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Peaceful times ought to be cherished.
This was a common adage on the Sia Continent where war often broke out. It perfectly encapsulated the thoughts of those living in the present era.
While Roel and Charlotte were busy trying to deal with the curse, the people of the Sia Continent were far from being at peace. Instead, they were sinking deeper into the bog of war.
At the eastern border’s frontlines, after a couple of probing attacks, the forces of humankind had finally started engaging the deviants in large-scale battles. Battles were slowly shifting away from small skirmishes to massive fights for territory.
Just like their predecessors, the aim of the deviants was to invade the depths of the human world and plunder all they could. To achieve that, they needed to first breach the united army’s defenses.
Not once had they succeeded over the past millennium, but the odds seemed to be in their favor this time around.
Of the crucial choke points guarded by the major countries, there was one that was more vulnerable than it was at any point of humankind’s history—Tark Stronghold. Rushed attempts at reparations had restored the disappeared Tark Stronghold back to its previous majestic scale, but ultimately, it only looked tough on the outside.
Fortresses were slowly reinforced over time by pumping in huge amounts of money. There were even strategic defense magic tools that required an entire century to construct. While the Saint Mesit Theocracy had pulled no brakes in the reparation of Tark Stronghold, there was only so much they could do in a limited period of time.
This was a huge hole in humankind’s defense line.
Should the deviants launch an all-out invasion, Tark Stronghold could potentially be a breakthrough point for them. Once the deviants breached the defense line, they would be able to intercept the flow of logistics to the frontline, depriving the other soldiers of their necessities.
This concern led to the leaders of the united army to adopt an offensive strategy instead of holding their ground as they did in the past. They would dispatch armies from the fortresses and dominate the flow of the battle. The goal was to buy as much time as possible for the Saint Mesit Theocracy to bolster Tark Stronghold’s defenses.
Make no mistake, this was an extremely risky maneuver. Only the military veterans who had survived the Fourth Holy War nearly a hundred years ago would dare to make such a call.
However, the choice to go on the offense brought about a new problem—an increased burden on the logistics chain. The logistical division of the united army was already struggling to deliver sufficient resources to the united army at the remote eastern border.
Delivering more resources to the united army wasn’t as easy as simply scaling up their logistical operations, especially due to how dangerous the journey to the eastern border was. This was simply asking for the impossible.
But when the survival of humankind was at stake, even the impossible would have to be somehow made possible.
The burden of solving this problem naturally fell onto the Sorofyas, who were responsible for the united army logistics. Needless to say, Charlotte would have to step up and tackle this problem even though she wasn’t in a good condition at all.
“Charlotte, it’s about time for…”
Night, in the Hundred Birds Gallery’s study room, Roel had just finished settling his documents and was just about to urge Charlotte to rest when he quickly reined in his voice. Unknowingly, the auburn-haired woman beside him had already fallen asleep on her pile of documents.
Her fatigue was showing through her pale face, but he dared not to move her to the bed where she could rest better out of worry that he would wake her up.
It was not the first time Charlotte had fallen asleep out of sheer exhaustion in the midst of her work. Each time he woke her up, she would use the pretext that she had already rested up to continue her work. Many times he tried to dissuade her from it, but it was to no avail.
“Whether these logistics operations are properly handled or not will affect the war efforts at the frontlines. Many lives could be lost if I err here. I have to deal with these documents as quickly as possible.”
“You’re right, but your body…”
“Darling, I’m begging you.”
Roel knew that someone as weak as Charlotte couldn’t be allowed to take on such heavy work, but whenever she looked at him with pleading eyes, he found himself acceding to her request with a deep sigh.
It had been around a month since the two of them arrived at Rosa. The two of them had been together during this period of time, but unlike before, Charlotte’s condition wasn’t improving at all. On the contrary, she was still growing weaker, albeit at a slower pace.
It was clear that the curse was sapping Charlotte’s life force, but neither the doctors nor the clergymen were able to find a way to stop that. They could only slow down the loss of her life force through suppressing the curse with the Golden Soul.
Andrew sent several more letters over, but the results were disappointing. The expedition team couldn’t find anything related to the curse in the ancient ruin. This was a nightmare.
By this point, Roel was almost certain that Charlotte’s curse stemmed from one of the Six Calamities. It was likely that this ancient monster had been hibernating in the ancient ruin when Bruce first came into contact with it, so the curse started off mild.
However, as the Mother Goddess started showing signs of awakening, this ancient monster awoke from its slumber and left the ancient ruin. That was probably the point when Charlotte’s affliction abruptly grew severe.
The chances were that they would have to find the ancient monster in order to resolve the curse, but the Six Calamities were elusive existences. It felt like they were facing a problem that had no solution.
Unable to accept this outcome, Roel tightly clenched his fists in frustration. He quietly stared at Charlotte for a long while before he took off his coat and carefully draped it on her. To his dismay, this action woke her up.
“Darling… Sorry, I feel asleep.”
“Don’t worry about it. Let’s wrap things here. I took a look at your documents and none of the remaining ones are urgent. You can handle them tomorrow.”
“No buts. I forbid you from staying up late.”
“D-darling, wait a moment…”
Roel clamped down on her protest and picked her up from the chair. Charlotte was still planning on insisting on her way, but she noticed the determined look on his face and eventually relented with a helpless sigh. She obediently leaned on his chest and allowed him to do as he pleased.
Roel heaved a quiet sigh of relief and began carrying her toward her bedroom. Charlotte placed her ear on his chest and listened to his heartbeat.
“Darling, I’m sorry.”
“About my work. You’re only doing this because you’re worried about my health, but I keep going against you. You must be angry with me.”
Roel’s cheeks twitched at her apology. He lowered his head and looked at the feeble woman in his arms who obstinately pushed herself for the sake of the greater good. He could feel a tinge of bitterness in his heart.
“You don’t need to apologize. You’re right to prioritize the war effort. I am proud of you for that. It’s just that we have different priorities.”
“To me, your health comes before everything else,” replied Roel.
Charlotte’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly. She eventually turned her head away with a furious blush.
“I won’t deny that I am angry, but it’s not at you. I am angry at myself. I hate how powerless I am, how I am unable to lift your curse even though I’m right beside you…” Roel said in self-reproach.
“Wait! Darling, what are you saying?” Charlotte exclaimed angrily.
Charlotte immediately turned her head back to look at Roel and angrily exclaimed. She placed her hand on Roel’s cheek before continuing on.
“It’s only because you were with me that I could hold on till now! You have been protecting me by my side like a valiant knight over the past month, ensuring my safety. That’s why… Promise me that you won’t blame yourself. It hurts me when you do that.”
The two of them exchanged affectionate gazes, and they could see themselves reflected in each other’s eyes. A brief moment later, their lips came together, joining their hearts closer than ever.
Neither of them could have known about the discreet events happening in the shadows of this seemingly peaceful night.
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