* * *

A quiet palace with only a few beams of moonlight trickling in.

Tadat!¹
"

"

An imposing old knight with righteous eyes and tightly closed lips was racing through the hallways of such a palace.

"Gasp, gasp!"

Rough breathing was flowing out of the old knight's mouth unceasingly, as if it had already reached its limit. No matter how old he was, he could have run for an hour alone, but on the knight's back rested a single man who was completely still, as if devoid of life.

"How come... How come!"

The old knight's eyes wavered as if he was unable to comprehend this situation.

Unlike usual, the palace shrouded in the darkness of the night was utterly silent.

But that shouldn't have been the case.

At least it shouldn't have been as eerily quiet as it was now, because the man who breathed precarious breaths on his back was the master of this palace and the prince of Agnes, the Great Empire.

"You mean to say that no one is guarding His Highness!"

Despite the fact that such a prince was being pursued by assassins inside the palace, his designated knights could not be seen anywhere in the palace, much less near the prince. In addition, no magic barriers or traps were triggered when the intruders snuck in.

"...Fredo-nim? Who's on your back?!"

At that moment, a maid², who was checking the magic lamp that suddenly extinguished in front of her, turned towards the oncoming footsteps. She made a puzzled expression when she saw a grizzled knight running towards her, then opened her eyes wide as she recognized the prince on his back.

Tadat!

The old knight closed his mouth and sprinted past her, unable to spare the time to answer the question.

A slight sadness crept into the old knight's eyes. But, the moment the old knight left.

Slash!

In the darkness that followed, a flash of silver swung by, and the maid's neck fell to the ground.

"Your Highness Zion..."

The face of a faintly smiling man appeared in the mind of the old knight before quickly fading due to extreme physical and mental exhaustion.

Due to his innately feeble body and weak disposition, the prince, who was also the old knight's lord, was eliminated from the battle for succession and almost imprisoned. However, that was not enough; the people who had sought to confine his lord were now making an attempt on his lord's life.

A miserable life that was worse than the life of an ordinary person.

The old knight didn't want his lord to meet his end this way. He had to protect him somehow.

"This won't work."

Kwang!

With that thought in mind, the old knight bit his lip, stopped abruptly, and kicked open the door of the parlour next to him.

Then he laid the prince on the lengthy sofa in the room and guarded the door.

He decided to fight against the assailants while he still retained some strength.

The assassins pursuing the old knight rushed without a word.

Seugagagak!

Swordsmanship was displayed in a spectacular manner.

However, contrary to the old knight's determination, his sword could not impede the assassins. Two assassins marked the old knight and forced him away, while the rest rushed through the now-accessible doorway toward the prince.

"Your Highness!"

The old knight turned his back on the assassins he was fighting with, forsaking his life and rushing towards the prince. However, the assassins were much faster.

Tadat!

An assassin quickly arrived in front of the unconscious prince, with footsteps so light it seemed as though he was treading on water, and raised his sword.

The gaze of the assassin was devoid of any emotion. The status of the man before him and the motive behind the assassination had nothing to do with him. He simply executed his orders. Finally, the assassin's sword fell towards the prince's heart.

"Nooooo!"

It was at that moment that Fredo, an old knight despairing for his lord, let out a deafening scream.

At that moment, everyone was watching.

The blade continuously drew nearer to the heart of the prince that the assassin aimed for, until-

The tip of the sword froze, no further progress was made towards the prince's heart.

Geugeugeugeut!

Was it fixed in the air?

Despite the fact that the assassin wielded the sword with such strength that his veins protruded, the tip of the sword didn't move an inch.

"...!"

As the other assassins became agitated at the strange sight, the prince's shut eyes slowly opened. Languid yet serene, as though they were the still surface of a lake, devoid of any ripples. It was an expression the prince has never shown before.

Slowly.

The prince's eyes scrutinised the room, attempting to assess the situation as he rose by pushing aside the assassin's sword in front of his heart with his finger.

"Your Highness... Zion?"

A strange voice involuntarily escaped the old knight's mouth as he looked at the prince that he has served till now displaying an appearance completely different from anything he has ever displayed before.

"Kill him."

Pababat! ³

Only then did some of the assassins come to their senses and start running toward the prince again. The prince silently stared at the rushing assassins with impassive eyes, as if they had nothing to do with him.

Finally, the moment the assassin's sword, which was brandished in a flash, was about to strike the prince's neck.

Woosh-.

The darkness in the surroundings quivered.

And,

Pobobobobok!

The assassins' heads, who had rushed towards the prince, began to separate from their necks all at once.

Immediately afterwards, the assassins' bodies, whose heads had been severed, slumped helplessly to the floor, the crimson blood spilling out, staining the area around them.

What was happening?

"..."

The old knight stared dazedly at his lord, unable to comprehend this situation.

While observing such a knight and the blood-stained room,

"Interesting."

Zion, or rather the iron-blooded emperor that resided in Prince Zion's body, smiled slightly.

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T/N:

1. Tadat - sound of fast footsteps.
2. Maid - The maid taking the roll call.
3. Pababat - express the sound of a person moving fast.

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