She was losing her breath. She could feel her life slipping away.
However, she couldn’t give up. It couldn’t end this way. She was kneeling on the floor, and she leaned on her sword to pushed her body up. Please, just a little more…
Before her very eyes stood the man who killed her father and brother and hung their corpses on the wall as a spectacle for everyone. That wasn’t all. Because of him, her sister, who was as lovely and as delicate as a small bird, had been violated and died a miserable death.
She had endured this living hell to survive this moment alone. All so she could stab the enemy in the neck with her own hands!
However…even with that goal in sight, she didn’t have any strength to hold on to her sword. Please, please, please! She hoped she could drag him down to hell with her, for she was not afraid of death. As she struggled to lift the sword with all her might, she heard slow footsteps coming towards her, and a chilling voice resounded in the air.
“…A bitch like you did well to come this far.”
The sound of footsteps did not stop until they came right up to her. Before she knew it, she saw two sturdy feet standing tall even in her lower field of vision. As she struggled to raise her head, her dim eyes reflected his tall figure.
At first glance, he was a middle-aged man with an intimidatingly muscular body and a shaggy beard, but he still appeared impressively charismatic.
However, the man’s left arm had been hacked off. Blood constantly flowed from his wound, but his condition was much better compared to her own. Rather than losing an arm, the price she had to pay was much greater.
The woman was one of the continent’s top swordswomen for decades. Nevertheless, she could not overcome the fact that the man was praised as a genius.
Her whole body was nearly in tatters and the floor was drenched with her blood. However, her eyes glared at him in a murderous spirit, as if she did not care about her wounds.
“By my hands…I will…kill you…”
“Not likely. Even if you were reborn, the outcome wouldn’t be any different.”
She clenched her teeth. The man stole everything he had. She could never forgive him.
She leapt up and dashed at him with her sword.
With a hideous noise, a blade tore across her throat.
The last moment of her life passed very slowly. Beyond her shaky vision she could dimly see her father and brother and her sister Mirabelle.
It was the year 387 of the Empire of Ruford.
Elena, the highest level female swordswoman, died in the Battle of Huilena, unable to carry out her bloody vengeance.
Elena opened her eyes.
Something was very strange.
The soft sheets that surrounded her body and the warm sunshine coming through the windows were a sharp contrast to the moment she just experienced.
‘I…I must be dead.’
She closed her eyes bitterly. The anger at not being able to avenge her family burned fresh in her heart, but when she came to her senses she was lying in a completely different place.
At least it was more comfortable than the hell she had lived through. She had never laid down in such a soft bed since her whole family was wiped out, and she had never slept deeply because of the nightmares.
It was as if she had returned to to the era of her youth before her family fell into ruin.
‘It’s like I’ve gone back to the past…What?’
Elena scrambled out of bed. As she got up the large, cushiony mattress yielded under her. Although it would be hard for someone who knew Elena to believe, as a youth her skin was sensitive to touch and she used only the finest mattresses.
However, she still felt a sense of dread.
“…This is impossible.”
Elena’s mouth opened like a fool as she looked at the room around her. It was the room of her youth. The details were so perfect that it was impossible for it to be a recreation.
On one side of the wall were the lines she had drawn to measure her sister’s height at seven years of age, then at ten and then at fifteen. Those little letters next to the lines were all her own. She couldn’t imagine how this was happening.
After sitting dumbstruck for a moment, Elena rose from the bed as if she were possessed. She slowly approached the window and gazed outside. As she overlooked the garden she saw flowers blooming in dazzling colors in the morning sun. She could never forget her home. The scenery was unchanged from the past.
‘I miss this period of my life so much…am I being shown a fantasy right before I die?’
Elena Blaise. She had always used her family name with pride.
Although she didn’t grow up in extreme extravagance, the Blaise family had been around for many generations and lived in the south of the capital city. The family were historically counts and served as the Fourth Order of knights the royal court.
As the eldest daughter of the family she took care of her father on behalf of her dead mother, as well as helped her brother become a better knight. Sometimes it was also difficult to take care of her sickly sister by herself while managing the Count’s affairs, but it was a peaceful life and there was never much to complain about.
It wasn’t until she lost everything later that she realized how happy their ordinary lives were. She remembered the day when all her misfortunes came at once. The last time she had looked upon the garden there were no beautiful flowers, but dozens of red torches coming into the castle in perfect order. It was like they were coming closer to her, and she could not shake off her anxious mind even when there was nothing there.
