Even if that were not the case, the empire would fall into disorder for around a dozen years or so. The two wars would require more than half of the imperial army to be mobilized, and it was almost obvious that small and large revolts would take place in the cracks.
It was a huge dilemma.
There was only one realistic solution, and it was to enthrone a new emperor. Moreover, the emperor had to be the one most suitable for the future of the empire, even if the said person were to come from outside the direct line.
“But Your Majesty, regarding Baroness Earlin…”
Count Jean Granite hesitated in speaking about the emperor’s concubine. It would be stepping over his boundaries.
“I know. I had no other choice if I wanted to appease Sagunda. He was furious after I sent Elena to Gordon. Jean, Angie is a good woman.”
“My apologies, Your Majesty.”
Count Granite hurriedly bowed his head with his hand laid on his pommel.
“No need. Playing around with Arangis is another matter entirely from Sagunda sending Angie to me.”
The emperor’s voice sank heavily.
Baroness Angie Earlin was Geoffrey’s mother, and also a relative of Count Sagunda. However, Count Sagunda had been in frequent contact with the Duke of Arangis since a few years ago.
Hence if Geoffrey Aragon, who had such a background, was coronated as the crown prince, it was obvious that Ian Aragon would not stand idle as the most powerful candidate for crown prince. Ian Aragon wanted revenge for his brother, so there was no way in hell he would let possible perpetrators ascend the throne.
“It would be best to get rid of Ian’s stubbornness. But it won’t mean anything unless we can handle the issue with Shio. I, too, cannot forgive the unacceptable act as a father, but the future of the empire is more important than my own problems. Isn’t it impossible to undo what has already happened?”
The emperor’s voice was steady and calm.
Count Granite’s heart throbbed.
The giant walking in front of him was agonizing over the future of the empire despite the boiling anger that stemmed from the poisoning of his eldest son.
“So I, as the emperor, need to think about the future, both as Shio’s father, and as the master of the great empire.”
The emperor suddenly stopped his slow steps and spoke in a low voice as he looked around a wide garden that marked the beginning of the inner castle.
“Those who can fulfill my wishes… Right now, he’s the most probable.”
Count Granite shifted his eyes towards where the emperor was gazing at.
There were five statues in a pentagonal shape, surrounding a statue of a golden lion in the middle. A hazy smile appeared on the emperor’s mouth as he looked at the statue of a dragon with its wings spread wide, which was made of white jade.
After the emperor’s departure, the officials and the nobles left the palace like a tidal wave, but their gazes all headed to a certain place as they exited — a shabby-looking group that only had five members, unlike the other noble families that were accompanied by dozens of personnel.
But the eyes of the nobles no longer contained ridicule or doubt as they looked towards the young man clad in the silver-white armor.
He was no longer a brat from the moment he conversed with the emperor and received a pat on the shoulder.
He now stood at the pinnacle of the countless noble families that supported the emperor. Alan Pendragon was now a true duke of the empire.
The ridicules that were directed at him turned to fear, and curiosity became favor. Everyone recognized that the driving whirlpool of the empire’s future rested on the shoulders of the young duke.
“What do we do in the future?”
“Huh! What do you mean? Did you not see how His Majesty acted towards Duke Pendragon?”
“Exactly. We need to make the best impression at today’s banquet. Darn it, it’s a shame all of my daughters have already married off.”
“But I thought he already had a concubine. How much adoration do you need to have that you would bring her to the imperial castle? In addition, rumor has it that Princess Ingrid is madly in love with Duke Pendragon.”
“It’s not a big deal for a duke to have a few concubines. I hear that his current concubine is originally a maid from Conrad Castle. Even among concubines, there’s a world of difference between a commoner and a noble.”
“Hoo-hoo! I have already brought my nieces to the capital.”
While there were nobles discussing Raven with approving gazes, it wasn’t true for everybody.
“Tsk! I was caught off guard. To think His Majesty would come out like that.”
“But it’s not like he’s appointed a new crown prince today, right?”
