Chapter 153

Fwoosh!

Two blurry figures instantly appeared in front of Count Sagunda as he attempted to get between the emperor and Ruv Tylen.

Thwack! 

“Gwagh!”

With a dull sound, Count Sagunda dropped a fist-sized dagger from his palms and fell to his knees. The identity of one of the blurs was Count Jean Granite, and he kicked the dagger away after knocking down Count Sagunda.

Then, he looked up towards the other blur with a surprised expression. The other man had instantly appeared behind Count Sagunda and struck him on the back of the neck. It was Elkin Isla, the knight of the Pendragon Duchy who had maintained an impassive expression during the entire time after entering the Lion Hall. Even now, he maintained his cold gaze as he subdued Sagunda.

“Sheathe your sword, Sir Granite.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

Count Granite retrieved his sheathe which he had used to strike Sagunda’s wrists. 

“Cough! Cough!”

The emperor looked down at Count Sagunda as the man drooled in an ugly manner.

“Do you understand the significance of your actions just now, Lord Sagunda?”

“Keugh….”

Count Sagunda raised his head. His face was covered with tears in pain.

“Your Majesty, this is… This man is… No, I, I…”

Count Sagunda spoke gibberish with a soulless expression.

“……”

The emperor silently gazed at the count.

It was hard to understand.

Sagunda was not an incompetent fool. As much as he was greedy, he was smart and he always maintained his composure in any circumstance. He was a man who would do anything to maintain his own safety and preserve his power. So why would he resort to such a brainless action in front of so many nobles, especially in front of his royal self?

“……!”

A glimmer finally appeared in the emperor’s eyes. It seemed as if he finally understood why Count Sagunda made such a decision just now.

“Did Lord Sagunda instigate you?”

Ruv Tylen was observing the whole situation unfold with a dazed look, then became startled and hurriedly nodded his head up and down at the emperor’s question.

“Y, y, yes, Your Majesty! The seal on the letter I received from the mercenaries, without a doubt, it belonged to Count Sagunda!”

“Ah….!”

Once again, the entire hall drew in a sharp breath of shock at Ruv Tylen’s words. The man who was responsible for the attempted assassination was found to be none other than the governor of Leus, the second largest port city in the entire empire. A man who could be considered one of the top ten nobles in the political circle had committed the high crime of attempting to assassinate the crown prince. 

Now it was obvious that all of his relatives and kin, as well as anyone who had any connection to Count Sagunda, would not be able to avoid the fiery storm that was sure to descend. As if to prove the point, the faces of the nobles who had been frequently in contact with Count Sagunda slowly turned pale.

An eerily silent confusion descended on the Lion Hall. After sinking into a brief moment of thought, the emperor lifted his head and turned his head.

“Duke Pendragon.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

The two men shared a short look. Even though it was only for a moment, it was clear that the two came to the same conclusion.

“…..Uagh!”

A sudden groan broke the silence and caught everyone’s attention.

“Hmm!”

Raven and the emperor displayed shock. Count Sagunda had his fist to his neck with his eyes flipped open, revealing only the whites.

“No…!”

Sagunda’s face quickly turned blue and his body shook ceaselessly. Count Jean Granite hurried to his side and supported him. Soon, Count Sagunda’s fist fell from his neck, and his hand went limp.

Dark red droplets began to paint the surroundings of his neck. After observing Sagunda’s neck, Count Granite looked up with a darkened expression.

“…His ring contained a poisoned needle.”

Count Sagunda’s face continued to darken until it became black, and his mouth foamed with dark, red, bubbles.

“Keugh! Keu….”

After a few final convulsions, the movements finally ceased. 

“……”

The truth of a treasonous act was revealed at the grand banquet of the imperial castle. Furthermore, the criminal had even committed suicide in front of the emperor, and the nobles could only stare in shock with ghastly expressions. 

Several royal guards hurriedly recovered his body, and Count Granite spoke in a somber voice.

“My apologies, Your Majesty. I never thought he would be carrying such a device in his ring…”

“No, it’s not your fault.”

