The music gradually grew in intensity as it approached the climax. When they reached the climax of their typhoon-like dance, Ashley felt like running away.
But what if she did escape?
Was there any way she could? She was stuck in a dead end. Obviously, choosing to escape was not a good idea. But she still kept it as an option.
Raising her head proudly, she gripped the man’s shoulders even tighter.
“Why do you adore me?’
“Do I need a reason to?”
At that moment, a scene depicted in the <Light of Rusbella>, in which the female lead and the tyrant were talking, swept through her mind.
Why did she suddenly think of it?
“Come here. If you don’t want to see that man be torn apart.”
The scene she had been reminded of was when the tyrant gently threatened Rusbella who already had a patronus.
At that moment, what did Rusbella reply him?
“… Sometimes, I do wonder.”
The difference between the girl who had lost her memories and the girl who hadn’t was their experience with ‘death’. In other words, it was as if she did not remember the person who killed her.
“Brother. Why are you saying that you adore me when you had only seen me for the first time a few years ago? “
So, now, for the first time, Ashley faced Castor in a form that was closest to her true nature. She could only have this courage perhaps because she was not yet aware of the superficial fear of death.
The girl who had died more than 40 times could not make a move because of the man who killed her. Those memories were the chains that she herself didn’t know exist trapping her.
Before she had lost her memories, Ashley saw Castor as not the tyrant from the original novel but as the man who killed her. Which was why she remained motionless. It was because of her nightmare-like hatred and anger towards him as well as her hollow emotions that were crumbling away.
‘… It’s strange.’
However, the girl who was free from those chains could now separate herself from him. She shuddered at the shock that came rushing towards her like a tidal wave.
That was the reason.
Because she lost her memories, she could treat Castor like the tyrant from the original novel.
Impossible, it couldn’t be. She kept denying it.
“How much do you adore me?”
The music was escalating towards its finale.
With one knee on the ground and the other leg slightly bent, Castor lifted Ashley to the air. And while she was airborne, they locked gazes.
He tilted his head and got closer to her.
“You asked how much I adore you?”
The dance which had been created a long time ago as a ritual of sacrifice to the gods was now a more forward performance of a man and woman in harmony as they attached themselves to each other.
“For the sake of that one person’s love, companionship and understanding, the Lord of the Gods was willing to do anything.”
The Lord of the Gods had loved the First Emperor. The First Emperor had been the only person who understood the god. They were the god’s sole companion and their one and only love.
“This song was written for the Lord of the Gods.”
The flute’s melody was actually a requiem. For the god who slept at dusk for the sake of one wish and for the First Emperor who never managed to overcome the finity of life till their death as they lay beneath the earth.
“At this moment, as the Lord of the Gods, I ask you, the First Emperor, a question.”
Castor curled his sun-like golden eyes before saying in a pleasant yet chilling voice.
“If I could do anything for you, would you be willing to stay in this palace forever?”
“Just like the First Emperor.”
Creak. She made a mistake. Her mistake that left a stain on the dance routine which had been perfect so far was astonishingly covered up by Castor who supported the girl’s accelerating body.
“I want you.”
There were a few seconds of silence. Cheers. Admiration. And then, thunderous applause.
Perhaps the fuss made by the instructors who had been watching, teaching and supporting them all this time filled the distance between both of their eyes.
“In exchange for receiving everything he wanted from the Lord of the Gods, the First Emperor paid the price by never leaving this palace. Divinity is a type of power which involves paying such a price. Chaining them, surveying them and obsessing over them. All for owning the entirety of one templar.”
What Ashley had really wanted until their last practice together was to finish the dance perfectly without stepping on his feet and disturbing the routine. And she just realised that she had done it.
“But that’s not it, Ashley.”
Her dream came true. So, didn’t that mean that it was possible for her to escape this ridiculous tyrant and live a life of freedom one day? So, she had to prevent herself from giving into his sweet voice.
“Don’t you think that they were expressing their love? At least that’s what I think.”
What love? Obsession? The eyes of the tyrant, who thought of the abnormal relationship depicted in the myths as love, was flashing with the same madness she saw that day.
The piece had ended, the instructors came running towards them, the staff were applauding and so were the soldiers with spears while the two returned to the position which marked the beginning of the dance.
“… T-Thank you for your answer.”
“What do you mean by answer?”
“Y-Your answer regarding the comparison between us and the Lord of the Gods and the First Emperor?”
“Ah. That’s how you understood it?”
As if he was doing it for the first time, he kissed every one of her fingers before parting. Ashley tilted her head for a moment because she couldn’t understand what his words, which ended in a question, meant. (1)
Unfortunately, it did not take long for her to understand.
“Kyaaaaack! Y-Your Highness!”
After turning around, Castor sliced down the staff handing Ashley a towel without any hesitation.
“You asked me how much I adore you?”
The staff had been stabbed so deeply from their back that the tip of the sword poked through their abdomen.
“I wasn’t comparing.”
She had already felt so much pain from a simple cut so she wondered how painful it must be for so much blood to flow out like that.
“The things that bothered you. I adore you so much, I want to get rid of everything so that you and I can be alone.”
Just then, Ashley realised what was behind the strange feeling she had that something was wrong.
