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Whoops, a hint late at posting this since I was busy in the kitchen making fudge and butter (again ^^; ). I think next time I have extra whipping cream, I'll try something a bit more yummy like creme fraiche or something. (And promptly make myself sick.) :P

In any case, the next part. A bit less than I would normally do thanks to the above eating some time. This takes us almost to the end of pg 55. ^^; (I'm not getting as much done as I should be. Eep!)


Getting her energy up, she was surprised to find that the salon they went to had a friendly atmosphere. There were a number of foreign as well as English nobility there. The jewels they wore as though competing against one another spoke of how wealthy they must all be.

Since Edgar was used to such things, he quickly got along with Lord and Lady Newman and became the centre of attention of the people there. Lady Newman was apparently quite a lot younger than her husband and age-wise, seemed more like an older sister to Lydia. Living in France, she mentioned that she hasn't been in London society lately, and wanted to hear about London and the Court. Lydia had only been invited to Court once, but that was more than enough to impress Lady Newman, and she treated Lydia kindly. The other ladies in the salon also viewed Lydia favourably. Complimenting her for her dress and accessories, the praised her so much that Lydia couldn't help feeling a bit flustered.

So when she excused herself from the salon briefly, she felt quite relieved.

"You're forcing yourself, aren't you?"

Lydia had been leaning against the banister looking down into the grand hall trying to clear her head from the alcohol when someone spoke to her. Turning, she saw a tall black-haired woman with strong features looking her way.

"Men always think it only natural for their wives to cope with stress for their sakes. Even if you look tired, they won't notice."

Lydia flinched at the sudden rude comment, but the lady's manner was so forthright that Lydia couldn't help feeling curious about her.

"Who...... are you?"

"Aeris."

She only gave her first name. She appeared to be in her late 20s, but her calm demeanor made her seem even older still. She was an unusual lady.

"I'm Lydia Ashe......"

"I don't care about your husband's name, Lydia."

She held out her right hand and the two shook hands.

"You're quite a young bride. Are you enjoying your honeymoon?"

"......Yes."

"But you don't seem suited to your husband. You're not used to dealing with the nobility, right? He likes showy places. And he's the type who's always had his pick of women. When his passion cools, you'll end up locked away at home. It's quite difficult for women to seek divorce, but even if the man fools around as much as he likes, he'll face no recrimination."

"Please, stop." Lydia couldn't help speaking out. "You have no right to say such things. He's very kind and always cares a great deal about me."

True Edgar was very popular, was true nobility, and suited elegant places more than anyone else, so it was only natural that he didn't seem suited for her. But he swore his love would not change for as long as he lived.

Aeris looked at her gently as though watching over an ignorant girl. She chuckled and pointed at the stairs that could be seen below the chandelier.

A lone woman was working her way down the stairs. While she wore a gorgeous dress, it didn't suit the lady and gave the impression she'd been forced to wear it. It seemed she couldn't walk well and she staggered as she took small steps.

"She has chains on her legs. Her husband did that to prevent her from running away. It's like she's a slave. She said that she might end up being killed."

"Y-you're kidding."

"Be careful. Marriage is a prison. You'll spend your life always afraid of your husband's mood." Lydia stood frozen in disbelief as Aeris whispered those words softly in Lydia's before leaving.

"Is this where you were, Lady Ashenbert." Lady Newman came and spoke to Lydia almost immediately after Aeris left. "The men have all left for the smoking room. So us ladies were thinking of having dessert together."

She took Lydia's hand warmly as Lydia nodded. She then leaned close as though discussing something secret, and asked, "You were just speaking to that black-haired woman, weren't you? Did she say anything strange to you?"

Lydia looked up in surprise.

"Do you know her?"

"Since we've been staying here so long, we're acquainted with one another. But you shouldn't get too close to her. I've heard some bad rumours about her."

"Rumours......"

Lady Newman nodded. "I've heard that even though she's supposed to be a high noble, her husband is quite elderly and is in a difficult position not having been blessed with an heir. And that's why she's living here at this resort on her own."

"Umm..." Lydia said not understanding very well.

