Chapter 288

“His Highness Ian has done a great job.”

“Even though that man is a unique character, his skills are pretty solid.”

Raven replied somewhat brusquely to the excited words of Viscount Moraine. Viscount Moraine burst into laughter at Raven’s answer.

“He may soon become the new master of our empire, is it okay to be addressing him as ‘that man’?”

“Why not? From the looks of it, he will become the son-in-law of my family before he becomes the master of the empire.”

“Hahaha!”

Viscount Moraine broke into a chuckle.

He knew very well that the relationship between the Duke and Prince Ian was special. They had been responsible for revealing the truth behind the attempted poisoning of the crown prince in Sisak, and everyone knew that they had worked together to fight the war against the Arangis Duchy, to punish the southern hegemon for its traitorous acts.

Of course, Viscount Moraine had been ignorant about what Raven had just said – how Ian would soon become the son-in-law of the Pendragon family.

This was how the incident started.

The United Southern Army and the Pendragon Duchy’s forces were surrounding Slain Castle. Two days ago, an emergency message had arrived for Duke Pendragon and Viscount Moraine. The urgent message was sent by Prince Ian from El Pasa, and there were only three sentences contained within.

[Arrived at El Pasa. Captured Arigo Arangis. Wait.]

Even though they were able to decipher the message, writing only three sentences felt a little too discourteous. But Raven was not one to care about such things, and Viscount Moraine dared not complain about a letter bearing the imperial seal.

The problem arose afterwards.

His Highness Ian, who personally led the imperial fleet and destroyed the Arangis Duchy to save El Pasa, had sent more than just one letter. Duke Pendragon and Viscount Moraine were not the only ones to receive his hand-written letter.

Irene Pendragon was the recipient of the other ‘pink’ emergency letter, which was only sent in very urgent situations. The younger sister, who cared dearly for his brother, brought the letter to Raven without hesitation as soon as she read the contents.

Raven was dumbfounded at first.

His precious highness, who sent only three lines to himself and Viscount Moraine, had filled two entire pages in his letter to Irene. In his letter, he described how he played a crucial role in the battle of El Pasa, and what he was planning to do in the future.

Unfortunately, it was not just an explanation of how he would support the United Southern Army and how he planned to advance inland, but rather, it was all about ‘how he would meet Lady Pendragon’, utilizing sickly-sweet rhetoric and rather cheesy lines.

“I don’t even know what to say to him, tsk…”

He shook his head. Even on second thought, Raven was still dumbfounded and in disbelief.

“Haha! But thanks to His Highness Ian, the crucial information was kept safe from any spies.”

“Tsk…”

Raven clicked his tongue with a disapproving expression.

It was rather ridiculous, but that was the reason why he could not say anything to Ian about sending such a letter to Irene. After arriving in El Pasa with the imperial fleet, the prince had only written well-known information in the letter being sent to Viscount Moraine and himself. He had taken countermeasures in case the letter was intercepted in the middle or the information was leaked to any spies. Anyone would know that a letter being sent to Duke Pendragon and Viscount Moraine would contain crucial information.

Then he explained his plans in detail in a pink, love letter destined for a young lady, something that would be embarrassing for any man to open. Anyone would have assumed the pink note to be a love letter.

Ian Aragon knew Irene to be a sly, intelligent girl. He would have expected her to figure out the hidden messages, showing the letter to Raven immediately. It was a bold and meticulous operation, befitting a figure who would soon become crown prince and one day ascend to the throne.

“Even so. This is strikingly suspicious…”

Raven was very tactful when it came to other people’s affairs. He murmured while narrowing his eyes. The phrases at the end of the letter expressed his desperate heart towards Irene. The more he thought of it, the more reprehensible it was.

Even if it was to deceive the enemy, how could he use such bold and blatant expressions to a girl who was just about to have her coming-of-age ceremony…

“What? If the lady’s love dictates, he is even willing to take her brother, Duke Pendragon, as an enemy? Does he even know what kind of a girl Irene is…? Truly… tsk.”

Raven laughed coldly.

Ian may have expressed his heart truthfully and dramatically, but he was far mistaken if he thought he had used the correct expressions. Irene Pendragon was a good(?), kind sister who thought of her brother more than the most precious people in the world, even someone who would become emperor one day.

“Well, when I saw Lady Pendragon’s expression, it seemed like she did not harbor any dislike for it, hmm?”

“…..”

Raven had no choice but to shut his mouth at the teasing words of Viscount Moraine. He had seen it as well. After delivering Ian’s letter to him, Irene’s cheeks had been colored as pink as the letter when she was leaving.

“By the way, your excellency, suspicious movements from Berna have been reported…”

Viscount Moraine suddenly changed the subject.

“Hmm.”

Raven stroked his chin with a stiff expression. Just as Viscount Moraine said, some kind of movement had been detected in Berna. It was notable since they had not responded at all after receiving a call for reinforcements from Slain Castle.

The information was provided by the landlords who turned sides after Ian and the El Pasa troops defeated the force of the Arangis Duchy.

“Are they trying to recruit reinforcements to send here?”

“Even if that were the case, don’t you think way too many mercenaries are gathering? Besides, serfs and regular people are being conscripted as well.”

“You certainly have a point…”

Viscount Moraine’s eyes glowed with a sharp glint. He was also an experienced veteran. Many mercenary groups, both small and large, were flocking to Berna from all over the South, and adult men were being drafted. He did not think they were taking such measures to send reinforcements to Slain, which was now surrounded by the allied forces on all sides.

