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Chapter: 6


Bio Menté silently stared at the letter in her hand.

Kill Ryner Lute, a member of the forty-second squadron of the Illusory Masters.

She was fifteen and had red hair that reached her shoulders. Her eyes were dark and her expression cold.

That was the story of her existence. The story of her existence as an assassin… 

She read the letter once more.

Ryner Lute. Ten years old. Bearer of the Alpha Stigma.

She had a pretty good image of the situation with that information alone, down to the reason that she was supposed to kill him.

The Illusory Masters were a division of the Roland Empire’s military made up entirely of those with peculiar abilities. This Alpha Stigma bearer was, of course, no different… 

"…So they’re telling me to kill a monster this time," Bio whispered, a faint but self-deprecatory smile forming on her lips. 

That was her current job as one of many assassins officially affiliated with Roland’s military. This was her duty, and had been since she was twelve years old - she’d been doing it for three years at this point.

Accept her mission, kill her target. Accept her mission, kill her target. Accept her mission, kill her target.

Everything repeated itself, again and again.

She’d perfected the art by now.

There were times when her targets were spies. Times when they were people who’d learned Roland’s secrets, however unintentionally. She’d been ordered to kill lovers before, and ordered to kill wives after big shots fell in love with another.

It didn’t matter who they were. Men, women, children… She’d devoted her life to following her orders, after all.

By now, she was known as a top achiever in her field. They said that she could perform superhuman feats. She had astounding physical ability and her senses were sharper than a dagger. All at the young age of fifteen, no less. She was hailed as a genius, so others felt confident in leaving their missions in her hands.

Assassination was her calling. Or rather, it was what she was raised to do. Those around her had died for it, and now she was the only one left… 

The only value in her existence was her value as an assassin.

That was what she was raised for. That was what she lived for. That’d been hammered into her since long ago.

And yet… this letter that she’d been handed… 

Bio continued to read the letter.

Bio Menté’s duty as an assassin will be resolved after the resolution of this mission.

We have finally seen an end to the conflict between the Roland Empire and the Kingdom of Estabul. Your impressive achievements have finally come to fruit.

You will be compensated with being released from the army. You will recieve the right to a new name and a new life.

This is your final mission. Please put all of your strength into fulfilling it.

"…My final… mission?"

All that she could do was stare at those unexpected words.

She had never thought of such a thing.

Her final mission. A different life. One without… without killing… 

She had never thought of it. She’d ever even dreamed of it.

A new, free life…?

"…What should I do…?"

She was a young girl of fifteen, but she’d never thought about this before. She had no dreams to accomplish, even if she were suddenly freed. It’d just never occurred to her. 

She’d always been forbidden from pointless contact with other humans. 

There was a wall around her heart. She’d never spoken to another human without acting out her role. Telling her that she was free after all of this time was… 

"Freedom…"

It didn’t sound bad at all.

Really, what should she do?

Such were the thoughts in her mind as she prepared for her final mission.

---

She’d categorize this job as ‘basic.’ The target was living all on his own, after all… 

Those belonging to the Illusory Masters were generally made to be off, either in regards to their bodies or their minds. They gathered in the dark side of the Roland Empire. That was where all monsters gathered. Monsters made to superheat the flames of the war.

It was the dark side of the empire that the people weren’t meant to see.

That meant that once the war was finished, someone had to ‘deal with’ their little monster problem. They’d be dealt with in the most normal of normal ways.

That was to say that they’d be accused of and executed for treason or other some such crimes. But this Ryner Lute was different. He possessed the Alpha Stigma, which meant that he was fully capable of massacre. If they gathered him up with the other soldiers to execute them all, there was a high probability of his Alpha Stigma going off. If it did, then the soldiers wouldn’t be the only ones to die. The executors and overseers would, too.

Not only that, but the Alpha Stigma was capable of copying any and all magic that it saw. That made it quite the threat. He wouldn’t go down easily.

And if it got out to the people that the Roland Empire was keeping an Alpha Stigma bearer, one who was capable of spreading destruction across their lands, as a pet… 

That’d be bad.

That was why Bio was entrusted with this mission.

Alpha Stigma bearers went berserk when their emotions peaked.

"That means that they have to die before their emotions have the chance to peak," Bio whispered as she stared up at the building before her. "I excel at that kind of thing…"

The building was a residence made of brick. It seemed that the military was lending this building to Ryner Lute alone.

"…This is too big for one person."

It was a distinct trait of the Illusory Masters. If the monsters were compliant, if they allowed themselves to be controlled, they were rewarded.

They weren’t like other people. They were chosen. 

They were special people chosen for the sake of the Roland Empire. That’s why they were treated well. In exchange for that treatment, they had to fight for Roland.

That was part of how they controlled the monsters that made up the Illusory Masters, and that was also what made this mission so easy.

Ryner was chosen, so he was given this big house to live in all by himself. He shouldn’t find it odd in the slightest if Bio invited herself in as one of his maids, and if she could get that close to him, killing him would be a walk in the park.

Even if he was an Alpha Stigma bearer, he was only ten.

"And once I finish this matter…"

Her words trailed off. Her eyes narrowed.

Her emotions fled from her face. Her heart locked up.

She took the expression that she always had when she worked.

Nothing could catch her off guard. She wouldn’t trust anybody. She wouldn’t let anyone into her heart.

Her emotionless expression was completely unlike what one would think a fifteen year old girl to be capable of. Instead, she wore the cold expression of someone whose only purpose was to kill.

Then she smiled, completely at odds with the true expression beneath her lips, and knocked on the door.

"Um, excuse mee! Mr. Ryner Lute, are you home?" Bio asked in a gentle voice. One filled with kindness.

"……"

No answer.

She tilted her head. It was the first thing she’d done all day that betrayed her age as that of a fifteen year old. "Huh, is he out?"

It was weird. Her sources said that he’d be in right now. He should have responded… 

And then— 

"Ahh, yeah, yeah. I’m opening it now," a childlike voice said from inside. It was accompanied by noisy steps. Then there was the clank of the lock coming undone. 

A lovely sense of relief flashed through her, and she sighed softly. "Ah, good. I don’t know what I would’ve done otherwise."

Even now, she was measuring Ryner physical ability by the sound of his steps and the lock. The movement of his feet didn’t sound practiced at all. He moved like a normal kid would. She didn’t sense any sense of danger from his voice, either.

Then there was the kid who opened the door. He looked sleepy, and like he was a little bit of a dolt. He had disheveled dark hair and relaxed eyes.

Bio was about as tall as the average woman, and this kid was about her height. He was taller than most ten year olds. Height mattered here, too - the fact that they were close meant that they’d both have similar reach, should they end up fighting. Though from the look of things, she highly doubted that this would turn into an all-out brawl… 

Bio smiled and nodded in salutations. "It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Bio Menté. I’ve been ordered to act as your housekeeper from now on."

