Like a balloon losing air, laughter poured out of the woman’s lips.
Fingers donned with velvet gloves twirled a tobacco pipe around slightly, and soon, long smoke drew a circle in the air to the movement of the pipe.
In the underground of the Larrington Hotel, Blanca, who was splayed over a white chair, couldn’t suppress the ecstatic mood simmering within her.
It’s been a while since it felt like blood was rushing to her head.
People like this sometimes appeared in her life, one after another.
Someone who’d spark her interest.
‘…But it seems like you’re already here… Madam.’
Did she know or was she just bluffing It’s a shame that Blanca couldn’t ask that.
If she asked the question, it would be just like showing her cards to her opponent.
And because she couldn’t ask, it only made this more thrilling.
“Madam, you look happy,” Logan asked under his breath, holding out an ashtray next to Blanca.
It was rare for his master’s mood to be this good.
“I’m not happy.
I’m just in a nice mood,” Blanca replied without hiding her wide smile.
Her lips, which were curved upward like a crescent moon as she bit the tobacco pipe, expressed her joy, just as one of her feet was moving to a nonexistent beat of music.
“You must have enjoyed your conversation with the Ducal Princess.”
Her black shoes, which were bobbing in the air, suddenly halted.
Blanca, with the pipe still in her lips, shifted her gaze to the man.
Their eyes met.
For a moment, the man chewed the inside of his mouth as chills rose up his spine.
I made a mistake.’
Just as he thought, this—
Blanca blew smoke into the man’s face.
He took a step back, coughing at the unexpected puff of smoke that was blown into his face.
Logan coughed into his arm and covered his eyes, then swallowed down his breath as heat touched his lips.
When he lifted his head, the hot tobacco pipe was right in front of his lips.
If he moved even a millimeter, his lips would definitely melt.
Blanca, who was watching the man’s stiff expression, slowly reached out.
“Watch what you say, Logan.
I told you not to let the client’s identity sweep through your lips.
Don’t be foolish—I don’t like foolish people.”
Her laughter was cynical.
Logan bowed his head without trying to come up with an excuse.
“I apologize, Madam.”
“I’m going easy on you because I’m in a good mood today.
But watch yourself from now on.”
She wouldn’t let him go twice.
Blanca’s sing-song tone reverberated throughout the room as she poured cigarette ash over the ashtray that Logan brought her.
Then, she turned to Logan again with an indifferent face, her words containing none of her delight from earlier.
“Rather than that, time flies, doesn’t it”
“Kids grow up really fast.”
Logan couldn’t understand what she meant at all, so he just continued looking down.
She didn’t expect him to react in the first place, so Blanca simply hummed and turned to her desk.
Even though she was enjoying a simmering interest, it was time to get to work.
As she sat at her desk, Logan soon headed to his own seat.
“What of the client’s requested item” Blanca asked.
“I brought it to the client.
She paid for it using a gemstone.”
Blanca satisfactorily nodded and picked up her reading glasses beside her.
She showed no concern.
It was just a meaning artifact that had been left by her deceased husband.
The hand that reached up to put on her glasses stopped mid-air.
As she looked at the slender pair of glasses, she soon smiled thinly.
‘But it’s funny that she bought the item.
Perhaps it’s a coincidence’
Or should she say fate
After spinning the glasses in her hands for a while, she finally placed them on the bridge of her nose and opened her lips to speak.
Now, let’s do the rest of the work.
Our client has quite a few requests that we’ll have to go through.”
After the enthusiastic yet brief answer, silence then stretched between them at the underground basement.
[ Larrington Hotel ]
Even in the dark, those two words on the signboard were still glowing.
Exuding a mysterious atmosphere, the blue light looked like a silver constellation in the night sky.
And as the darkness grew deeper, the light of the Larrington Hotel became even brighter.
* * *
Shortly after the Madam left the room, Rosetta also left the room while wearing a robe.
The place she went to was the room where Cassion was staying.
She opened the door with the key that was handed to her in advance by an employee, and soon, she entered the dark interior.
Because the occupant was a patient, the room had a faint smell of blood and antiseptic.
‘What kind of abandoned ward is this, huh.’
Instead of turning on the lights in the room, Rosetta approached the bed with the mana lamp she had in hand.
After she took off the robe, she hung it over a chair.
Under the mana lamp’s dim illumination, she saw Cassion.
She already guessed from the scent of medicine, but it seemed like the doctor had already come and gone.
Bandages upon bandages were wrapped up here and there, but fortunately, the bandages she herself had tied over his eyes hadn’t been touched, just as she requested.
It was still stained with blood, the same color as his eyes.
Everything around it was clean and white.
After setting down the lamp on the bedside table, Rosetta sat next to the sleeping man, right by his head.
The floor was hard beneath her feet.
And the wall behind her that she was leaning on exuded cold energy.
