Chapter 535: Polaris
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
When enemies meet, it is like being enveloped by a gust of spring breeze.
When close friends reunite, their eyes blaze with hatred.
Living under someone else's roof in Dragon Clouds City, Thales dreamed of returning to Constellation countless times. But if there was anything that could extinguish his homesickness, the graceful and perfect smile of Zayen Covendier, Duke of Iris Flowers, is probably one of them.
Prince Thales will never forget his bizarre encounters in Constellation when he headed north on a diplomatic mission six years ago—be that the b.l.o.o.d.y mouth, sinister pupils and bloodcurdling shrieks of a mummy-like vampire witch, or being crushed under the weight of a pure white, limbless blood-sucking monster and being bitten on the neck by it.
Both incidents stated above const.i.tuted the surprise finale of most of his nightmares for the past six years, second only to the occasional secret level boss (in ultimate nightmares) Giza. These nightmares inadvertently encouraged him to sleep and wake up early, as well as stay optimistic.
Every time his thoughts reached this point, Thales would feel a phantom pain in his neck.
It felt like he was being strangled, yet also as if he was being bitten.
And that was why Thales will never forget the main culprit of it all.
"I didn't expect you to come, my Duke friend," Thales beamed. He put his right arm across Zayen's back and on Zayen's right shoulder. In the eyes of others, they looked like brothers out on a stroll. "Not this early, at least."
Zayen returned with an equally warm smile, and wrapped his left arm over Thales' neck, as if he was hugging his own brother, natural and affectionate.
"I've missed you dearly for the past months, Your Highness. I couldn't wait to see you, my Prince friend," Zayen's voice sounded just like it did before, gentle and elegant, friendly and easygoing.
It could even be said that it sounded better.
Thales' face broke into a grin.
"So what is it this time?"
Thales put on the persona from his experience in Quick Rope sales-a warm smile, an enthusiastic tone-and asked softly, "A poisoning? An a.s.sa.s.sination? False accusations? False rumours? A framing?"
Thales spoke so softly that Glover, Doyle and Zayen's elderly butler Ashford who were right behind them could not make out a word of what he said.
He leaned closer to Zayen, "Or take a page out of the Northeners' book—roll up your sleeves and do me in?"
Zayen burst out laughing in public.
The guards and servants stood guard at the periphery. The guests waiting for admission nodded hearteningly upon witnessing this harmonious scene.
Many people discussed this scene tacitly. Obviously, the Duke of the South Coast was amused by the Prince's joke. What was rare was that the Duke showed his true emotions and did not put on airs.
The Prince was also sincere and unpretentious.
See, important people are people too. They live the same lives as us, have similar joys, and face similar troubles. If you do not believe me, just look at those friendly smiles. How is that different from yours and mine?
This tells you that there is merely a difference in position between us and the Prince and Duke; neither is better than the other. Everyone is an important member of the kingdom, striving for the future of Constellation.
Seeing as how they give their blood, sweat and tears in leading and governing the kingdom, we should have hope and put our confidence in them.
Even where they fall short of perfection, we should empathise, be lenient, and be patient.
This is the right way to love… Hey mister, please stop crowding me, there isn't any more s.p.a.ce over here—It's none of my business if you can't get a good view! I'm here today to get a glimpse of His Highness and the Duke! Hey, they are leaving, hurry! Hey you in front, let me through! You're blocking my view! Prince Thales! Duke Zayen! Slow down!
"Thales! You…" Zayen ignored the minor commotion outside the venue. With his arm still around the Prince's shoulder, Zayen affectionately shook the latter and leaned towards his ear, "You know, I've been thinking for the past six years…"
He whispered softly, as if hoping to convey a subtle message, "If you return with glory to a hero's welcome, what will our dynamic be?"
There was a subtext in his words.
What will our dynamic be?
Thales let out an inaudible sigh. Inexplicably, his mind flashed back to when King Nuven swore to avenge his son's death by duel.
"We should respect each other, live and let live…"
They steadily walked on.
But in an instant, Zayen's warm and gentle tone turned cold, "Or should we entangle ourselves in hatred and hold on to it till our deaths?"
There was a slight lag in Thales footsteps.
Zayen slowed down accordingly.
Zayen's words sounded like an armistice request.
Thales turned his head around slowly. He maintained his smile, but his gaze turned cold.
"Don't worry," Zayen gave Thales a friendly pat on the shoulder, like a brother encouraging another. The attendants and guards that witnessed this scene felt relieved . 1
"You'll have time to think about it. What you should worry about today…Isn't me."
