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    In the annex of Scarcepino, brightly illuminated as if it were broad daylight.

    In the dark shadows of the deserted rear garden, slightly away from the splendid lights, Riccardo was helplessly caught by an unidentified inquisitor.

    Creak. The joints of his elbow, pulled back as far as they could go, creaked ominously.

    “Argh…!”

    Riccardo attempted to scream, but suddenly, a gust of wind from nowhere sealed the sound from his vocal cords.

    “…!”

    Riccardo, his face pale with terror and pain, twitched as the exorcist looked down at him with an utterly expressionless face.

    After a while, just as Riccardo was about to lose his strength and slump, the wind blocking his mouth disappeared.

    [I will not ask again. Speak. Where did that person send my son?]

    Finally regaining the ability to breathe, Riccardo gasped for air for a moment. Then, before this frightening visitor ran out of patience, he quickly exclaimed.

    “The labyrinth! It’s the labyrinth!”

    [Where in the labyrinth?]

    “I do not know the exact location! But I caught a glimpse of it in the memory of that storyteller. I am not sure when, but you have definitely been there before!”

    […….]

    The inquisitor’s grip relaxed.

    Riccardo, barely freed in his upper body, struggled to turn around and asked.

    “…But why? Why do you ask me this? Surely you can find out everything you want to know!”

    The woman looked down at Riccardo silently.

    In that cool face, from which no expression could be read, the only sign of life was the gray eyes that occasionally flickered silver.

    And this individual with unique eyes could be no one else but that person.

    ‘As expected! This woman is currently possessed by the Holy Emperor!’

    Given her waxen pale face and raven-black hair, she must be of the Cornsheim clan or a descendant bearing their blood. A channeler with enough capability to host the Holy Emperor would likely not have such diluted lineage.

    This must be one of the temporary measures the Holy Emperor has put in place to avoid leaving the palace.

    ‘Then… if I can just find a way to escape from this place, does that mean the Emperor will no longer pursue me?’

    If he heads to the labyrinth in search of his son, it means there is still a chance left for him.

    While he was pondering, the inquisitor, who had been quietly observing him, spoke in a calm tone.

    [Alright. If that’s the case, then the child will safely return.]

    “……?”

    [It seems accidental that he sent my son there, but surely the child must find something in that place.]

    …What?

    “…You’re not going to the labyrinth?”

    Riccardo’s voice quivered with shock as he asked this question.

    “Why on earth? I can’t understand you or the prince at all! Why do you keep doing this instead of taking the clear path that’s right in front of you…”

    […….]

    “…No, that’s not it. That’s not the issue.”

    How long has it been since Sigurd Sigurdson dispatched Prince Morres, and now this inquisitor appears before Riccardo?

    It was clear that she was ordered to stand by nearby in anticipation of any unfortunate incident that might occur during the prince’s outing.

    But why? If they knew something like this could happen, why didn’t they prevent his outing in the first place…

    “……!”

    Riccardo’s eyes widened with sudden realization.

    “Could it be! Not looking at all?”

    Could it be that it’s not just the prophecies that are sealed, but they are not making any predictions about the prince at all?

    Was that what the storyteller meant by complete indeterminacy?

    “But how, how is that possible? How can you do that? Especially since you are…”

    However, Riccardo’s voice trailed off as he inhaled sharply. His body stiffened as if frozen, feeling the cold and eerie gaze that seemed to pierce through his thoughts and soul in an instant.

    Those peculiar eyes.

    The woman’s bright, silvery-gray eyes scrutinized Riccardo for a moment.

    [Seeing that you know so much, it’s clear you were willingly cooperating with that person.]

    “……!”

    [To voluntarily become a slave to such a wicked being, isn’t that a grave sin that deserves immediate execution?]

    An ominous premonition flashed through his mind.

    The Holy Emperor has no intention of letting him go just like that!

    “Your Majesty! I am… I am a member of the Scarcepino family! You cannot just harm me recklessly like this!”

    [Your lineage background will not shield you as you serve the corrupt. Do you think I am unaware of who you are?]

    The inquisitor, or rather the Holy Emperor, drew a sword from his waistband, responding ominously.

