Chapter 139 - A Unique Welcome Banquet

Kingdom’s Bloodline Masterless Sword, 无主之剑 2022/9/13 16:52:04

Chapter 139: A Unique Welcome Banquet

Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

“Are you sure that I don’t have to wear this? Madam Jines said that during banquets…” In the room, Thales questioned Putray. Furrowing his brows, he held up a tiny, embellished vest.

‘And these were part of the luggage the diplomat group strived hard and went through a lot of trouble to bring, along with the flags.

“We are in Eckstedt, which is in Northland.” The neatly dressed Putray looked at him with disdain. “Even during a banquet, they dislike pretty boy toys and sissies… If you really want to wear that, I reckon you will become the top contender for the biggest clown in the banquet.”

Thales stuck out his tongue and put the vest down.

Sitting beside the window, Aida recovered her attention and sighed with a regretful expression. “Ah, you know, banquets without clowns are boring.”

After almost a month of stress, Thales did not have the strength to care about other things. From the Abandoned House and Red Street Market, to Mindis Hall and Renaissance Palace, and then from Broken Dragon Fortress to Dragon Clouds City, the newly crowned second prince did not even get the chance to sleep properly in his own bed. He was whisked into a nobles’ carriage and with the burden of being a prince, faced unprecedented challenges.

Hence, Thales only realized that he had no experience nor knowledge of noble banquets when Mirk and the servants came to remind them about it.

He had never lost his composure when facing weapons, soldiers, Blood Clansmen and Mystics. But now, he suddenly felt a little nervous.

“Don’t worry.” Putray nonchalantly lit the Northland tobacco that he obtained from the servants. “Compared to Constellation and the Anlenzo Dukedom, Eckstedt’s banquets are practically just a military picnic of simple-minded soldiers. If you have experienced the banquet styles of Hanbol and Mane et Nox, my god, their banquet etiquettes are practically punishments.

“Protocols, decorations, trends, and styles. The effort to segregate human beings based on their identity, status and ranking never ceases.” Thales tried his best to calm himself down by making small talk. He bent down and adjusted his shoes in front of a simple and crude dressing mirror. “After tonight, I must take a bath…”

“Think of tonight’s official business first.” Putray seemed as if he was not used to Northland’s rough tobacco. He said with difficulty while coughing, “Cough, cough. Damn it, they brought me low-quality tobacco…”

Putray’s words magically made Thales forget the uneasiness caused by the impending banquet. He began pondering the situation at hand.

Someone knocked on the door.

Ralf entered with the metal prostheses that he was getting more used to. It also seemed like this was the first time he attended this sort of banquets. Even with the silver mask on, the pale pallor on his face could still be seen.

On the other hand, Wya seemed calmer, as though he had experienced such a scene before.

Thales’ attendant nodded solemnly. “Your Highness, everything is ready.”

Beside Wya, Ralf signed with his hands. “They are here.”

The second prince inhaled deeply. Despite Putray’s confused expression and Wya’s tightly furrowed eyebrows, Thales signed back.

“Let’s go.”

Eckstedt’s welcoming banquet started before the sun completely set.

Led by the king’s administrator, Mirk, and a few servants, Thales walked beside Putray. Ralf and Wya walked behind them… As for Aida, everyone agreed that it was not suitable for her to be part of such an occasion.

“Your Highness, I don’t know what you understand about the banquets in Northland. However, I must remind you that the guests from Constellation might not be used to our banquet. And tonight will be a little unique,” Lord Mirk said expressionlessly.

Thales flashed a friendly and understanding smile as a reply.

Treading Heroic Spirit Palace’s coarse floor tiles, they climbed the stone stairs.

Mirk respectfully introduced the guests to the place they were about to go to. “The banquet hall was where King Raikaru entertained the nine Knights. It was said that the Northland Hero’s banquet lasted three days and three nights, and they ate almost all the food they seized during their crusade. It was also here where, amid the cheers inside and outside the palace, Raikaru Eckstedt was elected as king.”

Stepping onto the final stone step, Thales arrived at the sixth-floor corridor of Heroic Spirit Palace. Lively and noisy sounds could be heard.

The floor was almost seven or eight meters away from the ceiling, and there were a lot of fire braziers. They were placed on stands that filled the entire corridor. Burning brightly, they illuminated Heroic Spirit Palace and made it look as bright as day even though the sun had set.

Different from the corridor of other floors which were filled with rooms, this floor’s corridor only had a pair of thick, wooden double doors in the middle of the floor. The servants walked back and forth, in and out of the room, and had jubilant expressions. Some held plates, and the others carried beer kegs.

