ILLYML – 4

In any history book, there has never been a case of a ducal head becoming a concubine. If anyone heard it, they would fall in disbelief.

Although it has lost its former glory, Aguernia is Aguernia. And yet, the Duchess of Melford was set on humiliating him for having the audacity on claiming the title.

Bring the Duke in as a concubine.

I had to hand it to the Duke, her thoughts were very different from the people of this country.

There’s no law against a duke entering a harem, so it’s okay, right? That’s what she thinks. The Duke of Melford said so and smiled gaily.

I would typically have responded to that smile, but I wasn’t in the mood now.

“Why a mistress? I’m sure the position of legal husband is available.”

“It has always been easier to use and abandon a concubine. That’s not the case for a husband. Wouldn’t it be better to have a seat that’s easier to dispose of?”

In short, Serina is going to use Alastair and forsake him.

She laughed like a rascal who was up to something funny. The soft voice was filled with excitement. The Duke of Melford has long since planned the future of dolls to play with and break.

My body heated up.

“Well, that wouldn’t be a bad idea,” the voice that came out of my controlled lips was monotonous.

I raised my glass again and sipped the tea, taking the moment I needed to calm down.

“But you know that Alastair, even if he doesn’t become my mistress, is already obedient to me.”

From the start of his brainwashing to even his last moments, he was never rebellious towards Serina.

The bitter taste of tea stained the back of my throat.

“Even if you don’t let it in the harem, the child is easy to handle, mother. And I think it’ll be more fun…”

“Really? But you never know. Will Alastair be a valuable piece, unlike the late Duke.”

I tilted my head. The red tea in the teacup across the table reflected the likeness of the Duchess.

Her face looked strange in the shaking tea water. Like a demon.

“If that happens, then I’ll put him on my hand. But I want the best jewelry.”

I raised my right hand and showed her the ring on my index finger. The clear, transparent ruby shone brilliantly under the sun.

“I got the most outstanding jewel at an auction recently. As you know, I only accept the best.”

I was the actor, and the Duke of Melford was the audience. How does it feel to watch?

“I’m going to wait until he’s ripe, just as I don’t eat and wait until the food is ripe. I believe that the more he suffers from thirst, the higher his value will be.”

“That’s pretty funny.” I heard a ticklish laugh.

I want to close my ears, but I can’t.

I opened my mouth excitedly. “And mother, I’ll make the choice. So the mother doesn’t have to mind my business.”

I wiped my smile and hardened my eyes coldly. I firmly stated my stance and put a certain amount of energy into it.

Stay out of my business.

“Well, that’s how you really feel, then I won’t stop you,” the Duke of Melfort shrugged.

The small gesture gave me a strong sense of relief.

I don’t know how much, but I bought some time.

As soon as I have solved Alastair’s brainwashing, I can flee to some remote place.

Even if the Duke of Melford chases me down like a top-notch horse, at least I’ll find a resting-place either way even if my sanctuary was death.


  • Knock knock

“Alastair, it’s me. I’m coming in.”

I opened his door that neighbored mine. The room, which was calmly arranged, came into my view. His place with tables, chairs, bookshelves, and bedding, was simple. Alastair was lying on the bed.

I realized that he was sleeping when I came in, and he didn’t move.

Alastair was exhausted; he bounced between the hallucination room every few days and being locked up in the dungeon for making some mistake.

I closed the door as quietly as I could so I wouldn’t disturb him. Then in a moment the room became dim. His room was always dark because Alastair kept his curtains closed.

Only a light that leaked through the edge of the curtain lit up the dim room.

I spied Alastair’s bandaged wrist.

I approached him as close as I could while still erasing my presence. I paused, making sure he didn’t wake up.

It was an empty room, so even tip-toeing rang loudly.

I braced myself and sat on the bed, tucking the quilt up to his neck and reaching for the loosened bandage.

“······Serina”

Alastair’s closed eyes slowly opened. His eyebrows trembled with fatigue.

“Did you wake up? You can sleep more.”

But he shook his head as if he had no intention of sleeping anymore. He slowly stirred up in bed, smiling faintly at me.

