༺ Start of Winter (1) ༻
『I saw it! It’s 100%!』
The words weren’t fully conveyed because of the turbulent wave of emotions but the important part had definitely gone through.
Normally, Marie would have rebuked him saying, ‘How can you say things like that about your daddy?’ but now wasn’t the time for that.
As expected of a beast, the 1-year-old Mr. Doggo Kim instinctively sensed the chill concealed behind her low voice and shrunk.
“Slowly. Tell me. Everything. From the start.”
It was common for children to often stand on the side of their mother in a quarrel, and in Doggo’s case, that applied even more and he had not a single integer of plan on siding with his father.
Excitedly, Doggo babbled about everything he saw as Marie boiled the potatoes with a shiver.
“I, I see. I seeee…”
It was a shocking account of the father’s affair. Well, it was pretty much forced onto him, but he didn’t seem to hate it all that much… was the impression Doggo received.
Of course, Marie Dunareff was quite a rational person and knew that she and Korin Lork weren’t in an official relationship.
Although they had never decided to start an actual relationship, they had already done some very extreme things hadn’t they?
Even though it was just a slightly erotic action of having a meal… sucking blood meant a lot to Marie.
She had never sucked the blood of another person apart from Korin nor did she ever want to. He was the only one that didn’t make her feel physiologically repulsed when thinking about sucking blood.
That was why she naturally put a lot of meaning into this action which regularly took place.
“I was too careless…!”
It was a bitter mistake. Just like how he was special to her, she had been arrogant, thinking that she was also special to him.
There had always been a lot of girls next to Korin, but she had never considered them her competitors. Alicia Arden was obviously harboring goodwill towards Korin but that was more in the realm of friendship, and Hua Ran had also been staying calm until now.
Korin Lork had a broad relationship, but her superior position should have been firm there. Besides, seeing how she was the one he relied on the most, the future should have been pretty much set in stone if everything went the way they did and yet…
‘To think Hua Ran… Hua Ran would suddenly do something like that…!’
She had been under the wrong impression that a goalkeeper could stop goals. But who could have expected her to suddenly gain a second personality… and one that was so adamant and proactive at approaching Korin at that?
It seemed that he had completely dropped his guard from that one sentence. There was an extreme comment from Doggo about how his disgusting grins were a shocking sight.
Forgetting to even comment on Doggo’s violent use of words, Marie focused more on the words of their new housemate that was as sly as a fox.
Yes. Korin did have the tendency of being obsessed with the word, ‘oppa’. He seemed very mature and that was a plus in Marie’s eyes, but in any case, he had been very far from hearing that long-aspired word because of his face and actions that seemed a lot more mature than that of his peers.
But to think he would be completely mesmerized by that single word!
Her shoulders trembled from the overwhelming sense of betrayal.
After oppa was ‘hubby’, and what? Two legal wives? Marie was baffled by that expression.
Marriage wasn’t a 1+1 promotion of a dollar store, was it? It wasn’t supposed to be like that.
“I… can give him a potato farm and a diamond mine though…”
There were probably like 3 diamond farms under her name or something. And this year, the best one out of them had returned a profit of about 97 times the gross income of the hotel he ran this time around.
From what Marie could tell, he did have some level of interest in money. If she were to give him this as a present…
“No no no no. That’s way too much about money…!”
The relationship she wanted to forge with Korin wasn’t something as calculative as that. It was more of a sweet romantic one that palpitated her heart.
She would have had it if not for the sudden competitor sprinting like a cheetah!
“This is not good. I need to take some special… very special means…!”
Should she be as proactive as Hua Ran? That could be an option but she had been doing something that was even more explicit than that for a long time. Would being more proactive be a good choice?
She needed help.
For the young maiden who had never even held onto a boy’s hand apart from her father and her brothers, romance was a very difficult problem to tackle.
‘…Should I ask?’
Fortunately, she had a lot of friends. Even though she recently started being especially nicer to one specific person, by nature she was a very kind and generous girl that was loved by others.
Finding a person to consult with wouldn’t be that difficult.
“No! I don’t want them to find out though!”
However, the sensitive feelings of a maiden did not allow her to do that.
Actually, many of her close friends had already noticed signs of her standing on the battlefront of romance, but Marie was still caught up in her groundless assumption that no one had figured it out.
That was why she had to avoid any leakage of information.
Then who was she supposed to consult with?
Now that her friends weren’t an option, who was she supposed to go to?
The first candidate she thought of was Lady Josephine Clara, who was also the dorm master of their current dormitory. That beautiful professor who was full of the mature appeal of an adult might be able to give her some perfect pieces of advice, but…
‘Hmm… Probably not.’
