[Bad Maids] 1 – Amidst the blizzard

1.
It begins again

On the last day of winter during which even people who lived in the mountains and were used to the cold didn’t dare to travel, a group of knights was breaking through the blizzard.

Their coal-black armor, fur cloak and faces that had turned red from the biting wind were covered with frost.

“I am going to freeze to death, f*ck.”

A knight sporting a thick beard exhaled a curse.
It was so cold that his husky voice trembled like a goat.

“The blizzard isn’t going to stop any time soon.
That’s why I said to leave after resting for a few days”.

The knight said as he glanced sideways at the commander.
It was a journey that would feel like a pleasant trip if they just waited for the weather to get warmer.
But the commander, who hated wasting time, absolutely had to cross the mountain at this cold dawn.

“Ah, Sir Carus!”

“Shut up.”

The commander Carus Lankea had a nasty reputation.
Although he was young, he didn’t have a very friendly personality, and he wasn’t exactly compassionate either.

To his subordinates, he was the best commander regardless.
It was thanks to his strength.
Indeed, he wasn’t given the nickname of Bloodless Admiral for no reason.

“We’re almost there.”

Carus pulled down the cloak that was covering his hair.

His dark hair which contrasted with his white face, his jet-black pupils and red lips were revealed.
Although his face looked manly due to the deep-set eyes and thick eyebrows, he also looked fascinatingly charming.

“You’ve been saying that ever since we left.
I don’t believe you.”

“I told you to shut up.”

“If I freeze to death here as a bachelor, I will become a vengeful spirit and go after you.
When you get married, I might even get under the blankets on your wedding night.
Ah, it would probably be warm there, right?”

“Didn’t I tell you to shut up?”

Carus warned in a low voice.

As the grumbling subordinate pursed his lips, the goat-like laughs of the knights could be heard from here and there.

They were knights who had been given a secret mission by the Emperor, and in order to fulfill that mission, they were headed to the southern kingdom of Ortega.

A scout who was walking ahead suddenly raised his hand and shouted.

“Commander! There is a person here!”

The knights whose entire bodies were crouched on their horses all raised their heads at the same time.

“A person?”

It was a weather that was difficult to endure even for strong knights who were sufficiently prepared.
The blizzard had been going on continuously for the last two days.

“A dead person?”

One knight yelled.

‘They must be dead.
It’s certain.’ The knights whispered.
To think that a person was buried under the snow in this cold weather.
They were convinced that person was frozen solid, dead and blue.

However, something they couldn’t believe happened.

“They are alive! Commander, they are still alive!”

Carus nimbly jumped down from his horse.
His cloak waved in the wind.

At the place where the scout had found the person, there was a small carriage under a tree at a crossroad.
Inside, a woman was peacefully sleeping as if she were dead.

“Hey! Wake up, you can’t fall asleep! Open your eyes!”

He shook her body and even slapped her cheeks but it was to no avail.
The woman was barely moving.

The face of the woman who was about to freeze to death looked excessively serene.
The ice that had gathered on her eyelashes was falling like flour.

Her appearance was as beautiful as it was gruesome.
The eyes of the knights were glued to her face which was as pale as a lifeless doll.

Carus ignored his bewildered subordinates and moved forward, then he took off his glove and put his palm against the woman’s face.
It was cold.

‘Where is the closest village?’ Carus unfolded the map of the vicinity inside his head.
Even by running on a horse, it would still take several hours.
This place is deep in the moutains and we are in the middle of a raging blizzard.

“Someone is nearby.”

It was the knight who was complaining about freezing to death earlier.
After he dismounted his horse, he approached Carus and whispered.

“It’s hyenas.
Three of them.
Their skills are quite good.”

Hyena was the name that referred to the assassins who would receive money and deal with killing people.

To think that there were assassins stuck to this woman.
He quietly ordered.

“Catch only one and kill the rest.”

The knights carried out the commander’s order closely.

“Catch them!”

A small spear flew through the sky.
Without any bow or crossbow, the spear made a swishing sound similar to that of an arrow and pierced the body of a hyena who was hidden behind a tree far away.

The other ones tried to flee.
But Carus’s subordinates caught them as if they were hunting deers.

Two of them died, one was alive.

“Who are you!?”

The hyena, who had been captured, asked.

Carus took off his cloak and after tightly securing it around the woman’s body, he lifted her at once and embraced her in his arms.
Then, he indifferently introduced himself.

“Carus Lankea.
Second knight of His Majesty, the Emperor, and leader of the Order of Leviathan.”

At these words, the puzzled hyena opened his mouth wide.

“Why… Why are the knights of the imperial army, here…”

“It looks like this woman was your target.
What’s the reason?”

Carus firmly supported her in his arms with one hand and he beckoned the knights with the other.

The knight who was the closest immediately approached the hyena, held his arm and twisted his fingers.

The hyena, who wasn’t disturbed as his colleague died after being pierced by a spear, writhed in pain and swallowed a scream.

“Is it painful, you bast*rd? Does someone who slaughters people know pain?”

Rather than a knight, it was more the speech of a thug from a back alley, but Carus didn’t care.

“Ma… The butler of the Marquis of Marjoram ordered us! This woman is an orphan who was sponsored by the marquis, but not knowing her place, she seduced the young master and they promised to get married together.”

