Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
When he heard his subordinate’s report, Viscount Kentvida inhaled deeply. He turned and stared at Putray again.
“What is this?” Kentvida asked coldly.
Putray arched an eyebrow and said nothing.
“What in the world are all of you thinking?”
Kentvida’s expression was unpleasant. He walked until he was in front of Putray, he was half a head taller than the latter. With the height advantage, he seemed extremely powerful.
“Doing so much just to send a seven-year-old kid to the archduke?” Kentvida frowned tightly, his gaze was sharp and cold.
Putray exhaled slowly.
He missed the tobacco pipe and tobacco at his bosom a lot. Unfortunately, because his hands were bound, he could only stare at them and sigh. The vice diplomat ground his teeth to alleviate his smoking addiction.
“Then, in your opinion, what should we do now?”
Putray raised his head and stared at his opponent without any signs of anxiety. “Risk our lives and stage an assault at all costs? Recklessly rush into danger and stage an assassination? Travel around the city looking for help? Do everything possible to escape danger? Or try to shake hands and make up with all of you?”
He shrugged as though he was having a casual conversation with an old friend.
Kentvida inhaled deeply to calm his nerves, suppressing the shock and anger that was elicited from the sudden mishap.
With his thorough and meticulous plans, and his broad insight, he climbed up the ladder from his lordship to becoming the archduke’s chief strategist, obtaining the position over the other vassals of Black Sand Region.
Anyone else could get anxious, angry and manic—like a typical Northlander—over the mishap in the archduke’s plan… But he could not.
For the mighty future they envisioned. That future with endless possibilities, free from heavy shackles. As he thought of this, Kentvida’s expression became a little less colder.
“Impossible,” the viscount uttered slowly.
Putray raised his brows somewhat. “Hm?”
Kentvida shook his head. “It’s impossible for all of you to place your hopes on a child… This is not a fantasy story. What trick are you all playing? What are you expecting?”
Putray lowered an eyebrow and shot Kentvida a playful glance. “You apparently refuse to believe it.”
Kentvida shook his head slowly.
The vice diplomat shrugged. “Let me put it this way, Your Grace: In your opinion, how should the game between both sides look like?
“A remobilization of soldiers in both armies? A political scheme in regards to the exchange of bargaining chips? Or something even simpler? A direct plot for assassination?”
Kentvida fixed his gaze on Putray’s eyes, but Putray’s gaze was extremely deep and serene, like the most seasoned politician, or the most experienced spy.
The viscount said softly, “No matter what you do, even if you send Nicholas or yourself there, it would be wiser than sending a child to confront five archdukes.”
Putray seemed amused. “He is not an ordinary person.”
Kentvida took a step back. He tilted his head and stared at Putray.
“Perhaps in Renaissance Palace, that child could act according to the script the king gave him and put up an act together with all of you, earning himself the reputation of being precocious.” Kentvida clicked his tongue softly. “But here… facing the Northlanders, all of you will regret it.”
Putray raised his head and met Kentvida’s ridiculing gaze. “Perhaps in your eyes, the Star Killer could charge in and break the enemy’s formation, or even turn the tables with his extraordinary skills, and my tricks are enough to send all of you into a flurry.
“But in truth, both of us know very well that the key to this game of chess was never in these minor details. The fight that determines the victor is about to begin,” said the vice diplomat of Constellation slowly.
‘Great…’ The vice diplomat rubbed his fingers together behind his back. He thought, ‘At least the viscount is caught off-guard by our actions. Which means that in terms of information, Black Sand Region is back at the same starting point as us…
‘They won’t be able to gain an irreversible advantage through prior preparation and secretive movements anymore. From now onwards…’
Putray closed his eyes, then opened them slowly. ‘Thales Jadestar, you’ll be facing the fairest, and also cruelest duel. What are you going to do?’
Kentvida’s expression darkened. He stared coldly at the Constellatiate. After a while, he said airily, “The fight that determines the victor? What bargaining chip does the boy have?”
The viscount said softly, “You don’t know what sort of person His Grace is, and what kind of power he has. You have no idea about the height at which he looked upon this world from.”
Kentvida narrowed his eyes. His tone was solemn. “In the face of such overwhelming power, all conspiracies and intrigues pale in comparison.”
Putray said nothing, but having heard this, he stared at Kentvida with a strange gaze. The corners of his lips curled up a little and he slowly flashed a smile, followed by a drawn-out laugh.
Viscount Kentvida’s pupils constricted slightly. Putray was still in a fit of mirth.
“You’re laughing,” Kentvida said plainly. “You disagree?”
Putray continued laughing for a few seconds more before inhaling deeply. His muscles stopped twitching and he displayed an intrigued expression.
“I thought that, even if we’re strategizing for someone else, at our level we should more or less realize some things.” As he watched Kentvida’s expression, Putray tilted his head a little. “Overwhelming power?”
Putray gave a laugh of disapproval. “Most who say this are either weak men who know nothing about power, or pitiful people who chased after it but failed.”
Kentvida’s expression gradually froze.
