Chapter 62: You Owe Me a Word of Thanks
The suppressed commotion in the Hall of Stars officially became a hall-wide uproar.
Everybody, including members of the populace, officials, and nobles of various classes, eagerly drew themselves forward. They all wanted to have a look at the first Jadestar offspring to appear in twelve years.
Under Gilbert's orders, group after group of well-armed guards rapidly entered the scene and formed human barricades. Holding anti-force shields and riot control sticks borrowed from the police station, they forcibly warded off the crowd and maintained order.
"Move back, or else you will be punished for disrespect towards the royal family!" the guards screamed at the top of their lungs.
However, even these guards sometimes turned their heads back to look at that boy with the special identity but was only six or seven years old.
Thales stood in the hall unperturbed. Facing the gazes of people from the entire hall, he was calm and composed.
'This is what I have no choice but to face.'
He felt a little spiritless, which was why he felt extremely calm even though he had to endure an endless number of gazes trained on his person.
Especially the gazes of those dukes and counts who numbered, altogether, more than ten people. There was bewilderment, shock, fury, indignation, contemplation, and ambiguity in their gazes. After that, their gazes simultaneously became one of scrutiny and caution, piercing into him like sharp knives.
There was also Zayen Covendier's complicated gaze. Zayen could only feel the blood in his entire body flow upwards to his brain.
Trembling slightly, he slowly stood up and stared at Thales in disbelief. 'It's that boy… How can this be?
'The supposed illegitimate child of Lord Mahn… Him?
'The greater irony is the fact that I just saved his life from the hands of assassins yesterday.
'If I had insisted yesterday… or simply stayed out of it and let him die in the hands of the assassins…'
He clenched his fists tightly and gritted his teeth.
'No, we have not lost yet. There is still a chance!'
However, a greater, noisier, and more deafening cheer rang from Star Plaza. The news about the Jadestar descendant had finally been announced to the entire kingdom.
Gilbert coldly said, "Go back to your seats, gentlemen. I believe that His Majesty will humbly accept your remonstrations and take your suggestions to appoint an heir."
"Why does this boy have the nine-pointed star…? It has been twelve years… Your Majesty…" Count Sorel could not hide his shocked expression at all. He returned to his stone chair in a daze.
"We have never heard about Queen Keya having a third child… Who exactly is this unknown child…?" Count Dagestan muttered as he sat back down on his stone chair. He furrowed his brows in deep contemplation.
"Your Majesty, we still need an explanation!" Duke Koshder, the One-Eyed Dragon from Nanchester Family lowered his head. His expression could not be seen clearly in the shadows, but he kept his fists clenched tightly.
He suddenly raised his head and glared furiously and fixedly at Kessel the Fifth with his single eye. "To have a boy wearing the Nine-Pointed Star family emblem appear at this time… are you toying with us?"
Kessel the Fifth did not even glance at him. He stared in another direction.
Val furrowed his brows deeply and sighed softly. He spoke forlornly, "Kel, I understand. So, this was your aim. Just like these disgusting people, you had a plan. You did not hold this National Conference for the purpose of reacting to Eckstedt at all… but for this child."
The Duke of the Northern Territory leaned back and looked at the expressionless Thales. He then looked at the silent king and continued, "Do all of you think I am a fool? Hah, after all this, apart from the Northern Territory itself, nobody cares about Eckstedt and the war." He laughed mockingly. "Look, this is the glory of Constellation, the afterglow of the Empire."
Kessel the Fifth ignored him. The other suzerains also avoided his gaze.
The plump Duke Cullen furrowed his brows, a sight that was rarely seen. He contemplated earnestly in solemnity without saying anything.
"It is not a surprise. We are talking about the Jadestar Royal Family and the nineteen noble families here." Duke Fakenhaz laughed dryly. Not caring that the people he reprimanded included himself, he mocked, "The pillars of Constellation!"
Having calmed down, Zayen Covendier exchanged a look with Koshder. They tried to communicate with Duke Cullen, who was sitting in another stone chair. However, the latter had his head lowered in thought, as though nothing in the outside world mattered to him.
'Damned old man.' The young Duke of the South Coast and the one-eyed Duke of the Land of Cliffs mentally scolded at the same time. 'He is the pioneer of "New Star" and also the first person to agree to the plan, but he is always the first one to retreat when accidents happen.'