No one could see it, but Zayen's smile was slightly restrained.
At least, it isn't just me.
Thales fell silent.
But in the next instant, His Highness the Prince, with a slight movement of his brows, burst into laughter!
Zayen lowered his head and started to smirk.
Their strides reverted to a regular pace.
In the eyes of onlookers, the jokes between the Duke of the South Coast and the Duke of Star Lake obviously became more and more relaxed, and the conversation flowed smoothly—can't you see them laughing so heartedly?
Mallos, who was leading the way, frowned in distress.
The butler, Ashford, who was behind them, remained expressionless.
The watchman signalled to Thales that he could take over in leading the Duke into the banquet hall. But the overjoyed Prince waved his hand and insisted on accompanying the Duke till the end.
The guests on the other side noticed this and was deeply moved by their friendship and relationship.
"You know, there was a time when I couldn't understand why you wanted me dead—even when there wasn't any conflict between us anymore," Thales' gradually restrained his laughter. He patted Zayen hard on the back and started to whisper.
The pat swayed the Duke of Iris Flowers, but he maintained his smile.
"But eventually I figured it out." Thales leaned on Zayen's shoulder and blinked slyly, "What do you say?"
Figured it out?
At that moment, Zayen broke his stride.
The Duke lowered his head slightly, as if pondering something.
Thales slowed down considerately and waited for Zayen's response with a smile.
"A little advice, Your Highness." A few seconds later, Zayen looked up—his expression unchanged—and with a slight movement of his lips said, "Take care of yourself, kid. Don't b.u.t.t into other people's business."
Even though he was smiling, the coldness of Zayen's tone effectively reached Thales' ears, sending chills down his spine.
Zayen merely glanced at Thales, but it seemed like a cold flash of light, "Don't go asking for trouble. You'll regret it."
Thales heart skipped a beat.
The Duke of Star Lake fell silent.
The next moment, they stepped into the banquet hall.
Many of the guests that arrived earlier were already seated. They were waiting gracefully and patiently, occasionally greeting each other. Quite a few stood around in small groups, chatting jovially and politely.
The arrival of the Duke of South Coast and the Duke of Star Lake undoubtedly attracted everyone's attention. The guests closest to them bowed in respect; the crowd further away from them paused their conversation. Perhaps it was because the guests never expected the VIP entrance to be so soon, a few seconds later a minor burst of cheers broke out in the banquet hall.
The more privileged guests—the ever-charming Doyles, Viscount Lozano Glover, as well as Elainor Barney, who was with her son (when the crowd caught a glimpse of the Nine-Pointed Star Emblem on the young duke's arm, a group of ladies started gathering around Mrs Barney)—stood up and bowed in respect.
The atmosphere heated up in an instant.
Zayen and Thales naturally loosened their grip on each other, tacitly bowing in respect towards the guests in return, and occasionally responding to their greetings.
Unlike the mixed crowd at the National Conference six years ago, only the elites were invited to attend the Day of Holy Pursuit c.u.m Return of the Prince Celebratory Banquet. Even the guests around the periphery were friendly, behaved appropriately, and capable of holding their own. The attendants and guards fulfilled their duties diligently, giving way and watching the Duke and Prince as they walked past without disrupting their conversation.
However, Thales knew better.
In this moment of eagerness and harmony, where the hosts and guests interacted amicably and presented a united front, the underlying confrontational stance between Zayen and himself had reached a fever pitch.
The young man walked in shorter but quicker strides.
Zayen walked in longer but slower strides.
The two marched along in parallel, each adjusting their pace to the other's from time to time. But inexplicably, their footsteps could never fully coordinate.
But at that moment, Thales smiled from the bottom of his heart.
'Does Zayen know?'
Thales pondered silently.
Duke Zayen Covendier, member of the respected Iris Flowers family and ruler of the South Coast.
His threat, his warning, his urgent tone…
Compared to those people…
A series of faces flashed across Thales' mind…
King Nuven caressing his ring, King Chapman lightly stroking his sword, the cunning and sinister Stake, the terrifying and strange Ricky, Legendary Wing and his decorative skulls, the Duke of Western Desert sneering…
Compared to them…
The young man smiled on the inside.
The excitement caused by the two entering the banquet hall gradually subsided; the guests spread out and went back to their small groups.
The next second, Thales toned down his smile, put down his greeting hand and grabbed Zayen's shoulder unceremoniously.
