Citrina did not exchange letters with Desian and Aaron.
It was only when she listened to the music box that Gemma loved so much that she thought of them.
‘When I listen to this music box, I think of them.’
Her mind was naturally at peace.
… through various events, Citrina had been recognized by Oslo for her ability.
It wasn’t common for a student to become a disciple of the dwarf Oslo within one year.
That was the reason she was given an unexpected request at that time.
It was a request from her prestigious teacher, the dwarf Oslo.
“Citrina, will you deliver this sword to the Imperial Selen Knights Academy?”
“The Imperial Selen Knight Academy, isn’t that in Petroshia Empire?”
Citrina knew the place very well.
It was the place where Elaina and Aaron fatefully met for the first time.
“Why are you asking me to go?”
Citrina asked shortly.
Oslo spoke after a dry cough.
“The one who requested this mana stone infused sword requested you bring it personally.
I can’t refuse the request of a nobleman.”
“That person asked for me? I’ll need to take a boat to get to Petroshia Empire.”
“By boat? Looks like you’re out of the loop, Citrina.”
Oslo laughed loudly.
“There’s a new land route between the two empires.
You can just comfortably go by carriage.”
Citrina tilted her head to the side.
The old land route from her home, Petroshia Empire, to Ronata Atelier in Drip Empire was too steep.
That’s why she went by boat when she first came to Ronata Empire…
‘There was a dark wizard’s tower along the way to the Drip Empire and rumor has it that anyone caught by those in the tower would be turned into a puppet.
Isn’t it infested with all sorts of evil?’
With a weird feeling in her chest, Citrina asked cautiously.
“Oslo, in that area…I thought there was a dark wizard’s tower.”
Oslo shook his head.
There ‘was’ a dark wizard tower.’ Do you know of ‘Petroshia Empire’s Duke Pietro’? He opened up the overland route between Petroshia Empire and Drip Empire.
The dark wizard’s tower disappeared at the same time without a sound.
It’s become a relic of history.”
Listending to Oslo’s explanation, Citrina was lost in thought.
‘Did Duke Pietro recover from his illness? If not him…was it Desian?’
She had been stuck inside of the atelier identifying gemstones and creating beautiful jewelry.
Citrina was surprising ignorant of the world.
Moreover, she heard very little about the Duke of Pietro.
‘No matter the reason, it’s good.
But I don’t think it’s Desian.
He wouldn’t do anything that wouldn’t benefit him directly.’ Before her thoughts could become more complicated, Oslo conveniently broke in.
“What are you thinking about so much?”
Thanks to Oslo’s question, Citrina was able to come back to reality.
“It will be a safe journey, so enjoy your trip.”
“All I have to do is explain the value of the gems and hand over the sword, right?”
“Yes, I’ve called a coach and a guard.
The name of the sword’s owner is inside the case with the sword, so try to find them once you reach the academy.
It’s going to be fun.”
‘Why is it fun?’
Oslo could behave eccentrically at times.
It was due to the dwarf’s curious nature.
Holding a tightly rolled paper tied with string, Citrina started to prepare for the journey.
Oslo laughed as he saw Citrina begin all of her preparations to leave.
Citrina’s carriage arrived at Selen Knights Academy accompanied by several guards shortly after.
Without a doubt, Oslo words weren’t false.
The landscape between the two empires was beautiful.
The scent of flowers had filled the air as a calming wind blew.
‘I feel like I’m going on a vacation.’
Citrina carefully opened the note Oslo had given her.
And she couldn’t speak she was so surprised.
There was a familiar name inside the note.
It had been a long time since Citrina had seen Aaron’s name.
Still, as a bit of time passed, her worried heart calmed a bit.
As she collected her thoughts, she quickly pulled up in front of Selen Knights Academy.
Soon after descending from the carriage, Citrina saw the owner of the name.
He waved his hand wildly at the academy’s noisy front entrance.
He seemed to have waited for her for a very long time.
“Aaron, long time no see!”
Citrina laughed and walked quickly towards him.
Aaron smiled just as brightly as he had the last time she had seen him.
Except for his slightly wider shoulder and mature appearance, his personality seemed to be the same.
“Citrina! Are you doing ok?”
“Look at this, Citrina.”
Aaron showed her two pieces of a short sword in his hands.
It was the sword Citrina had gifted him.
He spoke with a teary-eyed look.
“The sword you gave me reached its breaking point.”
“Aaron, you didn’t cry, did you?”
She joked about his sad expression, but Aaron looked away.
Somehow it seemed that she had hit the nail on the head.
“An, anyway, Citrina! I’m happy you came.
Shall we go in?”
Aaron reached for Citrina’s hand.
He looked reverent, as if he had just given his knightly vows.
“Yeah, let’s go in.”
Citrina took Aaron’s extended hand and let him lead the way.
On the way to one of the knight academy’s small reception rooms, she felt embarrassed yet happy after meeting with Aaron.
Maybe it was because she was with Aaron, but she could feel people’s eyes on her.
