“Why are you here?”
It was François Cassel, crouched in the corner of the library, reading a paper.
With his striking silver hair, François stood out even when stuck in a corner.
“The National Library of Trovanza, specializing in magic and abilities, is every magician’s dream. But what brings you here on a weekend?”
“Is there a separate weekday and weekend for studying? What paper are you reading?”
Emily asked, and François showed her the cover of the research paper.
After quickly checking the topic, Emily exclaimed, “Oh.”
“It seems you have an interest in the field of healing, but there are many better papers than that. Would you like some recommendations?”
“It would be nice if you could recommend some.”
“Then let’s go to the C section. There are more useful papers over there.”
Emily led François to that section.
She found the research papers as if it were her second nature and piled them in his hands.
François looked at the titles of the papers in his arms and asked.
“Do you have an interest in this field, too?”
“Healing and purification are not my areas of interest.”
François’ eyebrows raised, and Emilia smiled at his questioning gesture.
Even though she hadn’t explicitly said it, her response hinted that she knew about the field he was interested in.
“That paper you were reading earlier was mainly about treating the mind through purification and healing. I thought you might be interested in it.”
Emily’s eyes sparkled with enthusiasm, and her voice was filled with confidence.
François looked at her as if finding her intriguing.
“It’s a reference in a similar context.”
“Really? If you’re looking for a reference, don’t you have to recommend your paper?”
“No. I’d be happy to recommend them to you, but that’s for another time. External visitors can only borrow eight papers in total, and you won’t be able to borrow them all today.”
When she was done recommending papers, Emilia gave him a small nod and excused herself to go do her business. Despite having a stunning man in front of her, she moved away from François without hesitation.
However, unexpectedly, François reached out and stopped her.
“What is it?”
“Aren’t you hungry? You helped me with the paper recommendations, and I’d like to treat you to a meal as a token of appreciation.”
“Well, there’s no need for thanks.”
“In that case, how about we have a meal together and socialize as industry peers?”
“If that’s the case, it’s fine.”
In reality, François wasn’t hungry at all.
His intention was not really about the meal but rather about building a connection with Emilia Verchio.
In spite of her unorthodox ways, she seemed to be a promising talent.
She was well-informed enough to have a conversation with him, being a native of Trovanza.
Most importantly, she was the sister of ‘Andrea Verchio,’ with whom François had made an irrevocable deal.
It couldn’t hurt to keep her close, so he smiled the same smile he’d used whenever he’d tried to seduce a woman.
“I’ll buy you a meal.”
When François smiled like he did now, women were mesmerized and couldn’t take their eyes off him.
François knew his own face well.
He possessed a unique combination of beauty and handsomeness, enhanced by his dazzling silver hair and impressive golden eyes.
In addition, his seductive charisma and deep, captivating gaze attracted both men and women alike.
So when Emilia’s gaze was locked on him, he didn’t doubt that she was no different from the others.
However, as Emilia subtly twisted her face and turned her head in irritation, François realized that something had gone wrong.
“You have quite an unfortunate sense of humor.”
“I’ve been wanting to correct this for a while. Don’t call me ‘you,’ but call me Emilia. If my name is too long, Millie is fine.”
François was genuinely taken aback.
After heaving a deep sigh, Emilia swept her hair back in annoyance.
“If you want to have a meal together, at least call me by my name properly. And…”
Emilia approached suddenly, glaring directly at François.
Finally, a faint smile appeared at the corner of her mouth. It was a mocking smile.
“You’re not my type, and there’s no need to put on a show. So let’s do one thing: figure it out and use it against each other, or put effort into a futile temptation.”
In her eyes, there was contempt, not excitement. François realized he had encountered a formidable opponent after a long time.
* * *
When I returned from the bathroom, I noticed the mood at the table was strange.
Uncle Leopold silently chewed his food, while Elder Sister wore a stern expression.
Only Uncle Marius looked at me and grinned widely.
“Hey, kid, got any plans after dinner?”
“What about after you finish your snack?”
“After snacks… umm…”
I glanced at Elder Sister beside me and replied.
“Liliana wants to go to the circus.”
Eldest Sister wasn’t keen on me going to crowded places. Kindergarten was one thing, where I had to socialize with kids my age, but a place like the circus was different.
