Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
“How are you going to put an end to things?”
In the moving carriage, Lampard lowered his head and toyed with his sword absentmindedly. His expression was profound and he did not answer the question.
“King Nuven has died, but Dragon Clouds City remains as powerful as ever. Heroic Spirit Palace still has four archdukes of great standing. I believe that they are not fools.” Thales observed the archduke’s expression and said cautiously, “And the Prince of Constellation assassinating the common-elected king? This ending will definitely not satisfy everyone, especially with the sudden appearance of the Black Sand Region army.”
Thales stared intently at Lampard’s face and said softly, “How are you going to explain things to them? Or are you just going to not explain things and kill everyone to settle it?”
Lampard did not say a word and his expression was numb. Thales clenched his fists lightly.
The carriage continued moving forward, and Thales had no idea how far they were from Heroic Spirit Palace, neither did he know how long it would be until his life would come to an end.
There was no other way, he had to deal an even more powerful attack on Lampard now.
Thales sucked in a deep breath and enunciated these words faintly. “If there aren’t any accidents, then, once the news of Nuven’s death has spread and the King Selection Congress is held, do you think you will still stand a chance?”
As expected, Lampard’s gaze moved and he looked at Thales. The boy suppressed his anxiety and used his calmest expression as a response to Lampard’s stare.
“Don’t forget that you are originally Nuven’s enemy and you also have the terrifying reputation of killing your own brother.” Thales enunciated his words. “The archdukes won’t let you become king.”
Lampard’s gaze was fixed on his own sword.
“King?” The archduke’s voice rose in a querying tone as he said this one word. Then he snorted lightly and repeated that one word with contempt. “King!
“You were born into the Jadestar Royal Family, you are the descendant of the king, a member of the natural, legitimate ruling family in all of Constellation,” Lampard said airily. “Of course you don’t have that kind of worry, right?”
A thought formed in Thales’ heart. During that moment, he felt as if he had caught on to something.
Naturally, he pressed on, “Worry?”
Lampard ignored him. His sharp gaze still lingered on his old sword. “Since the time of Nuven’s grandfather, they have treated Black Sand Region as a thorn in their side. At that time, the Waltons had already begun their plans to monopolize and secure the throne in Dragon Clouds City.”
Little Rascal blinked.
Lampard continued speaking. His gaze was a little unfocused. “When it came to the era of Nuven’s father, the Waltons tried to control Black Sand Region by way of ordering the youngest son of the Archduke of Black Sand Region to join the White Blade Guards, or using the name of the king to have his own daughter, the noble Princess of Ecsktedt, marry my father, the heir to the Archduke of Black Sand.”
Thales frowned slightly. In King Nuven and Poffret’s duel, Thales seemed to have heard a similar story.
“My parents were married this way.” Lampard sighed, then put on a smile that was rarely seen on the Archduke of Black Sand’s face. “Unexpectedly, this marriage, formed purely on the king’s will, went pretty well. I heard from the old servants that my mother plotted to make my father fall in love with her and gave birth to two sons and three daughters for him. This love lasted even until father became the archduke.”
The carriage continued into a narrow alley. Were they going to take a shortcut or go the long way?
Lampard was still speaking.
“Just like that, father guarded against Dragon Clouds City’s invasion with his own power, even if that invasion came from the woman he loved most. He had always dwelled on the balance between his family and power his whole life.”
Thales and Little Rascal listened to him quietly, the Archduke of Black Sand rarely acted this way.
“When I was very young, Harold and I were constantly brought back and forth between Dragon Clouds City and Black Sand Region, courtesy of our mother.” Archduke Lampard sighed. His gaze was filled with reminiscence. “It lasted until we became adults, until Harold began taking over the administration in Black Sand Region.”
“Harold?” A thought formed in Thales’ heart. He was somewhat unfamiliar with this name. “He is…?”
Lampard paused for a moment.
“Harold Lampard, my older brother.” A dark, scornful look appeared in the archduke’s eyes.
“A ludicrous fool. There is no one else more foolish than him in the world,” he said airily.
