“This is quite a cozy and quiet location.”
Cale looked around as he said that.
They had teleported to a small reception room. The room was decorated with the Caro Kingdom's unique exotic and vintage decorations, but it was too small to be one of the crown prince’s rooms.
“Isn't a stealthy place best to have such secret conversations?”
Crown prince Valentino responded in a friendly manner before taking a teacup from the guard knight. Only Cale’s group and Valentino's close confidants were in this small reception room.
"Alright, let’s sit down and chat. We made it so we cannot hear anything from the outside either.”
The door was closed shut and the large window on the west side of the reception room was closed as well. Valentino sat on the couch as he started to speak to Cale.
“Do you know how quietly I came to this city from the palace to see you?”
Cale recalled when he had a meal alone with crown prince Valentino. The Mogoru Empire. The crown prince who said that he would only feel refreshed after seeing the fall of Imperial Prince Adin who betrayed him seemed to have matured a bit.
“I didn’t know you thought so highly of me. I am touched.”
Cale responded as he sat across from Valentino.
“It is nothing compared to what our Caro Kingdom has received from you and the Roan Kingdom.”
Valentino heard a dull noise at that moment. His gaze headed toward the table.
“…It’s a golden plaque.”
It was crown prince Alberu’s special golden plaque. The smile disappeared from Valentino's face.
“I heard the gist of what is going on. The person responsible for everything, this White Star, is coming to the Caro Kingdom?”
The smile disappeared and was slowly replaced with quiet anger.
“How shocking. Do you know how shocked I was after hearing about everything from crown prince Alberu? We thought that only the Empire was involved with the Indomitable Alliance that threw our Caro Kingdom into chaos.”
Crown prince Valentino's fingers were slightly shaking as he held the teacup. In some ways, Cale thought Valentino was the most human of all future kings.
“But there is someone worse than the two of them? This person is the White Star?”
He had heard the rumors that had spread across the Western continent about Cale and the White Star. He had then heard the detailed explanation from Alberu.
The night Valentino heard about the White Star and everything he had been involved with from Alberu… There was a secret meeting in the Caro Kingdom’s central palace. Most citizens, nobles, and administrators had no idea that this secret meeting happened. It was because Valentino listened to Alberu’s warning.
‘I wish to keep the information that the White Star is heading to the Caro Kingdom as quiet as possible. This is someone who had installed his people inside the Mogoru Empire. That is why I am keeping everything about this person under wraps in the Roan Kingdom as well.’
Valentino started to share the results of that meeting.
“The Caro Kingdom with me, Valentino, as its representative has chosen to accept crown prince Alberu Crossman and our savior, young master Cale's request.”
The thing that Alberu and Cale had asked for.
“We will overlook your battle against the White Star in the Land of Death. Also-”
He hesitated for a moment before continuing to speak.
"We will not involve ourselves in it either. We will not enter the battlefield on our own accord.”
This was a battle that was happening in the Caro Kingdom's territory. In addition, the White Star was their bitter enemy. That was why Alberu and Cale's request for the Caro Kingdom to not get involved in the battle in any way was hurtful to their pride and a big embarrassment.
This was because telling them not to get involved was saying…
‘…It means our kingdom's forces are not helpful at all in their fight against this White Star.’
Valentino felt bitter that the Caro Kingdom's strength was this useless.
“Furthermore, we will approve of the Dark Elves and the Roan Kingdom’s forces coming and going through the Caro Kingdom for this battle.”
The position of a ruler who had to allow foreign forces to come and go for a battle happening in his own territory… Valentino could not smile at all.
He forced himself to smile after hearing Cale calling out to him and quickly added on.
“Thank you. I heard that this White Star is very strong. I heard about the black mages who follow him as well, so I want to thank you on behalf of our entire kingdom for stepping up to fight against them.”
Cale quietly listened to Valentino's words and observed his expression.
He heard Raon's voice in his mind.
As Raon mentioned, Cale was the one who led the White Star to the Land of Death. He naturally hid that fact from the Caro Kingdom.
Otherwise, the Caro Kingdom would not cooperate with Cale and the Roan Kingdom and would instead point their blades toward them.
‘Of course, the White Star would eventually stop by the Caro Kingdom even if I didn't lead him here.’
The White Star believed the final earth attribute ancient power was located in the Caro Kingdom's southern region, the land of the Whale tribe, or the Roan Kingdom's western region.
