Chapter 297

The battle that took place on that day was clearly etched into the long history of the Aragon Empire with its inexplicable horrors and unexpected twists. More than 1,000 Valvas Cavaliers joined the war as a unified force for the first time in history, and the tides of war were quickly turned around. The long siege had continued from dawn until noon, resulting in the death of more than 2,000 soldiers of the Berna army. But even with their remaining 8,000-strong army, the army of Berna was no match for the Valvas Cavaliers.

Every single one of the Valvas Cavaliers was powerful enough to contest with not only well-trained soldiers, but also could fend off two or three knights by themselves. They completely overwhelmed the undisciplined mob of the Berna army. After all, more than 30 percent of the Berna army were forcefully conscripted soldiers. In particular, the cavaliers’ strategy worked brilliantly against the Berna army. Each clan of the Valvas Cavaliers attacked separately from the rear, led by the cavalry of the clans.

The soldiers of the Berna army had not received proper combat training, since the plan was to take over the castle with overwhelming numbers. As expected, they were helpless in the face of the Valvas Cavaliers’ charge. The regular soldiers of the Berna army were essentially infants compared to the cavaliers, who learned how to wield weapons ever since they were toddlers.

Although the cavaliers did not work together like a well-oiled machine, their attacks were even more effective because they were unrestricted. Each clan moved as one body regardless of their numbers.

There were a number of professional mercenaries in the Berna army, but even they were no match for the Valvas Cavaliers. Even one or two clans would have posed as a huge threat, but all seven strongest clans of Valvas had entered the battle. The mercenaries were unable to come to their senses.

Ultimately, all the mercenaries fled before an hour passed after the cavaliers joined the battle. It was a natural choice for the mercenaries, as they possessed no loyalty or allegiance to their employer.

With the Valvas Cavaliers initiating a battle against the awaiting troops outside the castle, the battle on the castle walls also became much easier. With one last ounce of strength, the allied forces finally defeated the Berna army.

Just before the sun reached its peak, the battle finally ended.

The casualties were as follows: 600 soldiers died among the United Southern Army, which consisted of 2,000 soldiers. The Berna army suffered a devastating defeat and massive casualties, recording more than 10 times the death of the United Southern Army. Out of the 10,000 troops participating in the war, 7,000 died or suffered severe injuries.

The remaining 3,000 soldiers either surrendered or fled.

Normally, the war could not continue if more than half of the total troops could not fight any longer. Furthermore, the surviving soldiers of the Berna army were less skilled than the ordinary soldiers of the United Southern Army, let alone the Valvas Cavaliers, and most crucially, all of the Berna army’s commanders were captured.

In the end, the curtains were drawn to one of the largest, most bloody battles in southern history. The combined forces of the Pendragon Duchy, the United Southern Army, and the Valvas Cavaliers achieved a remarkable victory. The victors sang the hymn of victory on the rubbles of a battlefield decorated with thousands of bodies and rivers of blood.

After a long journey, the Duke of Pendragon and Viscount Moraine of the 7th regiment accomplished everything they had set out to do. But life-and-death battles were often accompanied by more than joy. The 600 perished soldiers were the survivors’ friends, as well as brothers, fathers, and sons of those unknown. In addition… one of them was a squire of the Pendragon Duchy, a man who was taken in by the duke himself.

***

Fwoosh…

A huge fire cremating the corpses of the Berna forces blazed as if to devour the plains. The priests of Lumina quietly muttered prayers, sending the souls of the dead to the side of their goddess in the scattering ashes and flames.

“…..”

Raven observed the scene from the wall with cold eyes. His gaze contained traces of the long battle, an experience that could not be washed away.

No sympathy could be found on his expression. The occasional, flitting emotion was of anger and remorse. Of course, he wasn’t feeling remorseful toward the dead soldiers of the Berna army. He felt such emotions toward the entire situation.

And,

‘Leon Johnbolt…’

He tightly clenched his fists.

The young squire had died. He had faithfully accomplished his duty as the guard of Raven’s two sisters and Lidnsay. Leon Johnbolt had protected the three people he loved, as well as the daughters and wives of the high-ranking personnel of the South, including Iriya Mandy.

“Sir Johnbolt fought the bravest, without regard for his own life. The knife on his stomach and back are from when he was trying to save my life.”

