A huge sailboat cut through the waves while riding on the wind. A man was standing on the deck, facing the sea wind that strained the huge sail. A middle-aged imperial knight approached the man and spoke.
“We are about the enter the Strait of El Pasa, Your Highness.”
“Ah. Yes, Commander.”
The knight corrected himself while scratching his head, and the man turned around. His rich, blonde hair reflected the sun and his sharp eyes made him look rather short-tempered. However, his richly curved jaw and high nose gave him an elegant, luxurious appearance.
He was the second prince of the empire and many already assumed him to be the next ruler of the empire. He shrugged while giving a rather candid smile unbefitting his status.
“It feels a little weird, right? Even though I’m a prince, that I would be a commander of this fleet at such a young age.”
“I, I could never!”
The knight became shocked and quickly shook his head.
“No, it’s fine to think that way. To be honest, you should take it as such. You have devoted yourself to the imperial family for decades as the right-hand man of the 12th regiment commander. Well, if I were in your position, I would certainly think so.”
Perhaps feeling embarrassed that Ian saw right through it, the knight bowed his head with a slightly awkward expression. Ian continued while patting the knight on the shoulder.
“But there is no helping it. This trip’s purpose is to condemn a duchy for rebelling against the empire and the imperial family. Unless someone with the proper status tags along, there’s not enough justification. Most importantly, this is a great opportunity to expand the empire’s influence in the South.”
“My apologies, but I am not much for politics.”
The knight answered with unexpected honesty. Perhaps it was due to his identity as a seaman. Ian smiled before responding.
“Haha, it won’t only benefit the imperial family. To condemn the Arangis Duchy and wholly bring the South to the empire. It means that the imperial navy, including the 12th regiment, will finally be able to traverse the entire inland sea.”
The knight let out a small sound with realization.
“So even if it is a little uncomfortable, bear with it. As the commander of the imperial fleet, I will achieve what the 12th regiment commander and you, sir, dreamed of… I am going to make sure that the sailboats with the symbol of the empire and the imperial family will be able to travel freely through the inner sea.”
A knight fought for his lord. If their lord was wise and recognized their will, they had nothing more to ask for. Thus, the knight of the 12th regiment saluted the young prince with sincerity, the one who would soon rule the empire and head the imperial army.
“Good. Prepare for battle. Map out the appropriate formation and tactics. There is no way I know about battles of the sea better than you, so I will leave it to the experts.”
“Your Highness, or rather, I accept the will of the commander!”
The knight answered with a look of faithfulness and determination before turning around.
“Anyhow, how is that guy doing…?”
As he gazed at the moving deck, Ian licked his lips with a worried expression. But soon, his expression changed to become slightly fierce.
“So you brought her all the way here, huh? I swear, if you made her suffer, I will not forgive you.”
The expression of the next crown prince continued to morph. It distorted when he thought of Raven and became gentle when he recalled ‘her’.
“I see. The imperial household finally unsheathed their sword as well.”
Duke Arangis murmured softly. As he looked out to the peaceful sea that reflected the bright light, his eyes were calm like the sea without any ripples. However, his expression and voice did not contain composure, but rather a kind of resignation and futility.
“Was it a mistake to give up Biskra?”
As he muttered to nowhere and no one in particular, a scattering voice responded from behind him.
“It could not be called a mistake. Biskra was the most powerful sword of Arangis, but at the same time, Biskra shackled Arangis from leaving the sea.”
Duke Arangis’ eyes narrowed slightly.
As the sea breeze cooled the heat, he turned around. An old man was staring at him with eyes as deep as the abyss. Duke Arangis’ lips twisted into a bitter smile as he replied.
“Yes. That was why I decided to join hands with you. But now, I am unsure if my choice was the right one.”
“That will depend on the outcome of your choice, and Arangis’ choice has yet to produce results.”
At the words of the old man, Jean Oberon, the cold smile of Duke Arangis deepened.
“I think we will see some results soon, isn’t that right?”
“That is true. You will see the outcome soon.”
“Are you mocking me?”
The voice of Duke Arangis started to fill with subtle anger. However, Jean Oberon’s expression remained unchanged, and his gaze still lingered in the distant seas.
“Man moves the world. But a majority of the crowd is ignorant and helpless. Only a select few are able to judge and move the world.”
“Enough with your semantics.”
The eyes of Duke Arangis glowed fiercely. As a young man, he had dominated the inland sea and the South, and his spirit was not yet rusty.
“Biskra is no longer. Half of the sea griffons have already disappeared. Troops in the South are gathering in El Pasa around the 7th regiment commander Cedric, and Ian is leading the fleet from the mainland. Oh brilliant sorcerer, you who promised me the death of Pendragon and the White Dragon, so tell me. How should we turn this situation around?”
Jean Oberon’s gaze finally turned towards Duke Arangis.
“A minor error does not interfere with the larger flow, Duke Arangis.”
“A small error? You turned Biskra into a Bone Dragon for your purposes, but it ended up going down the drain. Would you also call that a minor error? To me, it seems like a loss. Not just a loss, but a terrible one.”
“It is trivial. Since I gained an unexpected result from it, it can’t be labelled as a loss either. It has provided me with something that will be very helpful to Arangis and I…”
The fury contained in the eyes of Duke Arangis started to subside. As he looked to Jean Oberon for an answer, the sorcerer continued slowly.
“Did I not tell you before? That perhaps Pendragon is not a being of this world. I was right. He is someone who is already dead. He has come against the flow of time.”
The eyes of Duke Arangis quivered greatly.
