Chapter 233: It Has Been a Long Time
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
The four archdukes’ reactions differed, but one of them set an example.
“Please listen to me until the end—” Lampard lowered his eyelids.
“Don’t you understand human language?” Roknee interrupted coldly.
However, Lampard’s gaze turned furious, he then used a louder, firmer voice to counter him.
“I know that all of you have dispatched a messenger crow!” Lampard roared angrily. “Lisban and his patrols are rushing over, aren’t they?”
The moment he said that, there was only silence. The four archdukes were stunned. They stared at each other, and the atmosphere unknowingly grew tenser; the archdukes seemed worried that Lampard already knew about the messenger crow.
Lampard panted as he calmed himself down.
“Don’t worry.” He replied, his face impassive. “I didn’t bring a saker falcon, and I have no way of stopping the letter from being delivered.”
The four archdukes slowly steadied their breathing.
“So, please listen to me until the end, to buy more time and wait for them to help you out of your predicament… It’s actually more beneficial for all of you.”
‘Hopefully my men in the First Gatehouse can buy more time… At least until I resolve things with them,’ Lampard thought.
Roknee narrowed his eyes and turned to look at the other three archdukes. “Do all of you want to hear more of his nonsense?”
The Archduke of Reformation Tower whistled and said what was on everyone’s minds, “Even though it’s quite boring, it’s better than us pointing our swords at each other and shedding each other’s blood in Heroic Spirit Palace.”
Olsius sneered while Lecco’s expression did not change. He gestured for Lampard to continue speaking. No one objected, and Lampard nodded.
“The Walton Family,” he said coldly, “I have the last daughter of the Walton Family in my hands. She is closer to the bloodline than any of the offshoots.”
Archduke Lecco narrowed his eyes and shook his head. “Eckstedt has never had a female archduke before.”
“She doesn’t have to inherit the title,”—Lampard’s expression became cold and he hastened his speech—”but she can become a temporary chess piece.”
Trentida raised his eyebrows, his interest was piqued.
“We can promise that the male kin she births after marriage will become the future archduke of Dragon Clouds City.” Lampard’s expression was resolute. He put his fingers together like a knife and swung it. “This is more effective and reliable than simply having someone from another family become Dragon Clouds City’s archduke, as it can stabilize the political power inside and outside Dragon Clouds City.
“And before that, all of you can rule Dragon Clouds City jointly in the name of providing assistance,” Lampard said steadily.
Archduke Roknee furrowed his eyebrows, as though he did not dare to believe what he had just heard.
“And then?” Archduke Lecco was stone-faced.
Lampard stared calmly at them. The Archduke of Black Sand parted his mouth slightly, his gaze was as sharp as a blade, and his tone as hard as steel.
“And then… we go to war.”
Archduke Olsius’ expression changed.
“Hah!” Beside him, Trentida waved his hand in annoyance. “To have the families return to their respective territories to recruit soldiers, then, while the enemy is unprepared, take this advantage to destroy Dragon Clouds City? Please, if this is your—”
Lampard cut him off. The terrifying archduke had abruptly taken a step forward and to yell explosively, “No!”
Lampard’s gaze radiated coldness. “We will unite the entire kingdom’s forces and dispatch them to the south.”
Archduke Ronnie clenched his fists tightly. “What?”
The four archdukes stared at Lampard sternly… while the latter revealed a hideously fierce expression. Like a wild cannibal about to hunt.
He clenched his teeth and said in a fierce tone, “We declare war on Constellation… And avenge our late King Nuven.”
In another corner of Dragon Clouds City, Thales and Putray squeezed themselves into a narrow horse-drawn wagon. In front of them, Nicholas—in disguise—sat on the driver’s seat. From behind, only his thick linen jacket could be seen.
Thales was on tenterhooks as he hid inside a wagon full of firewood. He thought hard, his eyebrows tightly furrowed.
‘Chapman Lampard. The four archdukes. King Nuven. How will they resolve the?problem between them?’
Separated from Thales by two bundles of firewood, Putray saw the latter’s expression. Constellation’s vice diplomat sighed softly.
The wagon lumbered across a small pit and shook suddenly. At that moment, Thales’ vision shook, then he felt a familiar sensation.
