Chapter 324: Returning the Favor
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
Thales had never thought that a king would get such an interesting response when appearing in front of his vassals. At that moment, all eyes were on the king.
Chapman Lampard stood impassively with his hands behind him while surrounded by the silence. However, it was as if he was exuding an invisible, solemn and pressuring aura that was exclusive to kings.
Viscount Kentvida and Kroesch stood, flanking the king from behind with apathetic expressions.
Not everyone recognized King Chapman. Therefore, other than Thales’ expression, there were only two types of expressions on the faces of the people in the hall: either solemn, or confused.
There were also people who exhibited both expressions at the same time, like Lisban, Nazaire, and the archduchess.
“Eckstedtians…” Viscount Kentvida walked forward solemnly. He announced sternly to everyone in the hall with his sonorous voice, speaking in the boorish and staccato tones exclusive to Northlanders, “Salute your king!”
Kentvida’s voice echoed in the hall.
In the next moment, it was as though a rainstorm suddenly fell. The puzzled nobles immediately erupted into a noisy discussion that was difficult to contain.
“What’s going on?”
“The king slayer is in Dragon Clouds City?”
“How did he get in?”
“Could it be that it was planned?”
“No, that prince…”
Some were suspicious, some were shocked, some were solemn, some were frightened, and some ground their teeth in hatred…
However, the archduchess and the six counts sank into a strange silence. Saroma’s face was pale. Lisban closed his eyes and said nothing.
Nazaire found it hard to conceal his surprised reaction while staring at the king. He then looked at the apathetic Thales with furrowed brow. Karkogel’s gaze was ferocious, and his breathing grew more rapid. It seemed to be the first time Hearst saw King Chapman. He fixed his solemn and scrutinizing gaze on the king.
On the other hand, Count Lyner and Count Cotterson were so shocked that they did not even have the strength to exchange looks anymore.
Ian from the City of Faraway Prayers was utterly shocked. He blinked continuously and stared in disbelief at the common-elected king who stood in the middle of the hall. Every now and then, he shot Thales a curious glance.
‘Is that the… wildly ambitious Archduke of Black Sand Region who uses frightening tactics? The one my father spoke off? The one who started the disaster in Dragon Clouds City six years ago?
‘How? Thales, you… and him…’ Ian’s face became paler and paler.
King Chapman maintained a calm expression. His movements were relaxed as he stood in the heart of the storm. He rested his left hand and placed it gently on the sword at his waist, paying no attention at all to the atmosphere around him.
The sound of discussion among the nobles grew louder with each passing second, and lasted until the king raised his head slowly and looked around.
King Chapman’s eyes were extremely cold and grave. Everywhere he looked, the people who met his gaze could not help but shudder. The nobles could not help but hold their breaths in unison.
The king only smiled a few seconds later. He stared at the nobles of Dragon Clouds City and chuckled as if he was ridiculing them.
Thales inhaled deeply and looked calmly at Wya and Ralf. Behind Kentvida and Kroesch, the Prince of Constellation’s two attendants had their heads lowered. They walked close to the wall and went beside the prince while maintaining a low profile.
‘In the end, things still progressed to this stage,’ the prince thought calmly. ‘The worst case scenario. The final card in my hand… My trump card.’
He nodded at the two men who had just returned.
Right then, Thales felt a chill crawl down his back. Someone was glaring maliciously at him.
…It was the Star Killer.
Nicholas had his gaze fixed on Lampard, as though he was staring at an enemy he would never forget. His eyes burned with pain and hatred.
He then looked at Thales, his gaze filled with anger and displeasure. At that moment, the Star Killer himself probably could not tell whether he hated King Chapman or Thales more.
Thales sighed softly. He turned, as though he did not see the Star Killer’s frightening expression.
“Dragon Clouds City, are all of you deaf?”
In the hall, Viscount Kentvida was very dissatisfied with the nobles’ attitudes. He waved his arm and shouted in fury, “In the name of the Joint Ruling Pledge, salute the overlord of the Northlanders in the Western Peninsula, the 46th Common-Elected King of Eckstedt and Glacier Quiquer… King Chapman Lampard!”
He glared furiously around the hall.
