Bang!

Michael Rose placed his hand on his chest.
There was something warm and wet.
Then, looking at his palm, it was all red.

Cough—

As the blood splattered along with a cough, the gunshot wound to the chest throbbed in pain.

He was dying.

“…You should’ve shot me in the heart.”

There weren’t any traces of resentment.
It was just emptiness.

Nikita Borev, who he partnered with for ten years, was just looking at Michael with a sad face.

Clack—

Dropping his gun on the ground, Nikita ran up to Michael and pressed both of his hands on the gunshot wound.

“Oh… Oh, God! What have I done?! What the hell have I done?!”

“It hurts, dumbass.
Don’t press on it.”

It was too late, anyway.

“That’s why you should’ve shot me in the heart.
This is happening because you hesitated for no reason.”

Nikita looked at Michael who was making jokes at a time like this and shook his head.

“…I’m sorry.”

Yeah, you should be sorry. I know you’re sorry, but I know you had to do it.
So…

“Don’t be sorry, dummy.”

Cough—

Michael’s heart felt like it was burning the moment he coughed.

“…Damian?”

Hearing Michael’s words, Nikita slowly lifted his head.
Nikita didn’t say anything, but his expression and trembling lips told Michael everything.

If not him, then who else could it be?

The boss of the mafia ‘Kalanishiel Family’, the hidden power of the Empire with both the Emperor and the Council wrapped around his finger. 

Michael didn’t know what to do, and how much he could do in that city ravaged by the civil war, but one thing was for sure; nothing mattered to Michael anymore.

“I guess I was a bit of a pain in the neck.”

Even if more than 90% of the police force was bribed by the Kalanishiel Family, Michael and Nikita did not stop investigating them.

They took away their badge several times, saying they were ignoring direct orders from their superiors.
But they never gave up.

And yet.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry, really.
They found out where my wife and children are.”

“…Yes, I understand—”

Michael squeezed out his last remaining strength and pushed Nikita’s hand away.

“Come on… Run away.”

This innocent bear. They wouldn’t spare you even if they threatened to harm your family if you didn’t kill me.

Creak!

Michael heard the sound of several cars stopping outside of the abandoned factory building.

“Get out of here, you bastard!”

At Michael’s cry, Nikita clenched his teeth and grabbed Michael’s hand with both of his hands.

“I’m sorry, Michael!”

After Nikita left, gunshots were heard from everywhere.

Michael closed his eyes, the sound getting more distant as seconds passed.

Well, it’s been a crappy life.

Soon, pure white darkness enveloped him.

***

And Michael opened his eyes.

“Huh?”

This… I don’t think this is supposed to happen.

Rattle—

It seemed as if his world was shaking and he realized it only after he banged his head against the wall next to him.
He was in a car.

“I’m sorry, Miss! Are you okay?!”

That time, Michael was surprised by the woman’s voice from the front seat.

‘…Miss?’

Michael was staring blankly at the short-haired woman from the driver’s seat and thought that he had seen her somewhere.
Then, a name came to mind naturally.

“Vanessa Willer?”

“Yes, Miss.
Are you okay? I’m so sorry! I’m not that good at driving.
Are you injured?!”

“Oh, no….
I’m fine”

That wasn’t the problem.
Why was Michael in the car with Vanessa Willer when he should’ve been dead?

That woman must be from the Kalanishiel Family…

“Hm? Ah, aah.
Ah?!”

W-What’s wrong with my voice?!

Michael raised his voice as he noticed something strange only to be startled by the soft, girly voice coming out of his mouth.

“M-Miss.
Are you mad? I’m sorry.
I’ll never cross the speed bump like that again! So please, forgive me just once!”

“Ah… I’m not mad.”

“Then may I ask why are you making such an expression?!”

Vanessa’s face reflected in the rearview mirror was in tears and Michael couldn’t understand the whole situation at all.

“Oh, am I dreaming?”

Michael was so distracted that he spoke his thoughts out loud.

“You seemed to be in a deep sleep.
Did you not sleep well last night? Were you stressed out about the family event from today…?”

“…Family event?”

At that moment, Michael realised.

While Vanessa was making eye contact with Michael through the rearview mirror, Michael saw a truck drifting out from an alley ahead.

