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Two members of the Royal Guards clad in Eternally New Armor wordlessly went to stand beside Val.
Duke Cullen shook his head in resignation. "No mercy between friends, a falling out between brothers. Is there anything sadder than this?"
No one answered him.
After a moment, Val Arunde smiled calmly and raised his head. "At least I did one thing." He looked towards Baron Lasalle, who had a strange expression on his face. "I brought about war, didn't I?
"Lampard and I planned everything, but aren't these dissatisfied n.o.bles of Constellation the ones who took action and killed the prince?"
In an instant, the expressions of Zayen, Koshder and some other counts became strange. Duke Cullen was the only one who was still shaking his head and sighing, as though he was still immersed in the falling out between brothers, which had just happened moments ago.
Val spoke mournfully, "Haha… Kel, Constellation hasn't recovered from the blow yet, and is no match to Eckstedt at all. What are you going to do?"
The king said coldly, "Stay here and watch then. Compare my actions with your own cowardice and watch how I, the cold-blooded Iron Hand King, will face the wrath of the Great Dragon."
Val laughed loudly in grief. "What? Are you going to enlist children below twelve into the army again?"
The king no longer paid him any mind. Instead, he turned towards Eckstedt's emergency envoy.
"Baron Lasalle, I have already fulfilled at least the third condition from among all the conditions you have just stated. Unfortunately, I am unable to hand you the Guardian Duke of the Northern Territory, nor the Archduke of Black Sand. Since there were people from your kingdom involved, it seems unreasonable to still ask us for compensation using our territories or resources."
Lasalle replied with a solemn expression, "Impossible! Just now, I only saw the members of the Royal Court of Constellation argue among themselves. There is no proof that states that the Archduke of Black Sand was involved!
"Eckstedt insists on the conditions for compensation stated earlier. The exact amount can be negotiated, but it cannot be remitted." He raised his head. "Otherwise, let us meet on the battlefield and let our swords and knives do the talking!"
The n.o.bles in the hall began whispering among themselves. Val, who was guarded by the Royal Guards from both sides, even started to laugh scornfully.
"Besides, King Nuven's fury and despair of losing his only heir is not something that can be made even by just finding the culprit!" Lasalle added with a gloomy expression. The king sighed.
"True," Kessel the Fifth spoke drearily, "I felt it."
Lasalle raised his brows.
"I could feel his fury and despair," the king said gloomily, "This is indeed unjust for King Nuven.
"The a.s.sa.s.sination of the diplomat group and the misfortune of the prince… No matter who did this, they not only insulted Eckstedt, but also Constellation! The shame felt by Constellation from this incident is a hundred- even a thousand times more than the former!"
Many pairs of eyes looked towards Val at the same time. The king raised his head, and his gaze was icy cold.
"Constellation has never thought of evading responsibility. Since it is unjust, we will definitely pay what is due."
The two Counts of the Northern Territory immediately became nervous.
'Is the king really going to sacrifice the Northern Territory?'
'I mean, you know, Duke Arunde…'
Zemunto stole a glance at Val. The latter smiled indifferently.
Baron Lasalle smiled. "Your Majesty, you are indeed an honorable and brave person. Whether it is Pine Nut County, Bear County, or even the peripheral area of Cold Castle, as long as our side is satisfied, the exact land, and even the surface area, are actually negotiable—"
"Your people will definitely be satisfied," the king said coldly.
Under the watchful eyes of the crowd, the Supreme King of Constellation grabbed the scepter beside his hand, rose from his throne once more, and slowly walked down the steps.
Kessel the Fifth took heavy steps towards the bewildered Lasalle. "Go and reply to King Nuven and your master at Black Sand Region. Constellation is deeply apologetic and feels great guilt about the a.s.sa.s.sination of the diplomat group."
Lasalle flashed a smile and nodded slightly. "I will relay your words. As for the compensation… we will need a map to measure the territories—"
Lasalle was stunned.
The supreme king continued. "Constellation does not have any territories that can be used as compensation to Eckstedt. We are unable to make up for King Nuven's grief and loss either..."
Lasalle's expression changed.
Thales' breathing quickened. 'Is he going to go, "THIS! IS! SPARTA!"?'
"...However, Constellation will not evade its responsibilities," the king said softly. In the next moment, the prince had gooseb.u.mps all over his body!
The thirty-ninth Supreme King of Constellation, Kessel Jadestar, slowly raised his scepter—which shone with an unearthly starlight—and pointed it at Thales!
"You have not met him yet, correct?" Kessel the Fifth said slowly, "This is Thales Jadestar, the Second Prince of Constellation, my son, and my only heir."
Everyone looked at Thales.
"I will send him to Dragon Clouds City to apologize to King Nuven and Eckstedt."
Thales was stunned. Lasalle was also stunned.
The king did not look at Thales anymore, but continued speaking coldly, "If this is not enough, if the pain of losing a son cannot be eased with an apology…
"King Nuven wants justice, correct? I will give him justice. Tell King Nuven that he can kill my son, kill the only heir of Constellation to avenge his only son and heir who died in Constellation!
"Let him fill the void with blood and wash off the hatred with murder! Take my son's life in exchange for his son's life! Take the blood of Constellation to make up for the blood of Eckstedt!"
Thales stood where he was, stunned. He understood what the king said… But he also did not understand it.
