༺ The Second Nightmare (2) ༻
As I succeeded in using the Body strengthening technique, the surrounding gazes turned into astonishment.
“What is this-“
A female knight, who appeared to be the hero’s companion, frowned.
Marquis Kalshtein, the commander of the troops, stroked his chin with interest.
But I didn’t care about any of that right now.
As I struck Wilhelm’s face with the tip of my spear, blood splattered.
He instinctively stepped back, clutching his bleeding nose.
It was my first chance for victory. I couldn’t let this momentum slip away.
I took a big step forward, swinging the spear halfway around and stabbing it.
My target was Wilhelm’s empty abdomen. Thanks to the Body strengthening technique enhancing my body, the thrust I had practiced tens of thousands of times was unleashed with lightning speed.
For a moment, fear flickered in Wilhelm’s eyes as the spearhead closed in.
His red eyes widened like a snake’s, emitting a sinister glow.
At the same time, Wilhelm’s mouth opened convulsively.
Right before the spearhead pierced Wilhelm’s abdomen, my body suddenly froze in place. No matter how hard I tried to move forward, I couldn’t even budge a finger.
I widened my eyes at the incomprehensible situation. It wasn’t some enormous external force restraining my body, but my own body and mind obediently following Wilhelm’s command.
This was the power of the higher being that controlled the minds of lesser creatures, the Dragon Tongue …
The moment I understood that, blood gushed from my chest.
In Wilhelm’s hand was a dazzling white sword, as if sculpted from light. He had drawn the holy sword and pierced my chest.
I dropped the broken spear to the ground and helplessly fell backward.
Blood pooled around the pierced chest, spreading wide and soaking the parched earth. I could feel the last of my strength draining away with the blood.
Angry voices echoed over my dazed head.
“This bastard, how dare you! To wound me…!!”
“Your Highness, please restrain yourself! The duel is over! No more-“
“Shut up! I’ll kill him!”
I felt the furious footsteps approaching me.
It was coming at me like an inevitable death.
However, someone blocked its path.
Dark hair spread out above my head like a curtain, swaying.
I couldn’t fail to recognize those familiar strands.
Because they were the hair I had touched and brushed countless times with my hands.
“Char… Cough! Gasp, gasp!”
I tried to lift my head and call out to Charlotte.
But all that came out of my mouth was a bloody cough.
Charlotte didn’t even glance at me as she spoke to Wilhelm.
“Please calm down, Hero.”
“Calm down? Calm down!? That brat disfigured the face of the next emperor and the hero! He should know that the punishment for laying a hand on royalty is immediate execution!”
Even in the face of Wilhelm’s rage, Charlotte calmly opened her mouth.
“It happened under a fair duel. It was already excessive for you to use the Dragon Tongue and the holy sword.”
“How dare you talk back to me! Get out of the way! If you don’t step aside, I’ll make you suffer the same fate!”
“If that’s what you wish, then please do so.”
Wilhelm’s expression stiffened in front of her unwavering attitude.
Charlotte looked calmly into Wilhelm’s eyes.
“But, Hero, is the purpose of that holy sword truly to pierce humans? I believe that in front of the watching goddess, someone with a much more important mission would not waste time on such trivial matters.”
Wilhelm flinched at Charlotte’s mention of the goddess watching and looked around.
Of course, there was no goddess here, but he realized there were many eyes watching him and suppressed his anger with a rough breath.
A brief silence lingered in the duel arena.
Marquis Kalshtein, who had been waiting for the right timing to step in, cleared his throat as if to tidy up the situation and opened his mouth.
“It seems the outcome of the duel has already been decided, Your Highness. As he is a soldier belonging to this unit, the decision of his punishment now falls under my jurisdiction.”
“Are you siding with this wretch as well, Marquis Kalshtein…!”
“Of course, if Your Highness decides his punishment as the winner’s right, I could not dare to stop you. But he is, after all, one of the soldiers who will fight alongside the Hero against the Demon King’s army.”
Marquis Kalshtein raised his hand and gestured around as he spoke.
