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Chapter 5: The place I want to leave (1)

The promise was broken.

Count Roxen, who had vowed to return after ten days, failed to appear even as the sun set on the tenth day.

The siblings gazed endlessly into the forest, only to reluctantly accept his breach of promise late into the night.

A sticky unease enveloped the inside of the cabin.

Our endurance here over the ten days hinged solely on Count Roxen’s promise.

It was the belief that Count Roxen would honor his word that allowed us to live carefreely with smiles. Now, with that belief shattered, the siblings’ anxiety was beyond imagination.

They were children who seldom mingled even with nobility.

They were direct descendants of Eilencia, reputed to have the purest bloodline on this continent, and even members of the royal family hesitated to speak lightly before them.

Simply growing up unharmed meant one of the siblings was destined to inherit the archduchy.

When it came to marriage, the partner had to be at least from the empire’s high nobility, if not a royal heir from abroad.

It was unthinkable to have such children live in this shabby cabin.

Thrusting such a lifestyle suddenly upon children who had been raised like delicate flowers in a garden was an abuse in itself.

These children had done nothing wrong.

“Sob, sob...”

Terion was seething with anger, while Sirien wept.

Hena prepared the meal with a gloomy expression but couldn’t bring herself to call them. She knew the meal would not console them.

I didn’t want to send these young ones to bed on an empty stomach. Nor did I want to see them cry and rage until they fell exhausted into sleep. 

It was time to intervene.

“I understand you’re upset, but let’s have a meal first. Hena has been waiting for a while.”

“I said I don’t want to eat!”

“How long will you keep this up? Till tomorrow? Forever?”

“Until we leave this place...”

“When do you think we’ll leave? Do you have any assurance?”

Terion reacted sensitively as expected.

It was predictable; he always had a fiery temper, easily irritated.

So, I knew his anger would turn towards me if I acted this way.

“Don’t talk like that.”

“Will it change if I don’t speak?”

“Stop it, I said!”

“Why don’t you stop too? How long are we going to keep this up?”

Terion was at a loss for words, with no suitable response.

When people are speechless, they often resort to anger, and those already angered tend to turn to violence.

An irritable voice was heard.

“What do you know!”

Thud!

My vision spun in an instant.

There was no need to ponder what had happened. The cause and effect were clear. Terion’s arm had extended, and my eyes didn’t miss the motion.

I could have dodged or blocked it. But I chose to take the hit.

The thought of a counterattack was unnecessary.

Terion was a child of the Archduke’s family, and I was the son of his vassal.

No matter how close we were, there were boundaries that had to be respected.

“Quite spicy.”

It seemed one hit wasn’t enough to satisfy Terion.

The boy charged at me aggressively. He grabbed my collar, and another punch came in.

I was born rather sturdy, so I used to not feel much when hit, but now Terion had grown, and his punches had become significantly fiercer.

Had he acquired some punching skills? That much I couldn’t tell.

Anyway, it seemed I couldn’t just take all the hits, so I raised my guard.

Terion’s fists, filled with rage, kept landing on me.

I figured if I let him hit me for a while, he’d tire himself out.

Terion, for all his fiery temper, never crossed the line.

He was quite affectionate and wouldn’t keep hitting a close friend like me.

It was the same now.

He only started putting force into his punches when he saw me blocking properly. Initially, even in his anger, he instinctively held back.

I thought it would last only a few minutes. But even that estimate turned out to be too generous.

Something rushed at us.

The body that had been on top of me was pushed off, and Terion’s barrage of punches ceased.

Then, a voice filled with sobs was heard.

“Stop it!”

It was Sirien.

She had thrown her small body against Terion, pushing him away.

When I lifted my head, I saw Terion standing at a distance with a dumbfounded expression, while Sirien was sitting beside me.

Sirien didn’t stop there. Her tiny fist struck Terion’s forearm.

Terion’s face looked complicated.

I couldn’t quite tell whether he was shocked because his tender-hearted little sister had thrown herself at him or because it was the first time he saw Sirien crying so pitifully.

What was clear, however, was that he wasn’t so despicable as to remain unaffected by Sirien’s tears.

