“Hmm, what shall I make….”
Elody scattered a stack of papers on the floor and began to study the procedure of making magic pills.
There were a lot of medicines Elody wanted to make, but the cost of the ingredients was too expensive.
If the greenhouse was complete, Elody could have grown it herself, but there was too little time. Growing herbs would take a while and who knows when the construction work will be finished?
“The quality of these herbs aren’t too good,” Elody said with a sigh.
She laid down on her stomach, rolled her body on the floor, and pondered over her worries.
As time went by, she found it more interesting to just roll around and procrastinate.
“Oh, is it raining?”
The gentle tapping of raindrops could be heard against the windows. Seeing the drops trickle down the glass brought a sense of calmness within her.
Elody went to the window and carefully unfastened the curtains to keep out the cold wind.
She didn’t want Caville to catch a cold.
With eyes at rest in the way of dreams, Caville could also hear the quenching rain as it passed onto his dreams.
Turns out, it was a memory of his past, a memory that flooded his mind like water rushing into a sinking ship…
For a moment, the world was a blur of dull colors but as he properly awoke, everything came into place.
He was stuck in a narrow cell. The room was dark, empty, and cold. In the silence comes a low crackle of thunder, and the clouds unleashed a torrent of water. The fluorescent lights flickered as raindrops dripped from the ceiling.
Then, the door opened only to reveal a large shadowed figure. It was an adult from the orphanage. He looked furious. The anger in his eyes burned with rage and hatred.
“Did you stir up trouble again today?”
“N-no! I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Please…”
Fear and sadness were all over Caville’s face, but his eyes remained dry. He knows that if he even lets a fraction of his tears out, the rest will follow, a never-ending torrent of grief.
“You’re useless trash! That’s why you’re abandoned! You want to get beat up again?!”
Caville was scared and he was on the verge of crying.
He tried to hold it in, he really did. Yet the tears still escaped his eyes, running away upon his cheeks as if he cannot bear yet another verbal assault and act of abuse. They would always blame him for the tiniest faults that he made.
Caville couldn’t take it anymore. He prayed for the pain to stop. He wanted to escape this hellish nightmare.
Suddenly, a tiny figure with pink hair appeared before his eyes.
‘Elody!’ Caville thought. He was relieved that his savior had come.
However, something was off about her. She turned around faced him, then stood there and stared at him without saying anything.
After a few moments of silence, Caville, who was dazed, called out to her.
“Elody?” he asked.
But Elody did not answer. Instead, she kept staring directly at him, as if she was looking into his soul, with an eerie smile on her face.
Then, she opened her mouth and said, “Foolish child, you will always be abandoned.”
The voice of an adult came out of Elody’s mouth and it echoed inside his head. It was the same voice as the adults of the orphanage.
Caville’s eyes widened in horror, his mouth rigid and open. He shook his head mutely in disbelief as a strangled cry rent the air, only to recognize that it was his own voice.
No, no, no!
Suddenly the sound of thunder rolled across the malevolent sky, and Caville snapped his eyes open.
He was sweating profusely. His heart was still pounding with an adrenaline rush. He wondered whether it was a dream or reality and it took some time to realize where he was.
Then, he slowly raised himself.
He looked around only to find that Elody was nowhere to be seen. Disappointed, Caville got out of bed and wiped away the tears dripping on his face.
“Huh? Caville, are you awake?”
As he was about to go out and look for Elody, he heard her voice from beside the bed.
“Did you have nightmares, again?”
Elody stretched her arms towards Caville.
After hesitating for a moment, Caville ran to her and she gently held him in her arms.
It was warm. It was so warm that he could no longer hold back his tears.
‘I shouldn’t bother her.’
‘You’ll always be abandoned,’ the nightmarish voice echoed through his head.
That’s what scared him the most. Sometimes he left wondering if it’s better for him that they never meet. Maybe it would’ve been better to let her fade from his life, back out of it like she was never there in the first place.
But he couldn’t let her go.
Elody patted Caville’s back gently as he buried his face in her shoulders.
“You can cry. Just let your tears out until you feel better.”
Elody sighed and hugged him tighter. Oftentimes, Caville would wake up from terrible nightmares.
‘Why is she so kind to me? I’m a useless child.’
When he first became a duke, Caville couldn’t adapt at all.
He was afraid of all the adults. He thought that they’d be like the adults in the orphanage.
He was scared they’d beat him up.
But one day, Elody appeared.
“Hello,” she said with a smile.
Elody didn’t force him to do anything. She didn’t even act like the butler who kept talking and desperately tried to get close to him.
She just sat in front of Caville, who curled in the corner of the room and attentively gazed at him.
She continued to observe him without saying anything. After a moment of silence, Caville gradually glanced at Elody, curiosity flaring in his pink eyes.
Then, they stared at each other.
Her hair was a glorious tumble of calamine-pink and it draped down softly curling along the ends. Her eyes were the glimmering color of turquoise, they were like beryl-green jewels that melted into the ocean. Then, a smile flashed across her face.
“Do you want to hear a story?”
Even though he didn’t answer, Elody brought a book and started reading it.
