Chapter 1 : The Attack Order
“… As Knights who maintain righteousness, we can no longer withstand the Black Dragon King’s cruel actions. We must take up arms against him, so the Knight’s honor and glory would not be tarnished.”
Having said this, the Dragon Emperor paused briefly, and he glanced at the Knights lined up before him. It had been a long time since the Dragon Empire had gathered such a large amount of Knights; the Knights and their mounts lined up neatly one row after another, looking like an endless ocean. At the tip of this ocean of Knights, was the Dragon Emperor with his purple robe, and behind him was Prince Silver Moon in black and his Sacred White Dragon.
The eyes of the Knights were filled with sparkles of discontent, to the point where their bodies began to tremble. The Knights had already been unhappy with the brutalities of the Black Dragon King. Had their emperor not remained silent all this time, they might have already raised their swords, charged towards Aklan Continent, and declared war against the Black Dragon King.
Seeing this, the Dragon Emperor smiled in his heart, though his face remained the same solemnity and concern for life.
The Dragon Emperor withdrew his warm smile, and his eyes could no longer cover his true desires; however, in a situation like this, any Knights who looked upon him would simply interpret it as the Dragon Emperor’s decision to finally take action.
“I hereby declare the commander in chief to my successor. We shall attack Aklan, and drive out the Black Dragon King!”
The Dragon Emperor’s dignified and deep voice echoed throughout the ocean of Knights. At that moment, the Knights remained silent, as they all looked at the Dragon Emperor, the leader of all Knights, in both disbelief and anticipation.
After the Dragon Emperor nodded with a smile, reassuring his declaration was definitely not the Knight’s hallucinations, all the Knights cheered, like the crowd of a coliseum. The cheerful and excited roar could be heard everywhere. The crowd yelled, “long live the Dragon Emperor”, and many also chanted the successor’s name.
War, was now inevitable.
The Dragon Emperor smiled, and said quietly, “Silver Moon, my son, as I’ve already instructed Miluo, you will have a fake battle with him. We cannot have too much casualties among our ranks so our true strength would not be weakened, but we must also have some casualties, or others will surely become suspicious. After the battle, Miluo will retreat to Freesia, and you will hold your ground. Using the excuse that Miluo had not been defeated, hold Aklan sturdily, and never return it to the Aklan government.”
Though the Knights had been as loud as a stampede of a thousand Dragons, to the point where even a shot from a Mecha’s cannon would be buried in the sounds of their cheer, and though Silver Moon’s face had been smiling without a single bit of change, the Dragon Emperor already knew what Silver Moon was capable of, and he was, therefore, certain he had heard and would perfectly execute the orders as given.
Soon, the Aklan Continent would fall into hands. Two thirds of the world were practically already in his pockets, and only the Commerce Alliance left… the Dragon Emperor tried to calm his beating heart. He had already waited for such a long time, and in a short while, his wishes would be fulfilled, just a little while…
The Dragon Emperor couldn’t refrain the smile on his mouth nor the avarice in his eyes. Nevertheless, all the Knights were drenched themselves in the upcoming honor and glory, no one noticed anything different about the Dragon Emperor… or perhaps, one should say, almost no one noticed.
* * *
Hearing the news of her father planning to attack the Black Dragon King, Lanski did not feel a single bit of excitement like her fellow Knights. Instead, her face went pale and she immediately dragged Jasmine off. There was no time; Liola was about to go to war. Lanski had no firm idea what would actually happen if that were the case, but she knew, if this continued, Liola would truly disappear, and Silver Moon would be all that’s left.
“Silver Moon!” Jasmine yelled angrily, “I can only see feint and disgust in that guy’s eyes. That ‘thing’ isn’t Liola!”
This was what Jasmine thought of Silver Moon after observing him. Lanski, on the other hand, remained silent; she did not feel happy at all despite seeing Liola smiling and answering questions. She never wanted to see him acting so artificial like this, and she would rather have the previously cold Liola back.
“We can’t let this go on. Let’s go find eldest brother.” Lanski grabbed Jasmine, and ran desperately towards the tower where her eldest brother lived.