“What ?”

The knights looked at each other with a bewildered expression.
They thought there would be a great story about the woman, but it was just a love affair with a young nobleman.

“I heard that they promised to run away together.
You can deal with the young master, I will take care of the woman…”

“Kill him.”

Carus turned around with an expression that said it was not worth hearing more.

The hyena violently struggled but he ended up dying with only leaving his final words behind.

It wasn’t difficult to take care of the corpse.
As if they were used to it, the knights moved effortlessly.
They put the dead Hyenas in the carriage the woman had been riding and pushed it down a cliff.

“What should we do now?”

The knights approached and asked.

Carus mounted his horse while holding the woman in his arms.

“It’s time for us to rest as well.
We will head to the nearest village as fast as possible.
To the ones who fall behind, do your best to catch up.”

*****

The woman didn’t regain consciousness easily.
After being brought to a village, it seemed she didn’t have any thought of waking up even after her body had been warmed up and she had been cared for by a healer.

The healer said that she might die like that.
It was because her heart was beating too slowly.

“What are you going to do?”

“We’ll leave her here and go.
I need to hand a few gold coins to the healer.
He rushed here while facing the blizzard, his feet can’t be tied here because of this woman.”

“Thanks to that, I thought we would be getting some rest…”

“Should I make you rest forever?”

“Ah, really.
You won’t let me say anything.”

Ignoring his grumbling subordinate, Carus unpacked the woman’s luggage and put it on the table.
Then, he rummaged through the contents one by one.

It was a woman who didn’t have anything.
She barely had any money and for someone who was travelling, she didn’t have any spare clothes or equipment for sleeping outside.

“Was she resolved to die?”

“I don’t think so.”

“How do you even know?”

“Idiot.
Would someone resolved to die be at a crossroad in front of a road sign? She must have been waiting all night for the young master to come.
Also, look at her finger.
That ring looks awfully expensive.”

“The young master must have given it to her as a token.”

The knights clicked their tongues in disapproval.
Amongst them, sympathy directed at the woman suddenly emerged.

Pitiful.
Sad.
She would have been waiting for her lover in that cold place until she froze to death.
That man is a true assh*le.
All sorts of insults poured out.

At that moment, the woman woke up.

“…..!”

Out of her small mouth, a silent scream came out.
There was still no color on her pale face.
She opened her eyes as wide as it was physically possible and squeezed the blanket hard.

“Uh, uh uh!”

The knights rushed outside saying they would bring the healer.
Carus stood still and looked at the woman blankly.

“Did you come to your senses yet?”

It seemed that Carus’s voice still hadn’t reached her.
Clear tears were rolling down the sides of her eyes without any rest.
No sounds were coming out of her throat aside from the whistling of the wind.

With an attitude showing that he didn’t care even if she didn’t answer, Carus said what he had to say.

“I found you on the verge of death at a crossroad in the middle of the mountains.
Three assassins were after you.
My subordinates killed all of them but there is no guarantee that more won’t be coming for you.”

Huh.
The woman let out a heavy sigh.
The hand that was holding the blanket shaked violently.

“We will leave early tomorrow.
It’s all the time you’re given to recover your senses while under my protection.”

He may have appeared cold, but he couldn’t do anything about the situation.
Carus who had said everything he wanted to say tried to leave after telling her to rest, but she grabbed him.

“…Wait a moment.”

Her voice felt like it was about to crack and explode.
It also felt like a candle about to go out.
Still, as there was strength in the hand that was holding him, Carus halted his steps and looked down at her.

“The… assassin…”

“He was hired by the butler of the Marquis of Marjoram.
That’s all I heard before I killed him, so I don’t know anything else.”

As he looked closely, he found out that the woman had green eyes.
It was a deep green like the shade of a tree in the middle of summer.
Or like the deep end of a southern sea.
Above them, thick and long eyelashes hung like the teeth of a comb.

Right after her watery eyes regained focus, the woman stared at Carus.
They were merely looking at each other but he had chills and felt like he couldn’t breathe.

‘She has nice eyes.’ Carus thought inwardly.

In a voice that had noticeably become clearer, she thanked him.

“Thank you for saving me.”

“It’s nothing.
I was merely passing by.”

“Here…”

“It’s a village located south of the crossroad.
It looks like you were leaving Ortega, but it happens to be our destination.”

The woman blinked slowly.
A thick stream of tears poured out once more.

Carus tried not to meet her eyes as much as possible.
He pretented not to hear the groans mixed with loathing that came out of her trembling lips.

Inside her cold green eyes, various feelings were swirling.

In reality, it was a situation that he couldn’t understand.

For the aristocrats, who were only obsessed with power, marriage was the greatest political tool.
As such, there was no way for a young master and a female commoner to love each other.

He also thought that love was similar to gambling.
If gambling was not betting on one’s life while being drunk on the feelings and desires of the moment, then what else would it be?

“Sir Carus.”

The woman called his name that he hadn’t even told her.
The hands that had been gripping the blanket as if strangling it were neatly arranged in no time.

She was a woman who recovered quickly.
Although it was difficult to know whether she was actually fine or pretending to be fine.

“Do you believe in curses?”

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