"Ah, yeah, I heard about that. I’ve been waiting for you. You’re really good at cooking, right?"

"Of course, Sir Lute! I love cooking! I’m also quite skilled with laundry and cleaning!"

Ryner’s nose crinkled. "Whoa… Sir Lute…? You can’t be talking about… I mean, you’re obviously talking about me, but I kinda don’t like that. It makes me sound super full of myself, y’know?"

Bio stared blankly.

Honestly, she didn’t expect that at all. Illusory Masters all thought that they were the chosen ones. They all thought that they were different from others. They had to believe that.

They were people who didn’t find it odd that a housekeeper would be assigned to them, for crying out loud. That was how numb their sense of consciousness was.

But here this ten year old was, crossing his arms with a sour expression on his face. "So, um… yeah. Anyway, just call me Ryner. It’s not like you’re serving me or anything. You’re just here because the country told you to come here."

"Yes… Well, then, Sir Ryner…"

 "Ughhh. It’s R-y-n-e-r. I’m not answering unless you just call me ‘Ryner.’ Oh, also, I know that you’re supposed to be a maid, but I’d be happy if you made some food for me when you cook for yourself too, if you don’t mind. That’s about it. Other than that, just live how you want to."

"No, umm…"

"Also, this place is pointlessly big, and there’s lots of rooms, so you can just sleep wherever. Anyway, that’s about it. Here’s the key. I’m gonna get back to my nap now. Night~" 

With that, Ryner turned around and walked up the stairs to the second floor.

Bio just stood there for a moment, perplexed. Her expectations had been far off base. "Um, Sir Ryner? Even if you tell me to just use whichever room I wish, I…" 

Ryner didn’t turn around.

"S-sir Ryner?"

He didn’t turn around.

"Uh, umm, Ry…ner. Please talk to me."

Ryner finally turned around, a childish expression on his face. "See? It’s a lot easier making friends if you leave all the ‘sirs’ and ‘lords’ off, right? I hate the whole social hierarchy thing. So what do you want me to call you?"

"Huh? Oh, um… Well, anything is fine, S… no… Ryner. I’ll work hard to make ‘Ryner’ as natural as possible."

As soon as the words left her mouth, Ryner smiled meanly. "Alright, then. Lady Bio it is."

"Whaaat!? No, that’s…"

"What, you don’t like it? Even though you wanted to call me ‘Sir Ryner?’ Don’t tell me that you hated all this stuff since the beginning?"

Bio was at a loss for words. "Uuh…"  

"I’m just kidding," Ryner said, an innocent expression on his face. "Bio it is. Oh, but since you’re older, maybe you want me to call you Menté instead?"

"B-Bio is fine," she said, flustered.

"Alright, Bio. Live however you want wherever you want. I’ll do what I feel like doing, too. Anyway, night night~!" Ryner said, then continued up the stairs.

Bio just stared. "What’s up with this Ryner guy…? Talk about hard to handle…"

He lived life completely at his own pace. She gathered that he was a skilled conversationalist. And yet… He was so innocent… 

He had that sleepy smile, completely devoid of anything negative, more than anyone that she’d ever killed. For some reason, she didn’t want to do it.

Then her expression turned back into the calm smile from before. "Now, which room should I choose? Once I pick, I’ll clean up, and then get to work on dinner."

With that, her mission began in earnest.

---

She’d memorized the house’s layout before stepping foot inside. Even so, she was careful to take the details in as she cleaned. Many assassins had failed in executing their missions due to unfamiliarity with their surroundings, after all.

She had to find and erase all of the variables that could affect her mission. That caution of hers was what allowed her to stand at the top of the country’s assassins for so long.

This time would be no different. She would erase her target entirely.

So she wouldn’t let anything get to her. It didn’t matter how weak her opponent might be, or how pointless killing them might seem. Every movement she made was for the sake of completing her mission.

She would not fail.

"Hm hm hmm~ ♪ Hm hm hm—mm!"

The layout was approximately the same as what she expected of a house provided by the army. She should be able to attack and kill him while he slept.

She finished cleaning and moved on to cooking.

She made bread, soup, and seasoned meat and put it in the oven.

"Let’s make some super delicious food—!"

Her humming turned to improvised singing as she cooked. Even so, the thoughts in her head were that of a killer’s - could she poison this food? Poison had a little bit of a taste to it. Not much, but it was decidedly there. There was always a chance that her target would realize that he was being poisoned before he ingested a lethal dose.

From what she’d seen of this boy, he was still inexperienced. She could probably poison him with ease. 

She retrieved a packet of powder from her breast pocket.

But just then, she heard a yawn.

"Ohh, smells good! It smelled so good that it woke me right up. Is this dinner? It’s dinner, right? Did you make some for me, too?"

Flustered, Bio quickly put the powder back in her pocket. When she turned around to face Ryner, her expression was decidedly calm. "Of course," she said. "It’ll be done soon, so sit tight!"

"Alright! I’ll be at the table, then! I’ll be sleeping. Wake me up when it’s done, okay? I haven’t eaten anything but sweet potatoes that I bought at a street stall for the past three days, so I’m reaaally looking forward to this."

"Sweet potatoes? That’s all you’ve eaten? You’re still growing! You need to be eating a balanced diet!"

"Oh, you got mad at me… But I’ll be eating your cooking from now on, so I’ll be super healthy. You seem like someone who’d say that kids need to eat well and sleep well… Alright! I’ll start sleeping well now. Wake me up when it’s dinnertime, alright?"

With that, he walked over to the table, lay his head down, and was asleep within five seconds.

Bio watched him, defeated.

He really was a purehearted child. Completely different from herself.

She’d already been training as an assassin in her first memories. It was the kind of training where she’d die if she took a single misstep… 

She took the poison out again and just stared at it.

Even if she took three times of the usual lethal dose, she would not die. She’d been forced to drink it as a child, starting with a small dose, then increasing it as she built up a tolerance. Day by day, she struggled horribly. It was training that’d make anyone scream and cry… In fact, many others who went through the same thing went mad, threw up their own blood, and died.

Even so, she slowly built up a tolerance to it… That was how she’d spent her childhood.

But there was no way that the child before her had gone through the same agony that she had.

She watched Ryner, who was laying face first against the table.

He was sleeping soundly as he breathed in and out lightly, cute as could be. He’d completely let his guard down. This was the same boy who had said that he was looking forward to eating her food with a smile on his face.

Her eyes narrowed. She put the powder back in her pocket.

This poison was cruel. Dying by it was horrible. She herself knew just what’d happen if one ingested it. There was no need to use it to kill this boy. There were plenty of easier methods out there. Ones that’d cause less suffering.

She was good at what she did. She was capable of killing him with each and every one of those methods with ease.

It wasn’t just that, either.