The place became quiet again. The vassals frowned and many of them looked at the archduchess.
Saroma inhaled deeply. She turned with difficulty and looked at King Chapman. Coincidentally, the king also turned and stared at Saroma with a sharp gaze. The young lady recalled what happened in the past and her face paled.
Count Lisban watched the archduchess with a somber expression. He then glanced at the king, sighed, and nodded.
“He is the king, and it is our duty to salute him in the name of the Joint Ruling Pledge,” the regent said softly to the girl.
Prompted by Lisban, Saroma swallowed hard and took a few deep breaths. She lifted the hem of her dress, left her seat and slowly went down the stairs… towards the highest ruler of Eckstedt.
“King Chapman.” She went in front of King Chapman and placed a hand on her chest. She bowed slightly and lowered her head in respect. “Welcome to Dragon Clouds City. I am quite surprised by your visit.”
As the archduchess did this, numerous sighs rose in the hall.
King Chapman stared at Saroma as he towered over her, then at the Cloud Dragon Spear emblem on her clothes. There was a hint of disappointment in his eyes that was not easy to spot.
He snorted softly and said in a rather profound tone, “Yes, I did not expect it as well. But life is often full of surprises, ruler of Dragon Clouds City.”
The king shifted his gaze to look around.
Then, rustling sounds echoed in the hall. All the Eckstedtians including the powerful counts, and Viscount Ian from the City of Faraway Prayers, rose from their seats, regardless of it being in fear or indignation. Then, they knelt on one knee to salute the King of Eckstedt, who stood in the center of the hall.
Thales watched everything quietly. It was as though he had returned to the day King Chapman was crowned six years ago. When he saw the vassals’ actions, Kentvida met with Kroesch’s eyes. They nodded in satisfaction and knelt down as well.
However, Kentvida then frowned, not everyone had knelt.
“Mute, stand back a little.” Wya pulled Ralf together with him as he stepped back. He spoke, softly and with dissatisfaction, “We’re the only ones standing, it’s a little too obvious…”
Ralf shrugged and pointed at another person in the hall. With his brows furrowed, he gestured, “It’s not just us.”
Before Wya could react, Kentvida’s dissatisfied voice rose once more.
“Count Cotterson… Why are you still standing and not saluting the king?”
Everyone stared in unison at one of the six most powerful counts of Dragon Clouds City, Phalen Castle’s Shawlon Cotterson, who stood with an indignant expression. He stood out like a sore thumb while surrounded by the vassals around him who were kneeling on one knee.
“I still remember the time all of us were young. We fooled around together in Dragon Clouds City… At that time, you respected and feared King Nuven.” Count Cotterson said coldly, “And now, you return to Dragon Clouds City and show off, Chapman?”
King Chapman’s eyebrows moved slightly. He snorted through his nose, as though he found this very interesting.
Cotterson braved the king’s gaze without showing any signs of weakness and said in a gruff voice, “Listen up, Chapman. We are the Archduchess of Dragon Clouds City’s vassals. And only hers. She’s the only one we salute.”
Saroma stared in shock at Cotterson, whom she had difficulty dealing with just now, as though this was the first time she truly got to know this harsh count.
Everyone in the hall stared silently at the confrontation between Cotterson and King Chapman. But the king paid no attention to Cotterson. He only shifted his gaze, as though he did not care at all.
“The Prince of Constellation is the only one who does not need to salute the king in this hall, Count Cotterson,” Kentvida said flatly.
The Viscount of the City of Halting Light revealed a malicious gaze.
“Are you a Constellatiate as well?”
The moment he said that, Count Cotterson’s face immediately turned livid with rage. Many people frowned simultaneously.
“Kneel down and show your loyalty to the king,” Kentvida said coldly.
Count Cotterson inhaled deeply and glared at the king in contempt. He then looked at Kentvida and was about to retort, but someone grabbed his shoulder.
Cotterson turned in surprise. Count Lyner was holding on to his shoulder with an unpleasant look.
“Kneel down. No matter what, he is the king. Etiquette is secondary in importance. But if you do not want to be known as a ‘disloyal person’ tomorrow for going against the Joint Ruling Pledge, and become a wedge between Dragon Clouds City and the king from now on…”
There was a warning edge in Count Lyner’s voice. “Kneel down. Do not cause trouble.”
