Chapter 124

“Hmm?”

Morgan frowned at the unanticipated response. 

“Why? Doesn’t the winner of the duels have a match with the winner of the jousting competition anyways? Ah, are you perhaps not confident in winning the jousting competition?”

“What did you say?”

Morgan glared at Raven with furious eyes. But it soon turned into a fishy smile.

‘Hoo-hoo! You idiot. The dueling competition’s winner will be Louis Slynne anyways.’

Louis Slynne was an ambitious man and a subordinate of the Louvre family. He would not accept the request to fight on behalf of Leon and fight against Morgan. Not unless he was completely out of his mind.

“What if the winner of the duels denies the request to stand as a proxy?”

“Then we will lose.”

Morgan was a little surprised at the swift response. He responded while revealing his white teeth.

“Haha good. But still, I can’t help but feel like I’m losing out on this deal. So…”

Morgan’s gaze shifted.

“What will you give me if I win?”

“Hmm!”

Morgan’s eyes glimmered with greed and lust, and the eyes of Lindsay and Irene shook behind their mesh as they noticed Morgan’s obvious desire. Anyone could see what Morgan wanted. But even as his sister and concubine were being subjected to malicious desire, Raven remained unshakeable.

“I will listen to whatever you want.”

“Ah!”

“B, brother…”

The two girls looked at Raven with frightened expressions and called out in urgency. Raven looked at them with a reassuring gaze, a gaze that told them to not worry about a thing. The two ladies felt a strange sensation of peace washing over them.

“Kekut! Good. Then what are your conditions? Of course, not that it’s going to really matter.”

Morgan was confident of his victory.

Raven smiled faintly.

“Simple. It’s a man’s life.”

“One man’s life? Who does it belong to?”

“No need for you to know. If we win, you just have to save the life of one person I designate.”

“Hmm, all right then. I’ll see you on that day, Count Clown. And both of you as well, my pretty ladies. Haha! Huhahahaha!”

Morgan flapped his tongue towards the girls until the very end, bursting into laughter as he moved away. The entire floor resonated with his laughter of delight.

“Hahaha! Congratulations, Sir Louvre. You will soon be holding two beautiful flowers in your hand.”

“It will be on the day you emerge as the glorious victor, so it will be a fair reward, don’t you agree? Hahaha.”

The laughter of the men soon disappeared as they climbed down the stairs. Leon kept his fiery gaze at the staircase where Morgan had disappeared off to.

“What are you doing? Sit down.”

Leon flinched at Raven’s voice and finally sat down.

“This is a huge incident, isn’t it?”

“It sure is! What were those people thinking…”

“Tsk tsk! They are too naïve in their young age.”

The rest of the guests on the second floor looked towards Raven’s group with expressions of excitement and concern, whispering away the newest gossip. 

“My lord, I am so sorry.”

Leon bit his lips and turned towards Raven and the two girls. He realized that he was responsible for causing the entire incident, so he felt angry and embarrassed. 

“Ah, I am fine.”

“Yes, there’s nothing to be worried about. It isn’t your fault.”

But the reaction of the two girls was unexpected.

“But because of me…”

Leon was unable to raise his head, but Raven spoke while looking at him calmly.

“I have no idea what you are talking about. This was all intended. Besides, you have done nothing wrong, Leon Johnbolt. You did not forget who you were, and you acted accordingly.”

“Ah…”

“Do not forget. You are a man of the Johnbolt family. But you are also a part of the Pendragon family. No matter what happens in the future, you must never forget this fact.”

‘Just like how I’m Raven Valt, as well as Alan Pendragon…’

Raven swallowed his last words and spoke it in his heart. Leon calmly gazed at Raven. Raven's voice was grave, yet dignified. But the dignity was not forced, it was naturally flowing from Raven.

“I will remember, my lord.”

Leon felt his eyes starting to burn and lowered his head. A smile hung on the faces of Lindsay and Irene as they stared at the young man. Regardless of status and ability, Leon Johnbolt was already a wonderful squire of the Pendragon family.

“The atmosphere is rather bad. If everyone’s finished eating, let’s go.”

The four got up from their seats. They let the restaurant while ignoring the sympathetic gazes of the second-floor guests. The streets were getting heated in the festivities as the sun started to fall. 

After crossing the square, Raven looked back at the three people and spoke, “Then I will be off to conduct my business. You three can head back to the inn.”

“Yes. Oh, by the way, Brother.”

