〈The Flowers that Bloom on Dry Branches〉.
This was how the novel described the events of that day.
[Well, it was such a night.
Dark, quiet, and calm.
It was a night where only the faint chirp of a mysterious insect occasionally rang in the dark.
There was nothing different from usual, but it was a night where I had a creepy feeling running down my spine and made me look back without reason.
Where did it start to go wrong?
Perhaps I should have felt something was strange when the family’s carriage disappeared after the banquet.
Or maybe I should have doubted the lady, whose family I was not even close to, constantly recommended me alcohol.
At least I should have refused when the Duke of Lamberg offered me a ride to the mansion.
Everything that had passed without any sense repeatedly rose to the surface one by one and then sank.
Additionally, I was considerably drunk to make rational judgments.
When I lifted my feet on the floor, blood dripped from my shoes, making them all red.
Inhale, exhale. I tightly clutched at my chest as I suddenly could not breathe well and had to consciously breathe in and out.
I gasped, calling for Felix.
He slowly turned his back.
My brother. My sweet brother, Felix.
“Oh, brother? Don’t mess with me.”
“Kill them all…….”
“Kill all of my bloodlines.”
Covered in blood from head to toe, he reached out to me. He kept repeating the same words over and over again like he was crazy.
Kill all of my bloodlines.
Tears of blood dripped from his eyes as the blood vessels burst. He laughed slowly with his mouth ripped open. It looked like a living demon.]
The reason why I suddenly thought of the story from the novel was…….
It was because Felix had not returned since yesterday.
At my call, Claudia turned her head without hesitation.
Even in the garden, no – it was more of a flower garden – her face shone through the gap of the basket of flowers.
I stared at her hair that reflected the brilliant light like a polished jewel.
It was the same color as Felix’s. The pure color that everyone has grown in love with and cared for. However, based on the original, it would soon be stained red with blood.
She stood in front of me with a bouquet in her arms and said, “I’ll make you a flower crown with this.”
Claudia sat on the neatly trimmed lawn and wove the flowers. She then brought up the story of summer vacation.
“Shall we buy a cruise ship? Let’s ride it around the world with our families.”
Come to think of it, from a few days ago, you’ve been asking me to hang out with you whenever you were free.
“That’d be nice.”
If they called Liam, who was currently suffering from his studies in the academy, he would definitely complain but be happy.
Claudia rolled around on the floor and laid on my knees. I unconsciously arranged the hem of my skirt and wriggled my legs so that she could lie down comfortably.
“I just wish we could live on the island together. I don’t really need anything else.”
“That’d be great.”
However, the three useless brothers, whose obsession reached heaven, would chase you to the end of hell.
At this point, I wanted to know what the hell was love. If that was love, Javert, who constantly chased Jean Valjean1 to death since he stole bread would acknowledge this as true love.
“…… What’s wrong?”
Claudia immediately read my feelings and asked.
The eyes that looked up at me anxiously contained the clear blue sky. I hoped this clear sky would not become cloudy forever.
Hugo said he would speak to Olivia on my behalf, and I had to tell Claudia.
With a deep breath, I strengthened my resolve and spoke.
“Don’t be surprised and listen.”
* * *
An old mansion with no traces of human life.
“Well, are you in a lot of pain?”
Benjamin asked while pushing the relic of the ancient devil with his foot.
Since the curse of the devil was already activated, he would face no damage even if he touched it.
‘The conditions to awaken Leraze’s bow sure are complicated.’
A specific magic spell,
A significant amount of divine power,
A tremendous amount of mana,
And lastly, a pure soul, purer than anyone else.
Pierce it with an arrow.
Once fulfilled, the high-priced bow would awaken and rush toward the sacrifice like a starving demon.
“It hurts me to watch you try and endure it.”
Benjamin whispered as if he was sorry and trampled Felix’s chest with his shoe. There was an arrow sticking out of Felix’s shoulder.
Felix barely managed to lean against the wall, writhing in pain and scratching the floor. His nails had already been overturned and peeled off, constantly spilling blood.
Flames broke out from the inside.
Lava seemed to flow through every nerve in his body. It felt as if something unthinkably large was forcibly tearing out his organs and was trying to take over.
Felix clenched his teeth, chewed his cheeks, and stifled a scream until the inside of his mouth was torn. Then, at one point, he suddenly coughed and vomited blood.
“It’s futile. You’ll be eaten soon.”
Benjamin clicked his tongue at Felix, who was suffering in ignorance. It looked like Felix was trying to use magic, but it was really useless.
The desperate struggle and resistance against being eaten by the devil was instead just a distraction.
While Benjamin was looking down at Felix, Lucas interrupted.
He took the pocket watch out of his arms and spoke in an irritated voice, “You still waste time and effort on useless things.”
“Your Highness, don’t interfere with my only hobby.”
“Make sure you moderate your horrible hobby. I shall go back first.”
“Are you getting dressed up before you meet Claudia?”
“For heaven’s sake, shut up.”
Lucas fumed and disappeared with a flushed face.
He slammed the door shut with a rough motion. The door creaked as one hinge of the door, which had been barely hanging, completely fell off.
“He’s got a temper.”
As Benjamin mumbled to himself, he suddenly felt a splitting pain in one of his ankles.
It was the very foot that trampled on Felix’s chest.
In confusion, he looked down and saw that his ankle was utterly tattered – as if it had been cut off.
Below him, Felix fiercely glared at Benjamin as if he were trying to kill him with his bloodshot eyes.
Surprisingly, the magic was successful in this situation.
‘He’s only supposed to be breathing. It2 looks more brittle than I thought.’
Benjamin whistled lightly in surprise, turned his head, and asked, “Sir Constantine, I’m afraid my foot is falling off. Can this be cured?”
