Chapter 70: Interlude I: Lysander
The first memory I have is that of being bought by the Shadowmarks.
I was a ‘slave’ in the truest sense of the word, a captive with no control over his life.
Although most of Valed has eradicated this form of slavery, until even the term itself simply refers to purchased labor instead of the purchase of a person himself, there are still dark waters in this country.
That being the case, I can’t deny that my status as a ‘slave’ was still better than the former slaves before the alliance was made and Valed became a country.
The Shadowmarks, an elite dark organization excelling in secrets and shadows, could not afford to allow just anyone to join their ranks, and it bolstered its ranks from buying the children of the poor.
One payment for the labor of their child’s entire life; there are enough poor families who don’t care to understand whether they’re being taken advantage of or not as long as they could receive money for there to be business.
These children then underwent grueling training to become the Shadowmarks’ shadows.
There was some times an extra piece of bread for a job well-done, but most of the training was conducted based on punishments.
Those children who ended up not making the cut were abandoned or sold to different organizations before they were allowed to get too far into the Shadowmarks’ business.
Otherwise, we were all trained to be spies and assassins.
It was random chance that I had been divided into the ‘spy’ group and not the ‘assassin’ group, but the only real difference was that I never set out on a mission with the intention to kill someone.
It doesn’t mean I’ve never killed.
What should I say about the Shadowmarks?
For better or worse, the Shadowmarks was my ‘home.’
After graduating from the hellish training period, although we were never paid for the work we did, we were provided for and could even be considered well cared for.
We made friends, comrades, and mentors among the operatives and superiors.
In this sort of environment, you stop thinking about what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong.’
The Shadowmarks was all we had.
But it’s all gone now.
Flash. Flash flash.
“Lys, wake up. Time to go.”
“…Ah. Got it. Let’s go.”
I shake the superfluous thoughts out of my head.
Right now, there were more important things to do.
The signal we received meant that the Royal Guards were in position, ready to burst into the hideout from the front.
Our job is to secure the back and the interiors so that there was no where to hide.
It’s the first time the higher-than-thou guards lowered themselves to work with a team made up of members from the darker side of the country.
As a member of the Shadowmarks, I had never really gotten to know too many operatives from other organizations, but I did know some of the free-lancers.
Currently, the dark operatives I’m working with are all people I’ve been connected with through the few free-lancers that I developed working relationships with.
Through this job, I’ll get the chance to see which one is suitable … trustworthy enough to work for Milady.
The room was dark.
Krys didn’t know why he felt goosebumps crawling up his skin, but his life experiences did not allow him to ignore it.
“You should keep an eye out.”
He snapped at the man lounging casually on the side.
“Aw, what’s the point? ‘S’not like anything ever happens -”
Before the man could even say anything, he had died.
Krys could only just barely see the glint of something, but even he, skilled as he was, was unable to see exactly what had killed the man.
There wasn’t even a hint of a presence, a sign that someone had infiltrated the inner rooms of this house.
This kind of ability, this kind of killing method – Krys’ blood ran cold.
He thought he had made sure to kill them all.
How could there be one left?
Now that they were all gone Krys’ abilities could be considered the peak of the assassins in the underground in Valed, but while they were still around, he could only be considered middling to pretty good.
Without any hesitation, or even bothering to confirm the other’s presence, he opened his mouth to try to persuade the other, but his prepared words of grievances against the Shadowmarks for controlling their lives, the injustices of work done without reward, were lost as a strong hand clasped a kerchief of strong-smelling herbs to his mouth and nose.
Although he attempted to struggle, he felt his strength fade quickly, and in a few short minutes, he fell to the ground, and the last things he saw were the feet of the man who had poisoned him.
Lysander stared down at the corpse at his feet.
Even though everything he had been doing was for this moment, he didn’t feel anything.
Neither joy nor sorrow – he felt somewhat numb.
“Whoa, was that okay, Lys? Not even gonna gloat at him? That’s the guy that betrayed your org, right?”
The street-rat turned spy, Jareth, clambered in the window as he surveyed the scene.
“I’m not interested in what he has to say.”
That was Lysander’s true feelings.
Krys was a Shadowmarks operative who attempted to climb the ranks, but when he fell short, he began to show signs of dissatisfaction with his life being controlled.
Honestly, Lysander felt like the Shadowmarks were too soft to their operatives after their training period.
The proof was the rebelliousness that had surfaced in Krys’ greedy, power-hungry psyche.
However … something like the Shadowmarks.
Maybe it was better for something like that not to exist.
Perhaps that was why Lysander was neither delighted nor upset that he had just killed Krys with his own hands.
Although he wasn’t allowed to touch the main players of this dark organization, as the Royal Family wished to interrogate them, Lysander had permission to do as he pleased with the rest of the members of the organization that poisoned the Shadowmarks.
That was part of the deal for Lysander to cooperate with the Royal Guards.