Aaron seemed to be a celebrity at the academy.
Citrina didn’t care how people saw her or what they said.
Aaron was frighteningly focused on Citrina too, ignoring the others.
“Actually, I didn’t know it was you who ordered this sword.”
“Is that right? Your name has spread all the way to here, Citrina.”
“Yeah, I was looking for a place to repair my sword after your gift broke.
But I heard that someone with your name was the dwarf’s favorite human disciple.”
“The rumors spread all the way here?”
That wasn’t good news.
Her younger sister, Elaina Foluin, must have also heard the rumors about Citrina.
Oblivious to this, Aaron continued with a smile on his face.
“Yeah, word of you has already spread here.
That’s why I asked the dwarf to have you bring the sword as a special order!”
Aaron added with a big smile as if he had returned to being a child.
“I missed you!”
“Thank you for remembering me.
To be honest, I thought we would only see each other again once I returned to the empire.
I’m glad I get to see you like this.”
“Well… Citrina, actually I was a little worried.
I was afraid I’d be hated for inviting you here since you were so determined to leave.”
Looking at Aaron’s hesitant face, Citrina recalled the past.
Had she been that determined?
“Did I do that?”
It had all happened over a year ago, so her memories were a little foggy.
She thought she had been a bit determined.
However, she didn’t mean to push away her friends from her past.
While Citrina was thinking deeply, the door to the reception room opened.
There was no one inside.
They sat across from each other with a table in between them.
“Then I will now explain about the sword.”
“This sword has a mana stone embedded in the handle.
Ah, here is the appraisal that I wrote down for you with the color and transparency of the mana stone, the cutting of the stone, and the element of the mana in it.
I don’t need to return right away, so I can answer any questions you have about it.”
Aaron who was looking at her gave a small nod.
“Citrina, you look so professional!”
Aaron whistled softly in admiration.
Please take a look.”
After handing over the sword and report, Citrina halted and said nothing further.
Aaron didn’t miss Citrina’s slight hesitation.
“Citrina, is there something you wanted to say?”
“That’s… it’s nothing special.
How is Desian doing?”
I think he’s doing fine.”
“Is he still kind?”
“Oh? Brother? Yeah.
Citrina laughed and her eyes crinkled in happiness as she listened to his cheerful but slightly hesitant voice.
“To be honest, I was curious to hear that the Duke Pietro had pioneered an overland route between the two empires.”
“What are you curious about?”
“The thing is…did Desian do it?”
“That…I think it’s better if you ask him directly, all of it.”
Aaron blurted out the end of the sentence.
It was a vague response.
She thought it was too direct to ask, ‘Did Desian Pietro become the duke?’.
Later… should she ask him again when they met in person?
“Citrina, focus on me.”
“Don’t you have any questions for me?”
The difficulty is that I have too many.”
Citrina laughed low.
Soon after, Aaron brought something up out of the blue.
“Is your ideal type is still a sweet and kind man?”
‘My ideal type?’
Now that she thought about it, she remembered them asking her about her ideal type long ago.
She didn’t remember clearly, but….
‘Why is Aaron acting so serious?’
Citrina nodded her head slowly at him.
It would be awkward to say she lied at the time and it would also be awkward to talk about it again.
By the way….”
She answered reasonably.
“Aaron, will you give me your sword? I think I can fix it.”
“….Thank you, Citrina.”
Aaron slowly handed her the sword.
His innocent face that was shifting from boy to man, gleamed brightly.
“I also want to give you a lot of things.”
When I come back to the empire after becoming an adult, please give them to me.”
I will definitely give it to you.
Because we’re family.”
He still used the word family.
Even though he had grown into a young man, he had kept the innocent outlook of a boy.
However, for now, Citrina took Aaron’s words as a compliment.
It was a long time since they had met, and they still had so much more to share.
Then, someone knocked on the door of the reception room.
“Citrina nim, the sun is about to set.”
The escort who accompanied her whispered.
She still had a lot to ask him.
Citrina rose slowly.
She had to leave now after the brief meeting.
“It’s sad that our meeting was so short.”
But we’ll meet again soon.”
At Aaron’s bright smile, Citrina nodded.
Citrina followed her escort along the same path she had taken when entering the academy.
Aaron saw her off outside of the academy.
“Then take care, Aaron.”
After hearing Aaron’s simple reply, Citrina headed to the carriage.
But Citrina could not board the carriage.
She found a familiar woman standing in front on her carriage.
It was her younger sister, Elaina Foluin.
Elaina restrained Citrina from entering the carriage with a light touch.
When Citrina didn’t get into the carriage, an embarrassed Aaron came to stand closer to her.
“Aaron, you can step back.”
“…are you ok?”
“I can take care of it.”
The anxiety was apparent on Aaron’s face, but he followed Citrina’s direction.
He slowly took a few steps back.
Elaina watched the situation between them with her arms folded, not making a sound.
“Ha! Did you meet privately with Prince Aaron?”
“Older sister, you look happy alone.”
