The residents always gathered at the central plaza when it was time for a festival in the Empire’s capital.
That was usually where they announced the start of the festival.
“…So many people have gathered.”
“I know, right?”
Today, the central plaza as well as the alleys connected to the plaza and the commercial districts and all buildings within it were full of people.
However, the mood was noisy but oddly somber.
There was also a mysteriously heated atmosphere.
“It’s much better up here on the roof!”
Some people had climbed up to the roofs of buildings to look down at the plaza.
“…Wow. All of them are to be executed?”
There was a fountain at the center of the plaza. Starting from there, there was an area that resembled a piece of pie toward the Imperial Palace to the north. Extremely tall separators were placed to distinguish this area from the rest.
“I can’t really see the faces of the candidates because we are too far!”
The candidates of the Imperial heir test were all within that separated area.
Mercenary Zero… He was smiling while looking around.
“So many people came to watch people die~”
Today was the day to announce the results of the second test, the Hide and Seek.
In other words, it was the day of the public execution.
He was looking at the extremely packed crowd and could not stop laughing as if he found this to be extremely hilarious.
“I guess watching people die is quite entertaining. Pfft.”
Numerous spectators were whispering while watching the people the candidates had captured.
Zero was quite entertained by this.
However, the gazes of the other candidates as they looked at him were not very nice.
“Ha! He’s gone crazy!”
One of the candidates scowled while looking past Zero’s shoulders.
“…All of them have burlap sacks over their heads.”
One of the candidate’s helpers continued to speak.
“As expected of someone of mercenary origins, he must have received help from mercenaries.”
There were a lot of people dressed as mercenaries standing behind Zero. Based on what they had heard, Zero had spent money to hire these mercenaries as he no longer had any helpers.
Zero apparently said that he was willing to accept points being taken away for doing this and proceeded with the second test.
The candidates who were now seeing the results could not hide the shocked looks on their faces.
“There are over ten luggage carts.”
Large luggage carts.
They were all stationed around Zero.
Inside them were people whose faces were covered by black burlap sacks kneeling with their hands and feet in shackles.
“It looks like there are at least twenty people in each one.”
They looked at Zero’s luggage carts with envy and jealousy visible in their faces.
Zero had captured over a hundred people. He might end up being the victor of the second test.
The candidate who was chatting with his helper let out a sigh.
“He brought them in bulk. It looks like he just grabbed anybody without really looking into their backgrounds.”
“…This is not good.”
The candidate looked around.
“Do you think everybody did their research before capturing these people?”
Although the candidates did not bring back as many captives as Zero did, they had all captured at least ten people.
This candidate knew that such a phenomenon was impossible.
He shook his head as his helper called out to him in a low voice.
“Haaa, I know. The authenticity of the captives is not important right now.”
He barely managed to capture one person.
It was also not someone associated with a group on the list.
“They are also separating the groups on the list by tiers and giving points based on that, right? For there to be points on their lives…”
“Well, whatever. I’m already going to be eliminated. I’m done.”
He did not manage to find anybody from a group on the list but had caught a fugitive wanted for murder in the capital. That was the most he was capable of doing.
“Young master-nim, there are a lot of people from the Imperial Palace around right now.”
“But it is weird. This kind of atmosphere… It is not like the capital.”
“…I’m sure that there are a lot of people in the Empire who find this to be weird as well. Please look around. Not all of them have the same kind of expressions on their faces.”
His helper was right.
“There were so many criminals in the capital? No wonder the House of Huayans and the Imperial Palace were attacked! Those rotten bastards! Kill them all!”
“Tsk tsk tsk. There was so much trash in the capital. At least our esteemed future Emperor candidates managed to capture them.”
There were people reacting like this but also…
“Honey! Please let me through! My husband, my husband is captured in there!”
“Mother! My mother is innocent!”
“This is crazy. They are going to publicly execute them? That many people? Are the academics not going to do anything about it?”
“…This is not right. People are going crazy.”
There were people whose hearts were full of fear, chaos, and confusion.
That was why the plaza had a mix of all sorts’ emotions right now.
“Yes, young master-nim.”
The candidate looked around before addressing his helper.
