Chapter 67: The Winter Solstice
Arc 3: Dancing with the Dragon
[To Zedi, my dear friend and teacher:
It has been half a year since we last corresponded. I cannot wait to share what I have heard and saw in Eternal Star City for the past three months with you.
According to your suggestion and method, I have already overcome what you called the 'Battlefield Abstinence Syndrome'. I can now sleep on beds, I have stopped subconsciously pulling out my sword whenever I hear footsteps behind me, and the noise of blacksmiths striking steel has ceased to make me go into a paranoid state anymore.
My father arranged for me to join the police station and work under his old classmate from his military academy. Have you ever heard of the name 'Horse Slayer' Lord Lorbec Deira?
Relying on the excellent sword skills that you have taught me (do not misunderstand, I am praising you, not boasting about myself), along with the rarely-seen Power of Eradication (I am only boasting about myself in this part), I already became a Class Two Police Officer and the Captain of the Public Security Team when I first started this job. But in my heart, I understand that I was able to get this position mainly because of my last name, Karabeyan.
You would not believe what I went through in a mere three months. There were too many surprises, and I had to straighten them out one by one.
Just as I mentioned before, Constellation is an old but decadent kingdom. Being one of the remnants of the past Empire's bloodline is no longer a glory, but more like a burden.
You can hardly imagine it. In such a place as the capital there are already many cases of disputes and shady deals regarding the administrative power solely within the police station. Efficiency and efficacy are very low. It is practically unbearable for me, let alone the commoners. This resulted in the street order and some vital operations of a few regions being controlled by gangs. This is because to the people, the gangs' channels of communication are a lot faster, better, reliable and more convenient than the officials'.
Under a coincidence brought by fate, I got acquainted with an informant from the Black Street Brotherhood. It was right under this situation that I got into the life-and-death fight between the two largest gangs of Constellation in the capital. It once again renewed my understanding towards gangs - these people who are not part of the government.
Regardless of the innumerable ordinary class and supra class experts (there were also a few Psionic Warriors who emerged, each of them qualified to earn a place in Legendary Wing's Stardust Unit), there is only one thing that I really care about. Do you still remember those swordsmen you told me about before, who abandoned their initial hearts to wield the sword? The mission that was the cause for the Tower of Eradication's existence?
You mentioned before that their swords had transformed into unadulterated weapons of massacre. Their Power of Eradication had also transformed to the purest form of Death's Power, just like the calamities whom our seniors swore a deathly vow to deal with.
Even though almost a hundred years has passed by since that matter, I truly believe that I met a Swordsman of Eradication outside the tower, just like the 'Disastrous Swordsman' you mentioned.
When facing the violent Power of Eradication that was filled with desire for massacre, the never fading 'Glory of the Stars', which I was extremely proud of, was absolutely no match for it. When that power invaded my body, it was practically… I could not help but think: What kind of lunatic could withstand the Power of Eradication, flowing in every direction within his body?
If I had not received unexpected help, what you would probably be receiving right now is the obituary to my funeral.
In short, I already have the knowledge and I have experienced the Power of Eradication where killing intent and violent rage exist together.
That swordsman came from Blood Bottle Gang. That is right, it is the gang that was established by those two calamities at the end of Mindis the Third's reign over a hundred years ago. Reportedly, one of them is already missing in the capital. I believe that it was the Kingdom's Wrath himself who did the deed. Other than him and his bow, who else in the capital could have been in close proximity to those calamities?
Curiosity made me read a lot of books when I was recovering. I had also read some forbidden books and police records in my father's honor. To my surprise, I discovered the following truth: Mysterious supra class swordsmen of different abilities appeared seventeen times during the hundred years of the Blood Bottle Gang's establishment. The killing and destructive power they showed were not things that could be done by the usual supra class Swordsmen of Eradication. On the contrary, there were similarities with the swordsman I encountered. It seemed like the Disastrous Swordsman I encountered was not the only instance that suddenly appeared.
Here is another inference: When those two calamities secretly established Constellation's Blood Bottle Gang a hundred years ago, the 'Disaster Swords' also committed an act of betrayal and got out of the Tower of Eradication a hundred years ago. They then built a Sword of Eradication beyond our tower as a legacy for future generations. Do these two parties really have no connection at all?
What I am more worried about is, during those hundred years, did the Tower of Eradication really have no knowledge of the relationship between the legacy beyond our tower and Constellation's Blood Bottle Gang? Why have we turned a blind eye on this matter?
By all possible means, Zedi, my beloved teacher, I feel like the answer lies in the truth of the betrayal towards the Tower of Eradication by Crassus and his followers. I need to go back to the Tower of Eradication as soon as possible. At the same time, I am asking you to give me the reading permit of the books of scions.
