Chapter 110 - Paid Homage

Kingdom’s Bloodline Masterless Sword, 无主之剑 2022/9/13 16:51:39

Chapter 110: Paid Homage

Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation

Eckstedt. The road to Dragon Clouds City from Black Sand Region.

“Here, I will still give you a piece of advice, Your Highness. Put those two flags away… especially the Constellation national flag—the Double Cross-Shaped Stars Flag.” Amid a troop of advancing Northland soldiers, Viscount Kentvida held the reins in his hands as he rode to Thales’ side, even though Thales was tightly protected from all sides. Kentvida ignored Putray and Wya’s extremely unhappy looks from the side while he spoke to the second prince, “Although we have two thousand well-trained Northland elite soldiers, many of them being the regular troops by the archduke’s side, it is obviously still not the best choice to let everyone on this journey know that the Prince of Constellation is here.”

Thales was not at all in the mood to pay attention to the snowy scenery on both sides, as well as the faintly discernible mountain range and occasional wisps of smoke far away in front of him. The reason why he ignored the Northland’s majestic scenery of snow-covered mountains was partly because he was still pondering on what Ramon said to him two days ago, another part was because of the horse under him.

He currently rode alone, and he controlled the horse under him very carefully in case the horse decided to fling him off its back from time to time. Ralf anxiously followed beside Thales and he was prepared to support and hold up his young employer using his wind power at any time.

Although Jines and Gilbert had already taught him almost every horse-riding trick during his one month in Mindis Hall, it still seemed that Thales could not get along with horses naturally. Regardless of whether it was the little pony in Mindis Hall, or the usually docile and obedient Northland noble’s horse he had borrowed from Archduke Lampard—which had been specifically equipped with child saddle—it was obvious that both horses did not want him to ride or even approach them.

‘Oh, right. Saddle… Did Ramon not say that this is also a wizard’s invention? So, is magic a science of this world? And wizards are a group of people who are committed to the study and exploration of the truth? Then what is the mystic energy about? How did magic disappear?

‘It’s a shame that our conversation that day was quickly interrupted by Kentvida. It seems that I have to find another chance next time.’

Thales panicked when he watched the horse beneath him cross over an uneven snow pit, then he released a breath of relief.

“I thought, for a diplomat group to show off their flag to indicate their identity, that it should be for an international convention.” Thales turned his head around and looked at Kentvida helplessly. At the same time, he paid careful attention to the saddled horse under him, which chewed its mouth in dissatisfaction. “Also, we have an army of two thousand people that forms a continuous line of several hundred meters from beginning to end. With such large movements, even if I do not erect my flag, will the people really be unaware that the Prince of Constellation has set foot on Eckstedt territory?

“Or rather, it is Archduke Lampard who feels that there is actually no benefit in showing the people that he is far too close to the Prince of Constellation?”

Kentvida offered him a smile. “Your Highness, please believe in the archduke’s—”

But Putray cut him off, “Since he had no choice but to send out two thousand soldiers to ensure that the prince will not perish in his territory but still has to display an appropriate hostility towards Constellation for the citizens of his own country to see. Archduke Lampard’s circumstance is actually quite difficult… Excluding the cost it took to mobilize the territory, for all the money he spent, he was still unable to acquire Broken Dragon Fortress… it is also really too arduous for him.” Putray slowly smoked his tobacco pipe and gave Kentvida a sneer.

Kentvida’s expression became a little sour.

It was not reflected in the previous journey and battle, but Thales had a feeling that once Putray started to have contact with people, it seems that the vice diplomat would return to his most comfortable state on the battlefield. Kentvida had come to Thales’ side a few times during the journey and intentionally brought up political topics, but Putray had answered back—sometimes with humor or sometimes with words that would cause someone embarrassment.

“Regardless of what the Archduke of Black Sand’s motives are, whether it is beneficial to you… You should communicate directly with King Nuven and not an adviser working under the Archduke of Black Sand.” This was Putray’s calm, discreet explanation.

Lampard had officially withdrawn his troops two days ago, and the diplomat group had also departed at the same time.

On the backs of the jolting horses, they would leave the Northern Plains today and enter the Sighing Hills. The southwest section of the hill was still part of Black Sand Region, but northeast of the hills was the territory under the jurisdiction of Eckstedt’s Archduke of the Reformation Tower, the Trentida Family.

