Chapter 319: Abram (6)
The palace grounds remained teeming with onlookers as if it was all but natural.
The court wizards and knights had retreated inside, but citizens from the city, the wizards from the towers, and members of the wizard’s guild still lingered in droves on the other side of the lake.
"The Wise Sienna!"
Voices cried out, hailing Sienna's name in a raucous cacophony. The most fervent were the students who one day dreamt of being enlisted in the towers. No one knew from whence they acquired them, but they waved glowing cheer sticks and, disregarding the law, sent celebratory spells exploding into the sky.
Boom, boom, boom!
The lights painted the sky. Eugene checked Sienna's expression with a sideways glance. He had thought the girl would be embarrassed, but it was not so. Sienna had been used to such cheers for centuries. Having returned after a long absence, she considered such a welcome only natural.
"Successor of Lady Sienna!"
"The second coming of the Great Vermouth!"
"Hero of the Holy Sword!"
Among the chants for Sienna, Eugene's name also echoed. Eugene was… familiar with such ovations too, but unlike Sienna, he could not enjoy it. His face twisting in discomfort, Eugene attempted to retreat, but Sienna would not allow it. With bold familiarity, Sienna snatched Eugene's hand and yanked him to her side. She then shot their hands into the sky for all to see.
The crowd erupted in cheers, their enthusiasm confounding Eugene. He could not fathom the reason behind the fervor. Sienna then began to ascend slowly into the sky with Eugene. They could have shot up swiftly, but Sienna rose as if she was ascending to heaven, gradually, ever so slowly.
The altitude kept increasing, but the cheers did not recede, instead growing louder with their slow ascent.
Among the screaming, cheering crowd was Melkith, her dignity as a tower master cast aside like a discarded bone as she flung her arms into the air, dancing and cawing like a crow.
"Lady Sienna…. Sienna, Sister Sienna! Take me too, please!" Melkith pleaded while gasping for breath.
The expressions of Hiridus, the Blue Tower Master, and Lovellian, the Red Tower Master, crumpled at her wild behavior.
"Please, White Tower Master. The juniors are watching...!"
Melkith ignored the reprimand and flapped her arms to attempt to fly, leading the surrounding White Tower wizards to grab her legs in alarm. They tugged her down, barely managing to keep her grounded.
"Calm down, Tower Lord!"
"You can't do this!"
"Let me go, let me go! Send me to my older sis. Let me go!"
Despite their restraining efforts, Melkith continued her struggle.
High above the sky, Eugene gazed down at the spectacle and felt dizzy. He had mentally prepared himself to some degree, but the sight of such craziness made him fear what lay ahead. Not just in Aroth, but wherever he went, Sienna’s presence would attract the gazes of the public, and he knew returning to the Lionheart mansion in just a few days would cause a great commotion as well.
"Did you see?" Sienna tilted her head slightly towards Eugene and gave a snide smile. "This is me."
"Do you like it?” asked Eugene.
"What's not to like?" responded Sienna.
"Seeing this makes me feel so wronged. If my name hadn't been left behind as someone stupid for the next generation…,” grumbled Eugene.
"It's even more ridiculous that you feel wronged. You should be thankful that they described you as stupid." Sienna chuckled, shrugging off the comment. "Well, I don't know who wrote the fairy tale book, but…."
"You and Anise were already caught writing it together. Why do you keep denying it?" complained Eugene.
"Because it's not true! I didn't write it. Anise must have lost some memories after her death. She lied about us writing it together when she did it alone...."
"I've already heard all about it."
"Anyway, it wasn't me. Why would I…. Why would I write a fairy tale?"
Even if he already knew, she could not admit it. After all, the wishes she had casually added at the end….
'No. It wasn't a wish. It's a fact that the idiot liked me.'
Still, Sienna did not want to admit that she was the author of the fairy tale. She could at least make an excuse if she denied it, but there was no chance to justify the ensuing mockery once she admitted it.
"Hmm. And you know what? Even if your name was passed down as Stupid Hamel, if you were to declare in front of everyone that you're actually the reincarnation of Hamel, wouldn't you hear cheers louder than what I've heard today?” retorted Sienna.
It was fun to gather people and boast about their relationship as master and successor, but she also had the desire to reveal Eugene's true identity as Hamel and openly engage in a loving relationship. Maybe she could openly show their affection for each other.
"Are you out of your mind? Don't say such dreadful things."
"Why are you reacting so strongly?"
"I... I can't do that." Eugene replied, breaking into a cold sweat on top of his grimacing expression.
Although several people knew, Eugene did not want to increase the number of people who knew his true identity, especially not in the Lionheart family.
