Chapter 16 – A Wounded Palm (4)
Translator: Skye PR: mm1347
Ante was sure Zachary would take pity on her and lose any affection he had left for Bianca once he witnessed the latter’s wicked act. If it was the lord Ante was familiar with, she could be confident. After all, he was a count who had no interest in his wife but was kind to his inferiors.
Zachary observed Bianca’s hand, causing her to involuntarily flinch. Squashing the urge to hide the cane behind her back, she convinced herself that she had done nothing wrong. However, that courage dissolved like salt in water as soon as she saw the furrow in his brow.
Zachary called her name, voice deep and a frown still present over his features. He had only said her name, but Bianca could read the reprimand in his eyes.
Her face turned red, chest growing hot and stuffy, as if it housed burning charcoal. What did I do for you to be looking at me with those eyes? Was it because I wasn’t able to get a single maid to watch her mouth? Because I’m a woman who deserves to hear such insults, and am thus causing a scene over nothing? Bianca pursed her lips. She was curious what kind of expression Zachary might put on if she were to tell him what Ante had been saying about her. Would he be surprised like he was hearing it for the first time, or would he be indifferent like it was to be expected?
Bianca kept her head held high despite being unable to bear the shame.
Pride was what kept Bianca standing no matter the situation, even when she had been ousted by Viscount Hugues. The one and only time she tucked it away was when she had clung onto Fernand after being kicked out from Arno castle. She had tucked it away because she trusted him. Because she loved him and believed he loved her too…
Of course, the result of that didn’t need to be said. Having learned that tucking away her pride would only bring misery, Bianca raised her chin, willing herself not to cry. She strained to keep her voice from trembling, spitting each word out one by one.
“Are you planning on telling me I went too far as well? I believe I’ve done what I–as the lady of the house and as your wife–was expected to do.”
“I’ll take a step back if this woman happens to be your mistress, since that would mean she’s in a position to say such things about warming your bed or whatnot.”
Her words were a reflection of her current emotional state: half-sarcastic and half-miserable.
“That’s not it,” Zachary replied firmly.
He pursed his lips, jaw clenched. An unspeakable anger painted over his features, making him look like a beast baring his teeth. Vincent, Robert, and the other maids quickly stepped back when Zachary began taking large strides towards Bianca, afraid that they’d get in the way. A shiver-inducing tension took over the hallway.
Bianca backed away when she saw Zachary advancing towards her without any hesitation. The sight of his large figure approaching was as intimidating as always. He was faster than her and reached her before she could distance herself. He stretched his hand towards her, causing her to instinctively flinch when she saw his long arm coming closer.
His hand headed not for her hand, but for the end of the cane she was holding. Bianca unwittingly tightened her grip as soon as he tried to pull it out of her grasp. They ended up looking at each other while each holding onto one end of the cane.
Bianca looked up at Zachary in bewilderment, confused as to why he was suddenly acting like this, whereas his gaze fell onto her occupied hand. Her fingers, which always resembled the white, thin branches of a birch tree, were flushed.
“Your hand is red,” he muttered to himself.
Bianca could only blink at the unexpected words coming from his mouth. Was that important right now? She was at a loss for words.
Zachary’s brows were still knotted, like he was disgruntled about something. The shadows of the creases on his forehead didn’t look like they were going to disappear anytime soon. Bianca had no idea why he was acting like this, but she knew making her confusion obvious would be careless of her. Hence, she feigned composure and replied slowly, “…I momentarily forgot there was a cane, so I used my hand.”
“…It’ll swell at this rate.”
Zachary clicked his tongue, clearly displeased. It was possible he was unhappy that someone who was supposed to be a countess had recklessly used her hands. Though Bianca had been satisfied during the moment her hand struck the maid’s cheek, she agreed that it had been unbefitting of a noble to do. Bianca lowered her eyes, her dark reddish-brown lashes hanging over her green irises.
