“Ah… l.”

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Calliope fell asleep without realizing it.
The cold wind blowing through the cracks in the broken shutters touched her on the face.
She took a deep breath in the cold chilly air and clenched the old duvet, which she had drawn like a habit.

As if waking up from a long dream, there was a sensation of being stabbed by a sharp blade in her hazy head.
This is the house where she lived as a child.

‘Is this a dream?‘

She put down the dirty quilt and looked down at her hands.
Her hands were dry.
Doubting her own eyes, she clenched and opened her fists.
The movement of her hands and the sensation of her skinny hands were overly realistic.

‘Which one is the dream?‘

Suspicious of her own incident, she raised her head, and heard someone coughing next to her.
Her confusion stopped when she heard the cough.

Turning her head towards the source of the sound, she saw her mother sleeping  on a coarse bed made of straw.
Fluffy white blonde hair, a face that is completely sick with hollowed cheeks.
She looked down at her mother, who was coughing in her sleep.

She knew this scene very well.
Her mother, who is lying down and coughing repeatedly without realizing it will soon…

“Cough, cough….”

She’ll vomit blood.

The dirty quilt was stained with the blood she spit.
Calliope already knew her mother wouldn’t be able to get up.
Soon the frozen body began to gasp.
Her body, which had not trembled even in the cold, trembled.  I grabbed my hair with my dry, ugly hands.
What’s this? What’s going on? The confusion suddenly pushed in as if the head, which had been frozen by the cold wind, was awakened by her mother’s cough.

She morbidly scratched her head and pulled out clumps of hair in her hands.
Seeing her knee length hair, Calliope opened her eyes wide.
The fallen hair was white like an old sick person’s.
The colour she got while waiting for Isaac who betrayed her and left.

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She realized later that she had returned to the past.
There was no need to worry about when.
It’s the last winter she spent with her mother, just one year before entering the Marquess.  When she was 12.

She let out an exasperated laugh.
Calliope turned her tired eyes to look at her mother, whose chin was covered in blood.
She reached out and wiped the bloodstains with her sleeves, which was as dirty as the quilt.

She doesn’t know how it happened, but she has returned to the past, to the day of the morning her mother died.

After a brief chaos and easy abandonment, Calliope got up from her seat and looked around the stove where the embers were still burning.
As the embers came to life a little through the air, the dry branches placed next to them were gently pushed in.
Half of the water was boiled in a brass pot that was the only one in the house, and the other half was placed next to the crushed basin and placed next to the bed.

The boiling water was poured into a bowl of cold water and mixed.
She dragged the chair she had picked up on the roadside long ago and sat down, wetted the cleanest cloth, and carefully wiped away her mother’s sweat and bloodstains.

Calliope’s mother, Etiel, was the eldest daughter of Baron Hubert.
A woman who was thrown out by her own family after the divorce with Calliope’s father, Marquis Anastas.
Her mother was the daughter of a poor baron and baroness who only had greed, but she fell in love with her father, Il-ran, and married him.

Naturally, the elders of the Marquis family didn’t treat her nicely, and they always ridiculed her by making snide remarks.
She thought it would be a little better when she will have children.
The mother endured with that thought and finally gave birth to her first child.

As soon as the pregnancy was announced, the bullying stopped.
It meant that the successor of the Marquis family in the belly is important, although the unsatisfactory daughter-in-law is not important.
And she gave birth to Calliope.

As soon as it was confirmed that the first child was a daughter, the bullying intensified.
After being able to recover, Etiel was expelled from her parents home after the Marquis notified her of their divorce.
However, as the Marquis no longer supported her, Baron Hubert said, “I’m ashamed of my divorced daughter,” and took the alimony and drove her to a shabby house in the corner of the estate.

Even though Etiel was kicked out of the family, she did not despair and raised Calliope by doing what she could.
But what could a noble young-ae, who had never done anything bad, be able to do? As the time passed, and she became more proficient at her work, her body began to weaken.

She was also a weak person.
She did not only have one illness because of her weakened body, she suffered from all kinds of diseases.
But it was the first time she had ever seen her vomit blood.

The past Calliope barely calmed down, picked up her thin old clothes, put them on, and then went to call Aunt Solita next door, who often helped her mother.

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When she and Solita came home, her mother had vomited one more time, and Calliope had just started crying at the fact that there was another adult by her side so she would help her.
Solita was taken aback by Etiel’s condition and began to boil water and take care of her, but her condition did not improve.

