“I think it would be better for the both of you to stop now.”
A soft, calm voice interrupted the escalating altercation between Alan and Ian.
Raven turned to find two women, no, two younger ladies who had walked out of the carriage. He recognized one of them to be Luna Seyrod, but it was his first time seeing the lady next to her.
Even without Ian’s words, Raven could tell who she was.
“It’s nice to meet you, Your Grace Pendragon. This girl is Ingrid.”
Ingrid wore a crown on top of her headband-shaped braids. She lightly bent one knee and bowed her head towards Raven.
Raven was a little taken aback. It was a typical greeting, but one that was full of dignity and grace.
“That must be Lord Soldrake, the sworn guardian to the Pendragon family. Ingrid Aragon greets the great one.”
Ingrid showed off a smile at Soldrake, who was leaning narrowly at the end of the spire.
Raven became more surprised. Even though Soldrake was not spitting off Dragon Fear, it was undoubtedly a daunting task for a young lady to not show fear in front of a dragon. Soldrake looked down at Ingrid’s greeting and then abruptly flew off toward Conrad Castle.
Soldrake had done everything she had been asked.
“Long time no see, Your Grace Pendragon.”
Luna, who was standing beside Ingrid, greeted Alan belatedly. If one were to consider Luna as a cold, passionate beauty, Ingrid de Aragon conveyed a dynastic, elegant beauty in her neatness.
However, having been alongside Soldrake for quite some time, Raven was accustomed to an entirely different level of beauty.
“Nice to meet you. I am Alan Pendragon. Long time no see, Lady Seyrod.”
Luna had already gotten used to it, but Ingrid’s eyes grew slightly with shock.
She thought that Alan Pendragon would have the courtesy like any other knight or noble to kiss her on the hand, but he only nodded, acknowledging their presence.
After all, it was Alan Pendragon. He was of equal status to her as the successor to one of the empire’s five duchies.
He might still be carrying the bitterness in his heart from the broken engagement ten years ago. Furthermore, even with her warning, her brother almost caused an incident just a few moments ago.
“Ingrid, why have you come out? I can take care of something like this…”
“If you are visiting someone else’s home, it would be rude not to greet the owner first. Moreover, it would be disrespectful to try and pick a fight with the host as well.”
Ian’s mouth shut tightly.
Raven saw the situation unfold and narrowed his eyes.
That monkey-like prince who didn’t act his age seemed to be soft towards his sister.
“I feel a little weary from traveling a long way. Your Grace Pendragon, would you be so kind as to...?”
“Uh, well… Let us do that. Come in.”
She was so well-mannered that he couldn’t show spite even if he wanted to. Raven shrugged and turned around.
Just before he stepped forward, Ingrid’s voice caught him in his place.
“Your Grace Pendragon, would you give us the pleasure of being shown around by the master of the place?”
“No, Ingrid, what are you saying…?”
Ian gave a deep frown, but Ingrid overpowered him with a glance and continued to speak.
“Please, it’s shabby, but I would appreciate it if you could ride together with us in our carriage.”
“…Let’s do that.”
“Oh, thank you very much!”
Raven realized something as he saw Ingrid, who smiled brightly and even opened the carriage door for him.
Maybe the one to be wary of was Ingrid, rather than Ian…
The residents of Lowpool all flocked to the roadside to catch a glimpse of the royal family, as most of them had never experienced such a grand event before. The carriage slowly climbed up to Conrad Castle after passing through the grand welcome.
Unlike Ian, who frowned and glared at Raven throughout the entire trip, Ingrid responded to the residents’ welcome by waving her hand out from the window from time to time.
When the knights harshly drove away residents who came too close, she dissuaded them with a gentle voice.
Raven gazed at Ingrid. She was quite admirable.
She was a little different, no, quite different from what he had imagined. It was even more surprising that she didn’t seem to be putting on an act. She didn’t pause to think about every little action, like most other women. She exercised such behaviors and attitudes without contemplation, just like a man would drink water or breathe instinctively. It was ingrained in her.