"You know, I've been taking Math lessons from Julio the scholar recently. So I'm curious," It looked as though the prince recalled an interesting trivia; he leaned over and whispered to the duke. His lips barely moved as he spoke through his teeth, "I'm curious. Six years ago when I headed up north and got into some trouble, and you transferred those duchies and Crystal Drop Ores to the royal family in exchange for my father's forgiveness… How much income did you lose per annum?" His voice fell silent.
The rhythm of Zayen's breath was slightly disrupted.
Crystal Drop Ores.
Zayen's arm muscles contracted slightly.
"Ah this matter." He smiled and turned to face Thales. "I thought we were done with it…"
But the prince replied with an even bigger smile. "Do you know how I have survived these past six years in the violent and perilous Northland?"
In that instant, the patriarch of House Covendier felt his shoulders tighten.
"Times have changed, Zayen." Thales moved his lips closer towards Zayen's ear and smirked malevolently. "Don't go asking for trouble. You'll regret it."
Zayen fixed his gaze upon Thales; his expression began to stiffen.
In the eyes of many, Prince Thales was overjoyed and kept speaking in Duke Covendier's ear, while the latter was patiently and indulgently listening to what the young man had to say without a trace of displeasure, let alone coldness.
As close as brothers.
This scene conjured a sense of comfort in those that witnessed it; they grinned.
Since the prince and the duke—one being pure, lively and cheerful, the other being refined, wise, gentle and honest—were developing a friendly and eager atmosphere, this naturally affected and resonated with the guests by the periphery.
'Hate' would never be grouped together with these two leaders; they were the model of n.o.bility unity.
Hence the banquet hall turned into a sea of joy: mortal enemies of the past were no longer, their hatred replaced by smiles as they embraced and forgave each other like brothers; strangers who would never usually cross paths conversed as if they were old friends, merely pausing to sigh that they didn't make each other's acquaintance sooner.
At this moment in Mindis Hall, the unique spirit and zeitgeist within and beyond the Constellation Royal Court and the entire aristocracy were in full display-solidarity and high morale.
Thales and Zayen finally stopped walking.
They were still staring at each other with a smile on each of their faces, as if everything left unspoken was fully understood.
Mallos, who was stood ahead of both, had to raise his voice to remind the two who were engrossed in staring at each other that the guest had arrived, and that His Highness should head back out to receive the other guests.
Finally, Zayen reached out to grab Thales by the shoulders with a smile, and said with a softened tone, "I understand, Your Highness. Ease your concerns."
Zayen lowered his head and grinned. "As long as Constellation exists, the empire will last forever."
Thales raised his eyebrows.
He proceeded to break into a smile and reached out to embrace Zayen tightly!
"Very well. Let us rather die for friends…"
Zayen's expression stiffened; he felt the grip on his waist tighten gradually.
Thales buried his head in the duke's chest and, out of sight from the public, continued coldly, "…than perish as foes."
A second later, the prince let go of the duke and reverted to that happy and sincere Thales, laughing away.
Zayen laughed along at this sight.
In coordination with the prince and the duke, the courteous n.o.bles surrounding them-whilst secretly observing the two-raised their voices so that the laughter didn't stick out like a sore thumb.
Thales seemed really happy; he was howling with laughter as he bid Zayen goodbye and walked away. He quickly walked between Glover and Doyle, the latter observing the Prince with an odd stare.
When no one was looking, the young man relaxed his facial muscles that were numb from smiling too much.
He sighed a long sigh of relief deep inside.
It was strange.
As he felt Zayen's piercing stare from behind, the fatigued Thales quietly pondered to himself, "Zayen Covendier."
As one of his most annoying enemies, this guy was still as insidious, prudent and repulsive.
But in his memory the Duke of Iris Flowers never seemed to be this… proactive?
Thales was deep in thought as he walked towards the banquet hall entrance, accompanied by his guards. He was ready to return to his place at the entrance to continue fulfilling his duty of welcoming guests.
But before he could finish his thought…
The incident happened.
When he pa.s.sed a group of foreign guests, a tall and muscular figure-a good deal bigger than Glover suddenly appeared!
The man had a menacing aura about him as he barged into view.
In an instant, the expression on Glover and Doyle's faces changed.
However, both guards were well trained: they immediately kneeled and put their hands on their swords. They had to be ready to draw their swords and eliminate the threat before the a.s.sa.s.sin approached.
This was before Mallos stretched his powerful arms out and gripped Glover and Doyle's shoulders.
Mallos' actions prevented the public embarra.s.sment of a bloodbath on the day when the Prince of Constellation makes his debut.
"Keep calm," Mallos ordered in a low voice.
