The demonic army where the worst of the worst gather. A man who survives for close to ten years, the illegitimate son of the Valt family, Raven Valt, is assigned to accompany Duke Alan Pendragon, the contractor of the white dragon, and be his guard. But due to an unknown conspiracy, he is killed along with the duke and his dragon, Soldrake. When he opens his eyes, he’s back seven years in the past, and even more strangely, as Alan Pendragon…
Raven Valt dragged his weary feet along the wilderness, his back draped by the setting sun. Every one of his footsteps was accompanied by the dripping dark-red blood that trickled down the edges of his rusty sword.
He trudged on.
After a while, Raven paused to fix the leather strap of his bag slung over his shoulder. The bag was filled with decapitated heads, some with their tongues sticking-out, and others with their blood-dried eyeballs half out of their sockets.
Raven looked at the heads indifferently, fixed his bag, and continued forward with his footsteps.
The sight of countless tents and rising white smoke came into Raven’s line of sight. The gigantic makeshift village in the middle of the wilderness was bustling with life.
There were half-naked drunkards with upper bodies plastered with crude tattoos, savages ripping into the morsels of unknown origins, those smirking while sharpening the blade of their stone-made axes, and soldiers forcing fair-faced recruits into their tents.
This anarchic group of soldiers were focused on their own matters at hand. They were spending this evening as usual, even though no one knew if it would be their last.
“The scouts must have come.”
“Only that damned Raven’s returned.”
The group of humans stopped what they were doing and stared at Raven, who was silently walking past the tents.
Their gazes were filled with blatant hostility and fear.
“Damned Raven, surviving by himself again.”
“That cursed Raven’s a symbol of bad luck.”
“He is the grim reaper, I say…”
The streets were full of whispers of the crowd, but Raven still walked towards his destination, his face seemingly devoid of any emotions.
He had no reason to give any attention to the murmurings of insects who probably wouldn’t even survive tomorrow’s battle.
The tent was decorated with the hides of various animals, and bottles of liquor were lying around everywhere.
“Oh, oh, oh!”
The stench of alcohol permeated the room while screams and animal-like moans resounded within the walls of the tent. After looking around with a blank expression, Raven walked towards the giant, bald man in the middle of the tent, who was being served by two women at each side.
The bald man’s hands dug deep into the thighs and breasts of the women, but the women could only flinch, unable to make even a sound.
Raven overlooked the sad but heated orgy with a lack of interest and stood in front of the bald giant.
“The brown goblins are set as the vanguard with around ten swamp ogres. All armed and organized.”
The two women shifted back in fear as the heads dropped right in front of the bald giant’s feet.
The giant raised his reddened head displeasingly.
“Fuck. What happened to your men?”
“As you can see, I’ve had a hard time just saving myself and bringing back a couple of heads.”
“Or perhaps you’ve decided to kill them all?”
“It was a joke; take it easy. You did good work and we have valuable good intel. It is a shame for the ones we lost. This information will help us greatly in tomorrow’s battle.”
The bald giant looked back and forth between the heads and Raven, revealing his yellow teeth in a crooked smile.
“From the size of their vanguard. It is accurate to say that their main army is at least triple the size. We do not have a good chance of victory.”
“With just ‘us’ that might be true. But that is why ‘he’ came here.”
The giant gestured with his chin.
Raven turned his head. The edge of the so-called village. No, even further away from the outskirts. He saw a tent several times larger than the one he was in.
“Ogres, goblins or whatnot. They’re not even a close match for ‘that’.”
“There may be more to it than just ogres in their main army. We need to be especially wary of sorcerers that may have bound griffons as their contracted creature. You know, griffons are native to the Karon Valley.”
The giant laughed in his self-amusement then suddenly stopped his cackling.
“Raven, I know you do good work even without me worrying. But you do not have to do anything tomorrow. You’re allowed to take it easy in tomorrow’s battle.”
“What do you…. mean?”
“Other than the ones who got themselves killed today, you’re the only one who’s useful from your company anyways. Give the rest of your men to another company. Right, that damned Isaac offered thirty men to the ogres as fucking nutrients a while ago. His company could probably use some men.”
Raven observed the bald giant, still maintaining his silence.
If anyone else had said those words, they would’ve already been dead on the ground.
But the giant had every right to say those words. This bald giant was Baltai, the leader of the demonic army. It was infamous, composed of all sorts of garbage not fit to be called human.
“What. You do not want to? You just have to last one more month until you complete your 10-year quota and take your freedom. This will likely be your last battle. You should take care of yourself until then. Your bitches will have to find another company after you leave anyways. Might as well send ‘em off now. It is good to get things done, is it not?
Raven’s forehead creased.
It didn’t make sense for Baltai, known for his vicious actions and shamelessness, to care for someone else’s well being. He must have something else planned.
“Well, the rules state that you’re not allowed to avoid battle unless severely injured… But it seems like you only got off with small scratches today as well?”
Baltai scanned Raven’s body, his eyes resembling a snake scanning its prey.
‘This bastard… Does he…’
Raven was inwardly startled, but he tried not to show it.
He had hidden it carefully for so long. Baltai did have good awareness and thinking, unlike his ugly appearance, but he could not possibly know Raven’s secret. No, it didn’t really matter even if he did.
Only one month. Only one more month in this filth. Then he would finally taste the freedom that he’d been yearning for.
After ten years, he would finally become a free man, free from his title of traitorship.
“So anyways… I want you to be a guard for His Grace over there.”
Baltai’s eyes looked to the gigantic tent.
Raven knew that Baltai wasn’t referring to the being of “that,” which would supposedly turn the tides of tomorrow’s battle.
“He’s a damned Duke. Well, not yet at least, but he is going to receive the title officially after this battle. Maybe if you catch his eye, he might just make you a knight of his duchy!”
Baltai’s bullshit didn’t even catch Raven’s ears.
Baltai had practically sent Raven’s men to die, sending them on a mission to scout the enemy.
But Raven could only stay curious as to what made Baltai spout this nonsense.
He had no right to decline.
