In the original work, Benjamin had watched from afar as Aria and Sylvester shared a secret rendezvous under the moonlight. The scene was poignantly described with a tinge of bitterness and loneliness, stretching across an entire page.
Amidst all this, there was one line Grace remembered him uttering:
‘Is he feeling the same way now?’
The narrative was so deeply emotional that it filled the entire page, which couldn’t help but pique Grace’s interest.
She sneaked a glance at Benjamin. There was no way he hadn’t noticed Aria and Sylvester.
As expected, Benjamin’s gaze was not on Grace but on Aria and Sylvester.
Yet, Grace sensed something different in the air.
‘I can’t pinpoint it, but it feels like he’s looking at something else.’
His expression was bittersweet and lonesome, just like it was depicted in the novel. But while his eyes were fixed on Aria and Sylvester, they also seemed to see something beyond them.
‘What is he looking at?’
Grace turned her head to look, but nothing was amiss.
‘Is it just my imagination?’
‘In the original work, there was the incident of gate exploding. At that time Benjamin, comforted by Aria, developed deep feelings for her, though that incident never happened this time.’
Perhaps this change affected him. Nodding to herself, Grace gently tugged at Benjamin’s clothing.
“If it’s okay with you, can I go greet the Saintess?”
When Grace broached the subject of Aria, Benjamin looked genuinely surprised. But it wasn’t a negative expression.
‘How should I describe this…?’
Right, he looked overwhelmed.
It was as if someone who had been waiting for a long time finally faced what they were waiting for. Seeing that expression on Benjamin’s face, Grace felt her breath halt.
She chose to ignore the reason for her shortness of breath. Because dealing with the emotions at hand was already challenging enough for her.
“Let’s go then.”
Grace removed the pendant from her cloak, which had the magic tool designed to reduce one’s presence. Intentionally making their presence known, she and Benjamin walked slowly towards where Aria and Sylvester were. Sensing them, the pair jumped apart in surprise.
“Sorry, we were just taking a walk and felt there were people nearby.”
Of course, Grace had intentionally sought out Aria, using her knowledge of the original work to find her.
“…I’m sorry. Did we interrupt? We’ll pass by quickly.”
There was no need for Grace to correct or elaborate further. She already knew Aria’s likely response.
‘She’ll probably tell us there’s no need to be sorry and to just take our time and enjoy the place slowly.’
Aria was the type who disliked causing inconvenience to others because of her own actions.
However, Aria’s actual response was quite different from what Grace expected.
“No, not at all!”
It was much more enthusiastic than anticipated.
‘Should I take this positively…?’
Aria eagerly, almost insistently, suggested that they stay and hang out.
Her eyes sparkled, her face flushed with excitement.
Such warmth, such hospitality – it had to stem from some particular reason.
It wasn’t as if Grace was the only woman of her age in the expedition group; there were more within the temple.
The intimate atmosphere that was present moments ago had vanished, replaced by Aria exuding an aura that screamed, ‘I want to talk!’
She was the type of person who would suffer losses if she started openly interacting in social circles as it would be hard for her to hide her intentions, making her vulnerable.
‘Is she hesitant to speak directly because of Sylvester and Benjamin being nearby?’
While gazing intently at Grace, Aria kept stealing glances at Sylvester and Benjamin. Clearly, she had something secretive she wanted to share.
‘What secret could she possibly want to share with me…?’
Ever since joining the expedition, Aria had looked at Grace quite often, but she had never engaged in direct conversation with her.
Grace, rolling her eyes thoughtfully, hinted to Benjamin.
“Your Excellency, I have something to discuss with the Saintess. Would it be alright if we speak privately?”
“Because of what happened earlier.”
“Ah, of course.”
Benjamin guessed that Grace was going to ask about the orphanage people who went to the tea farm. He nodded without hesitation.
While it wasn’t exactly a secret, considering their personal bond with Grace, she might want to tread carefully on the subject.
‘There’s no guarantee that Aria interacted with them, but the possibility is still high.’
Originally, the orphanage people weren’t part of the expedition. However, the Felton Knights, who were to join later, decided to escort them.
‘It seems the orphanage children got quite close to the knights during their stay at the duke’s residence.’