She worried that I might encounter various people and get sick, so theaters and amusement parks were off-limits.
My conscience pricked when Elder Sister looked at me without saying anything, so I averted my gaze.
Marius, next to me, patted my head and said,
“The circus is great. Let’s go. I’ll show you the circus.”
“Really? You promise?”
Once we decided to go to the circus, my eagerness to finish my meal led me to devour even the broccoli, which I usually avoided.
However, unlike me, who quickly cleared my plate, my sisters and Marius were still eating.
‘I ate the broccoli because I wanted to hurry!’
Impatiently tapping my foot, I waited for the meal to end.
My mind had already set off for the circus, so I couldn’t hear the conversation between my sisters and the others.
When my patience finally ran out, I squirmed and poked Alice in the side.
I ended up leaning my face on Marius’ arm.
“Are you getting bored?”
“I want to see a fire show… Vicky raved about the circus’ fire show.”
“Really? We must go to the circus today. Our little one is getting bored, so let’s leave.”
“Wow! Mister, you’re quite impressive.”
I closed my mouth and gazed up at Marius. The sunlight behind him framed him like a halo.
At that moment, Marius was my hero. With admiration in my young eyes, I watched as he proudly lifted his chin.
I leaped to my feet and dashed out of the restaurant.
“Come on, come on, let’s go!”
I grabbed my older sister’s hand, who was trailing behind, but she didn’t seem to be in a hurry.
Frustrated, I left them behind and sprinted ahead.
“Liliana, it’s not safe to go alone like that. Hold your sister’s hand!”
My Eldest Sister called out from behind, but I pretended not to hear her.
I stopped briefly to look at the accessory stalls along the way, but the circus was my priority.
I hurriedly crossed the street, shaking off my sister’s hand as she tried to grab me again.
My sisters’ panicked cries echoed.
Suddenly, I spotted a carriage racing toward us.
My body stiffened as I saw a horse with legs that were tall as I was racing frantically toward me.
It was too close for me to dodge.
‘This is it for me.’
I hope it won’t be too painful to die. I hope my sisters won’t cry too much.
So I tightly shut my eyes and waited for the pain to come.
* * *
To Emilia, ‘that kind of person’ meant many things.
Watching them made her laugh at times, wondering why they acted that way…
“And somewhat pathetic, too?”
François frowned at Emilia’s choice of words.
She nonchalantly picked at her fries, ignoring his reaction.
“That’s a bold choice of words.”
“You were trying to seduce me boldly, so I responded accordingly.”
Emilia replied, pointing to herself with a potato fry.
François couldn’t help but let out a dry laugh. Unlike other women, Emilia had not shown much interest in him; in fact, she had been quite aloof.
“It’s not that I was targeting you. How did you know I had something to find out?”
“How could I not? Since I’m not the only one in the Trovanza with this kind of brain, it was only natural to assume.”
Emilia suddenly dropped these words, causing François’ eyebrows to twitch. She rejoined sarcastically.
“Why? You speak informally, too. Can’t I do the same?”
“…Sure. Speak freely.”
Just like in the library earlier, it seemed like the usual charm didn’t work against Emilia.
‘She’s unusual. I haven’t encountered one like her before.’
This posed various difficulties.
François had been planning to gather information through Emilia.
At that moment, he made eye contact with a woman sitting at a table behind Emilia.
François gave her a faint smile, almost a habit, and the woman blushed and averted her gaze.
It wasn’t that his looks were lacking; it was that Emilia Verchio was a formidable opponent.
Thinking this, he turned his attention back to her, only to find Emilia glaring at him with an expression that could only be described as disgust.
With a look of utter annoyance on her face, she uttered a sentence that could be interpreted as a warning or an opinion.
“Can you not do that in front of me? It’s making me lose my appetite.”
“Lose your appetite? Then I won’t.”
Emilia placed the glass of water she had been drinking back on the table. François shrugged his shoulders as if to ask what was wrong.
After a short time, François had figured Emilia out.
She didn’t respond to the usual charms, and if he tried to pressure her, she’d come back even stronger. So, there was no need to wear a mask of amiability any longer.
“Maybe you should carry digestives with you from now on. Or work on your digestion. Oh, you’re a pufferfish, huh?”
Little did François know that he would deeply regret using that term a few years later.