Chapter 235: Contention
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The atmosphere of the discussion in the Hall of Heroes had begun to turn into one that delicate handling.
“A war for vengeance?”
Archduke Lecco sat beside the long table, his gaze focused somewhat. His hands were clasped together and his joints trembled slightly.
“So, this was the reason you spread the rumors before the Constellation Diplomat Group arrived, trying your best to play up the discord between King Nuven and the Prince of Constellation.” The corner of Archduke Lecco’s lips curled up a little. “And also why you shifted the blame for the king’s death onto Constellation.”
“I’m tired of repeating myself.” Lampard shot Lecco a glance. His tone was cold. “That this is not a rumor.”
‘Not completely.’ He stared quietly at the four archdukes.
“And then?” Trentida flashed an interested smile. “Do you think that all of Eckstedt would believe you; would act in haste and go to war at all costs?
“There is always a price to pay for war. I remember that this is the family dictum of a family of the Citizens of the Empire.”
Archduke Roknee raised his gaze and said slowly, “The Nanchester Family—’War comes with a price.'”
Lampard walked away from Archduke Olsius and turned to Trentida and Roknee. His expression was cold and firm, and his tone left no room for doubt.
“They WILL believe me,” Archduke Lampard said resolutely, “The missing Prince of Constellation is in my hands. There’s no harm in letting him stay missing.
“I also have the heiress of the Arunde Family in my grasp as the one who was caught red-handed assassinating the king.”
Olsius remembered the peculiar boy and could not help but become momentarily surprised.
“Even the heiress of the White Eagle Family was…” The Archduke of Prestige Orchid narrowed his eyes. “You’re well-prepared indeed.”
Lampard ignored the slight scorn in his voice. The archduke coldly swept his gaze across the other archdukes.
“Even without these chess pieces, if all of you recited what I said to the others, we’ll be able to mobilize troops in the righteous name of getting revenge for our king. We’ll be able to direct the entire kingdom’s anger at Constellation—that they’re the ones who tore the ‘Fortress Treaty’ to shreds.”
The four archdukes tacitly said nothing.
“Leading the troops south, we’ll be mobilizing the most abundant military power since the War of Brilliance. There will be five of us, together with Dragon Clouds City, and Beacon Illumination City. Seven archdukes or more would fight under one flag again.”
Lampard took a step forward and slowly raised his right hand. His tone was grim.
“As for Constellation? Their Northern Territory is unstable, the fortress is empty, and they have very little military power.”
Lampard’s gaze became scarier, as though he could see the future he anticipated. “The most valiant army in the world charging forward, fueled by vengeance. Neither the fortress nor the Northern Territory would be able to keep us away. We’ll break our way into their kingdom with no difficulty. Even the heavily fortified Eternal Star City will be within our reach.”
Archduke Trentida coughed softly. “What does this have to do with taking down Dragon Clouds City?”
Lampard turned. “War will change everything,” he said flatly. Even the four high-ranking archdukes felt their blood run cold from the chill in Lampard’s voice. “Including the vassals under the Walton Family.”
Archduke Olsius heaved a soft sigh when he heard this.
Chapman Lampard clenched his fists. “If the aim is to avenge the king’s death, whether it be for emotional reasons or logical reasons, whether it be for public or personal reasons, Dragon Clouds City and Beacon Illumination City should make up the main forces of the troops heading south.”
He turned slowly. There was an unexplainable emotion in his eyes as he faced the empty pike shelf above the fireplace. “We’ll be the leaders of the allied forces. As for the stubborn nobles of Dragon Clouds City and Beacon Illumination City, the moment they have no choice but to join forces, their fate will be in our hands. They’ll wane or even perish together with their troops. The Walton Family’s leverages will be wiped out from then on.”
Archduke Roknee knitted his eyebrows tightly.
“When we return victorious with the prestige and triumph that was snatched from our hands twelve years ago, they won’t be a problem anymore… They will not have the chance to oppose all of you,” Lampard said coldly.
“At that time, no one would have the courage or the ability to interfere with Dragon Clouds City and Beacon Illumination City that are jointly ruled by all of you. Even Prime Minister Lisban will not be able to object. He would have stopped being the prime minister for a long time by then.
“When everyone suppresses their indignation and tacitly accepts the situation, and when that orphan girl from the Walton Family dies an early death, no one other than the historians will remember the Walton Family.”
Lampard turned around abruptly, his tone was resolute and decisive. “The Joint Ruling Pledge will still stand, but there will only be eight archdukes as the involved parties. Just like how even though there are eleven signatures on the Joint Ruling Pledge, the Tannon Family and other renowned families have disappeared forever in the folds of history.
“…But Eckstedt will only become even more powerful.”