Cale felt a bit sorry for Valentino who was trying his hardest to smile but could not hide his bitterness. However, there was nothing he could do about it. He suddenly recalled what Alberu had said about this operation.
‘Why are you thinking about the Caro Kingdom’s feelings? If you think about it, we are the ones who are suffering. Well, you guys, not me. You guys, my aunt, and the Dark Elves.’
Alberu was certain about something.
‘Crown prince Valentino and the crown might be upset. However, their pride is not more important than the lives of the Caro Kingdom's citizens. I'm sure he'll thank you.’
Valentino was thanking Cale as Alberu had suspected.
He meant it. That was why Cale was honest back.
“Your highness, thank you for granting our request.”
Valentino smiled in a slightly more relaxed way with Cale thanking him as Cale Henituse and not as the crown prince's representative.
"No. You are truly a hero for what you are doing.”
Cale’s expression shook for a moment but Valentino continued to share his honest sentiments.
“Honestly speaking, what wealth or fame do you have to gain by fighting in the Caro Kingdom? It’s just trouble for you and your peers.”
Valentino's gaze was full of warmth as he looked toward Choi Han and Cale. At the same time, he felt bitter that his kingdom had nobody who could help out these heroes.
It was at that moment.
“If you think this is difficult…”
Valentino looked toward Cale who was speaking.
“Please help us next time. I believe it will be much better if the Caro Kingdom fights with us.”
“…Help you next time?”
“Yes, your highness, is it an unreasonable request?”
Valentino slowly started to smile while looking into Cale’s calm and confident gaze. That forced smile had disappeared.
“Absolutely not. It is not unreasonable at all. The Caro Kingdom will fight beside you next time.”
“Thank you. I will trust that to be the case.”
A hero, a person who was becoming a hero, requested for them to fight by his side next time.
That fact alone was enough for Valentino to draw out the Caro Kingdom's future. It was because Cale’s voice and gaze were full of confidence that he would fight alongside the Caro Kingdom next time.
‘That means he believes that our kingdom will become stronger.’
Valentino who had been feeling bitter and upset that they had to continue to receive help from others since the battle against the Indomitable Alliance now had a strong determination in his mind. He opened his shoulders up slightly wider than earlier as he continued to speak.
“Ahem, anyway, I will grant you everything you wished for, but we cannot sit around and do nothing.”
“Of course. I understand.”
Valentino raised his hand once Cale accepted. One of the knights walked over to the only window in the reception room.
The large window was soon opened.
Once the window opened…
“This is the top floor of the tallest building in this city.”
Cale's gaze headed out the window.
They could faintly see the forest covered in red sand in the distance.
“I plan on staying here in Young-en with the Caro Kingdom's Royal Knights Brigade and the Royal Mages.”
It was a city slightly away from the Dubori territory that touched the Land of Death, and the most developed city in the area.
“Should the White Star and his subordinates damage the Dubori territory or injure the Caro Kingdom's citizens…!”
Valentino raised his voice.
“I will take the Knights Brigade and the mages and immediately start to fight against the White Star.”
He would fight if the White Star bothered the citizens. Cale nodded his head at that statement.
“That is completely understandable, your highness.”
Silence filled the room for a moment.
This short silence had naturally happened because they had just made a large decision. Valentino soon broke the silence.
“I hope that you return safely without getting injured. I cannot forget the powerful image of the Dark Elves cutting through the Land of Death. It was amazing.”
Valentino was saying things to cheer Cale on and Cale bowed to thank him.
Cale ignored Raon’s comments as he started to speak.
“Your highness, I must be on my way now.”
He looked toward Valentino who was getting up and recalled a conversation he had with him in the past. Cale had talked to Valentino about the Land of Death during the battle at Caro Kingdom.
“Your highness, do you know the story of people running away into the Land of Death?”
Cale had shared the truth with the clueless Valentino.
‘They choose to head into the desert because it is difficult to survive in the territory due to the high tax rates. They run away to this desert that nobody is said to return from.’
‘What? To the Land of Death? And did you say the citizens are running away because of high tax rates?’
Crown prince Valentino had been shocked to learn about this. He seemed to have been angry after hearing about it.
Peace then returned to the Caro Kingdom after the war.
Cale recalled what Tasha told him this morning.
‘The taxes? It's the same as before. There are still people climbing the walls and escaping to the desert. They said the taxes keep going up. They said that they could not survive in the Dubori territory.’