Thales inhaled deeply and exchanged glances with his subordinates. With Mirk at the lead, he stepped into Heroic Spirit Palace’s banquet hall.

The noisy discussions, sounds of wine goblets clashing, sounds of cutlery cutting into meat, and even the sounds of brawling grew louder and began to invade as well as torture his ears.

Thales raised his head and had a clear view of the hall.

This was a ring-shaped hall, the triangular flag with the Dragon Spear emblem was hung on the walls, at the corners where the walls and floors were connected were several burning braziers, on the ceilings were several brightly shining Everlasting Lamps (Thank goodness, Thales thought the only source of light in the Hall of Spirits were braziers). The servants would occasionally appear from the side doors or the grills to deliver waves upon waves of food and wine.

The banquet hall could accommodate a few hundred people in it, such was the case right now. At least one or two hundred people sat around more than ten long tables that were placed parallel to each other. These long tables were placed perpendicular to the main door, and there was a path in the middle of the hall wide enough for the servants and guests to come and go.

Thales looked around the hall with a frown. Because of his height, he could not see the situation further down the hall. In the end, it was Putray who explained it all to him in a soft voice.

The atmosphere in the hall was very lively.

There were busy servants carrying plates as they walked back and forth, boorish nobles who sat by the tables and argued until their faces were red, and guests who drank until they were blushing. There were also perverted nobles that used drunkenness as an excuse to grope the servant girls’ behinds while laughing raucously. This caused the crowd to erupt into a loud cheer.

The five archdukes sat at the head of five different long tables. Archduke Olsius, who sported a full beard, had a fixed expression and turned the goblet in his hand distractedly. Almost everyone beside him were family knights and subordinate suzerains that bore the emblem of a triangle-encased circle. Archduke Trentida, who sported a bowl cut, was laughing along with his vassals, he seemed very good at socializing. The bald Archduke Lecco sat together with Camus Union’s Marquis Shiles and listened to the latter as he spoke slowly. The long-haired Archduke Roknee had a solemn expression as usual, he seemed to exude a chilly aura. His long table was the quietest, and nobody else dared to approach him and make conversation. The servants and subordinates behind him refilled his food and wine every now and then. The young Archduke Poffret raised his goblet with a smile the nobles around him who seemed to be either subordinate dukes or followers while he spoke to them, these followers nodded continuously. They then downed all the wine in their goblets at the same time.

‘Such a jubilant dinner party. It’s just like the scene in Mountain Pass Village where the Northland villagers and the soldiers drank and socialized.’

If Thales had not raised his head and seen Nuven the Seventh drinking quietly on a much taller, horizontal table at the end of the hall while he sat among several close vassals and was surrounded by White Blade Guards, Thales would have nearly forgotten about the shadows of blades hidden among all these conspiracies.

He had also almost forgotten that the conspirator who was daring enough to try to murder the princes of both kingdoms was among the five archdukes.

Thales turned and said in resignation, “I did not know that the banquet had already begun.”

“Most of the nobles are already seated. King Nuven is waiting for your arrival,” Mirk said calmly.

Thales narrowed his eyes and finally managed to cast a glance at Nuven the Seventh, who was far into the distance. He took note of the still indifferent expression on his face.

The king seemed to notice that Thales was looking at him. His aged but sharp gaze swept towards Thales.

“Then, it’s about to begin.” Behind him, Putray grumbled, intentionally or otherwise.

Thales sighed in his heart.

A few seconds later, under Mirk’s signal, the attendant beside them announced Thales’ identity in a loud voice.

“The honorable guest from Constellation, Prince Thales Jadestar!”

The words traveled to every corner of the hall, and even echoed. The lively banquet suddenly became quiet.

Almost everyone across all the tables stopped what they were doing to stare at Thales, whether they were drinking, cutting meat, chatting, fighting, or even harassing the servant girls.

Even many of the servants, stationed guards and even members of the White Blade Guards looked at him.

Thales recognized this feeling. The last time he felt it was in Eternal Star City, during the National Conference in the Hall of Stars.

“Should I smile right now?” Feeling various gazes ranging from malicious and murderous to curious and friendly ones, Thales did not change his expression. Moving his lips slightly, he said, “Or should I be stone-faced? Would it suit my identity as the enemy kingdom’s prince?”

“Relax, relax. They started the banquet early and didn’t even arrange the seating order. There is no need for you to freak out and take it too seriously.” Watching the anxious prince, Putray sighed. “It doesn’t matter what expression you wear. Right now, you are just a flag called ‘Constellation’.”

