Chapter 18: A Perilous Journey (3)

The days of Count Roxen had not changed much from past to present.

A life buried under piles of documents. There was always a mountain of tasks to tackle.

Even now, with the ducal seat vacant, his days remained largely unchanged.

If anything, his workload had increased, deepening the shadows under his eyes.

Despite effectively ruling the ducal household, there was no luxurious life for him.

He was originally a senior official of Eilencia. He had long since achieved material abundance.

Count Roxen was physiologically not a person who indulged in luxury.

The delicacies of the entire continent?

Admiring fine cuisine is a novelty that wears off in a day or two, and after his youthful days, no dish evoked much emotion in him.

Moreover, the Empire’s cuisine had too many meat dishes. Count Roxen had a sedentary lifestyle, and meat was not easily digestible.

At some point, he resolved most of his meals with bread, vegetables, and a bit of fruit.

Such a diet was manageable even for a baron’s household in the countryside.

Vast amounts of gold, jewels, or fancy clothes held no meaning.

He was nearing fifty. What use were such things to a frail middle-aged man?

It would be fortunate if he didn’t lose his hair from the stress of future bills.

He was a man who was an administrator to his core.

Nothing pleased him more than a neat ledger.

“Count. It’s Yulen. May I come in?”


A voice so familiar it felt like part of the daily routine.

As usual, his aide entered and placed documents on the desk.

Normally, this would be the end of it, but today he had something else to ask.

“What about the children?”

“The report from the street rats is delayed. They are quite overdue.”

“Do you mean they failed or fled?”



Count Roxen sighed deeply.

By now, his aide should have brought a report of the children’s deaths along with proof.

The proof being the siblings’ heads, which he intended to verify and burn.

He tapped the desk a few times with his fingers, a habit when organizing his thoughts during moments of frustration.

The image of the siblings flitted through his mind.

They were children who had trusted him implicitly.

Innocent and young enough to walk into a death trap unknowingly.

He had attempted to kill such children but had failed.

“What do you think happened?”

“I believe they failed. If they had taken the money and tried to flee, we would have caught them by now.”

“That makes sense. They weren’t clever enough to deceive us.”

Razen. Could that little brat have been the problem?

He had heard the boy was quite talented, estimating his skills at the level of the household’s knight.

But it seemed that was not enough.

It was indeed unexpected.

It was true that he used the lowest scum available. He intended to dispose of them as soon as the job was done.

But Roxen didn’t just pick any random trash. They were somewhat skilled.

Mostly mercenaries on the run after committing crimes somewhere.

In other words, they were somewhat familiar with the blade.

And yet, Terion and Razen managed to handle them all.

A dry voice expressed his sentiment.

“This has become quite a nuisance.”


It was a big deal, but for the Count, that was all there was to it.

Even if the siblings survived and escaped, it didn’t change much.

He was always pressed for time, but this time, he had ample leisure.

He was confident he could catch and kill those brats before they caused any trouble.

Or rather, could they even get out of that forest in the first place?

Although he didn’t mention it explicitly, the forest where the siblings were trapped was extremely dangerous.

It was a place so rarely entered that even rumors about it had died down. It was a cursed land that could swallow four children whole in an instant.

While he would send a pursuit team, it seemed far more likely they would return after searching for corpses rather than living siblings.

His aide asked.

“What should we do? It’s difficult to use the family’s forces.”

“I know some people suitable for this kind of work. I didn’t want to use them, but there’s no choice.”

Since the task had started, it had to be finished cleanly.

From the Count’s perspective, the siblings had to die in that forest.

Without anyone knowing.

For that, he needed a silent and skilled group.

A group that excelled in tracking to quickly follow the escapees and could execute an ambush without any unnecessary fuss, ensuring the siblings’ demise.

Nameless assassins. They weren’t cheap, but Count Roxen could afford them now.

“No later than ten days. Within ten days, I want the heads of the Eilencia siblings before me.”


As soon as the order was given, a commotion arose outside.

