Chapter 71.1

The moon, shrouded in a cloak of clouds, ascended gracefully above him. As Rezette made his way back to the central tower, the night had already delved into its darkest hours.

Genovia Irrien had departed in a carriage, and there existed no promise of her ever gracing the hallowed grounds of Rotiara again. Such a prospect seemed utterly unattainable. Yet, an unsettling feeling gnawed at him.

Rezette found himself hunched over his desk in the dimly lit study, lost in contemplation. Across distant fields, Genovia Irrien’s laughter echoed, a mad, wild symphony among the bloodstained grass. Rezette couldn’t fathom how his own countenance must have appeared in her eyes, but he sensed it bore a new, uncharted expression.

It was only natural. The tumultuous emotions that had surged within him at that precise moment were unlike anything he had ever experienced in his entire existence.

Love, they say, has the power to both rescue and destroy, yet it can also imprison one in a state where they neither truly live nor die.

Rezette fixed his gaze upon the ajar door, his eyes holding an air of uncertainty. Beyond the door’s slight parting, he could glimpse the entryway of the staircase that ascended from the study to the tower’s summit. The lantern he had left on the lower steps had vanished, an absence that sent a shiver down his spine.

Candles and lanterns were tools he had diligently placed throughout the staircase, a precaution for the unlikely event that Elise might make this solitary climb. The sudden absence of those lights below could mean only one thing: Elise had indeed ascended these steps.

The hour was late, a time when she should have been immersed in her dreams, considering her early bedtime routine. So, why had she ventured down here? What had driven her up this steep, winding ascent, all by herself?

Rezette had emphasized, more than once, that she should wait for him whenever she needed to climb these stairs. Why then had she chosen to defy his advice and ascend alone? What sights, sounds, or emotions had she encountered? Had she forgotten to securely close the door behind her and hurriedly scaled the steps as if pursued by some unseen presence?

Was that faint presence he’d barely discerned outside the castle truly her own? It was so tenuous, so elusive, that he could hardly be certain. Yet, he hadn’t expected her presence to be utterly undetectable at such a close proximity.

“No, it wasn’t always like this,” Rezette muttered to himself.

His senses exceeded those of an average person, and the inability to perceive her proximity defied all logic. Unless, he contemplated, she was deliberately concealing herself. 

Intriguingly, thoughts of Elise’s intricate array of magical circles surfaced in his mind.

His mental pathways branched, and a burgeoning suspicion pushed the boundaries of reason. The words of Genovia Irrien, which he had initially dismissed, resonated within his mind like a whispered incantation.

Perhaps there was more to those words than he had initially believed.

Rezette delved into a contemplation of the peculiar shifts in Elise’s behavior of late. It all commenced the day he stumbled upon a stack of parchment adorned with mystical runes secreted within his table’s drawer. Subsequently, every quill and inkwell in the uppermost floor vanished, spirited away by none other than Elise herself.

Even after a partial resurgence of her strength, Elise remained ensconced in her bedroom, steadfastly refusing to venture beyond its confines. And when her gaze was elsewhere, her loyal maid, Ivetsa, would approach Rezette on trembling knees.

Inquiries regarding any oddities were initially met with shaken heads and pallid expressions. Only upon persistent coaxing did Ivetsa manage to summon a narrative worth recounting.

“Your Majesty,” Ivetsa began hesitantly, “she’s been…obsessively scrutinizing herself in the mirror. Avoiding corsets, and gazing at her reflection. Then, she insisted on my absence… I offered my assistance, yet her call never came. That’s all. Your Majesty, Her Highness the Princess has engaged in nothing that might arouse suspicion.”

Post that fateful day, the substantial mirror adorning the bedroom wall vanished without a trace. Anything affording her a glimpse of her own reflection was either cast away or secreted, all at the behest of Rezette.

Mirrors, magical circles, and the ceaseless current of magic surrounding Elise’s waist. Traces that had been invisible to his eyes.

In that moment, the true essence of the Emperor of Argan’s inscriptions upon his sister became evident to Rezette. It was magic—an intricate form of magic. Elise, gazing at the arcane sigils lingering on her skin through the mirror, painstakingly transcribed them onto sheets of paper.

She reproduced these intricate patterns, so complex that Rezette found it hard to believe they were hand-drawn, and she filled not just one or two, but dozens of pages. Through the night, she toiled, practicing her newfound magic in his absence.

Rezette remained uncertain of the magic’s actual efficacy, and he refrained from seeking Elise’s opinion, for he knew she wouldn’t respond. He simply endured, though his patience waned.

Yet, he couldn’t help but wonder why he was growing restless. What was the source of this discomfort? Rezette contemplated this very question, delving into the depths of his own unease. Was it due to Elise’s clandestine activities, hidden from his sight? No, the cause was more specific…



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