Chapter 1. A horrible death

 

 

Gasp. Gasp.

 

In the deep, deep imperial prison where even the moonlight could not penetrate, the rough sounds of a woman who looked like an earthly viciousness, which was unknown whether she was sobbing or breathing, shook the pitch-black darkness from time to time.

 

Whenever the sound of iron chains was heard and stopped, a haunting desolation drifted over the prison.

 

 Crime of murdering the former emperor. 

 

‘It’s not me!’

 

No matter how much she shouted in frustration, only a broken voice came out of her mouth. Her voice, the intelligence guild, her right hand. With everything taken away from her, there was no point staring out the window bars.

 

Jessica had endured the endless checks and threats. But, when she came to her senses, she found herself in this place. It was the imperial prison.

 

Her followers were still outside, but what could she do when she was locked in a prison with her limbs in chains and would die tomorrow?

 

‘How can this be…? …I didn’t expect you to abandon me like this. Darten!’

 

The lost voice drifted in the void without a sound, but only Jessica’s eyes shone brightly in the darkness.

 

‘I can’t let it end like this. It’s too much of a waste of my life to end up betrayed with everything taken from me.’

 

It was so unfair that every breath she took seemed to fill with resentment.

 

‘Why are you doing this to me? What have I ever done for you!’

 

The reason why Darten had Jessica locked up in prison was because she knew all of his crimes. She had killed for him, and she couldn’t believe she ended up like this.

 

She gave everything to Darten who abandoned her. Everything she had. Darten Ert, the one who used her love for him and trampled it when he ran out of uses for it.

 

‘Whenever I whisper that I love you, you kill me because you no longer need me. You need to silence me.’

 

She recalled the many things she had done for Darten. In order to put the third prince, Darten, on the throne, Jessica had to kill the first prince of the empire who respected her abilities.

 

To kill the First Prince, Darten seduced her, and Jessica decided she would kill for him.

 

His aide prepared a poisoned tea that was put in both Jessica’s and the First Prince’s teacups.

 

After drinking the poisoned tea with the first prince, Jessica became unable to have children forever due to the aftereffects of the poison in the tea.

 

“Why do I have to drink the poisoned tea too?”

 

“To avoid suspicion.”

 

Darten said that he deliberately poisoned Jessica’s teacup so that she could avoid the First Prince’s suspicion. She foolishly believed him. She loved Darten, and she thought he loved her too.

 

Killing the First Prince was also putting herself in danger. She was sad that she couldn’t have children anymore, but she thought it would be okay because Darten was all she needed. That was what she thought then.

 

There were many men who wanted to sit next to her when she became Duchess. Sometimes it was a prince from another country, sometimes it was a prince from the desert, sometimes it was a nobleman’s son from a prestigious family…. People who were kind to her, people who wanted her love. She could have accepted their hearts and lived as a social queen……….

 

‘I’m not sure why I made this choice. I wasn’t a hidden lover, I was just a mistress.’

 

Jessica realized now. Darten had always been hiding her from people. She thought that was his way of trying to protect her, but now she knows that it wasn’t.

 

She regretted it, but it was too late for that regret. The price for a woman who fell in love, a love that blinded her, was so terrible.

 

‘I will never forgive you. Darten! I will curse you even in death!’

 

Before being imprisoned, Jessica vomited blood, wondering what was in the tea cakes she had eaten during her solo meeting with the new emperor, Darten. Her tongue became paralyzed and she lost strength in all limbs. And she couldn’t speak forever.

 

If she couldn’t speak, she could communicate in writing, but the day after she entered the prison, they cut off her hand. Jessica  looked at her missing right hand with clouded eyes and shuddered at Darten’s cruelty.

 

It has been five days since she was locked in prison. She realized that no matter what she did, she would never be able to get out. When the hunt was over, she realized that Darten, who had taken the throne of the emperor, no longer needed the hound. He was going to show the severity of the imperial family by killing her, who had real power despite being a woman.

 

With no voice, it was difficult to plead not guilty at tomorrow’s execution ceremony. If she could stay longer in prison, she would try other methods, but Darten didn’t give her time to play tricks.

 

Execution.

 

Vanaton! Thinking of him, Jessica shook her head. The man, her second husband, had never come to visit her, so the hope that he could help her was less than dust, lying on the floor of the prison. No matter how much she thought about it, all she could see was how they used me.

 

Vanaton, Darten’s aide, who married her and occupied the dukedom, killed all those who served her. The man who ordered her to remarry was also a Darten. The idea was to have an aide by her side so that he could see her more often, but now it was clear that it was just a lie.

