Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
Dragon Clouds City, Heroic Spirit Palace, the training grounds.
Under the gazes of countless Heroic Spirit Palace guards and his entourage, Thales, whose head was drenched in sweat, swung the long sword in his right hand. He raised the shield on his left arm, parted his legs, and stood solemnly in a posture known as the ‘Iron Body Style’ which he had practiced hundreds of times.
Although he was preoccupied with worry, the prince’s daily, mandatory outdoor training must be carried out.
“I don’t know why are you still practicing this swords style.” In front of him stood the pale-faced former Commander of the White Blade Guards, he lifted a Zweih?nder with a look of disdain. “Even when we were up against the orcs, our military combat style had been revamped hundreds and thousands of times, whereas that sword style of yours where you hold your sword and shield and idiotically wait for others to beat you up—”
“Are you going to keep spouting nonsense?” the prince said impatiently. “I recall that this was outdoor training, not a sarcastic poetry recital.”
Nicholas pursed his lips with a look of displeasure.
The Star Killer’s neutral attitude towards the second prince for the past six years had deteriorated sharply since the state affairs hearing yesterday. He began to perceive Thales with antipathy, becoming as harsh as he could be during the Constellatiate boy’s outdoor training.
Of course, Thales found out why later on.
Thales shrugged, implying that he can begin the attack. In the next second, Nicholas parted his feet and delivered a slash.
Thales’ shield slammed into Nicholas’ Zweih?nder. The prince took a step, charging forward, and counter-attacking with the long sword in his right hand. The attack was evaded effortlessly by Nicholas.
“If you really want to know, this sword style means a lot to me.” Thales turned around, pointing the sword at the opponent again. “A strict teacher once told me that I should at least get the form right.”
At the mention of this, the letter Gilbert asked Putray to deliver to him came to mind.
[Madam Jines emphasised that at your age you must watch your diet. Do not be picky and have a balanced combination of various foods. Even the sow thistles from the Western Desert contains a considerable amount of nutritional value. You are recommended to try…]
Jines’ stern and stony face emerged in Thales’ mind, and he thought of something.
“Get the form right?” Nicholas snorted coldly. “Too bad you didn’t manage to achieve that.”
The Star Killer strode forward, holding his sword in both hands, and, with the aid of gravity, he swung it down!
He nearly crushed Thales, who braced his shield with great effort. The prince clenched his teeth, feeling the force from Nicholas’ sword increase gradually.
[As for those old friends of yours, please forgive us. I must tell you with shame and disappointment that even in the tenth search, we did not manage to find them. At least, the female bartender from Sunset Pub and those child beggars are no longer in Eternal Star City. Although it is not the most appropriate of times, I must advise you that perhaps it is time to give up on Your Highness’ attempt to look for them. First of all, maybe this outcome was meant to be. Second, a search that has lasted for six years will not do you good…]
“Where is your grit when you snatched the book from my hands?” the Star Killer roared with rage. “Bring it out! Don’t make me think that I am dueling with a moron!”
Thales stooped down and twisted his hip around with difficulty, deflected the opponent’s Zweih?nder aside, and then delivered a thrust. “Maybe you should redefine your statement. Who was snatching the book from whom- eh?”
However, the prince’s attack did not have any effect. The Star Killer crouched down and delivered a kick, tripping Thales as he was about to change his stance.
Outside the training ground, Thales’ attendant, Wya Caso, placed his hand on the longsword. He sighed while saying to the silver-masked Ralf who leaned against the wall with his arms crossed,
“You know, I’m not trying to belittle the prince, in fact, he is the most precocious child I have ever seen… But you have to admit that, good analytical skills and planning aside, when he faces the impending, physical, and bloody fights…”
Wya watched a flustered and overwhelmed Thales on the training ground, and shook his head. “He really… lacks talent.”
Ralf frowned and looked at the babbling Wya with an annoyed look.
