As Rosetta stared at him silently, the man bit his lips and struggled to sit up against the headboard.
His face was red.
The reddest on it was his red, fiery eyes.
And the red eyes were wet with moisture.
What had soaked Rosetta’s shoulder seemed to be his tears.
Staring into the air and gasping for breath, he clutched his chest and had a broken smile on his lips.
“Is this… the power… that I think it is”
It was a forlorn voice.
Or rather, it was an emotional tone.
With a feeling that was hard to tell, Rosetta only answered quietly.
“Yes, that’s right.
I’m sure you’re right.”
The man still stared blankly into the air as he clutched his chest with both hands, his knuckles turning white as he did.
He gritted his teeth, and from there, the sound of his teeth clenching could be heard clearly.
And with that, a broad smile tugged up on his lips.
“This is… mana The power that I’ve never had… It’s this…”
“Just barely, this power…! You say this is what’s been strangling me”
But the murmur didn’t sound like a question.
It was probably a question for Rosetta to answer, or something that he’s throwing out into the world.
If not that, it was either a muttering of joy or resentment.
Tears streamed down his cheeks.
And the tears that started being shed continued to flow down unknowingly.
Like a broken faucet, the man gritted his teeth and cried.
If he made a sound, more tears would come out.
The tears that fell down accompanied by not one sound was sorrowful.
With Rosetta like a cold autumn night, she quietly watched the man, who was like a warm midsummer’s day, as he silently raised a hand to wipe his eyes.
The gaze that was staring into the air turned to Rosetta.
Those red eyes, which were still so full of tears, burned as though they were about to shed blood as tears.
Rosetta lightly wiped his cheek and spoke.
You are now a Carter who can wield magic.”
With the small congratulations, his forlorn tears were shed once more.
And what was better this time was that his cries were accompanied by sound.
* * *
Late night at another location—
Devoured by a never-ending darkness, the forest was enshrouded with a gloomy air.
Viridescent yet pitch black.
The gleaming eyes of beasts.
Several giant birds soared through the air above the dark forest.
The sound, whether it was wings flapping or beaks screeching, tore through the air.
Like a warning towards the unfamiliar.
“Here… It is here, sir.”
However, the warnings of the forest did nothing to stop the strangers who had come into the forest.
They were uninvited guests who were dressed in clothes as dark as the forest.
The only one who wasn’t wearing dark clothes was the lean, thin man at the forefront of the group.
He was brushing off his clothes that were full of dirt, but the smile on his face was full of greed.
The man standing behind the thin man responded.
When the red gaze reached him, the thin man’s shoulders shrank.
“Yes, over there… You see the carriage, yes”
His body cowered to the fullest as he pointed towards that direction with both hands.
Those red eyes moved like quiet lava.
Towards the direction pointed at by the skinny fingers, a devastated landscape could be seen.
Beyond the foliage, there was a shattered carriage atop pebbles and a ruined patch of grass.
And there was a cold horse that had lost its life.
No, there was one that fell on its back, so there were two in total.
Even the bloodstains had turned brown in several places.
“I definitely saw them jump off after I pulled the reins, sir.
The surprised horses sped off and I saw with my own two eyes how they fell down the cliff.”
Was that all
The young master’s face quickly became enraged and his eyes were sharp with anger.
The coachman, who had driven the carriage that Cassion rode on, swallowed back his words, but he smiled insidiously.
He couldn’t help but smile as he looked at the devastating sight, thinking of the money that would soon fall to his hands.
And that money was from his work of labor.
And the man who was in front of him was Leo Carter, the one who ordered this carriage accident, and the one who would be paying him.
Indeed, as the successor of a Duchy, the amount offered was considerable.
‘Now that you’re the only successor left, maybe you’ll give me something more precious than the money you offered.’
While the coachman drooled as he thought of his greed,
“Yes, you saw it.”
Leo’s lips twisted up as he said this, looking at the scene silently.
“Yes, that’s right, sir.
I saw it very clearly.”
The coachman didn’t miss the chance to answer enthusiastically and bowed his head.
As he dropped his gaze, he didn’t see the sneer that was directed at him.
“Clean it up.”
At the brief order, the coachman raised his head.
However, he couldn’t see Leo’s face.
Even before he could lift his head, sharp, jagged ice had pierced his stomach.
Along with a dying groan, the thin man’s body fell.
His blurred view could see only Leo’s back.
Without any guilt, it was a straight, broad back that passed by the thin man.
And the body, which had been holding itself up on its knees on the ground, finally collapsed.
At the dull sound, the person walking next to Leo glanced back.
“How should we proceed, sir”
Leo only nodded.