Even though Thales had rejected Lampard’s goodwill and suggestion of an alliance without any sign of hesitation, Archduke Lampard still generously allocated two thousand soldiers to Thales. Of the two thousand people, the regular soldiers would protect Thales on the journey, whereas the recruits would gradually disband and return home.

Thales also did not know if he should say that the archduke was generous, hypocritical, or both at the same time.

At this very moment, a knight with a gray helmet separated from the infantry formation in front and rode his way to their side.

Thales could feel that Aida’s state slowly changed from boredom to anxiety when she rode her horse behind him. In fact, after Thales was soaked by that fluctuation, it seemed as if all of Thales’ organs had some minute but real alleviation.

It seemed as if the fluctuation was not only something to rely on during emergencies, yet its presence also gradually altered Thales’ body… But it was exactly what Thales was most worried about.

He could not really remember how he ‘died’ when Serena strangled his neck. Or rather, he had no memory of what happened during that time when he was temporarily unconscious. But Thales always felt that he had experienced something important, and that fluctuation appeared after he awoke.

“Rayman Pass is just up ahead.” The knight with the gray helmet that came from the front was a supreme class elite who had previously confronted Arracca on the battlefield. The Fire Knight, Tolja, solemnly reined his horse in and rode with Thales in the same direction, he gravely said, “There is a village where we can rest and eat. We will continue our journey in the afternoon, and let the scouts go forward to make discreet inquiries at the same time. After all, we will reach the Archduke of Reformation Tower’s area of jurisdiction soon.”

Thales keenly noticed that both Putray and Wya’s expression darkened slightly after Tolja finished saying the phrase ‘Rayman Pass’, whereas Kentvida curved his lips into a smile.

“What do you think about this, Your Highness?” Without waiting for anyone else to speak up, Kentvida gave Thales a smile and said, “Regardless of whether it is a practical or personal reason, I recommend you to stop and take a rest at Rayman Pass so that you can touch up or pay homage.”

‘Personal reason? Pay homage?’

During Thales’ uncertainty, Putray rode to his side and sighed deeply, “Rayman Pass is the southwest starting point of the Sighing Hills. It is also the only road entering the hills from the Northland Plains.” The slim vice diplomat extinguished his tobacco pipe and furrowed his brows, whereas beside him, Wya turned his head.

“But that is also the final place where the former Second Prince of Constellation, Prince Horace, had perished during the Bloody Year.” Putray said without any hesitation on his face.

Thales’ face changed when he understood the reason behind everyone else’s change in expression.

Obviously, Kentvida found a topic that Thales had no choice but to answer. Alas, it concerned the war between Eckstedt and Constellation. As the Prince of Constellation, Thales lowered his eyelids at the appropriate time and sighed, “Of course, Horace was also my blood relative.”

Kentvida laughed as he nodded, but Thales was also secretly muttering in his heart, ‘The Swordsman of Eradication praised by Kessel, and the general from the royal family with the strict military regulations praised by Sonia… died here…

‘But this is also an opportunity to gain further understanding about the truth of the Bloody Year.’

He turned to Putray. “What is the prince’s cause of death?”

Putray sighed in the face of Thales’ question. He was the first person to answer, “It was the end of the Bloody Year. That winter was abnormally warm. King Nuven gathered an army of almost ten thousand people from the seven archdukes. They had abundant food and weapons when they attacked the fortress with weak military strength from all sides.

“At that time, the Southwest Battlefield had reached the juncture of its final battle in Constellation. Duke John cornered the last main force of the rebel army at Blade’s Gap. The victory of the Rebellion War was approaching, but that also meant that they were unable to head north to help. Reinforcements for Broken Dragon Fortress was far in the indefinite future.” Putray shook his head and put away his tobacco pipe. He then continued with a complicated gaze in his eyes. “Trebuchets, ballistae, Mystic Guns and numerous City Infiltration Units… They faced uninterrupted onslaught and were never bothered by any sacrifices. Prince Horace believed that it was only a matter of time before Broken Dragon Fortress would be breached by the enemy, so he took the risk to attack. He brought a few units to secretly cross the Pine Forest and suddenly infiltrated Eckstedt’s supply line from behind.”

The next person who took over the conversation was the Eckstedt commander. “That was a risky decision,” Kentvida chuckled, “Obviously, this was Constellation’s miscalculation. Horace lost his bet, and paid the price for his decision…”

Wya glared indignantly at him.

“That was a good decision, at least it went straight for your crucial territories,” Putray snorted coldly as he replied.

