Chapter 209: Code name: Dragon’s Blood
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The others gaped at the frightening black hole on Raphael’s arm, listening, yet unable to react at all to the Black Prophet’s voice that seemed to echo in their ears.
Thales’ thoughts lingered on the brand mark and that strange thing on Raphael’s hand. Little Rascal clung to his arm, quivering, and did not dare to peek at the black hole.
The grim-faced Wya stood in front of Thales, reaching for the single-edged sword out of instinct. Ralf’s facial expression was hidden beneath his half-mask, but his twitching eyebrows said it all.
Eyes wide, Kohen stared at his old friend’s bizarre appearance with incredible shock. Miranda, on the other hand, was peering at Raphael’s arm. She was breathing unevenly.
“Communication type: Sugar Glider.” Raphael seemed frail. Pale-faced, he straightened up, indicated with his eyes for the others to stay put, and said something cryptic to the eerie black hole on his arm.
“The white glove was tainted with blood. The double-edged spear has broken.”
Thales frowned slightly. ‘Is that a secret code?’
As Raphael finished speaking, the prison fell silent. All of a sudden, the sharp teeth around the black hole started wiggling.
Almost everyone’s breaths stopped. Wya even pulled a small section of his sword out of its sheath out of nervousness.
In the next second, a vacant, but clear voice that sounded as if it was from the distance came from Raphael’s arm as the black hole squirmed.
“Who is present?” the Black Prophet’s frosty voice asked. Raphael raised his chin.
The black hole quieted down again.
Raphael’s breathing had evened out. The hint of fatigue when he opened the black hole on his arm was fading slowly. “His Highness enquires about ‘Dragon’s Blood’.”
Thales suppressed his revulsion towards that disgusting black hole full of those sharp teeth. Ever since he met the Blood Mystic, his tolerance for stomach-churning things had increased significantly. The prince gasped, frowning.
He looked up and asked, “What is it really?”
The inside of the black hole had nothing but boundless darkness. Nonetheless, Thales knew that what lay in it was not Raphael’s arm or flesh.
Under the dim light, the prince stared at the black hole in disbelief and asked a question everybody wanted to ask, “That’s… Morat’s voice?”
Raphael cast a profound glance at him without a word. What replied Thales was the squirming black hole.
That hoarse voice appeared again, but this time, the owner of the voice spoke to someone else. “Prince Thales, do you know who I am?”
Everyone turned their gazes to the prince. Raphael nodded at him, directing the black hole on his arm towards Thales.
Thales did not look at the black hole. Instead, he shut his eyes and took a deep breath. He chased away all unnecessary thoughts from his mind, trying to forget the unpleasant encounter in Mindis Hall.
Thales opened his eyes and said calmly to the black hole, “Of course, Lord Hansen. You left quite an impression, I do not dare to forget.”
The rest were gawking at this situation with varying expressions. The black hole squirmed while Morat’s croaky laughter came from its depths.
“Do not panic, Your Highness. I am not right beside you now.” The Black Prophet’s voice was akin to a viper’s hiss, making him nervous. “Of course, you may also pretend that I am there with you, if that grants you peace of mind.”
Thales offered an awkward and unpleasant-looking smile despite not knowing if the Black Prophet can see it.
“So, what do you wish to know, Your Highness?” the Black Prophet said slowly.
“Fifteen minutes.” Raphael reminded. “Do not forget about the next patrol.”
‘What do I wish to know?’ Thales clenched his fists. His brain began to spin, images flitted past his eyes, one scene after another. He lifted his chin and said without hesitation,
“Everything… Everything about Lampard’s operation, about the death of King Nuven; I want to know everything the Secret Intelligence Department knows.”
A snigger came from within the black hole. Kohen and Miranda exchanged a look, each wore an uneasy expression.
At last, the Black Prophet’s voice brightened, despite still being unpleasant. “Alright. Where should I begin?”
Thales did not speak, he was waiting for Morat.
“Hmm… there is a good starting point,” the Black Prophet said softly on the other side, “The Bloody Year.”
Hearing this name again, Thales felt his heart begin to pound once more.
Miranda and Raphael looked up in unison. They exchanged glances, capturing the emotion only they could understand in each other’s expressions.
