Chapter 1. Who are... all of you?
“H-Hello? It’s our… second meeting, right?”
Elusiana reflexively raised one of her hands.
“How… have you been?”
Should she say it was a relief? Astein stared at her, then looked out of the window again. At the embarrassingly indifferent reaction, Elusiana smiled awkwardly.
‘What the? I thought my liver was going to fall off.’
Scratching her head, she looked down at the soup bowl on the table.
‘But he still needs to eat, right?’
Elusiana, who thought he would starve to death, held the soup on the table and placed it on the tray. She then crept her way to Astein’s side. Until then, the boy didn’t react. Elusiana, who approached Astein’s side, carefully spoke out her words.
“Can I sit next to you?”
Again, Astein didn’t answer, but Elusiana thought she got the permission. There was also a complacent feeling that he would push her away if he really hated it.
Elusiana, sitting next to Astein, placed the soup tray on her lap. Contemplating what to do while holding the spoon, she scooped out a spoonful of the soup and offered it out.
“It’s lamb soup. It’s finely chopped and boiled, so it won’t burden your stomach. Come on, take a bite.”
“Don’t be stubborn, please? If you don’t eat like now, you might really faint.”
Elusiana smiled broadly as she spoke to him, pretending to be friendly. However, a drop of soup fell from the spoon she was holding.
Elusiana, who made a fuss, removed the spoon, and picked up the towel from the tray. The soup was already cold, so he won’t get burned. Nevertheless, Elusiana reacted sensitively because Astein’s expression was so cold, making her shiver.
“I’ll wipe it off right away.”
Elusiana touched Astein’s hand to wipe the soup off the back of his hand. It was then, Astein grabbed her wrist tightly.
“…what are you going to do?”
‘’What are you doing!’
An incomprehensible spark flashed in the boy’s eyes, who had no emotions. Elusiana’s eyes widened at the sudden change of Astein.
“Are you greedy for my body too?”
Elusiana instantly lost her words, only opening her mouth.
‘Greedy for what?’
She was so surprised that she couldn’t even feel the pain in her wrist.
‘So what? What to say about it? Urgh. It hurts! This crazy bastard. What nonsense is he talking about all of a sudden?’
Astein pulled her wrist, squeezing her skinny hand. Elusiana’s body, which was unwittingly being pulled off, almost hugged Astein’s body.
“Let go of me…!”
“Then, say, it.”
His eyes, redder than blood, gleamed eerily and stared at her. His mouth looked as if it would swallow her.
“…say it. What do you really want? Tell me what you’re hiding from me.”
Elusiana, who was trying to somehow pull her wrist out, suddenly stopped.
A voice that screamed like it was pleading. Obviously, it was the same sound as the first, but somehow it sounded like a weeping sob. It felt like desperately blocking any further access, as if you shouldn’t cross the line he had set.
Maybe that was why Elusiana suddenly felt sorry for the boy. And she could see the boy’s fear that he couldn’t hide in his trembling fingertips.
‘Ah…! I see.’
Instantly she realized.
What was being said inside that dull, cold stare.
What was immersed in that endless darkness.
She didn’t know what kind of life this boy had been through, but part of it… she could know. He had been hurt beyond measure… to the point he was afraid of anybody’s kindness. The boy was now left alone in the hopeless sea, grabbing a piece of a wrecked ship.
Her emotion, which had been boiling over, cooled down. It was brief, but she was ashamed of herself for thinking about him absurdly. Sweeping away her burning emotion, she hit Astein on the head with the spoon she was holding.
“There’s nothing I need to say. Do you think it’s all about you? How old am I for wanting your body? What am I going to use that body for?”
Astein’s hand fell easily as it was unexpected to get hit by a spoon.
“And there’s something you’re firmly mistaken about. You’re not my cup of tea.”
Elusiana turned away with an exaggerated snort. Rather, her clumsy consolation only caused the painful wound to get bigger.
