Chapter 220: Nicholas’ Bargaining Chip
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
Count Lisban, solemn-faced and white-haired, sat at the long table in the main disciplinary hall of Sword District. He raised his chin with a stern look and asked, “Can you repeat that?”
A sturdy middle-aged man stood before him with a grim expression. He gave a slight bow.
The middle-aged noble was dressed in plain clothes, but his actions carried the air of a militant that even the Day before the Bitter Cold Winter could not wash away.
“A simple foot soldier found out about it.” The person in charge of the main disciplinary hall and chief garrison officer of the capital, Viscount Leisdon, narrowed his eyes.
“The routine briefing reported from Heroic Spirit Palace was odd—the passcode to the gatehouse was not quite right…” His facial expression turned chilly. A glint like a sharp blade shone in his eyes. “It’s as though it has been tampered with, Prime Minister.”
Count Lisban furrowed his brow.
As a prime minister who had served under King Nuven for many years, Dragon Clouds City’s most trusted immediate vassal Count Lisban had always been the last person to speak in the Imperial Conference. His words often became the key to making the final decision.
The best example of this was the motion passed a month ago, which allowed that troublesome Prince of Constellation entry into Eckstedt.
Ever since King Nuven handed him the ring that signified the authority of the prime minister, throughout his political career that spanned over decades, Count Lisban had experienced countless major, tumultuous events. One could say that he had seen enough.
But at this time, Lisban felt that everything he had been through these two days could match all the problems he encountered in the first half of his life.
It began with the king gathering all the archdukes in one room. Lisban was standing in the Hall of Heroes, frowning, watching His Majesty propose a duel that was akin to suicide.
Later on, he watched the old but sturdy King Nuven slaughter Poffret in front of everyone to avenge his younger son and intimidate other archdukes.
As a result, the plan to send out troops—which the king and the Imperial Conference had been discussing—had to be brought forward.
But the descent of the calamity and Kilika that night disrupted everyone’s slumber in Dragon Clouds City. It was then followed by the reappearance of the Great Dragon who had not been seen for centuries.
Then Lisban faced the greatest challenge of his lifetime:
The king went missing.
Lisban had witnessed the bloody battle of the Thirty-Eighth Sentry Ground twenty years ago, had been through the most hazardous Day before the Bitter Cold Wind, received the bad news concerning Prince Soria’s failure in the Battle of White Mountain, had been informed about the grave situation of the glacial orcs riots, got vexed by the tense circumstances where the former Archduke of Black Sand died in battle, and faced the problem of insufficient ration supplies during the war with Constellation. Nevertheless, none of those rivaled the situation at hand; the suspicious occurrences in Dragon Clouds City made him nervous and agitated.
“Heroic Spirit Palace? The gatehouse?” The prime minister felt as though another weight had been added to his shoulders. But a vague thought came to him—it could very well be the answer to his question.
Lisban turned around. “We still have not found His Majesty? Still no news from the White Blade Guards? Where is Nicholas?”
Viscount Leisdon’s expression dimmed when he heard those words.
“No, there are only a few White Blade Guards. They are all survivors of the battle with the calamity, and they’re heavily wounded. They know nothing.” Leisdon shook his head. “Rumors have also begun to spread in the city.”
Count Lisban nodded and sighed. “Rumors,” the prime minister muttered.
‘The rumors that claim that the Constellatiates assassinated His Majesty? How can that be?’
Lisban frowned. His Majesty had just worked with the Prince of Constellation last night to expose the traitor among the archdukes.
“Where is the Prince of Constellation and His Majesty’s granddaughter?” The prime minister raised his head to look at Leisdon. “His Majesty was looking for them earlier, was he not?”
Viscount Leisdon shook his head. “His Majesty had assigned that mission to the Secret Room… But it has been a while since we last saw Madam Calshan.”
The green veins on the back of Count Lisban’s hand popped up on his skin.
“What a bad omen.” He exhaled deeply, stern-faced. “Who could have known that Dragon Clouds City, after the appearance of the Great Dragon, would descend into turmoil?”
The prime minister looked up. “Was there anything else unusual other than that?”
A gleam sparkled in Viscount Leisdon’s eyes. “There is: The number of the patrol units.”
In that instant, the gazes of the two officials flickered in unison.
“Go on,” Count Lisban said flatly.
Viscount Leisdon carefully said, “The chaos in the city has not ended. The curfew placed around the borders of Shield District has yet to be lifted, but… two of my disciplinary officers reported that they had seen at least two patrol units leaving Shield District.
“I have sent someone to investigate the matter,” he said sternly.
Lisban did not speak, but the clues were lining up.
“The passcode to the gatehouse is not easy to falsify.” The prime minister frowned. “Combining this strange intel… God…”
His facial expression did not change, but his tone of voice was brimming with agitation.
But Viscount Leisdon’s expression did change. “You mean…”
Prime Minister Lisban nodded with a solemn look. “I am afraid that something has happened at the First Gatehouse in front of Heroic Spirit Palace.”
The chief garrison officer tightened his fists.
“It cannot be…” The viscount exhaled in disbelief. “There’s a whole gatehouse’s worth of soldiers stationed there! The reinforcements from Heroic Spirit Palace were right behind…”
At this, Leisdon gave a twitch of his eyebrow.
“There were the four archdukes in Heroic Spirit Palace,” he mumbled, “Could they have banded together…?”
“It is still too early to draw any conclusions.” The prime minister waved his hand, his heart swollen with doubt. “But there is one thing we can be certain of.
“Before we receive word about His Majesty, we cannot sit here idly waiting.” Lisban looked up with sharp eyes. “We should at least inform the four archdukes.”
