Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
Archduke Roknee, who stood behind Archduke Lecco, suddenly felt a myriad of emotions in him as he looked across the rectangular table, at a boy who was trying his best to contain the nervous and agitated feelings in him.
‘We… will face a great disaster?’
He curled his lips a little. ‘It has been such a long time since I met someone who could speak with no hesitation, and in such a bold manner in front of several archdukes.’
A strange silence permeated the hall.
All the archdukes had awkward expressions on their faces, and their breathing was rather chaotic.
Lampard slowly shut his eyes.
Thales tried to control his breathing, and he could only hear the sound of the fire crackling in the braziers.
After three seconds had passed, Archduke Lecco slowly turned his head and looked at others.
“We have given you a chance to speak, Your Highness.” The old archduke turned around again once he was done exchanging glances with the other archdukes. He then sighed rather solemnly. “But, this is not something for you to speak so carelessly of and raise a false alarm.”
“You better speak clearly, you little brat.” Olsius cast a dark gaze on Thales. “Not everyone can get out in one piece after they threaten the archdukes in the Hall of Heroes.”
Thales breathed absent-mindedly and felt uneasy about the questions from the two archdukes.
‘Thales, be calm.
‘Be calm, especially at this moment.
‘You can do it.
“Dragon Clouds City.
“Lampard did not give you the suggestion of conquering Dragon Clouds City with good intentions,” Thales whispered. His calm expression caused the archdukes to be slightly stunned.
Trentida clicked his tongue.
“First is a matter of us deploying our army to Constellation, then it’s a matter of Dragon Clouds City.” The cunning archduke revealed a strange smile. “How do you know all of this?”
‘How do I know that you all want to take Dragon Clouds City as your own?’ he silently thought.
‘Lampard promised Shiles a reduction on taxes at the borders around Dragon Clouds City, it’s that simple.’
“It’s not very difficult to guess.” Thales did not show any changes in his expression. “In order to unite the people, besides making them face the same threat, there’s also a need to provide a sufficient number of benefits. Without a doubt, Dragon Clouds City is a masterless treasure trove, rich in valuables. It’s the best thing to be used in stirring up fights and conflicts.”
Trentida frowned as he looked at Lampard.
“After all, it is an act that breaks the Joint Ruling Pledge.” The prince sighed. “The balance of power is no longer there, and it has opened this unlawful precedent. In the future, the ownership of every piece of grass, every tree, every foot and every inch will become the fuse for igniting conflicts as well as clashes between all of you. Lampard only needs to fan the flames. He hopes for all of you to be in conflict and weaken each other—”
Olsius snorted to interrupt him.
Saroma, who was listening quietly, revealed a disgusted expression. Her gaze was full of dissatisfaction.
“Your words are untenable, little brat.” The Archduke of Prestige Orchid Region’s face twitched. His tone was hostile, “In fact, we’ve discussed this issue before. With such great threats before us, Lampard has no reason to do this.”
After saying that, Archduke Lecco coughed and continued, “The threat of Constellation is imminent and will last for a long time. It cannot be solved by one or two big wars. At this point of time, his act of messing up his own plans will only be detrimental to Eckstedt.”
Thales was struck by a thought. “Wars, especially foreign wars, are more likely to be the point of bringing up conflicts between all of you…”
But at this moment, Lampard, who had been silent, looked up at him with a gaze as sharp as the tip of a blade.
“You still don’t understand?”
The Archduke of Black Sand Region spoke slowly. There was an unrecognizable emotion in his voice.
Lampard slowly walked over to a brazier. Blocking the light from the fire, he left behind only his shadow. “This child is extraordinarily intelligent. He’s looking for ways to stop the war and save his country, the country that he will be ruling over one day in the future, the country where our grandchildren may submit to in the future.”
All the archdukes frowned.
“These are the points I was about to get to.” Thales smiled even wider and show no sign of weakness. “Chapman Lampard, you also wanted to save your own country, am I correct?”
Lampard furrowed his eyebrows.
“If you are so sure of what you are saying, then why did our Archduke of Black Sand Region do all these things? How will he benefit by causing conflicts between the archdukes? Will he get a greater share of the pie that is Eckstedt?” Archduke Roknee, who had been been quiet all along, also joined this conversation once he saw Lampard fall silent.
Trentida on the other hand, snickered very ‘tactfully’.
“Also, why is trouble on its way towards us?”
