—Thud.

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The heavy door of the Crown Prince’s office slammed shut with a loud noise.

Celine felt her head dizzy for a moment and pressed her forehead.
The situation from the moment before was spinning round and round in her head.

‘Leonhard, what have you done…’

Doing a deal with the Crown Prince who put him under his detainment! Even at the place where the Empress opened her eyes wide open…!

Although Leonhard noticed that her complexion had deteriorated, he uttered unhelpful remarks, whether she looked completely in disarray.

“I apologize if you were offended by His Highness Ricardo.
He is not a very considerate person by nature.
Please understand.”

“What? No—!”

Celine’s voice, which had lost her absurdity, rose.

“Not because of His Highness, but Leonhard’s mission, isn’t it very dangerous?”

His reply came back a little slowly, “…It’s something I’ve been doing alone before I met you.
It’s no different this time.”

“What do you mean, it makes no difference?”

She was about to ask if he was on a much more dangerous mission, but she stood still with a terrifying thought.
As long as it was no different from other missions, there was no need to say that he did it alone until he met her.

“Are you thinking of going alone? Are you leaving me alone…?”

“Yes.”

Celine opened her mouth to refute.

‘I have to tell him.
Didn’t he see the Crown Prince’s reaction? How did he go to such a place alone… Did he forget that I saved him…?’

However, all these words lingered on the tip of Celine’s tongue and never came out of her mouth.
Why Leonhard was going alone… she knew all too well.

‘Because there is a high chance that I will die.’

When she died, Leonhard would suffer all night long.
Of course, he wouldn’t want her to go with him.

‘And… I can’t even get rid of it.’

Celine eventually spat out the answer Leonhard wanted.

“…Be careful.”

“Thank you.”

At the words of gratitude, which he carefully recited while relieved openly, her eyes became sore.

‘What did he mean, thank you? Because I let you go alone to your limbs? Because I don’t stick like a lump of luggage…?’

Nonetheless, Celine didn’t spit out any of the questions that tightened her chest.
Instead, she pretended to be carefree and asked about the schedule.

“When are you leaving?”

“Tomorrow morning.
It’s too late today.”

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They moved to the Grand Hotel.

Even though the manager looked startled, without showing any expression, he bowed down to Leonhardt.
Of course, changing her hair color and wearing the escort maid’s soiled clothes, Celine was treated as an invisible person.

She entered the peony room she was used to.
She was going to take a bath right away since she also fell asleep while she was careful not to drown.

As she was about to enter the bedroom, she could hear Leonhard’s voice.

“Celine, hair.”

“Ah!”

Celine shook her head slightly.
Her black hair returned to its original gold color in an instant.

Leonhard admired it slightly.

“It’s easy if you know the trick.”

Light contains all natural colors, so changing the color was a breeze if you knew how to manipulate the light property.
After all, color was the image reflected on the human retina.
Carl spoke secretly as if it were a secret, but to her, it was only welcome scientific common sense.

“I’ve heard that wizards who specialize in light properties can create sophisticated illusions.”

“I have seen it.”

“How was it? Is it really indistinguishable from the real thing, as Lute Carl said?”

“With a warlock, I knew that everything they made wasn’t real.”

“Ah…”

“Don’t make a face like that.
In the first place, I rarely meet ordinary wizards who are not warlocks.”

“What about me?”

“You’re a few exceptions.”

“It’s an honor.”

“It’s good to know.”

A smile appeared on Leonhard’s lips.

 

***

 

The next morning, the food the maid had loaded onto the tray was enough to be eaten for dinner.

“What is Agathirsus?”

He almost dropped a toast filled with raspberry jam.

“…Do you really not know?”

“I do not know.”

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At her confident reply, Leonhard’s forehead frowned.

Celine Hunt lost her parents early, and she was a woman with no proper education.
Naturally, she lacked common sense and manners.
However, it was a completely different matter for her to not know Agathirsus.

It was because no one did not know Agathirsus in the Imperial Capital, or even in the Empire.

‘No way…’

Perhaps, Celine was being abused by her parents long before she was cursed.

‘…Why didn’t I think of this?’

Celine’s parents were fallen noble.
The mansion must have been quite expensive until she was cursed though she didn’t have basic education to the point where Celine clumsily used a fork and a knife differently.

“…It’s a monster habitat.
Abandoned for a hundred years or so.”

Leonhard decided not to express the thought he had just had for the rest of his life.
Even if his guess was correct, Celine’s parents were already dead and she was now a Northerner.
She had to make up for what she had not been able to enjoy until now.

He could hear Celine breathing in.

“How could it be a hundred years…!”

“I don’t know exactly.
It was probably just the indolence of the knights in charge at first.
After that, no one would have dared to challenge it.”

“Then, what about Leonhard?”

Leonhard hesitated for a moment.

