The Burning Tower
Translator: Mythos IX
Editor: Darkdhaos, Skythewood
Setting off from the city which was located at the foothill, they spent about two hours to reach Gray Bridge Fort before dusk.
What should we do if we got rejected at the gate—— they harboured such worries, but it was fortunate that the fort commander was Elise’s uncle. Moreover, Elise visited here a few times before, hence the gate guard recognised Elise.
Bastian and Elise entered the fort.
The guard welcomed Bastian and Elise and also expressed his condolences for the death of the queen before continuing leading them through the stone corridor.
Gray Bridge Fort was built on the southern area of the mountain.
Behind it were the mountains, in front of it was a mountain slope.
The left and right side of the fort were rivers.
The surface of the rock was eroded by the river, resulting in a valley which height was immeasurable.
Over there was a stone bridge.
In other words, to climb the mountain which the fort was on, they eventually have to cross the bridge. It was a good position to prevent enemy attacking.
The mountaintop behind it was covered in snow, trying to overcome it would be tough.
There should be other ways other than ascending the mountain, Bastian thought.
Looking at the size of the castle, there should be around one thousand to one thousand and five hundred people inside. It looks really tough to siege it.
Elise spoke while Bastian was still observing the area.
“Is this kind of castle rare, Bastian?”
“Is there something special about it?”
“No, it’s just that when I see a fort or such, I will always think of ways to attack it.”
“One normally doesn’t consider those kind of things.”
“I,is that so?”
The buildings inside the city were divided into two types: Half of it were caves dug out of the cliff, to be used by soldiers. The other half were built out of bricks, such as the towers.
There was usually only one tower used as observation post for Belgaria’s forts. However, the forts in High Britannia have four towers.
There are many towers in High Britannia’s forts and cities, even the capital is full of towers. Why is that so?
While Bastian was pondering about it, they were brought to one of the four towers which have a moderate height.
Inside the tower was a simple room, having only plain wooden tables and chairs.
The man sitting inside the room stood up, looking over to their direction while smiling.
“It’s great that you are fine… … Elizabeth.”
Elise ran over emotionally.
The man also ran towards Elise and finally able to properly say the words he wanted to, “It’s great that you reached here without any problem.”
Bruno Carlos Victoria was already fifty year old.
He was dressed in black, possibly it was still the mourning period, causing him to look like a cultist. This way of dressing could be considered simple to a marquis or a colonel.
As Elise was relieved, tears began to form at the corners of her eyes.
As Bruno Carlos was concerned about Elise, he almost cried too.
This scene moved Bastian’s heart, almost causing him to cry.
“Sniff… Well, we can finally take a break here.”
“This is all thanks to you.”
“That’s not it. It’s because of the effort you put in, all I did was just give you a hand.”
“Even if that’s the case. If it weren’t for you, I…”
“I understand. Please read my masterpiece after you reach Queen’s Tower, you must remember to give me your feedback after reading it!”
“Ahh, of course.”
Elise smiled after wiping her tears away.
Bruno Carlos stretched out his right hand
In response, Bastian shook his hand.
That hand belonged to someone who trained every day. It was full of strength, totally unlike a hand of someone who was fifty.
“I do not know how to thank you… … I’m grateful that you helped Elise, I do not know what else to say.”
“I’m not used to someone thanking me… … Well, we have yet to reach the capital. I believe this is just the beginning.”
“Yes… … That’s right… … Regarding that point… … I have something to say to you.”
Bastian nodded and let go of his hand.
Bruno Carlos turned towards Elise.
“Elizabeth, can you go to the dining hall first? The soldier here will lead you there. I have something to discuss with Bastian.”
Bastian said “it’s fine, why don’t you go off first.” towards Elise who looked uneasy.
What is it that he want to say? Please hurry up, I wanted to have dinner with Elise, Bastian thought.
Elise opened the door and left the room.
“See you later, Bastian.”
Elise said those words to Bastian before leaving.
“So, what is it that you want to talk about?”
“You’re a Belgariane, right?”
Bruno Carlos cut to the chase immediately.
Bastian shook his head.
“Haa, looks like I got exposed.”
Even though he was wearing sunglasses to hide his face, others could guess he was a Belgariane from his name alone.
Moreover, the High Britannia language he used had a Belgaria accent.
Although both sounds similar, there were differences.
Looks like I still have a long way to go as I failed to master High Britannia language, Bastian thought.
“You are a hot topic in the army. Even if the civilians doesn’t know, this has spread between the soldiers.”
“Ahh, I see.”
After all, he defeated a female knight named Glenda easily.
Bruno Carlos shook his head and had a troubled look.
“I… also wished to respect Elizabeth’s friend, but what will the soldiers think of this instead?”
“How will they think… …”
“The call for war is gaining momentum as people think that a war will improve our lives and that the slow economy will also improve.
“Is that so? Are there no one out there who oppose war?… … Benefits and such, they will only know when a war start.”
“I oppose war.”
“If you aren’t, it will be headache for me, really!”
If Bruno Carlos changed his mind now, that would be a huge problem.
“Queen Charlotte often bring this topic up, comparing it with a village that is often in conflict while another village that kept on fanning the fire of conflict.”
“Ah, Elise also mentioned it before! So she actually learned it from the queen.”
“This is something the pacifists in this country agreed on.”
“I can understand. It’s fine. Although Belgaria is constantly at war, I believe that it’s better without any war.”
However, Bastian remembered that Latreille believed war was necessary for Belgaria.
Bruno Carlos sighed.
“In any case, the soldiers and citizens have been calling for war. I believe Elizabeth opposed it as she is a pacifist.”
She left school with the imperial knights because of this.
On the way back to the capital, she was attacked by Margaret’s supporters who were in the war faction.
The knights died and Elise was nearly killed.
As Elise promised to read Bastian manuscript, Bastian coincidentally saved her while he was trying to give her his work.
Normally, people would be afraid after experiencing such event. However, Elise did not give up her goal of going back to the capital.
They rested in a hotel in Applewood for a night, but received the news regarding the death of the queen the next day.
In addition, soldiers were after Elise and a string of events happened. Even Elise could not take it anymore and cried.
Breaking out of encirclement, defeating a female knight named Glenda and escaping out of Applewood.
They eventually arrived here due to meeting the friendly bearded carriage driver.
“Elise is definitely against war.”
“However, the citizens will not agree with the new queen when she has a Belgariane friend who share the same name as the prince of Belgaria.
