Erna recalled the vision she had seen in the forest of Irgis. The spirit of Richard Hessenguard had moved around the ruin, but Erna could not exactly pinpoint where he had been. I’m sure I saw a staircase, but where did it lead? Irritated, Erna smacked her head and reprimanded herself. “Why were you just so scared back then? Why!”
She was good at remembering even things she had only seen once, but her memory of the ancient ruin was almost a blur. When she saw the spirit of the late grand duke, which she definitely believed was a ghost, she swayed and trembled until her body collapsed.
Erna walked over to the bookshelf behind her desk and began to search frantically.
She’s not usually very diligent about organizing her stuff, but she knew exactly where to find what she needed to find. Thanks to this, she easily found the sheets of paper containing the things she had written down after she had returned from the ruin. Erna grabbed them all and spread them out on her desk.
She had written down all the letters she had seen on the pillars as she remembered. But there were plenty of symbols she had only seen for the first time, so she was only able to record only their rough forms.
Erna went through her bookshelf again. She was then able to find a book on ancient writings which was published by the Wizard’s Tower. She had read this book several times as a child because it was difficult to understand. However, when she grew up, Erna never opened the book again, thinking there was no use of studying it. She was busy enough as Grand Duchess.
“I should have read this again,” Erna said as she flipped through the pages of the book and started looking for characters similar to those she had recorded.
Erna suddenly stopped. Should I think of another way? She didn’t have enough time in her hands to search for the unfamiliar letters. There were many she had to take care of as quickly as she could, such as Aether’s army, Ruben, Vanessa, Adelaide, and the doubt of Hessenguard’s citizens, which was growing each second. It may be a waste of time to hold on to ancient texts now that a mountain of problems was to be solved.
But… Erna recalled the magic Ruben had spoken of. He had talked elaborately of the magic that Aether had prepared so far. He seemed to think that the magic might target him now.
Erna rested her chin on her hand as she pondered for a moment. What was her utmost priority? The army of Aether right in front of her? Ruben, who was kept hidden underground? The Council, which seeked the helping hand of Haband?
However hard she contemplated, the answer to her question was always the same.
Erna swept her face with her hands. An idiot who takes his half of a necklace with his own initials engraved on it. In the past, she used to think that even eye contact with him was reviling. Yet now they were lovers…
“I miss you,” Erna muttered solemnly.
She suddenly felt disgusted at the traces of Ruben’s touch. The entire time she spent with him made her nauseous and humiliated. Tiredness weighed on her shoulders and she just wanted to lie down on her bed.
It used to be that way in the past.
Hessenguard was peaceful, with everyone devoted to the grand dukes, and very rarely, even if Erna was ill and unable to take care of her affairs, there was a problem because Kalion worked harder. But the situation now was not the same as before. She had to endure everything alone.
When will you be back?
Tears blotted the paper. Erna felt ashamed and hastily wiped the tears from the paper.
A mixture of resentment and longing came out from between her trembling lips as she tried to contain her crying.
“Don’t die, you bastard… I don’t want to get married again…”
* * *
The northern lake region of Hessenguard was having a peaceful time. A few months ago, there had been an uproar due to the sudden massive appearance of monsters, but it was settled quickly. Recently, news that Aether’s army was stationed before the capital reached them, but since it was a long way away from them, the residents didn’t feel much tension. They sat under the shade and sipped tea, dazzled by the luster of the lake.
Suddenly, the bell began to ring urgently from the tower in the middle of the village. At the sound, everyone jumped up to their feet in surprise. Some of them hugged their children and began crying.
The bell ringing signaled an emergency. Did demons appear again?
The mayor rushed to the tower.
“What’s going on?” she immediately asked upon arriving.
“Oh, it’s the army!” The bell tower keeper shouted as soon as he saw the market.
“There! on the hill! That must be… the knights of Nandes! I’m sure! Because my family was killed by those in that armor!”
Pushing away the keeper, who was trembling in fear, the mayor looked at the distant hill. As the keeper said, there were certainly knights of Nandes.
Nandes, located in the northeast of Hessenguard, was a country that had been at war with Aether for several years.
“What is happening?” the mayor asked. The emergence of monsters was better news. What were those knights doing here in Hessenguard? The mayor recalled the news that Aether’s forces had advanced to the capital. It immediately registered to her. They also knew of Aether’s army.
Hessenguard is a rich land between the four kingdoms. To the south of Hessenguard was the Yurnyl Mountains. Meanwhile, Haband, Kelon, Nandes, and Aether surrounded Hessengard in order, forming a semicircular border.
Until last year, Haband and Kelon, and Nandes and Aether had been at war. An armistice was signed later on.
“Oh, my god.”
The mayor prayed in search of a god without realizing it. Hessengard was about to become a battlefield of the four kingdoms, just like ten years ago.