Chapter 228: The Strongest Chess Piece (One)
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
The backyard of Bright Moon Temple.
Standing calmly in the middle of the slightly narrow hall was the Prince of Constellation.
Under the Everlasting Lamp’s illumination, Thales stared at the Bright Moon Goddess statue in the dark from a distance. He observed the Bright Moon Goddess’ aloof expression quietly.
“Thales.” Behind him, Little Rascal fixed the glasses on the bridge of her nose and looked nervously around her before she said, “If we slip out like this… Nicholas and the others will…”
“Ah,” Thales said bluntly, “I know. They’re most probably on their way to find you already.”
Little Rascal’s face turned as white as sheet. “Then we—”
Thales interrupted her with a whisper.
“Little Rascal, I have to do something, but I need your help.” The Prince of Constellation stared at the Bright Moon Goddess with a dazed expression.
Little Rascal was slightly startled.
“What is it?” she asked curiously.
Thales did not say a word. He gently furled his hand into a fist.
“You’ve read many books, but do you know what we went through last night?”
Little Rascal’s expression froze a little.
She lowered her head as she thought of those times in Heroic Spirit Palace and Shield District. Without realizing, she clenched her teeth.
The moment Alex’s hands swung limply to her side.
The king’s ring.
The calamities’ presumptuous, loud laughter.
Citizens running, screaming, and dying in despair.
After a second, Little Rascal blinked her reddened eyes a couple of times before she nodded her head in silence.
Thales turned his head around, looked at Little Rascal’s face, and had on a heart-warming smile.
“About the young soldier earlier, Willow Ken, do you know his story?”
A puzzled look appeared on Little Rascal’s face, and she shook her head.
“He was originally a normal citizen of the Northern Territory. Although he wasn’t wealthy, he had a cute little sister and healthy parents.” Thales recalled the story he heard on the land covered in snow, and absentmindedly said, “But during winter twelve years ago, he suddenly learned to fish, use spears, survive tough times, and bear the pain of losing his loved ones.”
Little Rascal was momentarily stunned.
“They’re not the only ones.” Thales sighed.
“That veteran called Genard was most probably a peasant too when he was young. But twelve years ago, he became who he is now,” Thales narrowed his eyes and remembered the veteran who struggled to keep up with them along the way. He sighed with great emotion. “To him, he’s still living in those days where wars raged continuously. He can’t wake up from it, and doesn’t want to wake up.”
“That big sister called Miranda had her whole family wiped out twelve years ago. She spent her childhood in the Tower of Eradication all alone.”
Thales lifted his head, and looked straight at the overwhelmed Little Rascal.
“Constellation was not the only one as well.” The second prince then blurted out a name flatly, “Byrne Mirk.”
Something crossed Little Rascal’s mind and her face instantly became as pale as a ghost.
“Don’t be afraid.” Thales walked forward and held her small hand. While feeling her cold and trembling palm, he sincerely said, “I’m here. No one will ever hurt you.”
Little Rascal’s breathing gradually slowed and she calmed down.
“But as you’ve heard in the rumors, twelve years ago, Byrne failed to keep his promise to the one he wanted to protect, and he also lost his best friend. Since then, he fell into boundless hell. He struggled for each and every one of his breath to continue living.”
Thales looked at her in silence.
“And there’s Chapman Lampard.” Thales’ eyes darkened. “Twelve years ago, his hands were stained with his older brother’s blood. He lived in the vortex of power formed by the people who belonged to his father’s generation, becoming the Archduke of Black Sand Region today.”
With a serious look on his face, Thales let go of the girl’s hand, and held onto her shoulders with both of his hands.
Little Rascal could only look at him in a daze.
“Look, just like that, the fates of so many people were decided.” Thales’ speech was disjointed, and his voice varied in volume. “All because of that event twelve years ago.”
Little Rascal took a sharp breath, and looked into the prince’s gray eyes. “The Bloody Year?”
Thales looked at her earnestly and nodded.
“The Bloody Year.”
Conflict appeared in Little Rascal’s eyes. She nodded slightly, although it seemed like she did not understand anything.
Thales closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath.
After that, he opened his eyes. With a stern expression never seen before since he descended into this world, he spoke with a serious voice,
“The things we saw and heard tonight aren’t just part of a family feud between a few people. This is a huge matter that concerns the future of tens upon millions of people in two countries.”
Thales looked sternly into the girl’s bewildered eyes behind her glasses.