That is all about Blood Bottle Gang. However, the other gang was not in any way inferior to them: My informant told me that Black Street Brotherhood had a very strange rise to power. They were established during the Bloody Year. At that point of time, they were just a bunch of mercenaries and adventurers who fought to survive with a blade hanging over their heads (even though they were very powerful); approximately within ten years, they had already infiltrated half of Constellation's underworld, and extended their hands towards Eckstedt and Camus Union.
Blood Bottle Gang had the Mystic's glorified name to help them be in charge, and this was also the byproduct of the evil associations between the nobles and bureaucrats. But what was the source for Black Street Brotherhood's emergence? The informant's news entails that they had a very secretive but vigorous support in funding and networking.
Speaking of which, I would like to ask: Have you ever heard of the name 'Black Sword'?
According to urban folklore, he was the leader of Black Street Brotherhood. He was of an elite class and had great skills with the sword. There were some people who claimed that he was very good at hiding, and was the most dangerous king of assassins. There are even some reports from the police station, which say his sword was some sort of cursed antique. It was supposedly equipped with immeasurable ability and power. But one point is certain: He is a supreme class expert. During the past ten years, one supreme class Knight of Eradication and one supreme class Psionic Warrior were suspected to have been murdered by him, as he was there with them when the event happened.
Even though the differences between these supreme class experts were huge, and it was very hard to predict who would win and lose, I still could not help but wonder: Killing two supreme class experts at the same time… is there really a swordsman that powerful outside the Tower of Eradication's watch? I also suspected that he was the descendant of 'Disaster Sword', but he was hostile towards Blood Bottle Gang, and he was under Black Street Brotherhood. This caused me to remain perplexed despite much thought.
An even bigger affair happened during Constellation's National Conference on the day before. Teacher, you may have already received the news from the messenger crows — Constellation now has a legitimate heir. He is not one of the clans or nobles, nor is he from a branch of the royal family. The prince is a real person, named Thales Jadestar. I know that back in the day, the 'Sword of Reversing Light' Prince Horace was your schoolmate. What are your comments on Jadestar? As for me, I witnessed the new, second prince's elegant demeanor behind my father. Although he is only seven years old, I can only say that Jadestar is indeed a part of the royal family.
But this is not the best moment for him to make his appearance. The Jadestar Royal Family is facing some rarely seen stress — The Eckstedt Diplomat Group was murdered in Constellation.
Yes, Zedi, my dear friend and teacher, I once again smell the stench of war. In my father's opinion, regardless of how we try to resolve this, the conflict between the Dragon and Constellation is indeed unavoidable.
The swordsmen and knights that the Tower of Eradication made much fuss to preserve for humans; these warriors, who previously used their superpowers to open and develop the future of humans, and who once used their Power of Eradication to fighting the calamities, have to once again pick up their swords and battle to death on the battlefield for their respective kingdoms.
If war erupts, I can only pray to the Sunset Goddess, to not let me encounter Croftash and Misadun. I cannot help but tremble when I think of my time in the Tower of Eradication and also when I think of piercing the sword into the hearts of others.
Also, Miranda has already spent three years in Broken Dragon Fortress and she is going to serve in the army with honor and glory under the Fortress Flower. But this also means that, if the war erupts, she will be the first one to face the bloodbath.
Other than that, I also met Raphael in the National Conference. He is now working for the Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Department, and he is also contributing his power to this kingdom.
But please believe me, teacher, your worry will not come to pass. From my enlistment to my service, I have already seen a lot. However, reality will not change me. The ambitions of the other two and mine will never change as well. Especially me, after I went through the cruelest battle. Only then did I begin to realize how precious life is. After I saw the ugliness of this kingdom, the more I long for the arrival of revolution. One day, we will use our own strength to rebuild this gradually outdated and old kingdom.
I hope everything goes smoothly for you, and that you will successfully woo Teacher Chartier as soon as possible!
P.S. It is already winter over here in Constellation, and soon, it will be snowing in Eternal Star City. How is the weather at your place?
— From your faithful friend and student, Kohen Karabeyan
—Calendar of Eradication, year 672, December 16, morning, written at home]
In front of the Everlasting Lamp, Kohen stopped writing and scrutinized his letter for a long time before he sighed.
The blonde policeman hesitated over and over again. Still, he scribbled off the line "He is now working for the Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Department, and also contributing his power to this kingdom", and wrote this instead, "I will confirm his current situation before writing to you again".
He stood up from his desk and glanced outside the window of his family's manor.
It was just six o'clock in the Eastern City District and dawn had just arrived. The visibility of the street was quite high. Even though it was still early, many servants of the nobles were walking around, especially lately when various major events frequently happened in and out of the kingdom.
Kohen shook his head when he thought of this. 'The kingdom indeed has its heir now, but it also caused the confrontation between the royal family and suzerains during the National Conference yesterday. How are they going to resolve the conflict with Eckstedt?'
