Chapter 61: The Journey
Thales watched with indifference as the nobles argued openly while throwing scathing remarks against each other in the dark. He lowered his head in dismal.
He sighed lightly. 'Power, procedures, war, army force, the throne, is this the future I have to face?'
He suddenly felt that this unknown and strange world which had originally piqued his curiosity endlessly was becoming a little boring.
Duke Cullen, who was beside Fakenhaz, stared at him in dissatisfaction. "Cyril, do you have to be this straightforward every time?"
An earth-shattering roar rang from Star Plaza. It was noisy, and the noise was filled with both fury and passion. The sounds could not be heard clearly.
On the other hand, in the Hall of Stars, members of the populace and nobles of the minor nobility class immediately erupted into a flood of protests!
"Shameless suzerain! This is a usurping of the throne!"
"But we need an heir! What if something bad happens to the king at the frontlines…"
"Die, traitor! Jadestar is our king, that was our sacred pledge!"
"This is all for Constellation! We must stand together and meet Eckstedt head-on!"
The dukes quietly exchanged glares while the counts whispered among themselves.
"Silence! Silence!" Gilbert tried his best to maintain order, but it was ineffective.
That was until the Supreme King of Constellation, Kessel the Fifth, spotted a brilliant glint in his eyes.
Grasping the mysterious scepter that shone with starlight, he rose from the throne and yelled furiously with his authoritative voice, "An heir?"
The Hall of Stars immediately went silent. Everyone stared at the king's robust figure.
"What good timing! You just had to do this when Constellation is in trouble, and when all of us need to work together to fight the enemy!"
The king rested his hands on the scepter and watched Koshder Nanchester with a sharp gaze. The One-Eyed Dragon slowly placed his hand in front of his chest and knelt on one knee before the king.
Nanchester spoke steadily and seriously. The sincerity in his words could be felt. "Forgive me, Your Majesty, but this is a test. I believe that the weakened and scattered powers of Constellation can once again come together amid this face-off between the Dragon and Constellation.
"Everyone knows that the first person to speak out in forcing Your Majesty to appoint an heir will face the accusations of the masses. However, this is not so that myself—so that Nanchester—can take the throne."
Koshder raised his head, and the gaze in his one eye was clear. "Your Majesty, you can very well exclude Nanchester from the list of candidates. Everything is for Constellation's sake. Please appoint an heir, or at least set a method for the selection of the heir. That way, Constellation will definitely return to stand at the top of the Western Peninsula, and might even display the glory of the Empire again."
Kessel slowly walked towards him and laughed coldly, "Koshder, sometimes even I cannot tell whether your awe-inspiring righteousness is out of sincerity or not."
The one-eyed duke said calmly, "But if it is beneficial for Constellation, does it matter whether it is sincere or not?"
"I have also imagined this situation before. However, in my imagination, this would have happened during the Higher Parliament Conference. It did not have to be so ugly," Count Dagestan said as he steadily rose and went behind Koshder. Similarly, he knelt on one knee. "But Your Majesty, due to the National Conference you decided to hold, this proper remonstration became a public conflict. One that appears as though we are publicly forcing you to abdicate your throne."
Count Sorel walked up from the back and knelt on one knee, speaking solemnly, "However, we all have sufficiently legitimate reasons to resurrect this once mighty kingdom, which is right now in a disastrous state."
Gilbert was so angry that his face was distorted in fury. "Just by having a new king? Do you think that by wearing the crown, Constellation will become the Empire?"
Count Bozdorf walked forward gloomily and knelt down steadily. "It is not that simple. Instead, we want to make the superior king who acts at his own will part of us. To think as we do and to act as we do. The ruler and the nobles were once united, and had been segregated due to the difference in power… Now, we will become one again."
Zayen lowered his head and spoke sadly, "The Covendier Family has followed the Jadestar Family since the Battle of Eradication. This vow will always stand. However, I think that Tormond the First would also want to safeguard the safety and future of Constellation—he would understand."
The Duke of Tricolor Iris Flowers rose with resolution and joined the kneeling group.
Fakenhaz's inappropriate laughter rang at an inappropriate time again. "Do you mean that we should adopt a king selection system? Hah, indeed, it will let all of you 'share the burden of Constellation'! Just like Eckstedt, is it not?"
"Better than Eckstedt. We have a thousand-year foundation from the Empire." Count Lascia from South Coast Hill looked at Duke Zayen with a complicated expression. He then went forward and knelt.
Kohen stared in disbelief as his father, the old Count Karabeyan, quietly knelt along with Count Lascia.
Kessel coldly looked down at these dukes and counts as one by one, they knelt down on one knee.
Duke Cullen sighed at that moment. "This is not the Jadestar Royal Family's fault. It is the fault of that crown, that throne, and that scepter. Since the royal blood is going extinct, for Constellation's sake, it might not be a bad thing if you appoint an heir."
After Duke Cullen spoke, the two counts from the Eastern Sea, Javea and Almond, quietly went forward and knelt down.
