Side Story 9
“Ugh… damn it.”
Sabina irritably brushed her hair back.
Wherever she went, it was nothing but a dense forest.
She stopped walking and furrowed her eyebrows.
The mark she had made on a tree with her sword a while ago reappeared.
‘I’ve been going around in circles.’
Sabina sat down on a thick tree stump, wiping her sweat.
Having heard her determination, Tristan simply started the carriage.
And left her behind.
‘I should have known it was too easy.’
He left her without any intention of taking her back, which meant he was confident that she couldn’t escape.
‘Once an outsider steps into this forest, they can never get out.’
It didn’t really matter that he left her alone.
In the first place, she was the one who jumped off the carriage.
But even knowing that she couldn’t escape, and that she couldn’t go to the grand castle alone, he still left her.
That was a different story.
‘As if I can see the intention of making me suffer.’
He could be called petty and narrow-minded if it was for that reason.
‘Or maybe he’s curious about how far I can defy him. He might have found my reaction intriguing…’
But considering the Grand Prince’s amused expression even while being insulted, the latter was more likely.
‘I have no confidence in winning against a madman.’
The people of the Valois family all had flaws in their personalities, but at least they were not insane.
‘They say a person’s mind is like glass. Once it’s broken, it can never be put back together.’
Sabina recalled what her mother had told her.
It was the first and last piece of proper advice her parents had given her.
That single phrase had been deeply ingrained in Sabina’s mind until now.
‘I still have to try.’
Sabina sighed and looked up.
Dark clouds filled the sky, and darkness began to envelop it.
Now it seemed like it would rain.
‘First, I need to find a place to shelter from the rain.’
At least no wild animals had attacked her yet.
Who knows what will happen when night falls.
‘My first outing is full of ups and downs.’
Sabina decided to spend the night in the forest instead of trying to leave the mountain range.
It would be troublesome if she exhausted her energy here and collapsed in the wind and rain.
‘I think I saw something like a cave between the rocks earlier… Ah, here it is.’
A dried-up waterfall and a cave that seemed to have been formed by the erosion of the waterfall.
The entrance was quite small.
‘Can I get in?’
Sabina threw a rock into the small gap.
The sound of it rolling echoed.
The inside seemed to be more spacious than she thought.
Sabina waited for a moment in case a wild animal would jump out, and then, after judging it safe, she pushed her body in.
Better than she had expected?
She dragged some fallen leaves into the cave and piled them up on the floor before lying down on them.
The soft pile of leaves seemed to be enough to spend the night.
It was fortunate that the current season was autumn.
‘I think this place is good enough to stay.’
Next was food.
Since she was isolated in the forest anyway, the Grand prince would come to pick her up, but there was no telling when that would happen.
She could starve to death right away.
‘He said I have to give birth to a successor, but he wouldn’t actually kill me, would he?’
However, she couldn’t just rely on him and wait indefinitely.
In the end, Sabina went out of the cave to look for fruits or mushrooms.
She gave up because she couldn’t tell which ones were edible and which ones weren’t.
‘I guess I have no choice. Shall I try hunting?’
She had to do it quickly before the rain came.
Sabina drew the sword she had taken from Tristan.
Breaking a person’s mind is simpler than you think.
Even the most resilient warriors who have experienced life and death countless times can’t escape the collapse of their minds when trapped in an isolated space without anyone to talk to.
‘Especially for those vulnerable to madness.’
Tristan knew this well.
Better than anyone else.
Tristan’s gaze lingered for a moment on a spot as he looked out the window.
The neglected palace, showing the marks of time, blended quietly into the darkness.
It was then.
A flash of lightning and a thunderclap shook the earth.
Dwayne paced back and forth from one end of the room to the other, listening to the storm.
“It’s driving me crazy.”
“Is this the right time to say that?”
Dwayne was Tristan’s childhood friend and now an aide.
Although he was proud to be the only one who knew the Grand prince as well as he did, today was different.
Tristan was showing behavior that Dwayne couldn’t understand.
“Don’t you know that I’ve never disobeyed your command?”
Of course, he had talked back many times.
He had come close to having his last words be a mistake.
So, he had been careful and kept the line.
“But no matter how I think about it, this isn’t right.”
For the first time, Dwayne mustered the courage to advise Tristan.
“To kill the bride before bringing her to the kingdom? And to abandon her in the forest!”
Being torn apart and eaten by wild animals?
