Chapter 329

 “It is a nice day today. By the way…”

Ian turned his head. He had been riding his horse by the side of Raven.

“Aren’t you sad that you had to leave your spouse behind, Sir Isla?”

Any normal man would have stopped after being beaten a few times, but Ian jested once again without thinking.

“I am fine, since it is only for a short while. Even though she is not physically by my side right now, Miss Reiner is always in my heart.”

“…..”

Sure enough, Ian was forced to shut up in an instant. But it appeared that he did not want to lose again. He spoke once more.

“A hero needs to have at least two or three concubines. Besides, are you not the king of Valvas? I think it might be appropriate for you to have a couple more concubines. What do you think, Duke Pendragon?”

Ian sought approval from Duke Pendragon. Raven already had Lindsay, and he would surely take in Iriya as well in the near future.

“Well…”

Having already decided not to pick a fight with Isla with matters regarding woman, Raven slipped away without answering. If he answered wrong, he would not even get his money’s worth.

“In Valvas, we have an adage saying one should treat one lady the way they would serve their lord.  Moreover, the lord’s heart for Baroness Conrad is no less than his heart for the duchy. Even if he takes in another lady, his feelings will not change. Is that not right, my lord?”

“That is right.”

Raven, who avoided answering Ian’s question, nodded quickly in agreement with Isla’s words.

‘You traitor…’

Ian looked at Raven witih spite. Isla continued.

“Also, I believe that Your Highness’s heart for Lady Pendragon is no different. Of course, Your Highness is in a different position from me, so it would be appropriate for you to have several concubines to sire many children. Lady Pendragon will also understand that Your Highness will need to have several concubines for the sake of the royal family and the empire. But if Your Highness feels uncomfortable asking Lady Pendragon, I can tell her that…”

“No, no! Not at all! I can take care of it.”

Ian spoke urgently before laughing awkwardly.

“Uhaha! The weather sure is nice. Ha, haha!”

“Heup…!”

Leo and Sophia were riding right behind the three men. They turned their heads to hide their laughter. However, as Ian slowly turned his gaze toward them, the two quickly lowered their heads.

Raven clicked his tongue while watching the scene before speaking.

“Did you know?”

“Hmm? About what?”

“Even the harpy and the goblin we raise in our castle are capable of learning. After being beaten a few times, they never make the same mistake again.”

“…..”

Ian knew exactly what Raven was talking about. He maintained his silence and soon turned his head.

“Ehem! Anyhow, where are we right now?”

“E, Eton River. We will soon be entering the Great Territory of Miles, Your Highness.”

A knight answered while desperately trying to hold back his laughter.

“Miles… The Wullian family.”

“Do you know them well?”

Ian shrugged in response to Raven’s question.

“It would be strange if I was not familiar with the family of a high lord. Although they are not particularly competent, they are not incompetent either. However…”

Ian continued with a stiff expression.

“They are the closest family to the Roxan family.”

“Hm, if they are on the side of Roxan, then they must have already sent a letter to the imperial castle asking us to take responsibility for the incident.”

“It is obvious. Even though he is ten years older, the high lord could not even squeal in front of Roxan’s heir. Anyways, I think it would be best to just pass by Miles. There is no need to figure them out.”

One of the two people’s objectives was to observe the reactions of the high lords and influential nobles on their way to the imperial castle. As such, Ian thought it would be best to pass by Miles, since it was clear who they were siding with.

“Well…”

But Raven shook his head after a moment.

“No, I think it would be better to stop by.”

“Hmm?”

“By now, the attention of all the nobles will be gathered in our footsteps. Whether they are favorable toward us or not, they will be watching our every move.”

“That is true.”

“Consider it like this. If we are staying inside a house, all of them are gathered in front of the door with their ears pressed against the door. Not even daring to knock.”

“Hmm…”

Ian was slightly confused by Raven’s analogy. Raven continued while recalling Vincent’s advice.

“We open the door first.”

“Hooh… that sounds good.”

Ian’s eyes turned sharp as he recognized the true meaning of Raven’s words.

“We do not know if only one of them will fall flat or if we will catch them all, but I think it is worth a try.”

“That is exactly it.”

A shared heart.

The two men smiled. Since a while ago, they were able to recognize the other’s true intentions without having to speak many words.

*** 

The imperial road was quiet.

The occasional passersby took off their hats and bowed when they saw the group. To avoid the hassle, the flag of Pendragon and the royal family were deliberately not hung. As such, the group was considered a bunch of knights and low-ranking nobles, which explained why the passersby only showed the minimum courtesy.

But when the group neared the gates of different territories or imperial post towns, they raised their official flags. Those who witnessed the flags of the dragon and the golden lion were stunned speechless.

Every single time, lords and nobles of the surrounding areas would find the group in less than half a day and pay respect towards Ian.

But not everyone acted as such.

The story of Duke Arangis being murdered in the governor’s residence in Leus had already spread throughout the empire. The incident divided the nobles of the imperial castle and the whole empire.

