Chapter 81: The Way to the North
Zayen could be seen with a tranquil and calm expression on his face. "We just found out the truth about Vine Manor."
Thales' countenance remained unchanged.
After he went through what he did with Morat, he could also transform into the leader of the Mount Hua Sect, Yue Buqun.
Zayen gave the most perfect smile and continued speaking, "We interrogated the pawns of the gang at Vine Manor. I have no choice but to say...
"You played a good trick that day, Prince Thales." Zayen cast Thales a ruminating gaze. "Even in a hopeless situation, you were still able to drive a wedge between the Blood Clan and Blood Bottle Gang in order to avoid being killed."
Thales silently exclaimed in his heart, 'He finally found out about this.'
But currently, his thoughts were messy and disordered. He did not have the mood and effort to deal with the master of Tricolor Iris Flowers.
Thales spread his hands indifferently. "I do not know what you are talking about."
"Soon, you are going on a long journey… Be careful, the immortals are not easy to deal with." Zayen placed his hands behind his back, his smiling eyes occasionally glinting brightly. "Before the Enemy of the Wolves and his Immortal Hunters Group fought their way up to the summit of Wild Vast Mountain, forcing them to sign the 'Treaty of Subordination between Human Countries and Immortals', on numerous dark nights, the immortals fed on humans.
"They must have been yearning for the taste of human blood till this day… They will always bring upon problems in the human nation…
"If you share a boat with a jackal and wolf, you will run the risk of having your boat overturned."
'This speech sounds so awe-inspiring and righteous… But since this is coming from your mouth…' Thales scratched his head.
He sighed. "I return what you just said back to you, original employer of the Blood Clan."
Zayen stopped smiling.
They stared at each other in silence.
Thales felt increasingly uneasy.
Zayen's gaze changed and suddenly he was smiling again.
"Nonetheless, I indeed owe you a favor."
Thales furrowed his brows a little.
Zayen laughed. "Thank you for the other day when you ran into that assassination attempt. Even though I know you were not thinking about being targeted in my place at all."
'Was he expressing goodwill?
'What day is today? Why is everyone expressing goodwill to me?
'Is today Children's Day?'
"No need." Thales was dispirited. "You have already repaid the favor by voting 'yes' to support me in inheriting the throne, did you not?"
However, Koshder's words from earlier immediately circulated in his mind.
"The suzerains were doing this out of self-preservation!"
Thales suddenly lifted his head and stared bemusedly at Zayen. "What were you thinking? Why did you cast your vote on me? You do not seem like the type of person who would simply change your stance just because you are angered by betrayal.
"Even if a Jadestar becomes the heir to the throne under that situation, it does not correspond with your benefits as a suzerain, correct?"
Zayen stared at him for three seconds and then, slightly raised his brows.
"Who knows? Since I also did not have a chance under that situation."
Zayen chuckled. "Maybe I was just thinking, 'Compared to those cunning people, the prince who is naive and inexperienced, is a better heir for the kingdom'… because no matter what, you were more like a pushover that would be easier to control."
'Can these dukes speak in a way a normal human can understand?'
"Just kidding!" Zayen laughed out loud.
Thales rolled his eyes.
"But before you leave, Your Highness, I have a gift for you. Please do kindly accept the gift." Zayen waved his hand lightly. "That day at Vine Manor, an old soldier of Starlight Brigade recognized you. However, it was because he did not utter a word that you managed to leave safely. Otherwise, what waited for you would have been… two supreme class knights."
Thales' heart trembled. He looked into the distance, at a man ridden with fatigue being roughly shoved into the Jadestar Private Army's fleet of carriages.
'Who… was that?'
Zayen patted his shoulder and gave him a mysterious smile. "You do not have to worry about him being my spy… Genard was once the Duke of Star Lake's personal guard. He should come in handy."
Thales had a skeptical look on his face.
But he once again remembered what Koshder said.
"The strength of South Coast Hill was weakened due to family feud…"
Thales muttered, "Duke Zayen, I heard that it has only been two years since you became a duke, right?"
Zayen furrowed his brows as he nodded. "Sadly, my father passed away two years ago. I returned from my travels in the Eastern Peninsula to inherit the title of the duke."
