Chapter 306: Raven of Death
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
When Thales returned on horseback, Heroic Spirit Palace had already finished its preparations. From the First Gatehouse to the avenue in front of the palace gate, everything was swept and looked as good as new. The scale armor of the personal guards and soldiers also looked like uniforms as they stood guard in formation—this was probably the limit for these Northlanders who were used to brutish and crude mannerisms.
The second prince, who had a lot on his mind, carried the black horse, Jennie’s reigns carefully. With a stiff expression, he faced Putray, whom he had not met in a while, and said, “When you return next time, could you not come back with bad news?”
“I see, so that’s how it is.” Putray’s eyebrows twitched. He narrowed his eyes and revealed a strange expression. “The young Roknee proposing to the Archduchess to strengthen the stability of Dragon Clouds City is actually bad news to you, Your Highness?”
The prince was stunned for a second because of this sentence. He understood something immediately after.
Thales gradually turned towards Putray and presented a most unpleasant face. Word by word, he said, “Must you mention—”
But he was interrupted.
“Ah, my apologies.” The slim man gave a rather profound smile. He then shrugged in a seemingly begrudging manner. “Before you explode in anger, I swear that I have no other meaning behind my words.”
Putray put on a harmless smile. “You know…’that sort’ of meaning.”
Thales widened his eyes. His mouth moved but in the end, he did not emit any sound.
The prince could only snort in displeasure and turn his head away.
Who could understand the dismay of having all their resentment-filled words being shoved back into their throat because of one single sentence?
The second prince resisted the urge to sack this former deputy ambassador with great difficulty. With a pout, he said through gritted teeth, “Based on the current state of affairs, anything that will break our current state is a threat to us, such as the interests involved behind the sudden marriage of the archduchess—this is what I meant.”
“Of course.” Putray maintained that infuriating expression, completely disregarding the darkened expression of Lord Justin behind him, and swinging his pipe. With a relaxed and contented expression, he said, “You’re the prince. What you say must be true—whether it actually is or not.”
Thales buried his face in his hands and let out a painful sigh. He gave up any notions of explaining himself to the stubborn old man.
“Unbelievable.” The prince looked at the slowly approaching palace gate in low spirits. “This is coming from a subject who was not in the least bit concerned about his prince for a fortnight.”
Putray snorted softly but did not reply.
Nicholas had long led the archduchess’ personal guards to wait by the palace gate. But this time, the Star Killer did not display the face of a dead person after seeing Thales. Instead, he stared intently at him before jutting out his bottom lip in the direction of the stable, indicating him to continue onwards.
‘Now this is rare.’
Puzzled, Thales leaped down from the saddle in front of the stable.
“Good luck,” Putray said indifferently. “After the welcoming ceremony ends, I will wait for you in your room.”
“How comforting.” The already moody prince waved his hand discontentedly.
Thales passed the reins to the stableman, and with Wya and Ralf’s accompaniment, he walked towards Nicholas at the palace gate.
“The Archduchess and Count are in the Hall of Heroes. Join them.” Nicholas waved his hand without a change in expression. “I still have to greet the harbinger of the diplomat group—they’re being extra formal this time.”
“Because things are very bad?” Thales snorted. “What were the results of the incident the last time? You know, regarding the archduchess’—”
“Be good, and shut your mouth,” Nicholas interrupted him harshly. The harbinger of the City of Faraway Prayers is here.”
Thales turned around. Just as he had expected, a cavalry carrying a different banner slowly drove out of the First Gatehouse. Under the watch of countless Dragon Clouds City guards on both sides, they approached the palace gate.
The symbol of an opened and heavy ancient book was embroidered on their flag. The opened page was even engraved with numerous letters of the Empire, but its meaning was unknown.
Knight’s Canon, the legitimate and noble ruler of the City of Faraway Prayers—the symbol of the Roknee Family.
It was said that they were the prestigious knights stationed in Northland since the age of the Ancient Empire and had nurtured countless great knights who left their mark in history. Even when the emperor forcibly tore down the Temple of Knights, and the antiquity of the knights gradually declined, they still had a great reputation in Northland.
That was until the Battle of Eradication.
Thales remembered the knowledge given to him by the Northlandic teachers over the past years.
Among the cavaliers, the leading knight looked rather special. His face was rather dark, and his eyes were level. Having shaved off the hair on both of his temples, only a head of short, mahogany hair was left on the top of his head. He had a sturdy figure, yet he wore a lightweight leather armor, which was rarely seen in Northland. There was a strap around his shoulders with various miniature tools that Thales could not identify tied on it. Apart from a short knife by his waist, there was only a crossbow on his back and a quiver hung on the saddle among the weapons on his body.
