Things went like Annelotte had predicted. To give Geoffrey's death a sensible explanation, the empire released a notice and blamed Leguna, who already had a bad reputation, for the crimes of treason, the initiation of the Tide of Death, regicide, the murder of Geoffrey and tried to cast him as the root of all evils.
The moment that notice went out, all of Melindor broke into a commotion. The citizens didn't think that the one that tried to endanger the whole continent wouldn't be a Stokian, but a Hockian instead, the head of their own bureau of military intelligence no less! The various publications in Melindor exposed all sorts of so-called crimes of Leguna and public opinion of him went further south. If being spit on could drown people, Leguna would have drowned a hundred times over.
Fortunately, Alissanda had finally caught the perpetrator and announced his execution in two days. The biggest sinner of all humans would finally meet his judgment.
Two days was a rather short time for Annelotte and the rest. Once they knew the time he would be executed, they worked on the formation without catching any sleep. As long as they could break the seal off him, he would be fully capable of escaping. As for his reputation and the schemes, they could no longer bother with it. All they cared about was survival.
"So, you're going there today? The formation isn't cracked yet, right?" Angelista asked with a yawn.
"Yes. I have to be there half a day in advance to inspect the surrounding environment of the execution grounds. As for the formation, we can continue cracking it after arriving in Melindor." Coincidentally, the empire chose Melindor Plaza to be where Leguna would be executed. Tens of thousands of people could fit there and witness the death sentence of the greatest sinner of Chino.
"Alright. Since that's the case, I'll come along," she said with a shrug. Since the empire wasn't aware that she had helped Annelotte, she could return to Melindor without a problem. However, she added, "Don't expect me to help you with breaking him out. I still want to remain in human society for much longer, so I can't join the fight like you can."
Annelotte shot her a glance. "Suit yourself. Innie, Eirinn, stay here and wait for us to return."
Eirinn stopped her before she could finish. "Let us go back too. We will follow Lady Angelista and won't cause trouble. Promise. Innie, you too, right?"
"Huh? Yeah!" She nodded fervently.
Annelotte looked at the two of them, but she still didn't seem too keen about it.
Eirinn added, "Sis Annie, please trust me. I have a reason for going back. Even though it's only as a precaution, I must be there."
Annelotte pondered in silent. Eirinn had always been a rather obedient and mature person. Since she was insistent, she definitely had a reason for it. As for what, Annelotte didn't ask. If she wanted to tell her about it, she would've. There was no need to pry.
"Alright. Remember what you promised. No matter what, you are not to show yourselves in public. Angelista, I'll be leaving those two to you, alright?"
"Them again?" She seemed a little unhappy to be laden with two burdens, but she nodded. "Alright. If they won't listen, I'll force them to."
"Alright. We'll put on a magic glamor and go back to Melindor to save Leguna!"
Whack! A rotten egg struck Leguna's head and its icy-cold, sticky contents woke him up. He opened his eyes and looked around, only to find that he had been tied around a cross. People filled both sides of the streets. It was obvious they were there to watch him till his death.
This time, it was a piece of cabbage.
"My husband fought the founding war and my son joined the southern war! But they didn't end up dying in Stokian hands but from your Tide of Death! You devil! You should be pierced with a thousand blades! You're destined for hell!" cried a middle-aged woman with a basket filled with rotten eggs, cabbages, and sprouting potatoes. She had prepared long to humiliate him.
"Hah! They deserved to die! You fools! All those warriors that fought for the empire were fools too, just like me! We're so stupid we don't deserve to live!" Leguna glared at her and snapped.
"I want to feast on your flesh!"
Curses rang out nonstop, but he didn't react to them. His heart had completely frozen. So what if they cursed him? Their relatives were dead and he had no way of bringing them back. Not to mention, he wasn't responsible for their deaths anyway.
Is this the gift you left me, Nidhogg? Leguna thought.
[That's right. Isn't the world a truly dark place? Do you like it?]
His heart skipped a beat when he heard that. It was Nidhogg's voice!
[Nidhogg! You're not dead?!] he roared in his mind. How was he still alive? Did the assassination really happen? What was he planning?!
[Die? Since when have I ever lived?] Nidhogg chuckled. [Do you know what I did at the very end of that night? Do you know why Alissanda wants to kill you no matter what?]
[What?] Leguna spat at a middle-aged man who threw stones at him nonstop.
[I only did two things. You already know the first. I squeezed myself dry of the last of my magic for a spell to kill Larwin, who was still far away in Melindor. The second thing was simple. I sent Alissanda and Geoffrey both a message. The final formation for the Tide of Death is on you. Only by killing you will they be able to completely dissolve the danger to the empire. Otherwise, the Tide of Death might just come back.]
Seeing Leguna keep silent, he continued, [Isn't it interesting? Only by killing one person and sending one message can I throw the peaceful continent back into chaos. The human heart truly is an interesting thing.]
Alissanda actually chose to believe that… Leguna thought to himself.
As if Nidhogg guessed his thoughts, he said, [It's got nothing to do with belief. It's the safest choice after he calculated the risks and potential outcomes. Naturally, he could easily have decided it was merely a lie. Even I didn't think Alissanda would buy it. I only wanted to sow a seed in his heart.]
[A seed of doubt! Of fear! Even if he knows the message is most likely to be false, it isn't absolutely certain. Even if he was certain, he wouldn't feel assured. He's the one who will be risking the lives of the entire continent! That's why, even if there's the slightest sliver of possibility the message might be true, he must make sure it doesn't come to pass! That's why he wants your head no matter what.]
[At the end of the day, it's merely your closing act, then,] Leguna forded a reply.
[A closing act? No. I only wanted to show you the true face of Hocke. You had lots of bias against me back then, but now, I trust that you'll believe what I have to say.] His voice turned even deeper. [Now, let me show you the truth of the founding war and what the empire of Hocke really is!]Previous Chapter Next Chapter