༺ Ball (4) ༻
In the center of the hall, where a slow melody resonated and spread, Renee followed Vera’s lead and waltzed slowly.
Her left foot moved toward their clasped hands, followed by her right foot. She then spun around.
“Good job. Now, breathe and take four steps, one at a time, starting with your right foot. Once you’ve done that, turn counterclockwise.”
Vera’s voice blended in with the music.
As Vera’s touch guided Renee, the rhythmic sound of two footsteps merged with the melody.
She could feel the train of her dress unfurled as she moved, creating a sound that blended in with the music.
For a moment, Renee felt a strange sensation as if she were walking on top of the melody.
The space became a sheet of music, their footsteps became musical notes, and the empty score was filled by Renee and Vera’s movements.
Their breaths collided. Their intertwined breath whirled along the movements before dissipating. The lingering moisture bounced off at the sound of footsteps. They shifted their position again, and the cycle repeated itself until Vera’s low voice echoed softly.
“You can now go in any direction you want. If you think you’re about to bump into someone or go outside the hall, I’ll adjust your direction, so don’t worry and go anywhere you want.”
Her voice sounded like she was lost in a dream.
No, maybe it is really just a dream.
Renee danced in a state of stupor the entire time, enthralled by how fluid her footwork was and stunned by how she could spin to the beat of the music.
A thought occurred to her.
Vera, just as he had said, was very good at controlling the body.
How could she not think of that? Even a blind woman who couldn’t move anywhere without a cane was able to go anywhere with his guidance, and it occurred to her that no one was as talented at controlling the body as Vera.
Wherever Vera’s touch landed, it felt as scorching as fire.
Their entangled breaths were a bit strange.
As the dance continued, their recurrent closing and widening distance felt very excruciating to her.
‘…Oh, maybe I can pretend to fall now.’
The thought crossed her mind, but she quickly dismissed it.
If their poise falters, so will the mood. This moment would come to an end.
Renee thought she’d be happier if she let this moment last a bit longer rather than clinging to him so tightly, so she let her body move loosely.
Her blindness was no obstacle to Renee at this moment.
She had Vera, whom she could feel even without seeing, and she had two feet that could take her anywhere without a cane, so not being able to see was the least of her problems.
No, it would be more accurate to say that her inability to see became a source of satisfaction.
Thanks to that, she could feel Vera even more clearly.
Renee thought to herself.
An emotional echo, that might be much closer to a reverie than logic, began to weave its way into words.
Perhaps the Gods took away her light because meeting Vera came at a price, and that light was the required price the poor rural farmer’s daughter had to pay in order to meet Vera.
Her lips curved into a smile.
Her thundering chest had mellowed and settled into a faint, vibrating tremor.
She reflected on how cheap it was.
To think that by giving just a single light, she obtained an irreplaceable treasure, and she became the light that Vera desired.
The thought of getting him at a really low price made her happy.
After one song that only lasted at least eight minutes, Renee returned to her spot on the corner.
Words of gratitude came out.
She was very grateful to Vera for allowing her to experience something she could never have imagined before, and she was only able to say it now because she had no chance when she was too preoccupied with dancing at the time. To which Vera replied, as if there was no big deal.
“Of course. It is my duty to listen to anything the Saint wishes.”
Renee felt a faint smile flicker across her face at the words.
Does he realize the weight of that word?
Did he say it because he really doesn’t know what I really want?
As a bitter feeling emerged inside, Renee jokingly said.
“Will you give me a star, then?”
“I will do my best to-”
“Forget it. I’m just kidding.”
Hehe. Renee let out a giggle and leaned back in her seat. Their hands were still clasped together.
The warmth from their bodies still remained. It was transmitted to Vera through the pulse, just as Vera’s warmth transmitted to her.
Renee’s smile widened as she fumbled with his hand.
‘…Vera is the same.’
Vera’s heartbeat synchronized with her own.
Whether it was just their heartbeat that were in sync or if it extended to their hearts… She didn’t know.
Renee concluded that ‘their hearts are synchronized’ and lowered her head.
Her cheeks were burning.
It wasn’t just her cheeks, but her whole body.
What in the world happened to this place to be this hot?
When she blamed the innocent ballroom, Vera studied Renee’s complexion and replied.
“I think it’s because you’ve moved more than usual. Would you like to step out onto the terrace for a moment?”
Renee hesitated for a moment before nodding, and Vera escorted her out.
Renee’s heart began to swell with emotions as she held Vera’s hand and walked slowly, so she zipped her mouth shut.
Otherwise, the words that she had held in for so long would burst out. Even though she was perplexed as to why she was so emotional today, she had thoughts that concerned her.
There were questions arising from the word ‘maybe’.
Maybe it’s today.
Maybe it’s the day I should let go of everything that has been piling up by being with him every day?
Maybe I won’t be able to express myself for a long time after today.
Those thoughts continue to run through her mind.
It was something akin to intuition.