The most eye-catching thing was his appearance and temperament. It seemed as if he was having a leisurely stroll even though he was riding a horse.
‘The harbinger of the City of Faraway Prays is acting this way? That means…’
Just as Thales furrowed his brows, Nicholas by his side reacted one step earlier than he did. The Star Killer was seen revealing a rare expression of astonishment. He stared firmly at the leading, brunet knight.
“Oh, what a surprise.” The Star Killer’s expression slowly turned grave.
Thales narrowed his eyes. He looked at Nicholas, and then at that knight in leather armor, who was approaching them in a leisurely manner. “You know each other?”
Nicholas ignored him and gestured to his subordinate instead. Then, he walked forward alone. With that, the prince noticed several of the archduchess’ personal guards revealing similar expressions.
Thales looked strangely at the brown-haired knight, whose appearance was unlike that of an ordinary Northlander.
Nicholas gradually moved to stand in front of the herald from the City of Faraway Prayers. He watched them get down from their horses uniformly, and his expression was icy cold.
The brunet knight had a medium stature and was even slightly shorter than the rather slim Nicholas. He was seen holding the strap by his waist as he looked directly at Nicholas who was in front of him without any fear. He revealed a smile that harbored malicious intent.
Thales sighed. The Sin of Hell’s River converged in his ears as he sought to hear the conversation between the two.
Nicholas stared back at the knight for a long time. Then, he took a deep breath, pursed his lips and tapped his brain lightly. He snorted coldly. “How could it be you?”
His tone was cold, completely devoid of politeness.
Thales’ heart clenched. ‘It looks like their relationship isn’t that great?
‘Amid the impending storm, the relationship between the City of Faraway Prayers and Dragon Clouds City would most probably have to rely on the results of this diplomatic mission.
As he heard Nicholas’ unfriendly greeting, the brunet knight drew back the corners of his mouth and gave off the air of a ruffian—that was when Thales noticed that the knight had extra wide lips.
‘A special person,’ the prince silently said as he refused Wya’s suggestion for him to leave first.
That brunet knight was seen tilting his head as he opened his mouth wide. His voice was like that of a drum while he spoke to Nicholas, “Have you heard of a joke?”
“There was a man who was constantly on the move to conduct business. He was very worried that his wife back home would be unfaithful.” The brunet knight shook his head and laughed mischievously.
“Hence, he secretly went back home one night. Fortunately, the man did not notice any traces of an adulterer apart from his wife, who was sound asleep. Consequently, the gratified man’s spirits heightened. He and his wife began to make love.”
Nicholas’ frown grew more prominent.
The brunet knight snorted as he raised a finger to lightly tap Nicholas’ face, whose expression did not change. “After that, his wife lit up a light and looked clearly at her husband’s face. She could not contain her surprise and said…”
The knight widened his eyes, and repeated Nicholas’ words with an exaggerated expression, “How could it be you?”
The audience fell silent.
The next second, the brunet knight burst out in laughter. He rocked back and forth as he laughed alone.
As if his joke was very funny.
But Nicholas’ expression remained unchanged.
His comrades had odd expressions on their faces as they stood behind the knight. They averted their gazes collectively. Someone even lightly coughed as if he was deeply embarrassed by their leader’s joke.
Thales could not help but knit his brows while he listened to everything from a distance.
‘What’s going on?’
Only the brunet knight remained smirking as he looked at Nicholas and shrugged.
Finally, after what felt like centuries, the ice-cold expression fell from Nicholas’ face and he let out a deep sigh.
“You’re just the same as before.” Nicholas lowered his head and snorted coldly. “Not funny at all.”
The brunet knight ceased his laughter. His expression changed.
“Oh God.” The knight looked at the Star Killer with a face of disappointment. “Your sense of humor is still as sh*tty as before.”
Baffled, Thales began to doubt their relationship as he listened to their conversation.
‘That brunet knight, who exactly…’
Nicholas looked at him in silence, then softly asked, “How many years has it been?”
The smile on the knight’s face slowly disappeared.
“Eighteen years.” He smoothened his brown hair and snorted lightly. “Since I went back to the City of Faraway Prayers, we haven’t met in eighteen years.”
The Star Killer nodded slowly.
However, the brunet knight’s expression suddenly turned lively.
