Chapter 41

“Good.”

After confirming that all the orcs had crossed the river, Raven nodded his head with satisfaction. There was a reason why he had chosen to avoid the bridges and only brought orcs and griffons instead of human soldiers.

Two bridges connected the Pendragon Duchy and the Seyrod County.

One was upstream, and the other was about seven miles downriver, at the beginning of the midstream.

When Luna Seyrod came to the duchy, she utilized Ronan Bridge, the one that was located upstream. The mines he had received from them were quite close to the bridge. Thus, everyone would assume that he would cross the Ronan Bridge.

But that was exactly why Raven decided not to cross Ronan Bridge.

‘If I were Count Seyrod, I would have something planned on the other side of the bridge…’

With even free knights gathering, it was natural that the events of Pendragon Duchy had already spread far and wide.

No matter how vital the Pendragon Duchy was to the empire in terms of bloodline and the power it once possessed, no one would find it favorable to see their neighboring family’s power soar.

This held especially true for Seyrod County as they had grown considerably over the past ten years with the decline of Pendragon Duchy.

The Pendragons had miraculously started to regain their past glories, and the Seyrod County had to hand over an essential asset in the forms of mines and lumber mills. They would try to plot something against him.

So Raven chose not to cross the bridge.

He wasn’t afraid of the Seyrod family. If possible, he wanted to warn them and announce ‘if you touch me, I’ll slaughter you all.’

But he couldn’t be the one to initiate anything. The most important thing in the world was ‘justification’. Whether it be war or territorial disputes, ‘justification’ was always the most crucial thing.

‘I’ll take control over the mines and the mills without anyone knowing. Then I’ll take the bridge to go back over into my territory. When that happens…’

Count Seyrod’s forces would be compelled to make the first move, as they would lose their composure at the unexpected events. When a man was put into a situation that they have no control over or when they were faced with a surprise, they were bound to lose their heads and become impatient.

That was what he would wait for.

When that happened, he would show the Seyrod County and the nobles of the western empire the Pendragon family’s true power and character.

Raven once again laughed without realizing his schemes.

[Ray, I feel another insidious energy. Are you thinking about that concubine? The one that seems well-prepared to bear a child.]

“…Sol, not you as well.”

Raven limply shook his head and spoke once more.

“Anyways, we’re the only ones left…”

All the members of the expedition had already crossed the river. Even his horse was put in a calm state by Kratul’s spell and carried over by a griffon’s talons.

Now he would probably cross the river by Soldrake’s magic.

[We’ll go as well now.]

“Yes. Huh? W, w, what, what are you doing!”

Raven was shocked, more so than any other times he spent with Soldrake. Soldrake had boldly walked towards him and wrapped one of her arms around his shoulders.

[Shouldn’t we cross the river?]

“N, no, forget about crossing the river. This is…”

Raven blushed. Apart from her beautiful face, she also let off a mysterious sweet scent that struck his senses.

[I’ll carry you in my arms.]

“W, what?? H, hey!”

Throwing Karuta across the river didn’t seem to have been a joke.

Soldrake had incredible strength and put one of her arms beneath Raven’s knees and the other around his shoulders. She lifted him off the ground and floated across the raging currents.

“……”

He had been ‘princess carried’ by Soldrake.

Raven Valt, who was called ‘the reaper of the battlefield’ at age 27, was carried across a river by a woman in a weak and embarrassing position.

His face turned as red as a tomato, and he could only stay still with his mouth gaping open.

But after a brief moment, Soldrake stepped down onto the other side of the river. The eyes of those who arrived earlier turned to their two companions.

“……”

“……”

“….…”

Isla, Karuta, Kratul, and even Kazzal…

No one spoke a single word, and they looked at Raven, who had obediently stayed in Soldrake’s arms.

Then, Raven saw.

It was the face of Isla who had turned his head to hide the smile that crept onto his face.

Karuta, Kratul, and Kazzal turned their heads at the same time to hold back their laughter.

It was humiliating.

“I think you can let me down now…”

[You don’t have to be embarrassed. But Ray is lighter than I thought.]

With a finishing blow, Soldrake let down the ‘reaper of the battlefield’ who was already despairing. Raven purposefully held back his shoulders from drooping and walked towards the group.

“Ehem! Hmm!”

In the awkward silence, Isla and the orcs turned their heads away after seeing Raven. Raven met Karuta’s eyes and spoke as he saw Karuta’s mouth twitch.

“Don’t say it.”

“Kuhem! What would I say…”

“I already know. Just don’t say it.”

After a lengthy sigh, Raven climbed onto the horse.

“Let’s go…”

He continued his journey with a weak voice.

***

“From here on is Seyrod territory…”

Raven looked around with cold, calculating eyes. The environment was still similar, but now they had crossed into an unknown area. Before he crossed the river, it didn’t matter if he was in an unfamiliar place because it was still his territory.

But here, anything could happen. He had to be extra careful from now on.

A fork appeared in front of the group after they had been walking for a while along the river. An old, wooden sign was placed in the middle of the fork. There was an emblem of a red wolf and a white swan was drawn on the board. The red wolf was the Seyrod family’s crest, and the white swan was the symbol of the Noel family.

Raven had heard about the Noel family from Melborn before departure. They were a family that was bestowed with the title of barony from the Seyrod family.

From here onwards, it was officially a land that belonged to others.

Raven took the left path and looked back at his group.