Thales furrowed his brows and he did not know what to say in that moment.

It was best for him to keep quiet at that moment because of his identity. He had heard about the royal family’s tragedy during the Bloody Year from Gilbert. In his story, it was Horace who stepped into the Eckstedtians’ trap.

And Gilbert’s statement of saying that “There was no reinforcements during those three hours” seemed like he was hinting to Thales that Horace’s death was the same as the other royal family members’—that they died because someone had set them up.

But according to Putray and Kentvida, it seemed as if it was Horace himself who took the risk to attack, and he brought the consequences upon himself?

And since the place was so far away from Constellation’s border, did the phrase “no reinforcements during those three hours” not seem extremely normal?

He needed to know more.

Beside them, Tolja spoke up at this moment, “That was indeed a sensible decision.”

After he heard Tolja’s view, Kentvida’s expression became unhappy when he looked at the Fire Knight. Tolja’s solemn voice made Thales furrow his brows in an instant.

“Horace succeeded half of his plan. He managed to burn and destroy almost a quarter of our supplies. Our supply line was too long and too fragile, and his move at least bought quite some time for Broken Dragon Fortress,” Tolja said in a deep voice. He sounded like he was defending Horace against an unjust accusation. “If we had not detected it earlier, and if King Nuven did not stop attacking the city, had the frontline main forces withdraw, and did not set an ambush on the way back to the fortress…”

“Yes, we blocked Horace on his way back from Pine Forest and forced him to the plains.” Viscount Kentvida snorted. He seemed as if he was quite dissatisfied. “Just like how we capture a fox.”

Putray’s expression fell. Thales also felt very awkward, whereas Wya had an indignant look on his face.

Any Constellatiate would be unhappy when they listen to an Eckstedtian tell the story of how they killed a Prince of Constellation.

But Lord Tolja once again opened his mouth to speak, “It is unfair of you to put it this way. After all, he only had a little over a thousand people,” he was heard saying seriously, “We used an army that was almost twenty times larger than his and firmly surrounded Horace on the plains. But his warriors were all rare elites with willpower as strong as Northlanders. Under their counter-attack, the Archduke of Elaphure City’s troops faced serious casualties, the Archduke of Beacon Illumination City and the Archduke of Prestige Orchid’s war flags even, at one time, faltered and retreated.

“King Nuven had no choice but to use the resting soldiers and sent the elite White Blade Guards under him to block the gap. Only then did he manage to stabilize the battle line. The battlefield was extremely disastrous, even the rising black smoke was visible to the fortress… If Broken Dragon Fortress sent reinforcements at that time and made a sudden attack from the side of the chaotic battlefield, they might have stood a chance to save your prince.”

Putray grasped his reins tighter in his hands. Thales was momentarily stunned.

“But they did not dispatch the army?” Thales recalled the scene from a few days ago when he had encountered the besiegement below the fortress, and asked in puzzlement, “The fortress did not send out the army?”

“No, I still remember that from afternoon till night, the people in the fortress watched Horace’s troops collapse one after another in the plains…” Tolja said indifferently.

Thales recalled what Gilbert said and he furrowed his brows together. “There were no reinforcements during those three hours…”

“Regarding this point. There was certainly a reason behind the fortress’ choice,” Putray said with a stiff face,

“Oh, come on.” Kentvida snorted coldly. “Even Eckstedtians felt bitterly disappointed when we witnessed how they turned away a dying man.”

‘Turned away a dying man?’

Thales held the reins tightly in his hands and clenched his teeth as he endured another jolt from his horse.

Kentvida glanced at Thales with a slightly meaningful gaze. “Of course, maybe they were as cautious and careful as the Fortress Flower two days ago.”

“So, who was it?” Thales turned around and asked in confusion, “Who was the person who guarded the Broken Dragon Fortress when Horace brought his troops out to attack?”

Putray had a worried expression on his face when he turned his gaze upon Thales.

“Go on.” Kentvida chuckled. “Tell your prince who was responsible for Horace’s death… This is not some secret anyway.”

Thales suddenly realized that it was quite inappropriate to discuss the matter in front of an Eckstedtian.

Putray glared at Kentvida in dissatisfaction, but he still sighed and answered, “The Northern Territory was in a crisis at that time. The previous king ordered the surrounding nobles to go forward and provide help, and reinforcements of the largest scale came from Land of Cliffs Region… the closest dukedom of Constellation to the Northern Territory.”

