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    The puppet show was approaching its climax.

    A yellow lump approaches a red lump lying askew.

    [The Demon King of Dreams fell into deep sorrow upon seeing the death of the Demon King of Fire. Although they had become rivals, they were once comrades who fought against the same enemy. So he decided to mourn him who met a miserable death at the hands of the evil hero.]

    Why is the story turning out like this?

    What mourning for those guys who were fighting to the death just now? And where did the hero go?

    [The Demon King of Dreams called his friend’s name and honored his sad death.]

    The voice chanting the narration was low, but it was filled with an unmistakable deep emotion of sorrow. Before they knew it, the children had their hands clasped and tears welling up in their eyes.

    Is this some kind of mass hypnosis? Although he thought something was strange, Seongjin also felt a bizarre sensation as if a corner of his heart was being touched. It was as if something was directly stimulating his mind, inducing an emotional change similar to being moved.

    He could only guess that the voice of the puppeteer was the cause, but there was no way to confirm it.

    That voice with a strange charm calmly declared,

    [Farewell forever, Al Fahas, Demon King of Fire.]

    Ting. Suddenly, a ringing sound as if something was cracking spread through Seongjin’s mind.


    [Rest in peace, Al Fahas of Fire.]

    Crack. Seongjin felt a slight dizziness at the small impact that resounded again.

    “Goodbye, Al Fahas, Demon King of Fire!”

    “Rest well, Al Fahas!”

    The children shouted in unison.

    “Farewell forever, Al Fahas of Fire!”

    It’s disgusting.

    Trying hard to calm his churning stomach, Seongjin suddenly thought. This is terribly wrong.

    Herna and Gades did not join the children in shouting the slogan. They just held Seongjin’s arms as if supporting him and looked up at him with slightly worried eyes.

    The puppet show, which lacked context and a consistent theme, suddenly ended with an overly heartwarming ending.

    After mourning the Demon King of Fire together for a while, the children began to leave one by one, and now only a shabby wooden board with a lowered curtain and short candles that had burned out remained on the temporary stage.

    It seemed that one person had conducted the narration and puppet show alone, and they were organizing the stage while gathering the puppets. They had a slender build and wore a long, baggy robe, making it difficult to distinguish whether they were male or female.

    Wearing a shabby half-mask revealing a sharp jawline, they had tied their long silver hair and let it hang below their waist.

    As the puppet show ended, Seongjin, whose condition had miraculously calmed down, tried to approach the puppeteer who was cleaning up the stage. He couldn’t ignore the fact that the strange phenomenon he experienced and the stories of the puppet show had something to do with the Demon King of Gehenna.

    However, two pairs of arms pulled him back.

    “You mustn’t meet the writer now, Morres.”

    “The writer won’t tell you anything, Morres.”

    But wasn’t it you who brought me here?

    Seongjin tried to take a step forward again, disregarding them. Then Herna and Gades clung to his arms with all their body weight this time.

    “Emperor Daddy won’t be happy if he knows we came here.”

    “We shouldn’t trouble Daddy His Majesty any further.”

    This time, Seongjin stopped walking. It was because an unprecedentedly earnest look flickered in the eyes of the twins who always seemed leisurely.

    He stood there for a moment and thought.

    What do these children know and to what extent?

    It was another matter how much he could trust the twins’ advice, but if he ignored their words and made contact with the puppeteer, what were the chances of Seongjin obtaining additional information?

    Moreover, when the emperor was mentioned, his last request before entering seclusion prayer came to mind.

    -Don’t cause any trouble.

    Come to think of it, today might have been a day when he truly went against his words. Of course, most of the reasons were because of these inscrutable kids.

    Above all, his instinct, which was sometimes exhibited in unexpected places, strongly conveyed the feeling that now was not the time.

    After glancing at the puppeteer who was still busy cleaning up, Seongjin obediently followed the twins’ lead and got on the carriage.

    The puppeteer felt a strange gaze from somewhere and turned around.

    However, apart from passersby who glanced at him as they walked briskly, there was no one who paid particular attention to him. Only a small carriage was moving away from the square in the distance, and the street where the sunset was beginning to fall was relatively quiet.