“I’m guessing that you still don’t have a woman, right? And with your status, you can’t publicly hire prostitutes too. The young noble ladies most probably won’t give you a second thought.” The brown-haired knight regarded Nicholas with a look of disdain and revealed a mischievous grin that contained a rather deep meaning. “Don’t tell me that you’ve always been dealing with it with your hand!”
This time, his comrades behind him started to cough continuously with unnatural expressions.
Nicholas was still staring motionlessly at the brunet knight, who was speaking indecently, until he, too, raised the corner of his mouth, letting out a suppressed laughter.
The laughters of Nicholas and the brunet knight gradually overlapped with each other—as though they had laughed heartily like that countless times before.
Thales looked at the laughing Star Killer in a strange way. As far as he knew, apart from sneering and evil-grinning, Nicholas—who was considered to have a dead face—rarely had any other smiling expressions.
At the next second, Nicholas and the brunet knight swung their right hands nearly at the same time! They struck each other!
The instant Thales narrowed his eyes, the two men’s palms were violently clasped together in the air. It looked like they were a team that had worked together thousands of times before!
Nicholas tightly grasped the other person’s palm, a rare smile appearing at the corners of his lips. “It’s not bad seeing you again, Big Mouth.”
“Hahahaha,” the brunet knight laughed, facing the sky. His mouth grew even larger.
“Same here, Spiky!”
Not without surprise, Thales watched their actions. ‘It looks like my previous assumption was a mistake. Their relationship… is not just great on an ordinary level.
‘After all, not everyone can mock and tease the renowned Star Killer without any worries. That brunet knight… Who exactly is he? This fellow was sent as a member of the diplomat group of the City of Faraway Prayers. That means, Archduke Roknee…’
Nicholas and the brunet knight released each other’s palms and walked side by side towards the palace gate. The people of the City of Faraway Prayers seemed to have breathed a sigh of relief upon that, and they followed them successively.
The brunet knight raised his head and took in the entirety of Heroic Spirit Palace. His appeared quite sentimental, as though he was going down memory lane.
“So, I heard that you single-handedly slaughtered our boss six years ago?”
The Star Killer’s face turned cold in an instant.
“You can say that. Thanks to some help from you and Byrne,” Nicholas said softly.
“Me?” The brunet knight seemed to be pondering over something. “So you really utilized that secret I told you?”
“Yes.” The face of the Star Killer appeared to turn a little?paler. “And I’m not proud of it—besides, he was already seriously injured at that time.”
Their footsteps did not stop, but their conversation seemingly sank into a slight standstill as a strange atmosphere fell on them.
“What about Kaslan’s widow? You know, that…” The newly-arrived knight’s expression turned gloomy.
“There’s no widow. Madam Talia passed away before Kaslan…” Nicholas shook his head.
The both of them did not speak.
“I understand that feeling.” A few seconds later, the knight plainly said, “When the boss recruited us as guards, all of you probably never thought that such a day would arrive.”
Nicholas did not say a word.
The brunet knight raised his head and gazed at the Cliff of the Sky atop Heroic Spirit Palace. His eyes froze on Raikaru’s statue, and he sighed sorrowfully, “It’s hard to imagine. In the blink of an eye, we’re almost fifty now.”
‘The guards. Boss.’
Thales shifted slightly. He already had a deduction on the identity of this knight.
“Everyone grows old,” Nicholas said softly with a profound meaning in his words. “Be it the king or the citizens.”
“Since we’re talking about this, my chest has recently started to ache whenever it rains.” The brunet knight seemed like a chatterbox. Despite Nicholas being a man of a few words, he continued to talk. “Do you have a similar ailment?”
Nicholas shook his head. “I’m guessing it’s an effect that’s been left behind since Sentry Ground. When you were young, you stayed too long in the snow pit.”
But somehow, as Thales watched the habitually reticent Nicholas with his arms crossed, and the prattling knight who had exaggerated movements walking together while they held a casual conversation about ordinary life, Thales did not find anything off about this sight.
It seemed as if they should be acting that way.
“A long time ago, a military doctor called Ramon told me something,” the brunet knight said while he dug his ear roughly. “Once we pass forty, our physical strength would decline significantly, our bodies would begin to grow weak gradually, and some ailments would also surface. Oh God, I even ridiculed him that time…”
Nicholas sneered. “But at the same time, our experiences and techniques would also gradually increase and become established. Our emotions would gradually become stable, helping us break away from impulsiveness and frenzied attacks. Hence, complementing the degeneration of our bodies.
