Chapter 36: Starlit Night Alliance (One)
Two hours later.
"Watch your steps! Steady your breath! The key to the 'Iron Body' style lies in your feet. The instant you are attacked, adjust the distance between both of your legs and spread out your strength! If you don't want to die, raise your shield towards the enemy!"
Jines' crystal-clear voice shot up into the air and a merciless strike followed.
Thales clenched his teeth tightly, swung the sword in his right hand, which spurred his body to whirl along. The blood vessels in his left arm bulged as he used his shoulder-strength to raise up the disproportionately heavy, wooden shield with all his might. He bent his right leg slightly and prepared to slide it further away according to the blow received to reduce the impact.
Gilbert, who was observing the battle from the sidelines, closed his eyes gently.
After Jines' sword hit the bottom part of his shield, Thales lost his balance for the twenty-fifth time and fell on the sand again. But this time, he had exhausted all his strength and could not raise the shield in his hand anymore.
The boy panted heavily and tried his best to raise his head and chest. However, the heavy shield weighed down on his left breast, making him unable to struggle up to his feet from the floor.
This woman cum his father's lover had been waving the sword continuously for two hours. But why- why does she show no signs of fatigue at all?
"The Northland Military Sword Style originated from the age of ancient chauvinistic countries over three thousand years ago. It took shape during the age of feudal kings, which was before the age of the ancient empires." As if able to read Thales' mind, Gilbert's voice resounded in the empty plot. "Based on the records, the elves and the dragons were engaged in fierce battle during that time, and the feudal kings who reigned in the north were invaded by ancient orcs…
"This sword style was developed to battle fearsome opponents—whose strength and size far surpass human beings—such as the ancient orcs, or even dragons." Gilbert looked earnestly at Thales lying on the floor, and spoke softly, "This is the oldest combative sword style recorded in human history. Under such alarmingly huge disadvantages, humanity fought in battles until they almost sank into despair, and as they engaged in almost fatal resistances and suicidal charges, a group of knights became the first to awaken superpowers. Those powers are now known as the 'Powers of Eradication', and those knights became the earliest supra class fighters in human history."
Gilbert's eyes shone with a brilliant sparkle. "Lady Jines is one of the best among the supra class. Excluding the unique Power of Eradication she possesses, her observation skills, power, balance, and almost all physical attributes are on a different level than yours. The gap between the both of you is comparable to the gap between the tough, bold, and powerful ancient orcs and the weak, small humans in the past."
Thales looked at Jines in awe and embarrassment. Honestly, even now, he did not know how to get along with his father's lover. She was exercising her wrist with a relaxed expression, as if paying no attention to Gilbert's praises.
"As a superpower is further used and the user accumulates more experience towards it, it will become stronger and stronger. The knights began learning how to wield their massive and profound powers, and to control their immeasurable strengths to the extent of having complete control over them. Compared to the supra class, these knights—who are a step above—possess almost immeasurable strength and matchless skills. They began to understand the fundamentals of power and battles. They can transform freely, fight without limitations, and finish a battle with the highest efficiency and the smallest loss possible." Gilbert took a step forward and nodded his head at a spot in the air with a barely noticeable move.
"They are known as the supreme class, the strongest warriors that have surpassed the limits of their powers."
Thales looked at the sky absent-mindedly and thought of Asda, who could control the air to her heart's desire, and Yodel, who moved like a phantom.
"Ordinary class, supra class, and supreme class. This classification of power spread widely to people of all races around the world after humanity prospered." Gilbert looked at the weather and nodded at Jines. "The ancient orcs, the ancient elves, even the psionics and… began using this system of classification.
"All of these originated from the ancient Northland Military Sword Style—from the courage to fight the orcs and the dragons for the sake of survival." Gilbert's words put Thales in an absent-minded state.
"Now, the ancient orcs are no longer a threat, and the dragons are extinct. The Northland Military Sword Style is no longer passed down to the people. Even within the army of Eckstedt Kingdom, the kingdom that prides itself for having Northland blood and occupies the land of the ancient Northland, this swordsmanship has long since been abandoned. Now, the only places that retain the full legacy of the Northland Military Sword Style are Constellation and the Tower of Eradication.
"Miss Jines is one of the few people in the world proficient in this skill. Young Sir Thales, when it comes to this sword style that once saved our ancestors, please harbor respect in your heart and practice relentlessly."
'A sword style used to battle orcs and dragons? No wonder.' Thales thought gloomily after snapping out of his daze, 'I was thinking about why the sword felt like lead when I swung it.'
