In the largest and most splendid room of the Thistle Palace, two men sat across from each other in comfortable positions.
One man was in his mid-20s and had a drowsy look, but sharp eyes. The other man was in his early twenties and had a beautiful but cold, noble atmosphere.
The attending maids stood beside the door, not daring to raise their heads. The unapproachable presence was due to the dignity and the immense spirit that the two men were giving off, even though they had not engaged in a conversation yet.
One man’s identity was the son of the majestic emperor, someone who may become the crown prince, and the other man was the head of a family with a dragon as its guardian.
With the exception of the emperor and the empress, who were rarely ever seen, the two men were practically the most prominent figures in the imperial castle.
They couldn’t help but be nervous.
However, the two men didn’t seem to notice and broke into a light smile after staring at each other for a while.
“I think you have gotten even thinner even though it hasn’t been that long since we last saw each other.”
“Ha! Hasn't been that long? What nonsense are you spouting? Two seasons have gone by. And I haven’t gotten thinner, I’ve lost the extra flab. I’ve been prone to massive headaches because of some guy causing disasters all over the place.” Ian answered in a gruff matter.
“I didn’t do it for myself. By the way, what is going on? An exalted prince coming out all this way to personally greet us.”
Apparently, Ian had been secluding himself in his chambers, which were located deep in the imperial castle, since a few months ago.
Naturally, Ian would show up now that he arrived, but he had not expected Ian to show up immediately as he arrived.
“It’s because something unexpected happened.”
Ian took on a serious expression, and Raven narrowed his eyes.
“An unexpected occurrence?”
“Yes, there’s an uninvited guest. A brown bear that rarely comes out of the mountains…”
“Are you talking about the Roxan family’s heir? I saw them at the first gate earlier.”
“Jamie? Hmph! He’s just a baby cat at best.”
Ian openly referred to the heir of the strongest High Lord family as a cat, then continued with a frown.
“Lindegor is here. Duke Lasse Lindegor himself.”
Raven was shocked.
Raven had never seen him before, but it was a name that was in his memories. Not as Alan Pendragon, but rather when he was living as Raven Valt.
The Lindegor family was the most powerful family among the numerous nobilities of the empire with a territory comparable to a kingdom and a population reaching one million.
On top of that, they had 10,000 troops, consisting of heavy cavalry and heavy spearmen. The soldiers only obeyed the orders of the duke, and they were on an entirely different level compared to regular troops of other great territories.
But the fierce troops, large population, and enormous land were not the only reasons why the Lindegor family was able to stand on the same level as the Pendragon family.
The crest of the Lindegor Duchy was an angel holding two swords above a four-leaf clover. There was a story behind the crest.
Just as the Pendragon family was protected by the White Dragon Soldrake, the Lindegor Duchy was a family that received the blessing of an actual angel, Seiel.
The problem was that no one actually knew what the angel’s blessing entitled, except for the duke and his successor. The most prominent theory was that Seiel granted four wishes to the current duke.
No one actually knew what sort of wishes were possible, and whether it had limitations and conditions.
Indeed, the theory was just a theory, and no one knew the truth for sure.
However, the fact was that the Lindegor Duchy never lost a war in the hundreds of years of their history and that the previous dukes lived a long life. These facts were enough to earn them awe and a high reputation.
“This is troublesome. This is the first time that the brown bear has come directly to the imperial castle since the day my mother became the empress. The problem is that I don’t know what kind of person he is. I have only seen him once in my life.”
Raven nodded at Ian’s concerned words.
The Lindegor family, just like the Pendragon family, was a duchy that inherited the blood of the royal family.
However, there was a difference between the two. The Pendragon family inherited the royal blood because the family’s progenitor took the emperor’s sister as his companion.
The Lindegor Duchy, however, was a family that was formed by the emperor’s own brother after receiving the family name.
Thus, in a way, the Lindegor family was more closely related to the imperial family than the Pendragon family. However, the Lindegor family kept their distance from the royal family for hundreds of years, unlike the Pendragon family. The Pendragon family married many members of the royal family, from both the direct line and the collateral line.
There was a probable explanation for the Lindegor family’s behavior. If they continued close ties with the royal family, there was a likely chance that they might be viewed by the public as being greedy for the spot of the royal family.
However, this changed a few decades ago.
