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    “For now, let’s move Sir Haven to his quarters.”

    At Seongjin’s words, one of the knights asked with an anxious face.

    “Shouldn’t we wait as is until the plague doctor comes? What if we accidentally spread the disease…?”

    Once the plague doctor starts drawing blood, Haven might actually die.

    Seongjin shook his head, “It’s not the plague. It’s a disease I know.”

    “How can we believe you?”

    Another knight standing beside them, a young one with a long scar on his forehead, asked skeptically. Although Seongjin had gotten close to most of the resident knights recently, this young knight had always cast him sidelong glances.

    “If Your Highness says so but it turns out to be the plague, we’re the ones who will die, right?”

    “…”

    As insolent as the young knight’s attitude was, he wasn’t entirely wrong. 

    It would be strange to easily believe a young prince, notorious for being a good-for-nothing, when he claims, without any medical knowledge, that it’s not the plague.

    Seongjin didn’t answer and gently grasped Haven’s fallen arm.

    Instantly, the surrounding knights gasped.

    Regardless, Seongjin hoisted Haven’s arm over his shoulder and helped him sit up. Haven was rather small, and Seongjin had pumped Aura into his muscles, so lifting him wasn’t much of a challenge even with his young body.

    Seongjin then looked at the surrounding knights, “Well, I’ll take half the responsibility, you guys gamble on the other half. He’s a comrade, right?”

    “…”

    The knights glanced at each other in silence.

    Surprisingly, the first person to step forward was the young knight who had questioned him. The young knight silently grabbed Haven’s other arm and helped Seongjin lift him up.

    The two of them started to move towards the knights’ quarters, supporting Haven between them.

    ‘I thought he was a hard-headed guy, but it seems he still knows the meaning of loyalty,’ Seongjin thought. He glanced over, and the young knight looked unhappy, his brow furrowed as he stared straight ahead.

    “What unit are you from? How long have you been stationed at the Pearl Palace?”

    “…Why? Will you remember if I tell you?”

    “…”

    ‘What’s this guy’s problem? Doesn’t he know how to socialize?’

    The atmosphere grew tense, but fortunately, they didn’t have far to go. Knight Kurt had come prepared with a carriage.

    The young knight disappeared without even saying goodbye as soon as he handed Haven over to the doctor. Truly an unfriendly character.

    Soon, Haven was quickly moved to the accommodation on the carriage.

    “Since when has he been in this condition?” Ninnias, the doctor, asked. As always, his nose was red, as if he’d just had a drink.

    “He was fine until yesterday afternoon,” answered Kurt.

    Ninnias promptly examined Haven. He checked his pulse, looked inside his mouth, and even flipped his eyelids.

    Of course, Ninnias’s severe hypochondria made one doubt if he was checking the pulse accurately…

    ‘Didn’t this guy accuse the Lyora School of being traitors before?’

    Seongjin suddenly remembered that Ninnias didn’t seem to like the Lyora School. His trust in the doctor rose dramatically!

    Unaware of Seongjin’s thoughts, Ninnias, after a thorough examination, finally spoke to the group.

    “Indeed, as the Prince said, this does not look like a commonly known plague.”

    “A plague…it’s not?”

    Sir Kurt asked, seemingly relieved.

    “Probably not. Most plagues initially come with a fever, but this one, on the other hand…”

    His body temperature is dropping.

    “Of course, as time passes and the illness worsens, one’s pulse weakens and body temperature drops like this, but it hasn’t been long since the symptoms appeared in him.”

    “So Doctor Ninnias, if it’s not a plague, what could be affecting him?”

    At Sir Kurt’s question, Doctor Ninnias wiped the sweat off his forehead with a somewhat troubled expression.

    “It’s too early to say. We’ll have to keep an eye on his condition for now…”

    And then he subtly glanced at Seongjin, who stood quietly with his arms crossed, listening to the conversation.

    It seemed like he was curious to know how much medical knowledge Seongjin had as an apothecary, being the first to say it didn’t look like a plague.

    “Sometimes, people show similar symptoms when stung by a bee. I remember a young man in my old neighborhood died after a bee sting; he broke out in hives, his face swelled, he struggled to breathe, and most notably, his body temperature dropped rapidly. Apparently, his father and grandfather also died from bee stings.”

