Chapter 355: The Hardest Fight
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
Eckstedt, City of Faraway Prayers, Land of Barren Rocks.
Under the sunlight, Thales and Monty looked at the uninvited guest before them with wariness and shock.
‘Why is it him?’
The Star Killer came down from his horse expressionlessly.
He slowly walked towards a protruding rock, and as if he was not there to capture Thales, he tied the reins around the rock naturally.
It gave them tremendous stress.
“I heard what you said, Big Mouth.
“So, are you overconfident of your own standards?”
Nicholas slowly tied the reins and turned his head to face Monty, who looked as if he was toe to toe with a very dangerous enemy. Then, he darted a few glances at the short knife in his hands.
The Star Killer was finally done tying the reins around the rock. He?turned around. “Do you feel that, after Isaiah left the White Blade Guards…
“There was no one in Dragon Clouds City who could catch up with you?” His eyes were bloodshot. It was obvious that he had been working day and night without rest. Nonetheless, his intent shone in his eyes, and it sent chills up the spines of all who saw it.
The Star Killer shrugged, then shifted the handle of the Rising Sun Saber into a position where it was most convenient for him to unleash an attack.
Monty’s pupils shrank!
“Ah, I must say,” the experienced scout spoke gently and spun the short sword in his hand slowly, “I have thought about that, more or less.”
Monty stared at his old comrade. He did not move an inch. His facial expression was so cold that ice could practically form on his face.
His eyes once again shone with that light, which made Thales extremely uncomfortable.
“You are an outstanding scout, Monty,” Nicholas said coldly. “There is nearly no one who can match your skills in fabricating illusions, choosing routes, and hiding.
“But only ‘nearly’.”
Nicholas moved forward slowly, and the distance between him and Monty became shorter. With a dark tone, he said, “Now, for instance, we chased you for many miles since you left Dragon Clouds City… from Rubble Hill to Sunset Snow River, then Spear City, and even here, the Land of Barren Rocks in the City of Faraway Prayers, nearly into the desert…”
Thales instinctively backed away.
But Monty still stood where he was without moving. He continued to adjust the angle of the short sword in his hand.
However, Nicholas did not mind. He still went nearer.
Thales’ breathing became softer and softer.
Finally, when they were just a few meters apart, Nicholas stopped moving.
“Yet, we still caught up to you,” he lifted his eyebrows slightly and said nonchalantly.
The Star Killer and the Raven of Death’s gazes met.
One of them was cold, the other was serious.
It was as if an invisible pair of shackles had been placed in the air.
Thales did not dare exhale. He could only look at the two men in front of him while he held his breath, thinking frantically for a solution to the problem.
The two men stood where they were like heavy ice mountains, facing each other.
The Star Killer’s pale face brought out the bloody color in his eyes.
The Raven of Death’s eyes did not move. Other than that serious look, they seemed to be completely void of emotion.
The sunlight shone on Nicholas’s sword handle and Monty’s sword. Both weapons reflected an amazing light.
After a while, one side finally moved.
“Heh, heh, heh…”
Monty laboriously blew out a puff of air, and the serious look on his face disappeared.
It was replaced by a resigned smile.
“I have to admit, Spiky, you’ve improved, and so have the White Blade Guards.” The scout shook his head, as though he was meeting an old friend. While he smiled, he put his short knife back into its sheath.
“How did you do it?”
When Nicholas saw his old friend put his sword away, his gaze was no longer so threatening.
At that moment, Thales, who thought that a fight would break out soon, felt relieved.
Even though he did nothing, the scary Star Killer coldly said, “All the money and resources previously allocated to these facets were all invested into the practice of another skill.”
He then nonchalantly said, “Scouting and tracking.”
The air was quiet for a moment.
Monty frowned. “Six years ago…
“Really, isn’t that a little over the top?”
Nicholas stared at him for a while, then slowly nodded.
“It’s over the top, but we did it anyway.”
Thales’ gaze froze.
The death of the king had affected this former White Blade Guard far beyond what he could imagine.
“Uh… Reforming the guards is a good thing, really.”
Monty lifted his hands as he laughed, and shook them in the air. “You know, the old guards… Kaslan’s influence was too great. Even though you’ve become their leader for twenty years, everyone will still just remember him…”
But Nicholas did not seem like he had any intention to talk about the past with him. The Star Killer gently darted a look at Thales, who was next to Monty.
