Chapter 16

“You’re finally here. What were you up to?”

“Yes? N, nothing…”

“Is that so? The tavern seemed oddly noisy…”

“…

Killian shut his mouth and glanced at Lindsay. Her neck was still red as she had her head down. It seemed like she didn’t report everything to her master.

“Well, it’s not important anyway. Why don’t you have a seat? Lindsay, you can go now.”

Lindsay left the room and Killian carefully sat down on a chair.

“Did you have a drink?”

“Ah, yes. A few mugs of beer.”

“Beer… I miss that.”

Raven remembered the days of his past self when he would occasionally drink beer after battles. He licked his lips at the mention of it. In Conrad Castle, all he got was a sip or two of wine.

“Yes?”

“No, it’s nothing.”

Raven shook his head then immediately switched the topic.

“It’s about tomorrow. I need you to accompany me.”

“What? Then who will be here to take care of defenses at the gate?”

“The Seyrod family said that they will leave two knights and thirty soldiers for a few days. They will protect the gate for us.”

“Hmm…”

Killian’s expression changed in careful thought.

‘As I thought…

At Killian’s reaction, Raven casually probed him with further comments.

“Are you not against it? Leaving Bellint Gate’s defenses to another family?”

“I don’t think we’re in any position to be against it, and the more troops we have, the better it will be. Sir Geoffrey, I mean, that Geoffrey bastard took over twenty soldiers when he deserted. They’ve probably gained more men by now, so it’s better that we be prepared.”

“Good. If you think so, then it makes things a lot easier.”

Raven nodded his head. His eyes weren’t wrong after all. Killian might chase after women, but he wasn’t dumb or narrow-minded by any means. In fact, it was seen highly that a knight from a noble background was so flexible in their thinking.

“The thief bastards probably have a base around here right? Since they’re so bold as to brazenly rob villages.”

“Yes. They’re using a monastery in a village called Southstone as their base of operations.”

“I see. Tell me more about this guy named Del Geoffrey.”

“His swordsmanship is quite decent, but he is an arrogant man. After Your Grace fell into an unconscious state, he asked for the title of baron and control over three villages near the Bellint Gate, which the duchess rejected right away. The atmosphere quickly took a turn for the worse and I brought soldiers here. However, by the time I arrived, he had already heard of my coming and deserted with his men.”

“Hmm…”

It seemed that Geoffrey had more brains than he originally thought. Had they tried to take over Bellint Gate, he would’ve had to sacrifice many, so he chose to rally his forces outside the gates and to take action there.

That was the better choice. Raven would have done the same if given the circumstances.

‘But…’

Something came up on Raven’s mind, and he asked again.

“You said he deserted about a year ago?”

“Yes.”

“And in the meantime, you had to helplessly watch as he wreaked havoc outside?”

“Yes…”

Killian replied in a lifeless voice.

But the corners of Raven’s mouth rose slightly.

“So by now, he probably feels invincible? He also knows of how I was in the past?”

“Well… yes.”

Killian took on a strange expression and Raven continued in a subdued voice.

“What kind of reaction do you think he will have once he hears that helpless coward Alan Pendragon is personally directing the troops and that both sides have similar numbers of troops?”

“…Ah!”

Killian gasped, finally realizing Raven’s intentions.

Raven smiled deeply.

“A dog growls at a wolf in the comforts of its own house. Why? Because he proudly thinks that he’s the strongest in his house. But when that dog comes out of the house, it’s still a dog.”

“I agree, Your Grace.”

Killian nodded with admiration.

“Well then. Sir Killian.”

Raven spoke in a low voice, a smile still on his face.

“I will lure the dog out of its house, you take care of beating it senseless. Don’t kill it, and bring it to me on a leash.”

“So, you’re saying…”

“I’m saying that you will be in charge of the troops. You’ve been commanding them for years. Do you really think they’ll be obedient to me in one day? I’m not so foolish as to think that.”

It was common sense in the art of warfare.

A commander cannot effectively control the troops overnight. Even if Alan painted the big picture, he needed to have Killian perform his duties as a knight of the Pendragon family.