Pressured by the Archduke of Black Sand Region’s frightening gaze, Thales focused on regulating his breathing and pondered over the words he wanted to say next.
“You all know the Archduke of Black Sand Region’s past,” Thales raised his voice and looked seriously at the other archdukes. “He killed his brother, which led him to have a heart of steel and be so resolute. That was the start of the hatred between him and King Nuven.”
As soon as this statement was spoken, Lampard’s gaze grew sharper, and even Thales felt the hall becoming much colder.
The archdukes looked at each other.
Thales took a deep breath. He stared at Lampard’s boorish and weary face as he firmly continued, “But you, Chapman Lampard have slain the king, and brought the soldiers to the palace, neither for vengeance nor for self-protection.
“Because what you really hate and care about is neither King Nuven, nor Dragon Clouds City, instead it is the heroic tradition that Northlanders are proud of and the glorious history of Eckstedt…” said Thales in his calmest tone. Shortly after, he whispered the answer, “Raikaru’s Joint Ruling Pledge.”
Saroma could not help but cry out in surprise. The other archdukes were also startled.
Lecco’s hands began to move again. Trentida was deep in his thoughts, while Roknee immediately looked at Lampard. His gaze was filled with suspicion.
“What are you talking about?” Olsius slammed the table impatiently. “The Joint Ruling Pledge?”
With an expressionless face, Thales nodded his head slowly.
“Lampard’s entire life has been caught in struggles for power; between his mother and father’s families, Dragon Clouds City and Black Sand Region, as well as the king and archdukes,” Thales spoke very seriously, enunciating each word. “Of course, all of you have lived your lives about the same way as he.”
Archduke Lecco’s hands tensed slightly.
“But unlike all of you, who are already used to it…”
Thales stared at Lampard’s profound gaze, clenched his teeth, and forced out his next words.
“Chapman Lampard, you made your decision when your father forced you to challenge your older brother, when you stabbed your sword into your brother’s chest, when your mother committed suicide, and when your father was killed on the battlefield…”
As every word was spoken, Lampard’s eyes became colder and colder.
Thales took a deep breath, and was reminded of Lampard stroking his saber on the carriage. He had that same cold glare in his eyes.
He rubbed his hands together amid the cold air and kept his tone steady as he spoke.
“You are tired of the endless struggles from the bottom of your heart. You feel that you have seen through this endless cycle filled with sadness. You hate Eckstedt’s current situation, which is filled with compromises and tacit agreements behind the scenes. You believed that as long as the pledge still existed, and others still harbored superstitions about it…
“You, as well as all other similar tragedies you experienced, will never disappear.”
Thales whispered, “Yes, everyone.” Under the incredulous eyes of the other archdukes and the uneasy Saroma, the Prince of Constellation stared straight at the Archduke of Black Sand Region, whose face was about to freeze over. Without anyone stopping him or interfering, he then said, “As early as twelve years ago, Chapman Lampard had decided to completely destroy the Joint Ruling Pledge, which has survived through more than six hundred years of co-administration. He wanted to put an end to the conflicts between the common-elected kings and the archdukes…
“…destroy the harmonious, joint rulership between the ten archdukes!”
Thales finished his words and closed his eyes as he lowered his head.
The hall fell into silence.
After they heard what Thales had said, a few of the archdukes were left wide-eyed and slack-jawed. Their faces showed bewilderment and disbelief.
Meanwhile, their gazes were focused on Lampard.
After a few seconds, the silence was finally broken.
“What are you talking about? Not being satisfied is one story, but… to destroy the Joint Ruling Pledge? How is that possible?” Trentida exhaled and frowned as he stared at Thales in confusion. He had spoken with much determination.
“That is absurd!”
While he withstood the pressure of everyone’s gaze, Lampard denied Thales’ words coldly, “How am I supposed to destroy the Joint Ruling Pledge while there are millions of Northlanders who still believe in the pledge and put their faith in it? By killing all the archdukes here?”
Thales jerked his head up and blinked.
“You are doing it right now, aren’t you?!” the prince spoke aloud with a serious expression. “The moment you murdered King Nuven, demanded the archdukes to ignore your crime and forced them to recite what you told them to say, that was when the Joint Ruling Pledge was destroyed.”
Saroma had a fierce expression as she pursed her lips.
“You have become the worst precedent,” Thales said with an indifferent expression. “To this end, you have also tried to involve the archdukes in marching down south to Constellation, and used new benefits to further tilt the balance of power among yourselves. You have therefore, at the Joint Ruling Pledge, which was already unstable to begin with.”
