The Torturous Sword
“N-neck… MY NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECK!?!?!”
Rudolph finds his voice, that handsome face of his contorting into a wild scream as the pain floods his mind.
But it is little wonder. Even the mightiest warrior would wail if they had to live through seeing their own headless corpse bleed out on the ground.
Rudolph can’t think straight due to the extreme amounts of fear and pain overwhelming his brain, but this shouldn’t be possible, he’s somehow able to both breathe and scream despite his head currently lying a couple of feet away from his neck?
“For now… You won’t die. Because of this sword.”
A mysterious sword that took his head clean off, but wouldn’t allow him to die. The true nature of the magical weapon known as the《Nerves of the Underworld》, Ipetam… A blade that was considered especially wicked even amongst all other magic swords.
It is also known as the Torturous Sword. The blade that was once said to be wielded by hell’s executioner, was now the weapon that had hacked away at Rudolph.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! N-NOOOOO…! MY NECK…! MY NECK IS….!”
As Rudolph screamed obnoxiously, Shirley stamped down on his head with her sturdy leather boot.
Despite more pain being added to his agony, Rudolph stopped screaming when he felt that cold voice above him and when he strained his eyes to look, he saw a vengeful demon looking down on him, those estranged eyes filled with bloodlust.
(Who are you…!? Whose cold eyes are those…!?)
Those eyes weren’t the gentle and kind eyes that Shirley looked at him with in the past. As a mother, it had remained dormant all these years as she lived in this remote town, but this is the face of that vengeful demon from years ago, whose love had turned to a hatred that could reduce a nation to ash.
“…It’s because of my daughters that I’m the way I am today.”
Opposite to the image Rudolph had in his mind, Shirley spoke in a tone so gentle that it made him temporarily forget the pain burning through his skull.
“After those children were born, I finally realized what I was put on earth to do. I think even the adventurers in this town have rubbed off on me. In that sense, I began to forget about the Empire.”
But, that serene tone of voice gradually became cold as ice.
“But what you did… It’s not something I can ever forgive.”
Even if she’s sometimes busy with her bloody profession, her everyday life was usually happy and peaceful. As a result of that those memories of betrayal and torture became distant memories, but they had never truly disappeared.
“To just assume that I would forgive you, to just forget everything that happened as mistakes of the past and return to the Empire with you… I’m beginning to understand just how much you all want to make light of me.”
Shirley, who was to become the Empress, had always been seen as a benevolent saint. Despite being a noblewoman she would have no problems embracing and patting the heads of orphaned children covered in mud, being surrounded by children who adored her she seemed the embody very ideal of a future Empress.
Her duties came as naturally to her as breathing and she acted with stunning speed and accuracy that she had become acknowledged by even the best of the civil servants, she also never discriminated between nobles and commoners in her judgements.
But maybe living that way was a mistake, if it meant that in her charity she picked up fools like the ex-servant currently under her boot.
It wasn’t just Rudolph, there were a lot of others who were supposed to be loyal to her present when she was condemned. And as Shirley had sunk to the floor in despair, they’d all looked down on her in contempt and said the same kind of thing.
――――To think that you were such a villainous and stupid woman. Serving you was the greatest shame in my life.
Looking back on it, it’s laughable. Who exactly is stupid now?
“I tried to forget. It was enough to simply push you all to the back of my mind. After ten years, raising my children is what fills my life, I was too busy to even think about you. ――――But you tried to harm my girls, didn’t you?”
Even if she didn’t see it herself, she understood immediately what had happened when she saw her daughters eyes that are usually so happy and bright filled with tears. And it was this man that had caused it.
She could never forgive him as a mother. She could never let him get away with it as a parent to those twins.
Rudolph thought he saw Hārītī  standing over Shirley’s shoulder. He’s late to realize it, but he’s beginning to understand the true nature of the horror that looms above him.
“Now, I shall pay you back in kind…!”
The hand she was using to hold Ipetam disappeared from Rudolph’s sight. Instead of receiving a slice to his head, he suddenly feels an extreme agony coming from the limbs he shouldn’t even be connected to.
He can’t see what’s happening, but the excruciating pain feels like his muscle is being scraped off his bones and he screamed out in anguish.
