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    Translated by alyalia
    Edited by popcorn


     

    Cersinia headed to the butcher’s shop with a light feather-like step. 20,000 shillings was enough to buy beef with her heart’s content, but 50,000 shillings? For the whole month, she can eat only meat.

     Cersinia planned to buy only rump to save money, but rump was not to satisfy her. So she decides to go and buy sirloin. Cersinia hummed as she felt good after a long time. She was getting tired of eating only soup and bread for several days.

    “What can I get you?”

    When she opened the butcher shop door, she was greeted by the friendly owner with a smile.

    “Please give me two cuts of sirloin.”

    “How thick would you like it to be?”

    “As much as it can.”

    ‘Of course, it tastes better when it’s thick.’ Satisfied with her order she nodded.

    The owner, who received the order, took out the good-looking quality sirloin and cut it into thick slices. Two large pieces of sirloin were wrapped by the owner’s hand.

    “Here you go. Two pieces of sirloin would be 2,000 shillings.”

    After paying, she felt the butcher shop with a good feeling and started shopping in earnest. As the sun was in the middle of the sky, the market was lively with the crowds. There is a lot of food and things to see, so if she had come with Ben, she thought he would have looked around with curiosity.

    Cersinia bought many things at once that could be left and eaten for as long as possible. Once she goes grocery shopping, she must buy everything she needs so that she doesn’t need to come back again. She walked with a grocery bag in her arms that had become quite heavy.

    ‘Ah, if I had known it would be like this, I should have brought Ben.’

    She brought more bags than expected. Rather than being heavy, it was uncomfortable for her to hold a loaded bag in her hands. The baguette that came out of the groceries bag also blocked her view.

    “I’ll bring him with me the next time I go grocery shopping.”

    Cersinia’s footsteps stopped when she spoke to herself without thinking.

    ‘There can’t be the next time…’

    So naturally, she thought of the following. She won’t be able to go grocery shopping with him since they’ll part ways in the next few days. As she became accustomed to living together, she forgot the parting she had in mind. Her good mood subsided at the thought.

    She had only been with him for a few days, and she forgot her life when she was alone. Cersinia suddenly remembered when Ben asked if she didn’t feel lonely being all alone. At the time, she answered that she didn’t think much of it,  but looking back, she really has been quite lonely. Seeing that she is subtly thinking of doing it with him…

    ‘I have to pull myself together,’ Cersinia shook her head from side to side.

    She feels sorry for him, but money is still her number one priority. Whether in reality or novels, only money can change a person’s life. What she desperately wants is not to meet the same end with the original story. That’s why she needed money.

    Cersinia’s light feet became heavy as if they were carrying sandbags. Her heart was as heavy as her feet.

    ‘How can I wash away this guilt?’

    She shouldn’t have brought him in the first place. Although the meeting is easy, parting is always difficult…

    “Huu…” It was a sigh mixed with complex emotions. Cersinia, who had stood still in the middle of the market, started walking.

    She had to go home first because Ben said he would wait for her. After breaking through the crowd, she arrived at the end of the market. If she goes a little further, she will find the path that leads to the forest. 

    “Have you seen a boy around 16 years old and a woman with red hair?”

    Cersinia’s steps stopped.

    ‘Isn’t it about me?’

    Cersinia’s head turned to the direction of the sound. There stood a familiar face. Two men were talking to a merchant. One of them was the staff she saw at the currency exchange. Realizing that they came from the gambling house, Cersinia was convinced that they were looking for her.

    “Um, I don’t think I’ve seen them.”

    “Is that so? I see.”

    They were now walking with faces full of annoyance. They didn’t look like they wanted to have a nice chat with her. Cersinia hurriedly hid at the nearby alley to avoid being caught. The black hood she’s wearing just blends with her surroundings, so they won’t even know there’s a person there.

    ‘Why are they looking for me? I can clearly see that it is not with pure intention.’

    “What should I do?” Cersinia was worried.

    Should she catch them right away and find out their reason? Or should she just leisurely get out of here?

    At that moment, they passed near the alleyway where Cersinia was hiding. So she held her breath.

    “Let’s go around one more time and go back.”

