Chapter 154

“You can discuss the specifics with Ian.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

Raven and Ian left the emperor’s office.

Soon, only three people were left in the office – the emperor, Count Jean Granite, and Duke Lindegor.

“Do you believe that Duke Pendragon will be able to handle Arangis?”

The emperor smiled faintly at the words of Duke Lindegor.

“For now, I think it’s about 20 percent.”

“Hm…”

Lindegor narrowed his eyes slightly.

He himself also estimated the possibility of Duke Pendragon being able to handle Arangis around twenty or thirty percent. Furthemore, it also meant that there was only a sliver of a chance. But considering the words that the emperor had spoken to Duke Pendragon, combined with the faint smile he gave, Duke Lindegor was convinced that the emperor had something else on his mind, something that Lindegor was also thinking of.

“This foolish man seeks answers.”

“If you call yourself foolish, the entire world must be filled with only idiots.”

The emperor smiled at the words of Lindegor. He was certainly trying to gauge the emperor’s thoughts. The emperor continued.

“As you know, Pendragon will not be able to dispatch their troops to any other territories. For one thing, dispatching troops is an entirely different matter from territorial disputes.”

Duke Lindegor nodded wordlessly at the words of the emperor.

As the emperor said, it was a different matter for a large army to wage war on its own territory or on its borders compared to charging into another territory. It would be unfathomably unfavorable as they would not be aware of the foreign land’s geography, and since they wouldn’t know the local situations of the land as well. This would put them at a disadvantage.

Above all else, supply was the biggest issue.

The Arangis Duchy was located away from the imperial mainland, across the local seas on the small and large islands in the south, including Crete Island, the biggest island in the empire.

It would take an enormous amount of money to feed a large army of thousands for more than a few months. It would be a tough endeavor, even for the high lords. Moreover, the southern waters were crawling with pirates and orcs who would be allied with the Arangis Duchy. It would be a battle in itself to get supplies across the waters to the troops.

That was one of the crucial reasons why the emperor himself couldn’t hastily move the imperial army.

In the end, it was written as 20 percent, but read as nearly impossible. 

But still, the emperor voiced his opinion as twenty percent and never called it impossible. Duke Lindegor was convinced that the emperor had hope because he was thinking along the same lines as himself.

“You are planning to give ‘that place’ to Duke Pendragon.”

“Is there any other way?”

“No. I would have probably come to the same conclusion. But as you know, Your Majesty, foolish and greedy people may be dissatisfied with the decision.”

“What’s the difference? It shouldn’t matter anyway, since it will only be a temporary measure. Shouldn’t three years be enough?”

“…Pendragon is young and wise. In three years, he might devour it.”

“Maybe. But I cannot compare that one place with my entire empire.”

“……”

The Duke Lindegor attempted to speak, but then closed his mouth.

As if seeing through Duke Lindegor’s heart, the emperor smiled and responded.

“I know what you are worried about. However, I don’t think the young, wise dragon has thought that far yet. Moreover…”

The emperor blurred the ends of his words and turned his head towards the windows, where he stared out into the deep night with a hazy expression. He continued his words as he silently observed the night skies of the capital, where all kinds of greedy people resided.

“The young dragon seems to chase a different purpose. It isn't the kind of ambition you are worried about.”

“……”

Duke Lindegor did not affirm nor deny the emperor’s words.

He did not trust humans. Perhaps it was due to the influence of Angel Seiel, who had been with his family for generations. However, the emperor had seen far more schemes and plots as he reigned over the huge empire. If the emperor said so, then his own judgment was not important.

He only hoped that the young dragon would not harbor such ambitions after he grew stronger and more experienced. He could only hope.

The emperor soon smiled after a moment of silence.

“Above all else, Ian is by the side of Pendragon. He is my son, but he’s quite extraordinary. Ian will stop him if Pendragon gets any other ideas.”

“…Yes.”

Duke Lindegor thought inwardly that even the second prince wouldn’t be able to easily handle the dragon once it grew up, but he repressed his thoughts and smiled along with the emperor.

“Anyhow, the young dragon and Ian should be having a chat similar to our own conversation, wouldn’t you say? If you and I gauged him correctly, that is.”

“I think so as well.”

Duke Lindegor sincerely hoped so.

‘I only hope that his ambition only stretches to the place you mentioned…’

Of course, his hope had a slightly different meaning.

***

“What? You want to distribute the gold coins of the Pendragon Duchy throughout the empire? Furthermore, the gold content is 70 percent of imperial gold, but you want to maintain a distribution cost of 80 percent?”

Ian displayed shock.

“Yes.”

“Tsk, aren’t you just saying you want to take everything for free?”

The empire did not use foreign gold coins that contained less gold than imperial gold. In addition, usage of unrecognized currency within the empire always resulted in execution without trial.

“It’s not technically free. His Majesty told me to confront Arangis. Money? Troops? Do you think the Pendragon Duchy has anything that is comparable to Arangis?”

“Hmm….”

Ian had no words to retort, so he could only frown.

Certainly, it seemed impossible for the Pendragons to stand against the Arangis Duchy, let alone two or three lords under its command. In the end, the Pendragon Duchy needed to grow several times stronger for them to be able to keep the Arangis Duchy in check and to finally hold them accountable for their treasonous sin. 

Above all else, money was the most important factor in order for the Pendragon Duchy to grow rapidly in a short period of time.