Crown prince Valentino was a very humane person. That made him a good person, but it also made him a bad crown prince at times.
‘The Dubori lord's cousin is extremely influential in the central politics. Apparently, he is one of crown prince Valentino's strongest supporters. That’s probably why it is difficult for crown prince Valentino to say anything to the Dubori lord about the taxes.’
Tasha had smiled as she said that.
‘Young master-nim, do you know what would happen if the Caro Kingdom finds out about the Underground City? The fact that they would say the Dark Elves are part of their forces is not an issue.’
The Dark Elves strongly emphasized that the Caro Kingdom could not find out about the Underground City during this battle.
‘Do you know what the biggest problem would be? If the Caro Kingdom's people found the citizens who ran away because they could not pay the taxes… They would be severely punished following the laws of the kingdom. Then they would have to return to their original territory.’
The Caro Kingdom handed severe punishments to people who ran away to not pay taxes. Those people would also need to pay the taxes in addition to extra penalty amounts.
‘Well, crown prince Valentino might leave the people who ran away alone, but I don't know. I can't be sure about that. I can't tell whether that crown prince is a good person or a bad person.’
‘Young master-nim, our Underground City is not something the Caro Kingdom created. It is our land that our residents created.’
A city where Dark Elves and humans lived in harmony. Those people did not want their home to ever be revealed to the outside world.
“Young master Cale.”
“Yes, your highness.”
Valentino reached his hand out.
“You will be victorious. The Roan Kingdom has that formidable necromancer, the youngest sword master next to you, and you, young master Cale, so what would it fear?”
Cale grabbed his hand.
‘I know, right?’
That formidable necromancer had stepped onto the Land of Death and even managed to overcome death. Cale thought about the numerous people like Mary who ran across the desert without being able to look back as well as this crown prince who brought the Knights Brigade and mages to protect his citizens before starting to speak.
“Yes sir, there is nothing for us to fear.”
Cale let go of the hand first.
“None of the citizens will get hurt.”
‘We just need to do what we can do.’
That was the method Cale, someone who was selfish and had a pretty bad personality, came up with for ‘us’ to protect ‘us.’
“Then I will be on my way now.”
“Of course. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help-”
Valentino could not finish his sentence.
The reception room’s floor started to shake.
The knight supported the stumbling Valentino and surrounded him to protect him.
He could hear Raon's shocked voice. Choi Han supported the stumbling Cale.
Some rough choice of words came out of Cale’s mouth. He had unintentionally said those things. However, there was nobody who was throwing a fit for Cale saying such things in front of the crown prince.
"What was that?”
Valentino's gaze was focused outside the large window without moving.
The large desert in the southwest region of the Caro Kingdom. The place called the Land of Death. The vast and depressing land that appeared once someone left Young-en and passed through the Dubori territory…
The reception room, no, the ground shook violently once more. Valentino continued to look outside the window toward the desert as he started to speak.
“…Isn’t that fire?”
The land that was covered in red sand during the day and black sand during the night… There was a large fire shooting up from that area.
Cale sighed. He was certain that that bastard had caused the fire.
“…They struck first.”
The White Star struck first. There was still about a day and a half remaining before the dead mana smoke would appear in the desert.
“I will be heading out first.”
“R, right! Hurry over!”
Cale urgently rushed out of the reception room. He could not have Raon teleport them in front of Valentino and the others. He confirmed nobody was in the hallway before quickly giving Raon the order.
"Raon, the video communication device please.”
Cale didn’t need to worry about being seen by anyone as Valentino had emptied out the top floor for his meeting with Cale.
The video communication device appeared in the air and landed in Cale’s hand as it connected.
The ground continued to shake.
Cale couldn't even respond to Choi Han's statement. How big of an issue must be going on in the desert for the rumbling to be felt all the way here?
Cale quickly started to speak after hearing Tasha’s voice.
“Is the city okay? What is up with this sudden fire?”
Cale was thinking that it was good that the residents of the Underground City had already evacuated because of the dead mana as he asked.
“The rumbling is so strong, the city shouldn't crumble, right?”
His quick steps stopped moving.
Cale could see the confused Tasha on the other side of the screen. He raised his head and saw Choi Han looking just as confused.
Cale listened to Tasha's calm voice before asking Choi Han a question.
“…Hey, you see that fire outside, right?”
“What is that? What is that fire?”
What was this fire that was covering the desert?
Cale started to frown.