Kingdom's Bloodline 547 To Not Perish As Foes Two
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Zayen looked at him, baffled.
Thales strained to adjust his disordered breathing so as to not reveal anything.
"Yes." Thales forced a smile and shoved away the plate of lettuce that he used as a prop. "I'm just full. I don't think I can handle more food."
Zayen was silent for a moment as his gaze turned keen.
"So in your opinion, va.s.sals like me are still the culprit? And our selfish desires are the source of chaos in the country?"
Thales neither acknowledged nor denied it.
He looked towards the duke, trying hard to forget the scene in his mind.
"But it's not an accusation. Because you can't help it either."
'Can't help it.'
Zayen savored this phrase for a while.
He responded blankly, "So according to you, since everything is inevitable, there's no room for compromise between us?"
Thales looked at the duke for a good while.
He suddenly recalled their first meeting. Then, they both encountered the a.s.sa.s.sin sent by Arunde—according to Stake, they were Shadow s.h.i.+eld's men.
If the hidden a.s.sa.s.sin appeared now, wouldn't Zayen be taking a hit for him again?
Thales shook off this pointless thought, stayed silent for a while before shaking his head. "Who knows.
"But a crisis is upon us, and this will be the source of new demands."
Thales seemed slightly distracted.
"In my opinion, when history grows tired of repeating itself, when people grow tired of conflict, when a country grows tired of infighting…when the time comes, the absolute and supreme power of a monarch may again be called upon, be needed, and be revered as the protagonist of history."
"Just as before, how after the rise and fall of authoritarian kings." Thales pointed at Zayen and smiled. "Va.s.sals divided, governed and expanded the territory, and became protagonists of history."
Zayen pondered this.
"If you put it that way, the protagonists of history were initially kings, then va.s.sals, then eventually kings again?"
He looked at King Kessel in the distance and looked at the prince again.
"Only these two, no others?"
"Kings or va.s.sals, one or many, gathered or scattered, exclusive or common, central or regional, bureaucrats or squires, unified or divided governance, centralized or autonomous, hierarchical or absolute power, the terminologies are as diverse as its manifestations, call it whatever you like."
He shrugged. "But just as you said: it is binary, reciprocal, synergistic, two sides of a balance, two ends of a path."
Zayen scoffed. "It looks like it's going round in circles and ending up where it started."
Thales shook his head in disapproval. "If it looks like it's going round in circles…maybe it's because you're standing in the wrong place and looking at it from the wrong perspective?"
Zayen looked at him.
"If you are standing in the way of history, or falling behind it, then yes, it does look like it's going round in circles," Thales forgot the scene in his head, and continued casually, "It rises and falls, it goes and returns, from low to high, then falling back down again.
"But if you look at it three-dimensionally—what I mean to say is, move that n.o.ble a.s.s of yours, climb up to a higher place in history, and look down..."
Thales went on slowly, "Maybe you will find: from this perspective, under countless variables, amid unknown details…"
"History has always been moving forward, making new choices.
"And never going round in circles."
Zayen frowned and thought long and hard about it.
Just as Thales sighed and was about to go on, Zayen said, "Like ocean waves?"
"Waves that, viewed from the front, seem to ebb and flow, viewed from afar, seem to undulate, but are actually moving onwards ceaselessly?"
Thales was taken aback, but then smiled.
He was prepared to explain it with 'a spiral ascent', but since Zayen was so enlightened…
Thales leaned on his seat, silently looking at the king and duke on the higher tier, and the guests below.
"Be it kings or va.s.sals, beyond the ups and downs, backs and forths, in history, every struggle between them, every time they alternate, their every collision, may produce new sparks,"
Thales' words became clearer, "From the rise of the Ancient Chauvinistic Country to the divided rule of multiple kings, from the era of city states to the conquest of the empire, from the rise of warlords to the Final Empire, and from the Battle of Eradication to the establishment of Constellation, from the enfeoffment of King of Renaissance to the reforms of the Virtuous King—under the sun, each of these incidents were new."
He thought about Old Crow and was a little emotional.
Zayen carefully contemplated Thales' words. "History advances like waves, and we are small boats in the ocean, most of the time going with the flow, but occasionally able to ride the waves and break them?"
"Small boats in the ocean, what an interesting way to put it.
"But unfortunately, I think this metaphor is both arrogant and belittling at the same time."
Faced with this contradictory response, Zayen cast a puzzled look at him.
Thales turned back around and smiled.
