Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Having drunk enough wine, the king threw down his wine goblet and exercised his joints.
He snorted softly at Poffret who laid on the ground. “Brat, you have the guts to mention the war from twelve years ago? The destruction and gore twelve years ago, how much of it can you comprehend?” King Nuven glared disdainfully at his prey who had lost both arms. “You were only a pampered heir to a suzerain. Your grandfather only let you stay in the main camp—the safest one. He didn’t even allow you to transport baggage.”
Thales saw that the young archduke’s eyes were bloodshot and he stared straight ahead in a daze. It was as if he had forgotten about the immense pain in his arms.
“However, perhaps your grandfather was right. Letting trash like you transport supplies and baggage… what if you had encountered Horace Jadestar who raided supplies from the rear?” Having said this, King Nuven’s face dimmed. “Perhaps all these accursed nonsense would not have happened.”
A few seconds later, being pressed hard on the ground, Poffret burst into a laughter, though no one knew the meaning behind his laughter.
“And the so-called trauma you got from the war… is bullshit.” King Nuven continued suppressing his anger, up to the point he could no longer do so. “Without Dragon Clouds City and the Walton Family, all of you are nothing!”
He removed his leg from stepping on Poffret’s back and kicked the archduke’s stomach hard. Thales frowned as he recalled his time in the Abandoned House where he was often punched and kicked.
After enduring the kick, Poffret curled up his body and moaned in pain.
“All the more so, you shouldn’t have targeted at Moriah!” King Nuven lowered his head and, with a pained expression, bellowed in a deep voice, “He thought that you were his friend! Crooked betrayer! Hypocritical coward!”
The furious king extended his leg again and kicked Poffret’s chest hard.
*Bang!* A dull thud was heard clearly.
Poffret curled up again. The heavy impact made him cough relentlessly. His coughing slowly died down and he unfolded his curled-up body. His two arms, bent backwards, looked hideous. The archduke let out a strange laugh that sounded like a cry.
“Hahaha…” Poffret suppressed his laughter, but to Thales, the laughter was very dreary and bitter.
King Nuven’s face became more unpleasant. Grinding his teeth, he glared at his enemy with a horrifying expression. The young archduke suddenly stopped laughing. He raised his head and shot King Nuven a furious gaze.
“You’re right, I did that.” Poffret glared fiercely at the old king and panted as he spoke. “Moriah told me about his secret mission to visit Constellation and redraft the contract. I was the only one he told! Such an honor…”
“You admit it?” King Nuven’s expression was grim. His gaze burned with hatred and anguish. “You only have the guts to own up when you are facing death, is that it?”
“Yes, without putting in any effort, I could use his trust in me to swindle information about his visit to Constellation,” Poffret replied the king with a mocking smile, “including his itinerary, arrangements, plans and even the members of the diplomat group…”
King Nuven kicked Poffret’s abdomen harshly again with his armored boot. Poffret rolled around in pain, away from King Nuven.
King Nuven chuckled coldly and raised his voice. “Just because you felt that you were treated unfairly… you killed my son and betrayed your friend! The alleged position at Beacon Illumination City… was just an excuse you used for your own selfish indifference! You can even… your own father… What can’t a person like you do?!”
Under the immense pain of having two broken arms, Poffret moaned softly. His forehead was drenched in sweat. But when he heard the king’s words, he made a great effort to raise his head and released a choked laughter.
“Unfair?” Poffret’s laughter was strange and frenzied. “My God, you-you really-you really know no shame at all. You are indeed our Born King. Unfair? Hahaha…”
Then, Poffret’s expression changed. He turned towards the four archdukes.
“Stop pretending! All of you!” The young archduke’s words were full of fury.
“Olsius, Trentida, Roknee, and Lecco… Don’t tell me that all of you dare swear in the name of your ancestors that you are not grateful and glad at all for that I have done. Do you dare slap your chest and say that you don’t feel even a hint of relief and joy over Moriah’s death and the Walton Family’s loss of power and decline at all?”
The archdukes chose to respond with silence. At that moment, even Trentida, the craftiest one among them did not speak anymore.
Thales felt the atmosphere in the hall become tense, as if the duel had expanded to the area beyond the two men. On the other hand, King Nuven was silent. Step by step, he walked slowly towards Poffret.
Panting, Poffret threw his shoulders apart and squirmed on the floor like a snake.
