Chapter 295: An Unforeseen Invitation
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
“What is your impression of magic?
“To use powerful fireballs that bombard lawns and turn them into barren lands? Deceiving the people of the world and chasing after power with illusions? Garnering the cheers and reverence of idiotic nobles with tricks akin to street performances? Embellishing your status and appearance with a mysteriousness that seems extremely powerful to other people? Or the laughable delight and satisfaction you get from destroying your enemy in countless fights and close-quarter combat?
Thales lowered his head, as if absorbed in thought. But his mind was already filled with shock.
‘Magic… Magic?! What in the world is magic…?’
“You know, I’ve always felt, since a long time ago, that wizards are people who possess strong powers and can produce fireballs just by waving their hands,” the prince said in a pensive tone, somewhat lost in his thoughts. “Or hide in towers, NOT going out so that they could research a curse that could destroy the world, or those old pedants who stubbornly chase after the truth. But now you’re telling me that…”
Asda leaned against the back of his chair once again and snorted coldly.
“Indeed, the magic system of Soul Tower is the biggest heterodoxy in the history of magic. In the beginning, it was not recognized by other wizards at all. They mocked us and called us the ‘talkers’. In return, we retorted that they were just ‘tricksters’.
“For example, the Alchemy Tower stubbornly thinks that magic is the deep research of the relationship between humans and nature, thus keeping the resources of nature for ourselves. It is not peculiar for those in the Alchemy Tower to think this way. After all, the Alchemy Tower is also known as the ‘Tower of War’, and rose during the war between the humans and the ancient orcs. It made its name by practical use of magic and also using magic to kill, and is based on survival and victory. Those wizards are very similar to what you mentioned about throwing fireballs and researching curses.
“But we’re different.” The Mystic’s tone was extremely stern and careful. “In the end, Soul Tower’s ideology turned the tables and shocked the entire history of magic. Even the ascetics and alchemists were greatly affected.”
Thales furrowed his brow. “Are you saying that…”
“If, apart from satisfying our needs and desires, magic cannot provide the world with some meaning, give more possibilities of development to those in the future, and give humans some value…” Asda turned and narrowed his eyes. His expression was a calm one, but it made Thales feel very pressured.
“Then, what is the meaning in us putting so much effort into gathering wizards, making summaries, endlessly researching and passing down the seeds and ideologies of magic? What is the meaning in us continuously striving to improve despite the doubts and reproaches surrounding us?
“If magic degenerates into purely the user’s slave, becoming a selfish tool, something one uses to show off their status; if magic becomes a coat to garner dignity, and a capital to fulfill one’s desires; if magic becomes an excuse for wizards to remain aloof and detached from the world…” Asda’s expression was still very stiff, but Thales could somehow feel that a deeper layer of emotions was hidden beneath it. “Then, what is the difference between a wizard’s existence and that of nobles who fight for power and wealth, farmers and hunters who only seek to fulfill their basic needs, fighters who kill enemies and win honor, tradesmen who only care about profit, and hermits who pretend to be profound?
“As wizards, why do we need to seek truth? What do we do it for? To survive? To live a better life? To live a more exciting life? To live to show off to others? To become more intelligent and powerful so that the countless people who are dumber and weaker than you would kneel on the ground, marvel at your achievements, and worship your status?
“No, Thales,” Asda said slowly, “Wizards are definitely not like that. At least, not the wizards we approve of. Those are only moths with the word ‘magic’ written on their fig leaves.”
Thales was inextricably spellbound as he thought deeply about Asda’s words. “Is this also part of the lessons to become a Mystic?”
Asda nodded seriously. “Of course, and it is of great importance. Don’t be imprisoned by the existing framework, Thales, allow your thoughts to roam free.”
Thales stared blankly at him.
The Mystic sighed slowly. Thales almost forgot about the fact that the Mystic could still breathe. “Do you still remember what I said? That according to the ideology of Soul Tower’s Convention of All Magic, magic is a choice instead of a monotonous tool or tactic. On the other hand, being a wizard is to acknowledge that choice, it’s not a worldly status.
“And at that time, that was the choice which I acknowledged.” Asda stared into Thales’ eyes. “It was also my magic.”
Asda became silent. Thales was engrossed with the heart-stirring conversation and could not recover from that shock for a long time.
As though he was sleep-talking, he asked, “Mister Sakern, what kind of place was Soul Tower?”
Asda paused for a moment. Three seconds later, the Mystic slowly clasped his hands together.
