༺ A Longtime Enemy ༻
The central avenue where the parade was underway was filled with chaos from the moment the airship exploded.
“The, the airship… has exploded…!”
“Is it an accident? But the princess was on board!”
“Isn’t it falling this way!?”
With the explosion of the airship, flames and smoke scattered in all directions, and the citizens of the empire were plunged into fear. The festive atmosphere from the brilliant parade was instantly turned into a mess.
As the explosion occurred, fragments of the airship rained down. Most were tiny pieces of metal or glass fragments that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye, but if these fragments fell onto this bustling central avenue, anyone could be seriously injured.
Charlotte closed her eyes and brought her hands together.
At that moment, the world was filled with light.
If the sacred barrier created by a typical high bishop could barely protect a single building, Charlotte’s barrier covered the entire sky of the empire. The fragments were blocked by the barrier and no one was hurt.
Her tremendous sacred power and excellent magic skills were indeed worthy of the name of a saintess.
In the midst of this, Prince Wilhelm looked up at the burning airship and spoke in a bewildered voice.
“No, why did that suddenly…?”
Confusion and surprise were evident in Wilhelm’s voice, as if he couldn’t comprehend the situation at all.
Charlotte opened her eyes and gave him a sidelong glance. There was a hint of suspicion in her eyes, as if she was asking, ‘Isn’t this all your doing?’
Wilhelm frowned upon feeling her suspicious gaze.
“Why would I do such a thing? What reason would I have to ruin this parade?”
Charlotte did not retract her gaze on the prince. It was as if she was demanding an explanation as to why the airship had exploded.
Wilhelm vehemently denied it, shouting loudly.
“I just tampered a bit with the magic transmitter of the airship! So that Elizabeth’s face wouldn’t appear during the parade! I absolutely did not say to blow up the airship!”
In the end, the fact that he had plotted a sinister scheme remained unchanged. Charlotte found this fact not so surprising. The Wilhelm she had seen so far was a person who had crossed the line that should not be crossed as human many times.
Still, Charlotte eventually stopped condemning Wilhelm. She already knew that he was not the type to reflect or change from such an event.
Now, her focus needed to be on ensuring that the citizens of the empire were hurt as little as possible.
She poured everything she had into spreading a barrier that covered the entire empire. It was not easy even for Charlotte to cast such a large spell by herself, and all of her sacred power was being used to maintain the barrier, but she had no choice.
If the airship itself, not the fragments, fell onto the people, it would become one of the most terrible disasters in the history of the empire.
Meanwhile, while Charlotte was maintaining the barrier, Wilhelm issued orders to the knights and soldiers.
“Calm the citizens. Tell them they are safe because of the saintess’s barrier!”
“Understood, Your Highness. Shall we disperse the citizens then?”
“What? Then the parade will end as it is-! Ahem, tell them to stay put for now. If such a large number of citizens leave at once, it could cause even more confusion!”
At first glance, it seemed as if he was concerned about the safety of the citizens, but Charlotte could guess his true intention. He was just trying to prevent the parade from being ruined any further to save his own face.
Could this person really be the chosen hero of light?
There was a time when she thought that he was the only person who could defeat the Demon King…
Now, she was not even disappointed anew. She just regretted her foolish past when she had chosen the hero.
Charlotte quietly looked up at the sky.
Her heart was pounding fiercely.
Although many people didn’t notice due to the chaotic situation, Charlotte did not miss it. A man rushing towards the airship.
No matter how far away he was, she could never fail to recognize him. Ever since their meeting, ever since she left him… there was not a single day she did not think of him.
Her eyes were slowly watching the falling airship. As if doing so, she could see a glimpse of the person she loved.
As always, he was rushing towards danger this time too. Her heart ached as if being torn apart, knowing that she couldn’t do anything while watching it.
‘Oh goddess. Please… hear this prayer.’
She was only desperately hoping for Eon’s safety.
The airship was slowly descending towards the ground.
Only then did a smile return to the crew’s faces. There was a time when they truly thought of death, but now, it seemed like there wouldn’t be much difficulty in landing safely.
Heinrich looked at the approaching ground and burst into a wry smile.
“Arrogant, Malevolent Star… but you have the right to be arrogant. Because you have such skills… You’ve accomplished many times what the half-dragon with the holy sword couldn’t do, why would you be afraid of something like the army or the royal guard.”
Heinrich’s voice was drowned out by the surrounding explosion sounds, flying flames, and wind noise, and it was not heard by the other crew members.
But it was different for Katarina.
‘Who? Malevolent Star? This man? Is it him?’
