Chapter 317

“I will be going as well.”

“Where do you think you’ll be going? You just got back from the South.”

“It is different this time, mother. I have to go.”

“Ha…!”

Elena let out an exasperated sigh when Irene. Unfortunately, her eldest daughter was not the only one begging. Elena had no idea what occurred in the South, but Mia Pendragon had finally started speaking again in nearly 10 years. She stood side by side with her older sister and tugged at her mother’s dress with clear, innocent eyes.

“Please. Mother…”

“Mia.”

Although her words felt a little awkward and slow after remaining silent for such a long time, her daughter’s cute voice perfectly matched her appearance. Elena could not help but smile at Mia’s adorable appearance. But she soon wiped the smile off her face and spoke to her two daughters with a stern expression.

“Absolutely not. The duke is now in Leus for a serious matter. Besides, he will need to depart for the imperial castle soon. I do not know what might happen. So both of you will stay in the castle and…”

“That is exactly why I must go to Leus, mother.”

“You…”

Elena was about to scold her daughter, but promptly closed her mouth. Irene was neither pleading nor whining like a child. Instead, her eyes contained a strong will. How could she not know, when she birthed and raised Irene until now?

‘Come to think of it, this child is already…’

Eighteen could no longer be considered a child. She herself had been married off to the late Gordon Pendragon when she was even younger. It was an age when a normal noble lady would have been already married.

“You said you respected my intentions, right? I know that you refused all the marriage offers for that very reason. But… even if you never said anything, I know you think it would be nice for me to be paired with Prince Ian.”

“Irene…”

Elena spoke her daughter’s name with a slightly shocked expression. Naturally, the empire allowed marriage between cousins. In particular, high-ranking nobles valued their lineage. As such, they preferred to keep within themselves by having their descendants connect with relatives.

Therefore, there was nothing strange about Irene and Ian being together. Rather, it was certain that the imperial family would welcome it with open arms. There was no better safeguard than establishing a firm connection with the Pendragon Duchy, since the duchy was considered one of the noblest, strongest families in the empire.

But the problem was Ian’s sister, Ingrid. Everyone knew that she had a heart for Duke Pendragon. Although she had not been able to send a direct message to Duke Pendragon when he had been away in the long southern expedition, she had sent mails to Conrad Castle to ask about his well-being.

In addition, even the empress sent Elena a handwritten letter, hinting at an engagement between Duke Pendragon and Princess Ingrid. Of course, Duke Pendragon did not share the same sentiment for Princess Ingrid. Nevertheless, it was considered a fait accompli in the royal family that Princess Ingrid and Duke Pendragon would eventually become married.

However, if both Ian and Ingrid were to marry Duke Pendragon and the eldest daughter of the duchy, there would be two marriages between the families.

The relationships themselves were not problematic. However, there was no precedent for both the crown prince and the princess to be married to a single family in the history of the empire. It was not a matter of morality, but rather a matter of power.

It was obvious that the other duchies, as well as the high lords, would rise in opposition. They would not stand by while power was becoming concentrated in one family, especially since the Pendragon Duchy had been shining as brightly as the midday sun with their recent achievements.

Elena did not mind having both of her children be wed to the prince and the princess. She was happy at the thought of Irene becoming empress, but at the same time, she was quite worried.

“I will decide after meeting His Highness this time around, mother.”

“But…”

Elena could not finish her sentence. It appeared her daughter was already a mature lady, rather than a little girl. Irene spoke with an assuring smile.

“I know what you are worried about, mother. However, if I continue to maintain an ambiguous relationship with the prince like this, it will not be good for me or our family. I know his personality. However this matter concludes, he likes a definite answer.”

“Phew…”

Elena let out a long sigh. When had her young daughter matured so much? Elena felt bittersweet at the unrelenting passage of time.

“Please send… sister to Leus, mother…”

On top of that, even Mia was clinging to her while quietly begging. Elena had no other choice.

“You do not mind having to stay behind?”

“I… am fine… I will stay… by mother and Sister Lindsay…”

“…..”

Mia gave an angelic smile and nodded. Elena felt touched. Only a few months ago, Mia had trouble falling asleep without herself or her maid by the bedside. But she had grown so brave in the last few months. Elena stroked Mia’s plump cheeks and her head with pride and love.

“You’re all grown up, my daughter.”

Mia’s face turned red as Elena gently stroked her. Then, she tightly grasped her eldest daughter’s hands.

“If that is your will, then I will not stop you.”

“Thank you, mother.”

It was just like a beautiful field after a day of rain. Irene smiled brighter than the blooming flowers of spring day, digging into her mother’s embrace while grasping hands.

“Wherever I am, I will always remember that I am your daughter and a woman of Pendragon.”

“Yes. That’s my daughter.”

Tears glimmered in Elena’s eyes as the two women shared a warm embrace.

*** 

Quaaaaa!

Six griffons were flying while pulling a carriage. It was a flying carriage, which could only be operated by the Pendragon Duchy. Five griffons were riderless, while one rider sat atop the other and commanded the griffons. It was Isla. He led the griffons freely while sensing the direction of the wind.

His face was as expressionless as ever, but his heart was somewhat troubled.

