Chapter 287

Some time after the sun had disappeared over the horizon, the sky was filled with dense, dark clouds. The misty rain poured down like dust.

Ian dismounted the griffon in the drizzling rain.

“Hoo…”

The knights took off their helmets and started to wipe the sweat and rain off of their foreheads. Soldiers hurriedly rushed towards them.

“Thank you for your hard work, sir knight! Please, have a glass of water!”

The soldiers were very respectful toward the knights. After all, the griffon knights had saved El Pasa from a huge crisis. If they had not helped, the walls would have fallen a long time ago, and the soldiers would not have been able to escape from danger either.

“Thank you.”

Ian grinned and received the cup from the soldiers’ hands. He gulped down the water coolly.

His eyes made him seem a little edgy, but he possessed an incredibly handsome and manly appearance, even in the eyes of the male soldiers. The soldiers’ expressions brightened at the sight of him.

“Excuse me…”

A soldier spoke carefully.

“Yes.”

“The symbol hanging from the griffon’s saddle you were riding on. Is that the imperial seal?”

“That is right.”

Ian nodded, and the soldier continued in a more cautious manner.

“Does that mean that sir is a Royal Knight…?”

Ian thought for a moment, then replied with a shrug.

“Well, I guess you could say that.”

The soldier grinned at Ian’s answer and looked back towards his colleagues.

“As expected! What did I tell you all?”

“Welp… I thought he was a griffon knight from the 2nd imperial regiment.”

Ian laughed at their interaction. It appeared that the two had perhaps betted on his identity.

“O, oi! You guys…!”

Then, a griffon knight who accompanied Ian hurried towards the soldiers and called out.

“Yes, sir! Did you call for us?”

The soldiers bowed towards the griffon knight with a smile, just as they had done to Ian.

“N, no, well, this person is…”

Seeing their smiles and the grin on Ian’s face, the griffon knight did not dare to scold them. He could only fidget awkwardly.

A group of knights walked up from underneath the walls.

“Ah! Thank you all! We were able to stay alive thanks to you sirs!”

It was none other than Count Cedric, Governor of El Pasa, who took the lead in shaking each of the griffon knights’ hands with vigor. As evidenced by the fierce battle, his armor was full of holes and scratches, and blood-stained bandages were wrapped around his arms and thighs.

“By the way, who is your commander?”

“Ah, our commander is…”

The griffon knights’ gazes turned at the same time at Count Cedric’s words. However, although he had commanded themselves in the battle a little while ago, he wasn’t their official commander. Moreover, they did not speak hastily because of his status.

“Ah! Are you the commander? Thank you so much! Thank you for your hard work!”

Count Cedric approached Ian with a bright smile on his weary face.

“Don’t mention it.”

Seeing Ian’s grin, Count Cedric narrowed his eyes and tilted his head.

“Hmm? Your face seems a little familiar. Sir, where have we met before… Oh, my goodness!”

Count Cedric spoke while carefully observing Ian’s face, then his eye became filled with shock and surprise. Long ago, when he had been instated as the Governor of El Pasa, he had made a trip to the imperial castle. It was a face he had seen at that time.

Moreover, someone that had stood right next to the emperor…

“Your highness!”

Count Cedric shouted loudly with his mouth agape. But he soon realized his mistake and quickly presented a military salute.

“Please excuse my disrespect! Governor-General of El Pasa greets Your Highness the Prince!”

“How have you been, Lord Cedric. I believe I saw you only for a short time in the imperial castle. You managed to remember my face.”

“As a loyal knight of His Majesty, how could I forget the face of your highness?”

Count Cedric looked at Ian with a touched expression, then grabbed onto the hand he was holding out. The reinforcements who saved El Pasa, the griffon knights’ commander was the imperial prince? Moreover, he was a man who, in name and reality, would soon become the master of this great empire, a fait accompli to be inaugurated as crown prince.

Count Cedric was astonished, but in addition, he was truly moved. The same sentiment was shared by the knights who accompanied Count Cedric and the soldiers who gave water to Ian a while ago.

“We greet Your Highness!”

Dozens of knights and soldiers hurriedly fell on one knee and lowered their heads toward Ian. But among the group, two of them did not kneel. Instead, they fell to the floor.

“F, f, forgive us for our rudeness! Your Highness!”

“Your Highness!”

The two men groveled on the floor with their heads almost touching the floor. They were none other than the two soldiers who had made a bet a short while ago. They had assumed he was just a regular griffon knight, but it turned out he was someone much, much more important – not even just a high-ranking noble, but an actual prince.

‘We are dead now…’

The two soldiers trembled with fear and shock.

Tap. Tap.

When they heard Ian’s footsteps nearing them, their vision went blank and they trembled even harder. Soon, Ian stopped in front of them and reached for them.

‘Hiek!’

The two closed their eyes shut. But Ian’s big hands patted the two soldiers on the shoulder.

“Stand up. This attitude is not suitable for brave warriors who fought valiantly.”

“Y, yes…?”

The two soldiers carefully raised their heads.

While receiving the thickening raindrops, Ian smiled while looking at the two.

“Did you not risk your lives for the empire and for His Majesty’s city? It is I who should be grateful.”

The future master of the empire was kneeling for them, mere foot soldiers of the city.

“Y, your Highness…”

The two felt a heat rising from somewhere deep in their chests, and liquid flowed down the cheeks of the two soldiers. It was unknown whether it was rainwater or tears.

After reassuringly patting them on the shoulder a few more times, Ian stood up and turned around.

“Listen up, everybody!”

“Sir!”

All the knights and soldiers took on a military stance.

In the rain, Ian proclaimed in a loud voice.

