Human Translated By:
- Garcar (Parts 2.2, 2.4)
Machine Translated By:
- Cirdan Lunae
Japanese to English Checking By:
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Translation Note – The title for this chapter (愛たくなかった) has a double meaning. The way it is written uses the kanji for love, meaning “I did not want to love”, but the conjugation makes it read as “Aitakunakatta” which would have the meaning of “I did not want to meet”.
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――Standing atop a hill, the man gazed out toward the distant horizon.
The sun had already long since set, and the poor village, lacking in light sources, was no match for the dead of night.
All the more so, with many of the male laborers injured and with fewer bonfires than usual, the sight of a man standing in the darkness seemed very strange to the girl’s eyes.
Bandits had been raiding villages in the vicinity, and her hometown bore the brunt of the raids, having just suffered major losses such as livestock, food, and the men becoming injured.
But even so, it was a silver lining of a dark cloud that the village had not perished, and the person atop the hill could also be said to be one part of that good fortune.
When the bandits had attacked the village, the men who resisted were killed or wounded, and the women and children were captured one after another.
As the girl was facing the possibility of being sold, or of going through something even worse, appearing there were soldiers who had been dispatched from the Capital, including the man atop the hill.
They surrounded the bandits in the blink of an eye, and annihilated them with little resistance.
Afterward, they were stationed near the village to help protect and rebuild it, responding rapidly, and the village obtained a more sturdy fence than it had before it had fallen victim to the bandits.
If the injuries of the men healed, the village would be secure for the time being.
Like the grown-up women, the young girl was busy bustling about, tending to the wounded, serving food to the soldiers, and taking care of the village’s children.
On her way home, after she had finished working, she spotted the man atop the hill.
The sight of the man, silent, staring into the darkness of night, could be described as comical.
Deeds akin to staring into the darkness, where there was likely nothing to be seen, were the height of futility. The value of acts that did not lead to results was not recognized; such was the harsh way of the Empire.
However, the man did not look comical to the eyes of the young girl.
The man looked into the distance with undivided attention, as if he were trying to ascertain something that the others could not see.
And, what happened next was because she was irresistibly curious about what exactly he was trying to see.
Girl: [Would it not be more comforting to count the stars in the sky than to look out into the darkness?]
The next thing she knew, she called out to the man’s back.
The man turned around with a slight surprise in his eyes, which made her somewhat proud.
――This encounter between a girl and a king would become a fairy tale that would go on to be recounted for a very, very long time.
――That reunion was something that could not have been foreseen.
Perhaps it ought to be called a cruel twist of fate, or a strange stroke of chance.
In the midst of the unprecedented peril that had befallen the Vollachian Empire, the full face of the Great Disaster had become known by almost everyone simultaneously.
The march of the undead, risen from the grave, had plunged all the living into the midst of mayhem.
However, there were those who experienced that inevitable plunge into mayhem and managed to crawl out of it.
Regardless of the physical degree of strength, they could rise as beings of immense mental and spiritual strength―― In the eyes of mediocre and ordinary people, they were perceived as heroes and exceptional beings. Often, such formidable individuals were also physically strong, but their actions significantly influenced the fate of the Imperial Capital either way.
The horrid surprise attack on the living, the strike of the Great Disaster, had resulted in casualties below what was initially expected.
But, that did not mean it was the best outcome, even if it signified the valiant efforts of the living.
That was because, at the outset of the initial mayhem, individuals who should have rightfully been counted among the exceptionals were engulfed by the initial ambush much quicker than they could rise above it.
A faint breath escaped from the lips, and consciousness gently drifted towards awakening.
The eyelids, framed by long lashes, quivered, like the sun that fears the dawn, the eyes slowly began to reflect the world; once, twice, the blue eyes blinked―― in an instant, the ephemeral dream burst, and consciousness firmly settled into reality.
Hastily sitting up on the spot, the sight that was reflected in those eyes was an unfamiliar place.
The room had a high ceiling, and both the materials of the walls and floors, along with the craftsmanship, were top-notch. Fine furnishings adorned the luxurious room, giving it an air of nobility at a glance.
The fact that they were lying on a soft bed in this spacious room only added to their realization, and the realization itself was peculiar.
It was a fact that, when compared with the memories that immediately preceded it, this was extremely unnatural.
???: [I, should have been participating in the…]
Battle for the Imperial Capital; they reflected upon themselves that way.
Instantly, they recalled a world where both heaven and earth were painted with crimson, along with the memory of working hard together with their miraculously reunited daughter to try and comfort a weeping child.