Thales was careful in his choice of words. "It may be presumptuous for me to ask, but I heard that… it was due to family feud that the old Duke of Iris Flowers…"
Zayen lightly held his breath as he maintained a perfect expression.
"Yes, my few uncles were lusting after my father's position. They used the excuse that my father was too oppressive to them… In the end, they became insane after they failed. So they made a risky move to pay a huge amount of money to hire an assassin and murder my father."
Thales sighed. "So, is this the reason why you said 'Eternal Star City does not welcome murder' on that day?"
Zayen inhaled lightly and nodded. "This can be considered as one of the reasons."
Thales fell into silence.
"There were even traces of his involvement in the internal fight of the Covendier Family two years ago…"
The prince recalled Kessel the Fifth's methods and means while he asked in a puzzled tone, "Your Grace, was your father's passing really due to internal strife, or is there another story behind it?"
Zayen was secretly astonished!
'He... This brat…'
"What do you mean?" the young duke could no longer maintain his expression as he retorted with a grim expression on his face.
Thales did not notice Zayen's expression. He lowered his head and continued to recall the possibilities of the Royal Family interfering with the inheritance fight.
"All nineteen noble families… will be completely swallowed up…"
The prince murmured, "Was there a deeper, more essential truth to the duke's death?"
"In order for the families that have existed since the country was founded to this day, to continue existing…"
"For example, the unfortunate death of His Grace. Was it needed to protect the continuation of the family, to protect the future of the next generation so that they would not be subjected to external infringements?"
Thales lifted his head, and with a penetrating gaze, he tried to make out something from Zayen's eyes.
"What do you think?"
In that very moment, it was as if something exploded in Zayen's heart.
His heart raced and his breath quickened as he stared at the second prince in front of him with his eyes wide opened.
However, there was a storm raging in his mind!
'Why did he intentionally mention my father's death?
'Continuation of the family…
'The life or death of Iris Flowers. He is a part of the royal family, so he must know that the first Duke Covendier, who was Constellation's first Chief of the Secret Intelligence Department and Chief of Intelligence, as well as the highest person in charge of "Operation World Cleansing" over six hundred years ago…
'The future of the next generation…
'Covendier's next generation… Was he talking about me or… Hille?'
The weather was freezing cold, but Duke Zayen Covendier, who had excellent self-restraint, broke out in cold sweat without even realizing it himself.
'Regarding my father's death, regarding that matter…'
Zayen clenched his fist tightly. 'Regarding Hille's identity… What exactly does he already know?'
The young duke lifted his head and stared at Thales with brilliant, shining eyes.
'He is… threatening me.
'Warning the Iris Flowers.
Zayen's breathing became chaotic without him noticing.
Only then did Thales notice Zayen's ashen complexion and suddenly realize the truth.
'Er… Did I step over the line by asking about his father's death early in the morning?'
"Sorry." Thales smiled apologetically. "I was being too presumptuous."
With his eyes, he saw Zayen taking a deep breath and giving out a rare, forceful smile (smiling was normally nothing to him) that seemed submissive and obsequious.
Zayen felt bitterness in his heart, but he immediately closed his eyes and bowed down as he said with much difficulty, "No. Prince Thales, Tricolor Iris Flowers understands… understands your meaning. From this moment onwards, South Coast Hill is willing to serve and follow you without any complaints."
'Why did he bow down all of a sudden?'
Thales was shocked as he took a step back.
'I did not say anything, why did he want to bow down to me… Also, he already understands what I was trying to convey?
'His reaction… is very fast.'
Thales squinted his eyes in suspicion. "Sir Zayen, do you really… understand what I was saying?"
Zayen clenched his teeth tightly together.
'Are you forcing me to make a promise?'
"What I said was whether that family feud was not that simple..."
"Yes! I understand!"
Zayen lifted his head abruptly and his eyes shone with resolve. "Covendier Family's teachings are very clear: It is better to die for friends than foes."
He stared at Thales in a serious manner. "I just figured out that you are right. If Iris Flowers wants to flourish more and more, we have to be careful in choosing our ally… For example, you, the only qualified Prince of Constellation, the bloodline of the kingdom."