Bastian did not consider this before.
Bruno Carlos continued:
“The citizens will only think that the new queen isn’t a pacifist, but just a puppet of Belgaria.”
“What’s that about! I am…!!”
No, it couldn’t be helped that this man will say it this way.
How would the citizens react when they know that Bastian was a friend of Elise.
“It’s fine if you’re a mercenary or she is relying on you to get here… … However, that’s not the case if you are her friend. You’re a Belgariane after all!”
He thought that everything would be settled once they reached the capital.
However, his existence would cause trouble for Elise who would be the next queen.
“There must not be any Belgaria’s shadows on Elizabeth and the parliament is the representative of the citizens. Even if she was named the successor by queen Charlotte, there could be a chance that the parliament will object.”
Bastian was speechless.
He never once thought about it.
Bruno Carlos warned him,
“You also cherish Elizabeth, right? If that’s the case, you can understand without me saying.”
His tone was firm.
It was not a command nor blaming him. Bastian racked his brain.
He remembered the old man in the palace.
His frozen brain started churning again.
“After all, I’m just supporting her. If my presence will cause her trouble, then it’s easy.”
Bruno Carlos waited for his answer anxiously.
While Bastian was confirming it.
“—— My disappearance will solve it.”
Silence fell between them
Although that was not the original intention, but it was the best answer.
Using his right hand to support his sunglasses, Bastian turned around.
“I will leave the rest to you, Mr Bruno Carlos.”
“You’re not going to see her one last time?”
“The soldiers wouldn’t want to see the new queen crying over a Belgariane, no?”
If this was the case, this was really an unprecedented gloomy farewell.
Hence, he was somewhat sad.
Although it was earlier than expected, he knew that they would need to part way someday. If they safely reached the capital, Bastian’s mission would be over.
“Do you have any message for me to pass to her?”
“Hm? Ah, then please… …”
His hand reached for the book that was bound to his belt. This was something Elise promised to read, it was Bastian’s work.
However, his hand stopped.
If he gave her his work which was written in Belgaria language… … She would definitely read it since she was serious by nature. However, this would cause a commotion during this period of time while she ascend the throne.
That would be due to his own manuscript. Bastian thought about this countless times. Just this book could easily trouble Elise, causing the parliament to challenge her. This further upset Bastian.
More importantly, if this book, which he wrote, was given to a stubborn old man like Bruno Carlos, Elise probably would not be able to see it.
No, wouldn’t it be inspected since this would be handed to a royalty?
This book represents the author’s feeling—— He wanted people who know about it read it, but did not want outsiders to read it.
That being said, he was not that thick-skinned to say something like meeting her one last time.
The corner of Bastian’s mouth twisted.
He put down his hand which was in front of his chest.
“Nothing… … There’s nothing to give her.”
“Is that so? In that case, at least leave a message, I can help you pass it to her.”
“... … Huu… … The holy knight began his journey as a new darkness called him forth. Endless battle and death are calling me.”
Bruno Carlos nodded.
“Is that a code?”
“I’m sorry, please forget what I just said.”
It did not give a serious vibe to others no matter what. That phrase is more suitable when escaping from one’s homeland. Bastian thought.
Bruno Carlos wanted to give Bastian some gold, but he rejected. After all, he did not want to bring along such things.
Bastian raised one of his hand and walked out of the room.
“Well, this journey was a fun experience for me.”
“I will pass this message to her.”
Bruno Carlos said with a pained expression.
The door closed.
At that moment, he said softly.
“... … Sorry.”
“Can you go to the dining hall first?”
Elise, who was told that, was chased out to have a meal alone.
A circular dining hall, circular dining tables, even the chairs were circular.
Bastian is hungry, so he will definitely come here once he is done—— Elise thought.
Elise had a bad premonition and tried to return to the room, but was stopped by the guards.
“This is an order by the commander.” After hearing them said that three times, she finally gave up.
Although she was worried, she thought there would be no problem if it was Bastian. Rather, he would be worried about her instead, Elise thought. Not long after that, the door opened.
Her uncle stood there alone.
Bruno Carlos dismissed the soldiers.
Elise was uneasy about it.
“Sorry to let you wait, Elizabeth.”
“... …That, uncle?”
“If it’s about Bastian… … For your sake, he returned. He said that it was fun throughout this journey.”
After hearing those words, Elizabeth wanted to dash towards the door.
“How can that be!”
“You cannot go!”
An angry voice as loud as thunder resounded.
Elise was stopped by the voice.
Bruno Carlos warned her.
“He did this for you! Do you not understand? Elizabeth!”
Elise was aware of it. If she was close to a Belgariane, it would bring many dangers. Even if she knew about it, tears started to form at the corners of her eyes.
“But, not even saying a farewell, how selfish.”
“Do you want to let the soldiers see you cry? Do you want to let his sacrifice go to waste? If you do not want to inherit queen Charlotte’s will…”
He stopped his words upon there.
“Eh?!” Elizabeth was surprised as she saw tears dripping down from Bruno’s eye.
“Go and have your meal. It must be tough on you during the journey to here. Do have a bath too.”
Elise understood that she could only do as he said. However, her heart says otherwise and has yet to accept such a farewell.
“Come, have a seat.”
Bruno Carlos picked up the chair which was knocked down. Using the chair to support his shoulders as he sat down, he looked like a depressed child.
A spoon was handed over.
“Does the food here fits your taste? We, the soldiers, were taught that eating and resting are also part of our responsibility. That goes the same you, isn’t it?”
However, the spoon in her hand felt as if it was heavy. Even the dish in front that should be delicious looked like a lump of mud to her.
Elise’s mouth was moving, but nothing was said.
“Bastian, he really left?”
At that moment, there was a knock on the door.
Could it be Bastian?! Elise harboured such impossible hope.
However, the voice beyond the door was not one that she recognised.
“Please wait a moment.”
Bruno Carlos stood up and opened the door personally.
The soldier stood still and gave a bow.
“Sorry to disturb you while you are having your meal.”
“Princess Elizabeth is tired, let us move to another room to discuss military matters.”
“I will be back soon.” Leaving such words behind, Bruno Carlos left the room.
Leaving Elise alone in the room.
Bastian was wandering in the streets.
He was depressed during dusk, but became angry as he walked on the mountain trail in the night.
Running as he shouted, he transformed his emotions into sweat.
