Unlike the first time, the road to the Mausoleum was peaceful and comfortable. There were no monsters that plagued the roads any longer, and the roads were rather well maintained. With the contract between Raven and Soldrake being established, the evil monsters such as ghouls and zombies were extinguished. In addition, the Ancona Orc warriors and the centaurs maintained the roads while jointly ruling the forest.
As such, Raven was able to reach the mausoleum without any hindrance, unlike his first expedition.
As he entered the wide basin, a cool breeze unique to the alpine region greeted him. In the distance, rocky peaks were reaching towards the sky like blades, and the mausoleum of the Pendragon family was showing its magnificence and majesty in front of a cliff located at the end of the basin.
Raven walked silently by Soldrake on the well-maintained path. It seemed the Ancona Orcs and the centaurs had been taking good care of the path. He soon arrived at the entrance.
The gate to the mausoleum was guarded by a giant dragon statue which was nearly 20 feet tall. The majestic creature had its wings spread wide open as if welcoming the two visitors.
“I’ve finally returned to this place…”
Raven murmured while gazing at the entrance with a look of nostalgia. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that his true life as Duke Pendragon had started in this place. He was acknowledged by the ghost of Gordon Pendragon, passed Soldrake’s test, and eventually succeeded in contracting with the family guardian.
After experiencing various things, he was on the verge of achieving revenge for his brother and father. In addition, he was about to finish his responsibilities as the new Duke of Pendragon.
“Soon… For sure…”
Raven murmured to himself in a low voice after affirming his determination. Feeling his conviction, Soldrake took Raven’s hand to her own.
[I am by Ray's side.]
He turned his head.
Soldrake’s eyes were filled with energy and vigor. Perhaps she was feeling renewed after returning to her own territory after a long time.
He suddenly felt sorry.
She could have returned immediately after coming back from the southern expedition to rest her mind and body, but she had always stayed by his side. It was to protect him since he had lost the power of immortality and healing. He was no different from any ordinary human.
“Shall we go?”
Soldrake and Raven entered the mausoleum side by side.
The mausoleum was a place where only the direct descendants of the Pendragon Duchy and Soldrake were allowed. The inside was cool, but it did not feel humid. No mosses could be found in any corners, unlike any other ordinary cave.
The long, wide walls were made of large rectangular granite pieces the size of humans, and light-emitting blue ores were embedded in various places to brighten the interior. It was not long before Raven arrived at the large hall.
The tall ceiling was in the form of a hemisphere, and statues of the previous dukes lined the sides like guardian gods. Strange figures were engraved on the floor of the large hall, and a fire was burning bright in the middle of a large brazier located in the center of the hall. The strange symbols and the fire were reminiscent of a magic circle.
Raven walked forward towards the magical flames. As long as Soldrake lived, the flames would never be extinguished. A bluish hue suddenly appeared over the silent-burning flames.
The blue hue looked contrasting to the flames. It squirmed and moved as if it were alive, then soon began to take on a certain form. Even though something remarkable was happening, Raven and Soldrake maintained indifferent expressions as they watched.
The blue hue finally developed into a hazy figure and stepped out of the brazier. It was…
“I greet the Guardian of Pendragon.”
It, no, she greeted Soldrake politely, then turned her gaze toward Raven. Receiving the gaze filled with warmth and pride, Raven placed his hand on the handle of his sword and bowed deeply.
“Great Aunt Attia.”
“Your Excellency. It truly has been a long time.”
Attia Pendragon had spared no efforts to help and provide advice to Raven shortly after he had awakened as Alan Pendragon. She had a graceful smile as she responded to him.
“So you did! How marvelous! I am very proud of you. Very proud!”
“Defeating evil monsters! Truly a descendant of Pendragon!”
“No, how could that be…! I knew Arangis would cause trouble one day, but how dare they…”
“Ha! That was one of my greatest wishes during my lifetime. The development of the Pendragon Duchy has finally been achieved through you!”
“Twins! Hohoho! Our ancestors must have been looking after you! Hohohoho!”
There was a saying – the dead don’t talk. But apparently, it didn’t apply to Attia. Soldrake left to supplement her mana and to take care of her body and mind, while Raven recounted his experiences to Attia. She continued to respond accordingly, smiling, laughing, showing awe, and getting angry.
“You have gone through a lot.”
“Not at all. I just did what I had to do.”
Raven bowed his head before continuing.
“Great Aunt Attia, as you may have guessed, there is another reason why I am here.”
Attia nodded at Raven’s words. She was called the female tiger of Pendragon when she was alive. She had been famous for her great wisdom and energy. If she had been born a man, she might have become one of the most prominent Duke of Pendragon in history. As such, she quickly realized that there was a very special reason why Raven intentionally made a trip to the mausoleum and sought her out.
“Perhaps… Are you wondering about what happened during the time you were out, when you first failed to contract with Soldrake and lay unconscious in Conrad Castle?”