    A deadly curved sword with a significantly bent blade, resembling a hook. The sharp shotel, considered a symbol of inquisitors, reflected the moonlight, casting a sinister silver sheen.

    “Wait! Then remember the pact… Do not forget your constraints, Guardian of Delcross!”

    Trying to control his trembling jaw, Riccardo desperately shouted.

    “The unforeseen incident caused by Sigurd today was never my intention! I have not defied the rules of the main world thus far, nor have I acted beyond the bounds of humanity. Then, then you have no right to blame my free will!”

    […….]

    “Please, do not ignore the consequences stemming from your own mistakes!”

    The Holy Emperor paused for a moment and quietly observed Riccardo.

    As Riccardo swallowed dryly, looking at that terribly inorganic face devoid of any emotion, the Holy Emperor eventually nodded and said calmly.

    [Yes. Indeed, that was the promise.]

    Did it work?

    [So rest assured. Severing you from that person is nothing other than the free will of this inquisitor.]

    ‘…What?’

    Sweating cold sweat from an ominous premonition.

    [Is it not so, Dame Sharon?]

    “……!”

    Riccardo was shocked. The eyes looking down on him had turned a deep, dark black.

    A chilling shiver ran down his spine.

    “Hehehe.”

    And the emaciated inquisitor split his lips into a grin.

    “Yes, indeed, Your Majesty.”

    The woman’s shotel, raised high into the air, shone round like the crescent moon in the night sky.

    https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0048/5988/7672/files/BladesPro_Shotel_480x480.png?v=1630542105 

    And before Riccardo could say anything else.

    Crash!

    The shotel, flying like lightning, struck down on his crown.

    * * *

    Beep, beep, beep-

    A series of loud notifications assaulted his ears.

    Text windows, difficult to comprehend, flashed incessantly before his eyes, disorienting his vision.

    〚Party□ □ recognized. Lai□□rophe Road is regene□ing.〛

    〚Error! Unable to recognize accurate □ information of the party□!〛

    〚Requesting update of target entity’s □ from the stre□.〛

    〚Requesting scale □ adjustment from the stre□.〛

    Ah, this.

    Although unclear, there’s a feeling that something significant has been messed up again?

    [This is serious, Lee Seongjin!]

    The demon king shouted, tense with anxiety.

    [For some reason, it seems a condition tied to this place has been met! Something dangerous might appear, so we need to escape from here before it’s too late!]

    ‘Ah, right.’

    Seongjin, sweating profusely, began to backpedal towards the entrance when he felt a thud as if his body hit a wall.

    ‘……!?’

    Feeling around with his hands, the entrance to the cave was completely blocked by something invisible, similar to the intangible barriers created by Sigurd Sigurdson.

    “…What is this?”

    Orden, like Seongjin, murmured in confusion as their retreat was blocked.

    And then.

    Suddenly, within the deep cave that had been empty just a moment ago, the presence of a gigantic creature appeared, emitting a terrifying aura.

    Two flickering red eyes in the darkness shone with a chilling light.

    〚Lai□□rophe Lord recognizes the intrusion□ into the bor□lum. Clear ho□tile response!〛

    ‘Hey, demon king. It seems like we’re doomed, right?’

    Grrrrr…

    The extreme infrasound emanating from it made all the hairs on their bodies stand on end for a moment. Seongjin and Orden, as if by agreement, drew their swords and glared straight ahead.

    Then, thud. The sound of something heavy stepping.

    Simultaneously, whoosh, the surroundings lit up brightly. Though the principle was unclear, torches encircling the cave walls were all lit at once.

    〚Error! Unable to recognize accurate □ information of the party□!〛

    〚Requesting update of target entity’s □ from the stre□.〛

    What appeared before them was a gigantic beast with a blue hue.

    Despite having a head resembling that of a canine, its rough-furred torso and the way its hands clutched at its stance were eerily similar to a human form.

    In contrast, its legs were clearly those of a quadrupedal animal, bent backward, yet it moved with an eerie grace on two legs, a bizarre sight indeed.

    “A Lycanthrope? But of such size?”

    Orden, observing the creature with a pale face, exclaimed softly.

    Indeed, the beast’s appearance closely resembled that of the Lycanthrope, occasionally spotted in the northern demonic frontiers.

