~ 77 ~
It was obvious that Selena was prepared to listen to her words. Looking like that, she faced Selena and said seriously.
In her slightly trembling voice, Eun-woo told the story she had right after she and Tashian parted ways at the joining site for Flora, right before they met again here.
When talking about Reinhardt’s hostility toward Tashian, she explained in detail along with the words of warning from him when they met at the banquet.
From the room where she escaped from Reinhardt and lost her way, to finding Irena’s face holding a light.
Selena listened intently to her. And when she finished her words, Selena muttered, squeezing her chin with one of her hands, rubbing her face.
“I was well aware of the Duke’s position in the political world and he was closer to the chief. However, I decided that he must have been taking the position to have the Crown Prince’s trust and for personal gains. I didn’t know that there was a discord between the two brothers. It is something that only a few people know….”
She mumbled in her creepy tone.
“… Eleanor, I didn’t know that it happened to the Duke. Just why…”
At Selena’s words, Eun-woo couldn’t stop her face from darkening.
She remembered the look on Reinhardt’s face when he mentioned Tashian. It was like the owner who said that he would slaughter a dog that was kept on a chain, when the dog stops obeying his orders. Eun-woo shuddered and muttered.
“The Duke, no, his gaze on Tashian was so… he didn’t seem to think of Tashian as a person.”
Eun-woo was unable to speak. When the situation appeared in her mind again, it was as painful as scratching the inside of her stomach with a spear blade.
“In front of such a person, I couldn’t do anything but be a coward like a child. Even though I am so angry and resentful… I couldn’t do anything, but how much can that person….”
At that moment, Selena opened her mouth as she grabbed Eun-woo’s hand, who was rapidly becoming depressed.
“Eleanor, there is no time for such thoughts.”
Selena’s eyes hardened firmly.
“I’ve been begging the organizers of the competitions several times before to find Eleanor, but they didn’t show up. They once told me that once one was admitted as a candidate to the Whit Cathedral, she would either be disqualified or could not get out of the cathedral unless she became Flora. But in times like these, we need to be vigilant.”
She said in a low voice, glancing at the paladins who were watching as if encircling the room, where candidates were gathered.
“I don’t know how things are going, but it is certain that Chief Reinhardt planned this with the Duke and Eleanor’s hatred against him. It was something I was skeptical about, but the story you had just told me made my decision.”
Eun-woo muttered confidently, looking at Selena’s eyes, which stiffened her lips as if she had decided something.
“Bu, but what can we do here……”
“First, I have to show that I am doing my best as a candidate by following the instructions of the paladins here and those involved in the competition. We don’t know how our opponent’s plans are going yet, so you can’t be vigilant. There is no other way than to keep an eye on the people here and contact the Crown Prince or the Duke as soon as the opportunity arises.”
Seeing Selena credibly making plans, Eun-woo nodded her head eagerly.
“As long as we remain candidates here anyway, no one can blatantly harm us. The White Cathedral has an obligation to take responsibility for the safety of its candidates.”
As if Selena was relieved to see Eun-woo seriously listening to her words, she added with a light smile.
“Candidates only have room and board inside the cathedral, but during the day they can participate in the competition and travel all over Cremons to pass through the three gates. Then at that time, take your chance and ask the Crown Prince and the Duke for help.”
“For now, let’s get through the night.”
Selena said as she encouraged her with her determined eyes. Eun-woo, with a bolder heart, wrapped her hands on her lap tightly. But even Selena’s words were not enough to relieve her anxiety that had been latent in her.
“But Eleanor, are you really okay?”
Selena patted Eun-woo’s cold cheek and muttered anxiously.
“Your face is really pale. I can’t. I’ll bring you some water to drink.”
“… Ple, please Selena.”
Eun-woo, who had been feeling like she was going to vomit from earlier, quickly responded to Selena’s words and thanked her from the bottom of her heart.
Selena hurriedly stood up from her seat. Looking at her distant back, Eun-woo felt the negative emotions that had been eating her mind, which she had been trying to push, rose again. As if to escape from the truth, Eun-woo spread out her hands and covered her face.
None of the stories she confided to Selena earlier were lies. But she didn’t tell her all the truth. One of her most important secrets remained.
That was her last remaining Maginot line. It was also a fact that she hid so desperately.
(TN: Maginot Line; it is to stop something or someone from invasion. In this case, Eleanor must have been talking about not allowing Selena to invade or to take that as her advantage to put her into a disadvantageous place.)
That she is not the real Eleanor Miller.
She is not a grain of wheat. I’m just flipping the shell.
(TN: Grain of wheat; being like a grain of wheat means giving way to God so that life can come. As the grain does to the soil, so we yield ourselves to God’s initiative, to the grace and truth of Christ. We have to give way to Him and allow His grace to break and penetrate us, to determine our thoughts, words, and actions.) I’m not really sure about this but to put it into simpler words maybe Eun-woo meant that she is not the pure and real Eleanor everyone thought of.)
Even if she died, she couldn’t talk about that.
A terrible grunt escaped from her tight throat.
She was terribly afraid.
She will be completely denied by the people she’s close to. If she spewed the truth to them, then they’ll label her as a fake person from that onwards. Such a feeling numbed her tongue.
It was more like fear. As if in a dream, she was walking through the flower garden, and now she was obsessed with that exact moment.