“…… There’s nothing I can’t do, but I don’t want to.” Constantine turned his head coldly and replied.
Usually, he always wore the uniform of the paladins to symbolize his affiliation to the Holy Father, but now he was dressed in neat plain clothes.
It meant that he was not proud of what he was doing.
To come this far and pretend to be innocent.
Benjamin sighed and muttered as if to complain, “In any case, it’s because we’re not united at all. I’m screwed with this combination.”
“You finally realize that now.”
“It was nonsense from the beginning.”
Constantine continued speaking, “This is the first time I’ll be involved in this kind of work, but this is also the last time. Don’t ever call me again.”
“I don’t intend to stop until Claudia’s completely in my hands. If you’re thinking of stopping here, you may leave. I’m not stopping you.”
Benjamin shamelessly retorted without batting an eye. So far, Constantine was the one who had done all the hard work, but Benjamin meant that he would reap all the benefits and discard everything else.
In response, Constantine fixed his cold gaze on Benjamin.
In fact, Constantine was capable of killing Benjamin and leaving this place right now. He just couldn’t handle the consequences.
Benjamin, who knew this fact well, faced life without any difficulty.
Constantine suppressed his rising anger and murmured to himself, “Thanks to Duke Lamberg, my faith has completely collapsed today. You are very resourceful.”
After saying so, he slammed the door and left, just like Lucas.
The creaking old door completely fell off and onto the floor, followed by a loud sound, and clouds of dust floated up.
Benjamin looked at the empty doorway and made an embarrassed expression.
“It’s ridiculous that you’re even a part of it.”
He was not a kid, and yet he was shifting the blame. In the end, his choice was ultimately his own. Benjamin muttered so, pulling out a healing potion from his arms and pouring it onto his leg.
He shattered the bottle by throwing it behind his back and then took out a cigarette.
“I’ll forgive you for making my leg into a rag.”
He held a cigarette in his mouth and lit it with the artifact ring. He then forcibly grabbed Felix, who was struggling in pain, by the chin.
The cloudy eyes, which had been dim for a moment, sparkled in an instant.
When a spark flashed from Felix’s fingertips, Benjamin curled his mouth as if it was funny.
‘Why do you repeatedly generate spells instead of being obedient?’
Benjamin thought it would be a tedious task. The scene he watched day after day was similar to this.
However, Felix was entirely different from the human beings of this world.
He thought he could somehow understand the feelings of demons who would rush ravenously towards such pure souls.
“Please calm down. If you use magic again, you will die of shock.”
“I know a way to relieve the pain.”
Benjamin softly whispered as if he was talking to a disobedient child, pulled out another cigarette, and forced it into Felix’s mouth.
However, even as Benjamin lit the cigarette, Felix could not resist. It was because his stomach turned upside down again, his mouth burned, and blood flowed from the corners of his mouth.
He clenched his teeth painfully and clutched the hem of his clothes stained with blood and crumpled like a sheet of paper.
Felix, who was on the verge of tearing Benjamin to death with his gaze alone, coughed for a long time as the strong smoke stabbed his respiratory tract3.
After a while, Felix blinked his eyes, completely out of focus. The pungently strong scent, presumed to be a medicinal herb, circulated at the tip of his tongue.
“If you inhale the smoke, it will wake you up for a moment and eliminate the pain. It won’t last long, but at least you can earn the time to deliver your last words to your dear family, right?”
“And to the other person, you have in mind.”
Since they had already brought upon all kinds of hatred for Claudia, it didn’t matter if she discovered that they were behind this.
It would be enough if they could have her.
“You may have already guessed that if you committed suicide, you’ll be completely eaten by the devil. It’s better to die in peace after leaving your last will.”
As an act of generosity, Benjamin took a handful of cigarettes out of his arms and poured them on Felix.
Benjamin even kindly put an artifact on Felix’s finger that generated fire for him since his life was at risk whenever he used magic.
“I think I mentioned this before. You’ll have to get used to it.”
“Well, you’ll die before you get used to it. I didn’t think that far, so I hope you understand.”
“It was worth watching. Oh dear, it looks like you are trying to say the same words you previously said.”
‘What did he say, was it “shit”?’
Benjamin smirked and burst into laughter. After he finished his business, he stood up, turned away, and left.
Felix fixed his blurred vision on the retreating back. His body seemed exhausted without the strength to lift a finger, but his mind felt alive.
From head to toe, the brand of death was engraved deeply into his body and mind.
The blood vessels stretched out like branches on the clear white of his eyes, and a drop of blood trickled down. A dark shadow fell on the clear and transparent corners of his eyes.
He took a deep breath from the cigarette and then exhaled.
The pain seemed to fade for a moment as smoke circulated through the lungs.
“……Ha, damn it.”
Felix covered his eyes with the back of his hand. A guilt-stricken voice that he could not suppress flowed out.
* * *
T/N: Thanks for your patience, everyone! A lot of personal stuff happened last month, so I wasn’t able to get anything really translated. (As per my announcement, May updates should be back on track! So that’ll be 2 chapters every week.)
Thank you, everyone, for your lovely comments, as well and sweet words of support! 💖 You are all my amazing motivators and supporters, thank you!! (I’ll also reply to all the comments when I have some spare time).
1. Not sure if there are any Les Misérables fans out there, but if not, let me explain. Jean Valjean is the protagonist, and he spent time in jail as he stole a loaf of bread to feed his family. Javert is the police inspector (the main antagonist) who tirelessly pursues Jean after he violates parole. ↩
2. Benjamin is referring to the relic being more brittle than he thought. ↩
3. The respiratory tract consists of airways and lungs.↩
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