No matter the circumstance, Baltai was the leader of the demonic army, and Raven had just lost all his experienced subordinates. He was now left with thirty or so inept soldiers that would probably not make it past tomorrow’s battle.
And there was no guarantee that they would even listen to the commands of Raven, since he would be leaving shortly.
“So, I just have to guard him?”
“Yeah. Stay by his side the whole time.”
Baltai’s yellow teeth seemed rather more chill inducing today, yet Raven had no choice but to nod his head.
“Good, good. Then go and report to the future duke. It will make life easier for you to build up a relationship earlier on.”
Raven stepped out of the tent, barely bothering to register Baltai’s words.
“Ah, one more thing. Give my regards to our guardian. I hope he takes good care of the enemy and me tomorrow. Kuhahahaha. Now come here you bitches!”
Following Baltai’s bellowing, the tent was once again filled with the cries of animals.
* * *
The tent was even bigger up close.
It was hard to believe that one contracted creature residing within that tent could decide the fate of tomorrow’s battle. Raven was filled with a sinking feeling of anxiousness.
Maybe it was due to the countless flags decorated with the Pendragon coat of arms that surrounded the tent.
For Raven, the illegitimate child of a common noble family, the duke of the empire was like the Sun to him. More so, since Raven’s family name was dishonored and eliminated by false accusations of treason.
Raven muttered to himself. Ten years had already passed, but the sense of inferiority and reverence towards the imperial family still burned in Raven’s unconsciousness. Raven walked past the Pendragon family’s white crested flag without reservation. Then as he was about to call out the name of the future Duke, whom he would guard tomorrow…
“Who is it…?”
A hoarse voice called out from within the tent. It was almost hard to believe the voice belonged to a human.
Raven hesitated, startled by the unexpected promptness. He immediately brought up business.
“I am the leader of the 12th company, Raven Valt, Your Grace. I have been ordered to serve as your guard for tomorrow’s battle. I am here to report in.”
Raven words carried some etiquette, unlike the others in the demonic army.
There was no answer.
Feeling that the silence had run its course, Raven was about to open his mouth once again to repeat himself. Then, the voice spoke.
“No need for formalities. I will see you tomorrow when we head out. You may go rest…”
The more Raven heard the voice, the eerier he felt at the strangeness of it. He had been through quite a few life-or-death experiences over the last ten years, but even so, the voice gave him chills.
Oddly enough, Raven felt a certain ‘emotion’ from its tone. He could not quite put a name to what it was, but it was certainly something he had felt before. Pondering for a moment, he shook his head. There was no need to concern himself over someone whom he would have nothing to do with after the battle.
Regardless of the outcome of the battle, Raven would live to taste freedom, and the soon-to-be Duke of Pendragon would return to his own place.
“Of course. Then I will set up my tent beside Your Grace’s. If you have any orders, please let me know.”
The short conversation ended, and no presence could be felt from the giant tent anymore.
An eerie stillness.
The tent was quiet. One would even think that it was empty. It was definitely too quiet to be accompanying an heir of a duchy and his vicious contracted creature.
Raven felt like he was standing in front of a mortuary of sorts. Death reeked here.
Raven’s forehead creased with confusion. Inside the giant tent, there was only one ‘human.’ One of the most important people in the empire, the sole heir to the Pendragon duchy, coming to aid the demonic army which was full of human scum. He had come all ‘alone.’
Even if he did have a powerful contracted beast, there was something odd about it.
But Raven quickly threw that thought away.
‘Well… they did say that he was unconscious for ten years as a cripple. And the Pendragon family didn’t fare well either during that time.’
He knew that it wasn’t his business. Rather, he turned his attention to setting up his tent. Hopefully, this would be the last day he fell asleep chewing on dirt in this damned desert.
* * *
It was morning.
The soldiers, who had enjoyed themselves with drinks the night before, groggily crawled out of their tents, knowing fully well that last night’s feast could be their last.
“Fucking 6th company bastards, hurry your ass!”
“The artillery will lead the rear! Check our carts and equipment one more time!”
“Boss! The girls we bought yesterday ran off.”
“What the fuck does that matter, you retard? They’re gonna die anyway if we lose.”
The shouting and the noise were reminiscent of a marketplace, and Raven gathered his equipment, not heeding the noise any mind.
After packing some water and salt, Raven put his rusty seven-year-old scimitar on his waist and decided to wear a cloak that would help block the sandy winds.
Compared to the other soldiers, it was a plain outfit, but it was enough for him.
The morning routines started to quiet down and the hundreds of tents that filled the desert were gradually taken down.
All sorts of soldiers stood beneath their respective flags, and Raven stood far from them, lost in thought.
Baltai walked with heavy footsteps, his steps adorned with a strange silence mixed with anxiety and fear. On his head was a helmet made from carved out ogre bones.
Three thousand pairs of eyes followed Baltai’s footstep.
There was one tent still standing in its place after all the preparations were finished — the being that would decide the battle and their fate was set to reveal itself.
Baltai was unlike his usual self. He had a habit of swearing with every second word he spoke, but today he was silent, only coughing to clear his throat.
“Your Grace Pendragon. It’s time to set off.”
The tent was motionless, devoid of any presence.
The 3000 men-strong army stood still amidst the curiosity and anticipation.
Baltai became a little impatient, and his face scrunched up even more.
A massive eruption interrupted the silence and Baltai’s voice, attacking Raven’s eardrums.
Three thousand soldiers swayed and backed up together as the dust swept up a storm.
Raven didn’t fare much better. The force pushed him back while he tried to cover his face with his robe. His eardrums rang like the high pitch of angry bees.
He looked around, frowning slightly.
The giant tent that was perched a moment ago was nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly, the figure of a man appeared through the dust.
Raven squinted, but he could barely see anything.
“L, l, l, look!!!!”
Raven turned his head to see the soldiers look up in astonishment. It was his turn to lift his head. What he saw made his eyes open wide in shock.
An armour of steel reflected the bright sunlight, adorned by a giant creature flapping its wings high in the sky.
Raven’s jaw dropped.
