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Chapter 9: The place I want to leave (5)

The thick night blanketed the sky in darkness.

Stars and the moon descended from the cloudless, pristine sky. Their dim light faintly illuminated the white snow and the coniferous forests.

The moonlight slipped through the window, gently caressing the faces of the siblings.

Was it the soft, stroking touch that pleased them? Terion let out a chuckle in his sleep.

The night in this world was serene.

It might not be the same elsewhere, but in this northern night, the quiet was such that one could hear the breathing of sleeping children.

I tried to fall asleep several times but ended up getting up.

Sleep just wouldn’t come.

‘I slept too much during the day.’

I carefully stepped outside, making sure not to wake the children.

The snowy wilderness at night was colder than usual. Despite being dressed warmly, I could feel the chill.

Each breath I exhaled turned into a white mist.

‘But this is just right for me.’

What else was there for me to do outside? The only thing I could do was to wield my sword.

I didn’t plan to sweat it out, just to tire myself a bit before heading back.

Drawing my sword, the moonlight reflected off the steely blue blade.

That was it.

My sword was utterly pragmatic in appearance. It hinted that it didn’t possess any mystical power that could effortlessly slice through steel.

Such a realm was still far beyond my reach.

‘I feel like I’ve caught a glimpse of a clue, though…’

The concept of mana was still challenging for me. Perhaps my modern, rigid thinking made it hard to grasp.

It wasn’t that I was lacking. It was said that even those who had been trained in swordsmanship since they were very young often didn’t awaken to mana until they were well into their twenties.

And those were the stories of geniuses. Many try and fail to awaken mana, and those who do before their twenties are considered potential future Swordmasters.

Reaching the level of a Swordmaster was deemed impossible without absolute talent, effort, and a miracle.

In my case, I had only recently stumbled upon a clue.

An extraordinary physical ability that surpassed ordinary humans. I could sense something within me that fortified my body.

Objectively, my growth was by no means slow. Yet, there was no room for leisure.

The world moves on, even in places unknown to us. I knew that this world harbored malice towards us.

‘When Razen first appeared in the novel, he was already recognized as a Swordmaster.’

There were roughly ten years left before the original female protagonist would be reincarnated into this world.

Sirien and I had some time before we would appear in the story.

But it wasn’t enough time to relax.

‘I need to become stronger, faster than Razen in the novel.’

I spent a good while swinging my sword.

I corrected my stance on my own, checking for any bad habits.

If I wasn’t satisfied with my stance, I repeated it until I was.

Memories of my father were a great help during such times.

His sword was already perfected.

The sword that had faced countless foes continued to move in my mind.

My father was not just a formidable opponent. Some days he was stronger, other days faster. Sometimes he imitated skilled opponents or used tricks.

All these memories became my textbook.

How long had I moved my body?

There was a rustle from behind. A familiar silhouette.

“Didn’t you sleep?”

“I ended up waking up.”

It was Sirien.

She held simple snacks and a drink, likely something Hena had prepared during the day.

“You should’ve stayed in bed. Why come out in the cold?”

“Just couldn’t sleep, and I was bored.”

“You hate the cold.”

“Not so much right now.”

Sirien took a seat on a nearby rock and tapped the empty space beside her, signaling for me to join.

I was worried I might smell of sweat, but it didn’t seem to be the case upon closer inspection.

Relieved, I sat down next to her.

“You’ve been at it for a while. I didn’t want to interrupt since you seemed so focused. I came down when it looked like you were taking a break.”

“I was just loosening up a bit.”

“Really? I was watching from the attic. It reminded me of what I used to see at the castle.”

“At the castle? You hardly ever saw me practice, did you?”

“Huh? No. I mean, yes. It reminded me of how hard Razen worked at the castle.”

It felt like she was dodging the question. It wasn’t a topic that needed lying about.

Sirien pushed a snack into my mouth again.

I felt like refusing would just lead to being refused, so I accepted it.

Dried peaches this time?

The fruit’s natural sweetness lingered on my tongue.

