Elise cowered in a corner of the carriage, her hands clasped tightly over her head. The metallic scent of blood hung thick in the air, and each gruesome image that flitted through her mind seemed to grow more vivid with every passing moment.
“It seems to have quieted down outside, Your Highness,” Ivetsa said, her arms encircling Elise in a gesture of comfort. “But it appears our little one is still quite shaken up.”
“Such occurrences are common in the north, especially in remote areas like this,” she remarked. “One must remain vigilant of bandits at all times. They’ll steal even what you’re holding if you let your guard down for even a moment.”
Elise shuddered at the thought. “The north… it’s a brutal place,” she murmured.
“But it’s also a place that breeds resilience,” Ivetsa replied, a note of determination in her voice. “Let me take a quick look outside through the window.” With a gentle hand, she pulled aside the curtain and peered out.
Suddenly, a powerful jolt rocked the carriage from the front. The impact was like a heavy, blunt object smashing into the vehicle, and with each subsequent strike, the carriage shook violently, hurtling down the steep slope.
The clamor of clashing swords echoed through the air as the soldiers of Ugel and the knights of the Rotiara encircled the carriage, battling fiercely. Amidst the chaos, Elise’s once impenetrable barrier began to shrink at an alarming rate. The magic that had once been her salvation was now failing her.
The protective shield that had hovered above her had dwindled to a mere fraction of its original size, barely enough to cover her body. Even that was shrinking relentlessly, leaving the carriage exposed and vulnerable.
“Rip the door off! We must seize the Princess!” A booming command rang out, and with a screech, the door of the carriage was wrenched open. The vehicle, already teetering dangerously between the treacherous slope and the unforgiving cliff, began to sway precariously.
A sharp gasp escaped from Ivetsa’s lips as the carriage lurched and tilted perilously.
The carriage careened down the slope with terrifying velocity, hurtling towards the lake that had once seemed so serene during her ride with Rezette. Panic rose in Elise’s chest like a tidal wave as she struggled to lift herself up, desperately trying to see outside.
And then, just as she feared, the lake loomed into view, beckoning the carriage towards its murky depths.
“No!” Elise screamed, her heart pounding in her chest.
But she was not helpless. The barrier still encased her body, and with fierce determination, she shoved Ivetsa through the open door with all her might. The young woman tumbled out of the carriage with a shriek, rolling painfully across the rough terrain.
It was a risk, to be sure, but it was better than falling off the cliff together.
As if in answer to her prayers, one of the carriage wheels gave a sickening creak and fell off, causing the vehicle to spin wildly on one wheel. The barrier that enveloped Elise prevented her from being thrown from the carriage, but she knew it was only a matter of time before they lost all control.
And then, just as suddenly as before, the carriage flipped over once again, and Elise felt herself plummeting into the void. A scream ripped from her throat as the carriage hurtled off the cliff, and she felt as though the world had stopped spinning. For a moment, everything was still, and Elise was suspended in mid-air, her breath caught in her chest.
And then, with a sickening splash, the carriage plunged into the lake below.
“The Princess’s carriage!”
Amidst the chaos, a desperate scream rang out, piercing Ruben’s ears.
Rezette pulled out his sword, piercing the neck of a dying body. But when they arrived at the steep slope, the carriage had already plummeted off the cliff, disappearing from sight. Ruben struggled to catch his breath.
“The carriage has fallen! We must go around the valley to get to the lake. I’ll make my way down immediately!” he exclaimed.
Silence greeted him.
Rezette’s blue eyes flickered with doubt as he stared beyond the invisible cliff. For a moment, he hesitated, feeling as if his reasoning was being squeezed dry.
Perhaps it’s better to let her die like this, he thought. After all, whether she perished by facing the wrath of the raging dragon, being crushed by the power of the dragon’s seed, having her stomach torn apart by the demon king’s child, or revealing all in six months and facing her inevitable fate, Elizabeth’s end was bound to be tragic.
Wasn’t it kinder to let her fall into the lake and die quickly, rather than face such a gruesome fate?
Rezette’s subordinates implored him for orders, their voices urgent and pleading.
“Please, my lord, tell us what to do!” they cried out desperately.
At last, Rezette’s eyes narrowed, the once-clear pupils now twisted and distorted with an air of mercilessness.