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Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Amid the light show of fire and magic, the airship began to slowly descend. Hao Ren heard a loud cheer coming from below when the airship was still some distance from the ground. When he gazed at the crowd, which looked like a colored ocean, he could not help but mumble to Morian, “Seems like Veronica is very popular among the people.”
“The people don’t necessarily know what greatness the princess has achieved outside…” Morian shrugged. “But, they will all get a sweet pastry.”
Hao Ren was struck dumb.
After a slight shaking, the airship finally docked on the edge of the rectangular platform built with white stones. The mighty mountain warriors pushed the heavy springboard from the platform to the side of the airship and fastened it with locks. It followed by the Royal Honor squad performing a 22-gun salute on both sides of the red carpet before Veronica and Morian emerged from the airship.
Hao Ren stood on the other side of Veronica, slightly closer to her than Morian was.
After fighting side by side with the princess, twenty of the knights lined up behind the three of them in their triumphal return. The knights had not changed their armors, which were full of scratches and blood stains. Even the swords hanging from their waists had the same battered appearance from the battlefield. Twenty knights walked down the bridge with a heroic presence, instantly igniting the enthusiasm of the people below. More triumphant cheers as people began to shout the name of the Rose of the Battlefield.
Veronica waved to the crowd below, but her eyes stopped for a while at certain spots in the crowd and seemingly nodded to someone.
Hao Ren saw everything. Of course, he could see the hired crowd, and the princess would need some means to maintain her prestige in the Royal Capital and deter the noble faction. But he would not be disgusted or having an opinion on Veronica as he was not interested in all this. Just like any other qualified inspectors, they were mere spectators of these ‘passing sceneries.’
As he watched, he followed the princess. At the end of the red carpet, there was a majestic middle-aged man in gorgeous costumes with a group of nobility standing behind the middle-him.
That should be the king of Taros, he guessed.
Sure enough, Veronica came before the man and immediately bowed, paying respect to his father following the royal traditions and etiquette. But the majestic king had taken a step forward. For the first time in his life, Rudolph III put all that royal customs at the back of his mind and hugged his daughter. “Welcome home, my child.”
“Father,” Veronica said, seemingly to have also expected her father’s action. With a smile, she said, “It is good to see you in good health. I am back, and with me, I have brought an important intelligence.”
“Did you cross the border of Order?” Rudolph III looked at Veronica and the knights behind her, and eventually Hao Ren. Of course, he had noticed the stranger earlier, who was standing in such a conspicuous and important position, which seemed to be even more honorable than Veronica’s royal swordmaster. The king could not help but start guessing who this man in funny clothes was. “And you bring a guest.”
Veronica immediately stepped aside and solemnly introduced, “Father, this is the ancient guardian from Mount Cassouin. He was the one who helped us make it through the realm of Chaos and led us to accomplish all the feats. He is Hao Ren, from the last millennium.”
Rudolph III was visibly stunned.
Probably of all the guesses the king had made, this was the answer that he least expected.
Several close officials standing behind Rudolph III had, of course, heard Veronica’s words, and their expressions were also entertaining. These bigwigs in the corridor of power were no ignorant peasants. They had never seen the ancient books about Mount Cassouin that Veronica had found, they had heard similar stories, and naturally knew what it meant by an awakened guardian of an ancient sacred land. It did not only say that a mighty warrior had returned to the world of Order, but also denoted the recovery of some old technologies and lost history.
But such things would only happen in the stories of bards and lame playwrights.
No one would have thought to encounter such a thing in life. But a few senior officials were relieved when seeing the weary knights behind Veronica: to the celebrated knight princess, the adventure was not that strange after all.
Hao Ren remained silent all this while, quietly observing at the atmosphere of the reunion and the triumphal return of the knights. He had no plan to say anything in this strange kingdom. But at this moment, he felt a pair of eyes were staring at him.
As the ancient guardian, Hao Ren was indeed the center of attention at this moment with a hundred pairs of eyes on him. But this particular stare was different. If not for his supernatural perceptive ability, he would not have singled out this stare from the rest.
His heart began to palpitate. Hao Ren looked up very slightly and found the source of the stare: right behind Rudolph III, a middle-aged man with a thin body and pale face was looking at him. This man was dressed in a lavender robe, standing only a few steps away from the king, obviously someone important. The man’s small eyes were hidden under the high cheekbones, looked morose. It was as cold as ice devoid of emotional fluctuation and animation. The man looked away and buried his expression upon realizing Hao Ren had noticed him, but Hao Ren was still as sure as death that it was that pair of eyes that was staring dead at him a while ago.
That gaze was not merely of curiosity, but more of caution and even hostility—a hostility without any reason.
But except the “starer” and the “staree”, people around them had not noticed this “small episode.”
The welcoming ceremony was soon over. The gold-plated carriages slowly came out from the other end of the platform. As the king and his close officials climbed into them respectively and ready to return to the Place of the Golden Roses, Veronica requested to have Hao Ren sit in the same car with her.
The first carriage was for the Royal Family. Except for the Royal Family members, only the king’s chartered dukes and generals could take the ride, and be under exceptional circumstances.
So this request surprised Rudolph III. Though he had thought of Hao Ren’s Ancient Guardian identity, and the uniqueness of it, he still failed to gauge the importance Veronica had placed in the ancient guardian. The king looked at his daughter seeking her confirmation, and he got a definite reply.
“Father,” Veronica said. “The Guardian has led us through the battle in the realm of Chaos and repelled the army of monsters in Fort West. His selflessness deserves our highest respect. We need to discuss it with the guardians about the visions in the realm of Chaos.”
Rudolph III sensed the earnestness in Veronica and looked at Hao Ren, who naturally appeared indifferent. After a moment of pondering, the king nodded. “It shall be so.”
So the passengers of the first carriage, other than His Majesty the King and Veronica, had also included the ancient guardian. It might not be customary, but in this case, definitely, no one would question the king’s decision.
Just before getting onboard the car, Hao Ren felt the cold gaze again.
He looked up, but only saw the back of the tall and thin man. The seemingly high official had climbed into another carriage.
“What the heck?” Hao Ren shook his head. “Did I offend him?”
He did not know what he had done wrong to the official whom he had never met before. But he still quietly took note of the man’s appearance and would conduct some background check later. Probably the man thought he had concealed himself well, little did he realize that Hao Ren had sniffed him out using his superhuman perceptive ability.
After the carriages left the white platform, the crowd dispersed, and the cabin became quieter than before. Sitting opposite Veronica and Rudolph III, Hao Ren’s eyes did not dart around but slightly shut as if he was conserving his energy like an ancient guardian.
Veronica could not help but held the king’s hand. “Father, why didn’t Ania and Andrew come?”
“They are ill,” Rudolph III replied and frowned. The sudden falling sick of his children during this celebratory day had cast a shadow over his head. “Especially Ania. She wanted to be the first to meet you, but I was worried about her condition.”
“They are all sick?” Veronica became nervous. “Is it serious?”
“Don’t worry.” Rudolph III smiled. “They are getting better now. The Royal Pharmacist has prescribed them some special medicine. Now Andrew can move around. Ania only needs to stay indoors for a few days.”
Hao Ren’s ear flickered suddenly.
From Rudolph III’s tone of voice, he had sensed an unusually restrained emotion. Perhaps the prince and the princess were not as simple as just having an illness.
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