Of those who left, only their vestiges still clearly remained.
The temporary temple had been burned so thoroughly that it’s impossible to restore it again. Besides that, even as the temporary forest originally was not a place that people frequented, it now had an acrid smell that would waft through the air, obvious to anyone walking nearby.
But what’s shocking about the incident was that there was not a single casualty to the enormous fire.
People whispered amongst themselves that God had been there to protect them.
Even so, what surprised people the most was that, on the night of the fire, the imperial princess who was staying temporarily at Ladeen had met her demise in an unexpected accident.
No one died in the fire, but one person died elsewhere. And it was the princess!
The devotees of L’Haille were forced to take responsibility for this loss, and they were eventually asked to return to the capital soon.
Among these people were those who had been raising a lot of commotion around Ladeen for a while now.
Because the incident that happened was this big, no one opposed the summons.
All except one.
Splash— A white spray of water went up in the air as the high waves vehemently crashed against the shore.
The currents were so strong that any person walking along the shallow oceanside would have stumbled along, however there was one such man who continued to move forward madly.
Black hair ruffled by the sea breeze, eyes that had lost their light and instead gained the look of insanity.
Behind him, Cadelia rolled up her skirt and tried to approach the man.
As the distance between them narrowed, it became clearer and clearer to see just how much damage had been done upon him, just how much he’d lost all rationality ever since Ophelia’s death.
The amount of tears he had shed was obvious after seeing his eyes, and there at his side was a torn garment gripped in one fist.
This was a piece of the dress that Cadelia’s half-sister had worn on the day she fell down the cliff.
‘Just what do you see in that illegitimate princess…’
She bit her lip for a moment, then she clung onto Ian.
She loathed to see how much Ian had fallen deep in love with Ophelia, but this could be a good opportunity for her.
“Your Excellency, please pull yourself together! We have to leave for the capital today!”
“I can’t go. Tell His Majesty that I can’t. Until I find Ophelia, I—”
“My older sister has already passed away! It’s even a miracle that we found her clothes—”
“Shut your mouth!”
Ian unleashed his anger, not wanting to hear any more of her words. His bloodshot eyes shook violently.
“Have I not told you clearly? I saw red hair in this place yesterday!”
“It’s a trick of the light! If even Your Excellency is going to be put under danger, Milescet would become even more of a laughingstock. Please, you can’t be like this!”
“I don’t intend to change my mind. Let go of me. I… I can’t leave this place. Ophelia, Ophelia is right here…”
In that moment, the wind blew harshly and a wave crashed into Ian’s legs forcefully.
Ian was easily knocked down by this. Over the saltwater, his tears dripped down.
He embraced the dress, which was the only trace of Ophelia left, and he looked to be the embodiment of a man who had lost everything.
Cadelia stared at the man’s figure with a grimace, beckoning to the servants behind her to pull Ian out.
There was a time when he looked more perfect than any other man. What on earth happened to him?
‘What did they say about Ophelia again.’
Some people mourned her demise, but Cadelia herself had not a single intention to mourn, not in the slightest.
Because now that Ophelia was dead, Cadelia was the one who’s going to be sold to King Kschent.
Even last night, she cried while writing a letter to her father, begging him not to send her. But he remained silent.
This man whose love was unrequited couldn’t forget her half sister and just kept on being a nuisance, and then there was also Bishop Verlan taking full responsibility of this, being stripped away of all the god L’Haille’s grace.
It was a truly noisy, raucous death.
Cadelia turned around, a scowl on her face.
But suddenly, in the gap between two reefs, it felt as if she caught a glimpse of red hair. She wondered if insanity was infectious.
Cadelia rubbed her eyes. The ocean continued to move ferociously, and the color red could no longer be seen.
As expected, it was a trick of the light. Cadelia trudged laboriously back to the shore.
* * *
At dawn, the surrounding waters started being tinged scarlet.
Seeing one glimpse of this, Yennit, who was wearing a tan robe, grumbled.
“I can’t believe that the day has come that I’ve helped those temple scum.”
“You’ve been doing a good job though, so what’s wrong now, Yennit?”