"I think, we are the water, and even the waves,"
Thales' expression was dead-serious as he said, "We are history itself."
Zayen's expression changed slightly.
This time, he turned back around and remained silent for a long time.
Not far away, Mallos, who had been busy the entire night, met Glover, who had returned from outside.
Glover rubbed his reddish, frosty hands together and wore his gloves as he shook his head in response. "Nothing,"
"The guests were carefully searched before entering, and nothing was found in the gift storeroom that could be used as a weapon or poison.
"Every guest that approached His Majesty and the dukes—that's nearly a hundred people—have been verified. They can all be identified. There were no imposters, nothing suspicious, at least nothing particularly suspicious."
Mallos looked more and more tense.
"Outside the hall, police officers set up roadblocks for the entire night, to no avail.
"Inside the hall, royal guards—both from Renaissance Palace and ours—have kept a close eye for hours without discovering any a.s.sa.s.sins."
"Also," Glover hesitated, "I…I heard from an acquaintance at the Vanguard Division that members of Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Department have been deployed, detecting the threat via illicit methods,"
Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Department.
There was a glint in Mallos' eyes.
Glover continued, "But in the entire Mindis Hall, neither high-energy Crystal Drops nor high-concentration refined Eternal Oil has been detected,"
"At least, there are no Alchemy b.a.l.l.s or Mystic Guns hidden amongst the guests."
But Mallos suddenly reached out and grabbed his shoulders!
Glover was shocked. Mallos lowered his voice and his expression was serious, "What about other indicators?"
"Array interference? Spell fluctuations? Law irregularity? Origin repellence? Reversion to balance? Traces of alien substances? And all the other indicators of magic? What did the Secret Intelligence Department say?"
Glover was struck dumb by the mountain of strange terms.
"My… my friend didn't say that much…"
Unexpectedly, a voice behind him answered, "None."
Under their vigilant gaze, vice-captain Vogel Talon walked coldly towards them from behind.
"No long-lost magical means...
"At least it's not an a.s.sa.s.sination by magic."
Glover looked worriedly at his superiors.
But Mallos was still lost in thought and did not say anything.
"Hah, Patterson caught a few disheveled lovebirds all over each other in the empty rooms in the side hall…"
Doyle yawned. He looked exhausted as he walked over from the other side to report, "Stone caught several naked men and women 'chatting' in the carriages. Bastia caught a few guys that left their posts to goof off in the servants' pa.s.sageway, and a few stealing food from the kitchen… But nothing serious, and there was no one in the bas.e.m.e.nt and fireplace,"
"Also, two men were caught in the bathroom, in a single cubicle, playing 'four-legged beast'. You know what I mean, hehe… Ol' Proc wanted to report them, but I stopped him… Hehe, anyway, we have some extra funds this month. Our meals could do with some improvement…"
Doyle smirked and shook his head while clicking his tongue.
Until he saw Vogel. In shock, as if electrocuted, his body tensed up.
"Ah! Vice… Vice-captain Talon!"
Vogel glanced at him, masking the disdain in his eyes.
Doyle coughed loudly and became serious again.
"Sir! Many elderly and important guests have gradually left: Count Caso has called it a night after too much drinking, Baron Gales and his widow lover have returned home early, Duke Arunde will be taken back to his cell soon, and Prime Minister Cullen has asked the Chief of Palace Administration whether he can leave…"
He turned around to look towards the guests who were getting rowdier.
"Only these young 'uns are left…"
Mallos frowned as he watched a guest s.n.a.t.c.h a minstrel's lute to sing a love song, confessing his love to a young lady who felt awkward about the situation.
"After all that eating, drinking, singing, and dancing, aren't they tired?"
Doyle narrowed his eyes and watched the guest being halted by an angry young. Both exchanged harsh words before being embroiled in a fist-fight, staging a show of jealousy between brothers ("Stop fighting!"—the fed-up young lady), until the object of their affection waved her handkerchief and successfully pulled them apart ("The person I am in love with, is actually your father!"—the affectionate-looking young lady).
"Depends on who you dance with."
"If that's the case, we'll have to make preparations to be here all night long? Waiting for your a.s.sa.s.sin to appear?"
Glover and Doyle looked at Mallos, but the latter did not react.
"You should be thankful that there isn't much on His Majesty's agenda tonight, and it's all done and dusted," Vogel said disgruntledly.
"Captain Adrian is advising His Majesty to postpone the minor events and leave early."
