I shut my mouth abruptly, cutting off the scream and I slowly open my tightly closed eyes. That voice...How could I not recognize that voice? I turn around and raise my head to meet a familiar set of eyes. His somewhat pained expression softens, he removes his hands from his ears and he looks at me up and down. “...Why did you shout all of a sudden?”
He looks past me and glances around the room before returning his gaze to me. “Did I scare you?”
I unfreeze and turn back to look at the picture. “Ha.” I let out a laugh in disbelief when I find nothing. Seriously, did it have to disappear right when Ryou entered? Now I can’t even say anything. Who would believe me? Who would believe such an absurd thing? Ryou must have not seen anything. I turn back to look at Ryou.
“How did you find me?” I pat my chest over my clothes. That gave me a scare? Just what was that?
He looks at my hand on my chest, “... I should have called you out.”
“You should have.”
“...I asked some people they saw you coming this way so I followed the direction they pointed at. Why didn’t you stay in the room?”
“I don’t want to stay in a room with a dead body. I didn’t even know anyone there, what would I have done alone?” I look back at the picture once again. There is really nothing there anymore. Was I imagining that? I try to think of the possibility but quickly shake my head at the thought. No, I am sure what I saw was not my imagination.
“Have you been to this room before? You have come to Safan’s house before, right?”
He looks around the room once again, “No, I have never been to this room. It looks like a gallery. How did you find this?” He walks past me and enters the room. I watch as he stops before the photo frames. I walk up to him and stop beside him. “I found it by chance.”
I glance at him before clearing my throat, “By the way...do you know whose photo is that?” I tug at his sleeve and point at the photo on the opposite side.
His answer comes immediately as soon as he faces the opposite side, “Of course I know that photo. It’s the photo of the first Extander recorded in history. He is pretty popular. Why wouldn’t I know him?”
I look back and forth between Ryou and the photo. “The...first Extander? Are you sure?... Then, which one is it? The one on the left or right?”
“The one on the left. I don’t know about the man on the other side, he could be a friend.”
“Oh.” I nod absentmindedly before turning around walking out of the room. If it was a photo of an Extander I am sure I can find more information about him and the person beside him. Should I visit a library tomorrow? The sound of footsteps behind me catches my attention and not even a second later I find Ryou matching his pace with mine.
None of us makes effort to hold a conversation and continue walking in silence. The noise from the hall breaks the pin-drop silence between us as soon as we near the hall. “Ada wants you to take part in the investigation.”
I come to a sudden halt, “What? Why so suddenly?” I can’t manage to control the shock in my voice.
“I don’t know. I am only following my orders. Ask her.” He shrugs without stopping his tracks. “..Forget it.” I grumble under my breath and increase my pace and walk past him to walk out of the hallway. But soon I throw my plan out of the window when the sound of the head butler reaches my ear and I involuntarily slow down my pace.
“..... was already dead. He usually spends his time in his bedroom so I found it unusual when I did not find him in his bedroom. I always serve his coffee in the morning in his bedroom.”
I hear the sound of scribbling on the paper followed by a question, “When did you last see him before you saw his body?”
Mr. Kang’s figure comes into my sight once I exit the hallway and I find him questioning the head butler while standing beside the exit to the hallway. “Around 8:45, he asked me for a glass of water. He was already in the living room by then, he was busy reading a book as usual.”
I walk past them before I could hear the next question. Walking up to the entrance of the mansion, I throw a glance back at Ryou but my gaze moves to the head butler who is still standing at his previous place now that Kang had left him alone. I stare at him for a minute. Should I go?
“Nadya...Nadya, are you listening to me?”
I pat Ryou’s shoulder, “Yes, I am listening. Wait for me here for a minute, I will be right back.” I walk to the head butler without giving him time to stop him.
“Excuse me, you just said you saw Safan reading a book last time you saw him, so do you remember the name of the book he was reading or anything in the book?”
“I don’t remember its name but I remember the book had navy blue book hardcover and it has golden designs on it.”
“Thank you, ah, and one more thing...was the AC on when you went to give him his glass of water?”
He shakes his head, “No, Safan didn't like turning on AC at night and it wasn’t on that time as well. I remember it perfectly.”
“I see, thank you very much.” I flash him a polite smile and turn around to go back to Ryou, who is still waiting for me near the entrance. He turns to leave as well when he sees me coming his way. “Is your work here done? Can we go back now?” I ask as I open the door and let myself sit in the passenger seat.
“I just came to look at the situation. We can go back but Ada wants you to take part in the case so we will be coming back soon.” He puts on his seatbelt and starts the car.
That must be why she especially asked Ryou to bring me with him. But I can’t understand why does she want me to take part? What good it would do? I just joined the organization, I don’t even know how all this works. Does she want me to gain experience by this? But isn’t this too big of a case?
“Stop overthinking.” I look away from the window on hearing Ryou’s voice, “She must want to gain experience. There will be many cases like this in the future. Or she might want you to form connections.”
