Chapter 304

Fwooosh…!

“Commander.”

Ian stood on a hill facing the wind and the waves. He turned his head at someone’s voice.

“All combat troops and supply units have landed safely.”

“Good.”

He turned and looked down at the thousands of troops gathering on the half-moon-shaped shore. The imperial griffons were lined up in formation. The cavalry of the 3rd regiment, who were exhausted from the long voyage but still in high morale, greeted their commander-in-chief.

“I have finished organizing the campsite. We will be able to arrive at Arangis’ main castle in five days, as we expected.”

“Well, it probably will not take five days.”

“Yes…?”

Viscount Villemore showed confusion at Prince Ian’s words. As one of the two deputy commanders of the expedition fleet and the commander of the ground forces, he was naturally an excellent knight. He was in his mid-30’s, which was considered relatively young among the commanders of the imperial army, but he was well-recognized within the force for his military arts and tactics.

“Do you think it was a coincidence that we were able to land without meeting any resistance?”

“Well, I did find it weird, but…”

After suffering an unprecedented, crushing defeat in the battle of El Pasa, the forces of the Arangis Duchy had been cut in half. However, the remaining force was still large enough to contend with the imperial army.

“Why do you think the galleys of the Arangis Duchy ran away when we encountered them on our way here? Since we have encountered each other twice, even a fool would know that we were going to land on this coast. But there’s no one here.”

“Hmm, so they must be preparing for a final battle at the main castle.”

“Most likely, though that may not be the case either…”

“Hmm?”

Ian replied with a smile, and Viscount Villemore narrowed his eyes.

“Arangis only has half of their forces remaining. Also, the Arangis Duchy is large. Including the Island of Crete and the nearby vassal islands, the Arangis Duchy is as large as two great territories of the mainland combined. The territory is far too large to handle with only thousands.”

“Ah…!”

As a commander of the imperial army, Villemore quickly grasped the situation. Many of the troops who were killed in El Pasa directly belonged to the duchy, but just as many soldiers belonged to the vassal families of the Arangis Duchy. At a time like this, if a civil uprising occurred on Crete Island or any of the small islands nearby, the Arangis Duchy would have a difficult time handling it.

In addition, a fierce storm had incurred massive damages on Crete Island and the nearby islands. Food was scarce, and the public sentiment was terrible. If they decided to gather the remaining troops for a battle, they could fall into an immeasurably abyss.

“I am not completely sure yet, but we will know in another day or two. What kind of decision did Arangis make?”

Ian spoke in a somber voice, but his expression was rather strange.

War was an extension of politics after all. Duke Arangis had reigned as ruler of the South for many years, and Ian believed that the Duke of Arangis would make the right decision as a monarch at the last moment.

***

Fwoosh!

A cool sea breeze caused the cloak of Duke Arangis to flutter. However, his eyes were deeply somber as he looked out into the far sea.

“All the preparations have been completed… Your Excellency.”

Manuel bowed behind him with a haggard appearance. He had been captured alongside Arigo by the enemy but was released to deliver their message. He appeared to have aged 10 years in just 15 days when he returned to Crete.

“Is that so? Well done.”

Keugh! Please kill me, Your Excellency!”

The old advisor of the duchy plopped on his knees.

“If only I had been more capable… Only if I assisted His Grace Arigo a little better…”

Hot tears flowed from his eyes and caught on the deep wrinkles, but Manuel continued crying like a child without wiping the tears.

“It is not your fault. My greed… was responsible for causing all of this.”

Duke Arangis smiled faintly while comforting the old, loyal advisor.

“Your Excellency…”

The smile tore Manuel’s heart even more. The guards protecting Duke Arangis also swallowed their tears and bit their lips. The great royalty of Arangis, the great monarch of the South would soon fade away into dusk and into history. The bright light that enveloped the vast inland sea and the South would dim and disappear.

“I would like to be alone for a moment.”

“Yes…”

Manuel and the knights left at the wishes of Duke Arangis. From the highest balcony of the castle, Duke Arangis quietly stared at the blue waves of the inland sea.

“Is this the end…?”

He held onto the railings while whispering from his dry lips. Fifteen days ago, Manuel returned with several knights. Duke Arangis had already been informed of the defeat, but the moment he saw their miserable appearances, the very sky seemed to collapse.

Some of the remaining lords and retainers on Crete Island wanted to take action and immediately gather forces to head to El Pasa. They desired to go all-out in a fight against the imperial fleet and capture Prince Ian and Duke Pendragon to use them as hostages against the imperial family.

However, most of the Arangis Duchy’s troops had been annihilated and even his successor was captured. Duke Arangis remained cool-headed even in the worst situation. The duchy still had plenty of troops remaining, and if he assembled the soldiers, he had a solid chance of winning.

But with the South falling to the Duke of Pendragon and Valvas Cavaliers, the odds fell below 30 percent. An expedition would be a trip bordering on gambling. In addition, if they advanced to face the enemy, Crete Island and the entire duchy would be left defenseless. There was much more to lose than gain.

An unusual air was flowing through the large and small islands of the duchy’s vassals.

Furthermore, the pirates were slowly sneaking into the water of the Arangis Duchy after being destroyed and scattered by the Pendragon Duchy and the 7th imperial regiment. With Arigo gone with the fleet and the troops of the vassal islands away, the waters near the Arangis Duchy had become relatively easy to operate in.

Could he gather all the remaining troops and advance to El Pasa in a situation like this?

It was akin to suicide.

He could gain control of El Pasa if he were lucky, but his home would fall to the abyss. The residents of the duchy were in a poor state due to the storm and the recent failures of the duchy. If the pirates decided to invade the main island and the residents started a civil uprising, the duchy would suffer irreparable damages.

