“Did you manage to meet His Highness Zion?”

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A middle-aged knight asked Evelyn Agnes, who had just returned to her palace, with his head bowed.
An impressive diagonal scar marked his face.

“…Yes.”

Accepting his greetings, Evelyn nodded slightly.

“But why did the knights accompany you back?”

“He said he wouldn’t accept them.”

“Pardon? What does that mean? His Highness Zion said he wouldn’t accept them?”

“Yes, he doesn’t want them.”

As it didn’t make sense, the knight’s eyes were tinged with surprise and confusion.
The Imperial castle’s territory was breached and Chimseong Palace was attacked, the residents inside nearly losing  their lives.
He wouldn’t have been surprised even if Prince Zion requested to take refuge in this palace.
Yet, he had refused their support… Evelyn’s expression was also unlike usual.

She normally adopts a bitter expression…

Although she exhibited a bitter expression today, her face also betrayed other emotions as well.
Namely, concern and pity… As well as surprise and confusion.

What in the world had happened?

“He’s changed.
I doubt much of his previous personality remains.”

Mumbling more of a monologue to herself than addressing the knight, Evelyn recalled her earlier encounter with Zion.

Certainly, Zion’s behaviour was also unusual, but it was his statement about participating in the succession ceremony that perplexed and angered her.

Evelyn believed that if Zion participated in the succession ceremony, he would die.

She could not bear to leave Zion, whom she considered her only brother, to die, and she released some of her power in order to coerce him into conceding.

Yet, he endured that pressure.

The pressure was at a level that would normally have rendered him unconscious the moment it was exerted.
However, Zion not only withstood the pressure, but also dispelled it with ease.
When did his growth begin?

Or had he been concealing his power?

Evelyn felt a sense of surprise and awe, but she was simultaneously hit with a sense of danger.
A black star was swirling in Zion’s eyes, allowing him to withstand the pressure from her art, Astral.

It was definitely not Astral.

A foreign star that had never before been seen in the world.
Evelyn opened her mouth and addressed the knight, recalling the black star that stimulated the fear hiding within the recesses of her heart.

“Secretly increase the guards around Chimseong Palace so as not to be noticed by Zion.
So that something like this will never occur again.”

“I understand.”

“And… keep your eyes on Zion as well.” 

Receiving Evelyn’s command, the knight bowed quietly.

* * *

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“Hoho, it seems that Her Highness Evelyn cherishes Your Highness greatly.”

Hearing Fredo’s satisfaction-filled voice from beside him, a wide smile decorating his lips, Zion looked at what lay on the table before him.

A round object that radiated a sky blue light due to a great abundance of mana.

It was the heart of a thousand-year-old ogre, a monster that symbolised strength and stamina.

When an ogre lives for 1,000 years, its power becomes concentrated in its heart.

It was known that if a human consumed it, that person would gain great physical strength and stamina.

“I cannot believe she is gifting me something so precious…”

In fact, Evelyn had sent stamina-bolstering food several times in the past to strengthen Zion’s frail body.
However, this was the first time she had gifted him something more potent than numerous elixirs combined.

However, this will only be a temporary solution.

Zion thought that as he felt the magical energy emanating from the millennial ogre’s heart.

An average person would fail to absorb even half of this heart’s power by cooking and eating it.
It would only harden the bones and strengthen the muscles.
But Zion was different.

He was confident that he would be able to fully extract and absorb the power of the heart.
As such, the restrictions binding him when using Astral Darkness would lessen for the time being.
Even so, it would not be a fundamental solution as long as his body itself was not transformed.

Evelyn Agnes.

As his thoughts reached this point, he stopped thinking about the millennial ogre’s heart and instead began thinking about Evelyn Agnes, who had just visited Chimseong Palace. 

Was she really only one of the main characters in the Chronicles of Frosimar?

She had already completed half of her role in the chronicle, although only the first half.

She was gifted both as a ruler and a warrior.
In particular, the stars shining in her eyes suggested that her attainments in Astral had reached the peak.

Astral.

