Grace simply assumed that the Felton Knights were fond of children.
‘With kids that don’t typically fit in with an expedition group, they’d stand out. Aria always has a soft spot for the vulnerable. Benjamin knows that too.’
While that wasn’t her main goal, it served as a convenient excuse.
“Still, don’t go too far just in case.”
“I’ll just speak with her over there.”
Pointing to a nearby rock, Grace moved to that spot with Aria.
As they distanced themselves, Sylvester and Benjamin locked their gaze on them for a moment before engaging in their own conversation.
‘I wonder what they’re discussing. Can’t hear them from here.’
That probably means they can’t hear our conversation either, Grace thought as she looked at Aria.
‘Should I play dumb for now?’
If she outright asked why Aria had been watching her recently, it might put Aria on the defensive.
Grace decided to proceed with caution.
“I always wanted to greet you, but never had the chance. I regretted not being able to meet you in person. However, I’m glad we could meet on this last night.”
As Grace began with a calm tone, Aria’s eyes widened in surprise, as she stared back at her.
There was a tense silence.
‘Why isn’t she speaking? Is she forbidden to speak?’
Did I say something wrong? Grace became anxious.
Wondering if she had made a misjudgment, she said, “If I’m taking up the Saintess’s time, I’ll leave right away.”
“No, not at all!”
Aria hurriedly denied.
She paused, seeming to gather her thoughts while fidgeting with her hands.
‘Why is she acting this way?’
There was never any description in the novel of Aria being shy. Observing Aria’s expression, Grace felt that something was strange.
‘I shouldn’t be thinking like this… but why does she seem so much like me?’
Why does this beautiful woman, so different from me, look like she’s mirroring my own emotions? Grace felt her mouth go dry.
“I wanted to get close to you!”
Yet, the words uttered from Aria’s lips were completely unexpected.
“I’ve never spoken with you before… But, I’ve always wanted to converse with you!”
Aria seemed to exhale deeply as if unburdening herself. Grace was taken aback, wondering if this was really Aria’s nature.
“That’s not the only reason I wanted to meet. Actually, I have something more important to discuss.”
“Have you been in regular contact with something?”
It was an incredibly odd question.
‘It’s like a question one wouldn’t even hear in a hospital…’
Seeing Grace’s puzzled look, Aria appeared flustered and began to stammer.
“I’m not trying to be suspicious or up to anything!”
Aria rolled her eyes, pondering how to explain.
“You remind me of Sylvi, much like His Highness, the Crown Prince.”
Normally, the origins of contamination or illness were invisible to the Saintess’s eyes. However, curses were clear as day to her.
‘Aria had mentioned before that Sylvester under the curse looked like he was enveloped in a black mist…’
So, from Aria’s perspective, this meant Grace was also shrouded in that same black mist.
‘But that can’t be the only reason she wants to be close to me.’
It made more sense if she said she wanted to help rather than become close.
Aria said Grace and Sylvester looked similar, not that they looked exactly the same. That implied there was some difference.
“What do you mean by ‘looking similar’?”
“When I arrived at Rondel Canal, I sensed the contamination. Even if it’s invisible, I can feel it when it’s severe, so I immediately released my divine power.”
Grace nodded, recalling the golden grains she saw that day.
“Then, I saw the black mist surrounding you from a distance, dissipating.”
This wasn’t in line with what Grace knew.
‘Even if she is a Saintess, especially when it comes to curses…’
As far as Grace knew from the novel’s setting, a doubt sprouted in her mind.
‘It was written that a direct touch was essential to break the curse. But wasn’t Sylvester the only one who had a curse directly placed on him?
While it wasn’t impossible to break the curse, one had to find and destroy the cursed object.
Because it was the world of magic in the first place. That said, Grace didn’t think the black pebble in the annex was the medium of the curse. To break the curse, one couldn’t merely destroy it; a mage had to be called to follow the proper procedure.