At that moment, everybody in the hall, be they n.o.bles, suzerains, officials, guards, servants, or even the Duke of the Northern Territory, opened their mouths wide in shock!
"Your Ma—" Gilbert's face was pale. He wanted to object immediately, but somebody was faster than him.
For the first time in history, Duke Cullen's expression was solemn. He spoke loudly with an anxious expression, "Do you know what you are saying?"
Thales was trembling, and his ears rang, he could not even feel his own breathing.
Kessel replied coldly, "Quiet, Bob. Your king has already made his decision."
Cullen stared at the supreme king in shock, unable to say anything. Even Fakenhaz could not laugh anymore.
Behind him, Zayen watched Thales with a complicated expression. On the other hand, the One-Eyed Dragon lowered his head in contemplation.
At that moment, the Nine-Pointed Star Royal Crown on Kessel's head glistened. Like an emotionless G.o.d, he spoke slowly to Lasalle, who was already in total shock.
"On a personal level, we should be able to quench a father's fury and ease his despair if we exchange a father's only son with another father's only son.
"On an official level, exchanging the life of the heir to the King of Constellation for the heir to the Archduke of Dragon Clouds City is fair, is it not?"
The king stepped onto the floor beneath the stairs. His stately and authoritative voice boomed like thunder. "After being tainted by the blood of each other's only heirs, Constellation will not owe anything to Eckstedt anymore!
"This is fair enough, is it not? At that time, we will not be able to turn back anymore! We will forgo all qualms and burdens, then engage in an all-out war with the determination to completely annihilate the other party!
"This is fair, no?"
Different emotions shone in Lasalle's eyes. He was so stunned by the king's sudden, shocking words that his eyes opened wide and his mouth hung open. He raised the scroll in his right hand, and his mouth trembled. He wanted to say something, but was at a loss for words.
'It is one matter to draw on a horrible, foreign affairs incident and strive for the gains of Eckstedt (and perhaps Archduke Lampard too) to such an extreme extent. However...
'To sacrifice their only heir… Constellation does not run a king selection system like Eckstedt does. If the prince who will inherit the throne is killed, it will be a blood feud that spans for generations-for tens of generations. This will forever turn the two kingdoms into irreconcilable arch enemies, and they would not stop fighting until the other is destroyed. It will bring war that destroys kingdoms—this is another matter entirely!'
Under King Kessel's authoritative and aggressive gaze, Lasalle was drenched in cold sweat. His brows moved about, as if they reflected the intense conflict in his mind.
"This… this… with my status, I am unable to reply to this matter right now…" he replied with a stutter.
Kessel yelled furiously, "Then go and ask your king!"
Lasalle was so scared that he took a step backwards.
The supreme king did not even glance at Thales. He continued speaking in a dark tone, "Tell him that I have already dispatched Baron Arracca Murkh, along with two thousand regular soldiers of the royal family, to Broken Dragon Fortress!
"Prince Thales will set out soon afterwards and go before King Nuven. The prince will be at his mercy! This is the price Constellation can pay!"
The people in the entire hall did not even dare to breath.
The king glanced at Lasalle, who was no longer frowning and who was at a loss for what to do. "As for Archduke Lampard from Black Sand Region… I know that he has already dispatched a large army and is preparing to invade the Northern Territory at any time. Will he make way and escort my son to Dragon Clouds City to apologize, or will he wage war on Baron Murkh at all costs? I look forward to seeing what he would choose!"
Lasalle staggered backwards in dejection. He gasped for breath like a drowning man.
The one who spoke up was the fifteen-year-old d.u.c.h.ess Lyanna. The elegant young woman's face was pale. "He-His Highness is your only-only heir. If something bad happens to him on the way… your throne…"
"Ha!" The supreme king let out a bark of laughter out of anger. "That is far too simple a problem!"
Thales' whole body trembled as he looked at everything happening in front of him. Kessel the Fifth turned and faced the suzerains in the hall, "No matter what happens to the second prince, if he so happens to die and the royal bloodline's existence is completely wiped out…
"The person who totally destroys Constellation's enemy, who successfully avenges the last Jadestar prince, who takes revenge for the absolutely humiliated Constellation…"
The king abruptly turned and raised his scepter up high.
"Will be the next Supreme King of Constellation!
"If Constellation does not even have a person like this..."
Kessel coldly swept his gaze over the n.o.bles in the hall. He spat out his words, and they were as sharp as knives, "Is there any meaning left to its existence?!"
The whole hall was silent.
Kessel coldly concluded, "The meeting is over. I await King Nuven's reply."
Duke Val Arunde, whose face was ghastly pale, struggled to speak. He stared at Kessel and at Thales in disbelief. "What… what sort of crazy thing are you about to do again?"
Kessel the Fifth sneered. "Crazy?"
The king snorted coldly, and repeated Val's words from before in a mocking tone, "Everything I do is for the sake of Constellation."
Two guards walked forward and took the stunned duke away. The sweat-drenched Lasalle left. The suzerains whispered among themselves and looked at the king and his heir.
Gilbert clenched his fists tightly and stared at the king, who donned an astral blue cape. The king left in large strides and did not spare a glance at anyone.
Thales was absent-minded and still, not moving except breathing. He was unaware of the stares from the entire hall trained on him.