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Chapter 11: The Place I Want to Leave (7)

A week passed, and Count Roxen kept his promise.

As expected, he didn’t come in person.

Nor did he send anyone with news.

If he could have sent someone every time, he would have done so long ago.

I was curious about how the Count would communicate, and the answer turned out to be a courier hawk.

It wasn’t a pigeon, so should it be called a courier hawk instead?

The original courier pigeons could only send messages in one direction and couldn’t be sent to untrained locations. I thought it wouldn’t be possible to use them.

To solve that issue, something with a geometric pattern, possibly a ring, was attached to the hawk’s leg.

It seemed to be some kind of magic.

I hardly knew anything about magic.

After receiving and releasing the letter, the hawk flew off somewhere again.

Sirien seemed to be seeing such a sight for the first time too, her eyes wide with wonder.

Or not. I’m not sure.

Sirien said it was amazing to see the hawk flying. But hawks are meant to fly anyway...

Still, our main interest was undoubtedly in the letter from Count Roxen.

- From Count Liwood Roxen.

- I hope you are in good health. Despite the harsh conditions, I believe you can overcome them.

- As promised earlier, I send this letter with news from here. It’s a relief that I can share some good news.

The beginning of the letter was more concise than expected for a noble.

It seemed to reflect a more businesslike character.

Count Roxen could be considered the steward of Eilencia.

Areas untouched by the Duchess, such as the family’s finances, private soldiers, and the management of the knights, mostly went through Count Roxen’s hands.

From what I heard during my time at the castle, he was known to be quite rational and pragmatic.

The impression I had received was indeed that of a staid bureaucrat.

He began his duties when the current Duke of Eilencia took over the family headship.

Count Roxen was also the Duke’s half-brother. He had given up on the succession early on and chose to support the Duke instead.

Being capable as well as related by blood, the Duke had every reason to trust him deeply.

- There have been some developments in the past few days.

- We found and executed traitors hiding within our territory, and His Grace’s army is advancing smoothly. Even the Demon King Eligor has been pushed back quite a distance.

- At this rate, we might be able to secure your safety sooner than expected. It might not even take three months.

The siblings were overjoyed upon reading this letter.

What Count Roxen conveyed was nothing short of hope—the hope that they would soon return to the castle.

“We might be going back soon!”

The expressions on the siblings’ faces brightened noticeably.

I was pleased to see them smiling so radiantly.

Days seemed to fly by more quickly than usual.

With the thought of returning soon, the siblings spent their days much more energetically than usual.

It felt as if winter had passed in the meantime. The weather had started to warm up, although not enough to melt the snow, but it was much more pleasant to roam outside.

Thanks to this, Sirien began to go outside more often.

Today, she was so insistent on taking a walk that she begged me to join her.

“I just came in and am tired.”

“Shall we rest a bit before going? Do you want to sit here?”

“Can’t we just not go?”

“You were fine going out with Hena just the other day. What’s wrong with me?”

Hena, who was baking cookies in the distance, flinched.

I didn’t have the courage to face the resentment of the two women.

“It’s not that we can’t. Alright, let’s go out once I’m full.”

“Okay! I’ll get ready right away. Just wait a bit.”

Sirien scampered off, likely to fetch a warm scarf or coat.

Seeing her so excited about a walk reminded me of a puppy in some ways.

A gentle, people-friendly puppy.

Soon, Sirien returned and took my hand.

“Let’s go for a walk!”

“Don’t run. You might fall.”

“I won’t fall. Do you think I’m a child?”

Well, you are a child at twelve, aren’t you?

I bit my tongue to hold back the words that nearly slipped out.

“It looks like winter is ending.”

“It doesn’t feel quite like spring yet.”

“But spring is on its way, right? Talking about spring makes me want to visit the garden at the castle. Rehaim is warmer than here, so maybe the spring flowers are already blooming.”

Sirien always loved taking walks, even at Rehaim Castle.

Given her lively nature, it was no surprise. She made it a point to go out for a walk at least once a day, however brief.

Her favorite walking path was, naturally, the garden.

Although it wasn’t easy for Sirien to go out often, Rehaim’s garden was renowned for its beauty.

The winter garden of Eilencia, where flowers bloomed all year round, was one of the few luxuries of the Duchess.

Especially the central flower garden, famous for its beautiful colors in full bloom at any time of the year.

Sirien rarely ventured into the central part of the garden, where flowers were in full bloom. Instead, she preferred to walk around the outskirts of the garden.

