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Chapter 2 - The Shabby Cabin (2)

It was a very old and shabby cabin. There was no other way to describe it.

It was so aged that cobwebs clung to the edges of the roof. The wood, which once must have been a deep brown, now bore the dark marks of time, and the stairs in front of the door creaked.

In modern times, it might have been considered an old log cabin. 

Because I was a petty bourgeois. It was old and worn out, but it didn't look particularly narrow to me.

It could be seen that some effort had been put into making it. At the very least, it gave off the impression that it was a place where people could live.

But that was just my point of view.

From the standpoint of the nobles of the Eilencia Ducal Family, the story was different.

Sure enough, a few steps away, the siblings stood with stern expressions.

“Uncle, where is this place?”

“Um. I guess you could call it a hideout. A place hardly known even within our family.”

These were children who, simply by growing up safely, would one day sit on thrones. Their lives were so luxurious that a single meal involved the efforts of dozens of servants, and the cost of one set of party clothes could buy a house.

To these children, this cabin might as well have seemed like a pigsty. Even the servants’ quarters in the ducal mansion were far more luxurious than this cabin.

To think that the end of their long escape was this shabby place. It was clear that, though it hadn’t been stated outright, they would be staying here for quite some time.

To the sole lady of Eilencia, it seemed tears were on the verge of falling at any moment.

“Uncle, I don’t like it here. It smells weird and looks dirty.”

“I’m sorry, Sirien. There’s no helping it. Can you bear with it for a little while?”

“Really? Is there really no other way? Does it have to be here?”

“I’m sorry.”

Her voice was tinged with the threat of tears, yet Count Roxen remained unmoved. 

Considering what Sirien’s tears usually signified within the Ducal household, it was a significant matter.

The Duke of Eilencia’s treasured daughter.

The child who received the most love within the Ducal family.

Whenever Sirien cried, it caused a commotion among the servants. 

It would usually fall upon her family or myself to soothe her. But how could mere servants sway the members of the Ducal family? In the end, I was the only one the servants could rely on.

Not yet holding any title myself and known for my amiable relations with the servants, I was their go-to. The snacks I received as bribes were quite sweet. Though half of them ended up going back to Sirien.

Regardless, whenever her cries were heard, I would be called upon, and it seemed Sirien had grown accustomed to my presence. 

I could feel the small girl’s presence behind me, and the back of my shirt felt oddly damp, as if she was trying to hide her burst of tears.

Sirien, even much younger than now, wouldn’t resort to tantrums or crying easily. 

She must have sensed that convincing Count Roxen was futile. She seemed to realize that crying wouldn’t change the situation. So, she seemed to be holding it in.

My role was simply to pretend not to notice, ensuring her efforts weren’t in vain.

“I wish I could hide you somewhere better, but this is the safest place for now.”

“If it’s because of Eligor, haven’t we come quite far already?”

“Yes, we have. This place is quite far from the Duchy.”

Fortunately, Sirien’s tears weren’t completely ineffective. It seemed Count Roxen was internally conflicted as well, for the normally reticent man began to speak.

“As you may have guessed, the situation is dire. The gates were ambushed, and...”

The point was made, albeit long-windedly.

The situation was dire. Eilencia’s Ducal residence was naturally a primary target, and Eligor’s forces were rampaging throughout the Duchy. Moreover, the Duke and Count Roxen suspected that there was a traitor inside. Without such betrayal, such swift and precise ambushes would have been impossible.

“In times like these, if anything were to happen to you, it would be beyond control.”

Thus, he must hide these two.

In a place unknown to all, where no one can find them, the safest place.

That’s what Count Roxen stated with his words.

Ultimately, the siblings had no choice but to agree.

“So, are we certain this place is safe?”

“Absolutely. Despite appearances, it’s a spot that’s never been discovered. Even your ancestors have evaded danger here on several occasions.”

“What about the animals living in the forest? What if they come here?”

“Ah, right. I should tell you about that too. Look around.”

Count Roxen gestured around.

Surrounding the cabin was a snow-covered plain, which seemed quite deliberate in its layout.

