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Chapter 3: The Shabby Cabin

It seemed she was really thirsty.

Sirien gulped down the water eagerly, perhaps the dust had made her throat dry. 

Only after drinking her fill did she let out a refreshed sigh, breathing out deeply.

Sirien’s hair fluttered in the wind, the piled snow shimmering in the sunlight, and her long, silvery hair sparkled once more under its glow. 

Her red eyes captured the surroundings – the vast expanse of the snowfield and the forest, under a cloudless, clear sky. 

Her gaze finally settled on me, her head tilting slightly in curiosity.

“Why are you helping, though?”

“What do you mean? Are you talking about helping Hena?”

“Yeah.”

“Just because. It’s better if things are finished quickly, right?”

It didn’t seem like there was any special intent behind her question, more like a pure curiosity.

So I answered without much thought. 

However, Sirien seemed to have been pondering over it while I fetched the water. 

Her eventual response was quite unexpected. 

Her eyes sparkled as if she had realized something.

“It’s okay because there are no adults around!”

“Why bring up adults all of a sudden?”

“Whenever I tried to do something Hena was supposed to do, the adults would get mad, especially at Hena. But there are no adults around now, so it should be fine, right?”

“Um... Does it work like that?”

“Yes!”

It was a sudden realization, but in this cabin, it was just us. 

And for young children, ‘time without adults’ held a special significance, a universal truth that even Sirien wasn’t exempt from.

If I think about it, such an occasion had never occurred in her life before. 

Though she still didn’t like this shabby cabin, the fact that it was just peers around her age here was somewhat pleasing. 

The situation, having to do everything without adults, made Sirien’s heart race.

Being a noble lady, there were so many things she was told she couldn’t do. 

The strict social hierarchy, the dignity she had to maintain as a lady – Sirien realized that all the constraints that had been binding her were gone.

Excited, Sirien ran ahead of me towards the cabin. 

She flung open the door and shouted, causing Hena quite a concern.

“Hena! I want to help clean too!”

“Eeeek?”

* * *

The social hierarchy in this world was quite stringent.

Perhaps it’s a characteristic of female-targeted romance fantasy novels. 

Unlike male-targeted novels that often feature a more relaxed class system, the social divide in this story was much more pronounced and difficult to cross. 

This was especially true because the nobility in this world possessed truly special powers through their bloodlines.

Take, for example, the earlier question. 

If this had been the Grand Duchy of Eilencia's castle, Rehaim, Sirien would never have been able to help a maid. 

Doing so would have been a strong statement that she no longer deemed it appropriate for the current maid to handle her tasks. 

By allowing a noble lady to undertake such menial work, the maid’s position would become untenable.

Such was the gap between commoners and high nobility. 

Nobility among the nobility. In this vast empire, only the royal family stood above this esteemed lineage. 

The Lady of the Eilencia Grand Duchy spoke,

“I might actually have a talent for this.”

This was from a lady who, just ten minutes prior, had been coughing up a storm while dusting off old bookshelves, someone who could have lived her entire life without ever needing to clean.

Hena wore an expression that seemed full of things she wanted to say, forcing a smile instead. 

As a maid of the Grand Ducal family, she appeared eager to snatch the damp cloth from those delicate hands, but alas, she lacked the courage to dampen Sirien’s spirits, especially with such a bright smile on her face.

“Ah, ahaha. You did really well.”

Meanwhile, Hena’s fingers glided over the table. 

The very table Sirien had just wiped. 

Sure enough, a bit of black smudge adhered to her fingers, and the professional in household chores couldn’t help but briefly raise an eyebrow—a moment so fleeting it was almost missed.

“Hmm, I feel like I should give you a reward. How about you and the young master go on an adventure? Let me know if you find anything interesting!”

“Huh? But I saw brother sleeping earlier.”

“What? He’s sleeping? Where?”

“In the bed upstairs. I didn’t want to wake him, so I just came down.”

Hena’s thought process came to a sudden halt.

Bed? 

Which bed was she talking about? 

Surely not the one that had been left in the attic, untouched. 

The bed that hadn’t been touched, let alone cleaned. 

The kind of bed that would cover you in dust the moment you lay on it. 

Logically, no one would choose to sleep in such a place.

No, that wasn’t it.

Hena also knew that Terion was someone for whom such common sense did not apply. 

After all, such a nobleman had no need to concern himself with the concept of dust gathering on beds or blankets!

“Master Terion, Master Terion!”

Hena called out to Terion as she hurriedly ran up to the second floor. 

That day, I learned that Hena’s face turns quite red when she tries to hold back her anger.