The terrible memories slowly returned, and Elena shook her head then turned away from the window. As she looked back into the room her eye caught a mirror hanging on the wall.
Reflected in the mirror was a noble lady in a silk nightgown with smooth blonde hair and skin as white as snow. Her eyes were red like the finest rubies, and her straight nose and petal-like lips gave her the appearance of a living doll.
That was her.
The last image of herself she remembered was very different from the one reflected in the mirror. As she stared quietly at herself her scarlet eyes trembled in surprise. It seemed far too real to be considered a fantasy. Though her natural beauty had not completely faded, she had never had such a fine figure during her career as a swordswoman.
Since she decided to avenge her family and began to carry a sword, she had cut off her long hair and had blisters on her hands from daily hard practice. As time passed, her naturally gentle eyes became venomous, and her milky skin became ghostly pale and lost color. Only a cold, hardened woman was left. However, even she could not perfectly recreate the distant images in her memory, even if it were a fantasy.
“…What in heaven’s name is going on?”
She touched her face with a perplexed expression. Suddenly, the door opened. It was rude to enter another person’s room like this without knocking, even more so if it was a woman’s room, and Elena turned her head, frowning slightly.
As soon as she saw the person who came in, she completely froze. Her scarlet eyes widened, showing her surprise before her trembling lips could even speak.
“Big sister Elena!”
Mirabelle walked into the room, smiling more warmly than the morning sun. It was like a dream. Elena forced herself to watch with breathless attention. Mirabelle had the same golden hair and dark green eyes as her father. She was small and thin for her age due to her sickly condition.
Mirabelle tilted her head briefly at Elena’s strange facial expression, but Mirabelle soon smiled and happily looked up at her.
“You’re not gonna scold me for barging in, are you? If you’re going to talk about manners, do it later. I have a real emergency right now. You might be surprised to know this.”
Elena’s eyes began to wet when she saw Mirabelle singing like a small bird before her eyes. Was this a dream? It had to be. Otherwise Mirabelle would not have appeared in front of her like this again. If so…she hoped she would never wake from here.
Tears began to slip down Elena’s cheeks. Mirabelle was surprised to see her crying suddenly.
“Sister? Is something wrong?”
Watching Mirabelle anxiously, Elena could not answer. She bit her lips to stop the sobs rising up her throat and she wordlessly took Mirabelle’s small body into her arms. She was afraid this moment would go away forever if she made a sound.
Elena clearly remembered the last time she had seen her sister. It was a pitch-black night, and her sister was surrounded by evil men and she was screaming in a completely different voice than now.
“Sister! My sister Elena! Help! Help!”
There was the sound of Mirabelle’s nightgown tearing. Elena never forgot those blood-curdling screams. It was a tragedy that happened overnight in the Blaise Castle, the most peaceful place in the world.
It was her brother Derek who caught her running towards Mirabelle. He whispered sadly but firmly in her ear, It’s too late…
If Derek had not shut Elena’s mouth and dragged her away, she could have died there with her sister. How good would that have been, and for a long time, she felt sorry for herself.
Her lovely sister. She regretted that she couldn’t save her.
She hugged Mirabelle and shed silent tears. She would never miss her second chance.
Nothing mattered now, whether it was a dream or reality. Just seeing Mirabelle again was everything.
Mirabelle looked at Elena’s tears with a troubled look, and she immediately raised her hand and patted her older sister’s back.
“Don’t cry, sister.”
Elena could no longer hold in a sob and it burst out of her lips. Mirabelle waited silently as she patted her sister’s back while Elena let out all the grief she had endured in her life as a cold-blooded female swordswoman. The comfort from that little hand was so warm that Elena could hardly stop crying.
But as the time passed, Elena’s composure gradually returned. Mirabelle was still in her arms and the temperature coming from her tiny body was so real. Elena murmured to herself with an incredulous look.
“…This isn’t a dream?”
Seeking to dispel the shade of doubt in her heart, she hurriedly released her arm that had been hugging Mirabelle and grabbed her sister’s small shoulder and examined her thoroughly. Mirabelle gave Elena a worried frown.
“You’re having a hard time managing the Count’s affairs alone, aren’t you? I didn’t know about that…I’m sorry that I keep whining about things.”
