༺ Regression (3) ༻
It was the long-awaited dinner time.
Ever since Siwoo was in coma, Amelia hadn’t consumed anything except for alcohol and cigarettes.
She had neither the luxury nor the mood for it.
The long table in the restaurant was filled with a lavish feast that could easily feed ten people.
Various dishes were beautifully prepared with the main course being a crispy roasted piglet.
While sharing a meal with Siwoo brought her joy and a sense of reunion, she still felt uneasy.
It was due to his reaction back when he first woke up.
The subtle sense of distance and fear he had.
Even though his memory hadn’t fully recovered, Amelia could tell that she occupied an unfavorable position in his subconscious, which led him instinctively harbored negative emotions towards her.
This fact pricked her heart.
Other than that, she also had the responsibility to tell him the whole truth.
“If I understand correctly, Ms. Amelia, you’re saying that I was originally a twenty-eight-years-old man and I suddenly became younger as an aftereffect of the recovery process I received, is that correct?”
Seated on a chair with several extra cushions placed on it due to the height difference, Siwoo looked at Amelia, trying to gauge her reaction.
A napkin was wrapped around his neck, one that Amelia had personally tied.
Judging from his skeptical expression, he didn’t seem to believe her words at all.
In truth, even Amelia wasn’t sure where to begin to explain all this.
However, Siwoo didn’t hastily show her his suspicions despite the doubt he harbored.
Amelia didn’t know if this was because of the instinctive fear he felt towards her.
“Then, could you please tell me what should I do? I apologize, but my memories are… Well… They are a little…”
“You don’t need to do anything specific. Just stay with me until your body fully recovers.”
“But, am I not your slave, Ms. Amelia? Is that really okay?”
Amelia avoided his gaze and pretended to chug down a glass of water, hiding a heavily downtrodden expression.
She couldn’t face him properly, not when he looked at her with such a face. He didn’t know anything and Amelia was beating over herself for this fact.
“I destroyed your slave certificate when you were still unconscious.”
Amelia had pondered over every word he had uttered in anger on the day he lashed out at her.
What he had vehemently desired was one thing and one thing only.
So, she went through the formalities at the City Hall a month after he went into a coma and destroyed his slave certificate.
“I see. Thank you.”
Siwoo seemed bewildered after hearing her words.
Something came to Amelia’s mind as she observed his reaction.
She had felt it long before, but he was remarkably mature for his age.
His body had returned to his childhood self, but his ability to analyze his circumstances and read his surroundings wasn’t something that a child would possess.
Back when she was around his age, Amelia was nothing more than a naive kid.
After that, they hadn’t exchanged any significant words.
They made clashing noises as they utilized their utensils to eat their dinner, but those were the only noises they made.
Amelia decided that she shouldn’t apologize to Siwoo unless his memories had fully returned.
After all, he currently wasn’t in a state where he could make rational judgments.
“It was delicious.”
As soon as Amelia set down her utensils, Siwoo, who had been slowly slicing the roasted pig, put down his knife.
Upon seeing his actions, Amelia spoke out.
“If you want more, feel free to ask.”
“No, this is enough.”
Judging from his reaction, it seemed like he had only been pretending to eat until Amelia finished her own meal.
In the past, she’d take such behavior for granted.
But, now, seeing him constantly throw her cautious looks made her heart ache.
After the meal, they got up from their seats and headed to the second floor together.
His head used to be much higher whenever they walked side by side.
Amelia felt the awkwardness as she turned her head to see the cute and small Siwoo.
“Well, have a good rest. If there’s something you’re uncomfortable with, feel free to call me.”
“Yes, Ms. Amelia. Please have a good rest as well.”
At that moment, when they were standing at the intersection of the central staircase, as they were about to go to their respective rooms.
Siwoo suddenly grabbed Amelia.
“Um, Ms. Amelia?”
Not expecting him to initiate a conversation with her, Amelia was slightly taken aback.
“What is it?”
Siwoo hesitated for a moment.
“I don’t know what happened exactly, but… I just wanted to tell you that it’s okay.”
“What do you mean…?”
“As soon as I woke up, you apologized to me immediately… I’m not sure what you were apologizing for, but I think… I’ll forgive you for whatever it was…”
Amelia nodded slightly, feeling as if she had been struck in the head.
However, Amelia only gave Siwoo an ambiguous response.
Seeing this, he fell into contemplation before hastily apologizing.
“S-Sorry! I shouldn’t have said such things when I don’t even know what I’m talking about—”
“No, don’t be! It isn’t what you think!”
Amelia rushed to comfort Siwoo in panic.
She repeatedly reassured him that it was okay until he calmed down. Then, she watched him as he opened the door to his room and entered it. With a complicated heart, she stepped into her own room.
‘He’s going to forgive me?’
She never expected he would say something like that.
However, Amelia knew.
If Duchess Keter’s words were true, his body would soon return to its original state and his memories would gradually recover.
The forgiveness that she received from the current Siwoo was like an empty shell.
After all, it came from a young boy who had forgotten everything that she had done to him. He was terrified of her, sure, but he didn’t despise her like he used to. She couldn’t just accept his forgiveness like that.
Nevertheless, Amelia still felt an overwhelming sense of liberation, causing her to stand still in a daze for a while.
It felt like her tears were about to pour down like rain.
She took out a bottle of rum from her shelf and plopped down on her couch.
Just as she was about to light a cigarette and brought it to her lips, Siwoo’s current form came to her mind.
Vaguely, she remembered that it would be bad for a young boy to become a passive smoker.