Truthfully, Caville longed for affection. He longed for someone to accept him for who he is, and Elody fulfilled that. Her kind gestures, her warmth, her hugs, and consoling words. It was all that he’d ever wanted. His heart greatly moved and for the first time in his life, he was able to open his heart to someone. She was the answer to his loneliness.
“Shall we go back to sleep?”
Elody wiped the tears off his cheeks.
“Then shall I entertain you with a shadow puppet show?”
“…What’s that?” Caville asked curiously.
Elody turned off the lights and lit up a candle. Then, she sat next to Caville and began to make shadows with her hands.
From dogs to butterflies, rabbits to birds, to owls, and swans.
Caville was amazed. He felt his lips stretched wider into a gaping grin and his eyebrows arched for the sky. He wasn’t afraid anymore.
That rainy night, sleep hung like a cloud, and Caville fell asleep within Elody’s arms. The pain from his nightmare stopped and a small smile formed across his face.
The next day, the two of them overslept.
* * *
“Your grace, why do you look so sullen today?” Marie asked.
Hearing her words, the other maids looked at Elody as they were also curious.
“Is there something bothering you, madame?”
The maids were knitting, making fabrics, and chatting in the tailor room. Elody would often come to the maids’ workplace and chat with them.
The maids were amazed by the young duchess. They admired her who took interest in their work. The former duchess would have never tried to visit them in their workplaces.
“Nothing,” she said dully.
The maids exchanged glances with a worried look. They had tried not to dwell on it, but they couldn’t quite shake off the feeling that something was wrong.
All-day long Elody had been sitting at the desk, her paperwork piling higher and higher.
“Ugh…,” she grunted with a sigh.
Yesterday, she fell asleep without making any progress and the amount of work she had was stressing her out.
While Elody was working on the herbs, Caville took a nap beside her. The maids grinned at the lovely scene, and then they started talking to one another.
“Tessie, you don’t look good either. Are you perhaps sick?”
“Um… it’s nothing. I just have a stomachache.”
“Oh, is it that day?” Marie said.
The maids looked at Tessie with a sad face, as if they had sympathized with her.
“If it hurts too much, go rest. I usually feel a little better after I put something warm on my stomach,” Marie advised.
“That’s right, I do that too,” confirmed one of the maids.
“Do you want me to pluck out some Spirit Grass?” Anna said.
“Oh, that’s okay. I’m not quite fond of the taste,” Tessie replied.
“Really? I’ve been eating it since I was a kid, so I think it’s okay.”
Elody was listening to the conversation and it piqued her interests. She began to ask, “What’s a Spirit Grass? Is it a herb?”
“Oh, it’s nothing, madame. It’s not a herb,” answered Anna as she slightly blushed.
“Then what is it?”
Well, Anna would have explained it earlier if it had been a proper herb. Nevertheless, Elody still looked at Anna with desperate eyes.
“That’s… there’s a grass we see every time we go to the field. It’s a grass that looks exactly like the one in my neighborhood, so we used it instead of a painkiller.”
Most grasses used as painkillers were known to be ineffective. Rather than working on the pain itself, it had numerous side effects. On the other hand, medicinal herbs that worked well were very expensive.
“But the results are minimal and the taste is very bitter,” Anna continued, “so we don’t use them most of the time.”
“Yes, it’s very bitter,” the other maids nodded in sympathy.
“Anna, where’s the grass? Come and show it to me now!” Elody jumped up and urged Anna. Anna seemed puzzled, but she still went with her to the garden.
Before she headed for the fields with Anna, Elody carried Caville on her back.
The rest of the maids giggled at the sight.
“My… the more I see her, the cuter she gets.”
“Right?” Marie said as she shifted her gaze towards the papers Elody had been working on, “Oh, she left this… I will take it to her later.”
“What’s that?” Asked one of the maids.
As Marie gathered the papers, the maid next to her raised her eyebrows and said, “Oh, isn’t this ancient language?”
The maids started to gather around the desk and glanced at the piles of paper on top of it.
Marie shrugged her shoulders.
“I told you! I think she knows how to do magic!” exclaimed the maid.
“Oh, it must be true… ”
“So this is an ancient language? I don’t even know what they look like…”
“Aren’t these weird-looking texts ancient?”
Marie quickly rose to reproach the maids, “You didn’t believe me when I said so before!”
“I thought she was just playing wizards and mages with the duke…”
Everyone nodded at the maid’s excuse, saying, “We couldn’t help it since she’s still a young child.”
Marie snorted at them.
Of course, such reactions were natural.
They were bound to underestimate her, as wizards were very rare throughout the continent.
* * *
“Anna, is this the Spirit Grass?”
“No, it’s a weed, madame.”
Elody realized why she hadn’t heard of people using the Spirit Grass to relieve pain.
‘It looks just like weeds!’
“I get confused a lot, too. No one used it in the first place. Even in the small town where I lived, the only one who used these as painkillers was my grandfather.”
Anna took the grass, put it in her mouth, chewed, and swallowed it. Her face crumpled in an instant.
“Yes, this is the one, madame.”
‘Well, if you can tell by taste, shouldn’t you just take a bite instead of swallowing it?’
Curious, Elody also picked up one of the grass and thoughtlessly chewed on them.
“Madame, if you eat so much…!”
Suddenly, her legs gave out and she let out a painful cry.
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