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    Silver hair, blue eyes, and a scar slashed from the left forehead to the right chin. The face of the next emperor that Ian remembers. The future of the twins who had always been together since birth diverged at this moment. As if dividing Jin’s face.

    “Your Highness Mariv, stand back.”

    Ian warned Mariv. That child was his own flesh and blood. Because of that child, his future self was born. In another sense, he was true family, a dignified being that the likes of Mariv could not harm.

    Swoosh-

    The natural wind and the flow of air created by Ian’s mana pleasantly intertwined. Ian stretched out both hands toward Jin. As if telling him to come to him.

    “……”

    Jin, who had been shedding tears, looked back at Dilaina. In her arms, frozen in shock, Arsen was still nestled. In his mother’s embrace, there was no place for him.

    Clang!

    “…Jin!”

    “……!”

    Leaving behind Dilaina’s outcry, Jin ran past Mariv’s sword. The sound of his fiercely pounding heart felt like it was shaking his mind. If he looked back, it seemed like someone would grab him, so the child bit down hard and ran with all his might. His vision was blurred by what might be blood or tears, but it was alright.

    Because the place he would be embraced was firmly holding its position.

    Thud.

    Ian knelt down to greet Jin who came running. The deep embrace was desperate. Begging him to save his life, to help him who had been abandoned by his mother and siblings.

    “Are you alright?”

    Ian carefully examined the child’s face. The scar slashed from the left forehead to the right chin was deep. Tears kept falling from his emerald eyes.

    “…Sir Ian.”

    “Wipe your tears. Your Highness is precious.”

    At the kindly comforting words, the child finally burst into tears. Ian’s soothing touch was exceptionally gentle. Because he had been the same. Even as an emperor, how could there be no wounds in life? Just as Naum had comforted him when he hid and cried, all Ian could do was soothe Jin’s tears.

    “Ian. Hand over Jin.”

    At that moment, Mariv’s sword pointed at Ian. Jin’s life was the price Dilaina had paid. To raise the morale of his forces, and furthermore, to announce that there was no turning back, he had to cut off Jin’s breath.

    Sensing the murderous intent pouring down on him, Jin flinched.

    “I cannot do that.”

    “Not only betrayal, but you’ll obstruct me too?”

    “That is a misunderstanding. Isn’t the current situation a result of Your Highness seizing His Majesty’s seal?”

    “Shut up. If you hadn’t conspired with Gale, I would have dealt with him long ago. I wouldn’t have even needed to come here.”

    Shing.

    Ian picked up Jin. At the same time, fluttering hair. Blond and silver locks swayed together. As if showing they stood in the same place.

    “If it weren’t for me, have you not considered that it would be you, Your Highness Mariv, who would have been dealt with instead?”

    “Insolent!”

    “Kyaaah!”

    Clang! Clang!

    At Mariv’s shout, the soldiers drew their swords. Dilaina lay down to protect Arsen, and Beric and Xiaoshi also took an offensive stance.

    “……”

    Xiaoshi glanced at Jin and Arsen, a dagger in hand. Silver hair and blue eyes. Definitely the child he had seen at Gale’s residence the day before. He was momentarily confused because they were twins, but their auras were clearly different, so there was no problem distinguishing them.

    ‘Arsen, he said. That prince.’

    Vicious. Just meeting his gaze made one sense danger. Did Arsen also recognize Xiaoshi? His expression was strange for a moment. Though it might be a misunderstanding.

    Swish.

    Mariv, who had been holding the tense confrontation, suddenly sheathed his sword. Instead, aiming at the back of Dilaina’s neck as she lay prostrate, he shouted at Jin.

    “I must end someone’s life now. Jin, if you do not come, I will kill your mother instead.”

    “Kyaaaah!”

    Dilaina screamed as if she would faint. Jin’s body flinched, but Ian covered the back of his head with his hand as if telling him not to listen.

    “S-Sir I-Ian.”

    “No one can replace Your Highness. Your safety is heavier and more precious than the screams of those lowly people.”

    At Ian’s murmur, Jin’s eyes widened. Wasn’t it the first time he heard such words? He had lived regarded as the Imperial family’s cursed existence.

    Mariv waved his sword, openly enticing Jin.

    “If Arsen dies, Jin, it will be because of you. The prophecy will come true as it is.”

    What an absurd threat. When Ian chuckled, Jin strangely felt at ease. As if it felt there was no problem at all despite the urgency.

    “The one holding the sword is you, Your Highness Mariv, so how can you say it’s something His Highness Jin did? You intend to end all of Bariel’s fate with your own hands. How grand, the people will truly sing your praises.”

    While saying that, Ian thought he should reinvestigate the prophecy. It was Jin who would carry on Bariel’s lifeline, so it was incomprehensible why the curse of the prophecy had descended upon him.

    Mariv let out a hollow laugh and raised his sword without hesitation.

    “Is that so? This is what you have chosen.”

    But at that moment.

    Boom!

    The nearby wall shattered and dirt and dust swirled. At the sudden impact, Mariv stepped back while being guarded.

    What appeared in the hazy view was a huge black matte armor. Beric’s eyes sparkled with excitement.

    “That’s it! That!”

    It was the magic stone armor symbolizing Hayman Bank, responsible for security. Guaranteeing more than a hundred men’s worth of power, it was a secret weapon that could firmly seize victory in any battle. He didn’t know who was inside, but it was definitely Gale’s faction.

    “Your Highness Mariv!”

    “Take cover!”

    “It’s Gale! Confront him!”

    Just as Mariv was looking for Gale, he must have been looking for Mariv too. The attack poured straight at Mariv, and Riama, one of the three captains, opened her mana to construct a defensive formation.

