Arriving at the bedroom in the blink of an eye, Rune went straight inside. His vision caught sight of Ria, hand wrapped in a bandage, sitting on the bed, being treated by the attending physician. She frowned as the wounds stung, then turned at the sound of her name being called.
As Ria called his name, Rune approached her and pulled her into an embrace. In the room, the remnants of her presence were revealed by the unwiped bloodstains on the glass shards that lay on the floor like a haunting memory.
The day’s accident and the pale Ria lying dead in the center of the pool of blood was a scar and a nightmare that still occupied a place in his head and heart, like a bloodstain that no amount of cleaning could remove.
Ria, her hands wrapped in bandages soaked in herbal water, faced him. He was visibly shaken, and she felt sorry for him.
“I freaked out, I’m sorry, I said I was fine, but everyone was so scared and pale…, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“No. I should have stayed close to you.”
Rune let out a long breath, barely able to breathe against the hands that stroked his back at regular intervals, and let go of his embrace, examining the bandaged hand carefully. It broke his heart to see her delicate hands shattered by shards of glass.
“How did that happen, huh?”
“Well…, actually, I woke up this morning and for some reason I thought I could walk, so I tried to get up for a second…. My legs didn’t feel strong enough, so I struggled, and I must have touched the glass on the nightstand. It fell to the floor and I ran my hand over it, not realizing it was broken.”
The truth is, she realized he wasn’t there when she woke up and thought she’d go look for him. There were many days when she moved her legs easily, so she didn’t immediately realize that they weren’t moving in her groggy state of mind. Until now, she hadn’t realized it because Rune was with her every morning and he did everything for her.
But she couldn’t tell him that right away. He was already worried about her enough, and she didn’t want to cause him more worry when all of his focus was on her. Even now, Rune is looking at her bandaged hand with a self-deprecating look on his face like she’s all sick…….
Ria soothed Rune by telling him it was fine. Until she turned her head out of the corner of her eye and saw Eden standing in the doorway.
“…Are you okay?”
“Ah, yes. I’m fine.”
Ria looked at her hands once and then back at Eden, smiling. Why that smile made his heart ache? The faint traces of blood on the floor and the bandages wrapped around her hands made his heart pound. He wondered if he’d come so early in the morning to make Rune take his eyes off her.
“But what brings you here?”
“Oh, I came because I have something to give you… but now might not be the best time.”
“For me? Um…”
Ria’s eyes widened even more at the unexpected comment, and she blinked, then trailed off with an apologetic look. At the moment, Rune’s unease was more concerning than her own.
Since the situation had come to this, he had no intention of pushing further, but seeing Rune scrutinize her, there was a bitter feeling inside him. It was natural for Rune to be closer to Ria than she was to Eden. Eden promised himself that he would focus more on her, deliberately trying to dispel the bitterness.
“I’ll come back tomorrow, Eia.”
Wearing a kindly mask as if understanding everything, he hid his true feelings.
As Eden left and the physician also left the room, a quiet stillness settled in. Ria quietly called Rune, who was unable to tear his gaze away from her bandaged hand.
“Rune, I’m really okay.”
“Look at me. Hm? Show me your face.”
It took about three affectionate calls before Rune lifted his head and looked at her. His eyes were slightly red, and the corners of his eyes were downturned. Ria felt sorry for him but found him cute at the same time. She softly laughed.
“The physician said my will heal quickly. I’ll be more careful in the future. So please don’t give me that look and smile.”
She was the one injured, yet he comforted her more. Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Rune restrained the corners of his mouth, which were about to turn downward, and lifted them instead, trying to smile. Ria hoped for a smile without self-blame.
“Oh, by the way, Eden mentioned he had something for me. Do you know what it is?”
Ria changed the subject in an attempt to lighten the mood. However, it had the opposite effect. The mention of Eden’s name reminded Rune of their conversation earlier, and he frowned involuntarily.
Ria gently smoothed out his furrowed forehead, and the tension eased. Even such a simple gesture from her made Rune feel at ease.
Casually, Rune lay down, his head brushing against Ria’s thigh. The soothing touch of her hand running through his hair made him involuntarily release a contented sigh.
“He’ll probably explain it in more detail later, but to put it simply, he brought a remedy to help your leg recover quickly, Ria.”
She stopped running her fingers through his hair, quite surprised, and Rune grabbed her hand and rubbed it against his own hair as a gesture for her to continue. She resumed running her fingers through his hair, her eyes sparkling as she waited for him to speak.
“When I had it confirmed by our physician, he said the effects would be significant. He had thought of this remedy from the beginning but didn’t mention it due to the remedy’s place of origin.”
“Where is it produced?”
“At the Carlisle Estate. It’s an herbal remedy that only grows in Eden’s territory.”
I suppose it’s harder to get since it’s a separate landowner.
Ria thought, though she hadn’t mentioned it because the two dukes didn’t get along, but it wasn’t her place to know such details. Turning to the side and wrapping her arms around Ria’s waist, Rune rubbed his head against her stomach in a silly way, then asked.
“What if he wishes to spend time with you regularly? How would you feel about that?”
“Huh? Eden? With me?”
“Well… wouldn’t he have no reason to wish for that? We only met briefly not too long ago. And that was just for a short time.”
Ria seemed to find the premise of that question incomprehensible. Therefore, Rune decided not to elaborate. There was no need for him to explain since Eden would talk about it anyway. Moreover, he didn’t want to keep mentioning another man in their private moments and have it stuck in her head. The question was merely a curiosity about Ria’s thoughts, not an intention to discuss related matters at length.
“You must be hungry. Should we eat? Where do you want to eat today?”
“Anywhere is fine. Where do you like, Rune?”
“Next to you.”
“No, I mean a place to eat.”
Releasing his arm from around her waist, Rune held Ria’s hand and brought it close to his lips, lightly brushing his lips against the inside of her wrist. When she tried to stop him, his eyes were filled with regret as he tangled his fingers in hers and stood up. With a quick peck on her lips, he picked her up and carried her to the dining room. The series of actions, including Ria wrapping her arms around his neck, felt natural and comfortable.
Rune’s eyes, aware of this, twinkled charmingly. He once again kissed her forehead, as if worried it might wear off.
He made up an excuse to himself that it was hard to resist because it felt good to know she was by his side.