I untied his bandage and applied some medicine. The wound vastly improved.

“Alastair, your day is fixed.”

“When is it?”

“In a few days. I hope the wound will heal before then.”

Alastair was silent. I stopped talking when I saw his twisted face. Instead, I focused on wrapping his bandage, and Azester watched me like that.

I lifted my eyes.

I made eye contact.

Suddenly, I remembered that I had not clearly informed Alastair of his father’s death. There is not much time left for us to be together. I had to enlighten him as soon as possible.

What did Serina in the original work do in this situation?

It was when I was at a loss for words.

-Knock

“Prince, this is Marina. May I come in?”

“Come in,” I answered on behalf of a silent Alastair.

At my permission, Marina opened the door and gave us both a slight curtsy.

“What’s going on?” Marina is a maid under Duke Melford’s direct command.

The fact that she came to Alastair’s room meant that the Duke had something to do with him.

I have a bad feeling about this.

“The Duke is calling the Young Master.”

“Why?”

“How can I know?” She said, “If you’re curious, go check it yourself.”

The Alastair wordlessly left his bed. He was familiar with this sickening situation.

Marina left the room with Alastair and I following suit.

The closer we got to our destination, the more anxious I became.

Going this way took you to a damp, fishy cellar. The basement was covered with various tools for torture. I ignored the tools spotted over the fence, and I turned to Alastair.

He was looking away with an emotionless face. Then he smiled at me and held my hand.

He gave a reassuring grip trying to convey heat to my cold hands.

Finally, Marina’s steps stopped in front of the Duke Melford in front of the Hall of Hallucination. “What a surprise. Seri’s here with you.”

I stole my hand away. I wanted to feel more warmth.

Are you thinking of mentally torturing him again?

The Duke of Melford laughed silently.

“It’s not yet been a week, Mother.”

“Alastair leaves soon.”

The Duke was quietly preparing herself. I noticed, for the first time, a shelf where all kinds of torture equipment were displayed.

She picked up a candle I knew instinctively as soon as I saw the candle.

It was something different from the scented candles used to drug and brainwash.

It looked rough and violet, like a huge, thick decaying raisin.

The Duke of Melford lit a candle. There was a familiar and sweet smell.

But there was a mixture of unusual, mysterious smells.

“……Mother, am I smelling something weird? Or is this my misunderstanding?”

“I’ve increased the ratio of amalion and added a little bit of this and that.”

Amalion…..????

After a moment’s reflection on the unfamiliar name, I realized that it was the primary drug that went into these evil candles.

My face hardened. Raising the Amalion’s rate was a death sentence.

You wouldn’t want to kill the Duke’s heir. What the hell are you up to?

“It’s driving me crazy.”

My vision was already confused. Unlike me, Alastair, who was familiar with the scents, was fine, but not me.

I had no immunity. In other words, it was impossible to hold out here for a long time.

“Marina, tie up Alastair.”

“Yes, Duke,” Marina’s hand held a harness and chain with a mana suppressor. And that brutal chain? Is that how they want to tie him up?

If you tie someone with that they were sure to get bruises and cuts all over.

This is not the way this usually preceded. Alarms were going off. Something was going to go wrong; I knew it in the hollow of my bones.

“Serina, are you going to watch from there?”

She made it sound like she was inviting me to a celebration, but the Duke was sincere. If you want to see it, you should watch it. By some miracle, I was able to feign calmness.

If I didn’t force myself to act composed, my reason would have run away.

“Mom, can you explain to me what you’re trying to do?”

“Of course. As you know, there’s not much time left for Alastair.”

“‘Yes, we have about four days left.”

“So, we need to take a shortcut.”

“Do we need to?”

“What do you mean?”

“Aren’t we wasting time training a dog that already follows their owners?’

Here the dog meant Alastair.

I amused Duke Melford by referencing her favorite title for him, “dog”.

“As mother knows, Alastair has a strong mentality that doesn’t work well with brainwashing. I’m sure it’s the same with that candle. We don’t have much time, just like you said.”

