“How long are you going to stay like this?”

Richard Dranir, the lord of Ruin City and also the head of the Dranir family, opened his mouth as he heavily looked at his daughter, Rain Dranir.

“…”

Rain didn’t say anything while she sat on a chair and looked at the window despite her father’s words, this made Richard’s face darken further.
Three days, three days have already passed and Rain was found alone and unconscious in the middle of the Black Forest, where all the resentments had disappeared.

There were signs of a fierce battle around her and none of the subjugation squads that had set out together were in sight, but Richard didn’t ask about it.
No, he couldn’t ask.
Since then, his daughter has been in that state.

“…At least eat your meal.”

Richard sighed as he looked at the dish of food piled up next to Rain and quietly went out.
The room became silent again.
How much time has passed?

“..It’s my fault.”

A small voice came out of Rain’s mouth, staring blankly out of the window, and could not be heard unless you listened closely.

“Because I’m weak.”

Dead, they’re all dead.
All the people who had been together with her for decades were more like family than family yet they all lost their lives that day.
The reason was neither that Rian betrayed nor that the number of subjugation teams was small.
It’s weakness, it was just because Rain was weak.

“I have to be strong.”

If she had been strong enough to enter the Black Forest alone, or if she had been strong enough to penetrate the heart of the witch, maybe they had not died.

“By all means.”

Pajik!

A thunderbolt gradually begins to form in Rain’s dazed eyes.
She knew that the witch is not dead yet.
Rain vowed to tear that witch to death with her own hands one day, and there’s one man who suddenly comes to her mind.

Zion.

Apparently, the last man she saw before she fainted was Zion, a man whose identity and power are unknown.
What on earth had happened after that? It was most likely that he was dead, but Rain had the feeling that maybe he was still alive.

Then maybe we can meet again someday.

After thinking that, Rain slowly began to rise from the chair.

* * *

The Moonlight Diner, one of the secret branches of the Information Guild ‘Moonlit Snow’ in the Agnes Empire capital.
Irene, the head of the branch there, tapped her finger on the report in front of her.

“Is this… true?”

“Yes.”

Allen, a bearded man standing beside her nodded and answered Irene’s question.
The report she is reading now was information about an unknown royal descendant who visited the branch here just a while ago.
The report contained details of what he did, including the movements of the royal descendant over the past few days.

“…The Black Forest has disappeared.”

And what surprised Irene among the reports was that the Black Forest had disappeared.
No, to be precise, the resentments that filled the black forest disappeared as if they had been cleansed. 

Originally, she and the Moonlit Snow did not know about the black forest in detail, but they learned a lot from the research this time.
At the same time, she roughly guessed the identity of the ‘evil’ that Dranir’s hero had sealed in the past.

“Does that mean that the witch inside is also dead?”

“Our informants could not enter the forest, so they could not confirm exactly, but I think it is because of the disappearance of the resentments in the vicinity.”

“Hmm…”

Irene also knew who the thousand-year-old witch was.
One of the greatest enemies of mankind and one of the most powerful beings who had bloodied the world about 200 years ago and the disappearance of such existence was a very big deal.

“There was intervention…..”

Combining the information collected so far and additional requests received by Nari, it was easy to see that the targets of the royal descendant listed in the report were the Purification Cultist and the Black Forest.

“…Maybe the royal family.”

No, it could have gone beyond mere intervention and he was the one who destroyed the thousand-year-old witch.
But no matter how weak the seal was, and even with the help of Chilgeol, how much power did it have to extinguish a thousand-year-old witch or a strong person equivalent to her? Normally, she would have snorted that it was impossible, but for some reason, Irene now thought it was possible.

The direct bloodline of the Agnes family ruling the world, each and every one of them was a monster whose end was unknown but then another question came into Irene’s eyes.

“But why did you do this?”

She had no idea even as to why.
She thought that in order to know this, she had to know the identity of that royal descendant.

“Has the identity of the interest been ascertained?”

“Since then, we have looked into the Imperial Castle and found that all but one of the direct members of the Imperial Family are in the city.”

“Who’s the one?”

Irene’s eyes glistened at Allen’s words.
A person with such an overwhelming presence and dark grey hair would definitely not be a bystander, he was obviously the only one left.
However, Allen’s subsequent words changed her face strangely.

“Prince Zion Agnes, the imprisoned prince.”

* * *

The foyer on the first floor of the Chimseong Palace outside the Agnes Imperial Castle.

“Is your ear clogged?”

Knight Fredo, who escorts Zion Agnes, the master of this place, looked at a middle-aged man with a large fist who had stormed into the palace in the morning.
Fernando Pringham, the captain of the 4th Division of Icarus, one of the Imperial Wizards, one of the people who will conduct the ‘Succession Ceremony’ this time.
Some rumors have been spreading that he has already boarded the main line of the Third Prince.

“I need to see Prince Zion in person, h-e-r-e.”

Fernando propped Fredo on the shoulder with a piece of paper in his hand.

“I need to get his signature.”

At the top of the document was a written consent form for the succession ceremony.
Fredo’s eyes were fluttered by it, Prince Zion hasn’t returned yet, and he was the only one who knew about it.

