Her message was to stop the nonsense.

Jin Ye shouted.
“Eunuch, come here!”

Another series of footsteps rushed in.
Not long after, the doors opened and Eunuch Park appeared.
He noticed Prince Hwa’s hair had been cut and stooped to lower his back in front of the threshold.

Jin Ye left behind the kneeling Prince Hwa and sat on the throne.

“I’ll give an imperial order.
Note it down.”

The eunuchs quickly prepared a brush and paper before Eunuch Park.

“Please say your order, Your Majesty.”

“I demote General Jung Wi from his position as a duke to a count, and confiscate half of the land in the south that was given to him.”

The eunuch’s hand stopped.
A two-tier rank demotion and confiscated land from the south.
It was not an ordinary order.
In other words, she meant to humiliate General Jung Wi.
It was such an excessive punishment for the discovery of a cursed charm.
Unsurprisingly, Prince Hwa protested.

“Your Majesty, that order…!”

Jin Ye cut him firmly.

“I believe you only asked me to save him.
Ah, if that’s not enough, should I send him out to exile?”

“…”

“Why aren’t you answering?”

Prince Hwa was exasperated, but he controlled his anger.
From the start, it was his mistake to propose the wrong term.
There was no way the cunning Jin Ye would let it slide.
Words of surrender flew out.

“Thank you… for your grace.”

Jin Ye coldly turned her back and left the hall.
As she stepped out, she saw Seoyeob, who had waited for her to come out.
Jin Ye was reminded of what Prince Hwa said earlier as she looked at him who immediately bowed his head the moment he saw her.

“Then, with Marquis Jo—”

Asking if she would have a child with Marquis Jo.

That probably wasn’t because of her.
That kind of question must come out since Jo Seoyeob kept leaking out his feelings.
He thought he had hidden it well, but in reality, that wasn’t the case.
However, even if that was the case, Jin Ye had no intention of throwing him away.

Jo Seoyeob was an existence that Jin Ye needed.
A devotion and loyalty that would never betray her.
There was no one to replace him.
And as Jo Seoyeob himself said, he was only hers.

As Seoyeob followed her, Jin Ye asked in a low voice so that only he could hear.

“Yeon Mugeon is definitely dead, right?”

She asked because she was a bit troubled looking at Prince Hwa acting out like that—although that was a useless gesture.

Seoyeob thought Jin Ye had another intention because she asked something unexpected.

“There’s no way he can survive in Eupju with such a normal body.
Is there any problem?”

“Nothing.”

Jin Ye replied while shaking her head.
Seoyeob, as always, came up with a solution that exceeded her expectations.

“Should I monitor Prince Hwa more thoroughly?”

It was the sound that she liked the most today.
Jin Ye smiled faintly.

“Do it.”

***

Bang…

While the ikjae’s big build collapsed, the black smoke rose.
Mugeon blocked his nose because of the foul smell that came from it, but the smell eventually pierced his nose.
His face crumpled suit.
On top of that, his head was dizzy, so he faltered for a moment.

“Ugh…”

He closed his eyes tight while supporting his head and soon opened them back.
Then, he took a step back from the ikjae’s body that was letting out black smoke.
This was his first time seeing ikjae with his own eyes, so Mugeon didn’t know much about that smoke.
However, looking at how his head got hurt as it kept soaring out, it probably wasn’t safe for humans.

Mugeon finally turned around after watching the last ikjae’s body, which was scattered around, turning the ground black.
Then, step by step, he began to cross the wide plain following the path he had come from.

Every time he walked the blood that covered his body fell to the ground one by one as he took care of the ikjaes.
The blood was swept by the cold wind and quickly froze.

Mugeon, who was trying to walk out through the snow storm, felt his consciousness gradually turn faint.

However, he still wanted to stay alive.

He had to prove himself.
He had to convey his value, which had never been acknowledged by anyone, to Jin Ye.
He believed he could prove it.

Heaven chose me…

He was proved right by the phenomenon he couldn’t explain.