'What is he doing?'
Thales furrowed his brows. 'Did another person take over his body?'
But Gilbert's voice came from a distance away—they had to leave now.
The second prince's fleet of carriages rode into the distance.
But Zayen was still standing at the same place in a daze.
Ashford, his butler, walked up from behind him. He was just about to say something before Zayen stopped him by lifting up his hand abruptly.
He only took action when the fleet of carriages disappeared into a remote distance.
Zayen was breathing unevenly when he nodded. "Alright, even a vampire's hearing is useless against such a distance."
Ashford furrowed his brows a little.
There was something slightly wrong with his master.
"Did you manage to get anything?" Ashford asked carefully.
Zayen scrunched his brows tightly together as he nodded out of habit. "When I asked about the matter regarding the Blood Clan, he instinctively verified it.
"The vampires are indeed on the journey with them."
Zayen let out a long sigh before he murmured, "He is indeed bold and fearless."
Ashford replied respectfully, "Then we will just act according to our original plan, inform Blood Bottle Gang and start destroying his reputation…"
Zayen lifted his head with a determined gaze in his eyes.
There was even a hint of resolve in them.
Zayen glanced at the direction of the fleet of carriages carrying Thales as he squinted his eyes and made a decision.
'No one can harm Hille.
'Not even the Kingdom's bloodline.'
Zayen Covendier, the young Jade City mayor, Guardian Duke of South Coast Hill, the master of Constellation's Six Great Clans' Tricolor Iris Flowers, whispered to the butler beside him, "Send word."
Ashford raised his eyebrows.
"Which side?" Ashford asked softly.
Zayen closed his eyes and took a deep breath before he slowly exhaled.
"That side," Zayen quietly said.
Ashford did not utter another word.
He was waiting for the final confirmation from his master.
Zayen's voice came through with much difficulty.
"You know which part to send those words to."
Even though Ashford had doubts in his heart, he immediately understood what his master meant as he was good in observing others' speech and behavioral patterns.
The old butler nodded and bowed before he left.
After a long while.
Zayen opened his eyes.
He mumbled to himself, "The Prince of Constellation, whom I voted for… You carry the fate of the two kingdoms on your back. You will decide whether we will have war or peace.
"At least, within the kingdom, probably none of Constellation's suzerains dare to endanger your life, right?
"This is probably… what everyone is thinking.
"Just let it remain that way then."
The carriage of the second prince arrived at the Northern City Gate.
From afar, Thales saw the piece of vacant land that the guards cleared. It was separated from the crowd, who came to watch the event.
The Supreme King of Constellation, Kessel Jadestar, was standing in the middle of the three dukes as he silently looked over at Thales' side.
"I will send you off here, Your Highness," Gilbert stood at his original place and said in a sentimental tone. "Be careful on your journey there. I will wait respectfully for your return."
Thales turned around and looked at Gilbert.
"If you can only listen to the story of the sorrowful king and the determined Royal Family, fed to you by the king's partisan, you might as well dig both of your eyes out and only leave your ears to do the job!"
Thales exhaled. "Thank you, Gilbert."
Then Thales took a step back and bowed.
"Thank you, teacher."
Gilbert was holding onto his staff when he lowered his head and sigh, but eventually he stopped uttering another word.
Thales exhaled. With Putray and Wya as company (it was better for Ralf to stay in the carriage with his appearance, though he did not know why the lively Aida did not leave the carriage), he walked off the carriage towards his father, who seemed to be a 'tyrant'.
The three dukes bowed before him.
Thales also returned the greeting respectably.
The plump Guardian Duke of the Eastern Sea, Bob Cullen was huffing and puffing when he sighed in admiration. "Your Highness, although this is unfair to you, I still want to let you know that I am extremely gratified at your courage."
Thales nodded absentmindedly. "It is what I ought to do as the Prince of Constellation."
"Eastern Sea Hill was so terrified they became cowards." Koshder's version of Constellation emerged in his mind.