Everyone in the hall went silent. Lampard waited quietly for the archdukes’ replies. He knew that this was a good sign because the archdukes knew that his plan was feasible.
Trentida jerked his head. “You know, this suggestion is very interesting—”
“Hey!” Archduke Roknee interrupted him, annoyed. “All of you are talking about wiping out a territory that has been sacred ever since Eckstedt was established! It was where Raikaru was crowned!”
“Then, why don’t you say this to that female dragon?” Lampard answered coldly. “Perhaps it will fly down here and defend the Walton Family against injustice.”
Roknee immediately put on a furious countenance.
“Watch your words, Chapman.” Archduke Lecco frowned. “That esteemed woman just came down yesterday night.”
Lampard’s expression changed. He mockingly said, “Esteemed woman?”
“Apart from being a mascot on that flag.” Archduke Lampard pointed out the window, his gaze emotionless. “For six hundred years, that dragon was nothing to us. Its duty was only to alert us on the return of the calamities. But it doesn’t care at all whether Eckstedt lives or dies!”
The four archdukes’ expressions became extremely unpleasant.
“Let’s return to the subject.” Trentida coughed and exhaled. “I have to say that this is indeed a brave arrangement, and a pretty ambitious plan.
“However, we can absolutely abandon you and carry it out ourselves.” He flashed a smile once more. “We can, perhaps, even take over the masterless Black Sand Region.”
Archduke Roknee laughed angrily. “That is quite a good idea.”
The Archduke of Reformation Tower whistled. “Give us a reason, Chapman, one that will compel us to include you in this.”
Lampard narrowed his eyes.
“If all of you stubbornly blame me for King Nuven’s death,” the Archduke of Black Sand said calmly, “you will lose the excuse to launch an assault on Constellation, the rights to rally the entire kingdom, and the geographical advantage of advancing south into Constellation through Black Sand Region. Thus, you will lose the chance to cleanse Dragon Clouds City through war, the chance to expand your territory, and a good opportunity to frighten those who aren’t loyal.
“Don’t forget that both the Prince of Constellation and the Arunde Family’s heiress are in my hands. You will also lose the chance to make something good out of the chaos right now.” He slowed down his speech rate. “And the only opportunity to set the stage for your own stability and Eckstedt’s mightiness.”
The other archdukes looked at each other.
“But how about you, Chapman?” Trentida tilted his head with a cunning smile and stared at Lampard with a shrewd expression. “You definitely want something out of this, right? In this grand game of chess, I refuse to believe that you just want us to recite whatever you want us to, all so that you can be free of sin.”
Lampard’s brow creased.
“Let me guess…” Trentida chuckled. His gaze became even more derisive. “The common-elected king?”
Archduke Roknee snorted softly, but unexpectedly, Lampard’s brow relaxed.
“No,” he said flatly and nonchalantly. “All of you can fight to become the common-elected king. It doesn’t matter to me. In truth, I don’t care at all about who becomes king.”
The four archdukes froze at the same time.
“I’m fine with Olsius, Roknee, Lecco, or even Trentida becoming the common-elected king.”
Trentida snorted softly. “Why is my name listed after the word ‘even’?”
Lampard mentally shook his head as he watched Trentida’s expression. The Archduke of Black Sand said softly,
“As long as all of you are willing to dispatch troops to gain this victory for Eckstedt… I can pay a price so high that all of you can’t imagine—I can even give up Black Sand Region.
The moment Lampard said that, there was a whole five seconds of silence.
“What?” Olsius from Prestige Orchid Region said in disbelief. “You want to… give up Black Sand Region?”
Trentida even seemed to forget his smile. He only furrowed his eyebrows and pinned his gaze on Lampard.
‘It can’t be… This beast in front of me who killed his own brother… only genuinely cares about Eckstedt? Is this a joke?!’
“There is only one condition: After we emerge victorious… I only want the Northern Territory, or even just the land at the periphery of Cold Castle.
“I only want to tenaciously defend the southern border of Eckstedt… I will not disturb all of you anymore,” the Archduke of Black Sand said, resolute and firm.
All the archdukes were stunned.
Archduke Lecco exhaled loudly. He sighed and said, “I don’t understand. What kind of suzerain would give up their territory, which had been passed down from generation to generation in their family?”
‘Of course you don’t understand,’ Lampard thought. ‘But as long as one person among them understands.’
“What do all of you think?” Lampard said flatly, “A chance to ensure that Eckstedt regains stability, be free from the restrictions of monarchical power, strengthen your territories, and even take over Constellation… is right before your eyes.” His gaze burned with ambition.
Lampard quietly waited for the other archdukes to respond.
The archdukes’ expressions changed continuously.