Of the thirteen high lords, six, led by Roxan, were already holding Prince Ian and Duke Pendragon responsible for the death of Duke Arangis. They were pressuring the two politically. The rest watched or remained silent, and there were only two high lords who were openly on the side of Duke Pendragon – Seyrod and Sisak.

However, they were considered the weakest of the Great Territories.

The nobles Ian and Raven met on their way to the imperial castle either belonged to a great territory or had solid relationships with them. Therefore, while the low-ranking nobles showed utmost courtesy, the high-ranking ones did not try as hard to appease Ian, though they were still outwardly courteous.

And now, the same was being held true for High Lord Count Wullian of the Great Territory of Miles, who finally made his appearance a long time after the two men and their group arrived in the city.

“My apologies, Your Highness. I just had so much work to do today.”

Count Wullian laughed vainly.

However, judging by his relaxed expression and colorful attire, it was evident that he had not been occupied with work.

Ian suddenly asked with a smirk.

“Is that so? So what exactly were you busy with? I am curious.”

“What? Oh, well, that’s… due to lumber mill operations and mining rights… I, it’s not important enough for you to care about, Your Highness. Ha, haha…!”

Count Wullian stuttered at the unexpected question.

But Ian was persistent.

“No, why don’t you tell me about it? Who knows? Perhaps I could be of help to you and the Great Territory of Miles.”

“Not at all. Thank you for your kind words, but it really is nothing overly significant.”

“Hm? Does that mean I do not have to worry about the Great Territory of Miles at all, even if I am one day seated on the Golden Lion’s throne?”

“Oh, no, well…”

Count Wullian broke out into a cold sweat while stuttering.

‘Dammit all! Why here of all places…’

He swore inwardly while gauging Ian’s reaction.

Count Wullian had little presence among the high lords, but that was also indicative of his ability to read the trend of the times. As such, they had maintained an amicable relationship with the Great Territory of Roxan since the previous generation, and their connection had developed into a blood relationship.

Count Wullian’s daughter was married to the younger brother of Roxan’s high lord.

‘Why couldn’t you just leave after being served? How troublesome.’

As the in-laws of Roxan, he naturally lent his voice to Roxan in holding Duke Pendragon and Prince Ian responsible for the death of Duke Arangis. However, it wasn’t that he thought Ian would not climb the throne as crown prince one day. None of the nobles would think that. However, they were still joining in and attacking Prince Ian politically for one reason – the royal family was too powerful.

‘The mainstay of the empire are us high lords. The emperor alone does not rule this massive land.’

Contrary to his thoughts, Count Wullian spoke while smiling brightly. 

“How could I not be grateful for you to be considerate of my land, Your Highness? But as a high lord, I cannot rely on your heart alone. I, Wullian, will try to solve any issues and problems to the best of my abilities.”

“Hooh. Your loyalty is truly admirable. His Majesty will be very pleased.”

Count Wullian escaped the snare of words like a slithering snake. After nodding, Ian turned his gaze.

“By the way, this is your first time meeting him, is it not? Say hello. This is Duke Alan Pendragon.”

“Ohh! To think I would finally get to greet Your Excellency Pendragon. It is my honor to meet the one whose fame has shaken the nine lands and the two seas.”

Count Wullian greeted Raven with a fuss.

“Nice to meet you.”

But Raven only nodded with a calm expression in response.

The count’s eyes became slightly distorted.

‘How haughty and arrogant, just as the rumors have it. But…’

He could not take Duke Pendragon lightly. The young duke in front of him was a hero recognized by all. Although the White Dragon was standing by his side, what he accomplished was not something that an ordinary person could do.

Who else could go all the way to the South and win a battle against the Arangis Duchy?

‘I cannot let my guard down…’

Count Wullian carefully examined Raven.

“Anyways, I was thinking of staying the night in the city. What are the high lord’s thoughts on this?”

“How could I have any complaints? I will immediately prepare a banquet.”

Although he did not particularly want to, Count Wullian replied with a bright expression. A banquet was a must to welcome a prince and a duke.

But he was having external thoughts.

‘I will give them a banquet and send them off… No, wait.’

A light appeared in his eyes at a sudden idea.

‘Yes. A crisis could be made into an opportunity. If things go well, the Great Territory of Miles could…’

Count Wullian of the Great Territory of Miles was already busily planning something else.

*** 

Although they were rare and difficult to tame, every great territory possessed at least five or six griffons. One of the creatures hovered around a towering castle before settling down.

Soon after, the rider dismounted the griffon and was escorted into the caste by awaiting soldiers.

“A messenger from Miles. Report to the lord.”

A large gate opened at the knight’s words.

“I am Levian, a knight of Miles. I apologize for coming here without notice. It is an urgent matter.”

The messenger entered the inner chamber of the high lord, which was decorated lavishly and splendidly, then knelt on one knee before presenting a letter.

A servant picked up the letter, then shifted his steps before bowing and holding it out.

A man wearing a coffin received the letter and muttered after checking the Miles family’s red seal.

“Lord Wullian? Hmm, this was unexpected.”

A young man with sharp eyes tore off the seal and read the letter.

He was Jamie Roxan, the master of the Great Territory of Paleon, the most powerful of the thirteen high lords in the Aragon Empire. 

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