Chapter 122 - Until Dawn Came (One)

Kingdom’s Bloodline Masterless Sword, 无主之剑 2022/9/13 16:51:49

Chapter 122: Until Dawn Came (One)

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

“Your Highness, Lord Putray asked me to replenish your firewood.” The new recruit, Willow Ken, carried a bundle of wood and sat respectfully beside Thales who was sitting beside the campfire in a daze.

Glassy-eyed, Thales nodded. He could not stop thinking about King Nuven’s suggestion.

This was their last stop before they enter Dragon Clouds City.

Behind them, Wya, Ralf, and the veterans of Constellation were anxiously inspecting their equipment under Putray’s supervision.

The soldiers of Black Sand Region were busy setting up a base camp. On the other hand, with vigilant stares and unpleasant faces, the White Blade Guards continued watching them like prison guards. It was as though there was great animosity between them.

As the new recruit was about to leave to rejoin his team, the second prince said softly, “Willow, ever since our journey began, have you ever felt scared, or anxious, at least?”

Willow was respectfully placing the bundle of wood on the ground when he heard Thales’ words and it surprised him for a moment.

“You know,” Thales said slowly, “To struggle in mysterious dangers every day, and to worry about the cold, the battles, the enemies, everything.”

Willow was momentarily stunned, as if he had not expected the prince to ask such a question.

The new recruit turned and thought carefully before answering, “I did feel very anxious right before the battles began. After all, I am not like Uncle Genard who could remain so calm even as a blade cuts for his head.

“But I don’t feel scared.” Willow furrowed his brows and thought carefully, even forgetting to use a respectful tone. “Even though it’s very dangerous, I feel that it’s a lot simpler…”

“Simpler?” Thales asked.

“What I meant was that, everything happens quickly on the battlefield. After I thrust the pikes forward, there will only be two possible outcomes. Either I survive, or I die. It’s better this way.” Willow’s gaze became dreary, and his expression was a little bleak. “At least your hard work will be repaid, and you know what the outcome would be. This way, there is no need to be afraid.”

Thales carefully scrutinized the new recruit’s face.

“Willow, who taught you how to dual-wield? Your parents and elders?” Warming his hands on top of the campfire, Thales asked with an indecipherable expression, “Or a veteran who knows how to dual-wield?”

Willow ran his hand over the twin pikes that were tied to his back and scratched his face in puzzlement.

“No one taught me, Your Highness.” After he was sure that the prince was only making small talk, the new recruit shook his head slowly. “As for my parents, they passed away eleven or twelve years ago.”

‘Twelve years ago.’

Thales remembered this number. He said slowly, “So, it was…”

Willow shrugged expressionlessly. “You know, the disaster caused by the war in Northland. There was no more food in the village. My parents followed the villagers to the nearest village to get some food in exchange for their only possessions, but they never came back.”

Thales lifted his gaze.

“According to our village elders, it wouldn’t have ended well for them whether they encountered soldiers of Eckstedt or Constellation. The winning party would demand tribute, and the losing party would plunder from them straightaway,” Willow said desolately, “That was a very chaotic time.”

Both of them were silent for a while.

“Then, how did you survive?” Thales asked quietly.

“Gifts for the Mountains,” Willow sighed, “Even though all the adults said that those were gifts for the Gods and that only travellers could eat them…

“My sister and I were so hungry that we were going insane.” The new recruit showed a wistful expression. “Besides, we were not the only ones who did that. When that winter passed, even the gifts on the most secluded treetops were snatched away.”

‘The post-war famine in the North…’ Thales recalled Duke Arunde’s hysterical outburst in Renaissance Palace.

“However, there still wasn’t enough food when spring came, your Highness. At that time, my younger sister was so hungry that she kept biting her fingers…” Lost in thought, Willow stared at the campfire. “Fortunately, the pastoral river flowed past our village. So, I followed the people in my village and tried my best to catch fish.

“We didn’t know how to make nets, nor were we able to borrow any. We could not find any spots that had fish either.

“So I could only rely on the method I used to spear fish when I was young, and kept vigil by the river every day… At first, I always failed, and I was never able to find any shoals of fish. It was the other adults who gave us some of the fish they got. Every time I arrived home with fish, my younger sister would become very happy…

“Watching my younger sister’s smile when I left home in the mornings, not knowing whether I would get enough fish that day…” Willow’s tone was grim. “It’s often useless even if you work hard.”

Thales exhaled. “But both of you survived.”

“After that, I became more skilled and managed to find shoals of fish.” Lowering his head to look at his hands, Willow furrowed his brows. “During winter, when the surface of the river was frozen, I could get more fish. All the fish huddled together because of the cold…

“As I grew up, it wasn’t enough anymore to just feed ourselves. I had to get more fish to exchange for other goods in the bazaar. Sometimes, I could even get bronze coins.

