Chapter 1. Kill the Empress
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Asha reached out with all her might to catch Tamon as he walked into the darkness.
Perhaps hearing her voice, Tamon glanced back at Asha.
<Don’t go, you can’t go!>
<Why shouldn’t I go……?>
<Because it is dangerous. Because you will be injured. That’s why…….>
Tamon laughed at Asha’s answer.
<You don’t want me to get hurt?>
Asha could not answer Tamon’s gentle question.
As she hesitated, Tamon gradually moved away.
<Why ……? Asha, Why?>
Even though Tamon had already become far away, Asha’s hardened lips did not move.
It was as if a curse had been placed on her mouth, and all she could do was move her lips, but she could not make a sound.
Behind Tamon, there was a deep black darkness.
Then a sickening, unpleasant, and, in a word, unspeakably thick danger beckoned, seething.
<Tell me, Asha.>
<Don’t go. It’s dangerous!>
<…..You have to tell me why I shouldn’t go.>
Seeing her hesitate again, Tamon smiled sadly.
He extended his hand toward the darkness with a satisfied, gentle smile.
<I’ll be back.>
The darkness engulfed him.
From head to toes.
Every single one of his long, sturdy, warm fingers.
Startled, Asha swallowed hard and opened her eyes.
She sat up quickly and hurriedly turned to the seat next to her. Asha’s face paled when she saw the empty seat.
“He’s gone. He’s gone!”
She stood from her seat, out of breath. Intuitively, she realized Tamon had walked into the black canyon alone.
“No, don’t go. Don’t get hurt, Tamon.”
Asha rushed out of the barracks and saw the pale dawn light just floating over the black canyon.
She stared blankly at the forest with a canyon with a devastated gaze.
She felt a rush of passionate emotion.
“Tamon, the crazy man. I don’t want you to get hurt. That’s all. That’s all….”
‘Because you have become important to me.’
She covered her forehead with a hot sigh. Her head was hot.
She wanted to hug him and scream at him. She asked for just one day, why couldn’t he wait?
‘…… but could I come up with a better way just if I had more time?’
Or was it better if she told him he was important to her and she didn’t want him to get hurt …..should she have honestly told him to take care?
“ It’ll be okay, Asha.”
Asha turned around, startled by the sudden voice she heard.
A few steps behind her, Hannah seemed to have picked up and was holding dead branches and looking at her.
“Don’t worry too much. Asha is always good at finding ways.”
Hannah smiled innocently and moved away with her branches.
Far away, Arsene was seen fumbling to light the extinguished fire.
Hannah threw in a few tree branches on the weakly lit wood pile.
After a while, the smell of burning wood faintly hit Asha’s nose.
At that moment, a plausible method came to her mind.
＊ ＊ ＊
“He went alone?”
Jorge blew away any sleep that remained at Asha’s words.
He jumped up and looked toward the black canyon with a pale face.
No matter how long he stretched his neck, he could no longer see Tamon, who had vanished.
“Why, Why? Why would the captain do something so crazy ……!”
“It’s because of the possibility that a herd of silver horned deer is hiding in there.”
“A herd of deer? Why are those kids there?”
“I don’t know either. To be honest, I am not sure if they are in there or not. However, the silver deer herd has a strong attachment to the group and also a strong protective instinct for young individuals. So finding a deer means there is a very good chance that there is a herd of deer in the vicinity.”
Jorge nodded at Asha’s calm explanation.
He didn’t know when it happened, he didn’t know how she knew, but it somehow made sense.
Asha was no ordinary person, just look at the elegance that flowed from sitting still, the broad perspective, and the calm demeanor.
All the extra caution and curiosity should have been done by the captain by now, so he just had to trust the person Tamon believed in.
Any deeper thoughts than that didn’t sit well with Jorge.
“Even if it’s daytime, the Black Canyon is dangerous because you never knew what you would find. Besides, if he did indeed find a herd of silver deer, they might not be friendly to Tamon.”
“So that means…….”
“We need to go in.”
Jorge had expected this, so he wasn’t too surprised.
However, it was something that required some preparation.
The remaining Knights, including Jorge, numbered just over 20.
However, among these, the few who were guarding this campsite had to be removed.
“We don’t know the terrain inside that place, and we don’t know what we’re going to find, so we have to be very careful going in.”
“I drew the topographic map roughly. It’s not exact, but it’s better than nothing.”
Jorge was a little surprised this time.
No, how on earth could she draw a topographic map of the black canyon, even if it is just ‘roughly’?
However, he would not have survived so far without being aware, so he moved on without showing as much agitation as possible this time.
He just took the piece of paper with slightly trembling hands and looked at every inch of the roughly drawn topographical map.
