Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
A distance away, Putray bid farewell to Viscount Kentvida. The latter continued leading Black Sand Region’s troops forward, and the former returned to the prince’s side.
“Ah, Marquis, huh…” Marquis Shiles nodded at Putray, who just returned. He exhaled. “Marquis… hehe…”
“Actually, my status within Camus Union is only about the same as the counts who rule a city… Even Good Flow City is not in my sole jurisdiction.” Marquis Shiles smiled slightly. “However, as a tradesman, I often have to visit dukes and kings to forge good relations, so my status cannot be too shabby… After all, not every kingdom is like Constellation and Eckstedt, who have the clout to dispatch barons or even lords as envoys to each other’s kingdoms…”
“Oh?” Thales scratched his head and said while feeling incredibly awkward, “So, it is actually not a common practice in the world to dispatch barons, lords, and envoys, and it is only done between Eckstedt and Constellation?”
Riding in front of the prince, Putray turned his head back and shook it slightly. “The relationship between Constellation and the Dragon is a special case. Apart from Mane et Nox and Hanbol, you probably won’t be able to find another pair of kingdoms who despise and hate each other to this extent.”
“Thus, for a little suzerain like me whose territory is adjacent to various powerful kingdoms, I have no choice but to visit them frequently.” Marquis Shiles blinked and flashed a humble and bemused smile.
“A resolution was passed by Camus Union’s Joint Parliament to officiate as an alleged ‘honorary marquis’. It appears to be a rank higher than counts, but does not exceed that of archdukes and dukes. This lets those visited by us to feel as if they are taken seriously while not pressuring them with the status. In truth, there is not much difference between us and the usual counts.”
Putray nodded. “In contrast, Constellation and Eckstedt inherited the Empire’s system of classifying nobles. The highest would be the aristocratic dukes or archdukes that are of honorable origins, and guard all the borders. After that are the counts who are the suzerains of feudal territories, and the viscounts who are slightly below them. Then, the local barons whose titles have been passed down from generation to generation. Lastly, the lords who only have assets but no right to inherit titles.”
Shiles chuckled bitterly. “Only Camus Union has the strange title of ‘marquis’. It is just because of the trend of the times. Please take no notice of it.
Thales nodded. He turned his head and inadvertently saw a figure in a white cape to his left, diagonally ahead of him. It was the Star Killer, Nicholas, who represented King Nuven.
As though having felt Thales’ gaze, he turned his head around abruptly. His sharp gaze shot towards Thales like the blade of a sword, as though warning him. Thales could not help but frown.
“Lord Nicholas… It’s not very easy to get along with him, is it?” Beside Thales, Shiles noticed his gaze and flashed an understanding smile. “Northlanders are simple and straightforward, but they are also awful beings when they are stubborn.”
Thales turned to the noble from another kingdom; a stranger to him.
Putray faintly replied Marquis Shiles, “It appears that you are rich with experiences. I recall that Good Flow City is the neighbor of the City of Faraway Prayers west of Eckstedt? Do you often keep in touch with Archduke Ronnie’s family?”
“Trust me, I understand the difficulties of being neighbors with Northlanders,” Shiles sighed, “I have dealt with them many times. Sometimes, you would fall in love with their frankness and integrity, but sometimes you would also hate to death their rigidness and inflexibility.”
A cold voice interrupted them, “To discuss about people behind their backs is not a good way to do business, Your Grace.”
Thales was stunned. Nicholas had at some point ridden his horse to Thales’ left side.[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
“What is the matter, Lord Nicholas?” Putray asked with a serious expression without sounding rude.
Seeing that the Star Killer from the White Blade Guards had approached, Wya vigilantly held the handle of his sword as he walked on Thales’ left side.
“Step back, Star Killer.” Wya pulled out half of his sword’s blade with an unpleasant expression. “I have noted your inquiries, but His Highness does not need you to escort him.”
Nicholas was totally unconcerned and snorted coldly.
On the other hand, Ralf increased his pace and caught up with Thales’ steed. He had an anxious expression.
Following Thales on his right, Aida crossed her arms and intentionally, or unintentionally, drew closer to Nicholas. “Brat, if you want to fight, I am up for it any time.”
Thales had no choice but to raise his hand, signalling for the Constellatiates to hold their horses and not worry.
“Both of you know each other?” Thales furrowed his brows. “The commander of the White Blade Guards and the marquis of a city in Camus Union?”
Nicholas’ gaze was deep and he made no comment. On the other hand, Shiles smiled slightly and said, “We have met a few times.”
