“Pia, can you walk?”
I hastily nodded. After all, Rufus seemed about to give me a piggyback. If someone was to spot us in such a position, I’d be bringing my whole generation into shame.
The two of us slowly left the palace. Behind us, the prince and the others were exchanging greetings with the guests. While I couldn’t muster the strength to lift my face, Rufus accompanied me along the way.
Afterwards, I was seated on a chair on the terrace, which overlooked the beautiful garden.
“Pia, I’ll get you something to drink, so stay here.”
“Lord Rufus, I’m truly sorry…” I said dejectedly.
In response, Rufus caressed my cheeks with his fingertips. Concern overflowed from his movement.
“You look truly pale… Wait for me, alright?”
Rufus immediately went back to the venue. However, in the next moment, he was swarmed by the guests. In the end, because he had to greet them, he was unable to move forward. Despite this, he kept a calm attitude the entire time.
“Oh my, fufu…” I couldn’t help but to laugh.
Even in the game, Rufus was known as an emotionless man.
Lord Rufus, I’m sorry. I ended up being a hindrance…
As it was, could we remain together?
I turned my gaze to the garden. The trees were trimmed in a geometric shape. Then, I let out a sigh.
Ever since the day I had regained the memory of my previous life, I remained the same.
To free myself of the emotional constraint, I’d have to confirm that the annulment of the engagement wouldn’t happen in the first place. Better yet, with my very eyes. Otherwise, I’d continue to doubt whether or not everything would change once Caroline appeared.
In the main route, the crown prince annulled his engagement with Amelia.
As for Lord Rufus’ route…
…I didn’t want to think about it.
Perhaps, to avoid causing misunderstanding, I should keep my distance from Caroline. Would it be better if I were to study abroad? I recalled that the marquis family could effortlessly speak in different languages, to the point that they used it in everyday conversation.
However, the Parmesan family was different. In the first place, we didn’t have that kind of connection or wealth.
It’s impossible, unless we achieved something great…
From the hidden pocket underneath the lace that covered my wrist, I took out a fossil with the shape of a small bivalve. It was my talisman.
I then stared at it.
“Fossils can be found in every country.”
…but Lord Rufus can only be found in this country.
“Hello, Missy, what are you doing in such a place? My, don’t you look awfully pale?”
I was startled by a man’s voice from overhead. When I raised my face, I saw a man. He looked slightly older than my father, while his attire was rather informal. Unlike those of the royal palace, the man only wore a white shirt and khaki pants.
Who could this man be?
If I remember correctly, no participants came with their father that day.
Then, a chamberlain?
A servant of the royal palace?
However, the man exuded an indescribable dignity. Somehow, looking at him made me feel as if I was looking at the marquis.
“Is it because of the alcohol? Is that why you’re here? Wait, that jewel in your chest—the ‘Fairy Tears’!? Then, you must be Lady Parmesan, who’s tightly guarded by the Marquis Stan! I recall seeing you from a distance several times when you were young. Certainly, your gray eyes resembled that of the count’s…”
Let’s see, the tear of a sparrow? Parmesan cheese?
The man spoke too quickly, I began to feel overwhelmed.
Nevertheless, the man had an indomitable aura.
“Nice to meet you, my name is Pia Parmesan.”
I tried to stand up. However, the man stopped me. Thus, I obediently sat down.
“May I call you Pia? As for me… you may call me Uncle Johnny. Well, seeing that they’ve made you wear a family heirloom, I’d refrain from making enemies with the Stan faction. Therefore, I’ll leave you alone. By the way, what’s that in your hand?”
Apparently, the man was acquainted with the Marquis Stan.
—He noticed my amulet!
I felt a little happy.
“It’s an ancient bivalve fossil.”
“Fossil? May I have a look?”
I gently placed it on the palm of his hand.
“But it looks like a stone.”
“Well, it is. It was originally a shellfish. However, after about 150 million years have passed, it gradually turned into stone. I love to research fossils.”
“I see, how romantic. It’s as if we were being given a glimpse of ancient times. No, wait a minute, this pattern seems familiar! Why, if it isn’t the very pattern of the oil reservoir rock that I discovered the other day! It’s considered to be the next generation of energy! Pia, exactly where did you find this!?”
