As if he was growling, he tilted his head and twisted his expression.
That must have been blood. Under the faint glow of the broken lamp which was our only light source, his blue eyes that were like the calm sea, landed on mine.
“Move. I’m not the person you’re looking for.”
I shoved his chest away.
“I’ve told you. Don’t think of me as someone else. We’re similar? What about us is similar?”
“Lies. You’ve told me before. You said it was love but it was a momentary feeling! How cowardly must you be to try to vy for me with such shallow feelings. There’s someone else you like. You already said that that person was a reverent and noble person!”
How troublesome. I did not want to stay in this darkness any longer.
“I don’t have anything else I can say in this situation but I do have feelings for you.”
Dying again and again. Those memories had been scary and difficult and it reminded me of the times when I was terribly lonely. Someone who would get rid of the nightmares and embrace me. I had already given up, knowing someone like that would never appear but I had always wanted someone like that badly. However, that person cannot be the man who stood on the sidelines during my death.
“Don’t be mistaken.”
“I wasn’t saying I didn’t like you on anyone’s behalf.”
Digging into his arms, I bit my lips before smiling and lifting my head.
“You’re a real snob. Because you can’t obtain the real one, you’re being obsessed with some fake and even told me that you liked me. Do you think I would like such a confession?”
“Didn’t you also like my face? What’s the problem? If you think I’m snobbish, then what’s the difference between you and me?’
The righteous duke was nowhere to be found and instead there was a man, soaked in blood and sweat, growling.
“And I never said you were a substitute.”
He leaned against the wall before looking down at me. As he got closer to me, our elbows and knees touched.
I looked up at him. The arm that was holding me tightly was not that strong but it felt like the grip was tightening. It was not possible but it felt like I was being tied by a rope.
I was not that ignorant. I had someone who had an intense crush on me in my previous life. I did not remember who he was, his face, age or name but I remembered the faint scent of his love.
“You look like the person whom I admire very much.”
He was someone who did not know how to take care of himself. His gaze. His expression. What did his gestures mean? Or should I assume that there’s none? His deep gaze whenever he looked at me looked like they longed for me and thought of me as the prettiest thing they had ever seen.
“Everything you’re feeling right now is an illusion.”
“You look like you know.”
His gaze stirred something within me.
“… If that’s so, Ahn. What have I been mistaken about?”
Hernan was staring at me with an innocent expression like a child’s. I let out a faint smile.
Did he know why diluted hatred could be terrifying? He was not just anyone’s knight. He was Castor’s. This alone gave me enough reason to hate him.
But from some point on, I would hesitate whenever I looked at his face. How troublesome. He looked at me the same even though I kept on refusing him.
His gaze filled with longing which reminded me of a drifter’s in the middle of a desert came knocking on me like a hammer. He looked like a puppy with its ears drooping under the rain. I stared at the man soaked in loneliness and longing.
It was just a little bit but I felt bad for him. Did he succeed? Because I was pitying him now.
He was amazing considering how I had now become more aware of my emotions even though I was supposed to have been more indifferent.
After opening my eyes, I grabbed the hand that was on the floor.
What should I call this feeling that he was experiencing so vividly? Alright. I already knew. I should admit it.
I raised my head aggressively.
“Are in love.”
“With that person.”
He could not hide the gaze that was already emanating the scent.
“… You mean I love that person? I do?”
“Do you not think so?”
“No. That can’t be true.”
“No. You do love that person.”
“It’s fine if you don’t believe me but to me, it looks like love.”
Instead of shutting it tightly, my lips fluttered open like petals falling off a flower.
“That makes me feel so miserable.”
He loved me so much that he fell for me again even after changing my appearance. I wanted to ask him. The person who could make this devastated heart feel pain. If he had really loved me, why was he so indifferent and cold in the past? Why did he not help me? He would never know now. How difficult it was for me during that time.
You had been cruel to me. Even now, though I was calm, his eyes in my nightmares were so cold I thought I would freeze. If I forgave him, I would feel sorry for the maids and myself who died in the past. I did not want to know what circumstances he had that day.
“I think the air in here is making me act strange.”
With a long sigh, I lifted my head without realising it.
“I’m jealous of you because I ended up with a body incapable of love.”
I was out of my mind right now but the smell seemed to occupy half of my thoughts. I managed to hold onto my reason in the midst of the stream of nightmares that were rushing into my head like high tide rushing into shore.
I grabbed onto the floor. However, unlike my mind, my body without any physical strength could not hold out and stumbled.
