Lord Ray heard the sound of footsteps and raised his head. Then, when he saw me, he tried to approach me but hesitated. He squinted his eyes at the person he did not expect to see but when he took another look, he realised that Hernandez was indeed carrying me over towards him.
“Because the Princess was hurt and there were no stretchers, I came instead.”
“This isn’t my blood.”
His eyebrows furrowed as if he did not want to hear the explanations but he pursed his lips anyway. The night sky, the silent and vacant carriage lot and the me who was soaked in blood. Unable to say the many things he could possibly want to say now, he swept his face down with his hand. Soon, he took me away from Hernandez and was now the one hugging me instead.
“The Princes will be more concerned about the things you’re not explaining to me.”
“We’re going back. I managed to catch a carriage.”
He walked away, pretending to be calm as he mumbled. However, Hernandez called out for me and Ray had no choice but to turn around since I pulled on his shirt.
“Lady Ashley, it is fine if you do not believe me.”
Hernandez who was now completely pale, whispered affectionately to me with a faint smile hanging on his lips. His white hair that resembled feathers fluttered messily.
Hernan flicked something off my face. It was a drop of dried blood that was not mine.
“I’m not your enemy.”
Even though it looked like he was already having a hard time walking, he still sounded friendly and gentle.
“And I hope you become happier than you are now.”
He whispered monotonously.
I parted my lips before smiling. So many things had happened at once. Now I could not believe what I had once believed and was beginning to question the things that I had not believed and did not think possible. Then, I left him behind without giving him a reply.
The carriage departed.
The carriage ride back home had always been silent but the atmosphere surrounding me and Lord Ray was even more pressing today.
The night breeze bit into every fibre of my being. As I trembled, Lord Ray held me even tighter. The man’s hair, which was a shade lighter than the night sky, swayed gently. With another gust of wind, his eyes that had been hidden were then revealed.
Then I realised, those dark blue eyes of his had been looking at me all along.
Looking at his silent face, it felt as if I had been struck down to reality after wandering around my dreams for too long. What had happened during this short period of time? I smiled weakly.
“You look like you have a lot to say.”
Looking back at the things that had happened between Castor, Hernandez and Granius, I realised the sheer absurdity of it all and felt like collapsing right away.
‘The world seemed to be spinning fine without a care for me.’
The fact that I managed to survive today without the diary felt encouraging. However, at the same time, it left a bad taste in my mouth and my chest felt tighter. Hernandez. I had so many questions about him that the question marks were stabbing my heart like awls.
Even though I was not looking at him, I could tell from the sounds of his breaths that he was staring at me.
I slowly said the things I had been holding back till now.
“Let’s say the bad person has lost all his memories and is beginning to treat me nicely now. So, I… Should I consider that person to be good?”
He spoke firmly without hesitation.
“As long as you remember that he’s a bad person.”
Something seemed to have broken at that moment.
Lord Ray and I both seemed to have heard a sound akin to straws breaking in the back of the carriage. The frustration at the fact that I could not say the things I wanted to seem to fly away like dust right at that moment. Just as I felt relieved, I also soon felt sad and miserable. I realised that it had been a lid. Until now, I had been covering everything I had been feeling like a lid.
This had been tiring.
A rough and large hand carefully covered my eyes.
“I’m not crying.”
“Please just cry.”
I thought all he did was make some harsh grunts but then as I calmed down, his voice began to mix with the wind.
“You should cry. Cry it all out.”
There was a soft echo around his voice.
“You know, crying gives me a headache.”
“You can show your pain a little, Princess. I’m glad you’re not working now.”
“If I cry too much, I might faint.”
“You’re not that heavy to carry around.”
“If I cry, I’m going to suffer more.”
“You can feel free to suffer. I’ll protect you from all the pain.” (1)
I thought that it was amazing how he managed to answer me without consoling me and without complaining at all. So, instead of crying, I laughed along with the gusts of wind around us.
There were no tears in my eyes.
I now no longer remember which one but since one of the time loops, I had not once cried a single time.
The endlessly long day finally ended.
About three years later, in the month after my 17th birthday. (2)
I learned the secret of my diary.
5.5 Ashley Rosé, Fleon Claché and Dane Lowell
One day, the maid who was brushing his hair said that flowers were blooming in the Empire. The daughter of the most beautiful woman in the Empire was born.
“Ah! She must be so pretty. I’m sure she would become the epitome of beauty in the Empire in the future!”
Fleon looked in the mirror and waited impatiently for the maid to finish combing faster In fact, he did not like how the maid was managing his hair.
Then, six years later, on a day where the leaves were beginning to change colours.
His mother who had just visited Terena Palace which was quite a distance away embraced him once she was back. Back then. His mother’s voice was small, weak and trembling.
“Fleon. Child. My child. You have to pity those young and tender.”
Her hair accessories were hanging on her forehead, her fingers shaking like a spider’s web in the rain, her cheeks were cold to the touch and the layers of white cloth made out of Ionian cotton. (3)
“There won’t be any good rumours surrounding her from now on. What a shame… It’s because of her cheek. It’s not that child’s fault, it’s the scar’s.”
