Chapter 112

“Well… he must have been a free knight before coming to the duchy. A few others including that man from noble backgrounds have been….”

Campbell started to talk with caution.

With the recent rapid increase in population, more people had been enlisting in the duchy’s army. The Pendragon Duchy was sorely lacking in troops, so they had no reason to refuse entry. Even still, they could not accept any random dogs or cows, so they held a strict test for the recruitment of new soldiers.

As a result, most recruits who were selected stemmed from a free knight or a mercenary background, and all of them had prior experience. This led to some infighting among the soldiers, especially the free knights who were of noble background.

Most of the soldiers were satisfied being treated as a member of heavy cavalry, but some of them dreamed of becoming a part of a knight order, and their pride was damaged when they were told to train with ordinary soldiers.

“…So I was planning on settling the matter sooner or later… but…”

Campbell could not continue. Killian glimpsed at the soldiers, stood up slowly, then patted the dust off his pants. The actions themselves were not unusual, but Campbell felt a strange tingling on his skull. It was the result of Killian’s spirit transmitting to the air.

“Excuse me, Sir Killian? If it’s no problem, I can…”

“No.”

Shaking his head, Killian placed his left hand on his right armpit, then twisted his body.

Craccck!

“Sir Campbell, don’t get me wrong…”

Crack!

“……huh?”

Killian’s voice was still weak, but as he stretched and twisted his limbs, Campbell felt a chilling sensation of unknown origins.

“I am definitely not taking out my anger… I am disciplining the soldiers as the duchy’s knight. So…. You understand, right?”

“Ye, yes.”

Campbell responded at the sight of Killian’s ghastly smile. The one-egg devil had resurrected after a long time.

***

“Setin’s population is 213. Pala has 458. Setin’s population increased by forty-four compared to the beginning of the year, and Pala by one hundred and thirty-two.”

“Good work. How was the atmosphere in the villages near Bellint Gate?”

“Not very good. A large part of the poor are leaving for York Town, but new people keep flooding in. Well, we have plenty of land, and they are forming their own little towns, but there are bound to be those that have malicious thoughts.”

“Hmm, well, I was thinking of going around and cleaning things up myself. Anyways, thank you for your hard work.”

“Haha! Of course, of course. They took care of all the hard work anyways.”

Jody grinned at Vincent's words, then turned his eyes.

“You two did great as well. Although we only have a few members, once we establish a proper information network, you will have to take charge of the groups, so please keep working hard.”

“Ehehe! Leave it to me!”

“It really is nothing…”

Scylla grinned, and Gus nodded shyly while scratching his head.

“Anyways, how are the harpies? Handling them is not proving to be difficult?”

“They are stupid, but better than pigeons. They must have been allowed to roam freely for a long time, because they know all the roads of the duchy inside and out. If they are fed on time, they are quite obedient as well.”

“Huh, even now, I think it is amazing. How could one think of using harpies as messengers? Huh!”

Gus sympathized with a look of admiration. After he came to the Pendragon Duchy, there were two things that surprised him the most. One of them was the usage of harpies, the same creatures Raven captured in the past, as liaisons and messengers.

Harpies made the best messengers. They could travel long distances and move faster than horses, and they were capable of human speech, although sometimes quite lacking. Of course, they brought along their own share of problems as well.

“Gah! I still hate them.”

Scylla spoke with a shudder, and Jody responded with a mischievous smile.

“Of course you would not like them. They do ‘it’ at every chance they get, in front of an unmarried virgin to boot.”

“Hate them my ass, you are just jealous. Well, if you have any thoughts, tonight, I can…”

“Hey, you lewd goose! Shut your mouth!”

“Agh!”

With an embarrassed expression, Scylla stepped on Gus’ foot, and he started jumping around with a shriek. Vincent laughed and explained.

“Harpies are a type of monster that breeds all year round.”

“Whew! Even so, it’s just too much. Every night, they go squawking and squeaking on top of trees. It’s really…”

Scylla shook her head, her face still flushed bright red.

“Well, I understand. I need to head to York Village tomorrow, so please continue to keep up the good work. In particular, we need to understand the circumstances of the free knights and mercenaries that flow into the duchy.”

“You can leave it to us. There are a few acquaintances in the mix, so I just need to figure out their movements.”

“Excellent.”

Vincent’s satisfied expression prompted a grin from Jody.

“Okay, then we will get going.”

“Hoho! I will be going, Sir Ron. See you next time.”