It was good to leave the duchy to go see his lord. Theo Milner and the other veteran riders from the southern expedition would do fine in training the new recruits. The defense of the duchy was secured by Karuta and the Ancona Orc warriors, as well as the centaurs. Bellint Gate was completely fortified with more than 800 soldiers stationed.

In short, he had nothing to do in the duchy except training the griffons army. Elkin Isla was a warrior. He was a Valvas Cavalier. Fighting was his job, and serving his lord was his most important responsibility. For him, taking a short break after returning from the expedition was close to the negligence of his duties. Therefore, heading to Leus to fulfill his responsibility at the side of the lord was both his greatest joy and fulfillment.

But the situation was slightly different this time around.

He had to personally take care of the ‘things’ brought up by the duchess.

‘Three…’

He had chosen three ladies out of the nearly hundred ladies from the introductory letters. He had to choose one of them as his companion. Of course, it wasn’t something he wanted. He came to the decision at Elena’s request, for the Pendragon Duchy and for Valvas.

“Being a king is tiring…”

Isla murmured in a quiet voice and lowered the griffons’ flight altitude as the wind increased in intensity. Although the carriage was much more stable compared to the prototype after going through several modifications, it was still unstable at high altitudes with strong winds.

“Anyways, it must be quite uncomfortable.”

Isla glanced back at the carriage.

One of the figures riding on the carriage was someone that even Isla found quite difficult.

*** 

“…..”

Hours after departing from Conrad Castle, the carriage was filled with an awkward air. The maids had been shaking with fear at first, perhaps because it was their first time flying, but they had calmed down relatively quickly. The interior of the carriage was even more comfortable and stable compared to regular wagons. Although they had stiff expressions, they did not seem overly anxious.

However, the maids continued to glance at a certain figure with wariness from time to time. Even Iriya was acting in such a manner for the time.

“Could you give me some more tea?”

“Y, yes, my lady.”

Irene was the only one with a relatively relaxed expression. But even she could not make conversation with a certain ‘someone’. It was no wonder, since the figure could not communicate with any one of them. The figure sat still while glancing out the window.

Even if they could talk to the figure, none of them would dare to.

It was because she was a dragon. She was dressed in silver-white armor that resembled a dress at first glance.

Shhk.

Soldrake turned her head from the thick glass window. Iriya and the maids flinched when the emotionless eyes headed their way. But Soldrake’s gaze quickly passed over them and stopped at Irene.

“Hmm? Is there something you want to say to me?”

Irene spoke with a smile, although she knew Soldrake could not understand. Soldrake stared at her with an indifferent expression for a moment, then turned her head out the window once again. The maids sighed with relief. Even though the gaze had merely passed over them, it felt as if all of their innermost thoughts had been revealed.

Irene put down the teacup and smiled at them.

“There is no need to be so scared. Lord Soldrake will not eat you.”

“Yes, my lady…”

They bowed with embarrassment. Perhaps encouraged by Irene’s words, Iriya spoke up.

“Excuse me, Lady Pendragon. Is it true that no one can communicate with Lord Soldrake but His Excellency the Duke?”

“That is correct. We cannot understand nor hear her words. Of course, direct descendants of the duchy can feel some emotions from her. It is very rare, but Lord Soldrake’s emotions were clearly transmitted when she was very angry or happy.”

“I see. But does that ever really happen?”

Iriya knew that Soldrake could not understand their conversation, but she unconsciously lowered her voice.

“Sure. I can sometimes feel it when she is in a good mood because of brother. Should I say it’s a type of wave? I can feel the warmth.”

“I see…”

Iriya’s voice died down. Although it was mysterious and amazing, it was somehow disappointing as well. One was the sister of the person she adored, and the other was the only absolute being in the world who could communicate with him. But she herself still did not mean much to him.

Even though she had travelled so far from home to follow him…

He did not know that she was heading to Leus, and he would not be happy to meet her. It was natural that she felt an unknown sense of alienation. 

Irene spoke to Iriya in a soft voice. Unlike the first time Irene saw her, Iriya had often displayed a gloomy atmosphere lately.

“What are you so worried about?”

“I, it’s nothing.”

Although she denied it, it was apparent that something was eating away at her mind. Irene gently held Iriya’s hands.

“Lady Pendragon…”

“Since he recovered, he has been having trouble expressing his emotions. Even Sister Conrad, and even I had a difficult time getting back to how I used to be with my brother. But he cares more about his family and the people around him than anyone else in the world.”

“…..”

Iriya lowered her head without saying a word. Her heart had fluttered slightly at Irene’s words. In the South, no one could treat her carelessly. She was second to none in terms of intelligence and courage. But after she met Duke Pendragon, she unknowingly became subdued and quiet after deciding to stay with him for the sake of her family.

She tried to be confident, but it did not go her way. Whenever she saw his gaze, she knew that he saw her as a regular human being rather than an attractive woman. She felt small.

Therefore, she had made a determination to proceed even without his love. It was a type of pride and stubbornness. But according to Irene’s words, Duke Pendragon cared deeply for his people, including his family.

Yet, she still stood outside the walls.

As time went by, her desire grew – not to be his woman, but to be his person.

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