It’s the same, Doctor, risking your life to come down here.

It was a completely unexpected question. It was also a question that could never be answered. Anais, who was embarrassed for a moment, looked at Stephanie waiting for an answer in front of her, gritted her teeth and couldn’t find a suitable false answer for a long time, and then opened her mouth awkwardly.

“Um… well, I haven’t really thought about it separately.”

“You seem to have a certain expression that suggests otherwise.”

Anais boldly ignored Stephanie’s mischievous voice buzzing in her ears.

It is true that she never thought about it differently. Because there was nothing to do other than think. From the moment the word ‘regret’ first came out of Stephanie’s mouth, Anais tried hard to erase the one face that had never left her sight as if engraved on her retina.

This is a face that needs to be erased. It had already been erased several times before, but today she had an ominous feeling that it wouldn’t be possible.

Anais hoped for a better world, but she did not cling to the world out of foolishness. To her, who wanted to escape death because she was afraid of the changes she had brought about with her own hands, there was only one thing left that could be considered foolishness.

She had tried hard to deny it, and had thought that it must not be so…

“For example, have you ever wanted to spend some special time with a very handsome man who lives in the same house?”

What broke her waves of thoughts that were coming in was Stephanie’s voice, still full of mischief. Anais frowned and hastily denied it. She really had no choice but to deny it.

“Miss Valli! That’s not really true, so please don’t say that. If you keep doing this, how can I face Mr. Serdieu when I get home?”

“Ahaha, sorry. sorry. Again, it was a joke. It’s so cute how flustered you get whenever I talk about Mr. Serdieu.”

Anais looked a little resentfully at Stephanie, who was laughing.

Meanwhile, Stephanie’s face, flashing before her eyes, was still the same, which made her suffer even more.

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

It’s a disaster.

Seriously, it’s a disaster.

Within an hour of letting Leonard Serdieu into his rented room, Andrew Layton was experiencing intense regret. He thought to himself a hundred times that he didn’t mean to do this, and when he finished the fifth bottle of alcohol he had prepared, he felt like banging his head against the glass.

“Your glass is empty, Mr. Layton. Shall I pour you another one?”

“Oh, no. I’m fine… …”

“There’s still so much alcohol left, right? Don’t decline.”

He dug his own grave… … .

Buying high-proof alcohol, something he had never dared to challenge before, especially in this unfamiliar place, was a mistake. He had always prided himself on his tolerance for alcohol, but Léans’ liquor was stronger than Andrew had anticipated, and Leonard Serdieu was even more formidable.

The man who kept encouraging him to have another drink, with a face that was not just normal but even a little bored, was making him uncomfortable. Where did this monster with jaw-dropping tolerance come from? The hand that refilled the glass without a hint of shaking felt like the devil’s own.

When Andrew had spent half of his monthly rent on buying the alcohol, he had grand ambitions. He had believed, at least until now, that he would use the power of these substances to strip Leo Serdyev bare and solve all his curiosity. It was a grand, albeit somewhat realistic ambition.

‘Mr. Serdieu from the third floor’ was a friendly but quiet neighbor who, in his right mind, would not bring up the topics Andrew wanted him to talk about, so according to the original plan, alcohol had to be the weapon to break his reticence, but the result was this mess.

Perhaps, he thought, there might be a God after all. A God who had bestowed upon him, the young lamb who had tried to find answers in a way that was deceitful, malicious, and unethical, a punishment in the form of the name Leonard Serdieu. Whether that was his real name remained to be seen, but in any case…

While Andrew, soaked in faint intoxication, was thinking about such things and regretting his foolish choice, Leonard Antoine de Charleroi, who was downright fine even though he was tipping his glass like water, was thinking about something else. Since bringing him into the room, every time he took a sip of alcohol, it reminded Leonard of the questions Andrew had been subtly trying to ask.

‘Did you meet Miss Belmartier for the first time in Dunang? Do you know why she came down to Basbourg? No matter the circumstances, she doesn’t seem to be a normal friend to the point where you stay together. How did you become close? …’

While there was clearly a strong interest in Anais on one hand, there were also questions lingering underneath about Anais and his relationship.

Of course, Leonard had no intention of responding to the topic Andrew was creating. He did not feel the need to sincerely answer questions that should never be answered with the truth. Leonard gave Andrew a lukewarm answer that ‘it just happened to be like this’ and kept Andrew’s glass full, preventing him from taking control of the conversation.

