༺ The First Letter (79) ༻
Moonlight shone down like a curtain upon an empty area. Silence pervaded the night as a man and woman stood close together.
Ian stared at Seria while her fingers twitched behind her back. It was a habit that tended to manifest whenever she was nervous.
Ian, who was thoroughly accustomed to Seria’s lack of social skills, decided to wait until she relaxed. After all, patience was a gentleman’s virtue.
After waiting patiently, Seria finally seemed to be ready.
Her gray hair glistened under the moonlight and a faint blush colored her cheeks. Out of nowhere, Seria bowed her head, an action wholly unbefitting a noble. Bowing was a sign of deference to a perceived superior and was not appropriate amongst nobles.
Her waist was curved at almost a complete right angle, and as the man’s eyes widened from bewilderment, her clear voice echoed out.
“T-thank you, Senior Ian!”
Ian couldn’t believe she had been that nervous just to say ‘Thank you’.
His mouth curved into a smile, but that smile quickly turned bitter as I shook my head in disbelief. It was so like her to fuss over something so trivial.
At first, it had been frustrating to see her behave this way, but now it just seemed cute as part of her charm. ‘Yurdina’s Bastard’ was truly unsuited for such a lovely girl.
It had only been a month, but they had already experienced many things together. It was funny how close they were now, considering they’d barely known each other’s names in the beginning.
It was a strange connection that had started with the letter from the future.
“I should be thanking you too, Seria, so you don’t have to bow so low.”
Seria hesitated while still bowed. It was very much like her to be stubborn.
Ian, noticing her discomfort, decisively got rid of her worries.
“Then, should I bow as well? I think we both want to express our gratitude to each other…….”
“N-no! I-I’ll stand up now!”
Seria bounced on her feet and finally straightened her posture. From a distance, the whole series of events that just played out would have looked like a frightening senior punishing a poor junior.
However, the two just relaxed as there were no watchful eyes—At least, none that either of them could perceive.
Ian turned to Seria who was blushing and avoiding eye contact.
“Do you feel better?”
It was a simple and vague question, but Seria immediately understood what he meant.
She lowered her head and stared at the ground for a long while. Finally, a weak sigh escaped her lips.
“……I don’t know.”
It was understandable. Although she was still young, it was a trauma that she carried her whole life. Despite her decisive victory over Delphine, it hadn’t completely erased the darkness in her heart.
Ian reached for the canteen strapped to his waist and drank some water while thinking this conversation was going to take a while.
Feeling comfort in their solidarity, Seria started to lower the walls around her heart.
“I was initially a bit confused. I wondered if I had really beaten her. I thought it was more of a victory for you than it was for me since I didn’t do much…….”
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.”
There was no hesitation in Ian’s words, and feeling somewhat comforted by his words, Seria gently bit down on her lips.
Her senior’s golden eyes shone as they reflected her figure within the moonlit mist.
For Seria, Senior Ian’s presence was puzzling. One moment she felt respect, next, admiration, then, something else she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Even the way he drank water from his canteen seemed special.
Step by step, her emotions bloomed and colored her world. At times, it even seemed mysterious. Her world had always been black and white—A place where everything felt meaningless.
Seria’s emotions had withered and dried up. They may have been there, but they were too faint to have any substantial effect on her.
She was like a Lizardman in the jungles of the Southern Kingdoms—Someone who would unhesitatingly cut off their arm or leg if it were poisoned.
Her life was devoted to the sword while stripped of emotion, pleasure, and anything else.
But suddenly, colors began to mark her monotone life, and unbeknownst to her, Ian’s colors, had at some point, become more prominent than even her victory over her half-sister.
“You were the decisive factor, Senior Ian.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you and your ambush against Senior Delphine.”
Ian’s voice was soothing as he praised her performance, and he genuinely meant every word.
Seria felt her heart warm a little. She thought that she could trust him even if she doubted her own judgment.
A faint smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.
