Chapter 310

Early dawn. The surroundings were still yet dark, and the shadows of the port workers could barely be seen as they unloaded various packages from ships. A thick sea fog engulfed the port, and several boats slowly approached the dock with their lanterns faintly piercing through the darkness.

“Hmm…”

Those who held torches in their hands looked at the sea with nervous eyes and gulped loudly.

Kieeek. Thud!

The boat soon arrived at the harbor, where other small boats were docked. Surprisingly, heavily armed soldiers and knights started to disembark from the ship. Some people had been waiting for the boat’s arrival. They quickly saluted with stiff expressions at the sight of a man appearing from between the knights and soldiers.

“The ruler of the nine territories and two seas. The one who rules with the bravery and wisdom of the…”

“Quiet.”

Someone started to announce his arrival, but Ian raised his hand and quickly silenced them.

“No need, unless you are planning to announce to the whole world that I am here.”

“Heup! Yes, Your Highness.”

Leo quickly lowered his voice and bowed his head. He had been trying to greet Prince Ian with the proper formalities befitting the man’s status.

“Where is the carriage?”

“This way.”

One of Ian’s knights asked, and those who were waiting quickly guided the group. Soon, the soldiers and knights from the boat surrounded three different carriages, then observed the surroundings with keen, sharp gazes.

“All clear.”

“Good.”

Ian turned his head and gestured after receiving the report from his knight. Four more knights disembarked the boat while escorting a certain someone. It was a man in his mid to late 40s. His beard had grown long and shaggy, while his appearance was quite haggard. However, his eyes shone with a light that was highly mysterious and profound. The man walked forward while being escorted by the knights.

‘That man is…’

‘Duke Arangis…’

Everyone became even more nervous after seeing Duke Arangis in person. The two figures had finally arrived at Leus Port. One was a prince of the empire who would one day rise to the throne as the empire, while the other was the great monarch of the South.

“Let us go.”

“All right.”

Duke Arangis slowly moved towards the carriage at Ian’s words. Ian boarded the first carriage, Duke Arangis and the knights boarded the second, and the rest of the personnel either entered the third carriage or mounted horses.

“The governor-general is waiting at the residence.”

Leo boarded the first carriage alongside Ian. He spoke with care, and Ian responded after nodding.

“Anyone else?”

“Seventh regiment commander, Viscount Moraine is waiting with the governor-general as well.”

“I see. Good. The sun is about to rise, so let us hurry.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

Leo bowed deeply before knocking twice on the screen of the carriage. The carriage started to move.

Clack! Clack!

After leaving the port, the carriages soon entered the main street of Leus, where the lantern keepers were diligently turning off the lights to prepare for sunrise.

“…..”

Leo gulped silently. He stole glances at Ian, who was gazing at the murky, hazy appearance of the early morning street. He wanted to say something, but he could not muster up the courage to do so.

It was only natural. The other person was a prince. He was a man who would become the emperor within five years at the earliest, or 10 years at the latest. Although the Ramelda family was conferred lordship over an independent territory, Leo’s status was nothing compared to the precious existence seated in front of him. He dared not even make any eye contact.

“If you have something to say, say it.”

“What? Oh, no. It’s nothing, Your Highness.”

Leo hurriedly shook his head when Ian suddenly spoke.

“Is that so? ‘Cause I don’t really like it when men steal such hot glances at me.”

“M, my apologies.”

Leo lowered his head while trembling. He had never been so nervous in his entire life. He had not known that Ian would be as unpredictable as Raven, or even more so.

“Come to think of it, I don't even know who you are.”

“Heuk! P, please forgive my disrespect and…”

Leo flinched at Ian’s words, then tried to kneel on one knee in the carriage.

“Don’t make such a huge fuss. Just do it.”

“Yes! My name is Leo Ramelda, the eldest son of the Ramelda Territory’s lord, Your Highness.”

“Hooh? Ramelda? That is the place that was requested by that guy to become an independent territory last year, right? In Sisak?”

“That is correct.”

When the prince recognized his territory, Leo nodded excitedly with a flushed expression.

“I see. I heard you contributed greatly with my brother’s case?”

Ian’s icy expression also softened a bit.

When Raven had been busy finding out the truth behind Crown Prince Shio’s attempted assassination in Sisak last year, Ian was informed that the figures from the Ramelda family had contributed greatly as well.

“I am humbled. What we did was nothing compared to what His Excellency the Duke achieved…”

Ian seemed to take a liking to Leo’s humble response. After nodding a couple of times, he hurriedly pulled forward as if suddenly remembering something.

“You, you were in Conrad Castle for about a year, correct?”

“What? Ah, yes. That is correct.”

“Then Lady Pend… I, I mean. You must know Duchess Elena very well.”

“Rather than knowing her very well… I mean, we had tea together a few times…”

Leo answered frankly, despite becoming nervous at Ian’s sudden behavior.

“That means you are well acquainted. Then maybe… perhaps, well, so…”

“…..?”

Leo could not hide his confusion. The future emperor was slurring his words with an awkward expression. After a moment’s hesitation, Ian smacked his lips before continuing on.

“Did the duchess ever talk about me? Anything is fine.”

“Oh, well…”

Leo was quick-witted. He instantly grasped Ian’s intentions and recalled the time he spent with Duchess Elena Pendragon.

“The duchess was very pleased with Your Highness’ friendship with His Excellency the Duke. She was happy that the two of you were getting along so well.”

“Oh, really? Anything else?”

Ian responded in a positive manner. Leon was convinced that his guess was correct and quickly went on.

“She was very pleased after hearing Your Highness’ feats in the southern expedition. She was also worried about your health, that you might have gotten hurt in the South. From my perspective, she cares and worries for Your Highness just as much as she cares for His Excellency the Duke.”

