Karmeut blinked slowly. Feeling anxious about him not responding right away, I continued to speak,
"Is he really taking a break? If that's the case, we can just not have the lesson for a few days, no need to replace him, right?"
My class wasn't like the classes at school, and missing a day wouldn’t be a big problem. Namuel was the person I personally designated as a teacher, furthermore, it wouldn’t be a big deal if his class is canceled for a few days.
I was nervous. My instinct was ringing a warning bell that something was wrong.
"---I'm sorry, Rainelle. For keeping it from you."
After hearing Karmeut's reply, I felt like my head went blank.
"...that, what does that mean?"
Karmeut said with a really sorry expression,
"I kept it a secret because I thought you'd stop him... I'm planning to tell you after he had left… Marquis Namuel had left for the Milburn territory."
--- I felt like I was struck by lightning when I heard that he had left.
Leave?! Milburn territory?! Namuel is?!
"Kar, Karmeut, I personally chose Namuel. But why-"
“Of course, I know that well. I also stopped Namuel because of that. But…”
He sighed softly and finished his speech,
"I couldn't stop him from leaving to research Crobanlock. You know that, don’t you, Rainelle? How valuable Crobanlock is."
Hearing those words, my mouth opened and closed over and over.
No, this is crazy!! Me, the one who had met the Black Bird, is here! Research on Crobanlock? Bullshit!!
"If that's the case, he should tell me!"
I was angry at Namuel for acting unexpectedly. And I felt bitter at Karmeut for supporting such unexpected behavior.
You can die, Karmeut! Agh, well, Karmeut doesn't know anything. Haah! Damn it!!
"I said so. But Namuel refused. He said that his actions might be sacrilege in the eyes of the Black Bird, and that you might find it offensive because you had met the Black Bird."
I was stunned.
"That’s why he left without saying goodbye?"
Why are you treating me like a stranger? Huh?! What!! To me, what you’re doing is more like sacrilege!!
"...Then, uh, where's that... Milburn territory?"
"… It is a territorial area in the west of the Empire, the territory closest to the Qubelian Mountains that cross the continent. It's close to the western end of the Empire, so it's far away."
I'm going crazy. He went to the western end of the Empire?? Crazy. Crazy!!
"---Are you okay, Rainelle?"
As my complexion changed from moment to moment, Karmeut carefully asked the question, perhaps worried. But, to be honest, I didn't have the spirit left to answer that question.
No. Is it a good thing that he has gone far? Wouldn't Karmeut be safe if he awakened while being so far away?
It felt like my mind was cluttered with various thoughts. I tried to untangle the thread, but it felt like the more I did it, the more I twisted it.
Karmeut shouldn't die, but when I try to do something, why does it keep getting like this?
I was suddenly awakened by Karmeut's actions, approaching me with narrowed eyebrows as if suspicious.
"Sorry, Karmeut, I'm going somewhere for a bit."
I didn't wait for his answer. I went to the window and opened it wide, then I turned into a crow and flew into the sky.
I must inform Adriana of the current situation. We need to come up with some countermeasures! If we don't, we will get into a big accident!
It seemed like it was the first time I had flapped my wings so desperately ever since Karmeut became emperor.
Crazy!! Even when I went to meet the Black Bird, it wasn't like this!!
I went to Aria's manor and looked for her.
Where are you, where are you!! Ah! Found you!! ARIAAA!!
I rushed to ArIa who was on the terrace of her room.
"Huh? Rai... Ouch!"
The problem was that I couldn't hold my strength and crashed into her almost like a head slam.
Oh my gosh... the, the world is spinning...
"Ouch, ouch, ouch... Rainelle?! What's going on? In such a hurry..."
I was able to gain consciousness through her action of carefully grabbing me with both hands and lifting me.
Ah! There's no time for me to feel dizzy right now!
"Aria! Big trouble!"
"...? Big trouble?"
Aria seemed puzzled at my sudden action of saying that there was big trouble. But her expression stiffened at my next words.
"Namuel is gone!"
"---Gone? To where?!"
