The slight turn of the leaf made it look as though it was dancing.
“Throughout this all, you’ll inevitably still need to ask for help from other people.
It’s nothing for you to feel apologetic about, nor is it something that you should be ashamed of.”
And as though it was a matter of course, these words fell atop Cassion’s shoulders and calmly settled.
“Besides, I’m going to work you to the bone just so you can be strong.
So, stop being sorry.
There’s plenty of time to cry bitter tears later.”
At the playfully added words, Rosetta grinned.
The wind blew by just in time, and the veil fluttered along.
Beneath that veil and behind her cascading silver hair, he could see a part of her nose and one corner of her lips turned up to a curve.
Then, he saw her golden eyes.
With an unidentified feeling dawning upon him, Cassion blinked.
Strangely, he was glad to see her.
He hadn’t been able to see those golden eyes for the last day—no, not even half a day had since passed.
He was so glad to see her eyes again that his heart started beating oddly.
What a peculiar thing.
He couldn’t believe that he started missing her when he just hadn’t been able to see her face for just about half a day.
And he was so relieved now, too.
More than that, hadn’t she been beside him, talking to him all this time, too
Did it make sense that he was now feeling so glad to see her face
He realized that this was really, truly something uncharacteristic of him.
All his life, he had always been alone, and so it was natural that he had gotten used to loneliness.
Instead of that, when the hell did it become natural for him to stay beside this woman
Go ahead and work me to the bone.”
“I will be strong.
Even more than you want, I’ll get stronger.
So go hard and work me to the bone.
I won’t feel sorry.”
His voice was calm and solemn.
Each syllable he uttered was so sincere that his intention could be conveyed with such clarity towards the other person.
“I won’t feel apologetic, not one bit.”
As he added this, Rosetta blinked.
Somehow, this made her feel weird.
It’s like she heard a confession just now.
Even though it wasn’t about something like that at all.
I’ll work you to the bone.”
Hearing Rosetta’s answer, Cassion nodded firmly.
Then, a moment of silence stretched between them.
Rosetta continued to absentmindedly twirl the leaf between her fingertips, then she soon turned it towards the direction where the attacker had fled.
And a sudden thought dawned upon her—it was amusing how they were just standing face to face at an alley like this.
If not that, perhaps it’s because this brief silence was strangely burdensome.
It’s been a long while since any silence ever became burdensome.
Rather, it felt unfamiliar.
Sometimes, unfamiliar things felt ticklish, too.
“Come on, let’s go.”
Saying this in a hurry, Rosetta walked out through the exit first.
Cassion quickly caught up with her.
“Are we going back”
Ah, before that, there’s somewhere we need to stop by.”
“Where No, wait, can we just let them go like that”
“Mmh, that’s right.”
“What if they come back and try to attack you again Don’t you think it’s better to capture that person now while there’s only one of them”
At Cassion’s question, Rosetta shook her head.
Even if we let them go now, we’ll meet that person again.”
“No matter where we go, we’ll bump into them sooner or later.
So let’s hurry up and leave.
We have to be there first and wait for the other person.”
Rosetta shrugged while saying something cryptic.
She was much too relaxed for someone who had just been attacked a few moments ago.
Actually, even when she spoke so ambiguously like this, the strange tickle was still there.
As Cassion glanced at her with a puzzled expression, he inevitably shrugged like Rosetta and didn’t question it further.
Strangely enough, people’s emotions were infectious.
If you look at what just happened objectively, they were in a rather urgent situation, but…
Seeing Rosetta be so composed like this, Cassion also felt that he was starting to feel more calm.
“Good thing we left early today.
Cassion nodded in response to Rosetta’s cheery question.
Despite coming out from an ambush, both individuals felt lighter on their feet.
Truly, what a strange turn of events.
* * *
Meanwhile, at around the same time.
Unlike the two who felt light on their feet, the retreating attacker’s steps were not at all light.
It felt like their legs were about to burst from all this running.
They were so out of breath that it felt like they were going to lose consciousness any moment now.
Nevertheless, Harron could not stop.
That fear remained clamped over their heart.
‘She won’t chase after me until this far…’
Harron had been running nonstop for almost a quarter of an hour now, and after leaving the winding back alleys behind them, they finally got a chance to catch their breath.
The heaving gasps that scratched at their throat were hot.
Sweat poured down from them like rain.
There was no place on their body that didn’t hurt.
As Harron rubbed their wrists and ankles, they thought.
‘Ah, I couldn’t complete the commission in the end.’
It felt like the money they lost today was floating around over the cloudy sky.
Harron looked blankly into the air with a slightly bitter look.
Then, they let out an even more bitter laugh.
It was laughable, this situation.
Harron wanted so desperately to survive, but as soon as they could finally breathe again, here they were, thinking about how regrettable it was to have let money slip right through their fingers.
Just as they thought about every coin wasted, now even the price of their life was a waste.
Even so, it was inevitable that Harron was feeling this way.
The reward for this commissioned request was absolutely staggering, and right now, they urgently needed that money.
‘…What should I do about Ria’s treatment now… Should I borrow money from the guild master’
What broke the silence around Harron was a heavy sigh.
Harron had a younger sister named ‘Ria’.
She’s a poor kid who was born with a rare disease.