“Vanessa! Ahead! Look ahead!!”

“What? Huh?!”

The truck rushed at a frightening speed towards their car and the breaks broke, or perhaps it was planned from the beginning.

Michael quickly reached out from the back seat and grabbed the steering wheel.
Then, instead of Vanessa, he was the one who turned the steering wheel quickly to the right.

Creeeak!

The car rolled over to the sidewalk at 180 degrees, barely avoiding the truck.

But the truck, which hit the rear bumper of the car, flew into the air and crashed into a street lamp, a fire hydrant, and another parked car.
It tumbled over in the middle of the road.

There was a huge explosion.
Their car almost overturned, and not only the windows of the car, but also the windows of the building nearby shattered.

“Ugh…!”

Michael moved from the back seat and tapped Vanessa’s arm, which quickly hugged him tightly.

“I can’t breathe.”

“Oh, I’m sorry! Where are you hurt, Miss?!”

Released from Vanessa’s arms, Michael took a deep breath and looked down at himself.

Slender arms, slender body, slender legs.
A black, gothic style dress wrapped around that slender and small body, cotton gloves and long boots.

“…”

Michael hurriedly turned the cracked rear view mirror to look at his face.

A girl with long, straight and silver hair, adorned with a black headdress and mysterious golden eyes was reflected in the mirror.

“Miss?”

The girl in the mirror, looking back at Vanessa who was calling for Michael, said:

“What’s my name?”

“Oh, Miss! Have you hurt your head?! Can you show me—”

“No, I’m fine! What’s my name!!”

Surprised by Michael’s scream, Vanessa responded reflexively.

“Y-Your Grace’s name is Ashmia Kalanishiel!”

Despite the chaos in the streets, Michael pursed his lips and said:

“…I’m Ashmia Kalanishiel?”

“Yes, Miss, I understand you’re confused, but I think you should get out of the car, now!”

However, as she was about to open the rear door of the car, Michael, or Ashmia, grabbed Vanessa’s hand.

“No! Don’t get out! Get down, quickly!”

A second explosion, larger than the first, occurred.

“…!”

As the aftermath of the explosion subsided, Vanessa hurriedly got up and looked down at Ashmia.

“Miss!! Are you okay?!”

“…I’m okay.”

Ashmia got up with Vanessa’s help and once again looked down at her body, hands and feet that became ‘Ashmia’.

‘What the hell, what happened…’

But in the next moment, a strange sensation that helped Ashmia maintain her composure and coolness suddenly spread like a ripple in her head, as if telling her that was not what she was supposed to be thinking about.

“Are you okay?”

“I can’t stand it!”

Vanessa’s clothes were a mess from trying to protect Ashmia from the two explosions.
In particular, her back was completely tattered, but Vanessa did not suffer any injuries thanks to her ability of ‘Body Hardening’.

“But it might explode again, so hurry up and avoid—”

“No, not anymore.”

“…What?”

As Ashmia got out of the car, Vanessa gave her a puzzled look.
However, Ashmia looked at what was supposed to be the truck without further explaining anything to Vanessa.

It was engulfed in flames and destroyed to such an extent that it was difficult to recognize its original shape.

[Great damage trom the two explosions…]

[The police believed it was a premeditated crime against the Kalanishiel Family…]

A memory came to Ashmia’s mind in pieces.
However, that memory was the ‘present’ and had unfolded right before her eyes.

“…”

That truck was sent by someone to kill Ashmia.
They even made a complex device that exploded twice to make sure it finished the job.

“Miss, can you walk?”

“Oh… I’m sorry, but please hold on to me.”

Ashmia’s slender legs were shaking against her will.

Assisted by Vanessa, she sat in an outdoor seating area in a relatively unharmed cafe, just around the corner from the scene of the accident.

As she sighed, Ashmia’s ears heard the sound of a siren approaching.

“Miss, can I bring you some water?”

“Yeah.
No, if you have Jack and Coke.”

“…What?”

At the moment, the number seventeen came to mind.

Oh, I’m a minor.

When Ashmia saw Vanessa’s expression, she changed her words.

“Just give me a bottle of Coke.”

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