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Chapter: 111


"Your Majesty, the Archmage has arrived."

The Archmage entered the audience room with a stiff body.

"…I greet Your Majesty," the Archmage greeted with courtesy. 

Raytan remained silent. He looked down at him with a hand still massaging his temple.

The Archmage bowed his head and also didn’t want to initiate conversation. After some time passed, it was Raytan who broke the silence first.

"How long have you been working in the temple?"

"It has been exactly 40 years this year."

"Hm," Raytan tapped his chin."

"What was your original position?"

"…I was just a low-born child."

"You have risen to a quite high position from your previous status. The job of an Archmage is not something easily obtained, is it?"

"No. I am still very grateful for it to this day."

"There’s no reason to be thankful. Isn’t it a place you can only reach with your own strength? You got the position because you were that good."

"…"

"Then you must have been recruited when you were young. When someone with magical powers is born, they must be reported to the Imperial Palace, right?"

"Yes. When I was about eight years old, I was put on the list and immediately entered the temple."

Everybody on the list had to enter the Imperial Palace and meet with the Archmage. The Imperial family tested each of them and weeded out those without magic. Those who passed the test had to enter the temple right away, and those who did not were sent home. Of course, even if they went back, that wasn’t the end. For the rest of their lives, they were kept under surveillance by the Imperial family, and they still had to take rigorous tests every year to check if any magic manifested that did not show up before.

Raytan recalled the hallucinations he had heard before.

"… I have a few questions for you."

"Please ask away."

‘Search out people who can use magic and put them on a list for monitoring, especially if they are as talented as that woman!’

"After you were appointed as the Archmage, has there ever been another highly qualified mage from Denhelder?"

"No one has stood out."

‘Remove the temple so that no one can ever find traces of them!’

"I heard that the present temple was built after the demolishment of the old temple. Do you know anything about the old temple?"

"That happened over a thousand years ago. There are records left in the ancient language, but no one can decipher them."

Ancient language…

"…Yes, I guessed so."

"Yes."

The Archmage’s voice trembled slightly. The ominous feeling he had since earlier rapidly intensified.

"…There’s one thing you haven’t told me."

"…."

"A seal that’s passed down from generation to generation."

Shocked by Raytan’s sudden words, the Archmage flinched and felt shudders run down his body. At the same time, Raytan only stared at him with squinted eyes.

The Archmage didn’t reply to his question, but there was no more accurate answer than his silence.

That was when Raytan realized the hallucinations he heard weren’t a lie.

"It’s been 40 years since you sat on the Archmage position, so you were one of the people that saw Carta Rowain ascend to the throne with your own eyes."

"…."

"And as soon as Carta sat on the throne, you must have told him something. For example, a secret passed down from generation to generation in the Imperial family."

‘Only inform the Archmage of his location so he can keep an eye on him and ensure that the seal doesn’t break!’

"Tell me."

Raytan’s tone kept deepening, pressuring the Archmage.

"Who is the person you sealed?"

The Archmage’s complexion became pale blue. His brain instantly forgot how to tell his body to breathe. Despite that, he braced himself and looked at Raytan.

Shock poured out over his wrinkled face.

‘Does he truly have no idea about that…?’

The Archmage still tried to grasp the situation in his confusion. He had always guessed that ‘him’ and Raytan were the same person. To be precise, he theorized that Raytan was ‘his’ new body. He thought Raytan was a vessel that looked exactly like ‘him’ in the long past.

"Answer me."

Raytan urged him, but his words did not reach the Archmage’s ears. With a confused look on his face, the Archmage remembered the scene he had seen with his own eyes five years ago.

The broken tomb… That was already empty…

"Archmage!"

"… Does Your Majesty have something to ask?"

Raytan stood up from his throne and strode down the stairs. Then, he tightly gripped the neck of the Archmage, who still stubbornly bowed his head low.

"Who is it?"

"Ugh-"

"Who is that person?!"

Through his weathered eyes, the Archmage’s brown irises stared at Raytan. 

Those scarlet eyes were like the rancid blood that covered the Imperial palace.

The Archmage remembered the arrogant words Raytan had proclaimed on the day of his coronation. Everyone was terrified, and the Archmage was not an exception.

He was terrified that everything would end like what the prophecy predicted.

And in the future, that fear would only rise. Like the dead members of the Imperial family, all Denheldans would struggle in pain, and the history they had built for thousands of years would collapse.

If Raytan finds out about ‘his’ existence and becomes part of ‘him’, it surely will lead to that catastrophe.

"About him… Even among the royal family, I can only confess to the Emperor. It’s such a confidential and dangerous thi-"

"Then I guess you’re obligated to tell me more since I am your Emperor now!"

The Archmage was silent for a moment, and he looked at Raytan with an unknown expression, then spoke with a cracked voice.

"…I told you before I was originally just a low-born person."

"Yes, you did."

"A low-born… treated less than dogs and pigs."

"…"

"I thought … I would live like that for the rest of my life…"

It was a life without hope.

He wasn’t even that special; however, the late Emperor before Carta found out that he had magical powers that stood out compared to others.

"The previous Emperor… He entrusted to me the duties of an Archmage. I never forgot to be grateful for it."

"I didn’t ask you to sweetly reminiscence."

Raytan spoke firmly, but the Archmage continued to open his mouth.

"How can I do such a thing to betray the Imperial family…?"

"…What?"

"The emperors I will serve are the ones who have the blood of King Herace I…"

"…"

"I will only serve the legitimate royals with blonde hair."

Raytan’s face hardened. He added force to the hand holding the Archmage’s collar.

"Would you like it if you fell to the floor with your head detached from your body?"

Cold sweat dripped down his forehead, and his old body trembled, but the Archmage did not pray or beg for help. Even dangling in Raytan’s grip, he did not show his face. The Archmage had made his decision in staunch determination. He would not open his mouth even if Raytan tore off his limbs.

Raytan drew his sword.

"…I’d be happy to do that for you since you want it so much."

The sharp blade gleamed in the light. 

The Archmage chose to close his eyes forever. 

***

Philip, who stood at the throne room’s entrance, seemed plagued by something. With an anxious expression, he kept looking back at the closed door. It was quiet. There was nothing to hear.

But just now… It’s like Phillip heard a thump… like the sound of something round and heavy falling to the floor.

"… No."

Philip shook his head, trying to shake off the horrendous thoughts. However, it was a fruitless endeavor. His feeling of dread grew larger and larger, and his nervousness doubled.

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"…"

Staring at the closed door, Philip tried to swallow his dry saliva. 

"Your Majesty."

The silence remained. Philip cleared his throat and called for Raytan once more.

"Your Majesty, this is Philip."

He waited for a while, but nothing changed. Then, after being hesitant for quite a long time, Philip finally mustered up his courage.

"I am coming in. Please, forgive me for my rudeness."

The closed door now opened wide.

Phillip’s body immediately froze. 

The first thing he noticed was the terrible metallic smell. After that, the next thing he saw was… red blood wetting the floor.

In addition, something round was rolling in the middle of the puddle of blood.

It was the severed head of the Archmage.

Philip slowly, slowly looked up.

"Your- Your Majesty…"

Raytan, who sat quietly on his throne, was covered in red blood.

"Take it out."

He ordered in a somber voice.

"Cut off the limbs, burn them, and hang his head at the front gate. Let all who work in the temple see it."

"…."

"Right. Now."

"…Yes. U- Under- Understood," Philip answered in a trembling voice. 

Soon the soldiers arrived and began cleaning up the Archmage’s body, which lay on the floor like a rag.

And Raytan. He wordlessly stared into the air with a stiff face. 

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