Sitting still for a while as she stared at the man, Rosetta carefully reached out to the back of the man’s head.
Soft hair tickled her palms.
When she pushed her hand back a little more, she found the knot of the red bandage.
She tried to untie the knot several times, but it wouldn’t budge.
So, she pointed an index finger instead, and thin energy split the cloth.
When she pulled one side of the cloth, a few chopped strands of his hair came out with it.
…Well, maybe a little more than a few strands.
While looking at the hair that was now on her palm, she blew over it.
The strands floated like dandelion seeds into the air, and then scattered.
Now that they couldn’t be seen, it’s like it never happened.
After sweeping her hand along her skirt to cover up her crime completely, she turned to Cassion.
She could see the face of the man who was still asleep.
He looked peaceful.
After gazing at the man’s face, Rosetta looked out the window.
Beyond the square window was the starry night sky that was just like a painting.
The window itself was the frame.
The sky was a painting.
Unfortunately… That was beautiful, too.
She reached out towards the air, using her pointer finger to count the stars.
‘I’ll wake you up after I finish counting all this.’
That was the extent of kindness that Rosetta could allow.
Once he woke up, reality would be waiting for him once again, and Rosetta would be part of that reality.
So sleep a little bit more.
You’re allowed to have some more reprieve.
“Ah, I’m so tired I could die.”
Beneath this hushed declaration, she counted.
The woman’s quiet voice echoed throughout the room, with only the sound of breathing and the steady staccato of a ticking clock to accompany her whispers.
* * *
Cassion wandered for a long time—
—In a dream that a marsh swallowed him whole, where he gradually disappeared.
Even if he tried to shout for help, no sound left his lips.
Even if he reached out and ran forward, all his movements proved futile and simply drove him deeper down the sinking marsh.
As he was sucked down into the abyss, his breath was slowly taken.
Was this the end
Gradually, his body relaxed.
Perhaps this was because he had already given up everything.
His body sank down even faster than before.
He simply waited for his own body to hit the ground, not knowing when that would be.
But as he was falling… and falling… it all stopped at some point—
—when someone called out to him.
Who was it
His eyelids were itchy.
When he blinked, his body gradually began to rise instead of fall.
“Wake up, Cassion.”
As though he was looking through water, Cassion shifted his head towards the sound.
But there was nothing there.
He couldn’t see anything.
Instead, his blocked breath soon burst at once.
When he opened his lips and exhaled deeply, bubbles rose up his throat.
It’s like there were butterflies bursting out from within him.
Cassion stared blankly in front of him as he gasped for air.
‘Just what the hell is this.’
The pitch-black darkness had become a little cloudy.
He had been falling endlessly into the unknown without being able to see anything, so even the sound of his own gasping sounded beautiful to his ears.
The fear that had spread wildly inside him scattered at once without him realizing it.
“We made a promise, you know.”
His body and mind which both gradually rose finally reached the surface, and light pouring from above filled his eyes.
Following the light that seemed distorted by waves, his face was above the water now, while his body floated.
It felt like he was lying in the middle of the open sea.
He had always felt this way.
However today, somehow, he was strangely unafraid.
And he was neither lonely nor sad.
Was it because he could see the full moon amidst the vast sky of stars
But if it wasn’t that…
“Hurry and get up, Cassion.”
Wake up, Cassion.
The world turned upside down for a moment.
And in this overturned world, the feeling of falling endlessly was brought back to reality.
A gray nightscape entered his vision.
The moon, the marsh, the sea.
And the night.
Only a light beside the bed created shadows and erased them in flickers.
As this light entered his eyes, he closed then opened his eyes repeatedly, trying to shake off the burden carried by his eyelids.
As he continued to do this a few more times, the world slowly became clearer.
In this more vivid world, the last thing that entered his vision was a finger that crossed the space and touched the sparkling light.
A graceful wrist.
A sleeve’s hem.
Once his gaze went up that sleeve, he saw a slim neck.
Then, a porcelain face.
As soon as his gaze met those golden irises, he felt exceedingly dizzy, as though he had returned to his dream and was falling into an abyss once more.
The woman’s eyes slowly curved upward, then she spoke.
A ragged voice escaped his dry throat.
At the utterance of the short name, his tongue grew numb.
The tip of his tongue touched the roof of his mouth in a strange way.
The numbness of the tip of his tongue was transferred to the roof of his mouth, and then down his throat as he gulped down.
That swallowing sensation drew back down, and another feeling rose up in return.
Heat boiled within him.
All these sensations pointed to the fact that he was alive.
While Cassion was drunk on this feeling, Rosetta smiled deeply as she approached his side.
She drew closer, to the point that she could see herself reflected in his red eyes.
The reflection of her red lips within those eyes slowly opened.
“Congratulations on your survival, Cassion.”
Were there any other words more apt than this for a greeting between one person—born fighting against fate—towards another