The two girls ran as though they were flying. They went out of the palace, over the grasslands, but after they saw a shadowy figure, they suddenly stopped. The person wore a long robe of black and white. He was leaning against a tree, and leisurely pushed up the glasses on his nose.
Lanski and Jasmine looked at one another, neither was sure what Mizerui was up to. Judging by the looks of it, he was waiting for them. Though they were curious as to how he knew they were going to look for Mocha, but knowing the mysterious nature of this Sorcerer, it wouldn’t be too strange if he knew.
“Mizerui, what is up?” Lanski asked hesitantly. Though she really wanted to ask him directly whether he was willing to help Liola, but having thought about his father’s ears everywhere, she didn’t dare to ask.
Mizerui acted like she didn’t notice the two until now. He glanced at the girls from the corner of his eyes, acted as if he were careless, and said, “Go back. Perhaps it would be a good idea to say goodbye to the successor, for there may not be another chance for you to see him.”
“What do you mean?” Lanski suddenly felt nervous. Could it be that Mizerui also thought Liola was gone?
“Are you not willing to help him? Haven’t you always been in good terms with them? Why are you watching from the sidelines at a time like this?!” Jasmine inquired angrily.
Facing the two girls’ anger, Mizerui pushed his glasses somewhat helplessly, but he didn’t know how to explain.
Lanski said coldly, “If you aren’t willing to help Liola, then get out of my way. I’m going to go to my eldest brother.”
“Princess, Your Highness.” Mizerui sighed, then asked back, “If Liola doesn’t come back, wouldn’t it be even better?”
“What are you talking ab…” Lanski wanted to continue, but Jasmine pulled her from behind, and she suddenly shut her mouth.
She looked at Mizerui skeptically, whom then playfully blinked at her. Lanski wasn’t an idiot. She realized Mizerui’s attitude was not just standing idly by at all. Instead, like her, he couldn’t state his intentions explicitly. Lanski thought about what Mizerui said, “If Liola doesn’t come back” could very well be interpreted in another manner: it could imply that Liola had escaped her father’s control, and therefore never came back?
This would mean Mizerui did indeed plan to help Liola? After thinking about it, Lanski began to smile. After exchanging a look with Jasmine, she couldn’t hold back the happiness from her face, “You’re right. I should indeed bid farewell to my brother. Then I’ll take my leave first.”
Mizerui nodded, and watched as the girls left. He pushed his glasses again, and murmured to himself, “Such naive girls. If you could guess what my words mean, do you really think the Dragon Emperor couldn’t? Fortunately, he’s far too happy now to remember to keep tabs on us, otherwise…”
He looked afar at the place where all the noises were coming from, and he heard the successor’s voice. The successor was now speaking words of encouragement to the Knights, and waves of cheers followed.
“Dragon Emperor, Qiusi’s defeat and the world slowly falling into your hands. Hasn’t the series of victories made you anxious? You’d allow Liola to leave your sights now, which means you are indeed anxious. After all, you’ve been waiting for an eternity…”
Mizerui pushed his glasses, and light flashed across his eyes. His mouth with a smile looked unbelievably like the devil in the other world: like Gle, his smile carried a sense of a prank and sinister.
* * *
“Hey! Hey! Who is this super handsome man?”
Flower widened her beautiful eyes, and her bright red lips formed an “O” shape. Her tone sounded like a lustful woman who hasn’t seen a handsome man in hundreds of years. Had it not been a public place like this, with a bunch of Knights present, she would’ve pounced at him, and then carefully examined his face.
Standing next to her, Yizhou was the unfortunate soul she asked. He showed a strangely repressed expression, and then answered with a rigid tone, “Fourth Prince.”
Having received an answer, Flower glared at Yizhou instead, and snapped, “Duh! Of course I know he’s the Fourth Prince!”
Yizhou was a bit speechless, “You…”
“How could that Prince be so cold last time, and one day later, he suddenly turned into a handsome man who greets people with smiles?”
Flower ignored Yizhou’s speechlessness, and she began to murmur to herself, while throwing a few more looks at the eye candy she called the “handsome man”. Flower’s words made Yizhou quiet, for his obvious change did indeed make him skeptical as well, and he was certain there was something wrong. After his brother Yiyu had gotten close to the Prince, his playful smile had never seemed to change.
