Chapter 8 – Laughing at one’s memory of dying
This is the memory of the end of my 72th life.
It was sad only hearing the sound of my speedy footsteps.
I was in a secret passage in my castle – a moldy sewage passage that I had no idea when it was built.
This was the final option for a cornered royal family to escape.
I figured the rest of my castle was on fire by now.
How many royal families had fled from here before?
Now, I was one of them.
My heart wasn’t broken by it, though.
Is it something that would make a normal person cry?
I don’t regret anything.
Even if everyone has abandoned me, even if no one in the kingdom acknowledges it, I will never relinquish the pride I have as queen.
The passage ends at the banks of a river, with the exit slightly under the river’s surface.
You need to swim out to get out of the passage, but it was designed so that no one could see the exit and know it existed.
I’m glad this was several days after heavy rains.
Because the river had surged up into the passage, there are small puddles here and there, and it smells of pungent algae.
On reason is all the sediment that has been pushed up into this passage over the years since its creation.
If you drop your torch in a place like this, it’s curtains.
The ground is soaked and the passage was dense with humidity. No way to relight a torch.
You could feel along the wall, but without a torch the rats emerge and you have to battle through them in the dark.
So I carefully held my torch and walked.
I could smell the river now – the exit is near.
Bradd was waiting for me there.
I saw a crouched figure slowly stand up.
The flame that was held in my hand illuminated both of our flittering shadows.
「Bradd…quite a surprise. I thought that no one other than the royal family knew about this passage.」
I smiled at him – a bitter smile.
The strongest assassin. No match for him.
My fate is at an end, but it was a strangely calm feeling.
「The Lawless Crew are very familiar with the paths taken by all animals, yet I do apologize for this intrusion to the castle without permission.」
He said with a flat face. The guy never changes.
「My, such a polite fellow. There’s no need to be polite to an enemy like me, though.」
I said, giggling involuntarily.
Bradd had hunted me down many times and he seems more like a rival than an enemy, because he likes it.
「I came alone and told no one about this tunnel.」
「I expected you to say that. Thank you.」
I understood what he meant in his multiple connotations.
If a young woman is surrounded by a group of soldiers, the ending is usually a shameful one.
Bradd was far too pure an assassin to allow that to happen.
My whole kingdom might have flipped and rebelled against me but Bradd never changes.
If that’s so then I might as well remain an evil queen until the end.
「Hey, why not join my side? Once this predicament is over, my power WILL return.」
We both knew that there would be no master and servant relationship. It’s more like a regular statement whenever I’m cornered, but this time it’s over. But since it’s going to be over, I had a little more time to say,
「Or are you going to be like the other four heroes, who slobber all over the feet of that so-called “Maiden of Salvation”?」
「Stop. It creeps me out whenever I hear that word “hero.” I’m just an assassin. Don’t rope me in with those others. I know her smiles and tears are deception and that they just hide her insidious nature. Perhaps she should be called the true evil queen…you’re not as bad as her.」
Bradd said with a frown.
I was amazed at that statement and grinned.
It’s been a while since I heard anything bad said about that whore.
Apparently people were finally starting to figure her out.
「Well, hearing that took a lot off my chest. I’m actually fine with getting killed by you now.」
And he’s qualified as well, I knew deep in my heart.
I had burned down the village of the Lawless Crew over and over.
It actually made my chest hurt to recall it.
The home of Bradd Stalker…the base of the Lawless Crew.
I had sent troops in to flush them out countless times.
They were one of my great enemies, after all.
They would sneak into my bedroom and use all methods at their disposal to assassinate me.
They would taste my blood in their fangs if left alone.
I tried negotiations, no reply, so I hit them – no other way.
I didn’t intend to annihilate them, at first, but just surround the village with soldiers and force a surrender.
They never surrendered. Not one. Never did their resolve crumble during the fight. The army began to suffer heavy casualties from night attacks.