“So, compared to those youngsters in their twenties or thirties, we forty-year-olds have balanced experiences and physical strength. It is a veteran’s biggest, most terrifying phase.” The Star Killer shook his head. “Don’t undervalue yourself because of some liars’ words.”
“No, no, no. That military doctor said that once we pass fifty…” the brunet knight objected, “…no matter how our techniques and experiences grow, it’s not enough to make up for the shortcomings of the degeneration of our physical strength and physique. Every injury deals heavy damage on our bodies, and the ailments left behind from our youth will follow us like the curse of a tarsal. It will never stop following us from the time we wake up and open our eyes until we lie down and shut them…”
Nicholas scoffed softly.
They were getting nearer to the palace gate.
“Even though a majority are new people, I see Galla and Lum.” The knight’s gaze swept pass the archduchess’ personal guards on both sides of the palace gate. “What about Byrne? Apart from you and Yvsia, isn’t he the best person for official transport—Lord Mirk, Administrator Mirk?”
‘He knows Mirk. He also knows the veterans who were once part of the White Blade Guards,’ Thales silently thought.
That knight’s identity was already at his fingertips.
“Byrne has left,” Nicholas said plainly. “He was too heavily injured six years ago. He’s unable to work anymore.”
The brunet knight rolled his eyes slightly, his expression was one of amusement. “Really, that serious?”
“Six years ago, Dragon Clouds City did not just lose a king,” the Star Killer said in a casual tone. “Sometimes, the trauma of the heart is even harder to heal than those of the body.”
The brunet knight stopped before the palace gate.
“I have a feeling, Spiky.” He looked at Nicholas with an interested expression. “You’re not the same as before—you don’t seem as annoying.”
“And you’re still as annoying as before,” Nicholas refuted ruthlessly.
The knight laughed out loud. “Now that’s worthy of our reputation as the ‘Double Shame of White Blades’!”
Thales practically frowned once he finished listening to their conversation—it was hard to imagine how someone could actually hold a casual conversation with Nicholas…
While Thales’ mind was wandering, the brunet knight and
“So this is our dear Prince of Constellation?” The brunet knight looked at the prince with considerable interest.
Thales exhaled. “Greetings, I am Thales Jadestar.”
The brunet knight lowered his head and sized up the prince.
Yet, the instant the knight’s light-colored pupils were fixed on Thales, the prince quivered!
A shudder spelling danger spread from his back to his shoulders.
The Sin of Hell’s River began to surge in him non-stop.
Thales returned the brunet knight’s look with a dignified expression. The caution in his heart was raised to its highest level. ‘A feeling that would never surface even when confronting Nicholas. What’s going on? It’s like… like being targeted by a dreadful hunter. Could it be that this guy with a mouth full of strange and absurd remarks is more… than Nicholas…’
“You know, I’ve told Spiky many years ago that the Royal Family of the Empire are God’s pets, so their blood is all golden.” The brunet knight looked at the nervous prince and laughed out loud. He patted Nicholas who was by his side. “He didn’t believe me and said that he’d verify what I said when he got the chance…”
He recalled his unpleasant first encounter with the Star Killer.
Nicholas let out a cough.
“Prince Thales is the Archduchess’ respected guest. He’s residing here temporarily due to the king’s invitation.” The Star Killer interrupted the knight without the slightest hesitation. “Maintain necessary respect, Monty.”
The brunet knight named Monty shook his head in dissatisfaction. “Alright, alright, Archduchess… My God…”
He withdrew his gaze from Thales, but this fellow was obviously not done with his words.
“So, hey, boy.” Monty bent down towards the prince and displayed an enthusiastic, mischievous grin. He raised his brows three times. “That Archduchess, heh… Have you slept with her yet?”
In that instant, Thales was stumped for words.
“Monty!” Nicholas yelled, relieving Thales from his awkward embarrassment.
“Watch that mouth of yours.” The Star Killer pressed a palm on Monty’s shoulder. His complexion cooled down gradually, and he no longer looked as calm as he did when he first met his old friend. “Especially since you’re representing the City of Faraway Prayers.”
The brunet knight exhaled.
“Alright, I take those words back.” Monty shrugged and took the opportunity to break free from the Star Killer’s hand. He looked amused. “You haven’t change.”
Nicholas snorted lightly again. “As a harbinger, I believe you still have work—my subordinate will bring you to see the Archduchess.”
“Of course.” Monty laughed as he shook his head. “I’ll leave Lord Ian’s reception to you.”