    She heard their conversation faintly along with their trudging footsteps. Cersinia stared intently at their backs as they moved away. They work in the currency exchange so it must have been an order from their boss.

    ‘But why though?’ Cersinia stroked her chin.

    The staff said that the Viscount didn’t have any money right away, so he had been hiding. She declared that she would come in a week to receive the money. What if the Viscount had no intention of giving money to her from the beginning?

    ‘No way.’

    Her red eyes flashed in the dark  like flames. If what the staff said is true then there’s only one hypothesis : to avoid paying her, the cleanest way to do it would be…

    “To get rid of me.”

    It felt like all reason had calmly subsided when the thought went to her mind.

    ‘You didn’t intend to give me the money from the beginning, huh?’

    Everything is just her own assumptions, and it’s too early to jump to conclusions. When they disappeared from her sight, Cersinia stepped out of the shadow and walked faster.

    First, she had to go home. Those who are already acquainted with the Viscount may have stormed into her house. Ben’s face, who had seen her off with a bright smile, flashed across her mind. Cersinia’s steps became even faster. She didn’t know if it was because she didn’t want to lose the collateral or was purely worried about Ben. She just had to make sure he was still in her cabin as soon as possible.

    *  * *

    Ben went back to the cabin after seeing  Cersinia off  and tried to calm his pounding heart. His heart has been pounding weirdly since last night. From when Cersinia patted him to when she cut his hair in the morning. When Cersinia touched his body, his whole body kept heating up, and his heart was beating faster.

    “Haa…” He took a deep breath to calm his mind. After repeating it a few times, he felt a bit calmer.

    Ben glanced at the empty cabin. After Cersinia left, the cabin felt cold. The cabin was like a cozy haven with Cersinia. It seemed like a cozy and warm resting place when they were together, but now that he’s alone, his body felt cold enough to shrink. Just because Cersinia left, the temperature in the cabin felt different.

    Ben trembled from the cold. It felt like it penetrated through his clothes. It’s been four days since he lived here and he got used to living with Cersinia. The few days with her were warm and lovely enough to make him forget years of his gloomy and lonely life. In four days she made it all feel distant.

    “I shouldn’t get used to it…” A sad voice sank into the cabin.

    Cersinia only brought him as collateral. In the next three days, she will receive her money and will send him back. A bitter smile crept across his lips. If he is greedy, it’ll only burden Cersinia. He should never do that. Being happy with her for a week was enough. He shouldn’t be a burden to her.

    Ben sat on the chair where Cersinia always sits to avoid the cold. He wondered if there was any warmth left. However, he was only getting colder. He reached out one hand over the table and buried his face.

    Ben tilted his head slightly to the side and put his other hand in front of his dark-colored eyes. He only saw an ugly  and bony hand, but it looked much better than before because the wound healed and he gained a little weight.

    Ben’s gaze stopped at the tip of his finger. He couldn’t take his eyes off his fingers as if honey had been smeared on them. The elongated fingertip was wrapped with a band-aid attached by Cersinia.

    “Uh… It stings, doesn’t it?”

    Cersinia frowned at his hand, bleeding from a piece of glass. She felt sick as if she was the one to cut herself. Her touch was cautious while applying medicine, and there was nothing about her  that was not lovely, including the way she was blowing on the wound to make the disinfectant permeate well.

    Cersinia was a very kind person, even though she seemed cold-hearted. Others may think that she is a straightforward person, but she was a very upright woman who couldn’t lie and was good-hearted.

    “Ben…”

    Ben chuckled like a deflated balloon and pondered on his name. It was the first time someone called him by name. The best part was Cersinia was the first person who called his name.

    Ben carefully kissed the band-aid wrapped around his hand. Her loveliness was imprinted on the band-aid. She also had a feeling of concern for him.

    Ben immediately remembered Cersinia. The way she reached out to him on the first day, her face and her touch as she stroked his bangs with a bring smile in the dim moonlight darkness. Even the red lips that blew on his wounds. The red and thick lips that resemble pomegranate are likely to have a sweet scent and taste if you take a bite.

    ‘I want to taste it…’

    “Gasp!” He jumped up in surprise.

    What the hell is this impure idea? His face was red enough to burst at any moment.


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