Chapter 157

York Town was undergoing a massive urbanization that caused it to grow larger than many of the famous cities in the empire. It was always busy.

Vincent worked together with the southern architects to design the city right down to its streets and alleys, and small and large buildings were slowly beginning to near completion, thanks to the hard-working laborers who persevered in the cold weather. 

The marketplace, which had been one of the first areas to see completion, was still busy even though the sun was slowly setting. 

Even though other large cities usually closed their marketplace when the sun fell, York Town was open to business until late hours, which was made possible by the street lamps installed on the streets every 10 yards. It was in essence, a nightless city which was bustling with activity regardless of time. 

But the city had its dark side as well. The rapid urbanization and concentration of population also resulted in a slum in the back alleys, composed of cheap taverns, inns, and brothels. 

Now, it was such an alley where the man named Toban Baltai was walking along. Unlike the expression he had when he met Luna Seyrod at the York City embassy, his face was now grim without a trace of a smile. 

Drunken workers accidentally bumped into his shoulders, but they quickly bowed their heads and scurried along when they saw his vicious expression, his scar-ridden face, and his massive size. 

Baltai finally came to a stop in front of a small pub that was dimly lit by a hanging lantern. There were only a few customers because of its remote location, and Baltai swept through the pub with his eyes before climbing the creaking stairs. He walked along the corridors of the second floor before opening a door that rested at the end of the hallway without bothering to knock.

Woosh!

A dagger flew towards the neck of Baltai, grimly reflecting the light with a glimmer. But Baltai ignored the dagger, and it mysteriously came to a stop right before his throat, all of its momentum disappearing in an instant. 

Baltai showed his teeth as he glanced down at a long, black, skinny hand that was holding the dagger. 

“Hehe, you’re pretty good.”

Baltai chuckled while pushing the blade of the dagger with his fingers, and the mysterious man took a step back.

“You’re not half bad either, given your ability to read killing intent.”

Along with a scratchy, metallic voice, the owner of the dagger slowly stepped into the dim light of the room, showing his figure. He was covered with a dark, gray robe, and he was very tall.

Baltai was a tall man, at around 6 feet, but the mysterious man was still a head taller than Baltai. However, his skinny frame created a slightly precarious sight, reminiscent of a dying, gray tree.

“Can I sit?”

And yet Baltai acted very carefully in front of the mysterious man.

“Do as you please.”

However, when the man spoke with his grotesque voice, his red eyes glimmered ominously from inside the hood, and the atmosphere of the man instantly changed from “precarious” to “dangerous”. 

Most importantly, Baltai knew about the identity of the mysterious man. 

“What happened with it?”

“The girl’s already fell for it. Just like you said, it seems like she’s head over heels for Duke Pendragon. Heh, but how did you know she would act as such?”

“No matter how smart a girl is, her judgment is bound to be clouded when she is blinded by futile love. Moreover, when the girl believes herself to be smarter than other women, she will always think of her own love as truer. Do you know what the greatest enemy of truth is?”

Baltai became puzzled by the random question.

“Hmm? Well… isn’t it a lie?”

“That’s what all the humans think. The same is true of the girl, who considers her love to be true, and not a lie. However, the greatest enemy of truth is not a lie. It is certainty.”

“Certainty…?”

“As soon as she was convinced her love was true, she had already fallen deep into my plan. She is bound to believe your story because she is absolutely convinced that her love for Pendragon is true love. The flow I have created has its basis on the futile love that the girl believes to be true.”

“Hmm…”

Baltai frowned at the mysterious words of the hooded man. Normally, his temperament would make sure he pummeled anyone who talked in such roundabout ways. If it were his subordinates, he would have had their bones crushed. But Baltai was never able to put his thoughts to action. 

It was because the skinny and tall monster was one of the five strongest sorcerers in the empire, a true master over necromancy. Neither Baltai nor the other wizards knew the origin and age of the mysterious man in front of him. 