“Soul Tower,” Asda said, extremely slowly. His tone was deep, as if there was a layer of sandpaper in his throat. “The sacred land of wizards, the hope of apprentices, and the future of magic. Countless thoughts and ideologies clashed violently there.
“Our presumed truths are sharpened in endless talks and discussions. Thousands of peers with similar ideals and beliefs move forward in their debates with one another.
“Every day was a new day, because there would always something new to look forward to, and new people to meet in the future; because there would always be old things abandoned, and older people leaving…”
In that moment, Asda looked like he remembered something. He said nothing else, but instead lowered his head and stared at the chessboard…
…As though he had violated some taboo. His expression became dark and the blue light in his eyes slowly disappeared.
Thales noticed his teacher’s expression and abnormality. Sensibly, he did not continue asking questions.
‘Everyone has their own story, but not everyone is willing to talk about it. Moreover…’
Thales sighed and said, “Hearing this from you, I really want to go and see it for myself. Soul Tower sounds like a really wonderful and glorious place.”
Asda suddenly raised his head. “Of course not.” This time, the Mystic’s tone became cold and dark. “Even Soul Tower had its wasteful, dark, hideous and compromising parts. After all, wizards are only human.”
The Mystic pinned his gaze on Thales. “Remember, Thales. For organizations, places, and groups, as long as they are formed by humans, it can never be that glorious.
“Just like this vortex, this game you’re in.”
The prince arched an eyebrow. He was a little embarrassed. “Huh?”
Asda ignored him, and instead turned to look outside the room.
“Perhaps this is the limit of humans.”
Thales swore he heard the Mystic sigh in a barely audible manner after saying that last statement.
Under that picturesque sunset, the Mystic’s face was still handsome, but a few lines that were usually not there appeared appeared out of nowhere, as though the painter added a few strokes on him.
“The lesson ends here,” Asda said softly, watching the setting sun.
Then, before Thales could express his shock, the Mystic’s figure faded away.
“Huh… This again.” Thales sighed in resignation, staring at the empty seat and the chessboard, where he was checkmated once more.
Thales ended his day out playing chess once again, and wanly prepared for his journey back, accompanied by Justin, Wya, and the others.
‘There has been enough surprises today. Perhaps I shouldn’t put any more burdens on myself. In light of the treacherous situation in Dragon Clouds City… eh?’
Thales curiously raised his head to look at the commotion in front.
“What’s going on?” The former deputy commander of the White Blade Guards, Lord Justin, overtook the prince and observed the situation before him with a fury that was hard to keep in check.
At the door of the chess room, a few dozen of the Archduchess’ Guards coldly placed their hands on their weapon. They were in a tense stalemate with ten or more unfamiliar soldiers who came from the neighboring alley.
Those soldiers were obviously not from Dragon Clouds City. They looked murderous and did not show any signs of backing down.
Behind them was a brownish black carriage that was shut tightly.
Wya and Ralf looked at each other, neither of them knew what was happening.
Thales frowned and saw the leader of the unfamiliar soldiers—a female warrior with a butch cut and a round face.
The current deputy commander of the White Blade Guards, Lady Kroesch Mirk, who had a distant look on her face extended her hand towards the carriage behind her, which was was guarded by the Black Sand Region soldiers, and said coldly, “Prince Thales, on behalf of Black Sand Region, I would like to extend an invitation for a chat.
“Viscount Kentvida is in the carriage right now. He is inviting you to board the carriage and talk to him for a few minutes.”
Thales froze for a moment. ‘Why…?’
“Talk? Now?” Thales felt uncertain yet wary. “What does Kentvida want to say to me?”
“I don’t know,” Kroesch said softly, her gaze shone with a cold glare. “That would be up for you to decide.”
Right then, Viscount Kentvida’s voice echoed from a distance, from the direction of the carriage.
“Your Highness, I promise that you will regret it deeply in the future if you miss this talk. Trust me, this is of great importance.”
A chill ran down Thales’ spine.
‘Regret it deeply? Of great importance?’
“Why do I have to board the carriage?” Thales narrowed his eyes and said vigilantly, “We can go upstairs, or find another place. Why does it have to be in the carriage?”
“Look around you.” Kroesch shot an annoyed glance at the Archduchess’ Guards. “In Dragon Clouds City, are there any private places within a ten-meter radius of you?”
As the one tasked with Thales’ protection, Justin’s expression hardened. Thales, anxious and doubtful, stared at Kroesch, then at the carriage behind her.
‘Strange. Black Sand Region… wants to talk to me. Right now?
‘Damn it, why is Putray not here?’