Little Rascal seemed to have remembered something. She stared at Lampard’s face and she paled slightly. Thales sensed a different sort of emotion from Lampard’s tone.
“You don’t have brothers, right?” Lampard’s gaze still lingered on the sword. Several seconds later, he said in a lonely way, “How fortunate.”
Thales raised his eyebrow. He remembered his older sister and older brother in name, resting in the two stone jars in the Jadestar family tomb—Lydia and Luther Jadestar.
Lampard gently drew out his sword. The archduke’s expression was complicated. He gently trailed his finger across the sharp blade.
Lampard raised his head slightly and looked at Thales. His voice turned cold. “Twelve years ago, everything changed.”
His action caused the prince’s heart to grow cold.
‘Wait.’ Thales’s mind started turning again. ‘Twelve years ago… Twelve years ago again? That means…?’
“A civil war, the likes of which Constellation had never seen before, erupted. It was complete chaos.” Lampard’s voice echoed in the coach, talking about the history that Thales was now incredibly familiar with. “Since the Fourth Peninsula War, an extremely rare chance fell upon Eckstedt—a chance to have Northland united once more and completely eliminate the threat from Broken Dragon Fortress.”
Thales stared blankly at the sword in Lampard’s hand.
“Nuven was already prepared to have his army march south. He contacted almost every archduke, and as a response, Harold was sent to attend the meeting of all suzerains in Dragon Clouds City as the heir of Black Sand Region.” Lampard sucked in a lungful of cold air slowly and continued.
“And then, an accident happened.”
A thought came to Thales.
“An attendant in Harold’s team suddenly attacked and assassinated Nuven’s eldest son.” Lampard’s boorish voice was low and filled with imposing might, as if it contained a hidden power. He said with a cold snort, “That self-righteous, brutal, bloodthirsty Prince Soria, who was practically built from the same mold as his father, died just like that in Harold’s team.”
In that instant, Thales’ heart jumped. The second prince digested Lampard’s story without moving. His hand was held tightly by Little Rascal, and her grip was getting tighter.
He had heard this story before, just last night.
“News traveled to Black Sand Region—Harold’s follower assassinated the prince.” Lampard pushed down on his sword hilt and his face turned chilly.” Nuven would not let us go just like that. Because of that, father had even become prepared to wage war against Dragon Clouds City.
“But unexpectedly, Harold, who was originally supposed to be responsible for this did not suffer even the slightest condemnation. He was not imprisoned or detained.
“Nuven comforted him with gentle words and personally absolved him from guilt. In fact, he continued to let him join the meeting and even courteously sent him back to Black Sand Region.” Lampard smiled coldly. “Even if Nuven lost his most important eldest son, Harold did not cause any trouble to him. Father already sensed there was something off at the time.”
Lampard stared at his sword, and his gaze started to become even more unfocused. It was as if he was looking at something else. “I still remember Harold reporting Nuven’s opinions on the day he returned and tried to persuade father to support Dragon Clouds City. In fact, he wanted father to receive the king’s officials to be stationed in Black Sand Region to prepare for war.
“Father got into an intense argument with him. I was forced in between them so that they would not draw their swords at each other’s throats,” the archduke said slowly.
“It was also during that day when father suddenly realized that Harold Lampard, the eldest son and heir whom he had placed his hopes on, had become Dragon Clouds City and the common-elected king’s strongest supporter and subject, just like his youngest brother Kaslan thirty years ago.”
Thales furrowed his brow deeply. “Just like Beacon Illumination City?”
Poffret’s despair-filled face surfaced before his eyes.
Lampard turned towards him expressionlessly. Thales’ heart tightened.
He verified Thales’ words faintly. “Just like Beacon Illumination City. Father could not accept this. He thought that if this continued, then when Harold inherited Black Sand Region, it would only be a matter of time before we became the king’s affiliates.” Lampard’s facial expression was cold and aggressive. “Even the position as the Archduke of Black Sand would soon become a vassal where Dragon Clouds City can decide his fate with just one word.
“Sincere talks, threats, scoldings, lessons… He even asked me to council him in a roundabout manner. Father used every single method to try and change Harold’s mind, but it was useless.”
