Raven hurried under the cover of a large tree to evade the tropical downpour. The weather was dreary, and the water was pouring down as if there was a hole in the sky.
As Raven expected, a wild boar charged after having its territory invaded.
But Raven took care of it without difficulty.
Dangerous creatures, predators, and monsters may gather after smelling blood, but surely the heavy rain would keep them from approaching for the time being. Once it started raining in the Great Forest, it usually continued for hours on end.
With their mother killed, the cubs of the boar scattered, and Raven entered a large hole that they had taken as home.
Raven took off his helmet and placed it outside, then chewed on some jerky as the thunder roared in the distance. Soon, the rain filled the helmet, and Raven took a large swig.
After roughly relieving his hunger and thirst with jerky and rainwater, Raven became lost in thought while observing the environment with cold eyes.
A long time ago, he had been placed in a similar situation when he came to the Great Forest as a soldier of the demonic army. Dozens of demons under his command had died, and he survived alone in the Great Forest for an entire month.
During the day, he fought against other races, and during the night, he battled against cannibalistic monsters.
Monsters like zombies and slimes were nothing. Monsters far more ferocious and dangerous roamed the Great Forest, monsters that could not easily be found in other regions.
There were even some creatures born from ancient magical powers, such as the minotaurs and the gargoyles. They were born near the ruins of an ancient labyrinth located somewhere in the Great Forest.
In addition, the armies commanded by the Troll King was a huge problem.
Thinking back on it, it truly was a miracle that Raven was able to survive in the Great Forest before joining the main army to kill the Troll King.
“This could be considered a paradise compared to back then…”
Raven mumbled in a quiet voice and smirked.
Now, he had the Troll King’s powers, which completely healed a broken leg bone in a day, and the White Dragon Armor, which maintained his body temperature regardless of the environment, even including the unique climate of the Great Forest. It was normally hot and humid, but when it rained, the temperature dropped harshly.
These two factors alone provided him with an unparalleled advantage.
Most importantly, unlike then, he was knowledgeable about the Great Forest. It meant he knew how to deal with those that were tracking him.
Raven took out a map that he kept in his bosom.
Although it did not show the entirety of the Great Forest, the map depicted the areas that the humans had explored so far. In particular, the rivers, cliffs, and canyons that Raven had passed through were drawn out in detail.
“I walked southwest for around half a day…”
After roughly estimating his own position, Raven looked at the area where the lizardmen and the demonic army had headed towards after being deceived by him.
Their approximate location was around 15 miles from where he was situated. It was quite a far distance, but Raven did not lower his guard.
Staying true to their amphibian nature, the lizardmen were capable of tracking even with such heavy rain. Perhaps by now, they would have realized that they went off the mark. Maybe they had returned to the cliff and were now searching under it.
Raven’s eyes skirted the map before stopping at a certain place. It was an area approximately 30 miles from his current location.
The map did not show a clear path towards the location. Humans had never traveled to it, but its name was clearly engraved.
“Red Moon Valley…”
It was the residence of the Great Sage Jean Oberon and the home of the oldest tribe in the Great Forest of Assia.
Raven intently stared at the map while tapping his fingers.
Even in the past, he had never encountered the elves living in Red Moon Valley. Therefore, it was difficult to confirm whether they were friendly towards humans.
Of course, Jean Oberon had an amicable relationship with them, but it was limited to him as an individual. The elves despised humans, though not as much as the forest-destroying orcs and goblins.
When the Troll King first gathered the monsters to form his armies, the elves of the Red Moon Valley would have rallied against the monsters on their own.
At least, that was the original history that Raven knew.
Now, everything had deviated from Raven’s original past. The demonic army, which was supposed to join the United Southern Army to fight against the monsters, had betrayed them.
In addition, some of the lizardmen and trolls, who were supposed to be under the command of the Troll King, had allied themselves with the demonic army.
The anomalies meant that the situation with the war in the South would move in a completely different direction. He had no choice but to change the plans he made with Vincent before coming to the South.
It truly was a chaotic and complicated situation.
But Raven pondered patiently.
If he became enraptured by the situation in front of him, he would miss the most important thing. He needed to examine how and from whom the unexpected series of events stemmed from.
As such, Raven recalled each of the people he met after arriving in El Pasa.
Count Cedric, the Governor-General of El Pasa. He was the one who defended El Pasa from the threat of the Arangis Duchy for a long time. He was a commander of an imperial regiment, as well as the governor of El Pasa, which meant that he would have resisted the Arangis Duchy even without Raven’s intervention.
It was the same with the Gold King, Karl Mandy.
Even the Arangis Duchy could not easily touch the wealth of the Mandy family.
