Chapter 17: A Perilous Journey (2)

The blue light of dawn was gradually fading in the forest.

The sun, still drowsy, lifted its head hesitantly.

As if embarrassed by its disheveled face, the dawn sulked.

The wind was particularly harsh today. The sturdy trees swayed, whispering mischievous jokes among themselves.

I could almost hear their inaudible laughter echoing in my ears.

The forest opened its enormous maw toward us.

As if it might swallow us whole at any moment.

“They’re still following us, aren’t they?”

“It’s alright. They’re still far enough away. Be careful where you step there. Give me your hand. I’ll help you.”


It hadn’t even been an hour since we entered the forest. Something started trailing us from a distance.

We didn’t sense any immediate hostility.

Even if it suddenly rushed at us, we were at a manageable distance, and it showed no particularly aggressive behavior.

We even pretended not to notice it a few times, giving it a chance, but it kept its distance thoroughly.

It seemed more interested in observing us than attacking.


“Careful! Are you alright?”

“Thanks to you.”

Sirien, who had been walking well, stumbled. Fortunately, I had been watching and managed to catch her in time.

We were walking a path that hadn’t been used in a very long time.

It was a stroke of luck we encountered early in our journey.

We didn’t know where the path led, but it didn’t seem too far off from our destination.

We decided to follow it for now, hoping to meet someone along the way.

The only problem was the many unkempt roots and stones.

Still, it was better than trudging through the middle of the forest.

“I thought this forest was quiet. Seems I was wrong.”

“Yeah, it’s more lively than it looks.”

“Oh, there’s a fox! I want to pet it.”

Sirien looked around curiously.

We hadn’t realized it when we were at the cabin, but this forest was teeming with far more life than we had imagined.

There were many small animals like birds and rodents, and occasionally we spotted foxes and snakes.

Thankfully, we hadn’t encountered anything that posed a threat to humans yet.

We would only know how many of those kinds of creatures were around when night fell.

Surprisingly, Sirien’s senses were much sharper than I had thought.

“You can see all that?”

“Should I say I see it? I see some things, hear others. But you find things better than I do, Razen.”

“I’ve been trained since I was young. Just being able to do what you do is impressive.”

“Really? Being told it’s impressive makes me feel good.”

Sirien grinned.

My compliment wasn’t empty. My body benefits from mana. Plus, I’ve been trained by the knight order to be observant of my surroundings.

In contrast, Sirien was just an ordinary girl of her age. She possessed all those keen senses naturally.

“Are you tired?”

“I’m fine. I can manage. We need to go as far as we can, right?”

“Yes. Then let’s move a little further before we rest.”

Sirien smiled brightly.

Since she said she could endure, we decided to move a bit further before taking a break.

How much time was left before Count Roxen sent a pursuit team?

The time it took for him to realize he had failed, to form a new team, and for them to reach the cabin, and finally, to track us from the cabin.

Even combined, we didn’t have much leeway.

The pursuit team would undoubtedly be on horseback.

At most, they would be upon us within a week. And facing the pursuit team meant certain death.

We hated Count Roxen with a passion, but we never thought he was incompetent.

The fact that we were still alive was clearly just luck.

Killing four kids shouldn’t be hard for him. He probably chose easy targets to send his lackeys after.

Even those who arrived were not easy to deal with. If Terion hadn’t risked his life to help me at the end, I wouldn’t have survived either.

‘I wish we could erase our tracks…’

That was too much to hope for. No matter how careful we were, we couldn’t move without leaving traces in the grass and dirt.

Even skilled rangers find it challenging.

It was better to move as quickly as possible.

This forest wouldn’t go on forever. Once we reached a village, things would improve.

“I’ve never walked this much in my life.”

“Are you tired?”

“I can still manage. I can walk more.”

We kept walking.

Tall conifers receded endlessly behind us.

Occasionally, birds flew past and animals prowled nearby before scurrying away.