Quite literally, it was a situation in which their hands were burning, but the attempt itself should have been successful. 
However, they had found themself in such a place. It was far too incomprehensible――,
???: [――My kimono…]
After thinking that far, they belatedly noticed the unfamiliar sensation of the touch of their own hand resting on their chest.
Looking down at their own body in the bed, the attire adorning their limbs was not their familiar kimono, but a blue dress made with fabric of the highest quality, which also exuded an air of luxury.
Their tied up hair was now undone, and it seemed that both their hair ornaments and earrings had been removed.
All of those items were irreplaceable to themself, and were things that they would have never parted ways with, even while unconscious――,
???: [――Hast thou awoken, O Star of Mine?]
Just as they were about to leave the bed in search of their lost ornaments, they heard that voice.
The voice, which unexpectedly struck their eardrums, stole every bit of their brain’s activity without exaggeration.
The voice was uttered from the entrance of the room, which was adorned with elegant and dazzling furnishings that were captivating enough to seize one’s gaze. However, none of that entered their vision whatsoever.
As if their ears had been ensnared, as if their heart had been ensnared, their consciousness was drawn in that direction.
For them―― For Yorna Mishigure, that was unavoidable.
With eyes wide-open, Yorna, still on the bed, was fixated on the figure standing at the entrance.
There stood a petite figure. They were significantly shorter than Yorna, who was already tall for a woman, and their slender frame gave the impression of a child. However, he was a handsome man with sharp facial features.
His hair, a shade of green that neared black, reached down to his shoulders, and the unhealthy deep shades around his eyes that suggested displeasure seemed to vividly reflect his unfriendly personality.
However, Yorna knew that in reality, it was just that people feared him, and he did not try to keep people at a distance. ――In fact, he had not tried to distance himself from her.
Even when facing his final moments, he had sincerely refused to distance himself.
So, right now, Yorna knew that was why she was here.
Because she knew――,
Yorna: […Your Excellency, is it?]
Man: [A strange manner of speaking. But I shall allow it. All that is concerned with thy soul, I shall allow.] 
Harboring a thought utterly unbelievable, Yorna posed a question, and that man of small build answered so.
Terribly blunt, cold, and pregnant with melancholic weight, for such a short declaration, that voice was packed with so much emotion that it seemed like it would burst apart.
That was the excess of obsession present within himself, and the source of that obsession was love.
The man before her eyes, was in love with Yorna Mishigure.
That was not understood because he possessed a special power as a result of being “loved” by Yorna, but rather, it was a powerful emotion so abundantly clear that it would be immediately obvious to anyone else if they were present in the room.
But then again, it was absolutely impossible for any other person to be present here.
After all, this was――,
Man: [A tryst after a period of near three hundred years. None shall pose a hindrance to mineself and thee.]
Man: [Show me thy face. Even if thy form is altered, I wish to behold a glimpse of thee from close by.]
As the man slowly approached her as he spoke those words, Yorna’s heart trembled.
Just what sort of emotion that was the result of, she herself could not clearly tell. Of course, there was joy in this impossible reunion, and it made her feel the urge to jump into his chest.
However, at the same time, there were three hundred years worth of reasons why she should not do such a thing. The most recent decades, for the moment, were the biggest reason why Yorna did not act so impulsively.
Hence, Yorna harbored conflicting emotions concerning the man approaching her, and her lips quivered――,
Yorna: [――Your Excellency Eugard Vollachia.]
At her call, the man halted his step, and Yorna tightly shut her lips.
Since he halted his step upon being called so, then she had not mistaken him. There was no way that she could mistake him in the first place. Even if anyone else were to mistake him for another person, only for Yorna was it impossible to ever mistake him.
Only for Yorna―― No, only for this soul that started out as a girl named Iris, was it utterly impossible to mistake the one known as the King of Thorns, Eugard.
――Iris and the King of Thorns.
It was a fairy tale recited in this world since long ago, and simultaneously it was an old story of historical fact.
A story known for the meeting and separation of the girl known as Iris and the Vollachian Emperor known as the King of Thorns, as well as the tragic conclusion depicted therein.
Iris’s soul did not ascend to heaven, and instead it was fettered to the vast lands of the Empire, resulting in the existence of Yorna Mishigure after reincarnating many times. And, the one who fettered Iris’s soul to the vast lands of the Empire, was none other than the King of Thorns, Eugard Vollachia.
In other words, this was an unwritten epilogue to the story of “Iris and the King of Thorns”――,
Yorna: [That, could never be such a beautiful tale.]
Slowly shaking her head, Yorna suppressed the urges she felt in her heart.