 

‘It’s too late. It’s too …… late.’

 

How many people had died protecting her? She felt sorry for all the people who were killed because of me. Jessica’s heart was tightened with regret. Tears trickled down her white and smooth cheeks.

 

It was a mistake to sit so high, looking down on the men from above. There was no way the men of the empire would have left it at that with a woman on their heads, but she was wrong to give her heart to Darten. 

 

It was then. Footsteps were getting louder and louder, breaking through the darkness and silence of the prison. Who could it be? Jessica stopped her tears and swallowed her dry saliva.

 

Sizzle! Someone lit a fire. Jessica, who had been shivering from the bone-chilling cold, felt momentarily warmed around the brightened area. However, her eyes, which could not adjust to the light, blinked several times before she finally saw the person in front of her.

 

“Here you are.”

 

“…”

 

“I’ve been looking for you for a while, Jessica.”

 

Jessica almost fainted when she saw the person standing in front of her. The pain was so intense that it felt like her heart would jump out. Pain surged through her severed hand.

 

The man with red hair, clad in garments of jewels and gold, the man who had won the imperial throne, Darten, whom she should curse even in death, stood in front of the window grate with his aide.

 

Furious, Jessica tried to make a sound, but her voice was faint and no words came out. The clatter of chains rang the prison and the bleak wind rippled. Despite the loud noise, Darten didn’t blink an eye.

 

“I’m sorry I had to kill you.”

 

Darten said softly, the edges of his mouth lifting. The gentle voice that spilled from between his beautiful lips was just a cold taunt to Jessica as she turned to face his cold blue eyes.

 

‘You’re sorry?’

 

You don’t say sorry if the dog that was guarding the house died. Furthermore, she was his lover and first contributor to his ascension to the throne. How could he be sorry when even rewarding her was never enough! Jessica’s expression twisted miserably at his words that she was no better than the dog he had at home.

 

“That look. I wanted to see it. I didn’t like the way you always looked down on someone. Besides, the face that shines with faith even though you know what you’re doing is abominable. Why are you so proud of yourself for deceiving and betraying others and putting me on the throne?”

 

That was a contradiction. Was doing something for a loved one such a bad thing to be spoken so ill of?

 

“Just die quietly. If someone knows about us, it’ll be a headache. You were the cause of my headache from beginning to end. If it weren’t for you, I could have been with the woman I love for the rest of my life, but four years of involvement has brought tears to my noble lady’s eyes.”

 

A noble lady? These were the words that Darten said every time he called Jessica. She was his noble lady. But now he used the words to call his new lover.

 

Jessica’s expression sank. The strange gloomy and cold expression on her face made Darten feel a chill. His shoulders trembled, and Jessica smiled at the sight of him.

 

“A smile that will kill you tomorrow….”

 

He wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t afraid of her, who had a completely different face. Shedding his mask of meekness, Jessica stopped smiling and stared at Darten with a cold expression. The expression that she had never shown him, an expression that she could never show to anyone she loved, the face that had made her the witch of the empire.

 

Darten looked dumbfounded for a moment and then opened his mouth again.

 

“You’ve always been lovely, my dear. The way you looked down on me, a prince, as the daughter of a frontier Count, a wife of a Duke but you were lucky when the Duke died on the first night and took his title; the way you approached me and said you loved me without knowing your place!”

 

Darten hissed. His cold voice echoed through the prison. There were no prison guards to be seen.

 

‘Is that’s why you’re trying to kill me? There was no truth to it from beginning to end? Did you just use me?’

 

Again Darten’s voice sounded gruesome.

 

“To be recognized by someone I wanted to be recognized by. Why you and not me?”

 

Jessica’s head snapped up at his words.

 

‘Wanted to be recognized? Who the hell are you?’

 

The betrayal of the man she loved made her head go blank and unsettled. It was best to just put on a cold face and show it. Jessica believed in him. Trusted him. Loved him.

 

As a child, she had no reason to dislike the boy who had come to visit her every time her father left the capital and had spoken kindly to her. It seemed only natural that she should fall in love with the boy.

 

“Do you know what the good news is? I don’t need to ask to be recognized anymore. You’ll be dead. By the hand of the man you trusted.”

 

How could there be so many things she didn’t know? The endless betrayal of people was enough to make Jessica faint. Everyone she thought was close to her turned their backs on her. Even the aide and the men of the Intelligence Guild she had cared for.

