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I get the feeling I'm starting to hit the 'I want a break now' stage. >.> This brings us almost to the end of pg 107 and the current section. Didn't quite make it to the next break. Ah well. ^^;



*


Long, long ago, when Bretagne was still called Armorica, the royal city that ruled the land still sat upon the sea. The land was so low that it was covered by water when full tide came in, but the city was surrounded by a strong wall and protected by a floodgate.

The king had a lone daughter. It's said that her mother was one of the fae. And the princess had magical abilities and was considered as a witch and feared. The princess refused to accept Christ's teachings, and hated the fiance chosen for her by the sages. She did as she pleased and kept a number of lovers.

Because of that, the city was forsaken by God and it fell into the hands of the devil. The devil tempted the princess's favourite lover―a most beautiful young man―to steal the key from her pillow while she slept. The key was to the keystone that protected the city―its floodgate. That day, by the the devil's own hand, the lock to the floodgate was opened, and sea water instantly flowed into the city. The sages immediately realised the devil's plan, and hurried to save the king and the people. Ringing the alarm bells, they led everyone to the mainland before the sink sank. The princess begged for help as the castle's people prepared boats and horses for the evacuation. However, all of her lovers feared incurring the wrath of god, and they refused to try and help her. Only one man tried to take her on his horse. It was the man the sages had chosen as her betrothed.

However, her sins were so great that the horse was unable to move one step from the sheer weight of them. The sages told the man to lower her from his horse, and having no choice, he obeyed. The instant he did so, she was swallowed by a wave and disappeared. But since the princess carries fae blood, it's said that she still lives in the capital city at the bottom of the sea. Despising all men, she commands the mermaids in the deep sea. She built a paradise only for women, and that is where she now lives.

If any man tries to get near the capital, he will undoubtedly be killed. It's even said that she uses fae magics to lure seamen, drowning them in the sea. The only way one can leave the princess's capital alive is to give her what she wishes. With her fae blood, the princess will save hated men's lives for the one who gives her her wish.


“The poor princess.”

“Even though she had many lovers?”

“In the end, they all betrayed her. So, none of them truly loved her.”

“You're probably right.”

Edgar closed the book and placed it on the table. Edgar read the book on local folk legends out loud after borrowing it from the hotel's library. Lydia sat next to him on the sofa. The sound of the rain closed around them, and it was nice listening to him read.

Unable to go out because of the rain, the two used the time to relax together.

“If only there was someone who hadn't been afraid of her magic or her fae blood. Someone who truly loved her most likely wouldn't have listened to the devil, and it's possible the city would have still been prospering today......”

Edgar chuckled and his face drew closer to her. “You're lucky, then. You have me.”

“I'm talking about the princess.”

“But you seem to be identifying with her a lot. Don't worry, if we were in the same situation, I would never let you go. If a horse can't carry you, I'll carry you myself.”

His words made it seem as though Lydia was wanting to be comforted. Embarrassed, she looked sulky as she pushed him away.

“I just really like this legend. There's a rumour that a number of ladies have vanished from this hotel and that they were invited to the city at the bottom of the sea. Since it's difficult for a woman to seek divorce, I think that women who wish for such hope to be saved by being taken away to the women's paradise.”

Edgar frowned concerned. “Lydia, please don't be interested in divorce.”

“What are you talking about? If the city really exists, the half-fae princess will also still be alive. It could be that she'll know about Faerie and the red moonstone, right?”

“For some reason, I don't like the idea of you becoming friends with a princess who hates men and endorses divorce.”

“In which case, I wouldn't be able to find anything out.”

“For starters, we should look into finding out what sort of legends exist about the red moonstone, right?”

Certainly, that was why they'd came to Bretagne in the hopes of finding a clue.”

“Yes, but there wasn't anything about it in the collection of local legends. And it seems like father was also unable to find any works containing any details about the legend either, so it might be that the legend isn't very well known.”

“In which case, it could be that people who only speak Breton will be the only ones who know it.”

If that were true, then it wouldn't be easy to find any clues. Lydia was nothing more than a traveller. She had no means of getting to know the locals since she couldn't speak the language. Lydia glanced at the clock while she considered the problem. A great deal of time had passed.

“It's already this late. Edgar, I have a tea party to attend!”

She'd been invited to a lady's only tea party in the afternoon. Lydia quickly got to her feet.


It had stopped raining sometime earlier, and with Lady Newman at the centre of the group, the upper class ladies gathered at the gazebo in the garden. Lydia joined the group, and while they were chatting idly, someone brought up the previous day's incident involving Mrs. Slope.

“How terrible. To think that her legs had chains on them.”

“It would normally be unthinkable.”

“I wonder if it really was her husband that killed her.”

