Chapter 140: The Red Witch
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
If Thales was to create a list called the ‘People I Trust the Most’, from within the Royal Court of Constellation, Yodel who never showed his true face to others would almost undoubtedly rank at the top. From the time he fled from Red Street Market, to the dangerous experience in Vine Manor, and the assassination attempt in front of Renaissance Palace, the Masked Protector had repeatedly risked his life to save Thales. In the most recent incident, he almost lost his life for it.
Moreover, the Masked Protector was also the only one in the Royal Court of Constellation who knew about his identity as a ‘calamity’, but still kept it a secret for him. Thales especially treasured this.
However, Thales only realized that he knew very little about this mysterious secret protector of the royal family when he heard his name in the kingdom of the Great Dragon. He knew practically nothing about his appearance, age, background, personality, and experiences.
He had to admit with embarrassment that to him, Yodel was more like a familiar stranger. Even though Yodel did a lot for him, he never cared about what went on with Yodel.
‘No, I do know some things,’ Thales thought. Gilbert once told him that there was deep hatred between Yodel and Eckstedt’s Five War Generals.
For example, he stabbed Black Sand Region’s ‘Fire Knight’ Tolja in the back… this was also the reason why he could not come to Eckstedt.
However, there were many more questions than this when it came to the Masked Protector. Thales recalled their last, and most sincere, long conversation in Mindis Hall, and he felt his heart clench.
Thales shook his head and tried not to think about the Masked Protector’s possible dark side. After all, there were many incidents where Yodel saved Thales after that.
Laughter rang from the other side of the hall. More than ten Northland nobles seemed to be playing some game.
Thales refocused his attention on the kind-looking old lady.
‘This old woman of Eckstedt claims that she is Yodel’s…’
“Madam, you are Yodel’s…” While sizing up this old lady called Calshan, Thales tried hard to find any similarities between her and Yodel, other than their ‘mysteriousness’. He said hesitantly, “Yodel’s mother?”
“Please do not doubt it. At my age, why would I joke about having a son?” Calshan smiled and shook her head.
Thales nodded awkwardly and shot Putray a helpless glance.
‘What is going on? Who on earth is this old woman?’
Putray continued to stare cautiously at the old lady, but when he saw Thales’ glance, he shook his head slightly.
“I have not seen him in a long time. I miss him very much.” Calshan did not seem to care about Thales and Putray’s exchange of glances. She wore a nostalgic and loving gaze as she talked to herself. “That child never spoke much since he was young… He’s stubborn and horrible at expressing himself. Him being all alone out there is so worrying. He must have brought you a lot of trouble while he served the royal family.”
‘Never spoke much. Stubborn. Horrible at expressing himself.’
The Masked Protector’s silent figure appeared in his mind.
He also recalled his confrontation with Yodel in Mindis Hall that day, and what Yodel said when he appeared mysteriously in the Hall of Stars.
“You will be better than him.”
“Please don’t worry. I believe he is doing very well right now…” In his reminiscence, Thales pursed his lips.
Another wave of uproar that sounded like jeering rang suddenly through the noisy hall. Two guests were fighting on a table.
Thales suddenly realized that he was unconsciously continuing Calshan’s words.
He immediately stopped talking and stared cautiously at Calshan.
However, the latter was still smiling amicably. “Knowing that he’s doing well, I feel at ease. Please bear with his shortcomings. After all, as a mother, I know my child very well.” Calshan nodded in a reassured manner and then sighed. “Little Yodel has an extraordinarily kind heart.”
Thales forced a smile. He recalled a scene where Yodel raised his sword in the dark and took somebody’s life.
‘A kind heart?’ He could not help feeling puzzled. ‘Yodel’s mother? Why is she in Eckstedt?
‘This old woman… Wait. Old woman?’
A wave of memories flashed past his mind.
Staring at Calshan, Thales quivered and yelped in surprise. The old lady was still smiling at the Second Prince of Constellation. Her manner was elegant and her expression was kind-looking.
The day he left Eternal Star City and departed for Eckstedt, the king and some suzerains came to send him off.
The last person who came forward to talk to him was the fearsome old man in black who held a walking stick…
“When you reach Eckstedt, please help an old man like me pass a message to an old woman…
“… you will know when you see her.”
“Could it be that you are…” Thales widened his eyes.
Calshan continued to smile benignly. “Hmm?”
“Erm, sorry… But an… elder seemed to have mentioned something about you.” Thales realized that he had forgotten his manners. He said in embarrassment, “You know…”
“Elder?” Calshan’s smile became even brighter. “Let me guess, is it a sinister old man who always wears black and likes to stay in the dark? I heard that in these recent few years he has been using a walking stick?”
