Begging for a Final Mercy
I was stunned into silence as I stood alone, hearing the voice that tore up our engagement echo through the hall.
His Highness looked down on me, his face twisted in hatred. Snuggled in his arms was Lilith, back then my half-sister who was still only fifteen years old, tears welling up in her eyes.
(Just why is this happening…?)
The words His Highness just spoke would break the contract established between the Royal Family and the noble house I belonged to. For such a thing to happen in the public eye like this was an absurdly outlandish spectacle.
However, His Highness was deadly serious.
“The way you’ve treated your younger sister Lilith is absolutely intolerable! Cutting up her clothes, forcing her to clean up all manner of filth, and even trying to frame her for your own thievery, have you no shame at all!?”
“You’ve even paid servants to beat her ruthlessly, laughing at her whilst never getting your own hands dirty. Even Lilith’s beloved puppy was tied up in a sack and kicked to death, like some kind of sick sport…!”
“Your Highness, that’s wrong!! Everything you just said, Lilith was the one who…!”
I started to say it but managed to clamp my mouth shut. I had almost repeated that exact same mistake.
But, it was true that everything His Highness had said, Lilith had done to me.
That fluffy and cute puppy I was secretly feeding had been tied up in a hempen bag and kicked to death by the servants. The servants always did as Lilith told them… No, that’s wrong, after a while they began to enjoy torturing me in that way.
I had endured it, thinking that one day I would leave that house along with Nina.
As I looked around, I saw that all of my classmates and the nobles at the party looked down at me with the same distorted faces of disgust as His Highness.
It was only then that I realized just how far Lilith’s roots had spread. There would be no one who would take my side, especially not now that I was being publicly denounced and my engagement was broken off.
Rather, they would sooner count themselves as my enemies.
“Don’t say another word!! Are you still trying to fool me, even though I know of all your crimes!?”
I drew back at just how venomous those words he spat at me were.
“When I first saw you crying alone like that, I figured that you would be a meek and quiet woman…! But to think that you were such an evil wench, already working to deceive me whilst torturing your poor sister in such a way!?”
“Aren’t you the daughter of a whore as well? Hmph, it seems blood never lies after all! I feel deeply sorry for the Lord Wenschlee and his wife, having unwittingly taken on the poisonous spawn of a despicable woman!”
The hands of His Highness gripped Lilith’s waist tighter.
Lilith, whose long eyelashes glistened with tears, shook her head from side to side gently.
“Prince Andy, please don’t blame my sister too much…! No matter what has happened between us, she’s still my one and only big sister…!”
“Ooh, Lilith…! You truly are such a merciful girl…!”
“The only wish I had was to save you from this marriage, Prince Andy… Now that it has come true, all that pain I felt inside, it’s like it never existed at all…!”
The two of them looked at each other like they were about to exchange a passionate kiss at any moment. But, despite Lilith’s words, His Highness’ anger didn’t settle.
“I will never let you hurt my beloved Lilith ever again. If I cannot protect the woman I love, then how could I ever protect the people when I am King!? For Lilith, and for the sake of the people, I hereby declare my lawful annulment of my engagement with Maria Wenschlee!!”
At that moment, everyone in the ballroom erupted into cheers and clapping.
“You are hereby exiled! You may take nothing with you but the clothes on your back! Leave here, worthless and accursed, and never show yourself before Lilith or myself again!”
If I was kicked out of the country with nothing to my name, what would I do about Nina!?
I couldn’t leave behind a sick child in a house like that. If I was gone, then Nina would be the next target. Everything else I could take, but that.
“I beg you! If that is your desire, I will never return to this country. But, please promise me, when it comes to Nina’s treatment costs…!”
“Silence! How dare you ask me about money even now!?”
As if to drown out my plea, the guests at the party began to boo and jeer.
“Exile her! Get her out of here!”
“She should be grateful that she isn’t being executed because Lady Lilith spoke up on her behalf. You disgusting spawn of a whore!”
Exile, exile, exile.
Those words formed into a chant, swirling around the room like a foul storm. I could barely stand from the nausea, the whirling malice surrounding me was so overbearing.
“Please, Your Highness. Mercy… At least have mercy on my big sister…”
Lilith’s tears spilled down her beautiful cheeks. However, she didn’t say exactly what she meant by mercy.
As I stood there, I couldn’t even think of what to do or what to say. As I shook with fear and despair, I bit my lip, then took the only desperate action I felt I had left; turning around and fleeing the hall.
“Well now, look at her run! Ahahaha!”
“Well, that frightened act of her was useless once everyone knew about her despicable character. Ahh, that was refreshing!”
…I have to escape.
Before Nina and I were pulled apart forever by Lilith’s whims, I decided the only thing I could do was to take that child and escape.
“Knights, I order you to follow that woman. Do not let her out of your sight until she is across the border.”
At the ball, Crown Prince Andy’s calm voice resounded.
However, the beautiful girl nestled in his chest shook her head softly.