"Can we end this farce now?"
Mallos pondered silently for a while. There was a glimmer in his eyes. "Maybe, maybe the a.s.sa.s.sin is still waiting for an opportunity."
"Still waiting?" Vogel said with disdain, "After His Majesty and the dukes leave…"
Mallos looked up. "Then they will take with them a large number of security personnel, leaving the rest relaxed."
The watchman looked up towards the prince's seat. There, the Duke of Iris Flowers and Prince Thales seemed to be engaged in a friendly conversation, chatting up a storm as if no one else was around.
"Which makes the target closer."
Beside Thales, Zayen raised his wine gla.s.s again and turned his attention to an altercation that attracted a good number of spectators.
An angry-looking old baron was arguing with his old friend, accusing the latter of seducing his daughter, disregarding age and shame, disregarding the relations.h.i.+p between their families—he had planned to marry her to the latter's son.
Zayen retracted his gaze.
"King, va.s.sals, then king again.
"Count Caso proudly informed me earlier that your mentor in the north is Meryl Hicks.
"Is this what he taught you?"
Upon hearing the familiar name, Thales slipped into a daze.
"Half of it, perhaps," he said with nostalgia.
"Old Crow provided me with a lot of historical materials and details, but I also have to thank him for his persistent questioning, forcing me to think about every possible or impossible answer."
As if that wasn't enough in the past life.
Zayen raised his gla.s.s at Thales.
"What about the other half?"
Thales shook his head.
"That's someone else's…thought process."
Zayen was nonplussed.
"Three stages," Thales was slightly distracted, "Confirmation, negation, negation of negation."
At the sight of Zayen's puzzled expression, Thales smiled.
"Or just think of it this way: king, va.s.sals, then new king."
Zayen immediately understood, but still furrowed his brows.
"Thought process? Whose?"
Thales sighed. "Heigel."
"No idea. Who is he?"
Thales shook his head. "You wouldn't know. To be exact, a long long long time ago, he was a…"
The prince thought for a moment and chuckled. "Wizard."
Zayen was stunned.
He looked at Thales with an even more serious gaze.
"I see," the Duke of Iris Flowers said calmly, "Very inspiring."
Zayen's gaze froze, his thoughts inscrutable.
Thales watched as Zayen seemed to have come to a realization after a long bout of contemplation, and laughed. "You know, based on this logic…"
Thales seemed poignant. "If you have an apple, I have an apple, and we exchange them, everyone still has an apple."
Zayen seemed confused.
Thales held up his fingers. "But if you have an idea, and I have an idea, when we exchange them…"
Zayen understood and finished Thales' sentence, "There are two ideas?"
But Thales shook his head.
"No, more than that,"
He continued distractedly, "That way…"
"We'll have an unprecedented third…"
Zayen stayed silent for a long time.
At this moment, Thales suddenly saw King Kessel standing up from his seat and Officer Stanley put his cloak on for him.
The king's attendants prepared to leave.
Some guests noticed the king's movements and approached to bid him farewell, but King Kessel seemed to want to keep a low-profile. He merely waved his hand casually and disappeared through the side door escorted by royal guards.
Without Queen Keya and Jines by his side, Kessel's figure appeared even more solitary.
And the royal guards around him seemed to be on edge.
Thales was anxious: if the a.s.sa.s.sin was going to act, now was his last chance.
He ignored Zayen's gaze on him and surveyed the surroundings warily.
However, a minute pa.s.sed and the king's large contingent of attendants left the banquet hall, yet no one jumped out with a weapon, chanting to kill the king.
Thales breathed a sigh of relief as the last person in the king's contingent disappeared.
Alright, he never expected the king to come over and say "Son, I'm leaving," anyway.
The prince subconsciously broke his perfect sitting posture and stretched, but hastily sat upright again before anyone could correct him.
Inexplicably, without the presence of the king, Thales felt much more relaxed, as if a heavy burden had been lifted.
Apparently, Thales was not the only person who felt this way—the strongest evidence being, after the king left, the music in the banquet hall growing louder and the crowd becoming rowdier.
What if the a.s.sa.s.sin's target wasn't the king?
Thales touched the cutlery knife on the table. He s.h.i.+fted his gaze to confirm with Mallos.
Fortunately, the Star Lake Guards had him well guarded in all directions.
"His Majesty left just like that?" Zayen asked with a frown.