One of the members of the king's partisan, Count Godwin, spoke through clenched teeth, "It is obviously a shameful act to force the king to abdicate his throne. How do you even make this sound so justified and righteous?"
"Can you not see it?" Derek Kroma steadily left his seat and knelt down. "This is a representation of the general trend in the country."
Below Renaissance Palace, the noises from the crowd became louder and louder.
Val hit the handle of his stone chair with his fist. His gaze was cold. Clenching his fists tightly and lowering his head, he said, "Sometimes, I am really disgusted by all of you. An unbelievably coincidental war, an unbelievably coincidental remonstration, and the Northern Territory which is being sacrificed…"
Kessel the Fifth looked straight at him with a unique gaze that was difficult to comprehend. Under the king's indecipherable gaze, the Duke of the Northern Territory shut his eyes tightly and inhaled.
His brows moved about, shifting as if they were a reflection of how great his emotions were in conflict with each other.
In the end, as if having made a decision, he opened his eyes and looked at Kessel. However, Val did not look at the king's eyes. The heroic Duke of the Northern Territory spoke with desolation and disappointment, "But if this can lead to the stability and safety of the Northern Territory and Constellation… Kel, maybe you should consider it."
The two counts who were his subordinates from the Northern Territory lowered their heads in silence.
Kessel's gaze dimmed. He turned and did not look at his good childhood friend anymore.
Looking at how hesitant and guilty Val seemed, Duke Cyril Fakenhaz once again emitted a shrill laughter. "Your Majesty, it seems like you only have two choices left—to immediately appoint an heir, or to set a king selection system."
Kessel the Fifth stood above all his vassals without any facial expression. The only thing he grasped tightly in his hand was his scepter. Thales suddenly felt that his father looked very lonely.
'If he didn't find me, how would the situation today be?'
Watching everything by the side, Thales suddenly felt dizzy.
'It's coming again.'
A fragment of a past memory flashed before his eyes.
Wu Qiren was sitting in an extremely small classroom, speaking to a lecturer in front of him and two other students.
"Poggi inherited Weber's Deutsche Academic tradition. With his research topic revolving around power, he investigated the formation of feudal countries…"
'No! Not now!'
Thales pressed his palms against his temples hard and suppressed the flashback.
When Thales' attention returned to the Hall of Stars, Kessel the Fifth's majestic voice rang beside his ears, "It seems that if I do not appoint an heir, we will not even be able to go to war… Very well. Then, I shall appoint an heir."
Zayen's brows furrowed slightly. He felt increasingly unsettled.
Kessel the Fifth slowly sat down without even looking at the nobles on the floor. Those words that Thales had been waiting all this while finally resonated in the air. "Let him meet everyone, Gilbert."
'It's time.' Thales' mind went blank. He forced himself to gulp and watched as Gilbert waved his hand.
Within the dark room, a secret door suddenly opened in front of Thales. It contained a long flight of stairs leading to an unknown location. The crowd in the Hall of Stars began discussing among themselves.
The dukes and the counts maintained their composure. However, they could see the uncertainty in each other's gazes.
Thales rearranged his bow tie, then addressed himself with the name that belonged to him in this world. 'Thales, it's time.'
Thales resolutely stepped on the stairs. 'Just take it as another game.'
On the floor, Count Dagestan raised his head and stared straight at Kessel. "I apologize for not understanding what you mean, Your Majesty… Could it be that the heir that you chose is not among the nobles in this hall?"
The supreme king only stared at him coldly without saying anything.
In the narrow passageway, Thales pressed his hands against his forehead hard. The flashback returned, but he clenched his teeth and firmly walked forwards.
When he opened his eyes, he saw the Hall of Stars, but when he closed his eyes, he saw the other version of himself living within the fragments of those memories.
"The bond between the feudal king and his vassals is strongly emotional and personal in nature… Due to the fight for power, the bond slowly deteriorates. There is a breakdown in order, and the rapport becomes unstable. Violence and unrest breaks out periodically… Then the unified feudal system finally falls apart…
"However, the rise of feudalism is still a praiseworthy effort in stabilizing public rule… Poggi also believed that in this process, the legitimacy of power, the boundary of the king's rule, the country's responsibilities and traditions, and even the importance of law became a part of history, and received recognition. This is the most valuable legacy left behind by feudalism to the countries that came afterwards…
"But we still have to ask. What is lacking in Poggi's observation and analysis?"
'What is lacking?'
"Your Majesty, have you chosen your heir?" The One-Eyed Dragon, Koshder Nanchester, raised his single eye and looked around him with a profound gaze. "But it seems that the Tabark Family and the two Distinguished Families from the southwest have not arrived yet."
The supreme king still did not pay him any attention. Thales reached a side door and could already see the members of the populace gathered outside the Hall of Stars.
'No, it's not a side door.'
He realized that the door in front of him led towards the center of the hall—where the twenty stone chairs were.
'It's the main door.'
The guards had a solemn expression on their faces. However, some could not help but look at him and the emblem on his clothes.
The moment they saw it clearly, the breathing quickened for many of them. Some even lost their composure and leaned forward to take a look.
