thanks so much to Adre for the ko-fi (๑˃̵ᴗ˂̵)! (1/3)
“I heard there was a Little Thorn found in the salad bowl? I’ve never heard of anything like this before! Oh my God!”
When I returned to the bedroom, having lost my appetite, Catherine seemingly rushed in after hearing what happened.
Catherine, with her blonde hair, blue eyes, and cold demeanor, looked every bit of a typical person from the North. She was not to be trifled with.
However, I was relieved to see Catherine’s concern for me, even if it didn’t match her cold appearance.
“Are you okay?”
“I didn’t get bitten, so don’t worry.”
I responded calmly, but my hands were shaking.
Here, letting my guard down was synonymous as volunteering to be thrown in the face of death.
The people of the Grand Duchy said things like this were no big deal, but the situation was different for me, someone that didn’t have a seal.
“Do you mind showing me your dagger? I was wondering what Catherine’s looks like.”
“Ah, yes. Only the head maid and the floor managers have different ones, everyone else’s daggers look the same.”
I couldn’t help but to smile bitterly as I saw Catherine holding out her dagger.
I asked out of curiosity, as the sight of the elegant Helena being so skillful with her dagger left an impression on me, but it seemed that swordsmanship was a basic skill here.
This young and cute maid also casually took out her dagger. I didn’t even know where she would have pulled it out from.
However, I had no seal and no offensive power.
‘At this point… to the demons, I’m probably a boiled egg with its shell already peeled off.’
I choked up suddenly.
At this moment, I became very desperate for the man destined to kill me.
The greatest magical swordsman in the empire. Adrian van Presse.
I shouldn’t be wanting him, but the reasons for me to keep on increasing.
I felt sad. It felt like I was being pushed towards a certain ending.
“I don’t want to die.”
“Of course, Her Highness the Grand Duchess!”
Without giving me any time to be embarrassed by the sincerity I’d just unconsciously let out, Catherine shouted in response, startling me to the point I jumped.
“Do not worry. I will protect you.”
I pursed my lips as I looked at the cute young maid, who still looked fluffy, holding onto her dagger with twinkling eyes.
[TL/N: fluffy like still innocent, like how baby animals tend to be fluffier than their adult counterpart]
“Although the number of demons has increased recently, the Grand Duke’s residence is very safe.”
Ah, this person lacks safety awareness.
My smiling face slightly stiffened at her reassuring appearance.
Greeting Adrian once he arrived at the nest was a brilliant, splendid magic.
In contrast to the Black Forest, dozens of layers of sacred light were densely embroidering the sky.
The Black Forest, the sunset, and the softly glowing runes.
It was a dizzying sight, enough to make anyone rub their eyes in disbelief and look at it again.
However, Adrian’s mouth twitched and he sighed at the sight.
“What is this crude thing?”
At his words, Seton, the mage who’d been infusing magic into the barrier, became enraged.
“How many times have you reused this spell and overdone this…?”
“It’s not overdoing… it’s just on a larger scale.”
Instead of speaking, Seton pressed down and swallowed hard.
Adrian, who was looking at the scene, slightly furrowed a brow.
His exhaled breath was fishy, suspicious.
He was a master of using and straining his magic beyond his limits.
“Every time I see this scene, I realize, ‘Ah, this is what foolishness looks like.’”
Adrian proceeded to ignore Seton, who was now yelling in response, and raised his hand to point at the magical barrier surrounding the forest.
“Even if it doesn’t stop here, it will stop at the entrance of the forest. Isn’t it foolish to try to maintain the barrier by squeezing out every last bit of magical energy that you don’t have?”
“You’re asking me to trust Your Highness, who never comes when you are called, to be our last line of defense? When that falls, whose life will you be paying with?”
At Seton’s sharp words, Oregon, who’d been watching, quickly intervened.
One was a mage who surpassed the strengths and skills of ordinary humans and completed the 8th circle, while the other was an almost inhuman figure who inherited the power of a dragon, often referred to as the “blessed one”.
If the two were to fight, the term “war” would be too little and insignificant to describe it.
The Grand Duke was not someone that could possibly be stopped, and so Orgen earnestly called out to Seton.
At least Seton was a “person” who knew sympathy and acceptance.
Seton irritably responded to the voice calling him again and again.
Red hair and tense widened eyes.
A person with fresh looks who appeared to be somewhere between a boy and a young man.
No one knew the man’s age, birth, or anything. All anyone knew was his name.
Even before the reigns of the first and second grand dukes, he had been the lord of the northern tower.
And he cherished his territory immensely.
That was precisely the point Orgen hung onto.
“I’ll give you another layer if you’re afraid that the barrier will collapse.”
Orgen, who’d been comforting Seton and trying to appeal to him, turned pale, as though Adrian’s words had bleached his face.
“Your Highness! Please!”
With a shout of frustration, Orgen strode toward Seton, who stood stiffly with his mouth agape.