They had no reason to cooperate with the Arangis Duchy. Their foundation was widespread throughout the empire, along the coastal cities and the mainland. They were not bound to the South.
Raven began pondering the people he had met in the South one by one, then his eyes filled with sudden insight.
There was one person.
Someone who moved completely differently from the past he knew of…
Originally, ‘he’ did not come out of a certain area even when the Troll King had attacked the humans after gathering the monsters. He had shown himself only after the demonic army and the Southern United Army had driven the troll king’s armies deep into the Great Forest, when they were preparing for the final battle.
The Great Sage and Sorcerer.
Jean Oberon had acted in ways unanticipated by Raven and Vincent. He had been the only anomaly in the series of events.
If it had not been for him, Raven would have defeated or conciliated the southern lords of the Arangis Duchy one by one, slowly laying the groundwork and building a supply route to the Great Forest.
An imperial fleet would have been stationed in El Pasa to isolate the Arangis Duchy on Crete Island while Raven prepared, then he would have completely annihilated the Troll King’s armies.
However, the entire plan changed with the appearance of Jean Oberon and his request for help. Firstly, Raven had ended up leading a coalition of the southern forces to advance to the Great Forest before he fully consolidated the southern lords.
Although he had acquired the justification to bring the Blago Territory to his side and gathered some troops, many uncertain factors still remained.
The biggest source of uncertainty among them was the demonic army, which was why Raven had tried to take advantage of them while achieving his vengeance at the same time.
But ultimately, he was now placed in a precarious situation.
Raven recalled Jean Oberon’s face as he looked at the pouring rain with cold eyes. The sorcerer had become a legend in the South after defeating the Troll King’s armies with prodigious magic.
Unfortunately, the demonic army was immediately dispatched to the mainland to fight another war, so Raven had not heard anything more. Even when the Arangis Duchy consolidated the South, and even when Geoffrey was appointed as the crown prince, the name Jean Oberon went unmentioned.
“This is strange…”
Raven was suspicious of that fact.
Why would the Arangis Duchy, the monarch of the south, leave a legendary sorcerer like Jean Oberon alone? Even if wizards, especially sorcerers, did not care for the world, why would the Arangis Duchy leave him be when he was the only one capable of rallying a force that could challenge the duchy?
“There’s definitely something more…”
Doubt invited greater suspicion, which could ultimately lead to self-destruction.
However, Raven could not clear his suspicions against Jean Oberon under the current circumstances. Of course, there was another suspect who was also Raven’s strongest enemy.
The mysterious being was related to the lich Raven encountered on the way to the mausoleum, and he had been the one who tricked Luna and instigated Baltai and the two assassins.
The Nameless Necromancer was the one most closely related to the tragedies of the Pendragon Duchy and Raven. Even though he was not completely sure, Raven had a feeling that the Nameless Necromancer was the one behind the sudden attack of the lizardmen and the trolls.
Otherwise, the monsters would not have allied themselves with the demonic army, which had Baltai at its head. They would not have attacked Raven and the scouting party at the exact place, at that hour.
Raven ruminated about the issue while chewing on wet jerky, then folded the map and placed it back into his clothing.
Contemplation alone would not provide him an answer.
There was only one decision he could make to solve the mysteries of the changed present while breaking the chain that dragged him down.
Listening to the sound of the dying rain, Raven stood up from his seat. He took out a hand axe and climbed to the top of a large tree with practiced movements. When he reached the top, the rain stopped like a lie and the sun appeared.
He narrowed his eyes and looked towards the south, where the dark clouds were still looming.
On the far side of the Great Forest, at the end of the horizon where thick fog arose due to the volatile rain, was Red Moon Valley.
“I think I will have to meet with the elves.”
He had to solve the mysteries surrounding Jean Oberon.
Raven’s most powerful enemies were the Nameless Necromancer and the Arangis Duchy.Both had acted beyond his predictions. Therefore, he also needed to make an unexpected move, which in this case, was the elves of Red Moon Valley.
It did not matter if the elves turned out to be hostile to humans. All elves, regardless of tribe, were friendly towards magic, which meant they worshiped a ‘specific being’.
And Raven was a human who had a contract with that very specific being.
A smile appeared on Raven’s face when he thought of her. He had not seen her for a long time.
Now that the Arangis Duchy drew their sword against him, she had a justification for coming to the South. Even if the Sea Dragon, Biskra, became enraged after having its territory invaded, it would not be able to prevent the Queen from moving to protect her companion.
White Dragon Soldrake.
Raven was convinced that her very name was the only sword that could break the chain-like reality that was strongly restraining him.
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