The prince subconsciously placed his hand on his forehead, his vision was becoming blurry again…
He was in a brightly lit house. Three or four young people sat scattered around a middle-aged man with their computers and watched the projection on the wall.
‘”To have chosen this subject, I assume that all of you already have a basic understanding on social networks. For example: nodes, edges, indegree, outdegree, and even concepts such as two-modeled networks and structural equivalence…
‘”Now, I want all of you to visualize a network. Hmm, let us visualize an interpersonal network—replacing geometrical representations with relationships between humans would aid understanding…
‘”Let us add positive and negative signs to this simple network—to these links that are only quantitative in nature. The relationship between A and B is very bad, so the link between them is a negative one. The relationship between B and C is very good, thus the link between them is a positive one.
‘”Here’s the question—what would A and C’s relationship be like? This brings up a new question: the balance of social networks.
‘”How are we going to show this balance within the context of social network analysis? How should imbalanced, interpersonal networks change by itself to achieve stability?”‘
‘The balance of networks. The… stability of relationships?’
Thales took a deep breath and rubbed his temples hard, storing this newly obtained memory in the deep recesses of his mind.
‘The relationship between Lampard and Nuven is bad. However, the relationship between Nuven and the archdukes… is also bad.
‘If this network were to stabilize and become balanced, the relationship between Lampard and the archdukes—
‘Wait. This network is not complete… What did I leave out?’
“You’re very anxious, aren’t you?”
Thales, who was rubbing his forehead and in deep contemplation, was startled. He turned his head back.
Putray stared at Thales with a worried expression.
Thales snapped out of his thoughts and shook his head with a smile. “Erm, sorry. It’s just that I didn’t rest well—”
“No.” Putray cut him off. “I’m not just talking about right now.” The vice diplomat shook his head slowly. “You have been like this since you gave that speech in the temple just now.”
Thales was slightly startled.
“You talk a lot when you are anxious.” Putray exhaled and ground his teeth. He seemed tortured because of his addiction to tobacco. “I remember that you were also like this when we first entered Dragon Clouds City.”
Thales stilled. “Was I?” he asked absentmindedly.
Putray nodded quietly.
“Even though you behaved very confidently, when it came to our next move…” The gaunt vice diplomat sighed. “You are actually not very certain either, are you?” Putray’s gaze was contemplative.
Thales said nothing. He stared quietly at the firewood in front of him. A few seconds later, the prince lowered his head and sighed.
“Sorry, ” Thales said, a little dejected. “It is just that… I do not know if we can succeed.”
Putray stared quietly at him.
At this moment, in front of them, Nicholas turned. His eyes shone like stars.
“We are Northlanders, ” he said coldly. “Northlanders don’t talk about ‘whether we can do it’, we only talk about ‘whether we’re going to do it’.”
Putray snorted. Thales’ heart skipped a beat. He forced himself to take a breath and perked up.
When he felt the wagon stop moving, Thales raised his eyebrows. “We’re here?”
“Of course.” Nicholas knocked on the coach, his expression was calm. “They went to scout the route beforehand.”
“I thought that we would take more time, and would have to start by finding the place, ” the prince said quietly. “After all, we cannot expose ourselves—”
Nicholas cut him off. “This is Dragon Clouds City.” Blackened by a layer of grease, Nicholas’ skin trembled a little. “There’s no one more familiar with this place than we are when it comes to finding someone.”
‘And… It seems that neither the real patrols, nor the fake ones from Black Sand Region are anywhere to be seen.’ Nicholas narrowed his eyes.
At this moment, a White Blade Guard in disguise moved near the driver’s seat and gestured to Nicholas. Nicholas replied him with a thumbs-up.
“We can go in now.” Nicholas cast the reins aside and hopped down the wagon. He turned and said to them, “They have scouted the route, we can go straight in.”
Thales was somewhat surprised.
“Go straight in?” The prince widened his eyes. “Are we not sneaking in so that we do not alarm too many people?”
“Shut your mouth, ” Nicholas said scornfully, “We’re sneaking right now.”
Putray pushed aside the two bundles of firewood and hopped down from the wagon first. He then extended his hand and helped the second prince down.
Thales felt a little more at ease when he stepped onto solid ground.
Here was a more secluded house. It seemed large, but its exterior walls were quite plain. Thales could not tell which district it was in. The master of this house obviously did not want to keep an overly high profile as there was not a single neighbour around.