Watching the counts and dukes as they returned to their seats, Gilbert responded coldly, "Everyone, you have heard what His Majesty has said. His Majesty will acknowledge this boy as his kin in today's National Conference." The middle-aged noble took a step forward and tried his best to suppress his excitement. "The Jadestar royal bloodline will hence continue…"
"Wait!" The Duke of the Land of Cliffs, Koshder the One-Eyed Dragon, seemed to have just snapped out of the shock that made him lose his composure. He cut Gilbert off in a loud voice, "We all know that two of His Majesty's children have, unfortunately, passed away twelve years ago, but we do not yet know what exactly this boy's origin is!"
'Perhaps the effect would be minimal. However, this has to be stopped no matter what, or else, after planning for so long, they…'
Thales sighed and looked towards Koshder.
'Are they those people Gilbert spoke about? Those who hope to rely on a sudden crisis to change the situation in the kingdom and, hence, obtain power and benefits?'
He glanced at Koshder, Zayen, and the counts. Thales scrutinized them and shook his head slightly. 'This conference is practically like a farce in the market, but it determines the war and peace, and also the future of countless people in the kingdom.'
"Who gave you the power to interrogate His Majesty about his son's identity in front of him during the National Conference?" Count Godwin, who was part of the king's partisan, demanded loudly in dissatisfaction.
Having met Duke Zayen's gaze, Count Lascia slowly said, "This is about the person who will inherit the throne, and the future of Constellation. Every noble who had their title conferred by the king has the right to ask. How can we treat this as child's play?"
Fakenhaz clapped and let out a sinister and shrill laugh. "Great. Just now, the Jadestar Royal Family was still an historical antique about to be swept into the garbage heap. Now, everyone is concerned about the future of the kingdom."
Koshder and Zayen cast a dissatisfied glance at Fakenhaz at the same time.
Val placed his hand on his forehead and spoke while suppressing his fury, "Let this damn farce end soon. No matter what the result is, the Northern Territory is still facing the threat of war.
"Although I know that all of you do not care, and even this crisis is just… Whatever it is, just end it soon." By the end of his sentence, the Duke of the Northern Territory whose gaze was full of fury, shook his head slightly. He said mockingly, "Whether it is the king, or the suzerains… the Northern Territory should never have relied on any of you."
The suzerains looked at each other and was silent for a moment.
The noise in Star Plaza again became louder and resonated in the Hall of Stars. However, the reason is unknown this time.
Kessel lightly tapped his scepter on the floor, garnering everyone's attention. The Iron Hand King's expression was calm and nonchalant.
"Thales, let everyone take a look at who you are." The king's tone was flat. However, his words made everyone's expression change all of a sudden. "Sooner or later, they will kneel before you and pledge their loyalty to you. They will become your support, and the kingdom's pillars."
A few of the counts turned their heads without batting an eyelid, completely forgoing their intention to speak out.
'True. If this boy really becomes the Supreme King of Constellation in the future…'
Without batting an eye, Zayen clasped his hands together and rapidly assessed the situation. 'If the Higher Parliament formed by the nineteen nobles does not acknowledge this child's status… That way… Even if it would damage our public trust… this damn National conference…'
Everyone sitting on the stone chairs turned their heads and watched as the boy went beside King Kessel.
That seemingly thin, weak, and pitiful boy who had to endure the gazes of everyone in the hall. He maintained a calm expression, and even looked a little preoccupied.
"I am Thales." Amid the noise, the neatly dressed boy spoke softly.
The people in the hall quickly went silent so that they could hear him clearly.
This was also a skill he learned from his past life while giving speeches. When speaking in a noisy occasion, the key to silencing others was not by speaking even louder than them; it was to leave them with no choice but to shut up so they can hear him clearly.
"I am a descendant of the Jadestar bloodline. My father is this kingdom's supreme king, King Kessel Jadestar. My grandfather is this kingdom's late king, the King of Eternal Rule, King Aydi Jadestar."
His gaze swept across all the suzerains in front of him. He saw the Duke of the Northern Territory, who sat alone at the side with a dreary expression. The duke's head was lowered and he did not speak—Val Arunde. And the two Counts of the Northern Territory who were sitting behind him.
He then looked at the aggressive One-Eyed Dragon, Nanchester; Zayen, who shook his head slightly while staring at him; Fakenhaz, whose gaze was one of contemplation; and Duke Cullen, who had his head lowered and was smiling.
He looked at the counts, whose expressions differed, but were similarly harboring ulterior motives in their minds.
He even looked at Kessel the Fifth, who had an indifferent expression as he held his scepter.
Thales suddenly awoke to reality. 'My status, the royal family's succession, and even the impending war and Constellation's safety. I'm afraid that those were never in these people's considerations.
'As for the casualties from the wars…'
The dispiritedness and boredom in the boy's heart became greater.
By definition, he should talk about his 'origins' in Mahn Manor according to what he had been told to do, and then let the king and the people from the king's partisan do the rest.