When he realised it, it took him just ten minutes to return to the city which took him and Elise two hours to climb.
The sun slowly set in the west, causing the red sky to be slowly dyed black. During this moment, Bastian was walking on the messy roads in the city.
On both sides of the streets, there were shops that were opening, while some were closing their stalls.
“Welcome! Please have a taste of this!”
A young vendor was trying to attract customers aggressively.
There was a brick oven at the side of the road. Sticks of potato were being roasted.
Thinking about it, there was a fragrance of potato roasting.
There were also people selling roasted sweet potato.
“You’re a student, right? It’s rare to see one here! How about it, the sweet potato is fresh!”
“... Potato is it? No, I don’t have any money…… Ah, well… … it should be fine now.”
Bastian removed his sunglasses.
“What could this be traded for?”
“Awa!? Ahh… … Even all the potato here isn’t enough to compensate you!”
“No, it’s fine.”
“I can’t! As a trader, one must be honest. I rather not take than taking more than I should.”
“Is that so?”
“That’s right! That’s right! You can have it, you look like you are going to collapse any moment.”
“... … Sorry.”
“If you want to pay, just a token sum will do. How about one pound?”
“That is expensive!? Where did the honest trading go?”
The vendor laughed.
No matter what, it had been awhile since Bastian had a meal.
Bastian sat on a chair beside the streets. There was no table, but a basket was in front of the chair. It was to collect the used wooden sticks.
The vendor served the potato.
Receiving it, Bastian stared at the potato.
It was warm and had a fragrance, but he felt that the salt was not enough.
Delicious! After finishing one, the young vendor said “That’s a great image of eating! Have another one!” The vendor served him another potato.
Bastian finished the second potato in an instant.
The way Bastian ate the potatoes attracted people, causing them to think that the food must taste really good.
Even though it was closing time , business was strangely good. If this was premeditated, this young vendor must be talented in doing business.
The chairs placed beside the stall were mostly filled, it was almost a full house.
After finishing his meal, Bastian’s stomach swelled.
He yelled, ran and ate… ...
He thought that he was not as depressed as before.
All his trouble poured out together with a long sigh.
“Haa…... Well, isn’t it fine? In the first place, I came here to study to avoid those troublesome politics. I can’t become involved in another country's’ politics.”
I trust that Elise’s uncle will definitely bring her to the capital.
Bastian’s head was full of faces that Elise made before.
A shocked face after hearing his words.
A determined face as she stared at him to reject his ideas.
Her calm face as she retorts Bastian.
Huh? Why am I only thinking of such thing? Am I going crazy? Aren’t there supposed to be more sweet memories? While thinking that way, Bastian turned his head while it got more bustle behind him.
“Hey! Twenty servings! Hurry up!”
“Got it! Please wait a moment!”
It was a mercenary group.
There should be more than ten people. That reminds me, the city seems to be filled with mercenaries. Bastian raised his brows and asked the busy vendor.
“Hey, why are there so many mercenaries in this city? Is it always like this?
While the vendor turned his back on him, he baked potatoes in the oven and said.
“No, there aren’t that many normally. This is also the first time for me. Though thanks to the lord here gathering the mercenaries, business is booming for me.”
“Gathering mercenaries? Is it to prepare for war?”
“Even if you ask me, I also do not know.”
Sounds of laughter came from the group of mercenaries.
“I’m so grateful for this! To hire us even before the war.”
“It’s a good deal!”
“That’s right! Hahahaha!”
“Hey, it’s getting dark, students like you should be going home.”
They do not seemed to be locals based on their accent.
Perhaps they are mercenaries from afar.
That means that Bruno Carlos is preparing for war.
Dark clouds spread over Bastian's heart.
“... … Why is a pacifist, someone who opposes war… … preparing for war?”
This caused the mercenaries to laugh.
“Pacifist?! Hmph, those garbage have been expelled out of the military long ago!”
“Take a look! This is a sword that was created just recently! This is also the new gun! These can be found easily across the nation. Be it Belgaria or Hispania, we will definitely not lose against them!”
‘That’s right! That’s right!”
The mercenaries who were a little tipsy agreed nosily.
Bastian stood up.
“What kind of joke is this! That guy… What is he going to do with Elise!?”
He looked up to the mountain
Under the dark sky,
On the slope was a line of lights moving. Those light came from the torches that a group of people was holding.
“Oi… … What is that… …?”
Bastian’s lips quivered.
The vendor which used wooden plates to serve the potato also looked up.
“I don’t think there will be any merchants going there at such timing. It should be the army instead.”
This was not the time listening to such words.
Neither were there time for him to be stunned.
Bastian started running.
I’m too careless!!
Elise was feeling puzzled when she was told that a guest was coming.
Only Bastian knew about her coming to this Gray Bridge fort, so she was wondering who was the guest.
Perhaps the guest is the mayor of the city? Could it be that it’s already exposed? Elise asked Bruno Carlos, but she did not get a reply.
“It’s better not to let them wait too long.”
“... … I understand.”
Elise took a quick bath and changed to a formal attire.
The colour of the dress was not blue which her mother prepared for her to ascend the throne, but was red that seemed to be dyed by using red wine.
The dress was full of frills and the skirt' side was wide open, causing her to be unable to calm down.
Is this Bruno Carlos’ interest? Elise could not really understand as this dress was gifted by him.
Bruno Carlos did not say anything, the two walked to the spiral stairs in silence.
At the highest level of the tower.
The guest was waiting here.
Bruno Carlos put his hand on the door,
And lightly knocked.
“... … I’m really sorry.”
The door opened.
Elise’s body stiffen.
She was speechless,
As she realised she made a big mistake.
Princess Margaret was sitting on the sofa which was in the middle of the room.
“Goodnight, Liz. Are you fine now?”
“... … Margaret… …”
“Ufufu … Please call me Garet. Although we aren’t that close, we are cousins who shared the same blood.”
“Ah… … This dress…”
The dress which Margaret wore was the same as the one that Elise wore, red in colour with many frills. The red dress coupled with the black hair made it looked as if a few drops of ink were dripped onto an excellent red wine.
Margaret showed a kind smile.
“That’s great, it really suits you. I was wondering what should I do if you do not like it.”
“Ah… … That… … Thank you.”
“What is it, Liz? Why don’t you have a seat?”
“... … Okay.”
Elise steeled herself and entered the room.
Margaret patted the seat beside her. However, Elise was hesitant about sitting there.