Nameless Necromancer. That was what the mysterious man was called. He had existed in the previous generation, and the generation before that. No one knew for sure if he was the same man that existed hundreds of years ago, or if the disciples continued the name of the Nameless Necromancer. 

People could only infer the identity of the Nameless Necromancer from the gray robe that was embroidered with all kinds of ancient magic spells and the rosary that hung from the skinny wrist of the man. Other sorcerers’ documents from hundreds of years ago had the very same characteristics recorded to identify the Nameless Necromancer.

‘How capable is the big boss? To think he would have even this man under his command…’

Baltai felt a sense of fear and awe towards the person he served.

“By the way, what happened to the men who were sent into the Pendragon Duchy? Even if they weren’t able to recognize someone like you, they are sure to have people watching their every move since they entered the duchy.

“From the moment they entered the Pendragon Duchy, they were destined to return to the arms of the great Carcas, the one who is in charge of the beginning and the end of all things. They should be proud to have become a stepping stone for your grand, final plan.”

“I, Is that so?”

One could call it “destiny”, but it basically meant they were going to die.

Baltai’s expression turned rather strange.

‘Dammit! If I knew this was going to happen, I would’ve sent some nobodies.’

Baltai felt rather bitter. The ones he had chosen to send inside the duchy were quite good, even among his subordinates. As if noticing Baltai’s thoughts, the Nameless Necromancer spoke once again, his eyes glowing even more ominously. 

“If one receives the blessing of Carcas, they will live forever as a man who never dies. They will join the legion of immortals and will be granted the honor to serve. They will be of help to you as well.”

“…..”

Baltai remained silent. 

The Nameless Necromancer was saying he would turn all of Baltai’s dead subordinates into undead soldiers. Baltai knew the undead to be monsters who were without any senses or thoughts. They were a combat weapon that got to fight forever, but lost everything that defined humanness. Unfortunately, it was obvious that he would share the same fate if he were to perish during the plan.

‘Motherfucker! I’m not going to die. I can’t kill whoever I want and obtain power and money if I’m dead. Live forever? Fuck you! What’s the point of living forever if you can’t have anything?’

Baltai had entered the demonic army and become the commander for the very reason. He was the one who was tasked with the dirtiest job that his boss assigned. When the great task was completed, he wouldn’t be thrown away like dirt.

“Anyways, I think I can take the girl to Leus in four days. But when can I see those who will execute the plan?”

“You’re a fool, aren’t you? We’ve been here since forever.”

“Heuk!”

At the sudden jingle of voices, Baltai let out a gasp and jerked around. Two shadows slowly emerged from the dark corner of the room. One long, one short - the identity of the shadows were a cute-looking boy in his mid-teens and a young man with a good stature. 

They had completely different appearances, but strangely, they shared the same skin tone.

“Hmm.”

The boy walked towards Baltai and scanned him before suddenly frowning.

“Huh? I was looking forward to it because I heard he was the notorious commander of the demonic army, but it seems he’s a bit of a downer.”

“…..!”

The boy dared to call himself, who had led the most brutal and terrible murderers in the entire history, a ‘downer’. Did the boy not realize how many lives had been taken at the hands of the great Baltai? 

Baltai wanted to retort, but he was interrupted as the young man stepped up as well. He bowed his head after giving a light blow to the boy’s head and spoke with a calm, grounded voice.

“This immature one has been disrespectful, Sir Baltai. He is still not quite familiar with the world yet, so I hope you will overlook his transgressions.”

Then the young man reached out his hand. At the sudden gesture, Baltai also stretched out and shook his hands with the young man. Rather, he had been instinctively compelled to shake hands. 

At the sight of the handshake, the young boy grinned while rubbing the back of his head.

“Huh? It seems like your instinct isn’t too bad I guess. Maybe he already knows what happens if one doesn’t receive the greeting of the Ishan Warriors?”

“Ishan Warriors? That means you are…”

Baltai blurred the end of his words with a flinch. 

Ishan Warriors were one of the most prominent warriors in the south along with the Valvas Cavaliers. Traditionally, Ishan Warriors belonged to a ‘specific organization’.