If it was on a scale that could break off one of his arms and destroy it in return, he would have done that earlier.
But, Agathirsus was a place where even he felt intimidated that he might fail.

“Because I might fail.”

“….!”

Celine’s eyes widened, and then she hardened.
Leonhard was afraid of failure.
What further explanation was needed…?

She barely finished her meal.
It felt like chewing on paper, though she was reluctant to leave it behind.

“I have one request…”

Leonhard answered before she could finish her question, it was like a knife in rejection.

“No.”

“Agathirsus, let me see it outside just once.
I will not go in.”

Leonhard’s face immediately frowned, and he asked back.

“Do you think I will believe that?”

“…I won’t go in.
Because I don’t want to die either.”

“It is far.
You can’t even ride a horse.
How are you supposed to get back here?”

“I will wait for Leonhard.”

Celine gazed straight into his face, who was speechless momentarily.

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“You may need me.”

It was only this time that Leonhard realized that he had lost.
Her request was not for her to wait for him.
It was a preparation in case he failed.

“…I understand.”

Celine smiled softly at the sense of triumph.

“I’ll prepare right away.”

After a while, they got ready and moved to the hotel’s stable.
Leonhard’s favorite horse, Black, was so happy to see the master after a long time, heaving and crying.

“I should give you some sugar cubes.”

Although he fumbled around, Celine was faster.
Black quickly ate the sugar cube that was placed on her little palm.

“Is it delicious?”

Black neighed and cried in response to her question.

“Isn’t that sugar cube served with tea earlier?”

“That’s right.”

Leonhard sighed.

Celine seemed convinced that he would eventually accept her request.
She was right, and he had nothing to say.

After a while, they exited the stable and ran through the streets of the Imperial Capital.
Well-maintained roads and crowded buildings disappeared quickly, and a village of small houses appeared.

It was not difficult to find traces of a monster attack in various parts of the village.

Only the expensive horns and teeth were removed and the rest were left to rot, and the corpses of the monsters, the claw marks left on the wall clearly…

It was shocking to know that there are quite a few houses where people live even on the streets where the remains of monsters that have not yet been seen are lying around.

Leonhard, who felt Celine’s body stiffen, spit bitterly.

“There’re knights under direct control here, but there are no proper ones because it’s like a relegation.”

“Wow, I think it’s wrong to let people live here…”

“It’s a village that existed before the colony was formed.
Those who remain are the ones who cannot leave.”

“….”

Eventually, a wasteland that did not even have a single piece of grass appeared.

“There it is.”

Saying so, he then pointed to the gray stone mountain.
The enormous gray stone mountain with no grass or even a handful of soil was familiar to Celine’s eyes.

‘The quarry…?’

Leonhard confirmed that she was right.

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“They say it was once a quarry with a fair amount of mining.”

“I see.”

The stone mountain was cut in half.
If it hadn’t become the base of the monster, it would have been completely slashed away, and only the bare floor would have been left over a hundred years later.

Eventually, he stopped his horse in front of a cliff.

To the other side of the cliff, there was a gap that seemed to be several meters.
Celine glanced and looked down at the depth of several tens of meters.
Feeling dizzy, she closed her eyes.

“They said it had legs.
It was a story from a hundred years ago, so I don’t know the truth.”

“How, how are you going to get there?”

“With Rashir.”

Leonhard put his hand on his waist to pull Rashir out, though there was no need for that.
It was because the next moment, a huge bridge made of ice appeared between the two cliffs.

“Thank you.
But, let’s get rid of this bridge right away.
Demons may ride over it.”

“Leonhard, don’t you think I can’t defeat a few lost monsters by myself?”

“…That’s true.”

He sighed.
Every time he couldn’t understand Celine’s anxious mind, he felt a little resentful.

“Then, I will go.
It’s going to be boring, but I’m glad you’re with Black.”

As Leonhard was about to place his feet on the icy bridge, Celine’s fingertips gently grabbed his back.

“Leonhard.”

It felt like his heart stopped for a moment.
he uttered word by word as if choking his throat, “If you say you want to go with me, I won’t listen.”

But, she shook her head.

“It’s okay to fail, Leonhard.”

“….!”

In an instant, his face was distorted.
However, Celine could only see Leonhard’s stiff back.

“Please, take care of yourself.
Leonhardt’s return.
That is the top priority.”

“….”

“You know, I can’t ride a horse.
If Leonhard doesn’t come back, I’ll starve to death here.”

“…I’m kind of worried.
Still, Black is a smart guy, so he’ll get on with it and run.”

With those words, Leonhard walked forward.
The slight pressure from Celine’s fingertips disappeared from his back.

He didn’t look back until the very end.

The moment he turned around, he felt that sense of crisis as if he was about to roll off a cliff from which he could not escape, would hit him.

‘Dangerous…’

Grabbed his wildly pounding chest, a feeling that shouldn’t have been stirred up.

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