Prince Zion…

It was already close to a week, and Fredo was reaching his limit to hide the fact that Zion was not in the palace.
Rather than that, he was more worried about what is happening to Zion outside.

“You know that today is the last day to apply for the succession ceremony, right? If Prince Zion doesn’t sign this by today, he won’t be able to participate in the ceremony.”

Fernando spoke in an irritated tone to Fredo, who remained silent.
In fact, when other direct members of the royal family hold succession ceremonies, they don’t need to see someone as long as they make their participation clear, yet this was being applied strictly to Prince Zion.
Thanks to this, Fernando was visiting Chimseong Palace once a day for several days.
However, behind his irritated eyes were subtle expectations.

This is for sure.

It has already been three days since he started coming to this palace regularly.
In the meantime, Prince Zion’s face has not been seen.
Fredo made various excuses, such as not feeling well today, and hadn’t left the underground training center, but Fernando wasn’t convinced.

Right now, Prince Zion is not in Chimseong Palace.
No, he is not in the capital.

It was too obvious when he combined the words of people around him that they had not been able to see him at all for some time with various other circumstantial evidence.
Royal family members who have not yet held a succession ceremony are prohibited from leaving the castle without permission.

 If ever Prince Zion leaves, this could be used to prevent the succession ceremony itself from taking place.
This was an open opportunity to show his loyalty to the Third Prince, who’s in disapproved of Prince Zion’s succession.

“Where is Prince Zion now?”

“He’s not feeling well, so he’s resting in his bedroom…”

“I must see him today no matter what!”

Puck!

With these words, Fernando, who had pushed Fredo past him, quickly began to climb the palace stairs.
He did not need any guidance because he already knew the location of Prince Zion’s bedroom.

“Captain Fernando, just a moment… Just a moment!”

The old knight caught up behind him with a tense expression on his face, but he was unable to stop Fernando.

Tadadat!

Fernando’s eyes are filled with joy the closer he got to the bedroom.
On the contrary, Fredo’s eyes grew more perplexed.

My Prince, where on earth have you gone!

The old knight called Zion inwardly.

“Your Highness the Prince! It’s urgent, so I’ll excuse myself to go in!”

Finally, Fernando, who arrived in front of the bedroom, burst open the door with a smile.
And the next moment–

“Oh..?”

The joy in Fernando’s eyes disappeared and what he saw was Prince Zion sitting at a small table next to the big bed, turning over the book.

Tok!

With Fernando’s appearance, Zion closes the book he was reading and looks at him.  Fernando felt his body shrink unknowingly the moment Prince Zion’s languid eyes looked at him.

“You shouldn’t have done that if you knew you were going to excuse yourself, right?”

“I–I apologise, Your Highness!”

It’s different, everything was different from the Zion Agnes he had heard so far.
The way he naturally looked down at everything and the strong pressure he felt from him.
Is he really the imprisoned prince? Rather than an imprisoned prince, it’s like… 

Then, Zion reached out to Fernando, who bowed his head.

“…?”

“The form, you ask me to sign it.”

“Ah, yes!”

Finally realizing what he meant, Fernando quickly approached Zion and handed him the consent form.

“As you know.
I don’t like anyone touching mine.”

A low voice flowed from Zion’s mouth as he signed the consent form to participate in the succession ceremony with a pen while talking about Fernando’s disrespectful treatment of Fredo a while ago.

“Watch your action.”

This was a warning, a warning that there would be no next time.
A cold sweat broke out on Fernando’s neck as he bowed to the ominousness of the voice.

“My prince, where have you been? This Fredo was so nervous! I was looking for you several times a day…”

After Fernando left the palace as if running away with the consent signed, Zion listened to Fredo, who sat in front of him and spilled out exaggerated words and summarised what had happened in his head.

It was a close call.

Zion returned to the castle just before Fernando stormed the Chimseong Palace.
If he had been a little late, he would not have been able to participate in the succession ceremony.

By now, Liusina would have arrived in the capital.

Since leaving the Black Forest, Zion has not moved with Liusina.
The only person who had the authority to bring in an outsider who was not officially elected to the palace was a direct member of the royal family who was eligible to enter the palace.
Therefore, Zion had given one instruction to Liusina.
By the time she finishes his instructions and enters the Imperial City, Zion will also pass the succession ceremony and be qualified.

Before that…

Zion’s eyes turned to Fredo.

“Is that done?”

“You mean… ah, you mean the heart of a thousand-year-old Ogre? Of course, I’ve finished what  you instructed.”

There was one instruction Zion gave to Fredo before he left the Imperial Castle.
it’s the processing of the heart of a thousand-year-old ogre.
In order to fully absorb the power contained in the heart of a thousand-year-old ogre, special measures were required, and it took some time to do so, so he did not consume it until now.

By absorbing the power of the heart, and reducing the penalty for this damn body as much as possible.
And…

Zion slowly clasped his hand and stretched it out.

Before the succession ceremony, I will raise Astral Darkness to two stars.

In Zion’s eyes, the second star swirled faintly and disappeared.

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