~ Side Story: An embrace unlike any other ~
[Shanteya’s point of view]
A pack of monsters of Master rank and a knight escort reduced our numbers from 40 to 25. I suffered the most injuries out of all of them, but I could still run, I could still fight, I could still kill if ordered to.
After we entered the Academy’s grounds, it was hard for me to keep up. I was among the last, so when we came under attack, I was also the last to take cover. Unlike the others, who hid behind trees, I took cover behind a big boulder. I heard their screams echoing through the forest and then our leader’s order to stay put. The strategy was simple: hide in the darkness, wait until the enemy showed himself and then attack, but we didn’t get the chance to do so, the last attack struck us with its full might.
Following a bright light and a powerful explosion, I closed my eyes and covered my ears, but then a painful heat licked over my back, and I could feel the scent of burning flesh. It was something I knew all too well, but I didn’t realize that I was the one to blame for it. Pushing myself up, I tried to stand and get away from there, but if I did, I would disobey the orders…
He told me to stay put, but how could I do so? It was hot, painful, and frightening.
I have to get away… I have to… I told myself as I got up and stepped forward.
Like a fierce lightning striking down a tree, pain surged through my body from head to toes. My muscles tensed, and I stood there with opened eyes and mouth, but I had no voice, only air came out.
It hurts… It hurts… I cried inside.
It was the Curse of Obedience. My will to flee, my actions themselves activated it, but I didn’t care. With just one more step, if I could run away and save my life, then I could return to the master of the guild and beg him to stop the countdown before it killed me.
I have to get away… I thought, but the lack of air was getting to me, the terrible heat was boiling me alive, and the pain of my broken bones was terrible.
Was there any chance for me to get away? Could I, the Broken Doll of the Phantom’s Rage guild, be saved? But by whom?
I-I can’t… I thought one last time before I felt my strength slipping away and fell on my knees.
My sight was blurred, pain crippled my senses, and there, in the middle of that fiery inferno, I fainted…
I know not how much time passed as I laid there crippled, burned, hurting, and suffering from more things than I could count, but such was my life. I was the Broken Doll. Strangely though, the heat slowly faded and my lungs didn’t hurt anymore. Then came a chill, and I was forced to wake up by a stranger’s voice.
Surprised, my body tensed, and I jumped back from the stranger’s voice, but I was too weakened. Falling back, I moved my hand to stop my fall, but I touched the boulder behind me, it was burning hot. It hurt, and I opened my mouth to scream, but it was nothing but a poor reflex left there ever since I lost my voice.
I stepped away from the boulder and looked around surprised.
I definitely heard a voice just now. An enemy? I asked myself as I reached for my dagger.
Looking around, I focused my senses, but I couldn’t feel any sign of someone else alive in that burning hell. An el’doraw’s ears were capable of picking up all sorts of high and low sounds. We could hear much better than a regular human, allowing us to be the best hunters in a forest, yet within the fiery inferno, I could only hear the gentle tune of the embers as they set loose a dance of flames. There wasn’t even a single heartbeat. There was no scent that my nose could pick up or shadow my eyes could catch. I was alone there.
Then I heard him speak to me again, I flinched. It was a man, but he was so close to me.
A Mage? No… If even I can’t sense him, then maybe an High Mage? Maybe an adventurer of Master or Emperor rank? Is it possible? I asked myself as I looked towards the voice, but besides sound, there was nothing there.
As for his words, the threat was clear. I nodded slowly, maybe a bit timidly.
“Can’t speak?” he asked me.
The voice sent a shiver down my spine. I was an assassin, that much was clear. Most likely all of my comrades have been wiped out. As the last one, the logical thing would be to keep me for info, but without a voice, there was no way I could spill even a single secret. I didn’t want a repeat of Halevale Fortress… To be touched by so many men and forced to do such horrible things. If not for them underestimating my mental strength and my lack of ability to bear children, I may not have been able to set myself free. Although, I still held a couple of scars from back then, when they tried to torture me through pain.
“I’m going to take your silence as a no.” he spoke with a calm voice.