The periphery of the garden was encircled by trees, almost as if cradling the flowers within.

Perhaps it was a memory from that time?

Sirien still enjoyed walking in a loop around the coniferous forest, having once mentioned she liked the scent of the trees there.

“We even went on picnics with delicious cookies and cakes. Ah, now that I think about it, I’m craving cake. I shouldn’t feel this way.”

“We might not know about cake, but a picnic should be doable, right?”

“How so?”

“If the situation outside has improved, we don’t need to save the food in the storage anymore. We have plenty, so it should be fine to enjoy ourselves for a day.”

“That’s a great idea!”

It seemed our picnic plans were set.

Sirien looked ready to dash back to the cabin that very moment to call Terion and Hena.

The only reason she hesitated was because of a lingering concern.

“If we start preparing now, will it be too late in the night? Maybe it’s better to do it tomorrow.”

“We could just build a big bonfire.”

“Oh my. I didn’t expect Razen to be this clever!”

And here I thought I was being helpful.

I wanted to give a cheeky retort right away, but Sirien, brimming with excitement, was too quick for me.

Not daring to follow, I trudged back.

Inside the cabin, Terion was already in agreement.

* * *

Crackle, crackle.

The firewood blazed.

The glowing crimson seemed to spread warmth throughout the world.

As the light flickered with the wind, our shadows danced along.

We were already making quite the commotion.

It was hard to tell whether it was us or the wind dancing by the shadows alone.

Though it was Sirien who initiated this picnic, Terion was the one enjoying it most fervently.

Our dignified young lord was shouting, a glass filled to the brim with orange juice in hand.

Naturally, Sirien followed suit.

“We’re going home soon!”

“Homeeeee!”

“Going, going homeee...”

Even Hena joined in, shy as usual but caught up in the excitement.

There’s something about an outdoor fire that exhilarates people.

While the three of them shouted at the top of their lungs, I pulled skewers off the fire.

The skewers were sizzling, emanating a deliciously roasted meat aroma.

Indeed, when it comes to food, nothing beats meat.

Meat never disappoints, no matter the occasion.

“Oh, these are cooked perfectly.”

“Already? I want some too.”

“Come and take a bite. Be careful, it’s hot.”

“Okay!”

Terion joined in, searching for the meat, and Hena personally selected the skewers.

We sat around the campfire, chuckling and enjoying the moment.

It was delicious.

The meat was incomparable to anything we had at the castle, and the ingredients we often ate at the cabin felt unexpectedly new.

I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

Terion and Sirien devoured the meat, forgetting their manners in their delight, and even Hena smiled softly, seemingly surprised by the taste.

“I never imagined we could have such fun at night at the castle.”

“We couldn’t even touch candles there, let alone a bonfire.”

“I’ve handled a torch before.”

“Really? How was it? Was it hot?”

“It was warm enough to feel the heat if you got close, but not too hot.”

Sirien gave me a pointed look.

It was easy to understand what that meant.

“Even so, I won’t make it for you.”

“I didn’t even say anything yet!”

“Just saying.”

We continued to enjoy our night.

Eating, drinking, singing, dancing, joking, and laughing.

We were intoxicated by the atmosphere, even without alcohol.

With genuine joy, yet with utmost seriousness, Terion declared,

“Indeed, you all are the most precious to me. You are my closest friends.”

“Me too?”

“You’re my sister, silly. I’m talking about Razen and Hena.”

Instead of words, I clinked my glass with Terion’s.

Hena, seeing us, belatedly extended her glass, and Sirien wouldn’t miss out on this.

So, we toasted twice.

“Even if we leave here, the four of us will always be special. We’ve gone through the toughest times together, so we should also share the sweetest moments. Therefore, I promise, on my honor, there’s something I want to promise.”

“Right!”

“Stop, it’s embarrassing to say such things.”

“My lord. I was just doing my duty...”

“That’s nonsense! If I make a promise, it’s to be kept.”

The four of us were special.

Why did those words resonate so much with me?

Even as I grumbled, I wasn’t upset.

“Let’s promise to come together like this again someday. When we all do, I’ll grant each of your wishes. Anything within my power! By then, we’ll be able to do so much more, so look forward to it.”

“Brother, you know I don’t forget promises like this, right?”

“I’m making this promise on my name! I won’t forget either.”

“Then I want a promise too. I bet I can fulfill it better than you, brother.”

“There’s no need to compete over this.”

It was an easy promise to make.

But in the world, things often don’t go as planned more than they do.

The promise made that day was never fulfilled.

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