"……"

He could always realize that he was being poisoned before he ingested a lethal dose.  

That was her number one reason for not doing it. It had nothing to do with emotions.

Bio nodded to herself, then took the food to the table where Ryner slept.

---

"Man, this is delicious!" Ryner said over and over while he ate. "It’s way better than sweet potatoes!"

Bio smiled, a bit bitter. "Is that even a compliment…?" 

"Oh, sorry. Forget about the sweet potatoes. It’s just good! Eating food like this every single day’s gonna turn this place into heaven. I mean, my life’ll be eating, sleeping, and then more eating, and then more sleeping! Talk about luxury!"

Bio smiled. He sounded like an old man. 

This was the first time that someone had praised her cooking like that. She normally pretended to be a maid in nobles’ manors, and when she cooked for them, all they ever did was insult her. They could find faults in anything. That was what she’d been expecting here, too.

Honestly, being praised like this made her kind of happy… 

She’d taught herself how to cook because she realized that assassins who knew how to cook had a higher success rate than those who couldn’t, due to being able to use poison more effectively. So she learned.

"Geez. You’re just saying that because you’re good at praising people."

"No, I’m being honest. You shouldn’t just hang out here. You should open a restaurant."

"A restaurant, huh? Sounds nice."

It might really be nice. Once she finished this job, it might be nice to try opening one… 

She really thought that. She liked cooking.

If she just finished this job… If she just… killed this boy… 

"Fuah, I’m stuffed. I can’t eat another bite! I seriously ate way more than I could handle."

"I suppose it suited your tastes?"

Ryner nodded real big. "Perfectly! It was amazing!"

"I’m glad. Oh, I also made dessert, but I suppose you’re too full—"

"No! I’ll eat it!"

"Alright, then. I’ll bring it out."

"I’m so excited. Maybe it’s ‘cause I’m a kid, but I’m a sucker for dessert. I have a second stomach for it ‘cause I’m a kid."

Bio smiled at Ryner’s one-man-argument. "Alright. It’s fruit jelly, so it shouldn’t be too hard on your stomach."

With that, Ryner tore into his dessert. "Oh, this is tasty," he said as he ate. "I’ve never had it before. How do you make it?"

"Hm? Well, first of all…"

Bio explained it for some time as Ryner nodded along, but in the end…

"Man, even though I’m listening and all, I really don’t think I could make it. You’re really good at cooking, Bio. How’d you learn how to do it?"

Bio smiled, happy. "I learned how from someone who’s crazy about food but horrible at cooking. I decided to try my hand at it, and brought food for them—they ran a bookstore—everytime I went to buy books."

"Oh, wow. It’s really good for being self-taught. You’re really talented."

"I’ll get embarrassed if you keep praising me."

"Really? I didn’t know that… That means that you don’t get praised much, right? There’s no way. But alright. I’ll try to stop."

It was hard not to be flustered at hearing someone say that with a straight face. "Ah, no, I’m happy that you’re praising me."

Those were her true feelings. She’d never really been praised for anything aside from her ability to kill. Her existence had only been acknowledged as an assassin. 

And yet, this boy… 

"Really? That’s good," he said. "I’m happy to compliment you, too, and besides, it really is super delicious. Thanks."

"…I, I… Yes. Um, uh, I’m also thankful… Ah, I’ll bring some tea to wash the food down."

"Nah, I’m good, really. I’m really full, and it’s making me really sleepy. I’m gonna go to sleep now."

With that, Ryner took his leave. His steps were a bit out of sync, as if he was really tired. 

"He… sleeps a lot," Bio mumbled. Her eyes fell to the empty dishes covering the table. She laughed. It came off as cheerful, even if only a little. Then she began to clean.

She briskly washed the dishes and tidied up as her plans for the night circled in her head.

She’d kill him tonight. She’d enter his room as he slept and slit his throat. It wouldn’t make a sound. He wouldn’t feel any pain. She was skilled enough that she wasn’t worried about that. 

She had complete confidence in herself.

Even so, she kept going over her plan in her head.

She’d kill her presence. Quietly open the door to Ryner’s room. Ryner wouldn’t be able to tell that she was there. She’d be able to slowly approach him. Raise the knife.

She’d raise it… and aim for Ryner’s neck… 

And easily slice through it.

She’d slice the neck of the person who she’d been chatting with until just a moment ago with ease.

He’d praised her cooking. She’d been happy.

His heart was pure. He’d made a good impression on her. 

Ryner’s smile rose in her mind. His face as he happily ate her cooking rose in her mind. His face as he slept so innocently on the table rose in her mind. 

Even so— 

Every simulation that she ran in her head ended with her skillfully slicing his throat. 

That was ‘Bio.’

She was a top level assassin, and had been for the past three years.

All meaning in her life could be summed up in a single word: killing.

It didn’t matter if her target was a woman or a child. She’d kill them.

She’d kill him tonight.

Ryner let down his guard too easily. He’d eaten too much at dinner. He’d be slow whether it made him sleepy or not.

She wouldn’t let him feel pain. She liked his smile too much for that. That’s why she’d kill him before he realized that anything was amiss.

She finished cleaning, then made sure that everything was in order.

Now all she had to do was wait for night to fall.

---

It was the middle of the night.

Ryner’s room was on the second floor. There were four rooms, and his was in a corner. 

Bio hid the sound of her steps as she made her way for his room.

He’d left the wooden door slightly ajar. The inside was pitch black. An impenetrable darkness.

She could hear the easy, almost cute breathing of Ryner as he slept.

"……"

She sided up to the door, then slipped through without pushing it open any more than it already was. She made absolutely no sound as she did. 

Bio crouched down, then waited for a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. She kept watch on Ryner to ensure that he stayed asleep.

Her training allowed her eyes to adjust fairly quickly. She looked around the room.

Ryner was asleep on the bed. He must have tossed and turned in his sleep, because he’d knocked his blanket off and onto the floor.

Bio couldn’t help but smile. It was an expression that an older sister might make for her sloppy but precious little brother. Even so, she was pulling her expertly sharpened knife from her pocket.

Everything was going according to plan. 

All she had to do now was get a little closer, then kill him.

She stood.

The sounds Ryner made as he slept remained unchanged.

She took a step forward.

Unchanged.

She took another step. Then another.

Even so, it remained unchanged.

There was no point in getting impatient. He hadn’t realized that she was there. She’d completely erased her presence, after all.

He remained in a deep sleep.

She’d take another step, raise her knife, and end it all.

She took another step. All she had to do was kill him.

There was no need to hurry. 

Now, it was time to end it.

"—Ahh… Actually, I have to use the bathroom. Is that okay?"

It was so sudden. Ryner suddenly spoke to her, his voice tired, as if he lacked the motivation to deal with what was happening.