He had made too many statements.
How many times had he praised the greatness of Hamel in front of Gilead, Cyan, and Ciel? He had said many times, even in front of Lovellian, that Hamel was a great hero who should be admired by all.
What if everyone found out all that had been him stoking his own fire? Eugene was terrified to imagine what kinds of stares he would receive.
'It would be better to commit suicide.'
Eugene shivered and gritted his teeth. Unaware of his predicament, Sienna tilted her head, but she did not attempt to pry further as they rose higher into the air.
Among the crowd, there were those who were chasing after Sienna and Eugene. They included reporters from Aroth, foreign intelligence agents, as well as wizards who admired Sienna.
However, neither the overt nor covert pursuit resulted in any success. The figures of Sienna and Eugene disappeared during the flight.
"We lost them."
"It was impossible for us to follow them in the first place."
Black wizards in pristine clothing were gathered in an alleyway for a meeting.
"What should we do next?"
"In the distant past, the Wise Sienna did not tolerate the existence of black wizards in Aroth."
There had only been four Towers of Magic in Aroth three centuries ago.
After the war, the black wizards of Helmuth had longed to expand into the Magic Kingdom of Aroth. However, the Wise Sienna had not permitted the black wizards to settle in Aroth. But after she suddenly went into seclusion, Helmuth had launched fierce lobbying to erect a Black Tower of Magic in Aroth.
"The Wise Sienna…. She is an Archwizard one cannot help but admire. It would be one thing if she only existed in legends from the distant past. Seeing the legend coming into reality should send shivers down the spine of any wizard. But... it doesn't seem like the Wise Sienna will tolerate black wizards in this era either."
A black mage scoffed and shook his head.
"The Black Star Faction leaves Aroth today. Finish up your affairs as quickly as possible and get moving."
"Let us reconvene at Helmuth."
It wasn't just the Black Star Faction that was holding such a meeting and deciding to leave Aroth. Several groups of black mages in the Mage Guild, not just the Black Tower of Magic, were also on the move. Their factions differed, and hierarchies diverged depending on the demon they had contracted with, but the black wizards made the same decision regardless of their status.
Even the demons of Bolero Street came to the same decision. Some chose to set a route for Helmuth, while others settled on alternate destinations.
'If the Black Tower Master was still here, we might have had some chance of observing the situation for a while.'
The contracted demon of the Black Star Faction was a close collaborator of Amelia Merwin. As such, they had taken on the role of monitoring the Black Tower Master of the time, Balzac Ludbeth, while exerting efforts for the study and development of black magic in Aroth.
It wasn't just the Black Star Faction that harbored such secret intentions. Several factions of black wizards belonging to the Black Tower of Magic or the Wizard Guild had the intention to monitor, check, and possibly capture Balzac.
However, even after several decades of contact, capturing Balzac Ludbeth had proved impossible. They had failed to see any results from their task of monitoring and keeping him in check. Balzac was faultless and meticulous.
'He's just like a textbook example of a black wizard.'
He was an inscrutable wizard, and knowing what he was thinking was impossible. He hadn't actually done anything with a purpose until now, nor was he at the center of any conspiracy. Even so, his mere existence was suspicious.
For decades, this mysterious man had been treated as 'such' without affiliating with any faction. He had no interest in politics and lived quietly in the Black Tower of Magic for decades, despite being one of the Three Mages of Incarceration.
That was why the demons of Helmuth and Amelia Merwin were keen to monitor and check on Balzac's movements and attempted to capture him. He was suspiciously too suspicious.
But even that had lost its meaning. After Balzac suddenly left the Black Tower of Magic for a vacation, they tried to track him down… but even that failed.
Even after a few months, Balzac had not returned to the Black Tower. Having lost their target to monitor and now faced with a threat to their own safety, many of the black wizards could no longer stay in Aroth.
While the black wizards and demons were holding their meeting, the intelligence agents were also busy after losing track of Sienna.
The Wise Sienna had returned after breaking hundreds of years of seclusion. What did this represent? What they needed to consider first and foremost was the Knight March, which had taken place just a few months ago at the northernmost point of the continent, Lehain.
The Blade of Incarceration, Gavid Lindman, and the Black Mist attended. In addition, the progenitor of Ruhr, the Brave Molon, had returned. Moreover, the Demon King of Incarceration had descended in person after not showing himself for centuries.
That Demon King mentioned the holy sword and the Hero. He spoke of the promise’s end and the war, the current master of the holy sword, the descendant of Vermouth.
Would they ascend Babel?
