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Chapter 64: From then On
Grabbing a small box from the shelf, the inside lined with wool and packed with care, I retrieved the two glasses that were laid within. The matching glasses had been presented to us before we departed the eastern Kingdom of Hinoe, a gift from the King himself, to return home to Palcemith. The beautiful faceted glass, one a deep, dark red and the other a beautiful shade of indigo, was a favorite of ours, and we always brought them out when it came time to celebrate.
Smothering the last of the embers in the fireplace; I opened the compartment nestled beneath the floor. Reaching into the cellar, I produced a decade-old vintage wine and held it aloft. Not forgetting to grab the corkscrew, I hooked my finger around it and carried it, along with the wine glasses, in my free hand.
Stepping outside, the wooden door creaking softly, I could hear the distant hoot of an owl dwelling in the gigantic trees that made up the forest.
“…It’s the same as ever.”
The frigid air of the forest and the tranquility of the approaching dawn.
This forest, nestled along the banks of the river Luft, hadn’t changed one bit even after ten years.
Once this night ends.
I will turn fifty five.
Anderheim Yucht Asbal.
The last descendant of the cursed Sage Asbal.
My life will end in that moment.
Having already said my goodbyes to those dearest to me, I wished to spend my final moments beside Jolga.
With my wine bottle in one hand and the glasses in the other, I began walking, unfazed.
This was a matter from ten years ago.
Following an investigation in the eastern country of Hinoe, we found a way to undo the curse of the Asbal bloodline, but it would only work for one person.
Without hesitation, I chose to use it on my beloved daughter Julieta.
From here on, Julieta and Sigurd would live and nurture a new future together. .
Leaving me as the last to bear the Asbal name, and the cruel fate that comes with it.
Jolga desperately tried to persuade me for days to find another way to break the curse, but I refused, expressing my desire to spend the rest of my days at his side rather than go searching for a needle in a haystack.
Acquiescing to my wishes, Jolga negotiated with the lord who owned the land along the Luft river and bought out the entire forest. After rebuilding the cramped hunting lodge into a livable log cabin and handing the Oswein estate over to Sigurd, who had taken over as head of the family, we began our idyllic life.
Unfortunately, with the outbreak of the Cemtoah war and the civil war in the Republic of Sahana, the situation surrounding Palcemith was anything but calm. In the end, Jolga and I, who jumped at every opportunity to go on a journey, spent most of our time wandering around the continent of Yugena.
Julieta, freed from Asbal’s curse, was now a mother of three. Sigurd, now the Knight Commander, and Julieta made for a harmonious couple, and despite her outward appearance surpassing d my age, she still retained the title of the Goddess loved by the Silver Moon.
In public she presented herself as a dignified lady, but in private she continued to love being spoiled by her father. For the rest of my life, I continued to love this adorable daughter of mine.
When Lutora gave up his rights to succession, claiming that he “couldn’t produce an heir”, Sigurd begrudgingly took up his duties as the next head of the Oswein family.
Even after his successor became the Knight Commander, Jolga continued to protect Palcemith with a firm hand. His subordinates idolizing him as both a devoted husband and Knight Commander.
As for Malacia, with the ancient dragon Kharis appearing on the surface, the number of believers in the Dragon God exploded both at home and abroad. With the increase of devotees, the Shrine was no longer struggling in acquiring funds for its budget. Alas, there was also no shortage of people who were tempted by the beautiful Head Priest and Lutora, who had been assigned as Malacia’s bodyguard, was always on edge.
Malacia himself had opened his heart to Lutora, and when the Shrine’s servants witnessed the Head Priest fast asleep against Lutora’s shoulder with a relaxed expression, they burst with joy and prayed for his happiness.
Afterward, Lutora spoke with his father, Jolga, and his elder brother, Sigurd, and resigned from the Royal Knights. Leaving the family register, he took up a new post as the Commander of the Temple Knights. Under the leadership of Lutora, who had already earned the trust of the Temple Knights and the servants at the Shrine, the Temple Knights steadily improved and continued to maintain a good relationship with the Royal Knights.
Lutora vowed to love Malacia for the rest of his life, and because he could not produce an heir, he pushed the duties of the family head onto the reluctant Sigurd.
Malacia moved by Lutora’s passion, and his willingness to abandon his succession to serve him, and invited Lutora to live with him.
Morino, as the shrewd Prime Minister in charge of the state, slowly mastered the art of tipping the scales. His grasp of the situation and his predictions for the future, backed up by his gifted intellect and the experience he had cultivated, reached the pinnacle of excellence, and the turmoil surrounding the Kingdom of Palcemith was more often than not, resolved by his abilities.
Cain and Abel, who had come to be known as the Twin Knights, never left Prime Minister Morino’s side and guarded him from harm. It was impressive to see how well the twins had grown, but hidden in the gazes they sent the Prime Minister was a passion well beyond their trust in him. However, the details of that particular subject is none of my concern.
After seeing her best friend Julieta freed from Asbal’s curse and with the birth of Sigurd’s first child, Vanellope accepted the proposal to become Vikram’s consort. She was an exceptionally talented woman, always attentive to the inner workings of the world. And even while supporting King Vikram’s rule, she would mercilessly pull her husband by his ear whenever she had any misgivings and was quick to correct his course of action.
Two years after Vanellope took her place as consort, she gave birth to a golden-haired Crown Prince, and the Kingdom of Palcemith cheerfully celebrated.
A small stone memorial, the face smooth and with nary an inscription carved upon it, had been erected behind their cabin. .
Setting the indigo glass before it, uncorking the bottle of decade old wine and I poured it into the glass.
Repeating the same with my own glass, and using the stone memorial as a backrest, I sat on the ground.
Watching the moon set below the horizon as I brought the glass to my lips, the fragrance of grapes tickling my nose…
“…You promised, right? Let us have one last drink together, Jolga.”
Jolga, that idiot, even passed away before me.
While helping to inspect the old city, he used his own body as a shield to save a group of children who had been inside one of the dilapidated buildings when it began to collapse.
When Jolga’s body was hauled out of the rubble, his internal injuries had proven to be too great. The children he had protected, however, had only suffered minor scrapes and bruises.
Latching onto Jolga’s hand, which was quickly growing cold, I let his large, bloody fingers touch the proof that had been etched on my nape.
“…Jolga. …You know it, right?”
We don’t need parting words, words of gratitude, or of love.
At my question, Jolga smiled and nodded weakly.
The hazel eyes that slowly closed in my arms, never opened again.
In accordance with his will, Jolga was buried behind the log cabin where we had lived together. No name was engraved upon the plain stone memorial.
For a year after Jolga’s death, I guarded this quiet grave, where only the family and friends who knew of it would visit and leave flowers.
“You had quite the gall to leave before me, you mutt.”
Ten years ago.
This was the wine we had bought for us to drink together on this very day.
Pouring the remainder of the bottle into the indigo glass that couldn’t be drunk, I polished off the last of the wine.
“…Take me with you, Jolga.”
I will never forget the promise I made that day.
From the corner of my eyes, I caught the sky changing colors, gradually growing bright.
Quietly, I closed my eyes.
All we got left now is the epilogue. Hope you have some more tissues handy after this tearjerker.
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