Perhaps it was for Lydia's sake, or perhaps it was because she wanted to tell her some steamy gossip, but Lady Newman lowered her voice even further and whispered, "Supposedly if the lady should become with child, it'll be raised as the heir. I've heard that a number of men chosen by her husband visit her room."

Lady Newman watched amused as Lydia's eyes widened in surprise.

"B-but......"

"It's like she's a prostitute, right? There's no way a proper lady could bear such." Lady Newman frowned almost as though wanting to say that Aeris was sullied.

But if that were true, it wasn't Aeris who was at fault. Perhaps she said such things earlier because she'd been hurt by an unwanted marriage.

At that moment, Lydia heard a woman's scream. Surprised, she turned and looked to at the stairs. A large man was trying to drag the lady who was unable to walk well away with him. Perhaps he was her husband. Just as she thought they were arguing about something, th man raised his cane and struck the woman.

Lydia immediately ran over.

"Stop it! Striking a lady is the absolute worst!"

The man still didn't stop. Lydia grabbed hold of him but ended up being struck on the shoulder as he swung his cane. He then threw her off him, and Lydia slipped on the stairs. Fortunately, she didn't fall down the flight, but her breath caught as she hit her back and legs hard.

"You're a woman, don't interfere," he spat out before dragging his wife off.

Lydia had trouble getting to her feet because of the pain when Lady Newman slowly approached and helped her.

"Thank you......"

"You surprised me," she said in disbelief. "I won't say anything about this incident to anyone. Not to mention your husband would no doubt be quite embarrassed to hear that you grabbed hold of a man."

Ahh, that's right. Lydia had run out as she'd always done until now, but she couldn't always act like the strange Carlton girl.

"......Thank you for your discretion. I'll be returning to my room."

"That would probably be best."


The Women Who Have Vanished


"My, Mrs. Lydia, you even have bruises on your back from being hit," Kelly said the next morning as she helped Lydia get dressed. Seeing things in the light, Lydia found she had bruises on her shoulders, arms, legs... all over her body.

"I won't be able to wear any evening dresses that or open in the back for a while."

"Your arms, too. Either you'll have to wear dresses with sleeves or longer gloves. Do your legs hurt?"

"A little, but walking shouldn't be a problem."

"I'll get a compress."

"Thank you, Kelly."

Lydia felt pathetic as she sat down on the chair.

Kelly laughed. "Still, you surprised me last night. I thought perhaps you'd gotten into a scuffle."

When she returned to the suite, Lydia's hair was tumbling down her back, so perhaps it might have looked that way.

"Well, it was something like that."

'I'm glad to have a lady's maid that isn't too formal,' Lydia thought.

Kelly knew Lydia as she normally was very well.

"Still, to raise their hand against a lady. There are some terrible men out there, aren't there?"

"Please don't tell Edgar about yesterday."

"Of course, I told the master that you were tired and had gone to bed already."

Kelly would protect her secret. If it were Raven, no doubt he would tell Edgar the truth. In any case, Lydia had woken and gotten dressed early in order to hide from Edgar that she'd done something unladylike and that she'd fallen ignominiously and ended up badly bruised. She was thankful that her afternoon dress would hide all the bruises.

"Mrs. Lydia, she I put fresh milk out on the window sill?"

"Ah, yes, if you could, please. I wonder if some of the milk's gone."

There were many fae in Bretagne. Lydia quickly noticed the little fairies and decided to set some milk out on the sill for them to show she was friendly.

"Yes. Also, the fae left a little gift."

Kelly put an acorn on the dresser. Even though it was her first time coming to this place, by being able to interact with the fae like this, Lydia felt as though the land itself was welcoming her. Perhaps because the fae were like reflections of the earth or the weather. Along with the water, the air, the earth, and all the living animals, the fae were like spirits of nature.

Just as Lydia sighed, Raven brought tea. Thinking that perhaps Edgar had woken, the door to the bedroom opened.

"You're an early riser, aren't you, Lydia?"

"Good morning, Edgar. I'm sorry about leaving first yesterday."

"No need to worry about that, but are you feeling better?"

He smiled gently at Lydia and stroked her hair then pulled her into a loose embrace. Seeing him in only a gown in the sunlit room always made her feel embarrassed because his bare chest was right before her when he pulled her to him.

