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Hussen swallowed hard as he felt the chilling blade hovering above his throat. Any moment of relaxation would have felt that eerie blade slicing through his neck. The reason for this wasn’t just because the sword was too close, but also because the one wielding it was Roger.
Without taking his eyes off Hussen, Roger gestured toward a dark corner. Hussen stiffened his entire body and moved his eyes only. He was surprised to see Vivian emerging cautiously from the shadows, as he had been too focused on Roger to notice her presence.
Just as Hussen was about to speak, Roger exerted force on his sword. The blade grazed Hussen’s throat, causing a trickle of crimson blood to flow. Faced with this chilling threat, Hussen immediately closed his mouth.
As Vivian approached, Roger worried that Hussen might have some ill intentions toward her, so he punched him in the abdomen. With a gasp, Hussen’s body slumped. Roger and Vivian securely tied his arms and legs with ropes, then placed him in the room next to the study.
Now only the study remained.
The massive door felt extremely imposing, like a final gateway. Roger’s fingertips tingled as he gripped the door handle. He glanced at Vivian before opening the door.
The first thing they noticed was not with their eyes but with their senses. A chilling gust of air flowed through the crack of the open door, as if it wanted to freeze their skin. It felt as biting as a cold wind, and Vivian furrowed her brow.
As they stepped fully into the study, another sensation gripped them, this time of a different nature. The peaceful atmosphere from before had long disappeared. Pieces of torn paper were scattered everywhere, and at the center of it all, the study’s floor was adorned with a large magic circle. Something cold and sinister seemed to emanate from it. Perhaps the source of the ominous and frigid energy was indeed that circle. The color of the magic circle was pitch-black, and due to the irregular lines forming it, it looked almost like a bloody stain when viewed from afar.
Vivian clenched her fists when she spotted two men standing in front of the magic circle. She whispered.
Glen, who had been inspecting the magic circle with clenched fists, jolted. His shocked expression turned into a deadly glare as he shifted his gaze toward the doorway. It seemed he hadn’t noticed Vivian’s presence, solely focused on Roger.
Just as Hussen, he reached for his sword in a hurry.
“When the hell did you two get here?”
His voice quivered like the scattered pieces of parchment on the floor. It was understandable, as he had expected Roger and Vivian to be deep in the forest, battling with demons.
In contrast to Glen’s intense reaction, Marquis Dinus didn’t even spare them a glance. Upon closer inspection, he had his eyes closed and was mumbling something under his breath. Under his extended hand, a black energy poured out like rainwater forming a puddle, flowing toward the magic circle.
It seemed that the dark mage currently maintaining the magic circle was Marquis Dinus. The eerie magic circle was undoubtedly the source of the Gateway to the Abyss.
Vivian, after evading Glen’s charge with agile moves, rushed towards Marquis Dinus, who stood statue still. Roger, who had blocked Glen’s sword, urgently followed Vivian’s lead.
With a thud, Marquis Dinus and Vivian tumbled to the floor.
As they tussled, Vivian accidentally banged her head on the floor. She let out a muffled groan, clutching her head. Marquis Dinus, annoyed by the sudden disruption, quickly pushed Vivian aside and scrambled to his feet. He attempted to move back towards the magic circle, but Vivian desperately grabbed the hem of his robe.
Only then did Marquis Dinus fully acknowledge Vivian’s presence. His gaze was fixed on her, as if irritated by the interruption.
“What the…! Glen, get this woman out of here right now!”
Marquis Dinus frantically searched for his son, but he was preoccupied with facing Roger, and couldn’t assist him. The sharp clash of swords echoed continuously in the study. Marquis Dinus realized that Glen was in no condition to help him and clicked his tongue briefly.
“Marquis Dinus, you should stop this!”
Vivian warned, firmly grasping his robe as she attempted to use her spirit magic to restrain him. However, the second floor of the mansion wasn’t directly connected to the ground, making it difficult to summon her powers. Moreover, Vivian’s attempts to hold onto him were in vain due to the Marquis’ thrashing movements. His struggle made it hard for Vivian to maintain a firm grip on him.
Marquis Dinus raised his hand to slap Vivian off, but at that moment, she was blinded by a sudden flash of light. Her cheeks flushed as if someone had just slapped her. Immediately after, a numbing sensation spread, leaving her dazed.
“Why are there so many people trying to disrupt our plans?”
Marquis Dinus sighed deeply as he tried to tidy up his appearance caused by Vivian’s reckless actions. He shot her an annoyed look as she sat there, dazed. Then, he headed toward the magic circle, or at least, he tried to.
He raised his hand, possibly to retaliate against Vivian’s persistent grip, but she still held onto his robe firmly. When she finally looked down in confusion, she saw dark, snake-like entities wrapping tightly around Marquis Dinus’ legs.
“Eek! W-what is this!”