That night, the words of the Demon King of Incarceration shook the entirety of the continent. Peace was ending. It was possible that a brutal war similar to the one three hundred years ago was on the horizon. The Demon King of Incarceration wasn’t afraid of the continent turning its sword on him. Instead, he was joyfully waiting for that day.
If a war truly broke out, it would not be the kings of the continent who declared it, nor would it be the Demon King who waited for the end of the promise. The one who would shatter the peace and directly end the Oath would be the young Hero who had gained recognition and attention from the Demon King of Incarceration himself.
The Archwizard Sienna, who had lived since the era of war, had returned. Moreover, Eugene Lionheart had declared that he would ascend Babel. The Brave Molon was confirmed to be alive, and in just a few months, the Archwizard who secluded herself for centuries had returned to Aroth.
The spies relaying the news to their respective nations couldn't help but look gloomy. Even though they tried not to entertain negative thoughts, they could hardly avoid them, considering what had transpired.
'War is coming….'
The spies could not help but tremble when they envisioned the fearful future.
After returning to the hotel, Eugene and Sienna quietly took their seats in front of Anise and listened to her scolding.
"Are you out of your mind? We should be laying low right now, but instead, you decide to start a fight with the royal family of Aroth!?" shouted Anise.
"I didn't start a fight. I simply exercised my legitimate right,” retorted Sienna.
"Legitimate right? Is that what you call sinking an entire castle underwater!?” countered Anise.
"That's an exaggeration. I didn't sink it. I simply dipped it slightly into water.”
"Are you trying to make excuses now?"
"It's not an excuse! Anise, you saw it too! This nation made my mansion a tourist attraction and sold my likeness as a statue. They even sold portraits with my initials, fountain pens, cloaks, robes, and staves in souvenir shops!"
"You should be grateful for the love of future generations," Eugene, who was also being scolded along with her, chimed in with a small voice.
Sienna’s eyes widened, and she slapped Eugene's shoulder, saying, "Don't side with Anise in front of me!"
"Should I side with you then?"
"Well... that would be nice."
"If I side with you, Anise will blow off my jaw."
"My goodness, Hamel. I feel like I'm going to cry with joy. When did you become so cunning?" said Sienna while glaring at Anise with her eyes wide.
Anise glared back at Sienna, her eyes sharp.
"Strictly speaking, I'm not on either of your sides. Sienna, if you do something to be scolded for, I will scold you with Anise. And if Anise or Kristina did something worthy of scorn, I will scorn them with you," said Eugene.
"You little brat!"
"Well, if you both want to scold me, I will humbly accept it," said Eugene, nodding.
Boiling with anger, Sienna tried to grab Eugene's hair. However, unlike the last time, he quickly pulled his head back and escaped her grasp.
"Don't do it,” warned Eugene.
"The hair you pulled out last time hasn't even grown back. My hair is thick, so it doesn't show, but if you look here, there's a small empty patch. Do you want me to go bald?"
Sienna had to imagine Eugene’s bald head for a moment before shaking her head.
"Sienna. Your actions are totally disrespectful and violent. Hamel's impulsive behavior was enough to trouble and exhaust me. What am I supposed to do if you start acting the same way?" asked Anise.
"It ended well, so what's the problem?" answered Sienna.
"I am saying that such incidents should not happen in the future. I have been declared dead to the world, so I am fine, and Molon is not operating with us. But Sienna, you will continue to be with us, won't you?"
"I'm pissed that you're treating me the same as Hamel. Do you think I acted thoughtlessly like Hamel? What I did, I did it to evaluate the impact of my existence…."
"Hamel could make the same excuse,” countered Anise.
"I've done similar things many times before." Eugene nodded with a smug smile.
Being scolded together like this brought back memories, and in fact, it was quite enjoyable. It had always ended up like this when they stole Anise's liquor….
Sienna, however, pouted without a hint of laughter. She was unhappy that Eugene was subtly, or rather, blatantly siding with Anise when he was supposed to be on the same boat as her.
Suddenly, something crossed Sienna’s mind.
"Anise! Do you really have any right to scold me so confidently?" said Sienna.
"Why are you changing the topic so suddenly?" responded Anise.
"I heard it from Eugene and Mer. Last time, you barged into the papacy, killed a cardinal, and even slapped the Pope, didn’t you?" accused Sienna.
"To be precise, I wasn’t the one who killed the cardinal, and it wasn’t me who slapped the Pope. It was Kristina,” Anise answered smugly..
[Sister!] Kristina shouted with surprise at Anise’s words, but Anise casually ignored it.