“Lady Ashenbert, seeing how you've only recently wed, this must be unimaginable, is it not? No doubt, you've never even gotten into an argument with your husband yet.”

Lydia could only give a vague smile.

“But in Mrs. Slope's case, I think it wasn't the same thing as a lover's quarrel. I happened to see the wife being struck by the husband......”

A number of people nodded and frowned. Apparently, Lydia wasn't the only one to see that happen.

“Even though we saw it, it still has nothing to do with us,” Lady Newman stated decidedly firmly. “After all, she was from the working class.”

In order to help Lydia understand what she meant, Lady Newman sat next to Lydia and leaned in telling her, “Mr. Slope made a fortune after going to America. But supposedly the wife was a servant in his household. She didn't know her place and brought misfortune down upon herself.”

“But I think there are some people who get along well even though they are from different social classes......”

“That's a fantasy. For a man to want to marry a woman of lowly birth means he doesn't actually his wife. It's something a man does when he wants a slave who cannot escape regardless of what he does. Yet, despite that, she still married that sort of man. Don't you think it was the price she paid for gaining a social position and fortune she didn't deserve?”

Lydia could only sit uncomfortably unable to reply. Fortunately, the topic of Mrs. Slope and Lady Newman's argument was interrupted at that moment. Unfortunately, the mood unsuited to teatime didn't go away. An unexpected figure appeared at the gazebo.

It was Aeris. All the ladies were startled and frowned, but Aeris was unperturbed as she curtsied before Lady Newman.

“Viscountess, I'm sorry to interrupt you like this, but I'm searching for a doctor for an acquaintance of mine who has suddenly taken ill. The town doctor is far away on a house call. Just when I didn't know what to do next, I learned that your husband has some medical knowledge.”

“Sudden illness? That's terrible.”

Lydia started to rise, but Lady Newman was calm and showed no sign of moving.

“My husband no longer works. Ever since gaining his position.”

“I was hoping he might consider it. I was unable to speak to your husband directly, so I was hoping to plead my case with you.”

“Most likely it would be no use even if I passed your message. Not to mention my husband was a physician to the aristocracy.”

“Are you saying that he cannot examine a commoner?” Aeris challenged annoyed.

“That would be the case, would it not?” Lady Newman replied smoothly.

“Um, Lady Newman, could you not at least have your husband consider it?”

Lydia spoke up unable to remain silent any longer, but Lady Newman only looked at her in disbelief.

“Lady Ashenbert, even you are suggesting such a thing? You are a countess, yet you are siding with this woman?”

The other ladies, possibly siding with Lady Newman, looked at Lydia coldly. But 'countess'? She didn't change just because she gained a title like that. Lydia felt more for Aeris's position than she did Lady Newman's. As she walked to where Aeris stood, she wondered if Edgar would be annoyed with her.

“Aeris, I happen to know a doctor. Let's go speak with him.”

Lydia was glad to see Aeris's look of relief.

“Don't do it. Otherwise, you'll be seen as the same as this woman.”

“Lady Newman, most likely I'm not worthy of being friends with the ladies here. I'm not from the upper class, after all.”

Her comment created a stir in the crowd, and everyone looked surprised. But Lydia didn't care. It was the truth, so there no point in hiding it and having them be nice to her.

“If you'll excuse me, I'll be leaving.” Lydia gave a small curtsy then left the gazebo.


Naturally, the doctor Lydia was thinking of was Francis. They found him in his room and explained the situation to him. Going to Aeris's room, they found a woman lying on her bed. Lydia recognised her. It was the other lady who'd visited Aeris's room the previous day.

Francis approached the woman who lay moaning weakly. “This is bad,” he muttered.

She wasn't sick, but her back was red and blistered. It looked like burns. Lydia could only think that she must have had boiling water poured on her.

Most likely it stung when Francis applied a salve and bandages as she started to struggle against them. Lydia helped to hold her still, but she fought so hard that Lydia couldn't avoid using a lot of force. Lydia paid no attention to her hem or sleeves as she climbed onto the bed, so she didn't realise Aeris saw her bruises.

Eventually, the injured lady seemed to run out of energy to fight and lay there muttering deliriously. Apparently, she was asking for shelter.

Aeris nodded firmly. “Why must women enter into an unwanted marriage, even though they're treated this badly?” Perhaps Aeris muttered things that way because she too had been treated in a similar manner by her husband?

“She'll probably have a fever later. If it seems very high, have her take this.”

Aeris accepted the medication from Francis then looked alternately between him and Lydia. “You will keep quiet about this, won't you?”

Most likely the maids that came and went from the room were Aeris's servants. The quietly changed the sheets with fresh new ones, and lay the woman on her stomach.