Little Rascal’s pale face shrank further behind Thales.
The terrifying Archduke of Black Sand lowered his head. His expression was somewhat dreary. “In the end, father made his decision to rescind Harold’s right of inheritance.
“Things became chaotic from that point on.” Lampard shook his head slowly. “When father mildly brought this up in front of the vassals, he was immediately met with strong objection and advice for him to change his mind.
“And when father insisted on stripping off Harold’s right of inheritance, the harvest reduced, troubles in finances appeared, and the merchant paths were blocked off. The difficulties in Black Sand Region also strangely increased in number. At that moment, the matters that once occurred in Beacon Illumination City happened to Black Sand Region.”
Lampard snorted coldly, and there was great scorn in his voice.
“Only when all of Black Sand Region was rife with burdens did father realize that during the past thirty years, Dragon Clouds City had not only infiltrated the blood of the Lampard Family, but Nuven had also brought Harold to his side.
“Harold refused to yield, and father refused to compromise. The situation in the territory was getting worse. The forces of power supporting Harold had already surpassed what father could control. He was driven deeper into despair and became increasingly haggard.” Lampard’s voice became lower, and the emotions in his words turned his face paler. “Black Sand Region was just not Dragon Clouds City’s opponent.
“Eventually, on the day the king’s messenger was about to come to the city again, my mentally and physically exhausted father summoned me to his room.”
Thales felt a chill crawl up his back. He could not help but remember Chapman Lampard’s famous—or perhaps infamous—deed that gave him a terrible reputation that spread far and wide.
Lampard raised his head and stared at Dragon Clouds City’s streets beyond the windows. “I still remember how my father’s eyes were filled with resolution and dreariness.”
Thales could not help but tighten his grip over Little Rascal behind him.
“He spoke to me for a long, long time.” The Archduke of Black Sand’s eyes grew colder, and his voice became calmer. “I hugged his legs and cried, using all the words I could think of to plead with him.
“I even pulled up my sleeve and let him see the scar left behind on my arm when I went hunting at fourteen years old. It was left on me when Harold yanked me out of a snow leopard’s mouth.”
The archduke’s words grew more indifferent. However, Thales’ heart clenched tighter. He heard Archduke Lampard continue to talk as if this had nothing to do with him.
“My father told me this: ‘My son, we are Lampards. The blood of the Revolutionary King flows in us. Our family motto is to “never yield”, be it to those beyond or within our territory, be it the emperor or the king.'”
The archduke sighed. The darkness in his eyes was incredibly profound, and his words were resolute and firm. “‘We will never yield.'”
Thales listened to Lampard, dumbfounded. Little Rascal widened her eyes.
Lampard snorted lightly. He lowered his head and stared at the weapon in his hand. “In the end, he gave me this sword.”
The sword’s sheath was so worn down that it was completely bare, and the hilt was so eroded that it was like an ancient weapon. It was as if it was his most precious treasure.
“A week later, I challenged Harold to a public duel, and father approved it.”
Thales held his breath, not even daring to breathe loudly.
“Mother knelt before the study and cried the whole night, while father sat in the study and the light burned.” Lampard twirled his sword slowly and touched the emblem of the iron fist on the sword hilt. “When mother fainted, she was taken away by the servants.”
It was silent for a moment in the carriage. Only the sound of the wheels rubbing against the ground as the carriage moved forward was heard for a time.
“So this is—” Thales spoke with much difficulty, but he was interrupted by Lampard.
“On the day of the duel, Harold had at least three chances to end my life, end his younger brother’s life,” the archduke said in a deep voice, but it sounded slightly hollow and trembled a little. “At least three times…”
Lampard stopped moving his hand across the sword hilt. His voice became airy, as if he spoke from a place far away.
“In the end, when I pierced his heart, I saw his face clearly,” the archduke said faintly, “He was smiling.”
Lampard sucked in a deep breath. It was difficult to discern his expression with his head lowered. “He was smiling in the exact same manner as when he dragged me out of that snow leopard’s mouth that day.”