Thales shook his head. But then he immediately raised it and looked at Nicholas. He then looked at the smiling Marquis Shiles. He could not help but become stunned.
“Marquis Shiles,” Thales asked with slight curiosity, “Yesterday night when you first came, you mentioned that you were also in Eckstedt for a diplomatic trip?”
“Yes, the Crystal Drop Ore Contract between Good Flow City and Dragon Clouds City is almost expiring. At the same time, I am here start up other businesses.” Marquis Shiles blinked profoundly. “In truth, I and my diplomat group had stayed at the periphery of Dragon Clouds City for a month and discussed a few large trades with a few suzerains… Hearing that the Prince of Constellation is at Prestige Orchid Region, I came to visit.”
‘Dragon Clouds City.’ Thales had an idea.
“You travelled purposely to Prestige Orchid Region from Dragon Clouds City just to visit me?” Thales mentally drew the map of Eckstedt that Putray had recounted to him these past few days in his mind. Not knowing whether to believe Shiles or not, he said, “You really set your mind to it, did you not? From what I know, the journey is not easy.”
“That’s why I said that Camians would definitely want something from you,” Aida said with disdain, “Who would travel such a long distance for no reason other than to visit an unlucky child?”
Thales scratched his head awkwardly. Putray regained his attention and carefully contemplated the relationship.
“Haha, there is a quote that is circulated among the elves, ‘Love is worth hacking one’s way through the jungle and bushes for, and friendship is worth crossing over mountains and ravines for.'” Shiles blinked. “And I came for the sake of friendship. Of course, it is also for the sake of future connections.”
“Disgusting.” This was Aida’s reaction.
“Wait.” The suspicion in Thales’ heart grew. “If you came from Dragon Clouds City…”
He raised his head and looked at Nicholas in front of him. The Star Killer stared at him without any expression.
“… The White Blade Guards are the personal guards of the common-elected king, all of you also came from Dragon Clouds City.” Thales furrowed his brows tightly and looked at Marquis Shiles. “Your Grace arrived at almost the same time as the White Blade Guards, but did not encounter each other earlier?”
Nicholas and Shiles glanced at each other. The latter smiled and said, “We probably did not notice each other because of the wind and snow?”
“No.” Thales narrowed his eyes. “They are the most outstanding elites in all of Eckstedt. It is impossible for them to not notice all of you.
“Of course it’s impossible.” Putray continued the prince’s words and nodded in realization. “We are talking about the White Blade Guards, the renowned military force of Northland. Even throughout Eckstedt, only the Glacial Sentries are on par with them. Even though both parties have been destroyed and rebuilt many times… It would have been too easy for them to notice a cavalier unit that is such a short distance away.”
Nicholas snorted softly. On the other hand, Shiles laughed.
Thales said, enunciating each word, “And both of you appeared at almost the same time, one after another… It’s a little too suspicious.”
Shiles raised his brows, shook his head and could not help laughing. Thales watched him in astonishment, and met Putray’s eyes.
“Enough, Your Grace,” Nicholas said plainly, “It’s time to complete what His Majesty entrusted us to do.”
‘His Majesty entrusted us to do?’
Thales glanced at Nicholas, and then at Shiles. The suspicion in his heart became increasingly clear.
“Both of you are working together.”
Thales figured it out.
He looked for Black Sand Region’s troops who were a distance away. They advanced in uniformity.
Tolja was still leading the scouts to investigate the road ahead.
Kentvida was discussing their next step with one of his subordinates.
The Black Sand Region’s soldiers, on the other hand, were dutifully standing guard around them.
Thales inhaled slowly.
Putray, who had understood something, said plainly, “Your Highness, it appears that we have landed ourselves in another terrible situation.”
“Haih,” Thales sighed and raised his head, watching the Eckstedtians and Camians in front of him with a burning gaze. “These are all King Nuven’s wishes, is it?”
“Since we have already come to this,” Shiles smiled as he spoke, “Why not take a guess, Your Highness?”
Thales fixed his stare on him.
A few seconds later, Thales said calmly, “Lord Nicholas, you did not come upon Black Sand Archduke’s army by chance, nor did you start a conflict with us by chance.”
His gaze fell on Nicholas. The latter continued staring ahead and did not seem intent on paying Thales any attention.
However, a second later, in contrast to his previous coolness, the Star Killer spoke slowly,
“Of course not.” Nicholas’ voice was cold. “One of the things I hate the most in life is to step into Lampard’s army camp. Besides…”
The Star Killer turned his head. His gaze was piercing. “Why would I have the leisure to kidnap a little brat whose teeth are not even fully grown yet?”