Thales turned back around, the absurd thought of Zayen taking the hit for him appearing again in his mind. "Other guests are still here, I think it's time for you to…"
But Zayen interrupted him, "Your opening speech was pretty good,"
"Most people toast G.o.d, their country, the king, someone else, their faith," Zayen's gaze focused on Thales, showing no intention of leaving, "but few would toast themselves."
Zayen repeated calmly, "Themselves."
He felt a change in Zayen's mood.
Since the king had left, guests who wanted to come over to the Duke of Star Lake increased, but they were all stopped by Star Lake Guards. The reason was ready and obvious: His Highness was talking to Duke Zayen and did not want to be disturbed.
"Tell me, Thales," Zayen called the prince by his name again. He swirled the wine gla.s.s in his hand and asked softly, "Have you ever thought…"
The Duke of Iris Flowers looked up from his seat towards the huge pillars in the hall, his gaze solemn.
"If Lady Serena hadn't caught you off guard and taken you to Vine Manor then, making us enemies from the beginning…"
"If, after that, she didn't infiltrate your convoy, attracting the wrath of the Night Queen…"
"That things between us would be different today?"
Thales stared at Zayen, his expression turning somber.
"What do you mean?"
But the Duke of Iris Flowers smiled.
"Jadestar and Covendier, Nine-pointed Star and Iris Flowers, we don't have to be enemies.
"You and me, we can put the past behind us and stand together…"
Zayen kept his focus on Thales, his gaze simmering with emotions.
"And in future, in this crumbling world…
Thales's gaze s.h.i.+fted.
Zayen moved in slowly. He raised his wine gla.s.s for the third time and revealed his signature, refres.h.i.+ng smile.
"As long as you are willing to accept peace—and no longer be my enemy."
Thales was stunned.
Zayen raised his eyebrows and moved his wrists, gesturing towards Thales' wine gla.s.s on the table.
They stared at each other for a good few seconds.
In that moment, Thales was transported to a few years ago.
Then, in a Northlander's military tent, another more boorish man similarly pushed his wine goblet towards the then prince, inviting him to drink together.
Thales snapped out of it quickly. He saw Zayen's expression and smiled.
"Put the past behind us, and stand together…"
"This sounds familiar," the prince said musingly.
"Six years ago, during my diplomatic mission to Eckstedt, didn't you say something similar?"
Zayen's expression sank.
At this sight, Thales recalled Duke Fakenhaz's words in Ghost Prince Tower:
"But you have to be more careful and alert,"
"The powerful and influential n.o.ble suzerains will want to outdo one another to appear in front of you. They want to entice the prince who has just returned to the nation, try their best to have you on their side, and make you the vanguard in fighting against Renaissance Palace."
Thales stared at Zayen's expression and chortled, "Sorry, but perhaps you should have said: Jadestar and Covendier, let's just unite through marriage, have our bloodlines intertwine, advance and retreat as one, and share the Constellation throne?"
In that moment, the prince clearly saw Zayen's expression turn cold and his breathing quicken.
Like a mild spring breeze suddenly colliding with a ma.s.s of cold air.
In the periphery, Doyle, who had returned to take over a s.h.i.+ft, yawned and prodded the plain-spoken Protector, Ferri.
"What has His Highness and Covendier been talking about? Are they close? They've been at it for quite a while…"
"Say Ferri, don't you think that, even though many ladies tried to approach His Highness, he seems to enjoy the company of men more?"
Possibly not expecting Doyle to talk to him, Ferri, who was attentively watching the guests, froze for a second.
"Uhm, it seems so?"
Doyle seemed suspicious.
"Why do you think that is?"
Ferri replied without hesitation, "Because His Highness is a man too."
Doyle was dumbstruck. Sensing that something was off, he contemplated these words but could not find any flaw in them.
Before Thales, the Duke of South Coast lowered his wine gla.s.s.
"Our past conflicts were caused by accidents or compelled by circ.u.mstances, but were by no means intentional nor personal,"
Zayen took two deep breaths to compose himself.
"But this time, I'm serious.
"This time, it's just you and me. This has nothing to do with our families, we don't have to involve them."
The Duke of Iris Flowers' tone was stiff, as if restraining himself.
'Just you and me, nothing to do with our families…
'This time, I'm serious…'
Thales burst into laughter inside.
'This sc.u.m-filled script is so vivid, what's going on?'
Kingdom's Bloodline 547 To Not Perish As Foes Two
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Kingdom's Bloodline 547 To Not Perish As Foes Two summary
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