“Don’t think about useless things and just eat the soup there. It doesn’t taste good when it’s cold.”
His eyes narrowed slightly because he couldn’t understand it and was still suspicious about it. With a mask that couldn’t read anything, a faint question crossed that boy’s expression.
Elusiana set down the blue ointment bottle sneakily next to the seated Astein. It was a special ointment brought from the temple. Astein’s gaze turned sternly. His slightly squinted eyes seem to contain some discomfort.
‘Is it because he doesn’t know what it is?’
Elusiana added after coughing for nothing.
“Ahem. It’s a good ointment for wounds. If you have any pain, put it on.”
The blood-colored eyes under the black eyelashes shimmered with a strange light. She just met his eyes, but she couldn’t move as if caught in a spider web.
‘What? Does he doubt this?’
She didn’t want to say anything because it would only burden him to find out that she had a connection with the temple, but at this point, she thought it would be better to tell him.
“It’s a great thing. This is specially brought from the temple, so be thankful and use it. Tell me if you don’t have enough. I will get you some more.”
“It means you can apply it generously without saving it. My family is better off than you thought. Uh, um, then… r-rest well.”
Leaving behind Astein, who didn’t answer once until the very end, Elusaian quickly left his room. However, she didn’t expect Astein’s gaze to follow her until she closed the door.
Closing the door, Elusiana leaned her back against the door and let out the breath she had been holding back.
‘Haa… what kind of eyes…’
… looked so eerie, as if they were going to eat me?
The eerie was indescribable as if his eyes were filled with red blood. It was to the extent that she completely forgot that he was ‘pitiful,’ ‘sad,’ and ‘poor.’
Elusiana shook her shoulders at the goosebumps.
“It’s not that child that I should protect, but it is me who I should protect first, right?”
* * *
Alone in the room where Elusiana had escaped, Astein twisted his lips as he looked at the blue ointment bottle she had thrown away.
“Put it on the area where it hurts?”
Because he had eaten, applied, and quenched many medicinal herbs, that boy could tell them apart just by the slight smell. However, what Elusiana gave him was a mixture of herbs that could paralyze the user. The ointment effect was excellent when it was used for a small amount. Still, when you used more than that, it became a poison that hardened the internal organs and stopped the user’s breath.
Astein nervously threw away the blue bottle in his hand, stared at the door, and gnashed his teeth.
* * *
A week later.
Elusiana sighed deeply and pepped her head through the slightly open door. Trisha was dusting off the bed. Elusiana, who saw that, was deeply troubled. She wanted to be closer, that was why she came with the precious ointment, but she heard that Astein still hadn’t eaten anything.
No, should she say he became more vicious? She couldn’t even open the door to enter, so she could imagine how much trouble the servants were going through. Simon knew about it, but he didn’t seem to want to let go of that child who wasn’t healed yet.
Elusiana pouted her lips in a sulky way.
“What’s the problem?”
When she was at the orphanage, no matter how crooked a child was, she easily comforted them and got them on her side. However, that boy was somehow difficult to approach. Maybe it was because his red eyes were particularly eerie. However, it was also true that she felt pity for him when she thought of him, when he was obviously lonely.
‘Fyuu, as an adult, I have to understand with a broad mind like the sea.’
“That’s right. What am I doing here? Let’s decide what to do after we meet.”
Elusiana clenched her fists firmly and rose from her seat. Then Trisha, who had just finished making the bed, looked at her curiously.
“Lady, are you going out?”
“You were quiet for a few days. Where are you going today?”
“To that boy.”
“I’ll be right back.”
Trisha, who finally understood Elusiana’s words, shouted in horror, “Lady! No! Where are you—”
Elusiana quickly left the room, leaving behind Trisha, who shouted while stamping her feet.
* * *
“Open your eyes.”
Losing consciousness, the boy’s droopy eyelids trembled. The child, who looked exactly like that boy, smiled mischievously and tapped that boy’s cheek.