Chapter 40: The Empire Shall Last, So Long as the Stars Do
"The Empire sank, the skies fell and the earth cracked.
"The Capital of Triumph, the Empire's capital city, which had over two thousand and three thousand years of history since the era of the feudal kings, and had witnessed the rise and fall of both dynasties of the Empire, was completely buried at the bottom of the Sea of Eradication along with the perishing of the Final Empire."
Gilbert's compassionate words even affected the guards standing on both sides of the hall. Thales could feel that their hands, which were pressed on their sword hilts, were trembling slightly.
Gilbert pressed on Thales' shoulders and looked at the young knight on the wall, who was perpetually roaring while charging forward, but seemed like he could never reach the end. "As for Tormond the First, at that time, he was not yet a king; he was one of the surviving citizens of the Final Empire."
Thales could feel the powerful grip from Gilbert's hand. The former Foreign Affairs Minister quietly opened his mouth and recited a few lines from 'Cahill's Falling Leaves Poetry Collection'.
"'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.'
"After ten years of blood and fire in war, the soldiers returned with shouts of victory but were no longer able to return to their previous lives. In their homeland to which they fought ceaselessly for, no blood remained in their noble families, all of them had lost their lives."
Upon saying this, Gilbert spoke in a trance.
"Thales, my young sir, can you imagine that feeling?"
Thales stared blankly at Tormond, who was advancing courageously.
'The young knight looked so brave and fearless. Even in the unbearably devastating battlefield, he looked gorgeous and radiant. At that time, did he know that he would never be able to return to his homeland?'
Gilbert did not wait for Thales to reply. He heaved a sigh. "No, at least not for me."
Thales did not speak but had a strange feeling in his heart.
'The living were frightened, lonely and homeless.'
Thales calmly recited the next two lines of the poem.
'The living were frightened.'
In his imagination, a grand and majestic city appeared. However, it was sinking slowly. All the people were running for their lives, shouting in panic and seized by trepidation. However, they could only watch helplessly as the ocean drowned everything.
At this moment, Thales suddenly raised his head and asked with a melancholic and slightly depressed tone tinged with indignation for the suffering the citizens had gone through.
"What about those people?"
"Hmm?" Gilbert, who was immersed in his recollection of the King of Renaissance, turned his head and looked at Thales in puzzlement.
Thales was also looking at Gilbert. He calmed his emotions, and his gaze was placid.
"The members of the royal family, nobles, knights, and soldiers were not the only ones there. They were participants of the battle anyway. There were also countless people who lived on that piece of land. Farmers, merchants, the elderly, and children." The boy spoke with a mild tone, "All the people who, regardless of birth, regardless of status, and regardless of race, were involuntarily dragged into this battle.
"During the battle and when the land sank, they were more innocent than the calamities, the emperor, the nobles or any other person. However, they were The Empire's true purpose of existence. Did none of them manage to escape?"
Gilbert gazed at Thales with slightly narrowed eyes, as if he had just met Thales and was sizing him up all over again.
"You are just like your grandfather who was sympathetic towards the populace, young Sir Thales." Gilbert heaved a sigh. "You have a sympathetic and kind heart."
'Sympathetic towards the populace? Actually using the word "sympathetic"? Gilbert has probably never placed himself in the same dimension as the "populace".
'As for being sympathetic and kind?' Thales quietly shook his head in his heart.
However, Gilbert immediately lowered his head dejectedly. His eyes were full of grief. "No, all the citizens of the Final Empire in the entire world, from nobles to the commoners, sank into the ocean.
"Only Tormond and his army remained as proof that the Final Empire and the Ancient Empire were not a myth. They truly existed."
Thales lowered his head and shut his eyes, lightly heaving a sigh.
At this moment, Gilbert's hands, which were on Thales' shoulders, exerted force slowly and gradually. He uttered the following words slowly and clearly. "And at that time, Prince Tormond was the most unloved, illegitimate child in the royal family of the Final Empire."
Thales's whole body trembled. He whipped his head back and looked at Gilbert in disbelief. He now knew why Gilbert wanted to tell him all this.
"Forget about titles, territories, and assets. He did not even have the right to inherit his family name. Even the title of 'prince' was only a form of courtesy towards him." Gilbert looked at Thales with a determined gaze.
"Compared to you right now, he had even fewer things he could call his own. The circumstances he faced was a hundred times more perilous than yours."
Thales stared blankly at Gilbert. He then looked at the illegitimate child on the wall, who was also a king.
Gilbert shook his head and removed his hands, which were resting on Thales' shoulders. He then continued to speak. "They won the Battle of Eradication. Humans and the entire civilized world were joyously celebrating the mighty victory. The world's political climate was also constantly changing.
"In the east, Senjem, the King of Mountains, carried the hopes of the Far Easterners and established the Mane et Nox Dynasty, after overthrowing the previous dynasty.
"Amma Mimeux Hanbol raised a flag and began spreading Hanbol dynasty's great reputation among countless believers.
"In the west, the hero Raikaru Eckstedt was crowned as king amidst cheers from the crowd. The strong and prideful Eckstedt Kingdom was thence born.
"However, compared to this…" Gilbert looked at Master Kolven's artwork solemnly and compassionately. "The Final Empire, which inherited the glory of the Empire, lost all its land and people overnight. Only the last of her kin remained.
