“You can sleep more. I know you don’t usually get up at this hour,” Rezette said, gently placing the papers aside and rising from his seat to approach her. With a tender touch, he smoothed out her disheveled hair and encouraged her to lie back down.
“You’re awake? You said it was too early…” Elise mumbled, her voice still laced with the drowsiness that clung to her.
“I’m not one for morning sleep,” he admitted with a faint smile.
“I see…” She couldn’t help but appreciate the glimpse into Rezette’s habits, as each small revelation brought them closer together.
Shifting her body to face him, Elise settled back down, seeking his presence as a comforting anchor. “Then, can you stay here a little longer…?” she softly asked.
“That’s why I came. I’ll wake you up when it’s time, so sleep,” he casually reassured her.
Elise closed her eyes, and a profound sense of contentment washed over her. The missing piece that had left a void for a week reappeared, filling the gap and restoring a sense of stability and warmth that she had sorely missed.
“Come out of there, Milady. You know, where you should be…!” Andrei’s voice echoed from the periphery of her consciousness, filled with urgency and concern.
“Come here, Elise!” His call, though possibly laced with reproach or admonishment for her pitiful condition, was softened by the gentle touch of his hand, tenderly brushing aside her hair.
Elise was caught in the limbo between sleep and wakefulness, the remnants of her brother’s plea barely registering before she drifted back into slumber. This time, there were no dreams, no consecutive visions to fill her mind.
Rezette’s fingers delicately entwined themselves within the luxurious, silvery strands of Elise’s hair. Each delicate thread seemed to possess an ethereal glow, as if entangled with a subtle, otherworldly radiance. Yet, as his touch lingered, the strands slipped away from his grasp, dissipating into the air like a wisp of smoke, leaving no trace behind.
The day unfurled like a warm embrace, the spring sun casting a golden glow upon the world. Wispy clouds meandered lazily across the clear skies, adding a touch of whimsy to the picturesque scene. For Elise, who had long been confined within castle walls, the sight of the unfamiliar streets lined with blooming flowers was a feast for her eyes. It was her first venture beyond the city of Rotiara, and she savored every moment of this newfound freedom.
April was coming to an end, and in the southern regions, the transition to early summer was already underway. But here in the northern lands, a refreshing spring breeze still kissed the air, caressing their faces as they strolled through the central square. Rezette held her hand gently, choosing to forgo their usual horseback ride in favor of a leisurely walk.
“The northern regions stay relatively cool even in the summer. Rotiara, in particular, enjoys milder summers compared to other areas, but the winters can be quite severe,” he remarked, offering her a glimpse into the region’s climate.
Elise listened intently, grateful for the robe she wore, a masterpiece provided by none other than Rezette Kirstan himself. The garment, though undoubtedly elegant and luxurious, didn’t weigh heavily on her in the temperate spring weather.
“It’s fortunate,” she mumbled softly, appreciating the comfort of her attire.
“What do you mean?” Rezette asked.
“Even wrapped up in these stuffy clothes, it’s not too hot,” she explained.
“If you feel tired, you should tell me,” he advised.
“Yes,” she replied courteously, though the truth was that Elise would never voice her weariness to him. She knew that if she did, he would immediately turn back, taking her back to the castle without a second thought.
Deep down, Elise didn’t realize how stuffy the castle could be until she stepped outside, inhaling the fresh air and feeling a sense of liberation
Walking through the vibrant streets for the first time, Elise’s heart brimmed with excitement as she soaked in the sights and sounds of the bustling village festival. It was also her first encounter with such a multitude of people, and she couldn’t help but glance around in wonder at the lively scenes unfolding before her.
The festival, which marked the end of the festivities, had transformed the area outside Rotiara Castle into a small city, with numerous roads branching out like intricate spiderwebs from the central square. The streets were alive with exuberant music, captivating street performers who entertained the crowd, and the animated conversations of passersby.
However, riding on horses drew too much attention in this crowded setting, prompting Elise and Rezette to navigate their way through the throng on foot. Elise’s petite frame made her susceptible to getting lost in the bustling crowd, a fact that didn’t sit well with Rezette.
“It seems like it would be better if you were carried,” he contemplated.
“I want to walk. It’s my first time walking outside like this,” Elise insisted.
“…First time?” Rezette repeated.
“Probably,” replied Elise. “Whenever I took a slightly longer walk, Andrei would chase after me like a wild duck. I remember getting upset because he couldn’t pick me up right away, just like now with you.”
An awkward silence enveloped them as Rezette absorbed her words. It seemed he hadn’t anticipated such a response. Elise’s attention soon shifted back to the lively street performers, drawn in by their captivating displays.
Elise rarely mentioned her deceased twin brother, Andrei, but Rezette understood the profound impact he had on her life. He knew the depths of her reliance on the Emperor of Argan. Whenever Elise found herself lost in a dream, she would call out her brother’s name, tears streaming down her face in an endless cascade of grief.
It had happened during their journey to the capital, on the road to Rotiara, and even earlier that very morning. Mistaking Rezette for her brother within the realm of her dreams marked the second time it had occurred that day.
Andrei…? The name echoed through Rezette’s mind, stirring a complex mix of emotions within him. Initially, he had felt a twinge of sympathy for her mistaken identity, but now, that sentiment seemed distant and foreign.