Chapter 323

“Lady Serin Reiner… I rather like the sound of the name. Don’t you, Elkin?”

“…..”

Isla could not say anything. He recalled the old adage that one would reap what they sowed.

“Your Royal Highness, Your Excellency. I apologize for being late.”

At that time, Leo and Sophia walked towards the pavilion along with the Red Moon Valley elves. Seeing their appearance, Raven nodded before speaking.

“I think all of us are here, so let’s get started.”

Raven spoke in a subdued voice, then looked around at the maids with a light clap. All of the maids bowed before quickly leaving the pavilion. Soon, only the important figures were left. Raven continued while looking around at the group.

“All of you here are sided with the prince and me, so I will tell you in advance. Last night, Duke Arangis died.”

“Heuk!”

“T, that’s…”

Everyone gathered displayed shock except Raven, Ian, and Isla. Raven raised one hand to calm them, then continued.

“He was murdered by black magic. And we already know who killed him.”

“…..”

Everyone seemed curious, but no one dared to ask. Raven would explain if they needed o know.

“But I cannot tell you the identity of the perpetrator just yet. However, it is clear that he is an enemy of Pendragon, as well as the imperial castle… No, rather, he is an enemy of the entire empire.”

“Hmm…”

Everyone’s expressions turned grim. Duke Pendragon would not say such words unless he was certain. The fact that he was referring to the figure as such meant that the enemy was really dangerous.

“It is clear why the criminal killed Duke Arangis when he was located in my residence. In doing so, the enemy aims to place us in a difficult position and create chaos in the empire. As everyone here knows, Prince Ian and I have many enemies. However, while most of the prince’s enemies are political opponents, it is different for me. Some of the high lords dislike me, and others even hate or loathe me.”

Everyone nodded their heads with a stiff look.

There was only one high lord who hated Duke Pendragon – Count Louvre, the High Lord of Alice. Count Louvre lost his successor to Argos, who was currently escorting Elena. The hatred he had for Duke Pendragon was probably beyond imagination.

“Anyway, the reason I am telling all of you this is because our journey to the imperial castle has deviated significantly from the original plan due to this incident. Originally, Duke Arangis and Arigo were to be transported to the imperial castle with the flying carriage, and we would have traveled by land. But now that is no longer possible. Ian.”

Ian continued when Raven called out.

“As Duke Pendragon said, the plan has changed significantly. There is also a high possibility that it will be extremely dangerous. Therefore, we decided to send only the women via the flying carriage to the imperial castle.”

Ian looked at Irene while speaking.

“But…”

Irene wanted to speak her mind regarding the decision since it only took into account her safety and nothing else, but she flinched before closing her mouth. Ian’s gaze and expression were firm as he looked at herself. In it contained concern for herself.

Irene turned her gaze towards her brother. She ended up sighing and accepted the decision without saying anything.

“Lady Mandy and Lady Pendragon will depart tomorrow morning with the knights of the 7th regiment and Arigo Arangis. A rider who knows the way to the imperial castle will be accompanying you, so there is no need to worry.”

Viscount Moraine realized the significance of using griffons as messengers after the southern expedition. Afterward, he asked the imperial castle for extra reinforcements, and the emperor accepted the request and provided about a dozen griffons and riders.

All of them were loyal to the emperor as members of the Royal Guard, and they had been dealing with griffons for more than a decade. They weren’t lacking at all to accompany the ladies and Arigo Arangis on their journey to the imperial castle.

“The rest of us will move by land as originally planned. We will pass through the monastery where Lady Serin Reiner is located, then the Great Territory of Sisak, before heading straight to the imperial castle.”

A moment of silence descended after Ian finished talking. Then Leo carefully raised his hand and spoke while stealing glances at Raven and Ian.

“With all due respect… if that is the case, I am wondering if there is a need for Your Excellency and Your Highness to stop by at Sisak. If it is about me and Lady Bresia, we can figure it out and…”

“It’s not just because of the two of you.”

Raven shook his head and cut Leo off.

“Before we depart tomorrow morning, we will be announcing the death of Duke Arangis. The whole world might be thrown into chaos. People will blame me and the prince and ask us to take responsibility for the event. Even those who we considered friends may turn against us.”

“Hmm.”

His words were true.

The eyes and ears of all the nobles in the empire were focused on Leus and Duke Arangis. His death at this time would come as a humongous shock. In addition, all sorts of speculations would be rampant. In the end, Duke Pendragon and Prince Ian would receive the brunt of the blame as the responsible party, and they could be labeled conspirators from heroes in an instant.

“My lord, would it not be better to just reveal the whole truth?”

Isla stepped out.

But Raven shook his head.

“Only me, the prince, and Viscount Moraine heard what the late Duke Arangis said. All three of us are on the same side. Everyone in the world knows that. Even if we tell the truth, do you think all the nobles will understand and accept it? The ones who are against us will not miss the chance. They will spread rumors that the three of us are in cahoots and that we are lying. Of course, if the prince uses his status to push the truth, they will pretend to accept it. But the suspicious ones will not easily believe us.”

“Hmm…”

“That is how the cycle of power operates, Sir Isla. Even if they acknowledge what me and Duke Pendragon are saying as the truth, their suspicions will not disappear. As time goes by, their suspicions will only grow and perhaps transform into another incidence of treason against me and the empire. That is what we are concerned about.”

