In the early morning, Vincent was roused from his sleep by the sound of a baby's cry echoing through the mountain.
The sad sound of the infant continued to be heard as he ran his hands through his disheveled hair.
“God, what have I done so wrong?”
The hunter's muscles strained in the dark as he kicked the blanket off of the bed.
'Who on earth is that this early?'
Vincent looked at his sleeping wife, hoping she was having a good dream.
If she heard that, there would have been some measure of trouble.
The couple, who had been married for seven years, had no children.
They had visited the clinic once with a large sum of money, but all they said was that the cause was unknown.
–There's a thing called compatibility in bed. It's just the way it is. Olina and you don't seem to have a problem, so keep trying. Haha!
Vincent smiled through it at first.
However, the situation did not improve over time. By the time they entered their fifth year of marriage, he had no choice but to admit it.
He couldn't have children.
His wife, Olina, didn't speak of her disappointment. But at times, she would get a lonely expression on her face. And at those times, Vincent couldn't help but be resentful towards his lower body.
“What kind of rascal is it? It's like he's trying to rub salt into the wound!”
Putting his complicated feelings aside, Vincent left the house with his single-edged axe.
“Who is it?! Who's the one causing all this ruckus, at this time of the night?!”
His shout echoed through the mountains.
There was no response, and Vincent's expression hardened at that silence.
'Perhaps it's a trap?'
Most hunters built their houses in the mountains.
This was due to the fact that they would have to check the traps they set at night early in the morning, and it sometimes became necessary for them to spend days in the mountains when they were tracking large animals.
Of course, safety was his responsibility, and there were a lot of bandits looking for vulnerable prey.
On the other hand, it could have been a merchant from another country. However, there was no torch in sight in the dark of the night.
“That rotten–! I'll cut you to pieces!”
In the worst case scenario, there would be no choice but to shed blood.
He slowly approached the stable the noise was coming from. Then he quickly flung open the door.
The hunter's excellent vision scanned the interior.
He heard the horse whinny.
Because animals do not lie, the impulsive Vincent's heart relaxed a bit.
'There's nowhere to hide.'
There was also no sign that anyone had broken in.
Vincent looked at the bundle laying on the straw bed.
The baby, who seemed to be about two months old, was crying with a frown on their face.
Vincent hurriedly hid the axe behind his back.
When he went down to kneel in front of the bundle, he threw the metal somewhere in the corner.
There was a baby, as pretty as the moon.
A baby who didn't know anything yet, who'd just been born, and would one day spread his name around the world.
At that moment, the baby saw the adult's face and stopped crying, a smile spreading across his face.
Vincent's lips trembled.
Then, as if he was struck by lightning, he stood up and ran out of the stables.
“Who is it?! Who's pulling a prank on me?! Abandoning a child! You bastard, come out!”
His roar rang throughout the mountain.
“Come out! Really?! How can you abandon a child?! You're a monster! You know that?!”
There was still no answer.
“You're really abandoning the baby? I'm giving you no more chances! If you show up in front of me, I'll turn your face into a rice cake!”
Vincent shouted with all his might.
He didn't want to have any regrets when he looked back on this day in the distant future.
Vincent, after a few moments of staring into the darkness, went back into the stable, breathing heavily.
The baby was asleep, perhaps exhausted from crying.
Holding the baby in trembling hands, he gently pressed his ear to the baby's little chest.
His heart was beating much faster than an adult's.
“Honey, what's going on?”
His wife, who had run outside after hearing him shouting.
Vincent showed her the sleeping child in his arms instead of answering.
“What's with the baby?”
Vincent hesitated, as he wasn't sure how to explain the situation.
“It's… It's our child.”
* * *
[Translator – Anwen]
[Proofreader – Harley]
* * *
It was early summer.
The stream was cold and the wind was cool.
With a dead water deer draped across his wide shoulders, Vincent hurried home.
Rather than catching good prey, he was excited to go back to his family, waiting for him at home.
“Shirone! Dad's home!”
The 12-year-old boy came running to the front door with a big smile.
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Unlike Vincent, who was as rugged as a rock, the boy's face was reminiscent of a specially processed jewel.
His hair was as smooth as gold and his blue eyes shone from afar.
Whenever he saw his pretty son, who looked like a doll, Vincent could not hide his happiness.
As soon as he threw the water deer on the floor, he buried his face into his son's shoulder.
“Yes, my precious son. How have you been? Have you been good?”
“Yes! I helped Mom cook and also read a lot of books.”
Cooking and reading.
Vincent, who felt the incongruity between the two words, was slightly perplexed but didn't show it on his face.
“Haha! Do you like books that much?”
“No, it's… there's just nothing to do.”
Vincent felt sorry for his son whenever he saw him flinch, as if he had done something wrong.
In fact, he knew it.
He knew that this miraculous child from heaven was smarter than his peers.
He read books with the letters he learned from his mom, and now he had reached the point of reading difficult books alone.