“I’m fine with standing here.”
Finally, she stood a distance away from Margaret.
Margaret did not seem to mind as she continued smiling.
The room was circular with three windows. Bruno Carlos was guarding the door in which Elise entered from.
Beside Margaret was a knight in white.
As he was completely still, it made others felt as if he was a wax sculpture.
He was tall, had bluish ash hair and ice blue eyes. Hanging on his waist was a fine sword.
When Elise looked at him, Margaret also shifted her sight to him.
“Why don’t you introduce yourself, after all it is a rare chance.”
The knight bowed deeply.
“It is an honour to meet you, Princess Elizabeth. I am colonel Oswald Coulthard, an operations staff officer in the High Britannia military headquarter.”
This man gave off a frightening atmosphere.
“... … I am Elizabeth Victoria.”
Margaret who was on the sofa stretched her hand out and pressed onto the knight’s waist.
“Ufufu…… Oswald was the one who told me that you will be coming here. He sure is omniscient.”
“Oh noble princess Margaret, this humble servant doesn’t deserve such praise. I’m just a frog in a well. Princess Elizabeth arrived here half a day earlier than expected.”
“Ara, is that so? I shall call you frog then.”
Elise staggered for a moment.
“How can that be… … Everything was… known? Why?”
“It was not because you leaked any important clues, just that you do not have any other options.”
“But… … Is that so… …”
This was a tough journey.
Graham and the six imperial knights sacrificed themselves to protect her.
Bastian also risked his life to help her.
Elise used all effort beyond what she ever did to reach here.
Only to find out that she was dancing in the palm of the man called Oswald.
There were neither pride or compassion in his gaze, as if he lacked something called emotions. He merely stare at Elise.
“I have often heard about you from queen Charlotte. Intelligent, gentle, someone without much self desires and prioritise work more than personal issues.”
“... … Is that so? I am flattered.”
The sudden praised caused Elise to be alert.
“However, you are the same as queen Charlotte, someone who do not consider the big picture. This country had reached a point of no return, that is even more so after today. Something like the pacifist faction would just be a burden for us.”
Tch—— Elise gritted her teeth.
“So… Based on what you said, this country is now full of people who are in the war faction? It is strange that the mindset of the people changed so fast within a few years.”
“That is so, I cannot deny that way of thinking.”
“What do you get in exchange for sacrificing the lives of the people in the war?”
Oswald placed his hand on his chin.
“Queen Charlotte asked this humble servant the same question and my reply was wealth.”
“This is… …”
Her stomach tighten.
“How unfortunate, Oswald, really unfortunate. Things like money and such are meaningless. It’s really unfortunate if Oswald do not understand that I do not have anything I want.”
“I understand now. As this minor servant is worldling, so I wish to obtain those meaningless thing.”
Margaret lightly knocked on Oswald.
Elise probed further.
“Is it really for wealth? That will be reasonable if you are really after wealth. However, you are not the type to do so due to greed.”
“Ho?... For you to understand me from just this meeting.”
“... … If you are simply greedy, Margaret will not put you by her side.”
“That’s right! I didn’t know Liz know me so well. It feels as if you can see right through me, causing my heart to pound so fast.”
Oswald, who seemed impressed, nodded his head.
“What an excellent insight. As expected of someone who is evaluated as the same as queen Charlotte. This humble servant sure is ignorant. Princess Elizabeth, you are indeed clever. It is as you said, the aim is not just about wealth.”
“It is for war. Money is necessary for war. The war with Belgaria is to earn money and further expanding the war. It is endless and eternal. Until this body decay, the nation is fatigued, soldiers and officials died and this country on the verge of collapsing, all this requires war. For that purposes, money is required.”
“Ara, how interesting, this is something that I will not feel bored at all.”
Elise widen her eyes and asked Oswald.
“W,what?! Are you serious?!”
“I am serious and calm…”
“That is because I am following this country’s ruler, princess Margaret, order.”
Margaret who was named was laughing while pressing her stomach. Laughter which sounds like the mocking of a devil filled the room.
Elise was angry to the point in which tears fell.
These people… They are fooling around with this nation!
They are doing so just to kill boredom and pleased themselves!
Elise stared at the direction of the door.
“Bruno Carlos! You stopped being a pacifist just to serve this kind of people!? Where did the will of a soldier protecting High Britanna go?!”
“... … My apologies… … Even if I oppose them alone, the result would simply be a change in commander for this fort.”
Under Margaret’s gaze, Oswald walked towards the table and picked up a teapot. While pouring tea, he continued talking,
“This humble officer felt since a long time ago that building an organization actually resemble playing chess much more than a war. On the battlefield, there are no queens that could fly from one side of the board to the other. In contrast, we can peel off the faction serving the Queen from the edge and apply pressure to the inside to gain more military power… Since the other party has few means of recovering, we can gain the crown just by repeating this process several times.”
Margaret received the black tea and sipped it.
“How rare, Oswald. For you to engage in such conversation, you must be in a good mood.”
“That’s fine. It’s my turn to continue the conversation. Hey, Liz… … What kind of person is Bastian who travelled with you?”
“Eh? Why… …”
“I have investigated the school. He is a Belgaria’s noble. However, the name Bastian sure is interesting, for it to be the same as the third prince of Belgaria. Furthermore, he possesses the same red eyes and ridiculous strength.”
“T,that is… just a coincidence.”
“It is unfortunate that we couldn’t meet as Bruno Carlos allowed him to return. That's bad, I wonder why?~”
“M,my apologies. As the report said that he is rather sharp-witted. For the safety of Your Highness, this humble servant believe that he should not be allowed to come near Your Highness.”
Bruno Carlos who was in front of the door lowered his head.
Margaret clapped her hands.
“Come and eat some fruit tarts, Liz. I prepared it specially for you, it would be delicious.” Margaret changed the topic suddenly.
When conversing with her, she would not hesitate to change the topic if she felt tired of the previous topic.
Elise retreated a few steps back.
“Now, I … … does not have any appetite since I had my dinner.”.
“Ara, is that so? But I still think that it’s better if you eat it. After all, this is your last meal, Liz.”
As if declaring her death sentence, such unexpected words came from Margaret’s mouth
Her tone was as if she was asking her guests if they want to have some tea in the middle of a conservation.
Her back touched the window.
The tower gets thinner as it approached the top. As she was on the highest floor, it was too narrow to escape. Oswald put the teapot onto the table and stood up.
