Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
Saroma looked like she was deep in thought.
The old count leaned back slightly and subconsciously looked at the inscription of the Cloud Dragon Spear on top of his crown.
“Everyone!” Nazaire said loudly and attracted the attention of the vassals in the hall. He did not sound like an old man at all.
“It has been six years. Without the Born King’s power and influence, the so-called balance, equilibrium, peace and unity of Dragon Clouds City have already been broken due to all sorts of ridiculous reasons.” Nazaire looked weary. It was as though he was talking to himself.
The hall went quiet. Many of them were deep in thought after hearing those words.
“The six strongest vassals have been in continuous disagreement with regard to the power King Nuven left behind upon his death.”
The four other counts stirred in unison. Other than Count Karkogel, the three other counts instinctively avoided Lisban’s eyes.
“On one hand, we are suspicious of Lisban, who holds great power. We suspect that he is monopolizing the political scene, keeping the Archduchess out of the loop and trying to drain the great legacy King Nuven left behind.
“On the other hand, as the regent, Lisban despises us for not following orders after the Born King’s death, for lacking the spirit of cooperation, for being selfish and only caring about our own survival.”
Nazaire stared coldly at Lisban, who had an icy expression. There was disappointment and hatred in his eyes.
“Conversely, the slightly smaller families rule their territories in a conservative manner. They’re fearful and torn between both sides while they’re caught up in this stalemate, afraid to take a wrong step.”
The buzz from conversations between the vassals quieted down for a moment.
“The arrival of the calamity and Queen of the Sky, the Born King’s sudden passing, and the suspicious crowning of King Chapman that took place here; how much chaos did these incidents stir up among the common people, causing them to be in constant unease?”
Saroma bit her lower lip and she subconsciously looked at Thales. However, Thales only stared at the floor tiles with his head lowered, even though Ian tried to signal him a few times by making faces at him.
There was a glimmer of grief and fury in Nazaire’s eyes. It was hard to tell if he was being sincere. “The even more saddening fact is, throughout these past six years, this is the truth that the people outside Dragon Clouds City see. The Walton Family that once was extremely powerful and had matchless influence, now has no other direct descendant than an orphaned girl.
“Hence, after the common-elected throne left Dragon Clouds City… the wildly ambitious King Chapman became increasingly greedy; the City of Faraway Prayers”Long-Haired’ Kulgon Roknee became increasingly untameable; Beacon Illumination City, which has always been in good terms with us, is now indifferent to us; and we are unclear as to what the other territories such as Defense City feel about us. Conflicts with the local nobles under other archdukes with territories bordering Dragon Clouds City are increasing in number.”
Count Nazaire raised his head in indignance and straightened his body, no longer leaning against his seat.
He coldly said, “Not to mention our neighbours from the Empire in the south. God knows how many times they’ve celebrated the decline of our city.”
Thales scratched his head, still feigning ignorance.
Nazaire’s tone grew increasingly stern. “My Lady, it has been six years. After losing King Nuven, Dragon Clouds City is not able to unite anymore. We fell from the top of the clouds to the bottom of the valley of embarrassment, indignance, grief and pain. As the archduchess, do you really not see it at all?
“Our so-called equilibrium and balance was shattered to pieces together with King Nuven’s death during that earth-shattering change six years ago!”
The atmosphere in the hall turned from strange to grim.
Lisban’s face darkened.
Thales exhaled loudly and deeply. ‘Count Nazaire…
‘If only he wasn’t standing on the opposing side.’
Nazaire shook his head with a pained expression while he faced the archduchess’ pale face and the vassal’s thoughtful gazes.
“Now, My Lady, do you understand what your marriage means? Do you understand the significance behind you having a powerful husband, and how important it is that you and your family have a healthy as well as reliable heir?”
Nazaire’s expression was stern. His hair and beard flared due to his anger. His words made the archduchess’ expression freeze. She was rendered speechless.
“Is this to you a disadvantageous sacrifice to make and price to pay? Perhaps.”
Nazaire shot a glance at all the vassals in the hall. “But, is this something necessary? Definitely!”
Saroma stared at Nazaire in disbelief. She did not seem to know how to react.
“We respect you, My Lady.” The old Count Nazaire put on a respectful expression once again. He bowed before the archduchess. “But I believe that the best way to show this respect is by truly treating you as the ruler of Dragon Clouds City.
“I have to show you the truth an archduchess of a city should face, the price she has to pay, and the sacrifices she has to make, no matter how unpleasant they are. Even if there are difficulties and obstacles… marriage is just one of the sacrifices.”
Rather at a loss as to what to do, Saroma stared at the seemingly sincere Count Nazaire.