Duke Arangis had to take the entire duchy into consideration. Therefore, there was only one viable choice he could make.

“To keep the family from being extinguished and to protect the duchy… Keugh!”

The great monarch chose to surrender. He gritted his teeth and bit his lips with a bitter heart.

Suddenly, a bleak voice was carried by the wind and entered his ears.

“How weak…”

“…..!”

Duke Arangis became startled and jerked around.

“You…”

His eyes shook for a moment, then sank coldly before burning with intense fury.

“Sorcerer! Have you no honor or shame? How dare you show yourself in front of me…!”

The figure was holding a strange stick and wrapped in a gray robe. It was as if he had been standing there from the very beginning. He was Jean Oberon, the Nameless Necromancer.

“My honor has long been entrusted to the flow of mana. I only feel ashamed in front of one being, but not towards lesser human beings.”

“You…”

Duke Arangis was angered even further by Jean Oberon’s calm voice.

“I did everything you wanted! I implemented the plan to deal with Crown Prince Shio and cooperated in the creation of the evil lich! I even handed over Biskra, and condoned the monster you created in the South! Now, answer me, oh Sorcerer! What did I get in return? My successor was taken away, and the duchy has become a candlelight placed before the wind!”

Fwooosh!

The Spirit of Royalty erupted from the figure of Duke Arangis. Though it was not comparable to when he had been in his prime, the mighty spirit was a huge force to be reckoned with. Regular knights would have a difficult time breathing in its presence.

But it was powerless in front of the timeless sorcerer.

“…..”

Jean Oberon waved the stick in his hand with indifferent eyes.

Paaa…

Like a lie, the spirit of Duke Arangis scattered in the wind.

“That’s quite an impressive spirit. However, even a king is only a human in the end. It will not work on me, Arangis.”

Keugh…”

Duke Arangis stumbled after being forced back. A thin line of blood flowed from his mouth.

“You… Why are you here? Are you here to see the miserable end of my land and me?”

Duke Arangis barely managed to stabilize himself. He spoke in a spiteful voice while wiping the blood from his mouth. Jean Oberon stayed quiet while staring at the duke. Then, he spoke while turning his indifferent eyes to the sea.

“As you say, Arangis will fall. But the ones who caused the downfall will fall as well.”

“W, what…?”

Duke Arangis’ eyes widened with shock. Jean Oberon continued after turning his gaze towards Duke Arangis once more.

“At the expense of Biskra and the Troll King, Pendragon is now a regular human, just like yourself.”

“What… Do you mean by that?”

An idea suddenly came to mind, but Duke Arangis asked because he wanted to hear it in person.

“His power of immortality is gone. The twist in causality created by Pendragon and the Queen of Dragons have created a new flow. This is a world he has never been in, a world he doesn’t know of.”

“What do you…”

Fwoosh!

In an instant, Jean Oberon’s robe swelled like a balloon. The mana that made up his body for the past hundreds of years suddenly burst out like an explosion, completely filling the space where the two were standing.

“Ugh…”

Only Jean Oberon’s dreary eyes could be seen in the dark red space. Duke Arangis hesitated at the strange glow of the sorcerer’s eyes.

“Pendragon has lost two of his biggest weapons. He is now forced to take a path that all humans must take. The final destination of a mortal, and not of an immortal.”

“Dea…th…”

Duke Arangis murmured. As a fellow human, he too could not avoid the inevitable destination. A darker glow appeared in Jean Oberon’s gray eyes.

“That is correct. That is the only destination awaiting the path that he and the Dragon Queen created. A world where Pendragon and Soldrake are gone! A world where dragons are no longer involved in the world of man, but only gods and the powers they allow! An adjusted and fixed world! That will be the new world! There, Arangis shall dream once more!”

Woooong!

Mana responded to the elated shouts of the sorcerer, agglomerating into bundles of bright lights.

“This is insane…”

Duke Arangis gritted his teeth. He still had the desire to remain a great monarch.

“Remember this. Even without your contribution, everything has already shifted towards the new flow… No one will be able to stop the arrival of the new world. Huhahahahaha!”

The lights slowly faded with his crazed laughter. Soon, the lights fully disappeared, and the sorcerer’s laughter grew dim.

Swaaaa…!

Keugh!”

Duke Arangis collapsed as he stared blankly at the space where Jean Oberon had been standing. The wind was once again blowing, and the sound of the waves could be heard.

“Your Excellency…!”

Feeling the strange atmosphere, the guards quickly rushed up the stairs.

“I, I’m fine.”

Duke Arangis was determined not to show any weakness as a monarch. He tightly grasped the railing and held himself in place.

“What is the matter? I saw a strange light just now…”

The guards observed the surroundings with sharp gazes and their swords drawn.

“It is nothing. I just got a little dizzy after gazing at the sunlight reflected on the waters for a long time.”

Duke Arangis regained his solemn expression and straightened his waist.

“I’m glad it’s nothing, but…”

“It is all right. Let us all go in. Shouldn’t we welcome the prince? As the losers… we must do what we have to do.”

The expressions of the knights darkened at his words.

“Phew…”

Duke Arangis walked alongside the knights without saying a word. But his mind was jumbled from what had happened just a few moments ago.

‘What in the world are you planning, nameless sorcerer… And I…’

Duke Arangis could not come to a decision. He wasn’t sure whether he should warn Prince Ian and Duke Pendragon immediately or scour the situation further after surrendering.

Nevertheless, he was certain of one thing.

He had acquired a small but powerful weapon that could protect his family and his successor…

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