“What do all of you think?” Olsius looked worried and he watched the other three archdukes.
The archdukes looked at each other. Trentida even moved closer to Archduke Lecco and whispered in his ear. Olsius’ expression kept changing while Archduke Roknee said something scornful every now and then.
Lampard stood quietly beside them and stared at one of the Cloud Dragon Spear flags on the wall. He knew that this may be the final decision.
‘The moment Eckstedt’s future is decided… at last.’
A few minutes later, the four archdukes nodded at the same time. They raised their heads together and stared at Archduke Lampard with varying expressions.
Lampard turned and gazed at them solemnly.
Trentida blinked while Olsius let out a faint, cold sneer. On the other hand, Roknee was impassive. But Lampard only fixed his gaze on one person—the most experienced one.
Archduke Lecco stared quietly at Lampard. A few seconds passed when finally, a smile appeared on the old archduke’s face, which usually did not show many expressions.
“It’s not a bad idea, Chapman… It’s also a very creative ‘deal’.”
Chapman Lampard also flashed a smile. It was as though he saw the dust settle and heard the gavel being struck.
Until Archduke Lecco spoke softly with his usual smile. “Therefore… we refuse.”
Lampard’s expression froze.
Thales stood quietly in Shiles’ garden. He pensively watched as the people around him clean up the place. If the ‘contacts’ Shiles mentioned really existed, they must leave the place as soon as possible, before Lampard realizes that they were there.
“Have you thought of an answer?” came a voice.
“Yeah.” The prince nodded slightly without looking behind him. “How about you, Putray?”
The vice diplomat of Constellation went to stand beside Thales. He frowned as he watched two White Blade Guards push Shiles—whose hands were tied behind his back—onto the carriage.
Putray sighed. “To be honest, I don’t really understand what Shiles said just now. Why would Lampard think that Eckstedt’s biggest threat…”
Thales shook his head.
His gaze misty, the prince said calmly, “That isn’t important. Trust me, Lampard has a very good reason. So good that even the four experienced and astute archdukes will have no choice but to be convinced.”
Putray knitted his eyebrows together. “You know about it?”
“Not really.” Thales shrugged. “But I understand.”
“Then, what do you plan to do?”
Thales raised his head and looked at the Northland sky with a complicated expression.
“Do you remember what I said before we departed? The strongest chess piece in both camps?” the prince said faintly.
Putray arched an eyebrow.
“Chapman Lampard.” The corners of Putray’s lips curled up a little, his tone slightly hesitant. He apparently could not really believe it. “And… you, Your Highness?”
Thales shot him a glance. “I’m not joking. After listening to what Shiles said just now, I’m even surer”—Thales flashed a bitter smile—”that Lampard is incredibly ferocious and extremely terrifying.”
Putray pursed his lips.
Thales lowered his head and said, “I met the four archdukes. The old-fashioned Olsius, the cunning Trentida, the resolute and steadfast Roknee, and the old but strong Lecco. Standing together and united as one, the four of them are extremely difficult to handle.”
Putray nodded. However, the prince sighed with emotion and said, “But do you believe that… When facing Chapman Lampard, an outstanding and ambitious man from Northland… The other archdukes are just going to be swallowed up whole… With not even their bones left?”
Putray looked like he was contemplating deeply.
“Putray,” Thales said faintly, “will you follow me?”
Putray arched an eyebrow. “Are you asking that again? Truly?”
Thales shrugged. “What comes after this will be a little crazy.”
Putray furrowed his eyebrows. “Is it like what I thought? You want to…”
“Whether you believe it or not, Putray.” Thales sighed and forced a smile. “I am convinced that in that unique battlefield, I’m the only one who can contend with him.”
Putray revealed a surprised expression.
“No, this…” The vice diplomat frowned a little and asked in a soft voice, “With what? How are you going to contend with Lampard?”
In the next moment, Thales turned, wearing an amiable smile and flashing his baby teeth at Putray.
“With my cheat card.”
He turned his body resolutely, leaving the lost and confused Putray behind.
Thales went beside the carriage. He flashed the immobile Shiles a smile. Shiles shrugged at him. Thales gestured at Ralf—who was guarding Shiles—to leave.
As he stared at Ralf’s retreating figure, Thales sighed with emotion and said, “This isn’t very comfortable, is it, Your Grace?”
Shiles had a piece of cloth shoved into his mouth. He seemed resigned and blinked at Thales. The prince nodded solemnly.
“Hence, I’m going to do something for you as compensation.”
Shiles revealed a puzzled look while Thales’ gaze became firm and resolute. In the next moment, Shiles’ look turned from puzzled to shocked.
“Capture me…” Thales voice was hollow. “And send me to Heroic Spirit Palace… back to Lampard.”