“I hated to even see you because you have everything. I wanted to hate you.”
My body was screaming. Why was this day so long? At one point, my days felt so short I wondered how it would be like if I could turn back time. Now, I just wanted normal days. I knew. It was too obvious that things would not just be given to me.
‘There was a time in the past when Hernan would do something weird…’
I lifted my head and under the dim light, something passed by the moment our eyes met.
How many times had I died? At that time, his gaze looked like he pitied me. And. And what’s next? A strange feeling of dread captured my chest.
9, 10, 11… Why couldn’t I remember?
What did he do after pitying me? The moment I was nearing a clue, an unbelievable pain shot through my head.
I tried to swallow the groans bursting out of me.
‘What was that?’
The headache continued to bother me as if it was deliberately interfering with my thoughts. For goodness sake, my body could still be fine even after getting hit in the head with a rock. I put up with the pain before raising my head.
“Are you alright?”
Trying to tolerate the pain, I bit the inside of my mouth till it bled.
“That’s right. I’m Ahn. I’m not anyone’s substitute. Do you understand?”
I swallowed something fishy before forcing myself to respond. I was trying my best to endure it but my voice came out strained.
He continued to call me. I ignored his whispers as if I could not hear him.
“I won’t say anything so come over here. You’ve lost too much blood.”
When I closed my eyes in the dream in which I could not hear anything, I gradually fell deeper into the darkness.
It felt like we should talk outside.
“I’m the Templar of Beasts.”
Perhaps it was because it was dark, he did not seem to know that I was gradually tearing up.
“I can heal my body with my divinity so when I can move, let’s get out of here.”
It was hard but I could barely understand the words. And finally, he seemed to have realised that I had collapsed.
I struggled to raise my head in his embrace.
“How noisy. Wait, wait, I’m going to sleep…”
“… Wake me up…”
He let out a faint sigh. With his free hand, he lifted my chin.
“Get a hold of yourself. Don’t sleep. I mean it. I’m going to leave you here.”
“Then, you’re really evil. You can just carry me and go…”
He smiled softly at my rambles.
He smiled as he stared at the hand that was holding me tight.
“What do you want me to do? If I wake up?”
I wondered what he would never tell that person he admired so much.
“Do you? Want me to kiss you in return for saving my life?”
I was provocative. He smirked. And he lowered his head before wetting his lips as if he was about to whisper.
I clearly saw it. The gleam in his calm gaze.
“Alright. I’ll just focus on recovering for now.”
His bright sky-blue eyes stared into me deeply. A purple mist surrounded his pupils as his eyes gave off a dangerously dizzying light.
‘You have to keep your promise.”
Just before I passed out, it looked like he had grabbed the end of my clothes with a lingering gaze.
The 10th Day of the Month of Habermia.
This nightmare of dying over and over again felt so natural now. Once I fell asleep, this world unfolded in front of me so vividly. These nightmares were no longer so special.
-Let’s begin the judgement.
Among the various types of nightmares I had, I would sometimes watch what happened between Castor and I as a third party as if I was part of the readers of a novel.
-What does the Empire mean to you?
The weather was sunny. The sky was as clear as always.
The leaves reflected the sunlight pouring in. Fresh spring. The beautifully blinding sunlight. I was on the other side of the space.
-Uh, uh, I-I!
As the knights lined up in front of him, the shoulders of the girl who had a sword pointed at her trembled. In fact, this nightmare had never changed but I expected it to change around this point. The scared-looking girl eventually died.
Was this my first death?
I blinked my eyes.
But for some reason, I thought it would be different this time. I had always returned to reality after my death but for some reason the space kept changing. I had numerous nightmares before but this was my first.
Though the space around me was changing, nothing inside the palace changed. My second death was no different from my first.
-What does this Empire mean to you?
After getting stabbed, we moved onto my third turn. It was in the Forbidden Forest.
-I-I have to run away.
I had tried to avoid meeting the tyrant at all costs and tried to use the teleportation stele but Castor was standing right there when I arrived. He had smiled and raised his blade. Calmly.
-Nanny! Ack! No!
During the 4th regression, the Crown Prince entered with his bloodied feet after killing my nanny who tried to refuse him at the front door. No. Stop. Please Even though I was crying and pleading, he mercilessly took my life. The fifth regression was no different.
“Was it going to show me everything?”
Experience all my deaths again? Just thinking about it was giving me a headache. I frowned before counting how many times it had been already. This was the 6th regression. There was no difference in the way I died.
“What happened next?”