Chapter 38: Battle of Eradication (One)
Three in the afternoon.
"What is it?" In the study, Thales put down the quill he was using to copy the alphabet that was used by the public during the era. He waved his hand impatiently and looked at Gilbert—who had been staring at him for the past hour.
"Excuse me for my rudeness, Sir Thales," Gilbert spoke with a soft smile, "but you might be a natural-born diplomat—provided that you do not choose to become an astronomically wealthy businessman."
'If I knew he would react this way, I wouldn't have told him what happened—I should have just told him that I played hide and seek with that little girl for half an hour in the room.' Thales thought gloomily and crossed out the lopsided 'S' below his quill.
Thales was very annoyed. There was no other reason for his annoyance. After the negotiation with Serena, whenever Thales thought of the Archduchess' flexible and versatile expressions, as well as her transition between icy coldness to friendliness, he felt that something was not quite right. So Thales had asked Gilbert to analyze the situation for him just now.
To put it simply—Thales had fallen for Serena's trap.
It might have seemed like Serena was forced to compromise on the issue of blood provision, but they were in Mindis Hall—everyone, including Gilbert, Yodel, Jines, and even his unreliable father, His Majesty the King, would not watch idly if half a pint of blood was drawn from his body daily. Which was to say that—
One-eighth of a pint of blood monthly was obviously within her estimation! So, without making any real compromise, Serena managed to bargain her way into making an ambivalent promise from Thales!
'Help her retrieve her throne?' Thales realized with annoyance that he was the losing party in the negotiation.
"Businessman? Diplomat? Why do I feel as though you are laughing at me in your heart?" Thales lowered his head and opened another page of the 'Cahill's Falling Leaves Poetry Collection' Gilbert gave him. He copied the sentences, identifying the individual words and their usage.
'The night was about to welcome light, the sky had yet to become bright. The holy sun's former splendor was hidden in the lands.
'The land was about to shatter, the sea about to spill over. The evil demons gathered their strength in the dark sky.'
After he copied this duplet containing the style of poetry usually applied when orientals wrote about day and night, Thales pouted his lips and tried to understand the meaning behind it.
In the beginning, Gilbert was especially worried that Thales would have a weak foundation to culture and tailored a massive plan to speedily improve his language and writing especially for Thales. This was because typical street rogues usually could not recognize any letters other than their own names and the numbers written on coins. This was the norm.
However, ever since he transmigrated to this place, Thales had paid close attention to the words around him. Together with his ability to speak the language and his brain—that at some unknown point of time, seemed to run like those computers that had their RAM increased—it only took him a little over an hour to master basic alphabet recognition and learn how to write them. After that, Thales easily entered the stage where he could spell individual words and copy long sentences.
His progress was so fast that even Gilbert was in awe. Again, he could only attribute it to the Jadestar Royal Family's outstanding blood.
Thales rolled his eyes at Gilbert's reaction over this.
"No, you handled it considerably well." Gilbert walked to his side and watched as he copied the entire ancient poem. "I have asked some people to read up on materials and information about Night Kingdom. Serena Corleone may not be as well known as her younger sister, who is exceptionally skilled when it comes to handling matters, but she is indeed related to the Night Wing King. She was already around even before the Third Peninsular War and might be more than four hundred years old."
"Despite being under our shelter and in an abject situation, she ordered Istrone to coerce you into making a choice between your follower's loyalty and the benefits that come with forming an alliance. She affected your reputation among your followers and then did all she could to remind you about the fact that you are not the heir yet to destroy your self-confidence and courage. Both instances fully exhibited either the cunningness of a Blood Clan Archduchess who has lived for many years, or the intelligence of that supreme class butler.
"Fortunately, you did not let her have her way when it came to this. Instead, you left her with no choice but to act in a manner that was shameless to obtain what she wants."
'I knew it, she's a witch.' Thales spat in his mind and continued copying the poem.
'The Gods fell into the world, hell's river roared. The land transformed, the color of blood spread. The vast army marched on, the snowy mountains collapsed.
'The hero raised his flag, the king lifted his spear. The empire has fallen, the world has darkened. The living were frightened, lonely and homeless.'
'What is this person even writing?' Thales furrowed his brows and read these descriptive sentences. He asked absent-mindedly, "So you just stood there and watched them bully me?"
Gilbert did not say anything. He only watched Thales quietly.
The hand which Thales used to hold the quill suddenly froze. He looked as if he had thought of something. His highly efficient brain began automatically collecting every single element and linking them into a paragraph again.
'His promise to help her regain her throne.
'Their treaty of alliance.
'The indifferent Gilbert.
'And Serena's words, "I will work hard to help you become the heir and ascend the throne!"'
"Gilbert," Thales quirked his brows and opened his mouth wide, looking at the former Foreign Affairs Minister in disbelief, "it was you?"
The former Foreign Affairs Minister's mouth curled into a small grin. His mustache curved into elegant arcs.
"Oh yeah, I still remember." Thales exhaled and uttered in realization, "Last night, you were the one who told them about my identity! You didn't do it because you were angry at their impudence and arrogance, nor was it because my status was being undermined by those people." Thales stood up in front of the study table with a dubious gaze. "This was your plan all along!"
Gilbert did not admit nor decline it. He only shrugged his shoulders playfully in a rare show of mischief.
