“Who sent you to do this?” Alena's voice remained unyielding, despite the icy and razor-sharp blade pressing against her throat.
A small drop of blood trickled from the cut beneath her chin, falling like red droplets of tears onto the pure white petals of the bouquet she held in her hands.
“Well, since you’re going to die now, I might as well answer your question as parting gift.” The assassin's voice echoed through Alena's mind, cold and heartless. His dark eyes, the only part of him not covered with black fabric, looked devoid of any emotion as he stared back at her.
Despite the fear coursing through her veins, she refused to show any sign of weakness in front of the masked assassin before her until she heard what the man said next.
“It’s your… husband-to-be, princess.”
Alena’s world spun out of control as the assassin's words sank in.
The bouquet of flowers slipped from her grasp, tumbling to the floor of the carriage. She clutched at her throat, her eyes widening with horror and shock as she felt the warmth of her own blood flow over her hands.
She fell onto the carriage's seat, lying sideways.
It was as if time had suddenly slowed down, every second dragging on for an eternity as the scent of iron and death filled the carriage.
Hand still clutching at her throat, Alena realized that she was dying.
The assassin was gone, leaving Alena alone in the carriage as she struggled to come to terms with her impending death. Everything had happened so quickly. She had been sitting there, questioning the assassin, and then suddenly her throat had been slashed open.
Why…? How did it end up like this?
The pain was intense, and she could feel her strength slowly ebbing away. Her thoughts drifted to the life she had known, the people she had loved, and the dreams and kingdom she held dear. And now, all of that was slipping away from her, like sand through her fingers.
Why? What did I do?
Tears began to stream down her cheeks as she lay in her very own pool of blood.
Her eyes lifted towards the grand palace of the Duke of Donovia in the distance, a towering symbol of grandeur and power. Her carriage was already close, almost within reach of the estate where she was meant to marry the man who had ordered her death. It was as if fate had played a cruel game, leading her to the very threshold of the new life she had prepared herself for, only to snatch it away in the cruelest way possible.
Alena couldn't believe that this was the end. She had never even met the man she was meant to marry, yet he had ordered her death? She struggled to make sense of it all, to find some kind of explanation for the unthinkable act.
Never in her wildest dreams had Alena imagined that death, rather than her husband-to-be, would be the one to welcome her as she approached the gates of his estate.
She really couldn’t believe it. But here she was, lying in a pool of her own blood, now dying.
Why? We have never even met yet. So why? How could you do this to me?
She couldn’t find any answers, no matter how many times she repeated those questions in her mind. She couldn’t think of anything that could make him do this. He had accepted the marriage proposal without any problems. Everything had been smooth and fine.
As she felt the pain of death coming to claim her life for good, burning hatred blazed in her eyes as she began uttering a vow within her.
I swear… I will haunt you to death! I will never leave this world unless I drag you to hell with me!
And then, just like that, it was over.
As the last breath escaped Alena's body, her eyes closed for the final time, leaving behind only the faintest hint of a painful smile, and a vow of revenge burning her entire being.
Bright. Too bright.
Am I in heaven?
Alena lifted her trembling hand to shield her eyes from the overwhelming brightness, but her fingers met nothing but thin air. Confused, she peered down at her hand and gasped at the sight of her translucent fingers. She flexed her hand, watching in awe as her fingers responded to her command with an otherworldly fluidity. It was as if she had been reborn into an entirely new form, a being of pure energy rather than flesh and bone.
She felt a sense of disorientation, as if she had just woken up from a dream. But as she looked down at her hands again, she felt that this was no dream.
There was only one thing that came to her mind. That she had become a spirit. A ghost.
With parted lips, Alena looked around in dumbfounded surprise to find that she was neither in heaven nor in hell. She was still on earth! And right now, she was a spirit, a ghostly presence hovering in the air above the carriage where she had died.
Wonder and fear both consumed her as she was unsure of what had become of her now and what she was supposed to do.
