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Lydia tiredly leaned against a nearby tree. Thinking about London society, Lydia had been safe from such things thanks to Edgar's preparations. She had the Duchess of Maysfield's backing and even gained the authorisation of Her Majesty the Queen. That's why her engagement to Edgar was accepted. But simply trying a little when she left that area wouldn't make her an aristocrat.

Still, she was a fairy doctor. She could do things that no one else could for Edgar's sake. She should be able to become invaluable to him. She rubbed her eyes hard trying not to cry, turned her back to the now empty gazebo, and finally managed to walk away.


"We're here on our honeymoon. There's no need for her to go out to a ladies-only tea party, is there, Raven?" Edgar grumbled as he put his chin in his hand.

Raven placed a teacup on the table and answered calmly, "Perhaps you should tell her that."

"If I say something about too much, she'll think I'm an annoying husband. It already seems like she's thinking about things dealing with marriage after being faced with a wife being abused."

He thought Raven sighed. After fighting in the middle of the night and then making up, now he was having to listen to Edgar's complaints. No doubt, he was feeling like he wasn't getting any chance to relax on this trip.

"But Raven, I wonder if Lydia's getting along with and enjoying spending time with Lady Newman and the others. If so, that would be fine, but I'm worried that she might be trying her best to get used to interacting with the nobility."

He was hoping that Lydia would find their stay at that hotel to be enjoyable. Edgar had taken Lydia to the salon thinking that Lydia would be able to relax as she made friends with English nobility who were used to dealing with foreigners, but it could be that Lydia took it as being part of her duty as Countess.

"Mrs. Lydia always tries her best at everything."

"About that..." If it was for Edgar's sake or for the Blue Knight Earl's household, she tried her hardest, but he couldn't help feeling that their honeymoon was being left by the wayside. "I wonder why she isn't more eager to deepen our relationship."

"On that front, I think it would be difficult to become more eager than you, my lord."

'I see,' Edgar thought.

He'd thought that if she agreed to marry, he didn't want anything else. He thought he would be content if they married. If she would say one word about loving him. If she would seek a kiss. Regardless how much Lydia gave him what he wanted, no doubt he would wish for more still.

"Raven, even though I'm happy, and yet I'm not entirely satisfied. I wonder why that is."

He felt like the traveller that walked through an arid dessert suddenly being overcome by unquenchable thirst when he finally found water.

"I wonder if I can really bring Lydia happiness."

There were so many burdens that he carried. He didn't know if he would be able to give her a peaceful life where they could live happily growing old together. Even though he wanted to do that, there was a part of him that sometimes wished he would vanish in an instant while holding Lydia. If she truly became his, he didn't really care about the earl's household or the prince. He felt like abandoning thinking about such things or fighting, and rather than death, he felt like dragging her with him into oblivion.

Ever since meeting Lydia, he was supposed to have found hope, so he couldn't help feeling disconcerted to find such impulses that seemed more akin to despair still hiding within him.

"Regardless what happens, Mrs. Lydia will always stay with you," Raven said firmly.

That's what made him so afraid Edgar thought as he smiled wryly.

If that was true for Lydia, he felt that he was many times more earnest in his unwillingness to let her go. Even if she were to want to leave him, no doubt he would think of ways to keep her by his side. So there was one thing he was absolutely determined on. If the prince's memories he carried inside him should start to become active, if he should sense that, he would take action before it became too late. Except for that, he was determined that it would be impossible for him to leave her. There was nothing else for him to worry about. As long as he continued to be himself, he should have no doubts and concentrate on building a happy family with Lydia.

So why is it things were so painful sometimes. Why did he wonder if it really was okay to do that. The more Lydia loved him, he couldn't help wondering if it was really okay for him to be the way he was.

'You should never have been born.'

Perhaps it was because he remembered those words that resembled a curse.

"......Rather than that, Raven, tell me what you discovered," Edgar said trying to change gears.

Raven was looking at him oddly, and making him feel uneasy was pointless.

"Yes," Raven said. He looked like he wanted to say more, but he straightened up instead as he followed Edgar's request.

"The lady in question is Aeris d'Armor; she's staying at this hotel alone. Apparently, she visits numerous time each year."

"She seems to be quite well-off, but what about her background?"

"There are numerous rumours about her including that she has an elderly husband or that she's single, but they're all rumours and I haven't been able to learn anything definite."

"Huh. But because she's a regular guest of the hotel, she's become acquainted with the other guests, eh."

It seemed like Francis, too, had stayed here before. So it's possible that they were acquainted. But more than that, what bothered Edgar was whether she'd come to Sylvanford in the past. But if her background was unknown, it was difficult to tell if he could link her to his mother or not.

He wondered if he should meet directly with her or not. As he was wondering that, Kelly showed up.

"Master, the lady Aeris d'Armor has come."

Edgar and Raven exchanged glances in surprise.

