‘Maybe the best place for me is the ballroom.’
Healing people is also a field I am proud of, but that does not determine victory or defeat.
“What method did you come up with?”
“Simply put, it’s like playing tag.”
 Tag is a playground game involving two or more players chasing other players in an attempt to “tag” and mark them out of play, usually by touching with a hand.
The method was simple.
First of all, it is to hold a masquerade ball.
Then Rupert and I will attend the ball. If he catches me in disguise within a set time, he wins, and if he doesn’t catch me, it’s my victory.
“……So I hope Mrs. Rizé would hold a masquerade ball, is that possible?”
The Dukedom of Ernst is famous, and the mansion is very spacious.
On the day of the ball, many people will attend, and the inside will be crowded.
The more people there are, the harder it will be for Rupert to find me.
In my explanation, Mrs. Rizé has a more interesting expression on her face.
“A masquerade ball…… hmm, I think it’s going to be fun. But Noel, the ballroom will be a place in your favor, but can you win only with these rules?”
I answered without hesitation, “I’ve come up with a few tricks that I can use as long as I don’t break the rules.”
Like dressing a woman of similar size like me, or changing my disguise in the middle to confuse him.
I had no intention of dealing with it with the standard method.
I don’t want to lose because I have pride!
“Noel, you don’t want to lose, do you?”
That was an accurate point.
“I know it’s childish, but I don’t want to be dragged around by him.”
“I think it’s a good way. If it’s a couple’s fight that can’t be solved by dialogue, the game is fine. Honestly, it’s brilliant.”
It was fortunate that the response was more active than expected.
“Okay then, if you’re going to start playing the game,”
She took the teacup and spoke gracefully, “Make sure you will win.”
Having obtained a reliable helper, I also looked at my helper and smiled brightly.
Rupert looked around the garden of the villa which he had not visited in a long time.
He used this small place a lot after he was transferred, but he hadn’t used it since he was given the title, so he half forgot about it.
It seems that the confrontation with Noel will last for quite some time, so it wouldn’t be bad to look around properly.
‘It can’t be helped that it takes time to persuade her.’
Fortunately, there was nothing he had to do in a hurry at the mansion of Ainel.
Because if he stays here for a long time, Ordin will suffer from overwork.
This was a decision I made with my own thoughts and half impulse, and I had no intention of backing down easily.
What exactly this feeling meant was to take Noel and Leah with me first and then think about it later.
‘If I don’t take them now, I won’t see them forever.’
With that thought in mind, he stopped walking.
A small presence was felt in a corner of the garden.
Rupert paused, then called the person’s name.
The child, who was watching the sprout growing under her feet, raised her head in amazement.
Leah’s eyes widened as she looked up at him.
Looking into those eyes for a moment, Rupert wondered what to say for a moment.
In the current situation, it seems too shameless to casually say hello. Because he hadn’t taken good care of her all this time.
In the end, all that came to mind was this:
“The letter you sent was well received.”
Leah made a tearful face at those words.
Rupert was perplexed.
Then, she mumbled and asked, “……Are you angry because I sent you a letter?”
He answered quickly, “No way.”
It was true that I came all the way here impulsively because of the contents of the letter, but it could not be said that it was Leah’s fault.
Even with the quick denial, the crying of the child did not go away, and he began to get worried.
Just as he was wondering if he would be able to comfort her, Leah opened her mouth.
“But…… you got angry because of my letter and fought with mom……”
She seems to have already noticed the subtle conflict between Noel and him.
‘Did you think we were fighting because of you?’
Rupert, unlike usual, tried to understand his daughter’s feelings.
Come to think of it, he seems to have been like that too when he was a kid.
When his mother was sad, he knew it was all his fault. Since he was born, his mother was unhappy.
When he thought of that, he had a vague sense of what to say to the child.
Rupert sat with one knee on the ground, eye-level with his daughter.
“We never fought.”
Her expression, which had been in tears, became slightly brighter.
“I don’t know why you think I must have been angry with your letter.”
I never cared about my appearance, but she seemed afraid of me. Is my impression that bad?
Rupert silently waited for Leah to speak.
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Leah rolled her eyes and said, “—Father hates me.”
‘You talk the same thing as Noel.’
He frowned slightly in denial.
“I don’t hate you.”
If he really hated her, he wouldn’t have even paid attention to her, his own child. He is a human being who can be that cold.
Leah looks like she knew a new fact.
After hearing that, Leah nodded and asked curiously, “Then, if you weren’t angry and didn’t fight with mom, why did you come here?”
Rupert flinched at the pure, innocent question from a 5-year-old.
“……Do you think I can’t come here unless I get angry or fight?”
At this level, even Rupert will reflect on his life a bit.
What kind of person do you think you are in your daughter’s mind?
“It was not for such a bad reason. I can come here anytime I want.”
“Then you came here for a good reason, right?”
Hearing the naive question, Rupert pondered on a suitable excuse as usual.
He came to meet the two of them for no particular purpose, so it would be okay to express it that way.
However, he was not honest with his feelings, and every time he recently did this warm and lukewarm act, he tried to put a plausible reason.
When he suddenly realized that fact, he burst out laughing.
‘I can’t believe I’m thinking about lying to such a child now.’
Even in front of my five-year-old daughter, I thought of a vague excuse for coming to meet her.
That was pathetic.
‘I can’t even call myself an adult.’
Now that I think back on it, there were only the two of us here, Leah and myself.
For a brief moment, there was no reason not to be honest.
“Leah, after reading your letter,”
Rupert spoke slowly, “—I’m curious what the two of you would look like without me. In fact, both of you would have been very well without me, but still……”
The real reason was this. It was an impulsive decision, so I can’t say it plausibly.
Then Leah pulled the collar around his shoulder.
“Ah! Have you ever been jealous that mom made a new friend?”
“It might be. As you can see, this father of yours doesn’t have any friends, but your mother was working hard to make friends.”
The child nodded in agreement and said, “Actually, father always seemed bored because you were alone.”
Could it be seen in the eyes of a child? I feel strange.
“Yes, I was bored.”
He raised his hand and gently stroked Leah’s round head.
“I was so bored, then I suddenly wanted to go see you two.”
“Then, did you miss me and mom?”
If you ask so innocently and naively, I have no choice but to forget everything and be honest, even for a moment.
“Yes, I came to see you.”
Leah burst into laughter and spread her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly.
Rupert was taken aback by the unexpected situation.
“Let’s keep this a secret from mom.”
Leah’s innocent voice rang in his ears.
“I miss you too, father!”
At the same time, my heart was tight.
I felt like a bug who was grinding its brain little by little. I could break anything, and I had the urge to do so.
The feeling of hanging from the edge of a distant cliff.
I clenched my fists, with my hands on the floor. I know what these signs are.
I’m sick and tired of responding to these emotions.
I could feel her little heart beating in my arms.
Two conflicting thoughts run through my head.
With a voice telling me to destroy her small body quickly.
I do not want to lose this fragile life.
“Really……for saying that,”
Rupert cleared his mind and slowly opened his clenched fist.
Then, very carefully, he patted Leah on the back and whispered low, “—Thank you.”
Now I have no choice but to admit it.
In order to slow the curse’s progress, suppressing emotions has become meaningless.
‘I can’t give up though.’
Surely, I will also find a way to get rid of the curse, as soon as possible.
So I will get all the things I wanted in life, but had to give up.