"To the west of the empire, to a place called Milburn territory. According to Karmeut, it is the closest place to the Qubelian Mountains..."
At the sight of Aria who had stiffened with her mouth wide open, I grabbed her by the shoulder and shook her body.
"Aria!! I understand that it feels like you’re going crazy, but come to your senses! Did something like this happen in the original game?!"
"Oh, crazy... there isn’t such a sxxt! What's this sudden and unexpected behavior!! No, more than that, why did he go somewhere else?! You don't give me an answer and went to another territory?! You coward!! If someone confessed, at least you are supposed to give your answer!!"
The image of Aria clenching her fists while swearing was so powerful that I backed away without realizing it. But Aria seemed really angry to the top of her head.
"Haah?!! How much effort did I put in!! But you just ignored it and ran away?! I shyly confessed that I like you and even showed it by giving you a Crobanlock!! I think ‘of course it takes time, so be patient, patient, patient…’ and wait for your response, you punk!! And you unexpectedly went for a dive which isn’t even in the original story?!”
"Hey there... Aria, calm down..."
"Do I look like I can calm down now?! It’s so difficult for him to answer?! I like this man, but I have to break this punk's head---!!"
"No! A mage's head is precious!! What if you damage the brain too?!!"
"I just have to be careful, enough just to make a crack in his skull!"
“No! That won't do you any good! Calm down!!”
Again, I grabbed and shook Aria, who was so angry to the point that fire was about to come out of her mouth.
As a measure, I changed into a crow and showed my cuteness, and then she seemed to calm down a little as she hugged me.
“Whoo, whoo, whoo… Okay, whoo, let’s calm down, calm down…”
"---Are you calming down now?"
"--- Rainelle, I'm really sorry, but can I hold you while you’re in crow form a little longer? If I don't, I think I'm really going to chase him to where he is and punch him with all my might."
When she said that, I flinched and turned back into a crow.
Well, after meeting Eileen-nim, aren’t I able to talk in the form of a crow?
Thinking that there would be no problem with holding a conversation, I sat quietly on Aria's lap. Then a hand gently stroking my back followed. After exhaling roughly, Aria opened her mouth,
"Why did Namuel suddenly leave for the Milburn territory?"
"Well, Karmeut said that it is to study Crobanlock."
"What!! Rainelle, you can even speak in the form of a crow?!"
"Huh? Yeah. It was possible after I met the Black Bird."
"My!! Then, can't we talk like this in the future?!"
"...this isn't important right now! Can't you focus on Namuel again!!"
I squeaked and then jabbed Aria's finger as I yelled at her. Then an unpleasant scream followed.
"Ahhh, it hurts so bad!!"
"After you were so angry that fire was blowing from your mouth, you’re going off the mark now!"
"---Gah!! I almost forgot!!"
Aria, who was pulling her hair for a moment with a strange scream, pouted her lips.
"---Ugh… Rainelle, why do you think Namuel went to the Milburn territory?"
"Huh? Me? You asked me?"
"Yes. In a way, I think Rainelle would know better. You take Namuel’s class, right?"
"...He hasn't been to class for a few days, so I only heard the reason when I asked Karmeut."
"---Of course, there is that, but..."
Aria, who answered uncharacteristically gloomy, sighed and buried her face in my back. Aria said as I flinched at the warmth and breath I felt through my feathers,
"Other than that, do you know why? You know what they say. ‘There are times when you don't know how you feel’. It comes out often in novels, right? In other people's eyes, they are clearly in love, but the people themselves think it’s one-sided. It’s a typical sweet potato1 development."
"---Oh, I know. It’s so common."
The stronger the sweet potato, the better the cider2 that comes after it.
"Even when Rainelle was insensible about Karmeut’s feelings, I can clearly see that it’s love."
"---Heuk, cough, cough!!"
Come on, why did you bring up the past all of a sudden?!
Embarrassed and bewildered, I struggled to avert my gaze. But Aria's words were not over.
"So... tell me. From Rainelle's point of view, what do you think the relationship between me and Namuel is? Does it look like I’m miserably in a one-sided love? An unrequited love?"
