The more they called me, the faster I moved my feet.

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How long did we walk?

Before I knew it, I couldn’t hear their voices anymore.

Instead, I could only hear the duke’s discouraged voice.

“…Are you okay?”

“I’m okay.
But why are you looking for me?”

“Ah.”

He was staring at me as if he had just remembered.

“Your complexion doesn’t look good.”

“So do yours.
You look so pale that people might think something bad happened to you.”

“….After I kicked you out, I couldn’t sleep at all.”

“Oh my god.”

Unknowingly, I felt sorry for him.

The Duke’s gaze naturally brushed over me.

“….”

“Ahem, I can’t believe you didn’t sleep at all.
Is it because Rere is looking for me?”

He didn’t answer for a while.
He just glanced at the ground and then the sky subsequently, mumbling to himself.

After a while, he seemed like he made up his mind, so he opened his mouth slowly.

“…You were right, Leona.
After you left, I decided to listen to Rere’s heart as you suggested.
The child, who cried so much after you left, poured out her true feelings at once.
For the first time.”

“You did a good job.”

“I felt like the thread that would never untangle, finally untangled.
I know how foolish I am.”

It was definitely a good thing, and even though the misunderstanding was resolved, somehow, he looked disheartened.

“…That’s how I honestly felt.
I thought it would be okay if you were gone, but it was just my arrogance and misjudgment.
What I did was utterly stupid.”

We looked at each other for a long time.

His red eyes seemed to be alive.

He was strangely different from before.
I couldn’t point out what part of him was strange, but it was clear that he had changed.

“Did you grow up?”

“I’m not sure.
It feels like my feelings are back.”

His trembling and weak voice kept bothering my nerves.

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“I’m sorry… Since you left, I’ve been feeling too frantic and lost my mind.
If I don’t find you, I might go even crazier.”

“Ha.”

“Everything is my fault.
It’s purely my own stupidity.
I’m so scared of losing my daughter.
And I did what I shouldn’t have done to you because of that fear.”

His voice became calmer as if he were someone else.

A voice that I had never heard before.

And it contained deep thoughts and regrets.

“You can say anything.
You can hate me or hit me as much as you want.
While you were away, I realized my own faults.”

He somehow looked weak with his head down.

His appearance and Rere, who was always pretending to be strong, overlapped for a moment.

“You don’t have to accept my apology and forgive me.
Just be the mother of my child again.
I don’t think anybody else can do it, Leona.”

My heart wouldn’t be shaken had he not said anything about Rere.

“Is Rere…okay?”

“The very morning after you left, Rere cried and collapsed again.”

“….”

“She’s okay now.”

“I will do anything for you.
I’d leave the mansion if you want.
So please, be the mother of my daughter.”

“Don’t you know that’s a pretty scary thing to say? If you truly meant that you’d do anything, what if I ask for a mana stone mine?”

“I’ll give it to you.”

He answered without hesitation.

“You’ll give it to me?”

“If you want, I can give you everything.
As long as you are willing to become my child’s mother once again.”

In a different sense, he was totally crazy.

The mana stone mine was wanted by the emperor, too.
I got a lot of information while I was alone.

Even if I loathed it, I kept finding myself studying about the Petri Dukedom, and I even read about the mana stone mine.

Unlike other mana stone mines, there were enough mana stones to dig for hundreds of years.
In other words, you could live as a millionaire for the rest of your life if you acquired that.

“Why are you going through such lengths for me?”

“Because that’s what I want.
That’s what my daughter wants.
And I’ll do anything to get your forgiveness.”

Why did you come out like that and weaken people’s hearts?

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If I followed my heart, I would’ve accepted it right away, but I shouldn’t give in too easily.

“You have a wife anyway.
That woman is Rere’s new mother, right?”

The Duke, who had been extremely sad like a child reflecting on his mistake, smiled and shook his head.

“It’s almost over, so you don’t have to worry.
I’ll make you the one and only mother of my child.”

“What do you mean…”

At that time.

“Your Grace, I’ve rented a carriage.
Although it’s not the same with the duke’s carriage…”

It was the same knight who said that there was no carriage earlier and got scolded harshly.