“During the hardest period in Constellation, a count from Black Sand Region arrived with an official document from the King of Eckstedt. In other words: a declaration of war.” The Black Prophet’s voice was hoarse and unpleasant as usual, but oddly calm. “At the time, the count was gaining a reputation in Northland. He followed the ancient and cruel Northland tradition—seized the heirship of the Archduke of Black Sand Region over his brother’s dead body.”
Thales felt Little Rascal’s hold on him tighten a little. Morat’s words continued.
“When he enlisted Nuven’s request before the whole court—while the Great Dragon and Constellation were on the verge of war—the previous king detained this envoy from Eckstedt. Considering his status as the heir of Black Sand Region, he could have been a bargaining chip in the war.”
Thales tightened his fists. The story Lampard told him in the carriage stopped at where he went on a diplomatic mission to Constellation. What the prince did not expect was that he could hear about the rest of the story from the Black Prophet.
The Black Prophet went on, “However, after combining the results of the investigation by the Secret Intelligence, a wise prince concluded that it had been Dragon Clouds City’s objective to make us kill Chapman Lampard for them. King Nuven probably hated this nephew of his who murdered his own brother.”
Thales’ eyebrow arched. ‘A wise prince?’
“After a series of confidential meetings, Chapman Lampard was ‘rescued’ by his subordinates during an ‘operation’.” The Black Prophet gave a chilly laugh, as though amused by this reminiscence. “Prince Midier told me that he had seen something unusual in the eyes of the young Count Lampard.”
‘Midier Jadestar.’ Thales extracted this name from his memory: He was the eldest son of the previous king and the former crown prince, his uncle.
“Unusual?” Thales frowned. “You mean Lampard’s hatred towards Nuven the Seventh, the Waltons, and Dragon Clouds City?”
Morat’s cryptic hum came from the black hole with a hint of mockery or sarcasm.
“Throughout history, every archduke of Eckstedt hated the man who sat on the common-elected throne. He is not necessarily a Walton nor a Lampard,” the Black Prophet said with his hoarse voice, “But why Chapman? I think Prince Midier had his reasons.”
“Hence, a seed was planted, and it grew in the dark over the past twelve years.” Morat seemed to be lamenting. “Although Midier never saw it.”
“Wait. The correspondence between the Secret Intelligence Department and Lampard began twelve years ago?” The prince looked up in astonishment. “Then why didn’t you stop his plan to assassinate Moriah and prevent the risk of war between the two kingdoms? And Broken Dragon Fortress—”
He was interrupted by the Black Prophet.
“Correspondence? You are mistaken,” the croaked voice in the black hole said with a snort. “Lampard is always independent and free. The Secret Intelligence Department did not bribe or control him; that would be the least efficient method.
“This was an unstated mutual understanding, and we did not interact for the past twelve years, ignoring one another.
“But when the time came, we would both awaken from hibernation, and see each other in the endless darkness”
The Black Prophet’s words became grimmer. In that very second, even Thales thought that what lay on the other side of the black hole was a ferocious predator.
‘No, a viper.’
In the gloomy prison, Thales gaped wordlessly at the black hole on Raphael’s hand. Across from him stood Kohen, who heaved a long sigh with a hesitant look on his face.
“Goddamn conspiracy,” the police officer grumbled softly.
Everyone ignored him and were instead listening to what the Black Prophet was saying.
“Ever since you were given the royal title, and after your attempted assassination… Lampard and Poffret’s conspiracy to disrupt the Walton line of succession to the throne was exposed.” Morat emitted a chilly laugh from the other side of the black hole. “The Secret Intelligence Department knew that the time had come.”
Thales bit his bottom lip, exhaled, and said, “You knew since then that Poffret did it? And even knew about Lampard’s plan?”
The Black Prophet laughed coldly again and did not respond. The person who answered him was Raphael.
“No, we do not care about the truth or its details.” The young man from the Secret Intelligence Department was propping up his own right arm, staring at the horrid black hole there. “What we care about is simple and straightforward: the certainty that ‘Eckstedt is unstable’.
“Yes. We were not just working with Lampard,” Raphael said quietly. His head lowered. His expression was hard to tell. “We even provided him help, but just once—it was even the most crucial part of his plan.”
Miranda stared at him with a strange facial expression.
Thales closed his eyes, swallowed, and said with some difficulty, “The calamity.”
Raphael lifted his chin. All the emotions on his face had completely vanished. “Some time before you left on the diplomatic mission, an old gang with affiliations to the Mystics was nearly vanquished entirely in the capital.