He clenched his teeth.
In that second, the “Potemkin Village” he saw after he left the capital appeared before his eyes. The grand, star-shaped Broken Dragon Fortress showed up as well. The Northland villagers of Mountain Pass Village appeared, along with the range of black rocks at Rayman Pass—Horace’s grave.
“There may be ten thousand, one hundred thousand, or one million people’s fates being changed.” Thales struggled to speak. “No, in Dragon Clouds City, countless people’s fates have already changed tracks. Plenty of people even had their lives come to an end.”
Thales let his eyelids fall and said sadly, “Alex was one of them, and the Shield District we passed through was another.
“The both of us too.”
Little Rascal was stunned for a second.
“If we just walk away and leave everything behind, the burden of running away will make me unable to catch my breath.” Thales sighed, feeling a heavy weight press against his chest.
Little Rascal bit her lower lip.
“We caused thousands of people to suffered horrifically and became homeless.” Thales had an ugly smile plastered on his face. “That feeling is horrible.”
His hands as they held onto Little Rascal’s shoulders shook slightly, “We can’t leave, we can’t run away—”
Little Rascal sniffled and interrupted him.
“I understand,” the girl parted her lips with great difficulty. Her platinum blonde hair was incredibly striking. “You need me to…”
Her face was filled with grief. She did not continue speaking. She seemed to be hesitating about something.
Thales swallowed, then nodded. “I want to make up for all of it, avoid the worst from happening, and mend the wounds we’ve left… It doesn’t matter if those things are our responsibilities or not.”
Little Rascal figured something out. Her face turned pale.
“I understand, what you need is not Little Rascal.” She shuddered and stared at Thales incredulously. “The person you need is Saroma Walton.”
“You need me to become her, become His Majesty’s… granddaughter.” That very moment, Little Rascal’s eyes reddened.
Thales froze for a moment, finding himself speechless for a short period of time.
He lowered his head, remembering the conversation between the two of them in the butcher shop.
‘”Choose to be the person you want to be.”‘
Thales clenched his teeth. His tongue felt extremely heavy.
“No.” A second later, he pulled his head up, and looked straight into Little Rascal’s eyes. “The person I need is Little Rascal, not Saroma!”
Little Rascal widened her eyes. Her expression was filled with surprise.
“Little Rascal, the one who’s been beside me throughout the chaos, who stuck with me through it all,” Thales said each word earnestly. “The young, dumb little girl who doesn’t know how to hide when danger came.
“I need her to be with me for a while more.” Thales stared at her with a gentle gaze.
“Although this request may be too much.”
Little Rascal stared at him in a dumbfounded manner, looking as if she had forgotten how to think.
“I know you’re scared.” Thales was still holding onto Little Rascal’s shoulders. Without realizing, his hands had furled into fists.
Thales’ face became contorted, but after a few seconds, he lifted?his gaze and looked into Little Rascal’s eyes.
“Raise your head and face it, just as you faced the Great Dragon.”
Little Rascal did not reply.
She only stared at Thales with tears streaming down her eyes.
After a few seconds, tears started to fall uncontrollably from her eyes.
“No book has a plot like this.” Tear stains could be found on Little Rascal’s cheeks. She said in fear, “I have no knowledge of it at all…”
She bit her lips as tears streamed down her cheeks.
Thales sighed in his heart.
“Probably there is,” Thales gently said. “We just don’t know about it.”
Little Rascal sniffled.
Thales sighed and moved his hands behind her head. “It will be better if there isn’t any.”
Thales lifted up his fingers and tenderly wiped her tears away.
Then, he held her black-rimmed glasses and pushed the slanted, broken glasses back in place.
He stared at Little Rascal. His expression was solemn, and his was voice stern.
“You read so many books, you read through so many people’s stories. It’s your turn… to write your own story.”
Subconsciously, Little Rascal began to sob loudly.
The girl looked at Thales with a stunned expression and a dazed stare.
It felt like she was reading a book she had casually found instead of staring at a boy with a determined expression.
After a moment, Little Rascal pursed her lips before she slowly parted them.
Her soft voice rang in the air, “Will you always be by my side?”
“I will.” He nodded.
Her eyes lit up. “Will you face all of this with me?”
“I will.” He smiled.
Her expression changed as she clenched her teeth. “You’ll protect me.”
He sighed, then moved his head forward until it touched her forehead.
Both of their eyes met across the lens of her glasses.