Now she was questioning everything. Had he woken up? Did he realize what was happening? Did he know that she was there, or did he really just so happen to wake up to go to the bathroom? Would he see the knife, half-asleep as he was?

Then all of her questions disappeared from her mind.

None of that mattered. All that mattered was that she had to kill him!

Ryner wasn’t trained like she was. It didn’t matter how much things diverged from her plan - she’d still kill him!

Bio moved unbelievably fast. She drove her knife towards his neck— 

"Mmh."

Ryner dodged with the slight turn of his neck. Only then did he jump out of the way. 

Bio was shocked. "Wha…" 

Ryner’s reaction speed was absurd.

She followed suit, but she could only reach his turned back. Then he jumped off the bed, kicked off the wall, and flew into her blind spot.

"Kgh…"

This was the worst. It was her first time making a mistake like this. She’d completely misjudged her target’s abilities.

What was she thinking, again?

He was just ten years old. He was an innocent kid who lived a peaceful life, unlike her.

How could she have thought something so stupid?

A ten year old who could fight like this… was no different from her.

No, that wasn’t quite right. He must have endured even more hardship. He must have lived in an even bloodier hell than hers.

Her target… was a ‘monster.’

She felt a killing instinct radiating from behind her. A normal person wouldn’t have that. They’d glare, and that’d be that.  But this boy… Ryner. He was radiating killing intent that meant he’d really attack. 

From where, though? Her right, or her left?

She’d die if she didn’t move. She’d move if she made the wrong choice!

She tossed the knife, then moved to the left - the opposite direction from the door.

Her gamble… paid off. Ryner was not there.

Ryner was on the right side. He picked up her knife, then moved to block the door.

She figured that was where he’d be: by the door, so that she’d be unable to escape. That’s why she moved to the right instead.

She’d avoided him for now, but that didn’t change the situation.

"Shit…"

She already understood that Ryner was the stronger of the two of them. Overwhelmingly so.

The innocent Ryner who she’d eaten together with was nowhere in sight.

The Ryner that was here was wearing a bored expression with eyes that showed that he was past the point of exhaustion as he stared at the knife in his hands.

"…You really had me there," Bio said. "You had me with your tired, motivationless actions…"  

Shit. That was all she could think.

They wouldn’t give her an easy job for her final mission, now, would they?

"……"

Ryner didn’t meet her eyes. It was as if he had absolutely no interest in her.

That meant that she couldn’t buy time by talking. She glanced around. There was a door, but Ryner was blocking it. There was a window, but its storm shutter was closed. She wouldn’t be able to get through it. That left the door as her only way out… 

Bio gazed at Ryner with keen eyes. "Now, then. Do I have the power to get past him and through that door?" She wondered so quietly that not even she could hear her own voice.

To be frank, she wasn’t confident. That was how tremendous Ryner’s power was.

Then Ryner raised his face and looked at her, his eyes sharp and dark. "This is a pain, so let’s end it already."

"Yes, let’s end it simpl—"

Ryner’s body wavered, then he crouched low, lower… and then he rushed at her.

Bio reacted by flinging herself out of the way. Just dodging wasn’t enough to save her, though. He was faster. So she took note of where he was moving and punched to the place he ought to end up.

It was like Ryner knew exactly what she was going to do. He grabbed her wrist with his left hand and tugged, pulling her to the floor. Then he raised the knife in his right hand up.

The knife glinted in the dim light coming from the hallway.

He was brilliant. Nothing she did would change anything at this point.

She was dead.

It was her turn to die. 

Those idle thoughts were all that was left of her thoughts.

And yet… 

"Alright. I win this time… I’m pretty sure the rules say that the loser has to do something for the winner. Right?" Ryner asked, his voice unwaveringly tired.

"Huh?"

Ryner shrugged and stood. Then he flipped the knife in his hand the other way, and handed it to Bio by the hilt. "I’ll give this back."

"Um? What’s going on?"

"Okay, so, I want you to be quiet for a minute and listen to me," he said. Then a troubled expression rose to his ten year old face and he crossed his arms. "Why’re you here? I want the full story. I mean, I get that you came here to kill me. But who sent you?"

What choice did she have but to listen to his questions?

He was overwhelmingly stronger than her. One could easily figure out who her client was by checking the letter in her bag.

She couldn’t tell him, though. Silence was drilled into an assassin’s mind from the second their training started.

It didn’t matter if she was threatened with torture. It didn’t matter if she was threatened with death.

She would never say a word.

She didn’t resist, either. They both knew who was stronger, so any resistance at this point was a waste of time. 

Ryner nodded. "Aright, so if you won’t say it, then I’ll do it for you. Roland ordered you to come here and kill me."

"……"

Bio didn’t answer.

"On top of that," Ryner continued, his tone even, "They said that they’d relieve you of your duty as an assassin after you killed me, right? They’d give you a new name and let you live a new life, right?"

"How do you know that, you bastard!?"

Her conscious thought had finally resumed. What was going on? How did he know about that letter? Where was the weak link that the information leaked from?

Ryner’s expression went sad. "By the way, about my orders…"

He walked over to his desk, picked up a letter, and held it out for Bio.

"My mission is to eliminate the assassin Bio Menté. It’s because you did so much work during the war. Because you know too much about the dark side of Roland now, and well, y’know. They decided that their best course of action is to just get rid of you."

Bio took the letter in her hand. It was just as Ryner said - it was an official mission from Roland’s military. One that stated that his mission was to eliminate her.

"This is… absurd," she whimpered.

 "Nah. This is how this country always does things," Ryner said. His tone alone said it all: he’d given up on humanity. "They use people to their fullest, then when they start being more trouble than they’re worth, they kill them. That’s just how the top dogs run things here."

One wouldn’t dream of a ten year old saying something like that, but the truth that he was a skilled assassin. More so than Bio was. The way he moved, the way he thought… 

Ryner continued. "Seems like this is supposed to be some kind of training for me. They want to see if I can kill the best assassin there is, Bio Menté, even while being targeted by her. Basically, you’re a human guinea pig. Amazing, right? Roland plays games with people as pieces. That’s just how it is as a country. Honestly, I admire you for coming this far."

Bio raised her face from the letter to gaze at Ryner. "I see… Are you going to kill me, then?"

"Mm. Yeah," Ryner said with a nod. "Because it’s my job."

He said it so easily.

He was right, though. It was his job. It was every assassin’s job to kill their target. It just so happened that Bio was the target instead of the killer today.

She would die here.

It was weird, wasn’t it?

She’d devoted herself to her country. She’d undergone rigorous training for her country. She’d killed so many people on her country’s orders… and now that they said that she’d be free after this final job, so she’d allowed herself to have a modest dream of the future… 

She’d devoted herself to her country, but now it was betraying her.

She’d killed so many people.

It didn’t matter if they were women or children.

She’d killed anyone who she was ordered to kill.

