Episode 25: The Duke’s Cabin (IV)

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「When I was young.
Adults from outside the village gathered the children and taught them.」

「Do you need to learn? The Hwira don’t usually go out of the village.」

「Well… Most of them live in the village until they die.
Sometimes people leave on their own.
They want to live in a wider world.」

As the Hwira tribe was a minority tribe, the village was not very large.
Living in the depths of a forest, there was hardly any contact with the developed civilization of the empire.
Occasionally, a person with strong abilities, such as the chieftain or the tribal chief, purposely left the village and brought the empire’s cultural relics, but it was not common.

「I never had the slightest desire to live outside the village.
I still don’t have it.
That’s why there were times when I asked why I should learn the Imperial language.」

Canaren didn’t read, she just flipped through the pages.

Yulif listened to her silently.
He liked to hear her voice that was like a bird’s chirping.

「I think I understand now why the adults forced me to teach the imperial language.
Some of the people who left the village and did not return did not come back voluntarily, not intentionally.」

Her hand stopped turning the pages.

Canaren recalled the singer who sang desperately on stage.
Her mother was a stranger, but her father might have met her once in town.

「It is taboo in the village to leave the safe area.
I asked why, and the answer was simply ‘No, because it was dangerous’.
At that time, I thought it was only because of my abilities.
It was difficult to say that if captured by the people of the Empire, we would be sold as slaves.」

Canaren put her book down and wrapped her arms around her knees.
Her eyes and voice darkened.

「They said it was full of strange things…… I could have figured it out with a little thought, but my thoughts were too short.」

「If you had known beforehand, things wouldn’t have changed.」

Deltinus’ hunt would have continued, and he would have found Canaren one day.
Because she stood out even when she was still.

「That…… Yes, that is correct.
There’s nothing I can do.
I can’t do anything alone.」

「I didn’t mean it that way.
It’s not your fault, so don’t blame yourself.」

Yulif said to the resigned and saddened Canaren.

Canaren blinked her round eyes and smiled at him.

「Indeed, Yulif is kind.
You are different from other people.」

This time, Yulif held himself back.

Canaren said that he was kind and affectionate to her several times, but that was something she didn’t know about him.

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She couldn’t imagine how many lives he had ruined under the guise of twilight.
He even had to choose a terrible death for her because of the cowardly desires he had.

But he didn’t need her to know those things.
Yulif wanted to remain caring and affectionate towards her until the very end.
Even though he knew it was impossible.

It was just a vain wind.

「I wish other people were kind like Yulif… Why is everyone so cruel?」

「It’s cruel, but don’t think about it, you can do whatever you want.」

「Really… It’s really too much.
How can they imprison people and make them slaves? … .
We’re all the same person.」

「Your people are not the same to them.
It’s just something they can take and throw away at any time.
That’s what slavery is.」

「……Just like how the Emperor treats me.」

Yulif became quiet.
He didn’t want her to admit that she had been treated like his slave.

「How many of my villagers are suffering…….」

Canaren sighed to herself.

Yulif could have given an answer, but he didn’t this time either.

He didn’t have to deliberately tell her about her cruel reality.
And, to be honest, Canaren’s situation was better than that of a general Hwira slave, but nevertheless.

It was Deltinus who was obsessed with her and no one else.
A human being who gets what he wants by any means, and then mercilessly throws it away when he loses interest.
An emperor with a selfish and cruel personality, dealing with whatever comes into his hands.

「Anyway, it’s nothing to worry about.」

「Are you worried about me? thanks.」

Canaren laughed softly.
With a helpless smile, Yulif narrowed one of his eyes.

The really sweet thing was her, not himself.
Even at this moment, she must be worried about her fellow countrymen who were suffering, but she puts that thought behind her and even smiled for him.

Her constant kindness was painful and sweet.

「If I had been strong, could I have saved you?」

「Do you want to save me?」

Canaren nodded her head.

Of course she wanted to save him.
But she knew better than anyone that it was unreasonable.
Now, she was in a difficult situation even to protect herself without Yulif’s help.

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「It would be nice if someone like that would appear to you just as Yulif appeared to me.」

Canaren muttered sadly.

As if he had decided something, Yulif’s eyes shone hard.

*******

On a dark night when even the moon did not rise, a gloomy auction house resembling night was held in a mansion located in the heart of Sicena.

The mansion, used exclusively for slave auctions, was filled with twisted excitement and anticipation.
The people who covered their faces with masks were of different ages and genders.
The only thing they had in common was a filthy desire for a rare and beautiful slave.

“The auction is going to start soon.
Customers should enter the auction house.”

All the chairs in the auction house were full.
Likewise, the masked moderator bowed to him and greeted the guests.