A reunion with Eugard after an undesired parting, one could say that such a thing had been Yorna’s dearest wish. In that sense, one could also probably say that this was the very moment that her dearest wish was granted.
However, that would be incorrect. The reunion Yorna had envisioned did not take this form.
Yorna: [I did not wish to see you with such a face and eyes, Your Excellency.]
As it seemed the malicious nature of fate was ridiculing her, Yorna looked to Eugard while bearing a sorrowful ire.
Having halted his step, Yorna’s beloved Emperor received her gaze―― He, with pallid skin and golden irises, had been completely altered from the form which Yorna knew.
She did not know what had exactly happened to him.
But, she was confident that Eugard’s form was unusual, and that it would definitely not bestow any positive influence upon her or her beloved children.
With a completely altered form, Eugard had achieved an impossible resurrection―― If by some chance this unfamiliar place she had awoken in was a room of the Crystal Palace, the worst possibility passed through her mind.
The possibility that some sort of absurd situation had occurred, and the state of the Empire had changed.
Yorna: [Your Excellency, my lord, just what in the world has happened for you to…?]
There were as many stories to be exchanged as there were tears to be shed.
Yet, Yorna tried to shake those feelings off, attempting to ask what needed to be asked.
Eugard: [――O Star of Mine.]
Yorna’s intended question was silenced by Eugard’s simple gesture of raising a finger.
It was not the gesture itself that sealed Yorna’s lips. Along with it came a sharp pain that constricted her heart, compelling her silence.
Yorna: [Kah, ugh…]
The sharp pain pierced her heart, and instead of a question, a moan spilled from Yorna’s throat.
Yorna reflexively clutched at her chest, and a glance revealed a design on her dress that had not been there before―― Thorns of ashen hue had been added.
These thorns spiraled around the center of her chest, slipping through her pale skin and reaching inward.
They thrust their spikes into Yorna’s heart, causing a tremendous pain that overwhelmed her entire body. Trying to touch them was futile; they would slip through Yorna’s fingers, remaining intangible.
As her thoughts were clouded with pain, what flashed through Yorna’s mind was Eugard’s alias―― Successive Vollachian Emperors were called by various names based on their governing style and the conquests they achieved, but the title signifying Eugard was the “Emperor of the Briar”. 
Quite literally, Eugard had the power to bind and subjugate others with the pain of thorns.
After all, Eugard subjugated his Imperial subjects with untouchable thorns he had planted, and he was the Great Emperor who used pain and fear to expand the Empire’s territories into what they currently were.
Tormented by unbearable pain, Yorna’s throat quivered as she gasped for breath.
And then she remembered. ――In the midst of that battle concerning the Imperial Capital, after she and Priscilla had subdued the crying and raging Arakiya, just what kind of defeat had she suffered?
It was nothing at all.
Enthralled by the sudden appearance of Eugard, Yorna was unable to avoid the binding of the thorns. And then, holding both the bound Yorna and the unconscious Arakiya, Priscilla found herself facing off against Eugard, and behind him, many beings with golden eyes――,
Yorna: [――Prisca, is she safe?]
This question was posed amidst sharp, intense pain.
The fact that her lips, which previously only let out moans enduring the pain, could form a coherent question was purely because her feelings surpassed her suffering.
In truth, the pain she felt had not wavered in the slightest.
Eugard did not loosen the binding of thorns. Whether the victim was Yorna or anyone else, it mattered not. To begin with, Eugard’s actions were not aimed at venting anger or chastisement.
For Eugard, planting thorns and binding others were acts as natural as breathing.
Just as people walk on two feet, Eugard bound others with thorns.
The cries and the blood that flowed from those pierced deeply by these spikes were nothing more than means for him to interact with others.
Therefore, being with him meant being together with this pain.
Recalling this through personal experience, a faint smile played on Yorna’s lips as she posed her question.
Yorna: [The two who were with me at that place, are they safe?]
Eugard: [If thou were with them, they did not catch mine eye. What falls within mine sight, O Star of Mine, is naught but thee.]
Yorna: [Is that so…]
Eugard’s response to her repeated inquiry was not what she had desired.
But, hearing the tone of Yorna’s voice worsen by this, Eugard narrowed his eyes, as if contemplating something,
Eugard: […However, the Witch hath brought some living beings into the castle. Perhaps those of whom thou spoke are amongst them.]
At Eugard’s addition, Yorna drew a sharp breath.
Distinct from the indigo eyes in her memories, Eugard had a golden radiance housed within his black eyeballs, but the gentle gaze he gave Yorna and his tactless consideration seemed unchanged from his original self.
