He didn’t want to allow even the last possibility that Suyeon might run away.
The voice that came through the tent was still vivid.
She didn’t love him. Fine, he could bear that.
However, he couldn’t bear Suyeon going away to a place he could not reach.
It was painful even to imagine a world without her now.
“Forever… stay with me … Stay by my side.”
Lyle whispered to Suyeon, who was deep asleep and hugged her with all his might. May this anxious yet happy night last forever.
“Ah, gross… … .”
As he rummaged through the corpse of a monster with his junior’s magic wand, Ashd grumbled.
He was investigating, trying to uncover the identity of the magic that revived the corpses of monsters and caused them to attack people. It would have been easier if he had been at the scene, but he was belatedly searching carcasses instead. He could barely feel the remnants of mana.
“Why are you using my staff if you say it’s disgusting!”
Ashd didn’t even glance at his junior as he bemoaned the world’s unfairness.
“Then, of course, I should use my junior’s cane, should I use mine? I hate the smell of monster blood and flesh on my staff!”
“If that’s the case, you can rummage with a branch instead of a staff!”
‘There was a way.’
It was a way Ashd hadn’t thought of before, but it was natural.
“I’m here because you couldn’t track the fugitive. So, this doubles as punishment… … .”
“You just came up with that!”
The enraged junior shouted and lamented, but Ashd was cheerful. He giggled in the mood of ‘what so great about being a senior?’ ‘why it’s bullying juniors!’ but he suddenly stopped chuckling..
“I found it.”
He could feel the magical energy from the flesh of the demon. Ashd had the soldier beside him bring a dagger and cut the flesh of the monster himself.
A magic stone, the size of a fingernail, was embedded in the flesh.
The manastone that he found made his junior approach wide-eyed. Before the junior had been keeping his distance because he hated the smell of blood.
“Are you saying that all monsters had something like that embedded in their bodies?”
“No way—this one would have been enough. After all, the hunted monsters gather together. You can put a spell here to amplify the magic circle.”
The place where the demon prey was gathered was the same every year. So it wouldn’t have been a problem to secretly lay a magic circle on the ground.
Even so, wasn’t it an accomplishment displaying great skill? To turn all the monsters there into undead with just one manastone the size of a fingernail.
“All that remains is to track down… … Junior, you can at least do that, right?”
He smiled and held out a magic wand stained with monster blood. Even as he gnashed his teeth, the junior accepted the cane Ashd held out. He wiped off the demon’s blood with his handkerchief and spoke confidently,
“Just watch from there!”
Suyeon was taken aback when she saw Seira kneeling down and bowing her head deeply as if she had committed a crime. Come to think of it, the expressions of her other escorts didn’t seem good either.
“Uh… … . Sir Hestia?”
“I didn’t even know that the Empress was exposed to such danger… … I was only immersed in monster hunting. I’m sorry, my Empress.”
“No! You participated in my name, so it’s natural to work hard. I heard about the monster that Lord Hestia caught. If it wasn’t for that accident, Sir Hestia would have won… … .”
“No, I didn’t even know that my master was in danger… … . I have no face to see your Majesty.”
“No, no—Sir Hestia came down in a hurry and the situation calmed down quickly.”
Seeing the commotion at the meeting place, the knights in the forest hurriedly descended. Among them, Seira and Luke stood out the most with their amazing martial arts, performing amazing feats while standing shoulder to shoulder with the Emperor who slew the revived demons.
Seira’s sharp sword saved many nobles, so many praised her skills.
Thanks to that, she knew that the stigma of the slander of being chosen as an escort for ‘his looks’ had utterly disappeared. Some of the high-ranking aristocrats Seira saved insisted on giving her a reward.
“It’s too much.”
“Don’t do that, get up. I am pleased with your loyalty, but my maids will be sad if you are on your knees for long.”
When Suyeon said that jokingly, Seira glanced in the direction of the ladies-in-waiting.
Due to her performance in her hunting competitions, Seira’s popularity skyrocketed. Of course, Luke’s popularity needed no mention, but Seira became more popular because she was friendlier-looking than the unapproachable ducal heir of Card.
The ladies-in-waiting, peeking at her, met Seira’s gaze and turned away, their cheeks burning. Seira turned her gaze to Suyeon, puzzled.
“… … I see.”
Even though Seira just stood up, a breathless exclamation flowed out. She seemed overwhelmingly cool when she was in uniform and simply moved this way or that way.
‘Heh heh heh… … . It’s going to be a good time.’
In a world without the internet or TV, she thought seeing Seira’s appearance and relishing it would be nice. Even during Suyeon’s school days, there were times when her boyish looks made her popular among other girls.
‘I’m a little scared when we get caught later, but… … .’
“I heard that his Majesty has been pursuing the Dark Tower due to the incident. Since the opponents are a group of wizards, they said to not be deceived by appearances and to carefully examine everything… … . Are they that great?”
Suyeon nodded her head at Seira’s cautious question.