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Chapter 1 - The Shabby Cabin (1)


The novel 'Saintess, Reverse Harem is Impure!' was as explicit as its title suggested.


A generic mass-produced romance fantasy novel that wandered the obscure corners of the platform. 


The unfortunate heroine dies a lonely death, only to awaken as the saintess of a medieval fantasy world—a typical isekai reincarnation cliché. 


Naturally, the reborn saintess was besieged by confessions from all manner of handsome men, establishing her own reverse harem.


In retrospect, it seemed almost like a fairy tale.


In a bad way.


There were villains who seemed born solely for wicked deeds, amassing corpses and blood. 


There was a crown prince, almost perfect in his competence and kindness, and the heroine moved forward, overcoming her own wounds.


By the end of the novel, the deep-seated war between humans and demons had concluded. 


Villains fell to the prince's sword or were executed once their crimes were laid bare. And the prince and the saintess were finally married, living happily ever after.


An absurdly simplistic story.


A happy ending so sweet it could rot your teeth.


If one had to live inside a novel, it wouldn't have been a bad choice.


If only I hadn't been the villain fated to fall in the final battle.


I, Razen Berthus, was the antagonist who menaced the protagonist throughout the story. 


I was the killer who claimed the most lives until a confrontation with the male leads ended with my heart pierced.


The siblings of the Eilencia Ducal Family, whom I had been with since infancy, met similar fates. 


The eldest, Terion, died of illness abroad, and the second, Sirien, was captured and executed alongside me for plunging the empire into chaos.


Of course, I had no intention of dying as in the novel. 


I couldn't just leave the siblings, who thought of me as their own blood, to die. I too wanted a piece of that foolishly sweet happy ending.


But the moment I regained my memories was far too late.


The day I remembered, Eligor, the fifteenth Demon King, invaded the Eilencia Duchy.


* * *


It was a night shrouded in a hazy halo around the moon.


Breathing in, the cold and damp air seemed to moisten the lungs, and the thick darkness was cloaked in fog.


When the wind blew, the rustling leaves made a chilling sound. In the gloom of night, they appeared to me as undulating dark shadows.


On such a night, there were those who ran along a path invisible even a foot ahead. It was an old carriage.


The carriage raced like a ghost along the road, without even a single lantern hung, a silent pact among all aboard.


It was a sudden journey. The clamor of the bells signaling air raids, the sight of knights marching out with stern faces, refused to leave my mind. 


The sounds of magic clashing, explosions, the watchtowers melting into red-hot lava, soldiers impaled by spears. The domain turned battlefield was unforgettable.


The expressions of the siblings inside the carriage were somber. Despite being barely over ten, they seemed to feel the gravity of their situation.


After what felt like an eternity of silence, a familiar voice spoke.


"Uncle, please tell us now. Where are we going?"


"I cannot tell you anything yet."


"What about Father? What happened to him?"


"I cannot tell you that either. It's for your own good."


How many times had those questions been asked?


The eldest of the siblings, Terion, wore a face of frustration.


The handsome young noble's face was deeply furrowed. Normally quick to anger, this time he was met with a formidable opponent. Count Roxen, their uncle, was considered one of the most trusted men by the Duke of Eilencia.


If Count Roxen said he could not speak for the sake of the children, then it must be so.


That's why Terion couldn't press him further.


"Cough, cough!"


"Miss, are you alright?"


"Mhm, I'm fine. Just a bit of dust."


"Just wait a moment."


Perhaps the carriage wheel caught on a stone; each jolt sent dust flying inside.


It seemed what I thought was the smell of old wood was actually dust.


The young lady of the ducal family was unaccustomed to such an environment. 


Even covered with cloths from all around, she huddled against the cold, and the airborne dust inevitably triggered her pitiful coughs.


A maid riding with us sent me a look asking for help. Fortunately, there was still plenty of water in the flask.


"Drink some water first."


"I don't like the smell of the leather from that flask. And I don't want cold water either."


"Just bear with it and drink. It's not that cold."


"Ugh..."


The lady, Sirien, grumbled but drank the water handed to her.


Wrapping a handkerchief around her nose and mouth helped ease the coughing a bit.


If only we could slow down the carriage a bit, things would improve significantly. But given the circumstances, such words couldn't be spoken.


Instead, the urgent sound of the coachman's whip was almost welcome. We needed to end this unwelcome journey as quickly as possible.


