Chapter 30

The long, arduous expedition of the Pendragon family ended in success. It wasn’t just a good win; it was a great win.

Decades had passed since the White Dragon last spread her wings over the skies of Conrad Castle. All those present sent their worship and enthusiasm towards Alan Pendragon, who had found a way to pledge with the dragon.

But the festivities lasted only one day. Even though the numbers were smaller than expected, there were at least a dozen fallen soldiers to honor.

People assumed that the soldiers’ families would be compensated with some gold coins, but they were wrong.

“…Thus, I will bestow thirty coins to the bereaved family of Rick Bowman. In addition, Rick Bowman’s direct descendants will receive priority when applying for a business run by the duchy and will be exempt from taxes for three years. Finally, they will be receiving 50% off of their taxes for two years afterward. I promise these things in the name of Pendragon.”

“Thank you. Thank you!”

Thirty women stood in a line, repeatedly bowing their heads. Small children who stood beside their mothers followed their gestures with sniffling noses. The people who were around the women also bowed their heads with tear-filled eyes.

The Duchy promised not only gold coins for the deceased soldiers’ families but also jobs and tax exemption.

And

“If you want a job in my castle, I am willing to offer you a position right away.”

Alan Pendragon, the master and the ruler of the land, had come directly to console the grieving families of these fallen knights and soldiers.

“T, thank you. Thank you, Your Grace! May the goddess protect you and all your family. Sob!”

One woman continued to nod her head up and down, tears trickling from her eyes.

When she first heard of her husband’s death, it seemed as if the sky was falling. It was something she had always prepared herself for, as the wife of a soldier, but when she actually heard that her husband was gone, her knees buckled and she wallowed in despair.

The love and longing burned for her husband who passed on before her. The reality of having to raise a family by herself and rear her young children struck her mercilessly.

She had been crying every night, and she could not find rest at night, swallowed by despair and hopelessness. She knew the castle would compensate her with some gold coins, but there was no way it would be enough to last her and her young children for two years.

Thus, when she heard that soldiers were coming down from the castle in the early morning, she walked out the door without any hope.

But when she saw the identity of the young man who dismounted his horse and walked towards her, her body froze and she forgot to even kneel. She stared blankly at the young man.

“Rick Bowman was a proud warrior of the Pendragon family.”

The young man started with these words which brought her to her knees and broke down the barriers in her heart to allow for a torrent of tears to fall.

Seeing their mother weep, the children followed along, and all the neighbors came out of their homes at the sound, before being shocked by the young man and bowing their heads.

And now, endless respect filled the eyes of the woman and the residents who were looking at the young man as he climbed back onto his horse.

“Glory to Pendragon! Honor to the white dragon!”

“Hurrah! Glory to His Grace Pendragon!”

Embarrassed by the cheers of the people, Raven slightly raised his hand before rushing his horse out of the area. It had been his idea to personally visit the families of the fallen soldiers to pay his respect. The task was usually left up to senior soldiers or knights, but Raven was insistent on personally carrying out the task.

He didn’t do it to gain loyalty from the soldiers or to leave a good impression on the deceased soldiers’ families.

To a Duchy that was close to royalty, regular soldiers and the common people were nothing more than possessions or property.

During the early days of the expedition, Raven had expected many of his soldiers to desert in the face of oncoming death.

But there had not been a single deserter.

On the contrary, the soldiers braced forward as they faced the uncertain situation, and accompanied Raven through the Ancona Forest all the way to the mausoleum. The injured had marched along as well.

For Raven, who always prioritized his own life, the actions of the Pendragon soldiers were truly a wonder. They were true heroes, incomparable to the scums of the demonic army, and Raven intended to give them the treatment they deserved.

That was why he had been out since early morning to visit the families. He still felt the awkwardness and was embarrassed by the atmosphere when he gave condolences to the families.

Noticing Raven’s sincerity and awkwardness, Killian gave a warm smile while glancing at Raven.

Noticing Killian’s eyes glint with respect, Raven coughed stiffly.

“Ehem! Anyways, where are we headed to next?”

“Roy Barnett on Vint Street, sir.”

“We have around ten more, so let’s hurry it up.”

“Yes, Your Grace!”

Including Killian, the soldiers saw their master personally take care of their deceased comrades and they felt appreciative and proud to be serving such a master.

***

After an afternoon of consolation, a banquet was held in the courtyard of Conrad Castle.