‘This is just…’
“Harold pulled my collar and said his final words beside my ear.” Lampard hummed softly, as if he was talking about a story that happened to some other family while he drank tea after a meal. “‘Remember this, Chapman, we will never yield.'”
Lampard chuckled softly, his emotions were indecipherable.
Thales raised his head and stared blankly at Lampard’s sword. The sword which belonged to the Archduke of Black Sand; the sword he used to kill his older brother.
Lampard’s voice traveled slowly into his ears. “On the second day, mother jumped off from the tallest observation tower in the castle.”
Thales and Little Rascal did not move. A quiet sadness filled the carriage. The Lampard Family’s story caused Thales to have mixed feelings.
Lampard sucked in a deep breath. “On the third day, with the king’s power, Nuven ordered me to go to Eternal Star City and declare war on Constellation.”
The carriage ran over a hole, the coach jolted slightly.
“A month later, when the Kingdom’s Wrath brought the remaining brave warriors and broke through the encirclement to reach my father in Rayman Pass, father did not avoid it, did not raise his sword. He simply allowed Murkh to break his neck.” Lampard laughed lowly. “I only realized later that my father was perhaps looking for death. Maybe he could reunite with mother and Harold in hell’s river.”
Lampard stopped speaking. Thales exhaled slowly.
Thales raised his eyebrows and asked with great difficulty, “So you did all this out of hate? You want Nuven to pay, or perhaps you want Dragon Clouds City to be destroyed?”
Lampard snorted, as if he was laughing with contempt. He slowly leaned back, exposing his face once again under the sunlight. “Hate? That laughable thing? Don’t compare me to a weakling like Poffret.”
“Then why did you tell me this story?” the prince asked in surprise and bewilderment. “Don’t tell me that you’re just in the mood to talk about your feelings to a person who is about to die.”
The Archduke of Black Sand’s gaze slowly turned dark. Lampard stared at him from the viewpoint of someone superior and slowly shook his head. His voice was low and freezing cold. His words were chilling and aggressive.
“You are indeed special, boy, but your point of view is forever on the level of mediocre people.” Lampard breathed out slowly and said firmly, “As for what I truly want, it’s a little more than trying to protect myself, take revenge, cause a king’s death, and bring destruction to a region.”
Thales scrutinized Lampard’s face. In his mind, he swiftly began to trying figure out his thoughts.
“Of course.” Lampard snorted lightly. “You were born into the Jadestar Royal Family, in the era after the Virtuous King. You won’t understand this sort of sadness.”
When the archduke talked up to that point, Lampard put his sword back into its sheath and went quiet.
Thales was slightly taken aback.
The Virtuous King. This was not the first time he heard of this name from a Northlander. The last time he heard it, it was from King Nuven’s mouth. At that time, Thales did not understand what he meant.
But this time, Thales remembered. He instinctively touched his chest.
The Virtuous King, Mindis Jadestar the Third. One of the Three Kings of Constellation. A King does not gain respect by virtue of his bloodline. The bloodline’s glory rests on the deeds of the King.
Why? Why did King Nuven and Archduke Lampard mention this Supreme King of Constellation from over a hundred years ago? What did he do? And just what did Lampard want to do?
Thales lowered his head deeply.
“I don’t understand.” Thales panted rapidly, trying his best to straighten this whirling mess. “I thought that you were just trying to protect yourself with everything that you did last night. It was a desperate counter which you were forced to make, a move you made to deliver a counterattack after swearing upon death if you failed… If Black Sand Region did not do this, then Dragon Clouds City would…”
Lampard turned his gaze to Thales and stared at him with a thought-provoking expression.
Thales bit his bottom lip. The second prince lifted his head and spoke swiftly, “Drawing an outside force like Shiles to your side, mobilizing such a large army to the city, having them replace the soldiers in the city right under the Secret Room’s nose, and even hiring an assassin to murder the king. Your plan is not careful and thorough at all.
“If it was not because of the coincidence of the calamities invading the city, causing the king to be far away from the protection of the White Blade Guards, you would have absolutely not succeeded—”
At that moment, Lampard snorted coldly and Thales’ words off.