The Guardian Duke of the Western Desert, the horrible-looking Fakenhaz continued with his ridicule. "Hehehe, I once hoped that my son would be as outstanding as you, Your Highness, but after I took a look at the current situation, I decided to just forget about it… This is far too dangerous."
Thales rolled his eyes in front of him.
"Thank you for your kind words," Thales replied powerlessly.
"Western Desert just barely managed to protect itself due to the importance of the Western Battle Line."
He walked towards the teenage girl.
Lyanna Tabark, the delicate and pretty teenage Duchess of Blade Edge Hill. She was staring at him with an icy expression.
"I think… we all know what kind of heavy burden we have to bear as the last person in the family," she said softly.
"But it is exactly because of this that we get to become even stronger," the teenage girl said bluntly.
"Blade Edge Hill had several parts of its territory become property of the royal family."
Lyanna delicately touched the Blood Moon brooch pinned on her chest and whispered, "Your Highness, since you are leaving soon, I am going to present to you the Tabark Family's motto."
Thales was stunned for a while.
The cold, teenage girl bowed gently and enunciated her words clearly, "Only blood can sharpen the blade."
Thales stared at the teenage girl in front of him, who was about fifteen or sixteen years old. He only came back to his senses after a few seconds and nodded his head solemnly.
"I will remember it with my heart and will never dare to forget it," he replied.
The king's scepter struck the floor.
The three dukes—Cullen, Fakenhaz and Lyanna backed down at the right time.
Thales took a few steps forward and bowed lightly.
'"You underestimate your father, the Iron Hand King and underestimate the fear he brings upon the whole of Constellation.'"
"You have met Keya," Kessel the Fifth quietly said.
"Very good, then you already know exactly what kind of path that we… you and I, are walking on." Kessel stared at him coldly.
'"The Bloody Year changed him…"'
Kessel sighed before he quietly continued, "We have enemies in every corner of this world. If you are not careful in your every step, disaster will fall on your head."
'"He treats every suzerain like his enemy and never shows mercy when he suppresses or schemes against them. He treats Constellation as his personal carriage, without controlling his usage of the horsewhip and spurs…"'
Thales sucked in a breath. In Kessel's eyes, he had a very determined gaze.
Kessel said slowly, "Head on your journey, young Jadestar. Bring honor to your kingdom and bring honor to your family.
"Live for Constellation."
Thales lifted his head and once again nodded lightly.
Jines Bajkovic, who was standing behind the king, could not help but take a step forward.
"Brat." The female official seemed a little awkward.
Jines eventually drew a deep breath and spoke, filled with complicated emotions.
"Remember to practice your sword skills."
Thales gave her a smile. "Yes, Madam Jines."
Putray and Wya bowed and greeted the king, with the latter saying a few words of encouragement. Thales knew that the time of departure had finally arrived.
However, at that very moment, an unexpected person walked to his side, holding onto his walking stick.
"Your Highness, when you reach Eckstedt, please help an old man like me to pass a message to an old woman." With his hoarse voice and ugly smile, Morat Hansen spoke to Thales, who had a vigilant expression on his face.
With his bad impression of the Black Prophet, Thales asked dubiously, "Which old woman?"
Morat grinned. "You will know when you see her."
Thales furrowed his eyebrows deeply.
On the city gate, which Thales was not paying any attention to, a masked figure slowly disappeared into the air.
And so, the carriage fleet with the silver Double Cross-Shaped Stars Flag and Nine-Pointed Star Flag erected on them, slowly departed all the way up to the north.
Thales leaned against the wall of the carriage and exhaled. "Wya, do you know why it seemed like everyone was bidding their goodbyes for the very last time when they said their farewells to me?
"Will King Nuven really kill me?"
He was not counting on Wya to reply him.
However, the second prince's attendant, Wya Caso, who kept staring out of the carriage, gently rose his head. His face was filled with complicated emotions.
"During my time at the Tower of Eradication, my teacher once told me…"
The next second, Wya said something that made Thales' eyes brighten up.
Until a long, long time after, Thales would still occasionally think of these words when he could not sleep at night.
Wya Caso whispered, "Treat every goodbye like the final goodbye, and treat every second of your life as though you managed to survive out of luck…
"That way, we will never waste our life."