I opened my eyes.
It was no longer a dream.
The air that brushed against my skin was evidence enough.
However, my surroundings were still dark.
At first glance, what I saw was light from a fire and a rough stone ceiling.
The damp air moistened my throat, and soon also moistened my eyes.
I raised a stiff arm to brush away some water from my cheek.
A slow inhale, and a slow exhale.
Then, I sat up.
Perhaps because I had such an eventful dream, but I woke up to a pounding head.
With one hand pressed down on a temple, I looked back on that nightmare.
The strange situation that followed my death in the third transmigration.
The dark space that ensued.
And, the words of that unidentifiable voice.
‘All of this is what you wanted, Rosetta.’
Were those words for me, or were they for Rosetta
I had no way of knowing.
Everything just started crowding my mind.
However, I soon felt a warm breath from one side.
“Are you awake”
Like a languidly breathing beast, with a deep, subdued voice.
In an instant, all those thoughts were erased.
I turned my head.
And our eyes met.
Beyond the blazing bonfire, only the black eyes of the man looked back at me.
Over his angular forehead, cold sweat could be seen dripping down.
As he was sitting against the wall, he looked ever so exhausted, and his condition seemed ever so precarious.
Without a word, he smiled at me.
His chest heaved along with the heavy sound of his breathing.
Surprised, I hurriedly went to his side.
When I gingerly held his drooping head and raised it slightly, his skin was cold and damp.
The lashes of his half-closed eyes trembled.
Yet he stared straight at me, still smiling.
I looked into his black eyes and spoke.
“I’m glad that you’ve woken up.”
However, my words did not continue.
Because Cassion spoke over me.
And soon, his body tilted as though finally giving in.
I supported the body of the powerless man, bringing him in to lean against me in my embrace.
His cold forehead touched my shoulder.
The body over which my arms wrapped over was colder than I thought.
As if I was holding a corpse.
Unwittingly, I let out my frustrations as I felt his dreadfully low body temperature.
I looked around in a hurry, to see if there was something I could warm him up with.
All I could see, however, was just a small bonfire that continued to burn in the cave.
I stared at the fire for a moment.
It was small enough as it was, but I realized that it was even close to where I was lying earlier.
Through quivering lips, a halted exhale came through.
This stupid man is such a fool.
No matter who looked at the situation, it’s clear who between us just fainted and who between us was injured.
I’m sure that he was just taking care of me, but why did he have to bring the fire closer to me
Nevertheless, thinking back on the past would not change anything in the present.
So, I let out a sigh and calmed myself down.
Then, I looked around once more.
Unfortunately, there was still nothing of note inside the cave except the bonfire.
However, it wasn’t long before I thought of something.
The detachable skirt that I was wearing right now.
Securing one arm around Cassion’s back, I used one hand to pull the garment from my waist.
His eyes widened as he saw what I had done.
“Don’t… You’ll, get cold…”
“You, don’t say such stupid things.”
After brushing off his foolish dissuasion, I went ahead and brought the cloth around Cassion’s back.
But the moment the cloth touched his back, Cassion let out a soft groan.
“What’s wrong Cassion, Cassion— Are you okay”
I asked urgently, his angular forehead, which was leaning against my shoulder, shifted slightly.
When I turned my head, my eyes locked immediately with his.
At a short enough distance that our breaths mingled.
Curling up the corners of his stiff lips, he answered.
To be honest… it kind of hurts.”
The smile was still on his lips as he spoke, but his words sounded sincere.
I reached out carefully.
Beneath the skirt, towards the man’s back.
With a hesitant touch, I felt around his back.
Cassion flinched every time.
What I felt was a damp sensation, and then a rough sensation.
The former was blood that continued to ooze out, and the latter was blood that had already hardened.
From the shape of the wound, it seemed like it was from the slash of a beast’s sharp claws.
But the moment I thought of ‘a beast’s sharp claws’, another thing instantly came up in my mind.
Those blue monsters.
I gnashed my molars.
Everything happened so suddenly earlier that I lost hold over my senses, but at this moment right now, I knew that Urien had crossed over to this world.
What surged within me, rather than fear, was anger.
By any means, he truly did follow me.
He’s still after me, and yet again, he’s trying to tear apart my people.
“Other than you back, where else are you injured”
I asked in a whisper, barely suppressing my anger.
Before I knew it, Cassion had closed his eyes.
His lashes were trembling.
I immediately looked down to check Cassion’s waist, where a scrap of cloth was loosely tied.
It looked like he had torn off a piece of his cloak.