Elena couldn’t help let her mouth drop open again after seeing Mirabelle speaking as if she were really there in front of her. This was not a fantasy. Moreover, it was not even a dream. The Mirabelle in front of her looked too alive for that.
Mirabelle continued to speak with a gloomy face, as if she mistook Elena’s dumbfounded look for being scolded for her immature behavior.
“It’s just the for the first time the crown prince, who had always been away at the battlefield, will show up at the ball. I really wanted to go there with you…”
“The crown prince? Who?”
“What’s wrong with you today? The crown prince of the Ruford empire?”
Elena’s head began to spin rapidly, but she hadn’t a clue as to which crown prince Mirabelle was talking about. The Ruford Empire was one of the largest powers on the continent. In every respect, their military was far superior to those of smaller nations. From generation to generation, the belligerent emperors of the Ruford Empire loved war, and the founding myth of the empire even suggested that the emperor had the blood of a dragon.
Only the 12th Emperor Sullivan of the Ruford Empire had a gentle nature, and he helped develop an empire that cared more about developing state affairs rather than war. Under him the empire that was once obsessed with bloodshed came to prosperity. In order to achieve this, it had been said that the previous emperor intentionally chose the gentle-hearted Sullivan as his successor, different from any other emperor. If that was true, it was an wise decision.
However, the problem was with Sullivan’s brother, Paveluc.
Paveluc was at first thought to become the next emperor, but in the end he was deprived of the throne by his brother Sullivan and instead ruled over the small duchy of Lunen as a grand duke. Though many people expressed concern because Paveluc had been born with the nature of an emperor, Paveluc had kneeled and submitted to his brother.
For as long as a decade he didn’t show his claws. He waited for his chance, then the traitorous brother eventually rebelled and won. The Blaise family, who headed the Fourth Order of the Royal Family in the course of the regime’s replacement, was also purged by Emperor Paveluc.
That was the man that Elena wanted to kill all her life. Emperor Paveluc, the 13th Emperor of the Ruford Empire.
Elena’s eyes turned cold as she recalled those unpleasant memories. She remembered the sensation of Paveluc cutting her throat and she brought her hand to her neck.
There had been many incidents before Paveluc ultimately succeeded in his rebellion, but he could not install a crown prince because of his disgrace for being a treasonous emperor. As far as Elena remembered, there was only one official crown prince, but he had been assassinated twenty years ago. Although he had made many brilliant achievements in the battlefield, he disappeared without a single appearance in society. It was rumored that he would become the most brutal of all emperors, and if he were alive Paveluc’s rebellion would have failed. However, he died before his official debut to the royal family, so he was largely unknown.
So far no one else came to mind.
“A crown prince…did that mean the treacherous emperor eventually used his force to put someone in that position?”
It was bound to happen eventually. The Rufford Empire was extremely powerful, and even with a treacherous ruler he had leverage to get what he wanted.
“What are you talking about, sister? That’s treasonous! If our father knew that you had such a profane words in your mouth, you would be in so much trouble no matter how old you are.”
Mirabelle glanced around to see if anyone had overheard their conversation. Her cautious demeanor filled Elena’s mind with questions. She couldn’t figure out what this was all about.
“You’re being strange today. Of course, there is only one Crown Prince of Ruford. Prince Carlisle.”
Carlisle? As soon as she heard the name, recognition flashed into Elena’s head.
Carlisle van Dimitri Ruford.
Who Mirabelle referred to was the prince who was assassinated twenty years ago. Elena had a sudden realization, and it was if a tangled silk thread unraveled all at once.
“Mirabelle, what year is it?”
“It’s year 367 of the Empire. Did you forget that, too?”
At that moment Elena was unable to say anything, as if she had been struck by lightning. It was exactly twenty years in the past around the time of the crown prince’s death. And it was only year or so before the royal family was destroyed.
Elena remembered it clearly. In the past, the crown prince was to appear in society for the first time, and Elena was accompanied by Mirabelle at the ball. At the end of the day however, they had gone home without seeing him. It was only later that it was revealed that the prince did not attend because he had been assassinated, then six months later the royal family began to decline when it had been revealed that the emperor had been fighting a long-term illness.
Yes, she remembered now. Mirabelle had also rushed into her room like this when she learned the crown prince was going to attend the ball this time.
