Chapter 71: Iron Hand King (One)
"Is that so?"
Having listened to Val's declaration, Kessel's expression turned unusually complicated.
"But why was it you? You were supposed to be a noble person, a pure warrior. You have your beliefs."
"Haha." Val started laughing for no reason. "Why can't it be me?"
Kessel paused and looked sadly at Val's scar which extended from his chest to his chin. "You were once my most trusted friend and brother. We grew up in the capital city together, and were the best partners and the closest of brothers. I was closer to you than to my blood brothers like Midier. We even promised to marry each other's sisters."
"Enough!" Val abruptly raised his head. His eyes were filled with fury. "You are not allowed to mention Liscia and Constance. You do not deserve to."
Thales' heart jolted. The image of Liscia Arunde and Constance Jadestar flashed before his eyes—the lonely figure of the Head Ritual Master and the little stone jar.
The king's expression dimmed. "I knew that you hated me, but I thought it was only because of Liscia, and that as a suzerain, you were still loyal to me and Constellation. I thought that the belief in your heart was still noble and unshakable."
The Duke of the Northern Territory who betrayed the Northern Territory spoke resentfully, "Isn't that so? I hate you indeed, but everything I do is for the sake of Constellation!"
The king narrowed his eyes. "What?"
Val Arunde stepped away from the formation of vassals. His gaze was firm.
"If I succeed just by paying some price and enduring momentary bloodshed, Constellation and the Dragon—the shield and the blade of the Western Peninsula—will turn a new page in history.
"In the era of the Ancient Empire, Arunde was a supreme family that ruled the Northland Province. On the other hand, Lampard was a blood descendant of the Revolutionary King, Quiso Lampard, who revolted against the tyrant. The two families' enmity and antagonism have lasted since over a thousand years ago, and this hatred has taken root in our blood, but if even archenemies like us can reconcile. What else is impossible?"
'No, you did not reconcile with each other. This is an exchange of benefits.'
Val took a step forward and looked around at everyone with a rabid expression. "The disagreements and enmity between the two kingdoms will be cast aside thanks to the heroic friendship and loyal cooperation between Lampard and me. The blood descendants of both kingdoms—our children—will enter an engagement. Their son will inherit Constellation and Eckstedt at the same time. The two mighty kingdoms, Constellation and the Dragon, will become one. Think about it. The warm, heroic blood of the Great Dragon of the North, infused into the body of the descendant of the mighty Empire!"
Val continued excitedly, "We might not be able to bring back the glory of the Empire, but we can definitely put an end to the flames of war in the Northern Territory. The flames of war will never reignite, and disasters like the Bloody Year will never happen again! The Northern Territory will always be peaceful!"
"To hell with your peacefulness!" Count Zemunto spat angrily.
Val did not care, he clenched his right first tightly. "It can even be taken one step further—a newborn power will rise in the Western Peninsula. With the shield in one hand and the blade in another, we will point our swords towards Camus Union, carve up the land of those tradesmen and profit from them. After the power equilibrium between the three strongest forces in the Western Peninsula is destroyed, the others will not pose a problem. Very soon, the Western Peninsula will be reunified."
The Duke of the Northern Territory gritted his teeth and surveyed the nobles and officials. "Therefore, this is all for the sake of Constellation so that it will not have to endure anymore disasters, for its eventual greatness so that there will forever be peace between Constellation and the Dragon."
Thales furrowed his brows.
Behind them, Baron Lasalle coughed and awkwardly said, "Regarding this, I think—"
Kessel the Fifth punched the armrest to his left!
"Shut up, Eckstedtian. I will get even with you later." The supreme king's voice was loud. He spoke in a tone that allowed no arguments, "We are now discussing the internal affairs of Constellation."
Lasalle was at a loss for words for a moment.
The king slowly rose and looked down at Val from where he stood.
"For the sake of Constellation?" Kessel the Fifth's eyes turned bloodshot, a sight rarely seen on him. His face was filled with fury. "Betraying your own king and vassals, the Northern Territory, and its people, is this for the sake of Constellation? To not mind inciting a casualty-ridden war so that you can take the throne, is this for the sake of Constellation too?"
Val Arunde clenched his fists tightly and turned towards the king. "Kessel Jadestar, do you think that you are nobler than me?" Val trembled, as if he was trying hard to hold back his emotions. "You… someone from the Jadestar Family are not qualified to point fingers at me!"
The next moment, without regards for manners, he roared, "Your family, the Jadestar Royal Family, is the greatest source of disaster in this kingdom! You are the ones who brought about hell—the disaster from twelve years ago! Until now, we are still atoning for the mistakes you have made!"
Thales could not help but clench his fists tightly. On the other hand, all the people in the hall turned simultaneously towards the king. Many of them had strange expressions on their faces.
The king shut his eyes tightly. "The Bloody Year?"
"The Bloody Year? Yes! THE Bloody Year!" Val laughed miserably. He raised his hands and clenched his fists.
