Chapter 73

Soldrake, who had been silent throughout the entire day, looked up at Raven and spoke for the first time.

[Ray is really smart.]

“Really? I am not sure… I’ve never heard that before.”

Raven answered with an awkward expression. But Soldrake gently shook her head from side to side.

[I have heard that there is a saying among humans. The position makes the person. Ray is Ray, but Ray is also Pendragon. All the Pendragons were smart. A duke, by nature, is such a person.]

“Is that so…”

Ray still maintained a shy look on his face, but even he could feel that he had become smarter compared to before. Maybe the 10 years he spent trying to survive in the demonic army had accelerated his thinking, or maybe he managed to inherit Alan Pendragon’s brain power when he was revived. Alan was weak, but he was a very intelligent boy.

[But Ray, I have something that I am curious about.]

“Uh, hmm?”

Soldrake suddenly moved closer to Raven and asked, their shoulders touching. Raven became embarrassed, but Soldrake paid it no mind and continued while staring into Raven’s eyes.

[In the past, when Ray was completely Ray, a man named Tylen gave you the letter. But in this world, there is no original Ray. So, who did the letter go to?]

“My… brother.”

His dead brother, Reed Valt. Raven heard that his brother had gone with Jess after receiving the letter from Ruv Tylen. And what happened afterward was almost the same as what Raven had experienced in the past. But, there were some differences.

“My brother was going to succeed my father as a knight in the town of Moncha. He was someone that didn’t need to become a trainee knight under Count Bresia.”

Raven spoke in a half-dazed manner to Soldrake. She was the only one he could share all his secrets with.

“My brother, unlike me, was not very ambitious. He was content to continue the family as a knight that protected Moncha, as a knight under Baron Nobira. But he still went with Jess to Count Bresia.”

Raven’s tone was calm. However, Soldrake was able to feel the anger and loss emanating from her soul companion. She lightly grabbed onto Raven’s hand. Raven let out a bitter laugh at the weird but familiar touch.

“Ultimately, the incident would have occurred even without me. Someone… was aiming for Prince Shio when they planned this. The Valt family was the scapegoat, a pawn on the chessboard that was disposable.”

Ian had said that. Prince Shio, who managed to hide his identity while staying at Count Bresia’s castle, was poisoned by a letter. As soon as he touched the words on the page, the poison contained in the ink destroyed Prince Shio’s mind and body.

It must have meant that the crown prince knew who the letter came from. The identity was reaffirmed by the fact that the crown prince had opened the letter personally. Unfortunately, the letter was laced in magic as it incinerated into dust upon Prince Shio’s collapse.

In addition, Count Bresia was a person who had no connections or interest in politics and the imperial city. He had been ignorant that the person who had been staying in the castle for the past two days was Crown Prince Shio.

Crown Prince Shio had concealed his identity, so Bresia had thought him to be one of the many princes, which was made evident by the accompanying royal knights. In that manner, the unprecedented attempt to poison the crown prince fell into a perfect mystery.

Ian couldn’t do anything about it, and that was why he had asked Raven to re-investigate the manner. But whatever the reason, it was a good opportunity for Raven. He had come to Sisak to see what actually happened. Whoever was behind the treason was responsible for the deaths of his father and brother. The ten hellish years that Raven suffered were due to the perpetrators. He had the desire to track down and punish all those who had treated the Valt family like dog shit and had used Gray, Reed, and Raven Valt like pawns.

“I am the last remaining member of the Valt family. Those responsible, I’m going to find all of them, and make them suffer.”

Raven was boiling with anger and vengeance. His spirit started to boil up once more. But then a voice permeated his ears.

[Ray is not alone.]

Raven flinched and turned around to look at the owner of the voice.

[I am by Ray’s side now. In the other room, there is a human knight who swore loyalty to Raven, the one who controls the griffons. In the duchy, there are the human children who are always waiting for Ray. Everyone likes and follows Ray.]

“Yes, you’re right…”

Raven’s hostility disappeared like snow melting in the spring sun. All the faces of the people mentioned by Soldrake came to his mind, and he felt at peace. After Raven regained his composure, Soldrake spoke once more.

[But I like Ray the best. Because I know Ray is Raven Valt and also Alan Pendragon. And only Ray knows who I am, what I am thinking, and what I am saying. We have been together since past, we are together now, and we will be together in the future.]

“……”

Feeling a new sense of completeness, Raven remained silent. He was unable to continue his words. Soldrake spoke one last time, as if she were making a declaration.

[I like Ray the most.]

Soldrake’s gaze and words contained no falsehood or exaggeration, so Raven grabbed onto Soldrake’s hand.