“I started trying to spear fish with both hands. As time went by, I could even pierce through an ice layer with just one hand. This is why I always like to wield an extra pike in the battlefield.”

‘I see.’ Thales heaved a long sigh.

The second prince said faintly, “But enlisting at this time… What about your sister? Is she at home?”

Willow’s expression dimmed.

“No.” The new recruit tried his best to smile, but could only muster a bitter expression.

“She had typhoid fever last year. We had no money. There was nowhere we could get medicine from either—they were only available in large towns.” Trembling, Willow said, “The only thing I could do was to feed her warm water again and again.”

Thales furrowed his brows.

‘Coria.’ The little girl with typhoid fever crossed his mind.

“In the end, my younger sister said that she felt like eating fish. But when I returned…”

Willow went silent and fixated at the campfire. Thales did not say anything either.

A few seconds passed, the only sounds both of them could hear were of people around them conversing, and the crackling of the campfire.

… Then, Willow said desolately, “I buried her beside the river.”

The new recruit blinked furiously, as if there was some foreign substance in his eyes. He said in a soft voice, “Your Highness, I really hope that there are also fish in hell’s river.”

Willow quietly saluted Thales in a less-than-standard fashion and turned to leave.

At this moment, Thales called out to the new recruit.

“Willow, there are fish in hell’s river.” The second prince watched Willow who turned his head back and flashed a smile. “I once read about that in a book.”

“Are you worrying about what would come next?” Standing beside Thales, Putray watched the new recruit’s retreating figure.

Sitting beside the campfire, Thales raised his head.

“Putray, did you know that according to that recruit just now, he feels that his life right now is very simple,” Thales said, lost in thought.

Putray raised his eyebrows.

“‘After I thrust the pikes forward, there will only be two possible outcomes. Either I survive, or I die. It’s better this way.’ This was what he said,” Thales turned his head as he spoke.

“But my life is very complicated, so complicated that it tires my heart.” Thales’ gaze was slightly grim. “I thought that the politics within Constellation were complicated enough. Little did I know that Eckstedt—famous for being rough and bold—is also the same.”

An archduke who harbored ulterior motives, a king set on revenge, and vassals who spoke deprecatingly.

All that did not really fit his visualization towards Northland and Eckstedt—the hearty kingdom that stood heartily amid drifting snow and chilly winds.

“Only Northlanders are this rough and bold.” Putray sat down and took out his tobacco pipe. He shook his head and said, “But the ones you are facing are the nobles, the rulers, and those clutching at the reins of power.”

Thales frowned. “King Nuven, Archduke Lampard, and the five archdukes I will be meeting soon… They are also Northlanders, are they not?”

“They are from another species,” Putray lit his tobacco pipe and said quietly, “Normal people rely on food and air to survive, while they rely on power.”

“The new recruit just now is also a Northlander. His status is low, but at least he does not have to live in constant fear, watching every step he takes,” Thales said in low spirits, “As for the nobles and suzerains, do they not feel that their way of living is very sad?”

Putray exhaled a mouthful of smoke. “All of you occupy a more influential position than commoners. Every move has a large-scale connection to everything else and has a far-reaching impact. This is the price you must pay and the sacrifice you must make for power.”

“My God, after regaining my identity as a prince for such a short time, I’m already a little sick of this kind of life,” the seven-year-old prince sighed and spoke like an adult.

‘Maybe I’m just not used to it.’ He thought in silence. ‘Maybe after living longer like this, and experiencing more of such things…

‘I’ll be able to…get used to it?’

“The life you are sick of is something many people dream of having.” Putray frowned and went back to addressing the prince without proper respect. “Little prince, go take a look at the lives of the civilians, those who have to work hard just for their three meals. Think about the village we went to before entering the Northern Territory… That pretentious baron and the people in his territory.

“Then, think again about what you just said.”

Recalling Willow’s experiences, Thales snorted softly.

The boy flashed a bitter smile. “Of course, I hope that I will have a chance to see the world, and mingle with different communities, whether it is in one of the two peninsulas, or the countless islands.”

“Then you should be prepared, some of the places need…” Shaking his head, Putray was suddenly lost for words.

He remembered the status of the child in front of him.

‘I’m afraid that as Constellation’s heir to the throne, you…’ He sighed quietly in his heart.

Thales also realized his mistake.

“Ha, to travel around the world… I’m afraid I will most likely never have such a chance in my life,” he chuckled bitterly.

‘To battle for Constellation. To die for Constellation. To live for Constellation.’

Beside the campfire, both of them were silent for a moment.

“You know, King Kessel was always very happy when he talked about his Uncle John,” Thales said quietly, “I suddenly know why.”

Thales blew a mouthful of hot air at his palms and said, “John became his eyes, visiting places that he could not go to, and travelling the world.”

