Duke Pendragon - Chapter 133
“He’s become somewhat capable. In terms of teaching him, everything will come in due time, so you don’t have to worry, your grace.”
Even in front of his life’s benefactor, Argos still retained his strict and proud discipline as a teacher to Leon. Even Raven’s status as a duchy’s master and his contributions in helping Argos achieve his revenge could not deter Argos’ determination.
Raven appreciated Argos’ attitude and nodded with an embarrassed smile.
“My mistake. I will leave everything regarding his teachings to you.”
“Yes, even to whether he lives or dies.”
Even after losing his arm, the peak fighter Argos’ eyes were very stern.
The town they were entering served as a relay station, and thus, it was quite easy to enter and exit the village. The group was able to pass through the gate without being stopped or checked. Perhaps due to the town’s proximity to the center of the empire, the village was quite big and even had its own marketplace, which sold basic necessities. In addition, the village was not protected by its own vigilante group, but rather soldiers who were uniformly dressed and armed to guard the low, but protective walls that surrounded the village.
Despite the chilly weather of early winter, the village was bustling with residents and tourists.
‘To think that even a small relay station of the imperial directive would be comparable to the size of Lowpool…’
Raven felt rather bitter as he looked over the entire village. The territories of the Aragon Empire were divided into the imperial directives and the great territories. The village they were passing through was a part of the imperial directive.
Imperial directives were lands that were ruled over by governor-generals that were appointed by the imperial household, and they accounted for about half of the empire’s territory. The majority of the central empire consisted of the imperial directive.
From east to west, it consisted of the origin of Dantes River, all the way to Mirin Port. From south to north, it stretched from the Aiji Plains, the largest granary of the empire, to the Torman Mountains, where the empire shared a border with the northern barbarians. Overall, it was about 1,400 miles wide and 380 miles long when looking at it from a map. In addition, large ports and militaristically strategic locations were also designated their own governor-generals from the imperial castle and their lands were similar in size to other small or medium-sized territories.
The group passed through many villages after crossing into the imperial directive ten days ago, and most of the villages had been around the size of lowpool.
‘I guess it makes sense, considering that there are supposedly fourteen million identifiable residents in the imperial directive…’
When he first heard, Raven was beyond shocked. Adding up the people of the thirteen great territories, the total population reached twenty million. The Pendragon Duchy was finally targeting populations of 100,000, and 200,000, but it seemed that they were nothing short of a firefly dancing in front of a full moon.
The difference wasn’t purely in the numbers either. The basic standards of living, the size of commerce and the agriculture in the Pendragon territory were incomparable to the imperial directive. No matter how much the Pendragon Duchy had improved after the reopening of the mausoleum, gold mines, and the crystal mines, the difference was simply too large. A bystander might even compare the two and wonder if the previous dukes had done anything at all for the Pendragon territory. However, the difference was not due to the incompetence of the previous dukes.
There was a good reason. For one, the duchy’s location was too remote. As a result, the floating population was quite limited and commerce could not develop normally. The population was small from the very beginning, and it was only natural for the agriculture and ranching to be small-scaled. In its prosperity, the Pendragon duchy had up to six or seven knights, but they all served the duchy out of their loyalties and were bestowed riches and property that were at best comparable to knights of other regular great territories. Of course, when they were at their peak, the population neared 100,000 and they had thousands of troops.
However, the peaks were always followed by troughs and the number of troops always diminished or were replaced by vigilante troops. The reason was simple. There were no external threats to the Pendragon Duchy. No matter how strong the neighbouring great territories were, they could never invade the Pendragon Duchy. Even with hundreds of calvaries and thousands of infantries, they could not handle Soldrake, the guardian and the contracted creature of the Pendragon Duchy. In the end, Raven could summarize his learnings after summing up everything he saw and experienced throughout this journey.