“Instead of seeing you as a marionette who has all the necessary decorations but is locked deep in the palace…
“Instead of treating myself as a tree that shields you from wind and rain, righteously and confidently cutting you off from the cruel side of the world, then claiming to do it for ‘your own good'”—Nazaire shot a scornful glance at the steely looking Regent Lisban—”what we need is an archduchess who can protect and rule over Dragon Clouds City, My Lady.
“We do not need a vase in somebody’s hands who is labelled as the archduchess and used to decorate Dragon Clouds City.”
“Nazaire!” Lisban’s gaze became stern. “What are you saying?”
“He’s just voicing out our thoughts, ‘Prime Minister’,” Count Lyner replied coldly. “I really can’t imagine what sort of regent would bring up our suzerain and fief lord as a kingdom’s princess throughout these six years. Even though she’s a girl, she is also the last direct descendant of the Dragon Spear Family.”
Lisban clenched his fists. Behind him, the cheeks of the Star Killer, who was protecting the archduchess, flushed.
Thales felt a weight on his shoulders—Ian had leaned on him.
“Now I can tell the relationship between these six vassals,” Ian said softly into Thales’ ears. “But throughout these six years, has Regent Lisban been shielding your little girl from danger, or bringing trouble upon her by being in Heroic Spirit Palace?”
‘You asked the most crucial questions, Your Grace.’
Thales inhaled deeply and forcibly suppressed the assumption in his mind.
“Now, it is time to break that vase, My Lady.” Count Nazaire paid no heed to Lisban. He bowed before the archduchess again. His gaze was bright and piercing. “The broken pieces of ceramic may pierce your skin and cause pain. But only blood can cleanse the Northlanders’ minds… even though you are just a girl.”
While he listened to Nazaire’s words, Thales suddenly felt a surge of familiarity.
At this moment, he suddenly had the awareness that Count Nazaire and the four other vassals may not be the selfish, power-hungry vassals that Putray made them to be. They may also not be subordinates who were eager to cause trouble after Nuven’s passing, as Lisban had been wary about.
Thales swept his gaze past the shrewd and farsighted Lisban, the level-headed Nazaire, the rather friendly Hearst, the quiet Karkogel, the callous Lyner, and the straightforward Cotterson.
Things were the exact opposite. What King Nuven had left behind for his successor may have been a group of people who were powerful enough to allow Dragon Clouds City to return to its former glory.
It was just that this group of people were experiencing the biggest accident King Nuven had left behind due to his premature death…
Thales looked at Saroma worriedly.
The archduchess looked at the count in a daze.
It was as if she had not registered what was going on.
She did not seem to know what to say as well.
“The Nazaire Family’s dictum says that, ‘nobles carry responsibilities on their shoulders, and rulers will definitely have to make sacrifices.'” Nazaire coldly said, “You want to defend your family’s honor and hold on to Dragon Clouds City’s reputation? Definitely. But at the same time, you have to pay the price… This is your fate, Lady Saroma.”
At that moment, Prince Thales, who had been paying full attention to what was happening, absentmindedly recalled that day many years ago.
“‘Are you prepared?
“‘After being conferred the Jadestar surname…
“‘To battle for Constellation, die for Constellation, and…”‘
Thales abruptly widened his eyes!
Just as everyone in the hall went quiet after listening to Count Nazaire’s words, a familiar cry of pain broke the silence once again.
“Ack-What-Ow-Pain-It hurts, damn it!”
The people in the hall all looked in the same direction with conflicted and dissatisfied expressions. The heir to the City of Faraway Prayers, Viscount Ian Roknee was screaming in an exaggerated manner. He caressed his thigh while he glared at Thales in indignance.
Thales nonchalantly and quietly withdrew his leg like he never kicked Ian’s thigh in the first place.
“What is wrong with you again, the clown viscount?”
Count Cotterson was brimming with fury.
The archduchess and her vassals looked at him too.
Ian sighed and paid no heed to the secret signals the members of the City of Faraway Prayers’ diplomat group were sending him. He shrugged helplessly and flashed a carefree smile instead.
“I’m sorry for disturbing you lot.” The young Roknee stood up and made a halting motion with his hand. He smiled apologetically, as though he was really feeling embarrassed.
“All of you are having a heated-up conversation, but does anyone remember the original topic, the Alliance of Freedom? And-And the fact that we are the most important people involved in that incident?”
The six counts were slightly startled.
“Yes.” With an animated expression, Ian stared at everyone in the hall. He flung his arms around and spoke in a very exaggerated manner, making sure that the shape of his mouth as he spoke could be clearly seen. It looked like he was teaching words to little children. “The—City—of—Faraway—Prayers?”
On the other side, the members of the City of Faraway Prayers’ diplomat group lowered their heads. They did not harbor anymore hope.
Thales shook his head.
He raised his head and met eyes with Saroma, flashing her a reassuring smile.
‘It will be alright.
‘Just like that time many years ago.’