Thales revealed an ugly smile.
“I’ll give you ten seconds, Monty.”
“Disappear immediately,” Nicholas’ tone was very flat, as though he was just giving a normal greeting. “I’ll treat it like I’ve never seen you today.”
Monty’s expression froze slightly.
He lowered his head and placed one of his hands on his waist. Another hand scratched his neck, making it seem as if he was very troubled.
“Spiky, you have to give me a chance to explain why I did what I did with the prince…”
Nicholas’ eyes suddenly moved and landed on the Raven of Death’s body.
“There’s nothing that needs explaining.
“This is merely a thing between me and him.” Nicholas gestured at Thales with his chin, and his gaze turned cold again. “I don’t care where and how you got him, and I don’t care where you’re going to send him.”
Thales could not help but feel tense.
“You may go, old friend,” Nicholas said, completely without any sort of tact.
Monty’s smile froze all of a sudden.
He looked elsewhere and exhaled.
Thales could tell. The Raven of Death was holding in his anger and clenching his fists tightly.
But just as the prince thought that he would blow up in the next moment, Monty heaved a long sigh and smiled again.
“Dragon Clouds City and the City of Faraway Prayers are allies in regards to the western expedition.” Monty bared his teeth and pointed at Thales, all while putting on a troubled look on his face.
“Sooner or later, he’s going to the City of Faraway Prayers. You don’t want to see him in Black Sand Region’s hands and the king’s hands, right? On behalf of our friendship, and also for our superior’s sake, we should stand on the same side concerning this matter—”
But Nicholas interrupted him.
“Big Mouth,” the Star Killer said gently, “the present isn’t like the past.”
Monty was rendered speechless.
“We’re already pass the age of rivalry and visiting brothels together.”
Nicholas shook his head. His gaze was indifferent. “Whatever you’re doing, it’s useless.
“I told you, I’m only giving you ten seconds. Disappear immediately.”
Monty’s smile disappeared.
Nicholas’ pale face was without emotion. He only looked at his old friend silently.
In a span of a few seconds, the muscles on Monty’s face quivered, signaling his thoughts.
“You’re right, Spiky,” the way the old scout spoke made it seem like he was chewing his words. He nodded slowly and repeated that sentence without emotion.
“The present isn’t like the past.”
Suddenly, the Raven of Death laughed.
It was a happy laugh.
It was also cold laughter.
There was a tone in the Raven of Death’s laughter, which brought chills up other people’s spines. He nodded slowly. “Very well, Lord Nicholas.”
An ominous feeling then surged into Thales’ heart.
“Don’t forget.” The Raven of Death grinned slightly. He hissed through clenched teeth, and there was a light threat contained in his words.
“This is the Land of Barren Rocks. It is already territory belonging to the City of Faraway Prayers.”
Monty took a step forward with a cold smile.
He looked straight into his old friend’s eyes. “My. City. Of. Faraway. Prayers.”
Thales subconsciously turned to look for his horse.
Unexpectedly, Nicholas also smiled.
As laugh lines appeared on his pale face, the Star Killer gently lifted his foot and walked towards the man.
“Your City of Faraway Prayers?”
He slowly went up to Monty’s eyes, and they were so close that both of their foreheads were practically touching. They could even almost kiss each other.
The Star Killer stared at the Raven of Death’s cold smile. His gaze was fierce and his tone was unkind.
Monty’s cold smile became less obvious.
“When was the last time we fought, Spiky? Eighteen years ago?” the Raven of Death asked gently.
These two old friends looked at each other for an instance without showing signs of weakness. The meaning behind their gazes was one only the two of them understood.
“Eighteen years ago.” Nicholas nodded.
“But today, I don’t plan to fight alone.
“You heard the signal arrow, old friend,” Nicholas said in a cold voice. “The personal guards of the Archduchess will be here soon.”
Monty’s pupils focused.
“Among them are many. Of whom, you know.”
The Star Killer stressed his last few words and said, “After that.
“You know what will happen?”
Monty’s expression slowly turned cold.
Both of them remained silent for five seconds.
After a moment, Monty closed his eyes and breathed out heavily, hissing through clenched teeth.
“What the hell.”
Nicholas sneered gently, revealing the smile of a victor.
“Yes, what the hell indeed.”
He looked at Monty, who found it difficult to control his emotions, and gently said, “I’ll only count to ten.”
Monty appeared to feel provoked.