Watching the archduke writhing on the floor, Thales did not feel any relief from the fact that the truth was out in the daylight, nor did he feel relief from getting his revenge, there was only an unspeakable sorrow.
Gritting his teeth and with great effort, Poffret squirmed forward while speaking, “The ten archdukes… The ten archdukes… After your death… there will be a fair and just election for the next king, right?”
King Nuven stopped walking.
With his back to the king, Poffret crawled to the middle of the hall. He turned his body around with great effort to face King Nuven. His voice was filled with hatred.
“In the south… You promised Reformation Tower early on that you would arbitrate in Trentida’s favor in their dispute with Elaphure City for that piece of borderland, in exchange for his support.
“You have little Olsius, who escaped to Dragon Clouds City after failing in his contention to become archduke, in your hands. He is a bargaining chip for you to interfere in Prestige Orchid Region’s right of succession. Therefore, no matter how dissatisfied Archduke Olsius is, he won’t dare speak out.
“Since your father’s time, all of you have relied on Dragon Clouds City’s location to forcefully reroute the trading route to the Glacier Sea in the northeast. You threatened the Cameron Family with cutting the route off unless they voted for you to become king.
“Of course, there’s also us—the Poffret Family that rose to prominence because of your and your father’s support. Both of you tamed the hound, and Beacon Illumination City became a tame lapdog that submits at the blow of your whistle.”
King Nuven furrowed his brows tightly. The hall was filled with whispers. Thales was feeling doubt in his heart.
Poffret continued to speak in a grievous and agonized tone.
“To the north, the bald old man Lecco from Defense City would only remain neutral and, at the most pivotal moment, choose the family that would definitely win.
“The Stustel Family, located to the northernmost of Eckstedt, had always chosen their kings based on who supported them in fending off the orcs.”
Poffret rose from the ground into a kneeling position. He straightened his upper body and turned his head around abruptly to glare at King Nuven whose gaze was icy cold. He said forlornly, “For the next King Selection Congress, you and your family had already arranged to secure four votes. And with these votes, the two archdukes from the North are destined to vote for your family!”
King Nuven’s face was livid with anger. He clenched his fists, making rattling sounds.
“In the upcoming King Selection Congress, the other alleged archdukes stand no chance at all!
“Unfair? This is what true unfairness is!” Poffret growled in a low voice. His words sent a chill down the spines of every person in the hall.
“Decades ago, your grandfather made arrangements before his death for the king selection system for your father to be crowned. From then on, all of you manipulated everything in the dark through all kinds of distasteful tactics, under the banner of ‘fair’ competition and the open selection of the king.
“To put the pre-determined person on the throne and silence all opposition, our King Selection Congress is nothing but an act to crown him!”
King Nuven walked forward in large strides.
Thales sighed internally. ‘Is this the truth of their king selection system?’
He recalled what Putray told him about the history of the establishment of Eckstedt’s king selection system. The archdukes who opposed each other with equal harshness since Raikaru’s death.
Poffret wore a disgusted expression and glared face-to-face at his opponent whose face was livid with anger.
“From then onwards, there was no ‘Archduke Walton of Dragon Clouds City’, only ‘King Walton of Eckstedt’! Bah!” He clenched his teeth, as if he wanted to chew King Nuven into pieces. “Don’t tell me that you didn’t know why we call you the ‘Born King’! It’s not because of how gifted or formidable you are…
“But because you were destined to become the Common-Elected King of Eckstedt ever since you were born! Curse you, you BORN king!
“What disgusts me most is that all of you have the audacity to claim that Eckstedt is a jointly-ruled kingdom that runs on a king selection system!”
Poffret was starting to lose control of his emotions. “Under the Walton Family’s oppression, how are we different from kingdoms like Constellation that are ruled by a degenerate, hereditary royal family? How are we different from the tyrannical Empire? Sooner or later, a madman like Constellation’s Aydi the Second will appear and drag the entire kingdom down to hell!”
Hearing this familiar name, Thales felt a chill running down his spine. That was his grandfather.
‘Drag the entire kingdom… down to hell?’
Suddenly, someone gently tapped his shoulder. It was Putray who stood behind him. Thales exhaled with difficulty and refocused his attention on the scene.
King Nuven walked forward with a cold gaze and extended his leg mercilessly to kick Poffret back on the ground.