“Today is the 20th… … 22nd will be the last day of the Silent Week, we have to participate in queen Charlotte’s funeral.”
“I,is that so? I also wish to participate. In fact, I have to participate no matter what.”
“... … It is enough for Your Highness to participate by staying beside Her Majesty.”
Oswald took out his sword with his right hand.
Margaret opened the box which was on the table. Inside the box were strawberry tarts.
It would be nice if the tart was sweet.
As Elise did not like to eat sour strawberry tart.
Elise did not know the reason why Margaret purposely chose a food that she did not like.
Behind her was the window, she has no way to escape.
“Kuh… … What… are you guys … planning to do… …”
“I do not know about Oswald, but for me, I just want to excited since I hate boredom. However, I wonder how joy feels like?~”
“My raison d’etat is to let Your Highness Margaret obtain happiness.”
At this moment, a beam of light could be seen from the outside of the window.
As if it was lightning.
For a moment, it looked as if it was daytime.
Following that was the shattering of glass.
Elise groaned softly due to the screeching sound.
Oswald observed the outside of the window.
“... … So he is here… … Looks like Glenda failed.”
“Ara, it seems that death sentence should really be bestowed.”
The castle was on fire, causing thick black smoke to rise.
The warning by the soldiers came beyond the door.
“Just report immediately!”
The soldier began to report loudly after Bruno Carlos finished his words.
“Just now, the boy who left the castle returned! The female knight fell down the valley and the main gate was breached!”
Bruno Carlos was the only one who was shocked.
Not just Elise, even Oswald and Margaret knew about Bastian’s fighting capability.
Another report came after that.
It also came from behind the closed door.
“While we were engaging with the intruder, the first gunpowder storage room caught fire! The whole unit was mobilised, but we still could not extinguish the fire… …”
“Fools! There are oil besides it!”
“It exploded when the fire spread just now!”
The report continued.
“The first team to the thirteenth team was wiped out! The intruder is now closing in to the central tower!”
“Commander, please retreat! Right now we are suppressing with thirty soldiers using three ranks of alternating volley fire. However, there are already some casualties as he countered back… …”
Bruno Carlos growled.
“The opponent is just one teenager! Why is it that there are still casualties!?”
“T,that… … After he hid behind a wall, a part of the building suddenly came flying!
I saw him empty handed, but I do not understand how he used something like a catapult to throw the things,”
“What nonsense are you saying!? I will throw you lot into the river if you guys continue to say such ridiculous words!”
To a normal human, this situation was unbelievable to them.
Be it a sword, bow or even a spear, the intruder did not have any but came with just his body.
He came here simply with great strength—— This kind of enemy caused the soldiers to panic. Furthermore, he was quicker than a bullet.
Oswald shrugged his shoulders.
“Looks like it’s only a matter of time.”
“Ara ara, how troublesome. Could it be that, in this crisis, I will die here?”
“You do not need to worry about this point, Your Highness Margaret.”
Elise heard the report.
The sounds of gunshots beyond the door also stopped.
Her chest was starting to feel hot.
Below here… … He’s here!?
Elise unlocked the window with her hand that was behind her back and used her shoulder to push it open.
As they were on a mountain, the strong wind blew into the room and caused the curtains to flutter. A pungent smell of something burning and the smoke made breathing to be difficult.
“No, my hair! My hair is getting messy!”
“... … Hm.”
Oswald drew his sword
And prepared himself
He faced Elise who had her back towards him-- Wrong, he was standing in front of Margaret.
Your Highness Margaret, please stay still.”
“There’s an enemy.”
His sight was on the tower beside them.
Elise stretched her body out of the window and yelled downwards. However, there was quite a distance between her and the ground. In addition, there were the sounds of gunshots.
She sent a piercing cry.
A reply came not long after that.
“Hmph, so that really is the place.”
Elise looked up.
At a distance where one could reach by extending his hand—— No, the face of a teenager appeared at the tower beside them which was a distance closer than the ground.
“Are you still alive? Are you hurt? Did anyone torture you?
Tears began to form.
This lasted for awhile.
Elise finally shed tears.
“Sniff… … Bastian… …”
His face was dirty, clothes was tattered and blood was oozing everywhere.
Under his left armpit was a few guns, while his right hand was holding a gun properly.
“W,why are you crying, Elise! Are you in pain?!”
“I,I’m not crying, it’s because of the smoke.”
“Ah, is that so? It’s great that I made it in time.”
To be honest, Bastian was at his limit.
He might be faster than the most elite of knights, but he couldn’t dodge bullets.
He had to predict the path of the bullet and evade before the shot was fired.
If there were multiple enemies, he would have to predict the bullet path of all of them. Thus, the place he could dodge to was limited. He needed to be aware of the bullets that might fly towards the place he was dodging towards.
Using several times the speed of a normal person running, he barely managed to evade the hail of gunfire.
His body felt heavy from fatigue.
And he couldn’t dodge all of them.
He was hit twice in the back.
From the front, he looked fine— but if you touch him, you would see that he was drenched in blood.
He won’t last long this way.
The soldiers in the castle were recovering from the confusion. If they calm down and surround him, it would be bad. If he didn’t got out early just now, it won’t help no matter how fast he was or how well he could predict the enemy's’ movement.
In order to regulate his ragged breathing, he took deep breathes.
“Inside that room… Could it be, Princess Margaret!?”
Showing her face from beneath the armpit of the white knight protecting her, the black hair girl waved.
“Yaho~ We finally met~”
“Your highness, it’s dangerous!”
The white knight blocking the way shielded her.
“What are you doing, Oswald.”
“This is not a time for greetings, your highness. He actually broke through the defences of this fort alone… That far exceeded what your humble servant expects.”
Margaret said ‘You're useless Mr Fish’ and smiled.
Bastian aimed the gun in his right hand at the knight called Oswald. It might hit Margaret behind him if he were to dodged.
“I didn’t face much resistance from the soldiers… Maybe they didn’t want to protect an evil princess? But if they revolt against you, even their family would be dragged in.”
Oswald shook his head lightly.
“The morale of the soldiers are high, they are just not trained to deal with someone as fast and strong as prince Bastian.”
“Strong? Ara, you are making me blush— Ah, I am not a prince okay!?” Bastian adjusted the sunglasses he was wearing with his hand.
He had obviously been exposed, but he was still making excuses.
Oswald was making a serious face, but the corner of his lips suddenly twisted.