Thales paid no heed to Nicholas’ disrespect. His heartbeat increased and his mind began working rapidly.
‘If it was not by chance… Then, yesterday night…’
“It seems that you don’t often do things like this, Your Grace.” Thales smiled bitterly. “No wonder I felt that something was amiss yesterday… As expected, your acting skills are too stiff.”
Putray slowly took out his tobacco pipe. His brows were furrowed tightly.
“I heard that you are a prince who is good with words and thinks well.” Marquis Shiles blinked meaningfully. “A genius who could electrify his listeners with his words in the National Conference at the age of seven, Prince Thales.”
Thales was slightly stunned. “Is that what people say about me?”
‘This is not good. My words and actions at the National Conference have become so widely known?’
“You are more famous than you think you are, brat.” Nicholas’ figure on his horse was steady, but he gave the others an unsettling feeling. He said faintly, “Constellation found their only prince and heir, and announced your existence to the entire kingdom.”
Marquis Shiles nodded and smiled.
“So, Marquis Shiles of Camus Union.” Thales furrowed his brows tightly and turned towards the middle-aged marquis who had his blond hair up in a braided ponytail. “Your intention was also not as simple as visiting me. You went to Lampard’s military camp at that time with only one goal!”
Smiling, Shiles immediately bowed slightly.
“To prevent the White Blade Guards from starting a conflict with us, as an envoy from a third country!” Thales cast Shiles a firm gaze.
Thales turned to Nicholas. “As for you, Lord Nicholas, as the Jadestar Royal Family’s enemy, you were especially dispatched here to provoke us, were you not?”
“We were supposed to get into a fight,” Nicholas said coldly, “The White Blade Guards would have beaten up all your people until they laid face-down on the ground.”
“Before things got out of hand, I would have appeared. Because of the reputation of Camus Union’s envoy, the White Blade Guards would have retreated.” Marquis Shiles flashed a mysterious smile and continued Nicholas’ words. “However, the horrible relationship between Prince Thales and King Nuven would have been noticed by everyone in camp.”
Wya and Ralf looked at Thales in surprise and bewilderment. They then looked at Nicholas.
“Continue maintaining hostility, Wya and Ralf.” Putray understood something. He tapped his tobacco pipe lightly without changing his expression. “We must let the people from Black Sand Region see that our relationship with Lord Nicholas is bad… very bad.”
Wya’s eyes widened.
“Lord Nicholas, you originally planned to let the others see King Nuven’s attitude towards me through provocation and conflict,” Thales lowered his head and said quietly, “It turns out that due to my unreasonable demands, it was inconvenient for you to take action, wasn’t it?”
Nicholas did not give any answer.
“To be honest, when I arrived as planned and saw that it was so peaceful between all of you.” Shiles nodded. “I also felt that it was strange. I even wondered if my watch was fast and I arrived a little too early.”
“What happened?” Thales asked calmly, “Why do we have to put on such an act in Lampard’s camp? Who is it for? Lampard?”
“Not just for him,” Shiles said plainly, “it was more for the informants within his army.”
“Go on,” Thales said seriously.
“The news of you coming to Dragon Clouds City has reached almost all suzerains and nobles of Eckstedt with the messenger crows,” Nicholas continued coldly, “The visitation of the Prince of Constellation is the most major end-of-year event in our kingdom. Therefore, His Majesty has already sent invitations to the nine archdukes outside of Dragon Clouds City. At least five of them have already responded to the invitation. They have either reached, or will be reaching Dragon Clouds City, and are awaiting your arrival.”
“Do you mean that… because of my visit.” Thales slowly arranged his thoughts which were a mess. “King Nuven deliberately invited these archdukes to Dragon Clouds City? Why? And how is this related to the informants in Lampard’s army?”
Tightening his white cape, Nicholas said plainly, “The Archduke of Black Sand was not the only one who plotted the murder of Prince Moriah. With the advantage of being Constellation’s neighbor, Chapman Lampard formed a pact with Arunde outside the kingdom. But within the kingdom, there are other powers who conspired with Lampard, and even led the planning of His Highness’ murder.”
“King Nuven who lost his last heir.” Thales furrowed his brows tightly. “… His enemies who are also Lampard’s accomplices are among the archdukes who are heading to Dragon Clouds City?”
“Those ambitious schemers can lay aside all anxiety and rest in contentment. However, with King Nuven’s personality, he would definitely not stand idly by while his foes are carefree and at leisure after committing such a crime,” Shiles nodded slightly and sighed, “Walton’s desire for vengeance is stronger and purer than I had imagined. There must be someone to receive it.”
