Chapter 79: Diplomat Group
Three days later.
It was just snowing at Eternal Star City this morning. The roads of the city were stained with mud.
But the road in front of Mindis Hall was swept clean.
A few carriages were already arriving one after another.
"We are in a bit of a rush. People are saying that Archduke Lampard has yet withdraw his troops. He is still deploying his soldiers around the border. It is unknown if King Nuven has chosen to not restrict him or that King Nuven is unable to restrict him anymore."
Gilbert, along with the well-dressed Thales stood in the study room located on the second floor. They were both looking at the carriages coming through Mindis Hall's entrance from the window.
Gilbert said with a serious expression on his face, "It seems like conflicts aimed to test your stance cannot be avoided. Even though Baron Murkh and Lady Sasere are going to serve as garrisons in the forts while the Zemunto and Friess Family also promised to give their full support, I heard that after receiving news of the duke's imprisonment, Cold Castle and Arunde's vassals are in a state of chaos… It is better for us to arrive earlier in order to eliminate the disaster of war."
Thales lightly nodded his head as he listened to Gilbert's report in silence.
"According to usual practice, as Constellation's prince, Your Highness, you will need three instructors to respectively guide you on military affairs, political affairs and etiquettes. You will also need one attendant, who will usually become your assistant hereafter, and two protectors…
"But since your diplomatic mission will arrive soon… we can only keep everything simple and make up what you lack by the time you return to Constellation.
"Since the place you are heading to is the unfamiliar Eckstedt, and the aim of this trip is to apologize, we have no other choice than to reduce the number of followers you have. Apart from thirty Jadestar private soldiers lead by Chora, there are three special candidates.
"There is one instructor—I will introduce an extremely knowledgeable scholar to you later, as the vice diplomat of this trip; one attendant, which has already been chosen and is currently in the carriage; one protector—since your safety is very important, the protector must be an experienced supreme class expert…"
Thales could not help but to feel stunned when he heard this.
"The candidates for instructor and protector… Gilbert, do you mean that you, Yodel and even Jines… will not accompany me on this trip?"
Gilbert smiled at him helplessly.
He said faintly, "Yes. I am the signatory of the Fortress Treaty, and I have an infamous reputation in Eckstedt as a 'conspirator'... My appearance in Dragon Clouds City will only bring upon unnecessary troubles to you.
"As for Yodel…"
Gilbert shook his head. "For the past ten years in Northland, there have been five strong, supreme class warriors with outstanding reputation, commonly known as the Five War Generals. Each respectively worked under King Nuven and the few archdukes. Their status is similar to the Three Commanders of Constellation, who wield the legendary anti-mystic equipment. Your Highness, if you happen to meet any one of them, please do not mention the 'elite who wears a dark purple mask' and also the fact that he is now the secret protector of the Supreme King of Constellation."
Thales was momentarily stunned.
After a month of education, he knew about Constellation's Three Commanders… but as for Eckstedt's Five War Generals...
The former Foreign Affairs Minister sighed. "Yodel… has offended every single one of them…"
Thales spent a second to understand that sentence, then his face twitched as he replied, "Every… every single one of them? What kind of offense did he commit?"
Gilbert only glanced at him in silence.
Thales took a deep breath and put on a resigned smile. "Alright… I guess it is the kind that is more troublesome…"
Another question was added in the prince's heart.
What exactly did he do to provoke all of the Five War Generals at the same time?
It was just like a person who set himself against the Three Commanders at the same time… It was totally unimaginable.
Gilbert glanced out of the window and saw a few people walking down one after another from the carriage. "As for Madam Jines… Her identity is rather sensitive… you know, her relationship with the king…"
Thales sighed. "According to what you have told me, besides the 'allies' from Corleone Family, I probably will not see any familiar faces around me, am I right?"
Gilbert became reserved. "This is the exact matter I was about to bring up. Are you really going to bring members of the Corleone Family along with you?"
Thales replied with a solemn expression, "I have already made a promise with them. I do not like to go back on my word."
'Also, even though that old witch, Serena is annoying, she did use the Blood Clan's telepathic ability to help me during a crisis. It is not an exaggeration to say that she saved my life.'
Thales furrowed his brows. "After all, they have one supreme class expert and two supra class experts. Serena also hopes to realize the restoration of her position by relying on my status. These are all bargaining chips that I can take advantage of. On the way to Northland, they can hide among the followers by changing their appearance…" He paused slightly and thought of that robust figure. "Also…
"His Majesty has already agreed to this, did he not?"