Eun-woo fell in love with the life of Eleanor Miller.
The comfortable life. Meeting and talking to friendly people every day. Slow but a warm life daily feels so great.
She wanted to take the excuse of not having any options in this life. Just as a person who has only walked on gravel roads all his life had been captivated by the soft carpet, Eun-woo could not move on to this life that was given to her. She wanted to feel this every day… but behind that happiness and satisfaction, there was a terrible haunting fear that was hard to hide.
Now Eun-woo couldn’t even tell who she really was for real.
At one point, she seemed to be a beautiful daughter of a Marquis, who was loved and admired by everyone, but in such an instant, she returned to the humble Lim Eun-woo.
Rather, it would be more credible if someone slapped her on the cheek to tell her that all of this was a dream and wake her up quickly.
Maybe all of this was really her imagination. That she was hallucinating. The hit spot was so painful that it felt like it was welcomed by her body.
That when she opens her eyes, she will see the old blanket and cold floor. The same routine of looking at the same windshield, she will start the same day again and again. Passing the day without anyone noticing her.
And after such self-abuse thoughts, the most unbearable emotions sprouted like poisonous mushrooms, always from the deepest, had hit her.
Foolishly, this time, she was on the same ground again. Dumbly, she believed it all again.
She thought she could grow deep roots somewhere. She walked her life again with a small expectation that it would stay with her, no matter who she was, and that it would stay with her for a long time, maybe not forever. She forgot that she could be so easily rusty and infinitely weak and threw herself all over it.
She can’t do that.
It was painful as if her heart was being ripped apart. At the end of her broken expectations, Eun-woo held her breath.
She felt as if the efforts to turn blind eyes and hypnotize herself was swept away instantly.
She buried her face in her lap in frustration, feeling endlessly and endlessly succumbing into those thoughts.
… Then it was that person’s affectionate face again.
Why? How can she dare value someone like this?
Why does his face keep coming to her mind?
Did the self-loathing, which had grown to the point of bursting with pus without knowing the end, started reaching out to others? To hug this person and fall into the abyss together?
When she thought about it, it was so devastating and painful that she couldn’t stand it. It seemed as if her whole body was torn apart and split into hundreds, no, it was thousands of fragments. She couldn’t possibly let him be the same as hers. She repeated that to herself for a long time, over and over again.
This feeling toward Tashian is also an extension of compassion toward herself. She is consoling herself by substituting herself into Tashian’s sad past.
There was no way that such an ugly and absurd feeling could be the word love.
Eun-woo struggled in pain and wrapped her arms around her chest.
Only the thought of other people’s eyes lurking here and there seemed to stop the tears from running down her cheeks.
For a long time, she was doing the same thing.
Someone tapped her shoulder. Eun-woo raised her head in amazement as if a ghost was about to touch her.
It was Selena.
Suddenly she came back to her side, Selena was standing in front of her with a troubled look on her face.
Seeing her consistent appearance, Eun-woo swallowed dry saliva to regain consciousness. And soon as she realized that she was hesitant to say something about her.
She had to clear her voice to awaken her voice which seemed locked inside.
“… What’s going on, Selena?”
But Selena did not easily open her mouth to her question.
Then, Eun-woo could find three or three girls gathered behind Selena’s back.
It wasn’t just the girls. Paladins wearing armor who were guarding the entrance of the gate were surrounded by them with an intimidating attitude.
Eun-woo stiffened at the sudden tension. As if Selena was protecting her, she came closer to her. One of the hordes of paladins surrounding them strode forward and solemnly opened their mouths.
“I heard the information that a candidate entered White Cathedral without going through the proper admission evaluation screening. I’m here to confirm that fact, so please cooperate.”
Eun-woo felt her face pale and felt tired by the word admission uttered by one of the paladins.
Lucinda’s words came to mind, saying that if you don’t go through evaluation screening, she’d be banned from entering the Cathedral, and she’d have to spend the night alone in a dark forest that doesn’t even have a basic fence.
Eun-woo turned her head in the direction of Irena, the priest of the White Cathedral who hurriedly brought her here. But she was already… she was gone.
It was when Eun-woo became more perplexed.
Thanks to the post-war history that Eun-woo explained earlier, Selena knew how much she had guessed that something like this would happen, so she calmly proceeded to the paladin who surrounded them. She and she opened her mouth to persuade her knights.
“Wait a minute, Sir Knight. Eleanor was a young girl who did not even run for the Flora contest in the first place. I don’t know how she can stand up for herself, but when she was announced as one of the nominations, her dress was shining. Of course, she is not prepared for the evaluation screening.”
However, the paladin who heard her said that did not even believe her.
“That’s nonsense! There is no mistake in the nomination announcement. Young Lady must be misunderstanding something. In my eyes, it can only be seen as an excuse for the laziness of not preparing for the evaluation screening.”
Selena tried to open her mouth to refute him, but the paladin went a step further. He looked at Eun-woo in front of him with a pathetic gaze as if he could not understand Selena.
“The fact that she came to the festival in white in the first place meant that she wanted to be nominated, didn’t she? But now you haven’t prepared anything to use for the evaluation? You lose your own things, now you’re lying!”
At the knight’s nonsensical logic, Eun-woo jumped up in fear with her lips turned blue.