Chapter 63: The Bloodline Ceremony
Thales had yet to finish his speech.
"Since you are the assassin's target… who could be the one who wants to take your life?"
Thales' voice pounded on Zayen's heart like a sledgehammer covered in iron thorns. "Your Grace, let us take a moment to recall. What did you plan to do on that day? Who were you going to meet? Who would have knowledge of your whereabouts?"
Zayen exhaled deeply without giving away any emotion on his face, but the scene from that day kept emerging uncontrollably in his mind.
He saw that Gilbert had been among those that were attacked, and to win Gilbert's favor, Zayen had lent a helping hand.
Those assassins, that little boy, and also, the people who knew that he would be there.
Thales sounded cold as he slowly replied word by word, "Was it those people whom you thought were your allies? Those people whom you worked hard with to achieve a better future for Constellation? Those people who once promised you a beautiful future?"
Thales turned his head around as he sighed. "This makes sense. Did they also tell you that among those people who were qualified to succeed the throne, you're the youngest candidate with the best image, has the majority of the people's support, and is the most possible candidate?"
The silent crowd finally started to rise into a clamor. Everyone at the scene had different reactions towards Thales' behavior.
Standing behind Count Karabeyan, the young Officer Kohen stared at the boy in astonishment. 'Is he… really only six or seven years old? When I was seven years old… never mind, just forget it, lest I get upset over the comparison.'
But things did not always turn out how people wished them to be. The old Count Karabeyan turned his head around and glanced at Kohen with a scrutinizing gaze before turning his gaze towards Thales.
Under Kohen's increasingly bewildered expression, the old count's gaze flickered numerous times between Kohen and Thales. Finally, the old count sighed in disappointment after looking at Kohen, before turning his head once again to look at Thales.
He left Kohen looking innocent and clueless, but Kohen then realized what the old count's glances implied, so he lowered his head in misery, 'Old man, do you have to reach that extent! You can't just compare people like that!'
Morat, the Black Prophet, gently exhaled as he stared at Thales with eyes filled with mixed emotions. It seemed that he had previously underestimated him.
The infamous Chief of the Secret Intelligence Department whispered to Raphael who stood behind him, "This child… was indeed out of our expectations… If he were the king you have to serve in the future… The advantage is that you will have less to worry about, but the downside is that you cannot possibly be worry-free."
Raphael nodded gravely at the seemingly paradoxical speech. He understood what the prophet was trying to convey.
Kessel the Fifth stared at his son with sparkling eyes. He turned his head slightly to the side, and murmured to Jines who was by his side, "Did that child learn about eloquence and speech from Gilbert, or learn reasoning and observation skills from you?"
"Neither." Jines stared at the center of the court, at that boy who was talking and explaining in such a serious manner. A bitter yet gratified smile appeared on her face. "That child is rather unique."
"Rather unique." Kessel the Fifth pondered for a moment before he snorted lightly, his features clouded up with gloom and mixed emotions. "You are right. He is just like his mother."
Jines' expression froze.
Kessel's switched his gaze back onto Thales.
Koshder slammed against the arm of the stone chair furiously and cut off Thales' speech. He glared indignantly at Kessel's relishing gaze. "Your Majesty, it is time for this farce to end… Our main point is…"
"Nanchester's One-Eyed Dragon! Why are you in such a hurry?"
Everyone turned around and, to their surprise, the person who spoke was the Duke of the Northern Territory!
Val coldly raised his head. "Why is it unfavorable for you if he continues his speech?"
Koshder was left with his tongue tied.
Val's eyes were raging flames. He turned his head around and stared at that haggard, horrible-looking man. Then, with words that contained an underlying meaning and were as sharp as blades, he said, "As for you, Fakenhaz, you old bones, under these circumstances, it was a wonder that you were not gloating over the misfortune, nor giving out sarcastic remarks. This is very uncommon of you."
"Thank you for reminding me. I was just about to start, ha ha…" Cyril Fakenhaz, who was slower to catch up than others, pointed his finger and guffawed at Zayen who had an incredibly sour look on his face.
But only for those who knew him the best could tell that his laughter was insipid. "Seems that you have been made a fool by others, you immature young duke!"
Val stared at the plump duke across from him and said disdainfully, "As for you, Duke Cullen, our prime minister, you are still as dependable as before."
Duke Cullen smiled at the comment in an ingenuous manner. Zayen tightened his fist while maintaining what was left of his bearings, trying hard not to look at those people.
'If… if I'm dead… Out of those people, who would benefit?' He began to consider about the issues as he could not control the growing suspicion in his heart.
