Russell's inner coat was draped over Rose's shoulders.
If she took it, she'd feel warmth again.
Rose couldn't take it.
“Your Majesty, I'm fine without it.
You can't stay without it.
Your Majesty's clothing is thin.”
Russell's outfit, without his inner coat, was more of an activewear.
[TL/N: Clothing used for training, etc.]
Before she could protest, he grabbed her arm and quickly buttoned up the coat so Rose would not be able to remove it.
“This is an order from your Emperor, Rose.
Wear this until we return to the grounds.”
“No more buts.
Russell ensured that the buttons were done properly before he met Rose's eyes with a deliberately stern expression.
Reluctantly, she accepted his order, to which Russell smiled.
She fiddled with the long coat sleeves that hid her hands as she raised her head.
He had left her side for Elliot's.
The wind must have calmed down a lot in the meantime, because Elliot ripped off his sleeve and lit it on fire.
Russell and Elliot, who had built a campfire with their sleeves in front of Rose, sat down to rest.
Elliot chose to speak when he saw Russell spreading his palms to warm himself.
“You've been looking around the cave.
Do you know where this is?”
“Hmm? I don't know.
It's the first time I've come through the mountains like this, but somehow it's not unfamiliar.”
It's a small fire, but I feel warm already.
Rose slowly closed her eyes, listening to the conversation between Russell and Elliott, as she buried herself under Russell's body-scented coat.
I know I shouldn't sleep, but my body is exhausted from walking in the rain, and it's crying out for rest.
I won't sleep, just…
I'll just close my eyes for a moment.
Rose made excuses for herself as her mind grew more and more distant.
Having just fallen asleep, she was suddenly awakened by a light hand shaking her shoulder.
Russell woke Rose with a careful touch.
Following his lead, she kept her mouth shut and looked around.
Elliot was putting out the fire with his foot, looking out from the cave as Russell held Rose's arm to lift her up.
“Your Majesty, why…?”
“It looks like some game is coming here.”
[TL/N: Game as in wildlife that were meant to be hunted for the event]
Elliot took off his coat, wrapped it around his sword, and set it on fire.
Led by Elliott with his makeshift torch, the three of them moved deeper into the cave.
The cave, where the sound of a single drop of water echoed loudly, was gloomy.
Not only Rose but also Russell and Elliot felt the dark atmosphere, and so their steps were cautious.
Rose clung close to Russell's back and followed.
As she relied on him to walk, her shoulders shook in shock as the cave was instantly engulfed in flames.
Russell anxiously called out to her.
At his call, she exhaled heavily and looked around, stunned.
Perhaps she was mistaken.
The flames she just saw were nowhere to be seen.
Rose shook her head.
“Ah, it's nothing.”
“Hold on to me so you don't accidentally fall.”
Russell gently grabbed Rose's hand, and his large hand reassured her.
She took a slow step forward.
A drop of water landed on her eyelid.
Rose slowly closed her eyes, and flames appeared once again when she opened them.
What is this?
She stopped walking and blankly watched the hell unfold before her very eyes.
It is literally hell.
What she was looking at was none other than the Tristan Empire itself, engulfed in flames.
The cave I was just in…
Before she fully grasped the situation of her vision, she was interrupted.
An ear-shattering scream rang out.
It was a creepy, ominous cry.
Rose covered her ears and turned her head toward the screams.
It was at that moment, when she discovered something grotesque running rampant over Tristan, that Rose felt a burning pain from within.
Rose grabbed the area around her heart, struggling.
I felt something hot running through my body.
Rose couldn't come to her senses from the pain burning every organ and every cell in her body.
As she struggled madly in pain, she heard a voice calling out to her.
It was a voice she was very familiar with.
It was her favorite voice.
Breathing heavily, Rose tried to glance at the person in front of her with her unfocused vision.
In the light of the torch, only reddish silver hair caught her eye.
“Ah, Your Majesty.”
With her vision impaired, Rose called out to Russell.
The Emperor wrapped his arms around Rose's shoulders as if she were about to collapse and grabbed her trembling hand.
“Okay, Rose, where does it hurt? Can you tell me what happened?”
Rose struggled to focus on Russell's voice.
I know what Russell is saying to me by his actions, but I can't hear him well.
Have my ears gone deaf?
“Ugh, Your Majesty—Neck—The sound—“
To Rose's hazy hearing, Russell's voice came through clearly this time.
“I love you, Rose.
Let's be together forever in this world where time has stopped.”
[TL/N: She's still in the vision.]
Rose's vision once again focused on the sight of the Tristan Empire, which was bathed in a sea of flame.
In Rose's muffled hearing, this time Russell's voice came clearly.
“I love you, Rose.
Let's be together forever in this world where time has stopped.”
Rose's vision was once again covered by the Tristan Empire in a sea of fire.
She frantically looked around with a terrified expression.
Neither Russell nor Elliot, who were with her just a moment ago, were anywhere to be seen.
All she had by her side was a burning empire and a monster turning everything to ashes.
Rose ran as fast as she could.
She felt pain in her ankle, but she refused to stop.
If I stopped just because of this pain, I'd be eaten by that terrifying monster.
