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    “Lady Philea, shall I bring out some tea? Are your hands cold?”

    Philea, who had been squatting, raised her head at the servant’s call. Her hastily tied-up hair and fair skin were covered in dirt. It was a mess, but her bright smile remained the same as ever.

    “It’s alright. The soil is cold, but the air is warm, spreading warmth throughout my body. I’d appreciate lemon tea.”

    A greenhouse had been built behind the Hielo mansion. A space personally created by Nersarn for his lover, who grew Gulla day after day in rain and wind. The servant squatted next to her and examined the thick gula stems.

    “Wow, it’s already grown this much? Didn’t you plant this just recently?”

    “Amazing, isn’t it? When I plucked off all the leaves four or five days ago, it grew so plump like this. I think the nutrients consumed by the leaves are concentrated in the roots.”

    Philea clumsily scribbled something. It was a journal observing and caring for all the plants in the mansion. Most of it was drawings rather than words, but the recorded information was surprisingly substantial, so even the territory’s people occasionally came to seek advice.

    “I’ll bring a warm wet towel too. Warm up your hands. Lord Nersarn will worry if he sees.”

    “Mm. Thank you.”

    Nersarn fretted every night, worried that her delicate hands would get scratched. Philea smiled shyly and patted the soil. The warriors of Cheonrye passed by outside, bowing their heads in greeting.

    “Lady Philea! Good morning!”

    “Yes. Good morning.”

    Philea smiled faintly and clutched her apron tightly. The reason the warriors who had gone to the desert after forming an alliance had returned to Hielo was due to a single letter sent by her son.

    -When the weather clears, the thin ice here will break. At that time, could you help me?

    What did it mean for the thin ice to break? Since he asked for help, it must be a difficult task. Nersarn seemed to have an idea, but he didn’t tell Philea.

    -In the name of the alliance, and in the name of Our Father.

    Philea blushed, recalling the words Ian had added at the end. Embarrassed and bashful, she just poked at the soil with a trowel.

    ‘You’re calling the warriors to Hielo?’

    ‘We don’t know when Sir Ian’s request will come, so we’re moving quickly to be ready.’

    ‘But you might be making a futile effort. If so, I’ll be really sorry.’

    ‘Philea, then shall we hold a wedding? So the warriors’ steps won’t be in vain.’

    Again, her face flushed red! Philea felt dizzy recalling her conversation with Nersarn. She never knew such happiness would come to her in life. Above all, it was a love blessed under Ian’s permission, so Philea felt like she had the whole world for the first time.

    “Lady Philea! Lady Philea!”

    Just then, the servant who had gone to fetch tea called out to Philea urgently. Thinking she might have broken a teacup, Philea stood up and saw the warriors also hurriedly crossing the garden.

    Clack clack!

    “Is it a signal?”

    “Wait, bring Lord Nersarn!”

    “Everyone, take plenty of Gureut leaves just in case!”

    Philea opened the greenhouse door and stepped outside.

    A black crescent moon hanging in the blue sky. A surreal sight that made one wonder if they were dreaming with their eyes open.

    “Lord Nersarn!”

    At the call of his subordinates, Nersarn also came out and looked up at the sky. An ominous black moon. He wrapped his arm around Philea’s shoulder and pressed his lips firmly against her forehead.

    “Philea. Stop your garden work for today and stay in the mansion. It could be dangerous.”

    “Lord Nersarn, what in the world is that?”

    “I’m not sure. But in Bariel, those who make such things are usually mages.”

    Mages. It meant there was a high possibility it was Ian. Philea grabbed Nersarn’s collar with a pale face.

    “I, I’ll stay here too. If something happened to Ian, I’ll…”

    “Stay calm, Philea. Sir Ian is strong because he’s your son. First, it’s best to find out the meaning of that black moon.”

    But what could those on the ground do about something in the sky? The warriors released eagles to circle around it. With dozens of large eagles decorating the sky, even the territory’s people stopped what they were doing one by one and just looked up.

    Swish!

    “I don’t smell anything alive.”

    “It seems either something will pour out from there, or we’ll go in. One of the two.”

    “Jumping to conclusions is dangerous. For now, we keep watching.”