Putray exhaled softly.

“You don’t have to be disheartened. You will become the king one day,” the gaunt vice diplomat said faintly, “At that time, you will be able to see the vast world from another angle, an angle that all of us could never imagine.”

Thales did not say anything, he only stared at the campfire. He suddenly laughed.

“It sounds very boring, being a king, that is. How did my grandfather persevere for so long?” The prince shook his head.

Putray stared at Thales and did not avert his eyes for a long time.

“Kings can also lead very interesting lives.” Watching Thales’ expression, Putray said slowly, “Every single one of Constellation’s thirty-nine kings was unique. And one of them had the most uncommon experience… He was probably the King of Constellation who lived the most legendary and unusual life since Tormond the First.”

“Oh, who is that?” Thales interest was piqued.

“Your Highness, would you be interested in listening to me sing a song?” Putray asked slowly. He sucked in a mouthful of smoke from his tobacco pipe.

“Of course.” Thales’ eyes brightened. “Gilbert mentioned that you were once a bard and had travelled to many places?”

Bards. These people travel about and make a living by singing songs and running various small businesses.

However, even in Eternal Star City, Thales had only seen them twice. And both instances were at the grand bazaar.

“Ah, singing songs… This is one of the skills that I’m most proud of,” Putray tapped his tobacco pipe and said faintly, “Now, I am going to sing ‘When Dawn Came’, a story about how three good friends went on an adventure together.”

Thales gestured for him to proceed.

Putray first cleared his throat and hummed a few short tunes to look for the right pitch. Then, the vice diplomat began singing melodiously and briskly while tapping out the rhythm.

“When dawn came, and the morning sun arose again.

Three men journeyed shoulder to shoulder.

Years they’ve known one another, and their hearts were connected.

Sword and axe, staff and lamp, trust and vows, virtue and gratitude.

The brothers were one, united in their bodies.

They crossed villages, basked in the moonlight, ventured into old castles, and traversed mountains.

The elves’ hidden ground, the dwarves’ homeland, the demon’s nest, the monsters’ turf.

Having escaped death, lived through disaster, and stared into the face of terror; they never despaired.

Many adventures awaited, and plenty of stories were recounted.

Until the morning sun rose again.

Until dawn arrived.”

Putray’s singing voice flowed slowly, attracting many soldiers to stop and stare. Marquis Shiles walked unhurriedly towards them. On the other hand, Nicholas furrowed his brows as he stared at the campfire from afar. Beside them, even Aida raised her head.

Thales thought about the content of the song. The gist of it was that there were three very close friends who experienced many adventures and sagas together.

At this moment, Putray’s tempo and key shifted suddenly, becoming low and rich. It was unsettling.

“In the blood-red night, the sea roared, the enemies hid among the raging waves.

There a bloodthirsty king and his undefeated general, the night’s wing that sailed across the sky with his immortal army, troops who crawled all over stretches of land with hungry gazes.

Ominous shadows enveloped the sun and the sky.

Silhouettes of the enemy lurked ceaselessly.

Fiendish foes from the east, shaking the ground and destroying cities everywhere they went.

One by one, Western Peninsula’s battle steeds rose to fight.

Come nightfall, the battlefield was silent.

The northern wind, cold and bleak.

The king’s sword, smashed to pieces.

The mountains mourned, the knights broke their pikes.

Broken blades and ruined shields, the Great Dragon mourned and Constellation dimmed.

Chaos, sorrow, despair, disaster.

Ceaseless terror, frantic uncontrollable trembling, unending deaths.

All hope was lost, and the light faded.

The ones remaining lived miserably.

The morning sun rose no more, and darkness engulfed the world.

Dawn did not come, blood sprawled across the sky.”

Finally, Putray’s tune reached its deepest pitch. Along with it, the listeners’ moods also sunk to their lowest points. But Thales had started thinking about the meaning behind the song.

‘Night wing… the east… the northern wind… the mountains… the Great Dragon… Constellation… These terms… all of them probably have specific origins.’

He narrowed his eyes slowly, assigning meaning to each of them in his mind.

Putray’s tune started to turn lighter.

“When those beautiful moments were about to fade away, when the future was no longer bright,

At the darkest hour, when midnight arrived,

The three friends finally began their journey.

Their adventures made history, and now their heroic sagas were nigh.

Without hesitation, without turning back.

Until the morning sun rose again. Until dawn came.”

Then, Putray’s tune suddenly became filled with fervor and enthusiasm, like a change of scenery in the song.

“Blood drenched the ground and cleansed the prince’s crown, making a generous and sincere promise.

Midier wielded his sword and shield.

The murky night blurred the prophet’s sight.

He wandered about, lost, bright lamp in hand.

Kaplan held his staff and walked with a smile.

Endless sacrifices hardened the hero’s soul. His lone figure made a blood oath.

