Chapter 305

‘This could be an opportunity.’

Duke Arangis’ eyes flashed with a glimmer.

As the Nameless Necromancer said, if Duke Pendragon lost his strange ability, there was an opportunity for the Arangis Duchy as well. Duke Pendragon was currently the most famous and influential man in the empire. If he died, great confusion was inevitable.

The territories deeply related to him would be agitated, and the entirety of the South, which was trying to regain stability, would be thrown into chaos. Of course, the man named Elkin Isla had risen to the throne as the Knight King of Valvas and emerged as the two pillars of the South along with El Pasa, but with the Arangis Duchy’s power, Duke Arangis was confident that he could turn it into a three-way within a few years.

‘But…’

After glimmering for a moment, his eyes sank down once more. After he surrendered to Ian, he would have to go to the imperial castle and kneel before the emperor. Arigo, his successor, would have to stay out of the imperial castle’s sight for a long time.

A duchy without a successor could not develop properly.

In addition, most of his vassal territories would fall into the hands of the emperor, and the lords of the lands would swear loyalty to the emperor, or perhaps the prince. It was entirely possible that a commander of the imperial army would be situated nearby as well.

In other words, the imperial family would be surrounding Crete Island, pressuring the Arangis Duchy on all sides.

‘Even if an opportunity will arise in the end, I would have to lie quietly for a few years at the least. However…’

It could be five years or even ten years. Nevertheless, Duke Arangis was convinced. If the Nameless Necromancer’s words were to turn into reality, he and his family would be able to regain their past glory once again.

‘Arangis is a great family. We will not fall after a single failure. Never…’

He was the master of a family which reigned as the southern monarch for hundreds of years. He did not lose hope even in despair.

***

“This is strange.”

A knight from the 3rd regiment expressed his puzzlement. He was dressed in light armor in consideration of mobility and the weather. Three days had passed since they landed on the coast of Crete Island. However, even after tracking across the island for three days, the cavalry of the fleet saw no trace of soldiers from the Arangis Duchy.

Their advancement had been far from fighting. They had faced absolutely no resistance, even though they had already passed through several large villages. They had been expectant to finally fight a real battle, but the lack of action caused them to become somewhat dispirited.

“Do not become relieved. Arangis still has more than 10,000 troops. Their main base, Castle Blida, is still far away. There may be a final battle…”

“No, that won’t happen.”

“What?”

Viscount Villemore of the 3rd regiment turned his head at Ian’s words.

“I’m certain after coming this far. I don’t think Duke Arangis will fight us.”

“Well…”

Ian continued while looking at the plains of the island. The broad fields were laden with broadleaf trees which were unique to the southern climate.

“I don’t know whether I should be relieved, or disappointed… It seems Duke Arangis made his determination to surrender.”

“I see. As expected.”

Viscount Villemore had remained quiet until now. As a commander of the imperial regiment, he could not let down his guard when they were in the middle of the enemy’s territory. However, he had been somewhat expecting the situation, which was why he nodded with understanding.

“Keep the formation, but slow down the pace of the march. Blida Castle must have its gates opened wide by now.”

“Yes, sir.”

It was regrettable that they couldn’t battle properly, but it was much better than losing valuable troops without reason. Villemore responded vigorously and handed down the orders.

A few hours later, Ian and the 3rd regiment arrived in Castle Blida, the main base of the Arangis Duchy. Blida castle was humongous and housed tens of thousands of people.

The outer gate of Blida was opened wide just as Ian expected. Duke Arangis himself was waiting for Ian’s arrival alongside dozens of grim-faced knights.

“It has been a long time.”

Ian spoke while looking down at Duke Arangis from his steed. Duke Arangis was wearing comfortable clothes and a golden crown only allowed to the dukes of the empire.

“That is right. Time is truly like a stiff arrow, seeing that you have grown up so much.”

Befitting his noble status of a proud monarch, Duke Arangis spoke in a refined manner with a faint smile. Ian gazed at the man without saying a word.

The last time he had seen Duke Arangis was more than a decade ago, when Ian had finally exited boyhood. Just as he himself had gone through a transformation over the years, Duke Arangis had changed as well.

The dignified face of a royal descendant was emaciated, and the intense eyes, which had been full of ambition and vigor in the past, were subdued due to the passage of time. Perhaps it was because he lost the war and had his successor taken prisoner.

Ian remembered that his father shared a similar appearance when Shio had been put in an unconscious state after the poisoning.

“You must have made up your mind, seeing as you came out in person.”

Even though they had planned treason, the duchy had shared in blood with the imperial family for hundreds of years, and the man was one of the five dukes of the empire.

As such, Ian spoke in a polite manner.

“That is correct. As a monarch, I am obliged to protect my land and my people. I cannot continue to act in a meaningless manner…”

Duke Arangis spoke with mixed emotions, then turned his head.

At the gesture, Manuel walked out from the group of knights holding a silver tray. His wrinkled eyes were dyed red with tears.

On the tray was a colorful stick made of pure gold with various embedded jewels. It was a baton that was personally bestowed by the emperor, an instrument that could only be held by one person. Duke Arangis grasped the baton and walked towards Ian at neither a slow nor fast pace.

He stood in front of Ian for a moment, then deeply bowed his head. He knelt down in front of the emperor’s son.

“I, Maxi Rosano Arangis, surrender unconditionally to the Aragon Empire and His Majesty the Emperor. I confess my sins to His Majesty’s agent, the prince, and…”

Duke Arangis continued to speak.

Keugh!”

“Your Excellency…”

Hot tears streamed down Manuel’s face, and the knights’ heads fell one by one.