"I was only a little tipsy. Ah, Raven's prepared tea." Lydia did her best to act nonchalant as she moved away from Edgar and sat down at the table.

"If you'd said something, I would have left early, too. I thought you were still talking with the other ladies."

Lydia could only feel sorry at Edgar's truly concerned look. "But... it looked like you were enjoying yourself, too."

"Being with you is much more enjoyable."

Lydia managed to look away from the hot look he always gave her and took a sip of tea.

"In any case, we haven't made any definite plans for today, so relaxing here wouldn't be bad."

Just the two of them relaxing would no doubt mean that she'd be faced with Edgar's sweet-talk and affection.

"Eh, th-that would be such a waste. We've come all this way to Bretagne, after all."

"But you're tired from all the travelling we've been doing, right? We'll be staying here for a while, so staying in for one day......"

"I've got lots of energy!" Lydia regretted being so emphatic. It could be that her reaction was what Edgar wanted—in a number of ways.

Edgar gazed at Lydia with his chin in his hand and smiled delighted. "Really? In that case, that's fine. This is our honeymoon, after all."

Edgar's happy expression clouded over when their quiet morning was suddenly interrupted by someone banging at their door. They could only wonder at how violently the person was banging on their door. Kelly stood to answer the door, but Raven went to answer it before her. Asking who was calling through the door, the person on the other side yelled the name Slope. Lydia didn't know the name, and Edgar, too, cocked his head to one side.

"How shall I proceed, my lord."

"Open it."

As soon as Raven opened the door, a large man entered. He immediately strode towards Lydia when he caught sight of her, but Edgar stood in blocking the way.

"What is it you want? Coming all of a sudden like this is most impolite."

"That's the woman! What have you done with my wife?" the man yelled as he pointed at Lydia.

Lydia recognised him as the man who'd pushed her the previous day, but she had no idea what he was talking about.

"No doubt you're hiding my wife, so I'll have you let me search for her!"

"I refuse. Kindly leave."

Edgar held the man back by the shoulder. The man tried to knock Edgar's hand away, only to immediately be thrown against the wall by Raven.

The hotel staff ran over to the man. "Mr. Slope, please calm down!"

A number of people helped the man get up and removed him from the room. The person who seemed to be the manager remained and bowed to Edgar. "I apologise for the disturbance, Earl Ashenbert. To be frank, Mrs. Slope has been missing since this morning."

"Eh, you mean she's not in the hotel?" Lydia interrupted unthinking.

"Yes. Oddly enough, no one has seen her."

"But, the lady...... um, she has difficulty walking, right? I don't think she'd be able to get very far on her own."

"Lydia, do you know the lady?"

Surprised, Lydia hesitated unsure what to say. She was keeping what had happened yesterday a secret from Edgar.

"Umm, I happened to catch sight of her. Since she was with the man who came just now, I figured she was his wife......" she said coming up with an excuse.

"I see. Still, Mr. Slope said you were hiding his wife. I wonder where that accusation came from."

Naturally, that's because Lydia had come rushing out and tried to protect his wife. Lydia broke into a cold sweat as she tried to think of another excuse when the manager said, "Perhaps it's because of that." He pointed at the glass of milk left by the window. "Apparently, Mrs. Slope also left milk by the window every day. Supposedly it's some sort of charm. Is it popular?"

"Yes...... a little."

"When Mr. Slope mentioned it, I realised that I sometimes see rooms with it there. Perhaps he thought that you learned of it from Mrs. Slope--in other words that you were so close as to converse with one another."

Edgar looked like he accepted that reason, but Lydia didn't notice. Nor did she notice when the manager left. She was lost in thought wondering if Mrs. Slope knew about leaving milk for the fae in order to get along with them. Also, he sometimes saw others doing the same? But it was something that had been told throughout the years. So it wouldn't be unusual for people to know about it even now. Lydia wondered if perhaps Mrs. Slope believed in the fae.

"Edgar, I'm going to ask around and see what I can find out."


And this will also be the last of the X-posts. The rest will be going up at [personal profile] shadow. Enjoy!

[X-posted between [personal profile] shadow and [livejournal.com profile] kagedreams

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