Raymond leaned back again, glancing down at Carynne. He laughed as though he truly found it funny. Carynne tried to match him and laugh as well, but she couldn’t bring herself to.
Let’s think about Raymond.
Let’s think about Raymond, the one who came back from the war, who loathed Isella and loved Carynne. Let’s think of the marksman who suffered from insomnia and always kept poison in his mouth so he could kill himself at any given moment.
She knew Raymond. Now, she had to make the best offer to grab hold of Raymond. Other than love, what was the most plausible thing to present to this man who didn’t seem to love her?
Carynne laid down her answer.
“You hate Mister Verdic, don’t you.”
The best thing that would work on him for now was this.
Raymond shrugged and sipped his tea.
“Not exactly. Well… my life is held hostage as a mortgage with him. It’s not something I find pleasant, but it’s just like your case. There’s a lot to gain.”
“Why am I fighting this war?”
“Why am I the only one left alive?”
“I loathe him. I loathe everything that he has. Myself, as well.”
“Love is the only thing I’ve chosen for myself.”
Revenge wasn’t enough. It would be difficult to hold onto him with just revenge alone. His loathing was perhaps on a more comprehensive, wider scope. It’s what he’d like to hear the most. A proposal that would never be rejected.
“Sir Raymond. It’s possible to end the war of attrition at the White Mountain Range.”
“…What are you talking about all of a sudden?”
“Mister Verdic Evans is funding the Luthella Duchy.”
“Mm… Carynne Evans.”
“I dislike people who talk recklessly even as they don’t know the whole story.”
His index finger turned to point at Carynne’s forehead.
“Don’t think too hard.”
“Can’t we just make Mister Verdic Evans go bankrupt? I loathe that person.”
Carynne gave a plausible reason. This reason, too, roused her dried-up loathing.
He killed me several times. He slashed at my neck several times. He purposely used a rusty, blunt axe. Many times, so many times.
“No matter what he thinks, it was because of Mister Verdic that my father offed himself.”
Carynne blinked her eyes at Raymond.
“No matter who I am, and no matter who you are, don’t we have one thing in common?”
Raymond’s expression hardened.
Carynne knew Raymond well. He told her not to think so hard about it, but now that it’s been said out loud, it wasn’t just Raymond who could hold and make the other waver one-sidedly.
“I want to get revenge against Mister Verdic. If there’s something you’re planning to do with me, then do it after I’m done with this.”
That’s what you had wanted.
The love you gave me must have been that kind of love. A matter of fact—because it’s only right that you’d love me, only right that you’d loathe Verdic, only right that you despise Isella. To you, who craved true love, Carynne was a rather fine recipient of that love. Beautiful and pitiful and pure, just as he was to Carynne as well.
An answer wasn’t urged out of anyone. Raymond paced back and forth in the room for a while. As the sound of his footsteps resounded, he just stared at the ground. Then, he looked at Carynne. Their eyes met.
“I need to give the answer you need, don’t I.”
“You love me. Just like you said.”
“…You must be having fun, right?”
“Yes, well, when I see any woman, all I see is her face.”
“That’s why I’ve fallen for you. And that’s also why I saved you.”
“How nice… My face has such powers of persuasion.”
“And you love me. Just like you said.”
This was how they confessed their love for each other.
It was a starry night.
* * *
The birds’ chirping and the bells’ ringing during mornings were painful to hear.
“Good morning, Milady.”
“I got it… I got it…”
“Then please don’t bury your face further into your pillow. Please rise from the bed.”
Carynne opened her eyes, pushing down on the urge to cuss. A day like this was what she hated the most. Anger that couldn’t be avoided, fatigue that was so abundant that it just ruined her mood, things that she had no control over even if she tried. It was at times like these that Carynne acknowledges she was a human being made of blood and flesh, not pure ink.
“What a profound thought. And I’m still half asleep.”
“Wouldn’t you say that it’s counterproductive for a human to have a body?”
“I wonder why humans get born, only to work, get exhausted, then die.”
“Milady… Please wake up.”
Carynne’s face was wiped by the soaked towel in Donna’s hands. She’s so sleepy that she felt like she’s about to die. She was exhausted every single day because she had to do so much work lately.
“If I just die.”
“…Milady. You do know that maids like me get up one hour earlier, right?”
Carynne looked at Donna as though she couldn’t believe what the maid just said, but then she soon sighed deeply. It’s obvious how much weaker Carynne was compared to Donna. Whether it was physically or mentally.
“Just let me whine for a bit. I’ve been really tired these days.”
“Yeees. Please go ahead and eat your breakfast.”
Carynne opened her eyes.
The light of the blue daybreak filled the room. Then, a feeling of sadness seeped in from out of nowhere.
This is all because of Sir Raymond. I’m always tired at this time of the year. I’ve never ever been comfortable in Verdic’s house. And this, Raymond’s adding to the burden rather than helping me. He’s making things more difficult.
Carynne had lost all her strength.
When Donna opened the window, a chilly breeze blew in. Donna was flustered as Carynne, wearing only a thin nightgown, folded into herself.
“Should I close the window?”
“No, I need to stay awake. I’ll eat breakfast with the window open.”
Donna pushed the trolley in. It was the kind of luxury that Carynne wouldn’t have ever seen while she was just Isella’s lady-in-waiting. She should be satisfied with this.
With this thought, Carynne glanced down at the breakfast feast. It was breakfast, but what lay before her was a lavish meal.
The thick pancakes topped with maple syrup were surprisingly soft. The plate was also apparently heated on purpose, and as a result, the pancakes were still warm, its taste harmonizing with the still-melting butter.
There were many other things to eat besides the pancakes as well. There were large blueberry scones, which looked to be freshly baked, then there were also slices of crisp toast, which were covered with fruit jam.
“…I’ll gain weight.”
“Please take even just one bite of each.”
“How about you?”
“If Milady has any left-over food, that’s what I’ll have.”
“O-Oh, no, it’s fine if you eat everything, Milady! The Evans household doesn’t seem to be frugal when it comes to food.”
Carynne wondered what’s different compared to her memories. If that’s what Donna was going to eat, was the household actually generous with their servants? She could remember always just eating small portions of tasteless meals. They’re all leftovers and coarse food.
“Yes. They feed us well… It’s the other things that are difficult.”
“They used to be so stingy though.”
“Huh? How do you know that, Milady?”
“…Never mind. It’s just, I heard it somewhere.”
Where and how did the story change? Carynne looked down at her breakfast. It’s not the taste she had to worry about now, but the quantity.
For a poor family, such a feast would last them a week. Besides the food, there was also a selection of drinks for her—milk, two kinds of juice, lemonade or hot tea.
“…I never thought I’d ever be served such a meal.”
This was the meal of the Evans household’s daughter. And she’d just take a bite or two out of this luxurious meal. Even though she was tasked with nursing Isella, her meals, her clothes and even the bed she slept on were all so opulent.
“I should be satisfied with this, yeah.”
Carynne poured some milk into her tea and walked towards the window. The morning mist rose faintly.
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