However, a guard who appeared to be the leader sternly reprimanded them to return to their positions. He then respectfully saluted Thales and cleared a path for him to enter the hall, but when Thales was about to start walking—
"Go. You will be better than him."
Thales raised his head abruptly. The guard had already turned and left.
Only the back of a figure clad in armor and a helmet could be seen.
'Yodel.' Thales clenched his fist tightly. 'Is it you?'
Similarly, some of the members of the populace gathered outside the hall had already noticed the boy standing outside the door. They started whispering among themselves while signaling to each other.
The flashback faded away like a receding tide. The boy felt as though there was a newfound surge of energy in his body that made him more alert.
Thales took three deep breaths. 'This is just another game… This is just another thesis defense.'
Thales pushed aside all his emotions and cleared all the expressions on his face. He then stepped onto the astral blue, patterned carpet.
He stepped into his future.
He walked onwards, passing by members of the populace who gathered at the outermost layer of the crowd.
A squire from the outskirts dressed in slightly old-fashioned clothing jabbed his friend beside him—who ran errands between the city and the countryside.
"Who is that?"
"Even a child can enter the Hall of Stars now?"
"Maybe he's a noble."
"But he's so young."
"Eh, can you see it? That child is dressed so beautifully."
"Almost as beautiful as the young lady from the baron's family."
Thales did not avert his gaze. He walked on, passing traders, artisans, farmers and the head of trades who occupied the steps.
A plump carriage trader was a little surprised. He pulled the arms of two other people who were in the same trade as him.
"Look at that child!"
"Is he a noble who came late?"
"With that attire, he is definitely more than a noble of the minor nobility class!"
"Do you recognize the emblem on his clothing?"
"It seems a little familiar. I once fetched some customers, whose scrolls they held had that emblem."
"Why is he coming at this time?"
Thales did not stop walking. He continued onwards, then walked past the seats occupied by honorary militants and administrative officers.
A judge from a little village nearby saw him. He furrowed his brows and lowered his head, whispering softly at the authorized signatory from another town hall.
"Look at that family emblem."
"That's… my God!"
"How is this possible?"
"I also think that it's impossible. Are you sure you didn't get it wrong?"
"I have handled almost a hundred warrants from the king! How can I get it wrong?!"
Thales ignored them completely and continued onwards, walking past nobles of minor nobility classes such as lords and barons sitting on stone stools.
The eyes of a baron smoking from a pipe shone with a bright light. He almost bit on the pipe in his mouth. He leaned his body forward and tapped his good friend's shoulder.
"That cannot be the… Nine-Pointed Star?"
"Are you thinking the same thing I am?"
"More or less."
"Yes, as expected of the Iron Hand King."
Thales paid them no attention. He passed by the stone chairs of viscounts, counts, and other nobles of the intermediate nobility class.
An honorary count opened his mouth in disbelief.
He did not have to notify the others as many of the nobles had seen Thales.
"Heavens above… this, how are they going to put an end to this?"
"It cannot be. All these years, there was no news at all…"
"Perhaps he is an illegitimate son who was wandering about out there…"
"Then the suzerains…"
"Haih, the waters in this matter run too deep…"
"Let us just wait and see."
The discussion, noise and chatter among the crowds became increasingly louder. In the end, it became a loud commotion.
All the people stood up and leaned forward, eagerly watching the mysterious boy wearing a gold-and-silver nine-pointed star.
Behind the stone chair at the center, Kohen turned his head curiously to look at the source of the commotion.
A boy in noble attire who wore a nine-pointed star breastpin walked forward with a solemn expression.
Seeing the nine-pointed star, the stunned Kohen did not move.
'That boy… why does he have the Jade… Jadestar Family emblem?'
Without batting an eyelid, Thales stepped between the thirteen stone chairs.
Gilbert winked at him.
The three dukes who were seated saw the approaching boy clearly. They could no longer maintain their composure.
Val stared at the boy in shock and clenched his fists tightly, "This… are you joking?"
Cullen furrowed his brows deeply and leaned his plump body forward. "That boy… his emblem…"
On the other hand, Cyril ground his horrifying teeth and his brows twitched. He uttered a few words, "Ah, ah… this is indeed… beyond my expectations."
The supreme king slowly raised his head. His gaze was cold but carried the hint of a smile as well.
He chuckled as he said, "Everyone, meet Thales."
The suzerains who were kneeling on the floor turned their heads.
The moment Zayen Covendier, the Guardian Duke of South Coast, saw the boy's face clearly, his pupils immediately contracted.
'It's him… It's him? It's him!'
Kessel gently stroked his scepter once more, and spoke with dignified authority, "He is my son. The only blood descendant of the Jadestar Royal Family."
Thales extended his right hand forward and placed his left hand on his back. He bowed deeply to the king.
He then turned towards all the suzerains.
"Good day, sirs," Thales heard himself say.
That was the first time he spoke to the honorable suzerains of Constellation, who had a large number of troops in their hands... and ruled the kingdom.