Chapter 333: Smooth-Sailing
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
The both of them faced each other diagonally. They were leaning against the wall, looking at each other in silence.
It took a long while before Thales let out a cough and began to say in a soft voice, “What are the circumstances above now—in Dragon Clouds City?”
Raphael opened his eyes. “Very bad.” The pupils of the newcomer from the Secret Intelligence Department constricted.
“Since King Nuven’s death six years ago, the Star Killer’s White Blade Guards flashed their blades ferociously. Regardless of all costs and as if they’d gone mad, they purged the underground intelligence of Dragon Clouds City. They nearly forged the entire city into an airtight metal canister. Even the Secret Room suffered disastrous losses and we have suffered even more.
“Now, the Prince of Constellation has disappeared. This matter involves far too many other problems, it concerns war…”
Raphael’s tone was grave, and his complexion was unpleasant. His red pupils gave away an unsettling sensation.
“Dragon Clouds City has been completely locked down. Entry is permitted but not exits. They are conducting a strict house by house search. I heard that the Star Killer is furious, that he is searching through the whole city like a lunatic, not letting any channels or information slip by. He captured group after group of suspicious figures, one of them even included certain important nobles. He refuses to receive anyone’s gifts or show anyone respect. And the ever-prudent Lisban is even giving him his full support behind the scenes.”
Thales listened wordlessly to the other party’s narration.
“So, your search for Lampard today messed up our plan, and it was seriously too idiotic. And us taking the risk to rescue you was the worst possible plan we could employ.”
Raphael’s complexion grew tense. “At least now, everyone from the commoners to the nobility in Dragon Clouds City are on edge, and everyone feels insecure. Nearly all the escape routes of the Secret Intelligence Department cannot be used anymore.”
When he heard this, Thales heaved a heavy sigh.
Raphael saw the prince’s expression. He cleared his throat and changed the topic. “But it’s not like there aren’t any good news. The problems mentioned on the day of the state affairs hearing involves far too many other matters, the underground forces in the city are in chaos right now.
“Whether it’s the various great vassals or suzerains serving Dragon Clouds City, or the City of Faraway Prayers coming here with a different motive, and Black Sand Region coming here looking for trouble. Everyone from these cities are under suspicion of kidnapping you since you disappeared. Furthermore, they don’t believe in each other, so much that they are hostile against one another.
“If it was some other time, we might not have met with such a good chance to risk rescuing you.”
As he listened to Raphael consoling him, Thales forced out a laugh. The prince forced himself to cheer up and asked, “So we’re going to be stuck here, without any chances of leaving?”
Raphael shrugged. “Viscount Putray said he had an unorthodox method. Right now, he’s contacting—”
But before he could finish speaking, a third person’s words rose in the dark passage. “Soon, Your Highness. You will depart at dusk.”
Thales and Raphael stood up at the same time and turned towards the other side of the passage.
There, a middle-aged man held an Everlasting Lamp as he walked over slowly.
“Putray!” Thales’ eyelid twitched as he exclaimed in surprise and delight, “I haven’t seen you since I left the hall. What happened to you?”
The thin Putray forced a smile onto his exhausted face. “Thanks to you, I’m alright for the time being. When Lampard appeared in front of the hall, I felt that something was not quite right, so I slipped out immediately to arrange things.”
After seeing him, Thales felt his nervous and gloomy mood improve instantly. Raphael sneered. The emotions in his eyes were indistinguishable. However, Thales’ expression changed immediately.
“Wait a minute, you said that I have to depart at dawn.” Thales mulled over this sentence and was subsequently alarmed. He looked back and forth between Raphael and Putray. “You-you’re not coming with me?”
Raphael and Putray exchanged a glance.
The Barren Bone man pursed his lips and schooled his expression. “If the Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department presents themselves as indifferent and remained quiet on a matter as great as the disappearance of the Prince of Constellation, wouldn’t it be too suspicious?”
Raphael looked at the puzzled Thales and nodded. “Yes. Besides, not only will I not be able to leave, I even have to show up immediately and search for information everywhere anxiously, just like a normal member of the kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department. It would even be best if the Star Killer finds me and locks me in prison. If he did that, it’ll be even easier for us to hide your escape.”
Thales was stunned. He stared blankly at Raphael, who was clothed in white from head to toe and remained calm. For a moment, he was speechless.
‘Ah, I see.’
Thales pursed his lips.
Right, he escaped. But… he had really mixed feelings right then.
“Yes, Your Highness.” Putray smiled faintly, but his smile appeared rather pained to Thales. “Although the arrangements are in order, you will have to walk alone for the journey ahead.”
Thales turned to Putray and smoothed out the crease between his brow, but Putray just stared at him quietly. Finally, the prince managed to keep all his other emotions from showing on his face.
“Is that so?” He put away all his other facial expressions and nodded indifferently.
At the side, Raphael asked coldly, “Speaking of which, who else among the people around you might know that you fled here today? We have to consider the worst possibilities.”
Thales dispersed the gloom in his heart with every ounce of his strength, then forced himself to cheer up.
