Erna quietly reached out and patted Kalion on the back. Although he grumbled, Kalion relished her touch. Perhaps because of fatigue, Kalion still seemed to be in a daze. Erna, who sat quietly in his arms, decided to ask what she was curious about. “Kalion, I have a question,” she said.
“What makes your voice more realistic than usual?” Kalion grumbled.
“Why are you here and not in my room?”
At Erna’s question, Kalion tightened his grip on Erna. “Because it’s so hard to be there,” he murmured. Erna’s eyes narrowed at his answer. It’s hard? It must be harder to sleep in this room, crumpled up in a chair. Besides, he wouldn’t have to nurse her all day, so what was so hard about it? While she was contemplating whether or not to smack him to wake him up, Kalion spoke again.
“It’s hard because there are so many traces of you there,” he muttered.
“It’s not just your room,” he said, “The couple’s bedroom… I can’t go in. Everything is the same, but you’re not there. It’s all the same…but it’s not and I can’t bear it.”
Erna swallowed her tears as Kalion’s voice grew smaller. She shook her head, then withdrew her arms from him, and pinched both of his cheeks. “You should have stayed by my side! Did you ever think that I would be disappointed when I woke up!” she shouted.
“Erna?” At Erna’s outburst, Kalion raised his head. His dull eyes sparkled in confusion. “My fantasies are always… She spoke kindly… No way… … is it really you?”
“Yes, it is me! Do I sound like a fantasy!”
Erna smacked him in the cheeks with both palms, wanting him to wake up. When she regained consciousness, she was dejected that he wasn’t next to her. Kalion was jolted awake and jumped up from his seat. Erna, who was on his lap, felt her body fall backwards and yelped. Kalion grabbed her quickly and embraced her.
“God,” he gasped in disbelief, “oh, god.” He scanned her from head to toe and said, “Yeah, looking at this temperament, I think it’s really you.”
“Don’t recognize people like that!” Erna slapped him on the shoulder. Kalion returned to his seat and hugged her without any defense as if he wanted her to hit him to her heart’s content. The two of them faced each other in utter surprise, and only the sound of heavy breathing echoed in the room.
“When did you wake up?” Kalion ran his fingers through his hair. “Why didn’t Orpé deliver the news?”
“I stopped Orpé from shouting around the castle. I saw it on the way here, and it didn’t look like everyone would wake up even if she screamed,” Erna said. She reached her hand out and fixed Kalion’s disheveled hair. “After I woke up, Orpé gave me a brief summary of what had happened.”
“How much do you know?” asked Kalion.
“The military affairs of other countries, about Adelaide and Ruben, and even Vanessa’s work,” Erna replied.
“Then you heard everything you need,” he said.
“But I didn’t hear the details.”
Kalion held Erna’s waist with one hand while the other brushed her long hair and played with it, as if he wanted to make sure that she wasn’t simply his imagination.
“What happened to Adelaide and Ruben?” Erna asked.
“They’re alive,” Kalion sneered. “I would rather they died.”
“Ruben has completely lost his eyesight and lost an arm as well. Even if he had one arm left, he’d be absolutely useless as a wizard because he lost all of his magic power.”
“What about Adelaide?”
“She wasn’t as hurt as Ruben, but one of her legs was seriously injured. They said that she would limp for the rest of her life. Maybe that’s why the King of Haband cut ties with his daughter. The same goes for Ether. Well, Ruben was a collateral from the beginning, so it’s not surprising.”
“Where are the both of them now?” inquired Erna.
“To the Algias Peace Zone.”
“The Algias Peace Zone?” she repeated. It was her first time hearing about that place. As she looked at Kalion with a face demanding an explanation, Kalion drew a picture in the air with his finger.
“It’s a newly named region along the Hessenguard border,” he said, “It is an area that goes 100 rivens from the existing Hessenguard border to the four kingdoms.” 100 rivens is a distance that requires more than a day’s travel by wagon.
“What is that place?” Erna asked.
“Countries that lost the war were deprived of their land,” answered Kalion.
Erna looked at him in surprise. Though the war ended with the defeat of the four kingdoms, Hessenguard’s borders had never changed since its birth until now. Although Hessenguard as a whole had been colonized by Aether and Haband, this was the first time that its borders had shifted. The border was where the magic of the two pillars reached. Now, the grand dukes’ power was no longer the foundation for the pillars, but on everyone’s magical power instead. Therefore it was inevitable that the boundaries would change.