Perhaps because he was extremely anxious that he might be killed if he didn’t get a carriage right away, the knight had been running to the point that he was so sweaty.

Before I knew it, the carriage door in front of us opened, and the Duke reached out to me.

“Come with me.
You can hate me all you want, just be the mother of my child again.
Please.”

“….”

“I won’t ask you to forgive me.
Just…”

“I’ll never forgive you even if I die.
You’re still the worst father and man in my opinion.”

So I took his hand.

“Only for Rere.
I’m doing this for my daughter.”

“Thank you…from the bottom of my heart.”

Only then did I feel like I was slowly putting down the heavy burden in my heart.
I know for sure this time.

What I wanted wasn’t going to faraway countries to live, nor to be the palace maid.

What I wanted was to be Rere’s mom.

That was my destiny, and I decided to embrace it.

***

As soon as I arrived at the mansion and got off the carriage, the first thing I did was run to Rere.

Since I wore these shoes for a long time, I had several blisters on my feet, but Rere made me forget all the pain.

Would she be happy? Or angry?

I’d rather she got angry.
If she were angry, I’d hug her in my arms.
I’ll apologize for as long as I needed to.

My heart throbbed because of those thoughts.

A hallway full of silence.

The duke’s servants, who were busy doing their job, quickly bowed down when they saw me.
I was quite surprised to see their different attitude.
But I didn’t stop my stride.

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The maids in front of Rere’s room opened their mouths wide and greeted me.

“Madam!”

“Let’s save the greetings for later.”

When I opened the door, the people inside just blinked absentmindedly.

The nanny, the two maids who are always close to Rere, May, and the other maids were all surprised.

“Ma-Madam!”

“Ahh..! You’re back!”

“Oh my god.
Where have you been!”

The nanny and maids were busy flocking at me like sea waves.

“We’ve been waiting for so long…”

I only smiled at them and headed to the rabbit doll.

Rere was inside there.

She was hiding in her own safe space.

“Rere.”

But there was no answer.

“Rere.
Rere….”

That was strange.

I was the one who left her and made her sad, but whenever I called her name, tears kept falling down my cheeks.

“Rere…I’m sorry…I’m sorry…”

I wanted to face Rere courageously, but my voice kept shaking.

“Rere…”

“Rere…doesn’t have a mom..”

That one word from the child was enough to shatter my heart into millions of pieces.

My heart sank down.

I thought maybe not coming back would hurt her less.

I thought I was tormenting the child for my own peace of mind.
Those thoughts kept filling my head.

But if I gave up my child here, if I left her just because I was having a hard time, I would just inflict more wounds that would never be healed.

Even if my heart crumbled, I would wait next to the child.

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Until she opened her heart to me again.

Until she looked at me again.

If this was my punishment for leaving the child, I’ll fully accept it.

“Rere.”

“I said I don’t have a mom!”

The very firm voice seemed to contain no emotion.

“…Your mom is here.”

“Rere…doesn’t have a mom….Rere is alone.
I used to be alone, and now I’m alone again…forever.”

What should I say?

What could I say to get the child out of there?

How could I ever be forgiven?

I was the one who hurt the child more than anyone else.

I was far worse than the Duke.

Her wounds would be as big as how much she trusted me.

Meanwhile, the duke, who followed me to the room, tried to rush in as soon as he saw me sitting next to the rabbit doll.

I shook my head at him.

It wasn’t the right time yet.
I just had to sit here until Rere forgave me.

Fortunately, the duke noticed my gesture and stopped walking in.

“I will stay here.
I’ll be here until mom sees Rere’s face.”

“…You’re not my mom.
Go away.”

“Then I’ll be the rabbit.
I’ll be the rabbit and stay here.
I’ll stay here until Rere shows her face.”

There was no answer this time.

“Everyone, you can leave this room.
I’ll wait here.”

“Go away! I don’t want to see a fake mom!”

“It’s not your mom.
It’s a rabbit.”

“But a rabbit doesn’t cry like that! Stupid!”

Even when the child spoke like that, I still stayed next to her.
Meanwhile, the room was closed and only silence hit the room.

In the room where there was only a sound of low breathing, the stillness was dampening.

Nevertheless, it was a good thing.
I was happier being next to Rere than spending time alone at the inn.

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