Chapter 2

 

****

 

‘No…I didn’t want to get out of boredom in this way.’

 

I blankly looked down at my body—my corpse, to be exact. My ivory dress was smeared with blood. An arrow stuck in the middle of my chest.

 

According to the Achaia servants, Kwanach and I were separated after the wedding. Kwanach led the procession at the fore, and I, the bride, was alone in the carriage. Then it wasn’t long before when suddenly, there was a sound of something sharp tearing the air. I didn’t have time to avoid it. I felt a sharp pain in my chest. The next thing I knew, I found myself in this situation after I woke up.

 

‘Am I dead?’

 

How could I be so unlucky? A bride who was assassinated on her wedding day? What will happen to the peace of my country that was gained through the marriage alliance?

 

Prior to my death, I was worried about it. A chilling sense of anxiety flowed through my intangible soul. 

 

****

 

 A few days have passed since I died. 

 

 ‘Strange.’

 

I still haven’t gotten out of the place where l was assassinated. 

 

 ‘If I’m a ghost, shouldn’t I be able to go everywhere even through walls?’

 

I was chained to a beautiful birch tree near where I died. Fortunately, my power to communicate with plants remained. Even when I died, my ability did not disappear. Plants were the only ones I could talk to now that I was dead.

 

‘Have you heard anything nearby?’

 

I climbed up the birch tree around me and talked in my mind.  Plants talk to each other. Root to root. Even if the trees were far apart, they shared their memories.  Sometimes seeds from far away flew in to tell stories of foreign countries. Even if I was confined to the place where I died, I was able to grasp the situation around me.  The birch responded with concern.

 

 <The war seems to be getting worse.> 

 

War. The war was caused by my death. Shortly after I was assassinated, Kwanach recovered my body and returned to the empire. And immediately, he declared war on our kingdom. His message was this. 

 

 [The Empress was assassinated within the border of Achaia.]

 

We were husband and wife for half a day, and Kwanach called me Empress.

 

 [I believed in the effectiveness of the alliance and led only a minimum of escorts, but Achaia deceived my trust. I know there were quite a few people in the kingdom opposed to this alliance. Was this the act of a person who has a grudge because he thinks it is a humiliating alliance? It looks like a despicable northerner vented his resentment against the innocent Empress.] 

 

Kwanach insisted that the force that assassinated me would be in the kingdom of Achaia, my homeland. It wasn’t clear yet who was the real culprit who killed me. The assassins disappeared quickly using the rugged terrain of the north. 

 

[The alliance is broken. The price of this betrayal will be paid with blood.] 

 

Kwanach had initially threatened to invade my country immediately if I did not become his bride. Therefore, it’s natural that my death led to war. My brother Diaquit denied the accusations to the end, and he held Kwanach responsible for my death. The assassin who targeted Kwanach killed me alone.

 

The cause of the attack seemed insignificant. No one seemed to have any intention of exposing my death. Not even a proper funeral was held. No one mourned my death. My death was only used as a fuse for war.

 

Thus, the marriage alliance was broken in vain, and the imperial army advanced to the North.

 

However, the North was not silent. My brother Diaquit, who had lost his sister so tragically, made active use of good stories to elicit sympathy and empathy.

 

The North formed an alliance army and began to confront the undefeated imperial army. That’s what I’ve heard from trees so far. The birch tree spoke of the latest situation with a concerned voice.

 

<Kwanach has turned into a madman.>

 

 “Kwanach?”

 

<When it comes to cutting people’s heads, he looked like a bloodthirsty demon. His judgment is clouded.>

 

 “Why?”

 

He was no longer the well known Kwanach who people knew indirectly through many praised poems and heroic stories. Kwanach was a calm man. War was just a means to grow an empire, not his passion to enjoy as an end in itself. 

 

I wondered if what I had read about Kwanach’s life was a false glorification. Or has he changed? What had ruined him then? Is it because the war didn’t go as well as before? 

 

<He seems to have become a completely different person.>

 

Maybe he got impatient when the war was hard fought and long. The North was barren to the point that the Southerners called it “the forsaken land,” but that was also the advantage of the North. The terrain itself was a natural fortress because of the steepness of the land. The cold weather also made it difficult for the Southern imperial troops. 

