Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
The target of my third assignment was a merchant.
Following the pre-planned route, I had noiselessly infiltrated the mansion.
『He sells ‘goods’ of a rather distasteful type. After all, that’s why it’s our job to deal with him now』, I remembered Aimée saying.
Focusing solely on completing my assignment, I had brushed aside any information I found to be extra.
『Remember — always expect the unexpected.』
I would soon learn the true meaning of that statement, for before long, I discovered that my target already lay dead in his bedroom.
After rescuing Saoirse, I got home to find the dishes made by Milia and Lyla arranged neatly on the table. Lyla’s face lit up the moment she noticed that I had returned.
「You’re a little later than usual. Milia said you’d be late, but you’re earlier than I expected.」
「Yeah, I had personal matters to attend to.」
Mildly surprised, she cocked her head to one side. Seeing that Milia had already left, we sat down to eat while Lyla told me all about her culinary adventures with Milia earlier.
I felt at peace looking at Lyla. My house and the placement of furniture within it assured me that I lived here. This was my life.
「…There’s been something weighing on your mind these past few days, hasn’t there? You can tell me all about it, you know? Has Iris been mean to you?」, she said jokingly before continuing. 「If you need to talk about it, I’m all ears.」
Curiosity was written all over her face. Figuring that it was not a topic to be discussed over dinner, we quickly finished and went to the living room. We opened a bottle of red wine, which we drank with the leftovers from dinner as hors d’oeuvres.
「Is it related to the personal matters you mentioned earlier?」
Instead of making fun of me, she simply took a bite of steamed chicken and downed some of her wine. It was obvious that she was dying to know what was on my mind.
「The therapist is in!」, she said boastfully.
「That scar on my belly… I got it during an assignment. The third one, to be precise.」
Lyla, who was seated next to me, stroked my belly.
「You messed up, huh?」
I felt like a kid in his mother’s gentle embrace. After all, I had been a kid — one who thought much too highly of himself — when it happened.
「I was eleven that year.」
Ignoring her shock, I continued my story.
「My target was a merchant — one of those fat cats rich enough to own a mansion in the royal capital.」
From what I heard after it was all over, he had amassed his wealth through considerably violent means and made many enemies as a result. I never bothered to find out who they were, since it wasn’t related to my assignment anyway.
「That merchant was responsible for a large-scale underground sale of weapons to revolutionaries.」
「Sounds like a dangerous man. People with money can sometimes be more terrifying than even those with an army.」
Exactly, Lyla. That’s why it became my job.
「I see, I see. So the merchant fought back when you tried to bump him off?」
「Not at all. Listen to the end.」
「Just before I killed him, I realised that he was already dead.」
「A classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.」
To sum it up, I just hadn’t become a pro yet.
In the same moment that I entered the room, another assassin had killed him.
「I was at a loss for what to do. While the other guy was also momentarily shaken, he came to his senses more quickly than I did. Realising what I had come to do, he raised a finger, signalling that my job had already been done for me. If only I’d just left there and then.」
In hindsight, it should have been obvious to do that, but at that point in time, I had yet to take the situation in fully. As it was only my third time, I had sorely lacked experience. Borrowing Aimée’s words, I wasn’t able to improvise or adapt, let alone overcome.
I was still a child in every sense of the word.
Raising her glass to her lips, Lyla listened silently.
「It really was bad timing for everyone involved. We heard a child’s voice. I still remember it now — 『Papa, can I sleep with you tonight?』」, I recalled. 「The door slowly opened, and a girl even younger than I was came in.」
I was even more flustered by then. However, the other killer’s killing intent made me snap out of it.
「That guy was about to kill the girl to silence her. I tried to stop him before I even knew what I was doing. We were about equal in strength, probably — I can’t remember exactly anymore — but in our scuffle, my knife sunk into his heart while his found my stomach.」
I was lucky that the other assassin had been rather small-built. Perhaps he had missed his mark due to the shock of having had me walk in on him. I’ll never know why I escaped with my life.
Even so, the pain had been almost unbearable.
「On my third assignment, I killed the person who had killed the target instead of the target himself.」
「And that’s how you got this scar?」, asked Lyla, gently stroking the scar through my shirt.
「When I returned home, my master scolded me as she tended to my wounds. I don’t remember what she said. All I know is that she was angry.」
「Probably something about you having gotten lucky.」
I had contemplated the incident that opened my eyes to the world as I looked at the ceiling. I had known about his family, of course, but seeing something on paper is different from actually seeing it with your own eyes.
「If only I had gotten there two… no, one minute earlier, I would have been the one to end that man’s life.」
「Reality often doesn’t meet expectations.」
「Yeah. A couple of seconds made all the difference.」
「And yet, thanks to that, you saved that girl’s life」, commented Lyla, to which I shook my head.
That thought never crossed my mind at that time.
「…I was overcome with guilt.」
I had only been an inexperienced child after all.
What I learnt from my master after that hadn’t been pleasant either. The merchant’s shady activities had finally come into the public eye, putting his entire family in a bad spot.
「And that girl, is the one you’ve had your eye on recently…」
「Yeah. Oh, you know about her?.」
「Milia was talking about her.」
「If I had continued as an assassin, I wouldn’t have given it much thought after that. In fact, I’d probably have already forgotten it altogether.」
「Hm. I understand… you’re trying to atone for your sins, aren’t you?」
「Essentially. Perhaps it’s because I’ve come to know feelings such as ‘warmth’, ‘loneliness’ and ‘love’.」
Lyla belched, her breath reeking of alcohol.
「For one reason or another, you always take it upon yourself to atone for the sins of others. I think it’s good that you’re now helping others, though…」
「If it’s within my power to do so… then I genuinely want to help. I’m no longer an assassin.」
「It’s good that you can find solace in that.」
Lifting my shirt, she now patted the wound directly.
「So even you’ve been stabbed before.」
「That was a long time ago. I’ve never been stabbed from the front since.」
It’s okay, soothed Lyla as she ruffled my hair.
「It’s good to take things seriously, but… don’t think too much about it, okay?」
I realised that all the wine bottles had been emptied. Perhaps she had only sat still while listening because of the alcohol.
「And yet… you know… I’m glad that you told me this. Come, lean closer…」, she whispered as she came over and hugged me. 「You can tell me all the things you can’t tell anyone else. I’ll stand by you, whatever happens… got it?」
I ran my fingers through Lyla’s crimson hair. Seeing that she wouldn’t let go of me, I carried her all the way to our bed like a princess.
「It’s strange to think that it’s the Demon King I’m holding like this.」
「Silly Roland. I was once a princess of the demon clan too, so you’d better treat me like one. Be gentle… as always… tonight, okay?」
Seeing that she was softer than usual, I couldn’t resist laughing just a little.