“Lord Seton, please don’t listen to him.”
Seton’s hands were a mess. He had to desperately draw dozens of layers of magic to confine the rampaging demon in its nest in the days-long absence of the lord of the north.
“You know this, right? That His Highness’ words must be taken with a grain of salt.”
Orgen continued on, his words pouring out.
Seton’s fingertips were marred with blood from him biting them in order to draw the spells.
It was almost unbearable to look at.
Orgen was very kind and polite to Seton, who’d been working hard on behalf of his heartless master.
“Look at this. Your hands are completely damaged. There was no need for you to endure such harm and pain to yourself, with that in mind-”
“How could you possibly mean that!”
Although Seton grunted, he didn’t refuse Orgen’s gentle, supportive touch.
He was already at his limit, too tired to pretend otherwise.
For the past few days, he had been draining his magic. He looked as if he would crumble to dust with just a light touch.
In a matter of moments, Adrian had drawn a giant barrier that covered the entirety of the Black Forest without even uttering a chant.
The sight of a translucent, silvery, dome-shaped membrane covering the Black Forest without any gaps was truly amazing.
Even as he created a barrier that covered the huge, endless forest, he did not take a single breath.
Seton did not even attempt to hide his sullen expression.
He, too, had long since surpassed human limitations as an 8th Circle Mage, but he was nothing compared to Adrian. After all, the latter was someone who dared to inherit the power of a dragon.
A barrier that enveloped the entire forest.
The vast difference in power was almost awe-inspiring.
“I apologize for the delay. Something happened at the castle, and His Highness the Grand Duke was unable to leave.”
“…I assumed so.”
Orgen handed the soup he had brought in a thermos to the exhausted Seton.
“It’s still hot, so eat it slowly. How did you know?”
“How? I figured you must’ve been in some sort of trouble since the great man over there, who normally rushes to the rescue whenever there’s a matter with the demons, didn’t come immediately. I hear that the Grand Duchess has arrived.”
“Yes, she is currently at the Grand Duke’s residence- That’s not what’s important right now. Go ahead and finish eating the soup first.”
Seton’s expression softened considerably at Orgen’s gentle praise and sincere care.
Once he finished half of the soup, not only did his expression look better, but his complexion also improved significantly.
In the meantime, the knights who had prepared the food took some more soup that they’d brought and ran to the other side of the forest.
“Hmph. Do those knights even know where the other mages are?”
“If they were born and raised in the North, they shouldn’t be getting lost even if it’s a little late.”
The sharp tone of his words was harsh, but he was worried and afraid that the knights would get lost.
Orgen, who clearly knew that fact, could not hide his smile.
He was a transcendent being who had already lived for a long time, and so he was different from ordinary people.
However, in that respect, he was certainly more “human” than Adrian, the blessed one.
“As expected, you are kind.”
“Don’t flatter me.”
At the moment when Seton blurted out something while simultaneously wearing an expression that showed he didn’t hate it…
A strange sensation enveloped everyone’s entire body, and at the same time, everything became quiet.
Adrian’s magic was now activated.
The Black Forest was surrounded by Adrian’s barrier.
The fierce, cold wind, the snow that continuously fell without any breaks, and the muffled, menacing growls of the demons all disappeared.
It was as if they were transported into another world.
Seton gulped, shaking his head.
A barrier that completely blocked everything, even the wind.
He didn’t hide the astonishment in his eyes as he looked at Adrian.
The man, standing there in the chilled winter air, was a perfect match for this white world.
A beautiful face that didn’t look real, a heartless expression that lacked any warmth.
And even more than that, an immense, imperceptible power.
“He really is a monster.”
“He is an amazing person.”
“Are you going to tell me I’m on my own again?”
“I wouldn’t do that. I’d appreciate it if you considered me as an honest person.”
Orgen took the empty thermos from Seton and cleaned up.
“Thank you for your hard work. Now, His Highness the Grand Duke will clean up this place, so Seton, please return to the Presse Castle and rest.”
“I’m not needed anymore, is that it?”
“Of course not, I was merely asking that you get the rest you deserve for all your hard work.”
Seton’s eyes narrowed at Orgen’s unusually polite words.
Orgen Hartzler was a naturally polite person.
His appearance was neat and his personality was even brighter.
There was nothing unusually crooked about him, nothing that stuck out like a sore thumb.
He was a rare person who was as soft and hard as a pebble that had been worn down to the touch, a person who insisted on absolute goodness and lived by it.
To put it in a good way, Orgen was a principled person. To put it in a bad way, he was a bit of a prick.
But that old man was now going to be sprawled out like this without any regard for his surroundings?
Seton looked at Orgen, who was smiling at him, with narrowed eyes.
Of course, Orgen usually took care of others quite delicately.
But never to this extent.
He also had set a boundary, and if he thought something or someone was too much, he’d send them away, much like his master…
Now he was telling Seton to go to the castle to rest?
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