At those words, Namuel stiffened. I spoke again while looking at his petrified green eyes.
"Isn't Namuel a wizard? From what I've heard, they have a strong desire to know something... I thought you might be curious about what kind of power you’ll awaken."
I concluded with “That’s why I asked,” and smiled. It was a measure I took because I was afraid he might have a strange idea.
Namuel didn't answer. He just looked at me with a stiff expression on his face. When that attitude showed no sign of changing, I became a little anxious.
"---Of course, Rainelle-nim is right."
Breaking the long silence, he said again,
"Mages are people with overwhelming desire and longing for knowledge. So, if I say I have no curiosity about what kind of power I can have if I eat Crobanlock, it would be a lie."
The green eyes, which strangely sank for some reason, grew tired. I flinched unconsciously at the gloomy and dark atmosphere. But Namuel didn't seem to notice.
"I don't think there are any wizards or mages who will not be curious about that. Mages also have the desire to reach even higher levels."
"Yes, there were times when I tried to eat it."
I was terrified at those words.
W-, w-, what?! You tried to eat it?!
Namuel’s appearance, unaware of the fact that I had started screaming inside, even annoyed me.
Haah! I feel like I got hit by a bomb because of you, but you don't know that!! Well, it's normal not to know, but---! Aghhh!!
"But... it’s also a waste."
"---Huh? A waste?"
I tilted my head to think of what he meant.
A waste? Was it because it isn’t something you should casually eat? In my memory of the original game, Crobanlock was treated like that.
"Yes, it's a waste."
Namuel, who spoke unexpectedly simply, nodded his head.
"Of course, it would also be a lie to say that I don't have anxiety and fear that I could die if there’s something wrong. However, more than that, I feel that it will be a waste."
Namuel continued to speak as he fixed the glasses on the bridge of his nose.
"Isn't it too much of a waste? In the first place, Crobanlock is a precious thing. It is a fruit that is even more valuable because it awakens the person who ate it if that individual does not die. Most of them eat it themselves when they get it, and a few sell it for money worth more than power. Like that, they would come into the hands of nobles and mages."
...I nodded my head.
In the first place, the Crobanlock obtained by Aria, to be more precise, Aria's father, was also acquired through such a route. Nothing is surprising. It’s nothing new.
"I'm very curious as to what kind of power I will have when awakened, but I'm also curious about how it awakens those who ate it. And the reason for people dying from eating it."
"...because if you know that, you’ll be able to eat it more safely, right?"
At what I said, Namuel laughed softly.
Then, his casual expression hardened a little.
"No, no. That was a slip of the tongue."
I was puzzled by his attitude of hastily shaking his head while saying it was a slip of the tongue. What were you going to say? You said it was a slip of the tongue...
When I thought about it more, I could feel laughter coming out without me realizing it.
Ahh... The Crobanlock that Namuel has now was from Aria, right? So, it will be like getting rid of it the thing that Aria gave him by eating it. Can I interpret it like this?
I thought it was so much fun to pretend that I don't know anything even though I knew about it. But it was difficult to hide it.
That was why I asked while tilting my head as if curious on purpose,
"What were you going to say, so you say it's a slip of the tongue?"
"---That, that is..."
It was really, really, really interesting to see Namuel stuttering in a rare panic.
If Aria saw this, she would love it to death! If I have a cell phone, I would take a picture or video and show it to her! Well, I don't have a cell phone here, so I can only enjoy it myself!!
Aria, don’t blame me, okay? There’s nothing I can do for you!
I opened my mouth again as I offered Aria my deepest apology inwardly,
"Hmm, could it be..."
"It's absolutely not what Rainelle-nim thinks."
Even though I didn't say anything, Namuel already spat out excuses.
It was funny. It was only after he had made excuses that he realized his mistake, and his expression faintly cracked.
"I, this is..."
"I have no idea what Namuel was trying to say…? What is it, for you deny it like that?"
It's so funny! I will be a fool if I miss this! Namuel is rarely flustered, so it's best to take this opportunity to tease him!
"What I thought was that it’d take a long time for the research- But is there actually another reason why you can't eat it?"
I could see a crack appear in Namuel's expression.
OMG! It's so fun to tease him while pretending not to know anything!
"There seems to be a reason other than that. Could you please give me a little hint?"
"I won't tell anyone. I promise."
I erased the smile on my face and said that seriously.
Who will I tell it to? But of course, I'll tell Aria, that's a given.
It's natural since Namuel's emotional understanding is related to his awakening! So there is no such thing as self-interest! This is just a very innocent heart asking when the bomb will explode in the future. If there’s a timer, I have to get a hold of it!!
I looked at him with sincerity. But Namuel didn't seem to be able to make an easy decision.
...Honestly, what I thought of seems the most likely reason, but I'm dying to hear it! I wish he could tell me faster!
Namuel's eyes were shaking. It was evident that he was worried.
It was strange and exciting to see him hesitating so much.
What will Namuel say? How will it come out?
It was the moment when Namuel, who had been contemplating for a long time, was about to open his mouth,
*knock, knock, knock-*
"Rainelle-nim, I brought refreshments..."
Both me and Namuel were startled by the sound of knocks when Namuel was about to speak.
When I turned my head to the door, I saw a maid coming in with tea and snacks. The maid was also startled by the serious mood, and her eyes were slightly wide open.
---Ah-oh!! What are doing?! Why did you arrive at the most important moment?!! Namuel was just about to speak up too!!
I was so angry that I had a delusion that if I was a dragon or something, a fire would have already come out of my mouth.