He quickly opened his eyes. With an agitated tone, he said, “You—”
But Nicholas did not move at all. He just stared at Monty coldly, then said his next word, “Ten.”
Monty stretched his hand swiftly and grabbed the Star Killer’s collar!
Nicholas just smiled.
Monty was so furious that he trembled. He took a step forward and shouted, practically right in front of Nicholas’ forehead. “You! Spiky!
But Nicholas only smiled. His pale face was as bloodless as ever.
Thales sighed in his heart. ‘It seems like Monty can’t rely on his old friendship with Nicholas to get us out of this situation.’
With Nicholas in his hold, Monty rolled angrily and ferociously, completely losing his composure.?“I’ll remember this, Spiky, I’ll remember this!”
The Raven of Death panted harshly. “One day, I’ll settle this grudge between us.”
Nicholas also stretched out his hand abruptly!
His arm was placed over Monty’s, and he grabbed Monty’s collar too.
“Then you need to leave first,” said Nicholas coldly towards the man who stood against him.
“Only then will you be able to ‘settle this grudge’.”
The Raven of Death and Star Killer’s gazes met again. Burning in their eyes was a flame born from an unknown emotion.
In the next second…
As if they had reached a tacit agreement, the both of them snorted at the same time and released each other.
Monty turned around without hesitation and walked towards his own horse.
Nicholas looked at him coldly.
Thales who had been observing by the side, was shocked.
“You’re going to leave just like that?”
Monty untied the reins of his horse and swung himself onto his saddle. He turned his head around and angrily said, “What else am I supposed to do?
“Wait here and be surrounded?”
Thales looked at the angry Monty, and then at the cold Nicholas before he rubbed his own forehead in agony.
“Aren’t you very good at spewing nonsense, kid?” Monty turned his horse around, then stared at the quiet Nicholas in exasperation. “Help me and be a dutiful chatterbox. Don’t shut up. It’ll be even better if you manage to annoy him to death with your voice.”
Thales put on an embarrassed smile.
In the next moment, Monty furiously snapped his reins. The horse under him raised its hooves and sped towards the west without showing any reluctance of leaving.
He made his way among the rocks and left their sight.
Soon, the sound of hooves could no longer be heard.
The prince, who had held his breath due to the tense atmosphere earlier, turned around, feeling upset.
He looked at the person who stayed.
“What a deep impression you’ve left behind, Lord Nicholas.” Thales sighed and said, “I didn’t expect you to catch up to me so soon.”
Nicholas crossed his arms over his chest and put on a cold smile, which made people fearful.
It was just like the first time they met.
The Star Killer lowered his head and cast a glance at JC’s dagger in Thales’ hand. He did not say a single word.
The teenager swung JC’s dagger and smiled helplessly.
“So, while we wait for your comrades to catch up to us, and before you bring me back, could you tell me how you did it?” Thales bashfully put JC’s dagger back into its sheath and stuffed it into his bosom.
“I thought that you put the city on lockdown, and you were busy talking with those important people to search through every single person who could have possibly abducted me.
“Why did you suddenly appear in this place?”
He was certain he had caught his prey. His look said it all. He nodded slightly. “Yes, your plan wasn’t bad, young prince.”
“Arranging people to attack our men, then creating a false illusion that you were abducted out of the blue.
“And you did all this while the political situation in Dragon Clouds City was at its most complex. You caused all of Dragon Clouds City to doubt each other,” when he said this, the Star Killer’s eyes turned cold. “You lowered the efficiency of our search greatly and even led us in the wrong direction.
“But in truth, you were escaping.
“If we had fallen into your trap, we would still be unable to find you if we searched for half a year.”
Thales became dejected.
‘He still managed to figure out the truth.’
“Then how did you find out?” Thales lifted his eyebrows and crossed his arms as well. He looked as if he had completely given up on resisting.
“When did you become that smart, dead face?”
When he heard that nickname, Nicholas’s smile turned colder.
“I am indeed not that smart,” he said coldly, “but compared to the tricks you come up with in a second, my twenty years as a White Blade Guard, and my experience especially from these past six years, has led me to understand at least one thing.”
Nicholas put his arm onto his bosom, and spoke softly.
“That is… when in the face of things I do not understand, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
The Star Killer took something out of his bosom.
He opened it and unfurled his fist gently.
Thales’ pupils shrank!
That object danced in the air for a few seconds.
Then it landed by his feet.