The expressionless Mirk nodded at Thales and politely extended his right hand, signaling for him to walk forward.

Thales ignored Mirk. Enduring stares from the entire hall, he frowned and asked Putray in a low voice, “Do I just walk forward like this? Or do I stay at the back and wait for someone to call me?”

“If you were in Constellation right now, of course you would have to wait for the master to dispatch someone to lead you to your seat. However, this is Eckstedt.” Putray glanced at the messy hall with furrowed brows. Many of the guests seemed to have lost their curiosity. Some of them were even starting to dig into the food that had been served. “So, don’t expect much formality. Walk to your seat without looking around. I reckon it’s the one beside King Nuven.”

Thales put on the kind of humble and friendly smile he imagined that a prince would have and walked forward.

Compared to Constellation which emphasized protocols and etiquette for everything, there was not even a carpet in the banquet hall. Treading on the uneven floor tiles, he felt like he was back in the Abandoned House.

Walking past the long tables, he heard whispers. Having good hearing proved to be useful at that moment.

“So, this is the prince who still reeks of his mother’s milk?”

“I heard that he was lost outside for many years…”

“Seven years old? Is this a joke?”

“The Constellatiates talked about him like he was a God. You know, they call him a genius… hmph!”

“Then, our troops couldn’t move at all because of this child?”

“The people from Black Sand Region had a hard time at the border… The Kingdom’s Wrath…”

“Lampard dispatched troops to escort him here…”

“If we are still going ahead with the battle, it will definitely have to wait until spring…”

Thales walked on towards Nuven the Seventh without looking around. The man stared at him again with an indecipherable gaze.

Finally, most of the nobles were done being curious. They gave up the intention to watch the prince and immersed themselves in the feast once more.

The nobles in Northland were extremely different compared to the ones in Constellation. In the Hall of Stars, the nobles always behaved elegantly. Even the village nobles who sat at the periphery tried their best to act civilized, whether in terms of behavior or in terms of clothing. This also made the three Great Northern Territory Clans which were led by Arunde, Friess, and Zemunto, along with the nobles serving them to stand out starkly among them.

In contrast, even though these Northland nobles differed from one another in terms of status and personality, every single one of them behaved like brutes from the way they sit and eat, to their appearances and clothing. Even when they were drinking, they made deliberate grunting sounds, dribbled few drops down the side of their beards, and slammed their goblets on the table. While drinking, they also loudly criticized their opponents, or their opponents scolded them.

As he quietly observed the nobles’ behavioral patterns, Thales walked on between two rows of tables. He could not help but notice that apart from servant girls, there was practically no female guest in the banquet.

“The ones here at the back of the banquet hall are from the likes of low-class nobles, courtiers of suzerains, meritorious knights and invited bureaucrats,” Putray reminded Thales in a soft voice. “That well-dressed person ahead to your left is only a servant tasked to serve food. That person behind, to your right, standing in the corner, he looks like a slave, but he is a Gosling Officer responsible for cooking meat. It is an honorary title that has been around since ancient times and can only be assumed by close vassals that are trusted by their suzerains.”

“Asking close vassals to grill meat… goose feet officer? Why?” Without turning his head, Thales asked in puzzlement, “Isn’t this something that should be done by those in the scullery? Or is this some kind of honor?”

“Hmph, my prince. Did you know that in the Empire’s history, the motivations for assassination and poisoning came from these quiet corners where people grilled meat?” Putray said in a low voice while remaining calm and collected.

Thales kept his silence.

They walked past the midpoint of the hall and as expected, the ‘quality’ of the Northland nobles seemed to increase with their status. The amount of gesticulating people in the crowd reduced greatly. However, the amount of people who exchanged silent glances and whispered to each other increased exponentially.

“That empty space in the middle of the hall… in Constellation or Anlenzo Dukedom, it would have been utilized as a dance floor or a performance stage. However, in Northland…” Putray walked past a few guests who had unpleasant expressions. Ignoring the soft curses of a boorish noble beside him, Putray pointed at a round, empty space in the middle of the hall. His face twitched. “Based on my experience, when the people are at the peak of drunkenness, it wouldn’t be surprising if two brutes starts f*cking vigorously there.

Hearing Putray swear for the first time, Thales frowned. “Is it really appropriate to use this sort of language in front of the prince?”