Suddenly, Zachary’s hand drew near hers, but it only lingered for a moment before shortly retreating. Almost as if he was someone who couldn’t touch her hand. Bianca wondered if he hated the thought of even touching her. However, if that was really the case, then Zachary’s behavior was a little strange.
After glancing down one more time at Bianca’s hand with a displeased look, he gestured for the steward.
“Vincent. Escort Bianca inside and call for the doctor.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Vincent stepped towards Bianca soon as Zachary’s orders fell. His curiosity as to why his master wanted him to call a doctor was answered when he discovered Bianca’s blistered palm. Blood vessels appeared to have ruptured. It looked like it must’ve hurt quite a lot while handling the cane. Vincent marveled that she hadn’t let it show at all, and noted she had quite the resolve.
Ante realized the situation was taking a weird turn, yet she looked up at Zachary desperately, unable to throw away her foolish aspirations. The count may be brusque, but he’s also considerate and cherishes the castle servants… Ante was confident that Zachary would never let it slide once he saw the blood spilling down her face. If he looked her way just once, he would surely be startled. Ante held onto the slightest bit of hope. He’s just acting like that right now because he hasn’t taken a proper look at my state…
Perhaps her earnestness had come through, as Zachary’s eyes peered down at her ever so slightly. It was only a fleeting glance, but the moment she felt his gaze, Ante intensified her cries to make herself appear more pitiable and tragic in order to win his sympathy. The sight of her brows sloping downwards and the sound of her anguished cries was utterly heartbreaking. The slight tremors in her shoulders emphasized her effeminacy, and she didn’t forget to raise the hem of her skirt to reveal her pale, thin ankle ever so slightly.
However, Zachary’s eyes never looked in her direction a second time. He glossed over her as if she were nothing more than a common pebble laying on the ground, and was absorbed in watching Vincent inspect Bianca’s hand. As soon as Bianca’s wounded palm was plainly revealed, an even darker shadow was cast over Zachary’s features.
“And ensure such a ruckus in the castle never happens again,” he added irritably.
“…Yes, my lord.” Vincent nodded gravely.
And with that, Zachary whipped around, not looking back even once, his retreating back broad and firm.
Appearing out of nowhere and making puzzling comments before leaving as quickly as he had come. Bianca placed her uninjured hand on her head, as it was flooded by a myriad of thoughts as she chewed over the possible meanings behind Zachary’s actions and the few words he had spoken.
She wasn’t the only one in a state of shock; Robert stood in place, stunned, while Ante could not hide her devastation.
Ante had no idea.
Zachary was a generous lord to his people, but on the battlefield, he was known to be heartless, shedding neither blood nor tears. He had been given the nickname ‘Iron-Blooded Count’ not just because of his powerful army and achievements on the battlefield, but also because the sight of his silver hair spattered with blood almost resembled a sword bathed in blood.
The reason he appeared to be considerate was because he didn’t care, and the reason he cherished the servants in the castle was because that made it more convenient and easy to govern his territory, as well as handle and manage the servants themselves. If needed, he could be quite cruel and cold-hearted. Hence, there was not a chance a heartless lord like himself would side with a maid who had insulted his wife.
“Madam, please let me escort you back to your room,” Vincent urged while everyone stood in a daze.
Bianca, who had been staring at Zachary’s retreating figure absentmindedly, responded exasperatedly, “I can go back on my own. There’s no need to make a fuss.”
She was embarrassed by the thought of causing a scene and calling the doctor over simply having used her hand twice. Her hand was indeed in pain, but it was bearable. Moreover, something like that wasn’t the main issue.
Bianca bit her lip, feeling puzzled; she couldn’t understand Zachary’s behavior at all. It was almost as if…
It’s almost as if he’s worrying about me.
T/N: I personally prefer how this scene played out here in the novel rather than the manhwa. I feel like the manhwa rushed things by changing the timing of when characters appeared.
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