Zayen tried his best to smile despite looking slightly pale for his complexion. He spoke weakly, "Enough, child. No matter what you say, there is still no evidence…"
Thales stared at this young duke, his eyes cold and distant as he purposely avoided the 'evidence' that was just brought up. He deliberately coaxed the thoughts of both the duke and those who were listening to the direction he wanted. "What position exactly did you have in the group that consists of people who care about the throne?
"Yes, this does not make any sense. You are not the only one in the group. Your group does not consist of just one person. If you were murdered, the rest of the group would feel unsafe and become paranoid. Then, the alliance would break by itself."
Thales sighed again, "Why would the person behind this have the intention to kill you, to carry out actions that would destroy the plan? Unless, there is a more terrifying possibility."
Zayen closed his eyes and lowered his head slightly. He was not a fool.
Thales moved around Zayen in a circle. With a sympathetic look on his face, he patted the shoulder of the Iris Flowers' master. "The possibility is that all the other members of the group knew that you are meant to be the sacrificial lamb. Your death is a part of the plan. You are the one who was betrayed, and the only one who was abandoned.
"This makes sense. You are young and promising. You have excellent skills and approaches towards matters. You came from a rich family and you have high popularity among the people. If you made your way up to the throne, even if it is just a throne you obtained by means of selecting a king, it will only take a few years for Covendier to become another Jadestar Royal Family who will begin to control and regulate the suzerains. Even if age is a factor, for your age, you will still live longer than any one of them.
"If that is the case, what would be the difference of them trying to change the royal family in the first place? If the Tricolor Iris Flowers' master was murdered in the capital, the nobles would become more terrified, the pressure for the war would increase, the blame that His Majesty has to bear would increase, and the scheme in forcefully deciding an heir would perhaps become easier and smoother. The crown would also be worn by the person whom they favor more."
Zayen's expression was indifferent, but everyone else could tell that his gaze had stopped moving for quite some time.
Thales shook his head in a comical manner, as if he was an adult. "Before you have the chance to wear that crown, you have already been betrayed. It all boils down to the fact that you are still far too young and careless in befriending others."
Thales walked back to Kessel's side, and coldly continued, "They probably borrowed a great amount from you and the Covendier Family's power, and have been making preparations for a very long time. But no matter what they promised you, they will not fulfill that promise.
"Please think about it carefully, and then reconsider your stance. You are a wise person, which side are you more likely to choose as your ally? Who would provide the greatest benefit towards Iris Flowers' growth as the king?"
Zayen kept his glance away from Thales while remaining silent. He stared fixedly at the floor beneath him, as if he was interested in the pattern of the floor tiles.
At this moment, Thales suddenly snapped his head around. He cried in a strange manner at the suzerains on the stone seats, "Do not move."
Many of the suzerains furrowed their brows. Thales carefully swept his gaze over everyone's faces, as if he was inspecting them down to their every pore.
He coldly said, "Do not move. Those who betrayed Zayen, do not turn your heads or move away your gaze. Look into my eyes… I can sense your guilt and fear from your expressions."
Zayen raised his head abruptly and stared at the suzerains. Some of their breaths stopped during that instance!
But the next moment, Thales' whole frame became loose as he relaxed. He opened his palms and giggled, "You do not have to be nervous. I was only kidding."
Some of the suzerains released the breath they were holding. They clenched their teeth and balled up their fists tightly as they glared at Thales.
'Did he do that on purpose?'
Thales looked at the suzerains as his expression became solemn once more. "But after seeing Iris Flowers' example, you should understand that once Jadestar has no heir, regardless of which other clan or distinguished family succeeds the throne, no matter if it is before or after the ascension, no matter for whether they are weak or strong, the new royal family will eventually become the next target of the suzerains.
"Without any external forces from other enemies, you will begin fighting against each other over the uneven distribution of power until the fall of Constellation itself.
"I do not care who the one that formed the conspiracy plan is, nor do I care about who is the one that wants the throne. Since, for most of you, it is a conclusion set in stone that the royal family has no heir, and naturally, you would want to choose the future that is most beneficial for yourself.
"However, I am already standing here. For the peace and stability of Constellation, and also for your own benefit. The succession of the Jadestar Royal Family is the biggest hope for Constellation's stability.
"Everyone, for everything, please be like your ancestors and support Jadestar firmly and unwaveringly. Please support me."
The crowd's discussion became increasingly louder, and some people began to applaud.
Coincidentally, the hurrah from the plaza also came through tier by tier. It was unknown which sentence exactly the guards had passed from inside the hall.
Thales did not look at the suzerains' expressions. In fact, he enjoyed it even more to imagine their expressions.
Gilbert finally let out a long exhale and whispered to Thales, who was walking back to him, "That certainly… left a great impression on the people, my young Sir."