Cotterson raised his head in outrage and glared at the king. He remembered something and revealed a conflicted expression. On the other hand, King Chapman stared back at him with an extremely calm expression.
A few seconds later, Cotterson clenched his teeth hard. In the end, he closed his eyes and knelt on one knee.
Cotterson’s hands, which were clutching onto his knees tightly, trembled slightly as though doing such a thing was an extremely huge disgrace to him.
The king’s cold chuckles echoed in the hall.
“If you do not want to kneel down, then you do not have to.” Like a person in a portrait who suddenly came alive, King Chapman’s expression became animated.
“A true Northlander would not think one way and behave in another.” He cast Cotterson a disdainful glance. “What do you say, Cotterson, my former acquaintance?”
Count Cotterson, who was already kneeling, had his face immediately turn extremely unpleasant.
“Rise and get back to your seats, everyone. Especially you, girl.” King Chapman shot a cold glance at Saroma. The latter could not help but grit her teeth. The king then took one look around him. “Please, do not let me ruin the mood.”
The vassals in the hall slowly stood up. It was followed by the sound of many people clenching their fists.
Below the archduchess’ seat, Count Nazaire said softly in a serious tone, “When did he come to Dragon Clouds City? You didn’t know beforehand?”
Opposite him, Lisban sighed. “At this point of time, is that still important?”
Nazaire shot a glance at the king, who acted as though there was no one else present, and snorted softly. “I thought that all of you would stop him, be it outside the city or outside the palace… instead of letting him enter without putting up a resistance, Your Grace.”
“I do want to,” Regent Lisban replied brusquely. “Perhaps we can also add a show called ‘Dragon Clouds City Shooting an Assassin who Broke into the Palace to Death’ for entertainment.”
However, Lisban immediately focused his gaze.
“We could add that show, if it were not for the fact that when he arrived, the news of the common-elected king honoring Dragon Clouds City with a visit had already spread through all of Dragon Clouds City.”
Nazaire’s gaze froze. “Spread through all of Dragon Clouds City?”
“Everyone knows that he is here with us now.” Lisban nodded warily and solemnly. “Once morning is over, I reckon that everyone in Eckstedt will know about it.”
Nazaire scowled and shifted his gaze away from the king’s head.
“Then, it is no longer possible for us to take the opportunity to get rid of him?”
“They came prepared, that is why they fear nothing.” The former prime minister’s expression was stiff. “We can only face his challenge head on.”
Nazaire snorted softly and looked at the unique teenager. “It seems that all of us, all of Dragon Clouds City, have been horribly played… by that young prince.”
Lisban said nothing, but, like his former friend, he fixed his gaze on Thales.
The prince only stood quietly and did not move. He seemed not to care even the slightest about King Chapman, who stood not far from him.
Beside him, Ian from the City of Faraway Prayers stared at Thales with a hesitant expression. He then looked at King Chapman who showed up suddenly, and subconsciously shook his head.
After returning to her seat, Saroma inhaled deeply and glanced worriedly at Thales, who was expressionless just like the king.
It was only at that moment that she asked fearfully, “May I enquire about the reason of your visit, Your Majesty? After all, we are holding Dragon Clouds City’s hearing right now. If you do not mind, after this, we can—”
The king interrupted her.
“Of course.” King Chapman did not waste any time. He took great strides forward and started sizing up the six counts, whose expressions were varied. He went straight to the point.
“I am here to help.”
The king’s powerful voice echoed in the hall. The vassals furrowed their brows in unison.
“Help?” Saroma repeated unsurely.
“Yes.” After Kentvida whispered beside his ear, King Chapman turned and sighed. “But before this…”[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
As the king shifted his gaze, the vassals’ eyes followed, and they were filled with doubt.
Finally, the king rested his gaze on the heir to the City of Faraway Prayers.
“Ah, you are from the City of Faraway Prayers?” King Chapman asked, enunciating each word clearly. His gaze was like that of a wild beast that had been lurking around in the area for a long time as he stared at Ian.
“What a surprise.”
Ian was shocked and his entire body stiffened. An unexplainable fear rose in his heart.
