Such a tragic death didn’t befit her at all, and witnessing such a sight weighed heavily on Rezette. From the very beginning, he had never intended to expose Elise to any peril. There were countless ways to possess her without necessarily bringing a child into the equation.
With a tender kiss to her lifeless hand, Rezette rose from his chair. He moved towards the window, intending to shut it, but something on the table captured his attention. There lay a fountain pen, a bottle of ink, and a few sheets of paper.
In that moment, an image of the woman who had sat there and penned him a letter naturally came to mind. The vibrancy of his memory ebbed, and the stern corners of her lips slightly softened.
Yes, this should suffice. In times of anxiety and weariness, one instinctively seeks solace. Dreams are but dreams. As long as she can find comfort in my presence…
Rezette reached for the drawer to stow away the pen and ink. Inside, he discovered more sheets of paper turned upside down. He casually retrieved one, as if it were fate pulling at him.
He turned the paper over and was met with a densely intricate geometric pattern on its surface.
All the thoughts he had harbored up until that moment scattered like dust in an instant.
He slowly concealed the shock on his face. Though it was a form he had never encountered before, he recognized it immediately.
It was a magic circle.
In the southeastern region of Grandel lay the magnificent Riosa Castle, a cherished summer retreat of the Regal royal family for generations. From its grand gates emerged a royal carriage adorned with the emblem of the Regal family—an intricate iris pattern engraved on its regal exterior.
After a brief respite in Riosa, the king and princes of Regal distanced themselves from the northern capital. As they stood in silence, gazing upon the slowly descending castle gate, a distinguished elder with silvery hair turned his attention away from the scene. He carried himself with undeniable dignity.
Within the castle, he made his way towards the depths of the main tower. Passing through storage chambers and provisions stores, he descended even further, unveiling a subterranean space that matched the opulence of the floors above. In a room with adjoining bedrooms, living quarters, and a small reception area, a figure stood with their back turned.
Soft brown hair peered through the bandages that concealed even the back of their head. A tall, slender young man, bearing an emaciated countenance, stood in quiet contemplation, gazing up at a small window near the ceiling.
Duke Bellator, the elder, addressed him in hushed tones. “Your Majesty.”
“Have the king and the princes departed safely, Fabian?”
Duke Bellator nodded. “Yes.”
The young man sighed. “I should have bid them farewell properly…”
“The king expressly asked you not to worry about it. He insisted that your recovery should be your sole focus. Please put your concerns to rest,” Duke Bellator reassured.
“Still, it’s thanks to him that I have this opportunity to recuperate. Because of that, I feel a profound obligation to repay this favor, especially when the Regal royal family is still facing challenges from external threats.”
The despondent young man closed his eyes, their delicate shape resembling that of his twin sister.
The emperor lifted his right hand, and with a graceful, fluid motion that seemed to mimic the serenity of flowing water, he clenched the air. Behind Duke Bellator, the door closed silently on its own, while the barrier that enveloped the entire space reactivated. It was a magical ward that sealed off access from the outside world.
The chairs where the Regal royal family had been seated just moments before moved autonomously. The sofa’s blanket levitated gracefully, folding itself neatly in mid-air as though engaged in a dance. The curtains, which had gently swayed, now fully obscured the small window. Even to Duke Bellator, who had served the Argan emperor for decades, this display never failed to inspire awe.
Yet, it appeared that the emperor’s heart remained untouched by the spectacle. The young man, who had been studying his palm intently, let out a soft, rueful chuckle.
“Even this level of power exhausts me now.”
“Your Majesty…” Duke Bellator trailed off.
“As I suspected, I am nothing extraordinary without my sister.”
“Please refrain from saying such things…”
The emperor turned to look at the duke over his shoulder, revealing profound sorrow in his half-shadowed profile.
“You understand it too, Fabian. You can sense it, can’t you?” He smiled wearily. “You can perceive my current state.”
Duke Bellator and Duke Conrad were the two noble families steadfastly supporting Argan. They were descendants of the heroic Gallian, disciples of Inashio and Hugo, and students who had studied under the Great Dragon Sameshita alongside the hero Gallian.
Over seven centuries had passed, and no more magicians had been born into their families. Only the direct descendants possessed an innate sensitivity to magic.
Thanks to this sensitivity, even Duke Bellator could see what the emperor had mentioned. The emperor’s once abundant magical power had dwindled to less than half of its former strength.
The absence of the twin princesses underscored this glaring truth. The lingering remnants of the emperor’s past suffering, etched into his very being, should have faded long ago.