One day in late spring, the long war finally drew to an end. The Arangis Duchy had reigned over the South as absolute rulers for hundreds of years. Today, the brilliant history of the Arangis Duchy concluded.

***

The surrender of the Arangis Duchy.

The event’s aftermath was larger than expected.

For the first time in the history of the empire, a duchy had rebelled against the imperial family and pushed a large territory equaling 30% of the empire’s land into war. However, the rebellion was eventually nullified. The South, which had always been considered an independent territory at heart, was fully incorporated as the empire’s territory since the history of its founding.

The Arangis Duchy’s territory was reduced to Crete Island. The numerous territories in its vicinity were as large as Crete Island itself, and the vassal lands and the nearby waters were confiscated by the imperial family. The emperor directly appointed nobles to rule over the lands.

As the commander-in-chief of the expeditionary fleet and the emperor’s agent, Prince Ian banned Duke Arangis and his immediate relatives from leaving Crete Island for the next 10 years.

It was a simple house arrest on the surface but no different from confinement.

It was also decided that two people would accompany Prince Ian back to the imperial castle – Duke Arangis and his successor, Arigo Arangis.

Arigo Arangis would have to live in the imperial castle for the next ten years. He lost his position as the successor of a duchy and was demoted to a baron. Duke Arangis would retain his status, but he was summoned by the emperor. He would have to kneel before the emperor to confess his sins and ask for forgiveness.

The humiliation would go down in the history of the family, but he needed to be thankful that his family wasn’t exterminated, since all of the southern nobles and lords who were directly related to the Arangis Duchy or were directly involved in the rebellion were beheaded.

The South went through the process of reorganizing around El Pasa, which was directly supported by the imperial family, and Valvas, which had close ties with the Pendragon Duchy.

Some voices of dissatisfaction had been expected, but none of the southerners would openly complain about the imperial family and the Pendragon Duchy. After all, Duke Pendragon had formed a coalition to defeat the monsters on their behalf and prevented a war from engulfing the South.

Anyone with half a brain could tell that the momentum had shifted greatly already. In addition, the decline of the Arangis Duchy quickly saw its effects in the mainland as well. The flames of change quickly crossed the inland sea and bore its seed.

Karl Mandy, the Gold King of the South, joined hands with Dos Giovanni to start a transportation business centralized around York Town. In addition, rumors had it that Duke Pendragon would soon return to Leus and resume his duties as the governor-general.

The sudden changes caused tension to build up in various places. The large merchant groups of the empire and various mercenary organizations became nervous at the unexpected turn of events. Furthermore, the nobles and the high lords who shared similar interests with the merchant groups and the mercenary groups were agitated as well.

Everyone had a hunch that the era of the Pendragon Duchy had arrived.

The newly risen Pendragon Duchy would certainly establish a blood relation with the one who would become crown prince. Moreover, the duchy was boldly making its move without hesitation and reserve. Such actions were enough to raise concerns and opposition from existing powers of the empire.

Nevertheless, they could not openly rebel or express dissatisfaction. As such, they started to come together naturally to join forces. Their relationships were centered around families that possessed a bad relationship with the Pendragon Duchy in the past or had been badly beaten.

The tide was silent and covert, but also turbulent. The empire would soon be shaken once more by a great, tempestuous storm.

***

Whoosh!

Dozens of griffons crossed the skies of the Pendragon Duchy. The creatures flew over the vast, turquoise land glimmering under the bright sun. Soon, sky-high peaks and huge forests appeared in front of them.

Mount Ancona.

Arriving at the mouth of a valley, the border between the forest and the mountain, the griffons slowly descended to the ground.

Soon, the riders dismounted the griffons one by one.

While the other griffons only seated one rider each, two people were riding on one particular griffon, which was larger than its peers and yellow-beaked. One of the riders dismounted first, then held out his hand with an awkward expression.

The other riders quickly turned their heads and pretended not to see.

The other figure grasped Raven’s outstretched hand and lightly jumped off the griffon.

They weren’t acting this way because it was their own monarch who was holding out his hand.

Rather, it was because of the other figure’s identity. Technically speaking, there was no need for her to have flown here on a griffon.

“Is this good?”

[Yes, Ray. Thank you.]

No emotions could be found on her face at first glance, but Raven noticed that Soldrake was very pleased. Still, Raven sighed at the sight of the riders. They were turning a blind eye to the strange atmosphere.

“You’re welcome. But was there really a need for you to ride on the griffon with me…? You could have flown by yourself, right? Or rather… we could have flown together.”

[Then I could not have hugged Ray.]

“…..”

Raven was dumbfounded by the seemingly natural answer. She spoke without hesitation. Obviously, it would have been more comfortable if she had flown here in her main form, but the two of them would not have shared in each other’s warmth.

[I would like to walk together with Ray as well. This is our first time going to the mausoleum together. I like this.]

“I see.”

Raven smiled at her honest words.

Isla approached the two figures. He was wearing a blue uniform with the dragon’s emblem and had his spear hanging from his back.

“My lord. Then we will be waiting at this place.”

“Yes. Our Ancona friends will be arriving soon, so you can rest in the village. It won’t take long.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Isla saluted, then bowed deeply towards Soldrake before turning away. The riders soon disappeared down the valley with the griffons. Soldrake spoke while observing the fading figures.

[That child’s spirit has grown stronger. Except for Ray, the prince is the only human being I have seen in recent years who possesses a spirit of that level.]

“Is it that much? Well, Elkin is a king now as well. Now, then… shall we go?”

[Yes.]

At Raven’s words, Soldrake started walking shoulder to shoulder with him. The two were greeted by Mount Ancona, which housed the Pendragon family’s mausoleum and Soldrake’s lair.

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