7. The Witch and the Poisonous Apple
Streams of clouds arc across the azure skies.
Summer is at its peak. The forest has become more vibrant—yet, no matter how much greener it turns, the lake stays crisp cold.
Strands of light, crimson, hair drift atop the ripples of the swaying lake’s surface. As Roze floats on the water, her chemise spreads, as if blooming on the lake.
For someone who finds bathing troublesome, she has been doing this a lot, lately. Probably because the weather is hot—there is no special reason for it.
Since Tien visited the other day, he probably won’t return for some time.
Even if he were to somehow appear and see Rose in such a state, she wouldn’t bat an eyelash.
As for Harij, she had told him to return in a month, period.
Suffice to say, she isn’t expecting anyone. No one will bother visiting such a place, anyway. Besides, it’s noon. Harij never visits the witch’s dwelling at daytime.
One month… to me, it feels both short and long…
Unable to meet you, there’s this loneliness inside of me.
Wasn’t I able to endure this feeling for seven long years?
Yet, why do I find one month unbearable?
Here I thought my memories of him would be able to sustain me for a lifetime.
The thoughts exhaust both Roze’s heart and body.
Turns out managing her emotions isn’t the same as controlling her feelings—she finds the latter even more difficult.
Nevertheless, when she told Harij a month is needed to process the materials, she was telling the truth.
The reason is because witches cannot lie.
There’s a reason why there are some potions that only witches can make.
A witch that relies on falsehood will be banned from using magic—
—in short, when a witch tells a lie, their magic, too, becomes a lie.
Such method can be deemed both heartless and ominous, yes—but it can also be used to determine the truth—or lies.
Because of the existence of said rules, Roze keeps her contact with people to a bare minimum while also keeping attention to both her facial expressions and words.
Her big robe is literally her only way to keep the truth hidden.
She can also omit the truth or just use plain distraction—those don’t count as lying.
However, she isn’t good at either.
That’s why, living in solitude is also her way of surviving.
“Hmm, it might be a good idea to wash my chemise, too…”
Because of the hot weather, after several hours, it’ll dry up nicely.
—a freshly washed robe and a dress are hanging on a rope outstretched between the trees.
Roze returns from the lake, about to add her wet chemise to the array.
She shakes her drenched body, like a dog after getting wet.
She unties her chemise’s strap, and the fabric soon falls to her feet.
Since she doesn’t have an extra set of clothes, she has no choice but to wait until it dries while naked.
The chemise, soaked with water, is quite heavy. She folds the chemise several times and squeezes it tightly.
While she’s focused on squeezing, her hair—dripping with water—flows down and brushes against her hand. The light crimson hair reaches towards her chest and clings to her skin.
After she has taken care of everything and hangs the chemise, Roze returns to the lake. A splashing wet sounds can be heard in each of her step.
Soon, she finds it fun and keeps repeating it. Afterwards, she becomes completely distracted.
She hears the sound of the bell—Chirin—yet doesn’t think much of it. She wonders if it’s the deer again and turns to check.
Only to find a man standing there.
She’s surprised to the point she can’t breathe.
—the man is Harij.
Roze glances at her spread chemise, now swaying lightly at the breeze.
Harij, who’s in the forest on the other side of the river, is as stunned as herself.
For a while, they keep staring at each other—only their breaths can be heard.
Chirp, chirp, chirp…
A small bird in the forest shows off its beautiful melody.
Harij is the one who casts his glance aside first.
In a vigorous movement, Harij turns his head. His voice, however, shows that he’s also quite surprised by the moment.
“Hahahaha…” A dry laugh leaks from Roze. Surely, my face is as red as a tomato. She’s exposed—towards that fact, her heart is pounding loudly.
Giving up on the idea of recovering her chemise, Roze strides inside her dwelling.
There, she covers her bright red face with both hands, squatting. She can feel strength leaving her feet.
Did, did he see me …naked? Yes, totally, he totally saw me!!
This pale skin… this unshapely figure, never touched by a corset…
If it was Tien who saw her, or some other customers, she wouldn’t mind. But him?! She feels an unbearable shame.
No way, I never thought he would come—didn’t I tell him to come in a month?!
Besides, it’s noon! Of all the places, why would he come here!? What business does he have!?
Although her brain is boiling, Roze remembers that Harij is waiting outside. She can’t afford to make him stay there forever.
Roze stands up desperately, her feet trembling, and scrambles towards her closet. She has no choice but to put on the robe from Tien. Beneath the robe, she wears nothing.
She doesn’t forget to check her reflection within a jar of water. Upon it is the reflection of a teary-eyed girl, cheeks burning red. She tries her best to relax her face.
Roze slaps both her cheeks as hard as she can. It helps her regain her composure.
She opens the front door and calls out to the other side.
“I’m waiting for you. You can come here.”
Harij, seemingly having kept his back turned towards her all this time—rigidly turns to face her.