However, Thales felt a little worn out. He did not feel like following the script anymore; he had enough of all this.
The boy's mind began turning. 'The formation of feudal kingdoms… the feudal king and his vassals… strongly emotional and personal… the struggle for power… the bond slowly changes…'
He then slowly opened his eyes and looked at the suzerains. The corner of his lips curled up.
Consequently, everyone saw the boy shut his eyes, then opening them after a second and chuckling softly. Seeing Thales' sardonic grin and how he stopped speaking, Gilbert suddenly felt a chill running up his spine.
'Surely it could not be...'
Although this young gentleman often gave him plenty of scares, Gilbert would still prefer fewer surprises on such an important occasion.
Thales blinked and slowly began speaking, "I can prove that I am part of the Jadestar bloodline. But…
"Forget about that." Thales swept his gaze across the nobles, who were watching him with greedy, predatory eyes. He quietly said, "In any case, even if I am able to prove that I am a descendant of the Jadestar Family, all of you will still have reasons to object to my inclusion into the family, right?"
Koshder spoke coldly, "Child, do you know what you are talking about? If you cannot prove that you are—"
"The Guardian Duke of the Land of Cliffs, Koshder Nanchester," Thales said coldly, "Are your intense objections for the sake of Constellation and the royal family, or for one of you to wear that crown? Is this not something everyone already knows?
"This is the National Conference, and people from the entire capital city are observing this conference. Who do you think you can deceive with that righteous 'everything I do is for Constellation's sake' air?"
The crowd in the hall immediately burst into uproar.
Gilbert started to feel anxious. This was definitely not in the plan. He was about to speak, when Jines pulled him from behind.
Jines gazed at Thales and spoke in a low voice, "Let him finish. He does not look like he is without a plan."
Koshder, who was sitting on his stone chair, glared fiercely at Thales with his single eye. However, Thales could feel that the Duke of the Land of Cliffs' breathing was quickening.
Thales took huge strides towards Koshder and stared fearlessly into his eye. "You stepped into the Hall of Stars, saying that you want to aid the Northern Territory and unite the kingdom. However, as a prerequisite, you demanded for somebody among your own people to be appointed as heir to the kingdom, or else you will refuse to dispatch troops, and would rather see the Northern Territory fall into enemy hands. Of course, perhaps the decline of the Northern Territory is a good thing for all of you."
Val, whose head was lowered all the while, raised his gaze and looked towards the boy.
Koshder was still staring fixedly at Thales with his single eye, like a mamba snake that was observing its prey before launching an attack.
But Thales was not done speaking. His eyes burned, as if harboring the deepest fury. "However, everyone knows that this is not righteousness but a deal! What you care about is not Constellation, the royal family, nor the people—just yourself! You are not a lone hero who is willing to be subject to disapproval for his kingdom's benefits! All you want is an heir of the kingdom who is to your liking. But you have to mask your desires and interests with righteousness!"
Thales coldly concluded his speech with the knowledge he had learned from the past twenty days. "In the Far East, they call this 'masking your desire with excuses'. Translated, it means this: One-Eyed Dragon, you are a hypocrite. And you disgust me."
There was only coldness left in Koshder's single eye.
The suzerains stared at each other. They could see shock in the others' eyes.
'Although this is an undisclosed story every single intellectual knows, to speak about it in public… is too…'
"Wow." Fakenhaz clapped, as if he craved nothing short of kingdom-wide chaos. He grinned. "At least you are pretty eloquent, child."
Kessel the Fifth ran his hand gently over his scepter. His gaze was profound.
After a few seconds, the crowd burst into an uproar. There were even people shouting loudly at the place where members of the populace and members of the minor nobility classes were seated.
"Are you done speaking?!" Gritting his teeth, Koshder suddenly stood up!
He went right in front of Thales and looked down at him. He spoke intimidatingly, "You damned child, do you think that by spouting nonsense, you can shift…"
Thales also raised his head all of a sudden and coldly cut him off, "Shut up, hypocrite. I am not done speaking yet!
"The Jadestar bloodline is standing right in front of you. I am the descendant of Tormond the First, and my bloodline is one that you and your ancestors from every single generation had once kneeled and pledged your life and fealty to!" Thales stared at the Duke of the Land of Cliffs without giving any impression of weakness. He spoke without regards for the duke's feelings, "Even if you want to usurp the throne, for the sake of your ancestors, show me some respect."
Koshder widened his one eye. He watched in disbelief as the child in front of him—only six or seven years old—used the Jadestar status that even he himself had not obtained, to insult him. For a moment, he did not even remember to refute.
