“How about it? Do you want to die?”


What did he mean by that? Ferdia met his dark gaze with eyes full of mixed emotions. He seemed to just wait for her to speak, offering no reaction of his own.


Ferdia assessed her physical state. Various scenarios flashed through her mind.


If he decided to kill her, should she just accept her fate?


She felt fine physically. Although unarmed, she believed she could escape this room. Even if this place was the imperial palace, if she was determined, she could likely flee.


But the risk was immense. A life she had already resigned to end. Yet she didn’t want to die a gruesome death. She didn’t wanted to be impaled on skewer, burned alive, or skinned – she strongly rejected those thoughts.


So if this man intended to kill her, and it wasn’t in a cruel manner, should she just give in? Ferdia bit her lip, holding his gaze.


It bothered her that he had treated her wounds. Why had he done it? To save her? But she was a criminal. To the empire, she was likely deemed a heinous offender. Execution was inevitable; the real question was how they’d do it. If she begged for life, would they spare her?


A forceful thought struck her: probably not. But then why heal her? To let her escape? Their encounter had merely been a brief sword clash. Why would he offer her an escape route? It made no sense. No matter how rare or valuable the Duke was in the empire, turning one’s back on the empire was unthinkable.


Yet the nagging questions persisted. Why did he heal her? Why? Why?


Could it be some twisted fetish? To harm her first and then kill her? The idea was revolting. Maybe she’d be better off biting her tongue and ending it all here.


Ferdia sorted through a whirlwind of thoughts in her mind. Eventually, she seemed to reach a decision, nodding slowly.


Erev, who had been watching her intently, let a sly smile slip. Ferdia responded with conviction.


“Kill me.”


“Kill you?”


“Yes. Kill me. I won’t resist. It’s better to die at your hands than to be skewered or skinned and burned alive. I won’t resist. Just do it.”


That was her final decision. Even if she ran, escaping the empire seemed almost impossible. Though she yearned to flee back to her homeland, it was in ruins.


She’d likely be wanted as a criminal for the rest of her life. Plus, she knew firsthand how formidable this man before her was.


Even in perfect health, she couldn’t elude this man’s gaze. It was better to choose this end rather than be caught escaping and be brutally skewered.


Ferdia rose from her seat and knelt. Erev watched with detached interest, but his eyebrows raised in surprise.


“Is this regret over not being able to strike at my throat before? Or are you doing this out of pity for me? Whatever, it doesn’t matter. Just kill me. I’ll stay still. It’s better to die by your hand than to be skewered.”


Now kill me. She closed her eyes. Erev gazed down at her silent figure, then chuckled softly, nodding his head.


“Why aren’t you fighting for your life?”




“I’m asking about your rightful claim to your life. Why do you want to die?”


Ferdia lifted her head at his voice. As she saw Erev staring at her intensly, she bit her lip gently.


“I told you before. I want to hear your opinion. Is your only answer to my question of whether you want to die, id simply ‘kill me’?”


“…Well, it’s…”


“You don’t have the will to live? Not even the slightest intention to deceive me and escape this situation?”


“What are you getting at?”


She shot him a sharp glare.


“My life is as good as over. In this empire, I have no allies. I’m deeply grateful for restoring my body to its former state. I never thought I’d walk on my own two legs again. But what changes because of that?”


Her furrowed brows betrayed her inner turmoil.


“What changes if I say I want to live in response to your question? Here, I’m a criminal. A foreigner. I’m not some small-time thief who stole bread ready for customers. If I step out on these streets with a sign bearing my name, won’t they all throw stones at me? And not just stones, they’ll hurl every possible thing. To them, I’m the sinner and devil who took away their siblings, families, friends, and lovers. What difference does it make if I tell you I want to live? Nothing changes.”


She lowered her head. A brief taste of hope had been enough for her, and she was just content to meet a simple death here.


“So kill me. I won’t say much. I’m grateful you healed me, but if I go back, I’ll just be doomed to be impaled again and my tendons cut. So kill me. With the same desire you took me down that day.”




Even against the resolve in her voice, Erev simply looked down at her, unresponsive. Ferdia closed her eyes, waiting for his next move, her stomach churning with anticipation.


If she had known that a joke would escalate so severely and lead her to death in such an absurd way, she would have screamed at her past self not to do it. What a fool. How could she not have seen this coming?


Right, how could she have known? She wasn’t the main character of this story after all. She waited for his move with a resigned grin.


Eventually, the stubborn feet that had been rooted in place seemed ready to move. With a whooshing sound, the sword was drawn from its sheath. She swallowed hard at the familiar, icy touch on her neck. His voice brushed past her head.


“Any last words?”


“I told you, I have none. No keepsakes either. Just kill me.”


“I’ll allow you a final statement.”


“I don’t have one. Just kill me. Slash my throat or stab my heart, just end it.”


A death like this would be merciful, more so than any other.


At her final muttering, Erev nodded. The sword that had been pressed against her neck lowered, and she heard the rustle of his clothes. As if he was raising his sword high, aiming to pierce the blue sky hidden by the ceiling.


Even knowing she was destined to die, even knowing this death would be more merciful than any other punishment, she was scared. She’d always thought death was a constant companion, but it wasn’t.


‘Was it like this only for the death of others?’


In the end, your own death is always a foreign concept. Ferdia quietly awaited her own tragic fate.


How long had it been? Five minutes? Ten? Or maybe an hour?


Is it only a brief enough period that I couldn’t even feel the numbness in my legs? Struggling with her bewilderment, Ferdia lifted her head only to meet Erev’s dark eyes staring intently at her.


Seeing him like this, Ferdia involuntarily opened her mouth in surprise. Erev reached out, gently brushing a tear from her cheek. Only then did she realize her damp face, and it snapped her out of her daze.


“Why are you crying?”




Even though she knew she was already crying, she still asked him that, perhaps because she was embarrassed. She bit her lip as she looked at him with a blank look on her face.


“You told me to kill you. That it’s better to die by my hand than to die cruelly. Wasn’t that your determined choice?”




“Didn’t you want my sword to strike your neck?”


“Yes…I did want that.”


“Then why the tears?”




Do I not want to die after all? Ferdia averted her eyes. Do I want to die or not? She wasn’t sure.


Mixed emotions whirled within her.


“I want to ask for your opinion. I want to give you a choice.”


Was it her imagination or did his voice sound gentle?


“Tell me what you truly feel.”


My true feelings? Her eyes lifted once more, scanning Erev’s face. Why is he looking at me with such warmth?


Why did his hand gently wiped the tears streaming down my face? Why is offering me a choice?


Why did he heal me?


“…I want to live.”


I don’t want to die. Who truly wants to die? She didn’t want to perish in a foreign land. Even though her true home didn’t exist anywhere in this world, she didn’t want to die like this. She wanted to live.


Tears flowed again as Ferdia’s quivering voice revealed her deepest feelings. Why am I crying? From misery? Or sadness?




Her name, spoken with such tenderness, stirred her face again. His large hand reached out, brushing away the tears from both cheeks and then gently stroking her hair. His touch was considerate and warm. As Ferdia slightly parted her lips, he showed a gentle smile.


“I’ve been waiting for you to say that.”

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