In Orpé’s mind, what Erna was doing now shouldn’t have been possible without months of study and preparation, magic so complicated that the gathered wizards couldn’t assess whether she was doing it correctly. Yet she was doing it, summoning new and powerful magic before their eyes. She placed the remaining three shards of the Piece of the Sea into the middle of the orb.
If the angle of the shards was even slightly different, they couldn’t build the resonance needed in the orb. But as she inserted each one, the hundreds of runes in the orb began to shine brighter, and the ozone smell of energy in the space intensified. For the second time, the ground around Erna began to shine with light.
The glow simmered in place for a moment, then quickly extended out, blanketing the floor and walls as the last spell did. The onlookers trembled, not sure what to expect. Erna suddenly staggered with the effort, and Orpé rushed forward to support her.
“W-w-what are you doing…,” Orpé muttered, looking up at the sparkles of light still hanging in the air.
“The new magic…,” Erna breathed, struggling to stand without Orpé’s help. “Besides me… no one in the Grand Castle… can use magic…”
A wizard nearby, hearing Erna’s reply, quickly tried to summon healing magic. The spell was extinguished before he could finish the casting.
“Orpé. Take me away…,” Erna said.
“What do you mean, madam!?” Orpé replied. “You must rest! No matter how much magic you borrowed from the Piece of the Sea, how do you far you can after this magic?”
No matter how much magic she borrowed from the shards, Erna would have still had to use her own magic in the summoning, an immense effort. Trembling, sweating, pale as a sheet, she was in no shape to move.
“I can’t,” Erna replied. “Bring Adelaide.”
Erna stood, pushing Orpé’s hand away. She tried to move forward on unsteady legs, but Orpé moved up beside her again as though she had no choice. Leaving behind Kalion and the room that still tingled with magic, they headed into the knights’ building. They could hear a ruckus from the second floor as they limped forward.
“Rude people! Don’t lay a hand on me! I’ll inform Haband of these events and you’ll be punished!” Adelaide shouted angrily as she scuffled with the knights. Inside, she wanted to cry. Why did it have to happen this way?
Just earlier, she had intended to have a casual talk with Kalion. She would have brought him food and water, and the two would have had a comfortable chat, just the two of them.
But now the knights surrounded her, separating her from her servants and detaining her. They had asked her “How dare you do this to Lord Kalion?” and when she’d tried to return to her own quarters, they informed her she was a suspect and couldn’t leave.
The princess of Haband, the representative of the delegates, normally didn’t interact with the knights at all. Adelaide didn’t know how to respond to them because it was the first time she ever been in such a situation, and the first time since she had been without a maid to comfort and reassure her.
Obviously, they couldn’t think a poisoning was her idea, she was sure. But who could have done it? Then the knights told her that Erna had called for her, and she was angry and relieved at the same time. The knights that had ignored her commands now moved aside at Erna’s order.
She even has the knights at her fingertips, she thought. Lord Kalion and Hessenguard knights had been Adelaide’s first goal. The notion that Erna already had her hands on them grated on her. Even when she’d seen how Erna had changed when Adelaide first arrived, she still held the same old disregard for Erna based on who she’d been. She couldn’t tolerate the idea that Erna held a higher position than her now.
But she couldn’t make such thoughts public now. Now that this had happened, Adelaide had no choice but to cling desperately to Erna. How else to prove her innocence? So, she hurried down the stairs and ran to Erna.
“Erna, sister!” she cried. She went to embrace her, but her arm was slapped away.
“Use the proper title, Princess Adelaide,” Erna said coldly. “You still haven’t figured out your position in this situation?”
Adelaide flinched at her tone. Backing away, she slumped down in a nearby seat.
“Why would I poison Lord Kalion?” she said sadly. “Who would do that to him right in front of his eyes?”
“I never thought that you were the culprit,” Erna acknowledged. “However, it is obvious that the food you brought Kalion was poisoned, and until the truth is properly established, you’ll be staying underground. I’m giving orders to the delegates of Haband that they cannot contact you.”
“Th-that’s ridiculous…,” Adelaide protested. She never thought Erna would do this, but her special treatment had now made her a felon.
“And you, knights!” Erna called.
“Yes!” they replied, reflexively straightening as she addressed them, then bowing in unison to Erna.
“Go to the Wizard Group right away and bring back the new teacher, Abel Perding,” she commanded.
“Understood, madam!” they cried, and turned to go.
“There is no need, madam, came a voice from behind Erna. “He has already arrived.”
Erna whipped her head around, and there was Abel was at the front door. And next to him was Vanessa.