“I’ve told you this before, but from here on out, you should never be frivolous. Ignore any provocations, and follow my orders thoroughly.”

[……]

“Y, yes.”

Soldrake looked at the group with an indifferent gaze along with Raven’s words, and Karuta and Kratul hurriedly nodded their heads.

After some time, the group ran into a monastery that was on the verge of collapse.

“We will stay here tonight. Sir Isla, command the griffons to hunt for food.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Although griffons had no trouble going for three or four days without food, orc warriors were gluttons that needed meat every day. Griffons have excellent sight, as they had the heads of eagles.

Therefore, they would return in a few hours with an excellent game.

After eating and resting for a few hours in the monastery, the group set off once more under the cold glint of the moonlight.

They were wandering around in foreign territory, so they couldn’t just walk around in broad daylight with orcs and griffons. Instead, they chose to rest during the day and travel under the moon, at least until they reached the mines.

It would have been a tough schedule for human soldiers, but orcs could maintain a rapid pace with only a few hours of rest each day. Before the sun rose, they traveled into a deep forest to maintain their cover and rested before resumed their steps after the sunset.

Two more days passed.

It was dawn.

Finally, the old mines were visible to the eyes. The lumbermill was right next to the mine, and there were no signs of workers present. It was expected as the Seyrod family wouldn’t hand over laborers along with the production facilities. There were sure to be more schemes in the future in regards to the control of the mine and the mill, but Raven wasn’t bothered.

“Sol.”

Soldrake nodded and silently stood in front of the entrance to the mine. Soon, a subtle light started to glow from her hand.

[……]

A flock of light spread out to all of the entrances to the mine. The entry was now blocked by magic, similar to all of the other mines belonging to the Pendragons. No one could enter the mine without Alan Pendragon or Soldrake’s permission.

“Sir Isla.”

“Yes, Lord.”

Isla was waiting beside his griffon with something in his hand. At Raven’s words, he walked up to the entrance and boldly struck something into the ground.

Woosh!

A timely gust of wind blew, and the object fluttered open. It was a flag of the Pendragon family.

It was just in time.

The sun started to rise from the horizon and shone on the flag, illuminating it. Raven gazed at the flag with satisfied eyes and turned his head. His gaze headed towards the orc warriors and he spoke in a loud voice.

“As I promised! Everything that comes from this mine and mill will be shared between the Ancona Orcs and the Pendragons! I know well that the Ancona Orcs do not covet wealth as is the teaching of the earth god. But this is a token of friendship, gifted from the Pendragon family to the Ancona Orcs! Please accept it!”

“Orrrrrrrc!”

Karuta and the orcs let out a fierce shout. And so, the relationship between the Pendragon family and the Ancona Orcs was solidified even further.

***

Yawn!

Baron Noel’s soldiers kept watching over Ronan Bridge like any other day. It had already been five days since the entire army from the Noel Barony headed over to the bridge, leaving behind only essential defenses. In the meantime, there were no signs of any Pendragon soldiers, and the only change observable was in the number of merchants and refugees who crossed over to the other side.

“Oi, look over there.”

“Hmm? Oh.... again?”

The soldier frowned. Another man who had radiated the identity of a free knight was crossing the bridge on a horse.

“That’s over twenty so far. Maybe the Pendragon Duchy really will create an order of knights?”

“You’re crazy. Do you think order can be created so simply? Money is a major issue, but disregarding that, how would you possibly unite those bunch of nasty guys? It’s obvious that they will all try to flaunt their strength, and ask for things like land, titles, and such.”

“Well, that figures. I mean, just look at us, right?”

The gazes of the two soldiers simultaneously turned to the encampment, specifically at the two largest tents in the middle. One was decorated with the symbol of the red wolf, and the other with a swan wearing a laurel. Two knights exited their tents at the same time, and their gazes met.

“Hmph!”

“Ptui!”

Each snorted and spat at the ground before turning their heads away from each other.

“Isn’t that pathetic? Why are they acting like that when we’re allies?”

“No, what are you talking about? The knights from Seyrod are at fault here. Even if they come from a family that we’re subordinated to, they can’t come into someone else’s land like that and act so condescending.”

Even though their knights always mistreated them and ignored them, they still supported their own in the face of a common enemy. When they saw the Seyrod knights look at the Noel knights with a look of disdain, they felt angry and annoyed. Of course, the Noel knights responded in kind and always taunted their opponents which wasn’t any better.

“H, h, hey. O, over there…”

A soldier’s voice.

“Why are you acting up again? Is it another free knight?”

“I get it, so stop it.”

The two soldiers told off the owner of the voice while sitting on the ground.

“N, no, that’s not it… C, come quickly!”

“Oh, what is it?”

The voice turned more urgent, and the two soldiers begrudgingly stood up from their place and walked towards it.

“Why are you acting like that? There’s nothing to see.”

The soldier’s response had a hint of irritation. As usual, a carriage and a few people were crossing the bridge.

“N. No. Not there… Look, look over there…”

The soldier who had called for them pointed not at the river or the bridge, but at their own territory.

“Ah, what is … Ahk!”

The soldier jumped back in shock when he turned his head around. An emblem of golden embroidery on a red background, and what followed behind was…

The soldiers stared at the bottom of the mountain with incredulous looks and their mouths gaped open with shock at the same time.

“O, Orcs!!!! The orcs have appeared!”

“Gri, griffons!!!”

Shouts of confusion and fear penetrated the ears of the Noel soldiers and the Seyrod knights.

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