While smoking wouldn’t affect her body as she was a witch, Siwoo was a normal human.
Not to mention that he was nothing more than a fragile child at the moment.
She quietly put away her cigarette and poured her drink into a glass with ice cubes.
It seemed like tonight would be another night she had to spend while pondering deeply.
It was deep into the night, but Amelia couldn’t fall asleep.
Opening and closing her books, restlessly getting up and sitting back down, lying on the bed and rolling around, she repeated those actions until she could no longer bear it.
Siwoo’s room was just a few meters away.
He still seemed uncomfortable around her, so it would be best for her to not go see him if she were to consider his feelings.
At least until he regained his memory and proper judgment.
“…But, I need to make sure he’s sleeping well.”
‘He just recovered, didn’t he?’
His recovery happened so suddenly.
It was important for her to continue watching over him because who knows what would happen to him.
That was the excuse Amelia came up with to convince herself before making her way to Siwoo’s room. Even though she was more than aware that Duchess Keter wouldn’t make such a fundamental mistake.
The truth was, she just thought that if she were to look at his sleeping face, she might feel a little bit better.
She entered the room stealthily while holding her breath, also making sure that the sound of the door opening wouldn’t wake him up.
But, her consideration seemed to have turned into a futile effort.
As soon as she entered the room, she saw Siwoo, who had been flipping the blanket over his head, flinching.
His movements were too exaggerated to be just him tossing and turning in his sleep.
Amelia checked the clock on the other end of the room.
Its hands showed that it was 2 am. The boy hadn’t slept yet even though it was already this late.
She made her way to the side of the bed.
As she sat down on the chair and held his hand, the boy carefully lowered his blanket.
“M-Ms. Amelia, I’m sorry… I-I know I should sleep early… T-That’s what you want me to do, right, Ms. Amelia…?”
He tried to avoid eye contact and rambled on, as if he had done something wrong.
Even though it was Amelia who should be feeling guilty.
“It’s okay. You don’t need to mind your sleeping time. It’s fine if you want to wake up late too.”
Amelia waited for a moment, trying to calm the boy down, speaking in the most gentle voice she could muster so that she wouldn’t scare him.
“Is there something bothering you that’s keeping you from sleeping?”
“W-Well, no, but…”
“Do you want me to bring you some milk?”
“Ah, n-no, it’s just…”
After a moment of hesitation, Siwoo cautiously spoke up.
He seemed quite embarrassed.
“I-I’m a little…scared…”
The fact that she had been so absorbed in the thought that this person in front of was the Siwoo she knew, all just because he looked incredibly mature for his age.
She forgot that he was just a young boy.
Back when she was his age, she was just like him, easily frightened even by the mere shadows of swaying trees in the wind, making her having trouble sleeping.
If there was an open wardrobe door, she’d always close it tightly before sleeping. She’d also stuff the space under her bed with random objects so scary monsters wouldn’t be able to hide there.
On stormy days with howling wind and thunderstorms, she’d run to her master’s room.
During those times, her master would read her fairy tales, sing her lullaby or just chat with her until she was exhausted and fell asleep.
Siwoo being a young boy meant that he’d need that kind of care.
That was the moment when Amelia understood the meaning of Duchess Keter’s words, that taking care of him would require a lot of effort.
“Do you want to sleep together?”
While reminiscing about her memories with her master, a phrase she hadn’t intended to say slipped out of her mouth.
It wasn’t like her to let her true feelings burst out like that, but after pondering a little about it, she realized that it seemed like a reasonable thing to say.
“Ah, no, it’s okay!”
In response, Siwoo quickly declined.
Considering how uncomfortable and afraid he was, it was unlikely that he would suddenly accept her suggestion.
Nevertheless, Amelia still felt disappointed by his answer.
But, Siwoo spoke up again.
“Um, Ms. Amelia…?”
“Yes, what is it?”
“W-Would it be okay if I ask for your company? …Just for tonight?”
The sight of him widening his eyes and shyly making the request was so cute to Amelia.
She felt like she finally understood why her master had poured so much love and care onto her, despite her naivety and stubbornness.
This sight awakened her maternal instinct.
“Do you feel comfortable sleeping here? Or do you prefer to come to my room?”
In order not to frighten him, she gently brushed her hand against his forehead.
At first, he seemed surprised since he didn’t expect that she’d treat him this kindly, but then he expressed his thoughts for the first time.
“That picture over there feels so eerie. I want to move to another room.”
He pointed to the tree-shaped magic formula he had drawn.
Indeed, it did give off an unsettling vibe in this dimly lit place.
As Amelia nodded her head, Siwoo swiftly removed his blanket and put on his slippers.
He stood up with a somewhat awkward posture, looking unsure on how to approach her.
Meanwhile, Amelia reached out to fix his eyepatch that became loose because of his previous tossing and turning. That was when she realized something.
“Is it okay if I take off your eyepatch for a moment?”
“Ah, yes, Ms. Amelia.”
When she removed his eyepatch, his left eye became visible to her.
But, it didn’t move. When she inspected it closely, there was no sign of vitality coming from it.
Which meant that the eye was a prosthetic one.
Even though Duchess Keter had rewinded time for him, the wound to his left eye remained unhealed.
As Amelia held the eyepatch in her hand, Siwoo hesitantly reached out to touch his own face.
“I-Is something wrong?”
Even if she were to explain it, he wouldn’t understand anything right away.
So, Amelia gently shook her head and put his eyepatch on again.
“It’s nothing. Let’s go.”
She concluded that she’d need to hear the Duchess’ explanation regarding this issue.
Amelia then led Siwoo to her room.
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