After tucking Rebecca in, I pivot on my heel to look back at Gilles.
“Why are you grinning at me like that Gross.”
“Calling me gross… How rude.”
“Well What’s the reason”
“Gilles, you were given the green light to be able to attend the magic academy.
They’re letting you come with me as my attendant.”
Gilles’s shoulders stiffen as he stares at me.
Is that a good sign If you don’t give me more of a reaction to go off of, I won’t be able to tell if you’re happy about this or not.
get out of here”
I notice tears spring to his eyes.
“With this, I’ve fulfilled my promise.
Now we just need to discuss how you’ll be living from– Oof!”
Before I could finish speaking, Gilles flings himself at me.
He wraps his small arms around me and clings to me with his shoulders shaking.
That surprised me.
At a time like this, how am I supposed to react Since I’ve never encountered a situation like this before, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.
I shoot an unsure glance in Grandpa Will’s direction.
He doesn’t say anything.
He just slowly nods his head and gives me an encouraging smile.
I guess I should just appreciate the moment.
It’s not bad at all having someone hug me like this.
I hesitantly place my arms around Gilles, gently returning his embrace.
Holding on to his tiny, trembling form, I can’t help but feel a warmth spread over me.
He’s such a good child.
It should be fine for a villainess to have these sorts of feelings every once in a while.
I’m not sure if the crying zapped the rest of his energy after what happened earlier or what, but after a few minutes like this I notice that he has fallen asleep.
Glancing down at his face, I notice that his eyes look quite puffy.
He must have cried a good deal.
I affectionately pat Gilles’s head and then turn to look at Grandpa Will.
It’s time to address the most important topic at hand.
“Grandpa Will, have you ever thought about wanting to return to the royal palace”
The moment he hears the words, “royal palace” his face hardens, turning unreadable.
I may have forced him to recall some painful memories, but I need to ask.
Because, if it’s in my power to allow him to work there again, I want to help him as much as I can.
And even if it’s not the most pleasant idea to him, if possible I’d like him to be able to utilize his knowledge and wisdom for the sake of this country.
I don’t want to let such a talented and intelligent person like Grandpa Will let his abilities go to waste in a dump like this.
So I’ll return him to his rightful place no matter what.
I realize that I’ve been overestimating myself recently, but this is one thing that I won’t yield on.
I’ll keep working until I can see Grandpa Will standing proudly within the gates of the royal palace.
no longer want to return.”
“Alicia, the moment you tasked Rebecca with being the savior of this village, I realized something.
I want to see just how much this wretched place can change.
So I want to stay here to be able to witness it with my own eyes.
Well, figuratively speaking of course.”
Saying that, Grandpa Will smiles and the expression lights up his whole face, crinkling the corners of his eyes.
So it was my own words and actions that made him no longer want to return What should I do This is all my fault.
“Alicia, don’t blame yourself.”
He was able to read my deepest feelings like an open book.
How does he always know what I’m thinking
“Alicia, do you know how happy it makes me that you are trying this hard for me But for just as much as you want to help me, I have a wish to help this village rebuild and live to see a better tomorrow.”
“No, you’re wrong.
Don’t try to romanticize my actions.
My motives aren’t pure.
I only ever move for my own perceived profit.
The real reason that I want you to be able to return to the royal palace is because I want to make use of your wisdom there.”
Giving people hope and doing things for their sakes has never been my intention.
That’s not part of a villainess’s job description.
“Then why are you so unhappy at the thought of leaving me behind here” Grandpa Will asks, attacking the weakness in my argument.
He’s not giving me even an inch of wiggle room.
“There’s no need for me to go to the palace.
You can just come here when you need advice and then pass it off as your own wisdom and knowledge when relaying it at the palace, can you not”
“No! I can’t! I don’t ever want to use those sorts of despicable and cowardly methods! I can’t pass someone else’s hard work off as my own!”
Without meaning to, I ended up raising my voice.
“If I ever do that, then I’ll no longer be human.
Only a disgusting rat would stoop that low.”
Grandpa Will pats my head gently as he always does and the turmoil in my heart quickly quiets down.
“Alicia, I’ll be here.”
Although I didn’t see his expression as he said this, Grandpa Will’s words strike me to the core.
They leave a lasting sense of comfort and relief and confidence in me.
My emotions have truly been all over the place today….
As a villainess, it seems I still have a long way to go.
“I’m sorry for trying to force my own egotistical values onto you,” I say, bowing my head deeply.
This is something that a villainess would never do.
I’m acutely aware of that fact and yet….
Grandpa Will is my sole supporter.
He’s the only one who I have been completely honest with and who has accepted me entirely.
I don’t want to lose him.
I’ve already utterly failed at being a villainess today.
So there’s no point in worrying about something like bowing my head at this point when something even more vital is at stake.
But, this is only for today.
This will be the last time that I’ll ever bow my head to someone else like this.
I put the vial that Father had given me up to Gilles’s lips and pour the light pink liquid into his mouth.
I would feel bad waking him up, so I just tilt his head back and make sure that he swallows all of its contents before I pick him up and head towards the door.
If he was awake, I’m sure he would have hated every second of this.
He’d consider it demoralizing for a boy like him to be held in a princess carry, but what can I do This is the safest method of transport.
I take out the macarons that I had brought for Gilles and pass them over to Grandpa Will.
“Please share these with Rebecca this time.”
“Thanks you,” Grandpa Will says, smiling warmly at me.
“I think everyone should be sleeping again by now, but just in case, make sure to wear this,” he continues, wrapping my now tattered cloak around me.
I give him a small bow and then I leave the house.
The moment I walk out the door, I see all the inhabitants who had been chasing after us asleep on the ground.
And I mean all…. Not one person is awake.
If it was me, I definitely would have had at least someone stay awake at all times to keep watch….
So as not to wake any of them up, I carry Gilles and weave my way around them as quietly as I can.
I head towards the wall of fog and then out into the woods.