༺ Ruthless Kindness ༻
Early in the morning, Yuriel quietly caressed her lower belly while the maids attended to her in her bedroom.
If she had calculated her cycle correctly, her menstruation should have come a while ago.
However, her body showed no sign of it happening.
Considering that during her last fertile period, she and Ferzen had been together in the Imperial Palace, there was a high likelihood of pregnancy due to the timing.
Yet, Yuriel didn’t see a need to inform Ferzen about it.
The conscription processes in the capital and the surrounding regions had just concluded. If everything proceeded on schedule, the Emperor would declare war on the Elmark Empire today.
With a war imminent, disclosing her potential pregnancy would only add to Ferzen’s burden.
Given the circumstances, there could even be a risk of miscarriage if she was pregnant.
Even if she was stationed in the rear, life there would still be challenging, as the stress from the battlefield might exceed her expectations.
It might seem like a form of greed to hope that a very young fetus would weather all the hardships and thrive in her womb.
But despite all of those thoughts, Yuriel still tried to fulfill her greed.
Because she didn’t want to lose,
Both her child,
And her beloved husband, Ferzen.
‘Sorry… but can you please bear with Mommy……’
Yuriel knew better than anyone else that it was nearly impossible to live a life where she could get everything she wanted.
But she never wanted to put both her precious child and her beloved husband on a scale and measure their weight.
“We are finished, Madam.”
“You’ve worked hard.”
Leaving behind the maids who had finished grooming her, Yuriel stood up and changed her clothes.
Then, after completing all of her preparations, she stood in front of the mirror and looked at herself clearly.
A fight to protect her husband as a wife.
A fight to protect her child as a mother.
……On both fronts, she would try her best to not be defeated.
* * * * *
Simultaneously with the brief knocks, Ferzen turned his head toward the door and saw Yuriel entering the bedroom.
“Are you ready?”
Her attire wasn’t just for decoration; it could be considered a weapon in its own right.
As Ferzen looked at Yuriel’s clothing, he couldn’t help but appreciate it and found that it highlighted her unique charm.
However, even though she was dressed in clothing that left little to the imagination, he still felt a touch of discomfort when he noticed her prominent bosom.
Why is a uniform that should serve as a base designed like that?
“Don’t worry. I’ll be wearing a robe to prevent others from ogling my body.”
Yuriel beamed as she waved the robe she was holding in her left hand.
“I won’t give the soldiers the chance to relieve their stress by imagining my body.”
“That’s why you had that furrowed brow, wasn’t it?”
“You still sent me to the rear even though you want to keep me all to yourself like that?”
Was it a time-honored tradition that husbands couldn’t win arguments against their wives?
Over time, Ferzen felt like Yuriel was getting better and better at getting inside his head.
“I’m just joking.”
With a wry smile, Yuriel approached and, after donning her robe, gently hugged him. In response, Ferzen instinctively stroked the back of her head, as if it had become a habit.
Even though it was just a physical gesture without any specific intention, every time he touched her, he found himself wanting to touch her a little more.
It made him think that Yuriel possessed a strange power to attract males.
“If you’re ready, let’s go. Laura is already waiting outside.”
“Alright, let’s do that.”
Since she had noticed that when his hands naturally moved to her waist, it had a strange feeling to it, she felt like if she had been a little greedy, she could have invited him to a short love making session before departing.
However, since he was someone who always unleashed his sadistic side when he was with her, he would definitely feel something was off if she suddenly became reluctant to entertain those desires of his.
Although Yuriel felt regretful at such thoughts, she had no choice but to retreat from Ferzen’s embrace.
If she really was carrying a child in her womb, then becoming a subject of his extreme sex would definitely not be a good thing since her pregnancy was still very young.
Ferzen left the mansion with the two women, Yuriel and Laura, and rode in a carriage to the Imperial Palace. There, he headed in a different direction from the path that Yuriel and Laura were taking.
At that moment, his adjutant, Rimbel, who had arrived earlier, came running to his side, panting.
“I have taken attendance in advance.”
The reason Ferzen had entered the Imperial Palace that day was to gather the troops under his command and have them execute the death row inmates.
Among the knights and wizards, the high-ranking personnel, those who had never taken a life might suffer from severe PTSD once the war was over.
To prevent this, they had to go through a process of executing death row inmates before heading to war.
“It seems like one person is still absent.”
“T-that’s indeed the case……”
Without a doubt, the date of the day would have been mentioned in the notice he had given her.
However, in the personnel attendance report brought by Rimbel, Ferzen noticed that Lizzy was not present.
Just as he had informed her back then, the consequences of disobeying the Emperor’s orders in a wartime situation would be significant.
“There is no evidence that she has left the capital, so I decided to wait and see. Shall we send someone?”
“The knights were the ones scheduled to leave first for today’s itinerary, right?”
“That’s correct. After all, the knights have a relatively small number.”
