༺ The First Letter (61) ༻
A familiar ceiling revealed itself once I opened my eyes.
The pure white marble was scattering a faint light, reflecting the cozy sunlight throughout the room. There were no fancy decorations, but the hospital room, furnished with expensive furniture, was unnecessarily luxurious.
It wasn’t the kind of room a second son of a countryside Viscount would normally be able to enjoy and was only possible because it was the Academy.
As soon as I woke up, a stiff pain spread from my forearm. My hand had gone numb, as if paralyzed from the pain, and I couldn’t help but smile bitterly as I tried to clench my fist.
I couldn’t even count how many times I had been here as of late. It felt like I was visiting the temple every two days – Not only for my personal hospitalization, but also to visit my friends.
I had been stopping by to check up on Emma once or twice a week and I figured I would do the same on my way out today as well.
Having decided to do so, I opened my eyes and tried to sit up when the sound of someone’s breaths entered my ears. When I turned towards the sound, I saw a small girl with black hair sleeping with her face buried in a pillow on the bed.
It was Celine. Last night, I had rushed to the temple after performing an emergency treatment, but the bleeding had been so severe that I had lost consciousness. She must have stayed by my side throughout the night without heading back to the dormitory.
It was understandable. After all, I was hospitalized from our duel.
Fortunately, it wasn’t a serious injury. The blade had penetrated into my bone and even the bone marrow had become contaminated. However, it wasn’t much of an issue. Although profanities littered my mouth during the treatment, it was quickly taken care of since there was always a high-ranking priest present at the Academy’s temple.
Unfortunately, no matter how potent holy power was, it was impossible to relieve the accumulated fatigue in the human body. My body was already at its limit due to numerous injuries, and a few days of rest were required separate from the treatment.
As such, Professor Andrei from the Theology department, who was in charge of my treatment, had forcibly admitted me into the temple even when I had told him I was fine. He remained firm even when I expressed my concern for my grades due to numerous absences.
Instead, Professor Andrei promised he would personally notify the professor in charge of today’s lecture. When I continued to glare at him defiantly, he threatened to bring the Saintess and leave her in charge of me.
The Saintess had recently taken upon herself to scold me, and I didn’t even want to imagine just how long I would have to listen to her sermons again if she were to find out I had once again been severely injured to the point my arm had almost been cut off. In the end, I despairingly gave up on resisting.
Seeing how Celine had constantly probed my face, she must have noticed my gloominess.
I had reassured her many times that I was fine, but Celine didn’t seem to have a single thought of leaving my side. I had figured she would head back at around dawn, but maybe due to her guilty conscience, Celine had stayed the night here with me.
Celine was soundly asleep. No matter where I laid my eyes, she only seemed like a lovely girl. She was lively, had a shrewd mouth, and looked so adorable that it was hard to believe she was involved in a sword fight against Seria.
I had to admit she was very attractive. Apparently, she had been constantly pursued by the upper class nobles since the first grade, and it was totally plausible. People were even saying she was one of the two brightest stars of the second-year Knight Division alongside Seria.
However, all that was irrelevant. To me, Celine had always been and always would be just plain old Celine. Regardless of what she did in the academy, she would always be my childhood friend from a long time ago.
I carefully raised my upper body, trying to avoid waking Celine up.
Contrary to my worries, Celine remained sound asleep and showed no signs of waking. A mischievous thought popped into my head as Celine mumbled ‘Mm-nya’ in her sleep.
‘Shall we see how long she can stay asleep?’
I poked her soft cheeks. My fingers dug into her elastic flesh, but Celine merely furrowed her brows and slightly shook her head.
Her eyes never opened as she seemed to be deeply asleep. Once again, I poked her cheeks.
Celine still didn’t respond. Just as I was about to poke again, she let out a rough breath as if irritated and bit my finger, holding it in her mouth.
Suddenly, I felt a suction on the tip of my finger.
An unfamiliar sensation filled my body as a pleasant sensation crawled up my spine like an electric current.
Huh? A strange mood filled the air.
Celine continued to passionately lick my finger while firmly pressing down with her lips. My body froze from the sensation. On the other hand, Celine’s expression seemed strangely content.
I couldn’t help but imagine the face of a child nursing from their mother’s breast. The only awkward point was that I was a man and couldn’t provide her with any milk.
Nothing would come out from my finger no matter what she did, though it was a different story if it were a different part of the body.
I absentmindedly received her affection before promptly snapping out of my daze. I seemed to have momentarily lost my mind from the strange mood.
