Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
Saroma’s eyes widened slightly, a little surprised. She took the intricate-looking box. She first glanced in puzzlement at the smiling Thales, then opened the box gently.
“This is…” Once she saw the object in the box clearly, Saroma raised her head in surprise.
“I asked Gilbert and the rest to get someone to make this when I wrote to my kingdom last year. Putray only brought it here today.” Thales blinked, pleased with himself, and picked up the object inside the box.
“You know, the craftsmen of Constellation are more skillful. I measured the arc and thickness of the lenses according to their requirements. Hopefully there are no problems.
“I also prepared a few spare lenses. If there are mistakes, we’ll have to ground the lenses again. I heard that it’s quite expensive to hand grind these lenses…”
Saroma took in a breath and stared at the object in Thales’ hand, which was evidently made with meticulousness.
“Let me introduce you to… the pince-nez!”
With a smile, Thales lifted the new spectacles, which looked completely different compared to the one on the young girl’s face.
The spectacles were quite strange: it had no earpiece, there was a chain attached to one side of the frame, and the frame itself was quite thin. The bridge also seemed a little peculiar.
Thales skillfully reached out with his left hand and brushed it past one side of Saroma’s head, removing the large and heavy black-rimmed spectacles on her face, as though he had practiced it for thousands of times.
But Saroma only stared at him, dazed, and let the prince take down her spectacles without resistance. She paid no attention to the fact that her vision was greatly affected, as though she went through this thousands of times.
Thales fiddled excitedly with the new spectacles in his hand and pressed it onto the girl’s nose bridge. He gently touched the delicate skin of her face. “This way, based on the principle of air pressure, it can be pressed onto the nose and steadied. There’s no need for the ears to support the glasses at all!
“Then, this chain goes into…” Thales grasped the chain from one end of the pince-nez and lowered his head, wanting to find a pocket somewhere on Saroma to put the chain inside.
But he realized with embarrassment that the young girl had no pockets. The only fold he could use to place the chain was in front of her chest, which was the spot bound tightly by her coat and corset at the same time…
“Not putting it is also fine…” The second prince awkwardly averted his gaze and placed the chain in Saroma’s hand.
This was the first time she wore spectacles without earpieces. Saroma’s reaction was to open her mouth wide in surprise. She held the small and delicate new spectacle frame happily, and swayed her head around as though she was afraid that it would fall off. She then raised her head to look around.
Thales observed the archduchess’ new image. The almost transparent pince-nez freed Saroma’s face from the torture of the black frames. At this moment, with her charming gaze, the young girl no longer seemed old-fashioned and stern. She looked quite pretty and adorable.
Thales blew out a breath of air in satisfaction and picked up Saroma’s worn, old spectacles. He chuckled mischievously.
A few seconds later, the young girl had finally gotten used to her new spectacles.
“Thank you.” Saroma lowered her head, appearing a little embarrassed.
“You’re welcome. I’ve been wanting to tell you for a long time now…” The prince smiled and said, “That, as this land’s leader, you don’t look very stern when wearing those black-framed glasses… you looked like a frog, haha.”
Unexpectedly, Saroma acted very calm. She was neither excited nor curious. Instead…
“Say, Thales…” The young girl held her spectacles in a daze and gazed absentmindedly at the air.
Thales raised his eyebrows. “Yes?”
Saroma lifted her head slowly. Thales realized that her eyes were a little red.
‘It can’t be… It’s just a gift, why is she this touched?’
Thales, who had always been the most terrified of seeing people cry, felt his heart thump against his chest.
“Thales,” Saroma said softly, “do you still remember that day six years ago?”
Thales narrowed his eyes, puzzled.
“The day we first met; that night, that dawn, and the morning after.” Her voice was vague and airy, as if it came from faraway.
Thales frowned as he recalled the past.
‘That night… Nuven, Lampard, the blood-stained crown, and the new archduchess…’
“Of course.” His words had unknowingly become solemn. He stared directly at the young girl in front of him. “How is it possible to forget that kind of experience?”
Saroma stared seriously at him. “Because of you, Thales, I became an archduchess… Because of you.”
Thales froze momentarily. He was about to say something, but Saroma only shook her head. Her red eyes rendered Thales speechless. He could only feel a heaviness in his chest.
‘It’s just… Why is she mentioning this?’
Saroma sniffled and said in a somewhat nasally voice, “What you said before…” Behind her new spectacles, there was a hint of sorrow in her eyes. “…To not escape, and choose who I want to be… and that you’ll always be by my side…”
Thales felt a little embarrassed, his lips parted slightly.
“Ah.” The prince inhaled deeply. He subconsciously flashed a comforting smile, having recalled what he once said. “I’ll always be here.”
