Chapter 19 – A Wounded Palm (7)
Translator: Skye PR: mm1347
Yvonne asked if she could accompany Bianca on her walk the next morning. Bianca nodded her head impulsively, thrown off by the sudden question, but a smile naturally rose on her face once she saw Yvonne smiling while commenting on how she hoped the weather tomorrow would be nice.
Once Yvonne left, Bianca busied herself with embroidery. However, she eventually found herself staring at the wooden frame in a daze. It was something she had started out of habit, and though it was halfway done, she found she could not make any further progress. She ultimately moved the messy embroidery frame out of the way. It wasn’t like she’d make any progress even if she continued holding it anyway.
It had been a long time since she last went on a walk with someone. Bianca carefully placed a hand over her chest. It may have been due to the feeling of anticipation, but her heart was pounding.
Bianca recalled Yvonne’s innocent eyes looking at her. She wondered what Yvonne was like in her past life, but realized she couldn’t recall any memories of her. But that was to be expected. After all, the past Bianca considered maids as nothing more or less than passing tools.
Yvonne was likely to have been kind to her in the past as well. A person’s nature wasn’t something that could be easily changed, after all. However, Bianca’s past self hadn’t been able to recognize Yvonne’s thoughtful kindness. If, by chance, she had noticed Yvonne’s existence, would things have been different?
Bianca lightly shook her head. She had been too foolish and inexperienced to be able to see how precious each small encounter was. Even if there had been an opportunity for her to run into Yvonne in the past, Bianca wouldn’t have even bothered to look at her properly.
Still, thanks to the things she had learned in her past life, the present Bianca was able to accept Yvonne’s goodwill. It was just a suggestion for a walk, but it was something that never would have happened in the past. Whenever things like this occurred, a small smile of contentment fell on Bianca’s lips as she felt assured that she was really living a second life.
Later that day, however, yet another event arose which had not occurred in her past life: Zachary coming to find her.
Zachary stood by the door stoically, while Bianca stared at him blankly, startled by his unexpected visit.
“Are you not going to permit me to step inside?”
“…No, please come in.”
Once her permission was granted, Zachary strode through the door and into her chambers. The soles of his boots were clean, yet Bianca felt like she could see footprints left behind by his steps. He was as huge and intimidating as ever in her eyes. Her expression was calm, not wanting him to catch on to her fear of him, but she couldn’t hide the involuntary trembling of her shoulders.
“Your hand. Please open it.”
Bianca obediently splayed her palm at his assertive command. Bianca hated the way he spoke as if he was dealing with one of his subordinates. It was a blunt way of speaking, holding neither lip service nor sweet nothings. He was a man whose method of persuasion was using a sword. As such, his physical prowess was outstanding, but he lacked a smooth tongue. There was no particular reason for him to be good with words. At the very most, whatever smooth-talking ability he had was used to boost the morale of his troops.
Joy and displeasure weren’t emotions Zachary displayed openly. Though that was a common trait in nobles, Zachary’s placidity was on another level. He was a man resembling a very sharp sword. It was impossible to find a speck of emotion in him…
At least, that had certainly been the case until now.
“It still looks like burning charcoal. Why on earth did you refuse to call for the doctor?”
That same Zachary who rarely showed emotion was currently making his displeasure clear while chastising Bianca. The latter lowered her eyes at his unfamiliar behavior, the shadows of her lashes hiding the confusion swirling in her pupils.
Bianca replied quietly, “I didn’t want to cause a scene. Besides, Yvonne took a look, so I’m fine.”
“Yes, one of the maids.”
Zachary was silent. One of his brows arched upwards, like he couldn’t believe Bianca had remembered the name of a maid. Bianca herself never thought she would either, so his perplexity wasn’t a surprise. Still, that didn’t mean she could go into detail about her sudden change of heart. As such, Bianca feigned nonchalance and acted like remembering the maid’s name was only natural for her to do.
