Chapter 147

“Well then, I will go take a look.”

“Take care of yourself. He looks like he’s from the countryside, so make sure you tell him that you’ll keep the sword safely stowed away.”

“Don’t worry.”

Baron Alion spoke with a sigh, and Graham grinned before coming down from the balcony. 

Graham walked through the guards who were watching the man with nervous eyes and soon arrived in front of the strange man. The strange man was gulping loudly while staring at a woman’s buttocks in front of him.

“Excuse me.”

“Heup!”

When Graham suddenly initiated a conversation with him, the man turned his head in surprise, then smiled awkwardly.

“Um, are you talking to me?”

“That’s right. Are you here to attend the grand banquet?”

“Grand banquet? Oh, there was a banquet in the castle today? Ah, no wonder there are so many beautiful ladies…”

As the man stroked his chin with a surprised expression, Graham was finally convinced. It was clear that the strange man was a hillbilly who came to the capital to sightsee. He must have been wandering around and unknowingly ended up in front of the imperial castle’s gates.

“I apologize, but today is the day of the grand banquet that is personally hosted by the emperor himself. No one without an invitation is allowed in, so I think it might be better for you to turn back.”

Originally, access was not normally granted anyways unless one had a valid reason or was from a prestigious noble family on the level of the high lords. Nevertheless, Graham did not treat him recklessly because the eyes of the nobles around them were heading towards him. 

As a knight of the imperial castle’s gate, Graham was very proud and responsible. He wanted to show politeness and respect regardless of who he was dealing with.

“Oh, that’s a bit problematic. I have come to the imperial castle to see someone.”

Graham sighed gently at the words of the confused man. The knights from the countryside always had the same repertoire, it was always too obvious. 

Ten times out of ten, they were here to meet the emperor, to become a faithful sword of the empire. 

“His Majesty is a busy man, and there are many outstanding knights by his side. If you give me your name and your family, I can put you on the list wand…”

“Huh? What are you talking about? I am not here to see the emperor.”

Graham became a little annoyed as the strange man cut off his words. Even though he had tried to explain as calmly as possible and was showing the man respect, the strange man had ignored his consideration. 

“Phew…! Then who are you here to meet?”

“His Excellency Duke Pendragon.”

“Heuk!”

Graham became startled and let out a gasp at hearing the unexpected name.

“Ohhh!”

A burst of exclamations could be heard from all over the place.

Duke Pendragon, a man of high reputation who recently stirred up the entire empire. 

Furthermore, all of the people who were here to attend the banquet were already aware of the events that had transpired at the White Palace earlier today. Apparently, the emperor had finally shown himself and conversed with Duke Pendragon, going as far as to show favor to him. 

In addition, the empress had personally invited Duke Pendragon to the Golden Rose Palace, one of the most secretive residences in the castle.

The name of Pendragon changed the expressions of the nobles that were observing the situation. At first, they were enjoying the situation as if they were waiting to see a comedy play out, then they took on astonished expressions. 

“Well, my apologies, but your name is…?” Graham asked cautiously just in case.

The man proudly raised up his head and laughed boisterously before replying loudly.

“Mark Killian. I am the head knight of the Pendragon Duchy.”

“Ah…!”

Only five members from the Pendragon family were said to have entered the palace, including Duke Pendragon. Among the other four, except for Duke Pendragon’s sister and his concubine, the other two were a shabby one-armed horseman and an imperial clown.

Compared to the other noble families that brought dozens of knights and soldiers, it was an incredibly shabby entourage for a prestigious duchy. Thus, it was natural for the nobles to show curiosity when the country bumpkin in front of them claimed to be a knight of the Pendragon family.

“Forgive me for my rudeness, Sir Killian. However, as you probably know, you must prove your identity. Moreover, I have not received any words from His Excellency Pendragon regarding your arrival.”

“Haha! Of course, I understand. Here it is.”

