The Great Territory of Alice.
It was a place of exceptional natural scenery created by numerous cliffs and various branches of Dantes River. Located in the central area of the mainland, an endless stream of tourists continued to visit the territory of Alice throughout the year. It was an area fit to be called a flower of the empire.
In addition to autumn, when the Dantes Festival was held, early summer brought along the greatest number of visitors due to its wonderful weather. Edgel, the capital of Alice, was booming again this year as well.
Although the tourists were enjoying their time and the beautiful scenery, the atmosphere was quite unstable and dim among the nobles of the Great Territory of Alice. The shock brought on by the death of Morgan Louvre, the heir to the Great Territory of Alice, was still lingering in the region of Alice and Edgel like a haunting ghost, even though a year had already passed.
Since that day, Count Louvre had never made any public appearances.
Moreover, none of the nobles of Alice ever spoke of Morgan’s death.
It would have been fine if he had died in a battle or a duel. Regardless of the outcome, his death would have been honorable. However, Morgan Louvre was killed after being revealed for his evil deeds to the world. The Louvre County had been an honorable, proud family until then. But after the incident, their reputation crashed to the ground and their influence in the central part of the empire was also scattered.
It was to the degree where the nobles of Alice did not dare mention their origins when they traveled to other regions. The nobles of other regions would surely mention the incident after discovering that they stemmed from the Great Territory of Alice.
As such, it became an unwritten rule to never speak of the disaster of last fall and the neighboring nobles of Alice started turning their backs on the Louvre County.
Count Louvre once held power and authority to be counted within three fingers in the entire empire, but he was decimated by the incident. However, he still had nearly 3,000 soldiers and dozens of knights under his command.
An army was maintained by productivity and money, and the Great Territory of Alice was still plentiful. Therefore, neither the lords nor nobles who turned their backs on Count Louvre could disregard him. Even if he was not making any public appearances, they would be in a great deal of trouble if he ever lost reason after losing his successor and aimed his sword toward them.
The same applied to the nobles of Edgel, who were still serving Count Louvre as their lord.
A cool gust of wind brought forth a refreshing air from the waters of Dantes River towards Castle Altwan, a structure located on a hillside overlooking Edgel. However, the nobles gathered in the palace were busy arguing with tense voices. Their usual composure could not be found.
“This is an opportunity!”
“How in the world is this an opportunity? The others already perceive our territory in a bad light. If we recklessly start things in this situation…”
“The Duke of Arangis is dead! Moreover, it happened at the residence of the governor-general in Leus! At a time when public sentiment asking to hold Prince Ian and Duke Pendragon accountable is being formed even amongst the nobles of the capital…”
“But what does that have anything to do with us stepping forward? This is a perfect opportunity for others to become suspicious of our relationship with the Arangis Duchy. At times like this, it is best to be careful and…”
“His Excellency the High Lord!”
At the solemn voice of the chief servant, all the nobles turned their heads with surprise. It was the first time that the High Lord was making an appearance since the incident last year.
“We greet our great lord!”
The dozens of knights and nobles gathered in the palace kneeled on one knee and bowed their heads. As a silence descended on the palace, the sound of a cape being dragged across the floor was followed by the sound of someone sitting down on the throne located at the highest place.
“Everyone, raise your heads.”
They slowly raised their heads in response to the hoarse voice.
“Y, Your Excellency…”
The eyes of the nobles quivered greatly.
In less than a year, their monarch had transformed into a completely different person. The fine gray hair, which had always been neatly combed under the silver crown symbolizing the high lord, was now completely white and empty in some spots. His eyes, which once radiated a sharp glow like frost, were dyed red with burst blood vessels.
But what was most surprising and chilling about his transformation was the aura being emitted from his entire body. For some reason, just facing the high lord caused their hair to stand on edge. This was no longer the Count Louvre they had known before.
“Duke Arangis… is dead?”
The nobles and knights bowed their heads while feeling a chilling sensation at the scratchy, metallic voice.
“That is correct, Your Excellency.”
“I see. I see…”
He lifted a silver glass with his bony hand and took a sip of wine while muttering.
“So… what were you all discussing?”
Even if he had transformed completely, their lord was still their lord. The nobles answered immediately.
“The news has spread not only in the imperial castle but throughout the entire empire. All the nobles, regardless of their status, have been greatly shaken by the news.”
“The nobles who are known to have ties to the Arangis Duchy seem relieved, but they are also carefully observing the situation. But the real problem is with the nobles who were standing against or distancing themselves from Prince Ian and Duke Pendragon. Quite a few families are holding them accountable for the incident.”
Count Louvre spoke with interest. Someone replied hastily.
“There is a growing public opinion that Prince Ian and Duke Pendragon should be held accountable. Count Jamie Roxan, who officially received his position earlier this year as the High Lord of the Great Territory of Paleon, is standing at the center of it all.”
“The heir to Roxan… No, rather, High Lord Roxan now, is it?”
Roxan County was considered one of the most powerful families in the empire. The territory and productivity of the Roxan County were comparable to that of a duchy, and they were related by blood to three other high lord families.