Saroma said nothing, she only stared quietly at the prince. The fluctuating emotions in her eyes made Thales a little uneasy. The two stared quietly at each other like this.
After a long while, the dreary atmosphere was finally broken by the young girl’s laughter. It was only Thales who thought the laughter did not really sound like a joyful one.
“Sorry, Thales. It’s my fault.” There was a slight sense of loss in the young girl’s tone. “It obviously had nothing to do with you… I shouldn’t have kicked you today.”
Thales first widened his eyes, then he scratched his head, a little puzzled. Today, Saroma exceeded his expectations… a little.
Bewildered, the prince could only flash her an awkward smile.
“It’s alright.” Thales sighed softly and shook his head in resignation. “We just HAD to be friends. It’s just as you said: we live together, and we die together.”
When she heard this, Saroma trembled slightly. The archduchess raised her head abruptly, as though having come to a decision.
“Thales!” Saroma exhaled, her words froze for a moment. “Today, during the hearing council… that…”
Thales sensed something. “Hm? What?”
But at this moment, Saroma’s eyes suddenly went dim again as she stared right at Thales… as though she had given up on something.
Thales stared at her, puzzled. ‘What in the world…’
The next moment, Saroma’s tone and rhythm became steady once more.
“That… a messenger crow came from the City of Faraway Prayers,” she tilted her head and said while appearing indifferent, “The three archdukes to the north, Roknee and his allies, want to invite me… invite Dragon Clouds City to sign the declaration objecting the king’s statute, and support their protest.”
“Oh, that’s good.” Extremely puzzled, Thales recalled the significant incident in Eckstedt that for the past few months… The new nobility appointment system introduced by King Chapman of Black Sand Region was objected and denounced by almost the entire kingdom.
Thales reckoned that King Chapman was probably in a pitiful situation at the moment and took some pleasure in the king’s misfortune.
“Teach Lampard a lesson.”
“Yes.” Saroma chuckled, her tone was a little gloomy. “It is good.”
With a frown, Thales stared at the low-spirited young girl before him.
“Now that you mention it, did you know that we’re going to have a new teacher soon?” the prince asker probingly, wanting to change the topic. “Putray invited him from Anlenzo Dukedom. He said that the teacher is a prestigious and respectable—”
However, in the next instant, Saroma stood up quite suddenly.
“I’m full. You go ahead and continue eating.” The archduchess’ expression became tranquil and calm again.
‘Huh? But she just…’
“Tomorrow. Usual time at the library.” Saroma flashed a wan smile. “A new batch of books arrived. Don’t forget. We’ll read them together.”
Thales nodded subconsciously. The young girl gave him a slight smile and nodded in a faintly discernible manner. She then balled up her fists and walked quickly out of the dining hall.
Thales was left alone to stare absentmindedly at a table full of food, unaware of what was happening.
‘She… What’s happening?’ The prince stared blankly at the young girl’s retreating figure. From her seat, there was a subtle fragrance that she had left behind.
Thales suddenly noticed that Saroma left the black-framed spectacles on the dining table.
That night at Blood Court…
In the room, Putray sat on the sofa with his legs propped up. As he smoked his tobacco pipe in a relaxed manner, he said to the solemn-looking Thales, “You really didn’t know?”
“Of course not. A foreign prince is not allowed to enter the Hall of Heroes during the day of a state affairs hearing,” Thales said a little impatiently. “What in the world happened during Dragon Clouds City’s hearing council today? Does it have anything to do with the archduchess, a person who seldom speaks out?”
A relaxed expression appeared on Putray’s expression as he settled on the couch, and he clicked his tongue. “Alright. I couldn’t get in either, but I have a few sources.”
“Putray, if you know anything, please hurry up and tell me.” Thales sighed as he spoke, urging him repeatedly. “I’m really anxious.”
Thales could not help but reach out and give the old pair of spectacles in his pocket a soft squeeze. His heart felt a little heavy.
Putray nodded with a soft grunt.
“Listen to me, Your Highness,” the former vice diplomat said flatly. “Today, halfway through Dragon Clouds City’s hearing, someone suddenly criticized you.”
Thales arched an eyebrow.
“Criticized who?” The prince was a little surprised and he pointed at himself. “Me?”
“Yes,” Putray spoke slowly while he observed Thales’ reactions, “Someone said that Constellation’s teenage prince forcibly occupied a shop that is open for civilian use just to play a game of chess… at Spear District. Once a month.”
Shocked, Thales’ mouth hung open in an ‘O’ shape.
