translated by myonnie
Rufino's appearance doesn't change at all from how he was seventeen years ago. He looks at me, narrowing his golden eyes into gentle curves.
As a half-elf, Rufino has a long lifespan and hardly aged. Back when I was the Great Saint of the empire, he should've been over a hundred years old.
Rufino in my memory had an inhuman beauty, was gentle and kind to everyone, and was loved by many people.
(Even Sylvia liked Rufino, didn't she?)
"Lady Saint, what's wrong?"
Rufino curiously peers at my face, which is in a daze from remembering the past.
His voice snaps me back to my senses and I give him a smile in a hurry.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Tiana Everett."
"Lady Tiana, is it? If you need any help with magic, please let me know."
"Thank you very much."
His gentle aura is never-changing, his well-shaped lips curves into a beautiful arc. His silver hair shines in the sunlight, his large golden earrings dangling in the spring breeze.
Unlike Felix who has grown into a different person from my memory, Rufino is exactly the same as I know. A sense of relief washes over me.
"Lady Saint who's going to become the empress doesn't need to use honorifics with me. Please call me Rufino."
"Sure, got it."
And then Byron explains why we came here, an understanding dawning on Rufino.
"Ah, is that so? I'll guide you to the room where the documents are stored. Sir Byron, I'm sure you must be busy. I'll guide the saint to the room."
"But Sir Rufino, you're also busy..."
"We have a lot of talented kids here, so it won't be a problem if I leave them for a while. Besides, I want to talk to Lady Saint as the leader of the magic tower. We're going to get along for quite a long time after all."
I am a little surprised by Rufino's unexpected offer, but I have no reason to refuse. Though of course, the chances of our relationship being a long one are extremely low.
(Did they not tell Rufino that I was just a fake? Even with his current standing?)
"I'd love that. Thank you."
I'd be happy to build a good relationship with Rufino, and Byron will definitely rather leave and get back to his work as soon as possible.
After thanking Byron, who is a little confused, I head to the reference room with Rufino.
"T-There sure are a lot..."
The books mentioning the 'curse' in the reference room are in heaps of piles, the mere sight makes me gasp. A lot of research must've been carried out to solve the problem.
As I tilt my head, wondering where to start, Rufino pulls out a few books from the pile with his magic and places them on the desk in front of me.
"I think these ones are easy to understand. How much do you know about the empire's 'curse'?"
"...It's embarrassing, but I know next to nothing."
"Is that so? If you like, I can explain it to you."
Rufino offers without sending cold looks at me, an ignorant person who comes to marry without knowing anything. Rather than an elf, he is more like an angel.
Back when I was in a precarious position due to me being the youngest Great Saint, he was also the one who always helped me.
Rufino opens a book and shows it to me. Along with the letters is a picture of a pitch-black lake and monsters.
"It was fifteen years ago that the 'curse' fell on Reavis Empire for the first time."
"Fifteen years ago..."
"In the beginning, Nightly Lake, the largest lake in the empire, was deviled overnight and became a lake of death, producing miasma and monsters."
The flora and fauna in the vast forest surrounding the lake all died out. The miasma spread far and wide through the river connected to the lake, killing countless people.
The story is so horrific that it leaves me speechless.
I can't even imagine the cause of the curse that created so much impurity in one night.
"Including Nightly Lake, there are a total of five places in the empire that suddenly suffered the same 'curse'."
From lakes to caves to villages. The situation is direr than I have imagined. Especially since I know that they all used to be very beautiful places.
(...Why did Reavis Empire have to suffer this curse?)
There is no sign of this when I was alive. I can't hide my shock that the empire where I was born, raised, and loved as Else has completely changed.
"Thanks to Lady Great Saint, we have a good harvest this year."
"When I grow up, I want to be an amazing saint, just like Lady Great Saint!"
Above all, when I thought about the beautiful nature and the many precious lives that are now lost, my heart is about to burst from frustration, hopelessness, sadness, and heartbreak.
Before I knew it, my eyes are filled with tears.
(If I hadn't died that time, I'm sure there would've been many lives that could have been saved.)
Crying now won't change anything. It's meaningless. I know that, but my tears wouldn't stop.
Even Rufino will be troubled if a saint from another country burst into tears after hearing a few stories.
I thought so, but Rufino wipes my tears with his fingertips. Somehow, I feel like I must be looking as sad as he does.
"...You still haven't changed."
This should be the first time we met as Tiana, but the way he talked as if he knew me makes me confused.
(Did Rufino know Tiana when she was the crybaby 'Hollow Saint'?)
I wonder, trying to hold back the tears that won't stop.
I hear my name being called out of a sudden. When I look up, there is Felix, whom I can't have mistaken for anyone else.
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