If he had to say it…
‘She’s similar to the duchess.’
That was it.
From birth, such a person’s every word and action was embellished with elegance and grace. Indeed, Duchess Elena Pendragon was the sister of the emperor and was a royal princess herself, which could explain their similarities.
“I’ve seen it even from outside the gate, but it seems to me that the Pendragon Duchy is quite a leisurely and plentiful place. Surely it is all thanks to the late Duke Gordon Pendragon and you, my grace.”
“No, well.. thank you.”
At Ingrid’s praise, Raven stroked his chin. She continued the conversation.
“I’ve heard that you are the same age as me, but your tone is very polite.”
Raven was a little dumbfounded.
“I don’t think you should be the one to say that… Do all princesses talk like that?”
“You? How dare he address her as ‘you’… No, you bastard, stop pretending to be close to her…”
“Not necessarily. As you can see, even someone like this resides in the imperial palace.”
Ingrid once again subdued Ian with her words.
“Uh, Ingrid. Aren’t you a little too harsh? I am your older brother.”
Ian couldn’t stand it any longer and frowned while responding. Ingrid stared straight into Ian’s eyes and said.
“Brother Ian, no, Your Highness Ian. I feel like you are getting further and further away from keeping your promise. If you keep acting like this, then maybe this year I won’t…”
“No, no. Never mind.”
Ian hurriedly waved his hand as soon as Ingrid referred to him as ‘Your Highness’.
He muttered to himself, then returned to giving Raven a death glare as if to say, ‘this is all your fault’.
Ingrid ignored Ian and stared at Raven with a joyous expression. Raven felt embarrassed by her gaze and turned his head slightly. Then he met Luna’s eyes.
As soon as they made eye contact, Luna jerked her head away. Raven tilted his head. She looked like she had seen something that she shouldn’t have seen. But Raven thought that it was reasonable for her to act like that and nodded his head.
‘Well, I guess…’
Her family’s knights and soldiers had been mercilessly killed because of him. She must have been overflowing with rage and resentment.
Even though they were relatives, blood demanded a hefty price.
Meanwhile, the carriage finally passed the drawbridge and arrived at Conrad Castle’s courtyard. When the door opened, Raven, who was sitting closest to the door, came out from the carriage first. Ian followed, then Ingrid came out.
“Your Grace Pendragon?”
Raven was about to ask why his name was called when he stopped in his place. Raven wasn’t aware of what Ingrid was gesturing for. She held the handle of the carriage in one hand and slightly put the other out.
‘This is so exhausting.’
Raven wasn’t a savage who would ignore a princess’s hand. He stepped forward to grab her hand. But then, Ian walked in front of Raven with a menacing expression and smiled as he reached out to Ingrid.
“Here here, why don’t you take my hand?”
With a low sigh, Ingrid shook her head, then took her brother’s hand as if it couldn’t be helped. After helping Ingrid as well as Luna exit the carriage, Ian turned back to Raven. With an expression that seemed to scream, ‘Did you see? I won’.
But Raven smirked nonchalantly and turned his gaze away.
“Welcome, Prince Ian, Princess Ingrid.”
There was only one person who could address them in such a manner. Ian and Ingrid turned their heads towards the source of the voice.
“Ingrid greets the Duchess.”
“Ian Aragon greets Duchess Elena Pendragon.”
Even if they were the current prince and princess of the empire, they couldn’t take Duchess Elena lightly. She was the youngest sister of the emperor and it was well known that the previous emperor had cared for her dearly.
Elena smiled brightly and approached the two people. She suddenly grabbed Ingrid’s two hands together.
“You’ve grown up to be so pretty, Princess Ingrid. Do you remember me?”
“I have a vague recollection. When I was around four, I remember that you visited the Royal Batallium with the late Duke Gordon Pendragon.”
“Oh my, you’re quite brilliant. Prince Ian, by the way, seems to have become even more dignified. This is great news. This is good news for the empire.”
Elena turned her head and extended her hand to Ian.
