It was not known that the opponent was the Dark Tower, but rumors about wizards rebelling against the imperial family had spread far and wide. To add to their credibility, many of the ladies-in-waiting were in such bad condition that they took leave from the palace to recuperate for a while.
At least Becca and Trish stood by and attended to Suyeon. The pair was strongly resistant to magic, so they passed out after being hit in the head before the hypnotized maids entered the tent.
“Even though the imperial palace is said to have mana that resists curses… … and there was that magic tool incident last time.”
Starting with finding parts for magic tools from gifts to the imperial palace, the original storyline was beyond recognition. Rowendal’s neck had fallen before he could commence his schemes, and the Marquis of Bermon also lost her life during the hunt.
All that was left was the Dark Tower… … .
‘I’ve never read anything about the Lord of the Dark Tower appearing before.’
Something was going wrong with the plot. It’s like… … .
‘It feels like I’m the main character.’
Suyeon was momentarily dazed at the conclusion she reached at the end of her thoughts.
Seira, who was looking at Suyeon’s expression, tilted her head.
“Your Majesty the Empress?”
“Huh? Ah, it’s nothing. Nothing… … .”
Thinking there was no way that could be the case, Suyeon looked at Seira. Even from a glimpse, one could tell she was the original heroine, shining but by her side… … .
‘It’s enough for Lyle to like me even though he knows who I am! Let’s not expect more!’
Suyeon smiled to herself bashfully while thinking of Lyle.
Tim scratched his head annoyedly as he crossed the wasteland and reached a vast expanse of marshland.
“Are you sure this is the right way?”
A compass made of manastones from the monster’s corpse pointed to the middle of the bog.
Ashd, who had followed his clumsy junior to the entrance of the swamp, looked at the compass over his shoulder. The direction the compass needle was pointing was clear.
“You can check it out.”
The magic of walking on water was complex unless you were a great wizard, but spells keeping your feet above a wetland or sand dunes were relatively easy. Ashd casted an enchantment on his shoes, and then on Tim’s.
Tim, a commoner recognized and sent to the Mage Tower for his talents early on, was reluctant to enter the swamp.
“It’s true that the needle is pointing this way, but… … Do we really need to go in?… … . —It might be a trap!”
“Ugh, too loud… … . Before we started tracking, we put magic on each other’s bodies to prevent detection. They won’t know we’re here. Unless you’re yelling loudly.”
Seeing Tim covering his mouth in surprise, Ashd moved across the swamp. The mana worked, and he could walk across the bog without leaving any footprints.
Tim groaned as if they didn’t want to chase him but eventually followed.
“Senior is an aristocrat, but he is too eccentric.”
“Because nobility is just a status, not a characteristic,”
said Ashd as he looked around. Slowly stretching out his arms, his groping hands seemed to be looking for something.
“Senior? What are you doing? I can’t feel anything here?”
“I don’t feel anything like a strong spell, but… … The mana is too orderly. Magic in the atmosphere is always scattered… … It can’t be a consistent concentration, can it?”
Listening to the explanation, Tim paused as if he just realizing it for himself.
It was as Ashd said.
Unless it was a space created by mana, magic in nature was always faintly dispersed.
It was blown here and there by the wind and repeatedly became darker and lighter according to the arrangement of people and objects, but it did not have a uniform density.
“You always act like a fool, but you’re smart at times like this.”
Ashd shouted in anger at Tim’s words.
“I am always brilliant!”
“Are you pointing that out?”
This is why he couldn’t hate this senior. Even though he’s bothered by the senior-junior relationship, he’s generous in weird ways.
‘Your skills aren’t bad either.’
Ashd grinned while Tim contemplated whether to raise his evaluation of him just a tiny bit. When his hand touched a particular part of the air—-
As if touching the water’s surface, ripples swelled through the space and distorted the landscape. Tim’s eyes widened as the illusion made from the part where Ashd touched his hand receded, and the true scenery was revealed.
A wasteland stretched out in what had been thought to be a bog.
“What is this! So this wasn’t a real swamp?”
“Perhaps. It must be an elaborate fantasy,”
Ashd concluded as he stepped forward into the wilderness. Tim hurriedly chased after him.
“… … There is a cave.”
There was a cliff at the end of the badlands, and at the bottom of the cliff, there was a cave with a wide entrance. Tim shuddered at the dark opening that did not let in a single light.
“Are you going in?”
“Then, did we come all the way here to turn our backs now?”
“Ah— we could search after requesting backup… … .”
“You have me. That’s enough.”
Tim wrinkled his brow as Ashd proudly puffed out his chest and declared.
“What kind of backup is Senior? You’re going in… … first… … .”
Ashd smirked, and in response, Tim’s face became agape with disbelief. He had an ominous foreboding. Judging by the pattern so far… … .
“Am I going in? I don’t want to!”
“What are you saying now? You belong to the imperial family! You will disgrace the magic tower!”
“Honor doesn’t feed you—does it! The self-proclaimed brilliant Senior should do dangerous things by himself!”
“I don’t want to. I want to see you panic, so I’m sending you first! Wahahahahaha!”
This crazy… … .
Seeing Ashd smiling happily, Tim desperately wanted to throw a single bolt of attack magic and run away. He tried to sneak away, but he was caught by the scruff of his neck.
“I’ll look after you, so go in. How long are you going to keep wrestling between the Imperial Palace and the Mage Tower? Shouldn’t you be saving face and preparing to be a lord at this point? Get the title you wanted.”
If one listened in briefly, one would think he was a good senior who cared about his junior, but Tim knew Ashd’s true nature.
“No need! A title is only useful if you are alive!”
“Loud! Complaining like a grandma!”
“That is sexist!”
Just as he shouted at the top of his voice, the ground in front of the cave shook loudly. Tim’s face turned white as he noticed two giant rock golems rising from the parched earth.