Chapter 120

15 days passed since Raven accepted Leon into the party. The road became quite rugged, and Raven ended up purchasing a carriage. There was no reason for everyone to experience discomfort while traveling on the back of horses, especially with the addition of new members. Moreover, the appearance of the two ladies, especially Irene, was too eye-catching. 

So the group passed through the Seyrod territory and the Koran territory and finally arrived at the Alice territory, which could be called the entryway into the central part of the empire. 

The Great Territory of Alice was considered one of the three richest and most powerful territories of the empire. The natural scenery was outstanding with a large number of rivers and lakes, and their commerce was quite advanced with a rich history.

The most famous place in the Alice territory was Edgel, the city where High Lord Count Louvre’s castle was located. Edgel was the center of the Alice territory, and it drew from a tributary stream of Dantes River, which ran all the way across the central part of the empire, to create huge waterways in the city. The city was always bustling with a constant stream of tourists and travelers all year round. 

The Louvre family’s symbol, the Cosmos flower, bloomed in full during late summer throughout autumn, and it decorated the paths along the waterways as well as the rest of the city. This created a stunning sight that was renowned throughout the entire empire. 

The view was excellent, and the city was always crowded and plentiful, which meant that there were frequent festivals, including the Dantes Festival, held in autumn. The Dantes Festival was the largest and most extravagant festival in the entire Alice region. The 10-day festival was held throughout the entire territory of Alice, and the finale was decorated with a jousting competition and a duel competition, personally hosted and overseen by High Lord Count Louvre. So at this time of the year, hundreds of knights and mercenaries flooded to Edgel to show off their skills and to try their luck.

*** 

“Wow… I never realized there could be so many people on the road. Don’t you agree, brother?”

“Hmm.”

Irene was constantly glued to the window of the carriage, and Raven nodded indifferently at her exclamations. However, the huge procession of crowds that filled the streets had also caused Raven to be shocked considerably.

‘Alice, Graem, and Shia. The three territories are considered to be the most powerful… This is almost the size of a kingdom.’

Four days of seeing and experiencing the Alice territory shocked Raven in various ways. The town of Lowpool was the largest in the Pendragon Duchy, and it was located right beneath Conrad Castle, which meant that it was the center of the duchy. However, they had already passed through two villages that were comparable to Lowpool with populations of two or three thousand, and they would soon arrive in Edgel, which was considered the center of the Alice territory. It had a population of over 20,000 residents. 

This meant that Edgel and the other villages within a two, three day distance had a combined population that rivaled or surpassed the entire Pendragon territory. Moreover, with the ongoing festival, there were thousands of visitors flowing into Edgel every day. This was truly a jaw-dropping event.

‘I still have long ways to go…’

Raven felt slightly bitter, but he was not disappointed. According to Vincent’s predictions, the Pendragon Duchy would also grow considerably large by this time next year.

“My lord, I can see the gates of Edgel. We are almost there.”

Leon spoke boldly from the coachman’s seat of the carriage.

“I guess we are finally here.”

Irene and Lindsay looked at each other with bright faces in anticipation of finally seeing Edgel, which they had only heard about in stories before. The carriage passed through the castle gate after a while. The two ladies turned their eyes out the window.

“Wow…!”

They gazed out the window at the slow-passing scenery with admiration in their eyes. The three, four story buildings lined the cleanly maintained roads, and the faces of those filling the streets were full of life and vigor. The two ladies’ astonishment reached its peak when they crossed a bridge that lay above the world-famous waterway - a central monument of Edgel. 

There were large and small boats floating on the wide waterway, which was well over 100 yards across, and the sides of the waterway were covered with many people enjoying the autumn festivals, as well as many shops and stalls targeting the tourists. 

“Ah! I have never seen so many people before, Lady Irene.”

“Yes. There are so many things to see, and it looks really fun!”

The two ladies slowly turned their heads toward Raven. They had only stayed overnight in towns for the past 15 days, and the rest of the journey was spent in the carriage, without any excitement or adventure. Of course, the two ladies were content and happy just to be able to travel with Raven, who was their brother and husband. But even so, when they were stuck 15 days straight with the quiet, impassive man, they felt a little bored. Unlike Raven, who was almost 30 years old, spending over ten years on the battlefield, the two girls were in their prime. 

“If you two say so, I will grab us a place by the side of the waterway.”

“Really?”

The two ladies opened their eyes wide and asked in a united voice at Raven’s unexpected response.

“Yes. We have to spend about four days here anyways. I have people to look for, and things to do…”

“What things…?”

“Don’t worry about it. Let’s decide on where to stay first.”

Raven answered with a grin, then stuck his head out through the window.

“Let’s go down to the waterfront and see if there’s any good accommodation.”

“Yes, my lord!” Leon answered vigorously and turned the carriage.

The river breeze carried the freshly faded cosmos petals, which was beginning to cover the road and the water with splendor. 

*** 

After passing by the tower of Goddess Lumina, one would eventually see the castle of Count Louvre after walking along the northern road for a long time. The Louvre County’s Cosmos Castle was rather small and compact even though the Alice territory was one of the three strongest powers in the entire empire. 