Thales frowned. “You know Morat?” He suddenly became extremely alert.
Someone who was specially mentioned by the Chief of the Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department… Apart from ‘dangerous’, he could not think of any other word to describe her.
Hearing the Black Prophet’s name, Putray looked at his prince with furrowed brows.
“Your Highness, I can imagine what you are feeling right now.” Calshan smiled and said, “I reckon that it is not enjoyable to be acquainted with him, is it?”
Thales had his answer.
Perhaps Morat was giving him a warning.
The second prince sighed. “He told me that, if I meet an old woman who comes forward to me of her own accord… I’m sorry. These… these are Morat’s original words.”
“It’s alright. That old man looks polite, but he actually doesn’t know anything about courtesy at all.” Calshan shook her head nonchalantly. The wrinkles on her face limbered up. “Heartbreakers are the best at swaying people’s hearts. I won’t buy into that.”
Thales’ mouth fell open slightly in surprise, he then immediately closed it.
‘That sentence… carried quite a lot of information.’
He turned his head and awkwardly said, “Actually, the Black Prophet—I’m referring to Lord Morat Hansen—asked me to pass a message to you.”
“He asked a prince to pass a message to me?” Calshan raised her eyebrows and gave Thales a smile that reached her eyes. “I really look forward to hearing it, Your Highness.”
The old woman’s kind smile only made Thales feel rather pressured.
Compared to the overbearing and substantial duress felt when faced with the Black Prophet, the way Calshan uttered such disturbing information in such a gentle and friendly manner that it made Thales feel really awkward and also made him feel that he was absolutely lacking in the ability to handle her.
Thales gave a hollow laugh. “He told you not to cross the line.”
Having said that, Thales suddenly realized that the old woman had a strange expression on her face.
‘Not to cross the line.’
Calshan shut her eyes and inhaled deeply. She then lowered her head with a sigh. Her expression was complicated and hard to decipher.
She muttered faintly, “So what?”
Before a puzzled Thales could react, Calshan stopped her reminiscing and flashed a smile once more.
“Your Highness, you are in a difficult situation right now. Struggling to survive in the crevices of Constellation and the Dragon, and trying your best to hold your ground amid the vortex created by the king and the archdukes.” Calshan sized Thales up with a gentle gaze. “However, please believe me when I say that compared to Morat’s situation… all this is nothing.”
The next moment, in front of Thales and Putray’s bewildered expressions, the old lady nodded elegantly and left. “Thank you for your time.”
Thales averted his gaze from the old lady’s slowly retreating figure.
He could not help but notice that as the old lady walked, all the nobles of various ranks, slaves, and guards respectfully saluted and made way for her.
Thales furrowed his brows.
He could roughly guess her identity.
“My God.” Behind them, Wya exclaimed softly, “Did I just see the Red Witch?”
Thales turned and look at his attendant.
“Sorry, I thought that all of them… you know… do not simply appear in front of other people.”
“Them?” Thales exhaled and grabbed a piece of buttered bread in resignation. “So, my guess was correct? That Calshan is…”
“You’re right.” With a solemn expression, Putray replied in his expertise—a song.
“Constellation sparkled, but the dark areas are still pitch black.
The Great Dragon soared in the sky, but there were endless shadows beneath its wings.”
Thales and Wya looked at the bard-cum-vice diplomat in unison.
“That lady is a fearsome character who is on par with the Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department’s Black Prophet.” Putray’s gaze was harsh. He said in a soft voice, “She is the top person in charge of Eckstedt’s ‘Secret Room’… Calshan the ‘Red Witch’.”
Feeling frustrated, Thales rolled his eyes.
“To be able to maintain a foothold in the Royal Court of Eckstedt as a woman, and to have others know her as an evil witch… Your Highness, you must be vigilant, she is definitely not just here to spectate.”
He stared from afar at two Northlanders fighting intensely barehanded among the crowd, then said dispiritedly, “Both of you might not believe this, but after seeing that lady, I find myself missing Morat very much right now.” Thales chewed on his bread dejectedly
“By the way, who is Yodel?” Putray looked at Thales in curiosity. “He serves the royal family?”
“About that… Erm, it’s a secret that is kept within the royal family.” Thales picked up a metal fork and stabbed an onion, hard.
‘The secret protector of the Supreme King of Constellation is actually the son of Eckstedt’s Head of Intelligence… Haih, another bottomless pit of gossip.’
In this banquet specially held to celebrate the Prince of Constellation’s arrival and the gathering of the five archdukes, even though Thales was nominally the person that was to be welcomed, he was undoubtedly treated quite coldly. Fortunately, there was not much trouble either. Occasionally, some of the Northland nobles who might have been gawking came forward to greet Thales. On Putray’s advice, Thales managed to properly return their greetings.
