Chapter 136

“You…”

“Calm down, your expression changed. Lady Rouge may be able to identify  you by your scary glare.”

Zich was certain that all kinds of thoughts were passing through the woman’s head right now, but Zich thought she was pathetic for thinking so deeply…since the result was obvious.

“What are you pondering about? The thing you guys hate the most is here: an unknown variable. Even if you have to give up on one Demon Person, you have to capture me.”

Zich’s words were the decisive factor.

Flick!

The woman flicked her fingers.

Whoosh! Whoosh!

People began to emerge out of the forest. There were eight of them in total, all wearing dark black robes—they looked like moving shadows.

Zich jeered at them, “Did you say that you were on a trip? Ah, are they your companions? But don’t they look too dreary to be travel companions? I hope you don’t take my words badly, but you should really choose the company you keep more wisely. It’s going to be stressful if you try to stay close with all kinds of people—”

“Catch him!” The leader of the robed figures cut off Zich’s words and commanded her underlings. 

It seemed as if she had decided to stop acting. Her past benevolent expression and tone were all gone, leaving only a chilly face and a voice as cold as frost. Matching the change in her tone, Zich raised his sword. It was a small dagger that didn’t hinder his movements. However, the dagger lengthened and spread out several branch-like blades like a blooming bud. The robed figures from the forest enclosed more tightly around Zich.

The leader ordered Zich, “Follow us quietly.” 

Zich smirked. He didn’t mean to ridicule them—the leader’s words were so absurd that Zich couldn’t help but laugh. Then, he lifted Windur high up in the air and declared, “I don’t want to.”

The leader pulled out her sword, and the other robed figures simultaneously rushed towards Zich.

“Kyaaaaah!” Evelyn hid her head in her arms and screamed at the battle that suddenly erupted all around her. 

Zich skillfully evaded the leader’s sword attack. Then, he moved a couple of more steps. His movements were like works of art as he evaded flying swords and broke through the openings.

Thud!

Zich halted his steps in front of Evelyn.

“Lyla!” Zich yelled. He felt powerful mana burst out from inside the forest, and the robed figures looked around in surprise.

Craaaash!

Pillars of fire swept the entire battlefield. It burned the ground, swallowed Zich, Evelyn, and the robed figures, and struck the lake.

Bam!

The areas of the lake where the pillars struck boiled, and thick clouds of steam rose all around them. The state of the battlefield displayed the fire pillars’ incredible force.

“Urgh!”

“Ah! Agh!”

Two of the robed figures inflicted with severe burn marks rolled on the ground and shrieked in pain. It didn’t look like they would live for long, and they weren’t the only ones with injuries. Three burnt corpses rolled on the blackened lakeshore with smoke rising from them. Fortunately, Evelyn wasn’t terribly injured thanks to Zich’s protection as he had blocked the pillars of fire that came their way.

‘She is so rough and violent,’ Zich grumbled to himself as he swung his sword to ensure that the radiating heat around them wouldn’t harm Evelyn.

“W-What is this…?” The leader couldn’t gather her words after barely surviving.

Only three of her subordinates were fine. With just a single attack, almost half their group was now gone.

Zich laughed at her. “You are not the only one who brought companions.”

Lyla, Hans, and Snoc came out of the forest. When Zich was monitoring the luxurious mansions from the bell tower, Hans and Snoc were also surveying important areas. Everyone was in places where they could observe each other, and their senses were heightened to notice each other’s movements right away. Thus, when Zich began to chase after Evelyn, Hans and Snoc immediately responded. They took Lyla who was also waiting nearby and followed Zich.

If Zich had moved as fast as he could, they would have lost sight of him. Fortunately, Evelyn ran at a speed that they all could comfortably manage. Moreover, Zich left tracks to make it easier for them to follow; and although Hans and Snoc had to carry Lyla, they took turns carrying her and avoided straining themselves. In some ways, it was actually easier to have Lyla with them, because she could use transportation magic from time to time. Then, they read Zich’s last track, which contained the hidden message that told them to stand nearby; and when Zich finally signaled to them, they joined the battlefield.

Zich glanced at the remaining opponents and turned to Hans and Snoc. “Hans! Snoc!”

“Yes, sir!”

“Yes, sir!”

“Finish them.” Zich pointed at his opponents with Windur and turned his back. 

He hung Windur on his back and lifted Evelyn up. Then, he took shelter at a place with no traces of fire. At his defenseless appearance, the robed figures tried to attack Zich. However, the ground suddenly shot up and put a distance between Zich and them.

The robed figures turned around and saw Hans and Snoc slowly approaching them.

Hans said to Snoc, “One of us can handle the leader, and the other person can handle the rest.”

“I understand.”

“Should I be in charge of the leader?”

“Senior, I will try fighting the leader. It seems like she is about the same level as the person I fought in Ospurin. During that time, I was able to beat him because the environment was very favorable for me. Thus, Sir Zich didn’t recognize that as my win, but I will try to fight on equal terms this time. I’ve also improved a lot since then.”

“Okay, do what you want.” Hans took out his sword. Estellade’s shining light sparkled and refracted across the lake.

“Don’t get too nervous. If it becomes too dangerous, I’ll help.”

“Yes!”

The two entered a full-fledged battle with the robed figures. On the contrary, Lyla didn’t even glance once towards the robed figures and ran towards Zich—or more accurately, Evelyn’s side. From a short distance away from the battlefield, Zich laid Evelyn down on the ground and fed her a potion.

While holding onto Evelyn’s hand, Lyla urgently asked Zich, “What happened?” 

“Her body is damaged. It’s only natural this happened since she moved like that with an untrained body.”