“That is correct. The series of events I mentioned earlier, especially the conspiracy between the sorcerer called the Nameless Necromancer and Duke Arangis… I believe it may have started during that time. As you know, I do not possess any memories before I woke up…”
When Raven blurted his words, Attia replied with a small sigh.
“Phew… Truth to be told, while I was listening to your stories, I realized that the things I saw and heard in Conrad Castle at the time were rather strange. Especially the sudden increase in the monsters after the young duke failed to contract with Soldrake…”
Attia was essentially a living piece of the Pendragon Duchy’s history. She originally possessed a strong spirit. Even in death, she lived on as a ghost and continued to oversee Conrad Castle. She saw and heard everything.
Although wise, Elena Pendragon could not have seen things from an objective standpoint after experiencing her husband’s death and her son’s terrible accident. On the other hand, Attia Pendragon could provide insight from a relatively objective point of view.
“Could you elaborate on the events that took place during that time?”
“Let’s do that. It may be a little long, so pay attention.”
Attia took a light breath, then began to talk about what she had seen and heard for the past decade.
“…That is all I have to say.”
As Attia finished the long story, Raven’s expression turned rather somber.
“As I told the duke, now that I think about it, there were so many strange things. Especially failing to contract with Soldrake. No matter how weak you were, the duke failed so vainly to enter into a contract with Soldrake. It was hard to accept then, but it is even stranger now.”
“I agree. According to your words, I should have succeeded in entering into a contract with Soldrake, even if I could not have lived long afterward.”
“That is correct. Gordon could have been considered one of the relatively ordinary dukes. He passed away after barely crossing forty. In the duke’s condition at the time, you would only have had ten more years to live. But still, the contract should have succeeded.”
Raven thought hard for a moment, then looked up with a heavy expression. He spoke.
“In my opinion, I think someone… Maybe someone did not want me to succeed in making a contract with Soldrake.”
“I think so as well. It must be the sorcerer you spoke of, the one called the Nameless Necromancer.”
He was certain.
Otherwise, there was no reason for the number of monsters to have suddenly increased after Alan Pendragon’s failure. The monsters had encroached on Ancona Forest, and even the mausoleum of the Pendragon Duchy.
“In addition, I think the incident with Crown Prince Shio must have been related somehow. The Nameless Necromancer must have prompted Count Sagunda, the former Governor-General of Leus, to take action. I am certain.”
Befitting her reputation, Attia quickly deciphered the incidents and came to a conclusion. Raven agreed with her thoughts.
“I think so as well. I think his final goal is Soldrake. That was why he tried to eliminate my family first, since we harbored the closest relationship with Soldrake.”
“The duke’s insight amazes this old one. I was thinking along the same lines.”
Even though she felt proud, she had a worried expression as she nodded in agreement.
“Anyways, I think everything will be confirmed once I meet Duke Arangis.”
“And so it will be. Duke, please reveal the truth and punish those who threaten the safety of us Pendragon and the empire. And… live a long, fruitful life. It will be good to become a great monarch and the torch of the empire to take care of all the people, but it is this old lady’s wish for you to live a life different from my brother and Gordon.”
“Great Aunt Attia…”
Her heartfelt words caused Raven to feel warmth in his chest.
“Life is short. The timespan provided for you to perform as a monarch isn’t very long either. However, such a short amount of time will also be the most beautiful time of your life – the time where you can love and take care of your family as a man, and not as a monarch.”
Attia continued with a gentle smile, placing her hand on the back of Raven’s hand.
“It is like a flame. No one knows when it will fade, but only you can keep the embers alive and bring happiness to everyone around you for a long time. So duke…”
Attia paused for a moment. She gently stroked Raven’s face before continuing.
“You, as the Lord of Pendragon, have a right to be happy, because you have not shied away from your responsibilities and always gave it your all. So please take a break from time to time. It’s fine to regard it as an old lady’s needless worries, but stay healthy, and… live a happy life.”
Warmth could not be conveyed without physical touch. But Raven felt a gentle warmth in Attia’s as if he had been enchanted.
“I will leave you be. I would appreciate it if you could stop by from time to time and tell this old lady about the world…”
“Great Aunt Attia…”
Raven felt a warm connection that surpassed flesh and blood. He called out her name as she slowly faded into nothingness.
The next day, Raven went down to the orc village in Ancona Forest. Soldrake required further rest, so he left the mausoleum by himself. He was greeted by those who were waiting to accompany him to Leus. All the knights of the duchy, including Isla and Killian, decided to remain in the duchy to fulfill their duties and responsibilities.
However, as governor-general, Raven needed a minimum number of escorts to accompany him to Leus. He decided to take along Eltuan and a few other elven warriors from the Red Moon Valley. In addition, two other members were accompanying him on this trip. Sophia, daughter of High Lord Bresia, had been educated by Elena Pendragon at Conrad Castle for the past year, and Leo, the heir to the Ramelda independent territory, had stayed with her. The two had developed their relationship further, and the lovers would accompany Raven to Leus.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
TL Note: Ayeee! It’s Attia! Nice to see her again after so long ahaha.