The puzzlement in Thales' heart grew. He looked towards Gilbert. 'What hidden, yet extremely important secret, does the Bloody Year actually harbor?'
Val spoke resentfully, "After that disaster ended, everybody only remembered that the Jadestar Royal Family was almost completely massacred. They only remembered that the Tabark Family only had an orphan girl left! Who would remember the contributions and sacrifices of the Northern Territory?"
The fifteen-year-old Duchess Lyanna inhaled deeply and shut her eyes.
"Who would remember all the blood, dead bodies, widows, and orphans left behind when Eckstedt's army plowed through our land? Who would remember that after the Bloody Year ended, when the entire kingdom was joyfully celebrating the 'Fortress Treaty', almost three quarters of the men, and half the women in the Northern Territory were dead! The remaining elderly and children had to look for food outside in the cold winter or else they would had starved to death at home! And those who went out to look for food, half of them froze to death in the wilderness!
"After I was crowned with the title of the Guardian Duke of the Northern Territory, the first thing I did wasn't to find them food, but to rebury those who starved or froze to death. Otherwise, their corpses would be dug out and eaten by the famished people who were so hungry they couldn't even walk!
"Have you seen such a scene, young master of the capital city?! Who would remember that my father's head was hung on the gate of Cold Castle for a whole month because he refused to surrender after Cold Castle was breached? When I took him down… And I have to see that damned gate every day when I walk in and out of my own castle!
"The Sword of Reversing Light, Prince Horace, entered Eckstedt's tight encirclement heroically and unyieldingly. He fought to death instead of retreating, was wounded eleven times and bravely sacrificed his life… how glorious is that?! However, who would remember that my brothers, the sons of Arunde, stayed close by his side and protected him till their deaths?! Rohan, Kohl, and Nolanur.
"The dead body of the Prince of Constellation was solemnly carried back to the capital city. But beside him, my brothers were chopped alive into minced meat by Eckstedt's executioner! After everything ended, to bury them, I could only scoop up that thick pile of minced meat, mixed in soil and blood! Who would remember them?!
"My sister and wife's carriage went missing in the wilderness that became chaotic from the raging war. There was no more news about them these past twelve years. I had countless nightmares about them… God knows what they went through!
"And you still dare to say that I only have a daughter as an heiress? Why do you think that I sent my seven-year-old daughter to the Tower of Eradication? To train her to become an heiress? Bullshit! I sent my daughter to the Tower of Eradication because I'm afraid that when I'm not around, the famished people, with eyes red with hunger, would climb into the ruins of Cold Castle and eat Miranda alive!"
Kessel shut his eyes tightly. Recalling that time, many people in the hall could not help but lower their heads.
Val spoke, trembling, "After going through the hell of the Desert War five years ago, Kessel Jadestar, how dare you complain about our weak military strength?! How dare you complain that we don't even have enough cavalry units to form five vanguard teams?!
"Do you think you are the person that I hate? Do you think that I hate you for not marrying my sister? Hate you for letting her down, causing her to become a priestess who will remain unmarried all her life?
"No! What I hate is the Jadestar Family! Your damned family!"
"All of you are at fault for those disasters! Your delusional, idiotic father, your uncle who thinks that he is funny by being rude, your pessimistic eldest brother, those arrogant, useless brothers of yours, and you, the supreme king, born with the blood of those tyrants from the Empire!
"It is the Jadestar Family, who always mingled with the calamities that brought upon the Bloody Year in Constellation, who brought upon such hell!"
'Calamities? Mingled with… the calamities?'
Terrified, Thales subconsciously looked at Gilbert who stood beside him. However, the latter only pursed his lips and did not say anything.
"Do you think that you are some sort of tragic king? The only person left in the Jadestar Royal Family? No!" Val roared madly, "The only things that you have ever cared about are yourself, your will, and your world! Why do you think you are where you are today? You all only have yourselves to blame for the things that happened to you during the Bloody Year!
"You are just like your damned father. Both of you knew where your choices would lead, but you both never gave a damn! You never tried to understand your own vassals, show concern for your own subjects nor care about the people beside you, Iron Hand King! When they call you this, do you not feel mocked? You don't rule with an iron hand, you are just cold-blooded!"
Val's emotions had reached a boiling point and he roared in sadness and despair.
"Why didn't Charleton and the Shadow Shield kill all of you in one go? If it were not for you all bringing back that monster—"
The king abruptly opened his eyes and cut him off with a shout.
"Enough!" Kessel was agitated. He furiously rebuked Arunde, "Val! You are still as foolish, stupid, extreme, and as stubborn as you used to be!"
Kessel glared fixedly at Val. His gaze was inexplicably complicated. "You only believe in what you want to believe in. You are like a foolish piece of wood, ridiculously ignorant."
Breathing heavily, Val stared blankly at the king.
The king sat down dejectedly and tiredly said, "Guards, send Duke Arunde to the dungeons."