There was an explosion at the door.
With the blast of heat, Irenea was sent flying as she ran.
As she rolled on the floor, the pierced wound widened, causing more burning pain. Even more, her face was as hot as where she was stabbed, perhaps because she had been caught in the heat of the explosion.
The pain shot through her body, and she couldn’t think straight.
Nonetheless, Irene crawled on the floor as she bit her lips as hard as she could, causing blood to drip from her mangled lips.
She had to make sure that Ahibalt was safe.
Even if he was someone who would go back to the beginning and remember nothing if she lost consciousness here and now. Even if he was the one who had never loved her in seven repeated lives…
The places that bleed must be her lips and thighs, but why were her eyes so hot? Unable to move her whole body, Irene hit the floor with her chin and tried to push forward with all her might. Still, the distance didn’t get any closer.
The realization brought tears to her eyes.
As the tears grew thicker, her consciousness was also gradually fading. Irene closed her eyes in the distance of her mind.
Having lived so many lives, it wasn’t too difficult to place consciousness in the sense of dying. At the same time, in the familiar sensation of losing consciousness, a memory of a certain day surfaced in her mind. If someone were to ask why she was so obsessed with Ahibalt, she would answer that was why.
“Since I saved you from drowning, I should pretend that your life belongs to me.”/i>
A day in which the color of summer was resounding…
The exceptionally loud sound of cicadas, which were exceptionally noisy, came to mind, along with her clothes which were darkened by water. The waterfowl that roamed the lakeshore watched them.
That day was the first time Irene felt the longing for life.
This was the first time in this life that Irene had ever left the mansion.
It was only two years since she returned from the sixth life, so it was still her young days, and she wasn’t completely out of the Lavrenti, but anyways. It was quite unusual for Irene since it was her first time leaving the mansion.
The reason for this was simple.
It was because of Henrietta’s unexpected announcement that she would go to the summer villa.
“I’m thinking of going on summer vacation, but I don’t think he’ll like it very much if I say I’m going alone, so I’ll have to take the kids. Even if the youngest can’t go because Edith won’t let him outside, I’ll take the ones I can.”
“Are you going to take the First Master, too?”
“Of course. I don’t really want to be labeled as discriminating against children because I’m a stepmother.”
Using various excuses, she left for the summer villa with both Ahibalt and Otis, and Irene naturally accompanied them. This was also the time when she was really getting to know Otis and starting to take charge of some of his education little by little.
Still, that didn’t mean that her work would change greatly.
She usually worked in the villa’s kitchen, and that day was no different. After Ahibalt and Otis left for the hunting grounds, she was called by the kitchen maid.
“Hey, why don’t you go pick some plums? Follow the forest path right next to here, which leads to the lake, and there’s an unattended plum tree there that’s probably ripe. When you get back, we’ll make a plum pie together.”
Saying so, the kitchen maid handed the basket to Irene.
It was a nice gesture, but it was obvious to see that she had given her a nuisance task without thinking about it. To pick plums, she had to climb a tree. It couldn’t be anything but troublesome, but since there was a young maid, it must have been easy to get her to work for her.
‘I was in charge of chores at the mansion anyway.’
In the end, Irene took the basket and followed the forest path without complaint.
Stepping on the sunlight pouring through the shadows of the leaves gave her a rather unfamiliar feeling. The forest’s distinctive freshness was unfamiliar, but it was also largely because she hadn’t been allowed to immerse herself in such a tranquil and leisurely landscape.
For that moment, nothing in the game was holding her back.
…It was a really strange feeling.
Irene paused as she reached the shore of the lake and asked herself.
‘Am I sad right now?’
Why was she not enjoying this peace and quiet?
Of course, it wasn’t that she didn’t like it either. Rather, it was because this depressing sense of isolation among the tall trees touched something inside her.
As the sixth round ended and the seventh began, Irene realized that something inside of her was irrevocably broken. In the repetitiveness of life and the same old scenery, she couldn’t find anything to inspire her. When she closed her eyes, vague emptiness and sadness just slithered around her ankles.
She couldn’t envision anything, she couldn’t dream of anything.
Time of blindness…
Likes and dislikes faded, and she no longer smiled. Only things that were sad or not sad remained in her daily life, and they usually tasted like rainwater.
‘…Still, I don’t know why I feel this way now.’
Even though she didn’t want to cry after coming back after watching the ending of her sixth life, Irene didn’t want to jump up and down like a happy butterfly, so why did her stomach feel like there were knots?
Contrary to the rippled atmosphere, the windless scenery of the lake was eerily still.
As she rolled her eyes around, Irene noticed a tree that looked like a flock of vinous-throated parrotbills perching on it.
‘Is that a tree…?’
As it turned out, the plums were at the peak of ripeness. The tops, which were too exposed to the sun, and the bottoms, which weren’t too exposed, were still green. Was it a survival strategy for a tree to start ripening at a place where it was out of reach, even if it sprouted from the ground?
It seemed inevitable that she would have to go up.
Putting the straps of the basket over her shoulders, Irene climbed the tree flexibly. And before long, ripe plums were placed into the basket one by one.
However, there were still more unripe fruits than ripe ones, so she glanced back and forth between the half-full basket and the branches. There were three or four plums hanging dangerously far away, but since she had picked everything she could find where she was, that was the only option left.
Even so, since it was a position that wouldn’t be easily reached because it was obvious that it was dangerous, Irene reached out without hesitation.
The reason why she stopped being afraid of danger and didn’t take care of herself was the temperament she had acquired over and over again in her life. No matter how much she got hurt, no one cared. Even if she died, she wouldn’t die and would return to the beginning anyway.
Such a premise made her move freely like a marionette without a string.
At the end of the branch that stretched out over the lake, Irene cautiously approached her target. The first plum that hung on the water’s shadow disappeared into her basket.
Then, the second and third.
It was when she finally reached for the fourth plum…
The moment I felt the water birds on the lakeside suddenly fly up and the trees sway like silver grass.
Gunshots shook the forest.
The forest was also a favorite place where Ahibalt and Otis went hunting.
The problem was that, in that moment, Irene had unknowingly let go of her grip that was holding the branch. Although it might have been better if she held the branch quickly with the other hand, she didn’t let go of the plums.
Before she knew it, her vision flipped and the tree mercilessly dropped the usurper. Out of the corner of her eye, the plums that had slipped out of the basket could be seen falling after her.
She wasn’t sure.
The next thing she knew, icy blue water washed over her.
The lake engulfed Irene whole. But, ironically, at that moment, a thought came to her mind.
‘I’m sure the Second Master would like plum pie.’
It was only regrettable that the plum pie wouldn’t be made. Then, the realization that she couldn’t swim came next. In fact, it was natural since she had fallen into the water.
‘Am I going to die?’
She wasn’t particularly afraid. It was the first time I’d ever died in a game, but it would go back to the beginning when she died again.
…No, it seemed like it wouldn’t matter if she couldn’t go back.
‘If only it could end like this.’
She was too tired to look forward to tomorrow. Maybe this could be an opportunity for her. As the thought reached her, Irene tried to close her eyes, feeling the distant sleep.
If only there hadn’t been a boy reflected on the surface of the water at that moment.
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