Killian laughed heartily at Graham’s polite words, then pulled out his identification token. The rectangular plate decorated with silver was stamped with the seal of the Pendragon Duchy. It was authentic, no doubt about it.

“Confirmed. Over there.”

Graham called a royal guard and whispered in his ear. The guard nodded quickly, then entered through the gate.

“For now, I have informed Duke Pendragon that you have arrived. We will take you inside. Let us go in.”

“Sounds good.”

*** 

The news regarding Mark Killian’s arrival quickly spread through the imperial castle. At a time when almost all the nobles were scrutinizing every move of Duke Pendragon, the arrival of his knight aroused great curiosity among many people. Of course, not everyone was happy to hear the news.

“What?”

Count Sagunda furrowed his brows.

“Yes, Your Excellency. A man who calls himself the head knight of the Pendragon Duchy has just entered the palace. His name is Mark Killian.”

“By any chance, was he alone? He did not bring anyone with him?”

“Yes, he was alone. I have already received confirmation from the guards at the Wall of Glory. I am certain.”

“Hmm…”

Count Sagunda murmured after sitting back down in his chair.

“The head knight of the duchy came all the way to the capital by himself, and is now entering the palace? This is suspicious…”

Then, the noble spoke cautiously once again.

“Your Excellency, I heard that Mark Killian has served the Pendragon Duchy for the longest time and is their most loyal knight.”

“So?”

“Duke Pendragon left for the imperial castle without saying a word, and Lady Irene ran away from home without permission, right? They might have sent one of the knights to quietly bring her back to the castle without causing a commotion.”

“Well, it certainly could be. Even so, it’s still a little suspicious.”

Count Sagunda nodded, his face still full of suspicion.

“Your Excellency, we have received a report from the crows.”

A knight rushed in and reported.

“Really? What is it?”

Count Sagunda’s eyes glimmered. The mercenaries he hired to spy on the Pendragon Duchy had reported back. 

“The knight named Mark Killian left the duchy, but he was alone. Moreover, there has not been any movements from Conrad Castle.”

“Ho! That is a relief.”

Count Sagunda finally showed relief. 

If the knight named Mark Killian had brought along Ruv Tylen to testify in front of the emperor about the attempted assassination of Crown Prince Shio, it was highly likely that the situation would turn for the worst. However, neither Duke Pendragon nor Mark Killian brought along Ruv Tylen.

“Hoo-hoo. It seems you still have a brain. If you rush out your trump card, it could disappear in an instant…”

A sly smile caught the ears of Count Sagunda. 

If Ruv Tylen died, everything was over. If the only person capable of providing evidence to Duke Pendragon and Prince Ian’s testimonies died, then all their attempts would become dust. 

Therefore, mercenaries and assassins were deployed around the neck of every road leading in and out of the Pendragon Duchy. No matter how heavily guarded he would be, Ruv Tylen would die the moment he left the duchy. In the end, it was clear that Duke Pendragon had chosen not to bring Ruv Tylen because he knew of this as well.

“But that will be your biggest, most painful mistake, little dragon…”

The eyes of Count Sagunda glowed as he prepared himself to push Duke Pendragon over the edge.

*** 

“M, my lord! Congratulations! You have finally become the true master of Pendragon!”

As soon as Raven entered with Ian, Killian went down on one knee, unable to restrain his passion. 

“Everyone, you may leave.”

All the others left the room at the words of Ian.

“Well then. What is going on? What about Ruv Tylen?”

Ian hurriedly asked. Ian had expected Ruv Tylen to have come as well when he heard that someone had come to the imperial castle. 

On the contrary, Raven had already guessed something as soon as he heard about Killian’s arrival at the imperial castle. He spoke calmly.

“Enough with the greetings. Sir Killian, did Sir Ron send you?”

“Ah, yes. That’s right! First, this…”

Killian hurriedly searched his bosom and took something out. It was a well-sealed letter that was rolled up. Raven silently read the letter, then spoke to Ian, who was looking at him with curiosity.

“What is the likelihood that Sagunda will make a move today at the grand banquet?”

