“Lord Lin! Lord Lin! Lord Lin! Lord Lin!”
I heard someone call out to me while I was in my hazy state – I think. All I saw was a blanket of white. Nothing was clear. I squinted for a long time before finally seeing Ross’ anxious face and Leah’s small head pressed on my abdomen, desperately licking my wound and spitting blood out over and over.
It felt as though I was lying on my bed at home, waking up to another ordinary day. I wasn’t bankrupt. Veirya wasn’t hurt. I didn’t go to the imperial capital. I wasn’t assassinated. My abdomen didn’t hurt anymore. I didn’t know what took place while I was out cold, but my wound had stopped hurting. I felt less dizzy; I’d even say that my mind was clearer by a bit. My body no longer felt so heavy. Though I had no clue what I was shouldering, I no longer felt anxious. I wasn’t even thinking about anything as a matter of fact. My mood was… calm.
“Ross, have we arrived?”
“Yes, we have arrived. We have arrived… However, in order to avoid danger, we are currently at the clock tower near the auction grounds…”
“Clock tower? Since when did our town have a clock tower? … Oh, that one…”
The chapel came over to conduct their flavouring trade in the past. That was why there was a structure resembling a clock tower in the town. I didn’t completely destroy the chapel. I never went after the chapel in the North, so it remained as a tower with an ancient clock.
Our house must’ve been turned into the auction grounds now. We could overlook the auction grounds from the tower, so it wasn’t a bad spot. Ross sure knew how to choose a good spot.
“All right. Let’s stay here, then. We can participate in the auction still,” I decided.
Leah looked up at me with her face smothered in tears. Tears streaking down her cheeks, she cried, “Papa! Why didn’t you tell Leah?! Why did you travel through the night when you had such a serious injury?! Why couldn’t you rest in the imperial capital for a while?! Papa will die! You will die, Papa!”
“This Is Leah and Papa’s home,” I replied, pursing my lips to form a smile and wiping the bloodstain at the corner of Leah’s mouth. “This is also Papa, Veirya, Angelina, Ross and the elves’ home. It’s not large. The location isn’t good. It’s also freezing, but it’s our home. Leah’s flower also grows here. Papa is Leah’s Papa. Papa must protect this place even if Papa has to risk Papa’s life.”
Leah grabbed my chest and cried. She didn’t say anything in particular, not that I knew what to say. I tried to hug her. Sadly, my arms lacked the strength, unfortunately. My strength wouldn’t obey my order to sit up.
“I remember Veirya was also stabbed in the abdomen. Talk about similarity. She was hurt gravely, but she should be all right now. Before she comes back, I need to protect this place,” I inwardly said.
Ross, standing at the window, excitedly shouted, “Lord Lin, Lord Lin, the auction is starting! Lord Lin!”
With my hand on my abdomen, I quietly directed, “Ross, I can’t shout right now. You go. Here are ten thousand gold coins. If it doesn’t work out in the end, spread the news that the merchants are bankrupt, which would make their efforts fruitless. Buy back the North.”
I couldn’t hear what was said there nor could I utter another word. All I could hear was Ross scream numbers.
“Interesting. I initially thought Ross might’ve been plotting something and refused to accept him. Now, however, he’s the only one who can help me. Ross has changed, too. He is no longer the cat who gets scared of everyone he meets. He’s no longer a boy others can lead by the nose. I don’t know if I was the catalyst, but he’s much braver now.
“They say that your life will flash before your eyes when you’re about to die. Why don’t I have any memories? All I see is white mist. I can’t see past the mist? What’s behind it? Will it be Veirya’s embrace or the sun we once saw together?”
The white mist gradually dispersed, and I couldn’t hear anything. I felt as though I had just woken up. With my thoughts hazy, I rubbed my eyes and looked around again. I had no idea where I was or what I went through.
“Is this what I thought was real but is actually a dream I can’t recall?” I pondered.
The clear breeze from the north after noon brushed my face. The sun was bright as always just as Leah’s smile was. The leaves cackled as the breeze grazed them. I felt soft mud and the smelt the scent of grass. The sky was clear and far away.
Veirya was there, lying silently next to me, eyes closed. Her long eyelashes danced in the wind. I could still feel the warmth of her hand. She had never left. We had never parted. We had never seen life and death, either. Everything was still at the most beautiful point in time.
I gently shifted closer to Veirya. Despite being very close, despite leaning on her shoulder, I had let go of everything. It should all have been a dream, a dream after a summer afternoon. Veirya and I should be sleeping on the lawn. The shouting in the distance must’ve been Leah and Angelina. Veirya was next to me. She had never left.
“I’ll sleep for a bit. Everything is fine,” I told myself.
I grabbed Veirya’s hand and leaned on her shoulder. I let out a long breath and gently shut my eyes…
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