Once he said that, Monty turned his head back and stared intently at Thales. He then strode towards Heroic Spirit Palace with his comrades, leaving behind a speechless Thales, who was staring at his back.
“That was…” The prince scratched his head. He found it hard to imagine such a strange human coming from the City of Faraway Prayers.
“Nate Monty,” Nicholas replied concisely. “He used to be a White Blade Guard. Now, he’s a lord working in the City of Faraway Prayers.”
‘Knew it. Former White Blade Guard.’
But the prince had already formed some impressions regarding the diplomat group this time.
Other things aside, whether they were jokes or not, just based on what Monty asked him earlier…
Thales narrowed his eyes. ‘There are no meaningless words when it comes to foreign affairs. That means…’
“You have a good relationship with him?” The prince asked in all seriousness. “Archduke Roknee sent him here to draw support from your friendship?”
Nicholas shook his head. “If that’s the case, I’m afraid they’re going to be disappointed.”
“Nate Monty,” Thales savored the name and narrowed his eyes. “Is he very good?”
“Are you asking if there is anything else good about him except that foul mouth of his?” Nicholas harrumphed softly. “I suppose you can say that. Some boring people decided to group me, him, and three other people together, and they called us something…”
“The Five War Generals, right?”
Thales reacted to the situation quickly. “Including Black Sand Region’s Fire Knight?”
“That means Monty has also reached supreme class.” Thales then asked out of curiosity, “Who’s stronger between the both of you?”
Nicholas cast him a sideways glance. His gaze was filled with derision.
“Supreme class… This title is often associated with godlike abilities in many people’s hearts.” Nicholas snorted softly and said, “However, only those who have gone into a battlefield before would know that when hordes of people are killing each other and moving about, the effectiveness of someone in the supreme class would be largely reduced.”
“That’s why those of the supreme class are more suited for another occupation, where few take up.” The Star Killer turned his head and narrowed his eyes slightly. “Assassination.”
Thales remembered the assassin who waited for the right moment to strike before he descended from the sky six years ago.
“I agree with you wholeheartedly,” he answered in low spirits. “But, what does this have anything to do with Monty?”
Nicholas stared at Thales, and his words held a profound meaning, “Monty may be a warrior, but his responsibilities in the army are closer to that of an assassin.”
Thales moved slightly. “Are you saying?”
“He was invited among the ranks of the White Blades Guard due to his status as an elite bow-wielding assassin in the past.
“Kaslan then found value in his talent. He trained him into a scout.” Nicholas nodded his head. “Very soon, Monty turned into the most terrifying scout in all of Eckstedt.
“Our task was to face our enemies head on. We were to bathe ourselves in blood and slaughter, while Monty was more skilled in hiding his tracks and delivering a sudden attack.
“Twenty years ago, before the battle in the valley of White Mountain, he snuck into the ancestral altar of the Elven Royal Hall alone and sniffed out enemy information. He left behind countless corpses along the way, until the crow sound he learned was seen through. Only then did he break out of his encirclement and left with swagger.
“It was then that Monty obtained his nickname, Raven of Death.”
The Star Killer finally finished speaking.
Thales seemed to be deep in thought.
‘The Raven of Death.
‘What an unpleasant nickname.’
“You still haven’t told me who’s stronger between the two of you as the Five War Generals,” Thales continued asking.
Nicholas sounded as if he had just heard the funniest joke ever. He looked in the direction where Monty left and laughed coldly. “If he’s within ten steps from me, I can break his neck in five seconds.”
Thales’ heart froze.
‘No, something’s wrong.’
“Then… what if it’s beyond ten steps?” Thales had already heard the underlying meaning in his words. With the principle that he would absolutely not allow this dead face to be happy, he continued probing, since he was so “considerate”.
As expected, at the next second, Nicholas put on his most sullen expression while he faced Thales, who looked as curious as a cat.
The Star Killer folded his arms across his chest, turned his head to the side, and clicked his tongue, feeling displeased. “Tsk.”
Thales widened his eyes and scratched his head.
When he saw Nicholas turn around and leave, he believed he already knew the answer.
Hence, he could only sigh in resignation. Then, he walked towards Heroic Spirit Palace.
At that moment, Thales believed that Nate Monty was perhaps the strangest and most unique person he had met that day.
That thought lasted until he and Saroma met their true guest in the Hall of Heroes an hour later—the official envoy of the City of Faraway Prayers, the heir of the Family of the Knight’s Canon…