“Has mother not said anything?”
“…The Matriarch-nim has said that this was done by the Imperial family and the House of Huayans so there was no room for her to interfere.”
This candidate… Was from a Marquis household in the Empire. The third son of the current Matriarch bit down on his lips.
His gaze headed back to Zero.
“We can’t have someone like him becoming the Emperor.”
The captives in his luggage carts all have blood on their hands and feet. How intense must he have gone after them to capture them? Just thinking about it made the candidate’s heart frustrated.
‘Are there any real criminals in there?’
Zero made eye contact with him and smiled. His gaze made the candidate swear internally before turning his head.
“What about her Royal Highness and Heni Wishrop?”
“I do not see them yet, sir.’
The two candidates had not come yet.
The other candidates seemed to have a lot to say about that, especially regarding the Second Imperial Princess.
One of the candidates had a sneer on their faces as they started to speak.
“Wow, she’s finally here.”
There was only about thirty minutes until the execution was to start.
Some of the candidates sneered after seeing the Second Imperial Princess.
“She must have given up.”
Second Imperial Princess Olivia was walking leisurely with a gentle smile on her face. She was gracefully waving at the citizens of the Empire who were greeting her or cheering for her.
However, the only person behind her was the priest responsible for her treatment.
No guards, captives, or anybody else were by her side.
“It looks like the Second Imperial Princess will receive the lowest ranking in this second test.”
“But she does seem to be healthier. I guess the priest she takes around with her must be skilled.”
Some envious voices could be heard through the sneers.
“I heard that the Second Imperial Princess went to the Emperor’s Palace a few days ago. Is she trying to use her bloodline to her advantage because she doesn’t have the strength to go through the tests?’
Some voices were past the point of envy and looking down on her.
Of course, the candidate from the Marquis’ household and some others looked relieved that Imperial Princess Olivia did not capture anybody.
Olivia was also counting the number of captives each candidate brought back as she observed each and every one of the candidates.
It was as if she was evaluating them.
– Human, there are so many people!
The priest standing behind Olivia… Cale, who had his face covered from underneath his eyes with a white cloth, looked around after hearing Raon’s voice.
‘There will be a lot of casualties if there is a large battle.’
Cale had no intention of having a large battle at the central plaza.
Cale noticed Zero as he moved his head around to observe the plaza.
Zero smiled at him.
– Human, I think that Zero is a bit crazy too.
Cale nodded his head at Raon’s accurate assessment and looked at the luggage carts positioned behind Zero.
‘He brought a lot with him.’
As Cale confirmed the number of people he had only heard through a report before and looked around at the terrain…
“His Majesty is now entering!”
The Chief of Staff stepped onto the platform and shouted. The plaza became rowdy for a moment as his message was delivered to the masses with a black magic amplification device.
However, the plaza became quiet as soon as the Chief of Staff shouted.
There were only ten minutes left until the public execution.
A magic circle glowing white started to appear on top of the platform.
Although they were told to be quiet, the people could not hide their shouts at this moment.
Black magic was a pride and joy of the Empire.
This magic circle that uses dead mana but gives off a holy white light appeared at the center of the platform.
And once the white light completely settled…
Cheers shot out from all around once again.
Behind him was the Huayans patriarch, Reddock Huayans, along with the Captain of the Imperial Palace Knights Brigade.
The core of the core personnel of the Empire were gathered now.
The Imperial Palace Knights and Black mages appeared onto the platform and lined up.
The citizens of the Empire held their cheering in check as the way they protected the Emperor and looked as if they would not drip even a single drop of blood if they were stabbed was overbearing.
The eerily heated atmosphere was slowly getting hotter in that silence.
The Chief of Staff moved the amplification device to around the bottom of the Emperor’s face. The Emperor looked around.
His gaze headed toward the candidates.
Finally, it moved to the citizens of the Empire.
“Today is the day to announce the results of the second test.”
The Emperor did not use any gestures or emphasize his voice. He simply spoke calmly.
However, his dignity could still be felt in his voice.
“Recently, there have been people aiming for the Empire. However, they have been hiding around the Empire for a long time planning to pollute this land.”
