Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Thales shakily extended his right hand and touched his sticky face. Staring at the blood on his palm, which was becoming icy cold, he felt that his breaths were not his anymore.
“Shield District is filled with their people… Despicable Northlanders…”
Aida’s voice rang.
It sounded like it was coming from somewhere far away.
“Listen up, kid, even though the calamity was there… Putray dispatched all your subordinates to search for you; that cocky brat from the Caso Family, that masked mute who’s always by your side, and even Starlight Brigade’s veteran…”
The elf protector carried the second prince under her arm and advanced rapidly. Rubble, fragments of wood and even dead bodies flashed past the prince’s vision.
It took Thales some effort to breathe. He turned and saw that Little Rascal was being carried under Aida’s other arm. Grasping her glasses tightly, she looked stupefied.
“I was the only one who came to look for you in Shield District. I did not foresee such circumstances. What’s going on with these soldiers? Why are they attacking both of you and the White Blade Guards?”
‘They were not attacking me and the White Blade Guards,’ Thales thought in a daze.
The smell of blood lingered in his nose.
This made him recall the gullies around the Abandoned House, and the insides of Giza’s tentacles. They smelled almost the same as this.
‘They were after King Nuven.’
“Say something, kid!” Turning a corner, Aida asked impatiently. “What on earth happened?”
Thales felt tired and overwhelmed. He tried his best to put his memory in order.
He remembered Kentvida’s smile; the sound of arrows being fired by the crossbows of the Black Sand Region’s soldiers; the countless black silhouettes shooting towards him; and the numbness as well as shivering that extended from his scalp to his shoulders and neck.
Aida carried one of them under each arm, and they finally escaped the ruins of Shield District. Neat and undamaged streets as well as houses began to appear before Thales’ eyes. Not a single person could be seen though. The king’s orders for evacuation and curfew were indeed very effective.
The elf protector navigated the streets, which were in much better condition compared to the ones in Shield District. Taking a couple of turns, she skillfully and nimbly looked for ways forward.
However, Thales was still lost in the shocking memories from earlier on, unable to free himself.
With a fraction of a second on their hands, the four remaining White Blade Guards did not even have time to complete the execution of their attacks of kneeling down and raising their shields.
Instead, they turned and extended their arms without hesitation, kneeling and hugging each other in a circle. They protected Thales and Little Rascal with their bodies.
Thales recalled himself and Little Rascal hugging each other without being conscious of it. They were feeling frightened and helpless. Their visions were completely blocked by the White Blade Guards.
Then, the sound of countless arrows tearing into flesh rang.
It was just like the sound that the butcher in the grand bazaar near Eternal Star City’s Western City Gate made. It was the sound of him chopping piece after piece of meat every morning.
Shivering, Thales trembled as he inhaled a mouthful of cold air.
He recalled the faces of those guards.
As they were ravaged by the arrows, their bodies trembled non-stop, and their faces became increasingly paler.
They glanced at each other, their gazes filled with hatred and indignance. He remembered how in the end, their gazes looked peaceful as if they had resigned to their fate.
It was as if rain and snow, instead of arrows were falling on their bodies.
Thales also remembered how those arrows exited the guards’ bodies, piercing through their shoulders, necks, and stomachs, bringing blood along with them.
An arrow even pierced through one of the guards’ head, exiting through his left eye socket. The warm, splattering blood dyed Thales’ face red.
The bright red tip of the arrow stopped right in front of Thales’ right eye.
At that time, with her eyes shut tightly, Little Rascal hugged him and cried.
With their eyes wide open, those guards coughed out blood. Some even flashed him relieved smiles.
They hugged each other and crumbled to the ground one by one, never getting up again.
“You must survive, citizen of the Empire.” Thales recalled how a guard gritted his teeth and grabbed Thales by his collar. His breath was faint. “Protect her well and make them pay the price…”
He also remembered how one last, young guard rose in grief and indignation amid the dead bodies of his three comrades. With five or six arrows stuck into his body, he used his last ounce of strength, raised his blade and staggered towards his enemies.
He sacrificed his life and performed a counter-attack for the last time, delivering chaos to the bow-wielding soldiers.
Kentvida’s furious scream rang across the crowd of people.
Thales recalled how he took Little Rascal by the hand and crawled away from the guards’ dead bodies.
He remembered how he was in a trance and almost at a breaking point; and how the White Blade Guards who guarded their rear let out one last, sorrowful cry.
He did not even realize it when Aida appeared from the ruins beside him and charged out of the chaotic crowd with him as well as Little Rascal in tow.
