraise Thales with an odd look.
But Thales wasn’t finished. He glared straight back at the Black Prophet and tried to shake off the fear that had taken root in him since their first encounter. “Why.
“To prove that you can? To show your power? To obtain the bargaining chips that you want? To hold that against me and control me?”
Thales called upon the Sin of Hell’s River to steady his heartbeat and breathing, and seal off any possible display of emotion.
He envisioned himself in that moment to be heartless and impervious.
The corridor was silent.
“Because it’s my job, boy,” Morat replied slowly. His voice was hoarse and his tone was ambiguous. “To stay vigilant, and eliminate threats.”
Thales stopped in his tracks.
The wheelchair came to an abrupt halt, causing Morat’s figure to sway slightly.
In the darkness, without the sound of footsteps, only the eerie rustling sounds of the demonic flesh contracting and stretching and writhing could be heard in the corridor, adding to the morbid silence.
“Then this is my choice, my lord,” a few seconds later, the Duke of Star Lake said impassively, “I lied, out of my interests and considerations.
Hidden from view, the Black Prophet narrowed his eyes.
“And you used the wrong form of address, Morat.” The second prince stared straight ahead into the darkness. “There’s no ‘boy’ here.
“Only Thales Jadestar.”
Morat was quiet for a second before scoffing, “Your choice?
“Even if your choice may endanger the kingdom?
“Even if your willfulness may conflict with your father…”
Thales slammed a palm onto Morat’s wheelchair, causing the demonic vines to wriggle violently, and sealed the Black Prophet’s words in the deafening sound.
“Have him confront me then.”
The Black Prophet’s gaze froze.
In the next instant, with a shove, Thales turned the wheelchair around slowly so that he was face to face with the old man.
At the same time, he forced himself to meet the gaze of this esteemed Chief of Intelligence.
“Go ahead. Tell him.”
Thales spoke softly, but there was no emotion in his voice, which made it chilling.
“Tell him I’ve hidden a squad of wanted ex-guards who are highly-skilled and have extensive knowledge of the workings and secrets of the palace,” his tone took a sharp turn, “So that I can instigate a coup at the critical moment, take Renaissance Palace and become king.”
The Black Prophet did not speak.
The black-veined vines around his legs writhed again.
Morat inhaled gently twice, seemingly adjusting.
The Duke of Star Lake reached both hands out and held on to the arms of the wheelchair. He gradually leaned over and pressed close to Morat’s decrepit face—even though it was unsettling.
“Didn’t he send me here for you to ask me about such a thing?”
Thales looked directly into the Black Prophet’s eyes from up close; he was close enough to count the wrinkles on the old man’s face.
“To stay vigilant, and eliminate threats?”
The darkness around them seemed to grow rampant, invading everything in sight, leaving only the two persons who were facing each other visible.
Morat’s gaze was dull and solitary as usual. It did not waver even the slightest; Thales could not glean any information from it.
But he knew that he could not retreat.
Finally, after what seemed like eternity, a smile creeped onto the old man’s face.
“I have to admit, that this is an unexpected surprise,” Morat appraised Thales meticulously and snorted, “Your Grace.”
Thales raised the corners of his lips to reveal a fake smile that held no trace of sincerity.
“There are many things beyond your expectations.” Letting go of the wheelchair, he stood upright and called Morat by his moniker, “You guys aren’t the only ones who are tired of wiping others’ asses.
Morat leaned back in his wheelchair. His sudden movement caused the black-veined vines to stir.
“You seem confident, Duke Thales.” The chief of the Secret Intelligence Department narrowed his eyes. “Confident that those escaped prisoners out there will not pose a threat—to harm either you, your father, or the relationship between the two of you.”
Thales scoffed, “So what?”
It was the third time that the prince had said this. His gaze was cold as frost.
He continued softly, “Hasn’t my uncle, the former second prince, Horace Jadestar done the same thing during the Bloody Year?”
The Black Prophet’s eyes widened.
“He secretly hired a fugitive like Black Sword, bought the assassins of Shadow Shield, incited the people in the capital, enticed the guards to cooperate tacitly, and at the critical moment, captured the palace in a coup, and even assassinated the former king and crown prince.
Thales was expressionless as he narrated indifferently, “Until he himself died from the betrayal of the former Duke of Nanchester on the eve of his return to the kingdom to succeed the throne.
“Once bitten, twice shy. Neither my father nor you are that stupid.”
The old man on the wheelchair stayed quiet for a long while as he continued to appraise Thales.
He stared into the youth’s eyes, as if staring at treasure.
“You are really good at gathering intelligence, aren’t you?”
Thales ignored Morat’s response and just glowered at him. “So you know.”