“It also had something to do with how he was able to predict the Arangis Duchy’s steps, guessing what kinds of actions you would take. So I had to decide. I twisted my plans so that something unknown, unpredictable to Pendragon would happen.”
“How… does that make any sense?”
“It does not make sense. That is why he is a being that goes against causality. Making him disappear from this world is the most crucial work. Achieving that purpose also overlaps with Arangis’ aims as well.”
An ordinary person would have been unable to think properly due to the great shock, but Duke Arangis was not a normal man. As a monarch no different from a sovereign king, he quickly organized his thoughts and calmed himself down.
“If it is as you say, does it not mean that he already knows what choice we will be making?”
“No. I found out in the Great Forest that the flow is already twisted greatly. Pendragon will no longer be able to predict the future, especially regarding the actions of Arangis and I.”
“Is that the achievement you were mentioning earlier?”
Duke Arangis’ words brought a dry smile to Jean Oberon’s lips.
“Something like that cannot be called an achievement.”
Duke Arangis narrowed his eyes. The power to know the future was powerful beyond doubt. Something even greater than Pendragon losing his foresight…
“Alan Pendragon has now completely stepped inside the path of cause and effect. He is no longer immortal.”
“That is right. Until not long ago, he possessed an undying body.”
Duke Arangis was in disbelief.
He let out a burst of exclamation. In the past, his son Toleo, who was now dead, said that he fought a duel with Pendragon in Leus. Although one of his arms was cut off, Toleo made it clear that the opponent had also suffered a critical injury. Although he was the child of a concubine, he would not lie about such matters.
But even though he had suffered injuries which would leave him in bead for half a year, Pendragon had headed to the Great Territory of Sisak and dug up the incident about the assassination of the crown prince without rest.
“I thought it strange back then, but…. Ha, haha…”
Duke Arangis burst into vain laughter at the ridiculous story. Now it made sense. His plans had gone awry one after another because he had been playing a game of chess against an opponent who already knew his moves. Moreover, they had an undying body and the help of the strongest creature on Earth, Soldrake.
“I was dealing with a monster…”
Duke Arangis spoke helplessly in indescribable despondency.
“You were. A monster that escaped causality. That was who Alan Pendragon was. But.”
Duke Arangis’ eyes directed towards Jean oberon.
“Not anymore. Two of his greatest powers have disappeared. Finally, Pendragon…”
The eyes of the southern monarch glimmered with realization. The sorcerer, who had lived as a man without a name for a long time, spoke with a twisted smile.
“He no longer knows the events of the future, and he has finally gone from an immortal to a mortal.”
A being unable to escape from death.
“Yes. It is surely a sufficient result created from the sacrifice of Biskra and my creation, the King of Monsters.”
Jean Oberon’s robe fluttered in the sea breeze.
“The Queen of Death and her army are best suited to deal with mortals. What do you think, Arangis? Do you still think that you made the wrong choice?”
The eyes of Duke Arangis seemed to regain their original light as he gazed at the sorcerer, his expression filled with wonder and astonishment.
With the Pendragon Duchy’s forces rejoining with the coalition, they were able to resolve all the issues of the southern lands in less than three days after leaving Raxla. In the first place, only a small number of lords and landlords from the southern parts had cooperated with Duke Arangis. They only commanded tens or hundreds of troops, which were no match for the advance of the coalition.
However, the situation was different in the central areas of the South, which served as a critical junction for trade routes connecting the inland with the coastal cities. Landlords and warlords from nearby parts of the land had gathered under the banner of the Arangis Duchy.
Even though the Red Wheel Knights had disappeared and the Blago territory turned to the side of the coalition, the power of the followers of Arangis was considerable. Most importantly, the central region was as rich as the coastal cities.
War was a battle of capital in the end.
They were plentiful in food and money, so they hired a large number of southern mercenaries to supplement their own forces. Eventually, the pro-Arangis forces were able to form a rare, large-scale force of nearly 10,000 troops. Their vigor pierced through the skies.
“Southern mercenaries are a little different from the mainlanders. Unlike the mainland mercenaries who specialize in security and escort, the southerners are able to fight a real war.”
Raven nodded at the words of a noble knight.
Of course, he already knew.
In the past, he had fought against the Troll King’s armies alongside mercenaries. They were certainly outstanding.
Although they fought well, the southern mercenaries were the first to flee when the war turned to their disadvantage. They were people who fought for money, but in the end, they valued their lives above all else. Furthermore, war was frequent in the South. The mercenaries here were able to grasp the changes in the war situation almost instantaneously.
As such, there were many cases where they fought their share before pulling out. Nevertheless, Raven did not underestimate the opponents, especially with the addition of mercenaries. To be able to accurately grasp the war situation meant that they would fight with all their might as soon as the enemies showed even the slightest of inferiority.
If they were able to bring the war to a victory, they would be rewarded with enormous remunerations.
“It will be difficult to defeat them individually…”
“That is right. If they decide to hole up in their base and call for reinforcements, we will become surrounded on all sides. It is a difficult situation in many aspects.”
With the Arangis fleet stranded on the shores of El Pasa, defeat was no longer a possibility. Even so, Raven and Viscount Moraine were thinking of various plans to minimize the loss of troops.
“In the end…”
A long silence engulfed the room as the two men thought hard. They started to speak simultaneously, then became startled. But they smirked as they shared a glance. They knew that they shared the same thoughts without needing to verbalize it.
A most important card to guarantee them a perfect victory was still in wait.
“He is the only one we can rely on.”
“I believe in my knight.”
Just as salmon swam upstream, Raven had no doubts that his card would definitely return after achieving his purpose.
That was the kind of knight Elkin Isla was.