Rudolph couldn’t look at the sight, but if he was able to he’d shut his eyes all the same, as Shirley slowly and precisely cuts away the flesh from his limbs.
In addition to the severe mental trauma he was going through, this extreme level of pain should be enough to make Rudolph lose consciousness.
As his consciousness began to fade, she kept working on scraping away at his hands, thighs, arms, legs, shoulders and crotch with the sword.
But the sweet escape of unconsciousness ends almost instantly. Just as soon as he slipped into the darkness, he awoke a second later. The head that had been cut off his shoulders was restored, his flayed limbs healed.
“W-what is this!? Wasn’t I just…!?”
His eyes darted around in bewilderment, wondering if what had happened was just some kind of nightmare. But, that pain was unmistakably real.
That aside, it’s normal for people who faint due to shock to gain consciousness back within five seconds. When his mental state had recovered enough to understand her words, Shirley spoke to Rudolph.
“That just now was only a warning. From this point on, I will not restore your body.”
“What I want to do more than anything is to reduce you to dust, but there might be trouble with the law if I kill someone who doesn’t have a bounty on their head. If you agree to surrender to the guards as an attempted kidnapper and never show yourself in front of me again, you might convince me to let you go?”
For anyone who knew Shirley’s circumstances, this line must have seemed far too sweet and forgiving.
For a life she had once dedicated to revenge it seemed so strange… Truly, it was hard to believe the words that Shirley spoke, a person who had only awakened as a semi-immortal after being tortured and betrayed.
“What will you do? Hurry and decide, if you do as I say immediately, I will end it at this.”
But right now, Shirley doesn’t care about Rudolph who lies on the ground in front of her or Albert who pulled his strings.
If he swore to never again appeared before her daughters she would stop here, if she continues the torture he might not be in a fit state to hand over to the law and there might be a lot more questions raised.
Simply put, that kind of thing was troublesome and right now she wanted to get back to the daughters she was desperately worried about instead of spending more time dealing with Rudolph.
But her incredibly merciful proposal is rejected by Rudolph, whose face is drained white in horror.
Dragging himself away from Shirley, he then turned and ran with a miserable scream, tears and mucus dripping down his once handsome face.
That gentlemanly attitude from just a little while ago had been completely shattered. The memories of having his flesh shaved off by Shirley’s sword had begun to vividly replay in his mind and he was reduced to a wreck, driven on purely by survival instinct.
“Oh, so that’s your answer, is it?”
However, no matter how far he ran from that demon, no matter where he turned Shirley always stood in his way.
“Gyah!? Hii…. Kuaaah!!”
He ran for a long time, but whenever he rounded a corner he came upon a familiar sight. The place where he had first come to in this world, with Ig-Alima and Sul-Sagana staked into the ground and Shirley standing there waiting for him.
“H-how is this possible…!? Everywhere I go..!?”
Wherever he went left or right, forward or back, he would always find himself seeing those twinned blades in the ground, with Shirley standing beside them wielding that hideous sword.
“I rule this world. Do you really think you can escape from me here?”
She didn’t give him time to answer, rushing at him with untold speed. In a flash, Rudolf’s torso is cut open by that evil sword and he fell back to the ground in agony.
With quick strokes of her blade, she mutilated the lower part of his body, causing him to cry out even louder.
How could he have felt that pain when his head wasn’t connected to his body before? What’s more, as he looked up at Shirley swinging her sword through his tear stained eyes he just couldn’t understand why she would do such a terrible thing to him, so only one thought came to mind.
“Oh… Ohh….. My kind Shirley-sama… Would never do such a thing to me…!”
Her sword stopped mid-swing.
“That’s right… Surely, that Golden Witch is still manipulating you…! Otherwise, you would never do something like this to me, the person you trust the most…!”
Whether it was to avoid his guilt or whether it was some form of escapism, Rudolph clung tightly to his memory of Shirley in the past.
Honestly, those lines had sent a chill of revulsion through her. She wanted to silence him for good, but she had to say one thing first.
“What you did to me… It’s not important anymore.”
“! S-Shirley-sama…!? Have you finally come to your sens――――”
As if he saw a light through the darkness of his despair Rudolph cried out in joy, but Shirley cut his words short as a heavy feeling of dread began to wash over him anew.