The powerful being, fit to be called the strongest under the skies. It was a ‘dragon’.
Everyone froze in shock, their mouths wide open. The dragon landed on the ground with giant yet elegant flaps of its wings.
The silver armour surrounding its massive body and the three horns resting on the top of its head was evocative of a monarch looking down on all other beings.
The gaze of the dragon made the soldiers feel as if their very souls were being judged, and many instinctively stepped backwards.
It was only then that the man, who seemed to be guarded by the dragon, appeared. All eyes shifted to the back of the dragon where he was standing.
“I’m Alan Pendragon. Where are thy enemies?”
The rusty scimitar pierced the waist of a brown goblin.
Raven went forward to retrieve his blade, only to lose grip and fall on his knees.
He took in a rough breath while looking around.
The monsters were dominating the fight, devouring the humans everywhere.
It was chaos.
Raven found himself struggling as he had no strength to lift his arms. He wiped off the blood that flowed down his eyes and hopelessly raised his head.
The horizon was decorated with the blood red glare of the setting sun, while a white moon was peering up on the other side.
The wings were stained with numerous injuries and tainted with blood. Dozens of spears stuck out from numerous places in its silver armor. The dragon was forced onto the ground. Watching the hopeless situation, Raven snickered despairingly.
“That fucking retard…”
He started laughing.
The dragon was a fuckup, as was Alan Pendragon. Of course, the worse fuckup was Raven himself, who had ignorantly trusted the two.
The metallic taste of blood formed in his mouth, but Raven still stood up and proceeded to walk.
Raven stepped through a pool of blood that surrounded Alan Pendragon and the dragon. He walked until he reached Alan Pendragon’s backside.
“Oy, let me ask you one thing.”
He didn’t bother with formalities. Who cared if Alan Pendragon was going to be a duke? He could be the damned emperor and it wouldn’t matter.
Alan Pendragon remained silent, looking at his dragon. Raven wanted to get angry, but he couldn’t even muster up the strength to do so. He slumped on the ground and spoke vainly.
One hour ago, the dragon was destroying the countless herds of griffons left and right, then just suddenly stopped. It remained still in the air as if it had become a stone statue and allowed giant spears, which were thrown by the ogres, to pierce its body. The rest was history as the monsters pushed with the advantage.
“Damn it, say something. Why don’t…”
Throb. Raven didn’t finish his sentence. A flaming sensation came from his heart. He slowly looked down. A blood-stained spearhead stuck out of his chest where his heart was located.
He lifted his shaking hands to reach for the spearhead when a new round of burning pain was felt, and the spearhead retracted.
Blood sprayed out of his mouth and chest, and Raven fell forward.
“One blow really isn’t enough to end your miserable life, mister reaper Raven Valt.”
Raven lifted his head at the familiar voice. Dressed in his Ogre bone helmet and blood painted armor, Baltai stood there laughing.
“All forces, advance!”
A group of soldiers passed by Baltai’s side and swung their spears at the goblins. These soldiers were not part of the demonic army, but rather the imperial army. Their armors were adorned with the imperial mark of the lion. Raven turned his eyes to Baltai in confusion and pain. When the dragon fell, Baltai had immediately retreated to the rear.
So why was he here in this place, at this time, and with the imperial army?
“What. Are you surprised? About what? That I know your secret, or the current situation? Maybe both? Hehe.”
Baltai cracked up, all the while swinging his halberd in the air playfully.
“Let me tell you something Raven. Everything in the world, it’s already set in stone. There are beings that control everything about the world. People like you and I, we are completely oblivious. We just roll around, not knowing our place.”
Something flew into the air accompanying a menacing sound.
Raven starred in bewilderment as Alan Pendragon’s head fell straight into a pool of blood.
The commander of the demonic army had just beheaded the heir to one of the five duchies of the empire.
“Surprised again? Do not worry about it. This is something that was supposed to happen too. The ‘beings’ were unhappy with the fact that this man was still alive.”
Raven tried to speak, only to hack up blood.
“Wheww. It really must be nice to be undying. You don’t die even when you are stabbed through the heart. Let us see… it should take about 6 or 7 days for the heart to regenerate? It took about four days for an arm, so that’s probably about right, hmm?”
Even in the pain Raven raised his head. So Baltai knew his secret. But surely he didn’t know about…
“But don’t you die if your head gets chopped off, hmmm?”
“Don’t act so surprised. I knew about your arm so why wouldn’t I know about this? A neck injury took almost over a month before right? Kuhahahaha!”
Perhaps due to the punctured heart, Raven couldn’t muster enough strength to stand up.
“Kuhahaha! I feigned ignorance all this time. Just for this moment.”
Raven felt the cold touch of steel at the base of his neck. A voice colder than the blade spoke in a low voice.
“I told you, didn’t I? You should always see things through. Damned brat, you underestimated me too much. You think there weren’t others before you who had a brain to think?”
Raven closed his eyes in despair. Baltai’s words were true. He had fallen for the false hope of freedom. At the thought of taking back his family’s honor and proving their innocence.
Well it didn’t matter anymore. It was all over.
Everything was over.
“Well, since you’ll be on your way soon, why don’t I tell you a little secret?”
Baltai leaned close and spoke softly into the ears of Raven whose head was slouched in despair and futility.
“You know how I told you everything was already set in place? To be honest with you… what happened to your family ten years ago, you being placed under me, and what happened to Alan Pendragon… It’s all connected.”
Raven raised his head with his eyes wide open. His vision was blurred as he was losing too much blood. He saw Baltai raise his halberd into the air.
“Well the dragon was weaker than expected, but everything else went exactly as planned. I will see you in hell you bastard. Kuhahahaha!”
Raven opened his eyes in shock, but this was short lived, as he felt an electrifying sensation on his neck and saw the world spinning.
“Kuhahaha! Now with this, I am finally a commander of the imperial army. Kuha! Kuhahahahaha…”
The last image in Raven’s head was the yellowed eyes and the maniacal laughter of Baltai. With that, Raven Valt died.
