༺ Into the Great Woodlands (1) ༻
The day Renee’s journey began.
In front of Elia’s gate, Renee was busy bidding farewell to other Apostles.
With the carriage ready to go, Vargo was the first to open his mouth.
“You should always prioritize your own health. So try not to skip meals as much as possible, and if you feel sick during the journey, please tell that guy. Do you understand?”
With a soft smile, Renee replied to Vargo, whose words were full of concern. She then bowed her head and gave one last farewell.
“Then I’ll go. Take care of yourselves.”
“Krek is healthy. The Saint must take care of herself, too.”
“Marek is healthy as well.”
“Oh dear, the Saint is already a grown up…”
After the twins’ tearful farewell and Rohan’s words filled with emotions, Trevor’s hoarse voice followed suit.
“Have a safe trip. Always take good care of your health…”
Just as Trevor’s voice faded near the end, Vera’s suspicious gaze turned towards him. He noticed Trevor looking at Renee’s forearm with a regretful face.
A thought immediately occurred to him.
What is this dirty bastard doing now? Can’t you get your act together without me thrashing you around for once?
As his anger soared, Vera glared at Trevor with bloodshot eyes. Trevor, startled by his gaze, immediately hid behind the twins.
Shrewd man. Vera clicked his tongue with a ‘Tsk’ upon seeing Trevor’s behavior and then bowed towards Vargo.
“I’ll send you a letter as soon as I stop by a city.”
“Alright, take good care of yourself.”
After that brief exchange, Vera climbed into the carriage holding Renee’s hand. He then ordered Norn to depart.
‘Rattle’ Soon, the rattling carriage began to move forward.
Three days after the start of the journey. Only two days left before they reached the Great Woodlands.
While sitting in the carriage, Renee suddenly closed her eyes and let out a sigh of despair.
‘I can’t think of a way!’
Of course, once again, the subject of her thoughts was Vera.
What if Vera falls in love with the elves? What if he declares that he won’t leave the Great Woodlands? What if he runs away to the Great Woodlands again, even if we forcefully drag him out?
Her thoughts had been all over the place these past few days, and now had spiraled down into her own world of delusions.
In the case of delusions emanating from constant anxiety, if you are obsessed with a particular delusion all day long, that delusion will suddenly start to feel real.
And a week was enough time to engrave in Renee’s mind that Vera had fallen for the elves while they sinisterly snickered behind her back.
Despite having not met them before, Renee’s hostility toward the elves had soared high enough to pierce the clouds.
‘Thie- Thieving cats!’
I liked him first! I’m the only one who held his hand! How dare you take away Vera from me despite showing up late?
Her clenched fists trembled.
She looked dull, but there was no one next to Renee who could snap her out of her delusions now. All she had was Vera, who was looking anxiously at the trembling Renee.
“Do you feel uncomfortable, Saint? I’ll tell Sir Norn to take a break for a while before we proceed any further.”
Shook. Renee replied in a flabbergasted manner.
Renee then raised the corners of her shivering lips and answered with the brightest expression she could muster.
“I-It’s been a while since I’ve been outside, so I’m nervous….”
“You don’t have to be nervous. I’m here to ensure the Saint doesn’t feel uncomfortable at all. If there is anything that makes you uncomfortable, please feel free to let me know.”
You make me feel uncomfortable.
…Those words reached right to the tip of her tongue.
She then struggled to swallow back those words she nearly blurted out and slowly nodded back in silence.
On the same evening, at the last city on the way to the Great Woodlands.
They moved along the boulevard, past the city gates. Once they were done parking the carriage in front of the inn, Vera spoke to Renee.
“Saint, we have arrived in the city. How about staying here today and leaving tomorrow afternoon?”
“Then we will stop here for today.”
After traveling nearly for three days, while trying to reach the Great Woodlands as quickly as possible, it was the first city they stopped by on their way.
The three-day journey would have come as a big shock to Renee, who had only lived in the Holy Kingdom.
After coming to the city, Vera went through with his plan of creating an ideal condition for Renee to rest as much as possible. He explained all the information about the city he had gathered in advance to Renee before leaving the Holy Kingdom.
“It’s said that it’s the largest inn in the city. Many say that the food here is especially delicious. Is there anything you want to eat?”
“Well, I don’t mind eating anything. What about Vera?”
“I’m not particularly picky about food, either. Shall we leave the order to Norn and return to the inn?”
While Vera spewed out his optimistic comments one after another, Renee continued to think.
‘Why is he being so nice?’
Of course, it was an unreasonable suspicion. But Renee, who had already been swallowed up by her own delusions, felt suspicious of Vera’s every move.
She recalled what the servants said in the Holy Kingdom.
– Married men are said to be more kind than usual when they do something wrong to their wives!
– Oh, yes! Usually, when they cheat, don’t they feel remorse and start acting way nicer? Isn’t that funny? They don’t really do that under normal circumstances.
Applying that to her current situation, their words made a lot of sense.
…That’s what Renee thought.
But unfortunately, there were some crucial facts that Renee missed due to her agitation.
First, Vera wasn’t Renee’s husband. Secondly, Vera had always been devoted to Renee. Third, Vera had not even yet met the elves to begin with.
