Rose’s palm was sweaty as she clutched the steering wheel.
The footsteps of the men were getting closer, but the car showed no sign of moving forward.
Bang! Her eardrums thudded from the sudden gunshot.
Startled, Rose instinctively closed her eyes.
It seemed like someone had fired near the car, but there was no impact that she could feel, indicating the bullet hadn’t hit the body of the vehicle.
“Down! Aim for the tires, shoot! They ordered us to take her alive!”
“Back me up… Get a rifle!”
The loud exchange of voices among the men left Rose’s head in a whirl.
Rose muttered with an anxious voice, putting more pressure on the accelerator pedal.
Vroom! The car, which had been vibrating in place, suddenly revved up and accelerated.
Rose’s body lurched forward and then snapped back as her back hit the seat hard. However, she paid no attention to the pain and focused on steering the car.
Due to the hasty start after igniting the engine, the car moved forward unsteadily with a loud rumble.
Gunshots targeting the car’s wheels sounded behind her. Rose drove the car towards the road behind the building, avoiding the bullets.
Small handguns lose accuracy at longer ranges, and accurately hitting a moving car’s tires was no easy feat. Several bullet marks from the missed shots were etched onto the path that Rose’s car had taken.
Rose clenched the steering wheel so hard that her fingers turned white.
She sped down a dirt road, not the well-maintained road, indicating that the building she had been trapped in was likely in an outlying area rather than the city.
As Rose pressed on the pedal, she glanced at the model name etched beside the steering wheel.
‘If this is the model… top speed is around 1.4 horsepower.’
Rose was able to move at a slightly faster pace than a horse. However, the challenging road conditions posed a problem.
Well-trained horses could handle rough mountain paths, but cars were not as versatile. Even a small rock on an unpaved road could potentially damage the car’s wheels.
She couldn’t guarantee that the braking system was functioning correctly either. Pushing the car to its top speed might lead to an accident.
‘As expected, there’s a long way to go in terms of stability.’
Rose didn’t know her exact location or the direction of the road, but she aimed to get as close as possible to the area with flickering lights. Despite the late hour, the abundance of lights suggested that it might be a city center.
She thought that seeking help from the police station in the city was her best option for now. In a place where people were bustling about, the men chasing her might not be able to act freely.
The first few minutes were quiet, but the sound of hooves gradually grew louder from behind. If she continued at this rate, she might end up within the firing range of the gunmen.
Rose clenched her lips and pressed the accelerator pedal harder.
Vroom! The car vibrated as if struggling.
‘It’s too dark.’
The headlights were weaker than she expected.
In a well-lit city, the current level of brightness might have been sufficient for driving at night, but on the dirt road, the moonlight was the only source of illumination.
She thought that, unless she was limited to using the car solely for urban travel, she needed to increase the brightness of the headlights. Even as she was trying to escape, these thoughts crossed her mind, and Rose let out a mixed sigh and a faint chuckle.
At that moment, a loud shout pierced through the sound of hoofbeats and the engine noise.
With a determined grip on the stiff steering wheel, Rose turned it sharply. Her breath was labored, almost to the point of being suffocated by the approaching pursuers.
Bang! The gunshot was deafening, much louder than the previous shots. This made Rose think that it was a shotgun rather than a handgun.
Fortunately, the bullet narrowly missed her and embedded itself into the road. The recoil created a small crater in the road, and the car’s body shuddered slightly. Rose’s body also jolted in response.
A groan slipped through Rose’s tightly clenched lower lip. She heard the voice of someone shouting at the pursuers to stop.
However, Rose didn’t slow down; she pressed the accelerator pedal even harder.
After coming this far, she couldn’t afford to be caught and dragged back.
The car gained speed as Rose continued to push the pedal down with determination.
‘If the tire gets hit like this…’
The increased speed would likely result in even more damage. Rose had a sinking feeling that the pursuers would have difficulty aiming accurately due to their limited field of vision.
Despite the fear that she might get severely injured or killed if she wasn’t careful, Rose didn’t stop. She continued to race forward.