Recalling the way he, like an idiot, raised the shield and waved the sword (how it led him around), his footwork (pulled by the inertia of the shield) and his training with Jines (being trained by her), he felt as if he was just being whacked around like a sandbag for two hours. He could not help but heaved a sigh while feeling speechless. and with a face full of regret, he fell backward.
"That will be all for this morning; your wounds from before are showing signs of tearing." Jines looked at the sun in the sky, threw her sword and shield down, and spoke with her usual, cool expression.
"These three sets of defense tactics of the Northland Military Sword Style will be your homework for the week. As for horse-riding…" Jines looked at the foal happily dancing around a butterfly by the hitching post. She then looked at Thales, who struggled to free his left arm from the wooden shield. She, too, heaved a sigh and shook her head. "Go take a bath and eat your lunch. Gilbert has specially prepared indoor lessons at one in the afternoon for you."
'Afternoon lessons? My god, do I have to self-study at night, too?'
Thales, who was used to living the disorderly life of a postgraduate student, heaved another sigh. As he felt his whole body ache, he closed his eyes and resigned himself to fate.
Constellation's most exalted, illegitimate child resignedly took off the equipment from his body with great difficulty (pulled his left arm out of the shield), and limped into Mindis Hall.
He only had an hour to bathe and eat.
"I have to admit, his comprehension and ability to learn things is good. After only two hours, he had tentatively understood the fundamental spirit of this sword style." Gilbert watched Thales leave and broke the silence, he nodded his head lightly as he spoke, "When I was his age, I used my body to practice using the sword. This child uses his brain to learn the sword."
"Compared to this- Do not tell me that your observation skills are so bad that you did not notice the abnormalities of his body!" Watching Thales' figure disappear, Jines' face suddenly became grave. As she talked to Gilbert, who was beside her, she sized up the air around them with suspicion. "I still remember that the person with that cursed mask can see even a speck of dust a hundred meters away."
"Stop looking, Yodel is not nearby." Watching Jines' nervous actions, Gilbert put his hands behind his back and spoke in a level-headed manner, "Ever since Thales was unexpectedly kidnapped by the Blood Clan, Yodel has tailed him every single moment without ever leaving his side.
"And we noticed," Gilbert spoke and frowned slightly, "that child is only around seven years' old, and has sustained considerable injuries two days ago. However, in two days, he had almost completely recovered… and could practice the sword under the sun for two hours without much difficulty… no wonder the Bloodline Lamp, which is used to detect those with the blood of the royal family—did not react for a whole seven years…"
"With this physical constitution, he cannot be described as a 'normal human being' anymore, he's practically…" He heaved a sigh and tried his best not to think of the other possibility. "Jadestar Family. As expected of the oldest surviving royal bloodline in the world."
Jines was also silent for a while and tactfully did not say anything else.
The female official bent down and swept the dust off her boots. "Speaking of vampires, why did you reveal Thales' identity to them and invite them to stay in Mindis Hall? Do you really believe in the agreement between Thales and the distressed Archduchess? After all, he is only seven. And you should be aware that the vampires have killed our people before; we can't trust them. Besides, to the vampires, we are an unexpected accident; it is impossible for them to trust us, either.
"You have already spoken the answer." Gilbert's eyes sparkled as he thought of the old Blood Clansman who had a still and deadly countenance, but was full of wisdom. "It is precisely because both parties lack trust, fear each other, and even threaten each other that I did all these things.
"That is why we have to use the secrets we have and things that will benefit both sides to tie down each other. This is what you would call tacit understanding and cunningness in terms of diplomatic relations. It's not the same as a clear and straightforward, investigative search."
"Hmph, you're just trying to be mysterious and secretive." It was as if Jines was reminded of unpleasant memories. As she left the training field and walked into the hall, she said with annoyance, "Another Morat."
"Thank you for your praise, respectable Lady Jines." Gilbert tilted the hat on his head and laughed tactfully. "I do not deserve such an honor as to be ranked alongside the head of the Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Department."
Gilbert did not take Jines' impolite disregard to heart. He thought internally, 'Although that child is only seven years old, when it comes to guile, he is definitely not inferior to the Archduchess who is a few hundred years old.'
When Gilbert and Jines arrived at Thales' study simultaneously half an hour later, Thales, who had bathed hastily and was having his meal, was watching the expressionless, red-eyed, little girl with a frown on his face.
Her followers—Istrone and Rolana—were having an unfriendly stare-down with the Swordsmen of Eradication who had Thales completely surrounded till not even a fly would be able to pass through them.