The young archduke whose hands were handicapped and could not even maintain his balance was swept down onto the floor once more.
Falling heavily on the floor, Poffret continued to bellow, “Singing the praises of the Joint Ruling Pledge and hypocritically claiming that we have the freedom and right to choose our king, but monopolizing all the power in the dark and pre-determining the king for your benefit! Where else in the world is there such a shameless, crooked, hypocritical, sanctimonious, and disgusting ruler!
“All of you made Eckstedt a hereditary kingdom of the Walton Family a long time ago! The Walton Royal Family! Such irony! Raikaru’s Joint Ruling Pledge had long since been ruined by this shameless family his nephew left behind!”
Thales’ breathing became uneven. Everything that happened before his eyes was like a mirror to him.
At that moment, hearing Poffret’s accusations, he did not think of Eckstedt. Instead, he thought of Constellation.
He thought of Kessel’s ice-cold expression and the One-Eyed Dragon’s solemn gaze. He thought of the doubtful Six Great Clans and Thirteen Distinguished Families who each had their own axe to grind.
Thales sighed internally and involuntarily clenched his fists.
Poffret wriggled his body with all his might and struggled up from the floor once more.
“That’s not all! Your father married off his daughter to the previous Archduke of Black Sand, and tried to meddle with Black Sand Region’s affairs by controlling their bloodline!
“Harboring malicious intent, you purchased Crystal Drops Mines from Camus Union and supplied Crystal Drops to Elaphure City in the East at a low price. Nominally, it is to fend off the threat from the Eastern Peninsula. In actuality, it is so that you can cut off the supply at a vital time and force the Gaddro Family into submission!
“God knows what tactics you have planned for Roknee, from the City of Faraway Prayers in the west. I reckon that it has something to do with that Camian whose territory is close to the City of Faraway Prayers, hasn’t it? What is it this time? A seemingly splendid contract that is actually filled with traps?”
Upon hearing this, Thales could not help but turn his head back around.
Marquis Shiles from Camus Union felt the crowd’s gazes on him. He coughed awkwardly and turned his head away.
Poffret’s face had long since been drained of all colour. He did not try to get up anymore, instead he lay face-down on the floor in resignation. His tone was grim.
“Other than this, you also want to emulate Constellation in stationing tax collectors who report directly to the king, all over the kingdom, to meddle with the suzerains’ tax collection in their own territories. You want to dispatch your officials to the entire kingdom starting from Beacon Illumination City!
“This humiliation, oppression, and unfairness is not only for me. It’s not something new either.” Panting, Poffret’s voice became weaker. “How can we not rebel?”
“Rebel? So, this is why you murdered Moriah? To exact revenge on the Walton Family?” King Nuven’s gaze flickered a little. “By betraying your friend? Only a coward like you…”
Poffret paused for a moment. His gaze became complicated and indecipherable.
Panting, Poffret’s voice was low. “Yes, Moriah… We used to be friends… I also told myself that everything would get better, but… but…”
“Nuven Walton!” The young archduke’s expression changed, as if he had just made a painful decision. He raised his head and laughed miserably with his eyes closed. “It’s all your fault! You’re the one who forced me to do this!”
“Me?” King Nuven’s voice was low and terrifying, like muffled thunder before a storm.
While trembling, Poffret raised his head, his gaze was sinister, and with a loud voice, he said, “Five years ago, after I refused your request to have an official of yours be stationed in Beacon Illumination City…
“Strangely enough, some of my vassals immediately came forward with suspicions over my legitimacy, Trentida started provoking me at my borders in a conceited fashion, the people in my territory began talking about my abilities… Soon, my vassals started rebelling, my people started protesting against taxes, my territory was in chaos… When I was forced into a corner and was in a disheveled state, you had Moriah come forward to stop all of this with a letter you wrote!
“While reading your hypocritical letter of consolation, I raised my head to look at Moriah. He was giggling and recalling our past… I only understood then that we were never friends! I am only Dragon Clouds City’s b*tch!
“And you still don’t know what kind of trash Moriah is?” The veins in Poffret’s face bulged, and his brown hair was plastered to his forehead. He looked hideous and flustered.