She was getting closer to the city lights, and she knew that she just had to hold on a bit longer.
If she could manage that, she might make it safely back to the city. She didn’t want to be willingly taken to the underground chamber that Edwin had examined.
‘Yes, just a little more…’
The gunshot came just as Rose was trying to reassure herself. The bullet grazed the rear of the car and continued.
The speeding car swayed significantly to the side. It managed to regain its balance, but it felt different from before, not as stable.
‘Where did the bullet graze?’
The constant imbalance of the car’s chassis was pushing it to one side, and it felt like it might tip over entirely if she didn’t do something. Reluctantly, she considered taking her foot off the accelerator pedal.
‘But if I slow down, I’ll get caught…’
She’s at a crossroads, with her life hanging in the balance. Many thoughts raced through Rose’s mind during this moment of hesitation.
‘I don’t want to die.’
That single sentence resounded most powerfully. She had so much left to do, and for the first time in a long time, she felt hopeful when she imagined her future. Everything seemed to be falling into place at last.
With an emotional surge, Rose’s hands trembled as she gripped the steering wheel. Her foot hesitated over the brake pedal, torn between slowing down and continuing to escape.
Suddenly, a bright light appeared directly in front of her, assaulting her eyes.
Rose squinted and, with a gasp, pressed the brake pedal.
Screech! The tires emitted a harsh sound as they skidded. Inside the rattling car, Rose’s body swayed back and forth.
With a groan, Rose half-opened her eyes. At first, the intense light had blinded her, but now she could identify the source of the approaching light.
It was the glow of a patrol light, the kind officers often carry. Three riders, each mounted on a horse, were charging towards her with blazing intensity. Their faces were difficult to make out.
The man at the front released the reins and pulled out a gun, aiming it directly at Rose.
Startled, Rose gasped.
The gunshot had been aimed not at Rose’s car but at the side of the road.
Bang! The bullet meant for the pursuer following Rose whizzed past, and chaos erupted behind her.
‘What happened? Are they rangers sent by the authorities?’
For now, all she knew was that these individuals were here to help. In case she might collide with horses and riders, she steered the car towards the roadside and pressed the brake pedal with all her might.
But it took a considerable amount of time for the car to come to a complete stop. As it skidded and wobbled with an unstable balance, the riders on horseback raced past the car.
Despite the shaky and dim view, Rose recognized one person.
Rose muttered in surprise. She wondered if her eyes were playing tricks on her because it seemed too good to be true.
She saw him just before a series of gunshots erupted in the background, indicating a fierce battle.
She wanted to assess the situation more thoroughly, but there was no time for that.
The car’s right rear wheel was damaged, and the car, which was already unstable, started to wobble dangerously. It felt like it could flip over at any moment.
It hadn’t come to a complete stop yet. Unlike the brakes she had invented, the braking power of the standard car was insufficient.
Rose’s view rapidly shook.
Thud! Shortly after, the car collided with something.
* * *
Roughly an hour ago, Jasper Conway arrived in Brittel with bloodshot eyes.
He couldn’t even remember how he’d gotten from the capital to Brittel.
“Dom Industries is trying to take Rose. No, it seems like they’ve taken her…”
He doesn’t remember how he reacted when he heard these words from Theo.
From that moment on, all memories became blurry. The world seemed hazy, and it felt like the ground beneath his feet was shaking.
Unable to overcome his guilt, Theo secretly escaped from Dom Industries and soon came to find Jasper. But Rose had already been kidnapped. The only fortunate thing was that Theo learned the location of the research lab in Brittel.
Jasper immediately reported the situation to the Emperor and headed to Brittel. By the time he arrived in Brittel, he thought he would see Rose again. The Emperor’s guard, dispatched to that location, had already gone to raid the research lab.
However, the lab was empty. Dom Industries had taken Rose to a different location.
It seemed like Rose was not at the coffee house where the retro wave often gathered. According to the guard who had been keeping an eye on the area, Rose hadn’t entered that place.
He wondered if she was in Brittel, and if he could find her by scouring all the places associated with Dom Industries.