He was currently gripping the hilt of his sword and channeling magic into it.

Hidden in the hilt of his sword, embedded in the ground, was a wooden staff that he had brought with him.

Julian was using his sword as a magical aid in black magic. It was a dangerous thing to do in such a public place, but he had no choice.

The witches of Farni had declared that Mariella would be executed tomorrow night at nine o’clock.

There was only one way to break Farni’s magical defences within the day and save her.

Julian remembered the silver shield he’d seen when he’d toured the Marquis of Arell’s mansion.

For a shield of that magnitude to have lasted for over a day meant that there were many witches working to create and maintain it.

There must be at least a dozen witches in there.

Typically, female dark mages are far more skilled than their male counterparts. Furthermore, Julian is alone, and there are probably more than a dozen witches in Farni.

He is in no position to call upon Baredesha for help.

Not only is the Pope of the White Stone out of the country, but the circumstances make it impossible for him to return home in a hurry. If the Church gets involved, there is a risk that Mariella and her companions, who might have survived, will be killed.

Despite the odds, Julian had a glimmer of hope.

‘It’s worth a try, they’re the witches of Farni.’

All magic had its weaknesses. Even the four great dark mage families had their weaknesses.

Similar to the Eastern concept of the five elements, where fire overcomes water, water overcomes earth, earth overcomes wood, wood overcomes metal, and metal cannot overcome fire, their weaknesses followed a pattern where each dark mage family would bite each other’s tail, circling back to the starting point.

The Han family that was considered the most powerful dark mage lineage was weak against the magic of the Seamon family, who specialized in water manipulation. While skilled in healing magic, the Leberg family was famous for spreading curses related to incurable diseases when in attack mode, and they were weak against the Garcia family, who were renowned for their blessings.

Julian’s only family, the Ladarsi, had always lost to the Belovs, who were masters of physical enhancement magic.

And so, the Farnis…

‘Weak against the Ladarsi. Their shields against everything fail to filter out the one thing they can’t: Ladarsi’s mental magic.’

For the first time, Julian felt grateful for his blood.

In his quest to break Josef’s curse, he had learnt the spells of many families, but it was the mental magic of his family, the Ladarsi, that he felt most comfortable with.

Perfect for the current situation.

He even believed it was his destiny to be used for the sake of his loved ones.

He planned to use Ladarsi’s mental magic to silence the witches responsible for the shield.

The shield would be broken, and the knights would charge in while the witches scrambled about.

If they did well, the knights might be able to take out a witch or two.

Magic was a great power, but the witches who used it were not perfect, and so they were sometimes mortally wounded in physical attacks.

That’s how paladins fought witches in the days before the Blessing of Rest and the White Stone.

Julian concentrated again on channeling the energy into the tip of his sword. Many things flashed through his mind as he muttered the incantation.

His father’s last look of exhaustion, his mother’s love of making wreaths, the betrayed faces of those he’d killed, the gentle smile of his adoptive father…

The largest part of it was his best friend, Josef.

When he was a student at the academy, his sensitivity to the dark caused him to have a seizure. Josef, who shared a room with him at the time, casually took all the candles from the other room and lit them, sharing his deepest wounds so that Julian would not be embarrassed. His mother dying, her flesh rotting from the curse. His father, who knew there was a way to save her, but turned away in a rush to please the Order. The hypocrisy of the Order’s Baredesha, who had made it all work.

It broke his heart to realise that after today’s choice, he would no longer be able to live for him.

‘Don’t think about all that.’

Julian braced himself.

‘I am no longer balanced. I am…’

He tried to redefine himself, but he didn’t know what to call himself.

Julian’s mind churned wildly.

He feared that what he was about to do was not a noble sacrifice for a new set of values, but an aberration, an uncontrollable emotional outburst.

That it was not honour or money that he had to lose, but the safety of his friend Josef, who was as dear to him as life itself.

Just then, he remembered Mihael’s words.

“…I love her more deeply than my own heart, no, more deeply than the spirit of the knight I have believed in and upheld throughout my life, and the honor of my family.”

And with those words, he let go of everything he’d been carrying around like a burden for half his life.

‘Yes. I’m just an ordinary man.’

Julian could now say with certainty who he was. Or, more accurately, he was able to accept himself as he was.

His downcast eyes widened.

‘…I am prepared to risk everything to save the woman I love!’

At the same time, black energy poured from Julian’s body.

They all travelled to his sword, which was firmly embedded in the ground.

