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    The amber arrowhead fell weakly to the floor. So insignificantly that one couldn’t believe it had cracked the magical barrier. Thud.

    The mages felt cold sweat running down their backs as they stepped back. Stealing mana, this was unheard of.

    “Just now, I wasn’t the only one who felt that, right?”

    “…It felt like it was being sucked in.”

    “What is it, a sealing stone? It feels different from a sealing stone though?”

    “Is everyone alright? Huh? Mana, check your mana!”

    At someone’s shout, the mages simultaneously activated their mana without exception. Fortunately, they realized there was no problem with their inner strength and could maintain composure.

    Hale spat out his cigarette and brought his sword to the amber arrowhead.

    “It seems a bit different from a mana sealing stone.”

    “Hale! Don’t! Don’t touch it!”

    “It’s become a lump of raw stone. It’s not emitting light. If Akorella saw this, she’d faint in joy. Says she’s never seen anything like it.”

    Ian knelt on one knee and looked down at the arrowhead. No matter how much he examined it, it was the same raw stone as the necklace Ian was wearing. When it first flew over and was blocked in front of him, it was an ordinary lump of metal.

    “Your Highness Mariv. What is this?”

    What in the world was it that it scattered mana without being a mana sealing stone, and was in servant Ian’s flowerpot? And Madam Lien also had it. She said it was an alchemist’s failed creation. Definitely.

    “It’s a human creation to stop mages who disrupt the palace and the great empire of Bariel, like Wesleigh and you. Do you like it?”

    Mariv took out another arrow as he answered. Looking closely, the shape of the fletching was clearly different from what the imperial family used. Mariv must have trimmed the fletching separately to distinguish them. As the bowstring was pulled taut, Ian shouted.

    “Maintain the mana again!”

    Zing. Zing.

    At his command, the mages reflexively poured strength into the barrier. It was already cracked, so if it took that strange attack twice in a row, it would shatter. The mages gritted their teeth and poured in mana to the maximum.

    “Endure! Keep putting in mana, keep going!”

    “Is this really, really alright?! Sir Ian!”

    “Shut up! How would Sir Ian know that? Put in mana!”

    “Aaargh! Aargh!”

    Mariv released the bowstring, drawing an elegant trajectory with his fingertips. The target of this attack was the crack in the barrier that hadn’t been filled yet.

    Bzzt! Crackle!

    Sparks burst in a lightning pattern. Ian’s golden eyes glowed even brighter in that light. The force of the mages trying to maintain the barrier and the arrows trying to steal that power fiercely intertwined, creating a whirlwind.

    At the same time, Ian had a realization.

    ‘So this is it. The cause of Gale’s failed rebellion recorded in history!’

    The feeling of a missing puzzle piece fitting into place.

    In the original history, Gale had plotted a rebellion with Wesleigh, backed by the Ministry of Magic. Although he couldn’t know the exact situation at that time, he should have found it strange that most of the mages were suppressed. The mana sealing stones managed by the imperial family couldn’t handle them all.

    ‘Mariv must have studied this to keep Gale in check.’

    Keeping Gale in check meant keeping the Ministry of Magic in check. Thus, when trouble arose, he could suppress the mages.

    The situation now wasn’t much different from then. The only difference was whether it was Gale’s Ministry of Magic or Ian’s Ministry of Magic.

    Bzzt! Boom!

    The arrow began to steal mana again. Mariv grabbed a third arrow without giving them a chance.

    “Damn it!”

    It felt like blood was rushing in reverse. Not due to anger, but because he had opened his mana without control.

    The amber raw stone came from a merchant group that had an alchemist, so the ones who researched and distributed it must have been that merchant group as well. But what was strange was why the amber raw stone wasn’t passed down to later generations.

    ‘The imperial family’s only means to control mages was the mana sealing stone. It was the one and only, there was nothing else at all. If there was something like that, I would have known.’

    Because he was the emperor. And because he was a mage.

