“Encounter with the Sage”
“Who are you?” Sachie asked the mysterious woman who had suddenly appeared, looking extremely perplexed.
In contrast, the woman calmly and matter-of-factly introduced herself, “I am Mulberry, a mage who lives in this forest.”
Mulberry, despite her still and piercing gaze, looked surprisingly young.
She had removed her black hood to reveal a youthful face with fine, fair skin.
She gave off an impression of being an unsociable yet beautiful older sister with her black hair.
Sachie estimated her age to be in her twenties, or perhaps even younger.
As she gazed vaguely at Mulberry’s face, the latter suddenly became restless and fidgety.
“Um, could you please not stare at me like that? I’m not used to being around people,” she said, hiding her face again with her black hood.
Sachie felt a bit put off by Mulberry’s cold demeanor, wondering if she had a problem with children.
If so, things were going to be very awkward.
But then, she noticed that Mulberry’s cheeks, peeking out from under the hood, had turned slightly pink.
It seemed that Mulberry was just shy.
It was only natural that she wasn’t used to being around people, considering she lived in this remote forest.
Sachie secretly felt relieved, having thought that Mulberry was just an icy and unapproachable person.
To avoid staring at Mulberry, she shifted her gaze slightly away.
As a result, the conversation came to a halt, and an awkward silence hung between the two for a while.
Perhaps to dispel the silence, or perhaps out of concern for a child, Mulberry forced herself to start a conversation.
“If it’s alright with you, may I ask for the young lady’s name?” she asked.
Sachie suddenly remembered that she hadn’t introduced herself yet and replied, “I’m Sachie.
But then she stopped mid-sentence and corrected herself.
“Actually, Sachie is fine,” she corrected.
She wasn’t allowed to use that family name anymore, as she had been expelled from it.
“Sachie-chan… Is that alright? It’s a lovely name,” Mulberry said, but her unsociable demeanor made Sachie doubt whether she really meant it.
Though her voice sounded sincere, her facial expression was hard to read.
As Sachie struggled to come up with a response, Mulberry continued, looking around the surroundings.
“Why were you alone in a place like this, Sachie-chan? Did you get separated from your family?”
It was a natural question to ask.
It was strange for such a young girl to be alone in this place.
It must have seemed even more peculiar to Mulberry, who lived in this forest.
“I was abandoned by my father.
That’s why I’m here alone,” Sachie replied.
“Abandoned?” Mulberry repeated in surprise.
“He kicked me out of the house because I broke a precious vase that he valued so much,” Sachie explained in a matter-of-fact tone.
As she spoke, Mulberry’s head slowly tilted to the side in confusion.
It seemed that Mulberry was not questioning the fact that her father had abandoned her, but rather something else was bothering her.
“When you said ‘I broke it’ like that… do you mean that you did it without realizing it?” Mulberry asked.
“No, it was my older brother who broke it, but for some reason, it was blamed on me,” Sachie replied.
“That’s… terrible,” Mulberry said, her expression clouding over with sympathy, despite her usual stoicism.
“Hmm? So, you were just accused of breaking the vase and then kicked out of the house? That seems quite unreasonable, doesn’t it?”
“That’s just the way things were in that family.”
Given that response, Mulberry could only reply with an “I see” and couldn’t deny that families have their own ways of doing things.
“Did your mother say anything about it?”
“My mother has been bedridden for a long time, so she’s been staying in her room.
But my father’s word is absolute, so I don’t think she can do anything.”
It seemed like Mulberry now understood that there were complicated family circumstances, so she didn’t say anything more about the family.
A brief silence fell between the two.
Then, as if to dislike the quiet, Mulberry spoke up again.
“Even though you were kicked out of your house, you seem quite calm and composed.
You’re really level-headed, aren’t you?”
Indeed, Sachie’s composure was not something one would expect from a young girl who had been kicked out of her house.
It would be strange if she didn’t turn pale and break down in tears due to the shock and fear of being attacked by monsters.