A group of nobles whispered while stealing glimpses at Raven. They spoke to a dwarf-sized, middle-aged noble who was wearing a gold-embroidered coat and four large jewel-encrusted rings on both hands.
“Yes, thank goodness. His Majesty has basically given you a grace period. Wouldn’t you agree, Your Excellency Sagunda?”
At a nobleman’s subtle words, the Count of Leus stroked his goat beard and nodded while moving his steps.
“I saw it right away. That’s the most important thing. Those idiots might be thinking that it’s all over, but the most important decision has not been made. All we have to do now is…”
Count Sagunda’s eyes shone sharply and he turned his gaze.
“We need to figure out the brown bear’s intentions first. A lot will change depending on how he chooses to act.”
Duke Lindegor was walking along leisurely, even though he had just suffered the humiliation of silence from the emperor, even though it was the first time he visited in more than 20 years. The nobles looked confused as they gazed at the duke.
“You are right… But it is truly difficult to figure out what’s going on inside Lord Lindegor’s mind, including his relationship with his sister, the empress.”
“Huh, isn’t it your jobs to figure that out? What do you think would happen to our great empire if the position fell to that buffoon prince? All that would be left is chaos.”
The nobles looked around with awkward faces at the words of Count Sagunda, which carried subtle anger.
Even though Sagunda called it chaos, it was really referring to his own demise and the demise of the nobles that were present. The foundations and the power of the nobles would be shaken.
“We can’t wait until the banquet. We must meet with Duke Lindegor and the heirs of the great territories, including His Grace Roxan. We need to figure out where they stand and try to pull them over to our side.”
“That’s right. It’s a good thing that the baby dragon happened to cause a ruckus in Edgel. Many High Lords were quite shaken by the incident and are concerned with the behaviors of Prince Ian and the Pendragon family.
The nobles nodded together in agreement.
Count Sagunda continued coldly while maintaining a sharp glare towards Raven.
“No one knows if that will work out in our favor or not. Even though they are considered weak, the High Lords of Seyrod and Bresia have already turned to their side. From what I hear, Lord Elven, the Governor-General of Edenfield, has shown great favorability to Duke Pendragon in Edgel as well.”
The nobles became wide-eyed.
Although he was not a High Lord, Iron Elven was one of the imperial army’s military commanders and governor-general of the fortress city of Edenfield. He was quite reputable with the imperial family, as well as with many young nobles.
Out of the hundreds of the prestigious nobles that were suitable to be called lord, Iron Elven would definitely rank in the top fifty.
“This is quite alarming. I think we should quickly meet with the great territories’ heirs.”
The nobles following Count Sagunda fussed.
Someone ran towards them in a hurry.
“M, my lord! Your Excellency Sagunda! Did you hear?”
“Hmm? What do you mean, Lord Mereen?”
The noble named Mereen spat out a response at Count Sagunda’s frown.
“It’s about the residence of Duke Pendragon and his followers!”
“Hmph! It should be the Hundred Silver Palace. The dukes of the empire and their direct descendants always stay there when they visit the imperial castle…”
“It’s not the Hundred Silver Palace. T, they will be staying in the Golden Rose Palace. The empress has personally invited the Duke of Pendragon and his group to the Golden Rose Palace!”
Count Sagunda and the nobles displayed shock.
The Golden Rose Palace was a small castle that was located in the deepest parts of the imperial castle. It was composed of six spires and thirty-six rooms, both small and large.
It was the residence of the royal family’s direct descendants, designated in particular for the princesses. The fact that the empress called someone to reside in such a place meant…
“D, don’t tell me… Is she planning on giving Princess Ingrid to Duke Pendragon…?”
Count Sagunda’s face became deeply distorted.
Lindsay took on a blank expression.
The small castle was located in the deepest parts of the imperial castle. The granite floor leading to the castle was impeccably coordinated, and a small creek divided the castle from other parts of the larger castle. It was as beautiful as a painting.
The structure was surrounded by a gorgeous garden. Even though it was winter, there were green, luscious vines that covered the decorative stones. A trail lined the sides of the stream, and following the trail, there were small, charming ponds as well as fountains decorated with various sculptures.
