Slowly, I lifted my heavy eyelids.
As my eyesight adjusted to my surroundings, it was exceptionally bright.
Beneath the cloudless sky, white flowers bloomed upon a field, swaying along with the wind.
Peach blossoms. No, perhaps magnolias.
Strangely enough, the flowers’ sweet fragrance reached the tip of my nose.
It was an unfamiliar yet familiar scent.
And only then did I realize what I was lying on.
I was lying on a broad flat boulder that looked as though it was carved.
I blinked my heavy eyelids.
After sweeping both hands over my face, I noticed the long sleeves over my arms, which made a sound as I moved.
No, I’m sure of it.
This was a dream.
A dream about the second transmigration.
‘How long has it been since I had a vivid dream, I wonder.’
It was the first time after I had dreamt of Urien, which happened after I visited the dungeon last time.
I’ve had so many nightmares and hogwash dreams before this that I’d become sick and tired of them, but this was so unusually vivid.
‘Why the hell does this keep happening.’
It was only the second time that I’m experiencing a vivid dream. But if you put it another way, it repeated a second time.
I’ve lived through multiple transmigrations, but it’s the first time I’m experiencing it in this round.
I closed my eyes and thought.
It’s been a while, but I was so vividly experiencing this body’s strong condition again.
This body felt so light that it couldn’t be compared to the weak body of a duke’s daughter.
That’s right. I used to travel across the world with this body.
But how long had I been lying just like that?
Shortly, a rustling sound coming in from the side, and a presence.
Hearing the sound that was purposely not concealed, my eyes quickly turned to see who it was.
And there, the person who made that sound looked back at me.
He was a tall young man who had a limber body and long hair.
Though his eyes were covered with a white cloth, his lips were smiling as they slowly opened to speak.
The voice that spoke was deep, gentle.
I thought that this voice would sound alien to my ears because it’s been a long time since I last heard it, but it didn’t feel unfamiliar at all. Perhaps because this was a dream.
Staring blankly at him, I opened my lips.
In the second transmigration, he was my older brother, who taught me how to make the elixir. Shin Mog. That’s his name.
His eyes were always covered by a white cloth. His eyes were injured many years prior before the birth of the person I was possessing.
So, I never got to see those eyes of his as they were covered with white cloth.
I didn’t know the color of his eyes, the shape of his eyes, the length of his lashes.
Immediately after I possessed the body of Baek Seol, I became very afraid of him.
All that I had to disguise myself was this outer shell. And for someone who did not rely on his eyes, he might see right through me.
I was afraid that he, whose eyes were closed beneath that white cloth, would be able to capture my very essence.
I was so incredibly afraid of that.
But for some reason or another, I became close to him.
Because he was the only one who took pity on me, amongst the siblings who held no affection for each other.
His sympathy was like rain over a drought-stricken land as I tried to navigate this difficult world.
I had no idea why he sympathized with me.
Perhaps he felt sorry for this body, which was weak compared to the other siblings.
Perhaps it’s because I vomited blood every time I trained, and I had to beg him for medicine every single day.
He was called the ‘Austere Crane’ by others, and yet he was especially kind to me.
He was originally an outstanding martial arts warrior, but he lost his eyesight, which prompted him to dive into researching medicine. In the end, he showed a particular talent in making man-made elixirs.
Many people wanted to become a disciple under his tutelage so that they could be taught how to make the elixirs.
However, the only one he took in under his wing as a student and taught how to make the elixir was me.
‘Seola, keep mastering it. I’m certain that it’ll one day be of help to you.’
Through the coldblooded and eternally frosty gaze, there was a gap in his countenance as he regarded me warmly as family rather than as the ‘Austere Crane’. And at the same time, he was also my esteemed teacher.
When I hit my head on the ground and met my demise during that second transmigration, the only face that came to my mind was Mogi Oraboni’s.
Sometimes he said this.
That, maybe because he had been robbed of his eyesight, he looked at things differently compared to others.
Saying so, it was only sometimes that the white cloth over his eyes would become soaked.