“Hmm?”

Irene hesitated for a moment before carefully speaking, “Well, brother. I don’t have any doubts about the intentions behind your actions, but I have been curious about something from a while ago. Can I ask you about it?”

“Sure.”

“I want to know why you tolerated Morgan Louvre’s rude behavior.”

Irene knew Raven to be a person who did not tolerate people like Morgan Louvre. No, even Lindsay and Leon had come to realize the fact. Alan Pendragon was someone who never forgave anyone that committed disrespect towards the people around him and the Pendragon family. But he silently observed a situation where he normally would have pulled out his sword more than ten times. He even called for a duel where he would use a proxy, instead of fighting himself. 

“Hm, well, here’s the thing.”

Lindsay, Leon, and Irene curiously waited for Raven’s answer.

“He’s a dead man walking.”

“What?”

“You don’t have to pay attention to anything he says. Morgan Louvre will die in two days.”

Looking back at his three wide-eyed companions, Raven muttered a confident prediction, a prediction that veered towards prophecy. 

*** 

“Call Sir Slynne.”

Back in the castle, Morgan spoke while sitting on a fluffy chair.

“Yes,” A servant answered politely and left the room.

Not long after, Louis Slynne entered the room with a smile and bowed exaggeratedly. 

“You called for me, Sir Louvre, the God Spear of Alice.”

The corners of Morgan’s mouth crept up at Louis’ words.

“What are you doing? Come quickly and sit down.”

“Oh, how could I dare? In front of the heir to the Great Territory of Alice?”

Contrary to his words, Louis did not hesitate to throw himself into a chair.

“Crazy bastard…”

Morgan giggled while pouring wine into a glass. He held it out.

The two people lightly clinked their glass and immediately emptied their glass.

“The plan has changed, Louis.”

“Well, I heard from his excellency earlier. But is this so special that you would look for me at this time?”

“Hoho. Well, so…”

With a mellow laugh, Morgan explained the situation that transpired in the restaurant earlier. 

“That’s too bad. I wish I could have been there. The expressions of their faces would have been priceless after realizing a friend of yours would win the dueling competition.”

Louis licked his lips after listening to Morgan’s story.

Morgan and Louis were friends, although their status was different as the heir to the High Lord and an attendant knight. It was hard to understand with common sense, but there was a story to their odd friendship.

The two were equal in age, and they had come across a common hobby more than a decade ago in the annual hunting contest of the Alice territory. Thus, until now, they privately engaged in their shared hobby once or twice a year, and they started speaking casually in private meetings.

“That’s true. When the dueling competition is over, the looks on their faces will be quite a sight. But that’s alright, something even more interesting will happen. I’m going to have to ask you to accept their request for you as a proxy.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

Morgan grinned and responded to Louis’s confusion.

“Do you know when a man despairs the most?”

“I’m not sure, is it when they die?”

“No, it’s when their hope that they’ve held on to the very end is shattered. When hope that seems just out of their grasp shatters, that’s the most despairing thing for a human to experience.”

“Ho! So you’re telling me to give hope to those brats. To accept their request.”

“Haha! This is why I like you. Exactly. So become their proxy knight. Then you will fight a very close battle with me. Thirty exchanges would be perfect. So that they do not lose hope until the very end. You know, right?”

“You and I have been sparring for decades. We could put on a pretty good show. This sounds quite fun. Haha!”

“That’s it. And after the play is over… We take turns tasting the two luscious girls in front of the clown and the arrogant brat. Just like we always do.”

“Yes, as always. Huhuhu….”

The men shared a chuckle while staring at each other. Morgan and Louis shared a secret hobby of forcing themselves on women. There weren’t many girls they could not get their hands on with their status and looks. Many would die to spend a night with them if the two simply desired.

But the two men had a twisted personality and could not be satisfied with the simple act. So once or twice a year, they disguised themselves in masks and attacked travelers in remote or secluded roads. Of course, they never left evidence. It was simple for them to disguise themselves as bandits or robbers. But this time around, the prey had basically walked into their mouth. It didn’t matter even if they were real nobility of the imperial castle.

The result of the duel couldn’t be changed even if the emperor came down personally, and if the girls were useful, they could take them in as concubines.

“Kahaha! I’m already itching. They must be quite a bunch of girls if you’re acting so greedy.”

“They’re amazing. Especially one bitch, she seems to stem from a pretty well-established family. Very cocky. But in a few days, she’ll be under me. Gah, I’m so curious about the face beneath the mesh.”