The Sin of Hell’s River roared in his blood vessels, helping the prince control his other impulses. “You know that, among those prisoners in the Prison of Bones, some did as they were ordered, some had no choice, some were forced to act, some were at a loss, and some had no clue.”
The Black Prophet continued to stare at him without saying a word.
“Collusion?” Thales sneered, “They may have failed to perform their duties, but moreso they have been condemned for the blood feud of the Jadestar royal family.”
He thought of Barney Jr. and the dead Nalgi in the Prison of Bones, and said through gritted teeth, “Allowing the past to be buried.”
Morat closed his eyes and inhaled gently, as if ruminating the dim light and depressed atmosphere.
“I understand now.”
The Black Prophet slowly opened his eyes and stared at Thales. “Why you released them.”
Thales did not evade his gaze, but met it instead. He nodded in response. “They have paid the price for not seeing the light of day for more than ten years.
“And, at least on the day I met them, they have completely atoned for their sins.”
He added sarcastically, “Compared to a certain malfunctional intelligence department that only knows how to clean up after a mess has been made, they were far more useful.”
Morat did not bother to make justifications but merely continued to stare at Thales. His thoughts were opaque.
“So I gave them freedom as a reward,” Thales went on in a resolute tone, “In a manner that was the most discreet, safest and most in line with the interests of the kingdom and did not harm the reputation of the royal family.”
The prince took a deep breath and composed himself. “Now, Lord Morat Hansen.
“Either you go to my father and tell him that his only son is keeping insurgents, harboring fugitives and plotting to take the throne, so should be eliminated as soon as possible to nip the problem in the bud.”
The Black Prophet caressed a demonic vine on the arm of his wheelchair with a somber look.
“And I will talk to him directly, one on one, face to face, royal to royal.
“I will bear the brunt of his fury.”
Thales’ gaze was solemn. “But this part will be a matter between us. You will no longer need to intervene, Lord Hansen.”
With an arrogance that was tangible on King Nuven and King Kessel, he continued coldly, “Because as a Jadestar, I only need to answer to another Jadestar.”
The corridor fell silent.
Morat looked at him; his emotions were inscrutable.
Thales narrowed his eyes. “Or you can know your place.
“And put away your sniffing nose, refrain from flaunting your prophetic psionic ability, control your Secret Intelligence Department voyeuristic desires, stop interfering with these lies that I actively choose to tell, stop threatening me with this strange tone of voice.”
Silence took over the conversation.
Only the endless rustling of the demonic flesh could be heard, like the scuttling of rats and snakes, yet like the buzzing of mosquitoes and flies feeding on rotten flesh.
In the next instant, Thales’ expression turned cold!
He suddenly reached a hand out and grabbed a restless black-veined vine beside the arm of the wheelchair.
The demonic flesh that was wrapped around the entire wheelchair started to shudder violently.
The Black Prophet’s expression changed slightly.
“And have this damned, noisy thing shut up.”
Sin of Hell’s River surged. Thales clenched his teeth and exerted force to rip a chunk of the flesh off and throw it to the ground.
“Or I will,” he ended coldly.
The effect was immediate. The flesh of the demon immediately moved away from Thales and “fled” to other parts of the wheelchair.
The rustling sound disappeared.
Throughout the process, Thales stared at the Black Prophet without shifting his gaze.
Morat steadied his breathing, but calmly looked towards the chunk of vine that struggled on the ground, gradually lost vigor and finally withered.
His gaze was profound.
After a few seconds, he turned to look at Thales again.
“Your trip to the north has indeed been extraordinary, Your Grace.
“In the past, you were not so unyielding. Even when you actively attacked, you were inevitably anxious and amateurish.”
Morat narrowed his eyes. In an emotional yet surprised tone, he continued, “But look at you now. Whether it’s threatening or extortion, to look tough or to probe, you are skilled as if it was your second nature.
“What changed you?”
‘What changed me?’
“If that’s the case, think carefully about what sort of person you’ve become after taking the role of a prince.
“…are you still yourself? Are you still Thales?
“Or have you… become something else?”
Thales frowned and brushed off Quick Rope’s words.
He straightened himself and forced himself to reply firmly, “I was born this way.
“You just realized it late.”
Morat was silent for a moment.
“They must be very important to you, eh?” the elderly man in the wheelchair asked interestedly, “Those fugitives.”
“Save it. If you want to go into that talk about “eliminating weaknesses” from six years ago,” the prince said disdainfully as he recalled that frank encounter in Ballard Room, “My father has been at it all morning.”
The Black Prophet did not speak, and was still waiting for an answer to his question.
Thales looked away, trying hard to forget the people in the Prison of Bones.
“It is not them that matter.
“But myself,” he said through gritted teeth, “My principles, my rules, my choices.
“There is a fat—ahem—reward in loyalty.”
