It took a long time for the sun to set.
The passage of time was absolute, but in this case it felt relative.
It should have been the same as usual, but it seemed to be much slower.

After changing into his pyjamas and lying quietly, pretending to be asleep, he got up only after seeing Leah go out after checking that the windows on the balcony were locked.
He got up from the soft bed that didn’t even feel the weight, roughly inflated under the duvet with a pillow, put on the robe he had hidden under the bed, and then carefully lifted his foot and felt the wall.

Even though it was a resting place for the imperial family, there was no way that there wouldn’t be a secret passage.
Indeed, when he pushed a concave protrusion, he heard something rumbling and a hidden space was revealed.

When he went inside and pressed the concave bulge at the entrance of the passage, both doors were closed the way they were opened.
Shrr~.
As the door closed, pitch-black darkness fell upon him.
He traced the wall on which the lamp was hung, but of course there was no magic stone to use to light it.
He wasn’t afraid of the dark, but it would take a long time to go out in this darkness.

Just a little.

Olivia’s strict expression passed by like an afterimage for a brief moment, and he drew something on the palm of his hand.
At the same time as he felt force being drained, a small light fluttered across the palm of his hand.
The light was so faint that he could barely see under his feet, but that was enough.

Relying on the light, Erhart followed the winding path like a maze.
It took him longer than expected even though he had lit the light.
There was a fork in the middle, so he followed the wall and took the route.
When he barely managed to go outside, the moonlight was shining brightly.
Erhart shook his hand once.
The flickering light faded as if it had never existed.

He moved his feet, tucking his robes tighter to keep his hair from sticking out.
The poorly paved slopes were bumpy and he had to put strength on the tip of his feet while walking.
As he barely managed to descend, the sound of the waves crashing and creating white foam became clearer.

The moonlit sea shone softly, but Erhart’s eyes did not stay there.
He was only interested in finding the figure that would rise from the gentle ripples.

But he waited for a long time and couldn’t find anything.

As he expected, he didn’t come.
He had no reason to come, but still…

While his mind which had been nervous all day was relieved, he felt dejected.
It was a pity, and he regretted that he had to return, thinking about what other people would think.

He had to go back, but his foot didn’t move.

“…”

Waves rippled under his feet.
Then he saw the pale skin and black hair that covered his shoulders and reached his chest, and glassy green eyes staring at Erhart.

“You said you were going to throw yourself into the sea.”

Red lips moved as he murmured, and a clear voice flowed into his ears.
When the person who looked like a sculpture or a subject in a famous painting spoke, he seemed to be alive, allowed to breathe by God.

“Are you going to save me if I fall?”

Instead of answering the question, the mermaid was half-submerged in water and looked up at Erhard only with his eyes.

“Even if I didn’t, I wonder if you would be able to jump in.”

“I have no regrets.”

Speaking calmly, Erhart lowered his body and slowly approached him.
He was worried that the other might run away if he approached quickly.
As he approached carefully, the boy did not move away, but neither did he come close.
He just stared at Erhart’s head with his eyes wide open.

As if possessed.

As he took off his robe and moved slightly, the trajectory of his gaze followed the movement.

Albert I, who established the empire by occupying eight kingdoms hundreds of years ago, was of mixed blood, and the blood continued, so the direct lineages of the Hesseles imperial family were born blonde for generations.
There were no exceptions.
Outsiders did not know this, but those who were not born with blonde hair were of impure blood, so they were inevitably thrown out.

In any case, the blood has been diluted a lot now, so there is nothing to see except blonde hair, but since the blood of Albert I, who was an archmage in the past, was inherited there were many sorcerers who had affinity with mana without having to use magic stones among the royal family.
They developed Hesseles brilliantly enough to be called a magical empire, and until over a hundred years ago, they codified the law that only imperial descendants who knew how to handle mana, could succeed the throne.