 

‘I can’t believe none of my people…’

 

At that moment, there was someone who crossed her mind. The First Prince, Salipe. She remembered the words of that man who died of her poison and was the only one who showed her kindness.

 

“Duchess, you are very capable. This empire has a much stricter measure of capable women. I know that you have great abilities, but you must hide and conceal them. If you don’t, you will be plagued.”

 

She couldn’t hear the words that person said properly at that time. It was just difficult to take his words seriously in her heart that was filled with love for Darten. She didn’t expect the words would come back and leave a deep trace on her.

 

‘Your Highness.’

 

If it wasn’t for Darten and her, he would have gotten that high imperial crown. That person was the reason for her non-death, she was locked in a dungeon facing the one who betrayed me. As she realized all this, anger ran deep in her eyes. That anger quickly turned into flames that engulfed her body and conventionally died down without a trace.

 

The flames became a cold fire, hidden deep within her heart. Concealing a calm but intense anger, Jessica raised her numb eyes and looked at Darten. Darten’s eyes, which were slow moving, turned cold when he saw the look in her eyes.

 

“It’s a shame I can’t hear your thoughts, but I see no reason why I should be the one to see you to the end, when tomorrow you will be dead. I looked at your beautiful face and held you in my arms, and I feel that my anger will be unleashed if I don’t destroy that face.”

 

He said with a smirk, and his face changed tremendously. His words, expressing his purpose for coming here, were full of venom. Who said that he was a kind and innocent prince? Jessica closed her eyes, blaming herself for being foolish and deceived by that innocent face and for giving up her heart.

 

As Jessica’s expression remained unchanged, Darten turned his gaze to his aide, who was standing protectively by his side. As soon as the aide handed him the sword he was holding, Darten grabbed it and placed it on Jessica’s neck through the prison bars.

 

Without a shred of hesitation, the sharp blade glinted in the light and swung around. In an instant, Jessica’s pale cheeks turned into a pool of blood.

 

“You can’t write with blood. Even if your limbs are bound, you’ll still have an extra four years to move and use them. The sleeping poison buried in the blade is my final gift for you. It will be less painful for you to sleep as well.”

 

Feeling the cold blade against her cheek, Jessica fainted.

 

The next day, Jessica stood at the execution site, there would be no miracle of escape from the scene. The people were booing at her.

 

“She’s a dirty, evil woman! How dare you poison His Majesty?”

 

 “Such things happen when a woman gets a title!”

 

“Shame on the woman! She’s a witch!”

 

As Jessica walked up to the execution table, her body and face were filled with filth. It was all garbage and filth thrown by the emperor’s people. No guards stopped them, and the eyes of the people watching her misfortune were filled with joy.

 

For the misfortune of others sometimes gives people pleasure. The catharsis of the people grew even greater as she fell from her high place to the abyss. As she stared at Darten, who was watching her execution from the emperor’s throne, Jessica recited in her mind.

 

‘I will never forgive you. I will die and become the Devil to punish you all. O God! Do not forgive those who have no faith.’

 

Darten, who was watching Jessica’s execution, was unfazed by the horrific sight of her. Seila, who was sitting next to him wearing the Empress’s crown, turned her head and leaned against Darten’s shoulder.

 

‘Seila, you probably don’t know, but Darten made me like this.’

 

Jessica’s best friend, Seila, was unaware of this fact and was sitting next to Darten.

 

‘I’m sorry. I’m really sorry for letting you sit next to such a cruel person.’ 

 

Jessica bit her lip at the sight of double-faced Darten, smiling gently. She could see his mouth very clearly as he taunted her to the end. Jessica looked around and saw the people waiting for her execution with excited eyes.

 

“Sinner! Jessica ruined the empire’s discipline by poisoning the previous emperor. Her noble title will be confiscated and she will be executed.”

 

Jessica’s eyes widened as she heard people saying, “She deserves to die.” There was no one to hear her even if she pleaded innocence because she had no voice. No, even if she did scream, who would believe her words? The people who met her angry eyes averted their gazes with trepidation.

 

“The sinner’s eyes are impure, hurry up and carry out the execution!”

 

Seila shuddered as she met Jessica’s eyes, and Darten gave the order and Jessica was killed in an instant.

 

Seeing her betrayed lover and friend sitting side by side, Jessica felt a boiling pain, the more she screamed in silence, the more the pain became clearer, and the pain that her life was condemned as a sinner. In that way, the terrible suffering ended in an instant and peace came.  

 

Then she opened her eyes again.

 

Notes

N/A

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