“I’ve been helping them all this time, but they’re just trying to catch me again!”
Yennit let out her anger as she patted off her soot-covered robe. She did so because it felt like the heat of the fire was still staying around her.
Every priest was aware of how vulnerable mages were to the flames of L’Haille.
She did her best to save those guys and risked herself amidst such flames, but as soon as the fire died down, the first thing one of them did was grab onto her arm.
—We appreciate your courageous acts, however this cannot absolve you of all your sins.
Was what he said.
More than that, Yennit really had been on the verge of getting held captive and unable to resist since she had used up all her mana from saving those priests.
If it hadn’t been for Cornelli, she would have gotten imprisoned again. It was a good thing that he happened to hear about her situation from Alejandro when they crossed paths earlier.
“Anyway, it’s good that you came out unscathed, so calm down now. We won’t be seeing those guys after we go back to the tower.”
Look over there. Cornelli pointed towards the direction of the sunrise, where two other people were walking a bit ahead of them.
“So Alei, this is the barrier, right?”
“It’s something that can’t be touched, but this is so fascinating.”
Ophelia cautiously reached out towards the barrier. It was invisible, but the moment she touched it, the way her hand disappeared in that place revealed the barrier’s existence.
The barrier could be passed through, so the invisible part of Ophelia’s hand should be on the other side of it.
“Just because you can feel the barrier here doesn’t mean you’re allowed to enter the magic tower, right?”
“It’s because you can feel its existence here that you can come and go as you please. Because if it’s any other person, they wouldn’t be able to feel anything.”
Alejandro smiled and held Ophelia’s hand, then led her across the barrier.
From outside, the only thing that could be seen was the endless stretch of the ocean, however as soon as they stepped inside, the view from within was finally revealed.
Looming beyond were jagged rock formations and, at last, the magic tower.
There was no need to ask. This was clearly the sirens’ territory.
Ophelia murmured unconsciously.
“So there’s a reason why the magic tower is called Siren Tower.”
“I can’t pinpoint the exact origin of the tower’s name, but while looking at this scenery, that’s what I often think.”
Alejandro lightly acknowledged her words, then he set Ophelia down on the water’s surface.
When Ophelia and Alejandro’s feet were about to sink into the ocean, the water gradually lowered and soon revealed a bridge hidden underneath.
As Ophelia unintentionally exclaimed, Yennit followed from behind and interjected.
“It’s been a while since I saw this bridge.”
“Now that you mention it, it must have been a long time since you came back to the tower, right, Yennit?” Ophelia asked.
“Yes, that’s right. But the bridge also won’t reveal itself for as long as the tower is asleep.”
Yennit further mentioned that everything inside the barrier was driven by the magic tower’s power. That’s why the lord of the magic tower was also all the more important.
“Yennit’s right. Since the magic tower was asleep before, I had a really hard time going to the shore back then!”
Cornelli also quipped from behind. For one reason or another, these two chick-like mages seemed to be quite happy to be back to their home.
“Since Lord Alejandro is back, the tower must be awake again. I’m sure everyone already knows that Lord Alejandro is back at the tower.”
With a wide smile, Cornelli took the lead.
Perhaps because she had now returned home after such a long time, Yennit also walked forward together with Cornelli, talking about the research facilities and the places she had missed.
And perhaps because it was so peaceful everywhere that Ophelia was also very excited.
‘I’m really here.’
Siren Tower. A place she thought she would never have any connection to.
Ophelia followed after those who had gone ahead.
With every step, ocean waves hit the stone bridge gently, bubbling up.
The scenery that stretched out before her looked as if it wouldn’t be able to fit her arms even if she stretched them out to her sides.
At long last, it was a life that she could grasp all on her own, for the first time.
There was nothing that could force her, nothing that could make her suffer.
Even though life had, thus far, been constantly riddled with regrets and irrevocable things, Ophelia knew that she would no longer be afraid of life.
Her life was a product of all the choices she made, and it was something she achieved for herself.
Overwhelming emotions permeated the bottom of her heart. Somehow, she burst into a peal of laughter.
With the ebb and flow of the tide, it was a morning free of tears.
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