“He wants vengeance?” Putray said slowly, “Vengeance on the real culprits?”
“I thought that would be me,” Thales said self-deprecatingly, “Delirious with anger, a father kills the culprit’s son to avenge his own son’s death… Is that not very normal?”
“This is what the enemies hope for, and also the image we want them to see.” Shiles blinked. “King Nuven is a sensible king. He knows who should be held responsible for this matter and that if war breaks out between Constellation and Eckstedt right now, it would play right into the ambitious schemer’s hands. It would be an extremely unwise move.
“But why is Your Grace a part of this?” Putray watched Shiles. “I thought you were supposed to be a citizen of Camus Union.”
“I did King Nuven a favor.” Marquis Shiles flashed a hearty smile and revealed his pearly-white teeth. “And in return, he did me a favor regarding the trade and commerce between our kingdoms.”
At this moment, Nicholas started laughing grimly.
“Anyway, this is what His Highness asked me to tell you, Constellation’s second prince: For Your Highness and King Nuven’s common interest, he is inviting you to partake in his vengeance.” It was as though a flame was burning in Nicholas’ eyes. “The hunter has already sharpened his blades, while the snare and the trap are already in place. The prey is doomed and will not be able to escape.”
“Can I say no?” Thales furrowed his brows and looked at Putray whose expression was complicated.
“You know,” Nicholas said profoundly, “the fires of vengeance has to go somewhere.”
Thales hung his head low.
“I think I understand what both of you meant.” A few seconds later, Thales exhaled sadly. “King Nuven is the hunter and the White Blade Guards are his weapons. The act yesterday was a trap, and the meeting in Dragon Clouds City would be the last trap. Lampard’s accomplices are the prey.
“So what are you, Your Grace?” Thales turned to Shiles with an apathetic expression. “The pickaxe to dig the trap?”
Shiles coughed awkwardly.
“No wonder King Nuven wants to invite me,” Thales said with an unpleasant expression, “Contriving this and that, he only lacks one thing, does he not?”
Thales turned and looked at both Nicholas and Shiles. However, both of them did not say anything. They stared at him, one with a mischievous gaze and another with a piercing, cold glare.
Thales sighed. He shut his eyes, turned his face towards the sky, and uttered the last phrase, “Bait.”
Eckstedt, Dragon Clouds City, Western Driveway.
A Far Easterner sent away his last guest and slowly shut the door to the house.
He turned his head slowly and looked at the uninvited guest who had just arrived in his shop.
“I did not expect you to arrive so soon.”
In the butcher’s shop that just closed, Gu watched at the young man in white with a grim expression.
“I travel pretty fast,” the young man said apathetically.
“What do I call you?” Gu took off his apron and stared at the young man.
“Raphael,” the young man said briskly, “Or, following the custom of the Far Easterners, you may also call me Ra.”
“The single-word family name in the Far East does not work this way,” Gu said coldly.
‘Hmph. Morat’s little bastard.’
Gu silently reminded himself. ‘But if they’re from the Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department, even younger snake cubs…
‘…Are extremely poisonous.’
“Is that so, forget about it, it’s not important anyway.” Raphael nonchalantly and slowly sat down on a chair beside him. “Let’s get down to business.”
Gu angrily slammed his boning knife on the chopping board. He hated this feeling. Raphael nonchalantly waited for Gu’s response.
“I have already lured Black Sword to Dragon Clouds City as you demanded.” Gu closed his eyes miserably. “With the news you provided.”
“Oh?” Raphael’s eyes brightened. “What about his whereabouts and condition?”
“I don’t know.” Gu suppressed the annoyance in his heart. “But Black Sword dropped by yesterday. He said that he was looking for a doctor, but I don’t know how long he will stay in Dragon Clouds City either… Maybe he will leave right after he finds the doctor.”
“He won’t,” Raphael chuckled, “He will stay long enough, until he finds his objective.”
“Hmph, how do you know?” Gu tried his best to erase the guilt he felt for selling out his old friend. He clenched his fist tightly and thought of the figure from the past. “Black Sword is the most powerful swordsman I have ever met. He is not someone that all of you can manipulate easily.”
“Even scary beings have weaknesses.” The young man in white rose elegantly.
Gu furrowed his brows tightly.
“You know it, too. After all, you are the one who passed the news to him,” Raphael chuckled, “The information we used to lure him out is something incredibly valuable. As long as there is the slightest possibility, Black Sword would not pass up this opportunity.”
Raphael’s gaze sharpened and his irises shone with strange light.
“The initiator of disasters and tragedies. The source of everything…
“The Sensory Mystic.”