With a glazed expression and a heart full of delirium, Thales turned and stared at the equally horrified Little Rascal.
Without realizing, he extended his hand to wipe off the blood from his face again.
The blood on his face had dried up.
He thought that the battle in the birch tree forest was hair-raising enough, that the breaking out of encirclement in front of the fortress was already an extremely close call, and that the duel with Giza was shocking enough.
In the birch tree forest, Serena abducted him out of the battlefield. In front of the fortress, Arracca brought him to safety with his unstoppable charge. Even earlier, he was protected and escorted by Black Sword’s fighting skills, his mysterious mystic energy as well as the strange Blade of Purification.
It was only until blood was shed so close to him, when the guards died one by one right before his eyes… It was only when the White Blade Guards were totally annihilated, and sorrowful cries as well furious roars rang one after another that Thales realized—he realized how despicable, painful and unendurable it was.
Aida suddenly stopped and put Thales as well as Little Rascal down on an empty and clean street.
They were standing at the corner of the street, but Aida did not have any intentions to keep going.
The cloaked elf turned and fixed her gaze on the empty street.
“What’s the matter?” Still in shock, Thales raised his head and tried to compose himself.
“We’re being followed,” Aida’s quiet voice sounded under her cloak. “I tried to throw him off, but it hasn’t been very effective.”
Her words were smooth. However, her tone was unprecedentedly solemn.
Thales’ expression changed. On the other hand, Little Rascal lowered her head and stared at her glasses, which were covered in blood.
“So?” the prince asked probingly.
“So, the both of you should go first.” Aida tapped him on the shoulder in a relaxed manner.
“I’ll go find it.” Her palm was bloody due to the blood of various people that covered Thales’ body. She then rubbed her palms together in disdain. “I’ll catch up with the both of you after I get rid of that tail.”
‘You go first.’
He recalled the night at Red Street Market.
The girl wielding dual blades said the same thing to him.
“The opponent is very powerful, isn’t it?” Thales asked absentmindedly.
“You’re not confident in winning, and have no choice but to let us go first?”
Under the cloak, Aida did not move at all. She seemed stupefied.
Cold wind glazed past the empty and hazy street. The sun was starting to rise, illuminating the space with a faint green light, which was exclusive to the dawn.
A few seconds later, Aida suddenly raised her right hand and swung it at Thales’ forehead.
Aida flicked his forehead hard with her finger once again.
But this time, Thales did not try to stop Aida. Instead, he quietly let the latter flick his forehead.
“Huh?” Aida was a little taken aback by Thales’ reaction. “Why didn’t you try to stop me at all?”
Thales felt the burning pain on his forehead. He shook his head with a grave expression.
It was as though this was the only way for him to feel alive.
“Otherwise, you won’t be at ease about us fleeing by ourselves,” he said, feeling down.
Aida seemed a little angry. She raised her right hand once again and seemed to want to hit him.
But Thales did not move at all.
Aida’s hand hung mid-air.
A few seconds later, she sighed in disappointment and lowered her hand.
“Haih, you’re no fun,” the cloaked woman said in resignation. “You’re a dead fish just like Mindis.”
“So it’s true?” Thales inhaled deeply and said in a deep voice, “That the enemy is very powerful?”
“Hmph.” Aida was as expressive as usual. She shrugged and threw her arms open in exaggerated motions to show how relaxed and nonchalant she was.
The elf fanned herself with her palm. “How powerful can a sneaky person who hides around be?
“As for you, stop worrying so much about adult matters.” Fanning herself strangely in the cold weather, Aida said, “Besides, as a prince, you will have to grow up one day. I can’t be protecting you all the time.”
Thales lowered his head.
“Don’t think too much,” Aida’s tone slowly became dejected, and she put down the hand she used to fan herself.
“This is a test for you from me.”
At that moment, Thales felt a little sad…
It felt as though something was lodged in his chest.
“I get it.” Taking Little Rascal’s hand, he said in a choked voice, “We will go first and wait for you there.”
‘I’m used already used to it a long time ago, aren’t I?’
Aida’s tone became spirited again.
“Hurry up then. After this corner, go straight and you’ll reach West-Express Avenue. Upon reaching the end of the avenue, you’ll see the blockade. I don’t suggest seeking out the patrols, because we don’t know what their attitudes will be…
“Hide for a bit if there’s really no other way. The others are looking for you too, and they’ll pay special attention to children… You’ll be safe when you meet people like Ralf or Wya…
“As for me…” Aida paused fleetingly.