“Why, why are you hitting Razen? What did Razen do wrong?”

“It’s just that, you see.”

“Brother is bad. It’s always brother’s fault! Brother is just taking out his anger on Razen. Because Razen can’t hit back. Brother knows Razen will take the hits, that’s why he did it.”

“......”

Thud. Thud.

Sirien climbed atop Terion and hit his forearm.

Her punches, lacking in strength, were directed not at his face, which she couldn’t bring herself to strike, but rather at his forearm or shoulder.

It was Sirien who was shedding tears, making it seem as if the one doing the hitting was in more pain.

“Since Razen can’t hit brother, I will. I’ll make sure you can never do it again. Never. I won’t let you.”

It didn’t last long.

Midway through her punches, Sirien burst into tears and buried her face in Terion’s chest.

She cried so much that not only her own face but also Terion’s clothes were soaked with tears.

Terion, as if struck by the most painful punch in the world, said,

“…I’m sorry. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have done that to you two. I’m really sorry.”

After the late-night drama was quelled by Sirien, enough time passed for everyone to calm down.

We sat side by side at the dining table, chewing on dry bread.

Terion hung his head like a guilty man, saying nothing.

Sirien had just stopped crying, and Hena was fidgeting, only glancing at us.

It seemed I was the only one who could break the silence.

“As expected, it tastes awful. I guess even Hena’s skills can’t make bad ingredients taste good.”

“Ah? I’m sorry. I did try my best.”

“No need to apologize. If Hena can’t make it taste good, no one can. If I had made it, Terion and Sirien wouldn’t even have touched it, right?”

“…Well, Razen can’t cook. Can’t even make tea. There was this one time Razen made tea and I almost threw up after drinking it.”

“Hey, it wasn’t that bad to make someone vomit.”

“I really almost did.”

It was an incident at Rehaim Castle.

Sirien usually enjoyed black tea, but just then, the maids were away. It would have been just a short wait, but pride got the better of me.

Making tea seemed simple enough: just boiling water with tea leaves. So, I thought there was no reason I couldn’t do it.

Sirien showed interest when I offered to make the tea myself. And truly, she couldn’t even take a single sip.

“The tea had a weird taste, didn’t it?”

“I tried it too, and it wasn’t that bad.”

“Razen just doesn’t know the taste of tea.”

“Tsk. So picky.”

The castle truly offered a plethora of delicious dishes.

Who said medieval food lacked flavor? The culinary standards at Rehaim were quite high, even by the standards of someone who had experienced modern cuisine.

Nonetheless, it was unlikely that a tasty meal could be prepared from the ingredients here, chosen solely for their longevity.

Mentioning the old days seemed to spark a memory for Sirien, who murmured,

“I want cake... with whipped cream and strawberries.”

“I’d go for beef. A thick one would make me wish for nothing more.”

Sirien had a particular fondness for sweet and soft things.

Her love for cake was exceptional.

The maids of the Archduke’s family often used cake as a lure to coax Sirien.

Eventually, they prepared several small cakes in advance to give to Sirien whenever she desired.

And my preference was undoubtedly steak.

For some reason, the steak here felt much more flavorful and richer than anything I had eaten in the modern world.

Was it the result of top chefs using carefully selected ingredients, or was my growing body craving protein more intensely?

It was a mystery.

“Hena, is there anything specific you’d like to eat?”

“Me? No, I’m fine.”

Hena shook her head, but this time Terion interjected.

It seemed he wanted to take care of his maid.

“Don’t be like that. You have plenty of favorites. Like that time, you were secretly snacking on the leftover cookies...”

“Yo-Young Master!”

“Ahem. Anyway, isn’t there something you’d like to eat? Once we get out of here, let’s eat it together, for sure.”

“Um, well, if I had to choose, I guess honey milk, and cookies.”

“Is that all? When we get back, let’s all eat something really delicious.”

“Yes... that would be nice!”

Hena smiled, a rare sight.

I was glad to see the expression of laughter return to her face.

We decided to hold on to hope again.

It was no small matter; the Demon King had invaded, after all.

The situation couldn’t possibly resolve smoothly.

We accepted that a delay of a few days was inevitable and decided to view it in that light.

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