Author: Gina Editor: Tea

I was around ten years old when I first felt a strange sense of deja vu. It happened when Aunt Marge, the storyteller of our town, told us the story of a dragon meant to be a guardian, but this guardian dragon was corrupted by madness.

Aktail. I tilted my head when I first heard the name of the dragon. It was definitely the first time I had heard the name, but somehow it sounded familiar. As I casually asked why my question was enough to make Aunt Marge flustered.

“Oh my, Cornelia. Grandma Hibi must have told you this story first. Alright, then, I’ll tell you another one today. A long time ago–”

Starting with the name Aktail, my dreams, and my sense of deja vu, I slowly realized that I was reborn in a book that I had read in my previous life. Otherwise, the vague memories that remained, reminiscent of a book I read a long time ago, didn’t make sense.

‘But, what… there’s nothing unique about it.’

I’ve lived here all my life, and this was my reality. To be honest, I couldn’t remember a single thing about my past life. Because my previous life was so vague, I couldn’t even remember the contents of the book. Still, since it would be nice to know, I desperately tried to recall the book’s content, aiming for a chance to make a fortune, but…

[The dragon wakes up and the warriors put the dragon to sleep. A story of adventure, friendship, and love…? No, was there any love? The dragon was just like raaaarww.]

“…”

These were all the hazy memories I had. I put the paper aside as I shook my head.

‘I’m screwed. This isn’t right. I don’t know the future, much less know how to make a fortune.’

‘And what would I do with a dragon that goes raaaawrrr? It’s not like I’ll go near the dragon.’

‘But I can still see the warriors.’

Aktail’s lair was hidden deep in the Logan Mountains range. The Logan Mountains can only be reached through the Granden Forest, and our village was the last village in the route to the forest. In other words, all those going to the Logan Mountains had to go through our village. I couldn’t even remember the names of the heroes properly, but only one thing came to mind.

The warriors were very handsome.

How handsome would they be? I suddenly became curious. Aren’t all the main characters of a book good-looking? That was a natural requirement to be the main character.

‘Should I give them flowers? Then wouldn’t they remember me as village girl number 1?’ I smiled at my own expectations. It would be okay to hand them flowers and brag to the villagers. As a commoner, there would be nothing I could do to help anyway, so that role seemed perfect to me.

And after a while, Aktail woke up as I remembered, and I handed welcoming flowers to the warriors who visited our village’s representative.

I should have stopped there. I shouldn’t have gone further than being the village girl handing over some flowers.

 

 

*      *     *

 

 

“Miss Cornelia.”

At the sound of the voice calling me, I slowly blinked, chasing away the memories of the past. When I looked up, a priest was looking at me with a worried face.

“Are you all right?”

Because I took my time answering, the priest’s voice was cautious. I nodded quickly.

“Yes, I guess… I felt exhausted for a moment.”

“I see. You have gone through something unfortunate, of course, you’ll feel exhausted.”

The priest nodded as if he understood and reached out his hand to help me up. Laughter flowed at his consideration. Why is he so easygoing?

As I stood up, the priest smiled kindly and pointed to one side. At the end of the long hallway, I saw a white door.

“This is the room you will be using. Everything is set up. All you have to do is check it out. A nice tea has just arrived, so please try it. It smells great, and it will make you feel more relaxed.”

“Thank you, priest.”

I had a small chat with the priest while walking down the temple hall as he guided me. In my heart, I wanted to go back to my hometown with my grandmother right away, but small things kept me from doing so. Upon hearing Debron’s words, the butler said he would take care of such things, but I shook my head.

‘If you want to help me, shouldn’t you fix those eyes first?’

The butler’s eyes narrowed coldly. No, his gaze looked a little softer than usual. When he first heard that I was leaving, his expression immediately brightened. It was the first time I saw him looking at me with a bright face since I came to the Astorf Duchy with my grandmother.

“Isn’t she the commoner who only guided them and clung onto Duke Astorf? She looks half prettier than I thought.”

“Shh!”

At that moment, a pressing voice was heard in my ear. When the priest turned his head after hearing the loud voice, the two men hurriedly came out and passed right by him.

“Simon, your voice is too loud!” A scolding whispering followed, but there was an indescribable joy in his voice. The men walked away laughing.