However, the lady, Josephine Clara, who had been living healthily until she was 17 years older than the age limit of 100 that was predestined by the heavens, was a great figure that even came out in history books but the students of the Academy called her using a different title behind her back.
The legendary gold lady who never even touched a man’s hand in her life.
She was definitely not someone she would consult with for matters regarding romance.
Then who was she supposed to ask? Her parents? No; absolutely not, because there was already a precedent during the summer holiday.
Her father had wreaked havoc while her mother only told her that laying him down on the bed would solve all problems.
Those two polar opinions weren’t very helpful.
“Someone… with a lot of experience… that knows how boys think…”
Suddenly, an incredible candidate appeared in her mind, but she shook her head and decided against it.
No, that’s… not going to work, right?
“No but, this… this is a bit…”
Anyone listening to her grumble would wonder just how shocking of a candidate she was thinking of.
It was one whom she had to lower all kinds of pride and dignity against, but at the same time, he was the player of the century with a lot of experiences that would never lead to any leakage of information.
Mr. Doggo Kim, aged 1.
He was leading such a debaucherous and youthful life with the dogs of the inner streets of the Academy that people were complaining about all the sounds.
Marie turned to her biological child, who had taken after the bad side of his father to live a disordered life.
“D, do you know what males like?”
“Not that! Something morally healthy! Something more normal!”
Hearing that, Doggo pondered a little before going, ‘Ah!’ and immediately sharing the thing that he came up with.
It wasn’t long until Marie could find an opportunity to make use of that advice.
The eventful festival came to an end and the Academy returned to its everyday life.
On a certain weekend morning, I was eating with three of my housemates in the dining room.
Lady Josephine Clara,
And Hua Ran.
The reason I started living in this special dormitory that was made separately for the Unique Grade demi-human, Hua Ran, was because I was supposed to help look after Marie.
These days, I also had to look after Hua Ran and I became like a semi-deputy dorm master in this dormitory of 4 people.
“Should I clean the backyard today?”
Since I was getting 5 extra gold coins per month, I decided to display my diligence.
“Clean the backyard…?”
Lady Josephine seemed puzzled so I returned a reply.
“There are a lot of leaves on the ground. We can get rid of them and while we’re at it, maybe we can cook some sweet potatoes using those leaves.”
“Yes! Potatoes taste amazing when you cook them using dry leaves!”
“I said sweet potatoes, Senior.”
“Potatoes are delicious as well!”
Lady Josephine pondered a little, and she seemed to be wondering whether she should make students do something as tedious as removing leaves or not. Ever since this place was built, Lady Josephine appeared to have been the one taking care of everything before I came in.
There were a lot of things that had to be hidden in this special dormitory. Because it was essentially a dormitory built for a Unique Grade demi-human, it didn’t allow strangers to enter.
There were a few old ladies that occasionally came in to clean the rooms but making them clean dry leaves was a different problem altogether.
“…I have a staff meeting now and can’t help you. How about we do it next weekend?”
“Making them pile up even more over the week is not going to be that good. I can just do it.”
“I can help!”
“Hua Ran, you cannot. After my staff meeting, you need to come with me to meet the spiritualist guest. We need to strengthen your talismans.”
“Wow, it can’t be helped then. It will be just the two of us, Korin and me!”
“You don’t have to do it with me, Senior Marie.”
“No no no. I can’t do it! I would feel bad making you do all the work by yourself! And Doggo can help us out as well!”
Doggo alone would be fine but… well, having more manpower was never a bad option anyway.
– Shiik, shiik.
The straw broomstick raked across the leaves of the ground.
Those leaves, the symbols of autumn that used to show off their crimson colors, were now filling the ground like desert sand. I couldn’t get rid of them no matter how many times I raked the ground.
However, that didn’t mean we could afford not to do this. It was already November; it was starting to get cold and winter was just around the corner.
If we hit winter, we would have to rely on mittens to do any level of work outside, and it was questionable if it would even be possible to rake the ground and remove the dry leaves while wearing mittens.
At least it was great that I had someone working with me. Despite having tiny hands, Marie was gathering the dry leaves and collecting them with skill.
For about 2 hours starting from 10 am, Marie and I had been diligently on task.
“Doggo! You can’t eat the carps in the pond! Don’t make me get angry at you!!”
One unprincipled member of our group was trying to eat the carp in the pond that would freeze in winter instead of saving it, so we had to stop him from doing so.
Seemingly discontent by the fact that he couldn’t bite into the fresh, hopping carp, Doggo howled out loud.
“I will buy you tuna later.”
My miraculous negotiation skills let the carps survive yet another day. After putting them into a pre-prepared water tank, I came back and found Marie standing in front of the pond.