She barely managed to keep her jaw from dropping in shock. She also had to withstand her eyes constantly drifting towards Eon.
But Elizabeth was different. From the moment he said he was only protecting the student, her red eyes were looking at Eon only.
Her eyes were full of questions, confusion, and doubts, ‘Why?’
Goodwill between people was usually reciprocal. One-sided goodwill could linger for a while, but it couldn’t last long. There must be something to give and take for a relationship to be established.
Elizabeth tried to use Eon to fulfill her ambitions, but she hadn’t yet offered anything to him. She hadn’t proposed any kind of deal, nor could she guarantee any benefits.
In such a situation, she was receiving goodwill from another person which was one-sided, and practically without any reason – of course, he had given a reason, but it was something she couldn’t accept.
It was an extremely unfamiliar experience for Elizabeth.
Eon spoke quietly.
“If left alone, he’ll die.”
No matter how much he had staunched the bleeding, having an arm cut off meant the blood loss was severe. Heinrich’s lips were already blue, and his complexion was as bad as a dying man.
Someone had to bring medicine and give emergency treatment, but on one side there was a princess, and on the other, one of the seven heroes of the continent. In the end, Katarina had no choice but to act.
“I will go and fetch it!”
“…Hmm? Okay. I’m counting on you.”
Elizabeth nodded to her escort, who was more tense than usual, asking her to help.
As soon as Katarina headed to the medical room to fetch medicine, Heinrich, with his pale complexion, chuckled.
“It’s a pity. If the plan had succeeded… the day when he would take the throne… wouldn’t have been far away….”
“Indeed. Thanks to you, I’ll have a lot to do when I get back.”
There would be a need to hold the neglected first prince responsible for the management of the parade, and to check Heinrich’s ‘him’ who had been quietly lying dormant underneath the surface.
In the end, it was a stroke of good luck. As long as they could get back alive.
“Heh… Is that so? As a servant, I can’t allow such disloyalty… At least I have to show some results… so I’ll have no regrets even if I fall into hell.”
Heinrich’s eyes filled with madness.
Eon’s expression hardened slightly.
“…It can’t be helped. I should kill him after all.”
Eon realized that Heinrich was still trying to do something and reacted, but before that, something shook violently as if it had exploded from underneath the airship.
The hull of the airship shook violently as if there had been an explosion. Eon grabbed Elizabeth’s waist to prevent her from falling and held tightly onto the railing. Elizabeth also clung tightly to Eon’s shoulder and nestled into his arms.
The shaking didn’t end after one time. Every time the shock continued, the airship tilted dangerously, and the crew was thrown roughly against the walls and floor. Determining the location of the vibration, Eon spoke.
“Was there something on the bottom of the ship?”
“Eh…! It’s the cargo hold… but there should have been nothing in there…!”
His words were meaningless. From the captain who should have checked the cargo hold, everyone was a spy of the intelligence agency.
Suddenly, the bow of the airship shot upwards, and the airship soared towards the sky.
From the direction of the captain’s quarters, Doctor Brown shouted.
“The steering system is broken! The ship is trying to rise up!”
Eon quickly checked the ground and shouted.
“Jump down below!”
“What!? Have you gone mad! If we jump from here, we’ll all die!”
“There is a holy barrier just below! Just jump down!”
“Damn it…! Everyone abandon ship!”
On the rocking airship, which seemed about to overturn at any moment, the crew screamed and jumped down.
It was a dizzying scene reminiscent of a crash, but instead of falling to the ground, they were blocked by a bright white light barrier between the sky and the ground, landing without any shock.
Even Doctor Brown jumped towards the barrier, and soon Katarina, who had rushed out of the medical room, stabilized herself on the deck and ran towards Elizabeth.
“Your Highness! I am now-!”
It was a fierce roar that seemed to shake the air.
Katarina felt as if her body had stiffened and lost her balance for a moment, and as a consequence, she immediately fell from the deck and plummeted below.
Katarina extended her hand towards Elizabeth as she fell.
Heinrich, who couldn’t fall due to being stuck in the window, burst out in a crazed laugh.
“Kahaha! Just as Her Highness has the formidable means of a curse… I also have at least one formidable means!”
Soon something broke through the deck and a beast planted its claws on the ground, exhaling a growling breath.
Eon recognized the identity of the beast in an instant.
“Beast Corps Commander…?”
The Beast Corps Commander, who had lost his life in the last great battle, looked at Eon with his still wild eyes, showing his teeth aggressively, and spoke with a smile.
“We meet again! My longtime nemesis-!!”
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