At that, I turned my body and looked at Aria. When I saw her being so timid and insecure, unlike usual, I felt like I was hit on the head.
What. Why did I think Aria would be fine? Did I think it was okay because she knew the original story better than I did? Because she was always bright, cheerful, and smiley?
Actually, Aria must have been worried and nervous about every single thing too. Just as I was worried about the relationship with Karmeut. Or perhaps, she’s more anxious?
Unlike Karmeut and me, Namuel was not friendly towards Aria in the beginning.
Still, she worked hard because he is her favorite character and the one she likes. But if Namuel had gone to another place, unlike the original story...
How anxious she must be.
If Karmeut was like that, I would have been anxious and trembling too.
When I understood Aria's feelings, which I had never paid attention to because I was too busy with other things, I felt unbearably sorry for her.
I've relied on Aria once or twice, but I didn't think about her being able to rely on me.
I bowed my head and smashed my beak onto Aria's thin fingers. When I felt a faint twitch, I said quietly,
"Don't be too anxious, Aria."
"...but, Namuel has left. Until now, he acted similarly to the original story, so even if he keeps his distance, even if I feel burdened, I’ve been holding on, thinking that one day he will open his heart to me-, but not now."
A fluctuating voice that seemed about to cry reached my ears. As I raised my head, her blue eyes filled with tears filled my vision.
I changed into human form. Then I hugged Aria tightly. Patting her, who received my gentle hug without resisting, on the back, I said,
"I understand how your anxiety. -But that doesn't mean your efforts weren’t worth anything. Namuel seems to have been distressed about it."
"Yeah. The Crobanlock. When I asked who gave it to him, he was unexpectedly embarrassed and struggled to change the subject."
I kept quiet about the part where I tease him because it was funny.
“I’m not sure because I don't know much about relationships or anything, but… if Namuel really didn’t like you, wouldn’t he have refused the Crobanlock or sold it to someone else? Because Namuel didn’t seem to have much desire to awaken. "
He would have eaten it earlier if he had wanted that in the first place. And he wouldn't have said such a thing3 when he offered his Crobanlock to Karmeut back then.
---Of course, those words may just be coming out of me... But at least in my perspective, Namuel was sincere.
"But Namuel didn't do that, and he left in the name of research. Myrdin-nim guessed that Crobanlock was a piece of the Black Bird’s eggshell-, and Namuel is aware of that too. Knowing that, it's strange that he went to another place to do the research."
These were the words I came up with to appease Aria, but I also convinced myself with the plausible words.
...Right? Even though he knew that, it's strange that he immediately went somewhere else to do the research.
"So, I don't think Namuel would have left like this if he has no feelings for you. Because there would be no reason for him to leave."
So I patted Aria on the back, comforting her, saying, "Don't be too anxious." Then her shoulders shuddered, and the sound of sobbing came out of her.
---Even though you always smile, you actually hold a lot inside.
1 I’ve attached this before, but in case you forget: 고구마 is ‘sweet potato’ refer to an adjective or a noun to express the speaker’s frustrated or impatient feeling about a situation or a person, the feeling similar to what you may feel when you eat sweet potato without any beverage.↩
2 사이다 is from ‘cider’ and it means a soda drink such as Sprite in Korea. But in here it's used as the opposite meaning to sweet potato above by Koreans. When you have sweet potato and you feel uneasy, if you drink ‘Cider’, you feel great and happy. Cider is used to express that kind of feeling. ↩
3 Back in chapter 14 (Oh, how we have come such a long way, sniff), Karmeut asked: "Giving it to me... have you never thought about eating it yourself?", and Namuel answered: "Of course, it's not that I didn't... But I have the blood of the Imperial Family running through my body. If I eat Crobanlock, there is a high probability that I will 'awaken' like Prince Luwellin. And that's not to my liking. I'm a wizard who decided to walk on the path of magic. I'm not one to seize power through the blood of the Imperial Family." ↩
p.s. thanks to someone called @eseul for the 'sweet potato' and 'cider' terms :)