The Duke of Star Lake lowered his gaze and stared directly at Morat.
“And those who hurt me must pay a price.
“Do I make myself clear, My Lord?”
Silence lasted for longer this time.
Until Morat, who had been staring back at Thales quietly, raised the corners of his lips to reveal a strange smile.
The vines on his legs were still squirming, but was much more restrained.
Staring at Morat’s smile, Thales suppressed his anxiety.
“Don’t worry, Your Grace. I am not such a heartless person.”
The Black Prophet placed his hands on his knees and squinted. “Since you have personally said it out loud and staked your own reputation on it, we will certainly give you face.”
In that moment, Thales felt relieved inside.
“Moreover, it’s been eighteen years.”
Morat tapped the wheelchair gently, as if appeasing it. He looked lost in thought. “That old band from Renaissance Palace have long been outdated. Whatever damage they can cause will be limited and they aren’t capable of creating any big waves. I naturally don’t have to waste any budget in issuing a warrant for their arrest.”
‘Well, except maybe for one person.’
The Chief of Intelligence snapped out of his daze and grinned. “It’s just, next time, Your Grace, please put more trust in us.”
“Williams is not a professional after all,” The Black Prophet said calmly, “The Secret Intelligence Department would be more than capable of arranging something like faking deaths.”
He cast a glance at Thales. “And you wouldn’t have to use such extreme methods to come up with justifications and avoid disaster?”
Thales’ thoughts froze as he replied with much difficulty, “Of course.”
The Black Prophet smiled knowingly. “But your father will find out sooner or later, do you understand?”
Thales answered shakily, “Of course.”
“Shall we continue then, Your Grace?”
Thales took a deep breath and put his hands back on the handles of the wheelchair (the black-veined vines fled in the opposite direction again) and turned it around, shrouding Morat’s face in darkness once more.
Thales strode forward and they set along the path again.
“Very well, you are well on your way,” Morat said casually.
Thales was mildly puzzled. “Huh?”
“I’ve been at the Secret Intelligence Department for a long time, boy.”
This time, there was a hint of sorrow in his words. “For some time now, everyone has become cautious and daunted before me.
“As for someone who is comfortable, unencumbered and unafraid to lie to me?”
‘Someone unafraid to lie to the Black Prophet…’ Thales mulled these words over.
Morat continued, “Since the Bloody Year, after the former king and Crown Prince Midier passed away, Sunset knows I haven’t met such a person in a very long time.”
He chuckled, as if he recalled something, then shook his head slowly.
Thales had a peculiar expression on his face.
He could not believe that he sensed…reminiscence and sentimentality from this famously menacing Chief of Intelligence?
“What about before that?” Thales took the opportunity to ask, “My uncle, my grandfather—when they stood before you, how did you interact?”
The Black Prophet stayed silent for a second.
“Like with you earlier.”
Thales’ footsteps staggered, but he was able to recover quickly.
“Whether the former king or crown prince, they were never afraid nor concerned about lying in front of me—even if they knew that I had such an ability, the ability to see through their lies.”
In the endless darkness and gloom, Morat asked softly, “And do you know why?”
Thales pondered for a while.
‘Aydi the Second, and Crown Prince Midier…
‘They were never afraid nor concerned about lying in front of The Black Prophet?’
Thales was somewhat surprised.
In that moment, he suddenly recalled King Kessel’s description of the two men at the tomb, as well as the king who went up against the world whom Zakriel mentioned in the Prison of Bones.
But he quickly returned to the present.
“Power,” Thales answered musingly, “Because they had power.
“They were not afraid of you.
“So they didn’t care what you thought.”
He stared blankly at the back of the Black Prophet’s head. “And as an official who is subordinate to them, you had no reason nor need to expose their lies.”
Inexplicably, Thales was reminded of the night that he and Quick Rope exposed each other’s identities.
“This has nothing to do with your power, Thales. On the contrary, the more powerful you are, and the bigger your influence is, the tighter these shackles will bind you. The deeper you’re sucked in, the more you can’t escape from it.
“Just like our fathers.”
The Black Prophet burst into laughter and applauded.
He continued laughing for a while before saying in a relaxed tone, “Power.
There was melancholy in Morat’s words. “Power is unafraid to lie.
“To some extent, it likes to lie, takes pleasure in lying, and is good at lying. Only through lies can its strength flow, discerning the enemy from the self and highlighting its existence.”
His tone became tense, which subconsciously made Thales vigilant. “When it makes one go against their will and nature and makes those who are aware of impropriety feel numb, convince themselves to give up questioning and believe in the lies, it becomes true power.”
Thales slipped into a daze as he listened on.
“The emperor’s new clothes, the elephant in the room,” the prince said quietly, “They lie to us, we know they are lying to us, they know that we know they are lying to us, but they continue to lie, and we continue to pretend to believe them.”