Those eyes beneath the cloth, which I had never seen before, became wet at that time.
‘Poor thing. You poor thing…’
Tears that were both cold and warm flowed down his eyes as he repeated these words over and over.
All the while, he also stroked my hair.
His voice, as he recited the same words to me, was so terribly sorrowful that, after this, I cried secretly to myself a few times while remembering it.
Here in my dream, I walked through the field while looking at Mogi Oraboni’s broad back.
The white flowers, which had grown tall, tickled my ankles.
Every time he took a step and every time the wind blew, Oraboni’s long, dark hair fluttered along.
The last time I saw Oraboni was during that tearful scene, and so I couldn’t help but bite my lips as I’m now meeting him again after a long time.
“I wish for you to master your techniques slowly, very slowly.”
After saying this, he stopped walking.
The same moment Mogi Oraboni’s strides came to a halt, the wind that was blowing stopped as well.
When the wind stopped, the petals that were dancing along with the breeze seemingly halted mid-air.
And here, the petals fell much slower towards the ground, as if it was a rain of petals.
It was truly a scene that was suitable for the celestial realm.
With a somewhat restrained voice, I replied to him.
“But, Oraboni. Wouldn’t that put my life in danger?”
He slowly turned around.
The eyes hidden by that white cloth remained to be unknown.
His fine lips drew a beautiful smile.
“…Who knows. Still, I feel regrettable about how you left. I guess you could say that I’ve grown attached to you.”
Not knowing what he was talking about, I asked back. But at this, he smiled silently and stroked my hair.
From the time that I was very young, until the time that I learned martial arts and went back and forth between the mortal realm and the celestial realm.
He stroked my hair just as he usually did.
“Perhaps all of Mount Baek’s disciples, along with the disciple brothers and disciple sisters from the same master—they could all have descended already if the only thing you need to do is prepare yourself with all that’s needed to be prepared.”
At one point, I also descended.
It was only a moment, but it felt like I was riding a cloud.
Oraboni continued speaking quietly, and his voice was like the breeze of a fine spring day.
“I suppose that’s how it is.”
Along where his eyes should be, the white cloth became wet.
Without saying a word, I stared at the white cloth as it continued to be soaked.
“I wish for you to descend very slowly.”
“I wish for you to have fewer hardships, even if it could be lessened only a little.”
“Oraboni… Why are you saying these things.”
“Where else will you be going this time, I wonder, on these wandering travels.”
The hand that was stroking my hair stopped.
He smiled sorrowfully.
Smiling and crying, he said one last thing.
“Seola, poor child.”
* * *
With my eyes slowly fluttering open, I woke up from the dream.
Unlike the nightmare where I saw Urien, I did not wake up screaming or feeling as if I was being chased.
‘What kind of dream was that?’
It was such a vivid dream.
It really felt like I was there, like I really met Mogi Oraboni.
That’s why, even if we had talked only in a dream, it felt like a truly meaningful conversation.
He talked in that way from time to time. While seeing something else with his unseeing eyes, he spoke in that way towards me.
‘Where else will you be going this time, I wonder, on these wandering travels.’
Still, his clear voice rang behind my ears.
Tears welled up at the corner of my eyes, and so I blinked and wiped them away.
Through my cloudy vision, I saw Cassion’s back.
And seeing the appearance of that familiar person made me finally realize that this was the reality I was living in now.
Pushing aside my thoughts of the dream, I fiddled with the blanket.
It seemed as though the place I woke up in was Cassion’s room, and I was in his bed.
‘How did I fall asleep?’
While staring at the man’s wide back, I tried to grapple with my memories from before I fell asleep.
It was Ria’s check-up day, so Diana left work early.
Since Logan was going the same direction, I told them to go back together.
So I stayed in this room alone, watching Cassion as he slept and, at the same time, organizing my plans for the future.
That’s all I could remember.
It seemed like I succumbed to slumber while I was on the sofa.
However, I woke up lying in this bed, not on that sofa.
The sofa where I fell asleep had only one small cushion.