Sirien exhaled, her breath forming a white cloud in the cold air.

She giggled as she watched it rise.

“I was just thinking about the card game earlier. It was fun. And I enjoyed singing too.”

“You’ve always enjoyed singing.”

“Yeah. I loved dancing and singing alike. I learned to play various instruments too, but I haven’t practiced in so long it would be a struggle to start again.”

In social circles, while one’s lineage, appearance, and attire were deemed important, the dignity of a noble was equally valued.

This dignity often encompassed manners, dance, and refined speech.

It might come as a surprise, or perhaps it was expected, but Sirien excelled in all these aspects.

She had received a proper education from a young age and possessed a natural talent and passion for it.

Everyone in the ducal family looked forward to Sirien’s debutante ball.

They said the whole empire would be abuzz with excitement.

That anticipation came to fruition, albeit in a slightly different way.

“Weren’t the parties at the castle fun? Like during my birthday.”

“I remember. Terion spilled juice on you as a prank.”

“That idiot brother of mine. I’ll never forgive him for that.”

I thought it would be an unpleasant memory for her, but surprisingly, a smile lingered on Sirien’s face.

It was during Sirien’s twelfth birthday party.

Terion had caught a bug in the forest and, planning to tease Sirien, he hid it and then showed it to her, causing her to spill juice on her dress in fright.

What Terion hadn’t anticipated was that the dress was Sirien’s favorite.

The cherished garment was stained with yellow juice, and to make matters worse, the startled Sirien fell to the ground.

The fall must have been painful enough for the young girl.

Her precious dress stained yellow, and the shocked onlookers staring at her only added to the pain and humiliation.

The birthday party was ruined, and Sirien sulked for over a week.

Terion got a stern scolding from their parents, and I was caught in the awkward middle, trying to mediate between the two.

“At first, I really hated being here. There was nothing I liked. I even hate the clothes I’m wearing now. The texture feels odd and uncomfortable. I really don’t like it.”

“Really? You never complained, so I thought you didn’t mind.”

“How could I not? It’s just that being together with everyone made it bearable. When we’re all having fun, I’m so happy that I forget about it.”

It seemed genuine.

People can become incredibly strong when they have something to rely on.

During our game of caught the thief, Sirien was undoubtedly beaming with joy.

That must have been possible because she saw our presence as a pillar of support.

Suddenly, the faces of Terion and Hena came to mind.

What had happened to them in the original story?

It was mentioned that Terion died from an illness, but the specifics of the disease were not detailed.

Was it a severe epidemic?

It’s hard to say since the original text didn’t mention it.

However, there were too many things left unmentioned in the novel to be certain.

The answers lay with the original versions of Sirien and me, but even in times of good relations with the heroine, it was a topic too sensitive to broach.

Naturally, it wasn’t described in the novel.

If Terion and Hena were to disappear as they did in the original story, would Sirien be able to withstand it?

Could her delicate and gentle heart endure such turmoil?

No. It was a needless worry.

The solution was to prevent such events from happening.

“With Razen, brother, and Hena around, I’ll wait diligently for three months. If I wait patiently, I’m sure our parents will praise me, and then I’ll ask to have a puppy in the castle. Oh, and I’d like to have a parrot too.”

“Wouldn’t they refuse? Don’t you remember the commotion when you cried after being bitten on the finger by one before?”

“That was when I was young!”

To my eyes, she still seemed young.

But voicing that thought would surely ignite the flames of hell in the eyes of the young lady.

“Anyway, I couldn’t do it earlier because we were singing, but there’s something I want to do.”

“What is it?”

“Dance. Would you mind asking?”

Her eyes held a hopeful gleam.

I couldn’t disappoint her, so I let out a small laugh.

“Let’s do it. Shall we have a dance, my lady?”

“I’d love to.”

We synced our movements in the empty field.

It wasn’t perfect.

We occasionally stepped on each other’s feet.

Without music, our rhythm was all over the place.

Yet, Sirien laughed joyously as if she didn’t mind at all.

This happened 20 days before we were to leave the cabin.

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