1

“It’s been a while, Hikan. And our Miss Dalia also. I owe Miss Dalia this time too, truly beyond words. That has always been the case. I will make sure to repay this back in the way Miss Dalia wants, whenever you want.”

“Miss Dalia, I really wanted to see you again after that. Thank you so much for helping me.”

The Empress, who had fixed her appearance, smiled and opened her arms to Dalia. After a while, Dalia, who understood the meaning, turned red.

Really, really, can she do that? Towards the Empress?

However, realizing that she had already done so with the Emperor four years ago, Dalia quickly approached the Empress and shared an awkward hug.

The Empress smelled good. Dalia almost cried because she felt like she was hugged by her mother.

The Empress lightly patted her on the back.

“Yes, Miss Merida proposed for you to be a lady-in-waiting, but after thinking about it, Miss Dalia must be very busy. So just come and see me sometimes. I’m glad you’re also close to Miss Merida.”

It was difficult for Dalia to refuse the position of the lady-in-waiting, but she was happy that the Empress told her first.

While she was answering questions from the Empress, Hikan approached the Emperor separately and said.

“I have something to tell you, Your Majesty.”

“What is it?”

Hikan looked at Dalia for a moment.

The Emperor immediately understood the meaning of the gaze.

“Alright.”

The Emperor immediately asked the Empress and Dalia for their understanding and stood up. As soon as he left the drawing room, Hikan said.

“Your Majesty, Merida Artus has requested personal protection from the Imperial Family.”

“Ah, that’s what it was.”

“She heard the conversation between Duke Artus and the Holy Empire. This is the summary.”

Hikan presented the documents to the Emperor.

Merida began to fully cooperate with Cedric after he left.

He just asked her to get what he needed, but what exactly did he do that scared her so much.

The Emperor shook his head thinking of his son’s broken personality.

“Anyway, another missing link appears like this. How did she manage to eavesdrop on this?”

“Magic can be detected by divine power, so she used the traditional method.”

“Traditional?”

“She just listened. I don’t know either.”

The Emperor shook his head. However, there was a smile that could not be hidden on his lips.

“Okay, let’s see how the Holy Empire enticed Duke Artus.”

However, the Emperor’s smile disappeared without a trace as soon as he turned the page of the document.

“A drug that leads the transcendents to run wild?”

“…….”

Hikan closed his mouth. When he saw that document for the first time too, his shock was no less than that.

“It’s already been handed over to Duke Artus?”

“…….”

“Damn it, I can see why she asked for protection.”

The transcendents are the foundation of the Empire.

This is a matter that could lead to the entire Artus family being blown away for subversion if something goes wrong.

Merida also had to save her life right away.

At that moment, Duchess Mary Blueport’s incident flashed in the Emperor’s mind. She started to run wild all of a sudden without any warning.

‘……So that was Aceras’s doing.’

The Emperor sighed deeply.

“It’s a mountain beyond a mountain, and there’s a bigger mountain when the Empress gets better. Duke Artus will be dealt with as planned.”

Seeing Hikan nodded, the Emperor lowered his head and was lost in thought. Still, knowing all of his opponent’s cards made him feel relieved.

When he thought of Aceras’s actions before, there was one strange thing.

The reason why Aceras tries to approach the Empress and Duke Artus was to rescue his subordinate locked in the basement.

He had already found an empty point in the work log of the guard captain who guards the basement.

But the man who treated his men’s lives as if they were flies did all this to rescue only one person?

His hunch was telling him that there was a bigger secret behind it.

Now that he has heard of the drug that makes the transcendent run wild, the Emperor now has a hint of the secret.

‘That guy, Argel must be holding the key.’

However, Argel did not even say a word even after the interrogation that took more than half a year.

He doesn’t know if it’ll be easy to open his mouth now.

Then, Hikan opened his mouth.

“Your Majesty, Dalia has put forward a hypothesis.”

“Hm?”

“……It’s a pretty helpful idea. About Kelsion’s brainwashing.”

The Emperor’s eyes grew cold at the name.

He never intended to forgive the man who touched his wife. He will make sure to pay the price accordingly.

“Tell me.”

Hikan opened his mouth.

At the end of the conversation, the Emperor’s expression was more serious than anyone else’s.

“Call Miss Dalia right now.”

“…….”

“I have a good plan. Through him, I’m going to throw Aceras’ plan into the trash can.”

* * *

Dalia was right.

Kelsion was plunged into an endless hell as a result of the failed brainwashing.

He groaned as he rolled on the floor. Everything was too terrible.

As soon as the brainwashing was released, it backfired. The terrible aftermath did not go away for good and burned up like tar, entangled in each and every fold of his brain.

It was excruciatingly painful. It’s a pain he had never imagined. It was as if his soul was going through the process of burning and regenerating directly.

‘Isn’t this what I expected? From the time I tried to put someone in hell.’

Now that he has come to regret it, he despised himself.

It occurred to him that Aceras suffered from headaches after saving people’s lives every day.

How did he endure all that?

‘What, what should I do?’

“Kelsion.”

Aceras, who was looking outside from the window, approached him scratching the floor.

He touched Kelsion’s forehead, raising his head toward him.

For a very short time, the pain stopped.

“Your, Your Holiness……”

“Are you in a lot of pain?”

“I’m at my limit. This is hell for us.”

“Do you want to return to the Holy Land?”

“Yes. I want to go back.”

“You can’t go.”

Kelsion’s eyes widened.

Aceras looked down at him, still touching his forehead.

Sunlight was pouring down from behind him.

The divine being that Kelsion loves was there. The divine being said incredibly cruel things and still had empty, emotionless eyes.

“Because your brother is still here.”

“…….”

“We can’t leave until we save him.”

“Your, Your Holiness.”

“Say it.”

“Are you going to kill him?”

Aceras was silent. In that silence, Kelsion got the answer that he had been denying.

After a while, Aceras said.

“Sometimes death is freedom. Death is not something to be afraid of. We all go to God’s arms.”

“Can even those who did not die in the Holy Land go to God’s arms?”

“They can.”

“Then, Your, Your Holiness.”

Kelsion stammered and said.

“Are you going to let me die here, now that I am useless?”

Kelsion knew.

Now he can never use this power again. He can no longer be of help to the Holy Empire. Then will His Holiness abandon him?

Aceras’ expression was still the same as before.

Kelsion had no choice but to leave all his judgment to his imagination because he always could not read anything from his expression.

“We will return to the Holy Land, Kelsion. You will see this Empire burn there.”

But Kelsion had never once wished for a burning Frederic.

His only wish was to reach God. But now everything was just confusing.

‘His Holiness will forsake us.’

Kelsion was in despair.

Deep in the depths of despair, a question arose.

His Holiness loves us. That’s why he won’t let us die here.

It was the words he endlessly repeated to himself in the past.

But if His Holiness really loves them, why did he forsake them?

‘We have to go back.’

Someone said, in his head.

‘We must return to the Holy Land.’

It felt like the words Argel told him.

That night, Kelsion headed somewhere alone.