Scylla winked at Vincent, and Gus, who was stroking his foot with a sullen expression, called out with a pout.

“Pssh, you are just as bad as the harpies. Whew, whenever you see a handsome guy, you just start wagging your tail and… Ah, no! Please, no!”

Gus bolted out of the door with his tail as Scylla pulled up her fingernails and jumped towards him.

“Sir Ron! Keep up the good work!”

Jody’s last words and laughter echoed as the group exited, and only Vincent was left in the tiny, rustic office of Conrad Castle.

“Whew…”

A cool wind greeted Vincent when he opened the window.

“The wind, the people. Both are much better than Leus.”

Vincent shivered in the wind, then turned his gaze downwards. The gates leading into Lowpool were crowded with people and carriages, and the alleyways and boulevards were bustling with a population that was twice as large as before.

The markets now opened every day instead of every five days.

It was due to the massive influx of people. Nearby villages that only had around a hundred people before also experienced rapid development, which caused the marketplace to become larger and more active compared to before.

Vincent nodded with a satisfied look and placed his gaze a little further away.

The vast land and blue skies of the Pendragon Duchy was visible, with the mountain ranges and cloud-hidden peaks decorating the far horizon.

“One year…. Three at the latest.”

Vincent had a thin smile on his face. He had an important duty. He was determined to cultivate the vast, ragged land into a habitable place, a place suitable for humans to live.

It was then.

Thud! Thud!

“S, Sir Ron! Sir Vincent Ron!”

At the distressed voice, Vincent tilted his head. The voice did not belong to his servant boy, who ran errands and did the chores, rather, it belonged to a woman.

“What is it? Come in.”

A maid rushed into the room with a distressed expression. She seemed familiar.

“T, there is a huge problem! Sir Vincent! G, gone! T, the duchess asked for you to come right away…”

“Gone? What do you mean? Talk to me, slowly.”

Vincent consoled the young maid. Then, she spoke while barely catching her breath.

“T, the lady! Lady Irene is gone! She has disappeared!”

“What?”

Vincent’s eyes narrowed and his forehead scrunched up.

***

“The back garden?”

“N, no.”

“How about the hill behind the castle?”

“We have searched thoroughly, but we still could not find her.”

Elena’s words were calm even though her daughter had disappeared. The servants and maids bowed their heads in embarrassment.

“Then search the gallery and Alan’s study once again. Also, search the old watchtower at the secondary palace. She used to play hide-and-seek with Alan there when they were younger.”

“Yes, Duchess.”

The maids bowed deeply and hurried away with flurried steps. The issue was quite serious, so only the maids in charge of Irene were aware of the incident.

“Phew...”

After letting out a sigh, Elena’s gaze remained on a certain person. It was Sophia, the daughter of Count Bresia, High Lord of Sisak. Her shoulders were shivering visibly.

“Sophia, you were the last one to see Irene?”

“Y, yes! D, duchess.”

That was the reason why Sophia was so pitifully nervous.

This morning, Irene had called Sophia after finishing a meal. It was to share a game of Reversi, a game that was commonly enjoyed by noble ladies. Irene was the best Reversi player in Conrad Castle, which reflected her great intelligence. But it turned out that Sophia was also an excellent player of Reversi, good enough to rival Irene, who was tired of having no equal in Conrad Castle.

Thus, the two girls played Reversi quite often lately. But today, they chose to play the game in Sophia’s room, rather than in their usual spot, which was Irene’s room. Unlike her airy personality, Sophia had excellent concentration. When Sophia was struggling to figure out her next move, Irene had stolen her clothes and slipped away.

For Sophia, it felt like she was walking on thin ice for Irene to have disappeared like that. She felt as if she was to blame.

“It is not your fault. If that child makes up her mind, then no one in this castle can stop her. Anyway, if…”

Elena seemed to have some guesses, as she furrowed her forehead.

Even so… would she really dare to…

“I greet the duchess.”

Vincent Ron came walking with rapid steps, then bowed to Elena.

“Ah, Sir Ron.”

“I already heard the news. Lady Irene has disappeared?”

“Ah, that is right. I do have some ideas, but…”

“D, duchess! Duchess! Please take a look at this!”

One of the head maids came running and handed Elena a letter. A letter with a fine folded seal that was only allowed to the direct descendants of the duchy. A sigh escaped Elena’s lips as she opened the letter. Vincent and the head maid stared with worry.