I looked up, and my glance of worry betrayed my inner fears. How could I stop him from killing me or sending me off as a toy for his men? Injured, cursed, burned, and probably bleeding as well, I had no way out. The fires would consume me if he let them.
A slow death through rape and torture… or burned alive by the fires of this forest? I asked myself as I looked at the ground and lowered my dagger.
What was I even trying to do with that little blade? I couldn’t fight against the one who so easily destroyed the entire assassination force meant to kill the forth princess of the Teslov Kingdom. I was alone… My fate was in his hands, but it was one I could already foresee.
The man spoke again, but this time, it was an offer. When I heard him, I couldn’t believe my ears. He was willing to spare my life, but at what cost?
A slave? But at least I will be free… No, am I allowed to be free? Can being a slave be called free? I’m an assassin, the Broken Doll of Phantom’s Rage. I can’t let him deceive me… If he killed my comrades, then he surely must know of who we are by now. For him to be able to intercept us like that, there’s no other explanation! But then… that means I was spared? Why? And he’s asking me to be his slave? What does it mean? Ah, my curse… I have less than three days to return to the guild, otherwise… If I don’t accept to be his slave, he will kill me like he did the rest of us. To have a chance to escape… yes. Yes! I must accept to be his slave, then when the opportunity reveals itself, I’ll flee from his grasp and run back to Phantom Rage. If I’m lucky, I’ll get there before the time’s up. That is unless my own body doesn’t succumb to its effects. How badly injured am I, I wonder? Will I make it? I thought hard about this, but I had to make up my mind.
I chose to be his slave. Clenching the hilt of the dagger and looking up towards the voice, I nodded. I was determined to go through with my plan, to survive. It was simple. Once I became a slave, I would take the first opportunity and flee. One day, no… even two days was enough time to find such a moment.
Something weird happened then. He thanked me with a calm voice.
Why? I asked myself a bit confused.
When he cast the spell. I heard a message in my head asking me if I wished to become Illsyore’s slave. Was that his name? I replied ‘Yes!’, then the spell was applied on my body. I felt shivers running up my spines and then a terrible burn around my neck. Closing my eyes, I struggled against the pain, but it didn’t last long.
I never heard of such a spell. I thought to myself.
Usually, a slave was given a magic collar by the slave owner, not asked if they wished to become one.
When I opened my eyes, I wasn’t in the forest anymore… I was alone in some sort of dark place. My body was glowing and floating? I was naked too, but I was there, alive, and I didn’t feel any pain. Still, I didn’t want to look at my own body… I felt repulsed by it… So many scars and bruises covered my skin. The bruises weren’t from the recent battle, but from the fun the men had with me the night before. I was an assassin who was also a woman, a female. My duty, just like that of my other sisters in the group, was to please the men when we were out on a mission, toys for their carnal desires.
No! This is bad… I don’t want to remember that accursed time! That moment when that man touched me! The moment when my nightmare began! I thought and screamed in my head, trying to keep those horrible memories from returning to me.
I didn’t wish to remember the moment when an innocent girl of only 10 was kidnapped from her home and forced to swear an oath to a dark god. I didn’t wish to let my body remember how that stranger stole my innocence and played with me like was nothing but a doll… I didn’t wish to remember the reason I gained the name of Broken Doll… Unfortunately, the nightmare repeated itself whenever a man embraced me, without exception. Night after night, my body was used, and I never fought back… I couldn’t, I was frozen…
Time passed slowly in that darkness. When I calmed down, I began to wonder if I was dead and awaiting the judgment of the gods.
Did the voice lie to me? I asked myself, but it mattered not now, so I closed my eyes and slowly drifted into a deep sleep. I was tired…
When I woke up, I saw a man standing in front of me. I froze.
Who is he? A human? But I don’t recognize him… He’s not part of the assassins… and… I followed his eyes. He was looking at my naked body. I forgot… I’m naked… Did he? Is he going to… I thought and then before I realized it, I slapped him as hard as I could.
The stranger flew back a couple of meters, but then I saw my little finger. It was bent in a weird way. With a single move, I cracked it back in its place and hid my hand from his sight.
Is it a broken bone? But I can’t feel any pain… I thought to myself and showed the man a smirk.