Count Roxen frowned for a moment, but then his lips curved into a smile.

“Count, Young Master Glen is here.”

“Let him in quickly!”

* * *

After a short break, we moved a bit more but couldn’t go far.

Sirien insisted she could keep going, but I firmly dismissed her.

The young lady had been raised too delicately to understand the aftermath she might face tomorrow.

“Enough. Prepare for camping. We’ll sleep here tonight.”

“But there’s still time before sunset.”

“If we start preparing when it’s dark, it’ll be too late.”

“Oh, I see.”

We had a simple meal with the food we brought from the cabin.

Was she that hungry? Sirien ate more than usual.

Even so, our supplies were not abundant, and I needed to pay more attention to our food.

“If we ration carefully, we have enough for about three more days?”

We had packed as much as possible, but our food situation was still not generous.

There was no guarantee we could get out of this forest in three days, so starting tomorrow, we might need to hunt or gather simple food.

Fortunately, this forest was full of wild animals. If we kept walking, opportunities would arise.

So, the most important issue wasn’t food.

“Are we really sleeping like this? Ugh, the ground is so cold and hard.”

Sirien lay down on the blanket and immediately frowned.

Even though we had brought the thickest and warmest blanket we could carry, it still didn’t seem satisfactory to her.

The cold could be somewhat managed with a campfire, but the hardness of the ground was beyond my control.

“Razen, come in quickly. Won’t it be warmer if we stay together?”

“I’ll come in after I start the fire.”

“Okay. Need any help?”

“There’s nothing you can really help with, but…”

There was a big problem.

How was I supposed to explain this? My mind was already full of concerns.

From now on, I had to make Sirien understand the concept of night watch.

Could Sirien accept the fact that she couldn’t sleep soundly through the night?

A lady who found it hard to sleep on such a hard ground.

A girl who was scared to walk alone in the corridors at night, now had to keep watch in the dark forest.

Even I couldn’t handle the schedule if I took all the night watch shifts.

Maybe for a day or two, but we had no idea how long we would be here.

Starting today, while I sleep, you have to keep watch over the dark forest alone.

Wake me up if you can’t keep your eyes open any longer.

I couldn’t muster the courage to say it…

“Why? Is there something wrong?”

Sirien approached me as I hesitated.

Her clear red eyes. Her flawless, clean face was now quite close.

She looked adorable, tilting her head in curiosity, but it felt like the calm before the storm, making me uneasy.

I needed a lot of determination to bring up the topic.

“You know, there might be fierce beasts lurking in this forest.”

“W-why are you saying that all of a sudden?”

“Well, these beasts usually come out at night.”

“Oh. So…?”

“If a beast approaches and we’re both asleep, what do you think will happen?”

Sirien’s expression hardened.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say she froze.

Her face, filled with anxiety, became motionless and silent.

Since Sirien was smart, she must have quickly arrived at the correct conclusion.

The problem was that this conclusion was a reality she absolutely couldn’t accept.

Sirien attempted to negotiate.

“Maybe if Razen notices early and wakes up...?”

“No matter how sharp I am, I don’t have that kind of ability.”

“Ugh, ugh! What about magic?”

“If I could use it, that would be the best solution.”

I couldn’t use magic.

And she?

Of course not.

Sirien had never learned swordsmanship or magic.

“What should we do, then?”

“We need to take turns keeping watch. Alternating between the two of us.”


“Of course alone. What’s the point if we both stay awake?”

“Well, that’s true, but!”

It didn’t take long for Sirien to understand.

If you could call saying “Alright...” with a tearful expression understanding.

She wore that familiar look of holding back tears. It had been a while since I’d seen it, and it made me feel both nostalgic and guilty.

“If it gets too much, you can wake me up.”

“No, I’ll try to endure.”

“Don’t pass out from exhaustion, okay?”

“I won’t!”

Sirien retorted sharply.

Then she averted her gaze and muttered in a small voice.

“It’ll be fine... Just hold my hand while sleep.”

She extended her white hand toward me.


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