"It should get better now. Breathing might be a bit difficult, but bear with it."


"Thank you. Razen, what about you? I have a handkerchief too."


"I'm fine. The knight's armory is dustier than this. And I'm not that thirsty."


It was a lie.


I had been training right up until I was called here. I was both hungry and thirsty.


But, not knowing when we could refill the flask, it was necessary to conserve water.


I couldn't say such things to the young girl.


Even at a glance, the situation was dire.


The assault by Demon King Eligor was unusually swift and sharp.


As a result, the direct descendants of the Eilencia ducal family were hiding in an old carriage, fleeing with only a handful of guards.


And I, who had been told I would soon gain real battle experience, was not sent to the battlefield.


'Either way, it seems like the worst-case scenario.'


The first implication was that an enemy chasing us is so threatening that having escorts would be pointless.


It suggested that rather than clumsily attaching escorts and attracting attention, it would be better to choose to remain inconspicuous from the beginning. In other words, being discovered meant certain doom.


The second implication was that the situation on the front lines was extremely unstable. 


Despite everything, I was the heir of a major vassal. Although not a direct descendant, I received a certain level of treatment. 


I wouldn't be sent to just any battlefield, especially not to one that was exceedingly dangerous or disadvantageous. This meant the current military situation must be either very perilous or unfavorable.


As expected, Sirien seemed troubled too. Her gaze towards one corner of the carriage was empty.


Despite often being whimsical, Sirien was the smartest among us. She might have understood the situation even quicker than I did.


Soon, she spoke.


"Razen?"


"Yes?"


"Do you think our other siblings are alright? I'm a bit worried."


No, they were probably faring much better than us.


The Duke and Duchess only had two children. So, the 'siblings' Sirien referred to were likely distant relatives or the children of cadet branches and vassals living with the ducal family. 


Even in a life-threatening situation, Sirien was considerate enough to worry about them.


I had never seen a young girl of about ten look so mature. I found myself reflecting on her name anew.


Sirien Eilencia.


The legitimate daughter of the Duke of Eilencia, known as the Empire's Shield. Always with a fresh smile on her lips, kind not just to her siblings but also to the servants.


However...


There was a high likelihood that her 'siblings' had been used as decoys. 


Although this was a logical deduction, I had to push it from my mind for now.


"Focus on your own safety. The Duke and my father are with them, and all the seniors went that way too."


"But that's..."


"I understand what you're thinking, but no matter what anyone says, you're the most important right now. We don't know what might happen next, so try to get some rest now. I'll wake you up later."


"Huh... Uh, okay."


This was no time to worry about others. The Demon King's forces could be on our heels at any moment, and the future I knew from the novel was bleak.


We had only ten years left. Just ten years until the original protagonist reincarnates and rises as the saintess.


'Ten years from now, Sirien will be a completely different person.'


In the original story, Sirien was the quintessential villainess. None of her current kindness and gentleness were to be found. Her concern for her other siblings was also absent.


Her first move in the story was to purge her own blood relatives. She personally saw to the execution of many distant relatives.


The problem was that I had no idea what would happen to Sirien and me during these ten years. That damned, or rather, doomed story had scarcely a word about us.


In the worst-case scenario, the Sirien of the present might have died long ago, and the Sirien in the original story could have been her substitute. 


Thinking about it, this seemed much more plausible. If the original Sirien was a stand-in, it would explain why she killed her relatives. 


She wouldn't have wanted anyone who knew her true identity to live. This was far more likely than the idea that the kind-hearted girl suddenly went mad.


'Still, it's too early to tell. I just don't have enough information right now.'


Others who found themselves in similar situations had memorized every detail of the world and its characters, turning it to their advantage from the start. 


Meanwhile, I seemed to be heading straight for a dead end from the beginning, despite remembering every single letter of the original story. None of it was of any help.


If I had to pick one piece of useful information I knew, it would be that Count Roxen liked cookies with Ramuris petals in them. 


Ramuris flowers, common in the western part of the empire, yield a sweet and tangy taste when their petals are baked. But how could this knowledge be of any use? I couldn't see how.


If pondering won't yield answers, it's pointless to dwell on it. 


The first step is to get out of this situation. If possible, I planned to take better care of my health and try to prevent Terion's death.


As for Sirien... all I could do was watch over her as best as I could. Even that might change a lot.


For Sirien. And for me as well.


Just then, Sirien whispered her thanks.


"Thank you. I'm counting on you."

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