Chapter 339: His/Her Eyes
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
“Haha, of course I am not dead.”
Hicks supported himself with his walking stick and walked laboriously towards them. He chuckled. “You forgot that we read my fortune in that tent—I will live a long life.”
Gleeward revealed a look of distaste that showed that he did not believe in what Hicks just said.
“As for you, Drew.” Hicks retained his usual smile and shot a glance at the already dumbfounded Thales. He then looked once more at Gleeward on the wheelchair, his gaze lingering on Gleeward’s missing legs.
“It is obvious that you are a lot ‘thinner’, Little Hedgehog. I really miss the days when we used to eat sand in the desert…”
Those words were quite effective. Thales who was held hostage, and Kevin who was driving, both froze.
‘Little Hedgehog? What Little Hedgehog? Who is the Little Hedgehog?’
Gleeward twisted his body on his wheelchair and started coughing in a very unnatural manner.
“Cough, cough. Alright, alright.”
But Hicks continued to speak, apparently still feeling sentimental. “I still remember what you were forced to do with those Barren Bone women in that tent…”
In that instant, Gleeward’s face flushed as red as a prune. Only the darkness of the night could conceal it a little.
Before Thales and Kevin shifted their admiring but also skeptical gazes to him, Gleeward cut Hicks’ cheerful chatter off in exasperation. “Shut up, shut up, shut up, old man!”
Hicks shrugged. Gleeward glared at Hicks with an unpleasant look. He panted while he pondered over something.
“Kevin, thank you for sending him here. Now, please go away.” Gleeward stopped talking. He felt that his words were not threatening enough to serve as a warning for Kevin, which could potentially bring him harm. He then narrowed his eyes and warned in a soft voice, “Hey, you don’t want to hear something that would make me want to kill you, do you?”
Kevin trembled slightly. He glanced at the barely breathing teenager in his chief’s bosom, and flashed a panicked and strange smile. “Alright… chief.”
On this day, he had come to completely renew his perspective of Chief Gleeward.
‘No, no, no.’ Kevin shook his head. ‘I should say this instead, “As expected of the Chief of Shield District and Hammer District. From his domineering presence to his peculiar hobbies, he really exhibits the bearing of a leader.”‘
After Kevin went far away, Gleeward finally heaved a sigh of relief. The veteran looked at Hicks in annoyance.
“Very well, Old Crow. Since you’re in Dragon Clouds City, very well… I’ll treat you to a meal; as long as it’s within my territory, you can choose any place you want. But…”
Gleeward’s expression shifted. His tone changed and he spoke harshly with a fierce look, “You’re not f*cking allowed to talk about the past. Not even one word!” He looked extremely stern.
Thales listened to their conversation in puzzlement. He could already guess a few things. Still, he would rather remain silent at this time and leave everything to Hicks.
“Really? What a pity.” Hicks sighed as though he felt deep regret that he could not talk about the past. He clicked his tongue continuously. “Those precious days cannot be easily forgotten. In the Desert God’s Animal Cage, we were enslaved and lost all our dignity. You drank your own blood and fought opponent after opponent to death, whether they were human or not. You lived a life where you fought for the last mouthful of rotten food and had to grit your teeth to stay alive… Until…”
Gleeward’s expression changed again. “Argh! Seriously, f*ck it.” Pained and vexed, he shut his eyes and said fiercely, “Shut up, shut up, shut up! I told you not to talk about it anymore!”
Hicks nodded with a smile. He placed his hands on his walking stick for support and coughed softly.
Gleeward made sure he saw that Hicks was no longer talking before he exhaled slowly, as though he had just avoided a great danger. He shook Thales, who was still in his hands. “Alright, tell me what you have to say. I’m in a rush to make a fortune.”
Once he said this, Gleeward suddenly stopped talking. The veteran furrowed his eyebrows, then he sized up Thales, who no longer struggled but was doing his best to recover his strength. He then looked at Hicks who had just arrived.
On the other hand, Hicks was still smiling mysteriously and watching him quietly. “So, Gleeward, I want to ask you for a favor.”
Gleeward’s expression froze on his face. Thales then felt the grip on his body loosen. Gleeward had let go of him.
The veteran stared at his hostage in disbelief, and then at his old friend. “F*ck you, Old Crow. You didn’t ask to meet me in this strange place because of a whim, did you?”
Thales lay with his face flat on the ground, and felt that his limbs had gone numb and limp due to the lack of oxygen for extended periods of time.
“This brat did not suddenly appear out of coincidence either, right?”
In the face of Gleeward’s bewildered and skeptical questions, Hicks smiled in agreement, then shook his head. “Of course not.” He supported himself with his walking stick and walked forward slowly. “You’re right, I want to ask you to help him.” Hicks’ expression slowly turned solemn. “To ask you to bring Prince Thales out of Dragon Clouds City to the designated place safely, confidentially, and in the face of great adversity.
“Gleeward, right now, you are the only one in Dragon Clouds City who can do this.”
