✧A Night At The Town Hall✧
*Click For Audio Drama*
The chatter around the town hall was loud, Leyla herself had been quite busy overseeing the progress of her students’ preparations. Just as she’d come out towards the lobby, Mrs. Grever came up to her, face flushed as she saddled up beside her.
“Miss Lewellin, look here!” she whispered hurriedly, “It’s Duke Herhardt! He’s here!” she squealed rather excitedly. Leyla felt as though a bucket of cold water had just been dumped at her.
“The Duke? He’s here?” she hurriedly inquired, looking towards the direction Mrs. Grever had been pointing to, “I thought it would be Madam Herhardt that would be attending tonight.” she murmured as she realised Mrs. Grever was right.
Matthias was here.
“Yes, it’s the Duke, not his mother who is attending.” Mrs. Grever giggled, before cooing in awe, “And look! He even brought his grandmother along with him!” she exclaimed.
It was surprisingly easy to spot the Duke, mostly because of the crowd that had swarmed him the moment he’d arrived. It was the exact moment she was looking at him, did his eyes manage to meet hers.
Leyla felt her chest suddenly constrict underneath his gaze, and lightly tipped her head forward into a bow, pretending as though she was wordlessly greeting him from afar. Fortunately, they didn’t have too much interaction as he was quickly swept away by the crowd.
Leyla found herself sighing in relief at his disappearance.
“Say, Miss Lewellin, you live right next to Arvis, don’t you?” Mrs. Grever asked, and she nodded, “Then that would mean you see him quite often too?” The missus looked quite despondent that the Duke had disappeared from their immediate vicinity, completely missing the way Leyla shifted on her feet uncomfortably.
“I, well, I guess… sometimes,” she mumbled, hands clasped in front of her as she fidgeted, feeling absolutely guilty even though she had no reason to. Mrs. Grever sighed, pouting slightly.
“Ah, how lucky of you!” she sighed once again, “It’s sure quite the treat to see such a handsome face everyday. Even at a distance.” she finished before moving away to get back to choir practice as she had been charged with taking care of the upper class’ performance.
Ever since the picnic last autumn, the one held in Arvis, Mrs. Grever had grown quite fond of Duke Herhardt, never missing an opportunity to praise him and his deeds. She would praise how wonderful he was, or how elegant he walked, or how aristocratic he acted.
With a sigh of relief, Leyla too went and joined the other teachers for some last minute preparations, when she finally came face to face with the Duke by the hallway. Her steps faltered for a moment, before she regained her composure to keep walking.
She hoped that he wouldn’t notice her passing through. He seemed to be engaged in conversation with an elderly gentleman. She couldn’t help but pause once she did pass him by, just to take one last look at him.
He looked so tall from where she stood, the long shadow on the marble floor he casted made him look all the more imposing. The suit he wore accentuated his lithe form, though it also perfectly hugged every firm muscle he had on his body.
Ever since they were children, he made her so fearful and uncomfortable around him. And despite the numerous praises she heard about him, she couldn’t find it in herself to find out why they thought so highly of him since she obviously thought otherwise.
Even now, that fact remained unchanged for her, though she now had an insight as to why he was highly respected in their community. He played his role perfectly as the esteemed Duke Matthias von Herhardt, making everyone believe he was born to be respected.
If only they knew, like she knew, how childish he could be. Indeed, she thought it so strange to see him in such a respectable manner. Could she even describe him as her beautiful nightmare?
Also, his eyes glinted in the light…
‘Wait… eyes?’ Leyla blinked, before she realised Matthias was now looking straight at her, his body turned slightly towards her direction even as he was talking to the person in front of him.
‘Why… Why is he looking at me?’ she wondered, slowly feeling her cheeks grew warm the longer she held his gaze. Though his eyes betrayed no emotion, she could see the way the corner of his lips lift up into an unnoticeable smirk.
“Miss Lewellin, why are you here?”
A voice interrupted their silent interaction as Leyla quickly spun around to come face to face with the school’s principal. She drew closer to Leyla, momentarily appraising her looks before nodding satisfactorily, “Come on now, stop dilly dallying, we have more guests to welcome.” she gently reminded, pushing her softly towards the direction she needed to be in.
The Principal led Leyla towards where the other teachers had been lounging on, which coincidentally was where Matthias and his grandmother currently were as well. As she was left to the crowd’s mercy, she carefully avoided bumping into anyone, jerking left and right when someone got too close…
Before she knew it, she was right near the Herhardts, within Matthias’ line of sight. There was no way she could escape without having to converse with him now. Leyla gulped back down her nervousness at being so close to him after their prolonged separation.