“Wouldn’t the other soldiers also think that Your Highness should bestow appropriate mercy?”
“Tsk…! How dare, how dare…!!”
Wilhelm hesitated for a long time, his face red and unable to hide his anger.
He seemed to be weighing whether it would be more advantageous to kill me or not, and eventually decided not to, putting away his holy sword with a rough attitude.
At that, Marquis Kalshtein politely bowed.
“Thank you for your mercy, Your Highness.”
From my collapsed view on the ground, I saw Marquis Kalshtein signal his adjutant with a glance. The adjutant caught on and quickly began to clap, followed by the surrounding soldiers who applauded in unison.
The Hero’s companions also sent plausible flattery and praise, saying that the Hero was great and overflowing with mercy, which seemed to gradually calm Wilhelm’s anger.
I couldn’t understand it. Why did everyone end the duel at their own discretion?
I was still breathing like this, and still able to move.
I scraped the blood-soaked ground, squeezing out all the strength in my body.
It was more difficult to stand up than before because of the slippery blood, but I didn’t give up. I supported the weight of my upper body with my elbows and slowly, very slightly, got up.
I felt the shocked and curious gazes from those around me directed at me.
I didn’t care. I focused solely on getting my body up, using every single cell in my body.
“Ah, I can… still…”
I can’t give up like this. The duel isn’t over yet.
I was caught off guard by the sudden use of the spell. If I experienced it again, I felt like I would be able to break free.
My spear was broken. But that was fine. I could fight with my bare hands.
I painfully bent my knees and pressed the soles of my feet against the ground.
With just a little more strength, I felt like I could stand up.
At that moment, a pair of large, black eyes looked at me coldly.
Her slender fingers touched my forehead.
“Please… stop now, don’t get up.”
A pure white light burst from her fingertips. The gentle light that had healed me numerous times before gradually seeped into my head.
I knew what it was. It was Charlotte’s spell that would put me at ease when I had frequent nightmares.
A strong drowsiness and helplessness spread throughout my body, causing my whole body to go limp against my will.
Why, after all.
Why do you want to leave me?
I tried desperately to hold onto her, but my fingers had no strength. A terrible drowsiness came over me and my eyes kept closing.
I tried to force my eyelids open, but I couldn’t withstand the oncoming drowsiness.
In my fading consciousness, I could hear Charlotte’s voice from very far away.
“…Let’s never meet again, Eon.”
Through my closing eyelids, I saw her expression gradually change.
What kind of expression did Charlotte have in the end?
In the end, I couldn’t see it.
When I opened my eyes, Charlotte was no longer by my side.
Instead, Marquis Kalshtein was there.
He said something when I woke up, but my head was so foggy that I couldn’t remember anything.
Just that Charlotte had left my side forever.
Only one fact filled my head.
A deep wound remained in my chest. Charlotte was the only priestess in the unit, and when she left, she put me to sleep but did not fully heal the wound.
I couldn’t tell if she had noticed the prince’s gaze or if she had worried that if she healed me properly, I would recover quickly and follow her.
Ignoring the medic’s warning that the wound would become a scar if not treated regularly, I forced my unhealed body onto the battlefield.
I swung my spear like a madman.
As if pouring out all the anger and sadness that remained within me at once.
I wrapped the blue mana around my body and swung my spear at the incoming demons. Piles of enemy corpses accumulated.
The more I fought, the more my arm trembled, and my whole body felt as heavy as a wet sponge. The spear gripped tightly in my hand was always slippery with sweat and blood.
As the battle continued, the injuries on my body grew, but Charlotte, who used to heal my wounds, was no longer there.
The battlefield was filled with only screams and wailing, but in my ears, her voice and laughter, which I could no longer hear, echoed incessantly like a broken machine.
The memories of Charlotte became a heavy burden on my heart, tormenting me even on the battlefield.
I couldn’t bear the depth of that wound, and even breathing became a difficult task.
It was an incredibly immense pain.
Hoping that this pain would make me stronger,
I didn’t stop swinging my spear.
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