Just then, Yuri sensed a presence approaching the alley where she was. Her red eyes flashed with thought.
‘I made sure this was an alley people don’t use, who is it?’
For now, Yuri hid herself. But soon after, a familiar brown fur appeared in her sight.
When Yuri stepped out, frowning at the unexpected encounter, Leo was surprised and gasped out loud.
‘Now, why is this one here too?’
Leo didn’t know what to do so he just stood there looking flustered. But this was a good coincidence.
“Leo. Take this and go back first.”
Yuri gave Leo the glass box containing the ruin’s fragment. And just in case something happened, she used her thread to attached it to Leo like a necklace.
Leo was confused.
‘Eh? I thought she’d scold me?’
But Yuri did not get angry. That was the only thing important to Leo.
Leo’s eyes shone and he puffed out his chest as though telling her to trust him. Seeing Leo like this, Yuri stroked his head.
“It’s dangerous so be careful not to get caught by anyone.”
“See you later then.”
And so, the two of them split up in that dark alley.
* * *
When Anne-Marie and Hestia arrived at the clock tower, Yuri was already there.
“Hello, Anne-Marie. Hi, Hestia.”
“Hello, Yuri unni.”
Hestia was somewhat downcast after getting scolded by Anne-Marie. Anne-Marie apologized to Yuri, looking quite sorry.
“I’m sorry. I tried to arrive earlier, but something came up in the middle so I’m a little late.”
“No, it’s alright. I just came too.”
Anne-Marie unconsciously examined Yuri’s appearance. However, Yuri was looking very different from when she had the white mask on.
Moreover, the white masked person had even disappeared in the opposite direction, so Anne-Marie concluded it was ridiculous idea to think Yuri was somehow similar to the white masked individual.
Once again, sparks exploded in the night sky. Yuri lifted her head to look at it and began to talk.
“The fireworks have already begun.”
After hearing that, Anne-Marie and Hestia looked up at the night sky too.
“It really is. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Both sisters were struck with admiration.
Earlier, Anne-Marie’s mind was in a frenzy plus she had to hurry to the clock tower so she couldn’t properly admire the fireworks exploding over her head. She had heard they were made by the eastern alchemists, but the colorfully exploding fireworks were really amazing.
“Ms. Yuri, thank you for coming today.”
Yuri turned at the voice that suddenly came from her side and found Anne-Marie smiling her brightest smile so far.
“Honestly, it’s been a long time since I had someone I could call a friend, so I really want to come to this festival with Ms. Yuri.”
Yuri suddenly felt a little sour.
It was easy to imagine. Anne-Marie must have been hunted everywhere by creditors after her father’s death so she couldn’t settle down and had to move from place to place. Although Yuri was the same as Anne-Marie in her lack of friends, Yuri felt an inkling of sadness for Anne-Marie.
“I’m also thankful you invited me along, Ms. Anne-Marie. If not for you, I would have almost missed this scene.”
Afterwards, the three of them walked down the streets of the festival together.
Honestly, Yuri didn’t have much fun doing this kind of this. But when she saw the sisters enjoying themselves, she felt it wasn’t too bad to spend time like this sometimes.
“I’ll be distributing flowers starting now! Please come here if you’re participating!”
After some time passed, people carrying flowers baskets began to appear in the square, one after the other. They were festival managers who came to decorate the end of the spring festival for the flower exchange ceremony.
To sum it up in a few words, the ‘flower exchange ceremony’ was a cliché event for young people to meet up. Holding a flower was the same as stating your desire to participate in the event.
The details of the event was also simple.
Starting now, you could talk to someone who caught your eye for a certain amount of time and if you wanted, you could go up to the stage to show off your charms, whether it was by singing or some other talent. And then finally, if there was someone who made you go, ‘this is the one’, you could hand them the flower you were holding.