The sandstorm blew, carrying debris and blood along with it
The wind swept across the battlefield. It blew past the bodies of the humans and monsters, and soon arrived at the giant statue-like body of the dragon and remained.
In the middle of the sandstorm, the dragon’s eyes opened.
It looked to the setting sun and the silver moon, then looked down at the two headless bodies on their knees. The two bodies seemed to face each other. The dragon’s eyes lit up for a moment, and it lifted its head slowly.
[All of the conditions have been fulfilled…]
The dragon’s voice sounded like the screeching of metal. It was the voice of the dead Alan Pendragon.
[The blood of a thousand men, and the blood of a thousand monsters. The blood of a dragon and a human monarch… The day when the sun and the moon meet… Today I fulfil my pledge…]
The thick red blood covering the battlefield rose and soared as if alive, and slowly gathered. It grew, creating a red river that flowed towards the sky in between where the sun and the moon stood.
The dragon spread its wings. The light gathered on the three horns of its head. The light headed towards the decapitated head and the body of Alan Pendragon. It also reached Raven’s head, which had its eyes wide open.
In the light, Alan Pendragon’s head and body started to slowly disappear. Along with it, Raven’s eyes started twitching, and his head disappeared as well.
The dragon, seemingly unaware of the situation, only looked towards the disappearing Alan Pendragon.
[Now everything is up to you, flag bearer…]
The moment the sun fell below the horizon, the dragon spoke with a regretful voice, and bent its long neck down.
[What is wrong?]
[Another one has passed on as well.]
[What do you mean?]
[Another one besides the dragon’s flagbearer.]
[Well, what do we do?]
[Nothing for us to do really. Sol fulfilled the conditions, and we kept our promise. What happens now is really nothing that we can interfere with. I am sure it will work out.]
[Well… Yes, I am sure all will be fine.]
Raven forced his eyes open.
His vision blurred. He couldn’t find anything to focus on!
Something in his body twisted and realigned. The sound of his spine snapping started to spread, and his whole body felt the movement.
Raven closed his eyes again. He wanted to scream but no sound came out. It wasn’t the first time his body had experienced something like this. He soon clenched his teeth in anticipation and silently bore the changes that took within his body.
It was the sound of bones aligning and organs reforming. He had a similar experience before when he almost died.
Then, the sound stopped, and Raven felt a different sensation than before. In his semiconscious state, he had a fuzzy feeling and a warmth covered his abdominal area before spreading to his chest, neck, and shoulders.
‘Wha.. What’s going on…?’
Someone was touching his body with extreme care.
Raven felt his body being raised, along with somebody’s voice. A sweet but unfamiliar scented spread. Raven opened his eyes and turned his head. His vision was still blurred and unfocused. He saw bountiful breasts resting inside white lace — a woman.
Was this a dream? Or was he seeing things? Maybe he was already dead, and this was heaven?
Raven once again lost consciousness which was accompanied by someone’s shriek and burning pain in his cheeks.
Raven came to, this time hearing someone’s sobs.
“No… really I swear… His Grace really…. me…”
He started to hear the words a bit more clearly. It also seemed like there was more than just one person.
“What nonsense are you sprouting? How can you even say such things? Can’t you see his condition right now?”
“Oh how can you even say such a shameful thing? Oh my my.”
“Please wait a minute, head maid. Lindsay, you’re sure that His Grace moved?”
“Yes, yes! I swear on the heavens. I was about to clean his back when he suddenly stuck out his arm…”
The four people in front of him slowly came into focus.
There was a meticulous-looking middle-aged woman, a middle-aged gentleman in a black tailcoat with a well-groomed mustache, and a maid who looked to be about eighteen with tears in her eyes. Her tear-stained cuffs were gathered in front of her chest. Finally, an old lady with a pale face contained in an old-fashioned purple dress stood a distance from the other three, and stared in Raven’s direction.
“Hmm. I think it’s better to call for Sir Illaine. It’s better to be careful than to be sorry.”
“Well, okay then. It probably is better to check up on His Grace’s condition.”
Hearing this conversation with zero context did not help with Raven’s headache and only confused him further.
He was dead. His heart was pierced by Baltai’s halberd, and his head chopped off.
What Raven heard from Baltai before his death made him clench his teeth. A groan escaped from his lips.
The middle-aged woman who was looking at Raven with worried eyes jumped in shock.
“How can this be!?”
The gentleman also backed up several steps.
Raven struggled to open his lips and spoke to the three people who looked as if they had seen a ghost.
“Where… where am I…? Who are you people?”
His speech was slurred and his words came out muddled gibberish. He used his hands as support to rear himself up on the bed. Even with small movement his breathing became ragged.
“Y.. your Grace!!”
The middle-aged man exclaimed while assisting Raven.
“Ohhhhh merciful goddess. Benevolent goddess Illeyna I thank you! Thank you!!!”
“Yes! Yes of course!”
“Your Grace, Your Grace! How are you feeling? Do you recognize me??”
The middle-aged man said as the two women ran about in a flutter.
‘What’s… going on?’
Nothing made sense. Never mind the fact that his head was cut off, there were people in front of him that he had never seen before in his life making a huge ruckus, pretending they knew him.
However, he decided to satisfy his primitive needs as he didn’t feel any hostility emanating from then.
“Some… w… water.”
“Here, here it is, Your Grace,” The middle-aged woman hurriedly poured water into a cup and brought it to Raven’s lips.
The cool water slid down Raven’s throat and he felt it soak his dry lips. Only after finishing the cup of water did Raven realize that he wasn’t dreaming nor in an illusion. This was reality.
Alive. He was alive.
‘How, how can this be…?’
The unfamiliar surroundings combined with the fact that he was somehow alive caused him to instinctively look around. The bedroom was the biggest and the fanciest he had ever seen. One of the walls was covered with windows larger than the door, and elegant wooden furniture decorated with gold were placed around the room. The golden insignia around the bed finished off the bedroom with a gorgeous yet proper feel.
As Raven looked around the room his eyes stopped upon a particular person. It was the old lady who had been standing in the corner of the room since he woke up, not saying a single word.
“Are you sure you’re alright, Your Grace?”