.
.
.

“I was sleeping so well, what’s this sudden disaster?”

“Even if you’re a well-trained person, you could get sick sleeping in a place like that.”

“I was really fine. I have a body that’s been trained, you know.”

“That’s not the problem, don’t you understand?”

“Ah, whatever. Yaaawn.”

Terion yawned languidly. 

I followed by his side, and Sirien tagged along, trailing behind us.

In her indignation, Hena eventually chose to chase us all out. 

Her ability to smile through gritted teeth could have been a model for all maids, but even she couldn’t hide the sharp anger in her eyes. 

Terion, noticing the fury of the long-time maid, quickly made his escape.

Officially, Hena asked us to check outside, but her true message was more like, ‘Please, just go away and stop bothering me!’ 

It seemed that Sirien was the only one who didn’t grasp that fact. 

Sirien, grinning broadly, pointed at Terion’s back.

“Brother, there’s something black on your back.”

“What? Really? But I liked this one.”

“Your neck’s black too? Ahaha! You look silly.”

“You’ve got black on your cheek too, you know?”

“Eek? No way!”

“It’s true.”

Sirien swiftly turned her head towards me. 

I sensed the blame shifting in my direction.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t see it. You’ve been behind me the whole time.”

“Oh, is that so?”

“Yes, it is.”

I couldn’t admit that I found it amusing to watch them covered in smudges and had therefore said nothing. 

It seemed to have happened when we were leaving the cabin, so it wasn’t an old issue. 

I skillfully redirected the conversation.

“There’s a stream over there. Let’s wash up there.”

“Okay.”

There were plenty of wide stones near the stream. 

Terion found a suitable spot to sit, and I used the stream water to wipe Sirien’s cheek. 

I didn’t want Sirien’s hand to touch the water because it was cold. Even the slight touch of water made Sirien flinch.

“Is, is it all gone now?”

“Just a moment. There, it’s all clean.”

“Uh, thanks. When did I get this on me?”

“No idea. I’ll wet a handkerchief for you, so you can clean your hands too.”

It seemed that this hideout had everything one might need. 

Judging by its appearance, laundry could be done here, and firewood could be chopped from the surrounding trees. 

Water would come from the well, and there was enough food in the storeroom to last not just ten days, but easily a month.

However, spending a month here would likely leave the siblings' expressions turn gloomy. 

And I had no desire to continue staying in such a place when I had my own room back in Rehaim.

“Hey, Razen. We’ve got plenty of time. How about a sparring session?”

“Sparring sounds good. I’ve been itching for a bit of action anyway. Shall we start right away?”

“I’ll watch.”

There was no need to prepare a wooden sword. 

Although we often used wooden swords for training in the castle, we had plenty of experience sparring with real swords.

Sirien usually showed concern that someone might get hurt, but by now she seemed to have grown accustomed to it and didn’t make any objections. 

She naturally found a spot a little distance away to sit. 

The ground looked cold, so I gave her my coat to use as a cushion.

There were unspoken rules between Terion and me when it came to sparring.

Firstly, the initiative was always Terion’s. 

This was because I was objectively the better swordsman. 

Just as a sword does not choose whom it cuts, we agreed to treat each other as equals in our duels. 

It was Terion’s way of acknowledging his inferiority and accepting the right to strike first with a sense of pride.

“Here I come!”

Terion charged, kicking up snow and dirt behind him, leaving a trail in the wilderness.

A heavy longsword swung in a wide arc towards me. 

It was a clean, practiced move. 

Terion, like his father, the Duke of Eilencia, aspired to be an exceptional knight. 

His dedication to the sword was genuine, accompanied by relentless effort. 

Even in defeat, he never let it turn into a sense of inferiority.

Instead, he used it as motivation to strive harder, to throw himself more fiercely into his training. 

I had great respect for that aspect of Terion.

Clang! 

Our swords clashed, ringing out a clear metallic sound.

“What’s this? You’ve improved?”

“Of course, I have!”

The moment our swords met, Terion shifted his weight to one side. 

A natural follow-up low kick came, but I preempted it by kicking at Terion’s shin.

“Ouch!”

“That’s what happens when you’re too predictable!”

That was our second rule. 

As long as the injury wasn’t severe enough to prevent training the next day, anything goes. 

The rationale was that it should be as close to real combat as possible. 

Hence, our duels often included a wide range of tactics, not just swordplay, making it look less like a noble’s duel and more like a brawl.

This was also why Sirien, who had little interest in swords, often found our sparring matches worth watching. 

To outsiders, our duels must have seemed quite unsightly.

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