Was it really that day? What had happened so far passed through Elena’s head in a panorama.
‘I’m really back in the past?’
It was impossible to believe. How on earth? Why? A host of unsolved questions arose. There was no one to ask, and no one to give an answer.
She began to realize that this moment, which she thought was only a fantasy, was in fact reality. She turned pale as if she had forgotten how to breathe.
“Are you alright?”
Mirabelle held her older sister’s hand carefully, gazing at her with anxious eyes. Despite such this small gesture, Elena was close to tears again. It didn’t matter how she got back to the past. Now there was a real chance to protect her family she treasured so much. She would never let such a future come again.
Elena gripped Mirabelle’s hand and spoke with a devoted whisper.
“This time, I promise to protect you. No matter what happens…”
Mirabelle slowly nodded at her sister’s strong words. She was acting strangely today. At first she had thought Elena was under stress for having to manage the Count’s affairs, but Elena had said some unexpected things.
“Are you really okay, my sister?”
“Of course, especially when you’re in front of me like this. How could I not be okay? This moment is for me…I cannot describe how much I appreciate it. Thank you for being alive, Mirabelle.”
Mirabelle’s face flushed with embarrassment. She didn’t understand why her older sister was acting this way, but she smiled shyly anyway because it meant Elena loved her. The fact the Elena was the best sister in the world would never change.
Elena leaned back, hugging Mirabelle tightly, and looked at her tenderly as if she was handling a fragile object. Elena couldn’t almost bear to look at her, and her heart ached for the future that Mirabelle didn’t know.
A thought suddenly came to Elena’s mind.
“Where is Father now?”
“You said yesterday that Father had urgent business today and he wouldn’t be back until evening.”
“Oh, did I…”
Elena gave her an awkward smile then thought carefully. In order to avoid the same tragedy she had to do something at once. There wasn’t much time left to change the future.
Should she run to her father and tell him about his future? Elena immediately shook her head. It was doubtful whether he would believe this outlandish story, which she found difficult to understand herself, and even if he believed what she said, the Blaise family was absolutely loyal to the royal family. Her father was a man who would fight to the death rather than run away. Because of this, he had been killed in his previous life by the Emperor Paveluc.
How could she stop Paveluc from becoming emperor? No one knew it now, but the 12th Emperor Sullivan was suffering from a serious long-term illness. The present emperor would die soon.
‘…Should I assassinate Paveluc before then?’
Even if she returned to the past and her skills with the sword did not disappear completely, it would be necessary to train her body again to peak physical condition. She had failed in her original goal, but she was still the one who pointed her sword at the infamous Emperor Paveluc cut off his arm.
But even if the assassination was successful…
The royal family would hunt down the person who killed Paveluc, ignorant of his deeds. The Blaise family wouldn’t be able to avoid responsibility. And if she failed…
She closed her eyes tightly, not wanting to even think of the outcome. Although she did not want to admit it, she had worked her whole life to kill Paveluc. Elena knew better than anyone how strong he was. She had already lost to him once. Was it possible to win with this second chance? There wasn’t a guarantee that she would be able to kill Paveluc this time while concealing her identity. She could not risk the lives of her family against such a slim chance.
‘…I can’t afford to fail.’
Even if the worst possible outcome were to happen, she needed to be able to ensure that the Blaise family survived, but a good plan didn’t come to mind. Even though she had valiantly sacrificed herself in her previous life, she was more ashamed that she could not avenge her family’s deaths.
She had done everything that could be done alone. Now he needed an assistant to give her strength.
‘If there was only someone who could help me…’
There was only one person that came to mind.
To her knowledge, he was supposed to die in a few days. But…what if he didn’t die? The crown prince, son of the present emperor, would be the biggest obstacle to Paveluc, even if Carlisle only accomplished half of his achievements on the battlefield. No, it would be very helpful if the rumors about him were true. Furthermore, if she could make him emperor he could stand in the way of Paveluc’s rise to power.
She had to save Prince Carlisle, someone who should have died. It would be a decision that would further shake the whole continent. The effects of it would be unpredictable. After a moment’s hesitation, Elena laughed at herself coldly.
‘I don’t care if the whole world drowns in blood. I only want to save my family…’
She would walk with a smile down this bloodstained road. Elena looked down at Mirabelle’s bright eyes and made a deep vow once again.
She’ll save her this time. No matter the cost.