“…Yes, Your Royal Highness. But about the Freezing Water Port’s trading of goods…” Dmitri stopped abruptly halfway through speaking.
The young man with a straight back and a stern expression frowned slightly, looking towards the forlorn old man with a thin body.
“Where’s Annan?” Dmitri asked nonchalantly as he saw Old Merlin returning alone.
His deep ice-blue pupils were like the frozen sea, seemingly without emotion.
Elizabeth knew that this was the Austere-Winter lineage’s talent… the Winter Heart.
This was proof that the Cold-Blooded Lady’s blood was flowing within them.
The Austere-Winter Dukedom was a country in which the climate alternated between winter and harvest years. Just like the Underground Federation, its surrounding ecology would transform automatically on a large scale with just the existence of the Old Grandmother.
Old Grandmother was an upright deity with two forms.
When She was awake, She was a three-meter-tall beauty with frosty skin and blue eyes. The Old Grandmother in this form was the deity of tradition—Regardless if it was giving birth to Austere-Winter blood, establishing the Austere-Winter Dukedom, educating her young grandchildren, helping the current Grand Duke handle government affairs, hosting domestic ceremonies, events, or even rituals for descendants’ marriage, birth, funeral, and burial, it would all be done when She was in this form.
She was just like an immortal grandmother… She had an absolute voice in the family and was active in many affairs. When the Old Grandmother was awake, everyone would have great respect for the Austere-Winter family because they had an upright deity ancestor who was protective, strong, and capable behind them.
This was why She was affectionately called “Old Grandmother”. The habit of loving and caring for children and grandchildren was not limited to Her own bloodline… She also often gave gifts to obedient and lovely children, and enjoyed mediating other people’s familial conflicts. The Austerians called this period the “harvest year”.
However, because of Old Grandmother’s characteristics before becoming a deity, She had a habit of randomly falling into a “Wyrmrest” for an unknown period of time.
At that time, She would turn into a giant dragon with a height of 100 meters when She was lying down.
That was more than thirty stories high.
At this time, She was the deity of frost.
The breath She exhaled would stir up a never-ending blizzard. This blizzard could act as a barrier to protect Austere-Winter Dukedom from the Gray Mists and a shield against foreign invaders when Old Grandmother had fallen into Wyrmrest.
But this blizzard would also make the Austere-Winter Dukedom’s already cold temperatures plummet even lower. Some newborns and old people would freeze to death in this period, wild crops and weak ordinary beasts would not survive. Even trees would fall into “hibernation” that could last for more than ten years.
Even those Transcended who died in this blizzard would not create nightmares— because even the curse would be frozen and become part of the blizzard. Austerians called this part of the cycle the “winter year.”
Inside large cities, there could be temperature-regulating barriers arranged by wizards, greenhouse crops facilities, and also crops imported from other countries through underground passages. In the villages, only the powerful hunters and warriors could go out against the blizzard. Similarly, only the Frost Beasts could survive within the blizzard and go hunting along with villagers in forests, snowfields, and the sea.
These Frost Beasts were monsters that had experienced physical transformations after extended periods of being immersed in a blizzard full of curses. They relied on curses to eat, so when humans were trapped in their towns during the blizzard, they could instead multiply—once the numbers reached a certain level, they would attack human settlements.
But those of the Austere-Winter blood could tame and train these Frost Beasts during winter. This was also the fundamental reason why the Austere-Winter family could not be replaced.
Sure enough, they were also believers of Old Grandmother, and also Her descendants.
After all, the beasts were created when Old Grandmother was in dragon form during Wyrmrest.
This was also why the Austere-Winter family, known as the “Wolf King”, used the white wolf as the family emblem. The Frost Beast type greatest in number was the gregarious species that had the appearance of a wolf.
The point to be made was that Frost Beasts did not attack humans because they craved food… They were a special species similar to elementals and did not need to eat meat.
They simply craved “love”.
But it wasn’t just love.
Hope, sympathy, loyalty, joy… Frost Beasts had the ability to devour positive emotions, as they themselves did not possess any emotion, nor much wisdom.
So they would follow their instincts, track humans’ scents, attack humans, and devour their emotions— they would not show mercy to humans that provided them food.