“I’ll catch up soon.”
Thales lowered his head and did not say a thing.
The next moment, as if he had made up his mind, he dragged the stupefied Little Rascal by the hand and broke into a jog.
However, he suddenly stopped.
Staring at him, Aida tilted her head. She seemed puzzled.
“Hey, Aida.” Thales turned with difficulty. “I know that you may not like it when I ask you this, but I really want to know…”
Aida put her hands on her waist.
“May I know if you’re…”
Thales took a deep breath and solemnly said, “‘The Oath Keeper’, Mindis the Fourth’s queen—one of my great great great… grandmothers?”
Hearing this, even the dazed Little Rascal could not help but raise her head.
Aida’s expression could not be seen under the cloak.
A few seconds later, the elf protector sighed.
“Hey, stupid brat.” Aida raised her head, allowing Thales a clear view of her unusually delicate, smooth and fair chin.
She flatly said, “Stop meddling in matters of the elders.”
Thales froze momentarily.
He then pursed his lips and forced a smile.
The next moment, Thales grabbed Little Rascal and broke into a run without turning back. His figure disappeared into the corner.
Staring at Thales’ disappearing figure, Aida inhaled loudly.
But she immediately turned. Her entire body trembled.
‘That person’s coming.’
Aida stood at her most vigilant.
She swept her gaze past the empty street from the corner to the roofs, and from the alley to the low walls, letting nothing slip.
‘This is such a sh*tty situation.’
The piercing pain and numbness on her skin told her that the enemy was a ruthless person.
‘How long has it been since I encountered such a powerful opponent?
‘When I conquered the peak of Wild Vast Mountain with Keira?’
“Show yourself,” Aida said flatly. “I can sense your presence.”
A tall and big figure emerged from the corner, appearing in front of her.
Aida’s pupils contracted slightly.
“It’s you.” The elf exhaled. Her tone was filled with sarcasm and disdain. “The boss of the tavern.”
Kaslan stared at Aida with an indifferent gaze.
“I heard that you were a senior member of the White Blade Guards.” Snorting softly, Aida emphasized the word “senior”. “‘Ground-Shaker’, right?”
“Even though you’re wearing a cloak, I can see that you are an elf,” Kaslan said slowly. His tone was stately and ruthless. “As an eternal being, you definitely have more experience than me.”
Aida was immediately at a loss for words.
She exhaled in annoyance and whipped out her exquisite machete.
“I heard that you were the one who killed Xyra Darkstorm, the Human Slaughterer?” Aida said nonchalantly. “You’re very powerful, aren’t you?”
“That’s the battle I’m most proud of to date.” Kaslan nodded and walked closer to Aida.
“Of course, part of the honor belongs to this thing…”
The old man walked out of the corner and revealed himself completely. There was a long stick in his hand.
Aida furrowed her brows.
‘That’s not a stick.’
“This was once my comrade and friend.
“Xyra Darkstorm died by it.” Kaslan raised the weapon in his hand, showing its black and hideous head.
He then slowly said, “The Soul Slayer Pike.”
The elf’s face twitched.
The next moment, she forced a smile.
Aida inhaled deeply. She placed one hand on her waist and tried to appear relaxed.
“Speaking of the Darkstorm Tribe that’s been around since ancient times, in the past, it was a powerful tribe that had rights to contend for the throne.” Narrowing her eyes, the elf chuckled unnaturally. As the old man approached, she got into a fighting stance without realizing it herself. “It must have been tough for you.”
“You seem to be very experienced when it comes to orcs?” Kaslan said in a deep voice. His footsteps slowed down.
“The Darkstorm Tribe? Of course.”
Aida waved her machete and positioned herself in such a way that she seemed nonchalant.
“The first tribe my father met when he led troops to aid the humans in battle was Darkstorm.” The elf snorted softly. “When my father chopped off their heads…
“It was like chopping vegetables!” Aida rapidly waved her machete four times in the air.
“Chop, chop, chop, chop. Two heads with each swing!” she chattered nonstop.
Kaslan stopped walking. He narrowed his eyes to look at the machete-swinging elf.
He turned the pike in his hand slowly.
“Hey, I’m not lying!” the elf said loudly as she observed her opponent’s posture and breathing carefully.
‘Yes, I wasn’t lying.
‘Apart from one detail,’ Aida thought.
‘I wasn’t born yet.’
Lampard stood amid the ruins and furrowed his brows. He was as stern and silent as usual.