“Ha! I had hoped not, this child is truly fearless…”

“D, duchess, is the letter from the lady? My apologies, but may I ask what is written on it?”

Elena smiled bitterly and extended the letter to the head maid. The head maid had spoken in a tearful voice as she had been looking after Irene ever since the latter was born.

The head maid’s eyes grew large as she quickly skimmed through the letter.

“What is… what…? Ah, oh my... My goodess!”

The head maid almost collapsed with the back of her hand on her forehead, and maids hurriedly assisted her.

“Hmm.”

Vincent picked up the letter from the ground. His eyes shone keenly after reading the letter.

“So, what does Sir Ron think about this?”

Vincent answered with a bow at Elena’s question.

“Duchess, I do not think you need to worry too much.”

“Right? Phew! Even so, for a grown child to run away from home… Especially to follow after her older brother. Ha..!”

Elena let out a long sigh, and Vincent reassured her in a calm voice.

“She took Kazzal, so she should catch up to His Grace quite fast. Of course, if the duchess wants, I can send a harpy to Bellint Gate to bring her back.”

It would not be hard to catch Irene Pendragon. She had schemed her way out of the castle, but she still had to go through Bellint Gate if she wanted to exit the duchy. All they had to do was send a harpy to Sir Jade, the gate’s captain, to keep an eye out for the lady. After thinking with her hand on her head for a moment, Elena shook her head.

“No, just leave her alone. Look after her until she meets up with Alan.”

“Yes, then I will inform Jody. They should be able to find the lady within half a day.”

Mercenaries like Jody and his group specialized in many skills, including tracking. She would have disguised herself to the best of her abilities, but it would be easy for them to track a lady of noble birth such as Irene.

“Go ahead, tell them I am leaving her in their care until she meets Alan.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Anyways, Sir Ron does not seem very surprised. Did you also think it a good idea to send that child with Alan to the imperial castle?”

“Yes, with all due respect, I recommended my lord to take Lady Irene to the imperial capital rather than taking Baroness Conrad.”

“Really? May I ask why?”

Elena had a gentle smile on her face as if she already knew the answer, but she asked anyway. Vincent replied politely.

“Even though she is bright and intelligent, Lady Irene is still oblivious to the world. If she will continue to live as she did until now, then this causes no worry. Until now, she has been treated with care, like a flower in a vase. But the Lady Irene I saw was not the type to live out the rest of her life as a common noble lady.”

“Hoho, is that so? Please continue.”

“Yes. I saw that Prince Ian took a liking to Lady Irene in Leus. My lady, you should know better than I, since you grew up in the imperial castle. I feel that it is difficult to live as a flower in that place.”

“Yes. Yes, indeed.”

A complicated look of nostalgia appeared in Elena’s eyes.

As Vincent mentioned, the imperial castle was not a place where a young girl could live like a well-groomed flower. It was especially true now, considering her identity as a lady of the Pendragon family. Many of the current events were revolving around the Pendragon family.

“I dare say that if Lady Irene sees the world and experiences it, she will be able to find her own path. No matter what anyone says, Lady Irene is a brilliant person with the great heritage of the Pendragon family.”

“Hoho! How come it seems as if Sir Ron knows my daughter better than I?”

After a light laugh, Elena turned to the head maid and the other maids, who were still at a loss.

“This incident with Irene must not leak outside. And, Sophia.”

“Y, yes! Hugh…”

Sophia was shedding tears for the fear of being held accountable. After hurriedly wiping her tears, she bowed her head.

“Nobody will hold you responsible, so there is no need to worry. Starting tomorrow, continue to stay beside me. Is that understood?”

“I, I accept your orders.”

“Good. Now, everyone can get back to their work.”

“Yes, Duchess…”

The maids still had worried expressions, but they bowed and retreated.

“Then, Duchess, I will head off to hand the mission to Jody and his group.”

“Please do so.”

Vincent also disappeared after a bow. Now, in the large, fancy room, only Sophia, Elena, and her personal maids were left.

“Both son and daughter, how are they so much like their father when he was a youth? So impatient and curious…”

Elena muttered while shaking her head, then stood up from her chair.

“I am angry because both my naughty son and daughter have left home. Where is my youngest sweet, pretty daughter? You will have to sleep in your mother's embrace starting today. I fear I will be too lonesome otherwise.”

Unlike her words, Elena’s face carried a bright, soft smile as usual.

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