“Then there’s no need to send someone. I’ll go there myself.”
Since managing the unit’s personnel was the responsibility of the superior, Ferzen temporarily left this task in Rimbel’s hands and made his way to the mansion where Lizzy was staying.
Had his bad feelings been a mere illusion?
Disobeying orders in wartime situations, regardless of the offender’s status, was punishable by death.
She should be well aware of this, yet she had not responded to the summons that day.
……Maybe she had committed suicide.
The fact that she did not come made him imagine something like that.
However, if it was truly the result of Lizzy’s own will, then it was not his place to tell her otherwise.
* * * * *
The sight of the mansion, which remained unchanged from his previous visit before going to Brutein, caught Ferzen’s eyes.
If there was a difference between the current state of the mansion and the one from before, it was the large pile of trash.
As Ferzen entered the mansion, ignoring the unpleasant odor emanating from the garden, he observed the layer of dust that had settled everywhere, a clear indication of the place’s neglect.
The atmosphere was dark and gloomy, to the point that it hardly felt like a place inhabited by anyone.
Ferzen made his way through the hallway and, without knocking, opened the door to what he assumed was Lizzy’s bedroom.
The moment he entered, he noticed a moldy piece of bread that had hit his toe.
Upon further inspection, he realized that the room had an overpowering musty odor from being unventilated for a long time, making it the perfect environment for bronchial diseases to thrive.
It was difficult to ascertain whether she was dead or alive.
Lizzy lay on her white bed, facing away from him, and Ferzen couldn’t even hear her breathing properly.
He thought that she might have passed away in solitude, but as he approached her, he heard faint breathing and a pained moan.
Ferzen reached out to touch her forehead, and he instantly noticed that Lizzy had a high fever.
Recalling her medical history from his time as a professor at the academy, he remembered that she often suffered from tonsillitis.
He gently laid her down on the bed and peered into her mouth. Even without shining a light, he could see the inflamed tonsils, indicating her poor health.
As he examined her with his limited medical knowledge, he observed signs of malnutrition.
Beside her, he noticed the notice he had given her back then.
She hadn’t refused to come; she simply couldn’t.
When he lifted the blanket, he found a sheet soaked with cold sweat.
It appeared that the wounds and broken bones she had sustained back then hadn’t healed properly.
The fact that she had managed to survive in this state was nothing short of remarkable.
‘Even though reality is like a living hell… Do you still want to live?’
Ferzen looked down at Lizzy for a moment with his distinct crimson eyes before gently cradling her in his arms.
* * * * *
Lizzy opened her eyes to the sterile smell of the hospital room, a place that had become all too familiar.
A sore throat throbbed with each painful swallow, as her tonsils were swollen and assaulted by pain with every breath.
While there was no comfort in her condition, the irony was that it signaled her body was on the path to recovery.
It meant that her body, which was pushed to its limits, to the point where it couldn’t even register pain, had finally started to mend, allowing her to feel the discomfort.
‘Where am I……’
Even though her blurred vision prevented her from fully comprehending her current situation, she at least knew that today’s date coincided with the convening date on the notice she’d received.
She felt a sense of urgency, as though she shouldn’t be lingering here, and at the same time, a desire to close her eyes, fall asleep, and forget everything.
Yet, she was well aware that choosing that path would lead to the death penalty for defying the Emperor’s orders.
Why had she been thrust into this war in the first place?
Why had she been made to fight on the battlefield for the Ernes Empire?
She had no reason, no purpose, not even the motivations of conscripted commoners.
The tragic loss of her family, along with the overwhelming lethargy that now consumed her body, brought her to the edge of despair.
She lived, not out of a desire to survive, but because she couldn’t find the will to die.
Living simply because she couldn’t find the strength to end it all seemed like the most accurate description of her existence.
But was it right to squander the life she had been given, especially when it was only preserved due to the sacrifices of her family?
This inner conflict grinded away at her inside.
Overwhelmed by the painful constriction that felt like it was choking the life out of her, Lizzy moaned in agony, clutching her chest.
She felt the desperate need for fresh air, to escape the nightmares that haunted her, whether her eyes were open or closed.
She strained to sit up, her upper body trembling.
She longed for a moment of freedom, even if it were fleeting.
As she gazed toward the window where sunlight streamed in, she couldn’t help but turn her head, looking away with trepidation.
Her whole body shuddered, and her legs drew close as she saw a man standing by the window.
To make matters worse, the unmistakable scent of luxurious perfume hung in the air, presenting her with the cruelest of nightmares.
“Are you awake?”
The voice of a monster she never wanted to hear reached her ears.
It wrapped around her like a noose, binding the lamb in its suffocating grip.
TL note: I had half of mind to change the chapter title to – Twisted Kindness just to make a reference.
That only the CHADDEST OF CHADS WOULD UNDERSTAND
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