Edan, who wanted to lighten the awkward atmosphere, continued to talk incessantly.
Most of the stories he recounted were about their past visits to the Esté estate. They enjoyed delicacies such as the tangy berry tea, seasonal mountain cheese, and grilled wild mushrooms that could only be tasted during summer in the northwest.
They also shared stories of their adventures in the mountains and fields.
“At that time, Lord Esté couldn’t ride a horse. One day, you gave him a ride, but he got scared and cried so hard that you had a difficult time consoling him. Haha!”
Despite Edan’s persistent efforts, Rune only responded with simple “I see” or “I understand.” Moreover, for some reason, Rune’s face gradually filled with embarrassment.
‘Hmm. His reactions seem rather cold.’
As Edan was searching for a topic that Rune might find interesting, an unusual idea popped into his head. Ah, that’s right!
“Now that Lord Kylian and you have been sparing a lot, your skills should be quite compatible. Since Duke Carlo fell ill and Lord Kylian became busier, I’m sure you don’t get to spar much. It’s been a while since we’ve seen you two cross swords!”
Contrary to Edan’s expectations, Rune responded with an even more awkward expression.
“…Sparing, you say?”
Oops, maybe that wasn’t the right thing to say.
“Easy there, Edan.”
Kylian, who was growing impatient with Rune’s unresponsive behavior, let out a sigh and scolded Edan.
“Also, inform the Dark Knights. We don’t want any unnecessary rivalry with the Dark Knights over sparring matches with the Light Knights.”
Although he spoke with more excitement than usual due to his happiness, it was not a time to provoke others with his comments. Well, if I say anything more, how much of it will be used against me later? Edan scratched his cheek and replied.
“Ah… Yes. Well, everyone must be quite competitive.”
For knights, it was natural to want to compete against strong opponents.
Despite their widespread reputation in the capital, encounters with the Light Knights from the remote northwest were uncommon. Thus, among the Dark Knights, there were many who wished to challenge the Light Knights to a duel.
“If there are any disobedient ones, I’ll be the one to scratch their itching bodies personally.”
“Ugh, I apologize in advance.”
Edan lowered his head with a disgusted expression. Kylian’s teasing didn’t imply that he would help with the itching, that was for sure.
Feeling somewhat wronged by Kylian’s reproach, Edan mumbled while pursing his lips.
“Goodness, you’re so touchy. I thought both of you enjoyed dueling. Isn’t that right… Rune?”
Edan’s eyes widened as he turned to Rune, seeking agreement. Kylian, who had stopped walking ahead of them, also turned around to look at Rune.
Rune, who had come to a complete stop, stood behind them as if rooted to the spot.
Rune, now completely bewildered, had a face full of embarrassment. This situation was expected. During their absence from the empire, they couldn’t possibly know about his “condition.”
Rune, after swallowing hard, made up his mind and squared his jaw.
“I apologize for the inconvenience, but… the truth is, I don’t remember the two of you.”
Unlike them, he had no memories of any kind left.
A moment of awkward silence enveloped the three of them.
As if time had frozen, Kylian, who had been standing still, suddenly approached with a determined expression. He grabbed Rune’s wrist firmly.
Edan, who seemed ready to burst with some news, paced around nervously.
Kylian’s tightly pursed lips slowly unfurled.
“That dagger. You’ve had it with you all along?”
Why was Kylian suddenly so interested in her dagger? Rune, puzzled, looked at Kylian’s face, which had come quite close. She could barely manage to speak.
“It’s just… a habit I’ve had for a long time.”
“A habit? Hah.”
Kylian’s expression, as if astonished, made Rune uneasy.
“Do you know something about my dagger?”
“Is that really important right now?”
Kylian’s low voice, growling like an angry beast, stabbed Rune’s ears painfully.
He had just asked out of curiosity. She couldn’t understand why Kylian was reacting this way.
“Let me ask you again. Do you really not recognize me?”
Rune looked into the black eyes that seemed almost desperate, and he reluctantly answered.
“Yes, I apologize.”
Kylian’s hand, which had been holding Rune, fell limply.
⚜ ⚜ ⚜
Sitting on the couch, Edan sighed softly and spoke.
“Why are you so upset?”
Kylian chuckled ironically and looked at Edan.
“Upset… Well, who else?”
Edan’s eyes honestly met Kylian’s.
“Oh, there’s no helping it.”