With such a history, the envious gazes of many people who see the blonde hair of the imperial family was intense.
Erhart, who had never been exposed to this until he came to Argen and experienced it firsthand, found the interest in him annoying and irritating.

But it didn’t bother him that the mermaid couldn’t take his eyes off his head.
He wondered if maybe this was the factor that attracted him, so for the first time he appreciated the curled trammels of his blonde hair.

“Do you like my hair?”

He asked him because he thought he would cut a few strands if he really liked it, but the other corrected his dazed gaze.
He shouldn’t have asked.
Late regrets rushed in, but he couldn’t turn back the time anyway.

The boy made a coy expression on his face again.
Erhart saw some regrets or worries about whether to go back or not.
He doesn’t have the ability to read minds, but since he was born, he had to be wary of his surroundings so he could read emotions clearly.

“Why did you call me?”

Licking his lips, the boy asked.

There were a lot of things Erhart wanted to ask.
The first thing was whether he was really a mermaid that appeared in ancient literature or fairytales, and the next thing he wanted to ask was why he saved his life that day despite being so wary.

But as I looked at the emerald eyes staring at him, another sentence popped out instead of the questions he had been pondering on for days.

“Erich.”

“”

“…”

“My name is Erich.”

“…Erich?”

“What’s your name?”

Erhart couldn’t help but tell him the nickname that no one but Olivia was allowed to call.

“…”

Name? Rayan had to blink his eyes and ponder when he asked for his name.

The boy who called himself Erich didn’t seem to know, but Rayan had already come out for the third time and was waiting for him.

He spoke the same language as humans, but exchanges between the two species had been cut off for a long time.
Rayan couldn’t figure out the exact meaning of the word ‘three days’, so he checked if the other was there at the same time every day.

He was afraid that the fragile human who could not breathe or swim in the water would really fall into the water.
Despite the fact that it was the right thing to get rid of human beings who found out about the existence of mermaids, the image of the human being trying to hide him that day was strangely formed somewhere in his mind.

“…Rayan.”

It seemed that it was a lie that he would throw himself into the water, but Rayan gently told his name instead of swinging his tail at the wicked human being who lied to him and making him drink a lot of water.
The reason was unknown.
Rayan’s heart softened when he kept looking at that person.

“Rayan.”

Erich muttered Rayan’s name as if contemplating.

It was a name that was often called.
Not only Alle, but Yuri and others also called Rayan by that name.
Rayan.
Rayan-nim.
Or even Simere Rayan, although that was a few years ago.
Anyway, Rayan had never felt awkward or unfamiliar with being called by his name.
But for some reason, when that human called his name in a low and clear voice, it seemed unfamiliar to him as if it was not his name.

“Rayan.”

“Stop, stop calling.”

“Why?”

“…”

“I want to say it, is there any reason not to say it?”

Eventually he couldn’t stand it and stopped him from calling his name.
Then the other widened his eyes and asked why.
He had no good reason, so there was nothing to answer.

“Erich.”

“Yes.”

He wondered if he would feel similar feelings if he called Erhart’s name, but Erhart replied without raising an eyebrow.
Losing his spirit, Rayan pouted his lips and dipped himself into the water until the water level reached the corner of his eyes.

“Don’t go.
Because I’ll really jump in and catch you.”

Erich thought he was about to leave so he narrowed the distance and spoke words to hold him back.

How could he leave.
He had no intention of going already, and even if he wanted to, it was hard to turn his back on the human when he saw that expression on his face.
Rayan narrowed the distance between them very slightly to show his intentions.
The shiny blonde hair could be seen more clearly.

“Should I cut it?”

“…”

“Because you couldn’t take your eyes off it since a while ago.”

It was only a few minutes ago that he got caught by him and decided not to stare any further, but apparently he had got his eyes on his hair again.
Before Rayan could speak, Erich cut a few strands of his hair with the sharp knife he was carrying and reached out his hand.

