After a deep breath, he lifted her again.
“You smell like sweat,” Erna said.
Was this the time to bicker over that? Kalion grumbled, but Erna smiled and hugged him.
“…It’s not that I don’t like it.”
He put his lips on the sweaty arm that was hugging him. Crazy. Did she need to look this pretty at a time like this? He truly cursed the current situation. If only they weren’t in a place like this. No, if only that ghost wasn’t here. No, if only Erna wasn’t sick…
Gritting his teeth, he approached the pillars while holding her. The ghost had arrived in front of the pillars. The two of them drawing closer to the pillars soon realized something strange.
The pillars were clearly unscathed. But the moment the ghost placed its hand on one of them there seemed to be an ounce of realism that it would collapse at any moment.
That’s what it used to look like, they thought.
Richard Hessenguard had died ten years ago. If so, new pillars would have been built between those years…
No way that could happen, thought Kalion. It was impossible to make new pillars of this size, and even more impossible to move them to the ruins. Were they restored? He wondered. Kalion couldn’t figure out a way to cleanly restore broken pillars to how they looked now. There was only one answer.
It was said that the first grand duke of Hessenguard was a wizard. If so, it was highly likely that some ancient spell had been put on the pillars.
The ghost put its hands on the pillar and bowed its head. Even though it was a hazy figure, it was easy to see that he was crying. In fact, he was crying his heart out. With a face so grief-struck it made Kalion think that he couldn’t cry that much even if he lost his arms and legs.
After crying on the pillar for a long time, he took something out of his pocket. It was a sharp-edged dagger. Holding it in his two hands…
Erna was so shocked at the ghost she turned her head. The ghost slit its own neck without hesitation. Red blood was seen on the hazy gray figure and it was flowing down his neck, wetting his clothes so vividly. With that final act, the ghost disappeared. At the same time, magical lanterns lit up the darkened space.
The two, who were relying on the faint light emitting from the ghost, suddenly closed their eyes at the pouring light. The humongous pillars were still ahead of them. The large space contained nothing but two pillars.
What should they do now?
When Kalion was thinking, Erna in his arms muttered, “When you go in… the crest…”
“You mean that thing on the wall?”
“Yep, that…” She struggled to open her mouth. “I saw that… in the place we fell into…”
Sweat dripped from Kalion’s forehead like heavy rain. He couldn’t remember how they’d come out from the underground.
Erna, who was still on his back, let out a few groans of pain and passed out. Her forehead was boiling when he placed his hand on it. Though she had passed out, Erna still mumbled she was in pain, and tears flowed from her eyes.
What kind of sickness was it that she was having such a hard time?
Having returned to where they’d fallen, Kalion looked at the walls one by one and wandered around looking for the place with the pattern, as it seemed that Erna could not pull herself together.
It was clearly the pattern he’d put his hand on before going underground. And when he put his hand on it again…
He stopped for a second and looked behind him. It was a place with so much to see. The structure like that of the Grand Castle; miscellaneous objects; the ghost; and the underground pillars. The unrecognizable things from a past no one mentioned felt like a secret. But…
Kalion let Erna down from his back, held her in his arms, and approached the pattern. What was important to him was not a secret.
He recalled Erna blushing during his confession.
My wife. And now my lover too.
What was important to him was in his arms now.
Without hesitating, he put his hand on the pattern. When he did, the same beam of light he’d seen before going underground wrapped around his hand, and he felt a distant sense of falling at the same time.
Kalion’s instinct told him to hold Erna tightly so she, his only one, wouldn’t get injured. The scene around them became blurry. And the moment Kalion’s foot hit the hard ground…
He heard familiar voices.
The two shocked faces looking at him from a spot a bit far away were no doubt his aides, Orpé and Cedric.
Kalion scanned his surroundings. The first thing he felt was the cool and fresh air of the forest. Next was the blinding sunlight hitting his eyes.
This was clearly Ilgees Forest.
He didn’t know how much time had passed, but when the two disappeared, the surroundings, which had been nighttime, were now brightened by the sun high in the sky.
Kalion yelled to the two people running toward him with shock on their faces,
“Prepare the horses! We’re going to the Grand Castle immediately.”
Held in his arms, Erna was still splayed out with her eyes closed.