I quickly withdrew my finger from Celine’s mouth.
Celine, who had been sucking on my finger like a fool, frowned as if she was discontent, but there was nothing I could do.
What was I thinking, having indecent thoughts towards such an innocent girl? I drew a cross with my finger and recited the Saintess’ prayer.
“Immanuel. God of heaven, please forgive this miserable soul of its sins.”
And to avoid any further temptation, I flicked Celine’s head. How dare she seduce me even in her sleep?
Perhaps due to the pain, this time, Celine woke up with a scream. Her hand instinctively covered the spot I flicked.
Celine glared at me discontentedly, but soon widened her eyes as she quickly came to her senses. She urgently leaned towards me.
“D-did you wake up? H-how’s your body? Are you okay?”
“What’s the big deal? I’m someone who even swept away 10 demonic monsters.”
I really almost died back then. To be honest, if I were to try to do that again, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Although yesterday’s wounds weren’t minor, they weren’t as bad as the ones I got from that time.
Despite my quip, Celine still had a sorrowful expression and was on the verge of crying. She immediately apologized.
“I-I’m sorry… If only I hadn’t done something so stupid at the end…….”
“It’s not like you intended for it to happen, right? So, don’t worry too much. I’ve never wielded a sword without resolving myself for any potential injuries.”
I passed it off as if it was something insignificant to assuage her sorrow as much as I could, but truthfully speaking, it was a situation where not only my arms, but even my heart could have been cut. However, I didn’t bother pointing that out.
After all, what good would that do other than making her feel worse? Though, come to think of it again, that might be fairly entertaining in its own right.
Celine seemed like a water balloon, ready to burst in tears with the slightest provocation. Thus, I had no choice but to give up on teasing her.
“Still, if someone had to get hurt, it should’ve been me……”
Celine silently lowered her gaze with a voice full of regrets. It was obvious she was feeling distressed.
Her hazel eyes, which were always lively and energetic, were filled with guilt. I gently stroked Celine’s cheek without a word.
Her body quivered and she turned to look at me as if she was surprised by my sudden touch, and I smiled with a small sigh. It was a bitter smile.
“It was my own decision.”
“I’m saying I chose to get hurt.”
Celine looked empty-minded at my declaration. I coughed and continued.
“I couldn’t stand the thought of you getting hurt. So I chose to bear the injuries instead… It was my choice, so it’s only right that I bear the consequences. That’s why, don’t worry so much.”
I laid bare my honest feelings. I couldn’t look directly into Celine’s eyes because I was feeling a little shy, but my words were genuine.
I didn’t regret my actions last night. After all, I didn’t really want to hurt Celine.
Celine was speechless for a long while. She just stared at me with a hazy look before bursting into tears.
Tears quickly welled up in her eyes. Celine wept and clasped my hand that had been gently stroking her cheek.
“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry, Ian Oppa. I won’t… I won’t let this happen again…”
I was slightly at a loss as I watched her cry. I said all that so she wouldn’t cry, but she ended up crying anyway and it didn’t seem like it would stop anytime soon.
I tried to console her as tenderly as possible.
“Why are you crying again? Rumors of you being a crybaby will spread if you keep crying like this.”
“B-but… Really, I’ll really listen to you well from now on… Ian Oppa…”
Celine’s crying gradually died down as I continued to pat her back, but her tear stains still were clear on her cheeks and small traces of her tears lingered on her eyelashes.
However, such a face was still beautiful to look at. Her eyes had, at some point, started overflowing with affection towards me to the point it seemed like she would really listen to anything I say.
‘This is good.’
I cautiously opened my mouth.
“Uh, Celine. By the way, do you remember?”
“……..Hm? Remember what?”
“Our bet. We said the loser would grant the winner a wish.”
Celine seemed to have forgotten about it. She momentarily widened her eyes before smiling charmingly.
She then rubbed her cheeks against my hand like a docile pet and whispered so quietly it was barely audible.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll do anything.”
I could only respond like so to the subtle undertone. Celine’s eyes formed a gentle curve and left me unsure whether she was being sincere or mischievous.
The hot, steamy breath tickling my palm made me think she was serious.
“Yeah, anything… I’ll even give myself to you if you ask for me in my entirety.”
Celine guided my hand down the base of her neck, tracing along her collarbone, and finally settled on the soft, spongy peaks.
My mind became hazy as I became overwhelmed by a sweet fragrance that permeated the room – a unique scent that only a woman’s body could excrete.
Celine slightly tilted her upper body and gazed up at me. Then, she whispered seductively into my ear.