Trees and flowers bloomed around a large, colorful tent that was set up in the central area of the courtyard. Knights and nobles cheerfully chattered, and all kinds of foods and drinks made by the chefs of the castle entertained their mouths.

Bards sang songs and read poems of the heroic deeds that past adventurers and champions pursued, stimulating the ears of the audience.

Jesters dressed in colorful clothes showing off their acrobatics and techniques, captivating the eyes.

However, even as people enjoyed the atmosphere and the various distractions, their eyes glanced towards one place from time to time.

In the middle of the banquet, a tent was decorated with golden embroideries and with the Pendragon flag. Two ladies and the duchess sat inside.

There was a specific reason why people kept stealing glances at the tent where the three ladies were perched.

At that moment, the song “The Dragon and the Lion of Alsain” started playing. The classic song described Alex Pendragon, the progenitor of the Pendragon family, and his adventures with the first emperor in defeating monsters.

“Wings of the White Dragon” followed after, a song symbolizing the Pendragon family that was well-known throughout the empire. It started playing with an elegant melody.

Everyone got up from their seats and turned their heads to one place simultaneously.

Thud!

The guards standing on both sides of an altar raised their halberds into the air. A blonde man wearing a blood-red and silver-white tunic as well as a headband-like golden crown came down the stairs at a dignified pace.

“Oh…!”

People’s faces were filled with joy and reverence as they saw the appearance of Alan Pendragon.

He was the protagonist of today. However, at the sight of ‘some people’ who followed right behind him, people’s faces instinctively changed to fear.

Thirty armor-clad orc warriors came down, their bodies towering over the humans. Though they were adorned with brown capes embroidered with golden strings, which lessened the fear in people’s eyes, their sheer size and ferocious appearances made people gasp in terror.

“My lady.”

“Come, come this way. I’ve already heard of your troubles.”

Elena became more pleased and proud at the sight of her son.

“Welcome back, brother.”

“Yes.”

Raven made his way to Irene’s side, who was standing with red cheeks, and looked over the crowd. The participants were looking towards him with eyes full of tension.

“Everyone, please have an enjoyable time.”

That was all he said before sitting down on his chair. People looked at Raven with absurdity, and even the three ladies looked at him with ludicrous expressions.

But such reactions only applied to the humans.

The non-humans eagerly headed towards the food and the drinks as if they had been waiting for Alan to finish speaking.

“Kukukuket! Delicious! Pendragon food is the best!”

“What the hell is this made of? Why is this so good? Kuoow!”

“Is there no beer? Beer! Orcs don’t drink wine! Beer is the true blessing of the earth god!”

It was absolute chaos.

The way they chugged down the food -- it could not possibly be called ‘eating’. Devouring, or absorbing, seemed to be a better term for it. Meat, wine, and everything went into the warriors’ mouth.

“Oi, Mckidd. You scarecrow, have a drink! Eat, eat!”

In addition, the orcs patted the shoulders of the soldiers, offering food and drinks to those who fought with them in the battles. The soldiers responded in kindness, laughing and sharing their meals with the orc warriors.

“…

Those who saw the scene suddenly lost strength in their legs and plopped back into their chairs. No one had ever seen, or even imagined a scene where orcs and humans would mingle in the same place.

In the first place, when people heard that orcs were going to attend the banquet, everyone was worried about how scary and awkward it was going to be, but now they felt relieved as if they worried for nothing.

The banquet continued with the sound of joy and laughter, and the atmosphere returned to being pleasant and amicable. Raven looked around the banquet with a satisfied look. Then suddenly, he narrowed his eyes.

One person who should’ve been present was not visible.

“Excuse me, brother? You must’ve had a tough time going to each of the fallen soldiers’ homes and consoling them…”

Raven ignored Irene, who was shyly trying to engage in a conversation with him. Instead, he turned to the maid who was waiting for him behind the tent.

“Where is Lindsay?”

“Yes? Ah, Lindsay is Your Grace’s personal maid, so she should be on standby over there…”

Raven turned his head to where the maid was pointing towards and cut off her words with a cold voice.

“Head maid, are you out of your mind? Have you gone senile or something?”

“Y, yes, yes?”

“It was a difficult trip even for the soldiers, who were all trained for years. Moreover, that child took care of feeding the refugees and the soldiers in Bellint Gate. Yet, on a scorching day like this, you let her stay out there to wait on me?”

