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Chapter: 22


Knight Commander Duran walked out of the barracks. 

He was a handsome man with a slim, elegant figure and blond hair.

Asha had several contacts with him in her previous life. 

Duran Dandelion. 

Like Baron Dandelion’s head of state, he had an appearance reminiscent of a dandelion. 

His lustrous dark blonde hair was as beautiful as hers, and his eyes, dark green like a leaf of midsummer grass, were soft and unshakable. 

He was a man with a strong heart that would never be broken even if he was stepped on by someone or a storm raged. 

He looked at Asha without saying a word. 

Green and purple eyes met in the dark. 

Duran looked into her mysterious purple eyes and intuitively realized that this was the woman the bandit was talking about. 

The description was consistent, and more importantly, he knew there were no female hunters on Lycaon. 

Then, Asha spoke first.

"I am the Butterfly of the Empire."

The knights all gasped at the same time. 

Only Duran was not surprised and asked.

"I heard that you had been living in Lycaon, but did they abandon you or did you come to negotiate with me?"

Aisha was slightly taken aback by the sharp remark but responded with a bit of resignation.

"……The latter. So take me, and don’t chase them anymore."

Asha calmly spread her hands.

Duran stared at her and instructed the knights.

"Take her."

"Yes!"

They tied Asha’s hands and body with ropes. 

Her body trembled at the rough movement, but Asha didn’t resist and stood calmly, staring at the ground.

Then Duran asked her.

"Did you come here alone without telling your leader?"

"……Yes. After all, I’m the one you’re looking for anyway."

"But you could have just run away, why….."

"I saw the future."

The knights were surprised by Asha’s resolute response. 

She’s the Butterfly of the Empire. 

It was a situation where her butterfly ability could be seen as a prophecy.

"If you saw the future……"

"I realized I couldn’t run away from you. The end was only death. I heard that the Cactus Knights never miss their targets and pursue them all the way to Hell. Am I wrong?"

Duran kept his mouth shut. 

It was true. 

Though he might die while carrying out the Emperor’s orders, he never returned empty-handed. 

Like a dandelion, which symbolizes strong vitality and uprightness, he would persistently survive on the battlefield to cut off the enemy leader’s head. 

Duran said with a strange smile.

"Fortunately, you seem to have a better understanding of the situation than your leader."

Asha looked at him and said.

"Promise me. If you take me, you’ll leave them alone."

Her purple eyes went up and down like a full moon alone in the dark night sky.

Duran thought for a moment before answering.

"I am only obeying His Majesty’s orders. I’ll try, but I can’t guarantee it. As you know, His Majesty’s hatred of ethnic minorities is too big a problem to be solved simply."

Asha’s expression darkened.

"However, if you are really a butterfly and can make His Majesty’s flowers bloom, Lycaon and the other minority clans will be able to lead a much safer life than they do now."

"……Then that is enough."

Asha said it with a little relief.

"Please let us return to the Imperial Palace as soon as possible. Otherwise, they’ll know I’m gone and they’ll come after me."

Duran nodded. He instructed the knights to be ready to leave right now.

He gathered up Asha’s belongings while everyone was getting ready in perfect order. 

Looking down at her dagger, Jackal’s face suddenly flashed into her mind, causing Asha’s heart to ache. 

Duran said, seeing her bitter expression from the side.

"This is a weapon, so I will keep it."

He had held a sword all his life, so he recognized at a glance that this dagger was no ordinary one. 

And from the expression on her face, he could also tell that it was a precious object to her. 

Asha knew she would never touch the dagger again, but she was grateful that he kept it.

"Then let’s go now."

Asha got on a horse with a lieutenant. 

But it was when they were about to leave the campsite after finishing their preparations.

From afar, an arrow flew frantically and struck the lieutenant’s arm holding the reins.

"Ugh…!"

The lieutenant groaned, clutching his arrowed arm.

Duran looked back and saw a man in the distance riding a horse fiercely down the hill.

His blue-gray hair fluttered wildly in the wind, and in the darkness, his eyes shone eerily like blue flames. 

Asha’s eyes widened slowly. 

He seemed to have come alone after finding out that she had left.

Jackal followed closely behind them like an angry wild horse and shot arrows at them. 

Seeing the knights unsheathing their swords and aiming arrows at him, Asha desperately shouted at Duran.

"Please! Please don’t kill that man……!"

Duran, who was about to give the order to attack, paused for a moment. 

Asha desperately asked once more.