It was a tearful testimony of the only survivor among Leon’s group. He was distraught as he recounted the story of the ambush.

Even with an axe stuck in his side, Leon Johnbolt continued to fight fiercely to save his colleague. It was an act that could only be described as superhuman. There were no other possible explanations for his actions. He had been inexperienced in handling the Spirit, but he alone had fought off and killed dozens of skilled mercenaries. Moreover, he had knocked on the door to keep his promise with Irene despite such serious injuries.

“Leon, Leon Johnbolt…”

The name weighed down heavily on Raven’s heart. Leon died fighting with determination, the same as others who crossed the river of life and death at Slain Castle today.

He had pursued his values and kept his oath until the very end…

“My lord…”

Raven turned his head at someone’s words.

It was Isla, the man responsible for today’s miraculous victory.

“Elkin. Or should I call you the Knight King now?”

“Please don’t say such things. I will forever be a loyal knight of Pendragon… of you, my lord. Just like Leon, no, like Sir Johnbolt…”

Isla’s somber words made Raven’s heart heavier.

More than a year passed since he became Duke Pendragon. He was more accustomed to his duties and responsibilities as Alan Pendragon, not Raven Valt. However, reality was rather bitter. Unlike when he was fighting alone to survive, having people believe and follow him often brought pain and remorse.

‘For what am…’

Raven looked down at his hands, which were still covered with blood.

Perhaps it was still for survival and revenge. However, he was confused. Was it justified to continue sacrificing others to achieve his own purpose?

It occurred to him that a monarch was also a slaughterer.

“Elkin.”

“Yes, my lord.”

His knight had returned a king. Raven continued while staring at Isla.

“The path of a monarch… is cruel and long.”

“…..”

Isla bowed his head without saying a word.

He was able to empathize with Raven’s words. He himself suffered from the pain of saying goodbyes to the people precious to him. He was still in the process of regaining his lost identity. He could vaguely feel the weight of the sorrow, remorse, and anguish that his lord was experiencing.

No matter what he said, it would not lighten the load.

Even so, it had to be done.

He himself was a ‘king’ who could understand Duke Pendragon, his lord, as well as a knight who had sworn allegiance.

“There is a saying in Valvas. A cavalier’s fate is harsh…”

Isla continued while gazing at Raven’s glaring face in the light.

“But whether you follow it or leave it, a cavalier will always have to carve a path of blood with his sword. Even if he becomes king, a new fate of blood will be awaiting him.”

“Is that so? Does that mean you have to keep staining your hands with blood again and again?”

A bitter smile appeared on Raven’s face. But Isla shook his head with a look of conviction.

“The lord I came to know will break that fate. You will be able to carve a new path that no knight nor king has ever walked. At least, that is my conviction.”

“…..!”

Raven trembled unknowingly at the firm voice of his knight. Elkin Isla, Stormbringer. He was the man who was supposed to have become the right-hand man of Duke Arangis. How could the knight’s trust in him be so unshaken? What could the knight possibly see in him that he would trust and support him as such?

“That holds true for me as well!”

Raven turned towards the reliable voice. Killian spoke with tears glimmering in his eyes while beating his chest.

“The lord has already renewed my destiny! I was blinded and arrogant. The lord is the one who led me to become a true head knight of the Pendragon Duchy! It’s not just me either!”

“If it wasn’t for the Duke, I, Milner, would have spent the rest of my life as a guard in Conrad Castle, forever living a meaningless life while working day-to-day for food.”

Theo Milner joined in while walking to the side of Killian. He was now an indispensable, precious member of the Pendragon Duchy’s griffon units.

“My name is Hiles from Miles! Your excellency saved my village! I lived in constant fear and anxiety due to the monsters, but now I can stand proudly as a soldier and fight alongside…”

“If it had not been for the duke, I would have died in the fields as a lone mercenary without a home!”

“For the duke and the duchy, my brother…”

“Thanks to Your Excellency’s kindness in accepting refugees, I, along with my wife and children…”

It started with one or two people taking their place by the side of Killian. But in the blink of an eye, it grew to dozens. The men proudly boasted the symbol of the Pendragon Duchy on their chests. They came forward regardless of their status and shouted towards their lord.

They were men of differing ages and appearances, but all of them stared at one person with passion in their eyes and shouted desperately. Raven remained silent while listening to their firm words.