No, she realised it when he started talking a while ago, or maybe she found it even stranger the more he spoke but the strange feeling had already switched the red light on in her heart and had been giving her an ominous warning as her conscience continued to prick.
Those lines should have been for Rusbella.
“You… adore… me?”
From the current atmosphere, the anxiety and tension that kept pricking her, the blood and the information she just received, the sword soaked in blood and the text she remembered reading flashing across her eyes, she realised that she was not the one who was supposed to be here in the scene that was vividly unfolding before her.
Castor unsheathed his sword before piercing it again through another part of the staff’s body. The ear-piercing scream continued for a long time before ending unnaturally.
Unable to scream, the girl slowly looked down at the blood that had splattered on her hand. The blood was unpleasantly sticky and lukewarm. Ashley held back the tears that were threatening to burst out of her eyes before slowly stepping back and raising her head.
[Never forget. How Castor in the original novel was described to be.]
She didn’t need a reminder because she already knew. The tyrant from the original novel was definitely a tyrant. A wild, ferocious and violent maniac whose silence could never mean peace. He was someone who could never be understood. However, that was something that Ashley who had never suffered from her deaths was already aware of.
Why were the words he should be saying and intentions he should be conveying to Rusbella directed to her?
Gasping for air, the staff spoke, “S-Save me…. Please… save me…”
Blood continued to flow from the wound the sword dug into. The staff’s body, from which blood continued to flow out of, collapsed helplessly. And the gentle face she spotted behind that small body. And the bright golden eyes.
“Are you hurting this staff member because you adore me?”
Castor glanced at Ashley. His gaze was piercing as if he just about peel her layer by layer.
“Do you think that it was out of love that the gods chain, survey and obsess over their templars?”
It was their last day of practice.
“That’s not love.”
Castor was there.
“I see. That’s what you think.”
Then, whilst smirking, he left her behind before disappearing.
Ashley, who was left alone then embraced herself tightly. Her body was trembling uncontrollably. She could no longer see his figure in the empty hall but why was she still afraid as if he was still here?
The girl who had forgotten about her deaths could not be as calm as she could before. As if this entire space had been filled with his presence, she was stricken with fear and was unable to take a single step forward.
The girl who had lost her memories could recall the contents of the original novel more easily and tried to remember what happened in it clearly. That was why she didn’t forget any of the lines and realised something. There was once she thought of her ability to recall such things as her buff. And indeed it was. The contents of the novel and her memories of the tyrant in the original novel came flowing back one after the other had set off that warning alarm.
The remnants of the bomb left behind by the tyrant was all over and it could be found in fragments like glass shards.
[Never forget. How Castor in the original novel was described to be.]
Unable to wipe off the blood, the girl instead held the back of her hands that were now cold and managed to take in a breath.
[And I can bet that the misfortune you experience then would be worse than death.]
Had she already known before she lost her memories? Had she already expected that this would happen?
‘What is he up to?’
That tyrant’s, that madman’s thoughts could not be followed by her ordinary self. However, the contents of the original novel that she could recall was like a miracle granted to her.
She had already knelt on her knees and given in to being servient to the intimidating man.
“… Hand me my shawl.”
She didn’t want to live through the nightmares of knowing who she was going to lose next again. Even at this moment, her teeth were still chattering like crazy and she was still trembling out of fear. Nevertheless, she managed to stand up by receiving all the help she could get.
Those eyes, which were as blue as a morning star and as beautiful as the northern lights, had a glint of intelligence to them.
Rusbella was indeed a woman so charming she could be considered magical. The original novel was about how everyone fell in love with her and how all her relationships had derived from it. So, it was natural for even the man considered the tyrant of all tyrants and the Emperor of Madness to fall for her too because that was how the author had set it up to be.
But considering what happened earlier, the lines he spoke were not the same ones he spoke when he was in love with Rusbella.
To be exact, it was a scene that could not be considered sweet because he had not realised what love was yet.
Ironically, there was a separate occasion in which he became a man who was crazy in love. Before that, Rusbella had been nothing more than an interesting retreat for him from a foreign country.
“How much do you adore me?”
Those were the words Rusbella had desperately whispered to rescue her lover from imprisonment when Castor told her to exchange her lover’s life for another.
He had just planned on giving a warning to the small and pretty toy from another country to keep quiet like a dead mouse and not to jump around too much.
The man who dared to say that obsession could be considered love would joke about what was considered extremely normal love. Was that proof that he was crazy?
She realised that she had no idea whether he was cold or heated. He was as cold as ice but his unfathomable heat was making her dizzy.
Being unable to scream was the last thing her reason could do for her.
In the original novel, the man had done so many crazy things.
“I want you.”
He had once threatened her life and the lives of all the maids in her palace.
Was he feeling excited? That’s crazy.
That man’s elegant expressions and ecstatic voice could deceive the ears but his sweet whispers was just the ploy of a man who saw her as a mere plaything.
Sorry I wasn’t feeling very well these past few days so I couldn’t update but I’ll be catching up what I missed for the next few days!!
(1): it might sound weird but in korean, sometimes, instead of adding the 5Ws and 1H, they raise the tone of the last word in the sentence to make it a question which is what Ashley is referring to here.