“Due to this disastrous defeat, the Blood Calamity, who had been in hiding for years, was forced to resurface.”
The Black Prophet’s laugh rang once more.
“The perfect timing for the perfect chess piece.” Morat heaved a pointed sigh, as though to exclaim his appreciation for an artwork. “And the perfect executioner.
“To Chapman Lampard, there was no better help than this.”
Thales felt a chill in his chest. He gawked at the black hole. His heart swelled with complex emotions. The laughter of Black Prophet resounded.
“We faked some intel,” the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Department said from the other side, amused, “Throwing out a partially false bait, just enough to lure the Blood Mystic north.”
Thales recovered from shock, and said with this revelation, “Ramon. I remember he was the person Blood Bottle Gang was hunting. So, it was not a coincidence to have him in my entourage, correct?”
Raphael flashed him an indistinct smile.
“Just like that, the Blood Mystic was lured by us into Dragon Clouds City,” the Black Prophet said flatly. “Thus, the chess piece was set up, waiting for the right person to instigate it.”
Little Rascal whimpered fearfully. Thales knew what she was reminded of.
‘The right person… to instigate…’
Thales recalled how Black Sword lunged at the Blood Mystic without looking back.
“Lured into Dragon Clouds City… Instigate…?” Thales mumbled to himself, his fists clenched.
Scenes flashed across his mind. They were of people struggling, wailing, crying, and in the end dying from suffocation, or buried by tentacles in Shield District.
He recalled himself and Little Rascal desperately fleeing from danger. There were hundreds of corpses that laid in every corner of the places they ran through.
A few seconds later, Thales exhaled with difficulty.
The sight of the streets of Shield District surfaced in his mind—the grimy lanes full of slushy, melted snow, the broken walls and withered trees that could be seen anywhere, rocky gravel roads that were hard to tread on, the dog barking from its kennel, angry curses of the Northland commoners.
He also recalled how they all fell into ruin in an instant.
People clutching at their own necks, watching in fear as the water vapor rose from their eyes and mouths. Their limbs swung and flailed. Their faces reddened and contorted. Each person struggled and trembled, desperate to take one more breath even when they could no longer make a sound.
Families cried, screamed, and cursed as the monstrous tentacles tugged at them. They held each other tightly, but eventually descended into the hell of blood and mangled flesh, never to wake again.
Numerous dead bodies with cold, missing limbs lay amid the ruins. Kilika’s gigantic tentacles waved in the air, crushing one building after another, one torso after another.
Thales’ fingernails sank into his trembling palms and nearly drew blood. It was his path—the path of death he and Little Rascal had run on.
“It was your plan?” the prince muttered instinctively, “Bringing the calamity to Dragon Clouds City… and making it go berserk?”
Little Rascal pursed her lips while she cowered in the corner. Her facial expression could not be discerned.
Thales lifted his chin, shuddering. “Let it… kill every living person in sight before it was sealed?”
Kohen frowned and closed his mouth, glaring at Raphael who wore an emotionless face.
“This is too…” The police officer gritted his teeth with a grimace. “That night’s disaster… The Secret Intelligence Department caused it?”
Raphael looked up at his old friend.
“Incorrect.” The young man from Secret Intelligence Department shook his head with a cold expression. “That was what the calamity had wrought. We cannot possibly wipe out a district from the map of Dragon Clouds City in one night.”
Kohen heaved a frustrated sigh. Thales clenched his fists once more, exhaling through the gaps between his teeth. “But you brought the calamity.”
Thales looked up abruptly, followed by the cracking sound from his neck joint, as though he wanted to express his deep, unvented wrath with this sole movement. “You used Ramon as bait to draw it to Northland, to Dragon Clouds City!”
Thales’ chest heaved. He tried hard to control his voice. “Have you seen Shield District? Have you seen what it has done?”
No one spoke in the darkness until the Black Prophet’s emotionless voice came again.
“You think it was our fault? The Secret Intelligence Department’s fault?” Morat said flatly.
Thales pinned his gaze on the horrendous black hole on Raphael’s arm, his pupils unmoving. “Was that not what you wanted it to do? To bring disaster upon Dragon Clouds City?”
The Black Prophet’s scornful laugh came from the other end of the unknown space.
