Chapter 135

“Ah, before that, I have something to give you.” Before he went inside the Duke’s mansion, Albus slowed his steps and stopped. Then, he took out something from his pocket.

“That is…”

“Take it. I bought it because I thought it would look good on you.”

It was a rare-looking ring; three red stones beautifully shone in a row, and Evelyn stared at it like she was bewitched.

“It’s pretty.”

“Can you try putting it on?”

“Yes.”

Evelyn put the ring on her finger, not on her ring finger since another ring that Albus had gotten for their engagement shone in that spot.

“As expected, it fits you well.” Albus swiped Evelyn’s hand and the ring simultaneously. “Shall we go? We can’t have the Duke waiting for us.”

“Yes.” Evelyn placed her hand on Albus’ arms with a smile on her face. The red ring on her finger glowed eerily.

*      *     * 

The party went along smoothly and there weren’t many guests. They didn’t have to spend much time on greetings, but every single guest ranked above a marquess, and they had to mind their manners more carefully than usual. Evelyn suffered from the heat surrounding the party; the smell of the perfume that floated whenever people passed them, and the fatigue she felt after participating in many parties for the past few days made her dizzy. 

“Are you all right?”

“Yes, I can manage.” Evelyn forced a smile so that Albus wouldn’t worry about her.

“Just endure for a bit longer. The Crown Prince will arrive soon. Let’s rest after we greet him.”

“Yes.”

Evelyn entrusted her body to Albus and slowly moved. The Duke’s most esteemed guest had finally arrived. One by one, people began to greet the Duke and his wife who appeared with the Crown Prince. As Evelyn stared at the Crown Prince, her dizziness grew stronger. 

‘I just have to endure it a bit longer.’

Evelyn didn’t need to do something amazing. She simply had to greet the Crown Prince and back off after making some well-wishing remarks. Albus would handle most of the small talk. Even if she remained quiet, if Albus explained that she was sick, even the Crown Prince wouldn’t say much.

Finally, it was time for them to face the Crown Prince, and the two walked in front of him. The Crown Prince welcomed them with a smile, and the two greeted him politely. Then, the Crown Prince said something, but Evelyn couldn’t understand what he was saying. Her dizziness worsened.

‘I don’t think I can endure it any longer.’

If she didn’t leave right now, she thought she would make a fool out of herself. To ask for the Crown Prince’s understanding and excuse herself, Evelyn stared at Albus. Albus looked at her as if he could read her thoughts. Yet unlike his usual self, she felt that his eyes looked very cold. Her consciousness grew dimmer. The noises in her surroundings rang, and she thought she heard a scream. She also felt a warm liquid splash onto her body, but before she could fully understand the situation, her consciousness completely faded away.

*     *     *

Like usual, Zich looked down at the city from the bell tower. The temple, which was located near luxurious mansions, was ideal for overlooking the aristocrats’ homes. Zich carefully eyed the carriage that Evelyn and Albus were riding and saw which residence it entered. Then, when he saw a carriage crested with the royal symbol appear right behind it, he got up.

‘Today could be the day.’

Zich thought Albus would carry out his scheme on the King’s birthday, but he also thought it wouldn’t be strange if today was D-day. Today was also a day when all the possible players such as Albus, Evelyn, and the Crown Prince were present. Zich looked at the mansion with greater concentration. Sure enough, there was a commotion going on.

Jump!

Someone jumped outside, and Zich knew who the person was right away.

‘Evelyn!’

Zich was suspicious whether or not the person was really Evelyn. From what he knew, Evelyn’s physical abilities were limited to an aristocratic lady her age. Yet, the way she jumped out of the mansion was like that of a trained knight. Zich jumped off the bell tower, ran on top of rooftops, and chased after her.

In an instant, she arrived at the outskirts of the city and jumped over the city’s walls. Zich followed her and also jumped over the wall. Even after she was out of the city, Evelyn didn’t stop. She soon went off the road and entered the forest.

‘This is the direction to…’ Zich could guess where Evelyn was heading to — the lake.

Even if the lake was right next to the capital, that was only true when considering the size of the entire kingdom. The actual distance between the two areas was considerable, shown by the time that Zich and Evelyn’s company took to arrive at the lake. As if she was trying to close this long distance at once, Evelyn continued to run.  

‘Her body is going to be ruined at this rate.’

Zich didn’t know what power gave Evelyn this superhuman strength, but she didn’t have the physique to maintain this pace. Evelyn, who had never trained in her lifetime, would suffer great aftereffects from this behavior. Zich and Evelyn ran for a long time, and as Zich expected, Evelyn arrived at the lake.

Thud!

She stood still at the lake, and Zich hid behind a nearby bush. Silence surrounded the lake, and both Zich and Evelyn didn’t move. 

‘It seems like she is bewitched by something.’

Zich was sure that something was wrong, and he decided to watch the situation for a bit longer.

*    *     *

“Huh?” Evelyn gathered her senses.

‘What happened...’

“Ack!”

She fell. Her head pounded as if it was going to crack open. Her legs burned while her arms felt like they were going to fall off. She couldn’t breathe well, and her organs felt like they were turned upside and down. In short, her whole body ached to the point that death seemed preferable.

“Ahhhhh!” She hugged her body and screamed. Tears streamed down her eyes, but nobody came running despite her desperate cries.