His heart started pounding faster.

He remembered the words of his enemy, the one who constantly targeted him after he became Alan Pendragon.

“To give one, you must take one. That is the flow of causality.”

It was the words of Jean Obern, the Nameless Necromancer.

‘Is that it? Is that how it works?’

If someone is sacrificed on the path of blood, causality presented hope to another. At least, those who were shouting with their eyes dyed red served as proof. They were presenting to him a silver lining in the blood that dyed their hands red. Raven met the gazes of each and every one of them with emotional eyes. Finally, when his gaze reached Isla and Killian, Raven opened his sealed lips.

“Thank you, all of you. It is not I, but all of us, who is Pendragon…”

Raven removed his gaze from the two knights, who were smiling faintly, then raised his voice to those on the walls.

“Thank you for fighting! Thank you for surviving! I order you as the one who leads Pendragon, we will be returning now!”

“Uwwwooooh!”

In the far South, the cries of the valiant warriors shook the walls.

***

The long campaign of the Pendragon Duchy finally came to an end. The handling and disposition of the Arangis Duchy were left to the imperial forces, led by the commander, Prince Ian. The United Southern Army was disbanded, and the remnants of the 7th regiment and the 11th regiment joined Prince Ian’s fleet along with Viscount Moraine.

The war had caused destruction and chaos in various parts of the South.

The reconstruction and maintenance of order in the South were left up to the Governor-General of El Pasa, Count Cedric. The southern nobles and lords who worked with the Pendragon Duchy and El Pasa were rewarded appropriately.

In the past, most of the South had been a part of the empire in its name only, but now, they became completely subservient to the empire. They were granted the titles of viscounts and barons and became official lords under imperial rule.

Southerners felt joy and surprise at the peace and transformation that followed the end of the war. However, there was another issue that shocked the entire empire.

The emperor announced that Valvas, a territory in the South, was to be recognized as an independent kingdom. The surprising news rattled all the nobles on the mainland. Valvas was being recognized as an independent territory rather than a Great Territory. It was no exaggeration to say that another duchy was being born.

But the king of Valvas was not a figure linked to the imperial family by blood. Rather, he was none other than a knight of the Pendragon Duchy. In other words, the famous kingdom of the Valvas Cavaliers was essentially a part of the Pendragon Duchy.

It was a horrifyingly frightening turn of events for the high lords and nobles of the mainland. However, their concerns were soon assuaged to a degree.

Elkin Isla, the Knight King, and knight of the Pendragon Duchy, entrusted the control of the Vlavas Kingdom to a representative assembly centered around the Seven Clans of Valvas. It would prevent him from convening the cavaliers at will.

Most became relieved at the news, but still, quite a few mainland nobles maintained anxious gazes as they looked toward the Pendragon Duchy. Among them, those with good heads quickly noticed that the seemingly coordinated events were a part of a plan devised by a particular individual from the duchy.

Pendragon Duchy’s Racoon Mask – Vincent.

He worked alongside Duke Pendragon and Prince Ian to process the works.

As such, the Pendragon Duchy’s long campaign to the South finally drew to an end.

Many things had been gained, but the loss was equally great.

For the deceased soldiers, regular soldiers were promoted to squires, squires were promoted to knights, and knights were given titles as barons. The bereaved families were compensated with reasonable rewards.

But there was one man who was directly promoted to a baron from a squire.

Leon Johnbolt.

He was honored as an imperial baron after sacrificing his life to protect the two ladies and Lindsay, as well as numerous noble ladies.

Prince Ian contributed largely to the process as well.

He greatly supported the special promotion. Leon Johnbolt had been an exemplary knight for Irene Pendragon, whom Ian had in his heart.

Leon Johnbolt was born as the son of the imperial castle’s jester family, but became a member of the Pendragon family and eventually attained the title of baron.

The only other survivor recounted the tales of Leon’s undying loyalty and superhuman feats. People began to call him the Black Flash for how he defeated dozens of mercenaries with nothing but a pair of black gauntlets.

The long, wretched time of struggle was finally left behind. Something was gained, and another was lost. Duke Pendragon finally returned to the duchy… to Conrad Castle.


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DantheMan's Thoughts

End of an arc! Thanks for staying with the novel this far. RIP to Leon Johnbolt.