Well, there was no need to ask such a useless question.
“Take care of it and leave no trace behind.
As if he never existed in this world.”
Soon after the person answered concisely, he turned to the men behind him and gave his orders.
Then, some men headed towards the coachman’s body.
Without mercy, the men twisted the dead man’s cold ankles and dragged his body away, disappearing through the forest.
Leo and the other men approached the shattered carriage.
It was the center of the disastrous scene, the place where there was the most blood.
Leo, who reached that place first, slowly crouched down.
As he went lower, the huge bloodstains became clearer.
However, the body he was looking for was nowhere to be seen.
The smell of metallic blood reached the tip of his nose.
“My older brother has a long lifeline, huh.”
Along with the grim murmur, Leo’s lips drew a deep arc.
It was the metallic smell of blood.
Leo touched the dry blood with his fingertips.
Only reddish-brown chunks could be found amidst the dry, hardened bloodstain.
Staring at what was on his fingertips with a twisted expression on his face, Leo soon stood up, shaking his hand.
“I believe he ran away, sir.”
The mage who stabbed the coachman with eyes bowed his head and spoke up.
He was the same person who asked Leo how they should dispose of the coachman’s body.
Looking down at the mage, Leo replied in a humming tone.
“I know because I have eyes, too.
Yeah, I think my dear older brother ran away like a rat.”
“Shall I find his trail and chase after him”
“That’s how it should be.”
No matter how much he struggled, there was no way he’d come back alive from this.
As Leo mentioned earlier, his brother had a very persistent lifeline.
Even though his life had been threatened several times, it was testimony enough that he managed to live to see the day that he reached adulthood.
No one tried to help save him.
Though he was like a fleeting candle swaying in the wind, his fire had yet to be put out.
It almost made Leo want to applaud him.
However, it was impossible for him to admire Cassion’s persistent vitality forever.
Because his foolish older brother had become an adult.
Next year, when Leo himself would pass his own birthday and he’d reach adulthood as well, the competition for the successorship of the Duchy would begin in earnest.
For successor candidates who had come of age, there was a set procedure.
Of course, Cassion was a candidate who had no mana despite being part of a family of mages, he had no base of support, he had no other family members to aid him and he had no property at all.
But even so, a less than half bastard candidate was still a candidate.
As long as Cassion was a candidate for succession, he posed the weak possibility of ‘what if’.
And a weak possibility was still a possibility.
What was not 0% could turn into a miracle because the hope for a coup would be fostered.
An opponent to the successorship, a competitor, an enemy.
‘Someone to get rid of.’
From a very young age, these were the words that his mother continued to tell him.
’It doesn’t matter who the other person is or how small of a threat he poses.
Some people lose their lives even by being bitten by an ant.’
‘Then what should be important’
If it doesn’t exist in the first place, it isn’t even a threat.
If there was even the slightest chance to harm him… then he should get rid of it while he could.
That was the surefire way to win.
When hearing this for the first time, it would sound cruel, but his mother’s method always had sure results.
Therefore, Leo never thought that his mother’s method was wrong.
A fruitless method was nothing but an excuse, and a method that produced sure results was the only right answer.
Then it was only right to take care of anything that had even the smallest chance while he could.
Until Leo would come of age on his birthday in the following year, Cassion must die.
The most certain way to become the successor was to have only one candidate for the succession race in the first place.
“Young Duke, I found a bloodstain leading to a nearby river.”
He was still not officially the heir to the Duchy, but the people around him called him Young Duke and followed his words.
According to the right etiquette, it was not the correct title for him, but no one pointed this out.
Leo turned around casually and looked towards the ground.
As the man said, there were bloodstains over the overgrown weeds and gravel next to the river.
‘Did you go down the river, or.’
Did he try to struggle and go against the currents
The latter was the more dangerous choice, but Cassion probably would have chosen to die through struggling rather than to die without doing anything.
“He couldn’t have gotten far anyway, so look for any signs of torn clothes or anything.
The highest possibility is that he moved along with the river’s current.”
“Yes, Young Duke.”
After the group of men wearing black cloaks answered in unison, they left one by one to do their work.
Leo looked towards where those people disappeared to, then he turned his gaze back towards the dry blood.
He loved this terrible sight.
It would have been perfect if his older brother’s body was here with him.
‘It would be great if you’re dead, but…’
“I’ll teach you a lesson instead.
I’ll make you know that death might have been better for you.”
He would let him know that the misfortunes he had experienced thus far was nothing at all.
As if his tongue could already taste it, he licked his red lips.
Like a snake.
Red tongue, red lips, red eyes, red hair.
The crimson man smiled fiercely, and it was as though he himself was covered in blood.