The emperor served as not only the stalwart pillar of the surviving Argan army but also a pivotal military force. His mastery of magic was the linchpin that had enabled Argan, a kingdom steeped in tranquility for over seven centuries, to withstand the relentless assault of the Ugel forces for a grueling two years.
“Duke Conrad has reported that Princess Elise’s whereabouts have been traced to the Tene River. They are actively working to relay this information to Your Majesty. His return should be imminent,” Duke Bellator relayed.
A contingent of the Argan Army, under the command of Duke Conrad, presently concealed themselves near the Tene River, which marked the boundary between the northern and southern realms of Grandel. Meanwhile, Duke Bellator and the emperor had taken refuge within the sanctuary of Regal’s Riosa Castle.
The emperor listened in silence to the duke’s words and nodded in acknowledgment.
“My sister is in Van Yela, within the realm of Duke Kyrstan of Rotiara,” Andrei revealed.
“Is that so, Your Majesty? Surely, you have not already made contact with Princess Elise?” Duke Bellator inquired.
“She has managed to avoid capture by the Ugel royalty, which is fortunate. It was worth the risks we took to find my sister.”
Duke Bellator’s countenance oscillated between relief and concern. Whether it was misfortune or providence, Rotiara was a territory shrouded in mystery—a forbidden enclave akin to the capital of Van Yela among the few blessed lands in the north.
The emperor maintained a long silence before speaking softly.
“That man… He appears to treat Elise with affection. It doesn’t seem like he mistreats her.”
“Indeed, Your Majesty. A dragon or something had the audacity to claim Grandel’s blessing as a wife, so it’s only fitting to do so. I wonder if there are instances of war demons who are obsessed with relentless slaughter.”
Andrei let out a dry laugh.
“Dare I permit such a thing… to have someone like a reincarnation of Sameshita.”
“What?” Duke Bellator asked in confusion, but instead of responding, Andrei turned his gaze directly toward him.
“My sister spent her entire life with our parents and in my care alone. If the Duke had shown even a hint of neglect or mistreatment toward Elise… if he had been impolite or oppressive in any way, Elise would not have leaned on him to such an extent.”
“What are you suggesting, Your Majesty? She is the princess of Argan. She would not give her heart to the enemy. She would not have genuinely accepted such an outlandish marriage.”
Andrei remained silent.
Duke Bellator shook his head. “It’s only natural that these are unfounded rumors. I can’t fathom how such preposterous rumors have spread.”
“…I was the one who encouraged Elise to do whatever was necessary to survive. It must have been her only means.”
“Even so, what you say holds true… the princess’s place is not in Rotiara. Moreover, after I pass on, Elise will become the ruler of Argan and the sole wielder of Grandel’s magic.”
“So, no matter what it takes, she should be brought here.”
Andrei’s thoughts drifted back to the man he had encountered only once, three years ago. Among the countless envoys, he had stood out, towering over others with sharp, godlike features that seemed meticulously crafted.
The world had dubbed him the “Barbarian of Van Yela” and had spoken of his brutality and madness. Yet, upon their first meeting, Andrei had recognized that he was not a man to be confined by such derogatory labels.
Indeed, it was doubtful whether he could genuinely be called a barbarian.
He was a half-blood, with more than half of Sameshita’s lineage coursing through his veins. In an age when magicians had become exceptionally rare, he was the closest one could get to a dragon. It was impossible not to be awed.
But Andrei had also discerned something else.
Beneath that composed and indifferent exterior lay a smoldering fire and an unwavering thirst for something deeply imprinted upon him.
This was the essence of Sameshita, as emphasized and cautioned in Gallian myths.
Andrei vividly recalled the subtle admiration that had flickered in the man’s eyes the moment he had laid them on Elise. As soon as he had deciphered that look, Andrei had immediately sent Elise back to the palace.
Though he might have appeared like an apathetic statue, he was a perilous man who could transform into a dictator and engulf Grandel at any moment. Andrei clenched his fist tightly, devoid of strength.
Elizabeth must not be handed over to such a man. Her talents, her potential, should not be exposed.
Rezette Kyrstan. Elizabeth should not be left for him to conquer like this. He was never meant to be revered or held in such esteem. Just as the Great Dragon Sameshita had been Grandel’s untouchable sovereign until shortly before being sealed away.
“Inform Duke Conrad to monitor Rotiara’s movements near the Tene River, but under no circumstances should he cross into the Duke’s territory. And exercise utmost caution, as Ugel is also keeping a watchful eye on Rotiara.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Duke Bellator nodded respectfully as he received the emperor’s directives.