The Black Prophet ruminated for a while and responded with a puzzled “well”.
“These aren’t my words,” Thales snapped out of it and coughed, “It was by a female author… It’s a saying in Northland.”
Morat was silent for a while, as if recalling something, and then refuted, “No, there is definitely no such saying in Northland.”
Initially flustered, Thales proceeded to smile in relief.
“Indeed, there isn’t,” he said unhesitatingly, “I was lying.”
The Black Prophet smiled. “I know.”
Thales scoffed, “Yes, I know you know.”
He looked up at the path ahead. A door appeared at the end of the corridor. “So, the next time I lie, please understand.”
Morat exhaled and seemed incredibly pleased. “Welcome aboard, Duke Thales.”
Thales was silent for a while. “It is my honor, Lord Hansen.”
The Black Prophet nodded and said cynically, “But you have to understand that, when I know the truth but choose not to expose you, I am also lying.”
His statement was profound. “So don’t get too used to it.”
A past memory flashed before Thales’ eyes.
“They were all twisted, Thales, twisted.
“All of them, including my father and elder brother, were twisted and held captive, Thales. They were held captive and enslaved by power. They lost themselves because of power.
“They became something else while they were bound by those shackles. They were apathetic tools, cold-blooded scums, and paranoid tyrants. They were everything but themselves.”
“Of course.” Thales shuddered and stopped thinking about what Quick Rope said. “Of course.”
The youth’s footsteps continued forward steadily.
For some reason, after this round of negotiations and probing with The Black Prophet, he had clearly neutralized the danger that Quick Rope and those fugitive guards faced, and blocked the threat.
But unlike his previous escapes.
This time, he did not feel relaxed at all.
Nor any sense of relief.
On the contrary, this time, particularly when The Black Prophet laughed, Thales felt the burden on him grow heavier.
And more strained.
Becoming harder to escape from.
He subconsciously squeezed the wheelchair.
“Last question, boy.”
Thales focused his attention and was put on guard.
“Can you steady the wheelchair?”
Thales had an odd expression on his face. The elderly Chief of Intelligence leaned back in his wheelchair and let out a long sigh, “I’m aching all over.”
Finally, with the mixed emotions of embarrassment and anxiety, Thales did as he was instructed and pushed Morat into a dimly lit room.
Thales let go of the wheelchair and started to survey the strange room. The room had a simple interior. It was small and narrow, and visibility was poor. The most striking feature was a huge mirror that hung on the wall across from them, which barely reflected the blurred seated and standing figures of Morat and himself respectively.
However, in the next instant, a spot of light appeared on its surface and the entire mirror lit up.
Thales retreated with a frown, but he immediately realized that there was another bigger room within the “mirror”, and Raphael was stood in it.
“One-way glass,” Morat chuckled, “Made by infusing Crystal Drop into it. Costs a fortune.”
“We can see them, but they can’t see us.”
‘I know, I’ve seen it before. Who are you trying to fool?’
Peeved, Thales kept the above words to himself.
“Where is this?”
“The interrogation room,” Morat answered simply, “Please stay quiet, Your Highness. We have yet been able to achieve perfect one-way sound—there’s no cheap solution.”
Thales frowned as he looked through the glass into the other room. Raphael muttered something to a few subordinates and the latter left the room.
The Barren Bone man turned around and nodded towards Thales and The Black Prophet.
“Who is being interrogated?” Thales asked, perplexed, “Anker Byrael from last night?”
Morat did not answer the prince, but instead looked around at the dim surroundings and said emotionally, “Ah, whether it’s this end or that end, I really miss this place.
“Especially this glass. It holds great significance. When we moved, we practically transported it over whole and intact.”
“Why?” Thales stared at Raphael on the other side.
The Black Prophet scoffed.
“Eighteen years ago.” He pointed at the one-way glass. In contrast to his usual self, his eyes were brimming with vigor. “The person who sat on the other side of this glass was a disreputable Eckstedtian noble in his prime.
“Count of the City of Halting Light from Black Sand Region.”
He whispered a name, “Called—Chapman Lampard.”
Thales was shocked. He looked towards the glass again.
“And at this end, I was stood where you are. Seated in my spot was the crown prince of Constellation…”
Morat exhaled and looked nostalgic. “Midier Jadestar.”
In the dark and depressing room, The Black Prophet said slowly, “When the fledgling dragon devours the dragon king, the oath is broken. When new blood replaces old blood, the furnace is set alight.
“That year, Dragon’s Blood—the clandestine operation which targeted the chief of the enemy country, unveiled the renaissance of Constellation and placed the pivotal chesspiece on the chessboard laid by the Virtuous King—was born across both sides of this glass.”