Putray worriedly observed Thales’ expression until he was sure that the boy’s emotions did not change drastically. While he did that, he said, “And after Horace left, the commander of Broken Dragon Fortress was naturally the person with the second highest rank at the time.”

Thales was slightly stunned. Putray furrowed his brows but he still continued, “That was the current Duke of the Land of Cliffs Region, ‘One-Eyed Dragon’ Koshder Nanchester’s older brother. Later when the Broken Dragon Fortress had been breached, he was held captive by Eckstedt, and in the end, died in prison.”

Thales jolted right after Putray finished speaking, ‘The former Duke Nanchester who was also the current Duke Nanchester’s brother… Could he be related to the suspiciously strange death of Horace?

‘At least, when Horace was surrounded, the One-Eyed Dragon’s older brother did not lend a hand. He did not even save him and watched him die, right…? More importantly, had Kessel also thought of it this way? What about the One-Eyed Dragon? What does he think of it? What does he feel about Kessel’s perception on the matter? And the One-Eyed Dragon’s brother whom had already died… Was it really…?

‘Also, what the One-Eyed Dragon told me before I departed from Eternal Star City…”The Land of Cliffs Region did not want to resign itself to death.” That was what he said back then.’

As Thales pondered about the relations in this matter, his brows furrowed tighter and tighter.

Putray patted Thales’ saddle and shook his head at Thales.

‘Do not think too much…’ Thales felt that this was what he meant.

“At that time, Horace probably felt like there was already no hope in returning to the fortress.” The Fire Knight, Tolja caressed a sheathed sword on his saddle. He seemed to be recalling the past when he said with a bitter smile, “He made a decision that nobody had expected.”

Putray shook his head. His face showed his desolation.

Thales raised his brow. “He-What did Horace do?”

“He did not break through towards the direction of the fortress anymore,” Tolja put on a respectful smile on his face, “Just like you, Horace turned around and broke out of the encirclement in the opposite direction, all the way to the north.”

A thought appeared in Thales’ heart. ‘Just like us?’

Thales recalled what the man, once known as the Kingdom’s Wrath, had said to him a few days ago on the battlefield, before they broke towards the direction of Lampard’s flag.

“Long, long ago, a Jadestar once told me during an impasse…’If we are unable to retreat, then why do we not go forward with all our strength?'”

So… what Arracca had said was…

“For a whole day and night, they escaped to this place. We, the army of Black Sand Region also pursued them to this place.” Tolja had a complicated expression on his face. He raised his hand and pointed at the snow-covered hills that had just started to appear in front of them. Thales turned his gaze towards them.

They had reached to the end of the plains. Black mountains half covered in snow began to appear in front of them.

Between the two low mountains, there was a narrow entrance that was only as wide as the road. The advancing speed of the Eckstedt troops slowed until it came to a stop.

“We have arrived,” Viscount Kentvida said faintly, “This is Rayman Pass.”

Thales looked at the cluster of strange stones in front of him that were covered in snow while he asked Tolja with an odd feeling in his heart. “This is the battlefield of that year?”

“We cornered them, and once again, had them surrounded tightly. Horace’s remaining troops held their positions beside those stones,” Tolja nodded and said with a deep gaze in his eyes, “The former Archduke of Black Sand lit a torch and personally led his guards to assault continuously from all sides. He also commanded his guards not to use their bows. He wanted the glory of capturing a Prince of Constellation alive.

“On the other hand, Horace defended his position under the Nine-Pointed Star war flag, he personally held his sword while clad in his black armor. Regardless of how the people around him fell one by one under the axes, he never took a step backwards.

“The best warriors of both parties pounced at one another while they roared in anger, and then one by one, they fell in between the stones. Although we had the advantage of a great force that night, all four supreme class experts from our side were injured, one of them even lost his life here.”

The Fire Knight seemed quite rueful when he talked about the history of the battlefield, whereas Kentvida chose to keep quiet as he stared at Tolja with his brows furrowed together.

“Horace’s sword pierced through my chest with a single strike. Before he could strike a second time, I was yanked down by someone behind me.” Tolja sighed and touched his right chest.

Thales furrowed his brows, ‘Was that the Sword of Reversing Light?’

“Prince Horace learned his sword style from the Tower of Eradication, and he also had experience from the army and the battlefield. Only the ‘Enemy of the Wolves’ could compare to his brave name in the Jadestar Royal Family’s history,” Putray said slowly. His face had a profound expression when he stared at the cluster of strange stones before his eyes. Thales heard Aida snort lightly behind him.

