“So you are awake.” Titania tilted her head slightly and said, “You could have answered instead of walking over to greet me.”
I shut the door behind me before Titania could peer inside. After that, I shrugged and said, “I’m still recovering. It wouldn’t do me any good to sit around.”
There was a small basket in Titania’s right hand, lightly wrapped with a silk cloth. From the savory scent drifting out of it, that seemed to be the breakfast that Xinxin told Titania to get.
It was an excuse to delay the confrontation between the sisters, but I had to admit that I did feel a bit hungry after smelling that. And considering the headache that was forming from my recent realizations, let alone my current situation, food sounded like a good plan.
Titania raised an eyebrow, giving me a once over. “Hm. I suppose you do seem fairly weak at the moment… It wouldn’t do for you to be moving about like this. Well, I suppose that is the reason why Master Xinxin told me to tend to you.”
I blinked, suddenly struck by a sense of déjà vu.
A brief memory, a flash of a scene from another time. The same woman, but softer, more naïve. Playfully teasing, hiding her feelings and bearing the loneliness beneath a professional façade.
I blinked again and realized that I was clutching my forehead.
Titania furrowed her brows and then said, “Is something wrong?”
“Just… lost in thought.”
Titania sighed. “As inscrutable as ever. But I suppose that’s inevitable. After all, I can hardly even guess what goes on inside Master Xinxin’s head half the time.”
“Is that so?” I gave a half-hearted response. Internally though, I approved of that fact. It seemed that my dear disciple had picked up something useful after all.
Titania shrugged and then held up the bag in her right hand. “In any case, I brought you some breakfast.” She glanced at the closed door and said, “Since you and Master Xinxin appear to be doing something important inside… should we eat by the pond?”
I started to nod, but then stopped when I noticed her words. I turned to look at her and then said, “We?”
Titania rolled her eyes and said, “Yes. ‘We’… Unless you find me so irksome to be with that you’d rather eat alone?”
“Of course not.” I gave her a slim smile and said, “Even if I did, I wouldn’t be rude enough to damage my dear disciple’s personal belonging.”
Titania blinked, confusion written across her face. But then she narrowed her eyes and said, “So you think I am that fragile, do you? That I would be affected by your mere words?”
Considering how she ended up, the honest answer was ‘yes’. Of course, that would lead to more trouble than it was worth, so I simply shrugged and started walking towards the back.
Titania let out an exasperated sigh and walked beside me. “Truly infuriating… I don’t see how someone like you was held in such high esteem by Master Xinxin and my sister.”
I glanced over towards her and said, “If you ever find out, tell me. I’m still not sure why those two got wrapped up with a no-good guy like me.”
Titania looked amused and said, “So you have a conscience after all.”
“It’s in pieces, but I do have a semblance of it left, yes. Otherwise you wouldn’t be standing there right now.”
The elf snorted and tossed her head, causing her honey-colored hair to shift in the wind before going silent.
I ignored her for the moment and continued on my way to the back.
The morning light reflected on the tranquil pond’s surface when we arrived, giving it a soft and peaceful air. Unlike last night, a table stood by the edge of the pond, along with a pair of chairs. It seemed like Xinxin had prepared it before she left.
I shook my head. That disciple of mine, always doing these unnecessary things… But it was touching, so I didn’t reject it.
Titania walked ahead of me and then placed the basket of food on the table. After that, she went about unpacking it and preparing for the meal.
Seeing as she had that covered, I walked over and took the seat opposite of her. As I did, I carefully examined Titania.
She seemed the same as ever. Although her outfit was different today, a loose-fitting violet dress with a white sash, the cold and brusque demeanor she carried hadn’t changed.
From that, it was clear that Xinxin hadn’t told her about me resurrecting Aria.
Although Titania had become cold and jaded from her experiences, especially from ending her sister’s life with her own hands, she was still the same person at her core as the one in the other timeline.
As a result, there was no way she could be this nonchalant about setting up breakfast and even having that idle banter with me if she knew.
But that caused a problem.
…How was I supposed to resolve this situation and inform Titania? Should I even do so?
Unlike Aria, the elven princess in front of me was an unknown quantity.
I knew a bit about her from our interactions and even more from the shared memories of that alternate timeline with my remnant, but it was far from enough to predict her reaction to that particular news.
Would Titania be happy? Angry? Guilty?
I wasn’t sure, and I wasn’t in a position to test things out to ensure the result I wanted.
A soft clatter echoed, the sound of wood striking wood.
I blinked and then realized that Titania had finished setting up while I was lost in thought.
A steaming wooden cup was placed off to my right. From the flowery scent, it seemed to be tea. Next to that, and directly in front of me, there was a small assortment of dishes. Rice, noodles, dumplings, and even some fluffy white steam buns.
“…Thanks.” I briefly nodded towards Titania and then took a sip from my tea cup.
Titania nodded back and then took a sip from her own tea cup before serving herself a bowl of rice and some dumplings.
Seeing that reminded me of the last time we shared a meal. Specifically, it reminded me of the failed attempt at trying to learn more about her. Now that the account with my dear disciple had been settled and I would be stuck here focusing on recovering, wasn’t this a perfect opportunity?
Not to mention the fact that it would be a good way to get information to gauge how she would react to the news of Aria being alive again.
After realizing that, I nodded and opened my mouth to speak. But before I could say anything, Titania spoke up.
“You… Nowun.” Titania set down her cup of tea and then said, “Are you well?”
I blinked, caught off guard for a moment at the sudden question. But only a moment. In the next, I raised my eyebrow and said, “I didn’t take you for the considerate type, Titania. At least, not concerning me.”
Titania shook her head. “It will be… troublesome if Master Xinxin is distracted because of your injuries.”
“Troublesome, is it?” I swirled my tea a bit and then said, “Seems like you’re quite loyal to your Master.”
“Of course.” Titania gave an immediate response and said, “If not, I would not be calling her as such.”
It made sense. Considering what Titania went through, even if she was enslaved or a servant, she would never willingly address a human as a Master. And yet she went out of her way to call Xinxin that.
It made me wonder exactly what the two had gone through to get so close… especially seeing as my dear disciple called her ‘Nia’ instead of Titania.
“In any case,” Titania said. “You did not answer my question.” She frowned and stared at me, as if trying to see through my clothes to any hidden injuries.
“Don’t worry.” I grabbed a dumpling and ate it before saying, “I’m not the type to hide when I’m injured.”
Mostly because any injuries would be erased when time was reset. But that was neither here nor there.
“Anyway…” I poured myself a bit more tea and said, “Since we’re here, should we continue our conversation from last time?”
“Hm?” Titania frowned and then gave me a dry smile. “Ah yes. Do you mean when you so rudely departed in the middle of our meal after asking about myself?”
“Hey.” I took a bite from a steam bun and said, “I told you that the conversation was meaningless if you wouldn’t talk. And at the time you weren’t talking.”
Titania crossed her arms. “That was your assumption. I was simply… gathering my thoughts at the time.”
“Whatever you say, honey buns.”
Titania scoffed and then shook her head. “Ever so infuriating… But I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to become more familiar with each other.”
I nodded. “True. Better to break the ice now then later.”
Titania gestured towards me with her tea cup and said, “Well go on. It’s only polite that the man introduces himself to the maiden, is it not?”
Titania narrowed her eyes.
I held up my hand. “Fine, fine.” I paused and said, “…What do you want to know.”
Titania stared at me for a moment, a strange expression in her eyes. After a while, she said, “You… Do you have an older brother?”