21 Chapter 20: Marriage (4)

Ner and I sat at the head table of the feast, observing the joyous and lively crowd of humans and werewolves enjoying themselves.

Laughter and blessings continued to pour toward us.

We both responded to those cheers without much enthusiasm.

Getting married felt strange.

It still didn't feel real.

Ner Blackwood sitting next to me was now my lifelong companion.

Now, she was someone who should be cherished more than anyone else.

...Right now, it feels so awkward, but I suppose we will grow closer over time.

I wasn't sure either.

Ner sat with her tail tucked, resting her hands on her thighs.

This beautiful werewolf woman seemed even more reserved in her chair.

"…"

Looking at her, I had various thoughts.

After our marriage, Ner and I didn't share any significant conversations.

Silence persisted between us.

My lack of conversation skills contributed to it, and Ner Blackwood seemed frightened.

I didn't dare to try to get closer right away.

We had decades ahead of us.

But surely, some kind of interaction would be necessary before that.

Soon, the celebration, whether short or long, would come to an end.

As we couldn't have a grand feast, the food quickly disappeared.

Soon, we would have to engage in battle with the monsters, so everyone showed restraint in drinking.

Gibson seemed to have the same thought as he approached us.

"Berg, Ner."

Ner trembled at Gibson's call. Being right next to her, I noticed her every small gesture and movement.

Gibson spoke to us in that manner.

"…Let's go for the soul binding."

We were approaching the final step of marriage before the first night.

****

A group of people guided us to a small forest within the Blackwood Territory.

Gibson and Ner's brothers, werewolf soldiers, Adam Hyung and Baron, uur honcho team soldiers surrounded us as our escorts.

I walked one step ahead of Ner, and she followed slowly behind me.

When I turned my head slightly, I caught sight of her tail.

I didn't know the exact meaning behind her tail's movements, but I heard that when it was tucked, it signified melancholy.

"…"

She seemed melancholic now.

"Please, come this way."

Gidon led us to the entrance of the forest.

It was the time to resolve the conflicts from yesterday's skirmish and today's marriage.

Since I had accepted his warning in the first place, there was no reason to fight anymore.

The entrance of the forest, guided by Gidon, was shrouded in darkness as the night grew deeper.

Baron instinctively handed me a sword.

I also put the sword on my waist and finish my preparations.

"In the forest, you never know what will appear or what problems will arise. However, the two of you can resolve the situation through dialogue, kneel in front of the tree you have decided on together, and make another vow while looking at the moon."

Gibson slowly explained to us about the Werewolf's Soul binding once again.

Even as I listened to his explanation, my attention kept shifting to Ner by my side.

Was it because she was my wife now? I couldn't help but be concerned about her mood.

"…If you have any doubts, Ner will explain it to you."

Gibson's explanation came to an end like that.

I nodded my head and turned to Ner.

"…"

Then, I extended my hand to her and spoke.

"…Let's go."

Ner alternated her gaze between my hand and my face before slowly reaching out her hand.

The girl held my fingertips very lightly.

But that was enough.

I took the steps toward the forest, and she followed me.

.

.

.

We moved inward step by step.

The light began to fade away, hastening its pace and swiftly vanishing, concealing any remnants.

The moon took its place.

Soon, the surroundings grew so dark that nothing could be seen.

– Thud.

"…Uh."

Something caught my foot, and I momentarily lost my balance.

I let go of Ner Blackwood's hand.

"Are you okay?"

When I turned back to her, a yellow glow shimmered in the darkness.

As a result, the beauty of her eyes became more prominent.

I had momentarily forgotten that the werewolves people were not affected by darkness.

Even in the slum, it was quite difficult to fight the werewolves people because of that feature.

"…I'm fine."

For the first time, I spoke to her casually.

Ner quietly nodded her head.

I looked around the unseen surroundings and momentarily sat down in place.

Ner wasn't getting any closer from where she had released my hand.

'How should I handle this situation?'

I knew that she wasn't particularly inclined toward marriage.

"…Come here."

I spoke to her to initiate a conversation.

But in the distance, Ner shook her head.

"…"

'Is it because of the darkness? Or because we're deep in the forest?'

'Is it because there's no one around?'

She was more afraid of me than at any other moment.

Personally, I didn't quite understand it.

I hadn't done anything.

...But then again, I knew the disadvantages of the human race, which the other races focused on.

Since she didn't know me very well, that was why she was like that.

Or perhaps she had a prejudice against me because I was a mercenary.

It was even more amusing that a noble like her had connections to a slum-born commoner like me but was reluctant to accept it outright.

"…"

I sighed quietly.

As much as this soul-binding culture could progress more intimately than what others saw, it could also proceed indifferently, like us.

After contemplating for a moment, I spoke.

"…Miss Blackwood."

Ner watched me for a long time, slowly nodding her head. I could tell from the way her yellow eyes moved up and down.

"...I hope you can find a tree for us to kneel together. Honestly, in this darkness, I can't see well because I'm a human."

Ner blinked for a moment, then began walking somewhere.

I made an effort not to fall in the darkness and followed behind her.

Soon, she came to a stop.

She hadn't moved far to find a tree.

It seemed like she stopped in front of one of the larger trees that could be seen around.

"...Can we do it here?"

"…Yes."

I approached the tree Ner guided me to and placed my hand on it.

It was a Zelkova tree. It was not particularly big, and it didn't look particularly healthy either.