Yet, after encountering an attack, the humans often did not have many positive emotions… This would further irritate the frost beast, and they would search for the next human settlement.
Only other Frost Beasts, the “Winter’s Hand” who did not possess any positive emotions, and humans with the talent of Winter Heart would not be attacked by the frost beasts. Based on the Frost Beasts’ understanding, humans of the Austere-Winter family were the human form of a similar species and were ranked above them. Therefore, they would instead devote loyalty to these “similars” they see.
They would then be caught and taken into the army. The domesticated Frost Beasts could form a symbiotic comrade-in-arms relationship with the warriors— they were taught to reserve their bite and would not directly chew their partners to death.
The Winter Heart was not just a talent used to tame frost beasts.
It allowed the possessor to have a sense of immortality.
Once the damage they received exceeded a certain limit, the damage would be transmitted to the Old Grandmother to bear it on their behalf; if She was awake, She could come over immediately. As for when She was sleeping, She would be able to gradually wake up once She had borne enough.
Only the frost element could be used to kill the Austere-Winter family. This was the “family law” that Old Grandmother reserved for Herself— after all, She was the deity of tradition.
As everyone knew, all Gold Rank Transcended that had awakened frost elements were born from Austere-Winter Dukedom.
Therefore, it was almost impossible to kill the people of the Austere-Winter family.
The only way was to tie up their limbs and throw them into the sea or into the basement, and wait for them to kill themselves when they could no longer bear it.
Besides that, the Winter Heart could also enable the possessor to have a cold and indifferent heart.
From birth, the Austere-Winter family had to endure the “eternal training” to never be happy. This was to keep them from indulging in the desire for power, to always remain clear-headed, and to always act for the people.
Regardless of what they did, they would not obtain happiness. So for them, only the “rules” and “traditions” that they learned from childhood were worth noting… They were the king of cold-blooded who had only acted for others since birth.
This was unquestionably cruel.
But for the Austere-Winter Dukedom that would randomly fall into winter year, only a king who was strict, self-disciplined, impartial, and able to endure people’s resentment, cursing, and misunderstandings could stably maintain the crumbling public order.
Old Grandmother’s thought process was simple.
If people needed such sacrifices— then the sacrifices should be made by Her own children.
This might be unfair to Her own children… but this was a “tradition”.
While the Old Grandmother was extremely protective, She also had extremely high expectations towards Her own children. Each generation of the Austere-Winter’s Grand Duke… even the heirs of Austere-Winter’s Grand Duke, were the best rulers of all nations under such training.
They would not get lazy from the pursuit of lighthearted pleasure, nor would they get arrogant because of the pleasure of superiority. They would not be swayed by the compliments of their ministers or envoys, and they would not suffer the temptation of beauty. For them, reproduction was just “duty” rather than “happiness”.
Such rulers… Why would anyone go to war with such a terrifying and desolate country?
Elizabeth’s thought process was simple and pure.
The reason she tried her best to defuse the aftermath of the war brought by her father was that she was afraid.
She didn’t want to go head-to-head with such an enemy.
This was also the main reason why Princess Royal was willing to humble herself and initiated to welcome Grand Duke Ivan’s eldest son in person.
She didn’t want her stupid siblings to screw things up.
They simply didn’t understand the horrors of the Austere-Winter family.
“…What?” Dmitri was stunned for a while after exchanging whispers with Old Merlin.
He shook his head and murmured in a low voice, “Annan actually…”
“What’s the matter, Your Highness?” Elizabeth asked casually as her heart tightened.
Dmitri turned around.
She seemed to have vaguely seen a little confusion in Dmitri’s emotionless ice-blue pupils.
“Annan seems to be having a good time with a young lady named Kafni.” Dmitri shook his head and replied calmly, “Your Royal Highness, I apologize for my brother. He has overstepped.”
Hearing this, Elizabeth had a wild idea. “…No, it’s fine, Your Highness Dmitri.”
She let out a sweet smile and said gently, “How about, let’s talk about… His Highness Annan. What do you think?”
Credits to MindMatrix for editing this chapter and improving the readability.
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