Author: alyalia

“…Come here!”

 

“Yes, little Duchess.”

 

“Please tell me, Your Highness.”

 

At Charelize’s call, the imperial knights who had been waiting nearby quickly came in.

 

“On charges of murdering the imperial family… His Grace, Duke Marsetta… seize him.”

 

Duke Marsetta didn’t do any resistance. It seemed more fitting this way.

 

He apologized for the first time for someone who had always claimed to be the one suffering all his life. Charelize could feel that he was sincere. Still, she didn’t feel any better. Not knowing why, she was even more frustrated. It was just that Duke Marsetta was so annoying.

 

Duke Marsetta was detained in Helsen Prison. Charelize didn’t look for him.

 

* * *

It was midnight. Charelize, who was in her office, suddenly clenched her fist and smashed her desk. Her hand turned red, but she couldn’t get rid of her anger. She looked at the papers over and over again, but the words she had heard from Duke Marsetta couldn’t be erased from her mind.

 

“Lize.”

 

“…Your Royal Highness?”

 

Arensis knocked on the door. Coming inside, he took Charelize by the hand and recited something. A bright light then spread around. The slight bleeding stopped as if it had never happened, and her wounds were also treated.

 

“You don’t even… have to do this.”

 

Charelize tried to pull out the hand that was held by Arensis.

 

“Actually… Unlike before, I thought it was fortunate that you didn’t expect anything from the duke.”

 

He let her hand go quickly, but he continued using informal language.

 

“Because I saw with my own eyes… how hard you struggle every time you get a reply telling you not to come back to the duchy no matter how hard you try. From a certain point, you even started crying silently. Sometimes, when you went to the duchy with a smiling face and came back, you would lock yourself in your room for days. That’s why I truly hated the duke, whom I didn’t even know. No, I still hate him even now.”

 

“…”

 

“Is it because he’s the same as my father? I wondered. But even my father… pretended to love me a little. I couldn’t fully understand the sorrow you feel from a lifetime of effort without receiving love until the end. It’s deceitful and deceptive of me to know everything about you unconditionally. It’s better for me to honestly speak like this. But… Lize, don’t try so hard. You can tell me if you’re having a difficult time. I can listen to you. Lately… even though you tried to hide it, it was shown in your face. It really saddened me a lot.”

 

“…How did you know that?”

 

“Strangely, it has been like this since a long time ago. It seems I react more sensitively only to you.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Um… I guess because I love you that much.”

 

Arensis swept around Charelize’s eyes. There were small tears in his hands.

 

“Releasing what you’ve long longed for could be refreshing and painful.”

 

“…I thought I’d definitely be happy. Because he is the one who killed my mother… He took my mother away from me twice. He tore away my mother’s next spring…”

 

“Yes.”

 

“But that wasn’t the case. I… must have had a greater desire to be loved by my father. I feel sorry for my mother… The fact that I feel this way… made me even more sorry…”

 

“I see. You know, Lize. So did I. It’s not strange. It’s natural. You could give up what you wanted for 21 years, but… It’s hard to turn your back completely. Whether it’s resentment or regret. It’s the remnants of your feelings, so they naturally remain. If those feelings disappear in an instant, it will only make your life in the past feel futile.”

 

“…”

 

“I also… missed my father who burned my mother to death… No, I missed the existence of a family. Can I say it was a longing for human affection? We were together… but being left alone now. No one understood the feeling of being left alone better than me.”

 

“…”

 

“I thought… if only I could pretend not to know, then everything would be fine. It seemed like it would work. But I got tired of sitting on his lap because his expression was strange. That’s when I realized. It couldn’t just become something that never happened. Until then, I wanted to forgive my father. What happened to my mother was regrettable… but that’s how it was.”

 

Arensis laughed bitterly as if trying to reassure her that he was okay now. But the smile on his face made him even more pitiful. So she hugged him tightly. To Arensis and Charelize, what they needed now was a consolation.

 

“Lize, thank…you. When you let me stay by your side… I know you have to worry more than others. Because I’ve never lived as normal as others. But thank you so much for believing in me again.”

 

“…I’m sorry. I can’t remember.”

 

“…To be honest, it would be disappointing if you can’t regain your memories, but… it doesn’t matter. Don’t feel burdened.”

 

“How can… I…”

 

She was afraid to see Arensis’s face saying it was okay, so she dug deeper into his arms.

 

“Instead, there are a lot of our memories that only I know about… but in the future, we can make more than that.”