“The old Archduke of Black Sand gave up on his motive. He realized that his intention of capturing Horace alive will only result in more casualties on our side. In the final, fierce battle, Horace beheaded the Unending Fire, Terende, despite suffering more than ten wounds on his body. Then, his heart was pierced through by a sword.” Tolja prompted his horse to move forward and he stared at a stone that was half the height of an average man, as if he had returned to that night twelve years ago, the night where swords shone and the shadows of blades were everywhere due to war.

“A prince lost his life here.” Kentvida shook his head. “This place will probably become memorial spot for sightseeing in the future.”

Wya glared fiercely at him without any mercy.

“Yes,” Putray replied sarcastically, “You should build a statue for Prince Horace… to commemorate his bravery and fearlessness, as well as his skills in killing the enemy.”

Thales sighed, closed his eyes, then bowed deeply towards the land filled with the strange stones stood. They were yet another group of unfortunate people who died during battle.

“The last of his soldiers also lost their fighting spirit when they saw Horace collapse. And when we thought that everything was going to end here, a soldier by Horace’s side managed to snatch the bow left by Terende in the middle of the chaos,” Tolja continued to say faintly.

Kentvida’s expression suddenly changed.

Thales raised his brow and said with some surprise in his voice, “You are saying…”

Tolja gazed towards the south, and he exhaled a long breath, “That soldier carried Horace’s corpse, took the bow, roared like a deranged man with arrows sticking out of him and while covered head to toe in injuries. He led the last remaining few soldiers and rushed out of the encirclement. For some unknown reason, we could not stop him. He continued charging until he reached the old Archduke of Black Sand, and then…”

Tolja revealed a meaningful smile that was difficult to understand and he snorted lightly. “That soldier disappeared into the night amid of the chaos. Thenceforth, Arracca Murkh has been known as the ‘Kingdom’s Wrath’ by the people.”

Tolja caressed his sword, an unending desire to fight glinted in his eyes.

Thales took a deep breath and gazed at the cluster of strange stones from afar. But he could not tell that twelve years ago, numerous warriors and a prince lost their lives at this place, and another legend had since then become famous.

‘No, there are still some doubts…’ Thales turned over towards Tolja.

“So, Lord Tolja, you personally experienced the war between the two countries twelve years ago? Including how the Broken Dragon Fortress was breached?”

“I had participated in that war.” The Fire Knight nodded. “But as I had mentioned just now, thanks to Prince Horace’s sword, I was injured in the early stage of the war. By the time I entered the battlefield again, a few months had already passed and it was the late stage of the war. At that time, Sonia Sasere led her Starlight Brigade and took in disabled soldiers as well as disgraced warriors… including Murkh, and they headed north to fight a few battles with us.”

“Oh.” Thales had a realization. “You battled against the Fortress Flower before?”

‘I should say that he was truly one of the Eckstedt’s “Five War Generals”.’

“No, I did not have a chance to fight against her.” Tolja furrowed his brows. “Because of a despicable rat.”

“Despicable rat?” Thales was slightly stunned. “Who?”

“I do not know.” Viscount Kentvida laughed. “Constellation’s little trick… Tolja took it to his heart all this while.”

‘Do not know who it was? Took it to heart?’

Eckstedt’s Fire Knight was heard giving out a cold snort. “On the battlefield, a damned fellow disguised himself as one of us and hid himself behind my back. He waited until I breached the enemy lines, and when I was just about to attack the core of the Starlight Brigade’s battle formation, that despicable fellow attacked me from behind… I was seriously injured once again and did not manage to get the chance to directly confront Sasere or Murkh.”

Tolja furrowed his brows and said through clenched teeth, “I still remember to this day that the damned, despicable assassin ducking out of sight as he escaped. He hid himself behind a strange, purple mask and he used a gray short sword. He appeared and disappeared unpredictably, and was extremely fast.”

Thales emitted an “oh” with a strange expression on his face and scratched his head.

‘Disguised as someone else. Attacked the enemy from the back. Purple mask. Gray short sword. Appeared and disappeared unpredictably, extremely fast speed…

‘These traits and habits… Where have I heard about it from?’

Behind him, Aida lightly snorted again.

“Is that so?” Thales furrowed his brows as he stared at Tolja’s cold eyes. He nodded sternly and said, “Such an act is indeed despicable!”