Author: alyalia

Gasp, gasp…!”

 

Ashter, who got off his horse, panted wildly and waded through the forest. His legs were numb for how long he had been running, but he could never stop.

 

“No, Lady Aurellia…!”

 

Ashter’s eyes were moistened.

 

In the end, something happened. The emperor knew that Aurellia, who had the greatest power and had even detoxified the poison, was nowhere to be seen, so he went ahead with his plan. He got it from somewhere and fed it to the Shinsu clan under the pretext of giving them an antidote, and they all died instantly. Now he was looking for the missing Aurellia.

 

Ashter ran, holding on to his numb legs. He didn’t know how the emperor knew, but the emperor had already noticed his relationship with Aurellia.

 

Gracie Duchy has already been turned upside down. It was only a matter of time before he discovered where Aurellia was hidden.

 

If Aurellia’s physical condition was perfect, the emperor’s threat wasn’t a problem. But it had only been a day since she had given birth to her child. Her body hadn’t yet regained her health, and her power wouldn’t have returned yet. She would be helpless.

 

Ashter finally arrived at Aurellia’s residence, rubbing his tear-filled eyes. And at that moment,

 

“No…!”

 

A sigh came out of his mouth. Smoke was already rising here and there in the villa, which was touched by absurd eyes.

 

“No, no…!”

 

He slapped his own cheek hard. Then he moved his body again immediately. While sniffling, Ashter kept looking around to find Aurellia. But she was nowhere to be seen. He couldn’t hear the baby cry either. All that remained there was silence mixed with misery.

 

Only after a long search of the villa did his knees bend weakly. Tears flowed from Ashter’s eyes.

 

She was a woman he could give his whole heart for. Even though her status was different from his, it didn’t matter to him whether she was a member of the Shinsu clan or not.

 

From a young age, he didn’t like swordsmanship or horseback riding like most men and didn’t enjoy hunting. He just loved books and drinking tea. Maybe that’s why everyone around him pointed at him, saying he was weak as a man. Fortunately, his father respected his taste and personality, so he grew up with no great hurt. Still, deep in his heart, he seemed to remain as ‘weak man’ compared to others.

 

But Aurellia was different. She said, ‘You’re not weak, you’re kind, Ashter.’

 

From the day she said so, he became a kind man rather than a weak man. So he wanted to live his life using all that kindness for Aurellia. Even though he knew that the emperor was preying on her, he didn’t want to give up on her and wanted to protect her at all costs.

 

But in the end, he couldn’t do anything because he was weak. He couldn’t protect her. The self-blame and guilt mix turned into tears.

 

What everyone else said was right. He was weak and had no power. He was just lucky enough to be born into Gracie Duchy.

 

Ashter lifted his head slowly. A completely empty baby cradle caught his eye. His lovely baby, whom he could only see once. She was his daughter, who he couldn’t even name.

 

Now that she was one day old, he even searched the library to give her the best name in the world. That’s how he was going to call her by her name today.

 

Lia.

 

It was named after the goddess of abundance and earth. But her daughter disappeared without even letting him call her name once.

 

Where on earth did Aurellia and the baby go? As he thought of her daughter, his eyes, which were filled with a sense of futility, came to life again.

 

“It’s not a shame to shed tears for others. But Ashter. If you cry…my heart aches.”

 

He felt like he could hear her voice in his ears.

 

“…It’s not time for cry.”

 

He slowly rose from his seat. Although Ashter was exhausted from running like crazy and shedding tears, he could never stop.

 

If Aurellia and the baby had died, their bodies would have remained. Yes, they weren’t even confirmed to be dead yet. With a faint hope, Ashter headed back to the Gracy Duchy. It was a pity, but unlike his strong determination, he could do nothing on his own.

 

But his father was different. The head of the Shinsu faction and the high-ranking noble supporting this empire. Since the Shinsu clan was slaughtered by the emperor’s scheme, his father had ample reason to move.

 

“Father…!”

 

He burst open the door of his office with a tearful face.

 

“Father, we’re in big trouble…!”

 

He must have known that something had already happened. However, inside the office, Duke Gracie was staring blankly out the window.

 

“Father…?”