As such, even dukes dared not underestimate the Great Territory of Paleon. If the four families banded together along with their vassal families, they would have a strong force which would be equivalent to two combined legions of the imperial army. Considering that the imperial army rarely deployed more than one legion at a time, a power equivalent to two legions was a truly enormous force. Realistically, since duchies operated individually, the Roxan family held the upper hand in every way possible.
The successor of the family, Jamie Roxan, was considered the best candidate to have appeared in a hundred years. And now, he had finally taken his place as the High Lord of Roxan. This was the first incident in which he decided to exercise his power outside his territory.
He was standing opposite of two giants – Prince Ian and Duke Pendragon – in the eye of the storm that was currently engulfing the Aragon Empire.
“Roxan’s stance on the matter represents the involvement of the three other High Lords as well, Your Excellency. This means that four of the thirteen Great Territories have turned their backs against Prince Ian. Besides, rumor has it that…”
The noble suddenly hesitated and fell silent. Count Louvre asked while squinting.
“Rumor has it that…?”
“Well… apparently, the Duke of Lindegor will also confirm the authenticity of the rumor and hold Prince Ian accountable…”
The Lindegor Duchy.
After the fall of the Arangis Duchy, the Lindegor Duchy could be considered the strongest family in the empire except for the royal family in status and power. Such a strong force would stand against Prince Ian, who would most likely become the next crown prince.
Of course, the recent rise of the Pendragon Duchy was enough to rival Lindegor in fame, but the Pendragon Duchy was still developing. The Lindegor family’s financial, militaristic, and political power had been maintained at its peak for a long time, while the Pendragon family was still growing. As such, Pendragon was still inferior to Lindegor.
Moreover, if the Pendragon Duchy had Soldrake, the Lindegor Duchy had Angel Seiel.
Also, the eldest daughter of the Pendragon Duchy was likely to marry Prince Ian, but the current empress was from the Lindegor family.
If Duke Lindegor stepped up and confronted Prince Ian in such a situation…
“That is a baseless assumption!”
“Correct. Even if Duke Lidnegor comes forward, the tide is already with Prince Ian and Duke Pendragon…”
The nobles quickly shut their mouths at Count Louvre’s metallic voice.
“So where are Duke Pendragon and Prince Ian now?”
“They are currently heading to the Baillon region, which is closest to Leus. Their final destination is the imperial castle. We are currently unsure as to why they are…”
Count Louvre stood up from his throne with a light nod, drawing everyone’s attention. His bluish skin was devoid of any life, and he looked over the palace with a grotesque look.
“I speak as the High Lord of Alice. All forces in Edgel and the vassal families must muster all their knights and soldiers within ten days to gather under the flag of Louvre. There will be no exception. Those who do not comply will be considered traitors and put to death by the authority of the High Lord.”
Everyone was shocked speechless by the outrageous order.
But the order of a high lord was absolute. The nobles and knights in the palace kneeled on one knee.
“As the lord wishes!”
A thundering response filled the palace of Edgel’s castle.
As the sun slowly disappeared over the horizon, Count Louvre slowly walked towards his chambers while being escorted by knights.
“I am quite tired after showing myself after a long time. I will be going to bed early. All of you may leave.”
“Yes, my lord.”
He entered his room while the knights bowed deeply. The maids also bowed before leaving the room with quick steps.
After closing the large door, Count Louvre was left alone in the spacious bedroom. He took off his long cape before throwing it aside carelessly. Surprisingly, he was wearing nothing but underwear beneath his long cape. He was basically naked.
His scrawny body was more dwarfed than before, and it was fully revealed in front of a mirror. A distorted smile appeared on Count Louvre’s mouth as he observed his body with an ominous look.
“Keuk! Kekekeu… Keuhahahaha!”
His maniacal laugh soon grew in volume and filled the empty room.
After laughing in a crazed manner for a long time, he murmured while glaring at his reflection with a vicious expression.
“God, or perhaps the devil gave me a chance. A chance to get my revenge on the dragon cub who deserves to be killed a hundred times…! Keuheheu!”
He stared into the mirror with murderous eyes for a while before turning away.
“Wait a little longer, Morgan. Your father will bring you the dragon’s head. I swear on everything…”
At that moment, a low penetrating voice entered Count Louvre’s ears with a chilly wind.
“Who is it!?”
He immediately turned around with a loud shout.
His eyes widened with shock. A man was looking his way with a tired, expressionless face. His entire body was shrouded in an old, ragged robe.
Count Louvre’s bloodthirsty eyes quivered slightly, and he took several steps back. It wasn’t because of the fear he felt towards the uninvited guest who appeared inside the room without opening the door. No emotions were contained in the eyes that gazed at him.
He had never seen anyone look at him with such eyes. No, rather, he had never even seen such empty eyes in his entire life.
Most importantly, as he kept staring into the figure’s eyes, he was struck by an instinctive feeling that he should not call the knights guarding the door. In addition, he was confident that even if he screamed, it would not be conveyed to the outside world.
“Who… are you…?”
He managed to speak in a shaky voice. The unidentified, uninvited guest responded in an impassive voice while maintaining an expressionless face.
“I do not have a name…”Previous Chapter Next Chapter