But as she tried to come to terms with her new existence, the sound of clashing blades reached her ears. The memory of the assassin who had killed her immediately filled her mind, and she jumped down from the carriage, floating in the air as she moved towards the source of the sound.
She followed the sound of the fight until she came upon a dead body, one of her own guards. And then, she saw him - the assassin in all black, moving like a shadow through the bushes.
The man moved like a blur, as elusive as a cat and just as deadly. Even in broad daylight, Alena doubted that she would have been able to catch even a glimpse of him if she were still in her physical form.
With determination blazing in her eyes, she followed the assassin as he moved with deadly speed through the shadows and bushes, until they reached the towering walls of the Duke of Donovia's grand palace.
Alena watched as the assassin scaled the wall and then made his way inside the grand estate. It was clear that he had been given special instructions, as if someone had prepared the backdoor specifically for him to enter.
Alena stood there, her fists clenched tightly. She had followed the assassin in the hope that he had lied, that it wasn't the Duke who had ordered her death. But it seemed that her hope had been in vain, and she was foolish to even think that such a thing was possible.
Alena's anger blazed harder within her as she prepared to move forward. But as she approached the wall, she felt a strange force pulling her back, as if an invisible hand was keeping her from proceeding.
Creasing her brows, her gaze flew to her side. And there she saw a beautiful woman with long red hair and golden eyes standing under a willow tree, watching her with a serene smile.
Alena felt a shiver run down her spine as she realized that the woman was a spirit, just like her. But this spirit was different. She radiated something so ethereal and otherworldly which seemed to be so unlike her.
Alena couldn't help but feel drawn to her, even as she felt her rage still burning in her heart. And before she knew it, she slowly drifted towards her.
"Are you here to come get me?" Alena asked tentatively, wondering if the figure before her was an angel or a spirit sent to guide the dead to their final destination.
The beautiful woman smiled so kindly at her. “Will you come with me if I say yes?”
Alena couldn’t answer. Her gaze shifted to the grand palace and her eyes burned with hatred once again. She couldn't leave, not yet. She had a score to settle, a promise to keep.
“No,” she replied in a whisper. “I believe that the fact I'm still here is a chance given to me by the gods to exact my revenge before departing this world. After all, I promised never to leave unless I take the man who killed me with me.”
As Alena looked into the woman's golden eyes, she saw a flicker of something indescribable in them. Was it sadness? Regret? She couldn't quite tell, because the moment was fleeting, and the woman's expression quickly returned to one of serenity.
“I see…” The woman nodded as if she understood her wholeheartedly.
Alena stared in wonder as the red-haired woman stretched out her hand, and a dagger materialized in it. The blade was slender and sharp, and it seemed to glow with a pulsating purplish magic that made it look magical. “Take this,” the woman said. “It's the only weapon that can harm the living, since you can't touch anything else in your current form."
Alena’s eyes widened for a moment before hesitantly reaching out to take it.
As she grasped the handle of the dagger, she felt a tingling sensation run up her arm. It was a strange feeling, as if the dagger was alive and pulsing with power. Alena looked up at the woman and asked, "How...how does it work?"
The woman's smile turned sad as she replied, "Simply stab this dagger into their heart, and they will die instantly.”
Alena nodded slowly, taking in the woman's words.
She looked down at the dagger in her hand, feeling its weight and power. It was a tool, a means to an end. And she knew what that end would be.
"Thank you," she uttered, looking up at the woman with gratitude in her eyes. "I'll make sure to use it well –"
“Also, Princess Alena,” the woman cut her off “I am here to tell you that you need to finish whatever business you have to attend to as fast as you can… because if you don’t complete your unfinished tasks in time, you will turn into a malevolent spirit stuck in this world as a mindless and heartless fearsome creature with nothing but the desire to scare and haunt the living. That is all, Princess. I hope to see you in another time.”
The woman disappeared abruptly, leaving Alena standing there, looking at the now-empty spot where she had been standing.