W, why is Uncle Johnny so excited all of the sudden—1?
I was glad that an adult was interested in my fossil, but it was still scary! I involuntarily shivered. Besides, I had sworn not to divulge the location to anyone else!
“I, I forgot…”
“No way! As expected of that stubborn chancellor… Oh, no! It seems that Rufus has returned. Not to mention, with a demonic face! See you again, Pia! Good luck with your research! I’ll help you from the shadow!”
Before I knew it, Rufus had returned with a glass in one hand.
“Pia, who’s that man? Did he behave rudely to you?”
“Lord Rufus, that man—huh…?”
Uncle Johnny had disappeared without a trace.
“A middle-aged man in casual attire who referred to himself as ‘Uncle Johnny’? Not to mention, he can enter and exit the royal palace as he pleases? Did he go through the hidden passageway? No way… I’ll inform my father of this. Pia, after you’ve finished drinking, let’s go home. I’m also finished with all the necessary greetings. How are you faring?”
Thanks to the sudden appearance of Uncle Johnny, I felt better.
I received the cup and sipped the cold water.
“I’m sorry, that was disgraceful of me. However, I’m alright now.”
“Sarah went ahead in preparation of the carriage. Well, then—”
Rufus suddenly lifted me up.
“L, Lord Rufus—!? I can walk—!!”
“Are you feeling shy? It’s alright. We’re going through the garden, where no one can see us. If I don’t do this, I’d be too worried. Previously, you looked about to collapse.”
My face was pressed against Rufus’ chest. Then, from the terrace, he calmly made his way to the garden. He caressed my head the entire time.
“While I have no intention of exposing Pia’s adorableness to anyone else, I also have to make it known that they stood no chance.”
Rufus, the composed and level-headed future chancellor, left the royal palace while the princess carried his fiancée. Unbeknownst to me, the sensational news seemed to spread like wildfire in the city.
I spent my fifth summer in Rufus’ territory. Little by little, Rufus and I had grown.
The longer I spent my time with Rufus, the more I understood about him.
Rufus was a hard worker. Not only did he study three times as hard as anyone else, he also fulfilled his duty as his parents’ hands and feet. The entire time, without neglecting to train his body. He was always one—no, ten steps ahead of the others.
However, the man wasn’t without kindness. The same man would protect me, bring me to his territory, and allow me to live a life far outside the norm for a noble lady. He’d accommodate my hobby in excavating without making fun of me.
…Such that I couldn’t help but fall for him.
He let me witness his smile, which should only be shown to the heroine. Not only that, but also his pouty expression, his shocked expression, his tired expression, and the kind of expression he’d show when we were left alone in the mansion.
I felt like I had seen the actual Rufus. The Rufus that was entirely different from the game version.
At a glance, his action might come off as mean, but Rufus was full of compassion. Moreover, he was also family-oriented, and always thought of the wellbeing of his people.
Well, even if Rufus’ route in the game ended up becoming a reality, along with my banishment, everything should be fine.
As long as I had money and my fossils, I’d be alright.
I used to think so.
Looking back, how naïve of me.
I realized that I loved Rufus more than anyone else.
As such, if Rufus was to forsake me …I wouldn’t know what to do.
“Pia, what’s wrong? Your hand has stopped. Didn’t you want to enroll in the academy? If so, you’ll have to submit the paper.”
With the advice of Rufus, I had summarized the results of my excavation so far. If I had a track record, I could get preferential treatment at the academy. Of course, the specific location of the excavation site wasn’t written. I also kept the fact that gold dust was found on the Regen River as a secret.
“I’m sorry, I was in a daze.”
As the years went by, the memories of my previous life became more vivid.
Is it because in terms of age, I’m getting closer to that of the game and of my previous life?
I pondered them for a long time without any end.
What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?
“Pia, won’t you open your mouth?”
Suddenly, a chocolate was inserted into my mouth.
“Sugar helps activate the brain, doesn’t it?”
There was also that expression of Rufus. That expression when he was extremely sweet.