“And maybe that kid will show us the way.”
Asha pointed to a small deer surrounded by Hannah and Arsene.
Hannah and Arsene crouched one step away and just stared, as if they were curious about the young silver horned deer.
But the silver deer was wary of the two children, with its fluffy white fur standing up, as if it was scared.
There were many things piled around the deer that the deer could have eaten.
Hannah and Arsene, and the knights, unloaded them one by one, and they piled up like a mountain.
“…… That deer?”
“Yes. As strong as the protective instinct of adults is, the homing instinct of young individuals is also strong. Perhaps when the terrain they know comes, he will move to the herd.”
“But relying on a deer alone can be very dangerous. Something might pop up from somewhere and drag us down.”
“Well, then, I have a way.”
Jorge asked curiously, and Roselyn nodded, touching the object she was holding in her arms.
“This will probably buy us some time.”
* * *
Tamon counted the number of insidiously dismissive stares as he looked around the canyon.
One, two, three. …….
A quick count showed there were about five.
From the time he entered the entrance, one or two of them sneaked up on him one by one and brought a whole bunch of friends with them, as if they realized he was alone.
Tamon brushed off his right arm, which was covered in blood.
The teeth of the creature he had just dealt with, whom he couldn’t tell if it was a bear or a lion, grazed his shoulder.
It wasn’t a fatal wound, but his arm went a little numb. Normally, a minor injury like this should heal quickly, but the black fog slowed his recovery.
‘If I go a little further from here, there is a price.’
He remembered the topographical map of Asha that he had glimpsed.
He thought that perhaps the place Asha had marked with a star was an important one.
‘At ……, let’s lure them there anyway.’
Quickly making a decision, Tamon quickly jumped away.
The sudden movement brought him up to speed with the beasts following cautiously behind him.
After ruining some distance, he smelled water.
Then, strangely enough, the black fog began to blur.
And when he reached the stream, the black fog disappeared completely.
But that was not the only strange thing.
“Why did you stop following me?”
Tamon stood there and stared at the monstrous beasts that had stopped chasing him.
The beasts of various shapes and sizes glared at him with bared teeth, but they did not come any closer.
As if wary of something, they lowered themselves from behind the shadows and glanced around.
Tamon looked around the area with wonder.
It was an ordinary stream, except for the black fog that covered the area around it.
The bubbling stream was clean, with small round stones lying about.
There were black stains in places, but nothing too special….
“Is it the black stain?”
Tamon approached the nearest spot.
“This is …….”
The stain was not just any stain.
Tamon’s straight brow creased.
“It’s a bloodstain.”
These were traces of some kind of blood pool. It was not so old that it still had stains on it either.
This meant that those black stains that were visible here and there must all be the remains of blood pools.
Something seemed to have happened here.
He got up and slowly looked around.
It was then.
He heard something coming down from the upper stream.
Tamon raised his head to look up to the place where the sound came from.
His surprised eyes fluttered like a crescent moon for the first time in a long time.
He smiled with happiness.
‘……Asha, you are always right.’
Huge silver horned deer looked down at him with big eyes shining.
* * *
Arriving in front of the canyon with armed Platanus Knights, Asha took a palm-sized square out of her pocket.
It was a small box decorated with mother-of-pearl inlays and precious stones, giving it an exotic look.
Each face was inscribed with patterns of the sun, moon, stars, flowers, sea and earth.
When Asha pushed one of the moon carvings with force, the shape of the square box began to change.
The perfectly square expanded, and the shells that had been hidden within it began to rise to the top.
Jorge looked nervous and handed Asha the spark he had prepared.
“It’s the incense burner of Largon.”
It was a sacred relic of illusion that hallucinated at least hundreds and even thousands of people.
The knights all had masks on their faces.
Nervous faces of the knights covered their mouths and noses tightly.
“Everyone must be safe.”
As a precaution, Asha handed out to the knights the red pills that Tamon had given her earlier.
It was the very pills made from condensed Tamon’s blood, which Cassion was taking.
Tamon gave Asha some of the ones he had made in advance in case of an emergency.
She distributed them to the knights without hesitation. She was glad she didn’t run short.
Asha was not worried about herself.
Because she was Tamon’s imprinter, and she was wearing the chain of protection, so she should be fine.
So please, she just hoped they wouldn’t get hurt.
”Okay. Then it’s time to start the fire.”
Looking over at the knights once more, Asha lit the black jewel with nervous hands.
The gem was not burning at all, but it immediately began to smoke gray.
“Be careful, everyone. If anyone thinks you’re even slightly hallucinating, tell me immediately.”
With a warning, she lowered the young deer that was being held in a knight’s arms.
The struggling deer ran into the canyon as fast as a bouncing ball.