There was only silence in the place where four representative figures of the empire were gathered.
Ian, Viscount Moraine, and Raven gazed at Duke Arangis without saying anything. However, Duke Arangis was only paying attention to Raven.
‘Youthful. Or rather, he is young…’
He had thought as such after seeing Duke Pendragon for the first time outside the residence, but the thought still occupied his mind. An age close to twenty was the height of one’s life. He himself had also been full of confidence and caused many accidents when he was around that age. As such, he was even more amazed by Duke Pendragon.
‘As the Nameless Necromancer mentioned… Is it because you have actually traveled back in time?’
It would explain the calm atmosphere that Duke Pendragon was emitting – it was something unbefitting his youthful age. If that were the case, who was he really, and how old was he?
Duke Arangis suddenly became curious, but he could not ask. It was obvious that he would be treated as insane. While having such thoughts, Duke Arangis gazed at Raven with a calm gaze. He broke the silence and spoke first.
“I have been looking forward to this meeting, but it is rather quiet.”
“Is that so?”
Raven responded in a voice that was as calm as his gaze.
“Naturally. Although he was but a bastard, he was my son nonetheless. How could I not be curious about the one who killed my son and landed me in this position?”
Duke Arangis spoke with a bitter smile. Raven remained silent for a moment, then answered.
“I also had many questions I wanted to ask you.”
“Is that so? Then why did you not ask?”
“It’s not just one or two things… I was contemplating what I should ask first.”
Duke Arangis became silent. He had a rough idea about what Duke Pendragon would ask of him. Combining that with the stories he heard from Ian, the first question would be…
“Jean Oberon. Where is the Nameless Necromancer right now?”
The eyes of Duke Arangis trembled slightly at Raven’s unexpected question. It was the same with Ian and Viscount Moraine. None of them had imagined that Raven would ask such a question right from the beginning.
‘I let my guard down…’
A wry smile hung over the wrinkled mouth of Duke Arangis.
Duke Arangis came to a realization. In front of Duke Pendragon, he needed to be as cautious and nervous as he would be when facing the emperor. No, perhaps even more.
In addition, Duke Pendragon already knew everything. Indeed, it would be foolish of him to not know after seeing Biskra’s unsightly form in the Great Forest. He would know that the Arangis Duchy shared a relationship with the Nameless Necromancer.
“Please answer me. Where is he now?”
Duke Arangis stared at Raven for a moment, then shook his head with a heavy sight.
“I do not know.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
His eyes trembled once more. He felt a chill run down his back. Although the young duke was less than half his age, there was something frightening about the young man’s demeanor. It was as if Duke Pendragon already knew of his hidden, most important hand.
‘No, maybe he’s just fishing around. But…’
He had numerous thoughts and calculations in a short moment. Duke Arangis answered calmly.
“He came to my castle just before I surrendered to His Highness Ian. That was the last time I saw him.”
Ian and Viscount Moraine watched silently, then shared a gaze while swallowing their words. Before they convened in this meeting, Raven had asked the two for their understanding. He wanted to be the one to question Duke Arangis. Since there were certain questions to be asked anyway, the two of them agreed.
But his current questions had been unexpected.
There were many important things to ask, including the attempted assassination behind Crown Prince Shio and the rebellion in the South. So why was he asking this question first? Moreover, why was Duke Arangis acting so surprised when he had always maintained a calm attitude until now.
“Could you tell me what the conversation was about?”
Raven followed with another question.
Arangis tapped on the table two times with his right index finger before pausing. He always tapped with his finger when he was faced with an important decision, and the habit had surfaced unconsciously.
He inwardly clicked his tongue before turning his gaze.
Although he had been the heir of a family that ruled the vast inland sea in the past, he had been afraid of water. When he looked into the deep, unmeasurable sea, he felt dizzy. It felt as if a faint, curious light under the surface would drag him down into the deep, dark abyss.
The gaze of the being in front of him… The gaze contained no emotion nor any spirit. It resembled the fearful yet wonderful sea he saw as a child. Until now, there had been only one being who made him feel the same way as he did now – the exiled dragon, Biskra.
‘Is that so…’
Duke Arangis had been thinking without rest on the long journey across the inland sea, but now he realized the futility of his plans. The Duke of Pendragon he imagined as the subject of negotiation was Gordon Pendragon, rather than “Duke Pendragon”. The late Duke Pendragon had always been a dignified, impartial figure. He had unwittingly overlapped the image of Gordon Pendragon atop of Alan Pendragon.
But he realized how wrong he had been.
