Chapter 23: First Night (3)


 

Ner felt light as if she were flying.
It was a feeling of being released from the chains that had been holding her down.

 

It felt like escaping from the obligations she wanted to avoid.

 

She could maintain her purity, and it was okay even if she didn't love her partner.

 

If she could somehow buy time and gather information about Red Flames' weaknesses, then the subsequent problems would also be resolved.

 

So she didn’t feel depressed anymore.
No tears seemed to come out.

 

The wind was cooler, and the sunlight was warmer.

 

She walked around the mansion's garden for the first time in a while.

 

Since when had so many flowers bloomed?

 

Having been crying for the past few weeks, she didn't notice these changes.

 

She had always had a lot of alone time, so she felt close to nature.

 

She secretly liked going into the forest and spending time in front of waterfalls.

 

She loved visiting her grandmother's grave and secretly going outside at night to gaze at the moon.

 

So this long-awaited stroll was refreshing her mood.

 

It was hard to believe how refreshed she felt in the morning.

 

All of this was because Berg turned out to be a better human than she had expected.

 

Perhaps, it might be because he was conscious of Ner's status.

 

Regardless, Ner didn't care.

 

Even if he was truly conscious of status and repressed his sexual desires, it didn't matter if his inner desires were simmering and bubbling.

 

He had already promised not to do anything she didn't like.

 

As long as he didn't touch her, she didn't mind anything.

 

Even if he embraced another woman and expressed his desires, she wouldn't mind.

 

While enjoying her rest, she heard the sound of footsteps.

 

She realized the sound quite late because she had her eyes closed and was enjoying the peace.

 

When Ner looked back, her siblings were walking towards her.

 

Her three older brothers and two older sisters.

 

They were a close-knit group who rarely separated from each other.

 

They always stuck together, always wearing smiles.

 

The group that Ner had longed to join approached her.

 

Ner's body stiffened with momentary tension.

 

If it were a normal situation, she would have avoided them, but now it was too late.

 

Gidon, who was leading the group, walked towards Ner, aware of her presence.

 

All of Ner’s older siblings were wiping off their sweat as if they had been training.

 

To them, Ner cautiously stood up from her seat and greeted them.

 

“…Brothers.
Sisters.”

 

“Ner.”

 

The other four siblings behind Gidon also looked at her, casting strangely uncomfortable glances.

 

Gidon paused for a moment and looked at the flowers blooming around Ner.


 

“…Were you enjoying the flowers?”

 

“…”

 

Gidon chuckled.

 

At the sound of that small laughter, Ner's heart sank.

 

“…Until Yesterday, you were so miserable, but today you seem to be in a good mood again.”

 

“…”

 

“I don’t understand how this happened.”

 

His tone was laced with sarcasm.

 

Her other siblings behind him also smiled in the same way.

 

‘Ah.’

 

Ner closed her eyes and thought.

 

Today was that day.
The day she was tormented for their entertainment.

 

Sometimes she would be ignored, sometimes harassed, and occasionally physically hurt…

 

The most difficult day to endure was a day like today when she was verbally tormented.

 

Her sister, Swan, smiled and asked.

 

“You seem relaxed, Ner.
We all watched the training.
And sisters went to cheer.
It's just…”

 

Swan, who used to drive her away even if she participated.
Ner couldn't understand this criticism.

 

Her older sister, Laan, also joined in.

 

“Of course, she's relaxed.
Her husband is the vice-captain of the mercenary group.
Would she be scared? But…
her husband must have satisfied her.
They were frolicking until late at night.”

 

The older sisters burst into laughter together.

 

Ner clenched her fist tightly.

 

She suppressed the urge to shout that it wasn't true.

 

…In the first place, she didn't know how to rebel against her siblings.

 

Moreover, Berg had said to talk about having a relationship.

 

If she denied that fact here, Berg could change his mind and cause trouble, and everything would be over.

 

Laan, the eldest sister, continued speaking.

 

“But as expected, is it because she is also human? It seems like Ner enjoyed herself quite a bit.
She looks happy.”

 

“…”

 

Among all these events, the most heartbreaking part for Ner would be…
her own foolish desire to fit in despite enduring all these humiliations.

 

Feeling lonely, she wanted to experience a sense of belonging.

 

At a time when she was being sold to a human mercenary for Blackwood, couldn't they choose their words a little more delicately?

 

Was her sacrifice not evident?

 

Taking her mother’s life was so wrong… But there was nothing she could do about it.

 

Gidon looked at Ner's younger siblings instead of Ner and said,

 

“…It's unavoidable.
Look at her own tail.”

 

Instinctively, Ner hid her unimpressive white tail.

 

“…Even the color is a mutant color.
You, unlike us, don't need much time to love.
Just by meeting eyes like humans, even-“


 

– Thwack!

 

In that instant, someone suddenly emerged from the side and forcefully pushed Gidon, knocking him over.

 

Not only Ner's brothers and even Ner herself were startled.

 

They had been too engrossed in their conversation that they didn't notice someone approaching.

 

Immediately, a massive shadow loomed in front of Ner.

 

The sight of her brothers was blocked.

 

“…What is it?”

 

The person who appeared asked.

 

Berg's figure was right in front of them.

 

****

 

It was a good thing that I immediately went to find Ner after finishing the morning training.

