“——So, what are you going to do next?”

Regina put away the mirror and sat down on the chair again. Not that it bothered me, but what was the point of having a staff with her legs and feet still that strong? Although, I was afraid to vocalize it since she looked like shed answer that she simply had it as a blunt weapon.

On the other hand, when I was asked out of the blue, I could only crane my neck in confusion, unable to grasp what she meant.

I might be a ragweed, but I was still the daughter of a Frontier Count who was comparable in authority to a Duke in the Imperial Kingdom. Whether this was an accident or otherwise, the fact that I went missing meant a search party would naturally be organized. It was only natural for me to join up with them and return to either my estate or head for Cilento Imperial Capital as planned, right?

At my words, Reginas already dour face became even more frowned and her mouth curved as though she was about to vomit, “Will it even be that simple?”

“Why……not?”

With the eyes of a tutor facing a less-competent student, and her fingers knocking down one by one reminiscent of the claws of a bird of prey, Regina glared down at me, “First of all, youre in a neighboring country, across the border. Your search party may be private troops or even regular foot soldiers, but they still bear the flag of your country. Theres no checkpoint nearby, but its highly unlikely they would set foot in another country without permission.”

She then knocked down her second finger. “Second of all, were in the Tenebrae Nemus. Its not that there arent any small towns nearby that cater to adventurers and explorers, but I dont think any honest and respectable bunch would dare treading here.”

“That may be so, but then wouldnt I be able to cross the border myself or take the road to go to a town close to the Imperial Kingdom?”

Regina glared at the entirety of me, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, and with a disgusted look on her face, she laid down her third finger. “The biggest question is why you were dying in a place like this. Dont you think it is strange, that the daughter of a great imperial noble is all alone in the depths of Tenebrae Nemus, far off any human roads? Did bandits attack you? Or did some Demon Beasts dragged you all the way here? There was no one else in the carriage besides you, no sign of a struggle or any drops of blood either. It seems to me that your entire traveling party conspired to have you killed.”

She then added another question, whether or not I remember anything that happened at all.

“……!!”

I could only shake my head aghast.

I wasnt aghast because what Regina said was outlandish——far from it, it was logical and it made everything click——I was aghast because I realized of how ignorant and stupid I had been for not knowing anything about anyone around me, be it their relationships or what they carried inside their hearts.

I was soon to be 11 year old. 11 year old was the age of someone in the 5th or the 6th grade in my previous(?) life. Precocious little girls could be much more thoughtful than adults, and while I was a boy, I remembered I had quite a few problems with friendships and parent-child relationships……and yet, just how uninterested and unsympathetic Syltianna aka me in this life was to the others?!

And what I found most frightening was that I wasnt even aware I was belittling others. People tend to be ignorant of air, plants, and flowers in the background. And I used to think of the people around me as part of the background. This was a sin. Ignorance and apathy were an undeniable sin. How sinful I was!!

Regina frowned, snorted at me as I turned pale and stunned. “Well, that reminds me, youre some sheltered young lady. Youre much better than the rumor made you out, so I kinda forgot about it. I cant blame you if you dont know that.”

“……What should I do from now on?”

As the words slipped out of my words, Regina looked blatantly irritated.

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“Thats what I asked. Well, I saved your life, and Im not a devil to just leave you be after that, but I still cant afford earning bread for some good-for-nothing.”

That might sound heartless, but this was not Japan. The both of us lived in a world where we had to make do with limited resources. There was no benefit for her in helping a complete stranger who suddenly fell into her life.

No, originally, she should have sent me back to the frontier and I would reimburse her for it, but if her earlier guess was correct, it was highly likely that the entire family of the Frontier Count, and even perhaps someone higher than that, were planning to erase my existence. If I were so foolishly shown up in the county, it was obvious Id be silenced then and there.

Regina not wanting to have more burden was reasonable. On the contrary, she didnt drive me away and even took care of me, despite her harsh words. It would be selfish of me to ask more than I already received.

I folded the blanket that was tangled around my feet, brought my feet down the bed, then bowed. I then removed the necklace——a memento of my mothers that I had always worn, but apparently fell into my dress——and placed it on top of the blanket. I didnt have any cash on me, so this was the only thing I could give her now, at least as a token of apology.

“I apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused. I dont know how the outcome will be, but I will return to my parents house and see what is happening myself.”

“Id say theyll bust you as soon as you show your face.”

“Then so be it. That only means Ive committed enough sins to incite them to do it. I will obey and accept my fate.”

If I was to be punished for my sins of ignorance and apathy, then I would accept it with open arms.

“Thats some good resolution you got. The world is littered with scums who take lives for no reason, just because they think someone is a hindrance or inconveniencing them. A kid like you doesnt need to talk about craps like fate!”

Regina, after spitting out bitterly, stood up vigorously, walked with her strong legs to the wardrobe beside the bed, took out an unadorned dress from it, and threw it over my head as though to tell me to put it on.

“Change out from that loud, ugly dress. This may be a bit too big for you, but considering your width, it should fit you in. Ill fix the extra length later, but for now, change to that.”

“Uhh……?”

When I was puzzled, unable to follow what she was saying, Regina directed a sharp gaze at me. “Before, you did something interesting when you regulated your breath.”

“Interesting?”

“Your breathing technique. I do something similar when I practice sorcery, but its a different kind of technique.”

Now that she mentioned it, I recalled I did. It was rhythm breathing and inner-qi breathing technique.

“That wasnt for sorcery, that was martial arts breathing……”

Upon hearing my answer, a look of interest lit up inside Reginas eyes. “Thats interesting. I thought it was self-taught, but you have a good foundation for it to be something you made up yourself. You dont seem to realize it, but you have a talent for sorcery.”

“Huh, sorcery?”

To be honest, the word sorcery didnt really strike me home. Sorceries and so on and forth had always been a complete fairy tale in my previous life, and even in this life, there was no chance for the average noblewoman to come into contact with magic unless you were a healing art practitioner, an imperial sorcerer, an adventurer, or having other professions that was directly tied to it. It just took much less time and effort to hire someone to teach you magic than trying to learn it yourself.

“Im starting to get tired of going to town for groceries, you see. Ill have you stay with me for a while as my apprentice, and you can figure out what to do with yourself in the meantime.”

Regina spoke rapidly and without a pause, but after a second of processing her unexpected kindness, I stood up to my feet and kowtowed again.

“Thank you very much for your repeated kindness. I will gratefully take up on your words.”

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