Frieren’s Prequel Novel Chapter 1 part 4

As she climbed the mountain path, the uphill slope gradually drained her strength. Sweat poured down her chin, and the hot summer sun made her staff feel unbearably heavy.
Taking breaks in between, Fern continued up the slope until she reached the middle of the mountain.
She decided to have lunch here. Fern had told Heiter that she would be eating lunch outside today, so there wouldn’t be any suspicion, as they already had separate meals to prevent the cold from spreading.
Munching on bread, Fern sat down on a rock. The scenery, though not a towering peak, was beautiful.
Looking down, Fern spotted the medicinal herb she had been searching for on the slope – a slender grass with small yellow flowers.
What luck, to find it so quickly.
Leaving her belongings, Fern carefully descended the slope, trying not to slip as the gravel rolled underfoot, increasing the tension.
She managed to reach the herbs
and plucked four or five stems, putting them in her pocket. With her objective accomplished, Fern climbed back up. If only she could use a levitation spell, it would be so much easier.
Returning to where she left her things, Fern started heading down the mountain.
All that was left was the journey home.

About an hour after descending the mountain,
“Where am I? I’m lost…”
Fern had become lost in the forest.
She regretted not paying more attention to the return route. Going up had been easy, with the mountain as a clear landmark. But walking straight through the featureless forest proved much more difficult than she had anticipated.
The sun was still high.
In any case, she had to keep walking. Fern needed to get back before sunset, or Heiter would start worrying.
Since she had gone east on the way up, the return should be west. Roughly gauging the direction from the sun’s position, Fern started walking.
The scenery remained unchanged. Her feet ached from the constant walking since morning.
Suddenly, Fern’s staff hit something.
Immediately, something fell nearby.
Fern stopped and looked back,
only to see a beehive.
Bzzzz, the terrifying buzzing sound filled the air as bees swarmed out of the hive.
Fern panicked and ran away. Being stung would be disastrous. Forgetting the pain in her feet, she desperately fled.
After running for a while, Fern thought she was safe, but in that moment, her foot caught on a tree root, and she tumbled down in a spectacular fall.
Fern muttered as she struck the ground forcefully, feeling the impact reverberate through her body.
The weeds brushed against her nose as she slowly pushed herself up, peeling her body away from the earth. Looking down, she noticed her scraped knees, with a little blood seeping out, a testament to her recent fall.
The double punch of pain and exhaustion threatened to break her spirit.
“…I have to stay strong,”
she reminded herself, mustering her resolve to stand up.
Fern began walking again.
The rest of the journey was rough – she banged her head on branches, got her clothes snagged in the bushes, and tripped over rocks, stumbling to the ground. It seemed misfortune was calling out to more misfortune, but even so, she felt incredibly unlucky.
Still, she had managed to obtain the medicinal herbs. As long as she could deliver them to Heiter, the hardship would be worth it. With that sole purpose in mind, Fern kept moving her feet.
Finally, as the day was fading and the moon was rising,
she emerged onto a familiar path.
She had passed well past sunset, and it was growing dark. But she had made it this far. Just a little further and she would be home. Then she could give these herbs to Heiter.
These herbs…
Her hand rummaging in her pocket came up empty. No matter how much she searched, her fingers couldn’t find the herbs.
“Did I put them in another pocket?” she thought, stopping to thoroughly check all her pockets. But the herbs were nowhere to be found.
she realized, her heart sinking. She must have dropped them somewhere.
When could that have happened? When the bees were chasing her? When she fell? When she passed through the bushes?
There were so many possible moments.
Fern felt utterly hopeless. She had no energy or strength to turn back, so she simply trudged toward home with her heavy feet.



Heiter rose from the bed, touching his forehead.
The fever had broken. His body, heavy like a sandbag before, was feeling much better now. There was still a slight discomfort in his throat, but the pain was gone.
The cold seemed to have passed.
He let out a sigh of relief without even realizing it.
Good. Now he wouldn’t have to worry about Fern anymore…
Heiter stood up and arched his back. A satisfying crack came from his spine.
The sun was setting outside. It was about the time Fern would be finishing her training. She would be coming home soon.
He headed to the living room and turned on the light. Now that the cold was gone, he decided he should cook dinner for a change. His shaky fingers managed to make a decent stew.
All that was left was to wait for Fern to return.
Half an hour passed, then an hour…but Fern still hadn’t come back.
Heiter went outside, using his cane to make his way to the cliff where Fern often trained. But she was nowhere to be seen. He checked the river where she did laundry, and the rocky meditation spot, but she was at none of her usual places.
“Where could she have gone…?”
Heiter returned home,
thinking that if she was much later, he’d have to organize a proper search. Just then, he heard a sound from the entryway.
Hurrying to the living room,
he found Fern standing there.
Heiter let out a relieved sigh.
“I was worried. Where have you been at this hour?”
But then he noticed Fern’s disheveled appearance – her clothes were dirty with soil, and leaves were stuck in her hair.
“What on earth happened? You look a mess…”
“…Is your cold better now?”
Fern asked, her expression tense.
Puzzled, Heiter answered, “Yes, as you can see, I’m fully recovered.”
“I see…I’m glad,”
Fern said in a weary voice, and then began explaining what had happened.
How she had gone to search for the medicinal herbs, how she had gotten lost, and how she had ended up dropping the herbs.
When she finished, Fern bowed her head deeply, the leaves in her hair fluttering to the floor.
“Master Heiter…”
Gripping the hem of her clothes tightly with both hands, Fern’s childlike gesture was unusual for her normally mature demeanor.
“I want to become stronger, faster.”
She spoke quietly but with conviction.
“I want to grow up and be able to…to support you, Master Heiter.”
Heiter placed his hand gently on Fern’s bowed head and gave it a comforting pat.
“It’s alright. You’re doing wonderfully.”
He continued caressing her head
as he felt the tension leave Fern’s body.
The lost herbs didn’t really matter to Heiter. It wasn’t because his cold had already passed. It was because Fern had already given him more than enough vitality to live.
To change the somber mood, Heiter spoke up in a cheerful tone.
“Now, you must be hungry, aren’t you? Shall we have dinner?”
Fern looked up, her expression softening a bit.

Heiter’s stew was simply delicious.
The smooth potatoes and carrots filled Fern’s empty stomach endlessly. Exhausted as she was, Fern moved her spoon eagerly.
Glancing up, she met Heiter’s gaze. He was watching her with a warm smile.
“…Is there something on her face?”
“No, no. I’m just happy to see you eating so enthusiastically. For an old person, seeing a child enjoy their food is the most precious nourishment.”
Feeling a bit self-conscious, Fern found it slightly difficult to eat. But what she was more curious about was…
“Are you not angry with me, Master Heiter?”
“For lying to you and going far away. I must have worried you terribly.”
“Oh, that’s no big deal. Since you’ve returned safely, there’s no need for me to be angry.”
While feeling relieved, Fern also found herself wondering.
“…Does Master Heiter ever get angry at all?”
“Of course I do. When I was traveling, I’d get mad all the time.”
“Really? I can’t believe it…”
“Everyone back then was just hopeless, you see.”
Despite his words, Heiter seemed quite pleased. Fern couldn’t help but smile in response.
After finishing the stew, Heiter called Fern in a solemn tone.
“If Fern ever goes on a journey in the future, it would be better to have companions with you.”
For a moment, a vague sense of unease stirred in Fern’s chest.
“Is it because I’m unreliable?”
Heiter smiled, as if reminiscing about the past.
“It’s because it’s more fun to have someone with you.”
Fern realized Heiter was right.

Chapter 1 end.

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