The current empress was of the Lindegor family. The empress was the sister of the current Duke Lindegor, the mother of Prince Shio, Ian, and Princess Ingrid, Isabel Lindegor.
In other words, the Duke of Lindegor, the brown bear, was the older brother of the empress, thus, an uncle to Ian and Ingrid.
“The Duke of Lindegor is your uncle. Isn’t he your ally then?”
“Did you hear anything I said? I’ve only seen him once in my life. What reason is there for me to be on good terms with him? And do you know how many times, over hundreds of years, that another family got involved in the imperial family’s affairs over such a reason? Lindegor is different from Pendragon. They have no loyalty to the imperial family.”
Ian’s voice became somewhat elevated.
His words were true.
Since the founding of the empire, the Pendragon family had continued to maintain close ties with the royal family. However, the Lindegor family had walked down an independent path that was separate from the royal family. They had no reason to show loyalty and fidelity to the royal family.
“Stop getting angry, and think. If you came out to greet me because of Lindegor, then you must already have something in mind.
Ian was biting his lips rather restlessly. He hesitated for a moment and raised his head at Raven’s calm voice. He came to face Raven’s serene, blue eyes. Ian let out a sigh.
“Phew, I don’t know if you are just bold or indifferent… Anyways, you are right. You would have already guessed, but I came straight to you without going to Roxan’s cat. I don’t plan on going to the brown bear either.”
“Hmm, are you planning to draw a blatant line? That the royal family… No, that Ian Aragon stands with only Pendragon?”
“Yes, that way, you get power, and I get power. If they want to approach the buffoon prince, a prime candidate for crown prince, they will have to go through Pendragon. If they want to know about Pendragon, they have to go through me.”
“If you and I take turns and judge those who approach…”
Raven muttered in a small voice, and Ian nodded with a smirk.
“I have to give it to you, you have a pretty good head. That’s right. We will be able to sort out those who really care about the imperial family and the empire. In addition, the allies and the enemies of the Pendragon family.”
“Hmm, I have to say the same for you. You really are quite competent.”
Raven was genuinely impressed.
It had been less than an hour since the news of his and Duke Lindegor’s arrival spread throughout the capital.
In that short period of time, Ian planned around the unexpected variable of the Duke of Lindegor, then came to see him. It was a clear indication of how cool-headed the prince was, even though most people knew him to be eccentric with an unpredictable personality.
“Complimenting me? You seem to have grown up a little.”
Ian grinned at Raven’s words.
Just as Raven was impressed, Ian shared the same thoughts.
‘This guy is certainly worth walking the same path with. He will be facing the emperor and the Duke of Lindegor for the first time, but he is managing to remain so calm. Ha, do I really need to send Ingrid his way? But I wonder where she is right now?’
Ian solidified his intentions to make Raven his brother-in-law without considering the other party’s opinions.
“Hey, you over there.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
The maids politely answered.
“Go find out where Princess Ingrid is and what she is doing. If you manage to find her, tell her that I am looking for her.”
“Yes, as you wish, Your Highness.”
The maids bowed deeply, then quickly exited the room without making any noise.
Ian looked at Raven with satisfaction, but Raven’s face wasn’t so bright.
“Why are you calling the princess? We’ll see each other soon anyway.”
“Yeah, like you say, you will meet her anyways. So what’s the harm in meeting her sooner? You think I’m doing this because I like it? Ingrid has been harassing a liaison officer several times a day since she heard what you did in Edgel.”
“Where is he now? Does Alice’s High Lord not intend to take revenge on him? Should we not send the imperial army…? Or maybe we should hire mercenaries on a large scale from the imperial castle and have them escort him…? Blah, blah, blah. My god, you would think that she’s trying to take care of her runaway husband… What an eyesore.”
Raven’s expression continued to turn awkward as Ian spoke. He had clearly expressed his position towards Ingrid at the villa. It was almost to the point where he thought he might have been a bit too harsh. But why was she still acting like that?
Ian grinned. He enjoyed seeing Raven in such a difficult predicament.
‘Kekkue! That’s your weakness.’
Alan Pendragon had an incredibly calm and sharp mind which was unbefitting of his young age, but he was completely oblivious to a woman’s mind.
In a way, it was cute.
Raven frowned when he thought of Princess Ingrid, completely unaware of Prince Ian's mischievous thoughts. In actuality, Raven was close to thirty and older than Ian, but the younger man was considering Raven to be adorable.