The black energy seeped down the tip of the sword and into the ground.

Something like black vines or the shadows of hundreds of snakes began to crawl along the ground.


The energy became magic and stretched out towards Marquis Arell’s mansion.

It broke through the defences and entered the manor, scouring the floor.

As if searching for the caster of the defence spell.

And finally,


With a huge explosion, the defences began to crack.

* * *

About ten minutes before Julian cast his spell.

Josef was in the middle of a confrontation with the witches.

The witches had Mariella in their grasp, and they were holding a knife to her throat.

Josef broke and taunted them to distract them.

“What are you waiting for. Drive that sword into my heart. Before it hardens into white stone, chop it up and burn it in the fire. Then there will be nothing left for you to fear in this world.”

Sierra glared at him nervously.

“How am I to believe your words, now, inject a fragment of truth in him!”

“Ah, such a problem, then I have no choice, I’ll follow the procedure and reveal the truth.”

At this seemingly impatient gesture, Josef leisurely held out his arm.

He was playing it cool, but in truth, he was more nervous than anyone else in the room. He knew very well that in the worst case scenario, he and Mariella would die.

The witches grabbed his arm and injected him with the fragment of truth. Josef felt something like a tiny threadworm crawl up his forearm.

Sierra lifted her chin and said confidently,

“You will no longer be able to tease those three tongues! Tell me the real recipe for the white stone and the ingredients to make it.”

Without averting his gaze, Josef repeated his earlier words coldly.

“Take the heart of a man of Derschabach blood, drain the blood, and let it dry in a shady place for a few days. It’s a method of preparation that has nothing to do with potency, but it’s usually done. Otherwise, the colour turns black. Baredesha always liked the colour white.”

Sierra’s face flushed red as she realised Josef was mocking her.

“He’s still…! Yeah, if you want to see her die, I’ll give you your wish.”

Sierra pressed the dagger closer to Mariella’s throat. She didn’t seem intent on actually killing her yet, but there was no telling what might happen if she provoked her once or twice more.

Mariella’s body stiffened.

It was Farni’s matriarch that intervened between them. Her voice was elegant and commanding, and she stopped Sierra.

“Sierra, don’t mess with the hostages. Let’s wait for the Fragment of Truth to take effect. A maximum of one minute before it takes effect, right?”

She turned to the young girl beside her.


“Okay, how long has it been now?”

The witch with the tiny hourglass replied.

“If you wait a moment, ah! It’s just been a minute.”

The witches’ gazes turned to Josef.

His chest was already mottled with blue spots from being cursed and dying, so they couldn’t tell if he was telling the truth or not. Fortunately, the fragment of truth came with another effect.

A heart-stopping pain.

Even a knight trained to endure pain could not hide a heart-stopping ache.

They expected to see Josef collapse, clutching his chest. They even planned to cut off a part of Mariella’s body to put pressure on her for lying.

But contrary to their expectations, Josef was unharmed. He stood upright and shrugged his shoulders in a cheeky manner.

“What do you think, are you determined to kill me now?”

Sierra stared at Farni’s matriarch in surprise. There was no signalling, just instinct.

The matriarch remained expressionless.

“This is ridiculous.”

“Is this good or bad for us…?”

Behind the matriarch’s back, the young witches chattered amongst themselves. Having succeeded in disrupting their composure with his revelation, Josef demanded the same thing again.

“When you’re done, I want you to break the binding spell on Mariella and escort her safely out of the mansion. In return, I’ll give you my life.”

Despite his pretence of ignorance, Josef remembered the middle-aged woman in front of him. Farni’s matriarch was a gentle man by nature and did not like to kill for nothing. It was in her blood. Josef had assumed that the reason the Farni were so advanced in defensive magic was because of their inherent goodness, and that they wouldn’t kill Mariella if he gave them what they wanted.

But the answer that came back completely defied his expectations.

“I can’t do that. If I let the Marquise of Coburden out of here, she’ll try to save you right away. Forgive me, but I can’t afford to have someone who knows how to use magic as an enemy, even if she’s an ignoramus. It causes a lot of trouble.”

Farni’s matriarch smiled softly. She added, as if soothing a dying Josef.

“So don’t worry about it too much. After we get rid of all the white stones, we’ll find a way to solve the problem somehow.”

In other words, everything would be decided after Josef’s death.

In fact, even if they killed Mariella here and now, and then kill Josef, there was nothing they could do about him without the White Stone.

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