Cale peeked to his side as the cheering continued.
Alberu had a benign smile on his face while warmly looking at the citizens.
Choi Han who was carrying the crown prince had a warm gaze as well.
Alberu lightly coughed at that moment and another chunk of black blood spurted out of his mouth.
The cheering instantly stopped and silence filled the area.
“Your highness! You must return to the castle immediately!”
The Knight Captain who had been quietly standing behind them approached Alberu.
Cale, who peeked toward Alberu as the Knight Captain looked on with an upset expression, had noticed something.
‘He really seems to be okay.’
Alberu had not looked well until a moment ago but seemed better after he coughed up that black blood just now.
However, the rest of the people did not think that Alberu was telling the truth.
Alberu had a faint smile on his face as he continued to speak.
“How can I return to the castle when there are citizens of our Kingdom imprisoned here?”
“I will only feel relaxed once I see all of them released.”
The Knight Captain understood the crown prince’s desire.
He quickly ordered the knights.
“What are you all doing? Did you not hear his highness? Hurry up and open the cages!”
“Aye aye, captain!”
The knights quickly ran toward the cages on the carriages.
The Knight Captain wanted to join them, but he could not leave the injured crown prince behind.
“I will be here.”
He turned his head after hearing a low voice only to see Cale standing with a calm expression next to Choi Han, who was carrying Alberu.
He motioned with his eyes for the Knight Captain to hurry up and join the others.
“…Thank you very much, young master-nim.”
The Knight Captain subconsciously spoke respectfully to Cale who had dropped his Commander rank after the war against the Indomitable Alliance.
‘He’s standing by his highness’s side even when he is so tired……’
He bowed to the three of them before running toward the knights who were headed to the cages.
Cale quietly watched him go.
“Why don’t you join him?”
“I am tired.”
He gently shot down the crown prince’s question.
The knights who had arrived at the cages first looked around the cages that were locked.
“All of the keys are here!”
“There is a key in the driver’s seat!”
The keys seemed to have been placed in easy-to-spot locations on purpose.
They couldn’t understand the enemies’ intentions, but the knights grabbed the keys and unlocked the cages.
The cages holding the residents from the Stan territory and the nearby area were unlocked.
The citizens cautiously exited the cages under the knights’ guide.
They seemed relieved and happy once again after stepping on the ground.
They heard the castle gate opening at that moment.
Everybody looked toward the open castle gate.
Taylor was in the front with administrators, healers, and priests quickly following behind him.
Taylor gave orders to the people behind him.
“Quickly put the injured on the stretchers!”
The people behind him efficiently headed toward the citizens. Taylor checked on them before moving toward Alberu.
“Your highness, please head inside first. I will take care of things here.”
Cale looked at Taylor’s face and then flinched.
Taylor did not look good. It was clearly visible that this battle had been emotionally draining.
Taylor had to stop himself from frowning as he looked at Alberu.
‘…His highness looks like a mess.’
Alberu looked even worse up close.
But Taylor felt that the crown prince’s appearance right now looked much more like a king than the cool appearances he gave off at the palace.
Taylor and Alberu made eye contact at that moment.
“You seem like someone who really knows what he needs to do.”
Taylor was suddenly at a loss for words.
He used the short moment he left the castle walls to gather the healers and the territory’s administrators to take care of the aftermath.
He calmed himself before starting to speak.
“…Thank you very much. Your highness.”
He then peeked behind him.
There were healers coming with a stretcher.
However, Taylor could only stop the approaching healers after hearing Alberu’s response.
Alberu gently patted Choi Han’s shoulder and got off his back.
“I’m okay now. I need to walk out on my own feet.”
Anybody could see that Alberu was saying that he was fine even though he wasn’t, but Taylor just looked at him with an expression that seemed to be saying that he didn’t know how to respond.
Cale started to frown.
‘He’s obviously not okay. Why doesn’t he just get carried back?’
Was there a reason he needed to walk?
Cale looked toward Alberu with a questioning gaze.
Cale could see Choi Han sighing at that moment.
He mouthed the question and Choi Han shook his head. Choi Han kept his thoughts to himself.
‘They’re not related by blood, but these ‘siblings’ are so similar.’
Both Alberu and Cale acted similarly.
Choi Han did not say this to Cale because he knew that Cale would just scoff at it.
Cale looked toward Choi Han with an odd expression before turning his head after hearing Alberu’s voice.
Alberu was gently smiling at him.
“Will you go with me?”
Cale responded with his gaze as soon as he heard the question.
‘But I don’t want to.’
He showed his true feelings in his gaze.
‘Your highness, why don’t you go alone? If the two of us return together right now, forget the gazes being focused on us, we’ll probably burn to death from their passionate gazes.’
The crown prince smiled benignly.
“Yes, I can tell just by looking at your gaze.”
He put his hand on Cale’s shoulder.
“Let’s go together.”
Cale’s opinion had been ignored.
Alberu knew what Cale was thinking but chose to ignore it.
As Cale started to frown while knowing that this was the case…
“Seeing us confidently walking back to the castle on our own two feet will become a source of strength for the citizens.”
Cale held back his sigh and just lowered his head after hearing what Alberu had to say.
It didn’t seem as if he could decline.
The crown prince would lose face if he said it like that and Cale continued to reject it.
Cale resigned himself to his current situation.
“My instructor-nim will go with us as well.”
Choi Han looked at Cale and Alberu as if he was watching something funny before nodding his head at Alberu’s statement.
“I will do that, your highness.”
Cale watched Choi Han and Alberu chat with each other in disbelief before starting to walk with them.
A cold autumn breeze blew past them.
The people inside the castle walls, the people by the castle gate…
Even those people inside the castle.
