Lazer looked at the girl’s outstretched hand hesitantly, not sure if he should extend his to meet it.

“Then you…”

“I will not leave the Juan family,” answered the girl, seemingly to have guessed what he was going to ask. “Your proposal is very attractive, but that is not what I want. Even if I do end up living in a safe place, I will not be happy. I will always be thinking about Diana and the throne war.”

He stared at the girl, obviously dissatisfied with her answer.

“I have my dreams and want to make the kingdom a better place. I hope that you can understand how I feel. I have made up my mind and will not change it no matter what.” She continued to express her thoughts candidly. Having finally understood what type of person Lazer was, she was no longer afraid of him, and felt that the attitude she had adopted might actually be the appropriate one when talking to him.

They stared at each other for a while. Then, he struggled awkwardly for a few seconds before reluctantly holding her hand.

“We will go back and continue our training,” he said, rather unwillingly.

She smiled happily.

“—Yes, teacher.”

Her last ounce of suspicion had evaporated, and she realized that she had wanted this too.

Holding his hand, she felt as refreshed as ever, just like the sky above them when they departed from the port.

They walked along a cloudless, dustless desert road, accentuated by a few rising stars at dusk, enjoying the cool breeze on their way back to the Juan family home.

He had not let go of her hand the whole time, which made her realize that his hand was, is, and always will be, there to warm her.

As she looked at his determined figure, she felt the rough blisters and scabs between her knuckles. Perhaps that would have been what her father’s hand felt like had she had a normal family and father. Perhaps that would have been what her father’s hand felt like had he held her hand when she was still learning how to talk, on her way home from work, on her way to festivals, and watching the stars disappear at night in bed…

Overcome by a sense of poignancy, she rubbed her nose to prevent Lazer from noticing it.

She grabbed his hand tighter.

It was a rare moment of peace for her. There was no one else around in the boundless environment and it felt as if they had temporarily possessed the world. Their footprints were preserved in the yellow sand.

Two beings—one without an identity and one with sins—who were not accepted by the world were quietly embraced by the boundless environment. Had it been up to her, she would have chosen to end her life now, holding his hand and enjoying this gentle warmth that she had hardly ever been exposed to.

She was afraid that this might be the only happy and peaceful moment that she would ever get to have.

“Why are you crying?” asked Lazer, detecting her reaction even with his back facing her.

“It’s nothing.”

“Tell me.”

She turned her head and groaned, scared to tell him her true thoughts.