‘But me playing chess in Spear District… and that chess room is…’
Putray continued slowly, “During that time, the prince even instigated his subordinate, who acted in utter disregard for the law and lacked discipline, to hunt for wild rabbits in the forest on the outskirts of the city, all of which belong to the suzerain.”
Thales was perplexed again.
‘When did I ask my subordinate to hunt for wild rabbits? Wait… this…’
When he recalled a certain cloaked figure, Thales promptly felt dizzy and short of breath, it was as though he was about to vomit blood.
“Anyway, it caused a great uproar.” As he sucked in a puff of smoke, Putray hummed twice in satisfaction and continued to speak, “When they heard about the rampant and domineering actions of the enemy kingdom’s prince in Dragon Clouds City, which had been tolerant and courteous to him, the vassals at the council were indignant at the injustice. They demanded from Regent Lisban that…
“That you be punished according to your crimes. Such as being harsher and imprison you in the dungeons.” Putray chuckled and said, “Or flog you. It’s a punishment exclusive to Northland. They said things like, ‘Let’s teach that citizen of the Empire a lesson.'”
Thales eyes widened in disbelief.
“Crimes? Then…” The prince suddenly realized something. He stared doubtfully at Putray, who was smoking leisurely. “Wait, your prince is about to get spanked. How can you still be so calm?”
Putray chuckled and shook his head at Thales, who was a little dissatisfied.
“Don’t worry, Your Highness.
“As usual, you were in luck.
“Something unexpected happened.” Putray sighed with feeling and said in a reminiscing tone, “For the first time, for the first time in six years, the eighteen-year-old Archduchess Walton, who was usually silent in the previous hearings… actually stood up from her seat in agitation.”
Thales furrowed his brow. ‘She… stood up?’
Putray’s tone was very light, but his words sounded extremely soul-stirring to Thales.
“Archduchess Walton surprised everyone. While enduring almost every vassal’s vehement condemnation, she yelled and said that she was willing to guarantee, on her reputation and authority, that… that she allowed all your actions… And that they can begin by holding her accountable.”
Thales froze. He stared into space absent-mindedly and spoke subconsciously. “Then?”
Putray’s expression became grim. He put his legs down and sat up straight.
“And then… A simple-minded viscount accused that lady of yours in front of everyone.” Putray heaved a long sigh. “He said that could it be that there is something between the two of you for her to be so partial to a prince who is a hostage…”
As he listened in his daze to Putray’s narration, Thales did not notice the peculiar form of address the lord used for the young girl, whether it was intentional or not.
“Of course, he was beaten up on the spot by the furious Northlanders until he was badly bruised and chased out of the hall.
“Things went horribly after that. I heard that the archduchess threw a tantrum and smashed a stone goblet into pieces. Regent Lisban almost lost control of the scene.
“For the sake of an outsider… Well, I reckon that the impression the vassals of Dragon Clouds City have on their female ruler is now even worse.”
When he said this, Putray exhaled softly, blowing a smoke ring.
‘So this is what happened…’
Thales sat down on the bed without realizing it, his facial expression was filled with shock. He ran his hand over his knee and remembered how the young girl had kicked him hard.
‘Today, she…’ He then recalled her unexpected words during dinner, and her tearful voice. ‘Because of me…’
“But because of this, many of the vassals were displeased. Together, they admonished that, for the stability of Dragon Clouds City’s rule, and for the continuation of the Walton Family…”
Thales sat in his stupor, not realizing at all that his breaths were starting to become quicker.
“…Their esteemed archduchess should choose a husband from among the local vassals within the year to marry and bear children with.”
There seemed to be a sense of dissociation as Putray’s words rang beside Thales’ ears, as though his voice came from another room.
“Their reasons were quite valid, even Lisban was unable to object. That’s what happened during the hearing, or at least the part I reckon you wanted to know.”
Thales unknowingly had his fists clenched.
Putry stared at the rather dispirited Thales with a contemplative expression. He sighed softly. “Your Highness, be ready. Your friend, that pitiful little girl…” Remembering the past, the gaunt man clicked his tongue and shook his head. “She will be getting married.”
Putray’s voice was very soft, as though he was afraid of waking up someone who slumbered deeply. Across the room, he stayed quiet for so long that Thales could not even remember how to react.
Putray silently blew a perfect and glorious smoke ring. He watched as it dissipated into the air, as though it had never existed. Only the person who made the smoke ring would remember how perfect it was in that moment.
A few seconds later, Prince Thales Jadestar turned around subconsciously and looked outside the window.
“You’ll always be by my side. You’ll face it together with me. You’ll…”
He called out in his heart a name that he had not uttered for a long time, but was still as clear as ever in his mind. He gazed in the direction of Heroic Spirit Palace in his reverie.
His hands and feet were ice cold, and he felt upset and lost.