"Moreover, all those things are not known to the world. We did crazy things in secret. But you, Sienna, did it openly for the whole world to see—"
"Oh, I don’t care," Sienna interrupted her, then plopped on the spot without listening to the rest of Anise’s words. Anise’s eyebrows twitched with annoyance as she gave a long sigh.
"....You lived for three hundred years, but why are you so childish..." Anise grumbled.
"Can you be precise? I was sealed for two hundred years,” responded Sienna.
"You were alive, not dead, so you are indeed three hundred years old," Anise clicked her tongue and shook her head. "Speaking of which, Sienna, you need to be careful in the future."
"What do I need to be careful of now?" asked Sienna.
"You've declared Hamel as your successor in public, haven't you?" Anise pointed at Eugene. "Now, think about it, Sienna. The world knows you as the Wise Sienna, the grand, elderly wizard who has lived for three hundred years."
"Take out the “elderly” part!" shouted Sienna.
"Fine. Let’s compromise with ‘experienced wizard.’ Anyway, you need to be wary of the public eye,” continued Anise.
"What do you mean?"
"If you treat Hamel purely as your successor, there won’t be any problem. But you won't, right, Sienna? Even if you call him your successor, you will hold his hand, lock arms with him, or do other things which might seem subtle to you but would be perceived as extremely obvious flirtations by everyone else,” said Anise.
"Yes, flirtation!" Anise nodded with emphasis as a victorious smile spread across her face. "A three-hundred-year-old wizard flirting with a young man who is just in his twenties! What would the world think when they saw this?"
It felt as if a bolt of lightning struck Sienna's brain. With a dazed expression, her eyes widened in understanding.
"Sienna, for your own sake and for Hamel's sake, you must be very, very careful in your actions. That is unless you want to be mocked and laughed at by the world."
“You… you. Then what about you?” said Sienna with a trembling voice.
“Me? I see no issue here. After all, the vessel I inhabit, Kristina, is only twenty-three years old,” said Anise.
“But you’re a Saint, right…?”
“What of it? The Saint and the Hero — such a romantic and sweet resonance, wouldn’t you say? Isn’t that right, Kristina?" asked Anise.
“Yes, Sister,” Kristina chimed in while cupping her hands together, a swift smile replacing the previous expression.
Sienna’s shoulders shook in response to their banter.
“Eugene! Declare your identity to the world now! Reveal that you are not the twenty-one-year-old Eugene Lionheart, but Hamel from three hundred years ago!” shouted Sienna.
“Do you think I’m crazy?” Eugene dashed away from Sienna, clearly taken aback.
Despair contorted Sienna’s face as she clutched her head.
“But what the world might think isn’t relevant, is it?” At this point, Mer decided to interject to bolster Sienna’s spirits. Clearing her throat, she spoke from her place on the bed. “If someone were to laugh at you, Lady Sienna, for being lovesick, I would be the first to land a punch on that person's face.”
“Right! Mer, you're correct. Who would dare to mock me unless they wish to forfeit their life?” said Sienna.
Sienna shot up from her place while spreading her arms towards Mer. The latter leaped from the bed into Sienna’s embrace as if she had been waiting for the moment.
“If you and Sir Eugene hold my hands and we walk together, we will appear just like a perfect family,” said Mer.
“Yes, that would be the case! I made you resemble me for such—” Sienna halted mid-sentence and froze. The long-held desire she had harbored when she created Mer in her solitude had now become a desire too shaming and sinister to voice.
“Ah!” However, it was already too late Mer gazed up at Sienna, her eyes shining. “Does this mean that when you created me…. You didn't simply make me as a familiar, but with the thought of me as your daughter!”
“Could it be…? You’ve been indulging in some family play fantasy at your age? Imagining a daughter between you and the deceased Hamel, creating her as a familiar?” Anise joined in with a forced chuckle, prompting the question. Eugene looked silently shocked as he turned his gaze between Mer and Sienna.
“Ehem, don’t misunderstand,” said Sienna.
“Yes, of course, it must be a misunderstanding. After all, while Mer resembles you, there’s no part of her that resembles Hamel,” said Anise.
“There was nothing that could be done about that. While I have not seen Sir Eugene's previous face directly, Sir Hamel I saw in Akron was not particularly handsome. Lady Sienna wouldn't want to imprint the face of the not-so-handsome Hamel on me, her perfect creation over that of Eugene, who is—"
“That's not it,” Eugene cut Mer off, his face serious. “My past self wasn’t ugly at all. I was quite charming and good-looking.”
“No wonder. I can see why you don’t want to reveal your true identity.” Sienna glanced at Eugene, a grimace twisting her face. However, she did not refute his claim of being charmingly handsome.