They were all looking as far out of the castle as possible after hearing that the battle was over.
All of the enemies were gone.
It didn’t matter to them why the enemies disappeared.
What was important to them was that they were alive and that their home still remained.
They moved as much as possible to see the people who had saved their homes.
The crown prince was wearing a crushed armor that was burnt black in many spots.
Behind him was Cale Henituse in his black uniform and Choi Han, the youngest sword master.
Then there was the Royal Knights Brigade that had fought until the end. Along with them were the Tigers who were still large even after releasing their berserk transformation and the young Wolf boy with the large shield.
All of them slowly entered through the castle gate.
There were no cheers.
Their conditions looked too terrible for them to cheer.
The crown prince naturally did not look well and Cale who had arrived later to fend off the enemies looked extremely pale as if he had just come from a different large-scale battle.
The only thing that could be heard through the silence was the footsteps of the people who pushed the enemies away.
Some people walked up to the crown prince.
They were his vassals, and the two people in the front were the Mage Captain and the General who had been giving orders from the top of the wall.
Alberu started to speak in a warm voice to the two of them who were looking at him with teary eyes.
“Good work. I didn’t need to look back because of the two of you.”
The Mage Captain and the General bowed.
Cale stoically watched this.
‘Now the crown prince will be accepted for his politics, administration, and strength.’
He then made eye contact with the Mage Captain and the General who raised their heads.
They both flinched after looking at Cale before slightly lowering their heads once again to greet him.
Cale barely held himself back from sighing.
This was really bad.
That was not how they would treat a Commander nor a young master.
‘…That’s how they treated Saint Jack.’
No, their gazes seemed even more intense than how they look at Saint Jack.
Cale looked behind him.
The Knight Captain was quietly talking to the other officials.
Cale wanted to hide somewhere.
Alberu put his hands on Cale and Choi Han’s shoulders at that moment and started to raise his voice.
Everybody looked toward the crown prince.
The crown prince had a refreshing smile on his bloody lips.
“The enemies have run away! So, why are we so quiet?!”
Someone opened their mouth at that moment.
That was the beginning.
Large shouts soon shook the Stan Lord’s Castle.
They were shouts of joy. Cale closed his eyes at the center of the cheering.
‘…Ah. I’m screwed.’
However, Cale still had not given up on his dreams for the future.
* * *
Alberu looked out the window.
He could see a lot of people moving about.
He then tried to move his body and held back a groan before leaning back against the headrest of the bed.
“Your highness, you should not push yourself too hard.”
He felt frustrated while responding to the Mage Captain.
He was currently on a bed inside one of the rooms within the Stan Lord’s Castle.
He had no choice as his insides were a mess.
‘…Your highness. Do you really not need a healer nor a priest?”
“Yes. The healers have already handled my external injuries.”
“But your internal-”
The General who had visited him with the Mage Captain closed his mouth after hearing Alberu’s stern response.
Alberu understood that these two were concerned about him, but he could not do as they wished.
‘I can’t let them find out about my Dark Elf identity nor dead mana.’
That was why he had a healer instead of a priest take care of his external injuries and did not allow them to check his internal injuries.
This was his only choice, but it was causing concern for his vassals.
Alberu suddenly thought about something and said it out loud.
“Cale truly has suffered a lot until now.”
His first battle.
The pain from his injuries after his first battle was worse than he had expected.
‘It’s only one time for me, but Cale Henituse has experienced this many times.’
It upset him.
He heard the Mage Captain’s voice at that moment. Alberu turned toward him and the Mage Captain opened and closed his mouth a few times before starting to speak as if he had made up his mind.
“Your highness. What the White Star said about young master Cale-nim-”
Alberu cut the captain off.
“I, I believe what my little brother said. I believe him over the White Star.”
“That’s true. But-”
Alberu shook his head.
“He is someone who has no greed. He wishes to live a quiet and peaceful life once everything with the White Star is finished. If he says it isn’t the case, then it isn’t the case.”
“If he says he has no involvement with a god, then that is the truth.”
The silent Mage Captain and General nodded their heads at Alberu’s statement but still could not forget about the White Star’s words.
No matter how many times they thought about it, the White Star seemed to be telling the truth.
‘But someone who had done such great deeds wants to live a quiet life? That’s really unbelievable.’
‘…Maybe he was able to achieve all these deeds following the will of a god because he is so altruistic.’
The White Star’s words echoed in their ears over and over.
Alberu could tell that that was the case.
‘It doesn’t look like I can help.’
Alberu told them the truth about Cale, but it didn’t seem to have any influence.
It looked as if he could not help Cale.
“Umm. Your highness.”
“What is it?”
The General had a slight frown on his face as he opened his mouth to speak.
He hesitated for a moment before finally speaking.
“That, we told everyone to keep their mouths shut about it, but the things the White Star said about young master Cale-nim are apparently quickly spreading.”
‘Hmm? So quickly?’
“It seems to have started from a couple of the knights who were on the battlefield as well as some of the hostages who have good hearing. I heard that the rumors are spreading explosively.”
Cale Henituse, the man who has received the will of a god.
That information was spreading far and wide.
They had been busy dealing with the aftermath such that even though they had told people to stay quiet, there was a gap that allowed this rumor to quickly spread.
The Mage Captain cautiously asked.
“Will this be okay?”
‘No. Absolutely not. Cale Henituse is going to throw a fit. He might already be drinking in sorrow that his slacker dreams are lost forever.’
As Alberu had those thoughts…
Knock. Knock. Knock.
He heard some weak knocking at the door.
The knocking sounded as if the person knocking had no strength.
“Hyung-nim. It’s me.”
On the other side of the door… They heard Cale’s extremely weak voice.
Alberu opened his mouth with a pitying gaze.