Yizhou tilted his head to look at his brother, and his attitude seemed quite strange. Flower had been toying with both of these brothers, but since Yiyu did not respond at all, she began to toy only with Yizhou.
It was quite strange to him. With Yiyu’s bad temperament, how could he have withstood Flower’s disgusting jokes? Yizhou, who deeply understood his brother’s personality, didn’t think this could be a normal occurrence.
Especially since Yiyu treated this whole thing as if it were classified, and he had been acting secretive. Whenever Yizhou asked, Yiyu always dismissed his brother with the “I am the only one who could know about it” look.
The only thing Yiyu would know and he wouldn’t, would be magic. Yizhou lightly glanced at the Fourth Prince; could it be magic?
This glance coincidentally was met with Silver Moon’s eyes. Silver Moon, with his delicate look, was always carrying a faint smile, and he looked elegant but not fake. There was nothing anyone could nitpick about. However, this was the exact reason that would give anyone who had actually seen “Liola” a feeling of inconsistent.
This nearly perfect Prince was not Liola.
Yizhou had only seen Liola a few times, and this was what he felt. How could people who were more familiar with him not notice? He then saw Princess Lanski running towards them. Judging from the direction she was heading, she was most likely here to see the successor.
Prince Silver Moon seemed to have noticed Yizhou’s eyes shift, so he looked in the direction of Yizhou’s eyes. He, too, noticed Lanski.
“Why are you in a hurry, sister?” Silver Moon asked with a smile.
Yizhou strangely noticed, Princess Lanski’s face was initially full of excitement, but after hearing what Silver Moon said, her body froze, and even her expression seemed to become cautious.
“Li…, brother, I heard you’re going to war, I wanted to say goodbye to you.” Lanski seemed a bit uneasy to refer to Silver Moon as “brother”.
Silver Moon smiled happily. He hugged Lanski lightly, and kissed her on her white forehead, “Then, goodbye, sister.”
Lanski seemed shy at first, and then rigid again. She said uneasily, “Goodbye… brother.”
Silver Moon smiled, then turned to walk towards Yizhou, as if he wanted to give them an order. When he turned around, he missed Lanski’s rapidly changing expression: it looked like a sad and longing expression. She mouthed a few words, then turned and ran. When she ran, there seemed to be something glittering left in the air.
“Farewell, Liola?” Flower murmured with a frown.
Yizhou heard, and looked at her, but she was also looking back at him while being puzzled. It seemed that both of them had “seen” what Lanski said, but neither could understand what it meant.
Yizhou secretly kept these ominous words in his heart.
“Yiyu, Yizhou, Flower, you all know, I am leading an army to defeat the Black Dragon King.” Silver Moon withdrew his smile, and said lightly.
Three of them realized the successor was talking in a very serious attitude. Even Flower hid her playful look, and she listened quietly to the successor.
“You have just became my Immediate Knights, and although it may seem a bit early for me to say this, the situation is indeed urgent and time would not allow me to get to know you better.” Silver Moon glanced at three of them. Though his expression wasn’t harsh, the silver eyes made three of them feel a sense of chill.
After glancing at them, Silver Moon finally said what he wanted to say, “I need your loyalty.”
Seeing their confused looks, Silver Moon added, “Absolute loyalty; Soul Devotion.”
Soul Devotion! All three of them shook a bit. Ever since the beginning of time, this was the utmost way to express one’s loyalty. Though soul was simply a vague concept, and calling it a Soul Devotion might seem a bit exaggerated, but this proved the importance of such allegiance. Many Knights spent their lives looking and never finding a person who would swear such an allegiance to them.
Nevertheless, the Dragon Empire Royalties were the exceptions. Many Royal Immediate Knights would actually swear such allegiance to them, but it often happened after knowing them for a long time, or even after the Royalties had done something that touched the Knight, would the Knight take the initiative to swear such an oath.
After swearing a Soul Devotion, there would never be room for regret. An oath of this magnitude had often been called another name outside of the circle of Knights — Devil’s Vow.
The true story of where this name came from had been long forgotten, but everyone knew, after swearing such an oath, even if the person they sworn to became the devil, ghost, or a lunatic who wanted to destroy the world, the Knight’s loyalty could not change. Soul Devotion was, therefore, a vow that basically sold their soul and consciousness.