Gilbert exhaled lightly. "Of course, that is the promise of Constellation's prince… It is Jadestar's promise. They will not dare to be too presumptuous when in Constellation as the king and our forces are always by your side, but when you are in Eckstedt… I hope they will not bring about any trouble.
"After all, Yodel and I will not be by your side." Gilbert furrowed his brows. "You have to be careful of that old butler, Chris… I always feel like I have heard of his name from somewhere."
Thales rolled his eyes at Gilbert. "Hey, do not forget who was the one who facilitated this alliance."
Gilbert gave him a perfect smile and tipped his hat.
Thales' expression became worried. "Also, Gilbert, the matter I mentioned to you yesterday… about Lower City District…"
Gilbert breathed out from his nose. "Yes, Your Highness, since your identity no longer needs to be kept a secret, and Mindis Hall has already resumed its free passage… I have already sent someone to Lower City District yesterday afternoon. We will get a report back, latest by tonight. It is not easy to blend into that place. People from the Secret Intelligence Department are more suitable than us in investigating the matter regarding those beggars and that female bartender.
"I will update you on the latest situation by corresponding with you. I believe you will already be on your way by that time. If possible, I will do my best in taking care of them, even if we almost have no manpower in Lower City District."
"Thank you." Thales looked at the former Foreign Affairs Minister gratefully. "This way, I have no need to go to Morat anymore."
"But you have to understand…"
Gilbert hesitated slightly, but he still lifted his head and said, "What the Black Prophet said was not entirely unreasonable, Your Highness. After all, you are different from them."
Thales' gaze became still for a moment.
"Furthermore, it may not be a good thing for them to be too close to you… Your help may be entirely useless to them. Worse, it may even bring upon disaster."
Thales kept quiet for a while before putting on an ugly smile.
He nodded and exhaled, then he turned around and adjusted his collar.
"Midira! Are you ready? It is time to go."
A strange but faint noise of metal chafing against each other sounded through the door from outside.
Midira Ralf was walking on a pair of weird metal prosthetics when he staggered into their field of vision. He bowed slightly towards Thales in a manner that failed to meet the standard requirements.
Gilbert raised his eyebrows a little.
Half of Ralf's face and his neck were covered with a strange silver mask, and the mask shielded the knotted flesh on his throat as well as the tattoo on his face. However, what was even stranger were the pair of prosthetics underneath his knees.
Constellation had a good relationship with the dwarfs of Steel City, even the skills of Constellation's smiths had increased greatly thanks to them. It only took two days for the capable royal craftsman to build a pair of simple prosthetics for Ralf. The prosthetics were made of two pieces of durable and flexible steel plates of excellent quality. The steel plates were bent into an L-shape, then moulded into a flexible J-shape with Crystal Drops infused into the curves to strengthen those parts. A fixing plate was made to connect to the knee, and it was fastened onto his belt. This way, Ralf managed to walk without using his crutches.
Of course, his movements during a battle such as dodging and changing directions would have to depend on his own, wind-controlling psionic ability.
Thales raised his eyebrows. "Not bad, but the parts below your knees are very distracting… Next time, do cover them up with your pants."
Midira Ralf lowered his head and pulled out a stack of papers that were stapled together.
Gilbert suddenly realized that Ralf was not hesitating. Instead, he was flipping through the papers in his hands and searching for the right sign.
Ralf clumsily found the drawing he wanted. He then looked towards Thales and raised his right fist. At the same time, he bent his wrist and swung his hand down lightly twice.
Thales smiled slightly. "Very good, what you still lack is proficiency in both your sign language and your prosthetics. As it happens, we can continue your course on the way there."
Ralf smiled and found another paper before making another sign.
Gilbert sighed. "Since you have already decided to follow His Highness to Northland, to Eckstedt… I hope you will learn about the difficulties of this current trip, and do your best in protecting His Highness."
Ralf lowered his head slightly. This time, he did not need to flip through his notes, instead, he remembered the right sign and gestured it.
Gilbert furrowed his brows in confusion and finally turned towards Thales, feeling clueless.
Thales laughed as he replied, "He said he will try his best."
Gilbert exhaled and shook his head in resignation. "Alright, at least, this is a good method to transmit secret messages…"
This Psionic with the background of a gangster who they rescued from Vine Manor… no, he was of supra class. Although he was still very immature in battle, but strictly speaking, he could already be considered as a Psionic Warrior… What exactly had happened that made him to submit to His Highness so compliantly?
