23. — In Aren (1)
Irene, who was coming out through the lush branches, blinked as if surprised at the sight of Michael who came to find her. Fresh leaves were attached to her luscious blonde hair, which seemed to flow like honey.
“Where are you going like that?”
“That, that’s… Oh, the water ran out, so I went to the river to fetch some water!”
Naturally, Michael’s gaze, who was taking the leaves off Irene’s hair, slowly turned to the wooden bucket she was holding. There was not even a single leaf in the large wooden bucket that she was holding, let alone water. After checking the empty water bucket, his gaze met her as if asking why.
Irene quickly hid her empty water bucket behind her back at the quickly discovered lie before opening her mouth.
“I, I think I’ll get some water later!”
“You said you went to the river to get water, but now you’re saying you’re getting water later?”
“Are you aware that what you are saying doesn’t match?”
Despite his question, which stabbed her in the face, Irene kept her mouth shut and turned her gaze away. Rolling her eyes here and there, she raised her voice as she saw Michael shining his eyes sharply as if piercing her heart.
“…What, what do you mean it doesn’t make sense?”
“Do you know that your voice rises when you lie?”
“Even your face is red, your hands are shaking, and you’re avoiding my gaze.”
“Like someone who saw something that they shouldn’t see.”
At Michael’s words, she visibly flinched. As if Irene’s appearance was suspicious, he went closer to her.
As she blinked in surprise at his face, which got close enough to brush her nose, her face turned red as though she was about to explode when she suddenly remembered the scene she had seen at the stream a while ago as she got closer to Michael.
“What, what do you mean, shouldn’t see!”
“It’s, it’s not suspicious at all…?”
“Can’t you stop stuttering?”
His playfulness made Irene raise her eyes and glare at him. Michael opened his mouth again as he took the water bucket that Irene had hidden behind her back.
“Well, if you can’t, I’ll go take the water so you should go back.”
“Yes? No, I can do it!”
She immediately stretched out her hand as she saw the bucket of water had been stolen by Michael. However, because he was taller than her, as he lifted the water bucket over his head, Irene could not reach it no matter how hard she reached out. Looking at the embarrassed Irene in front of him, Michael took the lead first.
“You’re the one and only Saint in the Empire, don’t do these kinds of chores. Go home and rest. This little man will take care of the rest.”
“Don’t, don’t say that! And, I can do this. I’ll do it, Michael! So, are you going to…!”
Irene stomped her feet in fear of being discovered by the passionate love affair between lovers whom she had seen by chance. Meanwhile, unable to understand her true intentions, Michael smiled as he brushed away the lush branches with his hands.
“You must have seen something?”
Watching him remove the last branch blocking the stream, eventually shut her eyes tightly. Irene, who had closed her eyes tightly at the unfamiliar scene she would face with him, slowly opened her eyes at the quiet reaction of Michael.
“What, there’s no one there?”
“There’s no one…?”
But, at the following words, Irene opened her eyes and stood next to him. Michael, who watched her closely next to him, smiled and asked.
“You look a bit disappointed?”
“No, that’s not true!”
Saying so, her voice with her face reddened at his witty remarks rose.
Michael shrugged his shoulders as if he knew before kneeling down to his knees by the stream. His gaze, who was holding the water bucket, turned to the grass where he was lying.
It looked like someone was lying there.
…One person? No, was it two?
On the other hand, Irene looked at her lawn and glanced at Michael, who frowned heavily, then recalled the handsome man’s face she had seen a moment ago… A man with dark blue hair that shone like Michael in the brilliant sun.
Was it similar…?
Did the man who was with the woman at this stream just now come to mind because he looked like Michael?
“What’re you thinking about so much?”
Irene, who was shaking her head as if it was nothing to his question, asked him back carefully as she remembered something.
“Michael, do you still not remember anything these days?”
“…What? So far, nothing.”
“Why’re you asking that all of a sudden?”
Michael’s eyes sank low.
Gazing quietly into his eyes, she quickly shook her head and replied.
“Yeah? Oh, no. It doesn’t mean anything else. It’s just that it’s been quite some time since Michael’s been with me! I thought it might be time that some of your old memories might come back.”
“Of course, there’s nothing we can do if it doesn’t come back. Still, I’m afraid that Michael’s family may be desperately looking for Michael somewhere in Lian.”
“…Well, maybe it is.”
Michael rose from his seat, calmly replying to her. When Irene saw him like that, she thought that she had made a mistake.
“So, Saint, where are you going next?”
“There are no people in this town who need our help anymore. So, we should go to the next town soon.”
At that, she gazed at Michael, who naturally turned the conversation around, and grabbed her hands. After traveling around the Empire with her for the past five years, Michael was now thinking that his family might not be looking for him. Irene replied, pretending not to notice while answering instead of giving hasty consolation.
“I want to go to Winder Village.”
“Yes, it’s a village where shapeshifters live. Although it’s near here, it’s a closed town so it would be difficult to receive hospitality. That’s why it’s a difficult place to go. Still, I thought it would be good to stop by for a while before going to Aren.”
At her words, Michael nodded his head and turned back.
The small dog’s paw marks on the dirt soil were strangely bothersome.
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