“Nobody knows.” The prince pondered for a moment. “Apart from Aida and Genard, whom had to know, I only gave Wya some hints.”
‘Poor Wya. I hope you can remember why I told you “No matter what happens, don’t panic”. Luckily, the sensitive Ralf should have felt something before I left.’
“Very well,” Raphael said seriously, “Any other leaks or threats?”
Thales shifted his gaze and thought carefully.
“Among the Archduchess’ Guards under Justin who were responsible for protecting me, there were four who were specially assigned to monitor my travels. One of them might suspect Jennie, but it’s fine. I’ve destroyed all the messages on her.”
Thales shook his head. “One of the archduchess’ maidservants was tasked with a mission. She often eavesdropped on the conversations between the archduchess and I during the past six years, such as my goodbye to the archduchess this time. Still, it should be fine, she should think that I said goodbye because I was going to Black Sand Region.
“The servant who cleans my room is Lisban and Nicholas’ spy. He frequently takes advantage when I’m not around to secretly flip through my books, letters, and even sketches that I randomly drew. But I’ve made sure that I did not leave behind anything questionable.”
Thales continued speaking as he mulled over his thoughts. The other two’s brows would crease deeper with every point he brought up.
“Aida told me that an Archduchess’ Guard, who was once a scout and was responsible for guarding the rooftop, could use a reed to listen in on my conversations with the servants in my room at night. So, whenever he starts eavesdropping, I would switch the topic intentionally. Furthermore, I rarely discussed any recent developments with them these days.
“Nicholas and Ginghes would judge my anomalies based on the patterns of my work, rest, and habits. Still, because of this fact, I behaved spontaneously as much as I could when it came to my resting spots in the palace, or the timing of my work and rests. They shouldn’t have been able to find any patterns. And this time, I left under the guise of meeting Lampard, it wouldn’t raise any suspicions.
“Lord Justin has a small notebook. Everytime I come out to play chess, he would secretly take note of my every move, conversation partners, travel routes, and even my motions when I’m riding the horse. Even after it has ended, he would come up to record the outcome of my chessboard—Justin suspects that it’s a secret communication signal. But fortunately, everything I do in the chess room is completely unrelated to this cellar.
“As for the others, I can’t think of anything at the moment.” Thales finished speaking and looked at the two men again.
Raphael and Putray glanced at one another. They both seemed somewhat surprised.
‘This boy… Just how did he manage to survive the past six years in Dragon Clouds City?’
‘In reality,’ Thales said quietly to himself, ‘There’s even more than just all these. Sigh. I can most probably publish a book in the future, “The Prince in Northland: My Days Engaging the Star Killer in a Battle of Wits and Courage”.’
Raphael coughed and said, somewhat unnaturally, “Sounds alright.”
Putray let out an almost imperceptible sigh and nodded. “Very well. I’ve arranged your departure from the city. Thanks to the leads from some friends, though not as dependable as my own people, you shouldn’t encounter any issues.”
Thales let out a hum, but immediately afterwards, he thought of something. The prince frowned and said,
“What about after I’ve left the city? I can guarantee that after such a large issue, the pathways south of Dragon Clouds City would already be filled with inspection posts. They will be on the lookout for every thirteen- to fourteen-year-old boy.
“I suppose that it would be the same in Prestige Orchid Region and Black Sand Region. In order to prevent me from returning to Constellation, there will be a blockade around the perimeter of Broken Dragon Fortress again. Even birds cannot fly past it. How am I to return to Constellation?”
This time, Putray and Raphael exchanged a glance again. They were both apparently smiling.
“Correct. Lampard wouldn’t simply allow you to pass through Black Sand Region.” Putray smiled as he shook his head. “So, no. We won’t go south.”
“Won’t go south?”
Thales pondered for a moment, then said solemnly, “Alright, so we’ll be going in another direction. North is already out of the question, unless I want to seek refuge with the orcs of Glacier Quiquer. So, I will either head east, where I would trudge a thousand miles and go through Beacon Illumination City to arrive in Elaphure City, or I will take a boat south to Constellation—”
However, while Thales was busy wracking his brain to think, Putray raised one finger. He wagged it gently and interrupted the prince.
“No, we will also not go east, and definitely not by boat,” he said resolutely, “You go west.”
Thales was momentarily stunned. “Go west?”
Raphael’s expression did not change as he continued nodding. “First, you enter the territory of the City of Faraway Prayers. From there, go down south to the Great Desert, then head east from the desert until you arrive in Constellation’s Western Desert Hill.”
‘Wait a minute.’
Thales recalled the words Quide used to threaten him in the past when he was still a child-beggar in the Abandoned Houses. It was something that happened in his memory a long, long time ago.
‘”Son of a b*tch! Tomorrow! Tomorrow, I’m going to sell you little brats to the Great Desert and let the Barren Bone people feast on you!”‘
“South… to the Great Desert?” Thales furrowed his brow. He was in disbelief. “That chaotic Great Desert filled with desert bandits, rogues, criminals, and even the Barren Bone tribe and orcs?
