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    Translated by alyalia
    Edited by popcorn


     

    “It seems to be a village called Mulain.”

    Archen opened the map immediately after receiving the report. Mulain was far in the south of where he was right now. They had to ride a horse day and night for two days to arrive. Archen’s eyebrows frowned.

    “Are you sure?”

    It would have been a big deal if they went all the way. If there was no result, four days would be wasted for them to go and back.

    “I am-”

    The subordinate couldn’t finish his words. Archen let his subordinate go, and he was left alone in the room. He’s been looking for that person without a day off. He has his own way to get information, but he didn’t know it would be hard to find a single strand of that person’s hair.

    Archen closed his eyes, burying his body deeply on the sofa since he was exhausted. It has already been a month since he left the Grand Duchy and it was now time for him to go back. If he doesn’t bring him, he’ll need to make it up for it, so Archen knew to bring him back even if he had to force him.

    Archen’s eyes, which had been languidly closed, opened. For now, all he can do is go to Mulain. The only information he got, was that this person was in the Mulain village. Archen briefly called his subordinate. And as if they were waiting for his orders, the door opened.

    “We are going to Mulain early tomorrow.”

    “Yes, we’ll get ready.”

    PR: “Yes, sir! We’ll make the preparations”

    Archen looked up at the sunset and hoped that he would be able to meet that person this time.

    * * *

    Early in the morning, Cersinia sat in front of the table set by Ben. Ben’s potato bread, which he had been learning a few days ago, was still steaming. Unlike in the cabin, his cooking skills were getting better day by day. Now, he didn’t break the plate and showed a more professional side.

    Cersinia liked the potato bread Ben made. The taste of mashed potatoes in fragrant flour was so savory. It’s even more delicious because she knows Ben’s been working hard kneading the dough and boiling the potatoes.

    Cersinia, who was chewing potato bread, carefully observed Ben. She felt that something had changed. It had been a week since Ben became a carpenter and started working. His slender forearms seemed to have tightened a bit because of the workload. His skin, which was as white as wheat, tanned.

    “You seem to have tanned a bit.”

    “Did I?”

    Ben smiled broadly as if he was happy to hear it.

    ‘What’s so good about being tanned?’

    Cersinia looked at Ben with a puzzled face. Ben smiled with his eyes bent like a crescent moon, looking at his arms. Cersnia clasped her chin and looked into Ben’s gaze. She didn’t know what it was, but his satisfied smile made her feel better. The two looked at each other and smiled. Perhaps because of the sunlight coming through the window, she felt warm inside her body.

    “I’ll be back, Cersinia .”

    Ben, who smiled more broadly than usual, left after being seen off by Cersinia. Cersinia looked at Ben’s back walking toward the carpentry until he disappeared and then closed the door. Her heart tickled at this new routine they had. She scratched her cheek. Every morning, it comes to her that every time she sees Ben off, it felt like they’ve become a couple. She felt like a wife seeing her husband off to work. Cersinia trembled slightly as if getting goosebumps. 

    Today was the day Ben received his salary. Since a few days ago, Cersinia was also looking forward to it because he boasted about looking forward to today. She sat leisurely by the window and grabbed a cup of tea. With the smell of fragrant tea, she enjoyed the peace of the morning.

    Cersinia had no chores to do. Ben took care of everything from meals to washing dishes. He also banned her from entering the kitchen, telling her not to get a drop of water on her hand. The same goes for laundry and cleaning. She felt bad because only Ben was working hard, but Ben would cry if she helped even a little. She can do nothing when he gets sullen, saying that he really wants to do everything. After settling in the Mulain Village, all she did at home was open a window to ventilate and wash her underwear.

    The sound of her drinking tea echoed through the house. Cersinia looked at the scenery outside the window a little longer and rose up. She decided to give him a ‘first payday’ gift. Although it was a bit too grandiose it call it a gift, she wanted to cook him a warm meal. She decided to make soup for him, who cooked every day. Cersinia excitedly stepped towards the kitchen.

    * * *

    Ben, who was working hard at carving wood, looked sideways when he felt his arm being tapped.

    “It’s your first payday. What are you going to do?”

    When asked by a colleague, Ben smirked at the thought of it.

    “I’m going to buy a gift.”