The worried voice of the middle-aged man caused Raven to turn his head towards him. The gentleman and the woman were both looking at him with concerned looks. Their heartfelt gaze caused Raven to lower his guard by a bit.
“Where… am I?”
“Excuse me? What do you mean where…”
“We are in your room, Your Grace, located in Conrad Castle.”
The man answered calmly, unlike the woman who seemed to be in disarray.
Raven was confused.
Conrad Castle? Your Grace?
He had no idea what they were talking about.
“Where is this Conrad Castle located? And who is Your Grace?”
The man’s face darkened, and the woman’s eyes widened a little as she covered her open mouth.
“I think His Grace is still in a daze. Well, it makes sense seeing how he was in that condition for several years…”
“Well of course! Three years. Three whole years! He regained consciousness after a long period of time… Well, please relax and stay still. The castle’s doctor Sir Illaine has been called for. He will be here soon so please rest assured.”
The woman wiped the tears off her face before covering Raven with a blanket and placing a damp cloth on his forehead. Raven was perplexed at her attitude in treating him like a child. He was 29 this year, and he had spent 10 years fighting like a dog in the battlefield.
His face was painted with all kinds of wounds and scars, as many times as he had been standing on the crossroads of life and death. It probably wasn’t something a normal person could look at with sweet smiles. Even his subordinates, who were murderers and villains, could not stare straight into his face.
“Now now, please rest comfortably.”
Raven felt the sincerity coming from the woman’s words, and due to the fact that he felt weak, he could only let her do as she wished. At that moment, the door burst open and someone hurriedly ran into the room.
“My son! My son has finally woken!?”
A lady in her early thirties ran into the room, wearing a gold crown with jewels over her shiny, blonde hair. Her face was tinted red from the running. Behind her followed eight maids, who similarly all had red faces.
“I greet the duchess.”
“Oh my son! My son! Finally, you have…!”
As if she hadn’t heard the two people’s greetings, she ran forward towards where Raven lay. But between her and the bed stood the old lady who had been silent all along, and the noble lady ran, not paying the old lady any attention.
“Hey be care… hmm!?”
Raven was about to warn her when the unthinkable happened. The noble lady ran straight through the old woman. The lady then wrapped her hands around Raven’s bewildered face.
“My son! My beloved son…!”
He didn’t hear her words. His gaze was affixed on the old lady. He had not seen wrong. The noble lady had passed straight through the old woman. All of a sudden, the old woman slowly turned her head towards the window and walked towards it.
Raven’s eyes widened once more. The old woman had passed through the maids as she had just done so with the noble lady. Now standing in front of the window, she turned her head towards Raven. Their gazes met.
She slowly raised her hand and pointed a finger to the outside of the window.
“My son! Do, do you not recognize me? It’s me, your mother! Oh, my son…”
Raven raised his head at the exclamation. A noble woman who could be considered one of the top beauties he had seen in his life was raining down kisses on his forehead and cheeks. She then proceeded to embrace his face into her chest. He couldn’t get a grasp on reality.
‘Wh, what is this … Am I really dead? What the hell is wrong with this woman? What about that old woman?’
A piercing pain ran through his head once again.
“Oh, oh! What’s wrong?”
The lady who was still holding Raven’s face tightly in her chest looked at Raven’s face with worry.
“My lady, please calm down. We do not know what condition His Grace is in right now. I think it is better for us to let him get some rest.”
Upon hearing the middle-aged man’s words, the lady repeatedly nodded her head.
“Yes, yes, of course. Where is Sir Illaine? Is he not here yet?”
“We’ve sent Lindsay to fetch him. He’ll be here shortly ma’am.”
“Yes, yes, of course, of course.”
The noblewoman was still fidgety, clearly not knowing what to do. She kept on staring at Raven with worried eyes.
“Sir! Sir, Sir!”
Someone opened the door and burst into the room. It was the maid that Raven first saw when he came to.
“Lindsay! Where is Sir Illaine? Why have you come without him?” The middle-aged woman said in a stern voice.
“N, n, no! Please! Take a look outside. Look! Look outside!”
“What is all this fuss about!? Now let’s…”
The noblewoman froze upon turning her head to look out the window, while the middle-aged woman fell onto the floor with a dazed face. The maids did not move to help the woman as they were all staring outside with vacant looks.
Raven also turned his head and stretched his upper body to look outside, directly where the old lady was pointing to.
Raven’s eyes widened as something came into his field of view outside the window. Something enormous was staring in his direction with its giant wings folded.
It was a majestic white dragon covered in silver armor from head to tail.
The name unconsciously escaped Raven’s mouth, even though it was a name that he had never heard of before.
As if the dragon had heard him, it began to extend its neck.
A heaven-shaking roar rang throughout the castle.
Glass flew down from the windows as the shockwave pushed the noblewoman and the middle-aged man onto the floor. Having finished its roar, the dragon spread its wings and began to hover in the air.
The maids rushed to the noblewoman’s side and helped her up. Shards of glass were all over the floor.
Raven’s gaze was not focusing on the mayhem happening inside the room. Instead, he looked helplessly as the dragon was nearing him. The room gradually darkened, covered by the dragon’s shadow. The gigantic being with wings came closer until it was the only thing visible through the window. An ice-like blue eye peered through the window and scanned the humans in the room.
Everyone was frozen in fear, unable to move an inch and frightened of making eye contact with the dragon. The glaring eye slowly darted from person to person. It paused for a second when it saw the old woman, but then moved towards Raven.
‘It’s him… Alan Pendragon’s dragon.’
First, he had died and come back to life. Now he was facing Pendragon’s dragon. Raven could not get a hold of himself. Furthermore, he had just spoken the name of the dragon even though he had never heard of “Soldrake.”
‘Damn it. What the hell? What is going on with me?’
No one was there to answer his questions.
At that moment, the noblewoman shook off the maids who were helping her.
She shakily walked between the dragon and Raven. And as if trying to protect him, she spread her arms wide open.
“Soldrake! Leave my son alone. Please, do not ruin him anymore. Please, please leave him alone.”
