Chapter 21: The Store Has Changed
“How come this is…”
Olivia is standing in front of a small store on a narrow street.
The paint is peeling and discolored, and some walls crumble.
The windows are rusted shut, and you can see things on the floor and shelves scattered through the faded curtains.
The dust is so thick that you can see it from the outside.
Olivia is too shocked to speak, and Elliot, grimacing, holds her in his arms as if to comfort her.
Looking around, he notices a bakery diagonally across the street.
“I believe you mentioned a baker who treated you well. So they’re certain to know what happened.”
“…Yes, I know. I’ll ask her.”
Olivia comes to her senses and goes to the bakery, adjusting to the fact that everything has changed.
(I thought they only stopped dealing with anything other than lamps.
But I never expected it to be abandoned either.)
This is clearly an unusual circumstance.
(What on earth happened?)
Olivia walks through the door of the bakery that Elliot opened for her and sees a familiar face inside.
“Welcome—The cream bagels are hot out of the oven.”
A woman extends a warm greeting to both of them.
She looks at Olivia for a moment before returning to the counter, a surprised expression on her face.
“You’re Olivia! How have you been?! I’ve been worried sick about you!”
Olivia hugged her, and the woman patted her on the head.
“I’m glad you’re safe—everyone was worried.”
“… I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine. It’s all right, and you’re safe now. Here. Wipe your tears with this. You’re all clean, but you’ll be in shambles once more if you cry.”
As Olivia accepted the handkerchief and wiped her tears, Elliot inquired on her behalf.
“Can you tell me what happened at the Carter’s Great Magic Tools Store?”
The woman sighed.
“It’s exactly as you see it. After Olivia left, it was only open for about a year. Some people used to come here looking for Olivia, but with the way the store is now, I guess they gave up.”
“I see.” Elliot thanks the owner and buys a freshly baked cream bagel, a strawberry Danish, and an apple pie before leaving the store.
Elliot opened his mouth as he supported Olivia as she walked unsteadily.
“Why don’t we go somewhere and have a little chat—we have some tea prepared by the hotel, so let’s have a quick lunch.”
“… I guess so. Let’s do that. There’s a garden outside the town; we can go there.”
Olivia manages to reply.
The situation is so unexpected that she is at a loss for words.
They get into the carriage and take a short ride.
They arrive in front of a large hillside garden.
“This is quite large. Does that look like the State Guest House?”
“Yes—I heard some foreign dignitaries used to stay here. The reason it’s open to the public is to show off the connection between the lord and the great men.”
Erik laughs at this straightforward explanation.
Elliot requests the carriage wait for them, and they enter the gardens with a food basket.
They walk past the blossoming trees and admire the spring flowers that are just starting to bloom.
Then they went into a little high bower, and Elliot let out an involuntary yelp.
“It’s a nice view. You have a panoramic view of the town, don’t you?”
“Yes. You can even see the big mountains over there when the weather is nice.”
Olivia squinted as she gazed down at the town of Daregas below.
It reminds her of her parents’ visits and makes her feel a little better.
They sit next to each other on a bench in the gazebo and start eating the bread they bought while admiring the view.
“Delicious! Oba-chan’s bread is delectable! She used to always bring it to me.”
“This Danish is appealing to me.”
She then finished her bread. Finally, she sipped tea from a bottle she had brought from the hotel.
Olivia muttered something to herself.
“…I knew… the designs would not work in the long run. I just knew…”
“Why is that?”
“The designs I drew were popular at the time. However, trends can shift in six months and look completely different in a year.”
Olivia had anticipated it.
Stolen? The design book would only be good for a year.
“But there was already a lot of work in the magic tool store. Many people had been using our lamps for a long time, and we had done a lot of maintenance on them. Then there’s the aristocratic work that my uncle brings in. So I assumed the store would continue, even if the format changed.”
The magic store is stable with customers.
So she thought that the store would still operate normally even if the magical stone jewelry were no longer available.
“However, I never imagined it would come to this…”
Olivia slumps her shoulders in disappointment, feeling guilty because she thinks the store would be in better shape if she had been more patient and worked harder.
Elliot gives her a gentle hug on the shoulder.
“Olivia has worked hard enough. Generally, she quits before being fired.”
“…But everything has gone so wrong.”
Olivia turns around, her hands covering her face.
Elliot gives her a regretful look, exhales slightly, and mutters quietly.
“…Would you like to take it back?”
Olivia raises her head in response to these unexpected words.
“I can do it. If you so desire.”
Elliot gives her the most piercing stare she’s ever seen.
She casts a downward glance.
(If you’re wondering if I want it back, the answer is yes. I wish I could fly to the store right now and polish it.)
Elliot’s Dixx Trading Company is a massive conglomerate.
He’ll get it back, without a doubt.
(… But this is something I’ll have to figure out for myself.)
It was three years ago. She had no idea what was happening and was shocked when the store was taken away from her.
(There must be something I can do right now.)
She exhales slightly and smiles gratefully at Elliot.
“Thank you very much, Elliot. But you know what? I want to give it my all. I didn’t know what I was doing back then and was beaten up, but I think I can do something about it now.”
Elliot’s expression softened.
“…I know. You were that kind of person. But you’ll have to take it easy and talk to me about it first.”
Elliot strokes her hair while lovingly narrowing his eyes.
Olivia leans against him and closes her eyes in response to his reassuring touch, and after a brief moment. Olivia’s blue eyes meet his.
“…Elliot, could you please remove your glasses?”
The words came out more naturally than thoughtfully.
Elliot is taken aback by Olivia’s sudden request.
After a moment’s hesitation, he slowly takes off his glasses.
His eyes were as clear as an amethyst.
The strength and beauty of his face, which was hidden by the spectacles, were unmistakably striking.
Elliot’s eyes narrow when he notices Olivia blushing.
His purple eyes are feverish.
They’ve gotten closer in the blink of an eye.
The next thing she knew, Olivia found herself embraced by two strong arms.
Elliot says nothing but wraps his arms around her gently.
The beating heart, his or her own.
(… This is strange. I’m nervous, but I’m not afraid.)
Olivia leans her cheek against his broad chest.
Elliot’s warmth envelops her as she gently closes her eyes.
Lovingly, Elliot rains a kiss on Olivia’s forehead.
Afterward, the two share the warmth and gaze at the beautiful landscape.
And hand in hand, they slowly walked back to the carriage.
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