“You speak too highly of me. Rather, the duchess still seems to be healthy and beautiful.”
Ian answered back with courtesy and gently kissed the back of Elena’s hand.
“Oh, by the way, say hello. Prince Ian must have seen them more than ten years ago, right? They are my daughters.”
“Yes. Pendragon’s ladies. Ian Ar…”
Unlike his attitude towards Elena, Ian started to greet the ladies with a disinterested expression. Then, his eyes grew wide.
There was a girl, as pretty as a fairy.
She was small and modest in manner, but her glistening eyes were full of confidence and dignity. Her gentle smile, which she made without avoiding his gaze, was different from the smiles full of subtle temptations that he had seen on many other noble families’ ladies.
“Oh, excuse my behavior. How do you do, ladies? I am Ian Aragon.”
Ian became startled and then strode up to the girl. But the girl resumed smiling, showing no surprise, and greeted Ian by slightly bending her knees.
“Nice to meet you, your royal highness. I am Irene, the eldest daughter of the Pendragon family.”
“Hmm. I see. Come to think of it, I think I saw you more than ten years ag…”
“Brother Alan, you’ve returned.”
Irene walked right past Ian and approached Raven with gentle steps.
Ian’s body froze in its place.
This was the first time in his life. A girl who was around his age had ignored him. Suddenly, he felt a rattling sensation on one side of his chest.
It wasn’t that he was angry. The sensation was different from that…
Ian’s eyes turned downward.
A little girl, who looked very much like Irene with a reddish face, bowed her head. Ian reciprocated the bow with the most spectacular smile he could muster.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Ian Ara…”
But once again, he wasn’t able to finish his sentence.
As soon as the little girl met his eyes, she hid behind someone’s leg.
A young knight with glossy, curly hair stood restlessly as he looked down at the little girl, who was holding onto his legs tightly with a blush.
Ian’s expression turned fierce again.
“What are you?”
As he had stayed in the carriage the whole ride, he had no idea who the man in front of him was, even though Isla had led the griffon army to greet them.
Isla raised his head wordlessly and gazed at Ian.
Ian raised one eyebrow. The young knight's expression had changed completely, and now he had a face that was indifferent and expressionless.
“Elkin Isla. A knight of Pendragon.”
“Ha! A common knight dares to act like this in front of m…”
“Sir Isla was born in Valvas, Your Highness. Please excuse his attitude.”
Irene had returned without anyone knowing and gently approached and stood beside Ian. Ian’s face blushed, and he nodded while resting his expression.
“Ehem. Well, if it is a knight of Valvas… I will forgive him this one time for you, Irene.”
Ian’s attitude surprised the imperial knights, who had been watching the situation unfold with their heads tilted.
Ian Aragon, whom they served, was known as the worst rascal of the Royal Batallium. He was renowned for his horrible personality as well as his erratic behaviors.
Anyone who acted arrogant in front of him, except for the emperor and the crown prince, had always ended up shedding tears and being humiliated.
Such a man had come to Conrad Castle, belonging to the Pendragon Duchy, and started to act in ways that he had never seen before.
Even though Princess Ingrid was accompanying him, his behavior had undergone a sudden shift. Surely even his love for his sister wasn’t enough to warrant such a change.
“Anyways, it’s scorching hot today. Why don’t we head into the palace, Your Highness? I’ve prepared a cool white wine for you.”
“L, let’s do that. Ehem!”
Irene led Ian, who was walking behind her with large steps, into the palace with a bright smile. She then lightly turned her head and winked at Raven.
He was rather proud of his younger sister today, even though she had her unique moments. Raven looked at Ian’s back in a dumbfounded manner before speaking to the two ladies.
“What are you all doing? Let us go in.”
“Yes? Oh, yes. Lady Seyrod? I think we should head inside as well.”
“Ah, yes. Princess Ingrid.
It was the first time Princess Ingrid visited Conrad Castle and the second time for Luna…
Conrad Castle… It was a strange place in many ways.Previous Chapter Next Chapter