It was described in the Chronicles of Frosimar as a power that only direct descendents of the Agnes Imperial family could wield.
It was known as the power that reigned supreme, and those who had mastered Astral, which was a celestial art befitting its name, possessed power far greater than those normally considered strong.
The level of attainment in the art was reflected by the number of stars shining in the wielder’s eyes, just like Astral Darkness.

But, it’s strange.

It did not occur to me when I read it in writing, but when I witnessed it in person… 

Evelyn’s Astral intrigued him at first glance.

Zion felt it was similar to his Astral Darkness, although only slightly.
Astral Darkness was a power that only Zion himself could wield.
So why did Evelyn’s power evoke a sense of familiarity?

“Transmigrating into a novel is nonsensical as well.”

Zion, now shaking his head and thinking that he now had more to uncover in the future, recalled his meeting with Evelyn once again.

With six stars, I can safely assume she’s already amongst the strongest in the world.

Evelyn Agnes pressured Zion by unleashing Astral, and Zion responded to her challenge.
Had Zion not displayed his strength, Evelyn would never have relented, continuing to push him into relinquishing his position as successor.

“… Hoo, I understand.
I’ll concede if you so fervently desire to participate, Zion.”

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In response to Zion’s reaction, Evelyn looked surprised for a moment, but eventually suppressed her desire.

“I won’t ask you about the power you possess at this time.
However, I would like for you to explain it when you believe it’s time.”

She added this, but…

The conversation that followed was regarding what to be wary of when completing the succession ceremony and the issue of safety in the meantime.

Through that conversation, Zion realised that Evelyn was very fond of him.

Now that he considered the situation,  that was likely why she generously gifted him elixirs like the millennial ogre’s heart.

In fact, the main purpose behind Evelyn’s visit, along with her concern for Zion’s safety, was to gift him the millennial ogre’s heart.

This favour may prove useful in the future.

Then

“Your Highness Zion, the princess of the Bamel family has come to visit.”

As if he knew that Zion had finished thinking about Evelyn, the servant who was outside the door announced the arrival of a guest.

“Let her in.”

A woman boasting auburn hair and carmine eyes walked in with him.

It was Priscilla.

“For what reason have you called me after treating me like someone unworthy of your time?”

“”

Her tone was blunt, as if greatly dissatisfied with his treatment of her, but a subtle anticipation was also present in her eyes.

“You have stayed in the palace until now.
It is time for you to compensate for your meals.”

“Pardon? What do you mean all of a sudden?”

Priscilla questioned Zion’s sudden statement, her brows slightly furrowed.

“How long will it take to complete this?”

“I don’t even know what it is…”

However, her words cut off, her confusion turning into incredulity the moment her gaze landed on the piece of paper that Zion presented to her.

“This… where did you find it?”

Priscilla, almost snorting in shock, scanned the paper and asked Zion.
Drawn on the paper was a magic circle.

“I drew it.”

“Yes? I beg your pardon? Your Highness drew this?”

Priscilla’s eyes became tinged with astonishment far more intense than her initial surprise.
The fact that Zion was able to draw a magic circle was also astonishing, but that was not the issue.

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“This format and composition….
and the fundamental principle.
I have never seen anything like this before.”

Priscilla, a renowned wizard who also possessed the prestige of the Bamel family, had access to the latest theories put forth by several magic towers.

However, nowhere among any of their theories had she come across anything like this.
That meant that this magic circle was created by Zion.
Creating something new, no matter how simple, was only possible when one possessed complete mastery in that field.

I never imagined that Prince Zion had mastered magic to this extent…

“I asked how long it would take you to complete it.”

Zion seemed to know what kind of misunderstanding Priscilla had arrived at, but he didn’t feel a need to correct it.

Enemy Manifestation.1

This magic circle, with the simple name “Enemy Manifestation,” was from the “Chronicles of the Hero of Frosimar.”

As the magic was developed two years later, just before the outbreak of the war between mankind and the demon realm, it did not yet exist in this era.

It had only a single application, but it was highly effective.
The Chronicle of Frosimar described this magic circle in such detail that it was possible to visualize it, as if trying to etch it into the reader’s mind, which is why he remembered it.

