Chizuru felt her body swaying unnaturally, and she awoke.
The swaying continued even after she was awake, and sometimes she would feel the impact of something shaking her entire body. Her hip and back hurt, and she felt a little sick.
(My hip hurts…what is…?)
Feeling that something was wrong, she opened her eyes and saw the night sky.
Chizuru realized then that she had slept until the sun went down. She cursed herself, but it was too late. The stars danced and filled the sky.
“Ahh, young lady. You have awakened just in time. We are almost at my castle.”
Chizuru let out a short scream.
A large, bear-like man was grinning at her from under the light of the moon. His expression seemed amused. His bushy hair was thick and grew down to his beard, and it smelled thickly of sweat. She did not know how old he was, but her overall impression was that he looked like Santa Clause had not taken a bath in over a year.
“Ah, I wouldn’t do that if I were you, beautiful. I am not known for being patient. You don’t want me to hurt you, do you?”
Chizuru was breathing heavily now. She quickly scanned her surroundings and saw that she was on a horse with this bear of a man. Her body was wrapped in a filthy blanket, and she was gripped tightly so that she would not fall off, but the man’s appearance and manner were far from a gentleman or knight.
It was dark aside from the light of the moon, and she could not see clearly. But she thought that she heard the sounds of several other horses running close by. Was he leading a group of men?
“Wh-what are you…going to do with me?”
While she felt pathetic, she could not help but feel fear, and her voice trembled. The man seemed to be enjoying her reaction.
It was no surprise to her. He seemed like the kind of man who would find pleasure in tormenting women.
He showed his yellowed teeth and roared with laughter.
“You’re a pretty one, and we have only men here. As starved as we are, what else would we do!”
Enraged, Chizuru immediately tried to escape from his grip, but his thick arms were sturdy, and would not let go. A guttural laugh came from his hairy mouth, and Chizuru felt extreme hatred for him.
“Le-let me go!”
“That is what I would wish…”
The bear of a man continued cheerfully. “…But you have dark hair and eyes, and a face that is not common around here. And your build is just right. Though, perhaps you are a little too young.”
“If that bastard scum is in a good mood, we may be able to make a little money off of you. And so there it is. You are our prisoner for now. We won’t touch you. But don’t expect to be treated like a princess either.”
Just then, the hoot of an owl came from somewhere. It was strangely loud.
Chizuru pursed her lips as she shook with rage. She had never expected that she would fall straight back into Lukrov’s arms, but she had not expected this either. That she would be captured by some unknown men and be handled like property.
She tried to hold them back, but tears began to fill her eyes.
“Bah, there is no reason to cry. That cold duke was once praised as a hero who saved the country. But now, he is only a shut-in who rules this countryside.”
Chizuru stopped breathing at those words.
A hero…who saved the country…?
“Who, who…is he? When…did this happen?”
The man raised his eyebrows in surprise at her string of questions. He had not expected her to be so interested.
He scratched his rough beard and seemed to be thinking.
“It must be fourteen years ago now… The people could not shut up about him then, but now he is practically disgraced. They call him the ‘Black Assassin.’”
Chizuru was lost for words.
Fourteen years. So her calculations had been correct. And, the hero of the country.
But why an ‘Assassin’?
“Turns out the hero who saved the kingdom was nothing more than a murderer and a monster, who was blinded by gold and women. They say that he killed hundreds as the king’s hand. But he lives quietly in his mansion now…”
The bear man said and roared with laughter. Chizuru could not understand what was so amusing to him.
The hoot of an owl echoed once again, and Chizuru felt even more uneasy.