“Coincidence?” The Archduke of Black Sand’s gaze became sharp again. “Indeed, when this is any other usual time, this plan of mine, filled with loopholes, would have absolutely no chance of success,” Lampard said with a steady voice.
“The common-elected king, protected tightly by the White Blade Guards, sitting in Heroic Spirit Palace, the tallest building in the city, governing the impenetrable Dragon Clouds City, controlling the largest and strongest soldiers, enjoying the richest and most excellent military replenishments and weaponry, and also being in control of spies like the Secret Room.
“Even if these two thousand soldiers of mine are supreme class warriors, it’s impossible for me to kill him under those conditions.”
Thales was taken aback.
“You’re right. Without the accident wrought by the calamity and the chaos they brought to Dragon Clouds City, causing the city gates and portcullis to suffer from oversight, the king to issue a ban for people to move out of the city, the White Blade Guards to make a mistake, Heroic City Palace to be emptied, and Shield District to be cordoned off… Then with just the cooperation between me, Shiles, Vlad, and my other allies, it would have been impossible for me to accomplish this task,” Lampard said faintly.
Thales’ gaze had frozen. He understood the other meaning hiding behind Lampard’s words.
Thales’ expression slowly changed.
“You… What do you mean?” The second prince used his most cautious and lightest voice to ask slowly and with great effort.
Lampard’s smile was faint yet cold.
“They didn’t tell you anything, did they?”
The Archduke of Black Sand spoke as if he was laughing at an ignorant child. “It doesn’t matter whether it is the arrival of the calamities or the assassination.”
“Disaster? Assassination?” Little Rascal instinctively felt that the atmosphere before her was a little off. “Them?”
As expected, in the next moment, with an unbelievable guess in his head, Thales leaned his body forward swiftly and immediately raised his voice. With a voice that was almost a roar, he questioned Lampard,
“Who is ‘them’?! What does this have to do with the calamities?! Who is working with you, with Black Sand Region?!”
Lampard shook his head slowly. His eyes were filled with a cold derision.
“Take a guess.” The Archduke of Black Sand’s voice was very calm, as if this was an incredibly relaxing chat. “Just what kind of ally and force of power can allow me to cover the eyes of the people around him, get me through the most important parts of the plan, set up a plan for me, and even help me create a nigh impossible ‘coincidence’ like calamities appearing so that he can support me in completing this grand act?
“Just what kind of being can stir up such a storm in Dragon Clouds City?”
Thales was completely stunned. He did not dare think of the answer, which already dwelled in his heart.
‘No… No way.’
At that moment, the carriage stopped. Thales snapped out of his daze and shot a glance out of the carriage.
“This isn’t Heroic Spirit Palace.” The second prince was momentarily stunned. “What do you want to do?”
Lampard exhaled slowly. “One of my co-partners wants you to live.”
Thales’ eyes widened. The Archduke of Black Sand opened the door and said coldly, “Why don’t we try and see just how much you will sell for?”
Constellation, Eternal Star City, unnamed underground location.
The fire from the torch gradually extinguished. The first rays of sunlight seeped freely through the iron-barred window which was smaller than a palm. It formed the shape of a hashtag on the ground.
At that moment, a forthright voice came out of the tightly locked prison.
“The sun has risen.”
The robust figure sitting on the chair outside the prison cell slowly raised his head.
“Yes,” the crowned, robust figure said faintly, “the sun has risen.
“I guess you aren’t the sort of person who will just sit across the prison cell of the kingdom’s traitor overnight with the door between them.” The Duke of the Northern Territory in the prison cell asked through the slot in the door in a mocking tone. “What happened?”
The figure on the chair let out a deep and imposing voice. “You can tell?”
“Every single time you have something troubling your mind, you will sit down alone and daydream.” Val Arunde snorted lightly. “I remember the time when you caused a ruckus in Red Street Market and was punished to go and act as an intern in the Western City Police Station.
“On the first day you reported for duty, you returned with bruises all over your face, and you acted this way.”
The robust figure shuddered lightly. During that moment, there was a hint of spirit and laughter in his voice. “You know that Jines has great strength.”