 

There was a considerable difference in strength, but in a situation where the Northern League was inevitably stretched for time to deal with the Imperial forces, this war would prolong more fiercely if Kwanach couldn’t play the role of a decent commander. Feeling gloomy, I gently brushed down the bark of the birch tree. No, I only pretended to stroke it down, for my ghostly hand could touch nothing. 

 

****

 

As expected, the war grew longer. Until now, Kwanach has been an efficient first Emperor, and there was no way the war would drag on. The war with the Northern League, however, was unusually long at three years. In other words, three years have passed since I spent time as a ghost. The fires of war had spread to the place where I was bound by the ghosts of the earth. I didn’t need to receive news from the trees to know the horrors of war. Battles large and small had taken place even on these desolate hills. 

 

Carts with dozens of dead bodies piled haphazardly on top of them sometimes drove down this way. The hills were piled up with discarded bodies. The smell of rotting human flesh still lingered on the roadside. I had to cower in the branches of the birch trees and watch intently. The war that had begun with my death, the way it had engulfed the land… The war, which had been slow for so long, was slowly coming to an end. And in the end, one side was completely destroyed.

 

It just took a long time, and of course, the victor was Kwanach, the Emperor of the Radon Empire.

 

The countries that belonged to the Northern Alliance began to collapse one by one. Achaia, my country and leader of the League, was no exception. I could hear the screams of soldiers and people coming and going on this road.

 

“His Majesty has fallen.”

 

My father, the king of Achaia, died during the war. He originally had a weak body, but when he was stressed, his condition rapidly deteriorated.  

 

“Deliver it to the 2nd Battalion. My brother Jenner…!” 

 

My younger brother, Jenner. He was only fifteen years old when he was called out to battle and killed in action. The Catatel family that ruled Achaia had fallen. The only one left was my brother, Diaquit. The war would end when his head was blown off, the focal point of the Northern Alliance. My homeland would disappear from this land. And so would my family. Not that I had any great love for my family, but it was still the place where I was born and raised. The land had been destroyed by my husband, who I married only for a few hours. If only I didn’t die, if only the marriage alliance was preserved. 

 

I wanted to stop this scourge, but I didn’t have the strength. 

 

‘Stop, stop the carnage!’

 

No matter how much I cried, it was useless. No one could hear me because I was a ghost. No one could feel me because I didn’t exist. 

 

“Forest, please…” I murmured one day, exhausted and desperate. I could no longer bear to watch. I prayed to the silvery forest that had blessed my home and awakened me.

 

‘If you can hear my ghostly voice, I beg you to stop all this. If I get another chance, I won’t die so vainly. I will stop the war. I won’t live like a ghost.’

 

 That was the moment. 

 

******

 

“Ugh…!”

 

My body suddenly felt heavy. My head was fuzzy, and my vision blurred for a moment before coming back to focus. When I raised my arm to cover my throbbing forehead, I saw the hand of a small child.

 

 “What is this?”

 

Startled, I hastily looked around. Instead of a dreadful pile of corpses, an old-fashioned room caught my eyes. It was strangely familiar, a place I remembered clearly. It was not the roadside, where my soul had resided for three years. It wasn’t the cruel place that I couldn’t escape from no matter how hard I tried. I was filled with suspicion, trying to make sense of the situation. Suddenly, the door to my room opened and a familiar face walked in. It was my nanny, looking much younger than I last remembered. 

 

“Princess! You’re finally awake!”

 

“Nanny?”

 

I was confused for a moment and then jumped out of bed. I ran straight to the mirror. The reflection in the mirror was of a girl about ten years old, the only princess in the kingdom of Achaia, a woman who in the future will have to marry a man called the Sun God and pay the price for the peace of her motherland. 

 

Usphere Catatel. It was me. 

 

“Please wait a moment. I’ll notify everyone. The princess woke up from her awakening! I’ll call the doctor too!”

 

The nanny left the room with a big smile on her face.

 

Awakening? I finally understood the situation. Ten years ago from my wedding day, I went back to the time when I was awakened to my magic.

 

***