Like it or not, all the problems of the Pendragon Duchy stemmed from Soldrake. At the same time Soldrake existed as the duchy’s most powerful force, she was also a huge hindrance to its development. But he could not say it out aloud, especially in front of Soldrake. Soldrake was the only one who knew the truth behind Raven’s identity, and the only one who still cared for him. It was impossible for him to say anything negative towards her or scold her.
And… even though Vincent was unaware of the truth behind Raven’s identity, he would surely have recognized that the duchy’s problems originated from the existence of Soldrake. Perhaps the knights and the nobles that served the duchy for a long time were also aware of the fact too. Still, as was the case with Raven, no one could ever bring up the topic to the surface. Who would dare to publicize and label the guardian god of the Pendragon Duchy as a problem?
The Pendragon Duchy was Soldrake, and Soldrake was the Pendragon Duchy.
‘Duke Gordon Pendragon… and the other previous dukes. This is probably why they distanced themselves from Soldrake and fell into contemplation.’
In the end, they were humans. They must have had their own ambitions and goals as a monarch. But the moment they realized Soldrake’s presence was the biggest obstacle in their way, they would have despaired. If they could develop the duchy on top of having Soldrake as the territory’s guardian, they would have become a gargantuan threat for the surrounding lords.
The anxiety and discontent of the lords would soon have passed on to the imperial castle, and the Royal family would have asked the Pendragon Duchy to refrain themselves. Rejecting the imperial request would have been tantamount to treason. The loyalty and devotion of the Pendragon Duchy towards the Aragon Royal Family was great. In the end, the previous dukes must have come to face with the fork in the road. They would have chosen to preserve and serve, instead of following their ambitions as a monarch.
‘Don’t tell me… Did Vincent and Duchess Elena tell me to go alone with Lindsay to the imperial castle to enlighten me of this?’
Raven was convinced that this was the case. Otherwise, the heir to a duchy would never be allowed to set off for a paramount journey to meet the emperor with just his concubine. If he had left with a large delegation composed of knights, soldiers, and servants, he was sure to have received many invitations by several lords on his way. A series of banquets and welcoming receptions…
It was obvious that he could not have experienced the realities of the imperial directive and the other great territories. In the first place, Raven had also shared similar thoughts and planned to only bring one or two with him. He knew that he needed to be more than just a strong warrior as the duchy’s master.
‘More so than meeting the emperor… I’ve earned many things on this journey.’
Raven felt that he finally experienced and learned the complexities of the world after living thirty arduous years. He entered a village pub in a complex mood. The trip to the capital was a valuable experience for Raven as he also discovered his purposes beyond fulfilling his revenge as Raven Valt. He realized his massive responsibilities as Alan Pendragon. It set the cornerstone of the path that Raven was to take. Not as just one person, but as two people.
“What are you thinking so hard about, brother?”
The pub was fairly unoccupied, perhaps because it was still daytime. Irene spoke while looking at Raven.
“Hmm? No, nothing.”
Raven became startled and woke up from his deep thoughts. There was still more to come. Even though he had learned a lot, he couldn’t judge and make decisions with only a few months’ worth of experience. The future was long and the possibilities were endless.
“By the way, when will I get to see the capital?” Lindsay asked in a cautious voice.
Raven was also somewhat curious, so he turned to the person who was most familiar with the imperial castle and the capital, Leon.
“Oh, you didn’t know? We’re already in the capital.”
Lindsay’s eyes opened in surprise, and Leon continued.
“Ah, you must have missed the Emperor Wall. We are in a town called Darion, near the south gate of the capital. Five miles from here, you will be able to see the Wall of Glory. Then there are two more walls that are three miles apart. In fact, that is where it is truly considered to be the capital, but technically, we have already passed the division.”
“12 miles in a straight line… are you saying all of it is the capital?”
“Yes, my lord. And from the Wall of the Lion, which is the innermost wall, it is the imperial castle.”
Raven was made speechless for a moment at Leon’s vigorous nod and grand answer. To think that the capital included even a half a day’s distance from the castle. It did seem a little strange that the number of passersby on the road had increased sharply since a while ago.