“……What do you want to do?”
“Uh, Celine… So… I…….”
Strength gradually returned to my hand. I freed my hand from hers and firmly grasped her shoulders. Our faces, intimately close. Surprised, Celine’s eyes opened wide as if she were trying to capture my entire face within her eyes.
As our hearts beat in sync, I leaned closer and whispered softly into her ear.
“…….Team up with me- For the hunting festival.”
The sound of skin hitting skin reverberated. Of all places, it was on my forearm.
My screams rang through the room.
Celine watched me timidly. I glared back at her bitterly as I rubbed my sore forearms.
Of all places, she hit my injured arm. Despite being healed with holy power, my arm had nearly been severed and there was no way it would have already fully recovered.
Celine stomped her feet while stammering before cautiously opening her mouth.
“A-are you okay?”
“No, it hurts. A lot.”
“I-I guess it would, but……”
Celine’s eyes wandered all around the room. However, it wasn’t long before she turned cheeky and yelled out some self-justification.
“I-I mean, who would say something like that in that kind of situation? S-so tactless. Hmph!”
It wasn’t a bad strategy. Despite being in the wrong, she chose to get angry. Yet, with her pretty face, most men would likely submit and admit defeat.
However, she was facing me. A veteran with over 10 years of experience in dealing with her.
I immediately grabbed her arm and let out a groan.
“Ugh, hearing your loud voice, my forearm suddenly……!”
“W-What?! I-I’m so sorry…. Uh, what should we do? We should call the priest………”
Celine trembled and fell into a state of disarray at my bluff. I smiled inwardly as I saw her worried and on the verge of tears.
‘Cute, but no matter how cute you are, you can’t win against me.’
What I didn’t expect, however, was that the door to the hospital room swung open. It was right as Celine, who was tapping her feet impatiently, stood up.
Gray hair shone beyond the door.
Celine’s body froze in place as her gaze met the aquamarine eyes of the person who had entered the room. It was Seria, who had come to visit early in the morning. Even she seemed taken aback as her body weakly trembled.
Despite Seria’s expressionless face, I could sense that she was greatly shaken by Celine’s presence.
Then, an awkward silence ensued. Seria appeared hesitant, but she began to take determined steps towards me with a resolute expression.
For a moment, Celine looked at Seria with an inscrutable expression, but the latter remained silent, unresponsive to Celine’s gaze. It was as if Seria was deliberately avoiding any conversation with Celine.
Celine used to ignore Seria similarly, and it seemed that Seria was now doing the same. To think the day would come when Celine would get a taste of her own medicine.
The world truly was full of surprises. Seria walked past Celine and held my hand as if it was the most natural thing to do. Her hand was soft and pleasant to touch.
Celine’s gaze became even stranger and even her eyebrows started twitching.
“Um, Senior Ian. Are you feeling okay?”
“Wait, how did you know that I was…….”
Despite Celine’s strange reactions, I couldn’t help but perplexedly question Seria, who was meekly asking of my well-being.
I had been admitted to the hospital room just last night, so how had Seria found out about it so quickly to even come visit me this early in the morning?
The answer was surprisingly simple.
“Professor Andrei told me. He said today’s morning training would be difficult because of Senior’s hospitalization…….”
Come to think of it, Professor Andrei did say something like that. He had mentioned leaving a message for the professor in charge of today’s lectures and it seemed that he had also passed along the news to Seria.
I must have mentioned my morning training with Seria along with my schedule for today. After simply organizing my thoughts, I looked back at Seria.
Her worried face appeared depressed and even a bit nervous. She was a girl who only ever openly revealed her emotions when in front of me. And so, I slowly opened my mouth to set her mind at ease.
“It’s not that serious. It’s just that Professor Andrei said I needed some time to recupe…….”
It was at that moment.
A faint voice could be heard from outside the hospital room… It was a clear and bright voice.
The voice contained some peculiar magic that captured the attention of all three of us in the room. Everyone’s gazes gathered at the door.
There, standing at the doorway, was a woman who looked fairly displeased.
Her eyes shone in pale pink. Her appearance, abundant in stunning curves, was reminiscent of a work of art.
It was the Saintess. Her eyes shifted from me to Seria, and then to Celine.
Then, she turned to me with a smile.
“You look well.”
My free hand rose and placed itself on my forehead. It moved instinctively despite the lack of proper sensation on my injured arm.
How did she choose such an unfortunate time to visit me?
It was the moment those three women gathered inside a single room.
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