“You can say whatever you want, the archdukes won’t care about the time you’ve wasted,” Lampard sneered and cast a dissatisfied glance on the others.
Roknee snorted inexplicably.
“All of you already know and agree to the reason why I gathered all of your strengths together. It is for the sake of Eckstedt.”
He did not hesitate to make the statement.
Thales looked at Lampard’s expression, and with courage from God knows where, he sighed and jumped off his chair. He then took a step forward.
“This is for the sake of Eckstedt!” To everyone’s surprise, the prince glared, a sight rarely seen on him. He furled up his fists, and said in a resolute voice, “Chapman Lampard, the part that I admire the most about you up to this moment… is that aside from your good and bad traits, you truly, sincerely want to make Eckstedt strong to face the future threat of Constellation!”
Thales almost shouted out the last sentence.
As soon as the words escaped his mouth, Saroma gasped softly. She was filled with bewilderment.
The archdukes were stunned, and even Lampard was slightly confused, but Thales took a deep breath, steeled his expression, and suddenly changed the topic.
“However, this is also the scariest part.”
He lifted his head. “This is contradicting his intention to stir up conflict among archdukes until a new common-elected king is chosen. For Lampard, this will just push Eckstedt back to its historical cycle, back to the tracks of the Joint Ruling Pledge.”
His cold voice was the only thing that could be heard, “So, Mindis the Third…”
The moment he said that name, Lampard turned pale as his expression shifted. He seemed like a beast, whose weakness had been caught.
Peculiar expressions were spread across the archdukes’ faces.
Trentida sighed. ‘Why does this brat know everything? Did he really hide behind the fireplace to eavesdrop on us?’
Saroma lifted her head as she thought deeply.
‘Mindis Jadestar the Third.
‘The Virtuous King,’ Thales muttered in his heart.
The image of the rightmost royal portrait of the three kings appeared before his eyes. Specifically, that of the elegant middle-aged king who had a kindly smile as he looked out of the frame. He was holding the Constellation Staff.
One of the three kings of Constellation was one of his ancestors, also…
Thales gently rubbed his chest, massaging the scar, which Quide caused using the Mindis Silver Coin. It seemed to still throb in pain.
‘A king does not gain respect by virtue of his bloodline. The bloodline’s glory rests on the deeds of the king.’
‘Also…’ Thales thought of the first time he met King Kessel. His father had made this comment about Mindis, “From the nobles to priests, from the merchants to the beggars, all of them praised his virtuous rule.”
Thales was struck by a thought. He furled his fists at his chest as he recalled what High Priestess Holme once said.
‘”From the moment you set foot on the journey, every inconspicuous detail may be an opportunity to dominate the future.'”
The prince thought of the image of the Virtuous King on the silver coin, Mindis Hall and everything that he went through that day. He could not help but smile. ‘Is all of this a coincidence?’
The victory or failure of a moment was nothing but receding waves. The foundation of a long-lived existence stemmed from centuries of strategic planning.
“I believe that Lampard has told you about the story of?the ‘Virtuous King’?”
Thales’ gaze once again became firm. “Lampard said, the current situation of Constellation is based on the foundation built by the Virtuous King. Was it done step-by-step?”
Archduke Trentida narrowed his eyes and held back his urge to look at Lampard.
“He probably also told you about the legacy of the Virtuous King, where over the period of a hundred years, he had managed to form a step-by-step framework for the Kings of Constellation to rely upon for survival.”
Thales furled his fists with a resolute expression.
“But Lampard did not tell you that…”
Lampard looked at him from a distance with an incredibly dark expression.
Thales remembered his terror when he was with Lampard on the carriage. He also heard what Lampard said at the very last moments they were in said carriage.
‘You want to save the kingdom, huh?’
After he thought of this, Thales sighed and lifted his right hand to hit his chest forcefully.
“Lampard did not only notice threats from Constellation and the Virtuous King!”
The prince clenched his teeth and felt both his hands trembled.
“He also saw the future of Eckstedt and the final solution to the dilemma Northland has faced for hundreds of years!”
Right when he said these words, the hall became quiet for a moment.
After they heard Thales’ words, the steady Archduke Lecco, the impatient Archduke Olsius, and even the flashy Trentida as well as the indifferent Roknee were all surprised. In unison, they all said, “What?”
Suddenly, the sound of a sheath hitting the ground was heard.
Thales was shocked and felt a cold chill all over his body.