Hooh…”

He appeared happy, but his reaction betrayed a hint of disappointment.

A thought crossed Leo’s mind and he spoke hastily.

“The duchess was very pleased with the competence and sense of responsibility you displayed. She said that you would do excellently as a breadwinner of a family, and not only a great monarch of the empire. She said that to lead the great empire as its master, one needed to be faithful to himself and his family.”

“Hoooooh…!”

Ian’s eyes started sparkling with joy. Leo was fully convinced. What the prince wanted to hear was how the duchess thought of him as her future son-in-law.

“Also, it’s regarding Lady Irene Pendragon…”

“What!? E, ehem…”

Ian shouted in a loud voice without realizing it. He coughed in embarrassment, then pretended as if nothing had happened.

“So, what about Lady Pendragon?”

Leo continued cautiously, struggling to hold back laughter from bursting out.

“As far as I know, Lady Pendragon has been… Well, she has never been very interested in the etiquettes of noble ladies. However, ever since returning from the South, she has often asked the duchess about His Majesty the Emperor, and about Her Majesty the Empress.”

“Really? And so?”

Leo began to unravel what he knew in as much detail as possible while receiving the heated(?) gaze of Ian.

“…and that is everything I know, Your Majesty.”

“…..”

Ian remained silent for a moment after hearing Leo’s story. For a moment, Leo became nervous, wondering if he had somehow made a mistake.

However,,

“Hoohoo! Hoo-hoo-hoohoo…!”

It was evident in Ian’s chuckle that he was trying to suppress his joy. Leo finally became relieved. However, he could not help but be taken back by the prince’s following actions.

Thuck!

“Heuk! Y, Your Highness…!”

The future emperor suddenly grasped his hands. Leo was stunned speechless that such a noble figure would act in such a fashion towards the heir to a backwater territory.

“You. I like you.”

“I, I… I am humbled, Your Highness!”

Ian was baffled by the warmth transmitted by Ian’s hands and words.

“Your name was Leo Ramelda, right? I will keep an eye on you.”

“Yes, Your Highness! I will live up to your expectations as a proud citizen of the empire!”

Although it had been unintentional, Leo felt as if he was flying after winning over the prince’s favor. However, he never imagined that his life would be completely changed due to the conversation he shared with Ian.

The early morning fog slowly lifted. Raven, Viscount Moraine, and several knights were waiting in front of the governor-general’s residence.

Carriages approached from a far distance, and the guards quickly opened the main gate of the residence. Three carriages carrying Ian and Duke Arangis arrived one after another while being escorted by the troops of the 11th regiment.

“7th Regiment Commander, Moraine, sees Your Highness the Prince.”

“Long time no see, Lord Moraine.”

Viscount Moraine gave a knightly military salute. Ian patted the knight on the shoulder before turning his gaze.

“I see that you are still kicking and alive. On the contrary, I think you look even better than before.”

Ian grinned while looking up and down at Raven. Raven responded with a smile of his own.

“Look who's talking. Anyways, I heard you had a hard time.”

In the first place, a duke of the empire was only subordinate to the emperor himself. Raven’s status as a duke placed him on par with even the crown prince. As such, Raven acted without reserve towards Ian, and Ian had no problems with the way Raven acted towards himself.

“It’s nothing compared to all the trouble you went through. Anyways, I am glad to see that you are healthy.”

“Likewise.”

The two tightly grasped and shook each other’s hands. Viscount Moraine could not help but smile while nodding at the sight. Two young, handsome, proud men were facing each other and greeting each other with joy.

The future of the Aragon Empire would shine more brilliantly with these two.

Rattle.

The sound of a carriage door opening could be heard, and the figures in front of the residence turned their eyes towards the sound at the same time.

Raven’s cold eyes trembled slightly when he saw a middle-aged man getting off the carriage while being escorted by four knights. All four knights displayed sharp, alert gazes, which was somewhat indicative of their incredible skills.

Tap. Tap.

The man was adorned in comfortable clothes. He walked forward with a relaxed pace that was neither too slow nor fast.

‘Duke Arangis…’

Raven’s eyes sank even colder after seeing the main culprit behind the Valt family’s extinction. He had only dreamt of breaking the stigma of betrayal that his father and brother were forced upon. Only a year ago, he would have pulled out his sword without thinking after seeing Duke Arangis.

But now, the Valt family had shed its stained past. Killing Duke Arangis would not bring back his dead brother and father either. Moreover, no one knew that he was actually Raven Valt except Soldrake and himself.

‘However…’

Rave’s eyes glowed blue.

His revenge was justified. It was imperative to see it to the end. In addition, the person in front of him was where everything stemmed from. He was also the one who knew the entire truth.

“…..”

After meeting Duke Arangis’ gaze, Raven took a light breath and opened his lips.

“I am Duke Alan Pendragon. This is our first time meeting.”

Even after hearing Raven’s words, Duke Arangis remained silent while gazing at Raven. Then, he spoke slowly.

“You are younger than I imagined. More astute as well. Nice to meet you.”

“…..!”

Suddenly, the eyes of Raven, Viscount Moraine, and Ian grew bigger in shock. Just as he had done on Crete Island, Duke Arangis went down on one knee in front of Raven.

“As the loser, I pay tribute to the duke’s victory.”

No one could hide their astonishment at the extraordinary situation. A duke was taking such an attitude in front of another duke. A duke would only act in such a humble fashion in front of the emperor.

However, Raven simply looked down at Duke Arangis with a calm gaze. His eyes were as unfathomable and deep as the sea of Leus, which had just begun to sparkle under the rising sun.

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