“Your cheat like capabilities are beyond imagination, but you can’t cover everything if you are alone.”
Elise leaned in from the window and shouted:
“Bastian, behind you!”
Bastian felt a fierce slash went through where his head was a moment ago.
The curtains split in two and fell.
Bastian threw the guns he was hugging in his left arm out.
At the same time, he turned around and shot with his right arm.
His shot was on target! Blood splattered out from his enemy.
It was Glenda. She covered her shoulder with her hand.
“Ugghhhh… I… I can still fight.”
“Are you for real?”
He fought her at the entrance of the castle once, but he didn’t thought about killing her. However, she should have lost her ability to fight.
Could it be that High Britannia has someone with superhuman physical abilities like Bastian?
He heard a sudden scream.
Looking at the window in a hurry, he saw Elise.
She was grabbing on the window ledge, her legs hanging in the air.
She might fall at any moment and her face was turning green.
Oswald was approaching her with a sword in hand.
“It lack elegance, but let’s end this show.”
“Hold, hold it!”
Bastian’s thoughts raced—
Picked up the dropped gun and shoot him?
No, Elise will be killed the moment he pick up the guns.
Throw his dagger?
If Oswald was half competent, that would work. But he was a skilled fighter who will probably dodge or knock it away. That won’t save Elise either.
“Prince Bastian! Your reason for fighting is going to disappear!”
“I am… not some bullshit prince—!”
Bastian leapt out of the window.
He kicked at the tower with all his might.
Bastian reached out for Elise.
She was surprised for a moment, and then followed Bastian’s words without hesitation.
Before Oswald’s sword could cut her down, her small hands released the window.
“What, she jumped…!!”
From the tower in the night.
Her blonde hair and red dress spreads. Bastian reached out for her with all he had got.
She also used all her effort to reach for Bastian.
Their fingers closed in on each other.
Finally, Bastian grabbed Elise’s out reached hand.
And embraced her with his right arm.
At the same time, he reached for the walls of the tower with his left.
Using his momentum, he kicked the tower on the opposite side. The tower grew wider towards the bottom.
He grabbed onto a window in one of the middle floors of the tower—
This wasn’t a problem for the usual Bastian.
But bearing the weight of two people with one arm and the acceleration from freefall was too much. That instant, a cracking sound could be heard from Bastian’s back.
“What, what is the matter Bastian?!”
“I’m fine… Hurry… the bullets are coming…”
Elise was good in physical exercise. Or rather, she was one of the better ones among her female classmates.
Grabbing the windows, she pulled herself up and slid in through the window.
Bastian followed shortly after.
The two of them collapsed onto the floor, their limbs sprawled randomly as they panted.
A sharp pain came from his back, and Bastian couldn’t move.
Elise was in tears besides him.
“You saved me again.”
“Hah-- Hah-- Have… you given up, Elise?”
“Today is the 20th.”
“From now… We won’t make it if we walked, but it is possible if we use a carriage.”
“That’s right. I won’t give up. For the sake of the people who helped me.”
“That’s the spirit!”
Bastian pulled himself up.
Elise suddenly held her breath.
“Bastian! Those wounds!?”
“Don’t mind them… That was just my mistakes. Rather than that, if we don’t move, we will be surrounded.”
Her voice was trembling.
It couldn’t be helped. Bastian himself knew he wasn’t doing too good.
And the place he laid on had enough blood to convince others someone died there.
“Well, the just people have the protection of the fairies, so I won’t die.”
“If you have the strength to joke, you should be fine.”
They left the room after this and went down the stairs through the spiral staircase.
To avoid the soldiers guarding the bottom floor of the tower, they jumped from the tower midway.
Bastian used princess carry on Elise, and although she felt embarrassed, she bore with it.
However, the situation was more serious than they imagined.
No matter how light Elise was, there was still weight. Bastian’s legs and waist was accumulating fatigue, and he was losing a lot of blood.
More importantly, he couldn’t use his hands if he carries Elise.
He couldn’t climb, roll or defend himself.
Bastian grit his teeth.
“Ughh… This is terrible…”
“Are you pushing yourself Bastian!? Even if it is just you…”
“Ah? What nonsense are you saying? I will spank you if you say that.”
“The terrible thing is about my masterpiece! If the protagonist carries the heroine while swinging a long sword, how is it done!? Does he has four arms!?”
The scene was too beautiful so he didn’t thought about it too much-- But when he noticed what he wrote, Bastian was so embarrassed that he wanted to roll on the ground.
“What a big plot hole! If I don’t change it the readers will get angry!”
“That’s what they mean when they refers to an idiot. Saying this at such a time!”
“Hahaha… Such a time? You make it sound as if I am in a crisis.”
“In the castle of the enemy, surrounded by soldiers using a new type of guns, carrying a princess in my arms with bullet wounds on my back. Well, that is just a bit troublesome… that’s all.”
“Fighting an infallible foe, having to pass through a place without cover, it would be a crisis when that happens.”
“I give up, to boast to such an extent, you are really something.”
“I am not boasting, I am serious!”
Elise was in his arms.
And with just that, his body felt mysteriously lighter--
Fatigue? Bullet wounds? Surrounded? So what of it? That was the kind of feeling he had.
They finally reached the outer wall of the castle.
Bastian carried Elise on his back and scaled the stone walls as if he was climbing a rope.
The stonewalls were built to stop people from climbing it, with only small protrusion on it. But that wasn’t a problem for Bastian. It was hard to apply force on these tiny holds, but because he was very strong, so he could pull his body up easily.
The sturdy wall was easier to scale when compared with cliffs that are brittle.
It was a good story material for Bastian.
Aside from his strangely hyper emotions because he was carrying Elise…
The rough structure of Gray bridge fort was as follows. There was all sorts of equipment to guard against enemy attacks, but they were equally effective to target people leaving.
On top of that, although the soldiers received orders to guard this place, the ones who got the orders to stop anyone from escaping numbered less than half.
The command structure was also in chaos, so for the soldiers, leaving incoming enemies aside, their defence net against an escaping enemy, especially one that was outrageously strong, it was normal for them to fail.
As for the personal guards of Margaret, they were so busy fighting the fire on the burning royal carriage that they didn’t notice that Margaret was nearly shot.
That was one of the reason why the commander Oswald didn’t plan to include them in his combat forces.
Bastian defeated the guards on top of the stone wall.