His reply was the Duke of Northern Territory’s contemptuous snort.
A moment later, the robust figure rubbed the Jadestar emblem on his hand and asked faintly,
“Val, do you miss them?”
The prisoner’s stunned expression was apparent through the slot.
“Who?” the duke asked in low spirits.
The robust figure revealed a pair of fatigued blue eyes. In them was an unknown emotion.
“Family,” he said calmly. His voice was still as low as ever. “Those people whom we treated as common presences in our everyday lives, and whom we would only think about after we have lost them.”
The person in the cell did not say anything. The robust figure continued speaking,
“Such as the old duke, your brothers, Rohan, Kohl, and Nolarnor, your older sister, your wife, your eldest and second sons—”
A violent thud came from behind the prison cell.
“Enough.” The duke panted raggedly. With anger that he had forced down for a long time, he spat out his words. “What is the point of saying all of this right now?”
Several seconds of silence…
“No, it is significant.” The robust figure slowly stood up. “It’s about time,” he said faintly.
The prisoner behind the prison cell did not answer.
“I came here to tell you about the culprit who caused the Northern Territory to have rivers of blood flow within it twelve years ago… the King of Eckstedt who amassed his army and invaded the south,” said the visitor beyond the prison cell slowly.
The Duke of the Northern Territory behind the prison door was momentarily stunned. His face appeared behind the slot once more. His breathing quickened.
Over there, he saw the Supreme King of Constellation, Kessel the Fifth, with his straight and robust figure and using the coldest and most terrifying voice, speak outside the prison cell,
“The man who held a massacre that lasted three days in Broken Dragon Fortress once he conquered it, and who had his soldiers march into the Northern Territory once spring arrived.
“The sinner who hung your father on the city gate, who sliced your brothers into minced meat, who made your older sister and wife go missing, who caused the deaths of your two sons, and who paralyzed your youngest daughter’s hand.
“The tyrant who burned your family’s territory in the Northern Territory, snatched it, ravaged it, and pillaged it; the tyrant whose crimes are too numerous to count.
“The hateful enemy who escalated the disaster in Constellation to become even worse…”
The Duke of the Northern Territory’s hands gripped the edges of the slot tightly.
His knuckles were pale, and his fingertips shuddered slightly.
“Nuven Walton the Seventh.” Kessel the Fifth spoke in a cold voice that allowed no dispute. “The so-called Born King has paid for his tyranny tonight.”
There was a deathly silence…
Only when it felt as if a century had passed did the duke’s heavy breathing calm down.
“What did you say?” There was a tremor in the duke’s voice. “What did you do?”
Val raised his head, and with his most disbelieving gaze, he cast his eyes on his former close friend and current king.
“Kel! How did you do it? What exactly did you do?”
Kessel did not answer. He only stared at the duke coldly and said slowly, “Last night, the dragon’s blood flowed in the Northland. Eckstedt’s chaos will start now. The Great Dragon’s kingdom will fall into decline.” There was a terrifying chill in the king’s voice. “With a blood red light, Constellation, which has been in darkness for too long, will rise once more.
“Our glory will be dazzling, and we will be even greater than in the past.”
When Kessel finished speaking, he turned around without hesitation and left the cubicle.
The Duke of the Northern Territory’s hysterical questions traveled from behind him.
Val Arunde began shaking the door madly. His voice echoed in the prison. “Damn you, you bastard… tell me, tell me! Just what the hell did you do, Kessel Jadestar?!”
But the King of Constellation only continued moving alone in the narrow corridor and did not pay any attention to the prisoner’s words. He only continued moving forward.
In the dark light and the rotting air, he walked further and further away. The Supreme King of Constellation pushed open an iron door, stone-faced.
Over there was an old figure with a cane in hand and a black cloak. He bowed slightly to the king.
“Did everything go smoothly?” the king asked coldly.
The Chief of Intelligence of the Kingdom’s Intelligence Department, the Black Prophet Morat, smiled faintly. He raised his body and his words were relaxed and indifferent. “Of course, Your Majesty… We only had a slight accident.”