Author: alyalia Editor: popcorn

“Are your ankles okay?”

 

Their lips almost touched.

 

“Uh, yes. They’re okay.”

 

Cersinia replied while pulling back her face as far as possible. 

 

“Cersinia.”

 

Ben didn’t let Cersinia out of his arms, like someone who forgot how to let her go.

 

Even when it was clear that she wasn’t going to fall, he did not let Cersinia out of his arms. And it took everything out of him not to hold her closer.

 

When she came down from the stairs, his heart dropped. Her slender ankles look precarious in those shoes. He could still see her tempting curves even when wearing a loose-fitting dress. Her soft and fluttering red hair was now styled in beautiful braids. Her long black eyelashes, bright crimson eyes, her tall nose, and plump red lips were clearer than usual. Upon seeing her, he even forgot how to breathe and his mind was screaming at him to go and take her in his arms.

 

The loud surroundings stopped, and only the sound of Cersinia’s shoes thumped like a drum. Neither Archen, who was standing next to him, nor the servants could be seen. Only Cersinia, who came down from the stairs, was reflected in his sight. His heart was beating fast. As he held her, who nearly fell down the stairs, he could feel her soft skin touching him, and the smell of her body was felt.

 

His surroundings stopped and only the sound of her careful steps could be heard. Her presence outshone everyone else, nor Archen, who was standing next to him, nor the servants could make him take his eyes off of her. As he held her, who nearly fell down the stairs, his heart, which was already beating fast, was now pounding like crazy and threatening to get out of his rib cage. It took everything in him to keep his composure, as she was now in his arms and her enchanting scent was engulfing him.

 

Barely sane, Ben opened his mouth and unconsciously said.

 

“You’re stunning.”

 

“…”

 

His low-pitched voice that caressed her like a whisper did not sound captivating but dangerously seductive. 

 

* * *

 

Upon arriving at the estate where the harvest festival was held, Cersinia got off the carriage under Ben’s escort. They left early in the morning, but they arrived well past the afternoon.

 

As she sat only with Ben in the carriage, she felt suffocated. She couldn’t do anything because she was afraid that whatever she said or did would look unnatural. So, Cersinia only looked at the scenery through the small window of the carriage.

 

Ben seemed to want to talk, but Cersinia pretended to sleep. She didn’t want to talk about his confession and repeatedly reminded herself that she had to reject him. Therefore, she had to show him that she did not like him, but her mind seemed to not be fully prepared yet. And she still had this selfish need to spend more time with him.

 

“Cersinia, come here.”

 

Ben reached out to her in the crowd. People were surrounding him and greeting him. Standing a little far away, she found him at a glance even in the midst of the crowd. Cersinia hesitated because she knew if she held his hand, it would attract all attention but felt like she only had a little time to spend with Ben before she needed to reject him.  

 

She slowly reached out her hand to him. Then his large hand wrapped around each of her fingers. His hand, holding hers naturally, fitted perfectly as if two separate pieces were joined together. It looked like they were a couple from the beginning.

 

‘I’m going to talk about it later today… So, let’s not think about it for now.’

 

Cersinia entered the village holding his hand tightly, erasing the bitter smile she had on. The harvest festival was bigger and grander than she had expected. There were many street vendors, which made the place look like a night market. There were interesting things to do and enjoy, so it was lively. She was more focused than ever and watched the harvest festival attentively. She was doing so to forget that this moment would eventually come to an end.

 

Ben explained that the foods the vendors were selling were made with crops harvested from the estate this year. The smell of the delicious grilled chicken, fragrant bread, and fruit wrapped in syrup, all one by one filled her nose. Cersinia tilted her head and looked at the strawberries stuck in the stick. The candy-shaped strawberry seemed really familiar.

 

“It’s a fruit syrup candy.”

 

Ben spoke affectionately when Cersinia couldn’t take her eyes off of the sweet.

 

“Fruit syrup candy?”

 

“It’s a candy made by coating fruit with syrup and letting it harden. It is also something that is only made in this village.”

 

‘Ah, they call this fruit syrup candy here.’

 

Since it was something familiar, Cersinia only nodded without saying anything. Ben, then, paid a generous price to the vendor, who said he couldn’t accept the generous payment and handed over the candy to Cersinia.

 

“Huh?”

 

“I think you’ll like it.”

 

It wasn’t in her intention to make him buy it, but Cersinia accepted it unable to ignore his sincerity.