Actually, he merely threw them down. If they were lucky enough, they will survive.
And in this situation when his life was in danger, the unpractical thinking of not taking the lives of enemies was not permitted.
The enemies were soldiers too.
Since they were holding weapons capable of killing, they should have the resolved to be killed too.
Normally, you can’t see anything in the darkness. Even if there was moonlight, you can only see a rough silhouette.
However, one of the towers were burning brightly now like a giant torch.
Even the city at the foot of the hill could be seen clearly.
“As I thought, we have to cross that bridge.”
“... How did you pass it when you came?”
“I fought that female knight called Glenda one on one, pressured her to the gate and kicked her into the river. I then climbed up the walls… Ara, I didn’t thought she will catch up. Seeing how she wasn’t wet, maybe she didn’t fell in anyway.”
What, will jumping into the river be faster than crossing the bridge?”
“We will probably die if we jump from there!?”
“That’s true. Dropping into the river normally should work, but…”
Due to the heavy rain these past few days, the volume of water in the river was huge.
But there was still a long distance from the outer walls to the river.
The valleys formed a V shape.
It was hard to see in the dark, but if they jumped, they will probably hit the rocks instead of the water. Leaving Bastian aside, Elise won’t be saved this way.
“... But… How chilling.”
Bastian stared at the scene behind him.
He could hear the sound of people fighting the fire in the fort, but at least their pursuit would be halted.
He could sense the presence of soldiers around them, but they didn’t attack him…
As if they were holding their breaths.
“Are they waiting for us to cross the bridge?”
“The possibility of that is high.”
After that, the ground started to shake.
The gate leading to the bridge was opened.
Since Bastian already scaled the walls, the gate was meaningless and only served to hinder the progress of the soldiers, a bold move.
A knight appeared from the opened door.
Adorned with light armour white in colour.
It was Oswald.
He wasn’t speaking to anyone in particular as his voice reverberated in the air.
“-- You finally made it up the walls! After that, you just need to cross this bridge to get outside. However, that will be impossible through the hail of gunfire!”
And obviously, Bastian knew what he was talking about.
“However, shooting someone who is running away is ungentlemanly! More important, I cannot allow any further slight against my honour! And to not disappoint the beautiful princess Margaret.”
Bastian hugged on to Elise tightly.
Attracting the enemy's’ attention with words while attacking them behind, such things were common.
Bastian started sensing for the presence of enemy troops.
“... Nothing… They are not planning to do that?”
She was fine when Bastian carried her and ran all over the place, but Elise’s face was blushing beet red just because he hugged her a bit tighter.
He don’t get it.
Because Elise became so shy, it made Bastian shy too, so they pulled slightly away from each other.
“Eh… Don’t get too far from me. Even though it is night, it is bright and we will be discovered.”
“I, I understand.”
She tidied her messy dress.
Now was not the time to act like a love fool.
Bastian shouted at Oswald who was on the bridge.
“I am here! What do you want!?”
Doing that would expose himself, but he already took out the scouts earlier. His rough position was already known to the enemy.
That was why the enemy commander showed himself.
“I challenge you to a one on one duel! I have my own reputation to uphold. After you deal such a deal blow to us, I would be a laughingstock if I had to rely on numbers and terrain to defeat you in the very end.”
“Are you stupid!? What is in it for us!”
“If you win this humble one, I will let you go without hesitation. On top of that, I will escort you to the royal capital.”
“What did you say!?”
“How do you find these terms? Even if you escape from here, you won’t make it to the royal capital in time. Isn’t this a great proposition for you!?”
“You think I will believe you!?”
“The words of this humble one is obviously worthless! However, this is the words of the saintly princess Margaret!”
He couldn’t see the soldiers right now, but he could feel that the castle was in an uproar.
This negotiation could be seen by Margaret too.
“Let me consider it!”
After his short reply, Bastian turned towards the young girl besides him.
“Nah, Elise… What kind of personality does this Margaret have? I have been feeling that she is taking things lightly.”
It was not uncommon for royalties to hide their identities while walking around the city, but this was the first time he was greeted with a ‘Yaho’.
Elise felt a bit conflicted and said:
“To be honest, I think this elder cousin is weirder than I imagined. I can’t tell what she is thinking, even the position of Queen doesn’t mean much to her as long as she is happy. I am not sure about that man named Oswald though.”
“So it is possible this proposal is real?”
“It might be a trap.”
“No, it shouldn’t be… Is there anything worse than running across a bridge while being aimed by soldiers with guns? What other traps would they need?”
“Are you going?”
“Yup, I am going.”
Elise suddenly pounced on him.
“Take me with you, please. I, I don’t want to let you get hurt anymore.”
“... Can’t be helped then. If we are talking about danger, there are no safe place around here.”
After giving it some thoughts, if he leave Elise here, she couldn’t defend herself against the attacking soldiers.
Maybe that was their motive.
“Let’s go Elise! I will blow that jerk dressed in white and green away, and go to the royal capital tomorrow!”
After sliding down the castle walls, the two of them stood before Oswald.
Behind them was the castle.
The gate was open.
Margaret was probably watching.
And the soldiers equipped with the new model of guns.
They couldn’t dodge the bullets even if they run. If they had horses, it might be faster if he rode along the hilly path with Elise in his arms, but…
“For us right now, our only option is to defeat you and make Margaret honour her words.”
“Protecting princess Elizabeth all this way alone… By right, I should praise you for making it this far.”
Oswald was calm.
This fellow wasn’t just all talk. As they face off each other, Bastian tightened his nerves.
They were about ten paces apart.
Bastian took out his dagger.
“... I don’t really want to use this.”
“Is that Vite Espace Trois? So you really are prince Bastian.”
“Don’t tease me. I don’t know what that is.”
Bastian adjusted his sunglasses.
He told Elise to ‘back away a bit’ to make her retreat.
If the other party goes back on their words, the two of them-- No, if they open fire, than the three of them including Oswald would be killed in the barrage of bullets.
He could only trust Margaret-- Bastian felt uneasily.
Bastian charged ahead.
Oswald drew the sword on his waist at the same time, it was a slender straight sword.
The type more suitable for thrust instead of slashes.
It looked like a sword that would break if it hits steel armour, but unfortunately Bastian was wearing a student uniform. He didn’t even had leather armour.
He was lightly equipped.
Closing the gap in one shot, Bastian kicked.
For a duel with swords, starting the fight with a kick would surprise anyone.