    Ninnias added, “Of course, his condition isn’t deteriorating that rapidly, but…”

    “Moreover, it’s difficult to guess why he lost consciousness before his pulse weakened. It’s not typical symptoms of poisoning, but we should also consider the possibility of some new kind of toxin.”

    Seongjin examined Haven, who was lying unconscious on the bed.

    The man’s complexion was pale, almost to the point of appearing grey. His lips were drained of color, and sporadic red, swollen rashes appeared on his exposed skin, including his face and neck.

    And below his chest, a portion of the skin had turned gray.

    Could it be there?

    [Yes, there is an egg of Lophellum in his chest. It’s already dead.]

    The Demon King whispered.

    ‘What effects would a Lopfern egg have on a human? Is it toxic?’

    [Who knows, I’ve never laid an egg in a human.]

    Seongjin lost himself in thought for a moment.

    Even though he had lived a modern Earth life, Seongjin didn’t have much medical knowledge. Before the Gate incident, he was just an ordinary office worker, and after the Gate incident, he was a superhuman hunter who had no worries about diseases.

    However, even he knew that people could die suddenly from bee stings due to an anaphylactic shock caused by bee sting allergies.

    The Lophellum egg can’t parasitize in a human body; it just dies as time passes.

    But what if that dead egg triggers an allergic reaction similar to anaphylactic shock? Or what if it keeps emitting something toxic?

    If so, the condition won’t improve unless the egg is removed.

    The next step was clear. Remove the egg.

    “Doctor Ninnias, doesn’t the skin tone over there look a bit off? It appears different to my eyes…”

    At Seongjin’s words, the doctor examined the area on Haven’s chest that he was pointing to more closely. It probably hadn’t caught his eye before due to the uneven rashes and pale complexion.

    As Doctor Ninnias carefully unbuttoned Haven’s shirt, a palm-sized area of discolored skin became clearly visible. And in the center of that grey skin, there was a small wound covered in scab.

    That wound must be where the Lophellum egg had burrowed in.

    The physician touched the discolored chest area and slightly tilted his head.

    “Come to think of it, you’re right. The color is different, and there is a wound. And the skin feels somewhat hard, doesn’t it? …Hmm?”

    He tapped the discolored skin with his fingers and gently brushed it. Then, he raised his head with a somewhat serious expression.

    “It feels like there’s something strange inside?”

    Was it shallow enough to be felt from the outside? If so, this will simplify matters.

    Seongjin suggested to the physician with a half-smile.

    “Shouldn’t we remove that?”

    “Huh?”

    “I mean, a small incision might be enough to extract it.”

    “…What?”

    Both Ninnias the physician and Kurt the captain looked at Seongjin in utter astonishment.

    “Well, it’s not certain that it’s something strange. It’s not that rare to sometimes feel a lump inside the body, you know…”

    The physician seemed perplexed and rubbed his nose, which was already red, turning it an even deeper shade of red.

    “Won’t cutting into an already sick person make the situation worse?”

    Sir Kurt discouraged Seongjin with a flustered expression. His face openly displayed his concern that the reckless prince might exacerbate Haven’s condition.

    I guess trying to persuade them like this is pointless. Seongjin frowned.

    However, help came from an unexpected place.

    Arriving late at the knight’s quarters with Masain, Francis heard Seongjin’s words and supported him.

    “The energy doesn’t feel like that of demonkind, but it’s still unsettling. I think it should be removed.”

    “…!”

    It was the opinion of someone who was no less than a deputy commander of the Saint Aurelion Paladin Order.

    The physician hesitated for a moment, but soon gave in to Francis’s determined look and began preparing for the incision.

    “The symptoms in the Academy students and this knight are the same.”

    Francis briefly explained the symptoms he had seen at the tribunal to Seongjin.

    Pale complexion, cold body temperature, and rashes all over. More importantly, he had felt something strange near the students’ chest areas.

    “A weird energy that repels holy power.”

    “It definitely wasn’t a demonkind. If I were to find a similar feeling, maybe it’s like the strange lifeform in the Diggory  Mansion?”

    He said that at the time, the aura was so weak that they passed it off simply as a plague.

    But having heard Seongjin’s explanation, now he also suspected that maybe the Academy students’ symptoms were also caused by this strange energy.

    “If it repels holy power, is it like a curse from the demonkind?”

    Masain asked with a slightly pale face. Francis clicked his tongue lightly.