"Please……. That man and the Lycaons still don’t even know I’m a butterfly. They kept me safe until now only because I am also from an ethnic minority clan."

Duran was lost in thought for a moment.

The Emperor ordered him not only to bring the butterfly but also to find and catch people from ethnic minority clans. 

If he disobeyed the order, he would be punished as well. 

Normally, he would have followed his master’s orders without reflecting on the situation. 

However, the butterfly who willingly gave herself up to save them was admirable, and Lycaon, who kept her safe, actually made a big contribution to the Empire. 

There would be no greater reward than sparing their lives now. 

Duran finished thinking and shouted.

"Aim for the horse, not the man!"

Fortunately, he was not as bloodless as the Emperor. 

The knights who were about to shoot at him immediately turned and shot at Jackal’s horse.

No matter how well he could avoid it, it was difficult to avoid all the arrows fired by dozens of knights. 

Eventually, the horse was hit by an arrow and fell forward. Jackal fell abruptly from his horse. 

Asha’s eyes grew bigger and she screamed.

"Jackal…..!"

Jackal jumped to his feet as soon as he fell at the sound of her voice calling out his name. 

His face was contorted and his eyes were bloodshot. 

He did not give up and persistently pursued them with his bow. 

Duran shouted as his men agonized over whether or not to attack him.

"Put down your bow and just defend!"

They immediately raised their shields and defended their horse’s surroundings like a fortress. 

Since Jackal was from the Kelpie clan, he chased after them at incredible speed while shooting arrows. But no matter how much he chased after them, the humans couldn’t keep up with the horses’ speed. 

The gap between them grew wider and wider. 

Jackal ran at full speed, trying to catch up with her.

"Asha…..!"

Asha’s tears welled up at the sound of his earnest voice and sorrowful eyes.

Her heart ached, but this was right. 

She and he were not supposed to be together. 

He won’t be happy if she stays.

     Take care…… Jackal.

Asha muttered it to him and smiled sadly for the last time. 

It was a farewell. 

Duran screamed out loud.

"All troops, run at full speed all the way to the Imperial Palace!"

Jackal staggered to a halt when they were too far away. 

Even if he now transforms into a horse, he would not be able to defeat them with the body of a horse. 

He took a deep breath before yelling.

"Damn it….!"

His voice echoed in the forest. 

His voice was so loud that even Asha could hear it. 

It was a mournful voice as if a beast was howling. 

Soon after, several members of the organization, including Sosa and Gabe, followed behind Jackal.

They only looked at Asha, who had already left. Jackal was kneeling in the snow with his head down. 

* * * * *

The knights rode for a long time and reached the capital of the Empire, ‘Ferrach‘. 

Suddenly, the bright sun rose above the horizon. 

As soon as she left the northern region of Herta, a gentle spring breeze with the scent of flowers wafted into her nose. 

Asha felt strange as if she were in a different world, but at the same time, she felt bitter that she had returned to a place she was all too familiar with. 

Seeing the small changes, she felt as if she had been forced to wake from a sweet daydream. 

Asha struggled to hold herself.

She didn’t come here to meet the same end. 

She would no longer be swayed by the situation and would do her best. 

To save Jackal and the rest of the ethnic minority clan, she had no choice but to win the Emperor’s favor. 

Even if it was later revealed that she could not make the Emperor’s flower bloom, she at least had to win the Emperor’s favor so that the minority clans would not be held responsible. 

Just as Jackal tried to protect her till the end, she will protect him and Lycaon this time. 

She walked with confidence.

Duran, who was walking ahead, said calmly.

"Since it’s your first time in the Imperial Palace, I will give you some advice. Please be as obedient in front of His Majesty as when you gave yourself up. That side would be good for your image."

Asha looked at his back, but he was walking, only looking forward. 

It was not a threat or a command, but advice from the heart. 

Being the Emperor’s closest confidant, he was well aware of Karaf’s fierce nature, so he was giving advice beforehand not to offend him. 

But Asha had already made up her mind on how to act. 

She thought about it and pondered it seriously until she reached the Imperial Palace. 

Duran’s advice was correct, but she couldn’t win the Emperor’s favor if she only followed his advice. 

Asha knew what kind of women Karaf liked more than anyone.

He had no interest in obedient women.

He liked a butterfly-like woman who flapped and writhed like a wild fly.

To be precise, he liked to ‘tame’ such a woman and make her completely his own.

The time when he showed the most interest and obsession with her was when she ran away.

Ironically, he showed the greatest interest in her when things didn’t go his way.


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