He would win if he shattered the opponent’s kneecap. Even if the kneecap didn’t break, it would still restrain the mobility of his opponent.
Since Bastian was using a dagger, it was easier for his opponent to gain the initiative. To counter, he had to do a sneak attack.
However, Oswald’s expression didn’t change and remained calm.
A sudden thrust came at Bastian.
Although he twisted his body immediately, the attack was too fast and Bastian took a hit on his flank.
“Phew… You dodged it. Then how about this?”
Before Bastian could recover his posture, the next attack came.
Bastian deflected it with his dagger.
But he didn’t felt it hitting anything.
Oswald withdrew his blade with a sharp sound.
“Even though this is made from the new material, it is still a thin blade, I should avoid clashing directly with elf silver.”
“Are you serious, shit… He is faster than I am?”
Failing to dodge the opponent's attack and his kick being defended in a one on one fight, such things had never happened before. Although he was tired and injured, his adversary was definitely skilled.
“I was asked by the benevolent princess Margaret to emerge victorious, so I can’t hold back.”
Bastian won’t give up if it was a battle of speed.
Bastian took a step forward and swung his dagger.
Oswald’s sword came suddenly before his face.
The edge brushed passed his nose.
Although Bastian wanted to slash the opponent’s hand with a dagger-- but the opponent pulled his sword back and only brushed his shoulder.
Bastian turned and punched with his left fist.
Oswald parried Bastian with his left hand.
In contrast to Bastian straight line attack, Oswald’s movement was like slowly drawing a circle.
As if he was--
“Predicting my movement!?”
“Although prince Bastian has superhuman speed and the strength to crush boulders, your movement is just like an amateur.”
“What!? Me an amateur!?”
Bastian swung his sword and kick again.
But his movement was read and met with a riposte, Bastian was being wounded one sidedly.
Speaking of which, this was the same feeling he had with Eddie’s grandfather-- blah.
When he faces normal opponents, Bastian only need to focus and their movement was as slow as a slug.
So he didn’t need to read the movement of his opponent, and could tell their next move course of action just by seeing their eyes and muscle twitches. That’s how he dodge the gunshots.
However, if the opponent were really strong, they would have no preparatory actions, and their attack will land before he realize it--
That was the situation now.
And of course, he couldn’t defend or evade in time.
Also, the enemy could read Bastian’s every move, so no matter how fast he was, his action was countered before he could do anything--
This guy was really strong!
Bastian could tell that the earlier battles were just child’s play.
Oswald effortlessly pushed Bastian to the brink of defeat with just a couple of exchanges.
His wounds kept increasing and his body became heavier.
It was like the opponent choosing the shortest path in a street he knew very well, while Bastian was walking around lost in an unfamiliar city.
He was chasing at full speed, but he met too many dead ends and always came in a moment late. Meanwhile, the opponent kept maintaining a certain distance--
In that case, he had to gain back the initiative.
But each one of his move were blocked and his attacks parried, the situation grew even more dire with time.
The enemy could read Bastian’s move completely.
How did he read it?
Was it because the weapon was a dagger and the means of attack was limited?
Why was it limited?
Because the opponent will reach first--
What happens if he get hit?
“I am not afraid of you!”
“Well, it is about time to finish this.”
“Kukuku… Let me show you my real power!! The power of darkness is residing my sword!”
“... Then… the power I am fighting against, is it the power of darkness or prince Bastian’s real power?”
“Both, both of them are my powers!”
He took a stance.
Held his breath.
And charged at full speed!
As expected, he adopted a position to counter the charge.
If Bastian kept charging, he would be skewered like a potato.
Bastian charged in.
The dagger and the sword glide pass each other. Oswald used the chance to avoid the attack. It was just enough for the dagger to pass harmlessly by.
But that wasn’t what Bastian was aiming for.
Oswald stared with his eyes wide.
“I will take that arm!”
He took a step forward.
The sword hit the abdomen of Bastian. And sunk in.
The cold blade entered his belly.
Bastian swung his Vite Espace Trois.
Blood covered the entire stone bridge.
Like water pouring out of a kettle, spilling all over.
Oswald’s sword fell from his hand.
That blow was too shallow and didn’t sever his hand. Blood dripped out gradually onto the bridge.
As for Bastian, his stomach was pierced.
He was bleeding even more--
With a sword wound to his stomach, Bastian retreated and reached for Elise’s waist with his left arm.
He whispered into her ear.
“... We are going.”
Bastian started running.
After suddenly grabbing Elise by the waist.
And jumped from the stone bridge.
Bastian’s roar and Elise’s scream fell towards the valley together.
They jumped from the middle of the bridge.
It was far away from the outer walls.
The sound of something falling into the water could be heard.
Judging from sight, they must had fallen into the river.
Pressing the wounds on his hand, Oswald’s mouth twisted.
“... Well done… prince Bastian.”
The soldiers came running.
“Are you okay!?”
“Colonel! Your wounds!?”
“Staff Officer Sir!”
Moments later, a medic came as Princess Margaret strolled over slowly. It had been a long time since she walked such a long way with her own feet.
She looked really happy.
“You didn’t win, Mr Fish.”
“To disappoint the ever victorious princess Margaret, it is a shame. I am truly humbled.”
“That’s amazing, did he allowed himself to be stabbed in the stomach in order to jump into the river?”
“That is so… I was confused by his nonsensical words and gave him the chance.”
“Ara ara, aren’t you going to say something for yourself? You saw it coming but allowed your hand to be slashed anyway.”
“Let me explain. If I moved my hand away any faster, I will drop my sword onto the floor and it would be my loss.”
The medic cut Oswald’s sleeve away and washed the wound with water.
He was still bleeding, but he could move his fingers.
“Colonel sir, does your fingers feel numb?”
“The cut isn’t that deep.”
“Yes. It should recover in a few days.”
Margaret reached out her hand.
And put her finger on Oswald’s wound.
Even Oswald couldn’t help but react. His body turned stiff and he gritted his teeth to endure the pain.
Margaret observed him happily.
“It’s hurting you.”
“That is so. However, the happiness of the beautiful princess touch is greater than the pain.”
“Ara, you are really a hopeless Mr Fish. There’s smoke everywhere. And dust. I want to take a bath.”
“Well then, shall we return to the royal capital?”
She turned her gaze to the burning tower and laughed.
“Yes. I am already tired of this.”
Margaret licked the blood on her finger.
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