Matthias had been busying himself in interacting with the others, guests and teachers alike, before he noticed Leyla had managed to find her way in front of him. She averted her gaze, hoping it would buy her more time, but caught the glimpse of a growing smirk.
She looked down, busying herself with the sight of his well-polished shoes and began thinking about the nearing performance of her students…
Unfortunately for all her preparations, she hadn’t come to expect to be the butt end of a joke by the time the night ended.
After the crowd dialled down around them, Norma finally took the time to appraise her grandson. She tilted her head as she observed him critically, seeing the slight glint of his eyes.
“You’re looking quite lively these days, Matthias.” she pointed out with a smile as soon as they sat on their seats, “Is there something you’d like to tell me?” she hummed, eagerly awaiting for an answer to her grandson’s sudden mood change.
“Hm? No, not really grandmother.” he answered truthfully, unwilling to divulge any information for her, giving her a placating smile. Norma was disappointed that Matthias felt no need to share with her any progress in his day to day life.
She knew something had changed. He acted differently than before, giving off a lighter aura about him. He almost looked like someone his own age. Don’t get her wrong, she knows her grandson was one of the most handsome people in existence. He just never acted like his age before, always so mature…
Sometimes she would forget how young he actually was until she noticed the slight bounce in his steps, or how lighter he looked. Almost happier even. An absurd thought, if you will, but one she’s unwilling to take back.
“Ah, well,” she hummed, turning away from him to look towards the stage as the others continued to settle down around them, “Either way, it’s nice to see you like this.” She was only curious after all, but if Matthias felt more comfortable with her not knowing, then who was she to pry further?
They sat there in silence, Norma busying herself with a conversation or two with people who stopped by to greet them. She noticed in all their interaction, Matthias looked rather bored, eyes darting here and there, before a slight slouch in his posture told her he was finding everything a little boring.
“I know these things may seem quite trivial to you, Matthias, but I like to see it as an opportunity to receive support and respect in these gatherings,” she told him, quiet enough that only the two of them could hear her. “And I am delighted to know that despite your duties as the head of our household, you still found the time to participate diligently in events like this.”
She turned to Matthias and patted his chin lovingly, to which he automatically took in his hand and kissed her palm in response.
“Oh, your grandfather and father weren’t half the man you were at your age. And of that I’m so proud.” She praised him. He truly was the Herhardt’s masterpiece.
The public had given Matthias the moniker of being Herhardt’s masterpiece. They’d witnessed his hardwork and glory in the deeds he’d done here and there. Norma couldn’t help but smile in the memory of all of them. And though she’d like to be modest about it, she agreed with the public wholeheartedly.
She had been saddened when she outlived her husband, as well as her son, but she believed it was to witness her grandson rise up and beyond the expectations set for him, and see him thrive in it; to bring glory to the Herhardt household once more when its last patriarch left them.
Suddenly the lights went out, making the crowd gasp in surprise as Norma was busy admiring her grandson. A drumroll began as some spotlights began darting back and forth everywhere before settling down on the stage. The crowd quieted down and the host finally appeared in a puff of smoke on stage.
The crowd began clapping at the dramatic entrance, Matthias included as he straightened up in his seat, but not because of what was happening on stage, oh no. In fact, his eyes were glued on Leyla.
He can’t believe how he missed it before, but she was wearing it. She was wearing that exquisite necklace she owned. Yes, upon prolonged inspection, he was certain it was his emerald necklace she was wearing.
Matthias felt the stirrings of satisfaction deep inside him, loving the fact she had it on. It made him feel as though he had marked her, and she was proudly announcing to the world that she belonged to him alone.
Whether she knew that he felt that way when she wore it or not, it didn’t matter to him. She was his.
Eventually he managed to pull himself away from looking at her and focus on the show. He paid attention to the introduction of the play and watched as the students performed, observing each one of them carefully.
The play was about some fairies who lived by the woods. Each child wore translucent wings, with glitters splayed strategically to give it some sparkling effects. They walked and acted in practised manners, delivering their lines nervously.
The crowd oohed and awed at the play, chuckling here and there when they would do something adorable. He found that he recognized them as the children who came to have a picnic with Leyla at Arvis.
The thought of her made him seek her out, eyes glancing to the dimmed bottom part of the stage, where Leyla sat attentively watching her students. He watched her interaction with them, noting from time to time how the children would glance nervously, looking for their teacher amongst the crowd for cues and validation they were doing the right thing.
Suddenly, the smallest, and probably the youngest, of the children began to openly cry, surprising the crowd and the Duke. The wail echoed throughout the venue, momentarily drawing everyone’s attention away from the play. Matthias then recognized the child as the girl who spilled ice cream all over Leyla’s clothes on that picnic.