    Is it my imagination? He tilted his head.

    The senses of his body, which had clearly become dull, were not very reliable.

    “I was wondering where you went at this hour, what are you doing with the kids?”

    A handsome man waved his hand and approached the puppeteer from across the square. He was a very smooth-looking young man with healthily tanned skin from the sun and glossy black hair.

    His casually unbuttoned attire was quite luxurious, and his firm chin had a self-assured smile that must have been there since birth.

    The puppeteer politely bowed his head to him.

    “Prince Leonard.”

    “Hey, I told you to call me Leo, didn’t I? This is an unofficial visit. Romaine.”

    “Yes, Lord Leo.”

    Leonard approached with large strides and comfortably put his arm around the shoulder of the small-statured puppeteer.

    “By the way, listen, Romaine. It’s been several days since I came to the capital and requested an unofficial meeting, but these annoying guys still haven’t responded.”

    “Is that so?”

    “Isn’t it infuriating? I’ve been contacting them for months, saying I want to receive the imperial edict, but they ignored all of it.”

    Leonard grumbled, looking at the sky with a face full of displeasure.

    “Just because he’s the emperor? Does he think he’s so great that he can act so high and mighty?”

    Of course, Leonard had no way of knowing that the emperor had always disliked him—for the reason that his daughter was interested in that rascal.

    And the fact that he had now completely fallen out of the emperor’s favor due to things he hadn’t even done yet.

    “The request for an audience will probably not be accepted.”

    Romaine calmly replied. Now it was not the voice with a strange resonance like when he was doing the puppet show, but a thin yet ordinary man’s voice.

    “Damn it! Why on earth?”

    “Rather than not accepting, it’s more like he can’t meet you, Lord Leo. Since yesterday, the energy protecting Delcross has become very faint. Perhaps the guardian has left the capital.”

    So that’s why it’s possible to pull off this kind of trick right in front of the imperial palace.

    Romaine didn’t bother to say that out loud.

    Hmm. Leonard said with a serious face, now even resting his chin on the arm draped over Romaine’s shoulder.

    “There’s only one way left now. Seduction.”


    …Who are you talking to?

    Leonard, well aware of Romaine’s displeased face under the mask, laughed out loud.

    “Don’t you know? There’s still a beautiful rose that hasn’t fully bloomed in that imperial palace. Doesn’t that guy cherish his daughter so much?”

    “You seem quite confident.”

    Romaine slightly pulled back his shoulder that was starting to feel heavy and crossed his arms.

    “You should have seen the princess’s eyes looking at me during last year’s birthday banquet… I assure you. It was the very embodiment of a pitiful girl who had fallen in first love.”

    At the prince’s confident declaration, Romaine’s eyes deepened under the mask.

    Leonard was uncanny when it came to women. If what he said was true, perhaps things could be resolved more easily than expected.

    A simple way to effectively pressure the most troublesome Delcross and tie the emperor’s hands and feet.

    “So, Romaine. You should also stop this useless act of dealing with kids and think about a way to naturally make contact with the princess.”


    Leonard tapped Romaine’s shoulder with a smile on his face, then spun around and waved his hand.

    He was heading to a nearby tavern again. Since the meeting request would not be accepted anyway, he probably intended to take his mind off things until the birthday banquet.

    Romaine, who had been silently gazing at the prince’s receding back, suddenly muttered to himself.

    “The Demon King of Dreams, who had become a failed story, could not kill either the hero or the Demon King of Fire. This useless act was all he could do.”

    The voice that no one could hear hollowly spread in the middle of the emptying square.


    Darkness fell and shadows descended all around. Seongjin, who had been dragged around all afternoon without knowing why, was now facing his final destination.

    The Monkey Watchtower. A small tavern that was said to have many regulars among the Royal Guard.

    “This won’t take very long, Morres.”

    “You just need to greet the owner properly and come out, Morres.”

    Herna and Gades, who had dropped him off in front of Fountain Square, didn’t even get out of the carriage this time.