At that instant, a coa.r.s.e and rude voice, with a tone familiar to Thales, boomed within the banquet hall, "Look who it is!"
The muscular guest stood in front of Thales and burst into laughter.
The anxious Glover and Doyle were shocked. They turned to Mallos who had halted them from acting. Only then did they notice that the muscular man, despite his imposing figure, was unarmed and stood at a safe distance apart.
They had overreacted.
On the other hand, Thales was stunned at the sight of the stranger before him. The man had a beard as substantial as his body; his clothes were thick but slightly rustic. He looked like a large bear.
"An old friend of the Eckstedt people, Price Thales…!"
The bearded man opened his muscular arms wide and cheerfully boomed, "Polaris!"
Thales was stunned.
Wait a minute…
He turned around confusedly and looked at the guests around him. The onlooking crowd who were initially curious now turned away to avoid his gaze.
But this didn't prevent Thales from recognizing the bearded man's familiar accent.
He was from…
"Look at that!" The bearded man let out a boorish and manly laugh, then boomed, "A prince that was raised drinking the milk of us Northerners, is indeed remarkable!"
Thales was again confused.
What… what milk?
"Pardon?" The prince was finally able to gather himself and responded politely, "Actually, when I… when I arrived at Dragon Clouds City, I was already…already…"
Thales continued awkwardly in his head, '…weaned.'
Wait a minute, in this world, when he was a child, did he ever… drink milk?
But what greeted him was another bout of rude laughter.
"I'm Jorge, no surname."
The northerner that referred to himself as Jorge beat his chest; it sounded so much like rumbling drums that it startled several Constellation aristocrats nearby, who subconsciously distanced themselves.
"I am an administrator sent by Archduke Gaddro. I bring with me the generosity and well-wishes of Elaphure City!"
Thales' expression changed.
That once-familiar northern geography now came back to him.
Of the ten Main Territories of Eckstedt, if the region furthest west was the City of Faraway Prayers, the region furthest east would be Elaphure City.
In fact, the Gaddro family estate in Elaphure City was located in a remote area, but was backed by mountains and cliffs, and adjacent to ice and sea. In a situation where quality ports were rare and conditions near the coast were harsh, the family arduously guarded the narrow coastline that was scarce within the entire empire of Eckstedt.
To the north, they are able to send reinforcements to Sentry Region and Glacier Sea to repel Glacial Orcs.
To the south, the Elaphure City fleet could support Reformation Tower and Black Sand Region to remotely control the various Eastern Sea ports of Constellation.
To the east, the va.s.sals of the Gaddro family battled Ka.s.saian pirates, known as 'Sons of Maidens', that roamed the islands, to protect maritime routes.
In the most extreme of times, they even had to sound the first bugle horn in the Peninsular War when faced with threats from across the Ocean of Eradication.
Six years ago, Archduke Gaddro did not take up King Nuven's invitation to visit Dragon Clouds City to witness the night that shook the Western Peninsula.
But Thales remembered what Count Lisban referred to him as: the 'Dignified Goatee'.
Thales looked at the familiar yet unfamiliar northerner Jorge thoughtfully.
'He is here to attend… my celebratory banquet?'
"It's a great honor to meet you. Even the moon would be moved!" Jorge spouted a bunch of nonsensical grammar, but laughed heartily as he reached out his arms to Thales. "My Polaris!"
Thales frowned. "Po…Polaris?" he repeated, puzzled.
'What form of address is this?'
"Yes indeed!" Jorge's every word seemed to shake the ground under their feet. "You were in Dragon Clouds City for six long years, you of the Jadestar family!"
He clapped his hands vigorously, ignoring the glares of contempt that Glover and Doyle shot at him.
"So when you returned, everyone called you Polaris… Because you were the most courageous—the one that has survived in the North for the longest—" Jorge's expression was excited, his voice shook the roof, "…King of Constellation!"
In that moment, the entire banquet hall fell silent.
Everyone shifted their attention and stared at this corner.
One second. Two seconds.
Jorge noticed that the sudden silence and was dumbfounded for a second.
He carefully inspected his surroundings.
The administrator from Elaphure City took a deep breath before allowing his gaze to fall back on the sorrowful-looking prince, whose face had stiffened.
He seemed to have sensed something.
"Erm, what I meant was…" Jorge opened his mouth and clumsily rubbed his protruding belly, looking like a big bear in the shower. He then shrugged and awkwardly blurted with a chuckle, "The king in waiting…?"
« Previous My Bookmarks Chapters Next»