They stood beside a small side door guarded by two people—Willow the recruit, and Genard.
When he met the prince’s inquiring gaze, Genard gave a simple response. “Good luck, Your Highness. We will look out for you.”
Putray nodded at them. He turned and said in a soft voice, “We should hurry.”
Nicholas nudged his chin towards them. He took the lead and walked through the side door.
“Walk straight through the door?” He walked behind Nicholas through the small side door. Thales then entered a seemingly deserted backyard. He could not help but furrow his eyebrows. “Will we not be discovered? If we expose ourselves… You know, we are in a dangerous situation and need to keep a low profile. It is best if we sneak in quietly by climbing over the wall and walking on the roof—”
Thales suddenly stopped talking. He stared in horror at the garden full of snow.
“Sneak-sneak in…” He repeated subconsciously.
Almost all the White Blade Guards who were with them stood in the garden. Even Kohen and Miranda were there. The police officer even flashed a big smile at Thales.
Thales inhaled and lowered his head. Around him, many people lay scattered about.
There were dead bodies that lay in pools of blood,?and people who were either unconscious or suffering from shock. There were even pitiful creatures who had bloody noses and swollen faces with their hands tied behind their backs. There were even rags stuffed in their mouths, and many of them had a blade pointed at their necks by a fierce-looking Northlander or Constellatiate.
“All of you”—Thales was lost for words for a long time as he watched the scene in a daze—”Really intend to ‘sneak in’ with a ‘low’ profile, huh?”
Putray heaved a long sigh. The Star Killer gave Mirk—who led the unit—a thumbs-up.
Thales turned away to avoid seeing the dead bodies. He cast Nicholas a dissatisfied glance.
“Come on, as long as no one knows that we snuck in…” Nicholas arched an eyebrow and extended his hand to the blood that splattered all over the ground. He nodded, pleased with himself. “…It is considered the greatest success.”
‘These words…’ Thales’ eyebrows wriggled and squirmed many times within the span of a few seconds. He inhaled deeply and turned towards Nicholas. With a solemn expression, he asked probingly in a soft voice, “Everything is nothing…”
Nicholas was a little startled; he looked bewildered. “What?”
Thales stuck his tongue out and retracted his head. As though nothing just happened, he shrugged and said, “It was nothing.”
Nicholas looked baffled.
Thales shook his head and discarded all unnecessary thought from his mind while he stared at all the corpses on the floor. He could not help but make a quip in his heart. ‘Won’t this make you lose your sync with the others…?’
The next moment, he walked behind Nicholas, left the garden, and went inside the house.
The Star Killer said flatly, “This is your plan. Have you thought of what to do?”
“Of course.” Thales strode over a doorsill and took a deep breath. “I’ll act according to the circumstances.”
Thales then raised his head and looked at two men behind a magnificent study table. One of them was Raphael.
The young man from the Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department leaned against the wall, calm and composed. He clutched his sword and extended his left hand, perpendicular to him. The tip of the sword was pointed at a middle-aged man’s neck, touching his skin.
The middle-aged man’s eyebrows were tightly furrowed, but his mood remained calm, and his bearing was steady.
“Sir, I do not know how you found me here, but I assume that all of you already know who I am and what I’m worth…” He opened his mouth wide and narrowed his eyes slightly, then he said to Raphael, “So, the problem can be easily solved. No matter what it is, we can definitely work something out.”
Thales inhaled a deep breath and walked out from behind Nicholas. He raised his head to gaze at the man held at knifepoint by Raphael; the middle-aged noble, who had a blonde ponytail and wore fine clothes.
Thales tried his best to fake a smile. “Hello, it’s a great honor to meet you again… Your Grace.”
The moment he said that, even the air seemed to go still. The middle-aged man with blonde hair was shocked to see Thales. He had a surprised expression and his eyes kept flickering. He looked like he could not believe it.
The middle-aged man immediately flashed a complicated, indecipherable, and bitter smile. He exhaled slowly.
The Marquis of Good Flow City from Camus Union, Shiles Bamra, sat upright behind the study table and said with a resigned expression,
“It has been a long time. From sending people to ask for help, to?suddenly appearing now… Prince Thales, you really are full of surprises.”