He did not think that Duke Nanchester, after going through such humiliation, would still answer to the king's call because of his sense of duty. Those petty suzerains of the Western Desert did not seem to be like nobles who worked together during the Kingdom's crisis. The plump Duke of the Eastern Sea was even more infamous for his stinginess. The only people left were the unpredictable teenager, Duchess of Blade Edge Hill and Iris Flowers of South Coast Hill, who changed his stance at the very last minute. However, they were too far away to serve as immediate help.
'So, the first battle will be the burden of the Northern Territory and the Royal Family?
'Constellation is really like a hydra,' Kohen thought to himself.
He immediately thought of the hydra, Kilika, which was killed by the human hero, Eckstedt's founding king, Raikaru Eckstedt. His mood then became increasingly gloomier.
The sound of horses galloping could be heard from the street outside the window.
A troop of knights were riding their horses out from buildings that were specifically for attending to nobles from abroad.
However, their rhythm in riding the horses and their strength in whipping them were different from the knights, Constellation usually saw.
Constellation's knights were particular about harmony and rhythm while they rode on horseback. Their rhythm was stable and constant, and their whipping was just right.
Yet, these knights were ferocious in their rhythm and they practiced an extremely strong force while they whipped their horses. Nonetheless, their collective pace was precisely united and firmed in discipline.
It had some resemblance to the knights of the Northern Territory.
'Wait a minute.'
Kohen's pupils shrank abruptly!
He saw the flag that the troop of knights held.
Kohen pushed the window open in a rush!
He stuck his head out of the window as he wanted to get a clear look at the flag.
The color of that flag stood out from Constellation's flag.
It had a black base with red outlines, and on top of the flag, there was a roaring red dragon.
The dragon's claws appeared to be ferocious. Its wings were wide opened and its eyes were purely black.
It was indeed a straightforward but fierce style.
The blonde police officer was slightly stunned.
'Did they arrive yesterday after midnight?
'The city gate blocked their entry and made them rest at the inn outside the city, but now they are letting them come into the city?
'Is this His Majesty's idea?'
Suddenly, Kohen felt a chilling sensation on his face. It was freezing enough to make him tremble.
Kohen stretched out his hand to touch his face, and he felt a piece of snowflake on it.
The police officer was stunned.
He stretched his hand out of the window and caught a second and third piece of snowflake.
White, glittering flakes of snow fell down everywhere from the sky above.
It was snowing.
Kohen took a deep breath and glanced upwards to the sky.
Winter had arrived.
He woke up from the Renaissance Palace's unique, rock-hard stone bed.
He slid down from the bed, and unsurprisingly stepped onto the freezing cold, stone ground.
It seemed to be colder than yesterday.
A day had passed since the unforgettable National Conference.
Thales felt like he was living in a dream that day.
It was hard to imagine this. That afternoon, he walked one step at a time with Gilbert leading him from the Hall of Stars to the star blue carpet, ignoring the continuous arguments between the king and suzerains behind him.
The nobles, bureaucrats and people on each side were bowing down to him.
They were calling him, "Your Highness".
Thales, Your Highness.
"Are you hallucinating because you are too excited?"
Thales was snapped out of his thoughts abruptly. He lifted his head and saw Jines.
The mature and charming female official leaned against the stone doorframe with her arms crossed as she calmly looked at him.
"No, I am not."
The new Second Prince of Constellation, Thales replied flatly.
"I just feel like the situation is somewhat surreal.
"I am also at a loss."
Jines stared at him as she snorted. "Of course, previously you were just a nobody, but now you are a prince. Prince Thales, the Second Prince of Constellation."
"No, it is not that simple." Thales sighed with a bitter smile on his face. He buttoned up his shirt and grabbed his jacket.
"Previously, I only had to think about how to keep living.
"But from now on... what I need to consider is how to stay alive."
Thales silently replied as he fastened the last button of his leather belt.
Jines furrowed her brows, and then raised them.
'Just another Jadestar.' She silently thought to herself.
'A pitiful Jadestar.'
Thales fastened his leather boots, but that sentence kept replaying in his mind.
"To fight for Constellation, to die for Constellation… and to live for Constellation."
'Am I really ready for this?'
He paused for a short while before fastening the sheathed JC's dagger onto the belt across his lower back.
"Are you ready, Your Highness?" A familiar voice made its way from beyond the door.
Gilbert's figure appeared at the entrance, his face was clouded with an unusual, solemn air.
Jines sighed and made way for the former Foreign Affairs Minister.
Gilbert took off his hat and bowed before Jines as he said to Thales, "Please forgive me for disturbing you from your sleep on just the second day, Your Highness. But… please hurry up in getting ready."
Thales gave him a puzzled look.
Gilbert took a deep breath. "They are coming, Your Highness.
"His Majesty hopes that you will stand by his side and greet those people with him."
"Those people?" Thales asked in confusion.
But he immediately understood what was being said.
The prince also stared solemnly back at Gilbert.
"Yes, those people."
Gilbert nodded and pursed his lips tightly together. He was hesitant, but eventually, with his voice firm and steady, he said, "The Eckstedtians."