So she’d dreamed of a tomorrow where she’d be free… 

Bio had thought that she, who had stolen the futures of so many people, would be allowed a future of her own.

That was weird.

Her naivety was weird.

There was no reason for her to be happy.

The same country that she’d devoted herself to would now kill her.

It was a suitable end for her.

That’s what she thought.

She smiled at Ryner. "Hurry up and do it."

That bothered Ryner. "Huh, why? I just said that I was gonna kill you, and now you’re smiling?"

"Hm? What, you can’t kill a woman just because she’s smiling? Are you more interested in killing women who run away screaming and crying, then? You’re some kind of deviant. You can be ridiculously strong, but if you’re actually like that, then that puts you below even third-rate assassins."

She knew that there were lots of weirdos in the Illusory Masters. They were a group of people who had it in their heads that those surrounding them were trash.

Ryner shrugged. "Nah, I’m not interested in that stuff. Also, don’t lump me in with the rest of the Illusory Masters. I know that I’m supposed to be one, but… I actually think it’d be better if that wasn’t true…"

Ryner’s face warped with sadness, but even that soon turned to an expression that was nothing but exhaustion. "Ugh, anyway," he continued, "To me, what’s gonna happen here is that I’ll kill the assassin Bio Menté, and then ‘Bio’ will take a new name and live a new life. So don’t make that face like you’re about to die, okay?"

"Haah? H, hey, wait. What’re you trying to say?"

"I’m saying that you should get out of Roland. You’ll get a new name. Then I’ll report back and say that I got rid of you. Do you get it now?"

Did she get it now? What? He could be bratty about this all he wanted, but it just wasn’t clicking. It took her a moment to break out of her daze enough to speak. "Hey, you. Even a kid should be able to understand that that’s impossible."

Ryner tilted his head, confused. "What? What’s impossible?"

"Everything. Every single part of that is impossible! First of all, do you understand how hard it is to get out of Roland’s borders without the country’s express permission?"

"I-I’ve done it before."

"You’re kidding!""No, seriously," Ryner said. As if it was the simplest thing in the world.

Bio was silent for a moment before finding her words. "B, but! Even if I get out without a hitch, they’re still gonna order you to hunt me down and kill me! And if you don’t, then you’re the one who’ll take the fall. Failures get the death penalty. You know that, right? And they’ll definitely be making sure that I’m just a body by that point. What’ll you do then?"

Ryner smiled as if he was suddenly in a good mood. "Hey, is this how you really talk? It’s different from the calm and collected way you talked before, and different from the helpless schtick you had going on when we first met. I think you’ll be good at living another life."

"Don’t change the damn subject!" She half-yelled. Then she sighed. "Ugh, geez…"

 Sure, he wasn’t wrong when it came to her innocent act from earlier… But this kid was taking this conversation and running at his own pace here. What were they even talking about?

Was he worried about her life?

They were both assassins. Enemy assassins, at that. That should’ve been the extent of their relationship.

"I’ve got something I need to ask you. Okay?" Bio asked.

"What?"

"Have we met before or something?"

"Pretty sure we haven’t."

"Right? So we’re strangers. We met today for the first time ever."

"Yup."

"So then I’ve got another question for you," Bio continued. "What’s the merit in you helping me here? You won’t get punished if you kill me now. Your net worth in the military will go up, too. So why won’t you kill me?"

Ryner crossed his arms. Then he shrugged. "‘Cause it’s a pain."

"Huh? How?"

"Killing’s a pain."

"Haah? Are you telling me that getting me out of this country alive and lying to the military about it isn’t a pain?"

Ryner’s nose wrinkled in a grimace. "No, that’s a pain too. Ugh, I hate making an effort for anything. But—"

He smiled kindly at Bio.

"—but I’d rather not live with having killed you, y’know? Killing’s the number one pain that there is. You’ll have to live with having killed someone. It’s even worse when it’s easy. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Like their ghosts are gonna get you while you sleep. It just gets worse and worse the more you kill. Even just walking starts to feel bad."

Ryner continued. "It’s like, ugh, you get tired all the time and don’t even wanna go to school… Well, that might be unrelated, though. Anyway, it’s a pain. It must’ve been hard for you to live like that for so long too, right? And the war’s already over. We don’t need to kill people anymore. Thanks for your service."

"……"

Bio was at a loss for words. 

It was hard?

Was it hard for her, too?  

What had she thought when she killed?

She didn’t feel anything after a while.

She had killed people, but it didn’t fill her with anguish or anything like that. But when something fun happened, she didn’t feel like she was having fun, either.

She just lived a life where she completed her missions, one after another. She existed to kill and to kill alone.

‘It just gets worse and worse the more you kill.’

‘We don’t need to kill people anymore’…? 

But if that was true, then what was the point of her existence?

No one had ever taught her how to live without killing… 

She… she… 

The boy was smiling. He was tired, but he was smiling. "See, the orphanage I’m from is special. Most of my friends from there became assassins. For me, well, it got to be a pain after a while, so I figured that if I didn’t do anything right, then they’d decide that I was useless, and…"

Ryner stopped himself, having thought better of it. "But, well, that’s enough about me. My friends, though? They got to smile normally recently. But then the next time we met, it looked like things’d gotten tough for them. It was like they’d already died. They were suffering. Living as regular members of society was hard, too. I understood something when I first saw you, Bio. The truth is that you don’t want to kill people anymore, right?"

"……"

Didn’t… want… to kill?

Who? Her? 

Her, who didn’t know what it was like to not kill?

Her, who had risen to the top of the assassin’s hierarchy through killing?

"Sure, things’d be different if you were the kind of person who got pleasure from killing. But you’re not. So live a different life. Because… you’re not a ‘monster’… like me."

"……"

She stared at Ryner, who wore a sleepy but smiling expression.

Her mission had been to come here and kill a ‘monster.’

But… ‘monster?’

This was a ‘monster?’

That wasn’t true.

The real monster here was their country.

The real monster… was herself, who had killed without thinking.

The real monster was herself, who only existed to kill.

But even so, this boy… told her that she could live. He said that she, who had no value outside of killing, was allowed to live.

He said… that he’d forgive her.

He said that she should start her life over again.

What was wrong with him…?

It didn’t make sense. It was like he scooped her heart right out of her chest.

She gazed at him. This boy… This boy, who was only ten years old… 

It didn’t feel like she was looking at a kid. He had terribly sad eyes. He had terribly tired eyes as he called himself a ‘monster.’ But here he was, leading her by the nose, telling her that he’d save her. Even though they were complete and total strangers.

"…So I’ll leave Roland, and you’ll tell them that you killed me?"

"Yup."

"They’ll know that you’re lying if there’s no body."

"Probably, yeah."

"And if they know, then you’ll be punished."