Without replying, Citrina passed Elaina.
Elaina grabbed her arm with a nonsensical look on her face.
“Are you not worried about the duke’s curse?”
I have already been cursed to work hard.”
Elaina and Aaron didn’t seem to have a cordial relationship.
In the novel she read in her past life, Elaina had never cared about curses.
“Do you have anything more to say?”
Citrina didn’t want to spend time on useless feelings.
Oslo’s guards moved closer bit by bit, noticing the atmosphere.
Elaina saw the guards movements and laughed with a stunned face.
“Anything to say? Of course I do.
We’re family, aren’t we?”
“It sounds completely different from when those words came out of Aaron’s mouth a few minutes ago.”
The way Aaron said family made it sound sweet and lovely, while Elaina’s tone was devoid of those sweet sentiments.
Citrina laughed under her breath.
It was these people called her family that had obviously exploited her.
“Don’t talk in such a roundabout way.
Say it straight to my face.”
Citrina answered bluntly.
Elaina’s face turned red.
“I keep hearing about my older sister, the student of the dwarf Oslo nim.
My family’s life has been ruined.
I’m so jealous, and mom said not to say anything to older sister even if someone dies, but I have to say this.”
Elaina clenched her teeth.
Citrina stared at her.
Elaina’s anger was eating away at her.
“You ruined my life.
You abandoned me! I’m at the point where I might need to drop out of the academy.
What do you think of that?”
“Really? That’s a pity.”
“Why don’t you find a sponsor?”
There were plenty of people who would sponsor a knight.
It wasn’t as if Elaina didn’t know that.
But she couldn’t sacrifice her pride, so she preferred use Citrina as her cash cow.
“Do I look like the kind of person who could bow down to another?”
Unlike Citrina’s composed voice, Elaina’s vicious words sounded especially loud.
“Elaina Foluin, was your shallow pride so important? To the point where I had to mortgage my life?”
Citrina replied in a low voice.
A speechless Elaina bit her lip.
“Thanks to you, I worked more than twelve hours every day.
I kept going, thinking of you when insults were thrown at me while acting as a maid as well as a playmate.
I kept thinking that I had to do better for you, and that if Elaina succeeded, our whole family would succeed.
That’s how I used to think.
Did you know that?”
Everything had become clear when she remembered her past life.
Elaina never thought of Citrina as she was succeeding.
This was the most obvious thing now.
Elaina nervously chewed on her lip until it bled.
Citrina spoke monotonously again.
“Once day, everybody started to avoid me.
They told me I was covered in wastewater and not to come out anymore.
The only option I was left with was to go to the duke’s place, which was said to be cursed.”
Citrina sighed deeply and whispered.
“I left because I didn’t want to live like that anymore.
Well, what did you sacrifice?”
“My, my, my pride! It’s because of you that my pride was destroyed! It was you, Citrina Foluin.
You’ve forced me to drop out of the academy! I can’t give up anything.
Everything that I can possess, I’ll take it.”
She was sure Elaina understood on the inside.
However, for Elaina, pride was the most important thing.
Therefore, she could never, ever give up on her pride.
“You should feel guilty for ruining my life.
Understand? It’s because of you that I can’t sign up for the next semester.”
The person who had made Citrina’s life up until now miserable told her to feel guilty.
Even though she was born a noble, she had to work hard and wear raggedy old clothes everyday.
She had barely managed to survive out there on her own.
“I can’t stand it.”
As she finished speaking, Citrina raised her hand.
Citrina slapped Elaina’s left cheek.
Elaina cheek swelled quickly and became red.
“Guilt is something you should feel towards me.”
This time it was the other cheek.
“Don’t be presumptuous, Elaina Foluin.”
Elaina stumbled with a perplexed expression.
But it was only for a bit.
Elaina’s eyes were blazing with fury.
“How dare you!”
Elaina’s hand curled into a fist.
She wasn’t going to slap her, but punch her instead.
Elaina was a strong knight.
However, Aaron appeared first.
Aaron appeared like a bolt of lightening and gripped Elaina’s fist.
“Lady Elaina, who were you doing to hit?”
For a moment, an expressionless look flashed across Aaron’s face that looked just like Desian.
“… Prince Aaron.”
“I remember clearly warning you last time.”
Elaina gritted her teeth as she looked at Aaron.
Citrina looked at Elaina with cold eyes.
“As you know, I’m busy being famous, so I need to get going.”
Oslo guards came forward again to follow her.
Elaina began to scream.
Aaron still held Elaina’s upper body firmly so that she could not move at all.
“You ignored my request to hold on a little more, so I’ll make you regret your decision to ruin my life.
Citrina Foluin, you’re not my family anymore! Understand? Do you get it!”
Citrina ignored her words and got into the carriage.
Then she opened the carriage window.
Elaina was looking at Citrina with bloodshot eyes.
Citrina smiled at her beautifully.
“I’ll look forward to that regret”
The carriage set off, leaving Aaron and an angry Elaina behind.
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