“Any way you think about it, it's impossible to continue hiding the injured here. This isn't your residence but a public hotel,” Francis said.

“It's alright. It's very soon.”

What's she talking about when she says it'll be very soon?

Lydia caught sight of the window sill in the corner of her eye. There was a glass of milk there. Were the lady with the burns, Mrs. Slope, and Aeris all the same—women who'd ended up in unwanted marriages? And was there anything significant in that? But Lydia couldn't seen Aeris being the same as the other two ladies. She was staying there on her own and firmly denied any unfounded rumours. Instead, she seemed more like she was trying to help women who were in trouble.

'If it were me, I would set her free.'

That's what she said. Things seemed like they were close to coming together in Lydia's mind.

“Well, I'll be going. Mrs. Lydia, I'll see you to your room.”

But when Francis spoke to her interrupting her, the feeling of being on the verge of realising something disappeared. Lydia climbed to her feet.

“I didn't know you'd become a doctor,” Aeris said to Francis as they stood by the door, and Lydia couldn't help being surprised at the comment.

Francis said nothing as he started walking, but Lydia couldn't help asking him about it.

“You know one another?”

Francis sighed softly and smiled self-deprecatingly.

“A little, in the past. But she didn't like me. …...Aeris knew Diana, and she didn't think I was good enough for Diana. She even said that directly to me.”

“I'm sorry......I didn't know that. I put you in an awkward situation, didn't I?”

“No. It has nothing to do with the lady who was injured, not to mention that this is what I do. Most likely, Aeris doesn't care about it after all this time. Not to mention, Diana rejected me.”

“But I don't think outsiders can know whether a person is worthy or not.”

“Yeah, but I think I now understand what Aeris was trying to say. That's right...... I was trying to the mission that Diana considered more important than anything else away from her. Back then, I was wanting her to be mine alone. And that's why she left me.”

“I wonder what her mission was for it to have been that important.”

“Yeah, I wonder what it was.”

Francis stared into space sadly.

Lydia couldn't help wondering if Edgar shouldn't try joining forces with Francis. Even though they both had virtually no information about Faerie, if they shared what little information they had, they might be able to figure something out. She glanced towards the garden lost in thought.

She caught sight of the ladies who'd gathered at the gazebo as they were about to return to the hotel. Realising that the tea party must have ended, she remembered that she left her bag behind. Lydia stopped. “Mr. Francis, I seem to have forgotten something at the gazebo. I'll go get it.”

Francis offered to accompany her, but she declined. She didn't want him to see the other ladies looking down on her should they run into Lady Newman and her hangers-on. Most likely, they would no longer accept Lydia among them. She went to the garden alone and headed towards the gazebo. Lydia hesitated when she realised several people were still there and hid among the bushes.

“Still, I must admit to being surprised. That Lady Ashenbert......”

“I thought she seemed to have a bit of a commoner's feel to her,” Lady Newman said.

“Just because us English folk living abroad aren't up on the latest details of what's happening back home, I feel like she's made fools of us, don't you?”

Lydia felt hurt at that comment.

“That's going too far. Regardless of her roots, she is a countess.”

Lady Newman's comment standing up for Lydia made her feel slightly better.

“My, whose bag is this?”

Apparently, one of the ladies noticed Lydia's handbag that she'd left on one of the chairs.

“Lady Ashenbert must have forgotten it.”

“It's quite cheap, isn't it? You wouldn't think it belonged to a countess.”

To Lydia, her handbag, while well-used, was anything but cheap. Still, she wondered if she should have bought a new one, after all. Hearing the ladies laughter, she couldn't help feeling depressed.

“I'll see that it's delivered to her.” Lady Newman took the bag.

Lydia couldn't help hoping that perhaps Lady Newman didn't hate her as she'd thought.

“Still, Lord Ashenbert's quite young and very striking, isn't he? The family has a noble lineage, so he should have had no troubles finding a high-born lady to marry.”

“True. It could be that he's quite eccentric.”

“Unlike young ladies of the aristocracy, it's much easier to get girls of common birth to do as they're told, and there are many men out there who like that.”

“It would be like taking a prostitute. As long as they get money, they'll do whatever you want.”

As the ladies left the gazebo, their gossip depressed Lydia more and more. Lady Newman stood a little apart from the others and was the last to leave. She'd shown no signs of taking part in the gossip, but suddenly she threw Lydia's bag into the pond then left acting as though nothing had happened.

Eh......? Why? Lydia stood shocked for a long moment unable to move.

Ah, she wasn't really standing up for me, after all.

Lady Newman felt that having Lydia, whom she'd fussed over and accepted among her friends, become the subject of ridicule was also an embarrassment for her. And that's why she not only stood up for Lydia but was also unable to laugh at her.


Enjoy.
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