At the end of the ‘flower exchange ceremony’, the person who got the most flowers was awarded the title of this year’s ‘Flower King’ and they were also presented a prize.
‘Ugh, the title ‘Flower King’ is just…how tacky.’
“I hate to cut this short but it’s late. Shall we start heading back?”(Yuri)
Yuri and Anne-Marie scathingly turned away from the square. Neither of them seemed interested in such an event so they decided it was about time to head home. Above all, Hestia was looking sleepy. When Yuri checked the time on the clock tower, it was indeed the usual bedtime for children.
“Yeah. I think that’s a good idea.”(Anne-Marie)
Just when they were about to leave the square, someone blocked their way.
A sing-song voice with a strange accent reached Yuri’s ears. It sounded oddly familiar, causing Yuri to frown slightly.
The person who appeared in front of them was a man wearing a frog mask. Yuri couldn’t see his face, but he was tall with a sturdy-looking body. Most of all, he was in fancy clothing, so he stood out.
Suddenly, she recalled Damon Salvatore, whom she saw at the auction house. But the person she was facing right now had red hair and a different physique and attire from Damon Salvatore.
“Do you know him?”
Anne-Marie whispered to Yuri. Apparently, Anne-Marie didn’t know who it was.
Yuri began to reply but trailed off at the end. She was definitely getting a sense of déjà vu.
That tone, that physique.
Why did they remind her of a certain regular customer at her coffeehouse?
Of course, there was a huge difference in their overall appearance but that wasn’t the important thing here….
Was this because she met Damon Salvatore, one of the sub male-lead today?
At the thought, she suddenly grew very suspicious.
The man had red hair and she could see purple eyes beyond the hole of the frog mask. Furthermore, even though there wasn’t such an episode in the novel, at this important moment which you could call the final highlight of this spring festival, he blocked the heroine’s path with such confidence.
The man held a rose which was handed out earlier in the square.
Oho, he probably planned to give it to Anne-Marie.
“Can I help you?”
But Anne-Marie kindly asked as if she hadn’t seen the flower. From her tone, it seemed she thought the man might want to ask for directions.
“I want to give this flower to the most beautiful one here.”
The man spoke with mirth in his voice. He had a talent of making something that would sound cringy from anyone else, seem refreshing. And the next instant, the frog masked man held out his flower like he was putting on a show.
“I think the red rose will suit you well.”
Yuri, who had already prepared her mind to spectate, paused.
“…you mean me?”
The person the man held out the rose to, wasn’t Anne-Marie but Yuri.
By the side, Anne-Marie and Hestia’s expressions were very similar as their eyes lit up.
Yuri opened her mouth to refuse. She didn’t even participate in the flower exchange and even if she did, there was no reason why she should accept this kind of this.
But suddenly, the rose in front of her increased to two.
The man lightly waved his hand and this time, it increased to three. At this curious sight, the people around, including Anne-Marie and Hestia, looked at the man with wide eyes.
The number of roses continued to grow in the man’s hand and soon, it was a complete bouquet.
Somehow, Yuri felt the man was smiling mischievously under his mask.
Right after, the man threw the rose bouquet above his head. It turned into a vast number of glimmering petals in the blink of an eye and scattered over the plaza with a flourish. It was a magical sight.
People cheered and applauded. It seemed people were now thinking of the man as someone on the events committee for the flower festival because of his eccentric conduct.
Anne-Marie and Hestia were also enraptured by the sight of sparkling petals floating in the air. While people’s attention was drawn away, someone approached Yuri. And the next moment, a feathery touch reached her head.
Yuri paused upon seeing the frog mask which had drawn close to her. Soon after achieving his objective, the man stepped back and once again, waved his arm like an actor on stage.
“Well then, I wish you a wonderful evening.”
Then he disappeared in the midst of gorgeously fluttering petals.
Yuri lifted her hand, and lightly tapped where the man’s hand had brushed past her ear. And as she expected, she felt the texture of a petal.