“I have had enough of the silly grin on his face! From his perspective, the whole world was beautiful!” Poffret’s eyes were red. He struggled to get up with all his might and roared hysterically at everyone in the Hall of Heroes. “He was a naive, weak, hesitant, useless, and short-sighted piece of trash with no ambition at all!
“Hahaha…” Under King Nuven’s extremely gloomy expression, Poffret’s upper body trembled. He laughed so hard that he was close to tears.
“Did you know that… Moriah, that trash… his biggest dream was to… was to become an adventuring mercenary… to, to travel the world… hahahahaha… mercenary, adventuring… hahahaha…
“Oh, he even fell for a prostitute! A coquettish, hair-stroking tramp! He even said that he wanted to make her his wife!”
Thales shook his head. He recalled what King Nuven said about Prince Moriah the first time Thales met the king and the archdukes.
Poffret laughed so hard that he was close to tears.
Poffret, on the other hand, laughed morbidly. Amid his raging emotions and the intense pain from his arms, he rolled on the floor without pause. His face was covered in tears and snot. “The esteemed Prince Moriah, the once future Archduke of Dragon Clouds City, wanted to marry a lowly tramp who was f*cked by thousands of people! Hahahahaha…
“He was even the predetermined King of Eckstedt! Think about it, the great Eckstedt having a prostitute for a queen! All the vassals and people would have to bow and salute to a tramp. Hahaha…”
Many of the people in the hall who watched him lowered their heads and sighed.
King Nuven did not cut him off. Instead, he continued glaring at Poffret with his terrifying gaze.
“This sort of man… This sort of trash… This sort of totally oblivious and completely irresponsible creature was actually the Walton Family heir!” Poffret stopped laughing. He lifted his gaze which was indignant and filled with hatred. “And against my will, I had to pledge my loyalty to him, and elect him to become king. Not because of his abilities, but because of his surname and his father!
“You asked me why I chose Lampard, the Archduke of Black Sand whose heart is as black as the name of his territory? That animal who killed his own brother?
Archduke Poffret’s gaze was fiery and he roared thunderously, “I did not choose Lampard! Instead, I chose a future without the Walton Family! A future where the King of Eckstedt is not predetermined!
“I’m truly happy, because I’ve finally destroyed the last of your bloodline.” He glared at King Nuven with clenched teeth. The next Common-Elected King of Eckstedt will not be a Walton anymore!”
King Nuven responded with a fierce kick to Poffret’s face.
King Nuven grabbed his collar and said coldly, “Before that… I will destroy you first.”
The young archduke laughed miserably. He shook his head and looked to his side…
… at Thales Jadestar.
Thales’ heart immediately tightened. ‘What’s happening?’
“Hey, you! Little brat from Constellation!” Poffret shouted, causing everyone to focus their attention on Thales.
“You.” Covered in wounds, the archduke spoke with difficulty and let out a dreary laugh. “You are very pleased with yourself, aren’t you? A Prince of Constellation flaunting his prowess in Eckstedt’s capital city… making a fool out of all the archdukes.”
Thales frowned, he could sense the hostility of the gazes from all the people in the hall. After all, he was in ECKSTEDT.
“Your days are numbered!” Poffret said venomously. “Did you think that I only tried to assassinate you to protect myself?”
What the archduke said after that made Thales freeze.
“You don’t know how much they—those men—want your life.” Poffret panted, enduring the immense pain in his arms. “I saw through their intentions when I hired them… they’re not just after the money…”
Thales’ breaths quickened. The young archduke continued to speak.
“Even in their dreams they desire to kill every person in the Jadestar Family and take over Renaissance Palace! They couldn’t do anything in Constellation because they are fugitives hated by everyone there. But here in Eckstedt…
“They did not give any reaction when they received my money.” Poffret’s gaze was fiery. “However, when those assassins heard that the target was Constellation’s Jadestar Royal Family heir… they looked so excited…”
“What? Assassins?” Thales stared at Poffret in a daze, and only managed to react after a few seconds. “Who are they?”
“Who else?!” Poffret shouted with a satisfied expression. “Of course they’re those dishonorable assassins! They were the ones who infiltrated Lampard’s army and utilized his Mystic Gun Unit to assassinate you beyond the fortress!
“They are your family’s greatest enemy!”
Thales stared at him in disbelief. ‘Jadestar Family’s greatest enemy?’
Then Poffret laughed maniacally and uttered a name that made everyone frown.
“The Shadow Shield!”