Finally, the commander sieged the village and lit it ablaze. They fired catapults and trebuchets into the burning town.
The enemies that were still strong tried their hardest to get close enough to fight, but for nothing.
The soldiers had seen the strength of the Lawless Crew and showed no mercy. The village was crushed and the women and children were killed.
When I heard the news, I remember lurching up from my seat at the throne.
I had no idea that it would end like this. I didn’t understand the madness of the battlefield.
This was the reason I was called the Merciless Queen.
But that was a bitter memory for me.
And Bradd was the only survivor of the village.
He was the chief of the son and said to be the greatest warrior of the clan.
I honestly wanted to apologize…I always wanted to…it would have made me feel better, but that’s cowardice.
Hard for the dead to understand you’re sorry for killing them.
So I decided to die with this regret still in my heart. The Merciless Queen…who never said sorry.
「You’re not prepared for me Bradd. This dagger shoots a blade that will kill you, and I’ll live on!」
I pointed this gimmick at Bradd and squeezed the handle tightly.
I heard the spring in the handle pop and the blade flew like an arrow.
Bradd dodged quickly to the side.
I knew there was nothing that could rattle him.
His fist quickly came out of his pocket and hit my chest.
I heard something pop.
I could feel my heart stiffen.
It was that technique of the lawless crew that could stop the hearts of their enemies.
Now that my body was falling numb, I could relax. My vision darkened. The torch fell from my hand and the scene fell black.
Everything was over.
And I can understand this ending.
It was good that it was pitch black – Bradd couldn’t see my face. I guess it’s okay to cry now. No one will see it.
I’ve robbed you of precious lives and things. Killed many people and futures. Sorry.
I’m not asking for forgiveness.
But just that I am sorry.
Bradd held my faltering body close to him.
「…since I can read people’s blood, I know your heart. And I know…」
Hearing that simply made my tears flow quicker. I could feel Bradd’s warmth over my now cooling body.
Why are you so kind all the sudden?
I killed everyone in your village.
And yet you understood.
I guess I can finally say the words I wanted to swallow…
「I forgive you. I have received your apology.」
Then he stroked his hands through my hair as if I was a child.
「I endured it alone for so long. It was very hard. So I bid you good night.」
Fool! Stupid fool!
I’m your enemy! Why do you say such things?
But, even so…I’m happy.
I never knew he felt that way about me…but at least someone understood.
I guess I can die comfortably now…?
I noticed I never responded…but I’m losing consciousness…
My mouth doesn’t work anymore, and I wanted to thank him.
And my consciousness ceases into immeasurable comfort.
「Wait, so you fell from being queen, found yourself in that dank passage, and died?! Sad. Probably ended up rat food. Those “Bradd-endings” aren’t that interesting, though. I like the crazy ones more. Like tell me about Seraphy next time.」
She said with a ridiculing smirk,
「I’m still not sure about your role as evil queen either…but it’s only your 72th time. Show me some more desperation in your face! I still can’t see it clearly.」
Ah, I was asleep.
This newborn body gets sleepy all the time.
I was also remembering all the 108 other lives.
And the ones that were ended by Bradd.
Even when I remember them though, I don’t remember all the subtleties of how I felt other than the absolute fear of dying. It’s not fun.
But this dream was a good one.
It’s also nice because it was done by the heart technique taught by the Lawless Crew, and Bradd was a top-ranked hitman.
The technique of killing someone without pain even seems artistic. And a man that cut off all unnecessary things from his life was as beautiful as a shined sword. Beautiful and functional.
「Maybe I should stuff things in my chest to make me look more feminine?」
What the @#$%?
Bradd, what are you DOING?
Why are you dressing up as a woman?!
And having fake big boobs on a little body like that makes you look even MORE unnatural.
Stop trying to doll yourself up pointlessly like that!
「Woo hoo, look at that!」
Stop spinning around to check out your skirt!
That’s something only a girl would do!