A loud cheer once again rang from the plaza. Words such as 'Jadestar' and 'prince' could be vaguely heard.
Thales sneered and repeated mercilessly, "Oh no, it seems like the messages were already passed down, hypocritical duke."
Without waiting for Koshder's reaction, he turned abruptly and looked at the suzerains.
Thales spoke steadily and loudly, "All of you have made a deal in private, right? A group of nobles, with determining the next king as their goal, assassinated the Eckstedt Diplomat Group, and incited war. With the fall of the Northern Territory, some people will obtain territories and resources, some will receive promises and gains, and some…" Thales slowly turned and looked towards the young Duke of South Coast. He spoke calmly, one word at a time, "Might get the crown.
"Right? Duke of Tricolor Iris Flowers?"
A lot of people turned their heads at the same time and followed Thales' gaze to look towards Duke Zayen Covendier.
Under the gazes of Thales and the crowd, Zayen felt extremely uncomfortable.
The fact that he unintentionally saved and let go of the boy yesterday, resulting in the boy ruining the plan, also made him very angry. However, his strict upbringing, which had lasted for years, and his training as a noble, allowed him to hide his emotions and maintain the best demeanor.
Zayen flashed a friendly smile and spoke steadily, "Child, making random guesses will not help you get your status confirmed. If you do not plan on explaining your origins and giving us proof, we will have to dispatch an investigation team and spend some time thoroughly investigating your past. Only then—"
Thales suddenly changed the topic and cut him off.
"Yesterday, on my way to Renaissance Palace, I encountered assassins." Thales watched all the seated suzerains as their gazes changed. He spoke calmly, "It was thanks to you, the Guardian Duke of South Coast, Zayen Covendier, helping me in the middle of your journey, that I was able to escape death."
Gilbert and Jines looked at each other. They saw worry in each other's eyes.
Hearing the news about the assassins, the crowds started whispering among themselves again.
Thales nodded at him with a calm expression. "A life was saved, but somebody did not say thank you."
Zayen tried hard to suppress the anger in his heart. 'This brat. Is it because you know that I let go of such a large prey, that's why…
'That's why you deliberately came here to anger me?'
On the surface, Zayen smiled and nodded with considerable grace. "You are welcome. Every noble who passed by had the obligation to extend a helping hand. Moreover, you already thanked me yesterday. However, even though you faced assassination, it cannot prove that you—"
But Thales did not let him continue.
"No, Sir Covendier." Thales coldly raised his head. "You misunderstood me."
Thales walked, step after step, towards Zayen, and slowly spoke, one single word at a time, according to his steps. That way, the words spoken will bring out the most oppressive and convincing air to others. "I remember the moment when those assassins saw me very clearly. The leader was very shocked. He even shouted 'No'."
Thales went in front of Covendier's stone chair and said slowly, "Gilbert might have been wondering why I faced assassination, although my whereabouts had obviously not been leaked."
Zayen stared in bewilderment at Thales standing before him. 'What on earth does he want to do?'
"As the target of their assassination, I was also very astonished. At that time, almost nobody knew who I was. Even if I were promised that crown, if you—who had relevant interests to the crown—met me, you would not thrust your sword at me without giving me a chance to speak.
"Until just now, when I saw you and your accomplices pushing in unison for an heir to be appointed, I finally understood." Thales lowered his head and sighed deeply. "They were not there to kill me… But to kill someone else."
Zayen's expression finally changed. Watching Zayen's gaze that had turned from skepticism to shock, Thales slowly uttered his remaining words.
"Their target was another person who was also on his way to Renaissance Palace, and was bound to pass by that street. That person was also an important person who was also keeping a low profile and had come on this trip in secret with little protection."
Zayen was so shocked that he could not speak.
Thales' gaze was steady and his words were chilling. Looking at Zayen, who was sitting stunned in his chair, Thales cracked a smile. "Yes, Duke Covendier. Yesterday, I startled the assassins by passing through."
At a corner where no one was paying attention to, Jines lowered her head and shut her eyes tightly.
"Your Grace, it was me. There were more than ten professional assassins who had thorough planning, were well-trained, well-coordinated, and concealed themselves superbly. They had Psionics among them, were equipped with military crossbows, and could accurately assassinate their target who was protected by supreme class elites. It was me…" Thales narrowed his gray eyes. "...who saved your life from their hands."
He uttered one final sentence, "So, you are the one who owes me a word of thanks, Duke Covendier."
Having understood something, Zayen's face became increasingly pale. He subconsciously rested his back on the stone chair.
The two Counts of South Coast Hill, Karabeyan and Lascia, who were behind him, stared at each other in shock.