“Listen up, clown.” The straightforward and tactless Count Cotterson did not buy into Ian’s self-assuming humor at all. “You want our reinforcements?
“Then be obedient, shut your mouth and listen properly!”
The vassals stared at Ian with cold gazes as he stood in the hall.
Ian arched an eyebrow. He seemed to be a little surprised.
But the next moment, he revealed a look of realization, like he finally knew what was going on. Shortly after, he laughed.
“Hahahahaha!” Ian shook his head. He waved his hand and laughed loudly, as though he had just heard the most unbelievable rumor ever. “No, no, no. I reckon that everyone including the archduchess may have misunderstood what I meant.”
The six counts revealed puzzled expressions while they remained seated below the archduchess. The dozen other vassals also furrowed their eyebrows in unison…
“Actually, from the beginning till the end, I said nothing about ‘dispatching troops’.” Ian shrugged innocently and winked discreetly at Thales, who was beside him.
“And, I didn’t represent the City of Faraway Prayers to come here asking for help.”
The moment he finished speaking, Thales could clearly see that almost all the nobles in the hall were slightly stunned.
This included the members of the City of Faraway Prayers’ diplomat group. The Raven of Death even spread his arms at old Bonni, who was beside him. He revealed a puzzled expression.
This was also the archduchess’ reaction.
“What are you saying?” Saroma asked in surprise.
“The City of Faraway Prayers can solve the matter of the war by ourselves.” Ian waved his hand nonchalantly. “What you said was very reasonable. If we can’t even handle those thrash from the Alliance of Freedom, wouldn’t it be a total disgrace to the Northlanders?”
Everyone was startled.
All the nobles in the hall stared at one another. They did not seem to understand the meaning of his words.
The six most important counts sank into deep thought.
“But all of you are roping in allies from all over the kingdom and isolating the king.” Count Nazaire seemed to be absorbed in thought. “Once you’re caught in a war that cannot be settled quickly, the appeal by the Archduke of the City of Faraway Prayers to resist the king in unison will become empty talk.”
“Oh, I’m really just here to invite the archduchess to put her signature on the letter of condemnation towards the king.” Ian continued smiling. He raised a finger and wagged it slightly in the air. “But believe me, we don’t need all of you to dispatch troops.”
Nazaire looked instinctively at Lisban, but he realized that his old friend and opponent only remained silent.
‘Something isn’t right.’
“Then…” The archduchess furrowed her brows a little, still remaining in her seat. “What is the City of Faraway Prayers here for?”
Ian inhaled deeply. The smile on his face slowly faded, and he became serious.
He turned and shot a glance at all the puzzled vassals.
“Twenty years ago, when my grandfather was gravely ill, his vassals were suspicious of one another, and his territory became unstable. When my father was riddled with anxiety…”
Ian sighed softly, then immediately spoke firmly in a robust tone, “In the face of the Alliance of Freedom’s rebellion,?under the immense pressure from the people of White Mountain, and even Camus Union’s brazen interference, it was King Nuven who made a wise and strategic decision. It was he who sent Prince Soria to lead troops to the west and assist the City of Faraway Prayers in battle.”
With a mournful expression, Ian took a deep bow before the seated Saroma. “The Roknee Family will always remember this kindness.”
The bewilderment in the vassal’s minds were endless as they watched the viscount act differently from how he usually presented himself.
Saroma shot a glance at Thales.
Ian straightened his body. Like a passionate bard, his eyes shone. “And that war cemented the Walton Family’s glory. Whether it was the Alliance of Freedom’s soldiers, the mercenaries Camus Union dispatched in the dark, or the elite troops of the White Elves, when faced with Dragon Clouds City’s army—which is the strongest in the world—they collapsed during their first encounter and proved to be no match at all to Dragon Clouds City’s army.”
Thales felt a little awkward as he listened to this. ‘You sound as though you saw what happened twenty years ago with your own eyes, nineteen-year-old Viscount Ian Roknee.’
“My Lady, your father and grandfather, oh, and also all the families that conquered the west together”—Ian smiled a little at the vassals—”all of you showed Dragon Clouds City as well as the Dragon Spear Family’s prestige at the Golden Passage, leaving Camus Union in awe and forcing the White Elves into retreat. That influence has remained until now.
“That’s your grandfather’s achievement, your father’s battle merit, as well as your family’s glory and honor.”
Nicholas, the Star Killer smiled slightly, and below the stage, Monty the Raven of Death shrugged in tacit agreement.
Count Nazaire furrowed his eyebrows. ‘Why is he saying these things…
‘Could it be that…’
“But I can also see that the mighty Dragon Clouds City is in a predicament now.” His expression was the same as the distressed and grieving Count Nazaire. “The scene earlier has made me extremely worried. You want to follow your father and grandfather’s footsteps, and defend the glory of your family. But because of the conditions in Dragon Clouds City, you cannot do anything.