However, Sachie calmly replied.
“I thought it might happen someday.”
“You thought so?”
“I was always treated coldly at home, so I thought it might happen eventually.
I was born without any magical talent and wasn’t expected to do anything, so I was just a nuisance in that house.”
The words “nuisance” coming from the mouth of such a young girl surprised Mulberry, who widened her eyes in shock.
But for Sachie, it was a familiar word that slipped out smoothly.
She had been subjected to verbal abuse from her father for a long time, so saying it herself didn’t make her sad anymore.
…Or so she thought.
But the unexpected expulsion from her home had actually affected her, and Sachie found her face clouding over without realizing it.
Seeing Sachie’s expression, Mulberry made a hesitant suggestion.
“If, if it’s okay with you…would you like to come to my place?”
“If you don’t have anywhere to go, it’s okay to stay at my place for a while…”
Mulberry spoke each word with effort, looking very nervous.
Perhaps she wasn’t used to socializing due to her shy personality.
It was quite dangerous to leave a child alone in this forest, so for now, why not come to her home? That was the intention behind her suggestion.
However, there was one thing that Sachie didn’t understand.
“Why are you helping me?”
Why was Mulberry trying to help a complete stranger like her, both earlier and now?
“I should be okay with abandoning myself like this.
After all, a child abandoned by a noble family should only be a troublesome seed.
Especially with her shy personality, she should want to keep her distance from others as much as possible, shouldn’t she?
Above all, Sachie had only been mistreated since birth, so she only felt discomfort from kindness shown by others.
Mulberry thought for a moment before answering Sachie, who was tilting her head in confusion.
“Well… I thought Sachie-chan reminded me a little of myself in the past… maybe?”
Sachie thought that Mulberry was a strange person, wondering what part of her body resembled Mulberry’s.
However, Sachie had nowhere else to go, so she decided to follow the woman claiming to be a female magician named Mulberry.
After all, there was no way anyone from the mansion would come to pick her up if she just stood there.
If anything, the possibility of a scary magical beast coming to her with an empty stomach was higher, so Sachie chose the path with the highest chance of survival.
As Sachie trailed behind Mulberry, they eventually came upon a small house in the sunlight.
“Please come in.
It’s not a very splendid house, though.”
Although Mulberry modestly said so, Sachie, who had lived in the mansion, thought it was a reasonably large house.
The wooden house stood quietly surrounded by trees in the forest.
It was a two-story house with a spacious layout.
Sunlight shone through the trees, and occasionally a pleasant breeze and the chirping of birds came through the windows.
The furniture such as the table and chairs had a simple design, while the dishes on the shelf were adorned with luxurious decorations.
Cleaning and organization were meticulous, and Sachie felt that the air was clean and clear.
It was a far cry from the small, stuffy room she had been living in.
In addition, the tea that Mulberry made with her experienced hand was fragrant and elegant.
She even made dinner with great care.
Sachie felt that Mulberry was trying her best because she was unfamiliar with entertaining guests.
“Since Sachie-chan is thin, I thought it would be good for her to eat a lot,” Mulberry said.
Thick meat and hearty stew with lots of vegetables, a fresh salad, and juicy, colorful fruits.
Mulberry even prepared fluffy cupcakes for dessert.
Sachie’s eyes welled up with tears because she had hardly eaten anything besides rock-hard bread and almost watery soup.
Above all, Mulberry took care of her with great care throughout the evening, and Sachie’s broken heart was healed from the bottom of her heart.
Despite her unfriendly expression, Sachie thought that Mulberry was a kind and caring older sister who was good at cooking.
There was no reason for Sachie to feel uncomfortable in such a pleasant environment.
“If you have nowhere to go, you can stay here for a while longer,” Mulberry said at the end.
In the end, Sachie completely trusted Mulberry and had a carefree thought of returning home when she felt like it or going somewhere else.
As she spent a peaceful life in Mulberry’s home, Sachie grew up quietly.
And before she knew it…
Five years had passed.
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