Erna adjusted her clothes as she walked down the corridor. The ceiling on the hallway was intact, except for the middle, where it looked like it had been sliced with a knife. Erna looked around, gripping the windowsills for support as her legs trembled like a newborn fawn. She breathed heavily and muttered, “It’s worse than I thought.” Though her magic had somehow managed to keep her alive, her body had lost its strength after being in a coma. I’m going to have to get in shape if I want to feel better. She sighed deeply, wondering if she should train herself like the knights.
She glimpsed at the sight through the window and gasped, “That’s a mess.” The Grand Castle was undistinguishable; only half of it was left standing, but in utter shambles, while the rest had vanished. Erna’s face darkened as she looked at the scene. This was her creation. Though three months had been spent in cleaning the debris, it was not enough to salvage the castle.
“First of all, we need to repair the Grand Castle,” muttered Erna as she gazed over the castle. Much like the castle, the capital also suffered from her magic. The wreckage fortunately seemed to have been cleaned up. Except for the magic traces everywhere, the capital was no different from usual—people rushing about, busy alleys, smoke rising from the chimneys. The city appeared to have been restored quicker than the castle.
Erna took a long look at the capital before retracing her steps with her hand on the wall. She descended the stairs cautiously, regretting a little that she had instructed Orpé not to accompany her.
As soon as she reached the first floor, her mouth opened wide. It was exactly what Orpé had told her. Erna stood in the quiet hall filled with sleeping people and looked around curiously. One slept on the shoulder of another while some used multiple chairs as a makeshift bed.
“Someone would say it’s a cursed castle,” mumbled Erna. She tiptoed through the sleeping servants, wizards, knights, and even members of the Council, carefully passing by so as not to awake them. She took another scan around the hall and recalled Orpé’s words.
The pillars are being supported on behalf of me and Kalion.
Before she left the room, Orpé had grabbed Erna in a hurry and explained as if she had suddenly remembered. After Erna’s magic was demonstrated, she returned to the capital as quickly as possible. Unbeknownst to Erna, Orpé had looked over her records and learned about the pillars, which she thought would have been destroyed after Erna’s magic was cast because Erna had indeed drawn their powers to her spell. Surprisingly, the pillars remained intact, though it barely retained its shape.
Orpé, along with other wizards, frantically scoured for remaining records, where they learned that Erna’s state was related to the condition of the pillars. After much deliberation, they ultimately decided to restore the pillars, but there was an issue. Where do they get the magic to fix the pillars? The magic of the wizards wouldn’t certainly suffice. Orpé thought of a solution: If it was impossible to fill the pillars with magic at once, perhaps it might be doable by gathering everyone’s mana little by little.
“This is the result,” Erna whispered as she touched her forehead. She couldn’t decide whether it was great or ridiculous that everybody was lending their energy to the pillars to save her. Fortunately, there was no further toll on their bodies other than the fact that they slept for longer than usual. Orpé had reassured her, saying that everyone would wake and leave the castle before nightfall.
Erna redirected her attention and resumed her original path. After a while, she arrived in front of the room where she had amassed information related to the pillars. It was the largest room on the first floor and quite far from her bedroom. She carefully pushed the door open, noticing that the wall leading to the underground was wide open.
The heavy wooden door opened quietly. As soon as she stepped inside, she caught a whiff of a nostalgic scent that brought back pleasant memories. By the window, the person she wished to see the most was sleeping soundly on a chair.