Cale’s gaze headed toward the Emperor’s clothes.
The Emperor was standing as firm as Mount Tai. His entire body underneath his neck was completely covered by clothes now.
His wrists that were dyed black were not visible either.
‘Today, the talented individuals who will lead the Empire forward after me have captured those people hiding among us.”
The Emperor’s clever way of speaking… Cale didn’t pay any attention to the words that made it sound like the things that had recently happened in the Empire were done by the people on the list.
– Human, should we tell them?
Cale slightly nodded his head. His gaze now moved to the Huayans patriarch.
The patriarch was looking at Zero with a stoic look on his face.
It was as if he was investigating something.
The Emperor continued to speak through that until he got to his final line.
“The focus of today is not I but the Emperor candidates here, the future of our Empire. That is why I hope that you can sincerely applaud them for their heroics.”
The Emperor then stopped talking. The Chief of Staff started to speak instead.
“His Majesty has finished his statement. We will immediately commence reporting the results of test two and the judgment of the fugitives as soon as his Majesty sits down.”
A couple cheers spread throughout the plaza like a wave.
The Emperor received the Knight Captain’s escort and walked over to the northernmost spot on the platform, a spot that was one level higher than the rest, with a stoic look on his face.
It was at that moment.
The Emperor stopped walking.
The Knight Captain pulled out his sword and turned his head.
And the Huayans patriarch who also had a stoic look on his face… Reddock Huayans also stopped walking and moved his gaze.
He was frowning.
“W, what the?!”
“What, what is that?”
The citizens of the Empire had turned to look where the Emperor was looking. They all looked toward the same spot and questions soon fell out of their mouths.
A breeze blew by.
The white cloth covering Cale’s face slightly fluttered.
His smiling lips appeared for a moment before they were covered by the white cloth again.
– Human, Mary is here!
Cale lifted his head up. A large Dragon was flying toward the central plaza.
However, it was not a real Dragon.
Numerous white flying skeleton monsters had gathered together to make the form of a large Dragon.
The Dragon moved its white body, almost as if it was flapping its wings, as it flew toward the central plaza.
The Imperial Palace Knights and black mages pulled out their swords and channeled their dead mana at this sudden situation.
The Chief of Staff’s gaze turned toward the Emperor.
Above the Emperor’s head…
A shadow had appeared.
This large shadow covered the entire area of the public execution.
The Chief of Staff started to speak.
“…Candidate 19-nim. What is going on?”
It was at that moment.
Dang- daaaaaang— daaaaaaaang—
The bell on the spire located to the south of the central plaza started ringing.
It was announcing that it was noon, which also meant that it was time for the second test to finish.
People looked toward the head of the white Dragon made of numerous skeleton monsters.
A person jumped off of it.
However, a black thread that started from the monster stretched out, making that person’s descent as smooth as if she was using magic.
Heni Wishrop landed at the bottom of the platform.
No, Mary looked up at the Emperor on top of the platform and started to speak.
“I have returned with captives.”
The Chief of Staff had a rare look of shock on his face and he responded with a slightly angry expression on his face.
“Candidate 19. How dare you act so disrespectfully toward his Majesty?”
Mary waved her hand at that moment.
The skeleton monsters…. They started to move.
The white Dragon made of skeletons… Its stomach split open.
Then people appeared.
It was not just one person but a total of eleven people.
They were all being dangled by flying skeleton monsters.
They looked like sacrifices imprisoned in a spider web.
As nobody could say anything while watching this…
Mary looked not at the Chief of Staff who asked the question but at the Emperor and responded.
“I have returned with the Pope and all ten bishops of the Church of the Fire of Purification.”
The Huayans patriarch’s eyes opened wide. His eyes were full of shock.
Cale’s eyes curled up like crescent moons as he watched.
Mary brought the whole shebang!
TCF is currently posted Mondays and Fridays at evening time GMT. Join our discord to be notified as soon as the chapter posts!
If you can’t wait, please subscribe to advanced chapters on our EAP website to get access to up to 8 chapters! Almost all tiers already have access to part 2 of TCF!
You can subscribe (immediate access) through our PATREON