Thales waved lightly and snapped his fingers.
"Very good, let us begin our journey."
The main entrance of Mindis Hall.
"How have you been recently, my old friend?"
Before a few carriages, Gilbert extended his hand and tightly shook hands with a thin man, who was the leader.
"Very bad." The thin man's expression was sour. "Eternal Star City's administrative efficiency is far behind Western Desert's frontline military camp. I came to the capital for the documents of the grand library, but I lost my senior pass one month ago. So, I could only wait in the capital until now… Then, they told me that it would take half a year to replace the pass."
"I guess you probably used up all of your travel expenses, which is the reason why you came to me…" Gilbert replied with a smile.
"But you have given me such a troublesome assignment…" The thin man sighed and sized Thales up with his gaze.
"You also do not want me to give you the money directly, am I right?" Gilbert moved sideways to reveal Thales' figure.
"This is Lord Putray Nemain from the Cawing Crow City of Western Desert Hill. We studied under the same home tutor before." Gilbert introduced the forty-year-old man, who spoke in a blunt manner towards Thales.
"Putray was once a bard who wandered and travelled across more than half of the world. He is very knowledgeable on the geography of peninsulas and also social customs of various countries. He also spent quite some time in Northland. Your Highness, you once complained to me that you did not know much about the world, so I believe Putray is a great candidate. He will be your vice diplomat as well as your instructor, and he will follow you on the way up north.
"Putray, this is the second prince, Prince Thales. His intelligence will surprise you."
From his expression, the thin man, Putray did not seem like he was happy about this. Nevertheless, he lifted up his right fist and placed it before his chest and bowed before Thales.
"It is a pleasure to have the chance to learn from you… Putray, can I call you by your name?" Thales returned the greeting with a smile on his face.
"Of course, you are the prince. You can call me whatever you want." Putray shrugged nonchalantly. He did not show any signs of excitement and respect in meeting Constellation's only prince.
"Sorry, he has quite the odd personality, but I believe you will admire his scholarly knowledge and his rich experiences," Gilbert laughed as he said to Thales. He was not even the least bit worried that his old friend's irreverent attitude would bring about the second prince's aversion.
Thales stared at the thin Putray, and then glanced at the highland boots on his feet. Thales did not show any emotions on his face, but he sighed deeply in his heart.
'This is fate. It is him.'
That day when Quide went mad, the people of the Sixth House met a thin man wearing highland boots at Western City Gate, whose face was sour. He was unwilling to give them money. Hence, Ryan and Kellet decided to teach him a "lesson" by stealing the only card he had on him.
It was the pass for the Jadestar Grand Library.
At the time, Thales thought he was an abject scholar.
Thales rolled his eyes out of the others' sight. 'I am really sorry, Sir Putray. Your library pass is currently in one of the abandoned houses in Lower City District.'
Gilbert led him towards the next person.
This person was a young lad, who was about twenty years old with a sword fastened to his waist. His expression was firm and he had a tall, straight build. His face was normal, but he had a penetrating gaze.
Gilbert stared at the young man in front of him, his eyes were filled with complicated and unreadable emotions. "This is a candidate decided by both His Majesty and me, and he will serve as your attendant, no matter in Northland's Eckstedt or after your return to Constellation. He just returned from the Tower of Eradication a few months ago—Wya Caso."
Thales reacted to this immediately. He stared at Gilbert in confusion. "Caso?"
"Yes, I hope this will not bring about aversion. After all, it is nepotism… But, I can vouch that he was the only elite left after going through many levels of screening." Gilbert sighed. "He is indeed also my son."
The young man, Wya Caso did not spare a glance at his own father as he bowed respectfully before Thales. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Prince Thales.
"My sword and intelligence will be used for you.
"For the rest of my life, I will serve you wholeheartedly."
Thales felt slightly awkward. Was it really suitable for someone to use the phrase 'for the rest of my life' during their first meeting?
Despite that, he still nodded in response with a joyful expression. "I will rely on you throughout this journey then, Wya."
Wya lowered his head in respect. "My life and my body are yours to use."
Thales once again rolled his eyes in his mind.
'Gilbert was obviously very good at socialising, but why is his son…
'His son is a little… should I say, too serious, or is he just plain silly?'
Nevertheless, he could also feel that Wya was seemingly not on good terms with Gilbert.
A cold father and son relationship?
Gilbert sighed and continued to move forward with Thales.
This time, Thales did not need any introduction when he saw the figure underneath the cloak. He yelled out in astonishment, "It is you!"