“Thank you, Sol…”

It did not matter that the only person in the world who knew his true self was a dragon. He wasn’t lonely anymore. That fact alone satisfied Raven. A man and a dragon laughed silently in the companionship of the other.

***

The next morning, Raven and his party came down to the pub before dawn.

All the waitresses and whores from yesterday were nowhere to be seen, and the plump owner of the pub was cleaning up the mess from last night. He looked tired as he let out a big yawn.

Raven ordered a simple breakfast and some food for later while he waited for company. After some time passed, Jody and the two other mercenaries came down with their weapons and backpacks.

“Hey, owner. Two beers and four eggs.”

“I’ll have a glass of milk and bacon.”

The three people ordered their food and naturally sat down on Raven’s table.

“You get up early. I’m liking you more and more.”

Raven nodded lightly to Jody who was grinning.

“Toro village is quite far. Even if we leave now, we should arrive there in the afternoon.”

“Toro village… you’re thinking of siding with Ramelda?”

“I’ve heard that they have fewer men. They would offer better treatment and more money since they’re disadvantaged.”

“Well, yeah. But…”

“If you feel nervous, feel free to go your own way.”

“Keuk! It might be different for major battles, but in a small skirmish, quality trumps quantity.”

Jody replied with an amused look.

Seven or eight experienced mercenaries could easily take care of the small village vigilantes by the dozen. That’s how it was with small-scale battles. That was why Ramelda and Tylen were both recruiting mercenaries.

“And we’re superior quality. Like you two, handsome boys.”

The woman mercenary with short, fine black hair spoke to Raven in an alluring voice. She was quite pretty with her tanned face and large green eyes. She also had a small mole under her eye which added to her sexy charm. But Raven ignored her after one glance and immediately turned his face towards Jody.

“So, what’s the exact condition of Ramelda’s forces?”

The female mercenary’s eyes distorted by Raven’s outright disregard. Finding the whole situation entertaining, Jody giggled and responded.

“You can’t even call it forces. One son, two nephews. Around 20 young male villagers who gathered as vigilantes. That’s why he’s hiring mercenaries.”

“So, if he manages to recruit us and a few more, he’ll have around thirty. What about Tylen?”

“As far as I know, he started training soldiers after taking over the village of Moncha three years ago. They have around thirty. He has more money than Ramelda, and anyone can see that he has the advantage. I’m thinking he’ll be able to gather around 20 mercenaries as well.”

“Moncha has become a serf village, and if there is a full-fledged fight, the serfs will participate. Then they’ll probably have more than a hundred people.” The slit-eyed mercenary also joined in on the conversation.

Then the female mercenary replied with a smirk, “It’s not like it’s your first time. You know they’ll all run away after a couple of them are killed, so you can disregard them..”

“A sword will kill you, regardless of who wields it.”

“….hmph!” The female mercenary snorted, unable to retort.

Then, the food and the alcohol were served. Jody and the slit-eyed mercenary took two eggs each and broke them into the beer. They proceeded to take a large swig of the drink.

“Gah! That is great. Anyways, now that we are together, shouldn’t we all introduce ourselves? This is Scylla, and this charming-eyed fellow is Gus. They’re pretty good all around.”

Scylla and Gus nodded their heads, then looked at Isla and Soldrake. Not a single peep came out of them as they sat there.

Receiving Raven’s glance, Isla spoke in a low, indifferent voice, “Elkin, I’m from Valvas.”

“Whew! A Cavalier of Valvas? I was wondering after seeing your appearance, but it was actually true.”

“Hmm…..”

Jody let out a remark full of admiration, then Scylla glanced at Isla with curious eyes. Anyone could see she was interested. But Isla did not spare her a glance, and Scylla quickly puffed out her lips.

Then Gus, who was observing Isla with his slit-eyes, spoke, “You must have crossed the sea if you’re from Valvas. Did you come through the port of Leus?”

Isla nodded silently. Then the three mercenaries looked around at each other. Jody nodded, then asked hurriedly.

“Not long ago, I heard that the successor to the Pendragon Duchy had a showdown with Toleo Arangis. Do you know anything about it?”

“……”

Isla was taken aback, but because of his constant indifferent expression, the three mercenaries failed to notice.

“I heard that the Pendragon family’s knight and an orc warrior beat up the Latuan orcs, is that true? And that Alan Pendragon cut off the arm of Toleo Arangis. Ah right! I heard that Alan Pendragon is really handsome, have you seen him?”

“What use is that? They say he was severely injured by Toleo Arangis. Even if he does not die, he’ll probably be bedridden until winter.”

“Ah! What a shame.”

“You’ll feel even more ashamed if you look in the mirror right now.”

