It wasn't even an hour after Cedar had left the Crown Prince's residence when a letter-carrying pigeon came knocking on Alexander's windows.
Roki immediately went forward to retrieve a piece of paper that was tied to one of the bird's feet. While he was reading the message, his eyes moved, flashing a hint of worry.
"What is it?" The prince asked as he noticed the butler's anxiety.
"The letter was from Silver."
"Huh? That quick?" Alexander raised an eyebrow as he was quite surprised that the physician had already responded to his order.
Quite a while ago, when Konoki paid him a visit, he sent a letter for Silver through him.
Since this morning, he had already sensed that something was amiss with his knight.
The Cedar that he knew was both strict and tolerant. Although those two were contradictory, he couldn't think of anything to perfectly describe his knight.
Cedar, after spending two years at the Knight's Academy, he became methodical in almost everything. However, his tolerance towards the prince's shenanigans remained the same—with the exception of long lectures, he never raised his voice nor his fist in front of Alexander.
In spite of this, the prince found it rather boring and was a bit lonely since his 'cute' and cheeky but sometimes cowardly 'little brother' suddenly became a composed, proper knight.
That's why Alexander was pleased when Cedar's new uptight image cracked from time to time.
However, today was rather suspicious. Surely, he was entertained at first when he finally saw Cedar's flustered side. Therefore, he teased him in some ways. Even so, he observed that the knight was unusually antsy and his outbursts happened one after another. Furthermore, although it was a vague feeling, somehow, for a moment, he would sometimes feel that he's with a different person.
Yet the way he moves and talk was definitely Cedar-like, especially on how he says that his life is solely on Alexander's grasp.
"Cedar Nightingale already died at the forest. I am only Cedar that the prince had created. My life was given to me by your highness. That's why, my entire being, even my death, could only be decided by you and you alone."
He couldn't help but to remember the pledge of the young Cedar after he saved him from dying.
Being with Cedar for a long time, the prince didn't like the fact that he's now doubting his knight and closest friend. Still, he couldn't ignore his assumption that something's wrong with his friend, considering that his gut feelings were almost always right.
That's why his first step was to confirm that it's definitely Cedar who's with him since if he wasn't, then that means that the real one was in grave danger.
There was also a possibility of being under a surveillance or spying spell. Although he couldn't sense any trace of such a thing, it will never hurt to check just in case.
And the perfect one to do the task was none other than the druid Silver.
With her innate ability and unusual insight, she can uncover any disguise and can see through the faintest trace of spell casted in a person.
Thus, when he noticed Cedar's fever, he used it as an excuse to send the knight to the infirmary, making it easier for Silver to conduct her 'check-up'.
However, he didn't expect the response to be this fast.
"She sure was quick to do her task, huh?" he mumbled in a pleasant tone.
With a concerned expression, Roki spoke. "It seems like Cedar had collapsed. Silver said that it was due to Armagunda poisoning."
Alexander was in the middle of writing, thus, when he heard Roki's words, his body abruptly froze, making the ink from the feather pen make a small pool atop the paper, ruining the entire document.
Being the Crown Prince, he was educated with various knowledge, particularly about combat, war strategies and poisons.
He even took poisons himself in an experiment conducted by the empire's prominent potioneers and poison masters to gain immunization.
However, there was this fearsome herb that was hard to obtain. Its name was Armagunda and was also called 'grim reaper' because of its high potency that a single drop of its extract could kill a person. For that matter, the empire was strict in inspecting the markets to inhibit the use of such dreadful herb if found.
Some cases show that consuming a lot of it would immediately kill someone, but most of the time, with a small amount, it will slowly damage the internal organs and after some time, the victim might suffer from one or more symptoms such as dizziness, irritation, hot flushes, fever, disorientation and numbness.
Then he realized, "Was that the reason why Cedar's acting strange?"
Pushing this thought aside, Alexander suddenly stood up in a hurry, causing some paper to fly out and the entire jar of ink dropped onto the floor when he unintentionally shoved it off the table as he ran towards the door.
Without a word, he hurriedly made his way to the infirmary along with Roki.
"Stay alive..." was all that he could think of the entire time.
They might be born from different parents but he considered Cedar as his only younger brother since his three blood-related brothers were all his rivals for the throne.
And even though he's only four years older than Cedar, Alexander considered himself as his guardian.
That's why the news that he received gave him more than a shock.
It scared him to death.
It was because he knew that the chances of surviving such poison was close to none—not even with the help of the Golden Dew pill.
His anxiousness even made him to use his mana to quickly sprint to where Cedar is. Hence, after just a few breaths, he managed to reach Silver's chamber.
Without any warning, he entered the room and was appalled by the sight that welcomed him.
There were a lot of blood all over and its strong smell wafted on the entire room.
On the bed lies Cedar who was groaning and writhing from excruciating pain. His complexion was almost gray and his lips are purplish. In addition, his entire body was covered in blood.
Beside him, Silver was already pale and sweaty. Holding onto her wooden staff, she's trying her best to stop his bleeding by healing him through magic but it didn't matter even if she increased her output. The speed of her treatment couldn't keep up with how fast Cedar's body was deteriorating.
It seems that he caught the worst possible outcome.
In some tests, after the initial numbness, the subject beasts would feel agonizing pain as if its every fiber was being torn apart. The mana inside would also shot-up and will be in chaos, causing wounds to open up and blood would spurt from within—and Cedar's going through with all of this symptoms.
Just after a brief moment, even before Alexander could utter a word, a group of clerics and paladins came running in and they quickly started to help Silver, each with their own spells.
The room lit up and was filled with rays of golden light forming various magic circles. It brought about a wonderful sight in contrast to the patient's awful state.
For Gale, there's nothing but tormenting pain that seems to tear her flesh and soul apart. It felt like her sanity will leave her at any moment now.
Her tears were already dried up as her body fluids were also drained but through her scrunched up face, it was evident that she's crying.
"N-no more..." she whispered with a croaky and dry voice. "let me... die..."
She muttered those words without any strength and in half-consciousness that almost no one had heard it.
But for Prince Alexander, those words were as loud as a fireball's explosion.
He clenched his fist so tight that it was already turning white but his face was as hard as stone and his eyes never left Cedar.
He was angry beyond words when he heard him give up.
He's mad, not at his knight, but at himself who was helpless and couldn't do anything to help his only friend.
As there wasn't a definite cure for Armagunda's poison, he could only wait and expect a miracle to take place.
"Roki, make an announcement." with an authoritative tone, Alexander told his aide. "Every cleric, paladin, and anyone else who had a healing ability should come here at this moment and help Silver."
The large man was surprised.
Although the Prince's order wasn't entirely impossible, it was unheard of to mobilize a huge crowd of the healing class just for a person, much more, for a single knight.
"Your highness, understand your feelings but--"
"If you understand, then make haste." Alexander interrupted him. "I'm giving out this command as the Crown Prince. Anyone who would disobey will receive severe punishment and..." at this point, he noticed that the barrage of spells and circles halted.
"What the hell are you doing?!" he lashed out at the healers and turned to Silver.
Looking at the weakened woman who has a grave expression, Alexander's body started to shake. "No..."
Silver could only bow her head and spoke in a soft voice. "I'm sorry, your highness..."