Chapter 154: The Secret of ‘Triumph’
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Everyone left the meeting hall.
There were only two silhouettes left, one larger than the other. They sat side-by-side on a set of stairs at one side of the hall.
Thales felt slightly anxious. ‘What is this old man’s intention of asking me to stay here? It can’t really be that he just wants to ‘have a drink’, can it?’
Despite the thick cotton cloak over his shoulders, King Nuven showed off the clear outline of his muscles under the cloak, although his skin was already wrinkled. With a sour expression, he glared at the bandages on his body and raised his wine goblet.
“I’m getting old.” King Nuven took a swig of wine and flexed his left arm with a pained expression. “In the past, I could last through a battle of this intensity for a day and a night, but now…”
The old king snorted coldly and drank the rest of the wine. Thales did not say anything. He was trying hard to calm his breathing.
It was not that he had never spent time alone with a kingdom’s ruler. In truth, his father in name, Constellation’s King Kessel gave him even more pressure while he was alone with him. However, Thales felt somehow uncomfortable sitting next to King Nuven, especially when that scent—a combination of medicine and blood—can be detected.
Perhaps it was because King Nuven just killed someone with his own hands, or that the old king was unpredictable—since he had already lost all his blood relatives and lived a solitary existence. It might also be because—
“Your plan is very risky.” Thales’ train of thought was interrupted. King Nuven filled up another goblet of wine from the wine barrel. With his old voice, he slowly said, “If the culprit-If Poffret was here and faced this sort of situation, he would still remain calm and would not show any reaction. What would you have done then?”
Thales exhaled. ‘What now?’
“There is still a way.” The Prince of Constellation tried his best to curve his lips into a warm smile. “You will need to make an announcement for the archdukes that you intend to bring them along and speak to Chapman Lampard frankly and sincerely, and that you intend to bury the hatchet with him. I believe the culprit would be unwilling to do this. He knows that when you and Lampard consolidate the information both of you have, it will be enough to force him into a corner.”
King Nuven swiveled the wine goblet in his hand and listened to him quietly.
“Of course, there was never any need for us to take this risk. We can surely lay down a trap slowly and provide these two pieces of information bit by bit to the other archdukes.” Thales shrugged. “But we have no choice. Marquis Shiles Bamra told me that the there are two archdukes who will leave in the morning. We only have one night left, and we must think of a plan to be used during the feast—”
At this moment, King Nuven suddenly chortled loudly. He continued laughing for a good few seconds. The king’s cryptic laughter shocked Thales and made him swallow his words.
Suddenly, a thought flashed through his mind. ‘It can’t be.’
“Wait, do not tell me that… you…” Thales’ expression was one of disbelief. He stared at King Nuven with a mixture of surprise and dissatisfaction.
King Nuven tilted his head and watched Thales with a contemplative expression. His dark green eyes hid an emotionless and cold gaze, sending a chill down Thales’ spine.
“None of the archdukes are leaving, are they?” Thales shut his eyes and heaved a long sigh of indignation. “That was false information that you deliberately fed us.”
‘As esteemed archdukes, they wouldn’t just rush here to look at me and then leave.’
“Some well-timed prompts…” King Nuven nodded nonchalantly. “It looks like they were very effective.”
‘Well-timed prompts? Very effective?’
Thales recalled the dread, anxiety, and confusion he went through earlier today, and suppressed his desire to be snide with the king. He composed himself. After all, in Heroic Spirit Palace, the Prince of Constellation is only a guest with barely any power in the palace.
“But I must say that… you did well.” King Nuven put down his wine goblet and gazed steadily at Thales. The emotion in his eyes was complicated. Thales froze slightly.
Thales turned his head away and snorted softly. “Thank you, but… Putray, my vice diplomat and mentor, was the one who thought of the plan. He reminded me that I can use Lampard as a bargaining chip, too—”[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
“And yet, YOU are the one who carried it out.” King Nuven interrupted Thales. His gaze was sharp. “You deserve this praise. It is an absolute miracle for someone your age to have this kind of ability.”
Thales flashed a fake and unpleasant smile. He did not want to appear like a monster either—this world forced him to.
“Perhaps the Jadestar Royal Family is truly filled with these types of genii.” King Nuven heaved a long sigh.
Thales’ gaze flickered.
“Genii in the Jadestar Royal Family?” Thales asked sharply, “Who else?”
King Nuven chuckled softly. His expression was one of nostalgia.
“Your father’s brother and your grandfather’s eldest son, Midier Jadestar,” the old king said flatly. “He was also a precocious genius.”
Thales’ eyes brightened. ‘Midier Jadestar.’
Thales recalled Gilbert and Madam Jines’ attitudes towards the late king’s eldest son, this sagacious prince whom everyone sang their praises for. But at the same time, he recalled what the despaired Duke of the Northern Territory, Arunde, had said about Midier in Renaissance Palace.
“Pessimistic eldest brother.”
