Before the sun had gone down that day, the procession suddenly stopped. One of the priests, visibly haggard from exhaustion, staggered forward and bowed his head in front of Killian.
“…My apologies, Your Grace. My physical condition has rapidly deteriorated, so it would be difficult…for me to continue with you. I’m sorry that this hasty journey was delayed because of me.”
The women were clinging to the window of the carriage, watching the scene restlessly.
“It seems to be going well.”
Until then, everything seemed to be going as they thought. Killian’s voice rang out.
“You, come closer.”
The man approached Killian with a slightly bewildered expression on his face. Killian looked at him up and down, expressionless. Then, he muttered faintly.
“What do you have in your mind…”
Killian’s red eyes narrowed coldly.
“I’ve lost interest.”
The next moment, the man uttered a piercing scream and shook his shoulder. A strange groan followed. Blood dripped from the man’s mouth with bloodshot eyes. Some of the people who were standing nearby screamed.
The man’s trembling hand desperately grabbed the blade that pierced his chest. Bright red blood spread behind the back of his priest uniform as he dropped his head. His body collapsed.
A few drops of blood splashed on Killian’s face. He pushed the priest’s shoulder with his heel and pulled out his sword. Vincent screamed.
“What are you doing?! H-how can you kill a priest? How are you going to bear this sin?”
“I’m sure you know better that this man is not a priest.”
Vincent flinched. He staggered and took a couple of steps back. Killian’s eyes were shining red with his back against the sunset.
“What excuse will Her Majesty, the Queen come up with this time? I bet she’s going to say that she did not know why such a man was included amongst the priests.”
Killian wiped the drops of blood flowing down his cheek with the back of his hand. A low voice rang.
“She’s not a really good person for you to be loyal to. You’d better not open your mouth carelessly. You should not bring trouble to her.”
Giselle apologized with a dejected look.
“Rietta, I’m sorry that things have turned out like this.”
Rietta shook her head with a pale face.
“No, no. Giselle… What’s there to be sorry about? You’re just concerned. I’m the one who should be saying sorry. Everyone is concerned because of me… I even made all of you see something frightening.”
The friendly women shook their heads and smiled silently at Rietta. Rietta tried hard to smile, but she knew that her face would look weird, so she instead bowed her head and tried to forget about it. Even though they all saw the same scene, everyone aside from Rietta remained calm.
I’m the only one being a burden.
She squeezed her hands tight but she still trembled. The sight of blood splattering behind the clothes of the man she pointed at constantly came back to her. The scream at the moment of death─a scream that she had never heard before in her life─was vividly recalled in her ears.
After that, Rietta became ill with a fever. The other women surrounded her and cared for her. Lana, who barely spoke except when absolutely necessary, radiated a blue light from her hand and touched Rietta’s forehead with a cool energy. Rietta expressed her gratitude to her with her eyes.
After killing the priest, Killian departed first alone with his knights. He said that they could not go together because the priests were slow. Vincent insisted on going together because the priests should escort him. However, Killian mocked him, telling him to just escort the wagons. No one dared to rebel against Killian.
Leaving only the priests and wagons behind, Killian’s party easily left. The delegation naturally thought that the women’s carriage would remain behind together with them but it unexpectedly caught up with Killian at an amazing speed.
Killian and his knights kept pace with the speed at which the women’s carriage could follow. It was still surprising for a carriage to be able to chase and stay right behind the knights.
The carriage’s axles and wheels were strengthened with adamantium and reinforcement magic was put on by Lana. It was much stronger than an ordinary carriage and much lighter than the priest’s wagon, so it was able to withstand considerable strength and speed. Additionally, six powerful horses were left in the hands of a skillful coachman.
The delegation did not know that Killian was the one who prepared their wagons, nor did they know that he had also augmented the women’s carriage. Actually, Killian had intended to separate from the priest’s from the very beginning; he had also made preparations for the women’s carriage so that they would not be left behind.
Even though Lana had cast stabilization magic, the carriage still shook considerably. The women endured the tough journey without saying a word.
Rietta’s condition continued to deteriorate due to the psychological burden and tough journey that had continued on for three days. On the evening of the third day, when the party stopped at the last village with only a one-day distance to the Grand Temple Havitus, Killian heard that Rietta was not in good shape. Unfortunately, he had only heard about it after Rietta had lost consciousness
At Killian’s order, the knights inquired and summoned a reliable doctor.
“It’s a stress-induced fever.”
Answered the doctor who diagnosed Rietta.
“All sorts of her organs are in poor condition. She looks normal on the outside but her insides are a mess. Is she even eating properly?”
Tsk. Killian clicked his tongue.
She didn’t need a lot of care before. She seems to have more talents than I thought so I tried to take her with me. But isn’t she too weak? I can’t believe she got sick because of something like that.
Killian had taken a liking to her talent so he tolerated her a lot even when she talked back to him or protested against his words. Her talent was higher than he expected. In addition to the fact that she was a reliable blessing caster, she was able to see plague demons and feel a person’s energy.
The story that spread around saying that Killian took ‘the widow of Sevitas’ instead of a substantial amount of debt was quite plausible and he could disguise her as his concubine. Her appearance was also quite convincingly beautiful.