The ground in front of him was littered with dead bodies. Some belonged to the White Blade Guards and the others were of Black Sand Region’s soldiers. Going back and forth, his subordinates were busy removing the dead bodies.
Covered in a gray cloak exclusive to members of the White Blade Guards, King Nuven’s ice cold dead body lay beside the archduke.
Lampard lowered his head and stared at King Nuven. He placed his hand on the hilt of his worn saber with a complicated expression.
“We lost twenty-eight men,” Viscount Kentvida approached Archduke Lampard from behind and said in a low voice. “Fifteen more are so gravely wounded that they need to lie down. Four sustained light injuries and are still fit for combat.”
Lampard did not say anything.
“The White Blade Guards pledged their lives to launch a counter-attack. We underestimated their military power, and overestimated our own military power at the same time,” Kentvida sighed and said. “The Dragon’s appearance really shocked the soldiers. If we hadn’t trained them and indoctrinated them over the years, I’m afraid they would have changed sides.”
Archduke Lampard raised his head and averted his gaze from the king, who was also his uncle.
“More than ten White Blade Guards were enough to throw the regular border troops we take pride in into a panic.” The archduke exercised his neck slowly and inhaled a mouthful of Dragon Clouds City’s cold dawn air. “How did Charleton manage to break through these men’s protection and assassinate King Nuven?”
Kentvida lowered his head.
“You know, they’re the Charletons.” The viscount nodded respectfully. “Fortunately, many of the White Blade Guards were killed, injured or lost amid the chaos brought about by the calamities.”
“Forget it. At least we have confirmed our king’s death.” Archduke Lampard’s gaze was solemn. He raised his head and looked at the tallest building in Dragon Clouds City.
“How much longer?” the archduke said flatly. His tone was stately in itself.
Kentvida bowed respectfully.
“Two hours at most,” Kentvida quickly replied to the seemingly random question.
“The chief disciplinary hall and the Chief Garrison Officer will become suspicious when they don’t receive the king’s reply. They will then dispatch men to search for him in Shield District. Of course, Vlad’s people can find ways to stall them, and the people in Dragon Wings Plaza and even Shield District can give them some trouble.”
Kentvida seemed well-versed with everything. The archduke’s chief advisor continued speaking.
“If there’s no result after four hours, Prime Minister Lisban will sense that something isn’t right. He will definitely start gathering his forces and even the regular troops just to control the chaos that may be caused by the king’s disappearance. But he does not have the king’s personal order. Together with the curfew issued because of the calamities, it will make gathering a large number of recruits impossible.
“However, if it takes up to six hours, I reckon that the truth will be hard to hide. The movements of our one thousand something men will also be detected. Lisban only needs to place an order, and the feudal counts outside the city who are still loyal to the Walton Family would lead troops and enter the city. It’s impossible to fight head-on against them. Our soldiers are already emotionally unstable. In the blink of an eye, we would be utterly defeated due to our men’s casualties, weariness and lack of morale.
“We only have less than two thousand men. Even if we manage to conquer a sturdy gatehouse, we would not be able to hold on to it for more than half a day.” In the end, Kentvida concluded carefully. “We must fight a quick battle.”
Archduke Lampard stood under the overcast sky and stared at the outline of Heroic Spirit Palace. His expression was still as cold as ice.
“Half a day.” Lampard snorted coldly. “It’s enough.”
The archduke turned and flung his cape, revealing his armor. He walked with firm steps like that of a fighter in the direction of Heroic Spirit Palace.
Kentvida as well as the other subordinates led the soldiers and followed closely.
“Send a letter to the other units who are clearing up the mess according to plan. Tolja, Vlad, Kroesch; ask them to join Levan and Vick… They should almost be done preparing,” the archduke ordered coldly as he walked.
“Whether it’s by stealing or by brute force, we must take down the gatehouse between Axe District and Heroic Spirit Palace before eight!”
Kentvida nodded respectfully.
“Spread the rumors according to plan. This will buy us time.”
Lampard strode past a soil pit and resolutely said, “By nine, or latest by ten, all of this must end!”
Kentvida nodded and gave orders to the person next to him.
A few seconds later, the military courier left.
“Another thing…” Kentvida said softly, “I just received news about the Prince of Constellation.”
Archduke Lampard turned and looked at his advisor with an odd expression.
“It’s them.” Kentvida raised his head, revealing a strange gaze. “They sent word that they want the boy…
Lampard stopped walking.
He turned and looked in the direction Thales and Aida disappeared in, seemingly absorbed in his thoughts.