“When he was thirteen, he came here to present his letter of credence to mediate the dispute regarding the hunting range within the pine forests. The dispute was between our kingdom’s Prestige Orchid Region and Black Sand Region, and your kingdom’s Overwatch City. That was a year before I was crowned.
“It was also in this hall where he met my father, the Archduke of Prestige Orchid and the Archduke of Black Sand.” King Nuven looked up and down at the Hall of Heroes which glimmered in the firelight. He said slowly, “I watched as poor old Olsius, the previous Archduke of Prestige Orchid, was rendered speechless by a child in front of everyone.”
“I see.” Thales nodded in embarrassment. ‘No wonder Olsius… that man with the full beard detested me on sight. Looks like our feud has indeed “lasted for generations”.’
“True. I reckon that my father’s death one year after that was also partly thanks to Midier.” King Nuven smiled.
Thales felt awkward and did not reply.
The old king tightened his robe again. His gaze was incomprehensible. “Did you know that in the past, I would have detested strange, supposed genii like you, especially since you are the first-in-line, no, the only one in line for the throne of Constellation.”
Thales furrowed his brow slightly. King Nuven’s gaze made him a little uneasy.
“Midier’s death was such a pity… I have always wondered what sort of king he would have been.” King Nuven sighed and turned to stare at Thales. “However, it is still possible for you, and that possibility is quite large.
“I believe that the moment you are crowned, Constellation will be reborn.” King Nuven’s gaze then turned fierce. “Eckstedt will have to meet a fearsome opponent.”
Thales had just become relaxed when his anxiety flared once more. He shuddered violently.
‘It can’t be… What is this? What is this man trying to do?’
He could not really gauge King Nuven’s intentions. While he endured King Nuven’s gaze, Thales tried his best to regulate his increasingly rapid breathing.
King Nuven suddenly emitted a strange laugh.
He spoke flatly, his tone filled with the kind of authority exclusive to kings. “You don’t have to be so anxious. I am not a man-eating beast.”
Thales suppressed the desire to object and forced a smile. He glanced at the center of the hall through the corner of his eyes—that was where Poffret’s neck was twisted earlier.
King Nuven noticed Thales’ gaze and could not help but burst out laughing.
“As an heir to the throne, you must see blood sooner or later.” The king took a swig of wine. His gaze was sharp. “This will be helpful for you.”
Thales frowned. ‘See blood…’
Thales recalled Quide’s gaze before he died, and how it felt when his dagger pierced through blood and flesh. He also recalled the young psionic assassin who could produce a shrill magical sound, and his wet, warm, pulsating… heart.
Thales felt a surge of discomfort which he then forcefully suppressed.
King Nuven put his wine goblet down and asked slowly, “Do you have any thoughts on the duel just now?”
“It was memorable.” The anxious Thales replied honestly. “Especially how an aging veteran had managed to take down a young and strong rookie.”
King Nuven gave a snort of laughter.
Thales chose his words carefully. “And the Northland’s heroic custom when it comes to duels was also an eye-opener for me. Of course, there is also your courage to step forth firmly into the arena despite being the ruler of a kingdom.”
“Hmph. When I launched the duel, I saw your expression.” King Nuven stared at Thales with a profound gaze. “You disapproved of it very much, didn’t you?”
Thales was a little stunned. King Nuven continued staring at him intently.
“Alright,” Thales said with embarrassment as he took a deep breath, “You know, considering your age—since this concerns such a large kingdom—what if there was a mishap?”
Under Thales’ nervous gaze, King Nuven suddenly said something that was completely irrelevant. “You know, the relationship and ties between the Walton Family and the Jadestar Family began a long time ago.”
King Nuven slowly extended his right hand and flashed the black ring on his little finger. “Do you know what this is?”
Thales furrowed his brow, then shook his head honestly.
“This is ‘Triumph’.” King Nuven smiled mysteriously. “It is also one of the items that symbolize the birth of these two great families.”
Thales was involuntarily stupefied. ‘Triumph?’
He watched as King Nuven took off the ring and turned it over for him to see its inner side. Thales squinted, a pattern was engraved on the inner ring where King Nuven was pointed at. It looked like… a winged horse?
“This is the Emblem of the Pegasus,” King Nuven said flatly, “It has been the emblem of the Karlose Imperial Family ever since the Great Emperor Camelot established the Empire.”
Thales was momentarily surprised. ‘The Pegasus… Imperial Family? Karlose?’
“Over six hundred years ago, when Eckstedt and Constellation were first established, due to King Tormund’s brutal tactics on the remaining nobles of the Ancient Empire when expanding the territory his kingdom, a conflict erupted between Eckstedt and Constellation for the first time.” King Nuven’s tone was profound and distant.
Thales recalled something. ‘Tormund’s brutal tactics…’
“Raikaru and Tormund; the King of Dragon Knights and the King of Renaissance; a Northlander and a Citizen of the Empire, led their elite soldiers—who had survived the Battle of Eradication—and met at the periphery of Cold Castle.
“In the end, the late kings both took a step back. They concluded and signed the very first contract made between these two kingdoms and agreed that they will rule the north and the south respectively without hindering each other’s expansion plans.
