Those who arrived were forces of Haband, and after a while, Adelaide also appeared, gasping for breath. She turned her head to look for Erna and shouted at the knights like a madman, “Kill them all!” The soldiers of Haband pointed their swords at everyone in the castle immediately. Kalion kicked a knight on the ground and hastily returned to Erna, grabbing her only after he had already wiped his bloody hands on his clothes.
For a moment, everyone ceased their movements and looked at each other. In the meantime, Aether knights assisted Ruben to stand. He and Adelaide stared at Erna, who was trembling on the ground, and at Kalion, who was guarding her. This was not what the future they had envisioned! Adelaide and Ruben’s eyes met, each harboring the same sense of defeat. They remembered what they were originally aiming for.
“Why don’t we negotiate?” Adelaide said to Ruben, tidying her disheveled hair.
“I accept it,” Ruben nodded, aware of what Adelaide had to offer.
Neither of them could return to their home country as a failure. Adelaide had applied for the position herself, realizing that the seat of the Grand Duchess would have much more freedom and luxury than living as the wife of an old, rich, noble family. Ruben, on the other hand, in fear that the first prince would ultimately get rid of him, sought for the Grand Duke’s seat to make himself a useful chess piece. For Adelaide and Ruben, Hessenguard was a safe haven. Besides, the two countries had sent troops to support them. If they missed this opportunity, the next one would never come again.
There were no big tables, no contracts and signatures, but a new pact between Haband and Aether was made within the bloodied walls of Hessenguard’s Grand Castle.
Kalion, who was looking at the two, twisted the corners of his mouth and uttered, “How terrible.” Erna seconded his comment.
Vanessa, who was standing next to them, also nodded, “There are no limits to their audacity.”
Suddenly, there was a loud noise beyond the walls.
It was Cedric’s voice, who had been chasing after Kalion. From the sound of the clash of swords, it seemed like a close battle was taking place below. Erna grabbed Kalion’s hand and asked with difficulty, “Kelon and Nandes’ army… You took care of them, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” answered Kalion.
Erna clasped Kalion’s hand tighter. He had already done his part. In fact, he had done more than enough. Erna looked up at the sky; the magic she had conjured was spinning faster and was glowing brighter. Honestly, as Ruben said, she knew that her death would be the safest way to extinguish the spell.
“Ruben is right, but… Do you think I’ll die gracefully?” she muttered under her breath. Kalion and Vanesssa, who were supporting her, laughed at her question. As always, Erna was always confident, energetic, and a little stubborn. But that’s what they liked about her.
In the meantime, after a brief negotiation, the coalition forces of Haband and Aether launched an attack. Behind them, a wizard loaded an arrow into his crossbow—a weapon powerful enough to demolish wooden doors of typical households at once. The arrow sliced through the wind as the knight fired and the black hounds guarding Erna and Kalion flew in the air and crashed against the wall.
As the wizards of Aether and Haband simultaneously conjured magic, Erna urgently casted a spell for defense. Fire, water, and lightning appeared within the walls and erupted with a loud sound. Erna attempted to cast another spell again, but to no avail; she had grown weaker at every second.
The arrow of the crossbow flew toward her head and the knights cheered when they heard a dull sound, thinking they had successfully killed Erna. However, what they saw instead was the figure of Vanessa, who had used herself as a shield. Vanessa looked down; the arrow pierced her stomach despite her protective gear and the little feathers at the arrow’s end were still quivering from the impact.
Erna screamed out Vanessa’s name, not even thinking about wiping the blood off her face. Another arrow flew from the crossbow and punctured her shoulder while the next one pierced her chest. Vanessa stood her ground nevertheless. The knight loading the crossbow screamed at her, “Damn b*tch!”
A faint smile crept on her lips. What a pleasant compliment, she thought. Erna and Kalion watched in horror as Vanessa slowly collapsed to the ground. Erna held Vanessa’s hand and tried to stand up. Kalion knew that she was trying to trigger the spell of annihilation, so he firmly held her hand.
“If possible, save Cedric. He’s been crying all the way up here, and the other knights, too. I,” Kalion kissed the back of Erna’s hand, “I just want you to be next to me no matter what happens.” Erna choked on his words. He was truly the best supporter she could ever ask for.
“I’ll begin now,” she said as she reached out to the sky. Her mana converged with the remaining magic of the pillars at the same instant. Then, the magic of annihilation that hovered in the sky above them rapidly grew in size and expanded over the Grand Castle and over the capital, until it burst into a blinding light that enveloped the entire Hessenguard. It was at that moment when the continent witnessed a display of the largest, greatest, and most powerful magic in history.