 

“Thank you.”

 

When she said it, Ben had the brightest smile ever. She felt that this trivial word made him the happiest person in this world. Then Cersinia proceeded to take a bite of the candy, avoiding his eyes, fearing that her heart would start beating fast again. The sweet goodness spread through her mouth leaving a refreshing aftertaste.

 

‘It’s delicious.’

 

It tasted like eating a very sweet candy. She liked it so much that she kept taking bites while walking.

 

“Here.”

 

Ben raised his finger lovingly as if seeing a squirrel was eating an acorn. His fingers touched her red lips with pieces of syrup on them.

 

Ben said while raising his hand and watching her with a loving smile.

 

“You got something on your face.”

 

His thumb gently swept her lips. At that moment, Cersinia’s lips felt hot. It was the same with Ben’s fingers. It was just an innocent touch, but the fingers that touched her lips made her feel some type of way.

 

“…”

 

“…”

 

They blushed at the same time. They could feel each other’s pulses through their linked hands. The autumn wind blew gently, just in time to cool the two of them, who were getting hot. Cersinia’s hair and dress fluttered in the gentle breeze.

 

“Aren’t you cold?”

 

“It’s okay.”

 

“I’m worried that you will catch a cold.”

 

He took off his jacket and put it on her shoulder.

 

“You wear it. We don’t want you to catch a cold, do we?

 

Cersinia refused and returned his jacket, but Ben insisted.

 

“It’s chilly.”

 

Ben buttoned his jacket on Cersinia.

 

“Tell me when you feel cold. I will return it.”

 

Alright. By the way, at night, they light a big fire in the middle of the square as a thank-you ritual to the Gods.”

 

“Are you thankful for this year’s bountiful harvest?”

 

“Yes. And I wish that we’ll have another good harvest next year. If it’s okay with you, why don’t we go back after seeing the ritual?”

 

“Okay. Let’s do that.”

 

The sun was still up in the sky, so they had to wait two or three hours at the most for the sun to completely set and darkness to come. If they return after seeing the thank-you ritual, they will arrive at the Grand Duchy at dawn.

 

Since I want to be with him a little longer.’

 

Cersinia liked the time they spent together, so she wanted to postpone it as much as possible.

 

“Ben, look at this.”

 

Cersinia was looking at accessories displayed on one of the stands. The two of them looked similar to their past selves of three years ago. They had a lot of meaningless conversations and laughs as they joked around.

 

“Do you like it?”

 

Ben, who went to buy a drink when she said she was thirsty and was now coming back, said.

 

“It reminds me of that time.”

 

Cersinia’s face hardened slightly after she threw the words out without a second thought. There was no way Ben didn’t know what she was talking about. When they went shopping together in the village of Mulain, her face as she looked at the bracelets was still clear to him.

 

“The colour is pretty. You pick one too.”

 

Cersinia saw a bracelet among the accessories on display. Among the bracelets made of colourful threads, the dark bracelet with a particularly purple colour caught her eyes.

 

“This one.”

 

“I think this bracelet will look good on you.”

 

They both picked up a bracelet at the same time. Cersinia chose the dark purple bracelet, and Ben chose a crimson bracelet. It was the same design, but only the colour was different.

 

“You two can give each other a present.”

 

The seller looked at the two, exclaimed. The owner, who had come from another village to do business, thought that they were a couple who had just started dating. Coincidentally, the bracelets they picked out were similar to each other.

 

“Do you like that?”

 

“Yes? The colour is pretty…”

 

“Give me both.”

 

The owner quickly finished calculating before Cersinia could stop him. Two bracelets, each individually wrapped, were placed in front of Cersinia.

 

“It’s late, but I really wanted to give it to you.”

 

Cersinia didn’t understand what Ben meant when he said that it was late.

 

“Two are too many.”

 

Just the way Ben looked at her when she said it was pretty and the fact that he couldn’t help but buy those things for her made Cersinia speechless.

 

“That’s right. You can share one each.”

 

The owner smiled at the two.

 

“Yes, let’s do that. You can have one. I like both, so Ben, you choose the one you like.”

 

Cersinia agrees with the owner’s opinion. She held out her hands in front of him, each containing a bracelet.

 

“Then.”

 

His long fingers slowly reached for the bracelet on her left hand.

 

“I want the crimson one.”

 

His lustful eyes stared at her as if they were swallowing her. 

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