    Ian shouted, coughing up blood. He didn’t know how many arrows there were, but just blocking them like this was like pouring water into a bottomless pot.

    “Hale! Nakina!”

    “At your command!”

    Ian glared directly at Mariv, his golden eyes blazing. Then, he called out the mages skilled in attack magic.

    “Rolf, Ation, Kanna, Salvera!”

    “Yes! Sir Ian!”

    “Give us your orders!”

    Mariv calmly kept shooting arrows. Like stones being thrown into a deep pond, the arrows continuously caused cracks in the barrier.

    Bzzt!

    ‘What a pity.’

    The mages were flustered, but Mariv was disappointed. If he had just a little more time, he could have used something more complete to end their lives. Mariv’s aide, Paal, raised his hand. As if to take an attacking stance.

    “-From here on, I, Ian Hielo, command in the name of the Ministry of Magic minister!”

    Kwaaang! Boom!

    “Execute Your Highness Mariv.”

    “Execute him!”

    The mages whose names were called jumped into the sky in unison. The barrier, drained of their strength, couldn’t withstand the arrows’ power and was destroyed, but Ian calmly directed the ranks.

    “It’s fine if it breaks! We can keep making it! Don’t leave your positions and concentrate!”

    “Kill the mages! Those treacherous traitors!”

    “Demons wearing the mask of gods!”

    “Kill them! Kill!”

    “Bring out Prince Jin!”

    The soldiers shouted and ran up the stairs, determined to completely shatter the barrier. Looking down from above, they looked just like a swarm of ants. As the mages flinched and stepped back, Nakina blocked the soldiers’ path.

    Swish!

    “Gale Force”

    The wind that had been swirling with mana gradually narrowed and fiercely penetrated between the soldiers. A wind that cut through exposed necks, wrists, and Achilles’ tendons above the armor, filling the air with the scent of blood.

    Slash!

    “Aaargh!”

    “Push forward! More! Onward!”

    “Urgh, urk!”

    “Cover your mouth when you speak! Your tongue will be cut off!”

    “It’s a blade wind! Close your eyes and charge!”

    But there were too many of them surging in like a tidal wave. Soldiers who had approached using their comrades’ bodies as shields swung their swords at the barrier one by one.

    Clang! Clang!

    Kwaaang!

    Just then, Hale quickly jumped down, grabbed a soldier’s hair, and slammed his head into the ground. His already thick fist was glowing red-hot like a tempered lump of iron. The soldier’s skull shattered into pieces, losing its shape without even a chance to scream.

    Swish!

    An arrow grazing past him. It was Mariv. Hale threw the soldier’s head down the stairs and stood up.

    “Do you know the meaning of what you’re doing right now?”

    “We don’t need to know. Because Sir Ian knows.”

    “How foolish. Who would call you the product of wisdom?”

    Ping! Swish!

    Not only Mariv but also his aides and those taking up positions beside him seemed to possess amber raw stones. Arrows poured down like rain from a clear sky.

    Swish! Thud! Thump!

    Clang!

    “Sir Ian!”

    “Wh-what do we do about this?!”

    “Aaargh!”

    When the barrier broke, arrows began piercing through faster than new ones could be created. The mages who were ordered to attack cut through the soldiers and rushed at Mariv, but…

    Thud!

    An overwhelming number of arrows flew in, shattering each individual’s barriers. Nakina’s left arm was also pierced by a blind attack.

    “Aaargh!”

    With a pained curse, Nakina roughly pulled out the arrowhead. And at the moment she reflexively tried to activate an attack magic filled with rage…

    “…?!”

    Her mana was blocked as if her breath had been cut off. While Nakina hesitated, a soldier tried to cut her heart with his sword.

    “Die!”

    “Nakina!”

    Kwang!

    “Get a grip! You brat!”

    “Ha-Hale. My mana won’t come out.”

    “What?”

    Nakina stood in a daze as if she had fallen into a disconnected world. Hale burst soldiers’ heads and shouted.