The emperor shook his head.

The duty of Count Jean Granite, the captain of the Royal Knights, was to escort the emperor and to ensure his safety. If Count Sagunda had attempted to attack the emperor, he would have been instantly crushed before by Count Granite before he could make a move.

However, after his attempt to kill Tylen failed, Count Sagunda had proceeded to touch the back of his neck as if to stroke the place where Isla had attacked him.

No one could have anticipated that he was actually committing suicide with a ring-mounted sting.

The emperor raised his stiff face. The nobles of the Aragon Empire did not dare meet his eyes and hurriedly bowed their heads.

“The banquet is over. Everyone may return.”

“As your will, Your Majesty!”

“As your will!”

The nobles bowed their heads and shouted in one voice. After turning around, the emperor started to walk back towards where he had come from, then suddenly stopped next to someone.

“I think we need to have a talk. Come to my office along with Ian.”

“…Yes, Your Majesty.”

Raven responded with a somber expression.

After patting Raven on the shoulders, the emperor was escorted away by the royal guards along with the empress.

“T, that will wrap up the grand banquet today! The pillars of our great empire are to each…”

Even before the announcement was over, the nobles hurried out of the Lion Hall in small and large groups. Everyone turned away from the body of Count Sagunda and did their best to avoid glancing in its direction. However, a considerable number of people stole glances at someone else as they left -- a young duke who looked down at the body of Count Sagunda with quiet eyes.

‘The tide is…’

‘Now leaning towards that man.’

Everyone could now recognize that the small wind that blew from the periphery had gained momentum and finally evolved into a huge typhoon that was capable of shaking the entire Aragon Empire.

*** 

After sending everyone from the Pendragon family back to the Golden Rose Palace, Raven stood in front of the royal office. The chief of staff, who had personally guided him, knocked on the doors that were guarded by two soldiers.

“Your Majesty, Duke Pendragon has arrived.”

“Come in.”

The two Royal Knights opened the doors at the voice of the emperor.

Raven’s eyes narrowed as he walked into the royal office. 

Even though it had an elegant air, the office of the emperor was rather neat and simple, somewhat unexpected from the great master of the entire empire.

But Raven’s surprise wasn’t due to the appearance of the office. Rather, it was due to the group of people that were gathered inside the office.

Apart from the emperor, there were three more people present in the room.

The group was composed of Count Jean Granite, the head of the Royal Knights, Prince Ian, and Duke Lindegor.

Emperor Aragon was seated at the head of the long maple table which could seat dozens of people and Count Granite stood behind the emperor, while Duke Lindegor and Ian were seated to the left and right of the table.

“Sit down.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

Raven sat where the emperor gestured towards. Coincidentally, it was the seat opposite of Duke Lindegor. 

“I’ll get straight to the point. I think all of you are already aware of why I gathered everyone here.”

“……”

Raven, Ian, and Duke Lindegor nodded their head wordlessly.

“But I will ask again, just in case. Lasse, why do you think Sagunda acted in such a thoughtless way today?”

Only the emperor could address Duke Lindegor in such a casual manner. Duke Lindegor answered in a calm voice.

“It is highly likely that he lost his composure when he attempted to kill the man named Tylen. He must have been overcome by his nervousness. As soon as his name came out of Tylen’s mouth, it would have signaled the end for himself and his family.”

“I think so too. Ian and Alan, what do you two think?”

“I agree as well.”

Ian nodded his head in response, and Raven replied as well.

“Even so, his actions were too reckless. Sir Granite was present in the hall, as well as the captain of the griffon order. Even a fool would know that his actions were most futile. Furthermore, the Sagunda I know of was anything but a fool.”

“Hmm, your words have their merits. What are your thoughts, then?”

It felt as if the emperor was treating Raven as his own child or a nephew. However, Raven was not at all offended by the emperor’s attitude. Given that he took such an attitude in private, rather than in public, it was certain that the emperor considered himself and Duke Lindegor a part of his own family.