I didn’t really care if he saw me naked. My only wish was for him not to touch me, but if he was my master, then I had no choice but to obey. Looking down at him below the belt, the usual snake was nothing but a weakly worm. I unintentionally let out a snicker.
The man began to talk again, but his words were strange, yet his voice familiar. He spoke as though he was not a human. I glared at him, but then he told me something weird.
The king? Is he some royalty or maybe a demon? Where are we exactly? I asked myself, but I didn’t turn my head to look around just in case he attacked me again. Is he making fun of me? I don’t feel like that’s the case, but I’m not in pain, so where am I? I asked myself and while I was thinking that, I opened my mouth to see if I could say something. Only air came out, no sounds. My voice was gone even in that magical place.
His next comment angered me for some reason. Although I was used to being abused daily by men and used with satisfying their needs, this man alone was one which I didn’t wish to offer that pleasure. Clenching my fist, I tried to hit him, but he pulled back.
I can’t hit him… No, if this is his kingdom, if this is his realm, then it’s logical… I thought.
I pulled my knees to my chest and covered my behind with my palms. There was nothing around for me to wear, so that much was all I could do.
Does he enjoy toying with his women this way? I asked myself.
He moved away from me and then something strange popped up in front of him. I blinked surprised and watched what looked like a floating square glass. The characters, however, were strange, different, I didn’t recognize any of them even though I knew how to write and read in four different languages.
When he was done, he said something absurd about healing me. I blinked surprised, but I couldn’t believe his words. There was no one in the entire world who would wish to treat someone like me.
Suddenly, he began to act strange and moved closer to me. He was sluggish and looked sleepy. I tried to move back and avoid him, but he bumped into me. The stranger sank his face into my chest and closed his eyes without a care.
Wha-wha-what’s happening? What’s wrong with him? Does he finally want to do it? He… he’s asleep, isn’t he? I thought as I looked at him dumbfounded.
It was strange though, his embrace wasn’t like those of the men in my group. He didn’t hold me tight so I didn’t escape or tried to fight back. He didn’t restrain me. He simply hugged me gently, like one would a precious flower, but I was no flower, my body was ugly, it was filled with scars and defiled by many. Who would willingly hug one such as me? Yet, here he was, sleeping peacefully with his head on my chest and his arms wrapped around me like a lover would.
I could kill you right now, you know? I thought as I poked his cheek.
He grimaced and then bit my finger. I shivered, thinking it was gone, but then I felt a strange sensation, it was his tongue. He was licking my finger.
Uhn~ stop it… I pulled my finger out, and in return, he buried his face in my chest.
What’s wrong with him? This man… he… I sighed and gave up.
Looking at him sleeping so peacefully, I wondered what sort of fool he was. Why would he say something so stupid as healing me? Why did he save me and didn’t kill me?
I’m the assassin, you know? You don’t get cozy with an assassin like this… I thought as I gently stroked his hair.
I wondered just when did I start doing that. This man, this stranger, he looked so peaceful embracing me, so gentle, so calm, but at the same time open to any sort of attack. Was he purposely showing me his weak side or was he naturally weak like this?
All the men who hugged me until now, they did so only to satisfy their carnal desires. When they were done, I was cast aside like a disposable rag. That was how I expected this man to act with me, yet… instead of that, I ended up embraced and held in his arms while he slept peacefully.
Do you feel safe with me? Why are you like this? I wanted to ask, but as soon as my lips parted, there was no voice.
With a soft smile on my lips, I wrapped my arms around him and closed my eyes.
Even if I don’t know what he plans on doing with me next… this feeling, this emotion… it’s pleasant. I like it. I wonder… is this how it is to be with a man who treats you gently? A lover, not a brutal destroyer? It’s such a shame that once he will wake up, he will turn into a beast… He will destroy me… and then cast me aside like all the rest did, but maybe… just maybe… living in this illusion for a moment is all that I need? with this last thought, I fell asleep with him in my arms.
At that time, I had no idea how much I would come to love this stranger who slept so gently in my arms, nor did I know he was my master, Illsyore. After all, that was a girl’s name…
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