...but, sadly, very sadly, the perfect moment had already been interrupted.
"You bear with me even though class time is already over. I'm sorry, Rainelle-nim. You're wasting your time with a topic that has nothing to do with your class."
"Excuse me, then. ---I'll see you in the next class."
I reached out to prevent Namuel from rushing out, but he was really quick to leave the room.
Ahhh!! Don't run away!! You're telling me to die of curiosity if you run away after making me curious!!!
"Hey, why did you come in at that moment...!"
"I, I’m sorry!"
"It's okay, it's okay. It's already gone anyway..."
Yeah... It already passed, so what can I do... I feel like tears of blood will come out of my eyes...
Depressed by sadness, resentment, and various emotions, I picked up a snack. Watching the maid next to me still anxious, I reassured her that it was okay, but to be honest, it wasn't okay at all.
It was a great opportunity to hear how Namuel feels! It's even sadder that I don't know if I'll be able to hear it in the future!!
I drank my tea with regret. The hot tea had the right temperature -just enough to drink, which made it nice when it ran down my throat, but the regret I felt did not go away easily.
Namuel was leaving at a faster pace than usual. If he could run in the Imperial Palace, he would have already run.
The purple eyes seemed to pierce even the deepest part of the heart.
As he recalled that feeling, he even had goosebumps.
“Why are you not eating?” “Is that really the reason?”
...it was as though he was asked that from those eyes alone. Even though Namuel didn't say who the Crobanlock was from, it was as if she was reading his heart and asking questions based on that.
“Is that person the reason you don't eat it?”
“Because you’re unsure of your feelings for Adriana?”
‘---I knew this was my own delusion. No matter how close Lady Adriana and Rainelle-nim are, I don’t think she will tell her that part.’
The Crobanlock was something worth that much. Most of them are eaten by themselves, and only a small number are traded. So they can be compared to Mithril1 when it comes to scarcity.
So it was extremely foolish to talk about the subject easily. Their life could be in danger.
‘So I’m sure Rainelle-nim isn’t aware. Even though I know that...’
He even had the illusion that if he looked at the animal's unique transparent and clear eyes, she would be able to see his inner heart. Even though she was in the shape of a human being, her eyes seemed like a crow, so it made him think like this.
Realizing that his heart was beating wildly, Namuel grabbed his chest with one hand. When he felt the beating of his pounding heart on his fingertips, he came to know that he was breathing heavily. Learning that, he burst out laughing.
‘What is this? This is no different than a child who commits a mistake and tries hard to hide it.’
Standing in place while catching his breath, Namuel had no choice but to admit it.
‘Yeah, I’m hesitant to eat the Crobanlock I received from Lady Adriana.’
He said, “It was disappointing that she approached me not purely because of her academic curiosity, but also because she was interested in me."
‘But, nevertheless... In the corner of my heart, I was confident that my feelings had changed subtly due to her.’
‘This feeling isn’t bad... but I didn't know what this means.’
Recalling that feeling, Rainelle’s voice sounded like an auditory hallucination.
["It's rather surprising that Namuel hasn't eaten it until now. Don’t you want to eat it? If you eat it, you might discover a power that you didn't even know you have."
“Is there actually another reason why you can't eat it?"]
‘Why couldn't I deny it at once on the spot that there was no such thing?
Why couldn't I immediately answer that the reason why I didn't eat the Crobanlock was that the research potential was too great?
Why, when I looked at the Crobanrock, did I think of her face?
Why didn't I leave the scene when she said shyly, with red cheeks and clasping hands, that she wanted to be helpful?
Why, why, why?
Why can't her voice that said she liked me, along with the look in her eyes and even the sunlight on the terrace, be erased from my memory?’
"---Marquis Namuel? Are you all right?"
He was lost in thought as his heart continued to beat hard. When he turned his gaze to the place where the voice came from, there was Miel, raising his eyebrows as if in doubt.
"Are you unwell? You’ve been holding your chest and breathing hard for a while."
"---It's all right. It's probably because I'm too tired these days."
‘Yeah, maybe it's because I'm too tired. How much I was thinking about Rainelle-nim’s class, the study topic, and preparing the materials along with the usual research? It was natural that my bedtime was reduced.’
‘Yeah, that's natural. I don't get enough sleep these days since I have a lot of things to take care of, so it's probably just an unusual thought.’
Namuel's expression, as he struggled to justify his own strange reactions and thoughts with excuses, was very disorganized. Seeing him like that, Miel furrowed his brows.
Miel simply felt it wasn't like that. He was able to realize Namuel’s words were close to an excuse because he had a past where he could be beaten and starved if he wasn’t sharp-witted.
"...Is it? Don't push yourself too hard."
...but that didn't mean he should care about Namuel. He wasn't even close to him.
Most of all, it was because Miel knew that meddling was toxic to anyone who showed reluctance.
"Lack of sleep is the enemy of health. Besides, isn't the Marquis in charge of Rainelle-nim’s class? Take care of your own health a little more."
Although there was a sense of distance, Namuel nodded his head as he smiled slightly at Miel, who was considerate in his own way.
"I should. I'm sorry to bother you."
"No, it’s nothing. Then, see you."
Miel bid him farewell softly. For a while, Namuel looked at Miel's back as he moved away, then Namuel sighed.
‘Yeah, it might be because I’m tired. ...so if I rest a little, maybe I won't have such strange thoughts.’
Namuel tried to think so, but his eyes were swaying aimlessly. Like a small ferry floating in a storm.
1 Mithril: a fictional metal from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth fantasy writings. It's silvery and stronger than steel but much lighter in weight.↩