“Sir Johnbolt, then how many people live in the capital?”
Leon pondered for a moment before answering Irene’s question.
“I’m not entirely certain, but if you are considering the population within the Walls of Glory, it is probably over 100,000. And… there are dozens of villages that are similar to here in size within the perimeter, so I think the population might be over 150,000.”
In addition, if they considered the small cities that were only a day or two’s distance away from the capital, the population would easily exceed 200,000.
“One hundred…. Fifty thousand…?”
Lindsay and Irene were rather dazzled by the enormous number. It was hard to believe that a single city had a population that exceeded their entire territory’s population by several times.
“Hm, then we’d better take a little rest before setting off. If it’s 5 miles, we should be able to pass through the castle gate by the afternoon.”
“Yes, my lord. Then I will go check on the horses.”
Leon bowed down and walked out of the pub.
“Sir Johnbolt seems very tired, Your Grace. His complexion isn’t very good.” Lindsay spoke anxiously after Leon left. Although his physique and physical strength had improved through the hell training, his face seemed rather dark and gaunt.
“Hmm, I don’t think it’s entirely because of that.”
“He must have many worries, now that we are heading back to the imperial castle.”
Irene and Lindsay nodded at the same time. They had forgotten during the time they spent together with Leon. Leon was a member of the imperial jester’s family, and he ran away from home without permission.
“Even though he may have siblings, it would be hard for him to abandon his family business when all of his family members are jesters.”
“I see. But you will help him, right, Brother?”
Irene asked rhetorically, but Raven shook his head.
“What? But Sir Johnbolt is a squire of our duchy.”
“Yes, but that’s the end of it. I took in Leon as a squire of our duchy. It’s up to him to take care of his past. In addition, Leon is an imperial jester. If I ask it as a favor from Prince Ian and the Emperor, they’ll give permission, but it’s unknown how others will react.”
“Surely they wouldn’t… Not because we took Sir Johnbolt into our duchy…”
“They surely would. Leon is probably worrying about that as well.”
Leon’s jester grandfather was knighted by a mischievous accident of the former emperor, and now his grandson became a squire for a duchy. There’s no way that the chatterbox felines of the imperial castle would not pay attention to the matter. In addition, there were figures who weren’t favorable towards the Pendragon Duchy in the imperial castle. There was no better excuse to provoke the Pendragon family and scratch their honor. Especially more since the Pendragon family had been a hot topic that everyone was paying attention to.
Irene and Lindsay observed the door where Leon had exited for a while. Then, Argos, who was silently drinking tea in his chair, stood up from his spot.
“I will be right back.”
Raven allowed it without hesitation. In Leon’s current situation, Argos would be much more helpful than himself.
Leon gave a long sigh while patting the mane of his horse that was chewing oats. By this afternoon, he would be entering the imperial castle. It had been half a year since he left home without saying anything. The imperial castle was sure to throw a large welcome for the Pendragon Duchy’s next duke and his group. His lord, Lady Irene, and Baroness Conrad may not know, but there wouldn’t be anyone welcoming him. Especially his family…
His father was a man who was proud of his heritage and family. He wasn’t someone who would easily forgive Leon for running away from home with the family heirloom, especially when he expressed his hate for the family’s legacy. Above all, the bigger problem was not his father, but rather the other humans of the imperial castle. Just as his grandfather had been mocked, it would be his turn to be laughed at.
Of course, he could bear it. But his true fear was that he thought his lord and Lady Irene, both of whom he respected from the bottom of his heart, would be mocked because of him. As a member of the Pendragon family, he absolutely wanted to avoid it.
“You’ve gotten lazy. What did I tell you to do even when you were resting?”
Leon turned his head in surprise at the voice.
Argos was staring towards Leon. The aftermath of his severed arm was still present, and his complexion looked thinner than when Leon had first seen him.