Gilbert lowered his head and whispered his question, "The threat brought on by Iris Flowers has already disappeared amid his own suspicions and doubts. The Great Deer Antler's power and influence also decreased greatly, but how were you certain that those assassins were targeting Iris Flowers?"
"Of course I am not sure." Thales flashed him a smile, and with a bright glint in his eyes, he stared at Zayen, who had his head lowered in pensive silence and had yet to speak up. "But he also has no knowledge on that, does he?
"You have to grasp the main point in everything you do. What really matters is not the assassins, but rather, the fact that Zayen saw those assassins with his own eyes."
Thales could feel Kessel the Fifth's serious gaze on him. He tried to maintain his normal breathing under the considerable stress, and said with a relaxed tone, "It's just like what happened just now, what really mattered was not the possible recognition of my identity, but about the people who were unwilling to acknowledge my identity."
"I still have one more thing to say. Even though it was emotionally satisfying, the behavior you demonstrated just now was not the most brilliant political move," under Thales' puzzled gaze, Gilbert released a long sigh and whispered, "You will understand this later."
"Stop the nonsense right now! This is utterly futile and useless!"
The raging One-Eyed Dragon, Duke Nanchester, slammed against the stone seat hard and swept his gaze over the crowd with a menacing and oppressing glare. "Did everyone forget? Until now, he has yet to prove his own identity!
"His Majesty did not have any sons for a whole twelve years, then all of a sudden, a child of six or seven years of age suddenly jumps out and claims that he is the descendant of the royal family? And he even gave wild statements and speeches at this National Conference…"
Thales sighed and cut him off loudly by saying, "Duke Koshder Nanchester, why are you still dwelling over my identity? Do you still not understand? My father had prepared for this a long time ago."
Thales tilted his head slightly and gave a pure smile. "I thought hypocrites like you, who worry about the nation and the people on the surface, should be elated over the return of Jadestar's blood."
An inauspicious feeling rose in One-Eyed Dragon's heart.
At this moment, the crowd once again burst into uproar. Someone new was stepping into the Hall of Stars.
Thales turned his head around and his eyes immediately lit up.
A beautiful woman with an elegant demeanor—dressed in a dark, ceremonial robe with an image of half a red sun woven onto it—slowly walked across the lane which was forcefully separated by the royal guards, and accompanied by a nervous young priestess.
Many of the commoners kneeled down devoutly and prayed towards the woman with their heads lowered. Many of the nobles already understood something the moment they noticed that halved red sun.
"Very good." Fakenhaz narrowed his eyes. "King, nobles, and also Gods; all three main pillars of Constellation are here."
The pupils of the Duke of the Northern Territory narrowed in response at the very moment he saw the newcomer, and his body moved forward uncontrollably.
"Starting from this very moment, be careful with your words and behaviors." Count Karabeyan solemnly turned his head towards his wife and nephew.
Count Derek Kroma, who was just as surprised, whispered, "Things have already gotten out of hand for the suzerains. I am afraid that the Gods have also participated in this."
Under the watchful eyes of the crowd, the human spokesperson of the Sunset Goddess, the Head Ritual Master of the Sunset Temple, Liscia Arunde, gracefully stepped onto the stone seats' region.
"Liscia." Val Arunde was stunned. His originally desolate expression turned complicated when he saw his little sister.
'It has been so many years…'
But the Head Ritual Master did not spare one glance at her own brother as she kept walking forward slowly.
Koshder looked appalled. He wanted to exchange a glance with Zayen like how they usually would, but he discovered that Zayen was cold and callous, without giving him a single look.
The One-Eyed Dragon's heart became bitter and astringent.
Kessel the Fifth stood up solemnly. "Head Ritual Master, Liscia. The spokesperson of the Sunset Temple and the Sunset Goddess.
"The authority from the king, the oath from the nobles, and the witness from the gods—these are the three most important testimonials, concurrent to when Constellation was founded.
"After over six hundred years, today, please let the Sunset Goddess witness the continuation of Constellation's royal bloodline as before."
The whole hall burst into uproar once more.
The expressionless Liscia bowed down and nodded her head slightly. But she did not immediately reply. Instead, she kneeled down on the ground with her head facing the sky and closed her eyes.
Thales stared curiously at this Head Ritual Master who did not really like him. 'Is she communicating with the Gods now?'
But suddenly, Thales felt an indescribable feeling in his heart which caused him to feel very awful and unwell.
A noise that was similar to ringing suddenly went off!
He was horrifically frightened. As he forcefully held back the desire to cover his ears with his hands, he surveyed his surroundings.
Everyone in the hall, regardless of nobles or commoners, did not make a sound, nor did they show any sign of intolerance.
'Could it be…?'
