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Ortansia gasps in horror at the sight beyond the door.

The hall, which would normally be the scene of a glittering ball, had undergone an eerie transformation.

Dimly lit, the only people gathered there were dressed in black dressing gowns.

And a large magic circle was drawn in the middle of the hall. The scene undeniably evoked dark memories from the past.

At that time, it was supposed to be Ortansia who was sacrificed.

But now, the person in that place is...

"Prince Viktor!"

Ortansia shouted when she saw the figure lying on a pedestal at the centre.

Prince Victor, who would have been chosen as a sacrifice like Ortansia once was, was unconscious and not moving a twitch.

Perhaps he has already... Ortansia's heart nearly stopped, but seeing his chest faintly rise and fall brought her a slight relief.  

It seems that they were able to arrive before the worst possible outcome.

"Well, well, well, you are very welcome, Duchess Verite."

Wearing a black robe just like those around him, Duke Linie had a cheerful smile on his face as he spoke. Unlike the surrounding crowd that buzzed with Ortansia's arrival, he seemed to have expected Ortansia to come there.

"It is an honour for me to have your presence. Please, come this way."

"... Duke Linie."

While Ortansia gazed at Duke Linie extending a gentle hand, her attention couldn't help but be drawn to his side.

As if guarding Duke Linie... There stood the person Ortansia was searching for, Gérard.

He also wore an unsightly black robe, just like those around him. 

It was a garb that should be horrifying to see, and one that she loathed but she  couldn't help but acknowledge that the garb suited him better than anyone else present.

Gerard was staring at Ortansia with cold eyes.

For a moment she was almost pressured, but Ortansia stared back at her brother.

"I have a special seat reserved for you."

Returning her gaze to the smiling Duke Linie, Ortansia slowly opened her mouth.

“…You intend to summon the demon god by sacrificing Prince Victor?”

The Duke of Linie's eyes narrowed in amusement when asked this.

"Yes, that is correct."

"Why summon a demon god? Are you planning to wreak havoc and destroy this world?"

Even in the face of Ortansia's accusatory words, Duke Linie's smile remained unwavering. He patiently explained, as if speaking to an unruly child.

"...It seems you're misunderstanding a bit, Duchess Verite. I have no desire whatsoever to destroy this world, as you suggest."

"Then why…"

"As I told you before, I want a better world. A world in which everyone can live happily. However, there are various barriers to this. The system of succession to the throne is one of them. No matter how outstanding a person is, he or she cannot ascend to the throne because of the trivial figure of the order of succession. This is an incalculable loss. Don't you agree?"

'Such is sophistry. You're just embellishing your ambitions with pretty words…'

Ortansia was very much tempted to retort, but she did not know what kind of move he might make if she upset the Duke of Linie's nerves there.

Quietly, she waited for his next words.

"This world is chained down by stupid institutions and conventions. In a sense, breaking them might be synonymous with destroying the world."

"The power of the Demon God is dangerous. Once they are invoked in this world, they are irretrievable."

“…The demon god is also one of the gods. just as the goddess who granted you her blessing. Much like that goddess, a once-worshiped native god has come to be known as a demon over time. If that power is wielded correctly, there's nothing to fear." 

Duke Linie's words seemed to create an illusion that his words were an unquestionable truth.

It is probably largely due to his power that the demon god worshipers cult, once on the verge of destruction, had been revived to this extent.

However, Ortansia could not accept his logic.

Having lived one lifetime already, Ortansia knew all too well what the resurrected demon had done in the world after her death.

She had hoped that she could somehow persuade the Duke of Linie, but from the looks of it, it would be in vain.

"I ask you once more, Duchess Verite. Are you willing to join us?"

Ortansia glanced at Prince Victor, who was still asleep, and at her brother Gérard, who was standing next to the Duke of Linie.

In order to save Prince Victor and stop Duke Linie's plot, it was necessary to bring Gérard back to his senses.

Even if Ortansia pretended to agree with his ideology here, she would not be able to save Prince Viktor.

'Then we have to bet on the possibility ......!'

Ortansia looked at the Duke of Linie with determination.

And she told him clearly.

"No, I will thwart your plans."

When Ortansia declared this, the Duke of Linie laughed as if he had known that would be the outcome

"That's unfortunate. I had thought you could be a sympathetic ally, but... what a waste."

Despite his words, he had an amused smile.

"One last piece of advice, Duchess Verite. There is a difference between courage and recklessness. Your sense of justice is very fine, but you should have kept in mind that one wrong move could cost you your life."

When she was euphemistically told that he had no intention of letting her live,  Ortansia gulped nervously.

In response to Ortansia's composed but unyielding demeanor, Duke Linie's lips curled upwards. He turned to Gérard, who had been silent by his side.

"While I could have my subordinates take care of this... I believe, Gérard, you should handle it...You were likely displeased with her as well, weren't you? The daughter of a sullied harlot, daring to carry herself as a member of the ducal family."

Gérard's expression did not change  at Duke of Linie's words. He just stared at Ortansia with a cold gaze.

"Offer her as a sacrifice to the gods with your own hands. Doing so is the utmost courtesy to a life born from a mistake. Now, Lord Gérard."

This must be his true intention.

While verbally praising Ortansia, he ultimately held contempt for her as the daughter of a tainted harlot, a  life that was born by mistake. But there was no time to be hurt.

Ortansia firmly followed Gérard's movements with her eyes.

 He drew the sword on his hip with a slow gesture in response to the Duke of Linie's words.

"Rest assured, I will end this quickly."

At Gérard's words, Duke Linie's smile deepened.

Still, Ortansia continued to gaze directly at Gérard.

If he were to get serious, her life would likely vanish in an instant.

The harsh words thrown at her in her previous life, the cold stare, all surged back into her mind.

An overwhelming fear, much like when she was dragged to the guillotine, seemed to crawl up from her feet.

But still, Ortansia did not cry or scream. She just looked straight at Gerard and said to him,

"I believe in you, brother."

As if in response to these words, Gérard held up his sword.

And then… A red flower bloomed in Ortansia's vision.

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