Chara’s bugle blared through the night.

More and more soldiers gathered around Putray and Thales. Even Aida the elf slowly walked towards them.

On the other hand, having heard a few keywords, Thales suddenly understood something: He now knew what sort of scene the song was depicting.

Putray continued singing.

“The strength of three could rival the king. The union of brothers could fight against death.

News spread everywhere. Confidence reignited, people gathered under the war flags.

Courage ran deep into the bones, and hope spurred their bodies on.

United in mind and body.

Chara’s huge hatchet paved the future, Midier’s sword and shield guarded the people.

Kaplan’s gaze saw through everything, leading them to the final battlefield.

Amid the king’s bloodthirsty gaze, the enemies from the night were everywhere.

Blazing flames of war, blaring battle cries. The last battle began.

The singing stopped suddenly. Putray slowly closed his mouth.

Thales raised his head abruptly.

“Why did you stop?” he asked, a little lost.

“The next part is too long, and my throat is not as good as it used to be.” Putray shook his head in resignation and relit his extinguished tobacco pipe.

‘And the next part of the story isn’t very pleasant,’ Putray thought.

Having appeared beside them at some point, Marquis Shiles started clapping. Eventually, the soldiers who stopped to listen also started clapping.

“That was a splendid performance. You have a beautiful voice. I am afraid that there are not many bards like yourself even in Anlenzo Dukedom’s Dragon Kiss Academy!” Shiles said with a smile.

Putray bowed slightly as a show of gratitude.

An untimely voice suddenly interrupted them. “Return to your positions!”

Nicholas, the Star Killer, strode towards them and reprimanded the soldiers in an unpleasant tone. “Does that Constellatiate sing that well? Are people from Black Sand Region so interested in the arts?”

Many of the soldiers let out dissatisfied yells, but most of them dispersed.

After the soldiers dispersed, Nicholas glared at them with an unpleasant expression. “Do all of you really have to attract so much attention before things began?”

“Is this not what all of you want?” Thales shook his head. “Should you not look as though you want to kill all of us?”

Nicholas rudely took a step forward.

Having walked over at some point, Aida stood in front of Thales.

“Don’t be like this, brat. I don’t feel like beating you up,” the elf said languidly.

“Alright, alright.” Marquis Shiles stood between them with a smile. From afar, it looked as if the envoy from the Camus Union had prevented yet another conflict. “It was just a song… Besides, he was singing about a legend that all three of our kingdoms are proud of, was he not?”

Nicholas glanced at Shiles in dissatisfaction.

“A legend that all three of our kingdoms are proud of?” Thales’ eyes lit up. “Putray, one of the three men you sang about was my ancestor, was it not?” Thales’ eyes were glinting.

“Yes. You have most probably seen his portrait in Mindis Hall.” Putray inhaled deeply and sucked in a mouthful of smoke from his tobacco pipe, flashing a smile.

Thales narrowed his eyes.

In his mind, the image of the robust sword and shield warrior who wore a royal crown and stood below a towering tree appeared. The warrior was the one who was in the leftmost painting among ‘The Three Constellation Kings’ in Mindis Hall.

Putray said faintly, “Constellation’s ‘Oath Keeper’, the twenty-third supreme king, Midier Jadestar, King Midier the Fourth in your family.”

Thales suddenly understood. “The Midier Copper… refers to him?”

For Constellation’s currency, the head image of the kingdom’s founder, Tormond the First, was engraved on the back of gold coins. On the other hand, the head image of the ‘Virtuous King’, Mindis the Third, was on the back of silver coins; and that of Midier the Fourth was on the copper coins.

The Three Constellation Kings.

Putray nodded. “His legend is depicted in the song.”

“Not just him. Although he is great indeed, but the ‘Oath Keeper’ is only one of the three men.” Marquis Shiles reminded Putray with a smile.

Putray chuckled. “Alright.” Under Thales’ curious gaze, he said in addition, “Before becoming king, Prince Midier had ten years of adventuring abroad together with his two friends—Chara from Eckstedt and Kaplan from Camus Union.”

“Adventures?” Thales asked in astonishment.

‘A future king who adventured abroad?’

“Yes. The later generations often delighted themselves in talking about their steadfast friendship and splendid lives.” Putray sighed with emotion and said, “Chara is known as a ‘hero’ to the people in the Western Peninsula. In the past one thousand years, only the founder of Eckstedt, Raikaru Eckstedt, had been granted this honor.

Thales felt a chill run down his spine.

He could not help but notice that upon hearing these three names, Marquis Shiles became quiet. Even Nicholas had a solemn expression.

And even the nonchalant Aida lowered her head in silence.

Putray exhaled softly. “This is about the Western Peninsula’s three Legendary Heroes, and the most glorious moment of their lives…

“The Battle of Dawn.”