Both Calliope’s family and Solita’s family were poor.
Because it was an exceptionally harsh winter, there was no work given, and the money they had in hand gradually ran out.
It was their lucky day if they even got one meal a day.
Calliope, who had only tears in her eyes, rubbed her face violently and stood up from her seat.

“Madam, take care of my mother.
I’ll be back from the baron’s house.”

Etiel never hid whose daughter Calliope was, and what kind of people her parents and father were.
So she went to Baron Hubert with the feeling of grabbing at least a few medicine for her mother.

The baron’s estate was very small, but their house was so tucked away in a corner of the estate that it took half a day for the child to walk.
Calliope walked nonstop to the baron’s house without eating anything, but the guard at the mansion did not let her in and neither told the baron about the little girl.

But she couldn’t go back that way.
The young Calliope sat down on her knees in front of the mansion’s front door, crying incessantly.
She endured, saying that she won’t go back until he calls someone.

Even after evening and night, no one came out of the mansion.
Her hands, feet, and cheeks were all frozen and her whole body trembled, but she stayed still, and the next morning, the butler of the baron’s mansion came out to meet Calliope.

“Your mother is no longer part of the baron’s family, so I can’t help you.
Please go back.”

But only rejection came back, which hurt more than hands and feet that were frozen and swollen all night, she grabbed him by the hem of his trousers.

“Please, just this once.
I won’t forget your generosity.
My mom is very sick.
Please help me.”

She begged again, tears streaming down her frozen cheeks, but Calliope was eventually dragged away by the guards and thrown away.
It hurt so much.
On the shriveled ground, she groaned and cried.
No one held out a hand.

It was her mother’s dead body that greeted Calliope, who had barely recovered and returned home.

She heard the sound of vomiting again.
Calliope woke up from her thoughts and once again wiped the blood that her mother had vomited.
A translucent red color mixes into the warm clean water.

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“This time, I can at least protect my mother’s last moments.”

She said, while wiping away the smeared blood.
Solita later told her that her mother died on the evening of Calliope’s departure.
It was the middle of winter, so she wouldn’t be able to gather herbs, and she also didn’t have money, so she couldn’t take her to the doctor.
All Calliope can do is try to protect Etiel, her mother.

Time passed like that.
The mother’s breathing became slower and slower, and her body became colder than a sheet of ice.
The body temperature did not rise even after wiping off the sweat by boiling water several times from a well in the village.

Calliope felt that her death was approaching.
Outside the broken windowpane, as the color of the sky changed little by little, she could feel the passing of time painfully.

She held her mother’s weak hand, which had hardened in the cold wind, with both hands and pressed it to her cheek.

‘I have to say that I am fortunate, because it is something I had already experienced once, so no tears came out.
Her hands were colder than my cold cheeks.
At least she is breathing comfortably, so it’s ok.
I’m glad.’

At that moment, the hand on her cheek twitched.
Calliope, who had lowered her gaze, raised her head in surprise.

“… Calliope.”

“Oh, mother.
Are you awake?”

According to Solita, her mother died without ever regaining consciousness.
However, Etiel’s dry eyelids lifted, revealing her friendly brown eyes.

“My daughter.”

“Don’t say anything.
I will bring you water.”

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She was about to get up from her seat in bewilderment hearing the cracking voice, but a dry hand grabbed her hand.
Strong enough to not know where this power is coming from.
Calliope stood tall.
Her brown eyes were staring straight at her with urgency and sorrow.
She lost strength in her legs and sat back down on the chair.

Ah, ah, the end is coming.
Her last moment was approaching.

“I’m sorry… … .”

“No.
Don’t be.
It is not your fault.”

“I wasn’t able to do anything.
I… I’m  such a horrible mother.”

“No.
Don’t say that please.”

“Until the end, I can’t even protect you.”

Etiel knew it too, that her end is approaching, that there is not much time left.
She held Calliope’s hand preciously and sadly.
The dry hands were visibly trembling.
Calliope grabbed her hand tightly so that it wouldn’t come loose.

“The, the world, even if it’s hard… … .”

Her voice already sounded of the dead.

“Survive, please, stay alive… … .”

Calliope focused all her attention on her mother’s voice.
Not a single syllable should be missed.

But before she could finish her words, before Calliope opened her mouth to answer, suddenly, the hand lost its strength.
In novel books I’ve read in the past, it said, death is a slow process.  As if the soul was disconnected from the body, as if trying to appease those who watched.

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