    “Nakina! Focus!”

    “Ah, uh, Sir Ian!”

    Nakina flinched and shed a tear. She was so startled that it came out reflexively without her knowing. In a whirlpool of reason and emotion, Nakina cried out.

    “Don’t get hit by the arrows! The mana won’t come out!”

    “What? Nakina, what did you say just now?”

    “M-Mana won’t come out, she says.”

    “Nakina! Nakina!”

    Rather than being lost in shock, informing her comrades of the truth was the priority. Thus, winning and surviving was important first. Nakina shouted again in a loud voice.

    “If you’re hit by an arrow, you can’t use mana! Everyone!”

    “Damn it! Sir Ian!”

    Kwaaang!

    The mages constructing the barrier turned pale and looked back at Ian. Ian bit his lip hard, then stepped back.

    “…Everyone gather.”

    “Retreat! Come this way!”

    “I’ll activate the portal.”

    It was more troublesome than a mana sealing stone. Sealing stones simply lost their effect when physically distanced, but this seemed to steal mana itself by inflicting wounds.

    ‘I hoped they wouldn’t use this of all things.’

    “Sir Ian!”

    “The portal is operating! The location is the place I mentioned before! Bring His Highness Jin.”

    The place mentioned before, Hielo Territory. The only place in Bariel’s land where Ian could reliably hide.

    Clack clack!

    Ian threw open the infirmary door, but there was no sign of anyone. Ian, catching his rough breath, called out to the child in a casual tone.

    “Your Highness Jin. It’s Ian. We need to flee urgently, so please come out.”

    Swish.

    Then, from under the bed, Jin, who had been hiding with the doctor, poked his head out. Unlike the trembling doctor, Jin emerged from the bed with a firm expression.

    “What happened?”

    “I’ll explain later. We’re going to Hielo Territory. It’s the safest place.”

    When Ian reached out his hand, Jin hesitated for a moment. Hielo was the most remote of remote places, and he was going there? Alone?

    “…Are you coming with me?”

    “Of course.”

    “Doctor, you come with us too.”

    “…Y-Yes, yes!”

    Jin quickly grabbed Ian’s hand.

    Outside, the tide of battle was rapidly turning against them. The countless amber arrows on the ground and the transparent wall blocking the soldiers signified that the mages’ mana was nearly exhausted.

    “I’ll open the portal!”

    “I’ll support you!”

    “Support, aargh! Aaargh!”

    Jin looked up at the black crescent moon with his head held high. As the mages chanted a spell in an unfamiliar language, dozens of concentric circles appeared at Ian’s feet. As if standing on water.

    ‘Wow.’

    The concentric circles emitted beautifully. Even more dazzling than Ian’s golden hair, Jin unconsciously exclaimed in admiration. Ian reached out his hand. He couldn’t cover the sky with his palm, but he could at least cover the black crescent moon.

    Shaa.

    Was he chanting “Grow, grow”? Every time Ian gestured elegantly, the moon waxed until it soon turned into a full moon. It hung large and heavy as if it would drop onto the palace at any moment.

    “Your Highness. If you’re scared, hold my hand tightly.”

    Although he thought he wasn’t scared, his grip on the hand tightened. The moment Ian tried to lift him and step onto the portal…

    Paat!

    “Huh? Sir Ian! Just a moment!”

    “Something’s falling from inside!”

    Meteors were raining down in the black space. Ian frowned and looked up at it.

    What in the world was that?

    “Are you sure it’s connected to Hielo?”

    “I-It’s certain.”

    The meteors grew larger and larger. They left the black moon and decorated the sky above the palace as they quickly fell. Ian unconsciously opened his mouth as he watched.

    “Iaaan!”

    “Is that rude Beric here too?!”

    “Ahahahaa!”

    A rough, coarse laughter that embodied the heat of the desert. Warriors poured down from the sky.

    Kwaaang! Boom!

    “Demosha!”

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