If one were to lose their way due to some accident or mishap, then there was always a lighthouse that could be found. In Alei’s mind, a voice rang out.
—Alei. This is nothing like calming the waves.
—If you get swept away by your emotions here and accidentally kill Ian, what guarantee do you have that it won’t happen again? Will you attack me next?
Ophelia had said this out of concern for Alei, but it was also a warning.
It was a tacit warning that Ophelia would not look back the moment Alei crossed this line. And he was acutely aware of this.
What was this. Even as his rationality was fading, the first thing that came to his mind was still Ophelia. It was laughable how he’s like this.
Even so, it was effective. It was at that moment that Alei realized—if he were to bring down this place, then the damage would be dealt to Ophelia.
He was already in the middle of conjuring mana, but he let this go.
Around the time the temple shook as though it was about to collapse, Alei stopped and the vibrations faded away as well.
“…So it’s true that you use black magic.”
One person near him voiced this out.
As though it was a signal, everyone moved in order.
As soon as Verlan brought out his divine power to incapacitate Alei, the bishop ordered for the mage to be imprisoned. Soon enough, several priests rushed to shackle him with mana restraints on his wrists and ankles.
Besides that, one of the people who surrounded him was Cadelia.
She shrieked about how the earthquake created by Alei’s mana was aimed at her, then she shouted that a similar thing happened at the palace before.
“We were at the Imperial Palace back then, but he tried to hurt me with the same dangerous power that he unleashed just now! I thought he was hiding, but he’s coming after me again here!”
It was an absurd conjecture, but it was also true that Alei had once been at odds with Cadelia, so he could not refute this. This would have turned out differently if Ophelia was here, but as it had come to this, there was nothing he could do.
Even if he protested here, no matter how much he would have fought, the result would not change. As soon as Cadelia mentioned last time’s incident, Verlan opened his lips and spoke in a stern voice.
“Not only had you broken into the temple, but you also tried to harm a member of the Imperial Family. This cannot be taken lightly. You will first be detained at the temple’s dungeon prison, then you will be transferred to the Imperial Palace, where you shall pass judgment.”
It’s as if the entire situation had fallen into place. Without even going through the formalities of questioning the authenticity of Cadelia’s accusations, Alei was immediately imprisoned. And Yennit was brought along as well.
Alei heard that she was detained here together with him because she went on an outrage after hearing about Alei’s imprisonment. No one could have stopped it.
He already knew that Ophelia was not at Ladeen Castle, so he wasn’t surprised when he heard it.
Coughing heavily, Yennit spoke.
“Anyhow—cough—I’m worried about Cornelli. I wish there’s a way we can get in touch with him.”
“Worry about yourself first, Yennit. It’ll be dangerous if all your mana burns away at this rate.”
“Cough, cough! If only there’s another way out, but it seems like there isn’t.”
Mana naturally permeated the air, but if there was none of that, then a mage could suffer from mana exhaustion. Alei might fare well because he still had a lot of mana in his reserve, but it wouldn’t be long until Yennit’s mana would drop to a critical amount.
There might be no way out, but there was at least a way to alleviate the situation.
‘If I could just remove the restraints without getting noticed.’
Then he would be able to let his mana flow into the air, which Yennit would be able to breathe in. This was only a temporary measure, but through this, they would be able to endure until Ophelia returned and would take action.
However, the problem here was that Alei was also not in the best condition.
‘After inhaling more smoke, my internal injuries are worse than I expected.’
If he were to summon some mana to release the restraints, then he wouldn’t be able to control it properly. If it was a few hours ago before he sustained these injuries and when he was still at his full capacity, then it would have been possible.
Of course, he was about to lose his rationality back then so he couldn’t say that it really might have been possible. Even so, it was still a cause for unease.
‘But I can’t hesitate any longer.’
If there was even just the slightest opening through the chains that were binding his hands, then his mana would be able to seep out.