He never expected to face his most frightening opponent so early, so soon, and in such an awkward manner during this journey to Dragon Clouds City.
In the face of the king’s extremely compelling stare, Ian said instinctively, “I believe this is the first time we meet, Your Majesty. Your humble servant—”
“Roknee’s son.” The king waved and did not let him finish. “I heard that you are here to ask for the Archduchess of Dragon Clouds City’s hand in marriage?”
Ian was immediately lost for words. He had thought of the possible ways the king would start the conversation: by the exchange of standard greetings, by exposing his past misdeeds, by condemning him, by gauging his strength…
“That is a bad idea.” King Chapman snorted coldly. “You are of unworthy status. It would be better if your father comes to propose himself. Is this not his favorite thing to do?”
Ian’s face immediately went pale.
Kroesch chuckled behind the king once she realized something. Beside her, Viscount Kentvida flashed a smile.
Two seconds later, Ian, who had lost his cool, finally regained his composure.
Pretending to be calm, he replied in his usual, relaxed tone. “It is not quite appropriate for you to say this. After all, I am the heir to the Roknee Family and the City of Faraway Prayers.”
Ian deliberately enunciated each of his words clearly. “Before you inherited the position and became an archduke, your status was equal to mine of right now, was it not?”
The vassals of Dragon Clouds City furrowed their brows at the same time.
Once he heard Ian’s sardonic words, King Chapman snorted softly and said nonchalantly, “Really? An heir? Of equal status to me? Then, why have you not killed your older sister?”
Everyone in the hall went quiet at that moment.
This time, Ian was rendered completely speechless. Thales sighed when he saw Ian react this way. Yes, he knew that feeling.
Everyone who had gone toe-to-toe against Lampard would have experienced this kind of pressure before—a suffocating feeling caused by Lampard’s cold gaze and piercing words.
‘And… Lampard had always been the type to not attack when others do, but when he does, his attacks would be astonishing.’
The king’s voice echoed once more. “Your sister is still alive.” The king started walking slowly. At the same time, he said flatly, “How the f*ck are you considered an heir?”
At that moment, Thales seemed to be able to hear Ian’s heart being struck by the heavy hammer that was King Chapman’s words. And in response to King Chapman’s words, Ian’s heart was like a block of ice that was cracking in two, inch by inch.
The Viscount of Dual Wind City did not speak for a long time. The hall was utterly silent. Everyone listened quietly to the king. Ian’s tactics before this had made him quite a lot of enemies in Dragon Clouds City, to the point that no one wanted to lend him a helping hand.
‘No. There’s still someone.’
“Your Majesty,” Saroma said indignantly, “perhaps you should return to the main topic.
King Chapman arched an eyebrow. “Oh, of course. Such as the fact that the City of Faraway Prayers that rules the western part of Eckstedt sent a viscount, who is not even prioritized when it comes to the right of inheritance, to seek a union with Dragon Clouds City through marriage.”
Many people had their expressions turn sour upon hearing those words.
“Ian.” Monty, the Raven of Death, reminded the absent-minded Ian in a soft voice, “Do something.”
As he was reminded, Ian trembled violently. He was suddenly aware that King Chapman came to attack the City of Faraway Prayers…
The young heir to the City of Faraway Prayers forced a smile. “You are mistaken. In the City of Faraway Prayers, according to the tradition of the Northlanders, my elder sister does not have the right of inheritance…”
Once he heard this, Thales sighed and closed his eyes.
‘This match between Chapman Lampard and Ian Roknee is like the one between me, the Prince of Constellation, and the Star Killer in a sparring match.
‘Whether it’s our sword duel or their battle of words, both Ian and I… are not on the same level as Lampard and Nicholas.’
The king snorted coldly. At the same time, he cast Saroma, who interrupted him just now, a warning glare.
“No right of inheritance? Is it, now?”
King Chapman spoke with his usual tone and in a languid manner, but the words he said caused the expressions of all the vassals in Dragon Clouds City to change drastically. “Are you suggesting that Saroma Walton, the Archduchess of Dragon Clouds City, who is also a lady,?and whom all the archdukes, including myself and your father, have acknowledged… has no right of inheritance as well?”