    Boom! Crash!

    Clang! Clang!

    Each time swords clashed, heaven and earth shook. Heavy shockwaves burst rapidly, resounding in all directions, and screams of fear were buried.

    Ian signaled to Beric and Xiaoshi with his eyes.

    “Beric, Xiaoshi!”

    “Okay!”

    “……”

    Clang!

    They had achieved their goal of securing the twin princes, or more precisely, the next emperor. Before getting caught up in battle again, it was an order to hurry back to the Ministry of Magic.

    The two ran over and dragged the arms of Dilaina, who had collapsed.

    “If you don’t wanna die, don’t resist!”

    “Kyaaah!”

    Beric hoisted Dilaina on his back and ran, while Xiaoshi held Arsen. Meanwhile, Ian left the garden first with Jin. Mariv’s soldiers blocked the way, but they couldn’t stop them.

    “Where are you going!”

    “Your Highness, close your eyes.”

    Zing. Zing.

    Bang!

    In an instant, the soldiers’ heads were knocked out. Jin tightly closed his eyes and buried his face in Ian’s arms. It felt the same as when he touched the mana sphere before. Soft, warm, and somehow turning fluffy.

    “Iaaaan! This is too heavy!”

    “Beric! Come in front of me and run!”

    “Argh, I said it’s heavy!”

    It was to guard Jin front and back. Beric ran ahead of them with panting breaths, and Ian shot light into the sky.

    Ping! Pop!

    If Tommy and Nakina saw the signal, they would come to meet them.

    After running like that for a while.

    Jin slightly opened his eyes at the unfamiliar energy.

    Tap tap tap!

    Over Ian’s shoulder, his gaze met Arsen’s, who was being carried in Xiaoshi’s arms following behind. His brother was glaring at Jin with a cold gaze, his thoughts impossible to fathom. It was so full of killing intent that it felt like his heart sank with a thud.

    Seeing Jin’s expression, Xiaoshi could guess Arsen’s gaze.

    “…Excuse me.”

    So, he covered Arsen’s face with his hand, pretending to protect him. The child whose vision was blocked twisted his lips, but that was it.

    “Sir Ian!”

    “Tommy, Nakina! Check if anyone is following behind!”

    Tommy and Nakina flew in the sky and approached Ian’s group. They informed them there was no pursuit, then guided them to the Ministry of Magic’s safe zone.

    “Sir Ian has arrived!”

    “Sir Ian! Over here! Oh my, even the princes!”

    “Are you alright? The blood, there’s so much blood…”

    “Where did your outer robe go again?”

    “His Highness’s face! Doctor! Call a doctor!”

    “No. Beric, you bastard! You carry Lady Dilaina like that?”

    “What can I do, it’s heavy?!”

    As soon as they entered the barrier, Beric practically threw Dilaina down and Ian exhaled a rough breath. And holding Jin, he went straight into the infirmary. The mages swarmed around them in a fluster, making a commotion.

    “Oh dear, on this delicate face…”

    “It’s His Highness Jin. Disinfect the wound.”

    “Which crazy bastard did this to His Highness’s face!”

    “It was the doing of His Highness Mariv.”

    Gasp. I see. Um, come this way. Your Highness Jin.”

    It was the first time. Being cared for before Arsen when a situation arose. Without realizing it, Jin tightly grasped Ian’s sleeve. But soon he slowly loosened his grip after seeing his smile.

    “It’s alright. Your Highness. They are all trustworthy people, so I will wait outside.”

    Jin nodded and was led in by the mages’ hands, and Ian came out while rotating his stiff shoulders. Romandro was pouring water on Beric’s sprawled face.

    “Ugh, I’m really dying!”

    “The meat you devour in a day would be heavier.”

    “I’ve already digested it. Ah, really. Crazy. It would be easier to kill a hundred people instead.”

    Ian scanned the inside of the Ministry of Magic. In the meantime, the number of refugees had increased even more. Amidst the chaotic situation, Arsen was standing alone blankly. He seemed to approach to say something, but was being blocked by Hale.

    “Minister Ian. The mana flow of the three captains has been confirmed. Riama was last sensed near Lady Dilaina’s palace-“

    “That’s right, I just saw it there myself.”

    “It’s clear that Jeirutt did not enter the palace. The problem is Beors.”

    Hale frowned. As if he couldn’t understand because the result was very strange.

    “From His Majesty’s residence, he suddenly went to the 3rd Prince’s Palace, then back to the 2nd Prince’s Palace, and so on. He moved extremely quickly. If he was attending to His Majesty, it’s a path he couldn’t take, so it’s impossible to interpret.”

    Ian was just as puzzled. But only for a moment. As if he realized something, he let out a small exclamation and turned around.

    “Sir Ian?”

    Ignoring Hale’s call, Ian looked around as if searching for something.

    The numerous paintings hung on the wall.

    He checked them one by one, rubbing them with his hand.

    ‘A situation urgent enough for the Emperor to have his seal taken by his son. An emperor would naturally have a secret passage only he knows about. Just as I did.’

    Ian had also used his own secret passage when he was attacked by Crony. Since there was a gap of 100 years, it wouldn’t be exactly the same method. But the principle and structure would be similar.

    “What are you looking for?”

    “…Beric!”

    “Ah, what! Don’t tell me!”

    “Get up and snap out of it.”

    Beric rolled around on the floor, but it couldn’t be helped. While Ian whispered something to him and gave orders, Arsen kept watching Ian while sitting to the side.

    “……”

    And Xiaoshi monitoring him.

    Intertwined gazes settled in the Ministry of Magic, but no one noticed. Because the din of battle coming from outside was growing fiercer.

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