“My hometown, I’m back.”
After years of travel, Atlantis finally returned to his hometown, who became more weary before he had left. Staring at the olive tree on the route to his home, Atlantis had a flashback of holding Athena into his arms under the tree.
For a moment, he missed them.
“The past is in the past.”
Despite the thought, Atlantis’ body acted against his mind, approaching the tree step by step. While he was reaching a tree branch, a slim pale arm cut in and grasped the branch before he did. Too late to react, Atlantis’ hand already landed on her tenderness.
The shocked Atlantis traced the owner of the pale arm. What he saw was someone with shiny blond hair and a pair of emerald eyes. At that moment, he stopped breathing and his heart skipped a beat. Meanwhile, a word slipped out of his mouth.
“Huh? Athena? Oh, you’re right. Everybody said that this tree is Goddess Athena’s favorite,” said the blond girl with a heart-warming smile, shifting her glance at their contacting hands.
“I..I’m sorry.” Atlantis let go of the girl’s hand as he realized the inappropriateness.
Atlantis didn’t get to take a proper look at the girl until now. The girl was cute indeed, but she appeared to be different from Athena. Still, there was a moment that the girl had resembled Athena in his eyes.
“Ahaha, it’s okay. Right! Can you please pluck that branch for me?” The girl asked Atlantis sincerely for a favour as she pointed at a lush olive branch. Atlantis, who nodded, picked the branch with ease and handed it to her.
“Thanks. This branch is perfect. I gotta go back to work now, See you in a bit.”
After farewelling Atlantis, the girl picked up the flowers on the ground and left in a hurry.
“Atlantis, what’s wrong with you?”
Atlantis shook his head to lose the stray thought. Then he continued his way back home.
He sensed something off as soon as he stepped into the house.
When Atlantis rubbed the window ledge with his fingertip, not even a tiny dust could be found on his skin. How could his house stay clean after all these years he had left? Next second, he glimpsed at a bouquet on the dining table.
“Oh! I forgot it here after the chores this morning. No wonder I couldn’t find it in my house!” Someone spoke while coming into the house——the girl Atlantis had run into just before!
“Huh? You? Why are you here?” The girl spotted the presence of the confused Atlantis.
“...Because this is my home.”
“WHAT! Mr. House Owner, you’re finally home!”
The surprised voice of the girl echoed over the house, and she continued as if she had been waiting for a long time, “what a good timing for me to be here. Look, I’ve put all your belongings here.”
She started making Atlantis’ bed before he said anything.
Turned out it was this girl who had been cleaning his house all these years. She had been having the thought that the owner must be pleased once he returned to this clean and neat house.
“Thank you so much.”
A heart-moving warmth filled Atlantis as he had never expected that there was someone waiting for his return.
“You’re welcome. I read your books without your permission too although I don’t quite get them. Haha,” said the girl.
“Everyone has its own talent. See, you have a pair of crafting hands that can make beautiful bouquets. And that’s something I’m incapable of,” said Atlantis, handing the bouquet over to the girl.
“Thank you,” the girl replied with a lovely bright smile, as if getting praised by Atlantis was the sweetest blessing in the world.
“Although this is my job, I feel grateful to be a part of someone else’s joy when I make wedding bouquets.”
“I get you. I used to work hard for the betterment of everyone’s life.”
Yet the good old days were all gone.
For a second, there was a hint of woe in Atlantis’ gaze, but he concealed the feeling right away and reached his right hand to the girl.
“I’m Atlantis. Nice to meet you.” Atlantis gave a charming smile after inhaling deeply.
“Alright. I’m Minerva.” Minerva held back his hand enthusiastically.
Since then, Atlantis had regressed to a simple life. Living in the town, he often shared his knowledge acquired during the travel; Minerva would be his company from time to time.
One day, Minerva barged into Atlantis’ place in a thrill. She gave him no chance in refusal and dragged him out of the house.
“Come with me! The wedding I’ve been helping with is starting soon!” Minerva was super excited.
When Atlantis arrived at the wedding venue by Minerva’s drag, a group of ladies were gathering for the bouquet toss.
“The wedding bouquet represents joyfulness. The lore told that a lady who can catch the bouquet will be blessed by the bride’s joy,” Minerva explained to Atlantis.
The bouquet of blessing drew a perfect parabola in the air, landing on Atlantis’ hands who stood away from the crowd. Stunned at first, he then gave it to Minerva.
“Will the blessing be doubled if the bouquet returns to the crafter?” Atlantis asked.
Staring at the bouquet, Minerva blushed all over her face.
“...That means a marriage proposal when a man gives the wedding bouquet to a lady.”
“Huh? I...I’m sorry…” The blushing Atlantis scratched his cheek in awkwardness.
“None taken. I know you didn’t mean that. You’ve been away for too long to know this tradition…” Minerva mumbled, burying her face into the bouquet.
Just when Atlantis was worrying if Minerva would be out of breath, she lifted her head briskly, offering the bouquet back to Atlantis.
“But Atlantis, the days with you are the best time in my life...I...I’m in love with you!”
With her eyes closed, the shy Minerva spoke her thoughts out loud.
It had always been Atlantis’ wish to fall for an ordinary girl. Meanwhile, Minerva’s genuine confession somehow reminded him of Athena.
Minerva kept on as she saw the loving look on Atlantis, “I’ve been dreaming of you ever since we met...I dreamt of us working on blueprints, the image of you making essential oil and the scene of us chatting under the olive tree...Things that never happened but they felt so real. I believe that they must be our future.”
Atlantis quivered in shock.
“Those are the things I’ve been through with Athena. How did she know? ...Is it just a coincidence? Or is fate setting me up with her so that I can forget Athena? Will the long-bleeding wound be healed if I accept her love?”
While Atlantis was still processing a series of questions, words had already rushed out of his mouth.
“I’m sorry, Minerva. I’m already in love with someone else.
“I guess that’s why you were sad when you were looking at the olive tree…”
The traumatic refusal drove the tears out of Minerva’s eyes. Even so, she managed to pick herself up and encourage Atlantis with an authentic smile.
“It’s hard to fall for someone. If you love her, just confide your heart to her like I did.”
Something inside Atlantis was finally answered when he heard Minerva’s words. It had always been her. For all these years, she was always lingering in his heart. His wound might be healed if he had accepted Minerva, but the scar that contained the memories of her would always be there. Always.
“Even though I know it hurts, she has always been on my mind. My heart still races for her…”
As Atlantis had finally figured himself out, he farewelled Minerva, preparing to hit the road again. When he was passing by the olive tree, a shaky old man came over to talk.
“Young man, since you stop for this tree every day, let me tell you a miracle.”
“Athena the Goddess of Wisdom once lived in this town years ago, and she was separated with her lover because of the difference between a god and a human. When she lost her love, she cried under this tree before returning to heaven. However, her tears gave birth to a baby girl. Everyone just treats her as another orphan and no one believes in me!”
“Baby girl...Is she the one who sells bouquets…” Atlantis started questioning.
“Yes, the girl you gave the bouquet to!” The old man rubbed his chin.
Everything made sense to Atlantis now, which explained Minerva’s dreams about the memories between him and Athena.
“Athena...She fell in love with me, an inferior human being, regardless of her divine status, and all I gave in return was pushing her away…”
The realization had given a big hit to Atlantis’ soul, crushing him with immense heartache. He regretted, regretting not hearing Athena out; All he saw was nothing but an arrogant self in the past.
“I won’t hide from my true feelings anymore. Even if it takes me to travel every corner of the realm, I will find Athena and confide myself to her!”