    After waving their hands affectionately to Seongjin and Masain, who had dumbfounded looks on their faces, they even slammed the carriage door shut.


    “I guess… we should go in, Sir Masain?”

    “…Yes, Your Highness. I don’t know what’s what anymore either.”

    The two had reached the point of going all the way.

    They dragged their feet and headed towards the small wooden door of the tavern. The sound of heavily drunk patrons chattering was already flowing out from beyond the door.

    Creak. As the well-worn wooden door opened, a rush of heat and a terrible smell of alcohol poured out.

    The interior was also a small tavern, just like the exterior. The only furniture was the plain wooden walls without any decoration and five crude wooden tables.

    Surprisingly, the patrons were packed at each table in this shabby store. Holding large wooden mugs, they were laughing and chattering noisily about something.

    Apparently, the drinks here were extremely cheap. Of course, they only served low-quality dark beer.

    When Seongjin’s group entered the entrance, the drunks gave them a glance for a moment, but they didn’t recognize who they were and didn’t seem to care much either. They soon turned their heads back and laughed or shouted loudly.

    Even Masain didn’t seem to have the intention to shout at them to serve His Highness in this atmosphere, so he kept his mouth shut and closely followed behind Seongjin.

    The owner was an elderly man. He had a good physique, wearing an old leather vest and apron, and his round, shiny bald head was particularly noticeable.

    He wore a black eyepatch over his right eye, and judging by the long scar protruding from the eyepatch, it was a wound from being cut by a blade.

    He waited for Seongjin to approach, then spat out a thick wooden pipe and asked in a gruff voice,

    “What brings you here?”

    “I just came to pay my respects.”

    Seongjin answered politely. Somehow, honorifics naturally came out to this old man.


    The old man chewed on his pipe and carefully examined Seongjin.

    Just when it seemed suspicious that he knew who he was, the old man stroked his empty head a couple of times and said,

    “You’re too young to share a drink. But you’re a bit late to exchange greetings.”


    “My name is Brennan. I’ve received your greetings well. I’ll give you an answer soon.”

    What does that mean? Is greeting some kind of code?

    While Seongjin was pondering, Brennan issued an order to drive out the customers.

    “Go on your way.”

    Seongjin and Masain looked at each other’s faces.

    “Old man, one more round here!”

    “Here too, please!”

    Just then, orders started pouring in. Although they wanted to ask more, it was not an atmosphere where they could stand and endure. As they were turning around and walking towards the entrance, Brennan shouted at them just before closing the wooden door.

    “Anyway, be careful! Now that he’s away for a while, the flies are swarming as if they were waiting for it!”

    Seongjin looked back, but the owner had already turned his back and was filling new beer mugs.

    It was already completely dark by the time they arrived at the Pearl Palace.

    Seongjin was almost in a daze. Too many things had happened in just half a day, and his condition had deteriorated rapidly after watching the puppet show.

    First of all, he was terribly hungry. As he leaned against the seat with no energy, Herna and Gades spoke to him as if they felt sorry for him.

    “You’ve had a hard day, Morres.”

    “You’ve been to quite a few places. Well done, Morres.”

    Of course, the twins had been snacking in the carriage while Seongjin’s group was away. That made it even more annoying.

    “Then, good night, Morres.”

    “Sweet dreams, Morres.”

    Seongjin waved his hand roughly at the twins who were bidding farewell with bright faces, then dragged his sluggish feet and staggered into the lobby of the Pearl Palace.

    And he was momentarily at a loss for words at the incredible sight that unfolded before his eyes.

    Numerous gift boxes of various sizes and servants of all kinds holding them filled the lobby of the Pearl Palace.

    On one side of the corridor, artworks and antiques were piled up haphazardly, and bouquets that couldn’t find a place to be placed were scattered here and there on the stairs.

    And the letters piled up like a mountain on a tray. A tremendous amount of invitations inviting the Third Prince to social gatherings were awaiting him.

    It was an astonishing amount, as if every notable person in the capital had written to him.

    Just one day.

    All of this happened in just one day after the emperor had entered seclusion prayer.

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