“That terrible, awful, bloody and complicated, perilous Great Desert, filled with various strange legends that even the Ancient Empire could not vanquish?”
Raphael did not say anything, but gazed at him firmly.
The prince clicked his tongue and repeated his adverbs thrice. “That’s much, much, much harder than going south to Black Sand Region. Are you serious?”
Putray snickered. Then, the middle-aged man sighed. “Yes, Your Highness. You have to go through a part of what ‘used to be’ that chaotic Great Desert filled with desert bandits, rogues, criminals, and even the Barren Bone tribe and orcs…”
Thales caught the keyword in an instant. His brain seemed to have come to a halt momentarily before it restarted in a flash.
“Wait a minute.” His mouth hung open in astoundment. “You said ‘used to’?”
‘Used to? It can’t be. That means…’
An incredible thought flashed in his brain like a bolt of lightning. Thales’ eyes became unfocused, his breathing began to accelerate, and he could do nothing to control it. In that moment, his heart skipped a beat.
The prince raised his head abruptly. He stared firmly at the smiling Putray and his tone was nervous. “Putray. Constellation’s army, two thousand cavaliers and whatnot. They crossed over Blade Fangs Dune Camp, something that had never happened before in Constellation’s history. They went over a small part of the desert to reach the shared border between the City of Faraway Prayers and the Alliance of Freedom…”
When he heard the prince’s words, Putray laughed once more. Thales became more certain of his thoughts when he saw Putray’s expression. He finally asked a rhetorical question in astonishment, “They did not go there to provide assistance to the Alliance of Freedom, did they?”
Raphael snorted coldly and turned his head around.
“Of course not.” Putray took over the conversation. His smile faded away, and he said plainly, “The Alliance of Freedom? Hmph.” He shook his head and said with disdain, “If that group of people couldn’t obtain the Great Dragon’s friendship, then what right do they have to think they could get Constellation’s?”
Thales widened his eyes to their largest extent. “So, Constellation’s army. Their purpose… They were, they were…”
Raphael shook his head and clicked his tongue.
Putray snorted lightly and sighed before he said, “Correct.”
In that instant, Thales finally understood. ‘Constellation’s army… they were… they were…
“So that’s why.” The prince leaned limply against the wall and let out a relieved sigh.
At that moment, his emotions were incredibly complex. They were mixed with the shock of having suddenly understood something, then sadness, and a delayed sense of relief.
“I even felt that something was off. Why would Lady Jines, who had always been swift and decisive, actually warn me repeatedly to ‘eat more sow thistles of the Western Desert’ in Gilbert’s letter? Heh, sow thistles of the Western Desert. Heh, Western Desert. She meant…”
Thales let out a bitter laugh.?He sounded like he was in agony and emotions surged in him. For a time, he found himself unable to continue speaking.
Putray nodded slowly as he watched the prince’s expression, then took over the conversation. “Yes. For the past few months, thousands of Constellatiate troops have departed from the Western Desert and marched all the way northwest. As the most unrivaled force in the desert, they wiped out the northeastern part of the Great Desert, sparing no pains on their way to the Alliance of Freedom. They have already cleared everything in the desert between Eckstedt and Constellation.”
He let out a long sigh, “As for the City of Faraway Prayers, since Roknee thought we wanted to interfere in his expedition to the west and subjugate the Alliance of Freedom, then all his heavy infantry will be placed at the western border. He will focus entirely on defending against the Alliance of Freedom, and thus will be too busy to attend to matters in the east or to the internal affairs of the desert.”
Thales closed his eyes gently.
Putray’s voice continued to travel into his ears. “And those Constellatiate troops… They were willing to head deep into the desert regardless of the costs and injuries they had to suffer, to chase away or eliminate all threats from the bandits, orcs, Barren Bone tribe, and even force the City of Faraway Prayers to draw their forces back…
“…Because of you, second prince, the heir to the kingdom south of Northland.”
Right then, Thales felt an indescribable weight in his heart.?Cold sweat broke out on his forehead.
‘For me… They marched west, headed deep into the desert… for me!’ Nobody could understand his feelings in that moment.
“As long as you leave Dragon Clouds City…” Putray’s voice remained calm, but buried in his words was the pride towards the brilliance of Constellation’s might, one that would intimidate other people’s hearts, and it was the brilliance that belonged solely to the country—the Western Peninsula’s Shield.
“Regardless of whether it is the very intimidating and valiant Northlanders, or the once impassable and chaotic Great Desert, an army, inspection posts, bandits or orcs, every hindrance has been equally cleared out from the City of Faraway Prayers to the Western Desert Hill. Only Constellation’s own army and flag remains in the desert, and they are awaiting your return.”
At that moment, Thales gritted his teeth lightly. His expression was tense.
Putray was heard speaking indifferently, but his words did not lack spirit. “With the tens of thousands of advancing soldiers, the hard work done by countless officials who worked around the clock, and the might of the progressively recovering Constellation…
“Prince Thales, from now on, you will have a smooth-sail back to your country.”