"I know," Ryner said with a careless smile. "But ‘monsters’ don’t need a reason to be punished for it to happen. Everyone’s afraid of us anyway. They all hate us anyway. I’m used to it. So don’t worry…"

His expression made her heart hurt. She was staring at a smile that no ten year old should ever have to make - one made out of suffering and suffering alone.

"I care!" Bio suddenly yelled. Why did she have to yell? She didn’t know. It just happened. Her mouth moved all on its own. "Even if you don’t care, I do!"

"Huh? What? We just said that we don’t know each other at all," Ryner said, surprised. "We’re total strangers, right? But you still care? I could kill you right now, you know. I mean, I’m an Alpha Stigma bearer. A mons—"

"Shut it! I care, okay? So… so… so! There’s nothing I can do about it, is there!"

 "Umm, uhh, what? There’s nothing you can do about what?"

Bio hid her face. "Uh, umm… so! It’s, uhh… anyway! It’s just, I don’t want you to be hurting!"

"Why not?"

"Because I love you!"

Those words left her mouth, but they still shocked her. What? What did she just say? What was happening? Her head was a mess.

She just didn’t want to see Ryner with that expression on his face. She didn’t want to see him suffer. She wanted to protect him. 

This was the first time that she was experiencing this feeling. The feeling of ‘love.’ It didn’t matter who it was. She never loved anyone at all. 

Of course, she knew what love was. She’d read about it before. She knew that there were many kinds of love.

There was love for your children. Love for your animals. And… There was another kind, too. Love for someone that you wanted to protect. There was also love for someone of the opposite sex… That was referred to as ‘romantic love.’

None of those had ever really clicked for her. She’d always thought that risking one’s life for someone without compensation was unreasonable.

So what was the emotion within her now?

No matter how she looked at it, she was far weaker than Ryner… So was this romantic love? Or was it another kind of love that she didn’t know about? Her head was spinning.

Ryner was shocked from the depths of his soul. "Haah!? Wait… You’re kidding, right? Love is like, umm, love, right? Why? I mean, we just met, right?"

"I kn-know that!""Also, I’m ten, and you’re—"

"I know that! But there’s nothing I can do about it! It’s my first time feeling like this. I’m just as surprised as you are!"

"Oh, o-okay. Um, so… okay. What should I do…?"

"Don’t ask me!" Bio yelled. She couldn’t look at him. Her blood was rising to her head and making her dizzy. This was the first time she’d ever felt like this.

She was seriously sick… 

To think that liking someone would make her change this much.

When she killed people.

When she was in danger.

In those times, she’d quickly regained her composure, and the training that’d been drilled into her took over…. 

Bio pressed her hand to her chest. "Uuh… this is it for me. It feels like my heart is going to physically leave my chest and throw itself out of my mouth."

"S-seirously!? Do you feel like you’re gonna die?"

"I th-think I’ll be okay. It’s tough, but I don’t hate it. It’s painful, but I feel at home with it. Is this really that romantic love thing?" Bio asked. She really had no idea what kind of love it was that she was experiencing… 

"Uwah… I feel like that was like, a really shitty line…" 

She couldn’t deny it. She smiled. "Right. That’s true. I think so too… But a normal fifteen year old girl feels like this, right? It’s a pretty serious feeling, all things considered."

"Ah, yeah. Maybe."

"I wonder."

It was her first time having a conversation like this. She felt that she had just become a ‘human.’

She took a deep breath, pressed a hand to her chest, and willed her heart to calm down.

Ryner waited for her silently.

Talking to him gave her so many new experiences.

---

They talked for a while as she calmed down. They were pointless conversations. It was the first time she’d ever talked about things that didn’t matter at all. She didn’t act like someone else. She talked about cooking and reading as herself.

She glanced at Ryner, who was sitting in a chair in the corner of his room, and spoke. "Anyway, we should get back to the point. I can’t leave you here in Roland to be punished. You understand why, right?"

"…I get it, but I don’t think that it’s possible for me to lie about killing you and then get out myself, y’know? Because I have to lie to the military and say that you already died in order to get you enough time to escape. And you can use magic, right? So the Taboo Hunters will be after you too…"

"But I can’t just leave you here, Ryner! I can’t leave you here in a country that treats you like a monster."

Ryner was troubled. "Uuh…"

"You don’t want to leave the country with me?"

"I wouldn’t mind, but… I just don’t think it’d work out."

"Well, I’m not running away unless you come with!" Bio said.

"Y-you’ll be killed then, you know?"

"Even so, I won’t do it!"

Ryner crossed his arms. "Uuuh…"

"It’ll be fine! You did it before, right?"

"Yeah. It was surprisingly easy. Should be a piece of cake for someone as good as you are."

"Then we can do it. You’re really strong too, Ryner… We’ll definitely be able to do it."

 Ryner grimaced. "I think that we could make it outside the country, too. But I don’t want to have to fight anyone to do it, and I think we’d have to fight someone eventually. It’d be a real pain."

Basically, he didn’t want to hurt anyone who came after them. But this wasn’t a situation where that was an appropriate line of thought. If they couldn’t leave this hellish country that they called Roland… 

"Guess it can’t be helped… Alright, I’ll put some effort in," Ryner said. "Where do you wanna go? We have three choices: Estabul, Nelpha, and Runa. Runa’s allied with Roland, so it should be the easiest one to get into… But that means that anyone chasing us would be able to get in easier, too. Estabul’s on the other side of the coin. We just got out of a war with them. The border would be extremely hard to get past. But on the other hand…"

Bio nodded. "No one would come to chase us. They may even welcome me for being someone that Roland wants to eliminate."

"Right. But then Nelpha’s in the middle of those two options. Some people would come for us, and we’d have some trouble crossing the border. Thoughts?"

He asked for an opinion, but what he got was a confident answer. "I want to go to Nelpha."

"Why?"

"Well, Nelpha hasn’t gone to war since their current king took the throne, right?"

"Yeah."

"It seems like you hate killing and seeing people die, so… That’s why I’m thinking that Nelpha might be a good choice," Bio said. It was rather sweet of her, if she did say so herself.

Sure enough, Ryner looked troubled. "O-okay… alright. Nelpha it is, then…"

"Yeah!" Bio said with a nod. Her voice was so lively that it surprised even herself. She was changing…  She was changing so quickly that it was embarrassing. 

Her voice was changing weirdly fast. She really felt that she’d be able to redo her life if Ryner was by her side.

"So we should leave… ugh, tonight, right? We can’t wait. We’re both disappearing, after all… I think that if you’re gone by this morning, then the military will be after you by this afternoon. It’ll only be more suspicious if we both go. So? Think we can get out of here tonight?"

Bio puffed out her chest. "Of course. Who do you think I am?"

---

It was the middle of the night, but it was still bright thanks to the campfire. 

They were at the border between Roland and Nelpha.