Like most people, Renee was drawn to a weird intuition that logic couldn’t explain.
Renee made a decision with a determined expression.
‘…I have to do it.’
It had to be today.
Today, I must confess, right in this place.
But, oddly enough, even though she was shaken by such feelings, her shyness refused to fade at any cost.
Renee chewed on her lip, feeling a mixture of dismay and anger.
This won’t do.
Renee, who had this idea in mind, raised her hand gently.
She reached out toward the sound of a passing servant along with a ripple of water.
Vera called. Renee ignored him and talked to the servant.
“Can I have a cocktail, please?”
The servant handed her a glass in a bewildered voice, and Renee took it.
Vera’s expression was filled with shock.
“It’s only one glass. I’ll be alright.”
She felt she couldn’t do it in her sober state, so she wanted assistance from it.
Vera closed his eyes firmly as Renee drank the cocktail in one gulp.
On a small terrace with a single bench.
Vera took Renee there, seated her down, and then questioned her with a look of concern.
“Are you alright?”
Such a question came up as he recalled what happened the day Renee had her first drink. Who could forget the incident in which she lost her mind and spiraled out of control after just one cup?
What if she starts crying again?
Vera’s face grew stiff as his thoughts went in that direction.
Renee added with a light smile.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got it under control with my divinity.”
It wasn’t a bluff.
She wasn’t going to make the same mistake again, so she drove out her drunkenness, leaving just enough to keep her tipsy.
‘Don’t tell me he still thinks I suck at controlling it?’
Renee thought and chuckled at Vera for treating her like a complete amateur.
Vera exhaled a sigh of relief when Renee behaved in an orderly manner.
“…Because I did not teach you that in particular.”
“I’m not the Saint for nothing. I can manage my divinity just as well as Vera. All I did was think about what I wanted to do and it flashed into my head naturally.”
Vera laughed at her snobbish remark.
“You’re not being sarcastic, are you?”
“I have no idea about that.”
“What a smooth comeback. You always have the upper hand in conversations, don’t you?”
“I know that I’m a man of my word, except for a few times.”
“That is exactly the problem.”
Renee inwardly cheered as her words flowed effortlessly from her tongue.
Is drinking the answer, after all?
The shyness that had always tormented her did not rear its ugly head.
“When you feel the need to go all out, you screw everything else, be it promises and whatnot.”
Vera kept his mouth shut.
Vera threw a glance at Renee, wondering whether she was trying to hide her drunkenness from him.
But when he gazed at the pale skin beneath the lights, his initial intention to check for signs of drunkenness vanished, and he wound up staring blankly into Renee’s face.
Vera belatedly snapped out of it with a tremble.
“Are you cold?”
Renee asked as she felt it through her palm, and Vera promptly replied.
“My discipline isn’t shallow enough to be affected by the heat or cold.”
“What’s with the sudden bragging?”
“…I wanted to say that you don’t have to worry.”
Renee laughed when Vera lost his cool and asked him another question.
“Do you find me difficult, Vera?”
“…What are you talking about?”
“I mean, even when dealing with other Apostles, Aisha, and even the Crown Prince, you are indifferent or irritable, but you are always obedient to me.”
“Because I’m the light?”
No reply came back.
Is it because I’m drunk?
Renee felt her long-suppressed heartache begin to rear its ugly head because of Vera’s attitude, and she continued pressing him with more questions.
“You know… What am I to you if I’m not the light?”
“…I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
“What if I’m Renee and not the Saint? What if I’m stripped of my power, status, and the light that Vera has been searching so desperately…”
It was the question that always lurked in the back of her mind.
She knew she was just being whiny, and it was obvious that the answer would make no difference.
She buried her heartache because she thought it was better to keep it buried and feign ignorance.
“…I, who is stripped of everything, what am I to Vera?”
The stupor caused her words to flow freely and brought out her deepest feelings.
That created a ripple in Vera’s heart. It began to manifest, causing Vera’s body to shake uncontrollably.
Renee clenched Vera’s trembling hand tightly and said.
“Vera is Vera to me. Not my knight, Apostle, villain, nor savior. You’re just Vera.”
She raised their intertwined hand and placed it on her cheek.
“Vera is simply the one who holds my hand. That’s why…”
Her embarrassment reared its ugly head again.
She couldn’t stop herself from losing it when the alcohol took effect, driving her over the edge.
Renee furrowed her brows at how much it irked her and bit her lips before pouring out the words that had been lodged in her throat.
“…That’s why I like Vera.”
Her voice quivered from her last surge of embarrassment.
Renee thought her words were not enough to express her feelings, so she added further.
“I don’t mean like or dislikes. I like you, but in a different way…”
She rubbed her face against the palm that rested on her cheek.
At that moment, Renee noticed that Vera’s stiff response was more than just confusion or discomfort.
There was a glimmer of hope, anticipation, and thirst.
So she did it.
“How does Vera feel about me?”
It was an irreversible question.