“Do you think I…… will stop having nightmares?”
Ian didn’t bother asking what nightmares she was talking about as there was only one nightmare Seria would have.
It was the memory of the day her mother was thrown out. Ever since that day, Seria had dedicated her life to the sword to prove her worth to her family while living in constant fear.
Delphine had broken her, and each time, the seeds of the nightmare grew bigger and bigger within her mind, dragging her deeper into darkness.
Delphine Yurdina was the winner, not Seria.
A loser and an outcast—Those were the words that had described Seria Yurdina’s life.
But for the first time yesterday, she had won against Delphine Yurdina. It was the crucial test that decided her worth as an heir. Although she had not accomplished the victory by herself, it was indisputable that she had won.
The Yurdina House divided the world into a dichotomy of winners and losers. Now, no one would dare to disrespect her or talk of exiling her.
Unlike her mother, Seria had proven herself to be no loser. Therefore, she was permitted to stay.
Ian didn’t have an immediate answer.
Then, after a short while, he shook his head with a small sigh.
“No, I don’t think so. This victory won’t bring her back.”
His words were blunt, and depending on the listener, they could have been misunderstood. However, Seria’s reaction was subdued.
She smiled sadly as if she already knew the answer. The moonlight only served to make her appear more pitiful.
Her nightmares would persist. Winning didn’t treat her wound and only freed her from having to prove her worth.
It was almost depressing, but Seria kept her spirits up because regardless of her situation, she owed Ian a great favor and couldn’t thank him enough.
She didn’t think she should dull the occasion with a solemn mood, so she thanked him some more.
Why had she wanted to meet him in private? It was to thank him and…
‘What should I do?’ Seria pondered inwardly.
It was late into the night, and an intoxicated man and woman were alone in a vacant area. In such a scenario, she had said she had something to tell him.
Even Seria, as ignorant as she was of human emotions, knew what she had implied.
A confession. And since it was her who had asked to talk, it was given that she was to be the one to confess.
Seria’s face heated up and her eyes darted all over the place as she twiddled her fingers.
‘But I don’t like Ian in that way.’ Seria thought to herself
She had heard of ‘friendship’, but ‘love’ was supposed to be something more special.
Love was supposed to make your heart beat when you looked at them, become mesmerized by their eyes, and fill your mind to the brim with thoughts of them.
If someone were to ask Seria what she thought of Ian, she’d say he was handsome, dependable, and close to being the ideal partner.
How dare she be his partner—Seria’s mind, submerged in her delusions, began to overheat and malfunction.
That was why she didn’t notice that Ian had approached her.
Ian’s presence hit her like a wave. Seria’s eyes widened in surprise, and she gazed up at his face.
His face betrayed mixed emotions. Embarrassed by her stare, Ian coughed and slightly averted his gaze.
‘Dangerous. He’s dangerous.’ Such thoughts filled her mind as Seria felt her heart nearly stop. She didn’t know why, but her eyes slowly gravitated towards the man’s outstretched hand.
In his hand was a necklace. It had a small, silver pendant, and an embossed flower decorated its surface.
The flower had six petals and if the petals were colored, they would have been light blue.
It was a Sepia flower. Stunned, her eyes drifted back to Ian.
His face was slightly flushed and he was scratching his cheek with his other hand.
“It’s a gift. You said your mother liked them.”
The girl stared at the pendant in a daze before carefully palming it.
Seria stared at the flower pendant in shock while feeling the coldness of the silver.
It was her mother’s favorite. Now that she thought about it, she recalled telling Senior Ian about it. She told him that this flower always made her feel better.
Seria wanted to say something, but her mouth didn’t open and her lips repeatedly parted without a sound.
“You know, when you pluck a flower, it withers away, but this pendant will always stay with you. I don’t want you to have nightmares anymore.”
Hearing his heartfelt words, Seria firmly held the pendant close. Her head spun, and she didn’t know what to say or how to react.