Looking alternately between the empty sofa and the window, I soon opened my lips to speak.
“What’re you doing.”
Because I had just woken up, my voice was a bit raspy.
At the succinct question, the man calmly turned his head to look this way.
“Why are you up when you’re the patient? Why am I lying here, again.”
“The one who’s sleeping should lie down, and the one who’s awake should get up.”
With a small smile, I got up from the bed. His black eyes watched as I did, and he spoke.
“Why. You should lie down more.”
“You just said that someone who’s awake should get up.”
“…If there’s a contest to rank people who always get the last word in, you’ll be ranked the first in all of the Empire.”
One eyebrow twitched as he said that, though he answered with a smile.
As I got up on my feet, I went to stand next to Cassion.
While he looked towards the bed, he was leaning back against the windowsill, and on that same windowsill, I leaned over with my chest against the frame.
I could only hear our breathing going alternately as we were looking at different things.
Amid the dark silence, Cassion turned his head once our breathing had synced.
And as I felt his gaze on the side of my face, I also turned to look at him.
In that close distance, our eyes met.
“Are you alright?”
“Why do you ask?”
The sudden question was answered with another question.
“Until just now, you looked like you weren’t alright, so I couldn’t ask. Still, your complexion is better today. So I wanted to ask.”
‘Are you alright?’
I recalled the same question I’ve heard before.
‘Until just now, you didn’t look like you were doing alright, La³.’
The two questions conflated on top of one another.
Seemed like I didn’t look well.
And somewhere in another world, in that other body, I also didn’t look alright.
Cassion wasn’t originally quick-witted when it came to these things.
Especially when it’s being hidden, he’s not supposed to notice like a ghost.
Rolling my tongue inside my mouth, I nodded.
“Mm-hmm, I’m fine.”
Again, there was a moment of silence.
The night was essentially a period of quietude, so the silence wasn’t strange.
This time, I was the first to break that silence.
“How about you, are you alright? You look better now, so I’m also asking.”
Hearing the question uttered with a playful tone, Cassion’s eyes met mine across the distance between us.
A silly smile graced his lips as he, too, nodded.
“Mm-hmm, I’m also doing good.”
The silly answer matched his silly smile.
After smiling back briefly as well, I spoke again.
“You’re not asking, by the way.”
“About what happened during the funeral. Why I zoned out as though I’d gone mad that day.”
After asking if the other’s alright or not alright, that’s where we started.
In the middle of the subsequent silence, his quiet eyes turned to me.
“If you have a reason to tell me, then you will tell me. There’s no need to pry.”
His tone was calm.
Even calmer than when he was asking me if I was alright.
As I stared at him wordlessly, Cassion tilted his head slightly as though to ask if there was something wrong.
I averted my gaze.
Perhaps because I was staring into his black eyes, but the darkened room didn’t look so dark now.
“…I thought I saw a monster. One that’s been chasing after me for a long time, that monster.”
It was a strange thing to hear about, but Cassion didn’t pry.
However, he gave just this answer.
“There’s no monster that you can’t defeat.”
Perhaps succour, perhaps not.
What I was sure of was this— whatever purpose he had in saying that, I felt at ease once more.
“Indeed, that’s true.”
Feeling better now, I smiled again.
Beneath this dark, pitch black sky, the night was filled with laughter.
¹ After Seol and Mog’s names are the sounds ‘a/ah’ and ‘i/ee’. When these syllables are added to someone’s name, they turn into a nickname as they’re called by someone who’s close to them. Their actual names are just Seol and Mog.
Additionally, Mog’s full name is ‘Shin Mog’, but Shin is his last name and Mog is his given name. Likewise with ‘Baek Seol’.
² Oraboni = Older brother. I decided to leave the word as it is since we’re in an eastern setting this time.
(Rosetta and Alicia also call Damian ‘Oraboni’, but I’ve been translating that word to ‘Brother’ since the novel they’re in has a western setting.)
³ La = could also be ‘Ra’ because Hangul has just one character for ‘R’ and ‘L’.
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