The boy spoke tenderly with a resolute tone.
At that very moment, Thales heard footsteps behind him.
He let go of the dazed Little Rascal gently, and turned towards the person who approached them.
The pale and grim countenance of the Star Killer appeared before his eyes. With a hostile expression, he admonished them, “You better have a good explanation for abducting Walton’s bloodline, young prince…”
Soray Nicholas glanced at Little Rascal, who was lost in her thoughts. “Madam, please come back with us. You are not supposed to have any contact with this dangerous prince.”
Little Rascal pursed her lips and hid behind Thales.
Nicholas knitted his brows together.
Thales sighed deeply, lifted his head, and looked at Nicholas as well as Mirk, who was behind him.
Without paying any attention to the Star Killer, Thales spoke softly to Mirk, “Lord Mirk… I’m sorry, I’m still so used to calling you Lord.”
The dejected Mirk was slightly startled.
Nicholas was a little surprised.
“Why did you come back? Why did you come back to help the Walton Family?” Thales calmly glanced at Mirk. “You’re no longer an administrator. I remember that King Nuven sentenced you to life-long exile.”
Mirk’s expression turned heartbroken and it was filled with despair.
He did not realize it but his muscles had tensed up.
“To King Nuven, you’re the criminal who harmed his son, aren’t you?” the prince said indifferently. “For this, he took your child away… and treated you like this. You should just treat him the same way.”
Nicholas looked at his old colleague. His expression changed.
“Hey, you, young prince,” the Star Killer said firmly, “if you—”
But someone interrupted him. It was not Thales.
Mirk looked up as he shuddered. His eyes burned with strange and mixed emotions.
“But that was his point of view,” he said in anguish. “I will forever be one of the White Blade Guards. And my duty is to be loyal to the king.”
The former administrator clenched his teeth tightly.
“No matter how he has treated me.”
A bright light shone in Thales’ eyes.
No matter how Mirk’s hand trembled, he still thought of all that he had been through.
“This has never changed.
“I am fulfilling my duties, nothing more.”
Finally, the former administrator looked firmly at Thales with his teeth clenched.
Nicholas stared at his comrade.
And Thales smiled a little.
“That’s not all,” the prince said gently. “There’s also Prince Soria, correct? You always felt guilty for what happened to him.”
Mirk swayed slightly.
“It must have been hard for you.” Thales observed his expression, dropped his head, and sighed. “You try your very best in everything you do, yet fate keeps making you a fool. You made a big mistake, you committed a felony.
“But you can’t do anything to compensate for it.”
Mirk tilted his head and shut his eyes. An expression of conflict appeared on his face.
“So you want to make amends, to atone,” Thales said with pity in his voice.
Nicholas stepped forward impatiently. “Enough.”
“I don’t know why you need to speak of all this meaningless nonsense, but—”
At this moment, Thales brought his head up, and his gaze turned sharp.
“Because this is what we’re going through now!” Thales roared as he interrupted Nicholas.
The Star Killer was shocked. He looked at the Prince of Constellation in surprise and bewilderment.
Thales gasped slightly to calm the slight pain in his throat.
“Look around us.” He clenched his teeth. “King Nuven poured the blood of his enemies’ skulls onto his own land. Chapman is strutting around Dragon Clouds City, free to do whatever he wants with the public, none the wiser of his acts. Meanwhile, Calshan, Shiles, and Kaslan laughed at us in the dark.”
Nicholas listened to Thales in silence.
However, rage gradually appeared in his eyes.
“Wars and disasters are on their way, countless lives and things will be killed and destroyed.” Thales exhaled with great difficulty. “Yet here we are, like stray dogs running for our lives, constantly trying to escape.
“We hide in a corner to comfort ourselves, saying that this is the only way. Then we go to sleep in peace like this is a dream and none of it has ever happened.”
Mirk sighed. Panic was clear on his face.
Nicholas tightened his fists.
“Hmph!” He snorted coldly. “This is all thanks to your Secret Intelligence Department.”
Thales ignored him. Instead, he shook his head. His gaze turned sharp. “But is that all?”
Nicholas furrowed his brows.
“Is this the end?’ The prince raised his arms in the air and waved them forcefully.
“Nicholas, the Star Killer?”
He called out Nicholas’ title without fear.
Nicholas was seething with anger. He dug his nails into his palms, and finally exhaled through his nose in fury.
“What else do you want to do, pitiful young prince?” the Star Killer asked through gritted teeth.