Feeling a pain, one separate from the thorns, squeezing her heart,
Yorna: [If that is the case, Your Excellency, I have a request.]
Eugard: [A request?]
Yorna: [――. That, a Witch was it? The ones whom the Witch brought in, I wish to ascertain if they are my companions.]
Prisca and Arakiya, she wanted to ascertain if those two were safe.
For Yorna, who did not fully understand the current situation, the highest priority at the moment was the well-being of those two.
If that were to be granted――,
Eugard: [――Wilt thou give up on death, O Star of Mine?]
The words uttered by Eugard, pierced Yorna’s chest once more with a different sort of pain.
As Yorna raised her face without releasing any vocalization, Eugard looked down on her.
Hearing Eugard’s words, Yorna was unable to say anything at once. There was no way she could say something like “What nonsense”. That had unmistakably pierced Yorna’s true motives.
Her soul fettered to the vast lands of the Empire, she was resurrected with a new name in a different body each time she died. ――Repeating that over and over, Yorna, Iris, harbored a desire.
Eugard Vollachia had seen right through that.
Yorna: […Blood is something that cannot be disputed.]
And that very same thing, had also been seen through by Vincent Vollachia.
For that reason Yorna had chosen to join forces with Vincent, and to throw herself into the battle to recover the Imperial Capital from traitors. Of course, the collapse of the Demon City played an important role, but Yorna thought it dishonest of herself when she was lost on where her intent truly lay.
That was why Yorna nodded at Eugard’s question.
Yorna: [If it saves the lives of those children, then my death is but a trifling matter.]
Eugard: [That shall do fine. I shall grant thy request, O Star of Mine.]
As Yorna smiled through the pain, Eugard nodded with no change in his expression.
Then, he resumed his halted step, came right before Yorna’s eyes, and gently touched Yorna’s cheek with his outstretched hand.
Contrary to that affectionate hand motion, his fingers were cold, and in proportion to the distance he had closed, the spikes of the thorns pierced her more deeply.
Eugard: [Wait for a brief moment.]
In both heart and body, Yorna felt a piercing pain; letting go of her, Eugard left those words behind as he turned his back to her.
As always, he was quick to decide on his actions.
While bearing such deep emotions, Yorna issued a question to the back heading for the door of the room.
Yorna: [What happened to the kimono I was originally wearing, as well as my hair and ear ornaments?]
Eugard: [They were not to mine liking. But, they were articles which hadst adorned thee. I have set them aside.]
Speaking thus, Eugard gestured to a shelf beside the bed, and concluded his reply to Yorna without wasting any more words.
Proceeding to exit the room, that candidness of Eugard was undoubtedly that of the man which Yorna knew. During his lifetime, he always lived fast and recklessly, as if he was always pressed for time.
Wanting to tell him that there was no need to rush, Iris once lined up next to him――.
Yorna: […Just like a helpless little girl.]
Loosely shaking her head, Yorna slipped out from the bed, and reached for the shelf.
Opening the drawer, Yorna’s kimono and obi were carefully folded, and there was also a pouch that contained her hair ornaments and earrings, making her let out a sigh of relief.
Perhaps because that sense of relief was too great――,
An unusually feeble sound leaked from her throat, and at the same time a heat ran through her cheeks.
Her body bending forward, Yorna tightly clenched her teeth and choked back a sob.
She could not allow the likes of tears to flow. That was a curse that would revert the firmly constructed Flamboyant, the Mistress of the Demon City known as Yorna Mishigure, into the mere village girl, Iris.
To return to being Iris would mean to narrow her focus down to only just one person whom she loved.
In these three hundred years up until now, she had been someone’s child, someone’s parent, someone’s wife; to return to being Iris would mean to pretend that all of those days gone by had never even happened.
Yorna: [Why, Your Excellency… Why now?]
Prisca, the residents of the Demon City, many of the people living in this Empire; she wanted to remain as herself, who loved them.
The pain of the thorns asserting themselves through spikes within her heart was trying to make her forget all of that.
That nostalgic sweet pain was enough to drive her mad, and frighteningly, Yorna could not resist it.
She could not resist it.
 – The Japanese expression here of “hands burning” (手を焼く) has the meaning of “having difficulty” and “not knowing what to do”.
 – Here, the man is making reference to Yorna’s unique way of speaking in Japanese (Arinsu-kotoba), which is unfortunately lost when translating to English.
 – In Eugard’s title “Emperor of the Briar” (荊棘帝) , the term briar can also be used idiomatically to mean obstacle or cause of difficulty.