‘I wonder how Miss Lewellin would handle this?’ he wondered, tilting his head as he tried to imagine how Leyla was looking like right now. Judging by how she straightened up, hands silently conveying for the child to relax, that she was beginning to grow nervous herself.
“Oh dear.” Norma sighed. Matthias spared her a glance before giving the little girl his attention once more. Said little girl was now leaning over the stage, staring right at Leyla as she tried to reach out to her…
“Teacheer!” the little girl bawled, her voice echoing in the now silent hall. All other child actors also ceased their presentation, distracted from the sudden interruption. It was clear at this point whatever role the child had was void, which made all the other children begin panicking over what to do as well.
‘What are you going to do now, Leyla?’ Matthias asked in his mind, narrowing his eyes at her back. Eventually the principal made her way inconspicuously towards the rookie teacher, whispering in her ear.
Whatever she said had made Leyla tense. He watched as they exchanged a few words, Leyla shaking her head frantically at the principal’s insistence. In the end though, the principal got her way and Leyla resigned to her task.
Gingerly she got up from her seat amongst the teachers, and slowly went up the stage. She carefully pulled the bawling girl aside and wiped her tears. She was speaking to the child now, softly placating her, he would assume from behind the fake flower bush they used as a prop.
The child was now holding onto dear life on her teacher, Leyla letting out a sigh of defeat before rubbing her palms up and down the child’s back to soothe her. Any further delay would only build up more panic amongst the inexperienced children.
Just as Leyla was planning on getting off the stage with the child, the Principal came close to her once more, handing her a stack of papers. Matthias watched as she paled at the sight of them, frantically exchanging words with the principal. The principal tried to take the crying child with her, but the girl refused. With that, she left Leyla and the little girl on the stage.
“Hmm, I think I recognize that teacher.” his grandmother remarked as she squinted her eyes in order to see Leyla better, “Yes, isn’t that Bill Remmer’s foster daughter?” she exclaimed softly, looking pleased to see a familiar face.
Reluctantly, Leyla went back, hands clasping around the girl’s arm as she dragged her along gently once again, and began to sink down behind the way-too-small of a bush, and began flipping through the papers rather hurriedly. She eyed the crowd a couple of times, clearing her throat as she took a deep breath.
It was amusing to see her face growing redder by the second.
“U-waa… look at th-this everyone!” Leyla giggled nervously, “Pre-pretty flowers have bloomed.” she finished awkwardly, stuttering through her line, leaving Matthias perplexed at seeing her be a bumbling mess with such a public audience.
It seemed as though watching someone more nervous than themselves gave the children a boost of confidence, and the play began to once again resume, each child growing more and more confident in their gait and acting.
Though her lines were short, Leyla couldn’t seem to find her composure whenever it was her time to deliver them. The crowd giggled, trying to keep their amusement at bay whenever it was her time to speak.
It was just way too funny seeing Leyla so awkward and serious in her task. They tried not to laugh too much, really they did!
But then one of the audience let out an unexpectedly loud accidental laugh when Leyla said a line, and suddenly a dam broke! The entire town hall was then filled with boisterous laughter, finally unable to hold back. Even his grandmother, who had been trying to be as respectful as possible, let out a laugh along with the crowd.
Matthias went back to looking at Leyla, head resting on his knuckles that were perched on the arm rest. His head tilted as he stared at Leyla with a frown on his face, hardly noticeable in the dim lighting.
The child had finally stopped crying, and was now sitting uselessly next to Leyla, flapping her hands up and down. Eventually, the child looked up at her teacher, and as though trying to thank her, she removed the flower crown on her head and placed it in a lopsided manner on top of Leyla’s golden mane.
Unfortunately, the child’s efforts had gone unnoticed as Leyla was far too focused on reading the script.
“Th-this is a great party! Hahaha!” She laughed dramatically, but the stern expression on her face made it humorous. “I’m so excited!” She then looked up and smiled shyly at the crowd.
At that point, Matthias finally snorted before laughing along with the crowd. Leyla was practically already red in the face, matching the roses on her flower crown, yet she forced herself to continue with the play.
Matthias could already predict that in the play, the crowd eagerly awaited for when Leyla would speak up next. And consequently, he could also predict that amongst all the presentations today, this play by the lower years would be the talk of the town starting from tonight.
When the play finally came to an end, and Leyla was finally done with her part, she hurried off the stage, smiling politely, yet hurriedly through the crowd’s warm round of applause just for her. Matthias also found himself clapping for her. He’d been thoroughly entertained by the pretty flower fairy tonight, who ended up being the star of the show.
Translator : Moonvielle
Editor/PR : Dict Groiler
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