“Y, yes! Please leave it to me! I will definitely take care of that bastard dog!”

Killian pounded his chest, deeply touched by Raven’s words. Raven nodded in satisfaction.

“Good. We will leave early tomorrow morning, so you should go rest now.”

“Yes! Please have a good rest!”

Killian stood up and turned to leave.

“Oh, and one more thing.”

“Yes?”

Killian looked at Raven. Raven had a concerned expression on his face. It was as if…

“Well… I would like to apologize for what happened.”

“Y, your Grace…”

Any remaining knots in Killian’s heart were unraveled at that moment. An apology from the heir to a duchy was rare as they were the ones who had power over the life and death of their knights.

“Don’t worry about it. Well, Sir Illaine told me that there won’t be any problems bearing children.”

Killian laughed bashfully and tapped on his thighs.

“G, good… Well I think it might be nice to hold the ceremony as soon as possible and have children. Now that we’re on this topic, why don’t you get married right after we return from the expedition?”

“If you say so, Your Grace, then I will do so.”

“Good. Well, it’s already so late. Go and get rest.”

“Yes!”

Thud.

The topic still took an abrupt turn at the end, but it was still a satisfying conversation.

Day came.

All of the forces, excluding the two knights and thirty soldiers from the Seeyrod family, gathered at the training grounds. Raven took the time in inspecting the condition of the soldiers. Their faces were stiff, but they were properly disciplined, and morale seemed to be high. Raven nodded satisfyingly.

‘That bastard…’

Raven frowned when his gaze met upon one knight. A knight who positioned himself right beside Luna Seyrod. Breeden was looking at Raven’s direction with a smirk on his face. He had the scheming devious smile that Raven absolutely despised.

‘Go on, try something. Do some shit. I will destroy you.’

There had been countless men who tried to go against Raven during his time in the demonic army. About half of them had come crawling to him begging for forgiveness with bloodied faces. The rest didn’t say anything, because the dead didn’t talk.

Breeden kept smiling, not knowing the thoughts that were going through Raven’s head.

Raven climbed onto the saddle of his horse. Lindsay walked up to him in small steps and spoke.

“I wish for your victory and safe returns, Your Grace.”

A face full of worries. Raven felt sorry for Lindsay. She had to follow him out of the safe castle only to suffer these drastic conditions.

“I will. It might be uncomfortable because there are only men, but please endure for a few days. If anyone tries anything, let me know when I come back. I will destroy both of their eggs.”

Raven emphasized the last few words for all to hear. The soldiers of the Seyrod family flinched before turning their gazes elsewhere.

“Yes…”

Lindsay bowed her head in embarrassment.

His comment was unbefitting for a fair-skinned lady, but nevertheless, she was thankful that her master was so considerate.

Raven gave a smirk then turned his horses to the soldiers.

“Sir Killian.”

“Yes, Your Grace.”

Killian turned towards the soldiers and shouted.

“Let’s go! We embark now!”

“Ohhhhhh!”

The soldiers exited the gate in order with a loud shout.

***

The late spring sky was clear and the weather was pleasant. A breeze kept the soldiers cool and they marched. But Raven’s expression wasn’t as enthusiastic. The situation outside of Bellint Gate was worse than what he expected.

The fields that were once full of crops and grains to be harvested were now overgrown with weeds. Abandoned houses taken over by vines could be seen along the way. There were no signs of life anywhere, even though they had already traveled for an hour since departure.

Not only that, the roads were in terrible condition being left alone to the forces of nature. Stones jutted out of the grounds and there were random pits in the ground. It could barely allow for a man or a horse to walk, and it definitely wasn’t suitable for wagons and carts.

“Sir Killian.”

“Yes, Your Grace.”

Killian rode his horse up to Raven and answered.

“How much of the Pendragon land exists outside of Bellint Gate in comparison to the whole Duchy?”

“It is about 70% percent.”

“That much?”

Raven narrowed his eyes at Killian’s answer. The Pendragon Duchy was bigger than he had thought.

“Are conditions like this everywhere?”

“Unfortunately… it is so. Some villages are managing to sustain themselves and fend off enemies, but it is quite limited. They have to risk their lives just to make it to Bellint Gate.”