Marquis Dinus’ face turned pale as he writhed in horror, thinking that it was a real snake. In less than ten seconds, his entire body was wrapped tightly from head to toe. All he could do now was roll his eyes helplessly.
“…Why are you being so severely disrupted?”
Marquis Dinus’ pupils, which had been rolling around like a pair of dice, gradually focused on Vivian, who was beginning to stand up. His chilling gaze was fixed on her as she spoke with a frigid tone.
At Vivian’s words, which flew like icy arrows, the roots that had been tightly constricting Marquis Dinus began to tighten. He couldn’t breathe, and all he could do was emit hoarse, choking sounds. However, Vivian continued to stare at him with colder eyes than ever.
At that moment, someone firmly grasped Vivian’s shoulder.
At Roger’s stern voice, Vivian was taken aback. As a result, the roots that had been strangling Marquis Dinus also loosened.
Seeing Roger approach, Vivian suddenly remembered Glen, who had come charging at her earlier with a sword. She quickly turned her eyes, looking for him behind Roger. Through Roger’s shoulder, she could see Glen on the ground, holding his thigh. She realized that Roger had dealt with Glen and then came to her.
“Are you… are you hurt?”
Seeing Glen in pain, she became anxious, fearing he might be injured as well. She intercepted Roger’s hand, which was resting on her shoulder, and asked, her voice filled with concern. Roger, as if to reassure her, calmly shook his head. Then, he wore a somewhat bemused smile, as if questioning who should be asking whom.
“You’re the one who’s…”
As he examined Vivian closely, his face stiffened. He had noticed the swelling on her cheek where she had been struck by light. If it was swollen to this extent, just how forcefully had he struck her? Roger briefly regretted interfering with her when she had almost killed Marquis Dinus.
He immediately approached Marquis Dinus.
“Vivian, can you undo this?”
Roger pointed to the tightly constricting roots that wrapped Marquis Dinus so thoroughly that he was barely standing. Vivian promptly released her spiritual magic. Worried that Marquis Dinus might retaliate, she hesitated at first, but he seemed barely able to stand under the pressure of the roots gripping his entire body.
Roger recalled the swollen bruise on Vivian’s cheek and asked her about it as he gently touched her cheek, before issuing a warning that her actions had been irrational. Before he could even issue a warning, his body moved on its own. He extended his fist and delivered a strong blow to Marquis Dinus’ face. Overwhelmed by the sudden attack, Marquis Dinus collapsed, unconscious.
“Who dares lay a hand…”
Although he had delivered the blow, Roger, who was still far from calming down, looked down at Marquis Dinus with a cold gaze.
Vivian, startled by his sudden actions, opened her eyes wide. Nonetheless, seeing the unconscious Marquis Dinus, she secretly felt relieved.
Ignoring the unconscious Marquis Dinus, Roger retrieved a rope lying nearby and turned towards Glen. After tying his hands and feet tightly with the rope, Roger tended to his bleeding thigh.
Although he was tempted to leave Glen’s wound untreated as punishment for his attack, he realized that letting him die wouldn’t serve justice. Glen, with a frustrated and unjust expression, closed his eyes as he received treatment.
Vivian, who had been watching Roger carry out Glen’s bindings and treatment, suddenly stopped and looked outside the window.
“Why… why isn’t it disappearing?”
Muttering distractedly, she saw Roger also glance out the window. The vast magic circle in the sky and the floor hadn’t disappeared, despite her attempt to prevent Marquis Dinus from channeling power into it.
“Why… why is it still there?”
As she muttered in frustration, Roger knelt down beside Marquis Dinus, who had collapsed earlier, and started to tie him up. Vivian suddenly noticed the presence of the magic circle on the ground, even though Marquis Dinus’ power had stopped being channeled into it. The dark energy seeped from it like embers, hovering over the magic circle. She realized that to make the one in the sky disappear, she had to eliminate the one on the ground first.
“How do I…?”
However, being a novice in magic, she had no idea how to disable the magic circle. She scrutinized it while touching the ground with her hand, but no solution presented itself. Frustration built up as she couldn’t find a way.
“Isn’t it similar to sealing a rift?”
Roger, who had come closer without her noticing, leaned down beside her and spoke.
Vivian’s gaze shifted upward.
“When you sealed a rift, a magic circle appeared, right? When you injected spirit magic, the magic circle broke.”
His words triggered memories of that day. Maybe disabling the magic circle was similar to sealing a rift. She didn’t know if it would work or not, but for now, she had to try. With determination, Vivian swallowed her saliva.
She cautiously extended her hand and touched the black magic circle, which was drawn like a bloodstain. As she did, a tingling sensation spread across her skin, as if she had touched sharp thorns. However, it quickly dissipated, just like when she had touched the magic scroll. It was almost the same phenomenon.
“Can spirit magic really prevent dark magic?”
With doubt in her mind, Vivian summoned her full power of the earth. From her fingertips, the benevolent energy of the spirits began to seep into the cold floor, infiltrating the dark magic circle.
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