She couldn't make out any particular voice, but the wind blew her way from the depths of the cave.
It called to her.
It was like a child, lost as it called out to its mother.
It was like the sad call of a lover who had just lost their beloved.
Rose slowly stepped deeper into the cave, a place starved of light where darkness made it difficult to distinguish any features.
However, her steps moved forward without a hint of stopping from the lack of visibility, all while never bumping into anything.
She walked on, and when her legs finally showed signs of hurting, she saw a faint light in the distance.
Rose deliberately approached the light.
To be precise, her legs ignored the pain and determinedly marched.
Because of that, her tired body was on the brink of exhaustion.
She arrived at the end of the cave, a dead end where there rested a discarded sword.
“Why is a sword in a place like this?”
The young lady cautiously drew closer.
From afar, it looked like an ordinary sword, but the closer she got, the easier she could identify the crudely carved phrase under the blade.
[Pierce the heart of an evil being with a holy sword.
Imprison the suffering body in the mirror as it sheds blood that is neither red nor blue.
Seal the soul, the source of destruction, in the vessel.
Unless the holy sword breaks the vessel, the destroyer will never appear again.]
The moment she said that word, Rose felt a burning pain all over her body again.
Her body, clasped tightly in her arms as she battled against the pain, staggered forward.
The sword touched the hand that wandered in the air looking for support to remain steady.
Rose gripped the sword as hard as she could.
A different kind of pain engulfed her.
Elliot ran through the cave, and found a faint light in the distance.
He had finally found the end of the cave and what he had been longing for.
His pace sped up.
Arriving at the end of the dimly lit cave, Elliot found Rose standing tall in front of a sword.
Rose had her back turned and her head bowed.
She did not budge.
Elliot, who was moving towards her, hesitated.
The atmosphere is different.
Rose feels like death, despair, pain, resentment, and fear.
That doesn't match her at all.
Elliot lowered his eyes slightly and looked at Rose's feet.
There's something written on the floor, and what is this atmosphere.
Elliot smiled and took one step towards Rose.
“Rose, we have to go back.
It's dangerous here.”
Five steps away.
The distance between Elliot and Rose grew closer and closer, and the moment he put his hand on her shoulder, Rose quickly spun on her heel and tried to kill him.
Calling out Rose's name in a low tone, Elliot looked at the spot where he had just been standing.
As if something sharp had passed through, the stone floor was dug with a long and hollow slash.
If Elliot hadn't thrown himself, his body would have been cut in half in an instant.
Duke Proud straightened his posture without taking his eyes off Rose, who slowly turned to him.
Facing her empty eyes, Elliot felt like a pirate who had found the treasure he had been looking for for many years.
Rose's lips slowly parted.
“You foolish people.
Did you think you could imprison me forever?”
Her voice rang out grotesquely.
Elliot's eyebrows narrowed at the sound of a voice that seemed to gnaw at his nerves.
While he took a second glance at the voice, a sharp wind blew in again.
Elliot dodged again with a nimble movement.
He raised his hand to distract Rose before what was inside her went on a rampage.
“Wait a moment.”
Rose paused and looked at Elliot like he was a strange creature.
Elliotl walked toward her.
“Make a contract with me.”
“I will bring back the body you lost.”
“If you do, what do you want in return?”
“Things that should've belonged to the Proud family.
To destroy Tristan and resurrect as Proud.”
Rose was speechless.
Instead, she leaned back and let out a bizarre laugh.
It felt like she wasn't human.
Rose, who had been laughing bizarrely for a while, suddenly stopped abruptly.
Do you know how to destroy this continent as you wish? Your neck—!”
A different, dangerous energy flowed from Rose's body.
Elliot jumped at Rose without hesitation and slammed her neck with his wrist.
I don't know about the soul that dwells in her body, but Rose's body is weaker than the average woman's.
Meaning, she fainted easily with Elliot's light tap.
Je lightly supported Rose's body as she fell forward.
“I'll go find you again.”
He gently brushed her tousled blonde hair and hugged her close.
Elliot left behind the old sword stuck in the floor and retreated with Rose in his arms.
Soon after, he spotted the light Russell was holding in the distance.
The distance between the two grew smaller in an instant.
“Where did you find Rose?”
Elliot took a moment to pause and answered a little late.
“She was knocked out not far from here.
It seems she is breathing properly, just sleeping.”
Why? Is it a place that Your Majesty knows?”
Elliot replied incredulously.
Duke Proud wondered if Russell's response would give him a hint.
I don't know if Russell knew Rose's identity.
I'm curious about his reaction.
But Russell said nothing more and turned around to light the way.
“Could there be a beast at the entrance of the cave?”
Elliot quietly stepped forward and asked.
“I am unsure.
Those who are looking for traces may be camped at the entrance.”
“If Your Majesty is holding Rose, I will get rid of it.”