     

    “I get why you’re worried, but that’s impossible. As long as His Majesty the Holy Emperor is here, no curse from the demonkind can prosper within the Delcross Empire.”

    And then they all fell silent and watched as Ninnias made an incision in Haven’s chest.

    First, he disinfected the skin with a high-proof alcohol, then with a sweat-drenched face, he made the incision.

    There wasn’t much bleeding. The Lophellum’s egg had indeed been just below the skin.

    Soon, Ninnias nervously extracted a dark grey egg about the size of a pinky fingernail.

    Although the egg was partly cracked and soaked in blood during the incision, it was clearly not something that could naturally occur in a human body.

    After carefully inspecting the incision area and disinfecting it again with alcohol, he brought a needle and thread to start stitching the wound.

    For someone who seemed reluctant, his skills were surprisingly neat.

    What school of pharmacists did Ninnias belong to? He seemed to want to keep it a secret, but Seongjin thought he’d discreetly ask him later.

    Seongjin and Francis then carefully handled the egg that the physician had brought out.

    The dark gray semi-transparent egg looked elongated like a grain of rice.

    Knowing this was a monster’s egg, Seongjin could see tiny segments glowing faintly inside the egg. If it had survived and awakened, it would have become a larva.

    “This looks… definitely like some kind of egg, doesn’t it?”

    Francis was subtly sharp.

    Nodding inwardly, Seongjin saw Francis turn towards the entrance of their quarters.

    “I will go to the tribunal, Your Highness. First, I have to tell the plague doctors to stop the students’ ‘bloodletting’ treatment and to search for the egg.”

    They shouldn’t have died from excessive bleeding yet.

    Leaving behind these ominous words, Francis quickly left the room.

    Soon after, Ninnias, having finished suturing the wound, began hastily pulling out various herbs. He finely grinded them into a powder and dropped it into Haven’s mouth.

    Was it just his imagination? Although Haven was still unconscious, his complexion seemed to have slightly improved.

    Seongjin watched this for a moment, then ordered that if anything happens with the egg, to inform him immediately and left with Masain.

    ‘That wound in the chest, it looked like someone artificially injected the egg into it…’

    His mind was in turmoil.

    Who exactly is doing this and what is their purpose?

    Does the Emperor know about this situation? How far has the investigation gone, and what measures have been taken?

    “Your Highness.”

    Suddenly called from behind, he turned to see Masain looking at him with a rather stiff face.

    “I heard briefly about what happened at the training grounds from Maria. You helped the sick knight yourself?”

    “Yes.”

    With a sigh, Masain continued his words.

    “You acted too hastily. You should’ve avoided that situation and heard about it later. It’s fortunate this is likely not a plague, but if something like this happens again…”

    “Sir Masain.”

    Seongjin cut him off.

    “I’m not a child in need of a nanny.”

    Masain’s eyes quivered at the unprecedented firm words.

    “But, Your Highness, I think you should make this clear.”

    If Masain decides to stay as the knight commander and not his brother, he will need to clarify his attitude.

    “I understand that you’re concerned for my safety, but I also had my own convictions and assurance.”

    “…”

    “A sincere advice is always welcome. But don’t mistake that for having the right to limit my thoughts and actions.”

    Seongjin stared straight into Masain’s confused face. Masain looked back for a moment, then bowed his head.

    “I… overstepped my boundaries. My apologies, Your Highness.”

    “Yes.”

    Seongjin nodded and began to walk again.

    The two of them had lunch in silence and also safely finished their afternoon swordsmanship lessons.

    Back in his room late in the evening after parting with a somewhat deflated Masain, Seongjin entered into early meditation.

    He didn’t feel great having been harsh on the man who was like a loyal dog.

    Training is the way to go at times like this.

    However, his meditation was cut short.

    [Seongjin, it’s her.]

    With the Demon King’s warning, Seongjin also sensed the faint but discernible presence sneaking in.

    It was much easier to sense than yesterday.

    Soon, a dark figure dropped from the 3rd-floor balcony into Seongjin’s window. It was Dasha, an elite agent of the Monkey Watchtower.

    Opening the window and sneaking into the room, she found Seongjin sitting on the bed, staring straight at her.

    “How, Your Highness, how do you know I am coming?”

    She looked as if her pride had been wounded.

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