“What? Speak for yourself! If you look in the mirror it’ll probably shatter apart!”

Jody shook his head at the bickering mercenaries then turned his head towards Raven and Isla before asking in a subtle voice.

“Anyways, did you hear or see anything there? There is a huge fuss around here regarding that matter. There’s even a rumor that one squad from the Armada Bird Mercenaries was wiped out.”

Raven opened his mouth to resolve the curiosities of the three people.

“It is true. They say that the Armada Bird Mercenaries tried to ambush the Pendragon Villa in the middle of the night, but ended up being wiped out instead. I heard that even the Latuan Orc pirates and sea griffons were mobilized.”

“Huh!”

The three mercenaries were genuinely surprised.

The Armada Bird Mercenaries were on a different level than the wandering mercenaries like themselves. Instead of being commissioned by villages or small village heads, large groups like the Armada Bird signed contracts with lords instead and participated in large-scale wars.

Moreover, the Latuan Orcs were known as the most powerful tribe in the Morte Islands and were notorious among pirates. The Pendragon Duchy had faced such beings as their enemies and defeated them.

“Whew! That’s amazing.”

“I know. Even if the three of us stuck together, we couldn’t take care of a single orc…”

“You’ve never even fought an orc, so stop talking nonsense.”

“Will you shut up? You fucking goose bastard.”

As Scylla and Gus started to squabble once again, Jody cut off the two people’s words.

“Well, thanks for the information. If you need any information from us, we’ll gladly tell you what we know.”

Jody did not even think for a moment that the people in front of him were the protagonists of the rumors. He turned his gaze and continued.

“By the way, this is…?”

Scylla and Gus stopped growling at each other and turned their gazes towards Soldrake, who still had her hood on.

“Sol cannot speak, and she cannot hear.”

“Hmm…”

The three faces hardened a little. A person was more likely to become a burden in battle if they were a mercenary who could neither speak nor hear.

When Raven noticed their expressions, he added in a cold voice, “You don’t have to worry about Sol. I assure you, she is stronger than anyone here. Even stronger than me.”

“Huh…!”

Jody opened his eyes wide in surprise, but the two other mercenaries alternated their gazes between Raven and Soldrake with a disdainful expression.

“Hmph! Just because Jody said so, you seem to be getting over your head. Who are you to decide who’s strong or weak?”

“I must agree with Scylla this time. Brat, if you keep blabbering on, you might lose your neck without even realizing it.”

Scylla and Gus took on a fierce expression. Their killing intent also indicated that they had killed many people throughout their lives. But Raven didn’t even blink an eye. Rather, it was Isla who couldn’t suppress his anger and stood up.

“If you want to see his skills, then you’ll have to get past me first. A Cavalier of Valvas doesn’t fight with women, but both of you can come at me together.”

“What…?”

The scowls on the faces of the two mercenaries grew even uglier. But it was literally for a short amount of time.

The two mercenaries were repelled by Isla’s spirit. It was the indomitable spirit of a knight who had the blood of griffon riders flowing in him. The man, who would one day be called the Stormbreaker of the Pendragon family, emanated a fierce aura from his eyes and all over his body.

The two mercenaries couldn’t fully fathom the level of Isla’s spirit, but they instinctively sensed danger.

“Haha! Why are you guys acting like this? We are eating from the same pot now anyways, right? Elkin, right? Why don’t you calm down?”

Jody, who was quick to read the atmosphere, stepped up. Nevertheless, Isla did not withdraw his spirit.

“Elkin,” Raven called out.

“I’m sorry.” Isla bowed his head and sat down. An awkward silence overtook the table afterward.

Moreover, the mercenaries had gotten a clear grasp of the relationship between Raven and Isla. Cavaliers of Valvas were prideful, and if Isla was respectful to Raven, it meant that the young man in front of them was definitely from a noble background, and quite powerful as well.

“If you are done eating, let us get going. We have far ways to go.”

Raven spoke after noticing that mercenaries were starting to come down from the inn while yawning loudly.

Jody nodded and replied, “Haha! That would be great. Now, now, Scylla, Gus, let us go.”

“Hmpf. You’re a little handsome, so I’ll let it go.”

“We’ll see this through after this is over.”

They felt that their pride had been damaged, but they still stood up while glaring at Raven and Isla.

“Ah, anyways. I hope his Grace Pendragon is safe. It’s a loss for the whole empire if such a handsome man dies early.”

“You’re a national disaster.”

“Hah! You’re a historical disaster!”

Isla looked at Raven with a strange look and said in a small voice as the whole party walked out of the pub.

“Congratulations, my Lord. You’ve risen to the level of a national treasure.”

“……”

A bitter smile hung on Raven’s lips.

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