When that ringing noise disappeared, everyone around him was normal. Could he be the only one who heard the ringing noise?
All this time, the boy did not know what the Gods in this world truly were. But now…
Another question was added to Thales' heart.
After a while, Liscia gently opened her eyes as she stood up and said, "The Goddess has responded, Your Majesty."
Duke Cullen sighed. He already knew the conclusion of the matter.
Koshder clenched his fists tightly as his eyes glinted like frost and snow.
Fakenhaz laughed drily.
Zayen, on the other hand, was thoughtfully looking at Thales, who was the focus of the hall.
Kessel the Fifth gently nodded his head. He suddenly grabbed Thales' hand, and his abrupt move frightened the boy!
"Come with me," Kessel said firmly and unquestionably, "Every one of Constellation should see your blood."
Thales let Kessel the Fifth hold him. With his eyes fixed and his mouth wide open in shock, they walked towards the balcony overseeing the Star Plaza from the round stage consisting of the stone seats.
Truthfully, he had yet to become accustomed to this.
Maybe it was because, from the bottom of his heart, he still had not regarded this strong man as his father?
The nineteen noble suzerains stood up from their stone seats and followed the king and his son to the spacious balcony. Many of the surrounding intermediate or minor nobles wanted to follow, but were relentlessly held back by royal guards' erosion shields.
Thales walked to the edge of the balcony and looked downwards. It was after noon, and the weather was just right. He then held his breath immediately.
People. There were so many people! A thick swarm of them! The entire Star Plaza was full of people! There were at least a few tens upon thousands of them. They took up the entire lower half of his vision like ants covering the entire ground!
It was not the first time Thales had been to the Star Plaza. He had also once stood on the Star Plaza looking up at the magnificent Renaissance Palace.
But he had never before stood in the Hall of Stars' balcony inside of Renaissance Palace and looked down at the entire Star Plaza!
Even though Thales had two different sets of memories belonging to two different lives, he still could not help but gape at the scene.
Soon, the crowd on the plaza vaguely noticed that there were two more people on the balcony.
Once they confirmed that the two people were the king and his kin, an unprecedented, earth-shattering hurrah was heard from the crowd on the plaza!
"Long live Jadestar!"
Kessel was still gripping Thales' hand as he slowly said, "Do you see? These are our subjects, our burden, and our responsibility."
The almighty king asked meaningfully, "Are you ready to live for Constellation?"
Without waiting for Thales' reply, Liscia walked towards them with a cold look on her face. The young priestess with her seemed very nervous. She was trembling as she held out a platter with a rare and precious dagger on it under Liscia's signal.
"The Bloodline Ceremony?"
Duke Cullen walked towards the balcony with the help of his two attendants and shook his head. "It has been almost two hundred years since the ritual was used. Prince Keira's Bloodline Recognition Ceremony… when was the last time it was carried out?"
No one answered him.
The Duke of the Northern Territory stared at his little sister, whom he had not seen for many years, in a daze. However, Liscia did not spare him a single glance.
The elegant and graceful Head Ritual Master slowly walked to the spot in between the king and Thales.
Under the watchful eyes of the entire plaza, Kessel gently picked up the dagger and sliced open his left forefinger, then he put the dagger back on the platter.
The priestess held the platter out to Thales. She was only eleven or twelve years old, but it appeared that this was her first time being in such a situation, where she was watched attentively by thousands of people. She trembled nervously.
"You do not have to be nervous, everything is fine." Thales smiled at her as he picked up the dagger with the symbol of a red sun engraved upon it and sliced open his left palm.
Without any emotions on her face, Liscia extended her hands to hold both the king and Thales. She then lifted her head.
It was totally different from the type of long and tedious praying ceremony which Thales anticipated because at the very next moment, the exact same glaring light, from when Liscia and Thales were in the stone room, exploded out from Liscia's eyes.
The people from both the balcony and behind the balcony who were fighting to watch the event fell into a sudden silence. Many of the commoners started to kneel down as they prayed with their eyes closed from the bright light from the middle of the balcony.
The brilliant rays became brighter and brighter!
Even the people in the plaza, under broad daylight, could begin to clearly see what was happening on the balcony!
The people in the plaza were mostly commoners who had no right to enter the Hall of Stars.
Almost everyone in the plaza knelt down devoutly and prayed in the direction of Renaissance Palace above their heads.
The kneeling of the believers made the whole Star Plaza appear as if a tidal wave was surging forward from the Hall of Stars' balcony.
But Thales did not have the energy to focus on this amazing view. The boy discovered, to his surprise, that the blood from both his and Kessel's palms were floating within the bright ray from the head ritual master's eyes!
And then it combined into a single red ray of light.
Thales stared at that light in puzzlement.
An accident happened in that very moment!