“P-Please someone…!” She turned her head around. Her eyes, blurred with tears, barely made out her surroundings. “This place is…!’

It was a familiar place. It was the secret place she frequently visited when she came up to the capital city.

‘Why I am here…’

Just a moment ago, she was at the Duke’s party with her fiancé, Albus.

‘And…’

Then her fuzzy memories slowly became clearer. While she was greeting the Crown Prince, her dizziness became so intense that she had to excuse herself. At that moment, her consciousness became blurry, and her body moved against her will. There was suddenly a knife in her hands, and her body moved quickly and sharply to stab the Crown Prince.

“Ah…!” Evelyn despaired at the memory. It was even more despairing for her because it was not the Crown Prince who got stabbed. It was Albus who had jumped in front of the Crown Prince to save him.

“Ahhhhhh…!” For a moment, the pain in her body disappeared. It was difficult for her to stay conscious from the shocking events that came up in her memory.

“W-why did I…!” She couldn’t understand what happened at all. However, there was one thing she was sure of—she had committed a deed that could never be undone. The weight of the horrifying event beyond her control pressed down on her mind and body like an enormous burden. 

Step!

A stranger came towards her, and Evelyn raised her head. A robed figure stood right in front of her. Evelyn was afraid that a stranger had suddenly appeared in front of her, but the robed figure reached out with their hand as if to calm her down.

“Are you okay?” It was a woman’s voice. The robed figure uncovered her robe. She was a woman who looked to be in her mid-thirties.

“W-who...”

“I’m a traveler. I frequently visit this place because I like visiting the lake, but I found you collapsed here. Your body seems to be unwell. Are you able to stand up?”

Evelyn shook her head. Her body hurt so much that she couldn’t move at all.

“I guess it can’t be helped. Get on my back.”

“What?”

“You should get on my back. Since we are near the capital, there aren’t any dangerous monsters, but there are still wild animals and weak monsters. This is not a safe place for people who are injured.”

When the woman walked towards her, Evelyn flinched. The woman smiled kindly.

“It’s okay. I don’t know what type of situation you went through, but don’t worry. I’m on your side.”

A kind stranger suddenly appeared in front of her. In a way, this was very suspicious, but Evelyn had gone through such a shocking experience that a passing stranger’s kindness was enough to make her heart melt. Tears ran down her face in gratitude, and Evelyn was about to nod her head...

If not for another voice that came out from behind her.

“Wow, this is such a touching scene. You must have really planned out this scenario.”

Both Evelyn and the woman were surprised. Evelyn turned around, and the woman jumped back a great distance. There was no trace of the kind smile on the woman’s face, and she glared at the person in front of her with sharp eyes.

“…Mr. Zich?”

“Yes, I’m Zich. Lady Rouge, judging by your situation, it seems like this is not the right time for me to ask if you’ve been well.”

“H-how did you come he—”

“I followed you here.”

“What?” Evelyn’s face turned completely white. Zich had followed her. She interpreted this as Zich’s way of telling her that he followed her to interrogate her about her crimes. If Evelyn thought about Zich’s status and his position in this situation even a little, this interpretation didn’t make sense at all. However, Evelyn was unable to think rationally in her present condition.

“I-It’s not true!” Evelyn shouted out loud. “I…I didn’t do it! I also don’t know what happened. I-I would never stab the Crown Prince! And I never expected that Albus would be stabbed instea—!”

The sensation of stabbing her fiancée made Evelyn close her mouth. Tears began to form in her eyes again.

“…Is that what happened?” Zich nodded as he grasped what had occurred inside the Duke’s mansion. “Lady Rouge, don’t worry. I know that you are innocent. You have committed no wrongs, and you’ve just been swept by a conspiracy.”

“C-conspiracy?” Evelyn was shocked.

“Yes, a conspiracy. An extremely foul and vile conspiracy.” Zich pointed his finger at the woman. “By people like them.”

Shocked, Evelyn turned around and stared at the woman.

“…I have no idea what you are talking about.” The robed woman pretended to be innocent. She still had her guard up, but there was none of her previous intensity.

“I just happened to pass by this lady and wanted to help her. A conspiracy…what nonsense—!”

Zich cut her words off. “You first took off your robe on your own will. No wonder there seem to be many different types of people in your group. I guess it’s not strange for there to be people like you who actively try to engage with their target.”

The woman raised her eyebrows. “Do you know this rude person?”

“A b-bit.” Evelyn’s eyes scurried around. Her mind and body were in pain, and it was difficult to grasp what was happening.

“Since he suddenly appeared out of nowhere and began accusing me, maybe he is the one who plotted that conspiracy thing he knows so much about.”

“Yeah, you guys are the best at shifting the blame in these types of situations. Honestly, I don’t have any evidence to support my innocence to Lady Rouge right now.”

“Then are you really…”

“But I can make it so that you reveal your true nature,” Zich smirked. “I know that there is a large organization trying to corrupt people from all over the world to make Demon People by people like you.”

“…!”

“I hampered your group’s plans quite a few times, and I plan to keep on doing that in the future.”

“…!”

“Should I continue? Hmmm, where should I start? Your organization possesses an enormous amount of rare explosive artifacts, and your leaders have the ability to change into weird monsters.” Zich raised his chin confidently.

“How about it? Don’t you think you should ignore ‘Succubus’ for now and focus all your efforts on recruiting a talent like me?”

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