“The battle is not yet over! The forces of Arangis, those who dared to invade your city, our city, the city of the Emperor! They are still out there! Leave behind the minimum to handle security and the clean-up. The rest of you, raise your weapons high!”

“Sir!”

Boom! Boom!

It was as if they were looking at the imperial family’s crest. The warriors of El Pasa raised their voice for the imperial prince, who was like a young, brave lion.

***

“How could this be…”

In the fierce downpour, Arigo’s body swayed and the telescope in his hand fell to the ground.

“Your grace!”

Manuel hurried to his side. Perhaps due to the cold weather, Manuel could feel Arigo’s body trembling.

“My soldiers… The legion of Arangis…”

Arigo murmured helplessly, staring at El Pasa with blank, vacant eyes.

“Your grace! T, the fleet…!”

A knight cried out in an urgent voice, and Arigo turned towards the sea. The ships of the Arangis family were surrounded by the combat ships of the 2nd regiment. They were sinking one by one under the raging attacks.

“Keugh!”

Blood sprouted from his tightly sealed lips. His clenched hands also started bleeding.

“I… The Great Arangis… lost…?”

“…..”

No one standing on the wall could give an answer. They just quietly swallowed their tears of indignation with bloodshot eyes.

Kiyaaahk!

It was then.

A group of imperial griffons were flying from the city of El Pasa, towards the fortress.

“A, archers, ready…”

A knight flinched at the sight and attempted to give orders. However, he blurted the end of his words when Arigo placed his baton in front of the knight, helplessly shaking his head.

“It is all over… We must not sacrifice any more soldiers in a meaningless battle.”

“Y, your grace…”

The soldier was about to say something more, but he was eventually forced to drop his head with large tears streaming down his face. The soldiers on the wall followed along, dropping their heads one by one, putting down their weapons.

Whooosh!

With the cold, spring rain weighing on the soldiers of the losers, the roar of the imperial griffons, which seemed to sing the hymn of victory, neared little by little.

***

Rumor.

No, rather, cold-hard facts were spread around the South.

The battle between the Arangis Duchy and the Southern United Army, the battle that would go down in history as the El Pasa Blood War, came to an end.

The total deaths amounted to 2,000, and surprisingly, 80% of the fatalities belonged to the Arangis Duchy. Including the injured, it amounted to 3,000.

The defeat of the Arangis Duchy.

In addition, it was a crushing defeat.

The shocking news caused a huge stir all over the South.

Those who collaborated with the Pendragon Duchy, the 7th regiment, and El Pasa cheered with joy, and those who stood on the side of the Arangis Duchy became devastated. The invincible fleet of the Arangis Duchy, considered the strongest in the inner sea, had been completely destroyed.

But there was even more shocking news.

Arigo Arangis. The direct heir, successor to the Arangis Duchy was captured as a prisoner. And it was none other than Ian Aragon, the second prince of the empire, who personally led the battle on top of the griffon, capturing Arigo Arangis with his own hands.

The soon-to-be emperor had personally led the fleet to the South and snatched the victory after a fierce battle. The flag of El Pasa and the imperial family were raised high, and everyone praised the prince.

The eyes and ears of the southerners then naturally turned to a certain place.

A man who exterminated the monsters and conquered the Great Forest, the one who stood at the center in the war against the Arangis Duchy. The protagonist at the center of the conflict and the one who saved the South from the animals. The name of Alan Pendragon, the master of the Pendragon Duchy, began to spread throughout the South.

***

“W, what?”

Among the inland nobles loyal to the Arangis Duchy, Alberto Berna, the lord of Berna, was the most influential. His mouth became agape with shock.

Defeat of the Arangis Duchy’s fleet, led by Arigo Arangis.

It had been two days since Slain asked for reinforcements. They had been discussing whether to send reinforcements or not, when the shocking news arrived. His hands were trembling nonstop.

“T, that cannot be. That means we are…”

He had been certain that they would only have to deal with the Pendragon Duchy and the coalition. Even if they could not grasp victory, they believed that the Arigo fleet would occupy El Pasa in no time. Then, the young heir of the Arangis Duchy would advance inland to provide assistance.

Everything had gone up in smoke.

“L, lord Berna! What should we do?”

The lords of nearby lands trembled like a leaf. They had also formed their armies with weapons and funds received from the Arangis Duchy. Only a little while ago, they had been confidently voicing their opinions to send reinforcements to Slain Castle, but now they were quietly looking at Lord Berna with pale complexions.

“Keugh…”

A groan escaped between Alberto Berna’s lips.

Everyone’s eyes were focused on him.

They were desperate.

In fact, there was nothing they could do. Now that the Arangis Duchy’s fleet had been annihilated, they had only one choice left – surrendering to the Pendragon Duchy and the United Southern Army.

“I will rather die an honorable death! We will all fight until the end…!”

“Heuk!”

Alberto Berna cried out while foaming at the mouth. The faces of those gathered in Berna Castle turned even paler. But even though he was aroused, Alberto Berna wasn’t out of his mind.

“Even if we choose to surrender now, the only thing that awaits us is the death penalty! Now that an imperial prince is here in person, do you think we will be granted forgiveness? We have already become traitors!”

“Uwah…”

It was just as he said.

The imperial castle had labelled the Arangis Duchy as a traitor. In the end, those who assisted the Arangis family were also traitors.

But the Duke and his heir would not be killed. They stemmed from a royal family from the past, and they had ruled the South for much longer than the empire. Killing them could push the South into another chaotic conflict.

The matter would be concluded by depriving them of their title and sending Arigo into exile.

But it was different for them.

There was no question about it. They would receive the death penalty.

“Keugh…”

Everyone’s eyes became bloodshot.

A cornered rat only had one choice left.

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