Or you could get swept away by the wind and cold, shivering until you succumb to hypothermia.
Or being struck by lightning and dying?
All kinds of pessimistic imaginations were vividly painted in his mind.
“Don’t kill her on your own. She’s still alive.”
Leaning against the window, Tristan looked out and tilted his wine glass.
He pretended to be indifferent, but his expression was uneasy.
‘I didn’t even plan on doing this.’
Balua’s young princess, not knowing how dangerous Valentine was, ran alone into the forest, so he was just curious about what her reaction would be if he left her there and went away.
He planned to bring her back after leaving her alone for a few hours.
He knew how dangerous the Ingo Mountain Range was to outsiders.
‘I didn’t expect there to be no news yet, though.’
Tristan ordered the forest wolves, the leaders of the forest.
He told them to protect Sabina from the nearly monstrous beasts in the forest without being noticed.
If she seemed even slightly hurt or frightened, they should bring her back to the castle immediately.
Tristan couldn’t communicate with the wolves, but they understood their master’s words.
They carried out the order.
And they hadn’t come back yet.
‘Evidence that she’s still fine.’
In this storm.
Without screaming, trembling, crying, or getting hurt.
‘Is that even possible?’
It wasn’t a matter of physical strength or weakness.
It was about how fragile the human mind was.
Even trained knights would scream and fall to their knees in the face of fear.
‘Anyone would think she’s had experience being lost in the forest several times.’
Tristan recently heard a story about Sabina.
That Count of Balua pretended to have raised her with as much affection as his own daughter, but that couldn’t be true.
One could tell just by listening to the conversations between Sabina and Balua’s eldest son.
Moreover, they could find out all the truth through Valentine’s intelligence network.
‘I heard this is her first time escaping the mansion…’
Is this a case of a one-day-old puppy not knowing the fear of a tiger?
Then, the person who had been investigating Sabina put his hand on his waist.
It was Dwayne.
“I have to speak my mind even if a knife is at my throat!”
Ever since the night descended from the sky and thunder and lightning struck, he had been confronting his lord.
That’s how wrong Tristan’s behavior was to everyone who saw it.
“What kind of trauma are you trying to inflict on the fragile and weak outsider?!”
“If this continues, the Grand Princess will be afraid to even go outside the castle in the future!”
“Fragile and weak?”
Tristan just sneered.
Those adjectives didn’t connect to Sabina at all.
Everyone is fragile and weak.
‘Yeah. The hunting dogs might have made a mistake, too.’
Tristan had told them to bring her back if she showed even the slightest sign of fear.
But can wolves really sense human emotions so accurately?
‘What if the stupid dogs mistook her fainting for sleeping…’
If that were the case, it made sense.
The wolves had been carrying out Tristan’s orders well so far, but that wasn’t important now.
Unable to come up with a rational conclusion, he had no choice but to put down the glass of alcohol he was drinking.
Tristan approached with a cold, hardened face and an ominous aura.
Faced with his unprecedented murderous intent, Dwayne unknowingly took a defensive stance and clenched his eyes shut.
“Ahh! A loyal servant like me is going to die like this!”
When people are in an urgent situation like this, their true feelings come out.
He called himself a loyal servant and waited for the pain that would follow.
But surprisingly, nothing happened.
Dwayne, who slowly opened his eyes, looked around with a puzzled expression.
There was no one else in the office besides him.
“…Did the Grand Prince change his decision?”
He thought he would hear more threats of murder, but he never expected that his advice would be heeded. It was a first.
Dwayne, already forgetting the embarrassing scene, stood there with his mouth open.
Sabina recalled what she had read in a book while chewing on rabbit meat.
If you’re staying in the forest, don’t carelessly spill the blood of animals. Because beasts will smell it and swarm.
Sabina, who had tensed up reflexively, looked down at the remaining rabbit meat roasting in front of the fire.
And then, she looked down at the rabbit skin and the sword, tilting her head.
“But I’ve already done it.”
She had lost her mind due to hunger…
“Is it because it’s raining?”
She relaxed her tense shoulders.
Indeed, even a wild beast would lose body heat when exposed to rain, so why would they go hunting in the rain?
Then She should just relax.
The area around the cave was peaceful.
‘I’m thirsty after eating meat.’
She washed a large leaf as big as her head and folded it diligently.
Then she drank rainwater from the cup-shaped leaf.
In just one day, Sabina had completed her adaptation and had already become a perfect wild person.