    The warriors of Cheonrye, the mansion’s people, and all those under Hielo’s protection waited in silence for the moon to change. Who knows how much time passed like that?

    “Over there!”

    At Hannah’s cry, the warriors lying on the grass raised their upper bodies. The moon was gradually waxing. Slowly, very slowly drawing a perfect round shape, wasn’t it falling to the ground?

    Philea took off her apron and ran towards it.

    Perhaps Ian would come.

    “Ian!”

    “Philea, step back! Warriors, grab me!”

    “I’ll do it!”

    “Noisy. The leader should be the first to set foot in uncharted territory.”

    Nersarn pushed Philea back and approached the huge darkness. Carefully putting his hand in, a cool sensation came over him. It didn’t seem particularly dangerous. He stepped inside, inhaling a tense breath.

    “Hold Lord Nersarn tightly!”

    “D-Don’t let go!”

    Philea also grabbed his left hand tightly with her feeble strength. After a moment, Nersarn emerged from the darkness and told the warriors.

    “It seems to be connected to the palace.”

    “What? Where? Do you mean the central palace?”

    “I see a single light, very small in the distance. I’m not certain, but it looks like the dome of Bariel’s palace. Warriors, arm yourselves and follow me.”

    “Demosha!”

    Just then, Philea grabbed Nersarn’s arm and pleaded.

    “I, me too!”

    “Philea.”

    “Please take me with you. I miss Ian so much. A-And if you go to the palace, it means I won’t see you for at least a month. That month will be like decades to me.”

    A beautiful lover’s confession. The warriors plugged their ears and finished their preparations for departure, and Nersarn smiled in a bind. Then Hannah draped a thick coat over Philea’s shoulders and persuaded.

    “Lord Nersarn. Wouldn’t it be awkward if you saw Sir Ian? And I don’t know what’s happening at the palace, but they’ll be startled if border tribes suddenly barge in. There should be at least one imperial citizen mixed in. Lady Philea is Sir Ian’s mother, so her identity is clear.”

    Philea nodded repeatedly, wrapping her outer robe tightly. Nersarn laughed as if he couldn’t resist and lifted her up.

    “Alright. But stay close by my side.”

    “Yes, yes! Absolutely! Hannah!”

    “Take your time. I miss Sir Ian so much too, but who will manage the mansion if I go as well? Give him my regards and send a letter! May you be safe.”

    Philea left a kiss on Hannah’s cheek and held tightly onto Nersarn’s neck. As if to soothe her fear, Nersarn lightly patted her back.

    “I’m here.”

    “I’m not scared. Just a bit nervous.”

    With Nersarn and Philea at the lead, the warriors also jumped into the darkness.

    “Woohoo! Let’s go!”

    “The one who musters courage first is a true warrior!”

    “Let’s go! Wherever it is, warriors survive!”

    “It’s been a while since I smelled blood.”

    “I’ll be back, my friends!”

    Hannah waved her hand and saw the warriors off.

    Once they had all disappeared into the darkness, the surroundings became surprisingly quiet. Hannah and the mansion’s people clasped their hands in front of it and prayed.

    Hoping their loved ones would return safely.

    ***

    “Demosha!”

    The sudden appearance of the warriors startled the palace soldiers, making them step back. The mages were the same. They unconsciously released their mana and looked up at the sky in bewilderment. It was a strange spectacle that made everyone forget they were in the middle of a battle.

    “Iaaan!”

    Just then, Ian immediately recognized who the long-haired blonde woman fluttering in the wind was.

    He reached out his hands in surprise.

    Philea also reached out her hands.

    The brilliantly shining blonde mother and son touched each other like a painting.

    Kwaaak!

    It seemed like they were falling as if defying gravity, but when they actually embraced, it must have been a fantastical illusion. Because he never imagined he would see Philea and the warriors here at the palace.

    Philea hugged Ian’s neck and whispered pitifully.

    “My son, I missed you so much.”

    “Mother. It’s been a while.”

    “…M-Mother?!”

    “Did he just say mother?”

    The mages gaped and flinched at Ian’s answer.

    ‘Damn, blood ties are real after all. Can’t fool them.’