The old woman who had been watching the situation unfold started to move, but oddly no one paid her any attention except Raven. It seemed like she was not visible to anybody else. The old woman stopped in front of the dragon. Raven saw her lips move. She must have been speaking to the dragon, but he could not hear what she was saying. After a bit, she turned around to look at Raven. He flinched as a thin smile formed on the old woman’s face. Then, as if she had never been there, she disappeared like smoke.
“Please… please just go.”
The noblewoman’s voice shook as she stuttered the words. As soon as those words left her mouth, the room became drowned out by light.
Everyone’s eyes widened in surprise. The dragon had slowly moved away from the window as if understanding the noblewoman’s words. Soon, the dragon had returned to its original spot looking back to the room once more. After flapping its wings in place a few more times, the dragon turned its neck.
The dragon flew off into the distance, breaking the wind with each flap.
The noblewoman collapsed as soon as the dragon was not visible anymore.
“I’m okay. Rather…”
Her gaze headed towards Raven.
“Your Grace, are you alright?”
The middle-aged man hurriedly asked Raven.
Instead of speaking, Raven answered by nodding his head, still fixated to the direction where the dragon flew.
“Go and quickly fetch Sir Illaine. Actually, I’ll fetch him myself. Head maid-nim, could you look after His Grace and the lady?”
Raven stared blankly as the maids hurried to bring the noblewoman a chair, water and fussed over her.
“My son, are you okay?”
The woman kept worrying over him, even when her own face was pale and in shock. That reminded Raven of what she had just done.
She stared directly at the dragon, something even human scum of the demonic army could not do. It was all done to protect him. Raven was not an idiot, but he could guess why she would do something like that.
“I am fine… But is it okay… if I ask you a question?”
“Yes, yes, of course! Ask me anything!” The lady grabbed Raven’s hand with a worried expression.
Even though he was already sure of the answer, Raven asked the question with a shaky voice.
“Where am I, and who… am I?”
The woman flinched. Her eyes shook and her face darkened, but she answered with a forced smile on her face as if to reassure him.
“You are the heir to the Pendragon family that owns this castle. You are my only son. You are Alan Pendragon.”
Raven’s heart started beating rapidly upon hearing the answer he was expecting.
“Sir, no please… You have to say ‘aah’.”
“n… no, I can do it by myse…”
“N, no… Sir, please say ‘aah’.’
It had already been several days since Raven opened his eyes, but he could not get used to this situation no matter what. His brows furrowed. Seeing this, the person holding the spoon shrunk back, her face whitening in fear.
“I, I’m sorry, Your Grace.”
Lindsay, the first person he saw when he came to, apologize. The hand holding the spoon was trembling, but somehow still managed not to spill any of its contents.
“P, please. Sir Illaine left a message saying that you had to have complete rest. S, so… please open your mouth, Your Grace.”
“Ah, and the head maid left a message saying that you had to chew your food really, really thoroughly, Your Grace.”
The ‘food’ had lots of different ingredients. But in the end, it was soup. And the soup was liquid. To tell him to chew thoroughly on SOUP. They were treating him like a newborn. Raven Valt, the warrior who danced around death countless times, commanded his army to victory and called the god of death. Having no choice, he opened his mouth wide.
“Fwooh, fwoooh! Your Grace, pl, please open your mouth again. I have cooled the soup a bit. The duchess also left a message saying that you had to finish your meal…”
Why the hell were they all leaving messages about the damn food? He felt his hands and feet cringing at how they treated him. Still, he complied silently.
He had no other choice.
He, who was attended by seven maids, living in a fancy castle, and being spooned soup, was not Raven Valt. He was Alan Pendragon, who had turned seventeen this year — the heir to the Pendragon family and for the last three years under coma, and miraculously regained consciousness a few days ago.
His meal passed by quickly as he ignored the awkwardness and did what he was told.
“Thank you for your hard work, Your Grace.”
The maids who were waiting to the side got to work cleaning the plates and taking the white napkin off Raven’s neck.
Lindsay rubbed Raven’s back, saying it helped with digestion.
“We’ll help you get cleaned up while we get the medicine ready, Your Grace.”
Hearing Lindsay’s words, the maids brought forth a giant mirror.
“Please excuse us then.”
Lindsay’s face blushed as she sat near the bed and took off Raven’s shirt. She took up a towel soaked in warm water and slowly started to wipe Raven’s body as if handling precious jewelry. Her hands reached here and there, but Raven’s attention was elsewhere.
He stared at the mirror with hardened eyes.
His scars and muscles were gone. What was left was the feeble, bony structure of a young boy. His black hair, symbolic of the Valt family even though he was a bastard, was nowhere to be seen, and long thin golden hair was in its place.
A pale face with blue eyes now replaced the gloomy gray eyes and scar-riddled face. Raven saw a fair-looking young man, beautiful enough to be called a woman staring back in the mirror.
Raven slowly raised his hand and touched Alan Pendragon’s… no, his own face. It was unbelievable, he had come back to life after being killed by Baltai, and as Alan Pendragon to boot. And then somehow he travelled back through time, seven years before the battle and his death. The shock and confusion that he carried began to subside. Even though he looked to be the seventeen-years-old Alan Pendragon who had just woke from a coma, inside he was Raven Valt who had gone through all sorts of unthinkable situations. He was able to regain his calmness and accept the situation.
The ‘why’ was not necessary. Raven did not care for a reason.
There was another important reason why he had to achieve his goal. What did Baltai say before killing Alan Pendragon and himself? The fall of the Valt family and the death of Alan Pendragon was a part of someone else’s ‘plan’?. This had to mean that the Pendragon family was somehow connected to the Valt family.
“What is it? Who would do that.. for what reason?”
He racked his brains for several days, but he could not even get a clue.
It really did not make sense for there to be a connection between a dukedom, one of five most powerful families in the empire, and a helpless family of baron rank located in an eastern village.
There had to be a connection. He just did not know what it was yet.
He would find out. That was his duty as Raven Valt, as well as Alan Pendragon.