Behind the beautiful sight, a golden palace stood tall, guarded by a statue of a golden lion in the front. Six three-story towers stood to the sides of the golden palace.
Even though Raven was not usually surprised, he was quite amazed at the sight of the palace, which radiated the colors of green and gold. It was hard to imagine such a sight, especially considering the current season.
“Please come this way, Your Excellency Duke Pendragon. The empress is waiting.”
The group moved along at the words of the head maid, Baroness Kelly.
They passed a small silver bridge placed over the clear, transparent stream, and a group of royal guards that guarded the entrance of the palace raised their halberds in a military salute.
Unlike other places, the guards placed here carried swords, and most of them looked a little older.
“The Royal Guards of the Golden Rose Palace are all married. As the residence of princesses, it’s a little worrisome to deploy young, single soldiers.”
The party nodded their heads at the whispers of Baroness Kelly.
Leon added on with a whisper in Raven’s ears.
“The Royal Guards of the inner palace are all from noble families, my lord. Among those who served for three years in the external palace, those from noble families become eligible to take a test to become an inner guard. They need to have outstanding swordsmanship skills to be accepted as an inner guard.”
“I see. What about the Royal Knights?”
Raven’s interests were piqued by the Royal Knights he saw in the White Palace.
It was clear that the commander, Count Jean Granite, was an excellent knight, as well as the other members of the Royal Knights. From their restrained attitudes and the glares in their eyes, it seemed that the skills of each Royal Knight were no less than Killian, although they might be a little lesser than the skills of Isla.
“After passing the exam to become an inner guard, one has to serve as five years as an inner guard to become eligible to undertake an exam to become a Royal Knight. They have a spar with three different Royal Knights using real swords, and they must last for more than thirty trades with each of the knights in order to pass.”
“Hmm, that sounds quite difficult. I imagine that the guards of the imperial castle rarely see action.”
“Yes. That is why there are more than 30 applicants each year, but only one or two succeed in passing the exam. There are many years when there are no successful candidates as well. On the contrary, there are more imperial knights that are recruited to the Royal Knights after greatly contributing on the battlefield. Their captain, Count Jean Granite, also originates from the northern army.”
Imperial knights, especially those that served in the north or participated in the southern territory conflict – they were real knights who survived through actual battles.
The high lords and their direct lineage were self-claimed knights of the emperor, but they were no match for the knights of the imperial army.
In particular, the northern army was still engaged in a battle with the barbarians in the northern mountain range. They were a symbol of strength even within the imperial army.
Furthermore, even Ivan Jitter, whom only Raven knew about in this timeline, originally stemmed from the northern army. The man was a deserter of the northern army, and he would soon rally hundreds of northern mercenaries before sweeping the land of the barbarians. He would one day be known as the Red Wolf of the grasslands.
‘Hmm, come to think of it…’
While thinking about Ivan Jitter, Raven recalled Count Jean Granite. If Granite served for a long time in the northern army, he might know about Ivan Jitter as well.
‘I’ll have to ask.’
It was entirely possible for Ian to introduce him to Count Jean Granite.
Raven continued to follow Baroness Kelly, and the group stopped in front of the Golden Rose Palace’s main building. The guards pulled open the large stone gate of the main building, and two women walked out, accompanied by dozens of maids.
One was, needless to say, Princess Ingrid.
She had left after exchanging light greetings with Raven in the Thistle Palace, and now she had changed into a new dress.
Raven was quite amazed at her beauty, which was more splendid compared to the first time he saw her. But her gaze felt quite burdensome, so Raven subtly moved his gaze over to the figure who was standing next to Ingrid.
Raven’s eyes widened in surprise.
A woman wearing a dark, purple dress with a pure golden crown resting on her finely twisted blonde hair.
“Welcome, Duke Pendragon, ladies of Pendragon.”
She greeted the group with a voice that was as gentle as her appearance.
It was Rosetta Aragon, the sister of Duke Lindegor and the Empress of the Aragon Empire.Previous Chapter Next Chapter