A bright sound resounded. The jade-sewn curtains were lifted and maids came into the room, following behind Irene and Lindsay.
“Brother, I have brewed some tea.”
“Even though it’s winter, the fruits are in excellent condition, Your Grace.”
The sordid smile instantly disappeared from Ian’s face when he saw Irene and Lindsay. The two ladies placed a silver tray containing refreshments with twinkling eyes.
“Ehem! Lady Irene, do you have any tea for me?”
“What? Oh, I am not too familiar with Your Highness’ tastes. Your tea was personally prepared by the head maid.”
Ian’s face distorted when he recalled the face of Baroness Kelly. She was a friend of his mother and had always been particularly strict with him since he was young. But because he was in front of Irene, he managed to stop himself from cursing. He licked his lips and shook his head.
Then Ian noticed a figure and voiced his curiosity.
“But who are the rest of your companions? The old man should be the fighter named Argos, and the young man… I remember seeing him up until this spring as a jester…”
Raven cut off Ian’s words with a cold voice.
“Not a jester. Leon Johnbolt is a squire of the Pendragon family, and the guardian fighter of Irene and Lindsay.”
Ian’s eyes widened and Leon’s shoulders trembled. The young man had been standing quietly, acting faithful to his duty thus far.
His lord had called him a member of the Pendragon family in front of the royal prince.
“Hmm, well, I know you have your own circumstances, but it might be a bit difficult to take him in under you when he’s worked in the imperial castle…”
Naturally, that wasn’t really the case, but Ian wanted to see how Raven would react.
But the answer came from someone else.
“Sir Johnbolt risked his own life and helped me, Your Highness. If Sir Johnbolt didn’t help me back then… I would… I would be in big troub…. Heuk!”
Irene spoke with trembling shoulders, then cried softly with her head slightly turned to the side. Irene Pendragon’s appearance was truly the pinnacle of innocence and evoked sympathy.
Both Raven and Ian opened their mouths slightly at her words.
Well, Raven opened his mouth because he was stunned by the near-perfect performance, but for Ian…
“What! Who dares to cause trouble for Lady Pendragon! Who is it!? I will personally grind on their bones and…”
“Heukheuk! I’m fine now, Your Highness Ian. Anyways, if it weren’t for Sir Johnbolt, it could have been disastrous. He has been taking good care of me since that day. He is a very reliable squire of our Pendragon Duchy.”
Irene placed emphasis on certain words, and she took on a heartbreaking expression that would surely arouse sympathy in anyone.
Ian slowly turned towards Leon.
Leon’s thick, stubborn lips and strong eyes made for a quite fierce appearance.
Ian slowly rose from his seat and approached Leon.
Leon felt unbelievably anxious when such an esteemed figure approached him. Prince Ian wasn't someone he dared raise his head in front of during the banquets of the imperial castle.
“When I’m not present in the future, protect Lady Irene Pendragon with your life. Got it?”
“Ye, yes! Your Highness! I will keep that in mind forever!”
Leon shouted in a quivering voice, and Ian patted him on the shoulder before sitting back down. He spoke to Raven.
“It is a little difficult for a prince to instate an official of the imperial castle, but it’s possible to dismiss someone in the wrong. Even though he was a jester of the imperial castle, he ran away, so I’m going to dismiss him right here. It’s up to you whether you grill him or boil him. Do whatever you want.”
Ian jerked his head away like an angry man, and a faint smile appeared around Raven’s mouth.
“…Thanks. I won’t forget.”
“No need to thank me…”
“Sob! Thank you so much, Your Highness Ian. I, Irene, am truly touched by your generosity and benevolence.”
“Ah, well… it’s…”
Ian’s face finally turned red when Irene looked at him with clasped hands and teary eyes.
A maid quietly walked into the room and carefully announced.
“Her Royal Highness, First Princess Ingrid has arrived.”
Raven anxiously turned his gaze.
Raven’s eyes grew a little larger.
Along with the clear sound of the jade curtains, the surrounding area seemed to brighten up.
“How have you been, Your Grace Pendragon?”
Even though the season had only changed twice, Princess Ingrid seemed to have matured a few years. She greeted Raven with an elegant smile, and the two finally reunited.Previous Chapter Next Chapter