But with the way things are going, I’ll have to look for someone else now.
“When she wakes up, tell her not to be concerned. The guy didn’t die because of her, it’s just because of my unpredictable behavior.”
Killian thought that Rietta was stressed because of what had happened two days ago. The doctor tilted his head in response to him.
“But her body could not have broken down in such a short time. Though, the fever might have been the trigger for short-term concentrated fatigue.”
Killian bit his lips.
“I think she has been under a lot of stress for a long time. What happened to her? Her internal organs are totally burned.”
The doctor, who thought Rietta was just one of Killian’s concubines, advised him not to touch her for the time being. He gave her the medicine and went back.
People went out to see the doctor off. Killian, who was left alone in the patient’s room, looked down at Rietta’s pale face.
“…But she said she was doing just fine.”
Her pale face was thinner than what he remembered before.
‘Killian, Killian! Don’t come, Killian!’
‘How is it? An undead who has retained her consciousness… Isn’t that amazing?’
Killian’s beautiful mother, bound in chains, cried out miserably.
His stepbrother grinned as he saw Killian’s mother rotting in her own body.
‘But she’s just an undead.’
He pulled a sword out of his waist.
‘We will help you, you who are so wise, in order for you to not be deceived.’
Killian’s dead mother was torn right in front of her eyes.
Prince Killian walked in front of the throne, drenched in blood, and called the Emperor by a different name.
‘I have avenged my mother.’
The eighteen-year-old Killian laughed languidly.
‘I brought the head of her enemy… Will you accept it?’
Killian threw his brother’s head at the Emperor’s and Queen’s feet. The Emperor opened his eyes wide. The Queen stood up from her seat and screamed a scream that could make one’s hair stand on end.
It was the beginning of their ill-fated relationship.
Killian was sitting on the couch in his room, lost in the line between dreams and thoughts.
He answered a little slower than usual
“Lady Rietta is awake. Would you like to see her?”
“No. Just make sure she doesn’t have any…”
Killian paused for a moment. He felt it was not like him to convey his words without seeing her in person.
“Nevermind, I will go see her.”
“Get out. I want to talk to her in private.”
Killian dismissed the others and approached Rietta, who sat on the bed. He stopped Rietta from getting up and spoke indifferently.
Rietta did not know what to do and lowered her head.
“I apologize for the journey being delayed because of me.”
“Forget it, we can arrive tomorrow. I was just about to rest here anyway. It must have been an unfamiliar journey for you. Good job.”
Rietta was barely relieved. Killian continued.
“We have to leave tomorrow. I can’t wait for you to recover. If you’re tired, you can go back from here. I will send a knight to escort you.”
Rietta was startled and raised her head.
“I’m fine. I can go. Please let me go.”
Killian tilted his head.
“N, no! To the grand temple! My body is fine, really.”
She came to repay his favor and to help him. She could not be taking away the knight who was supposed to escort him. Killian crossed his arms.
“Do you know what you will do at the grand temple?”
Killian would often take his women with him to outdoor events. First, in order to appear as a playboy not worthy of the Emperor’s attention, and second, to avoid other people’s surveillance or their troublesome approach.
This was part of the reason why he was labeled as a troublemaker who did not care about his surroundings. It was also the reason why the East Annex became known as Killian’s concubine division.
“Okay. Since the place we are going to is the great temple, perhaps the priests will try to cling to me in the name of attending to me or for blessings. It is then when I will use you as a shield.”
Rietta nodded her head with a stern expression on her face.
“Yes. I can do that.”
Killian nodded his head.
“Can you leave tomorrow?”
“No problem. I apologize for the concern.”
“I have not yet given you permission to apologize.”
Killian paused for a moment, then continued.
“I brought you because I needed you. So there’s nothing to be sorry about. If you want anything as a reward, ask for it.”
Rietta shook her head.
“Being given a chance to repay your favor is enough for me.”
It was an expected answer. Killian let out what he was thinking.
“Shall I find your daughter?”
Rietta’s eyes shook quietly at his unexpected remark. Killian continued to talk.
“I heard Casarius sold her to a wandering slave. He died without even getting to find her again. If you fail to find her, I will try to look for her.”
A strange light passed through Rietta’s expression. Her answer came not long after.
“My daughter is dead.”
A silence passed between the two.
The silence passed again.
“I shouldn’t have said that.”
Rietta smiled as she replied calmly.
“Thank you for saying so.”
Killian looked up at her face. A calm smile appeared on her gaunt, pale face. It was the first time he knew that such a beautiful face could be so sad.
The next morning, while having breakfast at the inn before departure, Killian lifted his eyes and saw that Rietta was eating. With the help of the doctor’s medicine and Lana’s care, it was clear that the color of her face was getting better compared to how it was yesterday.
Killian spoke to everyone.
“We will arrive at the grand temple this evening. We will be moving for a long time so make sure you eat well.
The knights who were sitting at the same table as Killian answered him without much thought.
The women who were sitting at the other tables answered, feeling flustered.
That evening, Killian Axias, along with his knights and his concubines, arrived at the Grand Temple Havitus. It was the day before the full moon.
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