“It is very high. I heard that he’s been all over the place, trying to meet as many people as possible. Moreover, rumors have already spread that your knight was alone when he arrived. This will be the best opportunity for Sagunda.”

Ian frowned anxiously. According to the plan, someone was supposed to have brought in Ruv Tylen. Only then could he be used as a witness to publicize the relation between the assassination attempt on Crown Prince Shio and the rebellion.

But Killian had come alone.

“All the officials will be there, as well as His Majesty. Ruv Tylen, the only witness, will not be there, so he knows you will not be able to bring up the matter regarding Shio. He will consider it the best opportunity to bring up what you did in Edgel and take the initiative.”

“I see. Well, that’s great.”

Raven nodded lightly and stood up from his seat.

“Great? What do you mean?” Ian frowned in confusion.

Raven did not answer immediately. He walked to the window and looked up at the night sky before asking a question.

“The raccoon from my family that we took in a while ago. Do you remember?”

“Raccoon? Are you talking about the knight named Vincent Ron?”

Raven changed the topic suddenly and brought up Vincent out of the blue, but Ian recalled that Vincent had dispatched Killian here. He sensed there was something more.

“Yes. I guess it’s true that geniuses can see a thousand miles away while sitting.”

Raven spoke in a quiet voice, and he had a subtle smile at the edge of his lips. Only the white, cold full moon could be seen reflecting off of his tranquil eyes.

*** 

The Golden Lion Hall. A huge space that was about 100 yards wide and 170 yards long.

The heroes of the past centuries decorated the high ceiling, and the dozens of elegant, golden chandeliers brightened the hall like the day. Along with the White Palace, the Golden Lion Hall was considered one of the most spectacular locations in the imperial castle. The hall, which displayed its brilliant splendor, was filled with male and female nobles.

Hundreds of nobles stood in groups of twos and threes. They chatted while the imperial orchestra, consisting of about 30 members dressed in red and white robes, played elegant melodies.

The higher-ranking nobles, including those belonging to the families of high lords, sat in tables that were placed on the balconies to the left and right sides of the hall. 

However, regardless of whether they were sitting or standing, all of the nobles present at the grand banquet shared similar interests.

“His Excellency Duke Lindegor has not arrived yet, has he?”

A woman in her early 30s looked around the hall. A young noble, who was dressed in an old fashion, answered with an arrogant smirk.

“Haha, since it is Viscountess Tyrone’s first time at the grand banquet, you might not know. They will enter just before His Majesty the Emperor enters.”

“Ah! Then His Excellency Duke Pendragon will be entering around the same time?”

At the words of one lady, the other ladies turned their heads around with glittering eyes full of anticipation. 

“Well, I guess so.”

The young nobleman realized all the attention had moved away from him and licked his lips in vain. However, he did not feel any jealousy. He could not compare himself to Duke Pendragon, who possessed a much higher status and considerable reputation. 

He had also asked his cousin for a spot at the banquet in order to try to make himself known to Duke Pendragon as well. 

At that time, the elegantly flowing melody gradually quieted down, then started up again in a grand tune. It was a song that spoke of the stories of the founding of the empire by the first Emperor Aragon. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned around as the “Legend of the Golden Lion” resounded throughout the hall.

“His Excellency, Duke Lindegor!”

The men took off their hands and the women grabbed the hem of their dresses as they bowed. With the music in full swing, Duke Lindegor entered with his following of knights. The knights were dressed in red dress coats and adorned with purple robes embroidered with the crest of the Lindegor family.

When Duke Lindegor sat down on his designated seat, a voice resounded once more.

“His Excellency, Duke Pendragon!”

In an instant, hundreds of pairs of eyes gathered in one place.

“Oohhh!”

Contrasting with Duke Linegor’s appearance, low exclamations flowed from all over the place. The young duke, the protagonist of the various rumors, had finally shown himself in front of the numerous nobles that were gathered in the heart of the empire.

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