Episode 183. The Dark Lord’s Domain (3)

Goldrake was relentless as it galloped across the open plains. Anything in its path was trampled without concern as the drake violently charged headfirst.

It neither slept nor ate. Goldrake only looked forward as it continued to run. Its charge was desperate, as though it was its only calling in life.

“Ugh! This crazy beast! How far are you going to go?”

Pained screams could be heard from the riders chasing the drake.

After lazily sleeping day and night, Goldrake had suddenly broken down its stable and ran with reckless abandon. Clark and the other riders panicked at this sudden disturbance and immediately followed close behind. This had been four days ago.

“Stop! I said stop!”

“Do you really think it’ll listen?”

Jonasson ridiculed Hansen when the rider shouted out.

However, even as he did so, Jonasson desperately hoped Goldrake would stop. He was not the only one. The other riders were likewise weary and longed for an end to this chaos.

“Why all of a sudden…”

The charge had been sudden, and naturally, the cavalry had been unprepared to travel such a long distance.

“We have to decide now! We can’t continue like this any further!”

Clark, at the forefront of the charge, gritted his teeth at Jonasson’s comment.

The horses are tired, as are their riders.

They had taken a brief break in the middle, but it was insufficient. Even if they themselves endured, their horses would be unable to do the same.

That was not the only problem. Another issue was that Goldrake was headed towards the Noctein border of all places. From what they could tell, Goldrake showed no intention of stopping before the border.

“It’ll be war if we’re unlucky.”

Noctein, of all places?

The Noctein Kingdom despised both Drachen and his favorite mounts.

There was no way such a kingdom would sit back and watch the drake trample across their border.

The absence of its rider would not be an excuse. If anything, the Nocteins would treat this riderless beast as easy prey and rush in.

It was even possible they would use the pretext of the invading monster as justification for another war.

Of course, this was unlikely given the significant damage dealt to the Nocteins in the previous war, but the riders needed to keep this possibility in mind.

“We follow the drake as far as we can.”

The situation had spiraled out of control, but despite all their concerns, they could not stop Goldrake.

Who could possibly stop that rampaging monster?

Even more importantly, they did not want to stop the drake.

Seeing the loyal Goldrake charge like this, it was clear that the beast was concerned about its master’s safety.

“Do you think something happened to the lord?”

“Don’t say something so unlucky. Do you think he’s someone who’d be beaten so easily?”

“He even went on Redvern. Regardless of what happened, he should be able to get away.”

Hansen and Jonasson barked out in anger when they heard the concerns of one of the riders.

“Don’t say something so useless. If you’re so at ease, worry about our own situation.”

When even Clark backed up the two veteran riders, the cavalry rider initiating the conversation shut up and nodded.

“We follow the drake to the border. If we’re lucky, Julian will have prepared something by then.”

Clark simply hoped that Julian, having overtaken the monster, would have come up with a solution.

However, even as they approached the border, there were no movements from the local garrisons.

Scout patrols occasionally showed themselves, but there was no further action. They followed the riders before quickly disappearing.

“At this rate, we’ll really cross the border.”

“What are we going to do?”

Jonasson asked in a hoarse voice, having inhaled the dust kicked up on the open plains.

“What do you mean, ‘what are we going to do’? How would we ever face our lord later if something happens to Goldrake?”

Hansen looked ready to chase the drake to the end of the world, afraid that their lord was in a predicament.

After agonizing over the issue, Clark decided they would pursue Goldrake even if it crossed the border. If, as they guessed, the lord was in danger, they believed Goldrake would be of great help.

“Let’s go. We have to do as much as we can.”

Not a single rider objected to Clark’s decision.

“Since when were we afraid of the Noctein dogs?”

“We only live once!”

The riders were loyal to Drachen, and they would willingly jump into the fires of hell to find their missing lord.

However, things did not always go as planned.

“Ah! A little more! A little more!”

One of the riders’ horses collapsed onto the ground. As time passed, the number of stragglers increased.

It was incredible that the horses had endured this brutal run for this long. At this point, it would not be strange if any of the riders were left behind at any moment.

The riders were simply that exhausted.

Fifteen. Fourteen. Thirteen. Ten. And finally nine.

Twenty cavalry riders had begun this journey, but only nine remained.

When the nine became seven, they finally reached the border.

“It’s crossing it! It’s crossing it! It crossed it!”

As feared, Goldrake did not stop at the border but rather charged on.

Clark and the remaining cavalry gritted their teeth. This was the point of no return. Beyond the border was the land of the wild Noctein dogs, and the riders would be little more than good prey.

The riders were well aware of this fact, but none of them slowed down.

“Just cross it!”

“To think I’d cross the border again!”

“Yahoo!”

Clark smirked as he watched the riders try to work themselves up.