The young man stared at the object, which the Star Killer brought out, in a daze. He could almost not believe his eyes.
What lay beside his feet was a piece of paper.
It was an expensive, thin, sky-blue piece of paper filled with hideous wrinkles and tears.
It was obvious that it had been torn and taped back afterwards.
Thales looked at the thin piece of paper and found himself unable to put his emotions into words.
That invitation given to him by Asda.
It was taken by the paranoid Nicholas in Heroic Spirit Palace, and once Thales disguised it as a prank against the man, the Star Killer angrily rolled it into a ball, and tore it to pieces.
“I thought you threw it away.”
Thales frowned deeply and looked at Nicholas. “I thought you saw the joke written on the paper. Do I need to repeat it?”
Nicholas smiled in a hostile manner.
He took a step forward and stomped on that thin, sky-blue piece of paper.
Written on the paper was a big line of words, which had largely faded, but was still pretty obvious.
‘The Star Killer is an idiot.’
“Yes, but that’s just the surface.”
Nicholas slowly shook his head.
Thales’ image was reflected in his eyes. No matter how Nicholas shook his head, his image never left the center of Nicholas’ pupils. “You cannot possibly imagine what sort of price I paid during the two months I spent researching this piece of paper. I mobilized practically all of my resources for intelligence. Then, I searched for the details and the background of the paper meticulously, from its material to the source of the paper itself.”
“Rilan hard paper,” Nicholas enunciated each word in a flat tone and rhythm, as though he was reciting information that he did not understand.
“The wood came from Norton Dukedom, the dyeing and skills that made this paper came from Dragon-Kissed Land. The material is superb and durable. It can even be used repeatedly. This paper is specially ordered to be used in the palace of Anlenzo Dukedom, located south of the Western Peninsular. It’s specifically for writing nobles’ invitations.”
Thales looked at him solemnly.
There was a smile on Nicholas’ face along with a smug look of having caught hold of his enemy. “In Northland, the rich and powerful nobles may spend money to craft a sharp sword or rear a good horse, but no one would use such a luxurious item. You can’t buy this paper from anywhere, even the Camian merchants would not be bothered to deliver it to Northland.
“We searched through Constellation’s diplomat group before this as well, including that Lord Putray Nemain. He did not have this item either.”
In the face of Thales’ complicated gaze, Nicholas pointed at the wrinkled, hard paper on the ground. “This item could not have possibly appeared in Heroic Spirit Palace, or in your hands.”
The next moment, the Star Killer’s voice turned cold, “This could only be from outside the city, an item brought to you by a channel we still do not know of. You even had to intentionally hide it from the spies in Heroic Spirit Palace because it definitely carried a secret and unique mission.”
When he heard this, Thales closed his eyes gently.
‘Secret and unique mission…
“Young prince, it’s clear that you have been hiding something from us for a long, long time.”
Nicholas curled up his lips and revealed a hint of a brutal smile. “I might not know the details clearly, but you did indeed plan this in secret. Whatever your plan is, you completed it every single time you went out of the palace each month to play chess. Clearly, that chess room also has something strange.”
The Star Killer’s gaze became unprecedentedly sharp. “So when you went missing and when Count Lisban was still wondering who kidnapped you and when all forces of power were surprised and bewildered while they tried to figure out who among them did it while testing each other, I knew, clearly, that you were not kidnapped, and neither were you taken away while unconscious, but you fled on your own!”
Nicholas closed his mouth and stared at Thales in scorn.
“At that time, I knew that all of this was definitely a show you directed on your own. That’s all there is to it.”
At that moment, a gentle breeze stirred up in the Land of Barren Rocks, bringing with it sand and dust, and causing Thales to feel his heart grow colder.
“With this train of thought, it’s clear just where you would go after you went missing.” Nicholas’ tone had never been as sharp as it was right then. His words were practically as sharp as his blade.
“At that time, the places or forces of power who were the most likely to be suspects, which so happens to be Black Sand Region, the City of Faraway Prayers, Secret Room, and all the forces of power belonging to the vassals in Dragon Clouds City became the places that you would least likely go.”
He spoke one sentence after another. Thales even had a feeling that Nicholas’ words had practically forced him into a corner.
“That was why the Archduchess’ Guards locked down the city on the surface and pretended to suspect these forces of power, looking as if they are too busy with their own affairs to handle anything else.”