Instead of pressing further with regard to the maid, Zachary pursed his lips in disapproval. He must have been unhappy that she didn’t follow his orders, seeing as he kept going on about seeing a doctor.
“But you should still let the doctor take a look.”
“It’s nothing. Once one makes up their mind to lay a hand on someone, they should be prepared to feel pain themselves. Of course, I figured it would be too hard to endure a second time, which is why I resorted to a cane.”
Bianca observed her hand. Though Yvonne’s herbal bath earlier did have an effect, her hand was still swollen. A noblewoman didn’t necessarily need to be tough or fit, but to think her body would be this weak. Bianca could only sigh.
Come to think of it, she wondered how that impudent maid had been taken care of. Bianca recalled Ante and asked about the latter’s punishment.
“How did you handle things with that other maid?”
“She has been dismissed.”
Zachary’s answer was immediate and firm. A smile took over Bianca’s lips. Of all the things Zachary had done, this was one of the rare deeds she took a liking to. It was a relief that the woman really wasn’t his mistress. If she were, then she wouldn’t have been kicked out of the castle. At the sense of relief from getting rid of a thorn in her side, Bianca unknowingly murmured to herself quietly.
“It’s a relief that she isn’t your mistress.”
“…Just how long do you plan on bringing up that talk of a mistress?” Zachary retorted exasperatedly, having heard Bianca talking to herself.
Witnessing his obvious displeasure, Bianca realized her mistake.
No matter how public the knowledge of having a mistress was, it was something that should be hidden and not explicitly brought up. The fastidious ones tended to bristle, faces turning red with anger, whenever they were pointed out as having a mistress–as if their weakness had been targeted. If they were such sticklers for propriety in the first place, then they shouldn’t have gotten involved with a mistress. The fact that they didn’t think that far was laughable.
In any case, the issue of a mistress was a sensitive topic for both men and women. Therefore, it was only expected for Zachary to be vexed as Bianca kept prodding that matter.
“I apologize if I offended you,” Bianca said meekly.
“I think you’re mistaken about something.”
But her apology did nothing to quell Zachary’s emotions. His black eyes flashed an azure blue and the veins on his hands bulged when he clenched them. A single hand of his was big enough to cover Bianca’s entire face, and when clenched into a fist, it was the size of Bianca’s two fists combined. Bianca was well aware that Zachary wasn’t some thug who hit women, but that didn’t prevent her from instinctively putting her guard up or getting goosebumps.
“I don’t have something like a mistress.”
His words came out firmly, each word clear and emphasized, as if he were going to make an indent on her head with his clenched fist.
Bianca could only blink at the unexpected comment. Zachary didn’t even give her time to sort her thoughts. He took steady, unfaltering steps towards her. The sound of his shoes hitting the floor was intimidating. His aura was so menacing that Bianca unknowingly began taking steps backward, but Zachary didn’t stop, continuing to advance towards her as if stalking prey. Bianca stepped back until she no longer could, her back meeting the cold stone wall.
Bianca released a stupefied sound, finding herself stuck between a wall and Zachary. Her tense body reacted instinctively, shoulders trembling and teeth chattering. Anyone could see she was struck with fear. She looked as submissive and pitiful as a drowning mouse. Bianca bit her lip, catching her reflection in Zachary’s glossy dark eyes.
“…I don’t know what kind of scoundrel you see me as, but–” he mumbled while raising his arm.
His palm, which was large enough on its own to cover her entire face and smother her, came over her eyes to obscure her line of sight. Bianca could no longer see what face he was making while looking at her.
With her vision blocked off, her other senses were enhanced. The sound of her beating heart, the cold sweat rolling off her body, the wailing sound of the raging wind outside the castle, the chill of the stone wall behind her, the sound of saliva passing down one’s throat, Zachary’s scent–a mix of dense grass and iron–as well as the low timbre of his voice……
“I… I’m not that shameless.”
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