Putray raised his eyebrows slightly and continued to speak, “Having never understood power, they can only use their limited imaginations and self-deceiving suppositions to depict what they never got, infinitely aggrandizing the omnipotent nature of power to fill the void in their hearts and absolve their failures.
“Just like how the weak, common people are used in depicting Gods they have never met as almighty beings.”
Kentvida stared at him impassively.
“However, only strong people who possessed real power—and have experienced it—know that.” Putray blinked and raised his head to look at the ceiling.
Putray heaved a slow sigh. His gaze was reminiscent and regretful, a rare sight on him. “An ostensibly overwhelming power… does not exist.”
Deep in thought, Kentvida did not move.
“You have definitely proved yourself to be someone who has spent time at the Dragon Kiss Academy,” the viscount said softly, “You have wonderful eloquence in specious arguments.”
Putray gave a slight smile. “Thank you.”
“He’s just a child.” Kentvida shook his head slowly and flashed a ruminating smile. “With His Grace there, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.”
“He is not just a child.” Putray was quick to reply Kentvida, there was an endless luster in the vice diplomat’s eyes. “He is Thales Jadestar.”
Kentvida chuckled mockingly. “That’s the fairest battlefield. Both the Imperial Family and the Jadestar Family’s blood won’t be of any help to him.”
Putray snorted softly.
“Yes, the fairest battlefield.” Putray narrowed his eyes and nodded slowly. “Lazaar Kentvida, why do you follow the Archduke of Black Sand Region?”
Kentvida was startled for a moment.
“Is it because of the authenticity of the Lampard Family bloodline? Or because of the powerful background of Black Sand Region? Is it because of Lampard’s position as an archduke? Or is it because you happen to be born in Black Sand Region?”
Putray shook his head and closed his eyes. “It’s the same for me, Your Grace. ‘A King does not gain respect by virtue of his bloodline.'” Putray inhaled deeply and slowly opened his eyes.[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
“That child’s greatest leverage was never his bloodline or his origin.”
There was silence. Their eyes met like crossed swords.
Kentvida knit his eyebrows together. ‘Damn it. This man… I can’t get any information from him at all.’ The viscount quietly clenched his fists.
‘How much do they actually know about our plan and tactics? No.’ Kentvida suddenly thought of something. ‘It can’t be nothing at all. At least, from how he’s acting…
‘They don’t care about the archduke’s power at all… this is very unnerving.
‘But what’s more terrifying is that they don’t even care about their power. Because…’ A twinkle came to Kentvida’s eyes.
He turned abruptly and said hurriedly to the subordinate behind him. “Send word to His Grace!”
Putray furrowed his brows a little.
Kentvida inhaled deeply, trying hard to stay calm, and said, “Their goal is not us. Instead, they’re utilizing the other archdukes’ fears… to turn them into our enemies!”
Putray’s expression changed slightly.
“And dispatch two squads to the chimney on the top floor… I won’t allow even one fly to be there!”
Kentvida’s subordinates took the order and left.
“Memorable, indeed.” Putray arched an eyebrow slightly, unable to suppress the astonishment in his words. “Viscount Kentvida.”
Kentvida turned and stared at his opponent with a solemn expression. “Same to you… Lord Nemain.”
The five archdukes stared at Thales without averting their gazes… until he cleaned the dust on his face to a point where he was recognizable.
‘Awkward…’ This was the only adjective Thales could think of at that moment.
“Can someone explain this?” Archduke Trentida whistled and stared at Thales with a subtle expression. As though looking for help, he then turned towards the other archdukes. “The fact that the Prince of Constellation crawled out of Heroic Spirit Palace’s fireplace for no reason…”
“Just as I said.” Archduke Roknee tilted his head and snorted coldly at Lampard. “Surprises are too never late to the party.”
Stone-faced, Lampard stared at the flustered Thales. The coldness in his gaze was overwhelming.
As he bore the five archdukes’ gazes, Thales involuntarily took a deep breath because—whether it was from the chimney or his anxiety—he had trouble breathing.
‘Calm down, calm down, Thales.’ He clenched his fists. ‘I’m already here. The final battlefield.’
‘If I win, they’ll get to live… As many as possible will get to live.’
With a heavy heart, Thales raised his head. He swept his gaze past all the archdukes.
‘First, I must start a conversation.’
Thales tried his best to control his tone, making it sound relaxed and comfortable. At the same time, he did all he could to remind every archduke about the situation they were in. “Trust me, if it weren’t for the fact that our Archduke Lampard’s heavy infantry sealed almost every single route that led here from the gatehouse, and kept all of you in a little cage that’s separated from the outside world, I would have preferred to be dressed neatly and meet you all in the reception room.”
Archduke Roknee narrowed his eyes and let out a lukewarm chuckle. On the other hand, Olsius stared solemnly at him.
“I admire your bravery, child,” Roknee said softly, “but you came to the wrong place. You just barged into the Hall of Heroes where five Archdukes of Eckstedt were having a solemn discussion.” His expression turned fierce. “You are infringing the Northlanders’ honor.”