'And that was a little pitiful.'
It wasn't easy to raise enough money for hunters to educate their children.
The only thing Vincent could teach him was his lifelong hunting skills.
–The most stable life for the son of a herbalist is to be a herbalist, and for the son of a hunter to be a hunter.
Because even the most trivial job required knowledge and tricks that couldn't simply be spoken of.
But Vincent couldn't bring himself to say that.
“No. Good job, Shirone. No matter what you do, you have to learn to succeed. I'll buy you a book when I go into the city next time.”
“It's okay. I've read the books you've bought me, but there's nothing special or interesting about them.”
Vincent laughed at his son's boast.
Popular books were expensive, so he couldn't even think about buying one of those. So he would go around the antique shops and buy books that were used and thrown away by the nobles, which were a bit cheaper.
He did guess that the content was not enough for a child to digest, anyway.
'What a considerate boy.'
Vincent was moved to tears by Shirone's thoughtfulness, who was considerate of his parent's situation.
“Right! Anyways, what do you think? Do you want to go cut some trees with me? It's important to learn, but you also have to have the physique and stamina. Today, dad will teach you how to chop some wood.”
“Wow! Then, are you going to be giving me an axe?”
“Of course! Just you and me, why don't we go cut down all the trees!”
Vincent presented Shirone with an axe, as if he had been waiting for this moment.
'After all… I guess he'll become a mountaineer.'
In any case, it was important to build some muscles in his tiny body from now on.
'But is it really?'
He had a sudden doubt.
'Shirone looks like a child from a wealthy family, with his soft face and hair. Maybe he was the child of a noble family?'
Vincent shook his head. Whenever he had such suspicions, he felt overwhelmed. He felt like he had received a precious gift, but on the other hand, he suffered from guilt.
'It's a useless thought. Shirone is my child. Not a child brought in from the stables, but a child who has my blood flowing through him.'
With a firm heart, Vincent headed for the logging area, a kilometer away from the cabin.
“I'll give you a demonstration, so watch carefully and follow along.”
Vincent spat on his palm and began to chop the tree with ease.
Not long after, with the sound of splitting wood the tree crashed down with a snap.
Although it wasn't particularly important, a lumberjack's ability was measured according to the number of swings it took to cut down a tree.
Because he was not a lumberjack, Vincent had to swing 10 times, but that alone took great skill.
“After hitting the same area several times, the tree will start to tilt and fall down, as it can't hold its own weight. Can you do it?”
“Yes, I'll try.”
As Vincent picked out a tree for Shirone, he started to copy what his dad did by spitting on his hand.
Even though he only saw it once, his positioning, posture, and even the way he rubbed his palms was a spitting image of his dad.
Just as expected of Shirone, who was especially intelligent. Vincent watched his son in satisfaction.
But as Shirone raised his axe high, it was a bit sloppy.
'It's not something you can do with intelligence alone.'
While the weight of the axe was considerable, muscle strength was essential when cutting down a tree.
'He needs to start training himself, so that he can get married and have children later in life.'
No woman would want to marry a guy who couldn't make money.
Shirone clenched his teeth and swung, but every time he missed and hit somewhere different.
Vincent gave some tips.
“Don't use up all your strength. Instead, try to decrease your power and replace it with accuracy.”
However, no matter how much he continued to aim and hit, there was no sign of the tree being cut down.
'Is my son really this weak?'
Vincent was a little sullen.
“Phew, it's hard.”
“It's okay. No, I'm sorry. To be honest, I know you are not fit to be doing a job like this. However, being a hunter's son, there is no choice…”
Vincent was choked up.
“You're a really smart boy. More than the herbalist's son, Barone, or the fruit seller's daughter, Stella. You are smarter than them all. Don't get rattled just because you lack physical strength. My greed for you…”
Tears began to gather in Vincent's eyes.
However, Shirone, who was busy with other thoughts, spoke without care.
“More importantly, Dad, how can I cut down trees well?”
Vincent was slightly embarrassed.
He was also surprised. His son, who he had assumed would have no interest, was intent on cutting down trees well.
“You really want to try and learn?”
“Yes, teach me. It's fun.”
Vincent, who was encouraged by his son's words, led Shirone to the dent of the tree he made.
“Alright, look at this. Strength will work when you become an adult, but this doesn't really require much power. It's the tricks that count. I told you to hit the same spot earlier, but if you tilt the angle a little bit and hit around the spot you aimed before, you will be able to cut down the tree easier.”
“Oh, I see.”
Vincent finally looked at the dent his son had made, away from the spot he was supposed to hit.
It was quite surprising.
It was hard to look at it and think that it was done by a beginner, as the blade had been driven into the same exact spot, over and over.
If this continued, it would have been more difficult to knock down the tree without brute strength being used. The trick to easily cut down a tree was to hit around the target spot, instead of aiming at the same place repeatedly. Because of Shirone's frightening accuracy, it would have been impossible for his current self to cut it down.