A large gate separated the two countries. It was guarded by over a dozen men. 

Of course, if they were to use their powers to the fullest, Bio and Ryner could easily murder all of them… But they probably wouldn’t be able to do it without a sound. It’d lead to an all out battle. They’d call for back-up.

That back-up would be members of the actual army. Taboo Hunters would come, too. Their leader, Rahel Miller, was pretty well-known. He was said to have amazing combat ability.

Basically, they couldn’t make a scene here.

Bio looked at Ryner, who spoke. "We obviously can’t get through here. If we could, then I’d like to, since it’s even ground and all, but that’s impossible. We’ll go through the mountains. There will be cliffs and valleys, and plenty of animals to eat, and we’ll be able to light a fire without being seen…"

"It’s okay. Being good at working in darkness is in my job description."

 "Right. You attacked when my room was pitch black."

"Chasing you around like that was hard, though… But I’m glad that I didn’t attack you with everything that I had. Well, you didn’t kill me, but… Ryner, you’re really strong. I wouldn’t think that you were ten at all."

"Really?"

"Really! It’s really cool."

Ryner shrugged. He looked a bit upset. "Al-alright. Let’s go."

Bio nodded. "Mm."

They set out towards the mountains.

----

They walked along a dark path, whispering between themselves as they did. But that in itself was fun.

They walked along the border for about two hours, and then there it was - a mountain trail that looked pretty uninviting to humans. Nobody was guarding it.

Ryner looked around. "Looks like we can get through here?"

Bio stared up at the mountains rising up around them. "Yeah. I think it’ll be fine."

"Then let’s go?"

"Y-yeah."

Ryner took the first steps into the mountains. It was covered in a thick layer of trees and undergrowth.

Bio didn’t move.

"What’s wrong? Are you okay?" Ryner asked.

Of course she was okay. She wouldn’t break a sweat climbing through here. But she didn’t move.

It was because she’d leave Roland if she took another step. She’d be in a different place from the one that she’d lived her entire life in.

No one would give her any orders. She wouldn’t need to kill anyone. It would be a free place.

Ryner would be there, too.

It was too good to be true. 

It was too good for her.

It’d be a new life. She’d be able to live a new life.

Amazing, wasn’t it?

She’d be a normal fifteen year old girl, who could fall in love in a normal way, work in a normal way, and smile… 

It was amazing.

She’d never imagined anything like it.

"Amazing… Ryner, this is amazing."

Ryner tilted his head. "Hm? What is?"

Bio raised her head to look at him. "I feel so happy right now. I feel like I want to be happy right now. This is a first for me. I’m shaking… Thank you, Ryner."

"…Umm… I feel like it’s kind of weird to be thanked for this kind of thing… It’s good to be happy. But it’s not like this is it."

"Mm-hm. You’re right. But is it really possible to be happier than this?"

"Of course," Ryner said with full confidence. "You’ll get even happier once you take a nap."

Bio laughed. "Ah, okay. You’re a sleepy kid, aren’t you?"

"Yeah. I take the phrase ‘sleeping is a kid’s only job’ very seriously. I’m an upstanding kind of guy. I work so hard that I just know that I’m gonna become the Napping Kingdom’s king one day."

"Ahaha. What’s that? But… well. Yeah, that’s right…" 

A life where every day was peaceful and uneventful… Where she didn’t have to kill people, and nobody had to die… Where she could stare at the face of her sleeping king forever…

She might really be able to feel happiness even greater than what she was experiencing now.

That’s what she thought. She thought it from so deep inside of her that it made her shiver. 

If she took a step forward, then she might be able to grasp that happiness. 

Ryner reached his hand out for her.

"Come on, Bio."

She nodded… and moved her leg to take a step forward.

It happened within a single moment in time.

A sharp sound pierced the air. It was a light sound, like something flying.

She felt it hit her side.

"Ah."

Ryner’s eyes widened. "Huh?"

Bio looked down. Her eyes found her side.

And… and there was something there. It was a thin, stick-like object… 

An arrow.

Its head was deep inside of her. Her clothes were turning dark.

"Bio!? Ryner screamed. 

Bio calmly assessed the situation. Her wound wasn’t fatal. The arrow didn’t hit any organs. She could still move. "Ryner. I’m fine. This wound isn’t serious."

Even so, Ryner rushed to her side. "Shit. I messed up. When did they realize that we were here…? Why here?"

Countless armor-clad men were racing towards them.

A gangly older man from within their ranks spoke. "Haha. You acted exactly as expected, Ryner Lute. You’ve never accomplished anything as an assassin. I knew that you’d do this, you useless monster."

Ryner glared. "Y-you old bastard…!"

The old man sneered. "Everything really went just how I thought it would. It looks like you’ve gotten quite close to this little lady. Exactly as planned. Now, shall we continue our experiment?"

"Experiment?" Bio whimpered.

"Yes. Experiment." The old man seemed to be enjoying this. "It appears that Alpha Stigma bearers tend to go berserk when faced with stressful situations… such as when their loved ones die, or when they are abused. There haven’t been any cases where they survive after going berserk, so we’ve been unable to get many details. This here monster doesn’t listen very well, so we’ve had issues in advancing this project. I thought that we’d best kill him sooner than later, but he has this idiosyncratic ability to return after going berserk, you see…" 

Experiment… 

This was just an experiment.

They’d predicted that they would run away and come here. Everything went according to their plan. 

She was there to act as a trigger for Ryner to go berserk. She was there to be killed.

She’d die. Ryner would go berserk.

Everything would go according to their plan.

Ryner grabbed her shoulder. "I won’t let that happen. I won’t let you kill Bio."

The old man smiled again. "There’s nothing you can do about it. I’ve prepared more soldiers than what you see here now—all in all, they make up one hundred men. Though what’ll happen to them if your eyes go berserk is a bit of a different story. If you don’t want to see us kill her, then why don’t you go berserk now so that we don’t have to?"

Ryner didn’t answer. Then he turned to Bio. "I’m sorry. This is my fault. It’s because… Because I’m a monster…"

Bio shook her head hard. "No. It’s not your fault, Ryner. This country is insane. I didn’t realize that until now, even though I’d been killing people for it this whole time. It ordered me to kill, and I didn’t think anything of it…  This country is crazy. It’s not your fault."

But he didn’t hear her. Instead, he was glaring at the old man. "Shit… I definitely won’t let you kill Bio. You’re always, always making me do what you feel like seeing me do… I can’t stand it. Bio, leave. I won’t let anyone follow you across the border," Ryner said. His posture lowered as he prepared for a fight. 

The killing intent surrounding him was completely different from what he’d had back when they fought in his room. It was overwhelming. 

Anyone could see how strong he was by that alone. It was suffocating enough that she wouldn’t be surprised if all one hundred soldiers backed down from a fight because of it.

