“Nainiae, it’s all right. A dream is just a dream.”
Iris showed a refreshing smile toward Nainiae and gently wiped off the tears around her eyes. Iris continued and said,
“What did you dream about?”
Nainiae, with her mouth wide open, thought about what she just saw, and then bit her lips lightly.
It didn’t feel like a dream.
It was the light at the end of tunnel.
Noticing Nainiae was just biting her lips and not able to say anything, Iris asked if Nainiae was uncomfortable in any way as she tilted her head side to side.
“No. It’s nothing.”
“It cannot be nothing.”
While Nainiae was asleep, Iris heard what she was murmuring while shedding tears. Iris clearly remembered them.
“Tell me. I’ll listen.”
Instead of keeping it to herself, perhaps it would be better for Nainiae to spill it out. Perhaps that would make Nainiae feel better.
“Really, really, it is nothing.”
Not able to look at Iris in the eyes, she directed her gaze toward the ceiling and shook her head.
She couldn’t tell her.
There was no way she could.
Nainiae could not tell Iris that she was going to die soon, that what she saw was her life flashing before her eyes. Nainiae could not tell Iris that she won’t be here with her when the fall comes.
“Excuse me, Lady Iris.”
Nainiae, who was staring vacantly at the ceiling to calm her mind, felt the warmth reaching her hand. Nainiae said,
Sitting next to the bed, Iris was holding Nainiae’s right hand. Iris tightened her grip, keeping Nainiae’s hand feel warm.
It seemed like Iris knew that if she let go of the hand now, she may never get to hold Nainiae’s hand again.
Nainiae was embarrassed about her disfigured hand being held by someone. Nainiae pulled her shoulder. However… despite that, Iris firmly held Nainiae’s hand. She refused to let go.
“Riley told me.”
Nainiae, who was trying to make her let go of the hand in any way she could, heard what Iris just said and flinched her shoulders.
“It may last until the fall, right?”
“What… are you talking about?”
“It’s about how long you will be able to stay with us.”
Nainiae tried to feign ignorance, but Iris had a serious look on her face.
Unbecoming of her, Iris’ eyebrows were slightly bent. Her face almost looked angry.
It was no longer looking like Iris just seemed to be angry. Iris really was angry.
“Why didn’t you tell us?”
Having heard what Iris said, Nainiae’s lips opened and closed again several times.
Nainiae carefully moved her gaze and looked at Iris’ eyes.
Perhaps it was because Iris’ eyes were gentle just like Nainiae’s mother who she said goodbyes to a long time ago.
Nainiae, who was about to say something, had her lips frozen shut.
Nainiae had been longing for those eyes for a long time.
Nainiae also had been wishing for the warmth as well.
Nainiae could feel her heart being crushed in sorrow. Nainiae tightly grabbed on to the blanket with her left hand so Iris would not be able to see and then said,
“… I didn’t want to be a burden to you.”
It was a lie.
Nainiae managed to avoid Iris’ gaze and gave an answer that was different from what she was really feeling.
Looking at Nainiae, who was trying to avoid her gaze, Iris tightly held Nainiae’s hand again and asked gently.
“By any chance, did you want to die?”
Nainiae, who had her true feeling found out, flinched her shoulder.
‘How did she figure it out? Did I let it show on my face? Does Lady Iris have any special power?’
Nainiae, petrified, was confused. Noticing this, Iris raised Nainiae’s right hand and said,
“Your hand is shaking.”
“… This is.”
It was something Nainiae had not noticed.
Having realized it late, she shook her head left and right and said,
“This is… because of my condition…”
“As I thought, you are not well, right?”
In the end, Iris got to the point. Nainiae was petrified again.
“Yes, Lady Iris.”
“You are curious about how I figured out what you were thinking, right?”
Honestly, Nainiae was curious about that.
However, she couldn’t just say, ‘yes, I am curious.’ Nainiae just pulled her chin and waited for Iris to continue.
“… It’s your eye.”
“Nainiae, of many good qualities you have, one of them is that you do not avoid eye contact when having a conversation with someone.”
With her thumb, Iris gently brushed the top of Nainiae’s right hand. With boundlessly gentle and loving expression on her face, Iris continued, and Nainiae had a vacant look on her face.
“Just now, Nainiae, did you look at me in the eyes?”
“You weren’t, were you?”
Nainiae could not talk back.
It was true.
Nainiae felt that she might get greedy and dare to want to live longer if she looked into Iris’ gentle eyes. So… Nainiae could not look at her eyes.
“… Lady Iris, how long have I been asleep?”
Nainiae was still acting the same.
Despite what Iris just said, Nainiae was still not looking at Iris in the eyes. Moving her left hand that was tightly holding on to the blanket, Nainiae lowered the hand to below the chest and uncovered the blanket.
“Looking at where the sun is, I think I slept through the whole day. It’s way past the time I should be working. If I keep this up, I wouldn’t be able to face Mr. Ian and Ms. Sera.”
Nainiae used frictionless magic to free her hand from Iris’ warm hand. Nainiae got down from the bed immediately.
“I’ll be going to work now.”
Nainiae reached for the bracelet sitting next to the bed and opened the dimensional space. Nainiae changed to the maid uniform inside and walked away as if she was running from something.
Nainiae was about to escape from the room. However, she stopped after hearing Iris’ voice.
“I wish you could stay with us.”
It was a gentle tone like talking to her daughter. Nainiae’s lips were twisted. It was not certain if it was out of happiness or sadness.
* * *
There were just Riley and Andal at the mansion’s library.
Riley sipped at the tea that Sera prepared, narrowed his eyes and looked at Andal.