“Umm… we’re all finished, Your Grace. Thank you for your patience.”
“Thank you for your patience.”
The maids echoed Lindsay’s words before bowing to Raven. Raven quickly broke his train of thought and nodded his head. But Lindsay and the maids stood there, not seeing his nod with their heads down.
‘Damn these maids…’
Raven forcibly repressed his annoyance and said in an awkward voice.
“Good work… you may all rest now.”
“We will follow your orders, Your Grace.”
The maids, still with their heads bowed, exited the room with feather-like steps after hearing Raven’s words. However, Lindsay stood in her place in the room unmoving.
Lindsay responded to Raven’s silent gaze by gesturing to the silver platter she was holding.
“Um, you have to take your medicine, Your Grace.”
Atop the platter lay three small white pills. Raven took all three at once and swallowed them down with one gulp.
“W.. wa.. water…”
Lindsay held up a golden goblet of water, her hands shaking as she offered it. Raven took the cup and it sloshed over the brim, getting it all over his hands.
Lindsay’s face paled. Not paying her any attention, Raven drank from the cup and held it up for Lindsay to take it away. On the verge of tears, Lindsay hurriedly reached for the goblet, her entire body shaking in fear. It was almost pathetic how scared she was.
Raven knew why the maid, Lindsay, was acting like this. When he first opened his eyes, she was the one who had been cleaning his body. And in his hazy state, he had unknowingly touched her breasts, with a resounding slap on his cheek in return. It was obvious how shocked she must have been when a person who had been unmoving for three years suddenly stretched out his arms and felt her up.
However, regardless of the situation, Alan Pendragon was the person she slapped. He was a person in a position of power, whose eyes she could not dare stare directly into as the heir to the Pendragon Duchy. She had essentially slapped the entire Pendragon family name in the cheek.
“I will forget the matter and you should too.”
Lindsay stuttered in disbelief.
“It was something that happened in confusion after I was unconscious for several years. So, you should forget it. I won’t tell anybody what you did to me either.”
“Ah… yes, yes, Sir Alan.”
Lindsay bowed, deeply moved by his words. Raven was glad to have gotten rid of a bothersome problem and was about to wave her away.
What does that mean? What is she supposed to forget? What did she do?
Raven’s brows twitched at the sudden interjection.
They had arrived. Ever since he had become Alan Pendragon, they were the most difficult beings to deal with, and the most annoying.
Walking through the veil were two beautiful young girls that resembled one another. They both had shiny blonde hair and sapphire-blue eyes. One was ten and the other was fifteen, the age where girls started to blossom.
“I greet the ladies.”
Lindsay hastily bowed and took several steps back at the sudden appearance of the two girls. Big blue eyes and exquisite looks, she was sure to be called a beauty when she matured in 4, 5 years along with her older sister. The younger one nimbly ran towards the bed.
The little girl disregarded her sister’s call and jumped onto Raven’s bed, taking her place on his lap, hugging him. Raven awkwardly put his arms around the little girl. Looking down and playing with a rabbit doll, the little girl lay in his embrace as if the spot was obviously hers.
Raven’s face reddened in embracement and discomfort, but he could not get angry. After all, the girl on his lap was….
“That’s no-good Mia! Our older brother is still not well. I’m sorry brother.”
“You look better today though brother. I’m really glad.”
She gave a big smile, seemingly glad that Raven looked healthier. She was the eldest girl of the Pendragon family, the second child of the three siblings, Irene Pendragon.
Even though she was technically his younger sister, he had only known her for a few days. Raven did not know how to respond to her kindness, since she thought he was the actual Alan Pendragon. He could, at best, nod his head.
“Brother… perhaps… are you uncomfortable with us coming to visit?”
Raven really wanted nothing more to tell them how uncomfortable he was and chase them out. But Mia Pendragon’s curious gaze and Irene’s genuine care caused him to swallow his words.
“No…… it’s…. fine…”
“Haa! What a relief! I thought that maybe you felt uncomfortable when we…. I’m just so glad.”
Irene held her hands together tightly to her chest in relief. Then she suddenly raised her head as if something had suddenly come to her mind.
“Right. Brother. What was it that you were saying before? That you were going to forget something…?”
Irene spoke, her eyes periodically glancing sideways at Lindsay, standing to the side. Lindsay’s shoulders flinched. Feeling an unnecessary annoyance heading his way, Raven quickly answered.
“It’s nothing for you to be concerned about.”
“Well… maybe it’s something that mother might be worried about…”
Raven was annoyed at how Irene kept glancing between himself and Lindsay with a slight blush. It was obvious that this crafty little brat was making assumptions.
Raven hardened his expression to be even colder.
“Oh…. I am sorry. I just wanted to come see brother but couldn’t help overhear….”
Tears started welling up in Irene’s eyes like large droplets. As if on cue, Mia Pendragon once again looked up at Raven with an indiscernible expression.
‘%&#@^! This is driving me insane.’
His chest felt stuffed, and he felt his patience running out. This type of thing was exactly what bothered and annoyed Raven. He wanted nothing more than to scream at the little brats to scram, but he could not. He had tried his best to learn more about this royal family, but there was still much he did not know about the Pendragon Duchy. During his life as Raven Valt, the Pendragon family was never something he had cared about.
All he could gather was that they were descended from the founding emperor and that they were a powerful family in a position to contract with a dragon. He also knew that Gordon Pendragon, the previous duke, died and the family went into steep decline after Alan Pendragon went into a coma.
He only knew one thing for sure.
It was someone’s elaborate ‘conspiracy’ that had a hand involved in both Alan Pendragon’s demise and the fall of the Pendragon family which had seemed to still be relatively stable.
Furthermore, the whole conspiracy might have connections to the fall of the Valt family.
Raven did not survive for ten years in the demonic army solely due to his ability to regenerate. His intuition and ability to remain calm, to make rational decisions were the reasons why he survived so long. That intuition which kept him alive for so long told him that Irene and Mia Pendragon should not be treated with temper.
“It was nothing big. When I had just opened my eyes, I made a little mistake. It’s nothing that you or the duchess should worry about.”