Thales’ heart skipped a beat. ‘The atmosphere isn’t quite right.’
He furrowed his brow and carefully recalled what Little Rascal, Nicholas, and Putray had told him.
“Infringing your honor?” Thales inhaled deeply. “Is it graver than an archduke of Eckstedt murdering their king and trampling on the Joint Ruling Pledge?”
The five archdukes’ expressions grew stern simultaneously, and they exchanged looks.
“Be careful, child.” Olsius snorted coldly and stared angrily at Thales. “Sometimes, saying the wrong thing will cost you your life.”
Thales chuckled and forced himself to keep his neck straight. The five archdukes’ glares were hard to endure… especially Lampard and Roknee’s.
“I don’t know whether all of you already know about this, but King Nuven indeed died an unfortunate death.” Thales clenched his fists with all his might to prevent himself from breathing too hard so that his voice did not tremble.
“But I was there and I saw it with my own eyes,” Thales said, his tone left no room for doubt.
Trentida heaved a long sigh. Thales observed their expressions carefully.
“And the evil mastermind who had strangely only rushed here after the incident happened, and who controlled everything, from the invasion of the calamity to the assassination of the king…”
The second prince gritted his teeth and said his next words, “He now stands among you, trying to persuade you to hide his crime, take care of his mess, and join in his evil doings.”
Thales took a step forward and stared grimly at Lampard.
He said sternly, “Chapman Lampard, do all of you really want to be in cahoots with this king slayer? Even though he broke your rules and became the most unstable factor among you?”
A few seconds passed…
Out of Thales’ expectations, the archdukes only glanced at Lampard with an odd expression, as though they found something funny.
Thales’ heart skipped a beat. He instinctively felt that something was not quite right.
Archduke Lecco coughed loudly and stared at Lampard with a frown. “Chapman, is this part of your performance?”
Lampard’s face was still cold and unsmiling. “No, this is… an accident,” he said coldly, not taking his eyes off Thales.
Thales looked anxiously at Lampard and flashed a toothy smile. ‘What’s happening? No…’
Thales told himself that he must take the initiative to probe for information from his opponent. The second prince forced a smile and spoke in the kind of tone one uses when speaking to an old acquaintance.
“Hey, Chapman. I took great pains to get here. Aren’t you going to treat me to a goblet of wine, old friend?”
Thales raised his brows. “Do you not owe me a goblet of rye wine from when you proposed an alliance with me in front of the fortress?”
The four archdukes stared at Lampard, some were more obvious about it than the others. Lampard snorted coldly.
“Of course, I have prepared a goblet for you,” said the Archduke of Black Sand Region in a calm, soft voice.
Thales wore a puzzled expression.
Lampard’s expression then turned fierce and he raised his voice. “Guards, send in two men!”
The moment he said that. Thales’ face froze.
A question rang from outside the hall. “Archduke Lecco?”
“Do as Chapman says.” The bald, old archduke exhaled and shook his head. He stared at Thales, his gaze teasing. “Send our ‘guest’ out.”
Thales’ expression changed drastically. ‘What’s this? I can’t even begin the conversation! Why aren’t things going according to the script?’
The second prince hurriedly raised his hands and said to the other archdukes,
“At least let me finish about the king slayer and how he wants to use Eckstedt to strengthen his own—”
Thales did not expect himself to get interrupted.
“Oh, Chapman Lampard the king slayer.” Trentida flashed a malicious smile. “I heard that King Nuven’s death was quite unfortunate. Thank you, we already know about that, Prince of Constellation.”
At that moment, Thales felt a chill run down his spine.
‘What’s going on? They… the archdukes… Why?’
In his shock, Thales breathed. The other archdukes’ expressions were tricky, as though they were not surprised at all.
Olsius stared coldly at Thales, his gaze was oppressive. Trentida’s smile was like poison, making Thales’ blood run cold. Even Roknee, who spoke boldly in defense of justice when he first met Thales, was blank-faced.
Lampard was the only one who sneered ominously at him, like a gambler who held victory in his hands.
The guards’ footsteps echoed from outside the hall. Pale-stricken, Thales gulped.
‘No. No, they’re not supposed to react like this.
‘What they said before, ‘for Eckstedt’ or something, weren’t like the usual words they would use. The archdukes have already reached an agreement with Lampard.
‘What in the world did Lampard tell the archdukes? Did he lure them with the benefits? Did he make promises? Did he threaten them? Or is he conspiring with them?
‘They’re even ignoring Lampard’s crime of regicide, and disregarding the tradition and stability of Eckstedt. They’re turning a blind eye to the fact that Lampard brought his army to take over the palace and are choosing to be in cahoots with a dangerous murderer.’
The footsteps outside the hall were approaching. They were the people coming to escort him out. Thales stared at the archdukes in disbelief. They were still sneering indifferently. It was as though the shell-shocked Thales was only a clown.
At that moment, as he stood in the Hall of Heroes, Thales suddenly realized how arduous the task he faced was.