Saroma’s breathing quickened while she remained seated in the archduchess’ seat. She stared at King Chapman in a daze.
Ian was stunned again. In the face of the king’s gaze and words, his tongue became tied, and his jaw quivered without pause. He could not say a single word for a long time.
Ian, who usually paid no mind to trivial matters when he spoke to other people, was actually rendered speechless in that moment.
The king did not give them much time to digest this. He soon spoke again and broke the uncomfortable silence in the hall.
“Hmph, don’t treat it so seriously. It’s just a joke.”
With a cold glance, King Chapman looked askance at Ian. “As for your father’s proposal… Fortunately, you are not that foolish. If both your families are truly united through marriage, then I would not be here to help.”
The king swept his gaze over the crowd in the hall. His words were filled with a great chilliness. “Instead, I would have come here… to declare war for the future of Eckstedt.”
The atmosphere in the hall froze. The vassals became wary in their hearts. And the usually eloquent Ian looked as though someone had cut off his tongue. He had no way of retorting.
Ian turned towards Thales, unwilling to admit defeat.
‘Damn it. Damn it! He knows the situation in the City of Faraway Prayers like the back of his hand, and he has already been prepared for it a long time ago. He’s not even giving me a chance to breathe.
‘Thales… when you, my father, and all the other people, were trapped in that hopeless situation in Dragon Clouds City six years ago, just how did you stand against someone like Chapman Lampard and not be caught in a disadvantageous situation?’
Lisban and Nazaire cast each other a glance simultaneously, and they saw the uneasiness and nervousness in each other’s eyes.
“By the way…”
King Chapman raised his head again and sized up the decorations in the hall, but his words to Ian did not lose their edge. “I heard that Archduke Roknee has apparently become very close to some of my restless vassals lately.”
The vassals’ expressions changed.
“They are not very close.” Ian sucked in a deep breath and chased away the discomfort brought on by the pressure from the king as well as tried to regain his composure. He forced a smile with all his might. “Under the Joint Ruling Pledge, we pay close attention to each noble in the country so that we can ensure their natural, legitimate right to rule is not infringed upon. Please forgive us for that.”
Thales closed his eyes gently.
‘You’re indeed not “very close”. The City of Faraway Prayers is the one behind the scenes itself.’
The king’s gaze was fixed on the Soul Slayer Pike behind the archduchess, as if he was distracted by the memories of the past. He snorted softly—seemingly unintentionally—as a response.
But Thales knew that King Chapman was not daydreaming.
“Is that so?” Chapman the First seemed to have just snapped out of his daze as he said faintly, “Ah, I almost forgot, your father, Kulgon is a very generous and righteous person.”
King Chapman sighed. “That was why when I heard that the City of Faraway Prayers was in danger, I cast aside all my own problems and traveled a long distance here so that I could help.”
The vassals in Dragon Clouds City became wary. The military situation in the City of Faraway Prayers was connected to whether Dragon Clouds City would support them and also connected to the game of power between the archdukes and the king.
“Everything in the City of Faraway Prayers is well.” Ian became completely on guard. He spoke warily, “You… You do not have to worry.”
Ian fixed his stare on King Chapman.
All of Ian’s previous expectations and impressions of Archduke Lampard and King Chapman… had long since been destroyed during their meeting and the few words they exchanged with each other.
This king was an incredibly terrifying opponent… But Ian still underestimated this king who had been on the throne for six years.
“Really? I do not need to worry?”
King Chapman’s intonation was raised slightly at the end of his sentence. He turned to the person whom he had not paid any attention to since the moment he came in. It was also the same person whom had been temporarily overlooked by everyone due to the king’s arrival.
“What do you say… Prince Thales?”
Everyone in the hall was stunned.
‘What? Then, does that mean…’
Lisban and Nazaire’s eyes were locked onto the prince, and their gazes were especially sharp.
Under the scrutiny of so many people, Thales sucked in a deep breath and opened his eyes.
‘It’s my turn. Since we’re on this step now…’
He swept his gaze over the vassals of Dragon Clouds City before eventually casting his gaze on Saroma while she remained seated on the highest spot.