“No, that's alright.
Move carefully or Rose might wake up.”
Russell resolutely left her in his arms.
Elliot remembered Russell's title for Rose.
The way Russell called Rose's name so naturally has been bothering me.
He let out a sneer.
…It seems like they've gotten closer during the time Rose spent in the Imperial Palace under the pretext of serving Lady Alison.
Elliot looked at Russell's back with his eyes narrowed.
From the sight of Russell's back, he remembered the time the two danced.
The two danced in the Imperial Garden during the year-end banquet.
He then recalled when Rose found Russell during their walk through the forest a while ago and ran to him.
She can't easily get along with people, yet she followed His Majesty after just a short period of time.
Well, he has always been someone who has the ability to guide people well.
Even if Russell wasn't in the position of emperor, he had an air to him that drew and commanded people.
When I first saw him, I wanted to follow him blindly, and I had feelings of longing and admiration.
Because of that power, Elliot also served him as his master.
Perhaps, if Elliot hadn't found out the secret the Honeywell family was hiding until the end, he might have been loyal to Tristan until the day he died.
However, when he found out the identity of the monster that would destroy this world, he had no intention of quietly serving as a duke.
His family deserved to have this vast empire, and now he would find a way to repay the bitterness of having to hand it over to Tristan.
Elliot followed Russell, barely holding back a laugh .
Contrary to the expectation that wild beasts would be camped out at the entrance of the cave, it was Wells and the Imperial Knights who greeted them.
“Your Majesty! Rose!”
Three people walked out of the cave.
But Duke Honeywell only focused on the two of them.
Wells came running in a hurry.
He quickly checked Russell's condition with his own eyes and went straight to her in Elliot's arms.
What the heck is this? How come in such a deep place you're—“
“She's asleep now, but since it rained a lot, it would be good to see a doctor for an examination.”
“I've brought a carriage.
Let's get Rose inside.”
Two carriages were waiting where Wells pointed.
When Rose was laid down in the carriage seat, Wells and she climbed in together and urged the coachman to descend the mountain.
After confirming that the carriage carrying Rose was pulling away, Russell put his hand on his waist while applying acupressure around his eyes in exhaustion.
Worst hunting festival ever.
I need to get down the mountain quickly and end this event.
The Duke must have been tired too, so let's get into the carriage together.
Leave the collection of game to the knights.”
Elliot gave instructions to the knights around him to collect the game and then climbed into the carriage as he followed Russell without another word.
I didn't notice how tired I was until I climbed into the carriage and sat down.
Elliot touched the bottle in his pocket as he watched Russell, who leaned his tired body against the backrest and leaned back to rest.
He called out to the emperor.
“Please look at this.”
Raising his head, Russell picked up what Elliot held out in his palm.
It was a bottle the size of a finger.
The product was common, but the name attached to it was familiar to Russell.
“Isn't this a pheromone drug used for hunting? There's no way the Duke would have used it.
It must have been purchased by someone to win a hunting match.”
I also picked it up, so I don't know who the owner is.”
“Hmm, but why is it here? What else do you know?”
Elliot took the bottle back from Russell.
“It was scattered on the ground.”
“It's not for spraying on the ground.
It's used on personal belongings.
Telling me this…
You mean, someone might have used this for a different purpose?”
Rose was right there, in the contaminated area.”
Russell's expression turned cold in an instant.
“Explain in detail what the Duke saw.”
“I didn't even see it from the beginning.
This was before Rose was almost killed by a beast set free by the Imperial Family.
The place she was at had been sprayed with more than the recommended amount.”
“It can be said that Rose accidentally stepped into the place where the pheromone was at and became the target of the beast, but…
It is a question of why she was in that position because she does not hunt.”
“Someone lured Rose there.”
“I think so too.
After reporting the situation to the Duke of Honeywell, I think we should ask when Rose wakes up.”
“Then we shouldn't dismiss the people just yet.”
Russell crossed his legs and laid his arms over his chest.
He tapped his forearm with his fingers and spoke in a dry voice.
“When participating in the hunting festival, everyone must have inspected their belongings, so compare them and find them.
If the culprit deliberately harmed Rose, put him in jail.”
The carriage rattled down the mountain road to a halt.
The knight opened the carriage door, and Elliot got off the carriage first, followed by Russell.
With the sudden heavy rain and the disappearing emperor, everyone who participated in the hunting festival greeted Russell with worries.
They sighed in relief when their emperor returned safely.
Russell looked around at the people gathered in front of the carriage and opened his mouth.
“Due to an accident, the hunting festival will end with this.
I will finish early, but I will tell the votes to be calculated and announced in the original way for the winner.”
After a pause, everyone's focus sharpened on Russell.
Russell looked at the people with sharp eyes.
“And since another unsavory thing has happened, please stay here until the investigation is over.”
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