Then, when she belatedly realized that she needed to show her gratitude, and her emotions rose like wildfire. After looking down at the pendant for a long time, Seria’s head snapped up once more.
She was at a loss for words. Ian had been watching her from the corner of his eye. He was his usual self, but the way he looked at her was different.
Her heart was pounding. It always had whenever she was around him, but it pounded with more intensity this time around.
She was only standing face to face with him, and yet…
She was mesmerized by him and his golden eyes, and he occupied every corner of her mind.
Was this ‘friendship’? Why was her chest burning so brightly and the world seem so dreamy when the only source of light was the moonlight?
Unable to come up with an answer, she remained silent as Ian’s gentle voice filled her ears.
“Do you like it? I hope you do.”
Did she like it?
She loved it. She loved it oh so much…
It was so wonderful that she couldn’t even stop her heart from pounding so hard. She couldn’t even speak.
She just kept her head down while trying hard to hold back her tears.
“…… I love it very much.”
Suddenly, she realized—Realized what this fluffy pink emotion that tickled her heart was.
In the language of flowers, sepia represented ‘first love’.
Leto scratched his head while wandering through the forest. Ian hadn’t come back no matter how much he waited so he decided to go find him.
‘Surely he’s not drunk and passed out somewhere, right?’
Leto thought it would be funny if he was. He found the idea of the hunt champion being unable to handle his alcohol and passing out in the woods very amusing.
As Leto blindly wandered around, he saw a familiar face in the distance.
A girl was dazedly staring at something in the distance.
It was Celine. Leto raised his hand in greeting.
“Hey, Celine. What are you doing…….”
However, Celine didn’t respond. She only turned away with a vague expression while biting down on her lips.
Then, she punched Leto on his shoulder without any apologies.
Leto stifled a laugh – ‘What the hell? Is she on her period?’
As he started to walk away, Celine’s irritated voice rang out from behind him.
“…… Don’t go over there, you clueless bastard!”
Shaking his head, Leto glanced over in the same direction Celine was previously looking.
A girl was crying while clutching onto a small item as if it were the most precious item to her, and Ian was panicking while trying to soothe her.
Leto gasped in surprise, understanding Celine’s reaction.
Then, he clicked his tongue as he turned to leave.
‘I hope Celine isn’t too hurt.’
At this time, Leto had no idea this was only the prelude to an epic conflict.
The night after the festival, I fell asleep, feeling relieved for the first time in a while.
We had won the Hunting Festival without any casualties, and Emma had also been treated.
It felt as though a heavy weight had been lifted. When I first received the letter, I had many questions, but in the end, everything worked out, and I was glad I had acted upon it.
However, the name ‘Sepia’ still lingered in my head.
Looking back at the letter from the future, Seria was the person who best fit the bill.
Would she and I become lovers in the distant future?
Currently, it was impossible to tell. It was hard to imagine that I, who was merely the second son of a rural viscount, would become the lover of a woman of exceptional skill, beauty, and prestige.
As I entertained such thoughts, my consciousness gradually slipped away, and I soon fell asleep.
When I reopened my eyes, I felt a throbbing headache and a burning thirst. I groggily sat up to reach for the water bottle sitting on top of the nightstand near my bed and began drinking desperately.
My mind cleared up as I quenched my thirst. As usual, it was time for my early morning training session. However, I had drunk excessively last night, and I was tempted to just go back to sleep.
While resisting the urge to lie back down, I noticed some discrepancies.
The page on the calendar had turned to the next page.
It had changed from the Month of the Bow to the Month of the Wheel although I hadn’t touched it.
All of a sudden, my mind jolted awake and my hair stood up on end.
As I scanned the tabletop, I soon noticed a luxurious envelope.
A sense of foreboding filled me as I stared at the envelope.
I cautiously staggered towards the table, then held up the envelope with trembling hands.
Inside was another letter addressed to me seven years from the future.
It was a letter from my future fiancée.
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