“Whatever the reason may be, if anyone targets my daughters, I will cut them down without remorse. Even if they’re a King or a God.”
The way she said it implied that, compared to powers like that, Rudolph was nothing more than an annoying insect buzzing across her sight.
It’s unclear whether the man who had been merely a fool dancing in the palms of the powerful for so many years truly understood the implicit meaning behind Shirley’s words, but even if he didn’t grasp the nuance he certainly felt his hope fade into pitch black despair.
The screams echoed in that otherworldly prison. For three days, after his body was sliced thousands of times over and over again whilst his consciousness remained intact, a terrible wound began to tear a hole in Rudolph’s very soul.
“Well, in reality, it was less than five minutes.”
Shirley looked down with unfeeling eyes at Rudolph who cut a miserable figure once he finally was allowed to lose consciousness; his eyes rolled into the back of his skull, drool running from his open mouth and excrement staining his clothes.
Rudolph’s body bore no injuries as if all that slicing and mutilation had never happened… Well, in fact, they hadn’t.
That was one of the qualities of the magic sword, Ipetam, that Shirley possesses. It has the ability to manipulate all five senses of any person whose blood it has spilt at least once.
The pain that eventually burnt out his brain, the sight of his body that suffered horrible wounds, the sound of blood splattering the walls and floors, the horrible smell of lacerated flesh and even the taste of iron and bile stuck in his throat, all of it was an illusion caused by Ipetam.
And wherever he had tried to run, he’d always come back to Shirley. The law of her second world《The Chains of the Vagrant Convict》dictates that any opponent caught in it will never be able to escape Shirley, forcing them to confront her. It also slows down the passage of time for the opponent considerably. The world is intended to corner and counter creatures with high intelligence and reasoning in order to break them down.
It has little effect on primitive monsters, but the effects on living things such as a human being are much more pronounced. Even if the battle only lasts five minutes from Shirley’s point of view, the opponent caught here would think they’re caught in a battle that lasted hundreds of times as long.
“Using the second to its maximum potential as an assault on the senses… I hope you carry this trauma with you forever.”
She still felt it. That burning hatred. But, even though this person had truly attempted to kidnap her daughters, she couldn’t just snuff out his life as freely as she could a bandit or a heretical mage.
Especially if he’s a servant close to the monarchy of an entire country. For the sake of preventing Sophie and Tio from ever having to carry that kind of weight, she compromised to break his mind instead of his body, but it wasn’t enough to truly wipe away the murderous feelings in her heart. In the end, they still clung to her, even now.
“Fuu……. I’m sorry I kept you waiting.”
“No, it’s okay…”
Sophie and Tio ran to Shirley as soon as she returned to the real world alongside an unconscious Rudolph and gripped at the hem of her skirt.
“I’m sorry, Kyle, I kept you waiting as well.”
“Oh, no, don’t worry about me… Um, but that said…”
Kyle found it hard to say what was really on his mind.
“…Mum, that thing about us being princesses of the Empire, is that really true…?”
“…Just how much did you hear?”
“That mama was born as a noblewoman and was the wife of the Emperor…”
It must have been Rudolph. Although Shirley had never thought of her daughters like that and Rudolph conveniently left the grittier details of the circumstances out, talking in terms of pure bloodline these two were unmistakably Imperial princesses.
“About why we don’t have a grandma or grandad, or who our papa is, I didn’t want to ask because you looked so sad… But, I really do want to know…”
“Even if it’s supposed to be a secret… If things are like this, don’t we have to know?”
It isn’t curiosity that lights up the twins’ eyes. It’s the feeling that in order to know what their future had in store, they needed to know where they came from.
In a way, it had always been hard. Growing up amongst so many children of their own age, but never being able to explain why they lived alone with their mother, not ever knowing their own circumstances.
Shirley herself had pampered and fawned over her children, not wanting to expose them to the darkness of her own past. She had no choice but, to tell the truth now, to do anything else would be like denying the deep bonds they shared.
Shirley took a deep breath and made her decision.
“I understand… I’ll tell you everything that led to you being born.”
 Originally a child-devouring Yaksha from Hindu lore named Hāritī, but she repents and converts to Buddhism. In Japan, she is known as Kishimojin, the guardian deity of children and happy families.