For the three of them, who had only been Silver Moon’s Immediate Knight’s for a few days, Soul Devotion was far too much.
Having been requested to swear the Soul Devotion, all three of them were frowning. They had no idea Prince Silver Moon would request such an oath at this time, or more specifically, they did not expect him to ask for Soul Devotion. Normally speaking, an oath was something that the Knights would have to actively do rather than requested.
“Prince, Your Highness, is this really necessary? We are all your Immediate Knights, and this oath is already going to be a matter of time…”
Compared to the two men who were frowning instead of answering, Flower, who had more interpersonal experiences, was the first to respond; she began to squeamishly and tactfully speak. An ordinary person would probably had fallen head over heels with Flower’s flirtatious attitude, but Silver Moon was no ordinary person. Under his veil of smile was solid ice; he didn’t need faked kindness, nor nice words. He only wanted accurate answers, so he could accomplish Dragon Emperor’s orders.
Silver Moon still kept his smile, but his eyes were cold as he looked at the three. Even Flower couldn’t continue to act flirtatious. All she could do was shut her mouth.
“This is too fast. It can’t be done.” Yizhou answered straightforwardly. He had already known, no matter if the person in front of him was Silver Mask, Liola, or Prince Silver Moon, he wasn’t one who wanted flattery, and only truthful answers, so Yizhou gave him exactly that.
Compared to Flower’s fake and superficial words, Silver Moon appreciated Yizhou’s directness, but this wasn’t the answer he wanted. Without the answer he wanted, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish the Dragon Emperor’s order, and the prime directive of an Assassin was to accomplish his mission at all costs.
Silver Moon’s eyes looked around, and said faintly, “There are too many secrets for you to know now. If you are not willing to swear by Soul Devotion, then you never will have the right to know.”
Hearing the word “secrets”, Yiyu and Flower acted as if they had trouble containing their excitement. Ever since ancient times, anyone whom the Emperor shared secrets with had always been his true confidant, and Silver Moon was undoubtedly the future Dragon Emperor. Judging by the situations now, the Dragon Emperor’s powers would only last a short while. Becoming the Dragon Emperor’s confidant would put them in a position above all other Knights, and to them, if they could obtain such a position, so what if they have to serve someone evil?
Thinking about this, both of them fell on a knee, and answered, “Your Highness, please accept my Soul Devotion. No matter my body or soul, I will serve you wholeheartedly. No matter heaven or hell, I will follow you. No matter what comes in your way, my sword will cut them down for you. Even if I die, the flame of my soul will burn for you, to brighten your path or to ignite your enemies. My loyalty to you will remain until the day my soul dissipates.”
Getting two vows of Soul Devotion, Silver Moon smiled with satisfaction. As the Dragon Emperor knew it wouldn’t be easy to get a Soul Devotion, his orders were to obtain at least one vow, so they could be used later on. Having received two, he had fulfilled the orders given to him. Therefore, Silver Moon didn’t seem too dissatisfied about Yizhou, who had been standing there without saying anything else.
In fact, he didn’t feel anything. It didn’t matter to him if he were facing such a harsh vow, or a Knight who refused to give his loyalty, he felt no joy nor unhappiness. “Accepting mission” and “accomplishing mission” were all there were to Silver Moon.
Mission was completed, and it was time to go back to report. Silver Moon turned, and walked towards where the Dragon Emperor was.
“Brother, what’s wrong with you? Why wouldn’t you swear your loyalty to the Prince? Are you an idiot? You are going to do it sooner or later, so what does it matter if you do it now? Look at yourself! You’ve probably upset the Prince.” When Silver Moon walked away, Yiyu immediately jumped up, and began to scorn at his quiet brother.
Yizhou looked quietly at the successor’s back. Being an introvert, he had always been more observant than others, such as, the moment the successor turned away, his eyes turned completely lifeless.
Or another example: the last time he saw the Prince walking in the palace, every step he took was exactly one meter long. The reason why he discovered this was because the floor tiles in the palace was exactly one meter long, and the successor’s ankle had always landed perfectly on the line between the tiles.