    “Gift? To whom? Ah, to your lover?”

    “Yes? My lover?”

    Ben was surprised at the words. Did he have a lover without knowing?

    “Isn’t the woman that is living with you your lover?”

    “N-No! Cersinia is just…”

    Ben hurriedly waved his hands and shook his head. Then he was unable to continue his sentence. It was not enough to express who she is by saying, ‘Cersinia is just someone I lived with.’

    ‘My savior, my light, a warm person, guardian. Ah, she’s not my guardian. Cersinia isn’t my mom either…’

    He was the one who wanted to be Cersinia’s guardian.

    ‘Then what should I explain about my relationship with Cersinia?’

    Ben’s lips closed tightly. He didn’t know how to explain. His colleague glanced at him, who had suddenly started to shut and opened his mouth without saying a word.

    “What the hell. She may not be your lover now, but she could soon be your lover.”

    Ben couldn’t help but laugh at the words of his colleague, who smirked and tapped his arm.

    ‘B-But…’

    To be her lover. It’s something he never thought about. Ben’s body stiffened, now that he realized that his greed was boiling over. There was nothing he wanted from Cersinia.

    ‘N-No, that’s not true…’

    When he thinks about it, the desires that were blooming these days were a little too much. When he slept holding her hand, Ben tossed and turned for a while before he could fall asleep. He didn’t know how many times he swallowed hard because her breathing was so erotic.

    He felt cold every time he went to sleep, so he needed to sleep with several layers of blankets. But these days, he didn’t need a blanket because his body was heating up with just Cersinia’s breath.

    It wasn’t just that. When they ate together every morning, he wanted to remove the breadcrumbs from her lips using his. It wasn’t only once or twice that he wanted to hug her while she saw him off. Even if he held her, he wondered if he could let go of her.

    Once he thought about it, the desires flowed endlessly. His ears quickly turned red. As if he had been waiting for a long time, his desires just poured out, just like water in a balloon that burst out with one single needle. It would be a lie if he said he didn’t have desires for her. He wanted her to be with him with a feeling other than compassion and sympathy.

    Ben shook his head at his selfish thoughts. However, he became so greedy every time he thought about it, that he couldn’t give up. His colleague burst out laughing as he looked at Ben with his head bowed to hide his red face.

    “Hahaha, what do you mean no? It’s not like she’s being your wife or anything like that.”

    Ben didn’t answer his colleague. He resumed what he had let go of. He felt like his head would explode if he didn’t do anything. A sigh escaped from Ben’s mouth. He still had the heat on his cheeks. For some reason, he started thinking that he won’t be able to face Cersinia today.

    “Thank you for your hard work.”

    “Yes, go home now.”

    Ben, who finished his work around sunset, walked with a salary envelope in hand. The store may not have been closed yet, but time was running out. The thought of buying a gift for Cersinia with his own money made his heart float. He wanted to buy something that suited her.  Ben smiled gently, thinking about Cersinia, who would like it. His steps toward the handmade accessories store were delighted.

    * * *

    Cersinia boiled the soup again in time for Ben to come home from work because she wanted to serve warm food. She poured a little more milk, thinking it would be salty. She looked at the window while stirring it with a ladle to keep it from sticking. The sun is setting now, so Ben will probably come soon.

    Cersinia sat in a chair in the living room and waited for Ben. The house was empty without furniture, but somehow, she didn’t feel empty when she was with Ben. Rather, she felt that it was too full. She hummed in good spirits and looked over the window. Ben will run to her, waving his hand from afar, as he has always done. Her crimson eyes were facing the window from the sunset set until the night fell.

    “Why isn’t he coming?”

    Darkness came outside. Ben has never not been home by this hour. Her worried gaze didn’t even think about leaving the window. She wanted to go out and look for him, but she stayed at home first to avoid the crossing road.

    As the night passed and morning came again, Cersinia immediately headed to Ben’s carpentry workshop. But all she got back was that they hadn’t seen him after work yesterday. Cersinia wandered the village for several days to find him, but it was vain. She returned home and waited some more.

    She sat in front of the window and waited for Ben for several days. The sunset and night repeated again and again. In the end, Ben didn’t show up.  The soup that had been boiled in a pot was hardened. The house, which had always been warm, became cold. That’s how Ben disappeared.


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