    Only, everything about this creature was significantly larger than those Lycanthropes. Its height surpassed nearly 4 meters, and each of the two blades it wielded seemed to be over 2 meters in length.

    〚Requesting scale □ adjustment from the stre□.〛

    〚Error! Unable to □ a clear standard for adjustment!〛

    Another curiosity was that, unlike ordinary Lycanthropes, this one adorned intricately crafted metal ornaments.

    Contrasting its seemingly mindless red eyes, the elaborate adornments gave it an appearance akin to an intelligent being with a civilization.

    Clank.

    With each step the creature took, the metal ornaments hanging from various parts fluttered, reflecting the blue flames of the torches.

    ‘…What exactly is that?’

    While Orden was plunged into utter confusion, Seongjin’s assessment of the beast was rather straightforward.

    ‘Ah, a boss mob. We’ve entered a boss room.’

    […Is that all you have to say?]

    ‘What else? You fight the boss in a boss room. What’s there to ponder?’

    Roar!

    At that moment, the beast let out a thunderous roar and charged forward.

    Simultaneously, whoosh. The creature’s blades swung with lightning-fast speed, incongruous with its massive size.

    Seongjin, moving out of habit, easily dodged, while Orden, who had been expecting a Lycanthrope of usual speed, couldn’t react in time to the unexpected velocity.

    ‘Damn…!’

    Reflexively raising his aura-infused sword above his head, Orden braced for the impending impact, clenching his teeth.

    Then, clang! The sound of weapons clashing!

    “……?”

    Orden blinked in surprise.

    It was quite heavy. However, the impact was not as severe as Orden had anticipated.

    〚Error! Unable to calculate dama□ due to an unidentifiable □!〛

    〚Requesting scale □ adjustment from the stre□.〛

    The beast’s weapon swung again, a strike accompanied by a terrifying sound of cutting air, yet threatening as it was.

    Thud! Again, it was repelled by Orden’s sword with a relatively light impact sound.

    Grrrr.

    The beast paused its movement, growling at Orden with evident displeasure.

    During this moment, Orden quickly retreated to Seongjin’s side. However, his eyes were filled with unprecedented confusion.

    〚Error! Unable to □ a clear standard for adjustment!〛

    〚Requesting update of target entity’s □ from the stre□.〛

    “Hmm, to confront with your sword so boldly without scouting first, you’re quite brave, aren’t you? Seems like it’s manageable after all?”

    As Seongjin spoke with a relaxed face, Orden retorted with a burst of frustration.

    “Do you think so? But what can I do? I can’t predict that thing’s movements at all!”

    “Really?”

    “Yes! It’s strange, Your Highness! Although it resembles a Lycanthrope in appearance, its strength, speed, and movement patterns, none of them are proper!”

    At that, Seongjin tilted his head in wonder.

    “Hmm, I see. I’ve never actually seen a real Lycanthrope, so I just assumed it’d be similar to a Blatta Mantis. It’s about the same size, after all.”

    “Blatta… What is that?”

    “Ah, a demon beast from Gehenna. Quite a grotesque one. Compared to that, this one here looks downright adorable.”

    As Seongjin spoke,

    Beep. A clear notification sound rang out.

    〚Stre□ confirms the registration of the target entity.〛

    〚Player ■■■ ■■.〛

    〚Adjustment base entity□ Blatta Mantis.〛

    〚Stre□ initiates scale □ adjustment.〛

    And then,

    Flash! The beast, scattering red glares from its eyes, charged at them again, slamming both of its blades downward simultaneously.

    Feeling an eerie sensation different from before, Orden, this time, did not rashly block with his sword but rolled to the side along with Seongjin.

    And that was the correct response.

    Roar!

    With an enormous impact that shook the entire cave, a trench at least 1 meter wide was gouged into the floor.

    Facing the terrifying destructive power, Orden’s face turned ashen, realizing he had almost taken the beast’s attack head-on.

    “See? Since it’s about the same size, the attack style and power are similar too. It’s just like watching that thing’s foreleg slam down, right?”

    Amid the rising dust, only Seongjin maintained a calm demeanor, offering such an assessment.

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