The three of them sank into silence. Thales propped himself up from the ground with his arms and stood up with much difficulty.?He flashed a smile, which was a rare sight on this night.
‘As expected. The point of contact Putray spoke about is Hicks. His—no, their respected teacher.’
“It’s you, teacher.” Thales flashed Hicks a friendly and grateful smile, acting in accordance with Putray’s advice. “I’m sorry for not saying goodbye before this.”
Hicks responded with a smile and even winked mischievously. His eye sparkled behind his monocle. “It’s not too late to do so now.”
Thales nodded and smiled in spite of himself.
‘So, the way Putray mentioned, to have someone sneak me out of the city in secret, is actually—’
“No way!” Gleeward’s crude voice came once again. Puzzled, Thales looked at the veteran in front of him.
Gleeward’s looked furious, and his breathing was rapid. He fixed his gaze on the Old Crow. “Considering our past friendship, I can treat you to a meal or something. But this problem?” Gleeward pointed at Thales in exasperation. “This is not ‘a favor’. It’s trouble, as great as the calamity itself!”
Thales arched an eyebrow.
“Once I’m found out to have sent this prince out of the city—”
“But they have already found out, haven’t they?” Hicks cut him off with a smile. “Just like in the past, we are experts at running away, whether it’s from the Desert God’s Animal Cage or from the Barren Bone people’s tents.”
Thales thought of something. ‘Barren Bone people. And the Desert God…?’
Gleeward looked like he was choking. He opened his mouth and it twitched for a few seconds. In the end, he waved his large hand. “Don’t talk about the past. And… this isn’t about me being discovered or not.”
The veteran turned towards Hicks with an extremely annoyed expression. “This matter is too risky, and involves the lives and deaths of far too many of my underlings. Do you know what the Star Killer will do to Shield District if he finds out? And he’s not the worst one. Lisban and those rotten people from the disciplinary hall are more evil…”
With every sentence Gleeward said, old Hicks nodded a little as though he was listening to Gleeward pour out his heart.
Gleeward snorted in dissatisfaction. “You don’t know how chaotic Dragon Clouds City is after Nuven died. Do you know what kind of fate await my brothers if I fall? I just want to stay as far away as possible from this rotten problem—”
Thales coughed. “You wanted to hand me over in exchange for a reward just now.”
Gleeward’s face tensed up. He glared fiercely at Thales when he got exposed. “Shut up! Brat!”
He turned again and said to Hicks, “Help him? A Constellatiate to boot? No way. Not even if our friendship was stronger!”
Gleeward’s tone was resolute and left no room for doubt. Hicks sighed but said nothing else. The atmosphere became cold again.
A few seconds later…
“We will end our conversation here, Old Crow.” Gleeward snorted coldly and gestured to Thales with his chin. “Out of consideration for you, I won’t hand him over to exchange for a reward. Bring him to someone else and stay as far away from me as possible. I’ll pretend that I never saw you.”
Thales’ expression turned gloomy. ‘What…?’
Hicks slowly furrowed his eyebrows. His emaciated hand, which rested on his walking stick, trembled slightly. But he then relaxed his brow.
“Alright, Gleeward.” Hicks flashed a smile once more. “Before I leave, I only ask for you to do one more thing.”
Gleeward widened his eyes and tilted his head. He looked like he was asking Hicks what else he wanted. “Hey, hey. You…”
“Haih…” Hicks’ expression changed in an instant. He shook his head in deep regret. “You know, sometimes my memories would haunt me at night, and I would remember our past in the Sugar Glider Tribe…”
“Alright, alright, alright…” Gleeward cut him off in a manner that was like he was begging Hicks for mercy.
“Be quick about it.” The veteran shot another glance at the Old Crow with a pained expression. He then looked somewhere else and waved in despair. “I will pretend that I’m walking past a manure pit and inhaled accidentally.”
Hicks flashed another satisfied smile. He nodded and said in a soft voice, “Take a look at his eyes.”
The moment Hicks said that, both Thales and Gleeward froze.
“What?” The veteran on the wheelchair blinked, unable to understand what this was all about.
“Whose eyes?” Thales was equally puzzled.
Hicks inhaled deeply and took a step forward. The smile on his face slowly disappeared, and was replaced by a grim sternness that was rarely seen on him.
“Drew Gleeward, for the sake of me having treated you countless times in the past when you were injured and dying in the Desert God’s Animal Cage that year,” Hicks said, enunciating each word, “look carefully into this child’s eyes.”
Once they heard this, Thales was the first one to be taken by surprise.
‘My… eyes? Wait. Wait, wait… In this world, more than one person has mentioned my eyes.’
“Alright.” Perhaps Hicks’ rare display of sternness was effective. After looking doubtfully at Hicks for a few seconds, Gleeward gave in. He pushed his wheelchair and approached Thales with an unwilling expression.
Thales felt pain in his arm while still mulling over the questions in his head. Gleeward pulled Thales towards him.
The prince raised his head and was unsurprisingly met with Gleeward’s hideous and fierce single eye.