“…Please don’t do that, Your Highness. It would only cause more trouble for my family like this…”
“Ohh, Lilith. You truly are so kind…!”
“Please rest assured. The Wenschlee family will properly watch over my sister…”
The girl smiled softly at the Crown Prince, her upturned eyes wet with tears.
“I will make sure to send my servants…”
“*KOFF*, *KOFF*, Ugh!!”
“Are you okay!? Nina!”
As the carriage bumped and quaked, I held my little sister close, rubbing her tiny back with my hand.
“I-I’m oka… *koff*…”
Her voice trembled as she tried to reply. There might have been blood in her throat.
The only thing I could think of then was getting off the carriage as soon as possible and letting Nina rest. I had been getting impatient by how slowly the carriage was going, but I thought the driver must have been conscious of not burdening Nina any further.
The Wenschlee family had decided that we would travel by carriage until we were out of the country, in order to fulfill the order of the Crown Prince.
The foolish me of my previous life was even grateful that family had finally lent me a helping hand, even if it was at the very end.
“More importantly, what happened, big si… *koff*, *koff*, ueegh…!”
“Don’t be afraid. Just calm down, take deep breaths…”
“That… I’m not scared.”
Nina, only nine years old, had begun to cough up blood at least once a day then.
The rollicking of the carriage underneath her must have been painful, but she lifted her head, trying not to make me worry about her.
“But, big sis, you look like you’ve been crying…”
At that moment, my tears were on the verge of overflowing.
Even if everyone else only scorned and despised me, at least I still had Nina.
Even if it was painful, that little sister of mine would be there to care for me.
“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry, Nina.”
I hugged Nina tight, still trying my best not to hurt her as I did so.
“Your big sister will always protect you, Nina.”
I got angry whenever I remembered my previous self saying those words.
“I will do anything for you, Nina. Anything…”
How can you say something like that, when you have no power, no possible means to protect her?
But, hateful as it was, I couldn’t turn back time. Then, we finally arrived at that place.
What’s wrong? I thought back then.
That horse-drawn carriage had come to a shuddering halt.
Looking outside the window, I saw that it was the forest outside of the royal capital.
Far from making it across the border, we were nowhere near the border at all. As my suspicions grew, the Wenschlee servant who was driving the coach stepped up to the door.
Hearing the driver’s voice, I was confused.
“Didn’t you hear what I said? Get the hell out!”
As he waved his horse beating whip at us, I instinctively covered Nina with my body. The sound of the whip cracking as a warning next to his boot made a horrible noise.
“It’s okay. Nina, let’s just get some fresh air, okay?”
Trying to sooth Nina’s trembling body, we left the carriage.
The forest, lit faintly by the moon overhead, was unnaturally quiet. The carriage stopped by the shore of a lake, but the water that dazzled so brilliantly in the light of the sun during the day was like an ominous and all swallowing abyss in the dead of night.
“So, you finally made it. We’ve been waiting for you.”
“It can’t be helped, alright? Lady Lilith asked me so nicely to go as slowly as possible so that there wouldn’t be any problems catching up.”
Around half a dozen men emerged from the tree line.
Some of them looked like the cooks or servants of the Wenschlee household, but others still had faces I didn’t recognize.
“What are you all doing here…”
It was at that moment.
A man’s fist smashed into the side of my face, throwing me off my feet.
“Big sis! Big sis, big si- *koff*, *KOFF*!”
I landed hard against a tree, all the breath being knocked out of my lungs. The sound of Nina’s coughing and the men’s callous laughter echoed across the lakefront.
“Gyahaha! Oi, you really went for her face straight away!?”
“Man, what a waste. Her face wasn’t anything to sniff at, so why do you have to do something like that?”
“Shaddup, don’t you get excited by the sight of a woman in pain either? Besides, don’t you think what Lady Lilith asked us so nicely to do involves stuff like this?”
I desperately struggled to regain my breath as my voice croaked out.
“Nina, run! You have to get out of here… Ah!”
Before my voice reached her, a man roughly grabbed Nina from behind and held her up by those thin arms.
“NOOOO! STOP! BIG SIIIIIS! *koff*”
“Ah jeez, what a shame. And here I was so looking forward to this because I was told there would even be a little girl to enjoy, but this one is just skin and bones.”
“Oi oi, you didn’t hear? That one is ill, you sicko.”
At the time, I didn’t understand what those disgusting men were talking about with their vile voices.
Or rather, I didn’t want to understand. Just what were those men thinking of doing with my sister, who was only nine years old?
“Ah well, can’t be helped. May as well just enjoy ourselves with her then.”
“Hey, wait a minute. Remember the ‘magic words’ Lady Lilith taught us?”
“Ooh, I almost forgot.”
Those men looked down at me, their mouths twisted into sadistic grins. At the time, I remembered every hair on my body standing on end in fear.
“‘For my sister, I’ll do anything’, right? So, are you ready for anything, big sis?”