 

“Memories are really… annoying. I’m still annoyed… because I can’t remember something obvious…”

 

“…When you died, I first acted like it was nothing. I pretended I was fine because only I would suffer if I remembered it. It felt like I would die if I kept going like that. I pretended not to know because I could breathe only by doing it like that. I also put on a fake smile intentionally. But on the day I saw the photo we took in the flower garden, I completely broke down. That’s when I realized I was denying that you had died. Even if I had sent you off… it couldn’t be helped.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I realized it after losing you. Why were you so important to me? How much I loved you. I would rather live in fear, erasing your memories… Even if you were drying, if we could have died together… At least I wouldn’t spend my days crying at the beginning and end of each day… I regretted it so much. I wanted to see you, to the point of sacrificing my own life if necessary.”

 

Arensis gently grabbed Charelize’s shoulders and met her gaze.

 

“I… want to spend this opportunity once again without regret. With you. So… Let’s live in the present rather than looking for the past.”

 

“…Good.”

 

Charelize, who answered with a bright smile, headed to her bedroom to close her eyes a little. She grabbed Arensis, who was about to leave her room, made him sit on the bed, and lie down next to her.

 

“…I have a question.”

 

“W-what is it?”

 

Surprised by Charelize’s behavior, Arensis replied, calming his rapidly beating heart.

 

“After I died… May I ask how you lived?”

 

“…Remember the last time you asked why I knew sleeping incense so well?”

 

“Yes. It was strange you recited it all at once… By any chance…”

 

“That’s right. After realizing that you were dead, I touched cigars for the first time and spent the day on drugs and alcohol. Did I go to your grave after taking that purpose? Because you hated that the most, so I wanted you to live again and scolded me. I wanted you to slap me on the cheek and shout to get myself together… I waited, hoping that would happen.”

 

“…”

 

“Then I felt resentful. To you and myself.”

 

“Why are you…?”

 

“You who died first. And… me who made you die.”

 

Arensis sighed deeply as if he was emotional just thinking about it.

 

“I felt powerless… and I couldn’t bear the disappointment after getting my hopes up again. It felt like I experienced the sadness of the whole world. It seems like I had a harder time than when I was young when I sent my mother off after losing her. I was more of a crybaby than when I was an ignorant little boy.”

 

“Little…”

 

“…It was really, really hard. I don’t want to lose you again. Never…”

 

At Charelize’s words, Arensis turned to the other side.

 

“After so many years, you came to my dream on my birthday.”

 

“Have I never come until then?”

 

“Yes. I beg you to show up. You only need to show me your face even if you don’t say anything. No matter what the circumstances are, you, who doesn’t even flinch… I saw you for the first time after a long time on that day.”

 

“What was I like?”

 

“You were angry. And you cried.”

 

“…Really?”

 

“You did it a lot. Still, it’s been a while since I’ve seen your face, so I really like it. I’d rather not wake up from that dream. Then when I opened my eyes, I thought…”

 

“What were you thinking?”

 

“I thought I had to live my day every day. Then, won’t you come to my dream again, saying I did well…? I thought like that… however, you never came again. It’s strange, right?”

 

“…Yes.”

 

“If you come again… I was thinking of killing myself as I was exhausted… So it felt strange as if you knew that and acted as if you wished for me to stay alive…”

 

“…Are you crazy?”

 

He was too extreme to think about killing himself. It made me angry that he was willing to give up his life so easily.

 

“You did the same.”

 

I was speechless at Arensis’s answer, which returned soon after.

 

“I…”

 

“A few days later, I went to clean up your grave and saw a forget-me-not blooming. Don’t forget. I hated it so much that you didn’t come to my dreams and told me not to forget you because it brought out the emotions I had buried. On the other hand, I was happy because I wondered if you were reborn as a flower. I didn’t want you to feel the pain and suffering again if you go through another life.”

 

“…Forget-me-not?”

 

“Another year has passed, and my birthday is back. It’s not like I’ve spent my birthday once or twice without you… Although strangely lonely, I think the weather was especially warm that spring.”

 

“…”

 

“I regressed that day. I had already erased your memory when I opened my eyes, but it was good. Because you were alive. You can call me selfish, but it was so nice to see you again.”

 

“…Thank you.”

 

“It was so nice that the world I really didn’t want to live in looked so different.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I still love you. I love you, Lize. So much.”

 

Charelize covered her face with a pillow. And said in a very small voice, “…Me too.”

 

It was a very small voice, but Arensis could hear it too well. It has been quiet since then. Even the breathing they took was careful.

 

“Lize, are you sleeping?”

 

“…”

 

“…Thanks to what you said back then, I got the strength to live on. Thank you so much for saving me.”

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