Thales lifted his head. His expression was solemn and serious at the same time.
“I want to change, I want to redeem myself,” he said earnestly. “I want to do something.
“I want to fight back.”
Nicholas’ gaze was focused. He lowered his head and met the prince’s eyes quietly.
Several seconds later…
“Ha.” Nicholas laughed. The scorn he felt seeped into his face. “Very funny.”
Thales narrowed his eyes.
“Laugh as much as you like,” the prince said softly.
Thales continued in a firm manner, which allowed no argument, “This is my decision and this will encompass all the things that I will be doing next. I’m just letting you know.
“Do all of you want to come along?
There was a change in Mirk’s expression after he heard those words.
“In my opinion, if this was the reason why you gathered us here, it’s seriously not a good idea, Your Highness,” a calm and mature male voice rang.
Putray, Ralf, Wya, Willow, Genard and a few others appeared in their sight.
The vice diplomat nodded slightly at the prince.
His eyes were full of worry.
Thales turned to face his diplomat group.
Thales exhaled, and with a gentle look, he said, “You came a long way with me, witnessed so many things with me, and I’m grateful.
“Without your strategies and suggestions, I wouldn’t have been able to make it to this day.”
Putray furrowed his brows. He wanted to bring out his tobacco pipe but when his hand was lifted halfway, he put it back down.
He stared at Thales. The look in his eyes was filled with incredibly complex emotions.
“Do you realize what you were saying?” The vice diplomat hesitated and said in a profound manner, “I know that you’re very dissatisfied, but I have the obligation to persuade you to dispel any unwise decisions.”
Thales forced out a few chuckles.
But no matter how hard he tried, his laughter sounded stubborn and bleak.
“But I do not want to disappoint them.”
Putray lifted his eyes slowly. “Who?”
“Many people.” Thales was lost in his thoughts. He spoke instinctively.
“Putray, Wya, Ralf, do you still remember?
“Do you still remember that most of the soldiers in the Jadestar Private Army died in the birch tree forest? They died under the claws of the Blood Clan and the conspiracies of the nobles.
“Do you still remember Baron Murkh running towards the enemy’s camp with me on his back??Do you still remember that countless guards of the Kingdom’s Wrath sacrificing their lives before the fortress?”
Thales curled his hand into a fist without even noticing it himself. The figures of countless people flashed before his eyes. “All because they wanted to send me to Eckstedt…
“To eliminate the threat of war.
“To get rid of those who cheered for the war, those bastards who are completely indifferent to all other lives.
“To have a peaceful Constellation.”
Putray dropped his head and exhaled deeply.
“I remember the White Blade Guards, the group of strangers who gave their lives up just for me.” Thales snapped out of his daze.
“There’s also Dragon Clouds City and the Northern Territory. Those who were affected by our failures as well as those peasants, who could possibly suffer from wars and disasters in the future.”
“We are in a bad situation ourselves,” Putray lifted three fingers from his right hand as if he was holding onto his tobacco pipe, and he did not even notice it. “Any impulsive action will expose us to the risk of falling into the dangerous situation we just escaped after much difficulty. It will make the situation even worse.”
Thales looked at his instructor without uttering a word. He remembered how the both of them first met at the side of a carriage.
Oh, no. That was the second time. The first time they met was at Western City Gate, where the child beggars stole the library pass from Putray.
“But we are not going to get ourselves in a worse situation, isn’t it?” he said softly.
“Let’s not forget that I am the one who ‘murdered’ King Nuven.”
“We have ruined the hard-won peace of the kingdom and pushed it into the abyss of war.” The second prince shrugged before he smiled mockingly. “It is as you said. Once we return to the capital, the Northlanders will invade south en masse.
“The fortress will be destroyed, the land will be trampled, lives will be taken mercilessly, just like how wheat is harvested.
“Thousands of people will curse our names.”
Willow, the new soldier trembled a little after he heard those words.
Thales shook his head slightly. “Once we lose the Northern Territory, our biggest barrier—and it will happen soon—I will spend the rest of my life with my hands full, facing a vulnerable, wounded kingdom of starving citizens. The kingdom will be on verge of collapsing at that point.
“I will become an incompetent king with no accomplishments, guarding a weak country, waiting for the day Constellation ends for good in my very own hands,” Thales said drearily.
He finished his monologue with, “As the final king before the country fell…
“What kind of emotions did the last emperor of the Ancient Empire have before he passed away?”