“It won’t even be for that long. I’ll distribute it only for a year. Our raccoon estimates that only about 20 percent of the empire’s annual budget will be spent. It won’t even hurt the empire’s economy.”

“Dammit! It’s that bastard again.”

Ian shouted in vulgar language unbefitting of his status. He emptied his teacup at once.

“Fine. I don’t have the authority to make such a decision anyways. His Majesty will take care of it. Tsk, I was planning to throw you a fish, pretend to give in and be shocked, but this, this will be a total loss…”

Raven feigned ignorance and asked in jest.

“Why? What were you planning on giving me?”

“Tsk, pretending not to know. His Majesty wouldn’t have just left Arangis to you without thinking about it first.”

“So what is it?”

“Ah, are you really going to act stupid?”

“Sorry, if it wasn’t for this kind of occasion, when would I ever get to make fun of a prince?”

If anyone else had spoken those words, Ian would have thrown his fist without hesitation, but he calmed his anger after shooting a fierce gaze at Raven.

“Leus, you take care of it starting next year.”

“I will.”

At the sight of Raven nodding his head without hesitation, Ian could only sigh, let alone get angry.

“Tsk.. did you really think that far?”

“Isn’t it obvious? The Governor of Leus committed treason and suicide, so wouldn’t someone else have to take over? In this sort of situation, I’m the only one who’s qualified.”

“Hmph, don’t glee over it too much. Even so, it will…”

“Only be temporary. I’m guessing… about three years?”

“……”

Ian couldn’t help but shut his mouth. Strangely, this spiteful brat seemed to be getting a blow on him quite often lately. To think he had even guesses on the duration.

“Don’t make such a face. I’ll do my best to clean up. From cracking down on the local lords to the extermination of the pirates, I will finish it all within a year. Isn’t that what you want?”

“Huh…!”

Ian was visibly shocked. He had already experienced Duke Pendragon’s wit countless times. But being smart and anticipating the flow of the big picture was a different matter. Moreover, Duke Pendragon wasn’t even 20 yet.

Other nobles of the same age would have turned barely old enough to become knights, and they would be too busy showing themselves off. What would happen if such brats were to become the Governor of Leus? 

Of course, it would never happen, but in case it did, they were sure to fall into all sorts of delusions and arrogance.

But…

‘What the fuck is this guy? He predicted that Father would give him Leus, as well as what Father wanted him to do with the city? Did that raccoon named Vincent Ron teach him this as well?’

Ian’s eyes sank coldly as he observed Raven. He was confident that he wouldn’t lose to anyone if it was a battle of wits. But the one in front of him was different. He had already known the brat to be on par with himself. But for the first time, Ian thought that Raven could be smarter than he was. Rather, he was so smart that Ian could hardly predict what he was thinking.

“Don’t look at me like that. As I already told His Majesty, Pendragon will keep their loyalty to the royal family.”

“…Those words, you’ll have to keep them forever.”

Raven and Ian’s gazes met in midair. As if foreshadowing the future of the two men, the feelings contained in the eyes of the two were neither goodwill nor hostility. Just like the first time they met, their gazes belonged to two young beasts who controlled their own mountain as they explored and probed each other.

‘Perhaps Duke Lindegor is already aware and keeping him in check for this reason.’

It hurt his pride a little, but that seemed to be the case. Lasse Lindegor must have identified the true nature of the young man even though he had known him for a shorter period of time compared to Ian.

“…By the way, it will become pretty noisy if the Pendragon currency starts circulating and I get Leus as well, right?”

The tense atmosphere only lasted a short while, and Ian broke the silence while raising the tip of his lips.

Raven smiled along and shrugged.

“The chess pieces are set in place anyways, wouldn’t you rather a noisy round? I am going to do exactly what you and His Majesty want. I’m going to make this a very exciting game.”

“Good, good. Is there anything else you want?”

Ian asked without much thought.

Contrary to Ian’s expectations, however, Raven’s expression turned serious.

“There is one thing…”

“Hmm?”

Raven spoke in a heavily subdued voice. Ian was quite startled.

“I want to ask you a favor. Don’t ask me for the reason.”

Ian was quite surprised by Raven’s attitude. It was the first time he had acted in such a way.

“What is it? Tell me.”

“……”

Raven sank into silence for a moment. The ‘request’ he was about to make was not as Duke Pendragon but as Raven Valt. He had no choice but to be cautious. But he inwardly shook his head. As Vincent had mentioned, Ian would frantically try to keep himself in check from now on, unlike how it had been until now. However, if he made an extremely personal request at this point, Ian’s vigilance would ease a little. People like Ian were more vulnerable to personal feelings.

Eventually, Raven slowly opened his lips.

“Do you know about the demonic army?”

“The demonic army? Of course I know. It’s a unit composed of all kinds of trash and filth. I’m ashamed to even call them a part of the imperial army.”

Raven felt a little bitter that he himself was once part of the ‘trash and filth’.

“Do you know where they are currently?”

Even though Raven already knew where they were and what they were doing, he wanted to make sure his actions had not altered the flow of events.

“I think they are in the south. It seems that a monster is making a ruckus playing king.”

“I see…”

He was referring to the Troll King. It was a relief. History had not been altered drastically.

“But why are you mentioning the demonic army all of a sudden?”

Ian’s question reminded Raven of a certain someone. Baltai, the worst of the worst. The scumbag wore a helmet of ogre skull and pushed the trash of the demonic army.

Raven spoke with an intense, murderous gaze. It was a gaze that had not appeared for quite some time.

“I want control of it.”

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