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Chapter 10: On the Boundary Between Humans and Monsters (3)

Upon hearing the boy’s words and rushing to the village, Lien was met with a scene that defied comprehension.

Bodies scattered everywhere.

Houses ablaze.

In the distance, a familiar face appeared.

The lady who had always treated her kindly.

But from that face, the gentle smile that seemed to say she had unwittingly made too much food and was sharing it, was nowhere to be seen.

Instead, there was only a woman with empty eyes, shedding tears.

She clung to a lump of flesh.

As if it were something incredibly precious.

And then, Lien realized that the lump of flesh was the village’s infamous troublemaker, who used to play pranks on her.

Behind the sobbing lady, a knight approached mercilessly.

And then...

The lady’s head was severed with frightening ease.

Lien couldn’t comprehend it.

Her mind couldn’t keep up with what was happening.

Just one slash of the sword.

Had ended someone’s life.

Never again would Lien eat the pies given to her by the lady.

The village’s infamous troublemaker would no longer bring her insects to play pranks and laugh about it.

“Why?”

Lien numbly stared at the face of the knight who had beheaded the lady.

No sign of guilt could be seen on that face.

Just smiling, as if pleased to have added another to his collection, he would carefully preserve the ears he cut off.

They joked among themselves, betting on who could kill more.

Talking such talk.

They were killing those who were like family to Lien.

The uncle who always reeked of alcohol and only received scolding was now trembling with fear, yet still trying to protect his child and wife.

And the knight, with a disturbing smile... pushed the uncle aside and approached the child.

He hugged the child and, while the mother screamed in agony, crushed her head with his hands and then slit the child’s throat.

“Daddy, save me!”

Like playing with dolls, the knight held the child’s head up to his face like a mask and mimicked these words.

Imitating the child’s voice, he let out an unpleasant, snickering laugh in front of the uncle who was wailing in sorrow for his lost family.

He even applauded the sight of the uncle, driven to madness, plunging a knife into his own throat.

Lien's head was spinning.

She couldn't understand it.

It was utterly incomprehensible.

That he could be of the same species as her.

That he could be human like her.

“Lien.”

Someone places a hand on her shoulder.

It was her father.

The priest was looking at her.

“You mustn’t go.”

It was an expression she had never seen before. Such sadness, such torment, she had never seen on his face.

“Fate has found you. Fate has come for you…”

What that fate was.

Why her father was trying to stop her.

She had a faint idea.

“If you go, you may never return.”

Yet, even hearing such words, her feet wouldn’t stop.

The girl simply moved forward, her eyes unfocused, towards the knights.

Fate was leading her.

Among the fleeing people, she alone faced hundreds of knights.

Their gazes focused on her.

A man, seeing her, approached her with vile words spewing from his mouth.

And then… Lien cut off the man’s leg.

Blood gushed out like a fountain.

The knight, realizing he had just lost a leg, panicked.

And Lien blankly watched the scene.

Then she understood.

Why she had cut the leg.

She knew where to cut, where to slash, where to stab.

Despite seeing the most efficient way to kill a person, why she chose such an inefficient method.

She realized it.

“Oh, don’t come! I said don’t come! Didn’t you hear me!”

The ugly struggle to survive.

It seemed beautiful to her.

Bleeding out, trembling in the terror of dissolving into nothingness.

Realizing that one is not immortal, that one is made of flesh and blood.

The screams lost in pain.

It was too...

...too delightful.

“Ah…”

Tears streamed down the girl’s eyes.

Lien recalled the promise she had made with the boy just moments before.

She remembered the playful promise to embrace her again if she ever lost her senses, as he had done before.

It was embarrassing, it was shy, but it was a promise that made her happier than any words could.

However, that promise would never be fulfilled.

There was a smile on her lips.

Even as she cried, there was a sense of immense happiness in her smile.

The girl realized her true nature.

It wasn’t much different from those knights.

A murderer who takes pleasure in the death of others.

That was her true essence.

She was not a person but a monster.

A monster who had deluded herself into thinking she could be a human.

*****

The Empire’s Knight, Sian, who was in charge of this expedition, desperately tried to quiet his breathing, consumed by fear.

He felt an overwhelming urge to cover his ears.

Laughter.

He could hear laughter.

Mad, filled with insanity, the laughter echoed.

Sian could not comprehend the monster before him.

The Empire’s knights were not weak.

They were the elite of the elite.

They were men who could crush a human skull with their bare hands.

Yet, no one could resist this girl.

Humans turned into mere lumps of meat.

The knights, with whom he had fought countless battles, were degrading into something non-human.

Even with magical defenses.

Even with the use of magic.

Nothing worked against this monster.

Laughing grotesquely, the monster tormented people.

Sian could see no future in which he could survive.

If only the opponent were a demon, there would be a way.

Demons are not incomprehensible adversaries.

In fact, they make good contract partners.

Last time, when he purged the commoners who rebelled against the Empire,

It was a demon that gave Sian great power just for amusingly playing with a few children in front of their parents.

They were grateful beings who even paid for hobbies.

But this was not a demon.

It was a monster that could not be understood with common sense.

A monster beyond human reasoning.

The laughter was getting closer.

But there was no escape.

His body wouldn’t move.

He had run out of subordinates to use as meat shields.

Therefore, Sian could only sit still and watch the girl approaching him.

He saw something incomprehensible, crying more sorrowfully than anyone else, yet smiling more happily than anyone else.

That was Sian’s last memory.

*****

The priest, numbly, looked up at the sky.

He knew without having to perform any more rites.

The very thing he had feared had finally happened.

Fate had found its way to the child.

In a way, it was inevitable.

Fate is fate because it cannot be escaped.

In the end, the fact that the priest couldn’t bring himself to kill the girl he considered his own daughter,

The fact that such a tragedy happened today,

It was all predetermined.

Unchangeable.

The villagers fled in terror.

Or rather, they were too terrified to even flee.

The only one who could maintain his composure was the priest.

Everyone else couldn’t withstand the ominous curse pouring down from the sky.

The sky was dyed red.

A divine presence was felt.

However, this was not the deity they worshipped.

Could that even be called a deity?

Something that drives people mad just by being seen, that corrupts the minds of those merely in its presence with its ominous curse.

'Lien.'

The something that would be born using that child as a vessel.

Could it be called a deity?

'…I don’t know.'

The only thing certain was that this was the end of the priest’s journey in life.

When an entity that brings only death descends upon this world, there is no chance for them to survive.

The priest’s strength was reaching its limit.

He could no longer withstand the curse.

Something was eroding his mind.

Whispers of tales that could not, and should not, be understood were infiltrating his ears.

His vision slowly blurred.

And within that fading view, the priest saw.

A man.

The knowledge that confounded the mind, was incomprehensible.

A fear and oppression that engraved themselves upon the body involuntarily.

He saw a man who, bearing the curse that could drive anyone mad at a touch, walked towards the source of the curse of his own accord.

It made no sense.

It was utterly incomprehensible.

After all, nothing could be felt from that man.

He wasn’t protecting his body with divine power like the priest. No magical energy was detectable.

With will alone,

With a mental strength that seemed beyond human, he was enduring the curse.

And yet, he was walking towards the source of the curse with his own legs.

Priest's consciousness was gradually fading.

With the last of his strength, the priest managed to say.

'You mustn’t go.'

If he set foot there, he will never survive.

But the man did not stop.

Without even looking back, he walked towards his doom with his own steps.

Leaving behind only the incomprehensible words that he had a promise to keep.

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