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Chapter 6: The place I want to leave (2)

Life at the cabin continued on.

Ten days passed, and the next day came without any sign of Count Roxen, and the following day was no different.

During this time, we had fully adapted to our life in the cabin.

The first day here felt akin to the first day at a modern military training camp.

That feeling of disbelief, wondering how this could be reality. It was a mix of confusion and unease, but now, looking up at the wooden ceiling in the morning sparked no particular thoughts.

We had established a sort of routine in our daily lives.

Hena and I were always the first to start our day.

I would immediately go for a run in the snow to exercise, while Hena prepared the meals and washing water.

After working up a sweat, it was time to chop firewood.

Chopping turned out to be quite the physical activity, more so than expected.

A sense of pride would wash over me after a vigorous session of axing, especially when it felt like my muscles were growing.

We used a lot of firewood since Sirien was particularly sensitive to the cold.

It was better to have an ample supply as it would diminish quickly.

“Are you awake?”

“Mmm...”

By the time we returned to the cabin, the siblings had started their morning.

Sirien was washing her face with Hena’s help, while Terion left marks with his knife on a secluded part of the cabin wall, counting the days we had spent here.

“Is it day 17 today?”

“Yeah. Let’s have breakfast and then spar.”

“Sounds good.”

An unspoken agreement had formed among us.

We no longer spoke of wanting to return quickly.

It was a shared desire, and mentioning it only made it more painful. Dwelling on that wish only brought discomfort, so we deliberately avoided the topic.

Terion and I sparred daily.

There wasn’t much else to do here, and a sword, if neglected, would soon rust.

And it wasn’t just the blade that could rust; people could too.

Without continual effort, it was impossible to maintain a honed body and skills.

Our training sessions felt short, lasting from an hour to two at most. Due to Hena’s fearsome presence, we refrained from ground techniques, focusing solely on swordsmanship.

After sparring, we’d head to the washing area to rinse off the sweat.

It was just Terion and me during these moments, and unusually, Terion wore a serious expression.

“Razen, I’ve been thinking.”

“You, thinking?”

“Cut it out.”

I mean, it’s surprising when he thinks.

“I’m not completely foolish. I have my thoughts, not as much as Sirien or you, but still.”

“Okay, I got it. So what were you thinking about?”

“The war with the Demon King isn’t going well, right? Worse than we could imagine. So, I’ve been considering the worst-case scenario.”

“I thought we agreed not to dwell on negative thoughts.”

“I couldn’t help it. Just hear me out. I’ve given it some serious thought.”

Terion gulped down water, his throat parched from sweating profusely.

He spoke as if it were nothing significant.

“You know, I’ve always thought that Sirien is far more important to me than myself.”

“Because she’s your sister?”

“That’s part of it, but I also keep feeling that she’s just better than me.”

His tone was matter-of-fact, as if stating something as obvious as ‘after one comes two’.

It was clear he had already come to this conclusion in his heart.

“That’s hardly a revelation.”

“Do you know you can be really annoying sometimes?”

“I’m aware.”

“Even that response is annoying.”

Terion cracked a smile.

Despite washing off the dirt, numerous small scars were visible on his body.

No matter how cautious one might be, minor injuries were inevitable when swords clashed.

For all his complaints, Terion never whined about the wounds acquired during sparring. He was serious when it mattered.

I didn’t dislike this side of Terion. It allowed me to be patient even when he acted less maturely than expected for an elder sibling, without holding any grudges.

“A few days ago, on the day Uncle didn’t show up, I was wrong. I’m truly sorry once again.”

“I’ve already accepted your apology.”

“But I never apologized to you directly. What I did was cowardly. It wasn’t right towards you, Sirien, or Hena.”

He apologized earnestly.

It seemed best for both of us if I simply accepted it without further comment.

Terion’s expression relaxed noticeably.

“At some point, I started thinking. Even if we manage to leave this place, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be safe. The fact that we haven’t been taken back yet could mean it’s still too dangerous outside.”

“That’s a possibility.”

“So, I thought we should be prepared for really dangerous situations, like, the worst-case scenarios. If Sirien and I were both in danger and only one of us could make it, who should it be?”

“I feel a bit hurt. I learned to wield a sword to prevent such situations. Do you think so little of my skills?”

“It’s because I trust you that I’m saying this.”

Being trusted always had a way of lifting one’s spirits.

I didn’t want to show Terion how pleased I was by his words; it would be too embarrassing.

I pretended it was nothing, though it seemed there was a spot on the blade that hadn’t been properly sharpened.

It probably didn’t matter, but I felt compelled to sharpen it right then.

“No matter how skilled you are, you can’t overcome every danger. But I believe you could protect at least one of us.”

“Hmm.”

“If it comes down to it, Sirien must be the priority. Promise me.”

“Would you be okay with that?”

“I have to be. I’m an Eilencia. A noble must make decisive choices at crucial moments and bear the consequences. That’s how I was raised.”

The whetstone and blade sang together in a mournful harmony as they rubbed against each other.

“Sirien is more thoughtful than I am. It’s a bit of a blow to my pride as her brother, but she seems much more mature. Her perspective seems broader too.”

“That’s something everyone but you already knew.”

“Are you going to keep this up?”

“Ha, sorry.”

I laughed awkwardly, catching Terion’s eye.

He seemed to be waiting for a proper promise from me. So, I felt compelled to say what he wanted to hear, even if I didn’t want to.

“So, what do you want me to do?”

“Promise me, no matter what, you’ll protect Sirien.”

“Alright, I promise.”

It was a promise that didn’t need to be made.

Just as Hena was to Terion, I was Sirien’s knight.

The original plan had been to gain experience and commendations on the battlefield following the senior knights, and then be formally appointed as Sirien’s guard.

According to Sirien, the Grand Duke of Eilencia had already promised as much. It seemed like a done deal, as both the head of the knights and my father were aware.

Still, I didn’t want to continue with such a heavy atmosphere. I added something unnecessary.

“If needed, I’ll use you as bait, so don’t hold it against me. Even if you come after me in death, I won’t deal with you.”

“Do you have to say it like that?”

“Does that bother you?”

“No. Just make sure to keep your promise. And take care of Hena too if possible.”

* * *

After sparring with Terion and spending some time, it would be time for Hena to prepare lunch.

Sirien often read books from the old library during her free time. She found the books, which weren’t available in the Duchy, quite interesting.

It seemed this ancient place housed some books that were no longer available elsewhere.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened here.

Occasionally, wild beasts lurked nearby, but it seemed true they couldn’t cross the magical barrier. Even a beast much larger than myself that prowled around once couldn’t enter the snowy expanse.

In the end, our only respite from the monotony was engaging in word games or crafting crude toys to alleviate the boredom.

As time passed endlessly, we found ourselves frequently staring blankly out the window.

The landscape here never changed, always presenting the same view. So, when something new appeared, it immediately caught our attention.

Today, it was Sirien who was gazing out the window. She had been grumbling about how exceptionally dull her chosen book was, and had just closed it a few minutes ago.

Sirien exclaimed loudly,

“A carriage!”

It was the most cheerful voice we had heard in a long time.

Terion, who had been dozing off, sprang to his feet, and Hena, who had been wiping the table, also stopped and looked over with wide eyes. I happened to be near Sirien, so I could see outside as well.

It was true.

Though the flag of the Grand Duchy of Eilencia was not hoisted, a carriage that we had often seen within the walls of Rehaim Castle was approaching.

“Let’s go see!”

The excited siblings hurried down from the cabin. I lingered a little longer to watch the carriage.

From what I could see, the carriage was not empty. It seemed to be laden with something.

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