    ‘I thought an angel had descended. Seriously.’

    ‘Sir Ian’s mother? Oh shit, what do I do? I think I just fell for her.’

    Who knows what each of them was thinking, but Ian smiled faintly and detached her. Prince Jin opened his eyes wide in amazement and looked back and forth between the two.

    “Wow…”

    A brief exclamation. Due to that exclamation, Ian realized the current situation. Every moment was urgent to evacuate Prince Jin.

    Shaa.

    “The portal is closing!”

    “Ah, damn it.”

    The portal disappeared as if it had fulfilled its role. Then the soldiers also came to their senses and gripped their swords and spears.

    “S-Savages? What’s with their outfits?”

    “Hielo! Did you summon the savages with magic?”

    “This is deceiving the great empire of Bariel and a disgrace to the palace!”

    Realizing the weapons were pointed at Ian and the mages, the warriors lowered their bodies and took an attacking stance. They all had grim smiles, clearly enjoying the situation.

    When else would they get to smash the arrogant imperial soldiers? They had formed a fateful alliance with Hielo, but the oppression of the empire passed down from previous generations still beat in the warriors’ hearts.

    “Absurd.”

    Mariv scoffed and picked up an arrow. As the mages screamed and backed away, the warriors drew their swords.

    “The arrows, if you’re hit by the arrows-!”

    Ping!

    An arrow pierced the forearm of the warrior at the very front. But he casually pulled it out and snapped the shaft. The amber gemstone was useless to those who didn’t use mana.

    “Sir Ian, long time no see! What should we do?”

    “Do we just need to chop off these bastards’ heads?”

    “You little shit who called us savages, I’ve got my eye on you. Your face looks more like a beast.”

    This wasn’t a back-alley dogfight. A battle to be recorded in history, moving under thorough cause and justice. There was an order to follow, but the warriors seemed unable to hold back their boiling blood. The moment Ian tried to shout for them to wait a moment…

    “Everyone, restrain yourselves.”

    It was Nersarn. He wrapped his arm around Philea’s shoulder and nodded at Ian. As if to tell him to quickly give appropriate orders, though he didn’t know the situation.

    Ian stepped forward and kissed the back of Philea’s hand.

    “My mother Philea, and this is-“

    The first thing was to point out to everyone that there was no problem with them entering the palace.

    “My new father, Nersarn. The warriors are Nersarn’s family, so they are not enemies of the palace.”

    “F-F-Father?!”

    The mages were stunned as if they had received too much shock at once. The mother was an angel, but the father was from the border tribes. What kind of combination was this?

    “A dog-like family tree.”

    As Mariv sneered and drew his sword, the soldiers also reorganized and shouted a war cry. Ian was the same. He opened his mana, shouting with all his might.

    Zing! Zing!

    “Tear apart those who try to harm the mages!”

    “Demosha!”

    “Demosha!”

    Kwajik! Kwaaang!

    Thump!

    The warriors jumped into the enemy lines and swung their weapons like crazy. The necks of the soldiers crumbled helplessly in the warriors’ grips, and their limbs were broken off like discarded dolls.

    Swords and spears tried to block the warriors, but to those who had spent their lives competing with nature’s greatness, it was an attack no better than thorny vines.

    “Aaargh! Aargh!”

    “W-What are these bastards?”

    “Wait! Spare, spare-!”

    “Aaaaahh! Fuck!”

    Boom! Boom!

    The soldiers who had pushed in gradually retreated. In that gap, the mages used the warriors as shields to regenerate the barrier and soon lent them strength.

    Zing. Zing.

    “Push forward!”

    “Execute His Highness Mariv!”

    “Kill! Kill all those fuckers!”

    “You bastards! The mages, eh?! How much have we-!”

    “If we don’t kill them, we die! Release to the maximum!”

    Kwaaang! Boom!

    The entangled battle erupted again. Ian let go of Philea’s hand and gritted his teeth. His gaze was fixed on Mariv.

    “Mother. Please take care of His Highness Prince Jin for a moment.”

    “Ian!”

    Clang!

    The fiercely swirling flow of mana.

    Ian charged at him with lion-like golden eyes.

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