Well, it made sense since even trained soldiers didn’t go outside the gate unless they had groups of at least ten men. It would even be harder for untrained peasants.

“I see.”

Raven nodded his head quietly.

He had been focusing on reclaiming the mausoleum thus far, but it seemed like managing the land outside the gate was equally as critical.

70 percent of the entire land…’

Conrad Castle and the village of Lowpool had a population of 3,000 combined. There were six villages within Bellint Gate, and with all the villages combined, including Lowpool, there would be a population of less than six thousand. But that didn’t include 70 percent of the land that was not managed properly, and people still lived there. If he could take control and secure the rest of the duchy, he could easily secure more than ten thousand people.

‘Hmm?’

Raven’s gaze sharpened as he spotted something moving in a house that was barely standing.

“Sir Killian.”

Raven spoke in a low tone and used his chin to point towards the house.

“I also noticed.”

Killian nodded towards a group of soldiers and headed towards the abandoned house along with them. As one of the soldiers opened the old door with a spear…

Ki-e-e-e-e!

A few small shadows popped up with screams, then ran crazily to the opposite side.

“Monsters!”

“It’s goblins!”

The swift movements of little shadows were goblins. Clothes barely covered their privates, as they held small clubs embedded with thorns that swung up and down as they ran away.

“Archers! I need the five most skilled.”

At Raven’s command, the archers stepped up and pointed their crossbows towards the field where the goblins were fleeing.

‘The distance is around 80 yards. Let’s see your skills.’

“Shoot, but do not kill.”

Whoosh! Whoosh!

As Raven signaled with his hand, arrows whistled towards the goblins. On impact, the goblins immediately fell forward in their tracks. Seeing that they were struggling to get up, the wounds didn’t seem critical.

“Go capture them.”

“Yes!”

Dozens of soldiers with spears and shields ran towards the field, then soon returned with five goblins in their hands.

Kieeh!

Kyaak! Kyaak!

They struggled in the grasps of the soldiers, but they had no chance with their injuries and their small bodies.

“Throw them in front of me.”

Goblins were tossed in front of Raven at his command.

Kieee

The goblins had terrified gazes as they looked around to see dozens of armed soldiers and Raven’s dragon-wing-adorned helmet. Raven opened his mouth after seeing a particular goblin who had red skin and a feather decoration on his head.

“Who are you? Which tribe are you from?”

“Kiyi. Handsome Kazzal, no tribe. Find food with friends. Kiee.”

It seemed like he was the leader of the group. He seemed quite peculiar to call himself in third-person and to add ‘handsome’ in front of it.

“Do you know what happens if you lie?”

Raven lightly placed his hand on Widow’s Scream that was on his waist.

“Handsome Kazzal, no lie! Really, only us five!”

The goblin named Kazzal eagerly shook his head. But Raven didn’t trust him easily. Goblins were as sly as their ugly appearance.

“If you wanted to find food, you should’ve gone to the forest. Why are you wandering around in a place like this?”

At Raven’s words, the goblin took on a sad expression. Raven was dumbfounded.

“Kiee… Lots of scary beings in the forest. There are harpies, wolves, and ghouls come out at night. Harpy is the worst! Bird-heads always steal handsome Kazzal’s food!”

The goblin must have suffered quite a bit, even getting angry in front of Raven. Although he was flabbergasted, Raven remembered that goblins were always like this and spoke.

“Good. Do you know this area well?”

“Yes! Know very well! Handsome Kazzal live here for three years!”

“How about the village called Southstone? Have you been there?”

“Kiiehh! That place is scary! Ugly and strong humans go there with horses!”

“…

Raven was a little annoyed at the usage of the word ‘ugly’ but Raven already knew that the goblins had a flipped perception of beauty so he decided to ignore it.

“What about the numbers? How many of them are there?”

Kazzal eagerly started to fold his fingers one by one.

“One, two, three four…”

“…

“Twenty and seven, twenty and eight…”

“…

When Raven was about to open his mouth in anger, Kazaal raised his head.

“Forty-five! There are forty-five!”

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