The young man responded with a good-natured smile.

“I don’t think you should say any more than that. Please save your words. Anyways, we will take care of Duke Pendragon. All you have to do is lead us to him.”

“……”

Baltai gulped and nodded without a word.

‘I’m certain. These are the White Shadow Brothers.’

Given that the Nameless Necromancer had brought them and that they were peak masters of concealing themselves, Baltai was sure. A chill ran down his spine as he faced two assassins from the south’s best and worst assassination group. 

“Tell those inside the gate to act tomorrow. We will distract the sight of the man named Vincent Ron, and you will head to Leus with the girl.”

The young man and the boy nodded silently at the words of the Nameless Necromancer.

The sorcerer opened his hand.

Fwoosh!

A dark, red flame ignited in his hand, and he muttered in a voice that was like a crow’s cry while observing the flame with red eyes.

“I caused too much trouble for you on the way to the cemetery, young dragon of Pendragon. I did not expect you to be able to see the spirits. But soon… you will die and join the immortal legion. The White Dragon will become a servant of Carcas…”

In the midst of the fluttering flames, the voice of the necromancer echoed before scattering as a curse. It was he who was the main body of the Lich that Raven had defeated on his way to the mausoleum.

*** 

Three horses slowly passed through the imperial road to Leus. The riders were wearing thick robes and hoods to cover themselves from the cold wind. A long sword hung on the saddle of the foremost rider and the rider behind him, so travelers did their best to avoid eye contact with the three.

“It will be Leus after we cross that bridge over there, my lord.”

At the words of the rider in the back, a smile could be seen forming under the hood of the rider in the front.

“Is that so? You must have taken this road when you ran away from home, hmm?”

“Oh, well…. Yes…”

He scratched his head above the hood. 

Then the man in the middle turned his head.

“Esquire Johnbolt, we are on our way to Leus as representatives of the Pendragon Duchy along with the lord. Always be mindful of your attitude. Above all, you must remember that you have been tasked with watching over the lord from Sir Killian.”

“Ye, yes!”

Leon hurriedly straightened his posture and answered towards the voice that had addressed him in a chillier tone than the winter breeze. During the journey from the imperial castle, the expressionless knight rarely spoke to him first, and when he did so, Leon had to unconditionally follow it.

How could he not? The identity of the knight was Elkin Isla, the famous knight that had journeyed with his lord throughout the empire, even earning himself the title of ‘Orc Slayer’.

‘Sir Killian is fine, but Sir Isla is really quite scary…’

The two knights of the Pendragon Duchy he met at the imperial castle were like water and fire. The fire, of course, represented Killian, and the water was Isla. Though, ice might have been a more accurate word to describe Isla. In any case, Leon was deeply moved when he finally got to meet the Pendragon knights he had always heard about. He always admired them after hearing their brave, heroic stories. On the other hand, he was worried that they might think little of him. However, the two knights accepted him without any qualms. Naturally, they would not question their lord’s decision in appointing Leon as the Pendragon family’s squire. 

Unfortunately, there was a little issue(?) when they were preparing to leave the capital to head towards Leus. It was due to Killian. He had expected his lord to take him along to Leus. It was the first time Leon saw Killian so discouraged, as Killian had always appeared to be boisterous and cheerful, though he seemed to have a loose screw. 

When the orc warrior named Karuta slapped Killian on the shoulder with a smile saying, “Let’s fight to our heart’s desire in the future, one-egged devil!”, even his lord, Duke Pendragon, seemed to feel genuine sympathy for him.

But there was no other choice. 

If Killian had joined in on traveling to Leus, no one would be present at the Pendragon Duchy to protect the territory and Conrad Castle. In addition, while Isla might possess superior skills in combat, Killian was one of the best strategists of Conrad Castle. With Duke Pendragon not present in the duchy, Killian was better suited to take command of the soldiers in the case of an unexpected event. So Killian and the ladies of the duchy returned to the Pendragon territory in the flying carriage. Of course, Karuta accompanied the party, grinning the entire way back. 

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