“Why, then, except for Lady Pendragon and Miss Mandy, are the rest of us travelling by land to the imperial castle?”

Raven spoke to Isla’s question.

“As I said earlier, the death of Duke Arangis will cause great chaos and confusion. And on our way to the imperial castle…”

“Ah…!”

Iriya let out a small exclamation. She had remained quiet thus far, knowing that she had no place in the conversation, but she had exclaimed in realization. Everyone’s eyes turned to her, and Iriya bowed her head in dismay, realizing her mistake.

“It seems Miss Mandy has noticed something. Why don’t you tell us?”

Ian spoke with a smile. Iriya glanced at Raven, then spoke carefully.

“On the way to the imperial castle, Your Highness and Your Excellency would visit as many noble families as possible, correct? I think that you are trying to determine who will stand on your side and who will be the enemy.”

“Hmm.”

Raven looked at her with a surprised expression before nodding.

“Continue.”

Iriya kept talking with Raven’s permission.

“At first, I thought it would be better for everyone here to travel together in the flying carriage to the imperial castle. However, that will cause chaos to erupt starting from the imperial castle. Furthermore, I have heard that His Majesty the Emperor values and respects the opinions of the officials and the high lords. As such, if all of us headed straight to the imperial castle, there may be a greater chance for chaos to blossom in the imperial castle before spreading throughout the empire.”

“Hooh. I thought you were only talented at commerce, but it seems you have a great eye for seeing the big picture.”

Ian nodded with considerable admiration. What Iriya said just now was almost identical to what he and Raven thought.

“I am flattered, Your Highness.”

She spoke humbly. Raven spoke while looking at her with a renewed expression.

“No, what is great is great.”

“N, not at all…”

She bowed her head while blushing slightly at his compliment. She felt even more joy at receiving Raven’s compliment compared to Ian’s.

“As everyone just heard, it is just as Miss Mandy said. That is why me and the prince will travel by land and ascertain the trends of the nobility, including the high lords. That way, when we get to the imperial castle, we will have a better picture of who our enemies are and who our friends are.”

“And you have the perfect reason for doing so as well, brother. Because of Sir Isla.”

“As expected of my sister.”

Raven grinned at Irene’s words.

“Everyone knows that all kinds of nobles sent recommendations and introductory letters to Conrad Castle to win Elkin’s hand in marriage. In addition, it will soon become known that he left to meet some of the candidates in person.”

It was true. The marriage of the Knight King of Valvas was a matter of great interest in the aristocratic society.

“And Elkin is my knight. It will not be strange for me to accompany my knight as he seeks a bride. In the end, no one will be suspicious or say anything about me and Prince Ian as we travel to the imperial castle while passing through Sisak and other parts of the empire.”

“Ah…!”

Leo and Sophia finally grasped the entire situation.

“But as I said. This journey will be extremely dangerous. Our enemies will see it as an opportunity to get rid of us. That is why you and Miss Mandy will have to head straight to the imperial castle.”

“Yes. I understand, brother.”

“…..”

Irene answered in a clear voice. On the other hand, Iriya’s head was still hanging low. It was because of the joy, gratitude, and concern she felt. Whatever the reason, Duke Pendragon was showing consideration for herself. She felt delighted about it.

But at the same time, her heart kept pounding with worry as well. He was deliberately heading into an unknown, possibly dangerous territory.

“Lady Irene.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

Irene turned her gaze towards Ian. Rather than calling her by her family name, he was addressing her by name. He gazed at her with a slightly stiff expression, then took out an object before holding it out.

“When you get to the imperial castle, the Captain of the Royal Knights, Count Granite, will be there to greet you. He still doesn’t know that Duke Arangis is dead. So pass this letter to him. He is a reliable man, and he will keep yourself and Miss Mandy safe.”

“…..”

Irene nodded calmly and received the letter from him. She could see numerous emotions swirling in his eyes.

“Yes, Your Highness. Please do not worry about me. I believe that all of us will meet again at the imperial castle.”

“…..!”

Ian’s eyes quivered slightly at Irene’s composed, assuring attitude. Images of two people came to his mind – the two most determined and dignified women he had ever seen as a prince.

It was his mother, the empress, and Elena Pendragon.

‘She is the only one. The only woman who I could be with forever is Lady Pendragon.’

Once again, Ian was convinced of his decision. He nodded vigorously, then shifted his gaze.

“In fact, I wasn’t going to tell you all of this, since it is better for fewer people to know the truth. But Duke Pendragon said it would be better to tell the truth to those who would be accompanying us for the time being, which is why we told you.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

Leo, Sophia, and Iriya bowed deeply.

The story told by the prince and the duke came as a great shock to them. However, they felt both burdened and proud knowing that the two of them trusted them.

A thought occupied the mind of the three simultaneously.

‘Now…’

‘We…’

‘Are truly on the same side…’

All three of them felt their hearts pounding at the thought, but it was especially true for Iriya. The person she had in mind had finally recognized her as ‘one of his own.’

‘Thank you, Your Excellency…’

In that way, Raven completely won over the hearts of Leo, Sophia, and iriya without truly intending to.

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