“That was the first time Eckstedt and Constellation came into contact.” King Nuven exhaled a breath.
Thales narrowed his eyes. He recalled what he saw and heard in the library last evening.
‘King Nuven was probably talking about the contract that had Tormund and Raikaru’s signatures on it. If I’m not mistaken…”Year Eleven, Calendar of Eradication: Raikaru and Tormund, Eckstedt-Constellation Border Treaty”. That should be the one.’
“What the history books did not record was that the two late kings exchanged a family heirloom in private as a pledge of their alliance.” King Nuven put on the ring again. “This ring is the heirloom that King Tormund gave to King Raikaru.”
King Nuven sucked in a breath and said to Thales, “Raikaru then passed it to his nephew in the Walton Family. The ring had always belonged to all the former Archduke Waltons as a symbol of their archdukedom and was passed down from generation to generation.
“None of the outsiders know about its origin and history, just like how it did not use to have a name. However, all the former archdukes called it ‘Triumph’.” The king’s tone was a little airy, and there was a faraway look in his eyes.
‘Triumph.’ Thales creased his brow slightly.
“It’s a good name,” he said carefully, “it sounds uplifting and inspiring.”
“Uplifting and inspiring?” King Nuven could not help but laugh. King Nuven stroked his finger over Triumph as he said with a sharp gaze, “Like I said, it used to be the family heirloom of the King of Renaissance, Tormond. It originated from the Final Empire’s first emperor who is also one of your ancestors…
“Kessel Karlose the Sixth.”
Thales’ gaze flickered. ‘Kessel? An… emperor with the same name as my father?’
King Nuven raised his eyes. “Once belonging to the famed Emperor Kessel the Sixth, the ring was eventually handed down to King Tormond. Tormond then gave it to Raikaru as a proof to their alliance.
“Kessel the Sixth’s reputation wasn’t very good. His life was neither long nor short, but tempestuous. During his time, countless opponents had fallen under his conspiracy and manipulation.” King Nuven inhaled a breath, his tone was solemn.
“His greatest feat was relaunching the Karlose Imperial Family’s prestige amid the chaos that followed the collapse of the Ancient Empire. He recaptured the Capital of Triumph from the hands of rebel armies and vassals. That was how the Final Empire—which lasted three hundred years—was established.”
Thales nodded. ‘The emperor who recaptured the Capital of Triumph. The founder of the Final Empire. I see, that’s why it’s called “Triumph”.’
“Do you know what that emperor’s nickname is?” King Nuven suddenly raised his head and looked at Thales with a pondering gaze.
Thales froze a little, then shook his head. King Nuven’s expression as he stared at Thales became more and more indecipherable and made the later extremely anxious.
“This tiny ring has many uses.” King Nuven sighed and rotated the ring slowly.
This time, Thales was utterly dumbfounded. ‘Has many uses?’
Thales stared at the ring in a daze. A horrifying thought crept into his mind. As expected, what King Nuven said next sent a chill down his spine.
“The ring can conceal within it three different types of poisonous foam, two different types of gas, and even a poisonous needle.
‘Conceal… a poisonous needle?’
Listening to the old king’s words, Thales almost forgot to breathe. But King Nuven continued to speak.
“Let’s say, when two people in a duel are locked in a stalemate…”
Thales trembled violently.
“… slowly rotate the gear, and ‘Triumph’ can release the prepared poisonous gas, Seer Grass, at close range.” At this moment, King Nuven’s gaze turned very cold. His tone was also extremely terrifying.
“It is very expensive to extract and purify, but it can unknowingly anaesthetize the victim’s muscles and consciousness. This type of poison will spread to your blood under rigorous exercise. The victim will experience a lack of energy and numbness in the muscles, in addition to feeling increasingly violent and restless.”
‘Decreased energy. Numbed muscles. Violent and restless…’ The second prince was dumbstruck. He turned and stared at King Nuven in disbelief. King Nuven also turned his head to stare at Thales.
Then, the old king confirmed Thales’ frightful guess with a suspicious smile.
“Why so surprised?”
The Common-Elected King of Eckstedt, the most esteemed ruler among the Northlanders, Nuven Walton the Seventh, stared at Thales with a profound gaze. “Did you really think that an old man who is almost seventy years old… could easily defeat a man in his prime, at the peak of physical reaction, strength and speed, and whom received Northland Martial Arts training all year long?”
Thales stared at King Nuven in shock and the king cast him a meaningful smile.
Thales’ thoughts were a mess. He replayed every scene during the recent duel in his mind and captured the fragments that best matched the description.
Poffret’s heavy panting. How he could not aim accurately with his axe most of the time. And how hysteric the young archduke was at the end.
‘It can’t be?’ Thales did not know what expression he should be wearing right now, nor did he know what expression he had on. He could only gaze at King Nuven closely.
“Did I forget to tell you? The nickname of the founder of the Final Empire, Kessel the Sixth was…”
King Nuven smiled, his expression mysterious. He softly uttered three words.
“‘The Emperor of Poison’.”