To those of the lowest social class, sickness was nothing but a shackle.
If any ordinary person would get sick, the possibility of death would loom.
But if a poverty-stricken person got sick, then every single day was an ongoing battle between life and death.
Since their parents left the world early, Ria was solely Harron’s charge, and they were just managing to get by to purchase the needed medicine.
Then Harron joined the current guild they were part of.
It’s the only place that supplied the medicine that actually improved Ria’s condition.
And at the same time, Harron earned money at that guild.
It certainly sounded like the guild was their benefactor, but that wasn’t necessarily the case.
Harron had borrowed money from them before.
When they first found out about the place, they were just trying to buy medicine, but they didn’t have any money.
With an agreeable expression, those people lent Harron money—yet passed down a ridiculous interest.
Thanks to this, Harron worked hard, yet earned very little.
Half of their paycheck went to their younger sister’s medicine, one quarter went towards paying off the debt, then the last quarter went towards the incurred interest.
In the end, the only money that had been able to pass through their hands was chump change that was barely enough to keep the two siblings from starving.
It was a life of just living day by day.
However, even with a bottom-of-the-barrel life like this, they could still reach the worst depths.
“Seems like the price of the medicine will go up sometime soon.”
This unilateral notice was given to Harron only a few months ago.
The already expensive medicine was going to be even more expensive.
It wasn’t due to a lack of effort.
Harron became a more valuable worker over time, and the commission fees they earned for their requests rose, too.
But at the same time, the price of the medicine was raised as well, leaving Harron no room to breathe.
“You can’t do that!”
Even as Harron tried to stand in defiance, it was of no use.
The only thing that came back after that was a harsh retaliation.
Gradually, the quality of the requests that came to Harron also deteriorated.
In the beginning, the kind of jobs they got were along the lines of secretly delivering parcels or escorting someone until a certain destination.
Most of the time, they were covert missions…
But as the days went by, they were given more commissioned requests like stealing, robbing, fighting, getting into a brawl among others.
Every time Harron accepted terrible requests like that, a sense of guilt always lingered in them.
This guilt weighing down on Harron made them want to defy and rebel against it all, but as long as they had to pay for Ria’s medicine and as long as there was a debt to be settled, then Harron’s body was not their own.
That was a privilege for those who were not poor.
If only one day passed when Harron’s younger sibling was not given her medicine, then she would go back and forth between life and death.
When Harron was the older sibling of a child like that, they couldn’t dare enjoy that privilege.
That’s why, as Harron tediously repeated the same tasks every day, even the guilt they once thought was unbearably heavy became nothing but a dull feeling.
In the middle of it all, that’s when this request came in.
“This woman here, ambush her.”
The client was a tall man.
He held out a piece of paper with details of the woman’s features and many other things about her.
Has a man accompanying her.
She’s going to be wearing a veil on her face, and she would be at a certain location at a certain time.
‘Now that I think about it, it really was suspicious…’
As Harron recalled this memory, their heavy eyelids blinked.
No, actually, they found it to be sketchy even back then.
However, they just tried to suppress this nagging feeling because they had been offered a ridiculous amount of money for this request alone.
Besides, they figured that their life wouldn’t be in danger for this mission.
One man and one woman.
Due to the experience they’d accumulated over time, Harron arrogantly thought that two targets wouldn’t be a problem at all.
It was of no exaggeration to say that Harron’s overconfidence was entirely laughable.
It was a tempting, saccharine voice, and yet it was a voice that was so frightening that Harron had been utterly overcome with the urge to cover their ears.
As the numbers went down, their chest got heavier and heavier, making it difficult for them to breathe.
Even though it was just a voice that they had already left behind, it arrested them in such fear as though they were being licked by the tongue of an enormous beast.
The whole time they were running away from her, Harron could almost hear the ‘ttak, ttak, ttak,’ of a beast’s fangs biting down, chasing after them.
Just thinking about that now made their heart pound so much.
Shutting their eyes very tightly, Harron breathed in, breathed out, and repeated the process.
Then, they slowly rose from the ground.
Harron must return to the guild and confess that the mission was a failure.
‘I’m going to get hit a few times… I hope it won’t be painful enough that it’ll interfere with work tomorrow.’
Trudge, trudge. Taking a few powerless steps forward, Harron suddenly stopped in place.
They felt the weight in their pocket.
They recalled only now that the woman had shoved something into their pocket earlier.
Harron forgot about it because they’d been preoccupied with running away.
Soon, they reached into their pocket and pulled out what’s inside.
But their hand paused all of a sudden the moment they touched it.
Even their labored breaths stopped altogether.
This person who momentarily forgot to breathe slowly re-opened their eyes.
In that hushed stillness, there was but one movement.
In the end, because they needed to breathe, Harron opened their mouth and practically vomited an exhale.
They had stopped in place just until now, but they soon turned around.
They started heading towards not the guild, but towards the alleys once more.
As they turned around, Harron began to march forward without thinking.
Ta-dak, ta-dak, tak, tak, tak.
Those first few slow steps gradually accelerated, and eventually, they soon broke into a run.
Their body was as heavy as lead, but this time, they did not stop moving.
Rather, it was so hard not to cry out at the top of their lungs.