"Step back, vampire." A bodyguard who looked like the leader was glaring angrily from behind his helmet and spoke with unpleasantness, "We do not welcome you here."
"Don't get me wrong. I don't like you people that much either, you mortal creatures." Istrone's nonchalant words further annoyed the bodyguards. "Do you remember that I slaughtered eight people like you just yesterday?" he spoke with a sarcastic and provocative tone.
The frowning Thales bit a mouthful of carefully seasoned beef short ribs from the fork in his hand. He had not eaten this delicacy since he transmigrated here and was so touched that his heart gasped in admiration. At the same time, he carefully avoided the obviously problematic gaze of the baby-faced little girl sitting across from him.
It was just a pity that this taste will probably never compare to the dog meat he once ate together with Jala.
Thales observed the situation before him and heaved a sigh. 'What a headache.'
"You will never have such a chance again, despicable rat that hides in pots!" The head swordsman's tone had dropped to freezing point and the silver sword at his waist was one foot out of its sheath. "Why don't you try and take another step forward? I am very eager to avenge the death of my comrades. Or I can just pull open the curtains and let you all bask in the sunlight."
The countenance of the handsome blonde Blood Clansman turned sour, and he decided to go one step forward.
"Don't get riled up, boys." Rolana pulled her fuming cousin one step backward just in time. Although her lips were curled in a smile, her tone was stern and serious. "Servants, step back. Your master and our master have an agreement."
Looking at the Swordsmen of Eradication in front of her who could not wait to kill them, Rolana's playful countenance became even more vibrant. "This was what your master said—we are allies now. Shouldn't we forget the animosity of the past? After all, it's just eight lives…"
The emotions of the Swordsmen of Eradication became more unstable. A few of them even clenched their teeth so hard that the sounds of them grating their teeth could be heard behind their helmets.
'As expected of cousin sister,' Istrone thought inwardly, especially when he looked at the angered guards who had to restrain themselves. 'It really makes my heart soar.'
Jines, who was outside the room frowned and was about to walk in when Gilbert grabbed her arm. The gray-haired ex-diplomat shook his head with a mysterious look on his face and pointed at their little master, who was sitting on a chair behind the guards.
Jines made a puzzled face.
Her puzzlement continued until she saw Thales, who had finished his last bite of food and put down the cutlery, burping in satisfaction and sliding down from the chair.
'What should I do?' Looking at the meaningful gaze of the three Blood Clansmen, Thales contemplated the problem.
However, he soon had an answer.
"Thank you for your protection, Chora. With you around, I'm very assured of my own safety," Thales said with a smile and tugged the lower hem of the head swordsman's armor.
Chora, who had laughed when his stomach was poked by Thales on his first morning here to determine "whether the guards were made of stone", was the leader of these guards. He was also the one who arranged for the guards to kill the attacking mercenaries one by one.
He knew that when it came to these loyal guards, he should not wave his hand and dismiss them with authority and arrogance—like what the main characters in most simplistic novels do. Moreover, to protect him, they had recently sacrificed eight of their most reliable comrades. To face their arch enemies and not immediately take out their swords to kill was already a rare show of self-restraint. Although they were already allies on paper, but to pretend that nothing happened and to dismiss his own people in front of outsiders would only turn the guards' hearts cold with disappointment, even though it would feel great to dismiss them with a wave of his hand.
Thales put on a stern expression. "I need all of you to do me a favor."
"We will follow your orders."
Although his facial expression could not be seen, the head guard's respectful tone said it all. The swordsmen who were able to stay guard here were all the most trusted and elite private soldiers of the Jadestar family. They were not informed of the situation, but based on the task received and the interactions of the past few days, the guards have made almost accurate deductions regarding the boy's identity—who was personally brought in by Gilbert and Yodel.
"Due to past incidents, I do not trust the handsome Sir Istrone Corleone, and his beautiful but equally dangerous cousin sister, Lady Rolana Corleone.
"They have caused me plenty of humiliation. Their existence makes me troubled, worried, and frightened." Thales frowned and clenched his teeth tightly while he spoke.
As though there was really great enmity between them.
Istrone and Rolana were shocked and looked at the Archduchess behind them at the same time. However, the latter did not bat an eyelid.
"We only need your word, Young Sir…" Chora's gaze behind his helmet became sharper. The sword on his waist was drawn another foot. "And our swords will leave their sheaths for you."
Having heard that, the Swordsmen pressed their hands on the hilts of their swords. Bound by a common hatred for the enemy, their gazes became more and more unpleasant.
