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There was no one around to listen to Rubenio, but he often called the child.
However, he couldn’t call the name and nicknames that he said several times he would when the child was born.
He couldn’t do it because he was afraid that if he called out her name, what he had barely managed to block would explode and ruin everything.
– Nia! Take a look. Nineina, isn’t this name pretty? Since you’re giving birth to a daughter, I’d like to call her… After your nickname.
In contrast to the days when he could dream to his heart’s content without any worries.
At that time, Rubenio went around calling the name of the unborn baby.
He regretted having called her name so easily in the past. ‘I had called you so many times back then, I don’t know if I’d ever have the chance now.’
“I wanted you to listen to… how happy I was when you were born.”
The day Nineina was born was the most wonderful moment Rubenio could remember.
It was also a suffocatingly sad day.
Lofenia died and Nineina was born.
However, the birth of his daughter was only joyous.
Rubenio did not blame Nineina for Lofenia’s death.
If there’s anyone to blame, it would be himself. If Nineina’s birth hadn’t been blessed, it was Rubenio’s failure for not protecting the two.
(TL/N: if Nineina’s birth hasn’t been a success.)
– Baby, I’m sorry I couldn’t protect your mom.
Rubenio said so that day. A tiny life, barely awake, was all he remembered.
Twenty years have passed and she didn’t grow up with him, so to Rubenio, she was still a baby.
Even though she has reached adulthood.
He looked down at the paper on which he had not written anything yet, then picked up the pen again and moved his hand very slowly.
「Baby, what are you doing today……」
Most of Rubenio’s letters to Nineina were without a story about himself.
Because he couldn’t say that he’s been doing well or that he was doing well.
So this time too, he couldn’t escape from the question he always asked.
Rubenio had been holding onto the letter, which did not change much every time.
If it hadn’t been for the butler who knocked on Rubenio’s door in the middle of the night, he would have spent today’s night like that.
At the unusual midnight visit, he quietly put down the pen he was holding.
He put the letter, which was unfinished, inside the drawer and allowed the butler to enter.
The door opened before Rubenio had even finished speaking.
The butler, who had rushed inside, hurriedly ran to stand in front of Rubenio.
“…What’s going on?”
“Master! A letter has arrived from the villa!”
Rubenio’s face turned bright. He took the letter from the butler’s hand and carefully opened the envelope.
Three sheets of paper fell out.
Rubenio was pleased to know that Caesar wasn’t the man to report so discreetly.
Then, he hastily hesitated. He was wondering if there was any bad news.
Nonetheless, he quickly couldn’t resist the desire to check it, so he picked up the fallen paper and looked it over.
The butler nearly said at the same time as he looked at the three identical pictures.
“The Little Master said it was a reply to Milord.”
Rubenio’s face went stiff. Even though goosebumps rose up to the nape of his neck, he couldn’t even move his eyes.
He seemed to have forgotten how to blink and how to breathe.
After a while, only his eyes rolled from side to side.
Rubenio, who was soon able to breathe as if the magic had been lifted, moved his lips.
A blue sky and birds flying in the sky.
Rubenio’s hands were trembling but he did not put down the painting.
However, he couldn’t even hold onto the corners because he was afraid even one part would crumple.
Holding the painting with both hands, he barely moved his right thumb to sweep the bird’s wing.
The texture of the rough paper was only blurry. And the more he touched it, the more blurred it became.
There was no substance in those paintings.
It’s not something you can touch, rather something you can feel.
“How could you… forgive me……?”
Rubenio seemed to understand now. That his daughter had forgiven him a long time ago.
It was he who was entangled.
“I haven’t begged yet.”
The tears that had been trembling on the eyes which he couldn’t close, fell just then.
‘I miss you. I can’t take it anymore.’
* * *
Danger and safety.
Two words came to mind, but now he couldn’t hesitate any longer simply because it was dangerous.
When will it ever be completely safe?
It was the courage that the child gave him, and the opportunity the child gave him. Considering the time she must’ve had to endure, he had to go right away.
After making really minimal preparations, he ran to the villa.
The road, which he wasn’t able to go through even though he knew the path, was frighteningly long and futilely short.