"…What does the zelkova tree symbolize?"

I asked Ner.

After a long silence, Ner whispered quietly.

"...Destined love."

"…"

I nodded and looked at the tree again.

'Destiny.'

'Dose she thinks our marriage is one of the fates we have to accept?'

I tapped the tree lightly.

Although I didn't know much about the werewolf people's culture, I wonder if this was correct.

Still, it was a ceremony called soul binding, so I wondered if it was okay to pick the tree roughly like this.

'If she wants a Zelkova tree, wouldn't it be better to choose a slightly stronger and straighter one?'

"…"

But I didn't even worry about it for long.

In the end, things like rituals didn't matter at all. It wasn't like god was watching over.

Understanding and consideration for each other in our future married life would be even more important.

From that point of view, I didn't put a toe on the tree Ner had chosen.

Her emotions were so complex at the moment, and if they were expressed in this way, I had to accept them as one of the things I had to embrace.

"…Let's start."

I kneeled and sat in front of the tree Ner had chosen.

Ner also kneeled one step away to my right.

It was said that we had to swear to the moon with the tree as a witness, and fortunately, the moon was visible. It was shining so brightly that there was no room for confusion.

The next step... was to bind our tails.

Of course, I didn't have a tail for that.

"The tail is…"

"…"

When I asked Ner for a moment, something touched my calf.

When I turned around, Ner's tail, shining silver under the moonlight, was resting on my calf.

It seemed that it was most important for us to be connected in some way.

"...What's next?"

"...We will make a vow, looking at the moon, for our future. In our heart."

A vow. The more she spoke, the easier it was to understand that fact.

I nodded.

As it was a ceremony, I followed her actions.

As she did, I held both of my hands together and closed my eyes.

Then, I repeated the vow for the future in my mind and swore it.

****

Ner felt relieved that lies could somewhat cover up the situation.

During this soul-binding ceremony, there were things they had to say to each other.

They had to confess their love and vow to be faithful to each other.

However, Berg, a human mercenary, was unaware of such werewolves' customs, so she was able to skip all those procedures.

Since she had bypassed them, it couldn't be said that their souls were bound.

Ner was feeling complex emotions.

She was still afraid of Berg, but he had never performed any actions that would cause fear.

She had not yet witnessed any cruelty, strictness, or belittling of women from him.

He spoke with polite words.

Of course, the situation in which he would go on a rampage hadn't happened in the first place.

If he became her husband, and immediately reveal his true nature like flipping his palms and starting treating her as he pleases and playing with her… That would break the alliance between Red Flames and Blackwood.

It was said that even in a long-term relationship, one discovers unknown aspects.

It was unknown how well he was hiding his true self.

So she didn't foolishly let go of her guard against him from the beginning.

...There were still challenges ahead.

Once this soul-binding ceremony was over, the first night awaited.

The moment would come when she must offer her purity to him.

Berg already knew that fact, so she didn't even know why he was this calm.

"…."

When Ner thought about the first night, tears welled up in her eyes already.

She didn't know how many screams she would let out or how much she would cry.

She was also afraid of seeing the side of Berg that he had been hiding.

She didn't want to give herself to a stranger like him, not her destined partner.

Nevertheless, there was a glimmer of hope.

When it came time to kiss, she remembered Berg's hesitation.

He was the one who pretended to kiss and only touched her nose.

She didn't know if such an expression of affection existed in human culture, but for Ner, it was much easier to bear than a kiss.

But if by any chance he was pretending and adjusting himself to her preferences.

If there was no expression of affection like touching noses, and even that was a considerate action towards her.

...It created an opportunity to somehow get through the first night.

Ner had to infuse all her hope into that possibility.

Ner briefly opened her eyes and glanced to the side.

Berg, with a resolute expression, still had his eyes closed, holding her hands.

Ner didn't believe that serious demeanor.

She had already heard it before.

There was no way she would live with this person for the rest of her life.

Ner turned her eyes back to the sky.

She saw her friend, the bright moon.

She pondered for a moment on what she could vow or wish for in the future.

She didn't need much time.

Ner wished for the one thing she desired most at the present moment.

'I hope I can come back here again.'

.

.

.

After the ritual ended, Berg stood up from his seat.

Ner also stood up, following him.

Her mind was completely focused on the next step.

The first night.

A heavy sense of oppression weighed her down.

The ring on her left ring finger felt uncomfortable.

"…Let's go back."

But it was something that could not be postponed. Ner said that and turned her body around.

"Just a moment."

And at that moment, Berg pulled out his sword.

Ner was momentarily startled and collapsed into place.

"…Are you okay?"

Berg looked at her with a puzzled expression.

Ner briefly alternated her gaze between the sword and Berg.

It was terrifying to see a large, scary human mercenary holding a sword.

"…Ah."

Berg seemed to understand her reaction and slowly closed his mouth.

Without further explanation, he approached the tree where he had just offered his prayers.

-Swish! Swish!

He then swung his sword, leaving marks on the tree.

Afterward, Berg promptly sheathed the sword in its scabbard.

"...This way, I know in front of which tree I kneeled."

It was a reason Ner hadn't even considered.

She looked at the tree where Berg left marks.

There were prominent, difficult-to-heal marks.

Did Berg want to commemorate it, even though she wanted to overlook it?

Ner looked at Berg again.

"...Let's go. Get up."

He said.

Ner nodded her head with difficulty.

The time had come.

– – – End of Chapter – – –

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