Technically, it wasn’t just Lindsay who was forced to stand out in the sun. While the personal maids of Raven, Elena, and the two girls were all positioned under the shade in the tent, Lindsay was among those standing in the sun due to her lower standing.

“I, I apologize, Your Grace. I really am sorry.”

The head maid bowed her head, her pale face taking on a terrified expression.

Even though Lindsay received special treatment and favor from His Grace, it wasn’t possible to give her preferential treatment unless she was officially one of his concubines.

Thus, the head maid had acted as such, but she was still surprised to see that Lindsay was placed among the maids who were sweating in the sun…

“That child worked hard and aided both the Pendragon family and I greatly. There’s no reason for her to be treated like that even if she does stem from a low status. I’m disappointed. I’m greatly disappointed in you, head maid.”

“Yes, Your Grace. I apologize.”

Furthermore, they had apparently kept up their relationship during the whole expedition. It was no wonder His Grace was so angry.

‘Regardless of the situation, how could they let that child just stand there in the sun?’

Raven saw Lindsay’s face beaten red from heat and the sweat that profusely poured out from the back of her neck. She was just standing there, unable to even move her hands to wipe the sweat. Raven began to feel emotional as he looked at Lindsay's struggle.

Her appearance overlapped with Raven Valt of the past. Whenever there was a huge event held by the County that the Valt family served, Raven had always stood guard with the soldiers in the smoldering sun due to his identity as a bastard son.

“I, I will correct it right away, Your Grace.”

The head maid felt the growing anger of Alan Pendragon and held her dress up before running towards the group of maids. Soon, Lindsay entered the palace with the head maid and two others, and Raven finally loosened his expression.

‘I’m so proud of you. You’ve become so wise.’

Elena silently stared at the side of Raven’s face, her eyes full of contentment. In addition to the soldiers who died in battle, he rewarded even a lowly maid with appropriate compensation.

Of course, it was obvious that their relationship also played a part, but even so, it was a fitting action for the master of the Pendragon family.

Moreover, even though it was a little harsh, she was proud of him for being able to scold his subordinates for their wrongdoings when it was necessary.

Completely contrasting to Elena’s face, Irene Pendragon glanced at her brother’s side with a desperate face that looked to be on the verge of tears.

‘Oh my god, I can’t believe his cold-hearted expression. It’s so vulgar that he doesn’t even spare me a glance… Oh brother, you’re so gorgeous! Ahh!’

‘E, excuse me… I feel a little under the weather. I’m going to go and rest for a bit…”

Irene, who had been acting restless, could not stand it any longer and left. Her personal maids, who were already used to their lady’s state of mind and her obsession with her brother, let out a deep sigh before following Irene with quick steps.

‘What’s wrong with that child again? I really can’t figure her out…’

Raven watched Irene disappear into the distance, shrugged once, and turned his head before he flinched and stopped short.

The chair where Irene Pendragon was sitting just a short while ago was now occupied by his youngest sister, Mia Pendragon. She looked up at him with eyes that were hard to read.

When Raven met her eyes, she quickly looked down and fiddled with her doll.

Looking at her shy behavior, he had a hunch that he would regret it if he didn’t make conversation with her. He forced an awkward start to a conversation.

“Um… How have you been? I couldn’t talk to you very much because I was very busy.”

Mia slowly raised her head at Raven’s words. Then, to his surprise, she gave a gigantic smile before nodding her head. Mia Pendragon rarely displayed emotion, even to her family.

“Oh…”

Not only Mia’s personal maids, but even Elena Pendragon was surprised at her show of emotion. But it wasn’t as strange for Raven because he had seen the very same smile on the day he left on his expedition.

Raven felt even more awkward, but he forced himself to smile and stroke her hair.

“Oh, so… The monster stories… I will make sure to tell you more… When I have time…”

“…

He could tell that Mia’s eyes filled with tears when the words ‘next time’ were brought up. He hurriedly changed his words.

“… And instead, I am going to tell you stories about my expedition this time around. Yes, do you remember that goblin named Kazzal we saw yesterday? Well, so I caught him by…”

‘Damn it. I would rather have a fistfight with Karuta…’

Even though he was dismayed at the situation, he could only continue his stories because he felt obligated to not let the little girl, who looked up to him with adoration and affection, feel disappointed and cry.

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