Rose ran towards the endless darkness, her face dripping with thick tears.
It happened in an instant.
Rose, who shook in Russell's arms, ran away screaming.
Before Russell could catch Rose, she quickly ran away and disappeared into the depths of the cave in an instant.
Russell and Elliot quickly followed Rose into the depths of the cave.
The Emperor ran through the cave, relying on Elliot's makeshift torch, and shouted to Elliot.
“Does the Duke know why she is acting like that all of a sudden?”
“I do not know.
It's the first time I've seen her like that.”
Russell clicked his tongue.
The two of them urged themselves to move faster but were then interrupted by a split along their path.
“I guess we should split up and find Rose.”
“Take this and go.”
Russell waved his hand when Elliot handed him a lit sword.
He tore off the sleeves of his clothes and wrapped them around the ends, except for the sword he wore around his waist, and then lit the fire.
Russell's sword caught fire.
Though smaller than Elliott's, it made his surroundings visible.
“Duke, go to the right.
I'll go left.”
If you find Rose…”
“I don't know what's at the end of the cave, but if I don't find her, I'll have no choice but to head back to the entrance.”
If so, I'll look for Rose on the right for about half an hour, then head for the entrance if I can not find her.
Your Majesty, too, please go to the entrance in half an hour.
If we can't find Rose even then, we have no choice but to mobilize the knights.”
See you in thirty minutes.”
As soon as he finished speaking, Russell ran to the fork in the road on the left.
Hearing another footstep behind him fade away, he guessed that Elliot seemed to have run to the right as well.
He called out Rose's name at the top of his lungs, but all he got back was an echo.
He shone the light here and there, examining the cave in detail, but after a while, his steps slowed down.
This place—have I ever been here before?”
Russell raised the light higher and inspected the cave.
It was a cave with no special features, so no matter how hard he tried to think of it, nothing came to mind.
However, the pressure and heavy energy that weighed down on him were letting him know that this place was no stranger to him.
“Or is the original cave like this?”
Russell did not let go of his stiff expression, but he sped up again.
It was such a difficult space for him to endure, so the delicate Rose might faint at any moment.
No, maybe she's already collapsed.
Russell once again shouted Rose's name at full volume.
“It's an unpleasant air.”
Elliot murmured at the energy he felt as he followed Rose into the cave.
Before becoming the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Knights, Elliot was the first to take the lead when there was a rebellion or signs of a rebellion within the empire.
He had encountered more deaths than anyone else, and he knew better than anyone about the ominous air that came from them.
However, this cave was completely different from the places he had seen and felt before.
Something different from resentment filled its walls.
It's like the feeling I get when I face the monster sealed in Proud Mansion.
Elliot stopped and covered his mouth with his hand.
“Nonsense, it's my imagination, but…
If this is a place that even the Imperial Family cannot easily come to…”
A smile leaked out from between the gaps between his hands, which were covering his mouth.
“If what I'm thinking right now is true, then…
I must find Rose before Your Majesty.”
He resumed his steps.
However, it wasn't long before Rose's scream was heard from the dark end of the cave.
Elliott raised an eyebrow.
“I guess God is on my side.”
His steps as he ran quickly toward the deep darkness of the cave seemed somewhat light.
Russell's curse echoed throughout the cave.
He raised his hand and brushed his hair back.
The clear purple eyes were full of chaos.
He grabbed his hair with his other hand, which was not holding the burning sword.
“There's something else here that I didn't notice! I only came through the Imperial Palace and didn't notice it at all.”
Russell's hands and shoulders trembled as he grabbed his hair.
He puts strength into his hand to stop the trembling, but it doesn't stop easily.
Russell wiped his face.
You don't know what will happen if the soul and the sword that sealed the monster are close.
No, nothing will happen unless you open the seal yourself.”
Russell just remembered Rose.
Rose suddenly collapsed, clutching her heart.
Even her appearance of running away screaming as if being chased by something.
Russell closes his eyes tightly.
Even if the monster of Tristan were to come back to life, Rose…”
Contemplating, Russell ran with all his might.
Only the sound of Russell's footsteps echoed in the silent cave.
Rose was running away from the monster in her vision.
She stopped running when her lungs were about to burst from her lack of breath.
It was too much to even breathe, and Rose collapsed onto the floor.
Red eyes that were out of focus, like someone possessed, came back to life.
She looked around, still breathing heavily.
A cave? Ha! Thank god.
That hell is gone—“
I can no longer feel the heat that seemed to melt away the inside of my body.
Rose took a deep breath and controlled her breathing, realizing belatedly that Russell and Elliot were not around.
Rose got up and called for Russell.
When there was no reply, Rose's heart sank with a thump.
Maybe this is fake too?
Rose pinched her cheek, wondering if she was still dreaming while asleep at the entrance of the cave she had just taken shelter from the rain.
However, the pain she felt in her cheeks told her that it was not a dream.
“Then where did the two of them go? But it's not a dream.
I even remember coming into the cave with His Majesty and Elliot.”
No matter how hard she tried to recall, she couldn't remember anything after that.
At that moment, a wind blew towards her as if calling her from inside the cave.
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