“It seems as if they are preparing to take a final stance…”

“My thoughts are aligned with yours. Even though it may not be the case for the Arangis Duchy, they will surely be sentenced to death if they were to surrender. They might be preparing themselves to fight until death.”

“Hmm.”

Raven nodded heavily.

It was certainly good news that Ian and the imperial fleet destroyed the Arangis Duchy’s forces.

But good news was always accompanied by bad news.

Ian’s victory over the Arangis Duchy was enough to drive the southern nobles and landlords into a corner. They had been desperately holding on, waiting for support from the Arangis Duchy. But now that they were faced with a dead end, they only had so many options to choose from.

“It may be difficult to resolve.”

Viscount Moraine’s voice was rather somber.

In the first place, the two men’s purpose was to defeat the enemies one by one. They had been planning to start with the reinforcements sent by Alberto Berna, the head of a group supporting the Arangis Duchy in the southern part of the land.

As such, they had let the messenger falcon from Slain Castle slip between their fingers. Even with the addition of the Ancona Orcs and the Red Moon Valley Elves, the combined forces of the United Southern Army were still inferior to the supporters of the Arangis Duchy.

In the end, the best strategy was to bait reinforcements for Slain Castle, dividing them into several groups and destroying them one by one. However, the arrival of the imperial fleet and Ian changed the entire situation. They were now starting to gather.

It was the worst situation possible. The nobles and the landlords were freely utilizing all their assets to hire mercenaries and even conscripting residents.

“We may need to make a move first.”

“Hmm, then we should take over Slain Castle as soon as possible. Preferably in a way that minimizes damage.”

“I feel the same way as you, commander. To achieve such a feat, it would be better to act on a day like today.”

“Then we should…”

“We will have to send them.”

Suaaaaa!

Raven and Viscount Moraine exchanged a mysterious glance as they listened to the sound of the downpour outside the tent.

***

Rumble!

The rain clouds, which originated from the sea, had long made their way inland since a few days ago. What had started as thin raindrops soon turned into heavy rain. With the heavy downpour striking against the spires and walls of Slain Castle, the soldiers observed the outside with slanted eyes.

The castle guards of Slain Castle had continued to monitor the United Southern Army for the past five days. But on a day with heavy rain, battles were seldomly fought. As such, the guards became more relaxed over time, slowly easing their tension.

“Haam…”

Several soldiers started to yawn. They had not slept properly for several days, and even though rainwater penetrated through their summer leather clothes and made them damp, they were unable to resist the sweet temptations of sleep.

“These bastards…”

“Wake up!”

The knights shouted loudly and kicked, but it only worked momentarily. As soon as the officers passed by, the soldiers once again leaned back against the wall. In any case, it was almost evening, and the line of sight was heavily limited due to the torrent. The soldiers’ eyes started to close on their own as they monitored the surroundings.

That was why they did not notice a group of figures running towards them at high speeds, breaking through the pouring rain. There were more than 20 troops dressed in almost the same color as the blue grasslands. They ran inexorably through the field like animals, heading towards Slain Castle. Soon, they arrived at the point where the guards’ surveillance was most vulnerable.

Even if the soldiers on the wall had seen them, they would have shrugged it off as the swaying grass. The figures’ appearance was almost indistinguishable from the field, and they had been covert and quick on their feet.

Kwaaahh!

The moat of Slain Castle had been flooded by the pouring rain, and its currents were fast and dangerous. But the figures pitched several wide pieces of wood over the swaying water, then immediately jumped.

Pong! Pong!

Unbelievably, they crossed the moat without much effort, stepping on the pieces of wood one after another like flying squirrels.

Their actions had caused a loud sound like stones falling into water, but the sound of the rain and the rumble of thunder prevented the soldiers on the walls from noticing it.

Eventually, all of the figures crossed the moat, then stuck close to the wall.

“…..”

All of their faces were covered with black, leather masks. A figure with glimmering eyes gestured to the rest of the troops, then they pulled something out of a small backpack that slid over their shoulders.

The object was a pair of black leather gloves with metallic ends. After equipping the gloves, the troops began to climb the walls at the leader’s signal.

Crack!

The sharp metal at the tips of the black gloves dug through the wall of stone, and the soldiers began climbing up like a swarm of green spiders. After a while, the troops successfully climbed all the way to the top of the 80-feet high wall.

But they did not immediately jump to the top of the wall. Rather, they waited for the leader’s instructions. The leader, who possessed a rather slender figure, pulled out an object. Raising the small mirror on a stick over the wall, the leader rotated the object to grasp the situation.

After putting away the stick, the figure sent a signal to the troops on both sides. The message was quickly delivered to everyone, then a short whistle sounded from inside the leader’s mask. It was quite similar to a bird’s cry.

Piee!

“Huh?”

There was no way a bird would be flying in the weather, so a dozing soldier rubbed his eyes in surprise. At that moment, he spotted someone jumping up the castle wall.

“Heuk! Who…”

As he gasped and attempted to shout, a dagger flew through the raindrops and landed right between his brows.

Shhik! Shik!

Afterwards, a few sharp sounds leaked from the walls, but that was it. The guards collapsed in the arms of the figures, daggers piercing their necks and heads. They could not even scream before they met their deaths.

“Let’s go.”

A thin, quiet voice rang out.

Eltuan and the Red Moon Valley elf warriors possessed eyesight that was several times better than humans. They ran towards the direction of the gate after identifying it through the heavy rain.

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