On the second floor of the bar, Ludmila was gazing at the moon while resting her body on the terrace’s handrails.
Emitting faint white light, a Whiteday’s moon.
Her hand that was holding a small glass was slightly shaking.
Her mind was filled with the scene from one – two hours ago.
The thick smell of blood still sticking to her nose.
The mountain of over a hundred corpses. The sea of red blood spreading underneath.
It was unbelievable.
Today wasn’t the first time Ludmila had killed a person.
However, she couldn’t believe it.
The existence of people who bathed in the backspurt of blood as they killed as if it were a daily occurence.
A voice called out to her from behind.
Startled, Ludmilla turned around.
There was Shizuru wearing a friendly smile there.
However, the smile carried the fearful impression that accompanied him.
— How could he be so calm after killing people?
“… want something?”
Ludmila swallowed the question that suddenly came to mind and sourly asked.
“No, well, you disappeared from the party, so I thought you might be feeling sick”
Was the reason for that the alcohol, or was it the job just earlier.
Whichever one it was, Ludmila could not have known.
“Want some of these?”
He continued. It was an anti-intoxicant, or possibly a sedative.
As he was formally a physician, Shizuru would have stocked on both, though without any medical knowledge, Ludmila had no way of knowing which was which.
In any case, Shizuru was holding a small pill on his fingertips, offering it to Ludmila. Ludmila, however, shook her head.
“No need. I hate medicine”
“How childlike, so cute”
Ludmila was 18 years old, one year younger than Shizuru. She was an adult, although just barely.
Therefore she felt just a touch of irritation at being treated as a child, but she did not feel like retorting.
Most of all, Ludmila herself, by her own words, thought the same way.
“How was the job today? I think the situation was a little different than the usual”
Putting the medicine away, he switched to another topic.
Ludmila felt just a little hesitant to reply, but she answered annoyedly.
“… Are you making fun of me? I barely get to do anything today, the other three besides us did most of the work, didn’t they?”
“Not three, but four, okay? Eliza and Beth don’t like to be lumped together”
“Like that matters at all”
Being bluntly refused to, Shizuru made a wry smile.
Thinking back, he was always like this.
He does not get enraged or sad.
His emotions and his body temperature did not waver even a single bit.
And until now, he had never made her feel that fact.
Ludmila thought he was nothing more than a simple, mild-mannered man.
―― just a simple man.
He wasn’t supposed to be fit for an assassin.
“You starting to dislike it?”
Shizuru’s question came all too suddenly, and yet it hit the core of the matter, making Ludmila widen her eyes.
“Have you come to dislike this job?”
Shizuru repeated the question to her.
He was neither condemning nor comforting her, but simply asking the question.
“Don’t … don’t make fun of me!”
After a short pause, Ludmila answered stiffly.
The corners of her eyes slanted upwards. Her lavender-purple colored, completely lightless eyes sharply pierced through Shizuru.
She then stepped briskly up to him and grabbed him by the neck.
“There are things I must do even if it costs me my life! That’s why I joined Black Maria! That’s why I’ve always wanted to transfer to the fourth squad!”
Something she must do.
The tone of her voice as she said that was cold and hard, hinting at the strong will contained within.
Which was exactly why Shizuru was even more deeply worried.
“… revenge, is it?”
A muttering filled with grief.
Hearing that, Ludmila’s eyes became even more wide, opening as far as they can go.
“H … how did … !?”
“You shouldn’t underestimate Black Maria’s information network. Something like changing your name means nothing to us, Natasha”
It had been a year since the last time somebody called her by that name.
The name she went by when her parents were still alive was a nostalgic sound.
Ludmila released Shizuru’s neck she was holding and took a few steps back.
“Revenge against the nobles who killed your parents. That was your reason for wanting to be assigned to the fourth squad in charge of the nobles’ west ward”
“… what … Are you telling me to give up on revenge!? Is that it!? That’s none of your business! You’re a murderer yourself!”