This allowed Thales to confirm his suspicions immediately. 'It was indeed Gilbert's plan! F*ck!'
"You deliberately revealed my identity because you guessed that they might seize this opportunity and take the initiative to negotiate with the heir to the throne while he is still in a dire state. That way, they can strengthen or add to the treaty to obtain the promise that I will help them after I ascend the throne. It might take a long time, but since they are the immortal Blood Clan, they can afford to wait!"
'Damn it!' Thales cursed Serena inwardly, 'That witch obviously had a plan, but still acted as though she was super-anxious to recover her abilities and go back to the Eastern Peninsula!
'Damn old man! Damn witch!' Thales thought in annoyance.
"I guess you have your own reasons for doing so?" Thales let go of his emotions and furrowed his brows.
Gilbert lifted his hat and bowed in his line of vision. "There is no trust between us and the Corleones. We harbor suspicions towards each other. It is extremely dangerous for us to live under the same roof in the name of cooperation, even though this is our territory."
"As for your blood? Safety?" Gilbert chuckled and spoke darkly. "I never believed that these unreliable things can guarantee a stable cooperation. We might have a fall-out with the Corleones at any possible time and endanger ourselves.
"However, the situation is different now. Your journey to becoming the heir and her mission to seize back the throne are bound together. To obtain your help, she must first help you.
"Although unexpected, you have used a promise that can only be carried out in the future after becoming king in exchange for immediate and reliable help." Gilbert smiled mysteriously. "Obtaining allies by binding them to you using benefits is the essence of politics."
"And helping her regain her throne?" Thales narrowed his eyes.
Gilbert exhaled. His eyes shone with cunning, "If you do not become king, how would you be able to help her regain her throne? As for what you said, regarding me watching idly as they bullied you? It is, of course, part of my duty to share your burdens. However, to develop you into a qualified heir, and to protect you from any sort of harm are both equally important duties to me." Gilbert smiled and spoke, "Serena Corleone is only an abject foreign dignitary and you will be Constellation's future. I thought that I would just let this be a small test to you."
'Small test?' Thales lowered his head and rolled his eyes again.
"Since you had this intention, why didn't you go straight to them and suggest an alliance?" the indignant Thales replied stiffly.
"My young Sir Thales," Gilbert blinked, "diplomatic negotiations are like sword tournaments. Although whoever attacks first gets the first strike…
"… they will at the same time, expose their steps and trails. There is nothing better for us than for them to suggest an alliance."
'I will just quietly watch you act all smart and all that jazz.' The boy shook his head and thought bitterly.
Thales grumbled in annoyance. "What a bad diplomat and politician—to even manipulate your own people."
"Alright." Gilbert only narrowed his eyes and smiled as he lowered his head to look at his pocket watch. "After copying these poems that you do not understand for so long, I am sure you feel tired."
Thales stopped moving the quill in his hand.
"You can rest for a while. Since we are already on the topic of politics and diplomacy, this is an opportunity for us to conduct a history lesson." Gilbert said, smiling, "Obtaining obvious benefits is not the only reason alliances are forged." Gilbert sat on the expensive sofa and tipped his hat. "Imminent crisis also leads to that... As well as shared beliefs."
Thales put down his quill and began paying earnest attention to Gilbert's words.
"This tale depicts how the disunited human beings and the other influential forces within the other races became the most loyal allies, even though they were filled with distrust towards each other." Gilbert's eyes shone with bright light.
Thales suddenly felt that Gilbert had become slightly serious.
"This is what 'Cahill's Falling Leaves Poetry Collection' depicts—the tale of that battle over six hundred years ago."
Count Caso's next sentence made Thales widen his eyes in shock. "That cruel, dark, bloody, horrific and earth-shattering battle depicted in historical poems—The Battle of Eradication."
In the deep and dark secret chamber, an old and raspy voice drifted into the air. "So, the wealthy families are showing signs of activity?"
"Yes, my dear teacher," a cynical, lazy voice replied. "Supreme class elites and plenty of supra class elites are departing from various strange places and gathering at the borders of various county towns in the north. They all share one similarity; investigation shows that none of them have anything to do with nobles and suzerains."
"Can you get the exact date?" the hoarse voice spoke apathetically.
"I'm afraid that it's difficult." The same voice replied with a light-hearted tone, "Even people from the Eckstedt Diplomat Group itself have not finalized their exact route. So, should we send people to continue investigating and inform the king about this?"
After some time, the raspy old voice replied with finality.
"No. Your focus is still that doctor in Black Street Brotherhood. I want all resources to be tilted towards that. Don't look down on Lance. After all, he came from here, and he knows our tactics very well.
"Investigate the whereabouts of all the Black Street higher-ups, especially the three main Assassins—Black Sword, Prison Sickle, and Reversed Machete. It's too difficult to find them, but we must at least make sure that they're not nearby! I'm sure Black Sword is not stupid enough to shelter a wizard. And, even if all goes well, don't let your guard down. After all, we have not waged war with any wizards for over a hundred years. Records and handbooks can only be used as references in the end."
A long moment passed.
"Okay then." After a moment, the young voice said noncommittally, "Speaking of which, are we really not sparing his life? After all, it is a living and breathing wizard!"
In the darkness, the sound of a person sitting up from a chair rang.
"There's no need." The raspy old voice appeared after it. "They are something that had already vanished long ago. Let it be completely buried, along with the Battle of Eradication."