Riley decided to pospone paying back Andal for what he did at the corridor. Riley asked,
“What do you think?”
“So, what would you like to hear first?”
Instead of tea for humans, Andal was fixated on books rolling around on the library. In response to Riley’s question, Andal asked a question. He was asking if Riley would like to hear about Iris or Nainiae first.
Riley was annoyed. Riley, who was drinking tea, mumbled the name.
Noticing the look on Riley’s eyes, Andal had an exaggerated look on his face. Laughing mischievously, Andal asked again.
“Ah? I suppose I don’t need to act anymore?”
As Andal said it like a fool, Riley had a vein popping up on his forehead. Riley started to click around the leg he had on top of the other leg.
“I’m the one who is pissed, you rascal. I thought you said you will let me experience being a teacher, so I came here, but you made me into a Doctor? Unbelievable. You are working a dragon, you know that, right? You should be grateful that I’m going easy on you.”
Andal fixed the glasses that slid down the nose. He decided to answer the question before Riley exploded.
“That child, Nainiae. Her condition was not looking good. With your permission, I think it would be best if we brought her to my lair right away.”
Having realized Andal had a serious look on his face, Riley leaned on the back support and sighed.
“It’s that serious?”
“You had a rough idea already, didn’t you?”
Riley was not able to answer. He brought the tea cup to his lips and started to tap the arm rest with his left hand.
“It feels like there are more to her than what I can see with my eyes. How should I say this? There are more convoluted things tangled up inside? I also find it intriguing that humans were able to get a person’s inside to be so messed up.”
Andal was flipping through a book that he picked up in an uninterested way. Having lost interest, he put it down and said,
“Well, there’s what you had me keep, but even without it, my personal opinion is that this child must be saved no matter what.”
“No matter what?”
“Yes, no matter what.”
Riley, who had his chin resting on his hand, asked. Andal had a confident look on his face. He pumped up his shoulders and said,
“It’s because I decided to have her as my pupil.”
Riley found it to be ludicrous. With a look on his face, Riley kept silent for a moment and then asked,
“… Are you still trying to play that role?”
Despite Riley’s disapproving tone, Andal responded with a serious face.
“This is not a pretentious play.”
Andal was the kind that just had to try what he wanted. He was a greedy and supreme being like that.
“Oh, is that so, oh great being?”
‘If I remember, Andal said he found it intriguing when some of the customers introduced themselves as a teacher and a pupil?’
Before Riley went to Rainfield, Andal was asking Riley about the profession called teacher. Thinking about it, Riley peeked a smile.
“So, what’s the plan?”
“Just say the word, and I’ll take her to the lair and work on the tangled up things inside her body. Her lessons as my pupil will be after that.”
“How will the lessons be like?”
“For now, I’ll be starting with the basics. I’ll hammer in the basics in to her using my way. After that, I’ll have her fight relatively weak guardian spirits to raise her skills.”
Andal answered thoroughly without pausing to think once. It made Riley realize that Andal was really eager to do this. Sickened by it, Riley shook his head.
“So, can I bring her to my lair now, right away?”
“That’s right. Right now.”
Riley took a moment to organize his thoughts. He shook his head and said,
“No, now is not a good time.”
Riley concluded that it would not be good for Nainiae if she left too late. Riley said,
“I think today evening would be good.”
“We should give her time to say goodbyes to the people in the mansion at least.”
Not just to Iris, Ian and Sera, but she was close to other people in the mansion as well. Telling them that she will be gone for a while with a Doctor named Andal because of her illness was going to be enough.
“What about you?”
Riley pushed the chair to the back and got up. Andal tilted his head side to side and asked what Riley was going to do.
“I’ll be taking a nap for a moment.”
Riley said he will be taking a nap as if he didn’t care at all. Andal, surprised, looked at Riley and mumbled,
“Wow, sleep again? You are unbelievable, you rascal You sleep longer than dragons.”
Having heard what Andal said, Riley, who was about to walk out of the library, slowly turned his body and raised his hand toward Andal. Toward Andal, Riley raised the middle finger.
“… What’s that?”
Andal saw that gesture before, a fist with just the middle finger raised up. He tiled his head side to side and asked.
“It’s a compliment.”
Riley peeked a smile. With the tip of his lips raised, Riley complimented Andal.
“That’s right. It’s a compliment. You were very good at acting.”
The shape of Riley’s hand gesture was something that Andal saw often in the pub that he owned.
“Isn’t that supposed to be an insult?”
Andal saw customers swearing at each other and showing the middle finger. He saw it many times. Finding Riley’s answer to be suspicious, Andal asked. Riley shrugged his shoulder and said,
“Come on, how could that be? There are times when what people do and say do not match. You know that, don’t you? This is one of them.”
Andal figured that Riley’s explanation was plausible. Andal scratched his hair and asked back,
“… Is that so?”
In fact, Andal did not have full understanding of people’s hearts or emotions.
“It’s something like that. You should know things like these in detail if you want to enjoy your amusement trip.”
Riley continued like a pro. He winked and said with a leisurely face.
Andal thought it was strange. However, when Riley said the thing about the amusement trip, Andal asked again with a confused look,
“The middle finger means compliment?”
“That’s right. I’m complimenting you for the awesome acting you did at the corridor.”
Riley smiled again as he flipped the finger at Andal. Andal’s face became full of confidence.
“Huhu. That’s right… There is nothing I that I cannot do.”
Andal was pumping up his shoulders as if he could take more compliments. Riley turned around and left the library. Riley had a dark smile on his face. It looked like he paid Andal back after all.
‘You still have a long way to go, you rascal.’