Chapter 35

“Are you sure you’re going to be alright? They lived in the Ancona Forest far before our family settled down here. They could be furious if they found out their territory is encroached on…”

“Ancona Forest is Soldrake’s domain. Now that I’ve entered into a pledge with Soldrake, those horse-heads… I mean, those centaurs are living on someone else’s land.”

“Mm.”

With the oath in place, the successor of the Pendragon family and Soldrake shared everything. This meant that any creature residing in Ancona Forest were technically residents of the Pendragon Duchy. However, even so, the previous dukes didn’t touch the centaurs.

Since they bore a hatred toward humans and were a warlike species, it was better to leave them alone and avoid interactions with them.

Now that her son wanted to meet with the centaurs, Elena could not help but become worried. However, Elena believed in her son.

“Perhaps… Do you have other intentions in meeting with them?”

“Yes. I would’ve left them alone otherwise, but due to certain circumstances, I need to borrow their strength.”

“I see. Well, what more could I say if you say so. You are the master of Pendragon, and I’m sure you will act in the best interest of the family.”

Elena gave a delighted smile, expressing her trust in her son, the master of the Pendragon family.

“Yes, well…. I’ll do my best.”

Raven was still unaccustomed to Elena’s unwavering affection and trust in him. This held even truer because of her seniority and because he had never received such kind of love. Feeling restless, Raven slowly sat up from his seat.

“I think I’ll be going now, then.”

“No, why don’t you sit for a little while longer? Ah! No, look at me. Of course, you’re at an age where you… No no, yes I understand. Don’t exhaust yourself too much and treat her well.”

“……”

He felt like a victim of injustice, but he maintained his composure and walked out of the room, feeling the weight of heavy expectations of bearing a successor.

***

“Your grace, you’re here.”

Lindsay gave a small bow towards Raven. She was dressed in a dress with spring colors.

“Everything is fine?”

“Yes, I’ll take your coat.”

Lindsay shyly lowered her eyes while taking Raven’s coat. Raven looked at Lindsay with dreary eyes. Even though she had a change of title, nothing else had changed. She still woke up early to take care of him and greet him, and personally looked after him in getting dressed and grooming himself. She was careful to treat her previous colleagues with respect, which made her popular amongst the maids of the castle.

He couldn’t find a single fault with her.

If there one was just one thing it…

“Excuse me, your grace.”

He knew it was time for ‘that’ once again, and he flinched at her words.

“The head maid said that… if we miss today, then c, conception…”

Raven felt a stream of cold sweat run down his back at Lindsay’s words. She had turned bright red from head to her toes, and she blurred her words.

“I need time to think about something. Could you please leave for a moment? All of you as well.”

“…Yes. Then please have a restful time, your grace…”

Lindsay left the room with a voice filled with an unknown regret and embarrassment. Finally left alone, Raven leaned back on a chair with a long sigh.

“I’m going to go insane…”

Everything was fine, even taking Lindsay as his concubine.

There was just one problem. Even though a week hadn’t passed since the announcement, all he heard was talk of having a successor. Night and day, everywhere he went, he was bombarded with subtle hints and direct advice regarding the matter. Having Elena bother him was enough, but now the head maid and even Lindsay kept openly bringing up the nightlife.

He had many things he had to take care of, so he felt more restless about the issue. He couldn’t openly say no, because it would let everyone down.

He might have disregarded other people’s feelings in the past, but now he felt a sense of responsibility as the sole successor of the Pendragon Duchy.

“I need to leave the castle as quickly as possible. That’s the only way…”

Raven quietly kindled his resolve.

[When are you leaving?]

“Ahh!”

Raven jumped up from his chair at the unexpected reply. But after recognizing the identity of the voice, he once again sat down in his chair.

“Why don’t you make yourself known when you’re in the room?”

[Ray and I are companions of the soul. If you focus, you should be able to know where I am.]

Soldrake had somehow silently entered the room through the open window and stood beside Raven.

“Were you staying in your lair?”

Soldrake responded by nodding her head.

“You’re not bored? It’s okay for you to stay in my room.”

[That’s fine. It’s all the same to me. Even if I’m there or here, I can talk to you all the same.]

Soldrake’s voice did not contain any hint of loneliness. It might have been due to the long years she spent by herself, but Raven felt sympathy for her grave voice. He hadn’t had a chance to talk to Soldrake because he had been so busy lately with work.

No one could talk to Soldrake unless they were the successor of the Pendragon family, which in this case, was him. Moreover, dragons hardly visited each other. It had been almost one hundred years since Soldrake last confronted another dragon before Amuhalt and the other dragons recently showed up.

“Sol, stay in my room from now on, or please accompany me wherever I go.”

[……]

Soldrake silently gazed at Raven, then suddenly stretched out her hand and struck Raven’s hair. He was a little nervous but didn’t avoid Soldrake’s touch.

[Ray is different from both Gordon and Klein.]

“Different…?”

[Gordon and Klein didn’t like me staying by their side. They didn’t appreciate it when I showed up like this. I had to respect the will of my companion; hence I stayed in my lair.]

Soldrake’s lair was right behind Conrad Castle, where a dragon statue was carved into a huge cliff. The large stone statue was as big as Conrad Castle, and a cave system stretched inside the statue. For generations, when Soldarke entered into a contract with the new successor, she would leave Ancona Forest and reside in the cave.

“Then you didn’t talk much with Duke Gordon Pendragon?”

[Yes. Unless something special happened, I was always in my lair. The Pendragons wanted it that way too.]

