――― There is a scene that is burnt into my mind and will then leave.
The scene of me gripping the thin wrist of a child in the roaring wind and of her round red eyes looking up at me.
That’s the only image that vividly comes to my constant hazy mind over and over again and then disappearing.
The lips of the stunned child moved slightly, but the sound didn’t reach my ears. Something flashed through my mind, trying to overlap with that moment, but disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared.
“Ah, it hurts, my wound hurts! I definitely won’t forgive that feudal lord’s daughter ―――… What are you looking at!? You’re really useless, you good-for-nothing bastard!! I can’t believe you dropped her when you had her in your hand!!”
The girl’s shriek, which didn’t hide her irritation, a cuss at me. She made me kneel down and hit my cheeks as hard as she could. I couldn’t react straight away since she had told me to fold my arms behind my back and could only flop onto the ground.
My skin scraped against the rough, dusty stone floor of the decaying fortress, and a sharp, burning pain came over me.
Still, not even a whimper escaped my throat.
My body twitched with fear and I couldn’t move. The memory of the pain that felt like a criminal being burnt at the stake surfaced in my mind and was burnt in my brain.
But I already knew that it didn’t look that way from the outside.
The more I showed my emotionless attitude, the more irritated the girl got. This girl took pleasure in the emotions she gave others.
“… Worthless! Gross!!”
A dull sound echoed along with the words she spat out, and her foot was on my stomach.
The impact made it impossible to catch my breath. A sound escaped from my throat and the girl finally looked happy.
I might be worthless since I can’t show pain or fear on my face.
“Wilhelmina, you better stop, or he’ll die.”
A woman’s voice, husky from smoking, came from the entrance of the room.
“… Oh, Deiferais. Welcome back.”
The girl grumpily accepted the woman’s return. I let out a gasp, stifling the sound as her storm of violence subsided. The inside of my stomach aches badly, but it was better than the pain of not being able to breathe.
“I’m back, Wilhelmina.”
“Have you finished with your business?”
“Excellently. I’ve come to an understanding with the northern nobles.”
“Good. So, we’ll start acting soon, right?”
“Yeah. It’ll be your job to welcome them… In any case.”
“Half the people who are supposed to be your hands and feet were captured by an eight year old girl and locked up at the royal capital. The other two are dead.”
The girl’s voice was filled with anger. Her voice was directed at the girl she hated, but it was also directed at me.
“I know you’re angry because you’ve been completely taken advantage of, but don’t throw a tantrum.”
The woman soothed the girl. She seemed to be in a good mood even though her subordinate ――― or maybe minion ――― had messed up.
“… We’re comrades, right?”
The girl, perhaps thinking the same thing, asked the woman suspiciously.
The woman muttered, “We are,” and laughed throatily. Then, she wandered out the room like she had when she came in.
“… What the fuck? Argh, you’re all good-for nothings!”
She once again exploded since she knew the woman couldn’t see her anymore. I somehow knew that her boiling gaze once again fell down at me.
I spent the night standing in a daze of pain and cold, unable to sit down, in a prison filled with dripping filthy water.
The scars all over my body seemed to be burning.
The stiffened skin that exposed my nerves hurt when exposed to cold air. My body had been exposed to cold air for many years and my temperature was stolen by the filthy water, freezing my body and making it shiver.
I’m surprised you can keep your sanity, I thought as if it was someone else’s problem.
No, even if I’m conscious, what’s warped is warped. I’m not insane, but I don’t believe I’m sane right now.
――― Me? I slightly breathed out in mockery. I don’t know if that vague existence, which I don’t even know exists or not, could be sane…
I don’t know who I am. I don’t know why I’m here or why I’m being treated like this.
I have no memories to look back on. I spend endless days being a punching bag for a whimsical girl or killing people. I get a horrible headache if I try to remember, and the glimpse I remember is…
A vulgar laugh. Pain that made me wish I was dead. I see the disgusting, ugly figure of myself being slashed, burnt, beaten, stabbed and withering in pain like a worm. I can only pant in pain like a beast, without uttering any meaningful words while squirming and screaming.
I knew that memory of fear that burnt into my soul and didn’t disappear like an imprint, was instilled by so-called torture. The fact that I was now trapped in this water dungeon could be considered a part of that torture.
I squeezed out a small soundless pant from my mouth in fear, and the sound was absorbed by the water and stone wall and disappeared.
I don’t understand. I don’t even know what that word means anymore. But it was the only thing I could remember after losing everything.
The back of my throat ached each time I said it. But at the same time, the image of someone calling out to me from behind my hazy mind flashed through my head.
――― I’ll tell you everything, so ―――
I promised. I spoke with that phantom existence.
――― Yes, I’ll tell you properly this time ―――
With whom and what kind of promise did I make? The memory is still unclear, no matter how much pain I endured and tried to pull it out, but it is the only thing that is keeping me alive.
Just thinking about that memory is enough to make my head burn, but I’m sure I’d be lying in this filthy water at any moment if I don’t cling to that sound.
Red flickered in my mind, and I heard the voice of someone young. The red is like the colour of blood, but somehow, I felt sadly relieved to see that colour.