"Very good, I want their heads so much…" Thales' countenance was cold, and he glared at Istrone with deadly eyes.
The swordsmen took a step forward together and vaguely surrounded the Blood Clansmen.
Istrone looked at the boy's expression, his heart jumping a little.
Rolana bared a fierce expression and unfolded her arms.
'It can't be.' Istrone felt an unreasonable fear in his heart and took a step back without noticing it, until the Archduchess's cryptolalia was heard next to his ears. "Steady, Isa." This childish voice that only Blood Clansmen could hear put Istrone's mind at ease. "He does not intend to turn hostile."
"… But because of the sacred alliance, I cannot hurt them in my own house…
"That is why, apart from this… young lady, chase the other two people out into the corridor, Chora." Thales pouted and hugged his arms tight as he ordered coldly.
"If they so dare to disturb the private conversation between me and Lady Serena Corleone..." Thales' eyes shone with a cold glint, making the already traumatized Istrone anxious. The boy turned his head and continued to speak to Chora mercilessly, "Chora, and everyone else… you all will have a valid excuse to take your revenge.
"Especially that one with blond hair."
Istrone's heart tightened.
"If our swords leave their sheaths, we definitely will not disappoint you." Chora nodded with a determined gaze and extended his arms towards the door of the study.
"Vampires, you have heard it."
"Get out. The corridor is where you people belong."
Istrone, who had a furious expression wanted to say something else but was stopped beforehand by his cousin sister.
Rolana perfectly hid her shock and smiled mysteriously. She then respectfully bowed towards the little loli, Serena, and dragged Istrone out of the study.
Outside the room, Gilbert flashed a smile, and, along with the astonished Jines, made way for the guards and the Blood Clansmen. The two groups, who were staring at each other with caution left the study and continued their stand-off at a corridor some distance away.
"Good afternoon, Sir Corleone and Lady Corleone." Gilbert bowed neatly. His elegant mustache curled up slightly. "I know that the members of the Blood Clan have exceptional hearing. It is much too easy to listen to the events in the study from here. I wonder if eavesdropping counts as 'disturbing' the private conversation between Sir Thales and Lady Corleone?"
The guard, Chora, who was standing beside them and the rest of the swordsmen immediately walked towards them with an imposing aura. "You want to eavesdrop?"
Rolana's smile immediately faded while Istrone's face turned green.
When she saw the angered swordsmen forcing the Blood Clan to the stairs and stopped moving while they were there, Jines became absorbed in her thoughts.
'If that is the case…' Jines lowered her head silently. 'Then what Gilbert said is true—he's really an intelligent and level-headed boy.
'But he's a little too intelligent and level-headed.'
Thales breathed a sigh as the crimson eyed loli watched him strangely. He closed the heavy door to the study and considerately drew the curtains to block the sunlight.
The study on the second floor was perfectly soundproofed. Gilbert had assured him that even the Blood Clan would not be able to pick up a single sound with their hearing.
"Alright, we were in a hurry yesterday, but now…" Thales exhaled and said sternly, "Let us talk in detail about the clauses in the alliance.
"And go especially into the details about my blood and how you would serve me."
"Wewy well." Due to the size of her body shrinking to that of a small loli, Miss Serena spoke with a lisp. She too, nodded her head seriously, "Why don't we add in your status into the clauses that need to be discussed as well?"
Puzzlement appeared on Thales' face, but his expression changed drastically when the crimson-eyed loli said her next words.
This Archduchess, the woman in the shape of a small girl, the true heir of the Corleone family, the rightful sovereign of the Hill of Pain, Her Highness Serena L.A. Corleone, spoke softly with a lisp.
"And that is the probwem of you nod gettin' your birthwight as a pwince acknwowledged even aftwer such a long time has passed."
What they did not know was that when Thales had skillfully dodged the guards and the Blood Clan's irresolvable grudge and was negotiating with Serena, Chris Corleone was hiding in the shadows of the chimney, which was right above the second floor's study, all so that he could avoid the sunlight. His posture was bizarre, and his face was expressionless.
"Alright." The pale Chris Corleone's ears twitched and turned his head to speak, "Our men didn't start fighting. I believe that Her Highness should be negotiating with that young friend of ours.
"We're both supreme class fighters, you know? There's no need for us to remain in such an awkward position, right?"
Right across the old Blood Clansman was Yodel Cato, the masked, strange man who had remained silent from the beginning until now. Only when he said these words did Yodel put away the short sword he held in his hand back into his shirt, and he gradually faded away.