He was in a position where he could’ve arrived if he rode a horse for just a few days without a break.
Nevertheless, he never came to visit her in 20 years. He felt so sorry and regretful that his heart felt like it was about to burst.
Even if he tore myself apart and hurt myself, it wouldn’t be any more painful than this.
‘How could this happen on a day like this…’
Nineina’s forgiveness was a great pain for Rubenio.
Ironically, that feeling of being okay seemed to be not okay.
Rubenio then realized that his daughter had been waiting for him for a long time. He realized that the child had waited for her ugly father for 20 years.
He had prayed that he would live without feeling anything, but I had already fixated that great longing in this painful body.
His eyes turned red when he recalled the baby that had stopped crying when startled by my unfamiliar hand.
Nothing to think about came to mind. He only remembered things that he had never forgotten since the day he was separated from the baby.
The baby’s face, facial expression, noises, body temperature. It was clear that she would’ve changed a lot by now.
Rubenio rode the horse without stopping, but he didn’t even think it was difficult.
His heart just ached.
Anguish repeatedly intensified and weakened, then thumped like it was about to explode when he finally found the villa he had been imagining.
Rubenio passed by, staring blankly at the low wall.
Rubenio pulled the reins with all his might. At his sudden stop signal, the horse lifted its forelegs and shook its body.
He heard laughter, but he wasn’t sure if it was right.
It was so low that he couldn’t distinguish what sound it was.
All he could remember was the clean echo.
Rubenio jumped off the horse that wasn’t even standing properly, as if he had been possessed by something.
He ran to the other side of the main gate, inattentive to the people who were chasing him.
He was running frantically, peeking over the wall and walking precariously as if his feet were twisted.
His eyes, which were wandering everywhere, not knowing what he was looking for, saw someone smiling slightly.
It was a white and skinny child. Her long hair and sparkling eyes were pretty, but Rubenio’s eyes were stuck on the thin body that seemed to cut off.
He knew it at once. That child is the child.
Rubenio unwittingly touched the wall with his hand.
It wasn’t even possible for me to get closer because he was blocked by a wall, but he leaned in as much as he could and looked at her pale, bloodless face.
His mouth felt dry as if he had chewed a handful of grains of sand.
A hot sensation seemed to fill up to the tip of his neck.
Enraged at the dark hand blocking the child’s front, he ripped off the wall in half before discovering that it was Caesar standing next to her.
The child who was looking at the other side turned and looked his way.
He couldn’t take his eyes off the child’s face he saw from the front.
Even though he knew that she was looking at him with a little bit of doubt and caution, he could not avoid her eyes.
She was beautiful enough to bring tears to his eyes and lovely enough to make his heart tremble.
– When I have a daughter, Nia, I want to call her Nina after your nickname. It means joy.
Then, he remembered the day when he first made a nickname for the baby.
‘Can I dare call you Joy?’
It felt like his whole body was screaming.
His baby is over there. His baby is right in front of me.
Unknowingly, he grabbed the wall tighter.
* * *
When the half-torn piece of stone wall shook, the yellow butterfly which had been sitting idly, flew away at the shaking vibration.
The butterfly’s wings formed afterimages, blocking both their view for a while.
The flying butterfly only covered their eyes for a moment, but it was only then that I felt as if time had barely returned.
Among the three, the only one who hadn’t stopped time was Caesar.
Caesar, who was the only one moving in the flowing time, walked forward and spoke.
“What are you doing here…”
I thoughtlessly grabbed Caesar’s arm.
My hands must have been as weak as a dandelion seed.
It was such a small gesture that could not even be considered as strength.
It was also so unstable that it would fly away if it was meaninglessly hit.
But Caesar stopped.
Caesar turned his head and looked at me and my hand, which was holding the ends of his sleeves very lightly.
My eyes blinked unsteadily.
Although I carefully grasped Caesar’s arm and avoided touching him, I could’ve brushed his inner wrist and fingers.
I figured he’d dislike it, but I did not let go of the hem of his robe and chewed on my lips.
Caesar let me go and turned his head without finishing his sentence as if nothing had happened.
As I let out a small relieved sigh, a monotonous voice called out the person’s name.