Morgan’s bottom started to swell up as he imagined the arrogant bitch from the imperial castle struggling under him, fighting, and at last, begging him for mercy.

“Ah, that’s right, did you hear?”

Louis also had a lustful smile on his face. He raised a question as if something had crossed his mind.

“Hmm?”

“I heard an interesting story at a pub on the way here. His Grace Pendragon seems to have departed for the imperial castle. I heard it’s been about 15 days.”

“Hoo?”

Morgan was intrigued by the talk regarding the recent rising stars of the empire.

“Hmm, why are we hearing that just now? It seems like he’s on his way to greet the emperor as the official duke of the Pendragon family. Knights, attendants, it should have been bustling with boisterous preparations.”

“I had the same thought, but it turns out he’s only bringing a concubine with him?”

“What? What a strange fellow.”

The Pendragon family had been on the decline for many years. And now, it was regaining power and fame, climbing back to its past glory. They would cross the empire on their way to the imperial city. It was a golden opportunity to show off their power to the rest of the world, which was why it didn’t make sense for them to have moved rather covertly. 

“He must have something else planned. Well, rumors are always blown out of proportion, but he seems quite useful according to what I’ve heard.”

“If he comes to our castle, maybe I can treat him to a meal. Well, if the concubine is quite appetizing, I might take a bite out of that too. Well, of course, after I taste those two bitches… haha…”

Morgan refilled his glass with a dark smile. It seemed sleep would not come easily tonight, as he kept thinking about the two girls, one voluptuous and the other innocent. 

*** 

“What brings you here?”

A soldier guarding the competitor’s residence blocked Raven’s way, and Raven responded while handing him a silver coin.

“I want to recruit one of the participants into our territory.”

“Oh, I see. Who are you looking for?”

The soldier grinned and quickly pocketed the silver coin. It was common for aristocrats and wealthy merchants to come looking for participants to recruit.

“A fighter named Argos.”

“Oh… you’re talking about the old man. He’s in the room at the end of the hallway on the third floor. But I think you might be wasting your time.”

Perhaps due to the power of the silver coin, the soldier volunteered more information and even showed worry for Raven.

“Hmm? Is there a reason?”

“Six young masters have already come to see the old man today, including you. But he did not meet even a single person.”

“Hmm, is that so?”

“Yes. They knocked on the door, but he didn’t answer. At first, I thought he might have died, but I knew that wasn’t the case when I saw him order dinner. Ah, here comes one that went up just a little while ago.”

Raven turned his head towards where the soldier pointed.

“Dammit! An old mercenary dares to ignore me? I hope you die and go to hell tomorrow!”

A fat middle-aged man, dressed in a colorful gold-framed robe, came down the stairs along with two attendants. He spat on the floor and climbed onto his carriage. The soldier shook his head as he watched the carriage move away.

“He’s a very wealthy man, and he came looking for the old man as well. I told him it wouldn’t work, but he confidently bragged about his ability. And now he’s going away like that. You won’t have any luck either… ah, but I can’t return the coin.”

“You don’t have to. Well then, keep up the good work.”

“It’s no use… Well, it’s some extra money for me so I’m not complaining.”

Raven slowly climbed the stairs while hearing the soldier’s murmur. The corridors of the quarters were full of those who desired to recruit the winners of the day’s competitions. 

“Tsk, tsk. Another one.”

“I know.”

A few people clicked their tongues as Raven walked towards the far room. They had already been rejected by Argos, and they were waiting to recruit others. But Raven grabbed the handle of the room unhesitatingly and knocked.

“I have some business, let us talk.”

An expected silence. People sneered at Raven and shook their heads at the anticipated result.

‘As expected…’

Raven sighed inwardly, then knocked once more, speaking words he had hoped to spare. Words that Argos would not have imagined hearing.

“I know about Geore… and and Raja.”

Another brief silence. But then.

Bang!

“Heuk!”

The tightly sealed door opened with a bang and the eyes of the people in the hallway grew large in shock. 

Raven peered inside of the wide-open door with calm eyes, not paying attention to the astonishment of the other people.

“You… who are you…?”

The man's voice trembled as much as his eyes.

“H, how… how do you know their names? Tell me, who are you?”

The man standing in front of Raven had ruffled hair pointing towards the sky and fierce eyes like a predator. He was the one they called the Black Tiger of the demonic army, the invincible fighter, Argos.

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