His mother looked very sad for some reason. Seeing a face he had never seen before, Fleon smiled.
“Will you promise me? Promise me that you’ll be nice to your younger sister when you see her in the future.”
That way his mother would be happy.
Ashley called out for Fleon who had been thinking about something else absent-mindedly.
“…I’ve got a pile of things to do right not but can a person who’s going to be taking a test soon be so relaxed like this?”
Today was the day Fleon decided to study for his upcoming test.
Every member of the Imperial Family took tests when they came of a certain age to prove that they had the qualifications to be part of the Imperial Family. Males take the test when they were 17 or 18 and females when they were 16.
This test that marked their step into adulthood was very important. Because if he did not pass, he would not be able to hold his own coming-of-age ceremony.
But since a little while ago, he could not concentrate. As if noticing this about her brother, Ashley raised her eyebrows.
“Focus please. Do you want to take it again next year? That will only make you a disgrace of the family. A disgrace.’
“There’s nothing you dare not to say in front of your brother, little one.”
Fleon flicked her forehead. Her forehead was so white and round that with one glance at it, he could not help but want to flick it.
It looked like she was going to make a sound. But as Ashley rubbed her red forehead, she held herself back.
“Why don’t you use the time you use to hit other people’s foreheads more wisely?”
“Who’re you calling other people, huh?”
“Aiya. N-now I can’t even talk? Dane!”
Ashley raised her voice, wanting to complain that her damned brother had pinched her cheek a little harder than usual today.
Dane, who had been sitting about two seats away at a distance of about two snakes, raised his head after being buried in a book.
He immediately assessed the situation and frowned.
“Brother, it’s a new year.”
Ray, who had been standing behind all of them, thought to himself that the Princes were starting again.
“Ashley’s already 15 and we’re only about a year older than her. But why haven’t you changed at all, brother?”
“Well, didn’t you know that consistency was my motto?”
“What does holding Ashley’s cheek have anything to do with your motto?”
At how Dane calmly used his head, Fleon’s blue eyes could only shift his gaze. The way his younger brother spoke so well was annoying.
Then, he directed his gaze towards Ashley.
‘… Oh my, when did her cheeks turn so red?’
Fleon was so shocked, it felt like an awl had struck his heart.
“Hey, you. D-doesn’t t-that hurt?”
“How could that not hurt, my Prince?”
“You, keep quiet.”
Fleon glared at Ray before quickly looking at Ashley again.
At some point, Ashley had placed her handkerchief on her cheek which only made Fleon’s eyebrows furrow more.
The number of awls had increased by two, three and soon became countless as they continued to prick at his conscience.
‘I mean, why is this brat’s skin both dirty and sensitive?’
He had not even pinched that hard but this always happened since her skin was so pale and sensitive.
She was like a thin sheet of paper being blown mercilessly by the wind.
Fleon was displeased.
‘I mean, she eats so much so why isn’t she growing?’
The condition of their flesh was a symbol of the person’s wealth and honour and it also represented how generous they were.
Of course, the culture of Walter, which was a culture powerhouse, had some influence over the current trends in the Empire. Nowadays, it was trendy to wear waist-tight dresses and many female aristocrats were also exercising a lot to maintain their body shape. However, such trends were far beneath the nobility of the Imperial Family.
So even if this girl were to just roll around till she could not eat anymore, no one would say anything. However, no matter how much she ate, she just did not grow as if she was just not fit to gain weight.
His hand could wrap around her entire forearm!
“The thing about you.”
Fleon said as he raised Ashley’s head by lifting her cheek.
“If it hurts, you should say that it does.”
Ashley just blinked and stared back at him.
“Come to think of it… you used to cry that you were going to die of pain if I touched you just a little!”
“When did I cry?”
“I mean, you didn’t but that’s not the point! If I caught you for just a moment, you would’ve called for that guy immediately so why are you holding yourself back?”
Ashley thought for a moment and realised that she was the victim not the assailant. She was so flabbergasted at how shameless Fleon was being that she was speechless. This brother of hers was acting like an old man, asking her why her skirt was so short and why she would do out so late at night.
“Whatever, it’s because it doesn’t hurt. Stupid. Brother, you’re the one who needs to control your strength. I’m sure other women will think the same.”
Fleon briefly frowned at Ashley’s words as he placed his hands down, thinking that he might have caught onto something based on her words.
‘Other women? Is she trying to say that she’s not?’
However, he felt frustrated because he couldn’t catch onto what had stuck on him.
Honestly, I was a little spoiled bc i read d comments on d raws of this novel n iF ITS TRUE, im not liking this
(1): and you’ve done a splendid job so far havent you
(3): Ionians were one of the 4 major ethnicities/tribes back in Ancient Greece. The other 3 are Aeolians, Dorians and Archaeans. Bascially Fleon’s mother can be considered Ionian.