“Impossible!” The watchful Lord Justin directly refused their request. “If you want to see the prince, you can—”
“We’ve had enough of Dragon Clouds City locking the entire area around you down.” Kroesch did not back down. She paid no more attention to Justin. “Your Highness, this is the closest we have gotten to you this month. Trust me, we just want to talk to you.”
A million thoughts flashed through Thales’ mind. He was about to speak, but Justin beat him to it.
“Esch, I still remember how you were like as a child.” Lord Justin took a step forward. His expression became more unpleasant. “I have quite a good relationship with your father, and am also glad that you became part of the White Blade Guards. So… don’t force me to attack you.”
Behind him, Thales took a deep breath. ‘When you put it that way…’
“Then you had better attack me now, Uncle Justin!” Kroesch yelled coldly. “Or let the prince decide for himself. He’s a guest, not a prisoner!”
Justin’s expression turned chilly, it looked like he was about to draw his weapon. The archduchess’ personal guards around him had unpleasant expressions and were also prepared to attack.
Right at that moment…
Under everyone’s watchful gaze, the prince slowly took a step forward. Thales raised his hand and placed it on Justin’s shoulder.
‘At this time…’ As he stared at the Black Sand Region carriage, the prince thought, ‘When the relationship between Eckstedt and the Alliance of Freedom is tricky; when we don’t know the condition in the City of Faraway Prayers; when Dragon Clouds City is in a dilemma, the people of Black Sand Region want to talk to me, a prince from an opposing kingdom, who has no power, and is in an awkward position?
‘…This is too suspicious.’
Thales shook his head and said to Justin, “We are in Dragon Clouds City, and they are the king’s special envoys. It is unwise to engage in pointless clashes… And you know what kind of situation we are in right now.”
Justin scowled deeply. “But as you know, they are, after all, Black Sand Region…”
Wya could not help but speak up as well, “With respect, Your Highness, your safety—”
“Listen to me!” Thales turned and looked at the people on his side. He said to the scowling Justin, “When it comes to dealing with the king, the archduchess needs new information… This is undoubtedly an opportunity for us to find out what they think about Dragon Clouds City. This is for Dragon Clouds City.”
Justin’s words stopped.
“And she is right, I am a guest.” Thales smiled and said to his attendant, “Wya, the carriage is right here anyway, I would not disappear into thin air.”
Justin and Wya exchanged a look, both of them felt uneasy.
The prince calmly turned towards Kroesch. As he stared at the soldiers behind her, he said, “Besides, all of you from Black Sand Region will guarantee my safety, right?”
Kroesch nodded and placed her hand on the left side of her chest. She said respectfully, “I swear this on my life, and on the king’s honor: You will safely get off this carriage a few minutes later.”
Thales looked at Justin and Wya, whom were still in doubt. He shrugged. Ralf was the one who nodded at him.
Finally, Lord Justin nodded hesitantly. But at the same time, he ordered his subordinates in a careful manner. “Go and inform our superior and the count. Make sure that they know about this as soon as possible.”
Wya stared at the carriage with an unpleasant expression. “Your Highness, do you know how important you are? Like what the Star Killer said: you always manage to bring us trouble.”
The prince chuckled. “This is why I need you, Wya. And you, Midira.”
He gently pushed aside the two personal guards in front of him. Accompanied by Wya and Ralf, he walked into Black Sand Region’s battle formation.
The attendant and the Phantom Wind Follower, both wearing unpleasant expressions, were stopped in front of the carriage. Thales tossed the book in his hand to Wya and went on by himself.
‘No matter what Black Sand Region tells you, Thales, you must be calm and prudent. You have witnessed how ferocious Lampard can be, and how cunning Kentvida is. When facing your greatest opponents, be careful.’
Then, with a mind as calm as a lake’s surface, Thales opened the door and entered the carriage. The lights in the carriage were not even lit.
Inside, Kentvida sat quietly in the darkness, his clothes were hardly visible.
“I keep feeling as if you’re taking revenge on me for refusing to have a private conversation with you during our journey years ago.” Thales closed the carriage door and exhaled. He sat across from Kentvida. “Viscount Kentvida—”
The prince immediately quaked!
It was not Kentvida. It was…
“It’s been a long time, Thales.” The person slowly lifted his gaze from the hand-and-a-half sword between his knees. “Are you old enough to drink yet?”
‘This is… How could they dare to…’
Thales’ mind at that moment was almost completely blank. In the carriage, the Suzerain of Black Sand Region and Eckstedt’s Forty-Sixth Common-Elected King, Chapman Lampard, opened his eyes that gleamed coldly in the darkness.