The Duke Melford was quiet.

“He’s already a well-disciplined hound. Does a good-natured hound need more education?” So don’t hurt him any more. Whether or not she knew my eagerness, the Duke of Melford stared at me with red eyes.

I was worried that my desperation might be reflected in that penetrating eye.

“Even if the dog leaves me, I can handle it.”

“Really?”

“We shouldn’t waste mother’s precious time.”

She seemed to be pondering over what to do after hearing what I said.

I waited silently until she came to a conclusion.

“As you said, I don’t have to waste my precious time. You say you can tame the dog well.”

It was a moment of cheers. But I could never cheer.

Was this moment a joke?

I could hear someone laughing at me, and an angel was turning into a devil, deceiving me.

“So, prove it.”

“What ····?”

“You can handle your dog well –Even if you don’t take it as a concubine this is more effective.”

Was it the effect of the candles? There seemed to be a continuum of words.

12 thoughts on “ILLYML – 4

  1. I read the line where she said shes leaving after removing alastair’s brainwashing and my brain went HAYWIRE. Went off to write this drabble. Likely ooc /doesnt jive in with the plot, but i have too many feelings for this to not write.

    “… That should be it,” said Serina.

    It was oddly definitive. Anticlimactic, in the sort of way endings do not tend to be. Serina knew, from a life long past, that healing does not come in a snap much like magic does. ‘If a psychiatric hospital gets ahold of this,’ she mused, ‘they’d rank first in the charts’.

    But alas, that life was dead, and here she was right now— in front of the Duke of Aguernia, the final vestiges of a spell threading around her fingertips.

    Alastair’s eyes were still closed.

    He’s still beautiful, she surmised. His lashes retained the same elegant curve as a teen and the tips of his hair were still light as a feather to the touch. She cupped his face, a cherishing gesture for the last time. In it, contained relief, longing, and maybe, guilty wish that she said four years instead of three.

    She will miss him.

    And along the trailing of her thumb across his cheek, was a regret. Had the circumstances been better, had they been born in a life that required none of this noble scheming, maybe they could have had a chance. Maybe she was a childhood friend, or maybe he’s the neighbor who just moved in. Maybe they could have been the young prince and princess of a land other than this, and maybe their betrothal could have been decided after a tea party then some. Maybe they could have lived as servants, and married as commoners. Maybe, maybe.

    That romance was not for this life.

    His feelings will never be true, and Serina doubted it will ever be so— knowing the weight of their shared history (shared /curse/). Even if Serina did entertain the idea enough to try, she had firm belief that once Alastair regained consciousness, he would scorn her. After all, who would dare fall for the face of their tormentor, regardless of whether it’s also the face of their savior?

    Only a fool, truly.

    Any tie between them was a frayed little thing, hanging by the edges, desperate. It was up to Serina to cut it now.

    With the ending caress of a goodbye, Serina dropped her hand. And whispered, “Farewell, Alastair. I hope you aren’t unlucky enough to meet me again. Live a good life.”

    Alastair opened his eyes.

    In that moment, Serina was brought back to the cellar.

    It was damp and directly after Alastair slashed his wrist. He broke free of his shackles to clutch her close—as if he wanted to bury her in his chest, or perhaps, eat her alive— and his eyes were utterly blank. That was when they made their promise, and the bleeding lines from his bandages almost seemed like an offering to the devil presiding on their contract. She whispered, ‘Prove yourself worthy,’ and all he ever replied was, ‘Please don’t leave me.’

    Involuntarily, Serina shivered.

    And Alastair, like before, smiled gently.

    It looked twisted in her eyes.

    “Thank you for freeing me, Serina, but…”

    His hands snaked around her waist. When did he have the time to bridge the distance between them—?

    “I proved my value, right?” he said, quiet as a predator stalking its prey.

    His eyes.

    His eyes were glowing.

    “You’re not leaving.”

    The last thing she remembered was staring, entranced. His eyes, like before, were similarly purple, and still beautiful.

    1. that was incredible!! i got goosebumps reading that because of the emotions it evoked in me 😳😳😳

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