Nicholas’ smile became even more terrifying. “In truth, during the one hour you went missing, we directed all our forces and resources to that one and only direction you could possibly go.”
He spoke slowly, and his words were clear.
“Constellation’s Secret Intelligence Department.”
Nicholas’ cold sneer remained on his lips. This was an expression that had never appeared on him when they had their field training. It was as if this was the real moment he would completely defeat Thales.
“That’s right, Thales, we already caught up to you when we were outside the city. We found your horse and your tracks in that grove you stopped by. That’s half an hour after you left.”
“If it was not because Monty had butt in at the final moment, you would have long since been back in Heroic Spirit Palace.”
Nicholas shook his head, as if he was completely unconcerned. “But you should know… that you can’t escape.”
The Star Killer’s cold laughter continued ringing in the air, causing Thales’ mood to become even gloomier.
The teenager stared at the piece of paper under Nicholas’ foot. He did not say a single word.
It was as if that was not a piece of paper, but his pride.
After a long while, Thales spoke with great difficulty and with a hoarse tone, “So, it’s this thing. I would have never expected that the origin of this paper was the one that caused me problems.”
He sighed dejectedly.
‘Damn it… Little puppy Asda…’
Thales added in his heart numbly.
Nicholas responded with a cold laugh.
The Star Killer turned his boot slowly and ground that thin piece of paper. “Look, once we exposed the key, the famous Secret Intelligence Department of Constellation is nothing. Your plan to escape has plenty of loopholes, and it is naive and ludicrous.”
Thales sucked in a deep breath.
The sun finally went over their heads and started setting west.
The desert was still quiet. Only the low moans of the breeze when it blew past the stone cracks and the sounds of bird chirping scattered here and there could be heard.
“How very impressive, Star Killer. You said you are cautious.” Thales sighed long and hard. “And you have indeed not underestimated me. You also made me pay the price.”
He slowly raised his head and enunciated his words clearly.
“But you underestimated the Secret Intelligence Department.”
Nicholas narrowed his eyes.
Thales did not continue speaking. He turned around and smiled faintly. His eyes sparkled.
“Wow, before he left, he gave me a horse and a longsword as well as a shield.” Thales had a happy look on his face as he looked at the horse Monty left behind.
“I believe that he did this intentionally, because you grate his nerves, a lot.”
Under Nicholas’ increasingly hostile gaze, Thales walked to the horse without any hesitation.
“Hmph.” The Star Killer’ smile was incredibly unique. He smiled and shook his head.
“Really? You and me?”
Thales smiled as well.
He drew the longsword from the saddle, lifted the shield, and turned to Nicholas, who now had a strange look on his face.
In high spirits, Thales watched the man. He waved the longsword and weighed the shield with his hand, then lifted his head merrily. “Speaking of which, we’ve sparred with each other during classes for so long, but we’ve never truly fought against each other with our lives on the line and with real weapons before, have we?”
The next second, Thales put away his smile, then put on the Northland Military Sword Style’s starting stance.
Shield forward, tip of the sword ready to move into action.
The teenager’s expression was respectful while he stared at the strongest opponent he had ever faced besides the Mystics.
The supreme class Star Killer, Soray Nicholas.
This was perhaps not the battle where the disparity of strength was the greatest among all the fights he experienced, but it was definitely going to be the most difficult battle.
Thales focused his whole attention on the person before him and told himself quietly, ‘You only have one chance, Thales. Only one.’
As he stared at Thales, who had his weapons in hand and was fully prepared to fight, Nicholas’ smile slowly faded away.
“This is a bad decision.”
There was no expression on his face when he spoke next in a brief and concise tone. “What right do you have to win against me?”
Thales snorted coldly and shrugged. “What now? We’re already at this stage, do you really think I’ll just surrender and let you capture me?”
The Star Killer scowled.
The wind howled. The cold tip of his blade reflected the bright and hot sunlight.
The scowl on Nicholas’ face disappeared. He suddenly asked,
“You use… your right hand when you eat, right?”
Thales narrowed his eyes. “What?”
Nicholas’ pupils slowly constricted.
He cracked his knuckles, exercised his neck, exercised all his joints, and his bones let out terrifying popping sounds.
The Star Killer clenched his fists, then strolled towards Thales, who had already squared his shoulders and was ready to fight.
“No matter how badly I pummel you later…” The former commander of the White Blade Guards yanked off the cloak behind him and said coldly, “I will leave that hand behind for you.”