The cold, winter-like gaze he was facing did not belong to Gordon Pendragon, nor Alan Pendragon. Rather, it belonged to a figure as dangerous and mysterious as the Nameless Necromancer, who was the most clandestine and threatening being he knew.
“What… did you talk to him about? Duke Arangis.”
Raven’s cold voice penetrated deep. Duke Arangis slowly calmed his trembling gaze and opened his lips with an unwavering gaze.
“He… The one called the Nameless Necromancer. His purpose is to kill you, Duke Pendragon.”
Ian sprang up from his seat with a shocked expression. Viscount Moraine also clenched his fist and his beard quivered. But Raven raised his hand to calm them down, then spoke to Duke Arangis.
“You are wrong.”
Duke Arangis frowned. Raven continued while looking around at the two curious people.
“My death is simply a required process for the Nameless Necromancer to achieve his true purpose.”
“Huh! Then what is that damned creature’s real purpose?”
“What would be the biggest issue if I died?”
Raven asked in a calm voice. Ian thought for a moment before answering.
“First of all, the Pendragon Duchy. The aftermath will reach all the way to Leus and the South, or even the whole empire. It’s obvious that all sorts of greedy bastards are going to covet what the Pendragon Duchy possessed.”
Raven nodded at Ian’s words.
“You are not wrong. But such problems could be solved by the nobles of the imperial castle, centered around you. It will take some time, but the confusion will not last forever.”
Ian stroked his chin with a frown. Raven had a valid point.
“Then what do you think will be the biggest issue, Your Excellency?”
Viscount Moraine asked. All of the eyes gathered towards Raven.
He looked at the three figures with a somber expression and responded.
“Soldrake. If I am killed by the Nameless Necromancer, she would not stand still.”
The three men became wide-eyed with understanding.
“She would not forgive anyone who attempts to stop her. She might even take everything other than the Pendragon family and the duchy as her enemies. Even the angel of Lindegor, perhaps even other dragons, would find it difficult to control her.”
A dragon’s rage. Moreover, Soldrake was the strongest of the dragons as their queen. They felt a chill run down their backs at imagining such a scene. One was a commander of an imperial regiment, one was destined to become the emperor, and the other had been the undisputed monarch of the South. However, all of them were only human.
A dragon’s rage? They could not imagine it.
In particular, Ian felt dizzy when he thought of it. The entire empire, the land he would rule over, could be set ablaze by the Dragon Queen. The confusion caused by the death of Duke Pendragon would be nothing compared to it.
“The Nameless Necromancer’s true purpose is to drive Soldrake into such a state. The whole world will be afraid of her and label her as evil. If that happens…”
Ian muttered in a quiet voice. Raven nodded.
“Yes. Nothing will be left.”
A heavy silence descended among the three men as they trembled unknowingly. They felt a renewed fear for the power of the dragon, the power of the being known as Soldrake. The Pendragon Duchy was a pillar of the empire, a blood ally, and a dependable shield. As such, no one had ever imagined Soldrake as the enemy.
In the history of the Pendragon family, none of the dukes had ever been killed before their time. No one had been worried about the White Dragon.
But what if Soldrake lost reason due to the death of her soulmate and went berserk? Even if she did not take the empire as the enemy, it would still be problematic. The person who would be responsible for the issue was a master of black magic. He had already created an army of monsters in the South using the Troll King. The empire would be pushed into an unprecedented disaster.
Duke Arangis had been thinking about something without blinking his bloodshot eyes even once. He raised his head at Raven’s voice.
“Whatever the Nameless Necromancer suggested, it is all to achieve the purpose of bringing the world to its destruction. He stimulates human ambition to achieve his purpose.”
Duke Arangis started to tremble. At the same time, the words of Jean Oberon crossed his mind.
“A world without Pendragon and Soldrake!”
“A world where dragons are no longer involved in the world of man, but only gods and the powers they allow!”
“That will be the new world! There, Arangis shall dream once more!”
A groan escaped his lips. The man who reigned as the monarch of the South erupted his spirit in misery and anger.
Raven and Ian initiated their own spirits to quickly calm the anger of Duke Arangis.
Duke Arangis managed to suppress his fierce anger and looked at the two while breathing heavily.
“I apologize for acting so disgracefully.”
The two nodded in response. Duke Arangis continued to speak.
“I will tell you everything. I will tell you about what he has offered me, what he is planning, and what he is about to do.”
He had nothing more to lose, and he abandoned his vain ambition in the face of destruction. Duke Arangis began to recount the tale that began decades ago.