“It should be ready by tomorrow.”

Priscilla replied to Zion’s words, her gaze remaining on the magic circle.
It was the first time she had ever seen this magic circle, but the fundamental principle and formula itself were not overly complicated, so it was easy to complete.
The problem, however, lay in the use of the magic circle.

It’s similar to detection magic, but also slightly different.
It’s as if he’s trying to force something out…

Perhaps it was due to her deep curiosity.

Priscilla, who finally took her eyes off the paper, turned to Zion and asked.

“May I ask how you are going to use this?”

In response to Priscilla’s question, Zion slightly curled his lips upwards and answered.

“As preparation for the hunt.”

————————

It was late in the evening, the sun blazing down from behind Baekseong Palace.

Hannah, one of the palace maids, was rushing through the palace halls while looking at the setting sun beyond the windows.

“What happened?”

Confusion filled her eyes. She was not the only one.
All of the palace’s knights and attendants were walking down the corridor, questioning looks on their faces.
Prince Zion’s sudden order to assemble had been issued just a few minutes ago.
Hannah and all other palace personnel were proceeding to the training hall outside the palace, where the assembly was to take place.

“Oh, Hannah.”

A gentle voice sounded from behind Hannah.
When Hannah turned her head, she caught sight of an old man with whitish-grey hair.

“Ah, Mr.
Vice Chamberlain.”

Joy suffused her eyes.
The old man was Varen, the vice chamberlain.
Varen, who has been working at Chimseong Palace for nearly 20 years, was well-known among the servants for his characteristic kindness and refined manners, and Hannah thought of him as a grandfather.

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“Does Mr.
Vice Chamberlain know why His Highness ordered us to gather?”

“I don’t know.”

Varen shook his head while answering Hannah’s question.

“Since the change, I have also failed to understand His Highness’ reasoning.
Perhaps he is not the kind of man who explains his actions.”

“That’s right… The changed prince is a bit scary.”

Hannah responded with a nod. Prince Zion, who had changed after the attack, was much more difficult to face compared to before.
He did not command her or the other servants to do anything.

This made their job easier, but Hannah was still afraid of Prince Zion.

Sometimes, when she saw Prince Zion from afar, a chill would run down her body, as if she were drowning in cold water.
The sense of unidentifiable unfamiliarity that emanated from him terrified her. 

How long had she been walking?

“I guess I wasn’t the only one on night duty tonight.”

She said to Varen after she arrived at the training hall and saw the people already gathered there.
Then, Hannah saw Zion standing in the centre of the stage.

She felt a somewhat ominous feeling from Prince Zion’s calm eyes looking down at the people without saying a word.
Hannah unknowingly wrapped her arms around her body in response to the chill that resulted from meeting his gaze.

“Begin.”

Perhaps because he thought no one else was coming, a cold voice exited Prince Zion’s mouth.
Priscilla, who was standing next to him, nodded and began to chant a spell.

Seueueu-

Thus, a crimson light began to radiate from the magic circle that had already been drawn on the floor of the training hall.
The colour of the light became increasingly more intense as Priscilla’s spell continued, not only filling the training hall, but also extending further to encompass the entirety of Chimseong Palace.
The servants and knights took a step backwards from the light, instinctively feeling a repulsion from the light.

“What is that light… uh? Mr.
Vice Chamberlain?”

Hannah’s eyes were tinged with doubt as she caught sight of Varen shivering in the eerie crimson light.
Unlike her and the others, Varen was staring at the source of the red light, the magic circle, with a dazed expression, as if he was possessed.

Additionally, when Hannah extended her hand to grab Varen by the collar as he tried to approach the magic circle.

Drip!

A drop of blood redder than the crimson light fell right in the centre of the glowing magic circle. At that moment

“Ah, ah…”

Hannah saw. 

Varen, who treated her like a granddaughter.

Kkieeeeeek! 

Massive tentacles extended from each orifice on Varen’s body.

Footnotes

Literal meaning is revealing the enemy’s location.

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