However, any knight would have to watch their behavior after learning about the Knights of Cosmos that resided in the castle. They were 50 of the strongest knights that came from the different noble families of the Alice territory, and the Knights of Cosmos competed for the title of the strongest knighthood in the empire, excluding the imperial knights. 

Naturally, this did not apply to Louis Slynne, the eldest son of the Slynne Family. He had nothing to be cautious of in the castle. After all, the Slynne Barony had faithfully served the Louvre family for five generations. 

“Dammit… what’s with the atmosphere in the castle? As if they have to mourn for the ass handling.”

“Young master, please lower your voice a little. His excellency must be in a bad mood because of the competition, it would be bad for anything to befall us.” The servant boy quickly whispered in Louis’ ear.

“Tsk! Wel… uh, there he comes.” Louis clicked his tongue and dismounted his horse.

“Welcome, Lord Slynne. His excellency is in the palace.” The castle general greeted.

“In the palace? There are many eyes and ears. I think the office might be better…” Louis frowned at the castle general’s words and walked after him.

“I have notified him of your coming, so he should be heading to the office. Anyways, his excellency is very unhappy with the results of the first preliminary round of the duels today. He must have been quite upset that only three of your knights were able to advance. He called for all the knights within the castle.”

“But we still had eight knights advance in the jousting competition, right? I am sure that the Knights of Cosmos will win this year as well, in both jousting and the duels.”

Even though Louis already knew the reason for the High Lord’s sulky mood, he responded rhetorically. 

“I suppose that will be the case for jousting. But we cannot know the results of the duels for sure. Who knew that His Grace Eder would lose so badly in the first match of the preliminary rounds?”

The general answered with a sigh, and Louis also licked his lips in a regrettable manner.

“Wel… No one expected that old man to be so strong. Was it Argos? It is a name I have never heard of before.”

Some mercenary groups had a long history and a high reputation, and there were also individual mercenaries who were known for their outstanding skills and abilities. But they tended to be recruited by nobles from all over the empire as knights, and it was extremely rare for mercenaries to spread their fame as only mercenaries for a long time. Those that did not choose to serve under nobles usually formed their own mercenary groups with others. But the man named Argos belonged to neither category. Most importantly, he was almost fifty years old and he would have retired a long time ago as a mercenary.

“Anyways, how is His Grace Eder doing?”

“Phew! He finally passed the crisis. He is in a stable condition, but he doesn’t seem to be faring too well.”

“Hmm, is that so.”

The man named Argos had defeated Eder, who was one of the Knights of the Cosmos and the third son of Count Louvre. However, Eder had not become a knight at the young age of 20 solely because of his father’s influence.

Eder was a young man of considerable caliber. He practiced swordsmanship since he was a toddler, and after he matured, he invited all the renowned knights and swordsmen that visited the Alice territory to learn from them and to share bouts with them. Eder was a gifted young knight who was able to beat all of the knights after battling them three times. But now, Eder had been horribly defeated.

“He lost not to a knight, but to a mercenary. Moreover, to a bare-handed fighter…”

Louis clicked his tongue inwardly and shook his head.

Fighters were quite rare. There were only a few of them among the noble families, and even less in the mercenary world. No one was foolish enough to forego their weapons as mercenaries, as they constantly got involved in battles and wars. Even the very rare fighters that appeared once in a blue moon used simple daggers. But the old fighter named Argos fought with nothing but a black glove with metal knuckles, using his whole body to fight and knock down three knights and mercenaries today.

“Sir Slynne, you already know what his excellency is going to talk to you about. You are our only hope. You need to win the duels, and His Grace Morgan has to win the jousting competition. That way…”

Louis laughed and cut off the general’s words.

“Then I can lose to His Grace Morgan in a very tight, very close battle between the victors.”

Over the past decade, there had never been a case where a knight or mercenary from another region had taken the crown in the competitions held in Edgel. Seven or eight times out of ten, the Knights of the Cosmos won in both competitions, and once or twice, the children of the Alice territory’s nobles or their knights won the competitions. Although the Knights of the Cosmos were excellent, it wasn’t all due to their skills. The knights of Alice were able to interfere with the competition by eliminating possible challengers or scheming against them beforehand. 

That’s how Morgan, the eldest son of Count Louvre, and Eder, the third son, were able to win both of the competitions in the previous year. Afterward, the two brothers had a duel between the winners, and the older brother was able to claim a narrow victory which ended the festival with a beautiful result. 

But this year, last year’s victor was defeated by a fighter of unknown origins at the beginning of the competition without being able to do anything. Eder had suffered broken ribs after a battle with the fighter. Hence it was impossible for Count Louvre to have both his sons win the competitions again, which was why he was put in such a bad mood. There was only one solution to overcome this reality.

Lewis Synne was the strongest swordsman of Alice territory in reality. He would have to be crowned victor of the duels, then lose to Morgan in the final battle.

“I’m glad Lord Slynne understands. After the festival, you will be honored and rewarded separately by His Excellency. But before that…”

“I know. I will take care of that old fighter. No need to worry.”

A confident smile hung around the mouth of Louis Slynne as he knocked on the doors to Count Louvre’s office.

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