It was such a baseless misunderstanding that it was difficult to pinpoint where it even began, but it wasn’t important to Renee, who was already convinced that Vera’s mind was somewhere else altogether.
Renee entered the inn and unpacked her belongings. Then, when the meal was ready, she headed to the restaurant on the inn’s first floor while still keeping an eye on Vera.
Without even realizing, she firmed her grip and clasped Vera’s hand far tighter than usual.
“Here’s your meal.”
Suddenly, Hela’s voice resounded.
Renee, who had been focusing all her attention on Vera, suddenly shook in surprise and quickly answered.
It was quite the loud response.
While onlookers at the nearby table turned to Renee, Vera immediately drove those gazes away with a fierce glare, and it was only after that they continued dining as usual.
So, while their meal was in full swing.
“Oh, Sir Vera?”
Taking advantage of this opportunity, Norn swooped in.
Norn spoke to Vera, feeling the need that he should at least step up and relieve the awkwardness at this table.
“How about a drink? Well, it’s a good mood for a drink.”
Usually, they weren’t suitable words coming out of a person’s mouth who was responsible for escort duties. However, it was not the case for either Vera or Norn.
With divinity, inebriation could be driven out at any time, and even while intoxicated, their senses weren’t that shallow to dull their performance.
Of course, if you stumble due to being drunk, you can absolutely do nothing about it, but even in the Holy Kingdom, only Rohan was that sort of person.
Vera continued to ponder over Norn’s words for a while and then nodded, agreeing that it would be better to give Norn and Hela some rest for a while in this city.
“Alight, you should stop eating, too. I’ll take care of the Saint’s meal.”
“Yes, I understand.”
Renee raised her head upon overhearing the ongoing conversation, and then turned her gaze towards Vera.
Her mental state, which had already crumbled and fallen, began concocting strange delusions again.
Nightlife! A juvenile delinquent!
There was nothing wrong with Vera drinking liquor since he was already an adult, but Renee, who had been strangling her chest for the last few days, didn’t like it for some reason, so she inquired with her fists clenched.
“Are you going to drink?”
“Yes, I don’t think a drink or two would hurt… Why?”
Renee’s whole body trembled. ‘Why?’ She couldn’t find an answer to that question.
Renee’s head began racking her brain. Her mind desperately tried finding a suitable excuse, anything to keep Vera from drinking.
However, there could be no logical reason to restrain Vera from doing so. As Renee grunted while continuing to agonize, she eventually unknowingly chose to self-destruct.
“I’ll have a drink, too!”
In a moment’s confusion, she uttered those words without much thought. The only thought that went through her mind was, ‘I’ll gulp down all the wine that Vera is supposed to drink.’
‘Is this puberty?’ Vera thought, shaking his head. He didn’t know what to think of this situation.
“Saint is still a minor.”
Renee closed her mouth at that undeniable fact.
‘What should I do?’
Her mishaps began to sting harder than ever. She tried to think of excuses to prevent Vera from drinking while abstaining herself as well, even when the glass was on the table.
Of course, that couldn’t have happened.
Renee groaned from the anguish that couldn’t be solved, no matter how much she tried. She soon swung her hand forward, holding Vera’s arm tightly.
“I-It’s an order!”
In the end, she decided to abuse her authority.
Silence descended upon the table.
Norn, who had been serving drinks. Hela, who was receiving a glass from Norn, and Vera, who was facing Renee.
The air around Renee suddenly became quiet. Belatedly, she realized what she had done, and her body shuddered as a result.
Drip, drip. Cold sweat trickled down Renee’s forehead as she closed her eyes tightly again.
The barely cool head made her realize the ugliness she had just shown.
My head is cold, but why does it feel like it’s getting hotter?
While Renee’s needless worries continued to trouble.
“As you wish.”
Vera was thinking while looking at Renee, with his eyes brimming with pity.
‘It isn’t good to suppress the urge.’
Perhaps what happened today, she will remember this as a grudge, and then in retaliation, she might drown herself in addiction later on. She might even end up being Rohan’s drinking buddy.
And although she is still considered a minor, it isn’t rare for children at this age to drink wine.
Vera concluded that if Renee made a mistake, it would be his responsibility to take care of it. So he handed over a glass of wine to Renee.
Renee felt a surge of shame.
Although it was impossible to see Vera’s expression, she could vaguely feel his emotions through the voice she heard.
Renee’s whole body shuddered in shame.
‘I-I did it!’
She decided to push forward with a steely resolve.
“I’ll have to order another drink then.”
“Today I’ll be drinking for the first time, so please stay sober.”
There wasn’t any logic. It was just a stern order.
In fact, it would have been better if it had been like this from the beginning, but now her mind was preoccupied with other matters to even think about it.
She felt sad.
She felt ashamed.
If there was a hole somewhere, she wanted to bury herself in it.
A feeling of uneasiness spread throughout her body.
Renee felt that strange feeling and tilted her glass.
Right now, she just wanted to see what the drink tasted like.
What followed… Well, that was obvious.
Renee wasn’t taught how to get rid of intoxication.
In other words, if she drinks alcohol, she will get drunk.
Like any child who drinks for the first time, Renee drank alcohol continuously without knowing how much she could handle, thus setting up a dark history that she would regret for a long time.
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