“Are you going to clean the pond as well?”
“Un. I thought, ‘Why not?’”
“It’s not going to be easy though…”
Without even using a staff, Marie used magic with a simple uplift of her hand and made all the water inside the pond surge into the air. The pond that had been filled with water until just then was now empty with not a hint of water inside. ❰Water Manipulation❱, was it?
“I used to help with connecting the reservoirs to our farms. Did you know? When you lift all the water of a reservoir, you actually find that there are all sorts of fish inside!”
The girl shared her experience, talking about how the nearby towns would have a feast of fish on such days.
“Huu~. Are we done now?”
It took about 3 hours. Thanks to the reliable help from Doggo, we were done cleaning the pond as well as the garden.
“Un. They’re ready.”
Next to us was a basket full of potatoes and sweet potatoes. As if we had decided on it beforehand, we quickly got prepared; I gathered leaves while Marie lit them up on fire.
“Hehe. They’re going to be delicious.”
Crouching around the campfire made with dry leaves, we enjoyed the warmth of the flame.
“Should we call Alicia, Lark, and the others?”
“Uun… I think they’ll be in the middle of a meal already though.”
“I guess so, considering the time. Oh yeah, potatoes are nice and all, but should we have a proper meal as well?”
One might say that we were eating too much, but we were superhumans with metabolism rates that were on a whole different scale from normal humans.
Even a slender lady like Marie ate twice as much as a normal person. Her appetite grew even more after becoming a vampire.
“And as for Doggo…”
“I will give some lamb neck bones to Doggo later. He loves them. Anyway, let me go cook a meal right now!”
Marie sprinted off with a hop. Watching that, I placed a few potatoes and sweet potatoes in the fire.
Doggo and I blankly watched the dry leaves burning with a crackle.
“You want some salt?”
It seemed that he wanted sugar instead of salt. Even though I didn’t have a magic connection with him like Marie, for some reason I could still understand what he was saying.
Although I was calling myself his dad as a joke, I actually did feel some level of connection with him, which was probably because most of the blood forming his body was from me.
“Oh right, Doggo. How come you’ve been wearing clothes these days?”
Even now, he was wearing an oddly cute piece of clothing with the words, 『I LOVE POTATO』 written on it that was from Montijo…
They… were a luxury brand like Gucci back on Earth. Why was he wearing one from Montijo?!
“D, Doggo…? Where did you get that from?”
There was no way they would be selling dog clothes that were big enough for Doggo to wear. In other words, they had to be order-made but… w, was that even possible?
It was the same as going to Gucci and telling them, ‘Hey. Make me one that says, I love Potato’…
How expensive would it have been…? That was the initial thought in mind but after remembering the richness of Marie’s family, I realized that it would have been like a few pennies to them.
– Tadak! Tadak!
The potatoes and sweet potatoes were slowly being baked when a familiar voice echoed from behind the fences.
“Hey~! Are you there?”
It seemed that Lark had dropped by to say hi.
“Yo. Come in! I can give you a few baked potatoes and sweet potatoes!”
After a few seconds, I saw a boy with disheveled hair walking in through the main entrance.
“Did you clean? Looks a lot better. And did you say sweet potatoes?”
“There are potatoes as well.”
Lark nonchalantly walked up to the campfire and greeted Doggo, but Doggo curtly flicked his head away. As if he was worried about getting his bum dirty, Lark gathered a few leaves and placed his robe on top to sit on it like a cushion.
“Did you have lunch?”
“Yeah. I ate with Jaeger.”
“Oh okay. What’s happening with Jaeger these days?”
“Apparently he’s close to dating someone.”
“Miss Meia. Well, I think he’s the only one thinking that though.”
It seemed that Jaeger was at least trying to date someone, but Lark didn’t look too keen.
“Anything going on for you?”
“I’m busy studying.”
He was a nerd after all. Even though Lark did tend to go around with the proactive knights, he still spent most of his time reading and studying.
“What about you?” he asked.
“You’re living under the same roof as girls. Isn’t that pretty much decided then?”
“That is a very old way of thinking.”
It was true that the two girls were very attractive, and seeing Ran proactively appealing herself these days did make my heart beat but…
“You see, I have too many things to take care of right now.”
Although I was interested in dating, now wasn’t the best time for it, especially when there was a time limit of 3 years.
While looking at me, Lark heaved a sigh and shook his head.
“Very ethically healthy, aren’t we?”
“Very healthy indeed.”
People might say otherwise if they saw the process of Marie sucking my blood, but that was just an emergency measure related to her survival.
“Do you really not feel anything though?” Lark asked again.
“…Of course not.”
