The Side Readers

Side readers : 05 「Toxicity」 (Part 3)

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F.A.N.G pulls out a large sum of money, and a dagger.
There's hidden meaning behind the two choices.
The woman's choice is unexpected...

Toxicity (Part 3)

"Pick one." F.A.N.G's voice sounded out after the clatter of the metal dagger hitting the floor died down.

The poor siblings had never seen that much money before. It was more than enough for them to live off for a whole year, with enough left over for luxuries. However, the dagger, ancient yet with a suspicious shine, also had its charms. It was a treasured item that belonged to F.A.N.G's old organization, which only yielded its secrets to the one chosen to wield it. As a work of art alone, it was worth far, far more than the stack of money.

The young man was frozen. Not just from the insane amount of money, but from the aura of the man he'd tried to threaten. The aura of an assassin.

There was hidden meaning behind the two choices.

The stack of money was soaked in poison. It was a slow-acting poison that would slowly kill whoever came in contact with it. If these two were working together with someone, that third party would also fall victim upon touching it. If the man took the dagger, it meant that he had good judgment. F.A.N.G wouldn't kill him on the spot, just cut off his hands and let him go. The man would talk about the incident, increasing the mystique of the dagger. That was something that had been decided by the organization.

And if the siblings chose neither and ran away, F.A.N.G would let them go.

The young woman fell to her knees. But it wasn't out of fear, rather, it was out of fascination for the dagger. She stared at it intently, almost forgetting to take breaths as she did so. The blade had an excellent shine, polished over a thousand years, as if poison had been embedded into the steel. Its otherworldly charm reflected brightly in the young woman's dark eyes.

She reached out to the dagger, or rather, seemed involuntarily drawn to it. F.A.N.G's fingers twitched. Just a few inches more...the instant she touched it, F.A.N.G would use his highly-refined skills to snatch it away, and in the next instant, the woman would lose her pale hand.

However, her hand stopped just before reaching the dagger. There were beautiful Chinese characters engraved onto the blade - her fingers delicately traced their pattern in the air. She did this several times, then looked up at the assassin. Her eyes gave off a look of wanting something.

"Oh, so it's the dagger you want, then?" F.A.N.G asked coolly.

The woman thought about it for a moment, then shook her head. "No." She paused, and then shook her head again, this time with her entire body seemingly behind the act. "No. This is something I should not have."

F.A.N.G's eyes narrowed as the woman's response intrigued him. There was conviction behind her words.

"This...this is a very beautiful sword," she continued. "I don't think there's anything in the world that rivals its beauty." She spoke in her true voice now, a voice befitting her age. The theatricality was gone, the act dropped.

She leaned back on her knees, allowing her hands to touch the floor. "I cannot take this sword with my hands. And I don't need your money. But...there is something I want to ask of you. Could you please teach me what the characters written here are?"

The woman lowered her head, as if to pray for a request. Behind her, her partner in crime began to panic, and started to urge her to choose the stack of money. However, a sharp glare from F.A.N.G silenced him before he could speak. F.A.N.G picked up the blade from the floor.

"...The characters? Why?"

"I didn't go to school. I can't read difficult characters such as these." The woman looked up. "But...I know. The characters written on this beautiful blade...they have some kind of power. I feel like they have the power to completely change my world."

Tears shone in the woman's eyes. F.A.N.G casually waved his hand, and in an instant, the tip of the blade was pressed against the woman's pale chest. "Are you serious?"

The woman nods. Deep within her black eyes, F.A.N.G could see a strength like poison. ...No, F.A.N.G had been mistaken. He thought her to have the same eyes as his brothers, but that was wrong. The woman had met his gaze, and swallowed it up in a bottomless pool of poison. It was a strength he'd never seen before, not within himself or his brothers.

"Well then are absolutely correct." F.A.N.G said quietly. As she said, the characters on the blade did have power. They were the secrets for the strongest poison techniques, passed down through the generations in the organization. Only the man who had experienced the poison techniques himself would understand it. Without realizing it, the woman had picked the most valuable thing F.A.N.G had offered, neither the money nor the blade itself.

"If you really want to know what these characters mean, then I will teach you." The meaning behind his words was that the woman would have to abandon everything. Her name, her life as she knew it, discard them all and become an assassin. That was his intent for her.

The woman closed her eyes as if to confirm her resolve, took a deep breath, opened her eyes, and said, "yes."

There was no doubt reflected in her eyes.

F.A.N.G waved his hand again, and the dagger was gone, as if it'd never been there in the first place. He spoke softly to the girl who was still on her knees.

"Phantom. From now on, that is what you will be called."

The woman nodded. This was her choice, to throw away her name and live as a ghost. As she stood, F.A.N.G had already spun around and was walking away.

A man walked in the darkness of the city.

He was an assassin, a man without a name.

His first job as a professional was to kill three other assassins.

They were strong, skilled in the art of poison.

He got the job done, and killed all three.

With their blood, he became the ultimate poison assassin.

He still carried the dagger he used to kill the three.

The man walked on.

And behind him, a young woman began to follow.

Their two shadows disappeared into the darkness.

【 音量を調整してお楽しみください 】


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