This reminded him of the one-eyed duke from Constellation, Koshder Nanchester. His presence in the Hall of Stars was much more overbearing than the veteran in front of him.
Gleeward still had an annoyed expression, but because Hicks was watching him sternly, he went closer to Thales and narrowed his single eye. He studied the prince’s eyes carefully under the dim moonlight.
Thales felt quite uneasy from Gleeward’s stare. He coughed softly and tried his best not to blink. The prince took a deep breath. He did not know what in the world Hicks was doing, but he chose to believe in his teacher.
…Just like how Gilbert advised him to.
After three seconds…
At that instant, to his mild surprise, Thales saw Gleeward’s expression change. The annoyance and disdain on his face vanished without a trace… There was only astonishment and surprise.
This made Thales think of something.
The veteran turned abruptly. “Bring me the—”
But before Gleeward could finish speaking, Hicks picked up a burning torch from the ground and tossed it to Gleeward, as if he knew what Gleeward was about to say.
Gleeward shot a glance at the indifferent Hicks. He waved the torch so that it burned brighter, then went closer to Thales.
Thales could not help but shrink from the heat and piercing brightness of the flame, but Gleeward held tightly on to him. “Don’t move, child.”
Under the illumination of the flame, Gleeward once more studied the corners of Thales’s eyes carefully. This time, his expression grew more and more solemn and disbelieving. “And don’t blink.”
Thales clearly saw that, as Gleeward observed his eyes, there was a subtle change to the veteran’s expression, from astonishment to hesitance, from hesitance to numbness, from numbness to excitement, then from excitement back to dejection.
Gleeward’s eyebrows quivered. His single eye was filled with complicated emotions: conflict, pain, sentiment, relief, regret,?pity, sorrow, and unrest.
Thales panicked internally. ‘Why…?’
It was as though a long time had passed. Finally, Gleeward slowly moved the torch away and hung his head low. Where no one could see in the darkness, Gleeward sank into his wheelchair, but he still tried to push himself up. It was like he had suddenly lost all his strength.
His words became muffled, as though there was a layer of fog between them, causing his words to be unclear. “Impossible.”
Hicks sighed softly. “Do you understand now?”
Surprised and bewildered, Thales turned to the Old Crow, but he could only see the sorrow and desolation on the Old Crow’s face.
The prince spoke up instinctively, “What’s the matter? My eyes—”
“No!” The veteran on the wheelchair cut him off. “No…” Gleeward’s head was still lowered. But his voice began to quiver, and he started stuttering even more than when he was roaring just now. “No, no, no…”
He held the torch with his right hand and clutched the armrest of his wheelchair hard with his left hand. His shoulders rose and fell at an irregular pace.
Hicks shook his head. His tone was filled with certainty. “You saw the color of his eyes.”
Gleeward raised his head swiftly. Thales looked at Gleeward’s face in surprise. The veteran widened his single eye, then shook his head in disbelief, like a detective who had just discovered a cruel truth.
The prince ran his hand over his eyelids. He stared at Hicks, then at Gleeward. A strange wave of panic crept into his heart.
‘They know something. I’m the only one… I’m the only one who doesn’t.’
“No.” Gleeward trembled, and he kept blinking his single eye. He panted violently and said through gritted teeth, “It’s just a coincidence. There might not be many people like this, but they definitely exist. And you only need dyes—”
Thales shuddered violently and turned to Hicks. “Teacher Hicks?”
After interrupting the veteran, the Old Crow snorted softly. “My friend might have superb fighting skills, but he is not really concerned with the high-level politics of the neighboring kingdom.”
He spoke monotonously. It was different from the animated and interesting way he usually spoke when he was teaching.
“So, would you be kind enough to tell him your full name?” Hicks did not look at any of them. Instead, he fixed his gaze on his walking stick.
‘Full name?’ Thales shuddered. He knew what was going on now. He had confirmed exactly what was troubling these two men.
Silence returned to the night. Only the torch in Gleeward’s hand crackled while it burned.
“Thales,” Thales answered subconsciously, fixing his gaze on Gleeward, who was obviously acting abnormally. “M-my full name is… Thales TherrenGirana Kessel Jadestar.”
The torch fell on the ground and rolled into the puddle of blood beside it. Its flames struggled to remain lit.
Gleeward sat absentmindedly in his wheelchair and stared dazedly at Thales with his single eye. Thales’ mind had also started to wander.
Gleeward’s right hand still remained in the air, and his fingers still remained curled as if he was gripping something. And yet, he still did not move… as if he was living in a dream.
Gleeward said softly, “This is impossible.”
The once rough, gruff, and extremely unpleasant voice sounded as though it came from the distant hills right now. It was gentle and calm… as though it was afraid of disrupting someone’s beautiful dream.
Hicks slowly flashed a weary and sincere smile. “It’s true, Drew.”
The Old Crow raised his head slowly. His gaze was complicated and profound.
“This is Miss Therren’s son. He has her blood.”
After letting out one last crackle, the blood-soaked torch on the ground—that tried hard to remain lit while it rolled around—was finally extinguished.