Ch. 210 I’ve Returned (1)
Kuhn was an orphan. He had never seen his parents as a child, so he probably was an orphan.
He was a slave as well. A brand on his shoulder marked him as such, and at that time, he was called slave ninety-five.
— Slave ninety-five, try again.
Kuhn was trained in a famous assassins’ guild from an early age. At that time, there were perhaps hundreds of slaves of similar age who were trained like Kuhn. A dozen of children would die a day from the harsh training, and a dozen more would be brought in to replace them. With such a quick turnover, Kuhn could never remember the boy sleeping next to him.
However, Kuhn was not a slave at the assassins’ guild from the start.
The earliest memory Kuhn had was of being a slave to a little girl. And that little girl had a sociopathic curiosity.
— How hot would it be if I put this cigar on your body?
The girl’s favorite pastime was to have her servants hold Kuhn while she pressed the hot end of a cigar against his chest. She always smiled when she saw Kuhn writhe in pain.
—I told you that my shoes must always be polished. Did you forget that?
— I-I never heard that order…
— Talking back really will get you into trouble.
The young lady always hurt Kuhn for his mistakes. At first he thought his punishments were dispensed unfairly, but later he realized that she did this purely for entertainment. She would abuse Kuhn even if she did not have the reason to do so—she simply enjoyed his look of resentment.
— These bugs are so gross. Hmmm…I wonder why they taste like?
Dozens of bugs were forced down Kuhn’s throat.
— How dare you glare at me like that? Lock him up in the shed and don’t give him food for three days!
Whenever something went wrong for the girl, she would take out her anger on Kuhn. There was little chance he could escape this life.
One time, she pressed a hot cigar on his skin as usual, and Kuhn, thrashing from the heat and fear, tore the girl’s new dress.
The sound of her dress being ripped was louder than thunder to Kuhn’s ears.
— Kkyaaa! How dare you ruin my dress?
The girl wailed and went to her father to complain, her cheeks dripping with tears. The father ended up buying the girl a new dress with the money he received from selling Kuhn to the assassination guild.
That was the last of the most comfortable slave life Kuhn ever remembered.
While he suffered vicious abuse from the little girl, he never felt the threat of death as closely as he did in the assassinations’ guild. Each day was like walking on thin ice, and the slightest slip-up could spell doom. Young boys weren’t very useful; they weren’t good for hard labor, and they took up a lot of time and food before they reached adulthood. As a result, young male slaves were considered cheap and relatively disposable. The cost of treating injuries for slaves was deemed too expensive for the guild, and the instructors were cruel and pitiless.
Kuhn knew he had to follow the instructor’s words, or else he would die. It wasn’t an exaggeration, and more than once a boy came back as a cold body.
And so, Kuhn did everything the instructor told him to do to survive.
— From now on, only one in seven of your group can escape from here alive. There will be no food until there is one left.
At that time, Kuhn lived without thinking. He only moved when the instructors told him to move, and killed when they told him to kill. He was simply an empty puppet that moved on command, and it never occurred to him that something was deeply wrong with this life.
As time went by, Kuhn grew older and gradually began to draw attention for his outstanding skills. Against all odds, he graduated from his hellish training, then began to take assignments from the assassinations’ guild.
[Baron Koldeu’s butler. Male in his 30s. Make it look like a natural death.]
[Top government official of Haruk. Male in his 50s. After his death, retrieve his confidential documents.]
[Viscountess Brica. Woman in her 20s. Make it look like she was assaulted by burglars.]
He never failed. As a result, he received the highest number of assignments from the guild.
Kuhn’s last mission was this.
[The Crown Prince of Ruford Empire. Kill by any means and methods.]
Only the elite talents were selected to attack the barracks where Carlisle was sleeping. There were about twenty assassins in total, and with this number, a high-rank noble would die without even the birds and mice noticing.
Carlisle wasn’t too old at the time, and therefore wasn’t classified as a difficult opponent. If the assassination was successful, the reward would be so high that many people were assigned to the mission to guarantee its success.
Kuhn, the youngest of them, took his surveillance role outside the barracks and readied himself for any enemy backup.
The rest of the team drew out their weapons and slipped into the barracks where Carlisle was sleeping.
A terrible scream split the air.
At first, Kuhn thought it was Carlisle’s voice, but then he soon realized several people were screaming. Sensing something had gone awry, Kuhn fled towards the barracks. At that moment, he thought that the plot had been leaked and an ambush had been waiting for them.
When Kuhn arrived at the scene, however, there was only one person. The young man’s hair, darker than the night sky, fluttered in the wind as he looked at his enemies with cold, pale blue eyes.
Kuhn was staggered by that single look. It was not an emotion that could be described in words, but he understood why that young man was a prince. Carlisle was different from the others, and at first sight Kuhn knew he was superior to anyone.
What was immediately urgent, however, were the black scales on the young man’s right arm. Kuhn watched as Carlisle used that monstrous arm to grab a man and tear him apart. He moved quickly and efficiently, as if from practiced experience.
— A monster!
About half of the men were quickly disposed of, and the rest lost their nerve and began to flee. Carlisle lunged after them, while Kuhn was the only one from the group who pulled out his sword. At that moment, Carlisle’s blue eyes flashed in the night as he whirled at Kuhn.
— …You’re not running.
Kuhn still didn’t know exactly what Carlisle meant then.
And so, they began to fight each other to the death. Carlisle was the strongest opponent Kuhn had ever faced. He fought like his life depended on it, but in the end, he was forced to suffer a defeat like the other assassins.
— Haa, haa.
Kuhn’s heaved in his last breaths. He felt the cold, scaly touch of Carlisle’s hand on his neck and knew it was over. His eyes closed as he awaited the final blow…no pain came.
He opened his eyes. Carlisle was staring straight at him. Kuhn spoke in a rasping voice.
— Kill me quickly.
— I’m curious to know, so answer me before you die. Did you intentionally buy time to save your colleagues?
Kuhn didn’t notice that the rest had fled while he was fighting Carlisle. The other assassins had seen the prince’s terrifying strength. Kuhn already knew that they would abandon him, but it didn’t matter as he wasn’t fighting to save them.
Kuhn looked up at Carlisle with his emotionless gray eyes and replied.
— If I fail the mission anyway, I will die. I didn’t see the purpose in running.
— But everyone who ran away from me will live just a little longer.
Carlisle’s words were not wrong, and since all the assassins here were the best from the guild, it was likely that Carlisle couldn’t kill all of them anyway.
Kuhn hadn’t even considered that. It was ingrained in him since he was a young boy that failure meant death. He lived a life without any other driving purpose, and Death was simply a constant companion.
This was the moment now. Kuhn spoke in a weakened voice.
— What does it matter to struggle just to live a little longer?
— It doesn’t. I was just trying to save your colleagues by killing them painlessly…but I change my mind.
For some reason, Carlisle gave a dark grin.
—I think I’ll be the one damaged if I kill someone who already wants to die.
Carlisle released his choke hold from Kuhn’s neck, who coughed and heaved in a rasping lungful of air.
—You’re my hostage until I find and kill all the men who ran away.
Carlisle then took Kuhn’s right arm and crushed it with his hand.
The sound of bones twisting and cracking sounded in the air.
Kuhn screamed as pain rocketed through his body, and he looked up with unseeing eyes. Carlisle then spoke in a deeper, more commanding voice than before.
— Consider this an informal punishment. I won’t kill you, but I’ll give you pain that will make you wish you were dead.
Kuhn repeated the words in his head. Carlisle was insane…
That was Kuhn’s first meeting with the Crown Prince.