 

If earlier I hadn't asked Baran to find out about Ner's relationship with her brothers, it might have been too late.

 

Especially when her brother teased her about the first night, I couldn't do any less for Ner, even though we didn't get along.

 

As I knocked Gidon over, his younger brothers approached aggressively.

 

But Gidon stopped them.

 

“…It's my problem.”

 

Then he growled and stood up.

 

I hide Ner behind me even more and confronted Gidon.

 

He maintained a cold composure.

 

Seeing his appearance, his brothers, who had been raging behind him, seemed to calm down.

 

“…What are you doing, Vice-Captain?”

 

Gidon whispered quietly.

 

Our faces were so close that they were almost touching.

 

“…I try to be as polite as possible, but if you keep crossing the line…”

 

“Which line are you talking about?”

 

I curiously asked.

 

Gidon's eyebrows twitched, and the muscles of his jaw stood out.

 

“…I told you that the werewolves don't like interfering in other people's affairs.
I wonder if humans have such short memories.
Have you already forgotten?”

 

“…”

 

That talk again.

 

At that time, I clearly accepted it.

 

It was, as he said, someone else's family matter.

 

But not anymore.

 

I looked at Gidon, who was coldly looking down at me, and spoke.

 

“…She was your sister until the day before yesterday, but since yesterday she has become my wife.”

 

“…”

 

“…Have you forgotten?”


 

Gidon's eyes trembled once again.

 

His pupils became sharp vertically.

 

I had seen it many times, so I knew.

 

Gidon was preparing for a fight.

 

I also prepared myself to react to the incoming fist.

 

“…”

 

But he remained still for a while, lowering his head and letting out a deep sigh.

 

“…Hoo.”

 

As if he had decided to restrain himself, he took a deep breath.

 

After a while, Gidon looked up at me again.

 

“…I see.
I apologize.”

 

Then he left without saying a word.

 

His brothers and sisters, one by one, followed him after alternating glances between me and the hidden Ner behind me.

 

It was a good choice on their part.

 

We had Ner now, but they still had their own issues to deal with.

 

It wasn't a contract that would fall apart just because Gidon and I fought in the first place, but there was nothing good about having a falling out.

 

As I watched Gidon and his siblings depart, I turned to Ner.

 

Ner was shedding tears unnoticed.

 

“…”

 

'Why do I only see her crying like this?'

 

'I can’t say I love her yet… But her crying obviously made me feel uncomfortable.'

 

“…Are you okay?”

 

Ner did not answer my question.

 

It was clear that she was far from being okay.

 

Ner murmurs in a whisper.

 

“…Why…only me…”

 

Her words triggered an instant surge of compassion within me.

 

I was contemplating how to console the girl who still harbored resentment toward me…
I simply grabbed her wrist and led her away.

 

****

 

Ner didn’t even know she would shed tears.

 

The pain of torment never became familiar, but she had learned to suppress her tears.

 

Every time her brothers tormented her, she cried, but the tears never seemed to run dry.

 

But this time, something was different.

 

Perhaps it changed from the moment Berg appeared.

 

Ner didn't know that Gidon, the strongest warrior of the Blackwood family, would fall so easily.

 

It was also her first time hiding behind someone like this.

 

It was also the first time someone fought in her place.


 

It was her first time that the torment from her brothers was interrupted.

 

It was her first time having someone by her side.

 

It was the first time that everything was over so soon… It was also the first time when she received comfort.

 

For some reason, her emotions surged, and she felt like crying.

 

It seemed that Berg had shaken loose the emotions she had been suppressing each time she endured torment.

 

“…”

 

Suddenly, Ner found herself sitting in front of a waterfall with Berg.

 

The beautiful sound of the waterfall and the light water droplets splashing on their faces.

 

A faint rainbow started to form.

 

It was a place where she could find peace in her heart.

 

After Berg asked if she was okay, he didn't say anything else.

 

He didn't offer any more comforting words or ask about the situation.

 

He just brought Ner to this waterfall, a place he also liked, and sat at a distance.

 

Ner found that comforting.

 

If he had persistently asked further, it would have been more uncomfortable.

 

Just because Berg had saved her, it didn't mean she immediately fall in love with him like a fool.

 

No matter how hard he tried, Ner’s dream was only one.

 

To be with her destined partner and share a future together.

 

So, he was still distant, and that fact hadn't changed.

 

That was what she told herself.

 

…But she was thankful, to some extent.

 

Ner couldn't forget the warmth she felt in her heart when Berg extended his back to protect her from her brothers' anger and fought on her behalf.

 

The lingering sensation of that emotion swirled within her chest.

 

She had believed he was cruel and cold, but how could he display such delicate consideration?

 

Ner discreetly turned her head to steal a glance at Berg, who was seated at a distance.

 

-Swoosh.

 

And in that moment, Berg turned his head and met her gaze.

 

Their eyes met for a moment.

 

“…”

 

“…”

 

Berg smiled at Ner, who had stopped crying, without saying a word.

 

“…….”

 

Ner couldn't say anything either.

 

Even that warm smile was something she was experiencing for the first time.

 

She didn't know that someone could smile like that for her sake.

 

For some reason, it became difficult for Ner to maintain eye contact, so she averted her gaze.

 

It was for a reason clearly different from fear.

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