A circular expanse of snow, as if drawn in a painting, with a coniferous forest encircling the tranquility.

It appeared as though the plain and cabin had emerged in the midst of a vast forest.

“Consider this circle your home for the next ten days. Think of the field as being protected by ancient magic. So, never stray outside this circle or venture into the forest.”

“Te-Ten days?”

“Yes. We can’t keep you in a place like this forever.”

Count Roxen offered a smile.

It seemed like an attempt to reassure the siblings, but it was clearly in vain.

Their expressions had already darkened.

Count Roxen, feeling awkward, returned to a more solemn demeanor.

‘Ten days.’

It was a time that could feel both long and short.

But for the siblings, even a single day here would be too much. It was bound to feel like an eternity.

Still, Sirien was not one to throw tantrums by nature.

Despite her face being filled with dissatisfaction and injustice, her words conveyed something else.

“Okay, but promise you’ll come back soon?”

“Of course. I’ll sort everything out and return within ten days.”

“Ten days... Okay.”

Sirien nodded with a tear-streaked face, a blush of red tinging her pale skin.

Soon after, Count Roxen departed. We watched his retreating figure for a long while, perhaps harboring a faint hope that he might turn back and take us with him.

Of course, he never once looked back until he disappeared from our sight. 

That marked the beginning of our life in the cabin.

* * *

Fortunately, the interior of the cabin was not in bad shape. 

A good cleaning today seemed like it would stave off any major issues for about ten days. 

In other words, it didn’t seem like it would leak rainwater or anything was about to break.

The interior was more spacious and pleasant than it appeared from the outside.

The Eilencia siblings, Terion and Sirien, along with me, a squire, and Hena, the maid, found it to be sufficiently roomy for the four of us. 

Though aged, the cabin was furnished with all the basic necessities.

The first floor was arranged like a family living room, designed for communal use, while the second floor was an attic room touching the roof. 

The attic contained four beds, indicating that we would likely be sleeping there. Lastly, there was a basement. It wasn’t damp but was particularly dusty. 

It appeared to be used as a storeroom, stocked with various preserved foods, seemingly prepared in advance.

After inspecting the entire cabin, including the basement, Hena emerged from the kitchen. Since cooking would presumably be her responsibility, she seemed to have examined it most carefully.

“Good news. Most of the cooking utensils seem usable. Razen, do you have a whetstone?”

“In my backpack. Want me to get it out now?”

“No, later is fine. Can I just take it out when I need it? I’m going to start with cleaning.”

“Sure.”

Hena rolled up her sleeves with determination. As she pushed up the sleeves of her maid’s outfit, her slender but firm arms were revealed.

In such circumstances, Hena was the most reliable person we could count on. 

A maid who had been serving Terion since a very young age. 

Besides me, Hena was perhaps the only person the siblings could interact with as if she were a friend. 

That must be why Count Roxen trusted her enough to bring her along.

In this world, all servants were specialists in household tasks. Mediocre skills wouldn’t meet the meticulous standards of the nobility. 

Especially when it came to a ‘female attendant,’ it was needless to mention their expertise.

‘But I can’t expect her to clean this large place all by herself.’

Even if Hena was capable, there were limits. It wouldn’t be appropriate to ask the delicately raised young lord and lady to mop floors, and being of noble status myself, it would be difficult for Hena to ask for my help. So, volunteering was the only option.

“I’ll help.”

“What? No, it’s alright. This is my job.”

“It’s fine. I want to finish quickly and rest. It’s hard to relax and sleep in a place like this.”

“Then... I could use some help. I think I saw a well outside earlier, could you fetch some water?”

“Ah, I think I saw it too. I’ll be right back.”

I remembered the well, standing alone on the snowy plain. It was easy to spot, with nothing else around.

As I set out to fetch water, I noticed someone following me. 

It was Sirien.

“You don’t have to come.”

“I just wanted to get out. It’s stuffy inside. And I’m thirsty.”

“Is it cold outside?”

“It’s okay. Hena found me some wool gloves earlier. I want to come with you.”

Alright then, come along.

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