He tried to inhale and the prince raised his head with conscious effort.
Unsurprisingly, he met Lampard’s gaze.
From the time Thales had known him, Lampard’s face had never been so dark and scary.
The Archduke of Black Sand Region’s face was contorted, his eyebrows were furrowed, his nostrils were flared, and the occlusal muscles at the side of his chin shook continuously.
Archduke Lampard’s sharp yet indifferent gaze was like an erupting volcano, radiating angrily with cold and hateful energy.
He stared directly at Thales.
‘It’s him again…
‘It’s him again!
Lampard’s heart felt as if it was exuding endless chill and anger. He pressed hard on his saber, not letting his hands tremble too much with anger.
Saroma shivered when she saw Lampard’s expression. She looked at Thales, seemingly asking for help.
The prince did not even flinch.
Thales glanced back fiercely, revealing a similarly ferocious expression.
“Think of what Lampard did; electing low-ranked nobles and commoners, gathering tax collectors from foreign countries, borrowing money from merchants, and employing Mystic Gun instructors, then uniting the internal structure of his territory through the baptism of war. Don’t you think his actions are familiar?” Thales stated coldly as he met Lampard’s scary gaze.
Trentida frowned slightly. “You mean…”
“And, he has also been working on this for a long period of time: Arunde’s conspiracy, Broken Dragon Fortress’ siege, and now the present decision to send troops to Constellation.” Thales took a deep breath and remembered every single fight he had with Lampard.
Under Broken Dragon Fortress, he confronted this extraordinarily formidable lord directly. His decision to breakout of the encirclement by charging ahead had in the end, caused Lampard’s hope of taking down the fortress to fall through.
The prince clenched his teeth. ‘I’ve defeated him before.
Thales suddenly opened his eyes. “Lampard wants Constellation’s Northern Territory, isn’t it?
“Why? Because he wants to expand his territory?”
Thales’ face grew cold and he finished his remaining sentence. “Or, is it because he wants this land, which due to Mindis the Third’s incomplete reformations, is still part of Northland? Because it is suitable to be merged with Black Sand Region, it is also suitable for a subsequent reformation?”
The expressions on the archdukes’ faces changed.
“Don’t tell me that you made the civilian tax collector of the Northern Territory, Chad Vlad your subordinate just because his hair looked good, Chapman Lampard?” Thales slowly said.
Lampard did not react to his words, but his terrifying stare at Thales did not waver. It appeared as if he was looking at a dead person.
“That’s right. This is the truth behind the ‘threat of Constellation’. Lampard wants more than just to ward off Constellation.”
Thales pursed his lips and nodded unquestionably under the surprised gazes of the four archdukes. “He wants to imitate the reformations of the Virtuous King starting from himself at Eckstedt to ‘save’ his country!
“Whether it’s killing King Nuven, or throwing the archdukes into conflict, or attacking Constellation…
“They are all for this purpose!”
Thales panted slightly after he finished this sentence.
The archdukes looked at him in shock and bewilderment.
“What do you think, Chapman?”
Lecco took his eyes off the rectangular table and sighed slowly. “Compared to him, we are more willing to believe you.”
Lampard closed his eyes.
After a while, he slowly opened his mouth.
“We need a new army, that’s it.
“You have seen Starlight Brigade,” the archduke said coldly. “Constellation is growing stronger and Eckstedt cannot sit still or be sitting ducks.
“We have to let go of our pride as well as contentment learn the strengths of the enemy.” Lampard raised his saber and slowly gripped it. “We can make our own Starlight Brigade. And only in this way can you take Broken Dragon Fortress and put a stop to the changes in Constellation. We can maintain an advantage over them for a long time, until we finally defeat them completely.
“At least that’s what it is at the Black Sand Region.”
The archdukes listened to him in silence.
“That’s not a problem.” Trentida sighed. “I think we can accept the idea of strengthening our forces…”
But, the archduke stopped speaking.
As he frowned, he saw the bald Archduke Lecco looking at Lampard from afar with a sorrowful and tired gaze.
It seemed like he just saw the most unbelievable truth.
Trentida was startled. ‘What’s going on?’
“Well, I have to applaud you,” Thales’ voice sounded rather dull. “That’s only a small accident.”
Lampard clenched his teeth.
In front of all the archdukes, Thales took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
The prince’s eyes shone with a light never before seen as he spoke in a slow and decisive voice.
“When there is a change… there is a price to pay.”