He fought against dozens of ikjaes that he saw for the first time with only a knife.
An ordinary person could not fight an ikjae and would instead get bitten to death.

Those who were destined to be together were connected no matter what.

That was the command of the god that created this world.

In that process, people sometimes transcended human power and also became beings lower than humans.
Wasn’t the first ikjae also born in the process?

However, he felt exhausted.
Perhaps because he lost a lot of blood, his thirst also grew.
The ikjae’s blood that flowed off his body was harmful to humans, so the water in this land that stores their energy could not be normal.

As trivial thoughts surged up and the consciousness faded, Mugeon saw a big shadow.

“…?”

Casting a dark shadow on the ground, it wasn’t like the numerous ikjaes that covered the sky earlier.
As he looked up at the source, there was black smoke that covered…

A woman?

Mugeon found a woman floating in the air and looking down at him.
She stared indifferently at Mugeon with her back to the huge sun slowly creating a sunset.

If he was asked if she was a human, he would answer no.
The woman had black wings behind her back.

Having the cursed god’s wings in the back was the ikjaes’ main characteristic.
He noticed the black smoke around its body wasn’t smoke.
It also had some kind of shape, which was difficult to define.

Its eyes were like toads, its ears were big like Buddha’s, and its nose was aquiline.
Its appearance was similar to a well-known ghost.
He noticed the woman’s attire wasn’t normal as well.
Fluttering, it looked like a shaman’s clothes.

Mugeon’s heart began to beat stronger.

All the ikjaes he saw so far didn’t have a humanoid shape.
Correction, they looked like humans, but there was always something that differentiated them from humans.
However, this ikjae was different.
It looked like a human except for its wings.

Thump.

Mugeon felt his heart squeeze as if someone had grabbed it hard.
At the same time, a high-pitched sound came out from the woman.
Mugeon covered his ears, his head shaking in dizziness.

Then, he was reminded of something—about the first ikjae that he heard from his mother when he was young.

“….
And so, a lot of my friends also lost their lives to ikjaes.”

It was a story told by his mother one night before the lamplight turned off.
Mugeon laid down on his mother’s lap and listened to the story about all the dangerous things in this world.
The story about ikjae naturally came out, and he heard the awful stories that his mother experienced herself.

Mugeon was scared but he didn’t cry.
However, he held tight to his mother’s clothes and sank deeper into her arms as he asked.

“Mother, why was that monstrous ikjae born?”

“I heard the first ikjae was born from eating its fated person that it loved.
And as punishment, it became a monster.”

I’m afraid, Mother.

Mugeon couldn’t let those words escape his mouth because he didn’t want to look like a coward.
In curiosity, while he couldn’t control his fear, he asked again.

“Then that ikjae must look very horrible, right?”

Mugeon’s voice was slightly trembling.
It was a slight change, but Mugeon’s mother patted his back, telling him not to be afraid, and continued her story.

“People say that’s not the case.”

“Then…?”

The first ikjae was a beautiful woman.
It always had an evil god behind it.

That was his mother’s explanation.

It’s real.

Thump.

Mugeon felt his heart pound once again with a heavy voice.
He instinctively knew that the monst– the woman that was a human, was the first ikjae that appeared in this world 300 years ago.

Initially, he thought it had a god-like appearance, but never imagined it would take on the form of a shaman.

However, knowing what kind of existence it was wasn’t enough for him to overcome his fear.
Mugeon sensed another animalistic instinct.
That thing wasn’t something he could win against.
It couldn’t become extinct simply by pulling out its tongue and cracking its neck.

As if to prove that, the woman abruptly stopped crying and smiled at Mugeon.

She had black eyes, but her sclera was red.
Then, he met its eyes.

Grumble!

The earth shook, lightning struck from the sky, and stones bounced from the ground.
Feeling the massive power pressing down on him, Mugeon saw the evil god behind her pick up a long sickle.

Mugeon couldn’t move despite seeing that.
That was because the sickle was soon swaying in the air, and his body was blown away by the powerful wind

Before he lost consciousness, Mugeon felt his bones crushed by the strong wave that struck his body.

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