“……”

Raven was lost for words at Soldrake’s quiet statement. For two generations, for time stretching out into a century, Soldrake had braved the world alone without anyone to talk to.

Raven gently raised his hand and held Soldrake’s hand that was still stroking his hair. It was a different sensation from a human’s hand, but Raven didn’t mind it. He placed her hand on the table and folded his own hands over hers. Then, a small glint shone in the eyes of Soldrake who had always remained emotionless.

“You are my companion of the soul. From now on, stay by my side even if there aren’t any special occasions. Whatever anyone says, continue to do whatever you want to do.”

[…Ray is a really peculiar Pendragon.]

Soldrake’s voice remained apathetic. But Raven could tell. The dragon, who had spent hundreds of years in isolation, was feeling a little happy. Realizing it had been quite some time, he awkwardly took his hands off Soldrake’s hand.

“Ehem! Anyways, I think I’ll have to leave the castle soon, why don’t you accompany me?”

[I will go wherever Ray goes. Where are you planning to go?]

“I’m going to inspect the crystal mines and then meet the centaurs in the forest. Depending on the situation, I might have to venture outside our territory.”

The mine and the lumber mill that the Seyrod family handed over were near the border, which meant that he might have to venture outside of his territory.

[The centaurs? Why are you planning to meet with those children?]

The centaurs rivaled orcs in terms of belligerence, and yet Soldrake still referred to them as children. Raven replied with a smirk.

“Sol, you probably don’t know this as well. There’s a reason why Duke Klein Pendragon allowed orcs to reside in the Ancona Forest.”

Soldrake blinked her large eyes, and Raven continued.

“Ancona Forest marks the edge of the Pendragon territory. We have one of the largest borders in the empire, and it would take a lot of manpower and materials to build a fortress and guard the border. That’s why Duke Klein invited the orcs to Ancona Forest. No one in their right mind would send their troops to attack you when there are orc warriors in the way.”

Ten years on the battlefield. He had learned a lot during his battles. Raven had figured out Duke Klein’s intentions as soon as he observed the map of his territory.

“But now those orc warriors have left the forest. Our lines of defense are gone. Besides, do you think the centaurs will stay still? They were at odds with the orcs in taking the initiative in the forest. I think I need to go settle things down.”

[Do you want me to try and convince them? Well, the centaurs won’t listen to my words anyway. I’ll have no choice but to kill them all]

It was a fearsome declaration of a dragon to wipe out an entire tribe. Raven knew she wasn’t speaking empty words.

Centaurs were an eccentric and warlike race. It was highly likely that they wouldn’t listen to a dragon’s words. The whole tribe would probably raise their arms and fight to the death.

“Of course, it is my job, so you’ll have to help out. But if the centaurs disappear from the forest, an even bigger issue will arise. I’m going to try and persuade. I…”

A cold smile hung around Raven’s face.

“Well, I’ll decide after meeting them. I’m tired, so I’m going to take a rest.”

Raven stretched his arms, then dove into his bed.

Woosh!

Once again, Soldrake’s armor magically disappeared, and she proceeded to lay down on the bed.

“Hmm?”

Raven recoiled. He had previously seen her do the same thing at Bellint Gate, so he wasn’t surprised by her actions. It was just that Soldrake had lied down right beside him on a bed that was large enough to fit loads of people.

“Um, aren’t you uncomfortable? You don’t have to be this close.”

Soldrake turned her head and gave a casual glance at Raven.

Her enchanting eyes were right in front of him.

[Is Ray uncomfortable?]

Every time she spoke, the breath from her red lips tickled Raven’s face.

“N, no. Well, if you’re not uncomfortable, then I’m f, fine too.”

Raven blushed and quickly turned his gaze towards the ceiling.

Silence.

Raven was still staring at the ceiling, but he could feel Soldrake’s peering eyes fixated on him.

It was truly an uncomfortable time.

But strangely, Raven suddenly felt comfortable and relaxed as he stole glances at Soldrake from his gaze on the ceiling and saw large blue eyes staring back. His eyes slowly closed, and after a while, constant, deep breaths were heard from the room.

[……]

Soldrake observed Raven’s sleeping figure for a while before stretching out her hand. The white hand brushed past Raven’s hair, forehead, nose, lips before reaching his chin.

[Partner, my soul’s companion… Alex, I think your promise will be finally fulfilled…]

Soldrake spoke her words and slightly moved her body. Putting Raven’s arms on top of her head, Soldrake, the white dragon, closed her eyes for the first time in several hundred years to slumber in human form.

***

The next day, Alan Pendragon declared a second expedition to sort out any remaining issues on the territory. However, he announced that he would only be accompanied by the orcs and Soldrake, which disappointed Killian and the knights.

However, the knights' disappointment soon turned into a shout of cheer and a promise of greater loyalty to the son of the duke, Alan Pendragon.

An order of knights!

When the word came down to form a knight order which would be headed by Killian, the knight shed tears and snots of happiness while thumping his chest.

The two other knights were also promoted. Sir Jade was appointed as the commander of Bellint Gate, and Sir Campbell would take over Killian’s duties and title as the defense commander of Conrad Castle. Both knights shed tears and swore eternal loyalty when presented with the news.

At the same time, large-scale recruitment posters for workers in the mine and lumbermills were posted on the walls of Lowpool and the other villages. Eager men flocked from all over the land, and Melborn and the knights were flooded with various tasks to complete

Alan Pendragon’s plans were completed one by one and steadily continued as the day of the second expedition came.

And...

Everything that had happened after Alan Pendragon’s miraculous recovery spread to other territories, and throughout the vast regions of the entire empire.

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