In the first place, Leonard was not naive enough to believe that Andrew had really created this event to promote friendship between neighbors. He knew from a long time ago that this was the result of Andrew using his brain to find something he wanted to find out. He just didn’t bother to refuse because it was a cute trick that wouldn’t work in the end.

And he was actually a little glad to see it. Even though Andrew seemed to be under the illusion that he was the one asking questions and Leonard was answering them, Leonard had no intention of making Andrew’s illusion a reality.

It would be a mistake to think that there was nothing he wanted to ask on this side. As Andrew looked at his repentant face, Leonard, who had been waiting for the right moment, gently lifted the top of his glass, swirling it around and opened his mouth elegantly.

“Actually, I’ve seen Mr. Layton’s name before.”

“My name?”

“Yes, not too long ago in La Gazette.”

Andrew’s hand that was lifting his glass stopped for a moment. Leonard astutely captured that moment. The 21-year-old rookie reporter, who already looked tired, clearly expressed his embarrassment at the different aspect of the conversation than planned, and subtly avoided eye contact. Leonard continued speaking without missing that evasion. Gray eyes shone coldly.

“I’m curious why you submitted that photo.”

“This is the first time I’ve heard of someone who is curious about the why rather than the how.”

“Did you use a method to find out?”

“Not exactly.”

Andrew trembled inwardly as he remembered Ariane Champleign, who behaved carefreely without even telling him to keep it a secret, as if telling him to go talk about it somewhere else if he could.

Leonard had no interest in how Andrew was able to take that photo in the first place. He raised his glass to his lips and waited for the answer to follow. Soon, Andrew Layton, who seemed to have already lost his mind about a third of the time, stared blankly into his glass and began to answer.

“Let’s see, Andrew, a poor young man struggling to make money while living as a lodger… …”

Although Andrew had come to Léans with all sorts of romantic notions, the life of a lodger was more closely tied to reality than romance. Perhaps it was because he didn’t have much savings to begin with, but in any case, money had become one of the main driving forces for Andrew Layton since he arrived in Léans. Accepting Ariane Champleign’s ambiguous request and submitting the obtained photo to La Gazette were primarily motivated by the need for money.

Leonard chuckled at that thought. But Andrew, who had just emptied his glass of alcohol as if he were making a momentous confession, continued speaking in a slightly lower voice.

“Journalist Andrew Layton must have wanted to ask, ‘Would you be happy with this blood-stained freedom?’”

He never would have thought that such a terrible photo would be put on the front page. Somehow, they gave him a large amount of money… … . Andrew continued to speak in a tone that was shaky and full of fatigue, but Leonard could not properly concentrate on what he was saying.

Blood-stained freedom.

Leonard was a little surprised by the unexpected sentiment that came from the lips of a man from the Republic. Andrew Layton from Wisteria was a perfect third party in the series of events taking place in Léans.
Hearing the words ‘blood-stained freedom’ from such a person’s mouth was a bit unexpected, and somehow comforting. It was a similar yet different feeling to when he heard Anais say that she opposed it because she believed it was not right.

But at the same time, he wondered what he was going to do by asking that. To put it bluntly, what can they do now? Whether the people are satisfied with their blood-stained freedom or not, Léans’ regime has changed and there is no turning back time.

Unless Catherine de Basboure won… But as his thoughts extended to that possibility, the initial surprise and excitement quickly subsided.

“Are you saying that if I’m not satisfied, I should at least go back?”

“Well. Now that we’re talking about freedom, wouldn’t it be fun to pursue that? Because no one in the world has the freedom to go back to the past.”

Andrew’s words, spoken without much hesitation, carried a certain fascination with the act of shouting something. Leonard paused once again at the words he had spoken. He had dealt with quite a few people and even stronger drinks, and since he had never been drunk before, he was always in the position of watching the other party get drunk.

Among them, Andrew Layton was quite unique. When he was sober, he wandered around like a tired and unimpressed person, making everyone who saw him feel helpless, but when he got drunk and started saying anything, he was piercing people’s hearts with every word he said.

The freedom to go back to the past…

Tilting the half-full bottle of liquor over his empty glass, Leonard pondered Andrew’s words.

If I could go back to the past, I would… …

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