This wasn’t the kind of situation where he could hold back. It was the kind of situation where he had to have the power to kill.

That meant that he’d have to take the lives of everyone here right now.

That meant that he’d have to take many lives in order to protect her.

This was the same Ryner who’d said that killing was a pain. 

On top of that… 

Bio looked down to where the arrow was lodged in her side. She was still bleeding in a thin but steady stream. It wasn’t fatal, but it wasn’t shallow, either… 

She probably wouldn’t be able to escape like this. They’d catch her while Ryner was fighting. And then… They’d kill her right in front of Ryner’s eyes… 

She’d make him make that sad face again.

They’d call him a ‘monster’ again.

Everything was going according to those guys’ plan… 

The real monster was Roland itself. It was these men who toyed with their hearts while laughing.

Those same men would call Ryner a monster again. 

She hated that.

She’d fallen in love with this boy. She’d thought that they’d be able to spend all their time together from now on, laughing all the while. 

She looked back.

It was one step.

If she took one step, it’d be into that free future. It was a dark mountain trail, but to her, it’d been filled with an unmistakable, shining light. She’d seen a free place, the likes of which she shouldn’t have been allowed to see. It’d just been so far away.

"…I just wanted to feel it, even if it was only for a while…" 

She looked back to Ryner, who was postured for battle.

Ryner, who was fighting for her sake.

Ryner, who seemed to hate fighting so much. He was fighting for her.

"For someone like me," she whispered quietly, far quieter than anyone could hear. "He’ll kill all of these people for someone like me…"

She watched Ryner, happy in her own way. 

She wanted to see him sleeping one more time. That was the thought that hung in her mind.

She’d be the closest person to the Napping Kingdom’s napping king, watching his innocent, sleeping face… 

There was no greater happiness than that.

Every day would be a little boring, but nothing would be happier.

She smiled gently.

"Ryner. I’m really happy that I met you."

Ryner nodded. "You don’t need any more parting words than that, so just get away. It’ll be alright. I absolutely won’t let them kill you."

But Bio didn’t move. She just watched Ryner’s back. "I’m already satisfied. I don’t need anything else. I’m fine with this. So you don’t need to do anything that’s too much of a pain, okay, Ryner? I won’t let anyone call you a monster. I won’t let you become a monster—"

Ryner turned to look at her. He looked like he didn’t know what to say.

Bio laughed softly. The sight of his face alone was reassuring. That was what ‘freedom’ meant to her. "I’m glad I met you. I’m glad that I met you, Ryner. I’m so glad that I met you…"

"Bio, what are you…?"

Bio grasped the arrow stuck inside of her and pulled. "I won’t let anyone pull my strings anymore. I’m free now. I won’t do what Roland tells me to do. Living the way that I want to live is what makes me happy."

"W…"

Bio embraced him. 

"H, huh? Huuh!? Bio?"

Tightly, tightly embraced him.

Her hand that she’d placed on his back moved across it, then forward… 

She took the arrow in her hand, then gouged it into her own chest.

It only hurt for a second. 

Heat welled up inside of her. She instantly understood that this was a fatal wound. 

It was scary. This was the first time that she felt that death was a scary thing. She hadn’t had anything to be scared for, after all. She’d been raised so that she wasn’t scared.

But now… she was scared of letting go of Ryner.

She was afraid of never hearing his voice again as she lost consciousness. 

She wouldn’t be able to see him anymore. She wouldn’t be able to feel him anymore. She wouldn’t be able to laugh about stupid things together anymore.

That was terrifying.

She first felt that she was human because of him.

And… 

She spoke quietly. Whispered so that Ryner would be the only one to hear her. "I’m glad that I fell in love with you. That’s enough happiness for me. I don’t need anything else. So… so…"

She stopped there. She couldn’t speak anymore. She just felt so weak.

"Bio! Come on, think of the situation we’re in. We don’t have time for—"

Then he realized what Bio had just done.

"—What!? What are you doing!? Get off! Wh-why…!?"

She wouldn’t get off. Because if she did, then she wouldn’t have the power to embrace him again. She wanted to stay close to him for as long as she could.

"R-Ryner… I’m sorry. Even if I…"

"No!" Ryner screamed, high-pitched and loud.

"But… don’t be sad," Bio continued. "I fell… in love, so… Those guys can’t… can’t kill me… Ryner, you’re not a… mon… ster…"

That was all she could say. Her lips wouldn’t form another word. She still had so much more that she wanted to say, but she just couldn’t get the words out. She wanted to say that she loved him more. Because she was happy when she was with him. She wanted to convey to him that the way she’d changed was strange and wonderful, almost as though she’d become a different person entirely. 

But she couldn’t say it.

Even the sensation of embracing him soon began to fade.

"No! You can’t, Bio! If you die, then…"

Even his voice was fading.

That was what death was like.

Little by little, all of her senses were taken from her… 

She couldn’t feel anything anymore. Even the sense of being together with someone she loved…    

Even so, she managed to open her eyes.

Everything was blurry. She could hardly see a thing. But she could see that Ryner was still embracing her.

It was too good to be true.

She was so happy. She was so tired.

It looked like she’d become a citizen of the Napping Kingdom before Ryner… 

---

"Aaahhh!"

 The air was filled with screams.

Screams and screams, all belonging to Ryner.

"Oh, has he finally gone berserk…? Hm? What’s with his eyes? It looks like he still has some rationality left in them. So he hasn’t really gone berserk… Tch. What a useless woman. She took our perfectly good plan, and then ruined it by committing suicide…"

Ryner glared at the man. His eyes were determined. Fierce.

This was the first time that he’d wanted to kill this badly. It didn’t matter how much torture and humiliation that they put him through. Nothing made him want to kill like this did. 

He wanted to kill him. He wanted to kill him. He wanted to kill this man.

He wanted to kill these people. He wanted to kill everyone who belonged to this country.

He really thought that.

He thought it, and he didn’t care what he had to become to make it happen. 

It didn’t matter if it made him a ‘monster.’

He really thought that. But Bio wouldn’t forgive him for it. She, who had used the last of her strength to embrace Ryner, would never forgive him for it.

He gritted his teeth and glared with all his might… 

The man’s expression suddenly turned fearful. "G-guards! Protect me!"

But for all of Ryner’s glaring, he didn’t move. "You don’t… need to be that cautious. I’m not going to kill you or anything. I’m against killing on principle. It’s just too much of a pain…"

Ryner pulled Bio away by the shoulder, just enough that he could see her face. 

"Killing people really is a pain, isn’t it?" He whispered.

It was almost as though she answered by the expression on her dead face.

---

They said that the king often slept.

Time passed quietly, and before they knew it, it was already afternoon.

It was a normal, peaceful day.

She passed that normal day by watching his sleeping face all day long, with that happy expression on her face… 

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