“If that’s what she wants...does she help everyone like this?”
“No” Ryou meets my eye for a second before turning back to the road.
“Then why would she help me?” It’s not like I am any special. I haven’t even talked to her after shifting to Ryou’s house. Why would she help me especially? It doesn’t make sense. “You can try asking her the reason but I don’t think she will answer.”
“Are you alright, Nadya?”
I blink and look up at worried Finlay.“I am okay. Why?”
“You have not eaten anything. Don’t you like noodles? I thought it was your favorite.”
I look back at the fork in my hand and the uneaten food. I wet my lips and give him a reassuring smile, “I just...I am full. I am sorry, I don’t feel like eating anything more today.” I push away the plate before standing up. “I am tired I will go to sleep. Goodnight.” I purposely don’t Ryou’s way because I am aware of his heated stare. I can almost feel it burning my skin.
Quickly walking back to my room, I change into a long nightshirt which reaches my mid-thigh. I turn on the computer when there is a knock on the door. I stop midway reaching for the mouse and glance at the door. Didn’t I tell them I am going to sleep?
Ryou pushes the open with his arm and it is then I notice what is in his hands. Hot chocolate and donuts. I look at his face as he closes the door with his back. He must be getting ready to go to bed since he has already changed to his nightwear and is wearing his reading glasses. He must be reading a book in the library before he came here.
“Weren’t you getting ready to go to bed?”
“I am,” I answer while keeping eye contact. He looks away and smirks before looking back at him while stepping closer. “Really? Then why did you turn on your computer?” He points behind me with his chin. I follow his gaze and look at the computer before standing in front of it. “I was going to check my mail.”
“With your computer? But, don’t you check your mail with your phone? I have seen you do that multiple times.” He stops in front of me and waits for my answer.
“Can’t I do it with my computer? I felt like it, what is wrong with that?” I raise my chin involuntarily on seeing the look he is giving him.
“I never said anything wrong with that.” He steps to the right and places the plate and mug on the desk behind me before looking back at me. “Why are you getting defensive? And why did you lie before?”
“I am not getting defensive. When did I lie? What are you talking about?”
He takes another step forward. I quickly take a step back. Why is he getting so close? “Didn’t you lie to Finlay about having already eaten? You didn’t have anything after breakfast, why did you lie?”
“I just didn’t want to make him worried. I don’t like feeling eating today.” I look at our feet which are almost touching.
“...What happened in the gallery before I came?”
I look up with a jerk. “What? Why are you so shocked? Did you think I wouldn’t figure it out? You have been in a daze since we came back from there, how could I not have figured out?” He grabs my arms and pushes me back till my waist bumps against the desk. “What happened there, Nadya? What did you see?”
I take in a deep breath and look away, “Nothing. It’s not like you will believe what I tell you.”
“That’s for me to decide. How would you know about my opinion without even asking me?” He searches my face for an answer when I don’t say anything in return. I raise my hand and push his chest lightly but he doesn’t budge an inch. “I don’t want to talk about it. Can we talk some other day?” I don’t meet his eyes while waiting for him to say something. I still can’t digest what I saw today so I could tell him something I don’t believe myself. I need time.
His grip on me tightens, he squeezes me before releasing me and taking a step back. He puts his hands in his pockets and releases a sigh, “Okay. I will wait for you. You can talk to me when you feel like...I will be waiting for you.”
“...I will sleep in the living room tonight.” I don’t want to sleep alone. I already know I will not be getting any sleep if I stay alone today. Though I want to stay in Ryou’s or Finlay’s room I know that would be too much to ask.
He stares at me for a few seconds before opening his mouth, “Do you want to stay in my room?”
“Then where would you stay?” If I will be sleeping alone in his room then that would beat the purpose.
“I will sleep on the sofa. You can take the bed. Are you alright with the arrangement?”
“...Then come down once you are done with whatever you are doing and make sure to finish the donuts and hot chocolate.” He walks out of the room, leaving me alone.
After finishing hot chocolate and putting the plate and mug back in the kitchen, I go to Ryou's room. I knock at the door twice before pushing an open door. Ryou glances at me when I peek from behind the door and turn back to the book. "Come in and close the door."
I step in with some hesitation and lock the door. He must have sensed my hesitation because he gets down from the bed the next second and sits on the sofa, giving me some space. "I will sleep later, you can go sleep first."
Now I am sure he saying that just to make me comfortable. "Thanks." He can't even imagine just how grateful I am to him today. I get under the covers and lay down while looking at him. I close my eyes and try to stabilize my breathing. But his scent keeps on distracting me.
Why am I thinking about his scent when I should be sleeping? I turn the other way and pull my head under the cover.
"Should I turn off the lamp?"
I quickly pull off the cover and half-sit up, "No, no, don't, don't turn off the light." Ryou stops his hand midway on reaching the switch and pulls his hand back. "Okay, Goodnight then."
"Goodnight," I say back before laying down again and closing my eyes.