“…” Lyla looked down at Evelyn. There was no trace of her elegant and well-kept appearance. Her beautiful party dress was ripped and dirtied everywhere. There was some kind of unknown blood dried up on her arms, and her face was deathly pale. 

“…Lyla?” Evelyn softly called Lyla’s name.

“Yeah! Yes! I’m right here!” Lyla grabbed Evelyn’s hands and clutched them tightly.

“I…don’t…understand at all…what happened…today.”

“That’s all right! No matter what happened, it’s not your fault at all. So just focus on resting for now. We will try to help you as much as we can.”

Evelyn stared at Lyla for a moment and then slowly closed her eyes. In this chaotic situation, Evelyn had decided to trust Lyla. Moreover, there wasn’t really any other choice but to trust her in this situation.

“Then…I’ll sleep…for a bit.”

The pain in her body disappeared as the potion began working, but simultaneously, an extreme sense of fatigue overcame her body and she fell asleep while losing consciousness.

*     *    *

Zich looked down from the bell tower. He had visited this place so often in the past few days that it was now basically his residence. As he usually did when he was on the bell tower, he watched the Rouge mansion. 

However, the atmosphere in the mansion was different from before. The guards that were protecting the Marquess had now disappeared, and elite guards of the royal family were surrounding the mansion.

‘Instead of protecting them, they must have been stationed there to imprison and watch over all the people in the Rouge family.’

Zich jumped off from the bell tower and strolled into the capital city. Even though an assassination attempt against the Crown Prince had occurred recently, the capital city was still bustling with activity. There were no signs that the King’s birthday celebration would be pushed out at all.

‘They plan to cover it up for now.’

The attempted assassination of the Crown Prince was certainly a matter that would turn a country upside down. However, depending on the situation, the country’s official response could vary. 

‘First of all, the Crown Prince didn’t receive any injuries, and the only witnesses are high-ranking nobles. Moreover, since the King’s 50th birthday is coming up soon, a lot of foreign ambassadors must have arrived; if the festival stops because of an attempted assassination of the Crown Prince, it would be completely humiliating for the royal family and the Kingdom’s reputation.’

Of course, the Kingdom probably wouldn’t be able to stop rumors from spreading, and they probably would lose some prestige. On the other hand, if they successfully executed a large festival like this, they could send a message to neighboring countries that the conflict had not been very serious.

‘Or they could claim that the conflict had been quickly resolved.’

Either way, the royal family could gain back some of the prestige they lost. After assessing the capital’s atmosphere, Zich moved out of the capital city. He walked on the road and then he moved sideways into the mountains. After walking through the dense mountain, a log cabin appeared into view. It looked like a house that hunters used as a resting place. 

“Have you arrived? Greetings, sir.” Hans and Snoc stood watch outside, and they sent their greetings to Zich. 

Zich accepted their greetings with a nod and went inside the house. The inside of the house was shabby and empty. Housekeeping was nonexistent here. The only things inside the house were a dirty bed, a table, and a few chairs. Evelyn was lying on the bed, and Lyla was sitting next to her and taking care of her. 

Zich asked, “How is her condition?”

Lyla replied, “She’s gotten a lot better.”

Zich pulled out a chair and sat next to the bed. Then he told Lyla about what he saw at the Rouge mansion and the current situation in the capital.

“What about the Crown Prince and Albus Windpool?”

“I don’t know. That kind of information was not out in the open, but the Windpool mansion seems to be bustling with activity. It has a totally different atmosphere compared to the Rouge mansion.”

“As expected.”

At that moment, Evelyn groaned.

Zich said, “It seems like she is going to wake up soon.”

“Yeah, it seems so.”

Evelyn’s eyelids fluttered and slowly opened.

Lyla asked, “Are you fully awake?”

“This is…”

“This is a safe place.” After Lyla said this to Evelyn, Zich got up from his seat.

“Let’s first eat something and then talk.”

What Evelyn needed the most was sufficient rest and food. Zich went out of the house to give work to his two servants outside. It was also Zich’s way of showing consideration so that Evelyn and Lyla could spend time together.

*   *   *

After gaining sufficient rest and food, Evelyn looked much better. Of course, she suffered a bit since she had to eat normal food instead of the luxurious meals she was used to. It tasted foreign to her, but Evelyn forced the food down her throat without complaining. 

After Evelyn’s condition became stable, Zich explained to her what he knew about the current situation. As he continued, her face grew paler and paler. The conspiracy surrounding her was horrifying, but most of all, it was shocking that Albus, whom she trusted so much, was the main instigator of the conspiracy against her.

“I can’t believe it!”

Evelyn didn’t believe in Zich’s words—no, it was more accurate to say that she was unable to believe his words. She trembled, clutched her head, and murmured that she couldn’t believe it.

“I think we should give her a bit more time to process it.” Zich stood up and glanced at Lyla. The two of them left the room.

“As expected, she doesn’t believe it.” Since he had expected this result, he was not surprised. 

Lyla kept glancing back at the door. “Is it okay to leave her by herself?”

Considering all the events that had recently happened to her, it wouldn’t be strange for Evelyn to make a very rash decision and hurt herself. 

“I can sense her presence clearly right now, so don’t worry. As soon as I sense anything weird, I will immediately intervene.”

“Yeah, that’s good. What are we going to do from now on? We can’t just leave her like this, right?”

“Of course. First, we have to make Evelyn accept this situation. I’ve already made a plan for it. I’m going to make her believe that Albus Windpool is the traitor, and at the same time…”

Zich smiled. It was the malicious smile that appeared on his face whenever he thought about torturing someone.

“I’m going to lightly torture Albus Windpool.”

Previous Chapter Next Chapter