“We should observe the customs of the places we are in. Many years ago, I even saw an Eckstedtian princess who stood by the streets and hurled all kinds of abuse with words like ‘fck’ and ‘cnt’.” Putray shook his head. “Besides, even though you are a prince, you seem to be pretty accustomed to this kind of language.”

“Ah, as your kingdom’s prince, just like the honorable princes depicted in many songs and legends, I have experienced the suffering of the people which has made me virtuous and kind.”

Putray snorted softly and noncommittally. They finally reached the end of the long tables.

Among those around them, Archduke Olsius held the highest rank.

“No music and bards, no clowns and comedy show, no beautiful women, no voluptuous servant girls, no grilling of whole pigs, no tourneys between strong men, no celebration with the people in tents that span beyond the city wall,” Archduke Olsius was grumbling loudly to the suzerains beside him. He then turned and shouted in King Nuven’s direction.

“What sort of f*cking banquet is this?”

To Thales’ surprise, many of the Northland nobles echoed in unison. They shouted protests at King Nuven.

‘This feels like a wet market.’ Thales sighed. Suddenly remembering that he also felt the same about the National Conference, Thales was helplessly dumbstruck.

However, King Nuven only stared coldly at the chaos caused by the nobles in the hall with no reaction.

A loud but sarcastic voice rang from another long table in reply to Olsius.

“First of all, the Day before the Bitter Cold Winter is coming. Apart from lunatics like Lampard, all of Northland is living economically and stockpiling food to prepare for winter. Besides…” Archduke Trentida who sported a bowl cut narrowed his eyes and stood up. He watched the anxious Prince Thales from afar.

“The purpose of this banquet is to welcome the unwelcomed Prince of Constellation!”

One by one, the nobles beside him stood up and booed at Thales.

Thales and everyone else from Constellation frowned almost simultaneously.

“Lastly, Reybien Olsius, while you are living in someone else’s castle and palace, eating and drinking what’s theirs… hehe, and perhaps even f*cking what’s theirs”—Archduke Trentida glanced at a plump-bottomed servant girl and flashed an interesting smile—”it’s better not to criticize the host’s arrangements.”

Some of the Northland nobles let out cryptic laughs. Olsius shook his head in contempt and sat back down on his chair.

Thales finally arrived in front King Nuven. He bowed slightly.

King Nuven gazed closely at Thales. His dark green eyes were filled with complicated emotions. It made Thales very anxious.

From the moment he stepped into Eckstedt, every single suzerain he encountered was no simpleton—Archduke Lampard, Viscount Kentvida and even the five archdukes present today. However, having gone through a lot of trials and tribulations, Thales was able to calmly face their hostility, intimidation, oppression, and even murderous intentions…

…because Thales had a clear idea of what they wanted.

The only person he could not understand was this old king who was already at the peak of power in Eckstedt.

Even though they exchanged few words between them, Thales could not help but shudder at the strange emotions that shone through the king’s eyes, how he forced Thales to partake in his revenge, and his behavior in the meeting hall.

Unpredictable people were always fearsome.

King Nuven rose slowly and raised his hand, gesturing to the leader of the White Blade Guards, Nicholas.

Nicholas nodded and walked towards Thales. “Please be seated. Your seat is the last one to King Nuven’s left.”

Thales turned his head and looked at the seat at the end of the long table that nobody cared about.

‘Even though it’s on the same row as the king, it’s… really far away from King Nuven. It’s almost in the corner.’

Standing behind him, Putray sighed. Thales shrugged and nonchalantly walked to his seat. Ralf and Wya followed him closely.

However, before he could sit comfortably, a hoary and old voice that sounded strange yet familiar rose in the hall.

“Raise your goblets, everyone!”

Thales turned his head dazedly. Beside him, Putray remained composed. With considerable experience, he handed Thales a metal goblet of black ale.

“A toast,” the gaunt vice diplomat said coolly.

Thales turned and watched as King Nuven—who had just lost his son—left his seat. He raised his wine goblet high and spoke to the crowd in a loud voice.

“Let us welcome our guest… the Second Prince of Constellation, Thales Jadestar!”

The hall, where noise had previously rose among them again, fell silent once more.

The king slowly walked away from his seat and went to the front of the hall. Like an old lion that walked from its territory with menacing steps into land that belonged to other prides.

The five archdukes fixed their gazes on him and raised their goblets. Their expressions were varied.

“May the Northern Wind test his courage, and may the snow polish his determination!

“Due to reasons known to all of you, I am unable to welcome him with a joyful heart.” Looking around, King Nuven spoke with a firm expression and cold voice. “But, since he is already here…”

All the nobles listened quietly to their king. Many of them were watching Thales.

