The throne room of Avalon was empty except for only two people. Emperor Marcus perched arrogantly upon his throne; Jacken, the leader of the Black Wind, the Emperor’s personal intelligence agency, knelt before him with his head planted firmly against the ground.
“Your Majesty,” Jacken cautiously said, “Do you really agree to this?” He looked up at the Emperor, but Marcus remained silent. “Hubalt is moving in the eastern reaches of our territory. Paladins, a saint, and a High Priest have already arrived.”
“Excellent news!” Marcus laughed heartily.
“What? But Your Majesty, the undead first appeared in the center of your domain. If they return, their report could be problemati—”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Jacken dropped his head to the floor once again.
“Do you recall the day Babel recovered his memories?”
“Of course, Your Majesty.” Jacken nodded without hesitation. He’d said he’d never forget it, so he never forgot it.
“I told Evergrant that, having successfully accomplished his task, I would grant him a request. Titles, territory, women—anything within my power, I would give him.”
“I remember, Your Majesty.”
“And… Evergrant told me that all he wanted was a book from the Imperial archives.” the Emperor mused. “At first, he seemed to think it was antiquated magic, but as time passed he grew fascinated. What kind of book would an uninspired, uninformed man be seeking? So I did a little research of my own.”
Jacken was startled to hear that the Emperor had acted personally. His Majesty was not one to act when he could order someone else to do it.
“It was a book on black magic.”
“Yes?” Jacken was certain he’d misheard.
“The book concentrated on the biology of ghouls and their relationship with necromancers. I never imagined that such a book would exist in the family archives.”
Black magic was reviled by all people of Igrant, to say nothing of the parts which directly experimented on humans or defiled the dead. It was an indisputable casus belli1 for the entire continent.
“Even knowing that… you decided to leave him alone?”
“Yes.” Marcus smiled.
“May I inquire as to why?”
“...I thought it would benefit the world.”
“There is an outcome for every process.” The Emperor stared down at him. “To unify the continent, a war is inevitable. No nation should feast and sit idle—at the least, no one place should be dominant throughout the battle.” Marcus rose to his feet. “The Continental War hinges on whether the three great empires become involved. In that sense, the Swallow Empire has no need to be concerned—there is someone there who is as eager for war as I am.” He chuckled darkly.
“The issue, then, lies with Hubalt. Those hypocrites would never wage war unless their territories were attacked first. However, it would be unacceptable for us to make an unprovoked attack on them, something that has the Swallow Empire jumping with delight.”
“To provoke Hubalt without a preemptive strike…” Jacken’s eyes suddenly flew open.
“That boy, Evergrant, exceeded all expectations. I know the fundamentals of magic well enough to know that every person is suited to different magics—but, as you would expect of the “All-Class Magician,” he is exceptional in all fields of magic… even dark magic.”
“The undead… were created by Evergrant?”
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Emperor Marcus chuckled. “One of the terrifying benefits of his dark magic is that he can fend off many warriors on his own. More, if the target is a high-class wizard.” The Emperor looked ecstatic. “The appearance of demons in our lands—If many, dozens, even, appeared in Hubalt… the first true Continental War would be at hand.”
Jacken’s body trembled as the Emperor outlined a plan of epic proportions.
“While Hubalt is distracted by the appearance of demons in their land, the rest of the world is at war. At that point, even Aden will be forced to join the war.”
The Emperor’s voice dripped with glee.
The old structure looked like an ancient temple.
A man in white robes focused, his eyes squeezed shut. In front of him, a dark urn radiated black light.
He suddenly vomited blood and collapsed to his knees. He raised his trembling hand before his eyes and regarded the blood staining it.
“Who in the world…?”
The vessel was nearing completion. For such a variable to appear now…
“Was there someone capable of besting Duke Altsma?” The robed man was bewildered.
His green eyes and platinum hair shone through the white robes. It was Evergrant von Aswald, current chief wizard of Avalon.
“The day of your rebirth approaches… Despite being resurrected as a lich, Heinz, this, your name, is my… my gift to you, in the Ancient Language, as suits you best.” Evergrant’s voice shook and he spat more blood. “No one values loyalty and faith more than I. For your faith, the glorious darkness that I willingly offer my soul to the devil—
“Your new name is… Berber.”
Evergrant fell to the ground, unconscious.
“There’s no time left. I need to go straight to Reinhardt.” Joshua stood. ‘But before that…” He frowned at Christian, who was still unconscious. “I can’t leave him alone like that.”
He picked Christian up.
Wait. He stopped in the middle of the stairs. I can’t leave like this…
If he handled this poorly, the innocent people of Avalon would be caught in the aftermath.
War spared no one, after all. He needed to erase anything that would add to the confusion—or worse, trigger a war outright.
Joshua waved his fingers towards the drawings on the wall, carvings deep lines through them. Satisfied, Joshua walked to the lobby.
“Wait, this is…” He sighed awkwardly, realizing that there were presences outside the mansion. At least thirty of them, scattered around the grounds. He’d been too preoccupied to notice earlier.
“This is the perfect situation to be misunderstood…” Joshua glanced at Christian’s limp body and sighed again.
While he was idle, the mansion door began to open, creaking on its old hinges. A group of people poured through the gap—Modrian and his party, dressed in all white.
The moment Joshua and the crowd met, the lobby was trapped in a suffocating silence, quiet enough to hear a pin drop.
Joshua scratched his head awkwardly. Modrian, the High Priest, and the rest of their party looked Joshua up and down suspiciously.
The silence didn’t last very long.
This feeling…! Modrian frowned at Joshua. For some reason, the colossal magic energy tingling against his skin had disappeared like it was all a lie. However, the eerie scent of demons still faintly tickled his nose.
But most important was the Tears of God in Seiren’s hands. That divine artifact glowed differently in response to magic and divine power—and at the moment, it glowed black.
“Prepare for battle!”
Casus Belli: justification for war. ↩️
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