Saroma stared at him with an incredulous look, her eyes seemed to be asking him one single question, ‘What’s going on?’
‘Remember my words, Saroma: No matter what happens, you must choose the path most suited for an archduchess.’
In the next second, Thales turned around steadily and resolutely to face the hall full of curious gazes. In the face of the seemingly calm King Chapman, he spoke softly, “About that… Looks like the City of Faraway Prayers discovered Constellation’s army in the Great Desert. That’s all.”
Thales delivered his information in the shortest and most concise manner to King Chapman.
Once Thales finished speaking, he pursed his lips tightly.
Ian opened his mouth in shock, but he only managed to say half his words. “Thales, are you… truly… with him…”
In the face of Ian’s accusations, Thales remained calm, as if he did not hear him.
Saroma stared at Thales blankly. The puzzlement in her eyes grew deeper. In the face of Saroma’s puzzlement, Thales retained an expression as calm as water. He did not give her any response.
On the other side, the Star Killer’s gaze on Thales grew darker, there was even hate in his eyes. In the face of the Star Killer’s enraged gaze, a chilly look appeared in Thales’ eyes, not a single hint of emotion appeared in them.
The Regent Lisban stared at Thales in shock. He creased his brow deeply and remembered the things he did just now.
Thales’ words had also incited the rage of the vassals of Dragon Clouds City again. Sounds of discussion as loud as tidal waves came crashing into his ears and threatened to drown him.
Count Cotterson of Dragon Clouds City gritted his teeth and said, “Hey, you little bra—”
But his words were interrupted. Count Nazaire held him back with a grave expression and shook his head.
“Your Highness, is this your plan?” Wya, who had come to listen to the hearing council for the first time, immediately whispered into his prince’s ear nervously, “It seems… like things are not going too well.”
Ralf cast the attendant a contemptuous look.
‘THIS is bad? You haven’t seen how the Northlanders were talking about how they should dismember the prince earlier.’
In the face of these people’s gazes and discussions, Thales only showed indifference, as if none of this was relevant to him. He only waited quietly for King Chapman’s response.
King Chapman frowned slightly and remained still for several seconds, as if he was digesting this piece of information.
Several seconds later, the frown was gone, and his sonorous voice rang throughout the hall, cutting off the vassals’ discussion.
“Look!” The king calmly turned around and faced the entire Hall of Heroes. “This is the problem I said the City of Faraway Prayers is currently facing.”
In the face of the pressure given to them by the king, the hall instantly fell silent. King Chapman sighed as if he was sympathizing with them greatly.
“If Constellation truly intervenes, then it would not be easy for the City of Faraway Prayers to deal with the Alliance of Freedom.” He said in a contemplative tone, “This is indeed a problem.”
Under the gaze of the crowd in the hall, King Chapman curled his lips up to reveal a rarely seen smile.
He spoke with his sonorous voice again, “Prince Thales, what say you come to Black Sand City and become our guest?”
The vassals and envoys were all taken aback. Thales frowned deeply.
Saroma was the first to react to the situation. She cried out in surprise, “Your Majesty, what did you just say?!”
Lisban, Nazaire, and all the other people’s expressions changed. Under the numerous shocked or confused gazes, King Chapman smiled coldly.
He cast a glance at Ian, who had yet to react to the situation, and sneered in a derisive manner. “I meant to say that for the benefit of the City of Faraway Prayers in regards to the Alliance of Freedom, I will use the name of the king to receive Prince Thales, though it would be a very difficult task. I will also communicate with King Kessel.”
“The prince… to Black Sand Region?” he mumbled. But soon, once he thought things through, Ian jolted.
“No.” He stood up in panic. His face was pale. “No! Prince Thales cannot go to Black Sand—”
“No need to be shy, Viscount Ian.” Viscount Kentvida sniggered. “After all, it is just as His Majesty said, we are here to help.”
King Chapman put on a strange expression, it was as though he was a cat who had caught the mouse. Chapman Lampard stared at Ian who had lost his composure. His eyes were filled with a terrifying, chilling glare, as he hissed his words,
“That is right. Since Kulgon Roknee is so passionate to the point of not forgetting about the vassals in Black Sand Region despite being situated at the border, then we must naturally return the favor.”