“Crazy bastards.”

Where else in this world were there such crazy people?

“While we’re at it, let’s become the first riders to cross the Noctein Kingdom!”

Of course, he was also one of those crazy bastards.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

As they galloped on, they suddenly heard the sound of horses’ hooves.

“It can’t be! Did those Noctein bastards find us already?”

“Everyone, prepare for battle!”

Though they took brief breaks from time to time, both the riders and their mounts were already at their limit. It was questionable whether such cavalry would be able to put up a good fight. Despite this, the riders drew their two-handed swords without complaint and prepared to fight.

“Huh?”

One of the riders in the rear uttered a confused noise after looking grimly at the dust cloud behind them.

“Aren’t those allies?”

“What? How could there be allies across the border?”

Hansen barked out before turning around and making the same bewildered sound.

“They really are blue coats!”

As soon as he spoke, a figure rapidly shot out from the trailing dust clouds.

“Julian!”

“I was late because it was faster than I expected!”

It was Julian Vanquish, the small apprentice knight and squire for their lord.

“Why are there allies beyond the border…”

Julian immediately responded.

“I’ll explain later, so get the horses first!”

“Huh?”

Before they could understand what she was saying, the group following her caught up to the riders.

“Here!”

The blue-coated individuals were holding riderless horses’ reins.

“Ah…”

They instinctively reacted. The riders immediately received the reins handed to them by the blue-coated cavalry and skillfully switched onto the fresh horses.

“There’s food and water in the saddles, so fill your stomachs first!”

“We’ll take good care of your horses, so don’t worry!”

The riders became emotional when they heard the friendly words of support. It was touching receiving the help of allies beyond the border.

“We wish you good luck!”

“Do us proud and go the distance! I’ll remember anyone who gives up early and give them a kick in the ass!”

The riders thanked the men for their harsh but heartfelt support.

“Please take good care of my horse! I’ll buy you a present when I get back!”

Having finished the transfer, Adenburg’s blue coats turned around and disappeared. The riders began to wolf down the water and jerky tied to their replacement horses’ saddles.

“So what in the hell happened?”

Having regained some stamina, Clark asked for the whole story, and Julian obliged.

“The Queen Regent stepped up herself.”

Clark showed his surprise, not expecting Ophelia to take personal action. Julian grinned and continued.

“The Queen Regent declared to the world that Adenburg would join the Holy War.”

“What?”

Clark was unable to understand how the current situation had anything to do with the war.

“And she appointed us as the advance party headed to the Astoria Kingdom.”

Clark exclaimed at Julian’s words.

“Then…”

“The Nocteins are unable to attack us.”

*** 

The Noctein nobles had jumped in joy at the news that the hated Drachen was missing. They again celebrated when they heard the masterless drake was rampaging towards their lands.

Though recently overshadowed by the red wyvern, the golden drake had once been responsible for the slaughter of loyal Noctein soldiers. News that this creature was entering their kingdom alone provided a perfect opportunity for retribution.

They hoped to soothe their anger by beheading the beast and using it to adorn the Noctein royal palace.

However, these plans went up in smoke.

The regent of Adenburg declared the kingdom’s participation in the new Holy War, and the drake, along with the closely following riders, now became an officially sanctioned expedition force.

Attacking them would be rejecting the justice sought by the Holy Kingdom, and it would antagonize the newly formed Central Alliance.

“If only it wasn’t for the Dark Lord!”

In any other situation, the Noctein nobles would have shut their eyes and feigned ignorance.

However, this was not possible in the current environment involving a continental war and a great alliance of kingdoms.

If they created a crisis in this situation, the Nocteins would be branded as petty bastards putting personal revenge over the safety of the entire continent.

It was no longer a simple issue of honor.

It was a matter that could result in the surrounding kingdoms joining together to annihilate the Noctein Kingdom following the conclusion of the Holy War.

“To think that we have to sit back and watch that damned bastard’s subordinates pass under our noses!”

They were enraged at having to pass up the golden opportunity in front of them, but they had no other choice.

In fact, they now had to hope the Adenburg forces would not come to harm while passing through their lands. They needed to avoid any pretext for the Adenburg royal family to place blame on them.

In the end, the Nocteins were forced to turn a blind eye to the golden monster and group of riders crossing through their kingdom.

For them, this was even more humiliating than losing in the preceding wars.

Their only source of comfort was that the Griffindors would face the same predicament.

***

“I never thought I’d ever be escorted by Noctein cavalry archers.”

Clark mumbled quietly after confirming the presence of the Noctein cavalry shadowing them at a distance.

“Don’t let down your guard until the very end!”

Around the time they began to lose their vigilance against a possible surprise attack, they reached the far end of the Noctein Kingdom.

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