Sometimes, Sirien would pick a pretty flower and smile bashfully, saying it was the first time she’d seen one like it.

But at some point, Sirien began to breathe heavily.

We had already been moving for quite a while, and it seemed impossible to continue.

“Hah… Hah.”

“Are you very tired? Let’s rest here for a bit.”

“Yeah, let’s do that. I’m a bit exhausted.”

“Your face looks pale. Are you hurt somewhere? Be honest with me.”

“Uhm, it’s just that my feet hurt a little.”

Your feet hurt? I felt a chill run down my spine.

“Let me see.”

“Ouch. It hurts when you touch it.”

I sat Sirien on a suitable rock and took off her shoes and woolen socks. As expected, her delicate feet were covered in blisters.

She winced in pain even with the slightest touch.

How had she managed to endure this?

Had she not felt it while walking?

The thought that she had foolishly endured the pain broke my heart.

“I told you to tell me if you were struggling. If your feet are this bad, you should have told me earlier. Let’s apply some herbs while we rest.”

“Is it that bad? I didn’t realize it myself.”

“It might not hurt now, but if we leave it, it will get worse. Stretch out both your feet.”

Both feet were red and swollen. I sighed involuntarily.

Would she be able to walk properly tomorrow?

No. This was my fault.

If I had been more attentive, I would have noticed.

Saying I didn’t expect her to endure this much was a narrow excuse.

Sirien, unexpectedly mature for her age, wouldn’t complain unless she truly couldn’t bear it.

She must have tried to hold out until the last possible moment.

It was all because of my negligence.

“This will sting a bit.”

“Does it hurt a lot?”

“I don’t know. You’ll have to endure it even if it does.”


I soaked the cloth in water and cleaned her feet. Her toes wiggled slightly, indicating the pain she felt.

Each time the soft soles of her feet touched the cloth, Sirien whimpered.

Her faint breaths were shallow and strained as I ground herbs and wrapped her feet with bandages.

“Let me stretch your legs a bit too. Lie down comfortably.”

“Lie down? Here?”

“It’s better than lying on the ground.”

“Well, that’s true… Alright. Like this?”

“That’s right. Just stay like that.”

I lifted Sirien’s legs onto my thighs. It was like giving her a lap pillow, but for her legs instead of her head.

I pressed her calves to release the tight muscles.

As soon as I pressed down, Sirien jolted as if she had been shocked.


“Does it hurt a lot?”

“Yes, it hurts… Not enough to make me cry, though.”

Taking that as a sign she could endure it, I continued massaging her calves.

Sirien’s legs were slimmer and softer than most girls’.

Every time I applied pressure, her soft flesh pressed against my hands.

The sensation was quite pleasant.

Though I knew I’d get scolded for saying it, watching her twitch was amusing.

I felt like I was developing a bad habit.

Today’s journey must have been extremely harsh for a girl who had lived in a greenhouse-like environment.

If I didn’t loosen her muscles now, she would undoubtedly suffer from muscle pain for days.

Her small hand grasped my collar.

“Razen, can you be a bit gentler?”

“Does it still hurt?”

“No, it feels just right. It doesn’t hurt as much now.”

Sirien quickly turned her head away.

She seemed embarrassed, but her flushed cheeks were impossible to hide.

I could understand. Calves are not a place usually touched by others.

Especially for a girl like Sirien, raised with utmost care, having a man’s hands on her would be a rare occurrence.

Visiting a lady late at night, touching her body without permission—all these were strictly forbidden by the noble family rules.

Even Grand Duke Eilencia himself had to be cautious.

The Grand Duchess held conservative views on male-female relationships, and the maids were fiercely protective of Sirien.

“Ah! Ahhh! That spot feels weird.”

“Does it feel good?”

“Good? Now that you mention it, I guess it does.”

Sirien’s toes curled tightly.

Did she realize how red her face had become?

She quickly covered her face with her hands.

Her exposed ears twitched slightly.



“Stop staring at me…”

“Oh, sorry.”


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