There was a strange sense of arousal whenever Marie bit my neck. In the first place, the surface area of our body contact was a bit too much. It was inevitable for my body to react whenever the excited Marie pressed her body tightly against me.
“You look pretty close to Hua Ran as well these days. Well, I guess you were the only one who really talked to her in the first place, but still, you look a lot closer than before.”
“It’s a long story.”
The story of another soul existing in her body was not publicized. There was no need to hide about Ran’s identity per se, but I couldn’t reveal it on my own accord either.
“Well… Looking at you, I guess you really wouldn’t have time to date people.”
Lark seemed convinced after thinking about my schedule again. After all, he also knew how I spent most of my free time practicing spearmanship in the training rooms.
Because of various reasons, I didn’t have time to date anyone. I was about to hand him the baked potatoes and sweet potatoes when Marie came in after opening the glass door of the sunroom.
“Korin~. The meal is ready… Huh? Lark?”
“Good afternoon, Senior Marie.”
“You don’t have to be that polite. Did you have lunch?”
“Yes, I already have. Can I take a few potatoes and sweet potatoes though?”
“Of course! I can give you some bags of fresh ones if you want!”
“No, that would be a bit…”
After turning her down, he took the small pack of baked potatoes and baked sweet potatoes and left.
“Doggo, you can have potatoes and sweet potatoes first! Korin, let’s eat our lunch first!”
It was slightly late, but we decided to have our lunch in the sunroom.
“What’s for lunch today?”
At the dormitory, it was always me or Marie that took care of cooking. Lady Josephine was so busy that she could only rarely ever help for breakfast and as for Hua Ran… I wasn’t sure about Ran but I just couldn’t imagine Hua cooking anything.
“Right! You said you like eating anything, right? So this time, I brought a special Eastern menu…!”
Oh right, she did ask me in the past whether I could eat the so-called ‘disturbing’ food like insects or not, and I told her the only reason I wasn’t eating them was because I couldn’t find them. I loved having baked locusts and pupae, but I just couldn’t find them here.
“You see… I was researching this for a long time, just to give it to you Korin!”
“What is it…?”
A black stone pot with soup inside was placed on top of the table. It was a spicy soup made with chili powder, beef stock, and all types of vegetables… that could only be completed with the addition of a special ingredient.
It was something I hadn’t seen for a long time.
“Umm… all the old workers of our farm love this, and I thought you might like it, Korin…”
Of course I did. I had been going to a special Korean BBQ place for 20 years, and they always gave me this soup as a side instead of soybean soup.
“H, how does it look? It’s a super-healthy special-made, ‘Coagulated blood soup’…” 1Coagulated blood soup. Raw = 선짓국, Seonji-guk: Made with many ingredients, with the most notable of them all being the coagulated blood. Some love but some hate it. Personally, I have never eaten it and that would most certainly stay that way.
Marie said while twirling her body. Even she didn’t seem very confident about this but…
“I love coagulated blood soups. How did you even know!?”
I raised the Eastern-style spoon that came out with the soup and scooped up a spoonful, as the red and clear soup of beef stock immediately warmed me up after entering my body.
“Kaa~. This is it!”
The spicy soup stimulated my throat. The pieces of coagulated blood floating in the soup looked like black jelly.
“Uhh… I made them by solidifying blood but, I’m not sure if you would like them.”
“Aye~. The only reason I don’t eat them is because there is none out there. It’s the softness of these jellies that are just unbearably tempting.”
“R, really? Thank goodness! Hurry up and try them!”
I was already mesmerized by the dish without even her needing to rush me. The slippery texture unique to blood jellies was amazing. They were well seasoned with salt and pepper, and the intense flavor was supplemented by the beefy soup.
“This is amaz—”
※ The elixir contains a special ingredient.
– You have acquired Herculean Strength.
– Your strength has increased by 30 points.
Huh? What? Why was this popping up now?
The soft texture of the coagulated blood was still in my mouth. When I swallowed it, the scent of ginger that was used to erase the rust-like smell of blood soared all the way up to my nose.
Her deeply flushed cheeks were awkwardly twitching up and down.
Seeing that, I immediately realized it. I ended up noticing that the blood used to cook this dish wouldn’t have been from a normal animal like a pig or a cow.
But at the same time, the system message in front of my eyes was—
– You have acquired Herculean Strength.
– Your strength has increased by 30 points.
Holy shit… holy shit holy shit holy shit holy shit holy shit…! I love you noona!!!
– Momentarily increase your ‘Strength’ by 200%
– Cannot be amplified by other buffs
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- 1Coagulated blood soup. Raw = 선짓국, Seonji-guk: Made with many ingredients, with the most notable of them all being the coagulated blood. Some love but some hate it. Personally, I have never eaten it and that would most certainly stay that way.