Alei carefully flicked one finger. Even with the littlest effort, his mana shook considerably.
If he were to repeat small movements like this and break the restraints…!
The unstable mana made the stone walls vibrate under pressure. Alei stopped immediately.
Did he fail to control his mana again?
Just as a sense of frustration was about to rise up from beneath,
The stone door of the dungeon prison opened. And a figure could be seen.
The chest of the figure’s silhouette was roughly clothed with a vest. He coughed a few times through the thick smoke, and as he wheezed out, he expressed his anger.
“What the— What kind of nasty place is this?”
It was a familiar voice and a familiar mana signature. Half in doubt, Alei called out to him.
“Oh, so you’re here!”
Asello felt delighted as he heard Alei’s voice, then he waved his hand.
“It’s hard to breathe in here, but why are you in this place?”
What a weird taste. Asello muttered under his breath, then he took out his wings.
Unlike Sante, the young sirens needed to take up the form of a bird, or close to it, when using magic. The more they looked like a bird, the more mana they’d be able to wield.
“I thought I should try to respect your taste, but I can’t because I’m literally suffocating in here.”
As soon as he said this, Asello flapped his wings in a grand manner, and a gust of wind blew inside the building, throughout the dungeon.
Of course, Asello was just trying to get rid of the smoke. However, the problem was that the gust was strong enough to alert other people as well.
“This, what a crazy…!”
Yennit cursed out, but Asello paid her no mind. The young siren shook the prison with gusts of wind until he was satisfied that all the smoke was gone, and then he grinned.
“Now I think I can live again! But why do you look like that?”
“This damn bird head…”
“But isn’t it nice that the smoke is gone now?”
“Cough! Fine, yes, that’s true. But how the hell did a bird head like you know about this place?”
“Ophelia sent me here though?”
With a questioning tone, Asello walked over to them with a spring in his step. The moment Ophelia’s name was mentioned, Yennit’s expression grew bright.
“Did Ophelia tell you to rescue us?”
“Nah, she just told me to pass a message?”
The bright expression Yennit had soon dimmed again, but in the meantime, Alei brightened up. From the beginning, he knew that Ophelia wouldn’t have sent a siren to rescue them.
Even so, he couldn’t be certain whether the message he was to receive was something that would give him hope.
The message could be Ophelia saying that she’s decided to abandon Alei as he had been captured. Alei leaned towards the prison bars and waited for Asello’s lips to open one more time.
And Ophelia’s words—
“You don’t have to hold it in.”
—were far simpler than Alei expected.
“Regardless of what happens outside, you can do whatever you want. That’s what she said.”
“…Is that all?”
“There’s one more thing.”
Asello murmured as he roughly tousled his tangled hair.
To be more exact, Ophelia’s first message was that Alei didn’t need to hold back.
—Asello. Listen to me before you go. I don’t know what’s going to happen out there.
—Are you going to do something fun?
—Maybe. Tell him that he can do whatever he wants. He doesn’t need to worry about me.
—Not to worry about you?
—Yeah. Tell him that he could think of it as the two of us being nothing more than strangers. That way… He’ll be able to take care of himself.
It was difficult for Asello to understand everything that she said. However, Asello was sincere about his job as a messenger.
So, he pondered over the words he had yet to pass over.
Then, he said,
“Ophelia thinks that you’re nothing more than strangers to each other.”
“…What did you say?”
Alei’s face hardened grimly, but Asello’s gaze remained innocent. He couldn’t express everything well, despite his efforts.
“Really? That’s what Ophelia said? Even though she knows I’m trapped here?”
“Lord Alejandro, isn’t this too much? She cut you off as soon as she found out you’ve been imprisoned!”
Yennit banged on the wall the next room over and let out her rage.
“Siren! Untie this! I’m gonna turn this whole damn place upside down right this second! I knew it, the humans outside the tower are all just a bunch of—”
Right at that moment, a commotion could be heard outside.
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