“I would like to express my gratitude to all the guests who made the event shine today.
So let’s get started right away.
Now, let’s take a look at the first product of the day.”

The moderator clapped his hand.
The lights went out and the dark red curtain that had hung on the stage went up.
As the two strong spotlights fell, exclamations leaked from the people’s mouths.

“Ooh.”

“It’s from Hwira!”

“How can it be so beautiful even though it has a male body?”

“As everyone knows, it is a male form of the Hwira tribe that is very difficult to capture.
Since the value of the product is high, we start with 10,000.
If you would like to bid, please raise your license plate.”

Before the man could finish speaking, Yulif’s hands moved.

That’s right.
This was it.
It was the moment when the host quietly tried to ignite the price competition.
The light that was illuminating the Hwira man suddenly was turned off.

“What! Why did the light go out all of a sudden!”

“Is it a surprise that will excite our interest?”

“Sheesh, who likes bullshit like this? It’s a pathetic action.”

Some shouted with trembling anxiety, some spoke in a voice filled with strange excitement, and some clicked their tongues.
Anyway, it wasn’t a big commotion yet.

Those gathered here believed that the secret place would be safe.
They thought that the power and wealth they had would protect them.

But the moment the magic circle was drawn on the floor, they realized that they were wrong.
The host, noticing the change in the air in an instant, shouted.

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“Do not be shaken, stay still! If you move in this situation, you could be seriously injured!”

“Turn on the lights now!”

“What if the security forces are dispatched? Aren’t we going to get caught?”

“I haven’t heard of that.
Don’t say anything.
People are anxious.”

“But wouldn’t it be better to run away…….”

“What is this magic circle?”

The nobles roared and rose from their seats one by one.

“Calm down!”

The manager shouted until his throat could burst, but the nobles, who feared disgrace as much as death, did not listen.

However, there was no way to safely move in the darkness where one could not see an inch ahead.
The nobles, who moved hastily, stumbled over their chairs or tangled themselves up with another and shouted.

“Damn it, get out of here! Get out of my way!”

“Who are you to want me to get out of your way when you came at me first?”

The Hwira man stood still in the midst of the commotion.
It would be more accurate to say that he wanted to run away, but couldn’t.
Chains and shackles held him here.

“Don’t move.
I’ll set you free.”

A low, powerful voice rang softly.
It was a voice with a strong sense of reliability, but it was not easy for the Hwira man to trust.

“Who are you?”

「I received a request from one of your people.」

An unexpected whirlwind calmed his trembling heart.
Hwira was not the kind of language that could be learned from books, and the man’s Hwira was very fluent.

This man was not dangerous.

The Hwira man completed his judgment.
As the mystery man had asked, the Hwira man stood quietly in his place. Shiiik, clank. He could hear the links that bound his body falling apart.

“Don’t pull my dress! It’s going to rip!” (Customer)

“Follow me.”

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Even in the midst of the chaos, the voice that was clearly transmitted without being muffled was surprising.

The Hwira man moved swiftly following the sound that guided him.

How far did he walk through the darkness? When he felt cool air touching his skin, his vision suddenly brightened with a rattling sound.
The window above his head was open, and beyond the window was a starry night sky.

“Are there any injuries?”

“No, there is none.”

“Then you can go up on your own.”

A sturdy-looking ladder was connected to the window.
The Hwira man climbed up the ladder first, then followed by Yulif.

As he climbed the entirety of the ladder, the roof facing the sky appeared.
The intention to lead him to this place to fly away was clearly perceived.

The Hwira man spread his wings as soon as he climbed onto the roof.
He had dark green wings similar to the color of his hair.

“I don’t know who you are, but thank you for saving me.
I will never forget this grace and I repay it.”

“Do you know Canaren?”

“What? Yes, of course.”

“Let you return to your people.
Because she sent me here.”

“Is Canaren here?”

The expression of the Hwira man’s expression became serious.
Canaren was not interested in the world outside the village.
At least, she couldn’t have left the village with her own feet.

He was concerned about why Canaren was here, and the nuance of being close to Canaren in the words of the unidentified man.

But Yulif did not answer the question and turned his body.
The man cried out urgently.

“Canaren is the woman who should be the next chieftain! If humans caught Canaren too, she too must go back with me…….”

“It is not your concern.”

Yulif’s face hardened.
His cool eyes pressed the Hwira tribe man.

‘If it was Canaren who made this request to the man, are you saying that this man is close enough to her to be willing to take the risk and do what she wanted? If so, how close are they?’

The Hwira man swallowed dry saliva.
He needed to sound him out.

“……Do you know by any chance that she has a fiancée?”

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