“Sagunda wouldn't have wanted any other names to come out of Ruv Tylen’s mouth. Perhaps the name of Sagunda’s conspirator, or the person who stands behind him.”

“Hmm… Are you saying that Sagunda acted in such a way to take all the blame onto himself?”

The emperor nodded his head while stroking his chin, and Duke Lindegor gazed at Raven with an expression of surprise.

“Yes, in the end, all of the nobles gathered today in Lion’s Hall witnessed Sagunda’s behavior. Everyone is bound to think that he acted in such a manner to prevent Ruv Tylen from speaking his own name.”

“Hmm…”

“Therefore, they will be prone to believe that he was the mastermind behind the assassination of Crown Prince Shio. But as you may already know, Your Majesty, Sagunda definitely did not act alone. He certainly has conspirators or instigators. And Sagunda… he must have been very afraid of them. That’s why he committed suicide.”

“Your thoughts align with mine.”

The emperor nodded his head with a solemn expression before continuing.

“It is as Alan said. Sagunda was not a foolish man. Besides, the man named Tylen hurriedly called out Sagunda’s name as if he had been waiting for the chance, deliberately taking his time until Sagunda took action. It was a golden opportunity to turn everything towards the one man.”

“Then shouldn’t we interrogate him right now?”

The emperor shook his head at Ian’s words.

“No, it’s of no use now. Today’s events have already transpired. Of course, if we interrogate him, we’re likely to get another name out of him. And in all likelihood…”

The emperor turned his head towards the group as if waiting for an answer, and Raven and Duke Lindegor both spoke at the same time.

“Duke Arangis…”

“That’s correct. He should be the one who is operating things behind the scenes, the one who is threatening the empire and trying to harm Shio.”

The emperor spoke in a quiet voice, but it contained boundless anger.

“There are already many rumors that I and the imperial army are pressuring Arangis excessively. If we connect Sagunda back to Arangis at this time, the situation in the south will certainly turn for the absolute worst. All but a few cities across the coast are under the control of Arangis. If they unite, my cities will be threatened.”

“……”

Everyone expressed sympathy with the emperor’s words by nodding their heads. The southern parts of the imperial territory had been devastated by conflict over the past 20 years. It had finally stabilized a few years ago, but the reality of the situation was a ticking time bomb that could set off at any movement. 

Furthermore, the majority of the powerful lords who secured the southern conflicts were blood allies who were loyal to the Arangis Duchy. 

Currently, they were in a rather amicable relationship with the emperor and the imperial army, especially because they were rather intimidated, but it was likely that they would instantly band under the flag of the Arangis Duchy if the emperor labeled Duke Arangis as a traitor and sent the imperial forces. 

Then, if the situation somehow caused a chain reaction to erupt into a series of riots in the east or the north, the entire empire would tumble down into chaos with large conflicts sweeping through its land. It was the worst possible outcome for the emperor and the empire.

“It is unfortunate, but only Sagunda and his immediate line should be held accountable for the treasonous crimes against Shio. However…”

The emperor’s spirit flared. He spoke in a furious voice, not attempting to conceal the boiling anger from his eyes. 

“We cannot overlook the guilt of shamelessly showing contempt for myself and the royal successor of the great empire. I will hold Arangis accountable. I swear on the name of Aragon.”

“…….”

The intense Spirit of the Emperor heated up the office. However, the four people who were gathered here were one of the only people who could maintain their composure under the emperor’s vast spirit.

“If I cannot personally punish him with the imperial army, then someone else can. However, Arangis is strong, and there are only a few who can challenge him, and even fewer that I trust…”

The emperor continued, turning his eyes towards a certain person.

“So, Duke Pendragon, I will leave it to you. For your loyalty towards Aragon, no… Would you take upon my personal favor?”

“……!”

Raven’s heart throbbed. He felt his blood start to boil at the emperor’s words. The master of the great empire was asking him, requesting of him. 

Raven nodded firmly after meeting the eyes of the emperor, which burned brightly due to his spirit.

“In the name of Pendragon, I will accomplish it.”

Previous Chapter Next Chapter