17 Ch17. The name

Tom and the redhead enjoyed a heated kissing session for a few more minutes, ignoring the looks of the occasional onlookers who entered the balcony only to do a quick and awkward turnaround when they saw Tom embracing the petite woman and making out with her.

Neither Tom nor the woman cared one bit for these people and just continued doing their thing.

Ever so slowly, their making out started turning into swaying to the rhythm of the muffled music coming from inside, their kisses becoming more tender, slower, yet deeper.

Moments passed without the duo even realizing it, and their slow swaying quickened, turning into a slow dance-like movement around the balcony as their kissing slowly ceased, the two just enjoying the warmth of each other's embrace while moving along the music in companionable silence.

The woman's head rested on Tom's shoulder, snuggled into the crook of his neck. It took a while for her to get enough of the fluffy feeling swelling in her and decide to start a conversation again.

"So, what is a boy like you doing at an event like this?" She playfully whispered, her breath caressing Tom's neck, causing a pleasurable tingle to rush through his body.

Tom couldn't let her playfulness be unanswered. His hand slid a bit down from her lower back, and the woman jumped slightly in his arms as she felt a slight squeeze on her posterior, "Boy? Attacking my pride, aren't we?"

She regained her composure quite quickly, however. Despite the flush on her cheeks betraying her real feelings. "It's either that or attack your apparent lack of sexual experience. For all I know, you could very well be a virgin!" She teased.

Unfortunately, Tom was far too relaxed to fully control his reaction.

"Wait..." The redhead in his arms suddenly exclaimed as she felt her dancing partner stiffen when she... "Oh, my! You are a virgin!"

Her lips instantly quirked into a sensual and meaningful smile as her green eyes mischievously sparkled. She was about to quip a joke at Tom's expense but he got ahead of her and spoke first, ruining the best moment for some high-quality teasing for her.

"Yes, I still have mah cherry and am proud of it too, woman." Tom whispered into her ear, getting satisfaction from how she shivered in his arms as a result. He then kissed the side of her neck right under her ear, making her stifle a moan as he pulled a bit away, causing their half-lidded eyes to meet.

"Mhm, a-admirable attitude." The redhead tried to sound nonchalant but her voice cracked a bit, which prompted her to subconsciously bite her lips.

It was seductive enough for Tom to slightly lean towards her, only stopping a few inches short of her lips when he saw a slight hesitation in her emerald orbs.

"You know what? Let's talk about something else than sex." The woman awkwardly spoke and looked down, killing the previous mood.

Inwardly, she was berating herself for not leaning forward and claiming the kiss but even she didn't understand why she hesitated. This... was turning too real for her. Too desirable.

And yet, subconsciously she didn't want to end this. Not yet.

But she couldn't...

Taking a quick steadying breath, the redhead looked back up, meeting Tom's brown eyes, and asked, her tone containing a hopeful undertone, "What about family?"

Tom didn't want to make her uncomfortable. It was all good fun. But only as long as both of them were comfortable and alright with what was happening.

Shrugging, Tom casually answered, "I am an orphan."

It was obvious he wasn't much bothered by the fact, which made the woman's initial, 'Oh, shit!' reaction at landing on a mine right off the bat settle in, and she decided to be nonchalant about it too.

"Oh... that sucks." The woman's hold on Tom got a bit tighter in a reassuring manner, "I have never known my parents either. I understand."

Tom doubted she did understand his situation. But humoring her was the least he could do. He wasn't about to tell her he killed his own father because the man killed his mother...

"Yeah, mother died years ago but my father decided to tag along just a few months ago, leaving my lonesome self alone in this wide world." Tom light-heartedly said, showing he found his peace with it.

Catching onto it, the woman gently smiled, "I am sorry to hear that. I am sure you miss him very much." She gave him small lip service, feeling glad the man in her embrace was not overly sad about his loss.

Tom only grinned, "Nah. He was an abusive asshole with a stick so far up his butt it messed with his head."

As he expected the woman froze when she heard that... but unlike his expectations, she actually burst into a small laughter a moment later, pressing her forehead into his shoulder while her shoulders shook with repressed laughter.

"I am sorry but..." She shakily started. She knew she should not laugh at it but the way Tom said it was just too hilarious for her to resist.

Tom's hand reassuringly landed on her head, starting to gently caress her hair, "Don't worry. It's fine."

Their lighthearted conversation continued, both trading knowledge about each other... but neither giving away anything important.

Much to Tom's embarrassment, he only realized it halfway through their talk. The woman told him quite a bit about herself. She was an orphan, from her insinuations, she had been abused herself when she was young, and she was in the town because of work and will be leaving tomorrow early morning.

Yes, she told him quite a bit, and speaking with her was calming and pleasant. But...

Tom realized she was not giving him any important details. He couldn't exactly complain as he omitted the important bits himself but he still showed more sincerity to her, telling her a few details about his childhood he didn't deem important.

In hindsight, he should have expected something like this. He didn't even know her name!

From the very start, it was ever so obvious she wasn't keen on telling him her name and Tom subconsciously realized that so he didn't ask. He preferred to think that if she wanted him to know, she would have introduced herself.

For some reason, Tom had an inkling he would only receive a fake name if he directly asked anyway.

It wasn't all that important. Not when they would obviously not meet each other after tonight.

But the more she hid from him, her words seamlessly flowing with each other but having more or less no substance in such a natural manner that Tom realized she wasn't even registering it anymore, the more curious Tom got.

This woman... this completely mundane woman with mana reserves of an average person... was really intriguing to him.

There was always the off-chance this was a plot of some daring Magician Family, but he doubted it. He could see the sincerity in her actions and if that was only played, Tom would have to start doubting his people reading skills that were hammered into him by his father.

It was entirely too much work for one light-hearted evening out.

And yet, as the evening progressed, the two talking with each other more and making each other comfortable, Tom's curiosity was only increasing.

"I... have to go." The woman suddenly said in a regretful tone around an hour later, causing Tom to realize it was getting really late.

The woman raised herself on the tips of her toes and gave Tom one last chaste kiss on the side of his lips, and released a breath she didn't know she was holding before she turned away and was about to walk away.

Tom only got a brief glance at her eyes during that, seeing her resolve as if she wanted to get it over with in a manner similar to ripping a band-aid. She clearly wanted more, yet, didn't allow herself to pursue it.

Something on her melancholic gaze made his wishy-washy attitude flood over and his decision was made. Hastily grabbing her wrist as she was about to get out of his reach, Tom decided that if nothing else, he at least wanted to know her name.

She wouldn't tell him so he had only one way to find out.

As the woman started to turn back to him, he activated his Sacred Gear, with the clear intention of getting her name... and when he got it, he froze in utter disbelief, not even reacting to the questioning look the redhead gave him.

The same look that hid a lot of reluctance in steely resolve.

But Tom's mind was in chaos, too preoccupied with two words. Words that flipped the reality upside down for him and shattered the notions of his own world.

The real name of the woman he had spent the pleasant evening with...

The name that should not have existed in this world.

The name...

'Natalia... Romanova.'

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