“A small… mistake?”
Raven once again suppressed his frustration and calmly answered.
“Yes. I was disoriented and accidentally grabbed her hand. And in shock, she shook off my hand.”
“Y, yes, my lady.”
Lindsay eagerly looked up and chimed in.
“Ahh…! I see.”
Only then Irene’s face brightened up. She pulled her chair closer to the bed.
“Anyways I’m so glad that you seem to be getting better. Sir Illaine says that you should be able to walk soon, and I really hope that you can. The flowers have started to bloom in the courtyard, and I think you will really like them. The cornflowers you planted before ought to start blooming soon. Do you remember? When…”
Irene started to chatter away softly. Listening to her stories, Raven felt the annoyance crawl out. Not so much because of her talking, although that did contribute, but because hearing her stories, he realized what a clown Alan Pendragon was in the past. He preferred reading and painting over swordsmanship. Sure, that much was acceptable. But the idiot liked to plant flowers? And he would often sulk and lock himself in his room and hide whenever there was a guest. He acted in ways unbefitting of an heir to a Duchy.
Well, Alan’s past had its benefits as well. Thanks to Alan Pendragon’s personality, no one looked or cared for him except for the few maids who served him, his family, and some important personnel in the castle. No one bothered him now. Thinking about it, it must have been the Duchess’ orders seeing as she knew him best before he went into a coma.
It was the ideal condition for quietly gaining more information and figuring things out.
Irene’s endless chatter also sometimes contained great information as well.
“.. And Aunt Veleroa’s carrier pigeon arrived. Apparently, Sister Luna’s suitors are getting more numerous every day. She’s glad that she can reject them without worries now. Oh my! I got ahead of myself. Sister Luna already left to come see you. I think in about two days…”
“Wait. Who is Aunt Veleroa, and who is Luna?”
Raven, no, Alan Pendragon had memory loss due to him being unconscious for three years, or at least that was the story.
“Ah! I’m sorry Brother…”
Irene, who rebuked herself for not being considerate of her brother with memory loss, spoke with a bright smile reminiscent of a summer flower.
“Aunt Veleroa is our deceased father’s only younger sister. She is married to one of our family’s knights, Sir Seyrod. Lady Luna is Aunt Veleroa’s foster daughter and your fiancée.”
Raven’s face, which was already pale, lost even more colour.
Ten warhorses and soldiers moved forward behind a flag imprinted with a crowned red wolf on a narrow mountain path. The knights on horseback with plate armors and lightly armed soldiers were the main pillars of the party. A slender woman followed, wearing a dress that contrasted the rough looking men.
A knight wearing a blue cloak over his seamless armor approached the woman.
“How are you fairing, my lady? We will soon be able to see Conrad Castle so please be patient, Lady Luna.”
The silver-haired girl, whose beauty and indifferent expression created a fairy-like atmosphere, opened her delicate mouth that matched her high nose.
“I’m doing fine, Sir Breeden.”
Breeden could not find the words to say after the girl’s grim response. A short while later, he spoke once again with a subtle smile on his face.
“You will meet your fiancé for the first time in three years soon, how do you feel about that?”
Luna Seyrod, who had only been looking straight ahead, finally turned her head towards Breeden.
“What does that have to do with you, Sir Breeden?”
“I’ll be fine taking care of my own business. You need only to focus on your business. Please don’t carelessly aggravate the Pendragon family’s knights.”
“Huuhuu! Do you think there is even anyone left in Conrad Castle that’s fit to be called a knight? Just look at the Bellint gate. That’s what we’re going to expect at Conrad Castle. They barely have thirty soldiers and twenty archers. They don’t even have a commander, do they? Hahaha.”
Breeden’s face had a mocking smile, contrasting the startled expression he had before.
“Even if Alan Pendragon’s reawakened, it’s not enough for them to regain their past glory. Ten years? Twenty years? Even that might not be enough. There’s never been a case in history where someone who’s failed to contract the dragon once succeeded on their second try. “
“You seem to know very well already. Tell me, what does this all mean?”
Breeden banged his chest with pride upon seeing Luna’s apathetic expression.
“I can bring more honor to the Seyrod family than they’ve ever had. Without their dragon, the Pendragon family is nothing. I, Sir Breeden, will be more than ever before.”
Luna stared at Breeden silently for a moment before turning her head back to the front. Breeden was about to say something with furrowed eyebrows when Luna spoke.
“Sir Breeden seems to have forgotten where the Pendragon family’s bloodline stems from.”
Breeden flinched and did not respond.
Everyone knew the deeply rooted bloodline of the Pendragon family. There may be rises and falls in their kingdom, but they would never disappear. Because…
“But hasn’t his imperial majesty already given up on the Pendragon family? I mean just by seeing how the engagement between Sir Alan Pendragon and Princess Ingrid was broken when Sir Gordon Pendragon passed away…”
“Which is why I was engaged to him instead. For example, it was the chicken instead of a pheasant.”
“I… I wasn’t trying to insult you, my lady. Well as your father has spoken, you need to tell Alan Pendragon in person about the breaking of engagement.”
“I know, so stop mentioning it to me. The purpose of my visit is to break off the engagement. I need some time to think by myself.”
Breeden seemed to have more things he wanted to say but rode past Luna’s horse after deliberating for a moment. The party moved up a hill with no words exchanged. When the vanguard reached the top, the flagbearer announced in a loud voice.
“I see the castle!”
The horses all arrived at the top of the hill. They saw a river flowing next to the village and looking past the common people, a white castle with numerous, tall towers stood erect. The Conrad Castle was where Luna’s fiancé lived.
1. Orabeonim is a formal way of addressing one’s older brother by a female. Hyung-nim would be the male equivalent of calling their older brother.
2. Unni is a way of addressing an older female by a younger female. (The age difference would not be too great)
3. BUUUT after translating quite a number of chapters, I decided it would be more appropriate to get rid of the honorifics. It doesn’t really fit too well with the story & I can translate around some parts that play around it. Consider it a KOREAN 101.
Edited and proofread by audiowuxia.
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