The petite figure underneath the cloak turned around with her hands on her waist.
"Yes," she replied in a carefree manner. Her response was not respectful or cold and callous, but it made people feel that she was genuine. "It is me!"
With his face devoid of any emotions (it appeared that he became this way after meeting his own son), Gilbert said, "You have probably met her before. Similar to Yodel, originally, she was one of His Majesty's secret protectors. His Majesty specially transferred her—"
"Hey, hey, hey! What do you mean by transfer! Kessel can never order me around!" The cloaked lady who hid her face cut Gilbert's speech off. With no trace of politeness, she walked towards Thales and stared at the dumbstruck prince. She patted his shoulder with her left hand as she pointed her right thumb towards herself.
"Brat, my name is Aida!"
Thales was momentarily stunned. "Ada Wong ?"
Under the sour expressions of Gilbert and the rest, Aida smacked Thales' head hard!
She blew a whistle as Thales rubbed his head, grimacing in pain. "What 'Wong'! I am not from the Mane et Nox Dynasty from the Far East… Listen closely, my name is Aida Laura Carter Gisele…"
Aida appeared to be encountering some obstacles. She could be seen desperately scratching her head for a few seconds.
Finally, the cloaked lady put down her hand powerlessly as she said in disappointment, "Haih, never mind, my name is far too long. Sometimes, I cannot even remember it… Just call me Aida, then."
Thales was flabbergasted as he stared at Aida.
He felt that his serious outlook on life was refurbished.
However, this feeling of being knocked on the head… was very familiar.
A few familiar figures appeared before his eyes. He did not know how Jala and those few children were doing. He had only received some vague news from Morat.
Gilbert's face became pale with anger. "Madam Aida, please be careful with your actions towards His Highness the next time around…"
Thales rubbed his head, which was gradually starting to ache less. He noticed that even though Gilbert was obviously dissatisfied, it did not seem like he was about to hold her accountable.
'So, he also silently consents to her hitting a prince's head?'
Aida said in dissatisfaction, "What is wrong again?! Do not tell me that I cannot knock his head. Back then, when I knocked Mindis' head, even Keira did not dare to have an opinion…"
Thales froze as he noticed that Gilbert did not refute her statement.
'Wait a minute.
'Which Mindis in the royal family?
'Keira. Was that the Royal Family's supreme class expert, "Enemy of the Wolves" Keira Jadestar, who was around over two hundred years ago?
'Her voice seems young, but…'
Thales lifted his eyes and looked at Aida. 'How old exactly is she?'
Thales smiled with much difficulty.
"Madam Aida… Haha, you are really… you are especially lively."
"You are right!"
Underneath the cloak, Aida seemed to be very happy as she punched her palm. "My entire family also says the same thing!
"It is because of this that they kicked me out!"
Thales did not even bother hiding it when he rolled his eyes.
Gilbert forcefully coughed to attract the attention of the people around the carriages.
"Everyone, if there are no problems, you can get to know each other and acclimatize yourselves with one another during your journey… I believe everyone knows about the aim and mission of this trip.
"If there are no further questions, we shall proceed into the carriages now. His Majesty and a few dukes are waiting at the Northern City Gate to send the diplomat group off," he announced loudly.
Chora nodded and the thirty Jadestar private soldiers started busying themselves with their tasks.
Gilbert nodded towards Thales and sent him to his carriage.
The serious-looking prince's attendant, Wya Caso, was staring at the peculiar looking Ralf with an unpleasant expression. However, under the gaze of Thales' smiling face, he followed the Phantom Wind Follower and the second prince into the same carriage.
Gilbert yelled at the thin man, who was boarding the carriage.
Putray turned around without any expression on his face.
The former Foreign Affairs Minister, Count Gilbert Caso, appeared solemn when he said, "I am handing over the prince and the whole of Constellation's future to you.
"You have traversed more than half of the world, from the battle of Crystal Wall City, the Bloody Year, the Desert War, the Alliance Civil War, the Riot between Steel and Tree, to Eastern Peninsula's Hanbol Inheritance War as well as the chaotic battlefield in Mane et Nox Regnum. You have seen numerous wars and chaotic battles. You know how brutal they were, and your current trip is to eliminate the threat of war on behalf of Constellation—"
"Enough!" Putray cut his old friend off.
This thin man still had a displeased look on his face, but his eyes were glinting with a bright light.
"I have already accepted it.
"It is just the same as twelve years ago."
1. Ada Wong: A character from Resident Evil.