Rayan, who had only wanted to pull out a few strands of his hair when he first saw him, hesitated for a moment and then reached out.
The shiny hair, as if made of gold thread, shone on the palm of his hand, but it did not look as perfect as it did before it was cut.

But since he gave it to him…

As though it couldn’t be taken away, Rayan clenched his outstretched hand and pulled it close to him.

“Why is it intriguing? Do you envy blonde hair too?”

Rayan tilted his head and his hair scattered a little.
It was difficult to understand the words of a human who asked with a rather strange expression.

“No.
I think it resembles the sun.”

“Sun?”

“Mhm.
Sun.
There, human.”

“Erich.
Call me Erich.
I even gave you permission to call me by name.”

“Why do I need permission to call your name?”

He didn’t know why he needed permission to call his name, so when he asked him, the person shut his mouth and widened his eyes like a man who had been stabbed.
He noticed that he was thinking to himself and nodded his head.

“…That question aside, would you like me to call you mermaid?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Rayan.
It’s better to be called that.”

He lowered his eyes and smiled.
It was the tone that Yuri used when he was coaxing him.
But he was consciously saying it, so it was awkward and Rayan puffed his cheeks.

“So what are you asking about the sun?”

Fortunately, Erich returned to the original subject.

“Have humans ever seen the sun? Does the sun resemble your hair? Does it shine? Is it that bright? Blinding?”

Rayan poured out questions.
Yuri would be familiar with this.
When he asked repeatedly, Yuri would smack Rayan’s head with his snout and ask if there were any more questions but he would answer without showing signs of getting tired.
That quenched the thirst, but the fundamental curiosity was not resolved.

“Are you curious about that?”

Erich, who was quietly listening to the flood of questions pouring in, lowered his body a little more toward Rayan and met his gaze.
As his body leaned towards him, the moonlight was obscured.
But his blonde hair reflected the moonlight and scattered like particles of light.
He stared at it and he nodded his head involuntarily.

“Then come see me tomorrow.”

“…Why?”

This was supposed to be the last time Rayan came up to see a human.
After confirming that he wasn’t really trying to fall into the sea, Rayan really had no intention of seeing him after today.

“Because I’m going to give you an answer then.”

The boy who resembles the sun seemed more difficult than he expected.
Rayan pursed his lips.
It was impossible for him to slap a weak human with his tail.
Instead, Rajan lightly splashed water onto his head with the unclenched hand that wasn’t holding the hair.
Drops of water splashed onto Erich’s cheeks, not too close, but not too far away.
Droplets of water hung from his hair.

He didn’t expect the sudden splash of water, so Erich looked down at Rayan in a daze. Did I go too far? What if that human being gets angry? Only then did Rayan notice.

“…”

Erhart almost burst into laughter for a moment because Rayan, who was reading his countenance, was cute, but he held it in.
As he forcibly straightened his expression, he brought his brows together and wiggled his hands.
The mermaid looked so beautiful that he didn’t really look like something of this world, and he put on a cool disposition but his expressions were varied and there was a hint of innocence.

He wanted to get a little closer.

It was a subconscious action that his hand reached out to his cheek, which seemed pale and transparent.
The wet cheeks trembled.
His body flinched in surprise.
Pretending to be unaware of his embarrassment, Erhart asked.

“Will you come?”

For the first time in his life, he looked forward to tomorrow or the following days.

“I’ll be waiting.”

The long eyelashes fluttered as he blinked.

“Human.”

“Erich.”

“I don’t know… humans, but I think they’re a little impudent.”

After hesitating for a while, Rayan spoke coyly, and then dove into the water.
The turquoise tail swayed and disappeared.
There was a remnant of the touch on Erhart’s hand.
Erhart clasped his hand, and then he burst into laughter as he thought of Rayan, who had not unclenched his hand after taking the hair earlier.

He hadn’t heard an answer from him, and he had no promise of when he would come, but it seemed that he wouldn’t be waiting as nervously as he was for the past three days this time.

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