 

Ashter tilted his head and headed for him in a hurry. Looking closer, he looked even stranger. He seemed like a man who had completely lost his soul. It seemed like he was greatly shocked by the deaths of the Shinsu clan.

 

“Father, it’s not time to be like this…! Aurellia…!”

 

At the name ‘Aurellia,’ Duke Gracie’s eyes barely turned towards him.

 

Sniff, she disappeared. Somewhere… where on earth has she gone to…”

 

“…Ashter.”

 

“Please move the private soldier right now. The emperor might have taken her—”

 

“Ashter…!”

 

Duke Gracie’s thick palm slammed hard on the desk. Aster, who was speaking gibberish, was startled and trembled at that sound.

 

“…Yes?”

 

“The private soldier cannot move.”

 

“What do you mean, Father? Father is the head of the Shinsu faction!”

 

“But that doesn’t mean we can start a rebellion…!”

 

“Father!”

 

He frowned painfully but threw up each word with difficulty. “The Shinsu clan has already been wiped out, and I have people I must protect!” Duke Gracie’s gaze fell from Ashter’s face after a long stay.

 

People to protect. From the servants of the duchy, the residents of the estate, and even his son. If war breaks out, everyone will suffer.

 

Of course, it was heartbreaking for the Shinsu clan to end up like that because of the stupid emperor. The Shinsu clan lived with pride in defending the empire and protecting humans. They weren’t at fault. It was an extremely unjust death.

 

He pressed his lips.

 

What did they think as they suffered in pain and eventually died at the hands of the person they loved?

 

How did their sacred and brilliant power fade away?

 

Regret followed the doubt.

 

Just thinking about the emperor unjustly murdering the Shinsu clan made his blood boil. However, the most emotional situations were also the times to think rationally. Even more for Duke Gracie, who had many other things on his shoulders to protect.

 

“Ashter, get yourself together.”

 

He blinked slowly as if he were about to collapse but held his son’s shoulder firmly. “You have to take care of yourself for the time being.”

 

Fortunately, no one knew in detail of the relationship between Aurellia and Ashter. The emperor also had no physical evidence.

 

First of all, if Ashter marries a family with a low status affiliated with the emperor faction, whether as a disguise or something else, he would be able to avoid the emperor’s eyes for a while. If he was lucky, the emperor might think his plan was done.

 

“For now, I’ll find you a suitable partner for marriage.”

 

“Marriage…? Did you just say marriage?” His eyes shook in disbelief.

 

He knew it. Marriage between nobles is made through political means, not love. However, his father was a man who never once forced him to get married. He always said to tell him when he has someone he loves. That means he will support him no matter what. So, when he found out that the person he loved was Aurellia, didn’t he provide her a place to live?

 

Ashter retorted in a trembling voice. “Father, please…! If we move the soldier right now, we might find Aurellia and the baby at least.”

 

But Duke Gracie shook his head firmly. “…It’s dangerous now. If Aurellia is alive, she’ll definitely be able to return on her own.”

 

“But what about my child!” Ashter couldn’t hold back any longer, so he shouted. “What about father’s granddaughter…!” The tears that he had been trying to hold back burst out again.

 

“…Ashter.”

 

“It’s only been a day since she gave birth to a baby, but with that body… she…!” He couldn’t even speak properly because of the sobbing.

 

He clasped the sword at his waist. Then, he spoke coldly as if he was about to do anything. “That’s okay. If Father won’t help me, I will find her myself…!”

 

With a bang, Ashter kicked out the door. When he left, Duke Gracie, who was left alone in the room, slumped to the floor.

 

“Do you think it’s easy for me? I…”

 

He admired the power of the Shinsu clan. He also admired their character. But the Shinsu clan he had followed all his life disappeared from this world due to humans’ ugly desires and greed. It felt like his world had collapsed. And he felt the same way about Aurellia and his granddaughter, whom he hadn’t ever seen her face.

 

“I, at least, have to protect you…”

 

A lonely eye turned to the closed door.

 

“I, who hadn’t been able to protect anyone, not even you…”

 

But the lament, mixed with deep sadness and anger, wandered in vain through the empty air.

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