"Overnight, the originally insignificant illegitimate child became the only remaining supreme leader—of the Empire that ceased to exist.
"Tormond had no land, people, provisions, nor riches. Apart from the six knights with him, he had an army of only two thousand. They advanced into foreign lands with trepidation, severed hopes, and a dim future ahead of them.
"Tormond, who was 24 years old, moved between various forces of powers and feudal lords. He used all possible methods to obtain even the slightest bit of fodder, the tiniest amount of provisions, encampment, or even a batch of weapons—from groveling and begging to arguing strongly on the basis of reason, from pleasing words and flattery to swindling and robbing. He ensured his subordinates' independent survival and protected the Empire's last remaining dignity.
"Every day, the lonely Prince Tormond struggled in battles, conspiracies, ambitious dreams, and authority, trying hard to survive amidst other people sneering at him, jeering at him, using him, and harboring ill-will against him. When he was only 26, he had a head full of white hair."
Gilbert put his hands behind his back. His eyes were filled with reverence. "'The Final Prince of the Final Empire'." This was how the people in both peninsulas ridiculed and mocked him."
Thales gazed fixedly at the bright and valiant prince without saying anything.
"Ten years went by. The group's headcount became smaller and smaller, along with their hopes. Finally, after a battle laden with casualties and deaths, his despairing subordinates held their comrades' dead bodies and surrounded the haggard Prince Tormond. They questioned him, crying. 'What is the purpose of continuing this fight? The Empire has perished without a single inch of its territory left. We are like trees without roots, the ashes of history, and will finally wither away without a trace. Why battle still?! Why don't we just give up now?'"
Thales trembled slightly and looked towards the prince. The ancestor's gaze had become different.
'When you have nothing, and everything has perished, what are you fighting for?'
Gilbert looked at Thales' expression and sighed compassionately. But he immediately put on a determined gaze and expression.
"Thales!" For the first time, Gilbert addressed Thales sternly and without honorifics. "You must carefully listen to my next words.
"That night, while being called into account by his subordinates and while shedding tears, Tormond took off his worn armor and uttered the most important vow in his life while pointing at the countless stars in the sky!"
At that moment, Thales saw that the guards were standing straight on both sides of the hall in a respectful manner. They had their heads lifted high and their chests puffed out. The sounds of armor clashing against each other instantly rose in the spacious hall.
With a stalwart expression on his face, Gilbert spoke with a solemn and respectful voice, "The Empire shall last, so long as the stars do."
Thales sucked in a deep breath.
'The Empire… The Empire shall last? So long as the stars do?' Thales thought about the meaning of these words.
Just as the middle-aged noble had finished speaking, all the soldiers and guards in the hall began walking slowly and with great force. The sounds of their footsteps echoed in the air.
Immediately afterward, they placed their fists in position and struck the golden silver shield with the nine-pointed star!
The spacious hall was instantly filled with a clear echo!
Thales, who was stunned by the history and was still in a daze, was terrified to the point that he took a step backward.
Before he could react to the situation, Gilbert suddenly crouched down and held the boy's shoulders. Then, once Gilbert looked into Thales' eyes at his eye level, he spoke seriously.
"Please do not underestimate yourself, your blood, and the meaning behind your status and your blood.
"Your existence as well as the Jadestar Family's existence, symbolize humanity's golden age. It is the strongest proof that the great Ancient Empire, the heroic Final Empire still continues to exist in the world!"
At that moment, Gilbert's eyes were filled with excitement. His hands trembled violently for some unknown reason, causing Thales to be anxious.
Gilbert continued speaking loudly, "September 27th, Year 10 in the Calendar of Eradication—that is the date Constellation was built.
"Prince Tormond pointed at the stars and pledged his oath that he would change his family name to 'Jadestar' and become Constellation's Founding King, Tormond the First.
"After several decades, Constellation became the most powerful country in the Western Peninsula! It was known as 'Western Peninsula's Blade and Shield' along with Eckstedt.
"The Empire was reborn from ashes. With Constellation as its name, it emerged once again in the world! Its splendor continued once again, and its greatness was revived!
"When people spoke about Tormond Jadestar, no one remembered the former 'Final Prince'.
"They only knew him as the 'King of Renaissance'."
Gilbert's mustache twitched, and his eyes shone so brilliantly that it looked as if there was a fire burning in his eyes. "The Jadestar Family's motto was born because of that as well!"
Thales felt a little ill at ease, even though he was also deeply moved by Tormond's story.
However, when he looked at the zealous Gilbert before him, Thales still found it difficult for him to fuse with these emotions.
'Does Constellation exist only for the Empire that only existed in the past?
'There's something off about this attitude to form a kingdom.
'There's definitely something off.'
A feeling of discord and discomfort attacked Thales' heart. However, when he saw Gilbert's eyes burning brightly in expectation and heard the sounds of breathing from the guards that had clearly become much heavier, he could only grit his teeth and nod deeply.
Thales frowned and repeated that sentence after them.
"The Empire shall last… so long… as the stars remain."
At that moment, a lovely yet reprimanding voice filled with anger traveled into the hall!
Thales and Gilbert turned their heads at the same time, and Jines Bajkovic looked at the teacher-student pair with a displeased expression on her chilly face.
"It is dinner time," she said coldly.