Another part was that they would not probe into his identity.
Even now, they Royal Guards were only working with dark operatives that were more-or-less commonly known to the upper echelons of Valed.
Both Lysander and Jareth, as well as a few others that were joining them in their activities, just in other parts of the house, were merely here for the moment.
Once the Royal Guards had fully infiltrated and arrested the surviving members of the organization, then these dark operatives would leave, just as quietly as they came.
As for their coordination … that was a secret of the underground.
For Lys, he had already done his best, ferrying valuable information to the Royal Family and arranging for the captures of all the players in the underground that were involved in the Queen’s poisoning.
This last raid would be Lysander’s final participation; from hereon there would only be the investigation of how the nobility of Valed were involved, and with all the involved members of the underground at the mercy of the Royal Family, it was only a matter of time for the trail to be picked up.
From now on, the Royal Family could hire underground operatives as normal to accomplish their goals.
Lysander was even unnecessary in this last raid, as he had already given them all the aid he was required to.
He had only come to get his revenge.
Understandably, Krys was his first main target.
However, without the extremely deadly, fast-acting poison that was incapable of being guarded against, there was no way Krys could have accomplished wiping out the Shadowmarks.
Lysander had a second target in this house.
The child at the worktable turned in mild surprise as the door banged open.
The poison genius of the Purple Wyverns organization.
Only thirteen years old, a strange genius with no interest in anything other than poisons.
Originally he had been kidnapped for a ransom, but the Hoffer family didn’t want him for his eerie hobbies.
Although he should have been with the Purple Wyverns, for some inexplicable reason, he was here, with this organization instead.
The boy himself could be considered harmless.
Although he was very much obsessed with poisons, he had no ability that would allow him to poison others, just the ability to concoct poisons.
Even so, this boy, he shouldn’t be allowed to live.
Even as Lysander thought so, he hesitated.
Then, before the Royal Guards had infiltrated far into the house, he took Tom Hoffer and disappeared into the night.
Even Lysander himself didn’t really know why he had done it.
He had no reasons to give as he faced the sleepy-eyed Young Miss, who had been woken up far past her bedtime.
Tom Hoffer, who was far too used to changing ‘owners’ and didn’t have much of a reaction to being taken away, stared at the five-year-old child with mild curiosity.
Believe it or not, this was the person calling the shots… Lysander didn’t bother enlightening him and explained the situation to the Young Miss instead.
After understanding the circumstances, the pretty Dellarose daughter sniffed dismissively.
“A ‘genius’ who makes poisons without even bothering with antidotes? I really wonder if such a brainless person can be considered a genius at all.”
Lysander’s little master tapped her finger on her chin provocatively.
For the first time since Lysander had seen him, Tom Hoffer seemed to come alive as his face turned a dark shade of red.
Although the boy was probably used to insults and looks of fear, the one thing he had pride in was his value as a genius.
As if surprised he was showing his temper, the Young Miss said,
“What, am I wrong? I bet I could easily combine some random things together to kill someone too. Someone like you who doesn’t even think of a way to counter the things you make, I don’t think that’s anything special.”
“… What would you know? How to make a poison that does what you want it to, how to tailor it so that it can be carried the way you want it to, there are lots of things to consider. I properly confirm the effects in rats first.”
The thirteen-year-old glowered angrily at her.
“Still, you’re just killing something. Rat poison can kill rats just as easily as whatever you make. I think it’s just a waste of time. Even an alchemist is worth at least twenty of you.”
Alchemists, the black sheep of those that study materials and their effects, were the worst thing one could call anyone who had pride in their work, and the Young Miss did it so easily.
Lysander watched impassively on the side as Tom Hoffer lost his temper, Fluvia Dellarose leading him easily by the nose all the while.
Finally, judging that the argument had gone on enough and that she had successfully riled the boy up, the Young Miss leaned back arrogantly, crossing her arms.
“Saving a life is far more difficult than ending one. I dare you to try give it a try.”
Tom Hoffer shouted angrily, without even realizing he was walking straight into her trap.
Even though he thought that someone with the alchemical finger of death was better off dead himself, Lysander couldn’t help but think to himself quietly: Yes, bringing this boy to Milady was the correct decision.
His thoughts seemed to be justified as he heard the Young Miss whisper to Sir Edgar.
“Be sure that the boy isn’t allowed to dissect animals without properly submitting a proposal. Although the practice is sound, we don’t want him to turn into a psychopath. Assign him both a guard and an observer.”
Lysander was finally able to identify the uncomfortable feeling that caused him to hesitate to kill the boy.
It wasn’t too late; if someone capable took to guiding the boy, perhaps his genius could turn from the finger of death to the finger of life.
If he had killed the boy, what would have remained un-found in the future?
Lysander was curious to see it for himself.
<a/n: could not work this into Fluvia’s pov’s/chapters, but that kind of makes sense. She doesn’t want to know about everything going on in the background. >