Leisdon frowned. “If they are really the party behind the—”
“Then it is time for them to reveal some clues about their actions.” Lisban clenched his fist, his thoughts all jumbled up. “Hopefully, His Majesty is alive and well, but if…”
He could not continue, but Leisdon understood the prime minister’s concerns.
If there indeed was a political change in Dragon Clouds City, could they incarcerate, or even kill the four archdukes? He was afraid that by then, they would truly become the sinners of Eckstedt.
“What are you planning to do?” Viscount Leisdon paused, wearing a concerned look on his face. “Without the king’s warrant, we cannot recruit militia. Or do you intend to recruit an army of your own? Or perhaps we could write a letter and convene with the counts from outside the city?”
Lisban did not speak.
If a king went missing, and a count and viscount brought in an army without authorization—even if they called for the vassals to do the same and enter the capital… Under such circumstances…
The two men knew what this decision meant.
“No. It does not fit the protocol, and is too time-consuming.”
Count Lisban stood up, shaking his head. “I have a feeling that it will be too late by then.
“Abandon the usual communication channels; send a messenger crow, contact Heroic Spirit Palace. Let us see the responses of the archdukes.”
His pupils contracted minutely. “Meanwhile, gather the armed forces of the main disciplinary hall, assemble the available patrol units. We will take all the soldiers we have and rush to the gatehouse. Find out who is playing this dirty trick.”
‘Be they the cowards from Constellation… Or some other party,’ Prime Minister Lisban thought.
Nicholas frowned with a grim look. A gentle smile had crept back onto Calshan’s face, but Thales wore a doubtful expression.
In the next second, the Red Witch leaned forward and said something into Nicholas’ ear.
The sound was too soft. Thales drew his brows together. The Red Witch was whispering and he could not hear her clearly. However, he could see Nicholas’ silhouette jolt suddenly.
“His… guarantee… is it not?” Calshan’s voice came in fragments.
Thales felt as though there were thousands of ants crawling over his heart. ‘The feeling of only being able to hear half of the sentence… It is truly frustrating!’
Nicholas stiffened for a split second, then the Star Killer heaved a sigh. He leaning towards the Red Witch and also uttered something in a whisper.
“He still… the bloodline…”
Thales sighed. He still could not hear anything.
The rest of the group harbored an anxiety of a different kind, compared to Thales who could eavesdrop. They could only watch worriedly and did not dare act impulsively.
“Are they going to start drinking soon?” Kohen said sarcastically with an arched eyebrow.
The second he said that, the leaders of the Secret Room and the White Blade Guards ended their conversation. Nicholas turned away, walking towards the others in a daze.
The Red Witch lifted her chin and smiled gently at them. She then gave a slight bow, turned around, and left the tunnel entrance.
As he watched the two people part, unanswerable questions spawned in Thales’ mind.
‘What’s going on? The White Blade Guards and the Secret Room, what did they…?’
In that moment, Raphael, Miranda, Kohen, Wya, Ralf, and other White Blade Guards stared at the Star Killer in confusion. Nicholas, however, was in a state of stupefaction.[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
‘It is uncommon to see the Star Killer like this.’ Thales thought.
“What’s happened?” Thales blurted out. “Do they intend to trap us here?”
Nicholas snapped out of his trance-like state. The Star Killer looked up and glanced at everyone. “Let’s go. We’re safe.
“The Secret Room has retreated,” he said flatly in his daze. “As for the people from Black Sand Region. I don’t know why they didn’t show up.”
Raphael’s eyebrows twitched and he stepped forward.
‘Why did she leave?” The young man from the Secret Intelligence Department surveyed their surroundings with caution, discreetly grasping his sword hilt. “What about Kaslan?”
Nicholas could not help but let out a cold laugh.
“She let us go.” The Star Killer shook his head. “As for Kaslan… I do not know.”
Thales was startled. ‘She let us go?!’
He gawked at the empty tunnel entrance and blinked, seemingly doubtful.
‘How is that possible?’
Kohen slapped his own head with a grim look. “Oh, she let us go…” But in the next second, the police officer’s expression changed drastically; his mouth fell open, and he had a comical look on his face.
“What?!! Let us go?!” Kohen’s eyes widened. “What did you do?”
Nicholas raised his head and forced a disdainful smile. He looked at Kohen and said sarcastically,
“I showed her my handsome face and she softened up.”
Kohen blinked, puzzled, and cast a helpless glance at Miranda and Raphael. Miranda raised an eyebrow.
“You are not good at cracking jokes, my lord.” Miranda sighed. “So don’t force yourself.”
The smile faded from Nicholas’s face. He snorted coldly.
Thales pursed his lips. He glanced at Raphael, who was deep in thought, and asked, “What did she talk about with you?”
Nicholas raised his chin, staring at the Northland sky outside the tunnel. With an unreadable face, he exhaled a breath of air; his expression was strange and complex.
“A deal.” The Star Killer began. “We made a deal… I handed over a bargaining chip,” he murmured softly, “And exchanged it for our freedom from the Secret Room.”
Thales felt a chill. ‘Bargaining chip?’
“What bargaining chip?!”
‘He-What on earth did Nicholas say to the Red Witch? What price could make the Secret Room let go of the heir of Constellation, the heiress of the Northern Territory, and the bloodline of Dragon Clouds City’s Walton Family?’
But Nicholas only shook his head. “… A very large bargaining chip.”
One that even he was unsure of whether it was good or bad for the situation.
Nicholas was at a loss with his thoughts. Thales and the others gawked, speechless, at each other.