What did this mean? Yizhou was actually not too sure himself, but instinctively he frowned at such actions, and he quietly took note of them. It wasn’t until he had been asked to swear his loyalty that he remembered them from the depths of his mind. After thinking about it for a while, though never figuring out why the successor acted like this, but a feeling of not serving him did indeed arise.
The feeling was far too natural to him, much like a human wouldn’t swear loyalty to a Mecha or a healing Maxun.
Maxun… Yizhou seemed to had a realization. He raised his head again to look at the successor’s back.
* * *
“Oh? Only Yizhou was unwilling?” Hearing Silver Moon’s report, the Dragon Emperor said with a surprise, “I thought he would be the first to swear his royalty, that cold and heartless Knight…”
Silver Moon stood still quietly. He didn’t have the slightest of reactions to what the Dragon Emperor said.
“Even if he’s not willing, it doesn’t matter. Having two Soul Devotees would be enough.” The Dragon Emperor smiled mockingly, “Soul Devotion isn’t really worth much nowadays. They were willing to swear to you after only knowing you for days.”
Back then, there were many Knights who were with him in many difficult times; fighting for their ideals together, and finally swearing their souls to him… The fire of his Knights souls probably didn’t even exist anymore. A distant memory suddenly barged into the Dragon Emperor’s heart. The things no one knew, now buried in the depths of history, was the only reason why the heart of the Dragon Emperor still existed.
The Dragon Emperor recovered from his flashbacks, and looked at the successor standing in front of him. His eyes were filled with mixed emotions; this should be the last one, right?
“Go rest for now, and prepare for the imminent battle.”
Silver Moon nodded, then left quietly.
“Your Highness, Idojin thinks, it doesn’t seem like an appropriate moment for the successor to leave your sight.”
Idojin, who had his head bowed behind the Dragon Emperor, finally spoke; but as soon as he did, he seemed to have felt like he said something he shouldn’t have. He then remained silent and awaited for the Dragon Emperor’s response.
“Oh?” The Dragon Emperor did not appear angry, “Do elaborate.”
“Though the hypnosis has been thoroughly completed, but a person’s heart is hard to predict. Idojin thinks we need some more time to make sure the hypnosis is stable, to ensure the plan would be foolproof.” Idojin said his thoughts calmly, without trying to persuade any further. He knew the Dragon Emperor had ten thousand years of unparalleled wisdom, and all he had to do was point it out.
The Dragon Emperor was silent for a while, before he answered, “You’re right, Idojin, a person’s heart is indeed unpredictable. Even after years, for the weakest person, he may still not surrender under the power of magic. However, do you know what would actually truly make him surrender?”
Idojin bowed slightly, “I do not know.”
The Dragon Emperor looked at the successor’s back as he was leaving, and a light flashed across his eyes. He said with an almost cruel tone, “By taking out every last place he could turn back, so there is nowhere he could go even if he turn back. Rather than forcing him to forget his companions, it would be better for his companions to forget him, to even hate him, and his companions will therefore reassure our control over him.”
“However, I do believe, his companions already know the truth of the matters, and they wouldn’t easily hate the successor.”
Hearing Idojin’s words, the Dragon Emperor suddenly burst into endless laughter, to the point where tears were visible from the corner of his eyes.
“Oh, Idojin… ever since the ancient times, hatred has always been something easy to provoke. As long as my poor successor does something unforgivable, such as injuring or killing people important to his companions, then it wouldn’t matter if he had his reasons, or if he couldn’t control it; his companions would have no choice but to hate him. This was why I made the successor kill Qiusi. Obviously, my successor didn’t naively think his companions would forgive him, so he sank into despair, and he gave up.”
“It’s just a shame, Qiusi didn’t die, and this was out of my expectations.” The Dragon Emperor closed his eyes; his fingers were quickly tapping, and his mind was calculating.
“Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter. The damage caused by a war is far greater. By that time, not only his companions would hate him. I’m going to make it so that, other than standing between the Knights of the Dragon Empire…”
“Deserted by all, no where to go!”
A piercing pain suddenly surfaced in the Dragon Emperor’s heart, but instead he began to laugh. He elegantly put his hand in front of his chest, or rather… in front of Caffey’s chest.
‘Oh, yes, Caffey, just like you.’