“The Walton Family is in a helpless state.”
The expressions of the five counts other than Lisban turned increasingly unpleasant, and their gazes became more and more bewildered.
“But it is all right!”
Ian clenched his fist and waved it with force.
The Viscount of the City of Faraway Prayers took a step forward without hesitation. “Please let me, the heir to the Roknee Family, the City of Faraway Prayers’ Ian Roknee offset this regret of yours.”
The archduchess stared at him, not knowing what was going on. She blinked. “What?”
Thales lowered his head. ‘Great, everything is going according to plan.
‘Hopefully there won’t be any incidents.
Thales subconsciously clenched his fists and forcibly suppressed the strange displeasure in his heart.
Ian’s gaze was determined, and his tone was firm, “Saroma, please do not worry. I will represent the City of Faraway Prayers and lead the army to walk the route that your father conquered before. I will fight the Alliance of Freedom, bearing with me the Dragon Spear Family’s flag and your family’s honor!”
Many people could not help but feel shocked that he suddenly changed his form of address towards the archduchess.
“In the name of the Walton Family and the Roknee Family, I will teach those thrash from the Alliance of Freedom a lesson and recreate our history. I will place the Cloud Dragon Spear Flag and the Knight Canon’s Flag on top of Fort Liberté’s city wall once again, so that all the bards we can find will recite the mighty victory that belongs to us, to Eckstedt!
“I’ll tell our enemies that you, Saroma Walton, King Nuven’s granddaughter and Prince Soria’s daughter, has already recollected all that belongs to the Dragon Spear Family!” Ian was acting like a passionate new recruit.
Facing his aggressive gaze, the archduchess seemed a little panic-stricken.
Count Nazaire realized something and said through gritted teeth, “Enough, Viscount—”
But the count was not able to cut Ian off.
“Please do not worry. The Walton Family’s glory will not suffer one bit just because Dragon Clouds City does not dispatch troops.” Ian took a deep breath. In his eyes was pride and excitement as if he had personally experienced the things written in historical poems. “Because soon, everyone shall know that this war is not only one between Eckstedt and the Alliance of Freedom.
“More than that, it is a war fought by the City of Faraway Prayer’s Ian Roknee for Dragon Clouds City’s Saroma Walton!”
There was a loud uproar in the hall!
Nicholas had no choice but to maintain order once again, silencing the dissatisfied as well as confused vassals even though he had a displeased expression himself.
“Wait.” The archduchess finally appeared to sense that something was wrong. She stuttered, “Y-Your Grace, are you—”
“And after my glorious victory, I will return after recreating your father and grandfather’s feat.” Ian paid no heed at all to Saroma, who had a shocked expression. He was lost in his own world. His tone was brimming with tender feelings.
“Of course, when that time comes, please kindly say yes to a request of mine. A request that makes me fully aware of how lowly and unworthy I am.”
“Re-Request?” Saroma’s face went pale.
For the first time, she met eyes with the six counts below her seat, who looked equally pale.
It seemed like they were only standing together as one at this point.
Ian extended his hands and gestured gently at the seated archduchess. “This is the City of Faraway Prayers’ way of saying thank you, and it is also a show of my sincerity, Saroma.
“I will use this mighty war to win the rights to approach you… At this moment, when your vassals are at odds with you, and there is an internal strife in your territory, I am the only person who can defend your family’s honor and safeguard your prestige as an archduchess.”
Saroma exchanged many looks with the counts, who were also caught off guard. Raising her head with difficulty, she awkwardly said, “Are you saying that…”
Next to Ian, Prince Thales’ expression was stiff.
His fists became increasingly tightly clenched.
Ian took a step forward once again and stared at Saroma from afar. There was a strange expression on his face.
“From now on, let me continue to protect you with my honor, my good maiden,” the young Roknee stated the reason he came, gently and indirectly. “Let the City of Faraway Prayers be your most powerful and strongest shield, and also your trump card.”
At this moment, the hall truly went dead silent.
The counts’ faces were pale like corpses.
With the most pining and gentle gaze, Ian’s tone was emotional and shaky, “Please let the Roknee Family and the Walton Family stand together for real to recreate our glory, beautiful and noble Archduchess Saroma Walton.” The young Ian placed his hand at the position of his heart and tried his best to suppress his voice.
He softly said, “Marry me.
“From now on, let us protect you and your family’s honor together.”
At this moment, the hall became deathly still.
All the people, from highly-ranked ones such as the archduchess and the six counts to the lower-ranked ones such as the other vassals and the guards, were stunned and speechless.
It was as though they just saw the most unbelievable scene in the world.
With an icy expression, the Prince of Constellation fixed his gaze on Ian’s leg. His fists were still clenched.
He had practically ripped his palms open.