There were also some who drank too much and came forward to provoke Thales, but Lord Mirk was always able to allocate people in the nick of time to drag away wave after wave of drunkards.
Thales got to enjoy the grand banquet in peace, even though a seven or eight-year-old child could not eat much anyway.
A few hours later, while watching the still lively hall, Thales asked Wya in a bored tone, “How much longer will this go on? I feel as if I’m becoming a Northlander.”
Just now, a few drunk nobles who were in a family feud sparked a group fight taking place in three different locations, causing more excitement in the already noisy hall. It continued on until members of the White Blade Guards and the palace guards went forward in unison to stop them with their fists.
“A very long time. It is only eleven at night right now.” With furrowed brows, Wya looked into the distance in disbelief. A guest with a battered face and a swollen nose was helped back into his seat, he then drank another goblet of wine while swearing and proceeded to hurl the goblet at another person’s face.
The prince’s attendant shook his head and said, “I heard from my friends in Northland that Eckstedt’s banquets usually last until morning. Moreover, this is the king’s banquet that signifies Dragon Clouds City’s reputation. It is also the gathering of the five archdukes.”
Thales shook his head with glassy eyes.
The order of the banquet, which was already barely non-existent since it was held so wilfully, began to break down, there were even drunkards who staggered around. Some nobles put their arms around servant girls and left the hall, strange noises were then subsequently heard coming from outside the hall.
Even the vassals and followers around the five archdukes left their original seats and joined those who were drunk and excited.
King Nuven and Nicholas had left the hall a long time ago, leaving Mirk behind to calmly supervise the banquet.
As for Putray… Thales narrowed his eyes and stared at the gaunt man. Putray put his arms around countless Northlanders, often bursting into laughter. Thales could not help but criticize him internally.
‘Why is this person blending in so well?’
Thales pressed his face against the table and exhaled painfully. “Please tell me that the banquets in Constellation are not this insane.”
“They are probably not.” Wya smiled awkwardly.
“Of course not!”
Thales raised his head. Putray held a barrel of rye wine—Heroic Spirit Palace’s specialty. He staggered over with his eyes shut and muttered, “Constellation’s banquets are more civilized and appropriate to the occasions. All the insanities are covered up. For example, the host of the banquet would prepare special rooms for trysts. Then, there are the bushes in the gardens, and the quiet and secluded basements.
“From what I know, your father, King Kessel was an expert at all of these secret meetings during banquets when he was younger.”
Thales rolled his eyes. But Putray opened his eyes, and his expression changed slightly.
The vice diplomat of Constellation said in a low voice, “I have received Shiles’ signal.”
“The king has already left, and the people around the five archdukes are very drunk.” Putray nodded solemnly. “I reckon that it’s time to seek them out for a chat.”
As the banquet continued until close to twelve in the morning, the Archduke of Prestige Orchid, Reybien Olsius, left the hall. He was escorted by two attendants. Standing beside a secluded window outside the banquet hall, he gazed at the moon outside. He seemed to be waiting for someone.
Two pairs of footsteps came up behind him, one was louder than the other. Archduke Olsius turned…
He immediately creased his brows.
“You are the one who asked to meet with me?”
Holding the slip of paper he just received, the archduke stared in disbelief at the person before him—the Prince of Constellation, Thales Jadestar.
Accompanied by Wya, Thales stared at the archduke’s full beard and flashed a bright smile. “Yes.”
Olsius stared at Thales, and then at the slip of paper in his hand. His expression slowly changed.
Thales inhaled deeply. ‘It’s time. It’s starting.’
He slowly said, “Your Grace—”
Right then, Archduke Olsius suddenly snorted coldly, cutting him off. Thales was only half-way through his sentence before he was stunned.
Olsius glanced at him with disdain and shook his head. Then he then turned and left.
Thales widened his eyes. ‘Am I that despicable?’
“I took great pains to find an opportunity to meet you privately, Your Grace.” Thales took a step forward. He said with a frown, “At least listen to what I have to say!”
“There is nothing to talk about with a seven-year-old child.” Olsius did not even intend to turn his head.
Thales clenched his teeth. ‘There’s no other way.’
Then, the Second Prince of Constellation yelled at the Archduke of Prestige Orchid’s retreating figure.
“Reybien Olsius! Do you know who is going to be the next King of Eckstedt?”
Archduke Olsius immediately halted in his step. He slowly turned his head and stared at Thales with a strange expression.
Thales panted and said agitatedly, “Lampard…”
Olsius’ expression changed slightly.
Thales calmed his breathing a little. He then raised his head and looked at the full-bearded man with a firm expression.
“The Archduke of Black Sand, Chapman Lampard!”