‘This chatterbox… He’s never stopped speaking over the past six years. What does he think I am, a free ear to listen to him at all times? Well, f*ck him.’
Ralf let out a displeased snort, then flipped him off, not even bothering to turn his head towards him, but Wya did not care. He knew the muted Ralf hated talkative people.
Still, if he could annoy the Phantom Wind Follower and see the latter’s silent, angry gaze, why not? It was just like how Ralf enjoyed seeing Wya’s dumb face when he could not fathom the sign language Ralf used to communicate with the prince.
Wya did not like Ralf’s careless, vulgar, and uncultured mannerism. He was also not amused by the sign language only Ralf and the prince could understand. The Phantom Wind Follower disliked the confidence and self-awareness of the attendant as the prince’s sole spokesperson—which he indeed was. He also despised the latter’s attention to detail on social etiquette and addresses.
That being said, despite having fought side by side several times, the relationship between the two prince’s followers of very different backgrounds had never been well.
“If he has the time to prepare, whether it’s for chess, negotiations, or swordfight practices, his performance will always undoubtedly turn out excellent,” Wya went on, frowning. “But when faced with an abrupt attack, like now, he becomes easily flustered, nervous, and eventually panics. Frankly, he is rather like the new recruits, especially the commoners who are repulsed by bloodshed or are unfamiliar with battle.
“This is fatal during a battle; any mistake made in a critical moment is a lifetime regret, or you might not even get to regret it at all.”
In that very moment, Putray walked towards the two men, glancing at the training ground. Oddly enough, he did not take out his pipe. “You can just be straightforward and say Thales is not good at fighting.”
“My lord.” Wya nodded cautiously, while Ralf only bobbed his head perfunctorily.
Putray’s eyes were gleaming. “Is there any method to overcome that? Thales’ problematic habit of panicking and going blank during the critical moment?”
“I am afraid it will be difficult.” Wya turned his head, taking a glance at Thales who got struck and collapsed onto the ground for the second time. He sighed. “One could practice his sword fighting skills. Techniques can be improved, but long-time habits and characteristics are not easy to change.”
In that second, Ralf gently raised his hand suddenly and made a throat-slitting gesture with a dark look.
“Um?” Putray noticed it and arched an eyebrow. “What does he mean?”
Wya looked at Ralf’s expression, his eyes narrowing slightly. “Uh, I think what the mute meant is…
“…In the Tower, I heard about a quick method to cultivate battle instincts: send someone into a deadly battlefield. Blood and death are the most efficient teachers; out there, a harmless little sheep can turn into a vicious dragon. Even the most cowardly soldier or the most inexperienced new recruit can eradicate their worst habits. Of course, that is if you manage to stay alive.”
“It is the same even with supreme class fighters like the Star Killer and the Kingdom’s Wrath. Their extraordinary combat skills were slowly accumulated in battle. Practicing with wooden dummies and targets will never make someone a supreme class fighter.”
Ralf let out a light snort. It was uncertain whether he was agreeing or expressing his disdain.
“Thales is not a Northlander. He is a Constellatiate prince, a Jadestar, and someday, a king.” The former vice diplomat shook his head. “He only needs to dabble in how things work on the battlegrounds. Fighting in person or going onto the battlefield personally is not something he necessarily needs to know how to do. He does not need to become a supreme class fighter, his responsibility is to control the chess pieces in his hands while being protected by the army.”
Ralf muttered a chain of unintelligible utterances.
Wya exhaled. “But you know, during the Bloody Year, even with heavy protection from the guards, the Jadestar Royal Family—”
At the mention of these words, Putray’s head whipped around. The atmosphere had suddenly turned cold.
“Watch your tongue.” Putray’s sharp and frosty glare forced Wya to swallow his words. “Do not make careless judgements about things you do not understand, especially the Bloody Year.”
‘And the Jadestars.’
Wya stared at him, puzzled. Ralf let out a cold snort, obtaining joy from Wya’s misfortune.