“Eh? No, I’m not saying that. It’s alright, I think, revenge. Wanting to kill someone out of a personal grudge is proof that you have something you care about. It proves you’re human more than anything”
Shizuru said with a faint smile and an attitude as if he had nothing to do with it.
However, he continued.
“People with righteous reasons, like revenge or changing the world, aren’t fit for this kind of job. Those who can kill mechanically, or kill because of a habit, have a greater mental suitability”
“Like us,” he said with a somehow sad look.
The man who had been dragged around by the hand by the blind woman and walked the same path explained his theory.
“You don’t need conviction to kill. Skill is all it takes. If intent intervenes with your work, your outlook will suffer for it”
For Black Maria, killing is no more than business.
It doesn’t matter if they’re good or evil, all are equally, without distinction, without discrimination, potential targets.
To kill anyone so long as there’s someone to pay for it.
It was exactly because they took that stance that they thoroughly conduct intelligence gathering and background checks.
“Ludmila, I think if you continued you can someday get your wish to transfer to the fourth squad granted. But I’ll tell you this for your own good, you should quit now while you can”
“Haah…!? What’s this about? I’m not getting what you mean! The fourth squad gets lots of noble targets, right!? Then I ――”
“Because the customers of the fourth squad are the nobles you hate so much, you know?”
Ludmila’s agitated voice stopped as if she forgot what she was about to say.
Black Maria doesn’t choose its customers.
Nobles who pay a large amount in retaining fees and hush money were in fact the best business partners.
“Of course, they do get a lot of requests to kill nobles, but jobs against nobles tend to be highly priced, so people who could pay for it were mostly nobles themselves. To the wealthy merchants, those nobles are VIP customers, so as long as they don’t do too much they won’t come with requests to kill them”
In any case, that doesn’t change the fact that they were treated as pawns of the nobles she hated.
That was why Richelieu continued to reject Ludmila’s requests.
And Ludmila knew that she could not hunt down the nobles alone, so she joined the organization.
Outside of joining Black Maria, she had no way of carrying out her revenge.
Ludmila finally understood why Shizuru told her to leave while she could.
But even so.
“… But I can’t turn back. I’ve already killed people with these hands. I can’t just leave after all this. Besides, I have no idea what to do other than this … !”
“I see …”
Disappointed, anxious, relieved.
Shizuru watched Ludmila with a vague expression.
He put the knife in his hand back into his sleeve.
“―― thank goodness. Now I don’t have to kill you”
“E … eh!?”
Shizuru said the line with a smile, there was a pause, then Ludmila took a big step away.
The magic eye that could see temperature.
Despite having such a thing, she had not noticed that he had a knife and was prepared to use it.
To Shizuru, the act of killing a person was that kind of a routine act.
In the seven years since he became an assassin.
Virtuous behavior had all been eroded away.
“Policy is to kill dropouts in order to preserve information security. Though thanks to that I couldn’t quit, either”
“y … you, you’re a scary person after all”
“Just an inhuman being who could kill a person with ease. In the end, the only one I care about the most is myself”
He said with a shrug.
Shizuru then gently offered his hand to Ludmila”
“So, once again ―― Welcome to Black Maria. I haven’t had any juniors who stayed since Elizabeth, but I’d be happy if you would stay long”
The young man with a peculiar look with three moles in a line underneath his right eye, who had a sweet air around him despite being male.
— Born and raised in the lawless slums, knowing nothing but violence, Casca.
— Not having the sensibilities of a human for being a beast, one who does not feel any guilt from taking something away, Lady.
— Having two personalities in one body, yet both of them were serial killers, Elizabeth.
And the beautiful flower with thorns that kill if one touches it.
Posessing both gentleness and cruelty in a union, Shizuru.
Thinking back, Ludmila had ended up in a ridiculous workplace with a contingent of crackpots.
Muttering inwardly, she finally took Shizuru’s hand listlessly.
“… I’ll be in your care”
“Yes, me too”
Underneath the white moonlight, a sweet, gentle smile was directed at her.
Thank goodness it was nightttime, Ludmilla thought in relief.
By negligence — her face had turned just a little bit red.