Their distance isn’t very far, allowing her to see his expression clearly.
Harij seems to have calmed down—or at least, on the surface, he looks calmer than Roze.
Even when he tries desperately to hide his noble upbringing, some of his graceful behavior still seeps through. Under the bright sky, he’s even more dazzling than the usual.
—wait, doesn’t that mean he can also perceive her lackluster appearance?
Her head is about to burst.
Harij steps out of the small boat and ties it to the iron pole at the end of the dock. Once he confirms that he has secured the boat, he turns around.
“I was very rude just a while ago.”
He looks truly regretful—even though he didn’t mean any harm.
She can’t meet his gaze, and instead, lowers her own. The robe’s color …is truly similar to the forest…
Underneath this, I’m naked…
In front of him, I’m in a truly shameful state…
When she realizes that, again, her head is about to explode.
“No, it’s no problem at all. I never thought that I’ll be receiving Harij-sama…”
“…How do you know my name?”
—that’s when Roze realizes her undoing.
In this supposedly anonymous interaction, she said a name she shouldn’t have known.
Harij’s voice is stern.
The apologetic expression is nowhere to be seen—and instead, has become the firm expression of a knight.
At her own mistake, Roze bites her lip.
She has never heard of his name. He never told her. Or that’s the way it supposed to be.
I should’ve been aware of that, and yet, without thinking, I called him that…
Panic gnaws on her thought. In her heart, Roze can only pray to stay sane.
“I, I just happen to know—“
Her tongue seems to be stuck. Roze looks down, hiding further from his gaze.
A thought occurs in her mind, to distract Harij—but no way, to distract an elite knight like Harij, there’s absolutely no chance of that!
She can’t tell him the truth—yet at this moment, she can only speak the truth.
“…from seven years ago.”
“…that long ago?”
“Yes, forgive me, uh…”
Stop it, you idiot.
Roze wants to cast a spell on her mouth. Because the next thing she says will be the truth, and only the truth. Such is the life of a witch—only able to speak the truth. She wants to vanish completely from this place.
“Mr. Customer’s information will never be divulged to anyone, I can promise you that. I’m in a very unusual situation right now. If you keep asking more questions, I’ll become a mess!! I won’t be able to control what I’m saying!! Everything—absolutely everything will come out!!”
She’s panicking, and losing oxygen every second—her head aches. Words won’t stop flowing from her mouth.
“What?” Harij looks at Roze, concerned.
“W-witches, absolutely speak of the truth! They do no lie! Such, is the price of magic!”
Oh, no. It’s useless already.
She, with her own mouth, has made it known to others—the secret of the witch. Which absolutely mustn’t be revealed, ever.
Roze spins backward and repeatedly strikes her forehead against the wall. There’s no other way to calm her mind.
“O, oi…” Harij is agape at Roze’s sudden, worrying turns of action.
“Please, just let it go… I’m truly sorry.” She stops slamming her head and pleads breathlessly.
The forehead she has slammed repeatedly has turned red, not to mention, is full of scratches.
If Harij keeps asking, then Roze’ll definitely unleashes all her secrets to him, without leaving anything. She can’t have that.
Other witches might find it threatening that their weaknesses are known by others.
However, rather than the witch’s secrets billion people would seek—Roze is more afraid of Harij knowing her true feelings for him.
Therefore, she must prevent it from happening. She’s a witch. She can do at least that. I can do it, I believe so…!
For her, it’s better to die rather than face the reality that awaits once he’s aware of her feelings. He’s a strong, handsome nobleman—and even if she’s rich, or beautiful, in the end, she’s still a witch. The misery that awaits her is too obvious.
“I have that, don’t I?”
How could she forget? Roze is a witch, and a witch’s specialty isn’t limited to potion-making—it also ranges towards various other things, for example; …poison.
Roze rushes inside her house again, ransacking her shelf to find a small vial. When she fishes it out, the glass vials collide with each other, creating a high pitch noise.
This medicament is made for this exact purpose;
Using this, even a large cow can be taken out in an instant.
When Roze is about to open the vial’s lid—
—Harij hugs her from behind.
“What do you think you’re doing—!!”
…Or, rather than a hug, it’ll be more accurate to say that she’s being held down. Harij immediately snatches the vial away from Roze, the entire time looking like he’s confiscating the murder weapon from the suspect.
Due to the momentum, Roze falls on her back to the floor. Her robe opens, flashing her thigh. In a panic, she hurries to fix her attire.
“—I’m not trying to put a show here, I may be a witch, but I’m not a slut. Expenses for ingredients are such that there’s barely anything left of my income to even afford a change of clothing. I hope that explains my carelessness in attire.”
“I understand—wait. Forgive me. Truly. So Ms. Witch is in an even more extraordinarily awful state than her own dwelling, only now do I truly see this. I truly understand everything now.”
Harij says with a soothing, but also amazed face.
***T/N : Sorry for the wait, but I’m back with our cute witch!