“Face it! That is a calamity!” Morat raised his voice marginally. His voice seemed to harbor a deep hatred. “They will cause disasters wherever they go! Do you think they will just become good citizens in Eternal Star City?”
Thales let out a light snort, his eyes were cold.
“So you just brought it to Dragon Clouds City to execute your plan, your conspiracy?” he said through gritted teeth. “Using it as a weapon, an equipment, a chess piece?!”
The Black Prophet laughed again. This time, his laughter was incredibly terrifying.
“You should be more grateful, little prince. Fortunately, the Secret Intelligence Department still managed to control the Blood Calamity, that dreadful chess piece,” Morat said coldly, as though his words were filled with years of glacial ice. “With a small price, we made sure this blight was ended in Dragon Clouds City forever.
The Black Prophet’s voice traveled into the air coldly, and his words resolved the question. “It’s not something that will happen someday, where you will all cry and scream while watching our Eternal Star City be reduced to rubble inch by inch under the hands of that homicidal maniac.”
Morat finished talking, and the prison fell back into complete silence.
Thales gawked at the black hole. In that instant, he recalled what Yodel said to him in Mindis Hall not long ago:
‘”The things that are truly scary and terrifying are not the calamities…”‘
Thales thought of the frosty and emotionless look on Asda’s face, and Giza’s expression as she cackled ceaselessly.
In the next second, the faces of the two Mystics were replaced by another person—Morat Hansen’s wrinkled face and his dead eyes.
‘”To what extent will we normal people fall for the existences of these so-called calamities? How much will we degenerate, and how many morals will we sacrifice?”‘
Thales unclenched his fists and let out a quiet sigh. He took a look at the others: Raphael’s head was slightly lowered, his face was obscured by the shadow. Miranda was scowling wordlessly. Kohen was clenching his teeth with a complex emotion in his eyes.
“Chess piece?” Thales slowly lowered his head. The second prince felt as if his mind was in chaos. The exhaustion that had not appeared in a while returned to his body. He felt immensely tired.
“You treated that… calamity as a chess piece?” Thales’ voice sounded weary and full of sorrow. “What gave you the confidence to believe that you could manipulate the fabled calamity; to control the power of great destruction… Even when it almost massacred all the residents in one district of Dragon Clouds City?”
Raphael turned his head and glanced at him.
Raphael narrowed his eyes, slowly shaking his head.
“Throughout history, no matter how strong a power was, or how dreadful a being was; even if they were monsters capable of destroying a whole continent in an instant, they are just insignificant things that can only make some noise for a moment and, in a flash, they will disappear like mist.
“No one can rely on absolute power to conquer everything.” Raphael raised his hand and pointed at his head. “Therefore, you should not have too much faith in power. Before the truly powerful, even the calamity is only a chess piece.”
Thales, exhausted, was slightly startled when he heard this.
‘The truly powerful…’
Thales became alert. His eyes were filled with curiosity. “These words… Who said them to you?”
Raphael’s eyelid twitched and he glanced at Thales. The young man eventually said, “My mentor.”
Thales was astonished.
“Keep talking,” Miranda began, her clear, cold voice stood out in the prison. “How did you employ the calamity?”
The Black Prophet gave another deep, raspy laugh.
Raphael picked up what the Black Prophet left off. “Last night, we launched the Blood Calamity operation according to plan. King Nuven received the news immediately—that there was a fabled monster wreaking havoc in his city.
“This has been our mission…” Raphael glanced at the people around him. His tone as impassive as before. “… All to attain two goals.
“Firstly, distract and draw the two powerful legendary anti-mystic equipment away,” he said coldly.
Kohen frowned slightly. “Draw away? Draw them away from the calamity?”
Raphael looked at his old friend and smiled a cryptic smile.
“No,” the young man said softly, “Draw them away from King Nuven.”
Thales shuddered. He recalled the spear-wielding man and Nicholas when Black Sword brought him into the battle zone.
‘They were drawn away on purpose…’
“The Soul Slayer Pike that could kill with a single strike, and the Severing Souls Blade that could form a perfect barrier,” Raphael explained quietly. “They would have been a great obstruction to the assassin who came for Nuven.”
“What was the second goal?” Miranda asked coldly.
Raphael turned his head around to face the swordswoman beside him. This time, there were unclear emotions in his eyes. He looked into Miranda’s eyes and continued speaking.