“I’m sorry. I should not have talked about the royal family that way,” The teachings of his aristocratic family made Wya apologize with incredibly good manners. He sighed, searching for another topic. “By the way, it seems you plan to stay for a long time in Dragon Clouds City, my lord?”
Putray shifted his attention back to the training ground. “Yes,” he said flatly. “Perhaps longer than you imagine.”
“Speaking of, the prince did mention that to me.” Wya frowned slightly. “Where did you go six years ago?”
Putray was slightly startled.
Wya continued in a leisurely manner, “Six years ago, on the second day of King Chapman’s coronation, when Lisban began to clean up the mess in Dragon Clouds City, and when Prince Thales was in deep trouble… you hurriedly left Dragon Clouds City without saying a word.
“That is alright, since we are reunited now, all things considered.” Wya retracted his gaze and said worriedly, “But what bothers me more is that, after six years, why are you back now? Why not earlier, like when the prince had yet to settle down, or later, like when the prince faces problems such as marriage?
“Why now? It makes me rather… concerned.”
Ralf frowned as well. He did not seem bothered by Wya’s talkativeness, which was unusual for him.
Their corner had suddenly gotten quiet.
Putray’s eyelids drooped. He reached a hand to his chest slowly and drew out the old pipe he had been using for the past six years.
The skinny former vice diplomat stuffed tobacco into his pipe unhurriedly. He took out his flints and lit the pipe. “You know, a long time ago when I was young, our teacher said this during the completion of our studies: Gilbert Caso has great ambition. He will not be dazzled when he is perceiving a problem, but will manage to think out of the box, and grasp what lies beyond his vision. Perhaps he will become one of those strategists with great foresight, and excel at long-term strategic planning. So, that na?ve bastard always thought too much.”
When he heard of Putray’s answer, which did not serve to answer Wya’s question at all, Wya raised an eyebrow, astonished. “Huh?”
“Even if you refuse to admit it, Wya.” Putray took a contented puff of smoke, smiling as he said, “In many ways, you are very similar to your father… Thinking too much, for one.”
As though he had thought of something, Wya closed his mouth and turned away with a dark expression. He stopped his investigative inquiry.
On the training ground, Thales took two steps back and caught a glimpse of the odd dynamic between Putray and Wya.
Questions sprung up in his heart and he could not help but remember another thing mentioned in Gilbert’s letter.
[Your Highness, please put your faith in Putray as always, especially during this special period of time. For the sake of your future, please trust him! On a side note, please give the new tutor the respect he deserves, be humble and learn. He is most probably the second person I respect the most in this lifetime.]
Gilbert had emphasized, twice, that he put his trust in Putray.
The glint of a sword flashed, Nicholas struck again. This time, Thales, who had been retreating up to this point, found a long-awaited opportunity.
As the opponent struck his shield for the third time, the prince delivered the counterattack he had been preparing once he blocked the strike.
He attacked the opponent from his left, where the defense was weak, making Nicholas’ eyes gleam.
But shortly afterwards, the Star Killer swayed his Zweih?nder and met the vicious counterattack.
Tracing the trajectory of his opponent’s Zweih?nder, Thales strenuously swung the shield in his hand, parrying the opponent’s counterattack with great effort.
Nicholas’ Zweih?nder swung, trailing across the surface of the shield. The strong wind made by the swinging blade flitted past Thales’ hair. Thales shuddered from the chill he felt in that very moment.
Following the growing sense of imminent danger, Thales felt another strange chill erupt from the top of his spine, slithering towards his brain.
In the next second, that familiar yet strange current, the Sin of Hell’s River, broke out within him uncontrollably. It awoke abruptly, like a beast jerked awake from hibernation!
It was also like a sudden hailstorm, invading every inch of his body, including his brain.
He felt a desire to let himself go completely… but the prince did not feel a sense of relief at all.
Thales felt the violent rush of the Sin of Hell’s River, and he was overwhelmed with terror.