Lowering the same hand that had fumbled on his back, I pulled the sloppily tied knot to remove the cloth.
This is crazy, seriously.”
The now-exposed wound was dreadfully severe.
It was quite deep, and his flesh had been ragged.
The blood that the sloppy fabric could not block flowed continuously.
In an instant, the terrible metallic smell of blood spread through the air.
I stared blankly at the wound for a moment, then at the man’s increasingly pale face.
My throat was burning, tears filled my eyes.
That dream, and then this.
Perhaps things kept happening in quick succession, but the situation felt like utter dog**.
My heart raced faster and faster to the point where it felt like I needed to puke.
Opening and closing my lips a few times, not knowing what to say, I buried my cheek on the man’s shoulder.
“…I feel so sorry towards you that I want to die.”’
“…Even if it’s just a joke, don’t… say such a thing.”
And Cassion, too, was perhaps also serious.
Foolish tears flowed down.
* * *
Afterwards, while trying to press down on the urge to shed tears, I wrapped another piece of cloth around Cassion’s waist again.
Before doing so however, I didn’t forget to apply some medicine, which I thought to bring just in case.
Of course, the salve was far from sufficient for the extent of his wounds.
But it’s better than nothing.
As Cassion quietly let me tend to his wounds this whole time, silence had stretched between us for a while, but he soon spoke to me.
“Are you in pain” I asked.
He shook his head in response.
Then in turn, he asked a question that wasn’t even funny.
“How about you… Are you alright”
“That’s what I should ask you, Cassion.”
His foolish answer made me laugh.
He always answered that he was fine.
Still, there was a time when he told me that I’m the one who’s never concerned about myself.
I wanted to say that right back at him.
Let’s start over.
I said earlier that I’m fine, right I’m not really fine.”
Unconsciously, I answered with a curt tone.
I’m not even a child, and yet.
“This or that… Ha… I feel sorry… to hear it.”
I couldn’t help but pay attention to his labored breaths in between the words he uttered.
Glancing at the man, I said reproachfully.
“I feel more sorry for you, look at you right now.
I told you to run away.
But why didn’t you And why do you look like this now”
You should’ve just left me behind.
At this, he smiled lightly.
As though he heard a joke.
Staring at him, I saw his smiling lips slowly opening.
“How can I abandon you You’ve never… abandoned me, not even once.”
“Can I tell you a secret”
“Actually, the day of the carriage incident.
Well, when you saved me… That day.”
As Cassion brought it up, I could vividly recall the events that had transpired on that day.
Beneath the blazing sun, his frayed appearance.
It was the day that we first met, and the day of a new destiny.
While I was silent, he continued speaking.
“It’s late, but I… thought of something.”
“What is it”
“I thought, I’m ready to give you my heart.”
Unable to comprehend his words, my eyebrows became knitted together.
As I slightly turned my head to face Cassion better, he opened his eyes a little and smiled.
“What do you mean” I asked.
“From the moment I chose to hold your hand, there would never come a time that I’d think to abandon you.”
That’s why, for you to feel apologetic towards me or anything like that, you don’t have to feel that way at all.
His slow enunciation made it sound like he was an adult soothing a crying child.
An adult who’d offer a kind smile and a piece of candy just to stop the child’s tears.
“Besides, I was attacked by those things earlier, not by you.
That’s why, even more so, Rosetta— you don’t have to apologize to me.”
When I continued to be silent, his comforting words began anew.
He spoke so much even as his blue lips trembled all throughout.
‘When you’re in such pain… Why do you keep saying that you’re alright.’
With eyes that started to become cloudy, I looked only at his side profile and avoided his gaze.
“No, it’s because of me.”
As I confessed with a small voice, Cassion asked briefly.
Staring into the air now, I felt the corners of my lips tugging up.
“Those things followed me.”
“What are you…”
“They came looking for me.
To take me, Rosetta— No…”
Cassion murmured back, confused as to why a stranger’s name was suddenly brought up.
The inside of my mouth tasted bitter.
With a tight throat, I gulped with effort before continuing.
“I’ll tell you a secret, too.”
A secret that I’ve yet to tell anyone else.
Strangely, a smile persistently remained on my lips.
we’ve got a manhwa now!!!
tbh i’ve just been staring at alicia for, like, 10 minutes straight– i can understand why rosetta took one look at her and went, ‘i’ve only known alicia for a day and a half, but if anything happens to her, i’ll kill everyone in this room and then myself’
sadly, i can’t do a mass release to celebrate the manhwa’s launch……. but! i’ll post daily updates for ten days straight~ woohoo~