“We must not let anyone doubt the Northlanders’ hospitality and the Eckstedtians’ hardiness. Even if that person is our mortal enemy!” King Nuven tapped his goblet. There was a hint of authority on his wrinkled face, and some of the heartiness of his younger days was noticed in his tone.

“Even if we fight to the death tomorrow, we must first honor our tradition!”

All eyes were on him, King Nuven shook his goblet and roared furiously. “For Eckstedt!”

At that moment, every single person in the hall raised their goblets together and bellowed.

King Nuven’s gaze was sharp. He shouted once more. “For Northland!”

The guests roared and responded with grandiosity. “For Northland!”

Thunderous roars filled the entire hall like a tidal wave. It was deafening. Then, King Nuven finished his drink in one swift movement.

The expressions on all the nobles in the hall became solemn with the king’s action. They started drinking and for some time, numerous grunting sounds echoed in the banquet hall.

Thales creased his brows. Holding the heavy metal goblet in his hands, Thales forced himself to take a sip while under the gazes of many of those people behind him.

Upon finishing his drink, King Nuven turned to the table and slammed the goblet on the long table with a furious expression.

The nobles in the hall also slammed down their goblets in unison.

King Nuven raised his head and roared under the various gazes of the crowd.

“Bring it on! Eat! Drink! Fight! Copulate! Do whatever you want!”

During that second, Thales was completely stunned.

‘Just what the hell… is with this toast?’

Nuven the Seventh had a spirited expression on his face. With his sonorous but old voice filled with a Northlander’s accent, he shouted to all his guests in the entire hall in the common language, “Drink until all of you are laying, rolling, sprawling, crawling, or carried out of my palace!

“You bastards!”

A second later, a similarly passionate shout erupted from all the guests in the hall in response, and it was like the sound of a loud tidal wave echoing in the entire banquet hall!

Quite a large number of the Northlanders waved their fists and roared like wild animals to show their support for the king’s feast.

The guests returned to toasting with each other and fell into a state of drunken ecstasy.

The entire hall instantly went back to a state of chaos filled with loud noises and bustling activity. The sound of human voices bubbled into a deafening pitch, and it was even louder than before!

Putray whispered softly beside Thales’ ear, “A unique toast. This is a specialty in the north.”

Thales rolled his eyes and put on an expression as if he could do nothing about the situation. “I do not need you to remind me of that, I can tell.”

At that moment, King Nuven suddenly whipped his head around when he returned to his table and cast a profound look at Thales.

Thales’ heart froze. He read the message behind the king’s gaze. He also knew that King Nuven absolutely did not intend for him to enjoy the feast.

However, before he could turn his head around to discuss with his subordinates, an unexpected guest first arrived in front of his seat to visit the Second Prince of Constellation.

Standing before him was a… kind-looking old woman dressed in a red robe.

“Good evening, esteemed Prince Thales.” She squinted to look at him. Her voice was incredibly gentle, and her smile was filled with a warmth that could ease people’s hearts. “My name is Calshan.”

Thales flashed her an amiable smile, though he was completely lost as to what was going on.

But before he could answer, Putray spoke up first beside him, “Excuse me, madam, but is there anything special you want with us?”

During that instant, Thales noticed that Putray’s expression had turned incredibly sour by his side. In fact, his body had become rigid as he glared at the old woman in front of him.

The Attendant Wya’s breathing also froze while he stood behind Thales.

A question popped up in Thales’ head. ‘They seem to know… this old woman—this Calshan.’

Before Putray finished speaking, his face turned pale, as if even breathing was a chore, and he opened his mouth to speak, “Your Excellency… Esteemed Red Witch?”

‘Red Witch?’ Thales stared at the kindly old woman in front of him, bemused. ‘Witch? What the heck?’

“Oh, it’s just some emotions of mine acting up. I came specially to ask you a question, Your Highness.” The kind-looking Calshan squinted her eyes further and shook her head slightly, as if she was slightly embarrassed. “How is my son faring lately in Constellation?”

Thales was stunned again.

“Err…” The second prince employed the perfect smile he had learned from a certain young duke and answered faintly, “May I know who your son might be?”

The Red Witch Calshan smiled amiably.

“Ah! How forgetful I am, I completely forgot to mention it. My son is known in Constellation as…”

In the next second, under Thales’ puzzled gaze, this gentle old lady Calshan started rubbing her hands together nonstop, as if she was afraid of the cold, and then…

She said a name that instantly caused his expression to change.

“Yodel… Yodel Cato.”