“Are you… okay?”

“Well, what they say it’s true.”

When the men disappeared and the priest asked carefully, I nodded and smiled openly. At my reply, the priest scratched his head and turned around. There seemed to be nothing more to say.

Right, it was true. The story everyone knew was just as those men had said while passing by. 

My grandmother, who had initially suffered from a chronic disease, was lying on the cold floor when I returned to the village after putting the dragon to sleep. As soon as I set out on the road to put the dragon to sleep I belatedly learned that my grandmother’s chronic disease had worsened. The villagers took care of her, but I should have been there by her side. I was my grandmother’s only family.  

‘If I hadn’t gone.’ I bit my lips. The villagers and the doctor from the neighboring village comforted me, saying that the disease naturally worsened as she got older and that this wasn’t my fault. But those kind words didn’t indulge me. On the contrary, my guilt only grew. If I had been by her side, might I have been able to delay the worsening of her chronic disease a little more? No, it may not have gotten worse at all. If I was just a little more careful, she could have lived without any problems!

Shortly after, the emperor issued an order to expel me from the list of warriors, and they agreed. I stared at them blankly, but they averted their gazes. And I received a letter. It was a letter stating that I agreed to be excluded from the group of heroes. It was a letter from Debron, who had left for the capital first. Rebelling… wasn’t an option because those who stood against me included the Emperor and high-ranking nobles. I was just a mere commoner.

Thus, the five warriors became four as they were. However, the heroes, who could not completely hide my existence, introduced me as the woman who guided them to the village because they got lost in the forest. In exchange for that one kindness, I became an ignorant human being who didn’t know my place, who brought her grandmother along and intended to sit next to the Duke of Astorf. Still, I thought it was okay.

“Come to my residence, Cornelia.”

Because he reached out his hand first. Although it was ambiguous to say that we were lovers, I believed in him, whom I thought felt the same way as me. I held Debron’s hand, desperately convincing myself that there must be some other reasons why he agreed to my expulsion.

Such a foolish thing.

‘That was the last time.’

After coming up to the capital, the warriors, including Debron, received spectacular congratulations, cheers, and honors to the extent that even having two bodies was not enough to cover all sorts of banquets and speeches they were invited to. But what I received were scornful gazes and harsh words.

The Aktail Festival was created after the dragon, and the four heroes were engraved on flags to embroider the high sky. Contrary to them, my name fell to the barren soil and became one of ridicule. 

However, I couldn’t ask for a helping hand. Even the Astorf people believed the rumors and treated grandmother and me coldly, and Debron, who could correct the rumors, said only one thing to the butler and servants.

“For some circumstances, I’m taking care of her. Serve her as a guest without any inconvenience.”

It was pretty good words to mislead them. Then, according to the emperor’s command and at his own will, he often left the mansion, and I continued to be isolated. All I could do was smile in front of my grandmother as if nothing had happened and cling to Debron’s hem for help, whom I could barely see.

“…Is the Duke not coming again today?”

“Yes, His Majesty the Emperor has called the Duke to honor him.”

“I see. If so… can you send a word for me, please?”

At my words, the butler narrowed his eyes. It’s not that I didn’t know the meaning of his gaze, but I turned a blind eye and averted my gaze.

“Grandma, I mean, grandmother Hibi wants to see the Duke. Please tell him that.”

Did the butler deliver the message? Or did he ignore it? I still don’t know the truth. In the end, Debron never visited grandmother.

“Baby, why aren’t the other kids coming?”

My grandmother, who came to the capital for the first time and was not familiar with the situation, missed the warriors very much. But none of them ever came to visit her. After a few months passed, Grandma didn’t mention any of their names. She just talked about bright things, such as how the capital was lovely and colorful, with delicious food and many attractions. She’d probably noticed.

‘Let’s hurry up and leave.’ The capital city without my grandmother was not worth staying any longer. Let’s clear all traces of me and my grandmother and leave this city.

And at that moment,

“Cornelia.”

Someone suddenly grabbed my shoulder and turned me around. My gaze, following the priest’s back, passed through the air and reached a knight. His cloak was embroidered with a red rose seal I knew well.

“Sir Leonif is calling you. Come with us right now.”

It was the call of the fourth warrior and my former comrade.

 


 

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