One of Kylian’s eyebrows twitched upward as he adjusted his armor. It was not frustration, but rather discomfort.
‘I don’t remember either of you.’
Rune’s calmly spoken words about his condition came to mind.
‘Well, then, have a good rest.’
The young man, oblivious to the turned-up world around him, turned around as if nothing had happened. The calmness of his back made Edan feel disappointed once again.
Edan shrugged his shoulders, also wearing a disheartened expression.
“I knew he were suffering from a fever, but to lose your memory. It was quite a shock.”
Edan carefully chose his words, conscious of the discomfort emanating from Kylian.
“They say that his memories aren’t complete from when he were around ten years old. But still… he should remember me vaguely, right?”
“No, it seems he has completely forgotten.”
With a click, Kylian opened his amplate and grinned as he twisted his lips.
He didn’t seem to know anything about the dagger to begin with.
“Never mind. It’s just a thing of the past.”
Whether he forgot about me or not, it didn’t matter. This discomfort was clearly unrelated to him.
“Heh, I’m amazed.”
Nevertheless, the fire inside him burned fiercely again.
As Kylian’s eyes grew sharp, Edan clenched his tongue and added firmly under his breath.
“Every summer, you always used to visit the manor. As time passes, he might remember a bit.”
If it were anyone else, they’d react this way to being forgotten. Kylian’s response was quite understandable.
“Never mind. It’s getting noisy, so you should leave too.”
Edan narrowed his eyes, watching Kylian head towards the bathroom. Despite the harsh words, it was clear he couldn’t hide his agitation.
“Continuing to bring it up… It’s just upsetting.”
⚜ ⚜ ⚜
Steam rose from the large bathtub filled with clean water.
“It feels like I’m alive.”
Leaning against the large bathtub, Kylian relaxedly swept his wet hair back. He had simply put Edan out of the room. Why couldn’t he be as peaceful in his mind?
Kylian had allowed the Dark Knights to take personal rest until dinner. Edan, overwhelmed with gratitude, wiped his tears and quickly left. By now, the knights would likely be relieving their pent-up fatigue.
It was a feeling akin to muscles relaxing in the hot water. Compared to the grueling desert days with scorching sunlight and gritty sand in one’s mouth, the time spent in the desert was certainly not enjoyable.
The breeze blowing in through a small window helped cool the humid air in the bathroom. The northern wind, a sensation he hadn’t felt in a long time, was pleasantly cool. The summer at Marquis Manor, his annual visit for a few years, had become somewhat familiar.
Over the past few years and several summers…
‘Was it really so easy to forget?’
Kylian, along with the scent of summer forest, tried to erase the face that kept coming to mind, and he closed his eyes.
Certainly, this emotion stirring in his chest was uncomfortable.
⚜ ⚜ ⚜
The light tunic that the servants had prepared fit him quite well. Having shed his heavy armor, Kylian moved with noticeably lighter steps. He intended to pay his respects to Marquis before dinner.
Even if he had been estranged from Duke Carlo for a while, the fact that the Duke granted entry into the mansion held significant meaning.
‘I also want to ask about that guy.’
As he walked through the well-polished marble floor and the elegantly carved decorations along the long corridor, a grand portrait at the end of a long flight of stairs caught Kylian’s attention.
‘Lady Claire Esté.’
It was a portrait of the former Lady of Marquis Manor, who had passed away at a young age. She wore an elegant updo and had a gentle, serene smile.
As he gazed into her soft blue eyes, memories of Rune came to his mind once again.
‘The kid was quite handsome.’
The boy had been strikingly similar to his beautiful mother. His youthful, refined features were complemented by a slender, fair complexion.
‘Even the brat who used to faint at the sight of blood turned out to be quite the knight.’
Fortunately, Rune had inherited the talent for swordsmanship from the Marquis Esté.
A well-practiced trajectory of the sword with no unnecessary movements, along with swift agility.
His swordplay, as seen while growing up, was different from Rune’s early childhood.
‘It’s been two years since I’ve seen him properly.’
He realized that the time had been quite long. The boy who had reached chest height was now tall enough for his chin to reach.
Lost in thought, he reached Marquis’s office without realizing it. His hand, raised to knock on the door, abruptly halted in mid-air.
“What the hell…! What made you take on this task with such a mindset?”
Marquis’s voice, full of anger he couldn’t conceal, reverberated through the office’s corridor.
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