Edgar looked towards Kelly. "And the reason for her visit?"

"Apparently, she wishes to see Mrs. Lydia and is asking if it would be alright for her to wait here."

"For now, show her here."

The person who appeared was none other than the woman who'd spoken to Francis the day before. And the ominous black almond-shaped eyes Edgar remembered so well were turned towards him. The strange feeling that she looked the exact same as she had in the past grew.

"I'm pleased to meet you, Lord Ashenbert." Her smile looked as though it was plastered on.

"I take it you became acquainted with my wife here?"

"Yes, she's most compassionate and a wonderful wife."

"And the reason for your visit?"

"Are you the sort of husband who wants to know everything that your wife has been up to?" Her sharp manner of speech was clearly meant as a challenge. Perhaps she knows who Edgar is. No, that probably wasn't the case. Even if she were the woman who appeared at Sylvanford back then, there was no way for her to know that the boy from back then was currently calling himself Earl Ashenbert. But her look gave the unpleasant impression that she saw through all the lies. Edgar frowned.

"I didn't think you would mind if I asked. Rest assured, if it has something to do with a secret of yours, it's unlikely wife my would say anything about it to me."

"No, it's not about me. I was concerned for your wife's injuries."

"Injuries?" Edgar asked blankly.

"Are you unaware of them? There are bruises on her arms and legs as though she'd been beaten or struck with something..."

"Surely not."

"How strange. If someone had done that to her, I wonder why she wouldn't say anything about it."

Mrs. d'Armor smiled thinly.

"I would ask that you not tell such tales. Lydia's not the sort of wife to keep secrets."

"Yes, no doubt. In which case, I wonder if you're merely pretending to be ignorant therefore."

Just what did she hope to accomplish.

Her attitude made it clear that she wouldn't accept being refuted. She then bent her knee into a proper curtsy. "I've offended you. I'll be leaving and will come again later."

She immediately left the room.

Edgar remained there standing in shock. He buried his fingers in his hair and called Lydia's lady's maid. "Kelly!"

"Yes, master."

"Are there bruises on Lydia's body as though she'd been hit?" he demanded almost snapping at her.

Kelly looked up at Edgar looking tense, but she answered firmly, "What are you talking about? There are no such things on her."

Edgar wondered if that was the truth. A good lady's maid was a wife's unconditional ally. And Edgar chose that sort of lady's maid for Lydia. He couldn't help feeling a bit like he'd hanged his own neck.

"Very well. You may go."

After he dismissed her, Raven drew closer with a serious look on his face.

"Raven, the woman just now was suggesting that I struck Lydia. What do you think?"

Edgar threw himself onto the chair exhausted from a mix of anger and disbelief.

"My lord, there's one more important piece of information," Raven said without giving his opinion.

Which meant it dealt with that woman.

"Alright, let's hear it."

"Actually, the name madame d'Armor has come up elsewhere. Mr. Slade's report regarding the red moonstone painting arrived from London this morning. It's also the name of the person who claimed the painting stating they'd had no intention of selling it in the first place."

The picture of the woman wearing a red moonstone ring. Her face was hidden behind a mask. In the background was the image of a rose-coloured old castle floating on the sea. And that picture led Edgar and the others to Bretagne.

It was a mistake for the French art dealer to have brought that painting to London in the first place. But if the painting's owner were staying in the same hotel? What did that mean? It was almost as though she'd lured them there.

"Also, the model for the painting is Madame d'Armor herself. It's also written that she's the owner of the small island shown in the background. While there are many islands in this area with old castles, I'm in the process of going through them one-by-one."

Could that person be in possession of the red moonstone that might be the property of the earl's house?

"Do you think Madame d'Armor and Aeris d'Armor who is staying here in this hotel are the same person?" Edgar asked leaning forward.

"It's a definite possibility. Madame d'Armor's background is also unknown, but she's wealthy enough to do as she pleases."

"I see. So they're both mysterious women with hidden pasts."

The woman in Edgar's memory. The owner of and model for the painting of a woman wearing the red moonstone ring. She'd been staying here in this hotel almost as though she'd been waiting for them, and at some point, became acquainted with Lydia. Any way he considered things, she was definitely up to something.

"Master, the missus has returned."

Edgar cut off what he was thinking about at the sound of Kelly's voice. Seeing Lydia enter the room, he couldn't help thinking she looked a little depressed. Worried about Lydia and the way she seemed, Edgar quickly decided to set the issues of Aeris and the possibility that Lydia might have bruises from having been struck aside for the moment. He got up to greet her.

"Welcome back, Lydia. How was the tea party?"

Even if he spread his arms for her, Lydia almost never jump into his arms, so he embraced her. Since she kept her face down, he settled for kissing her on the forehead instead.

"Yes. …...Actually, Edgar, there's something I have to apologise to you about."

"Did something happen?" While he was worried as to what might have happened, he kept his voice light trying to keep things from becoming serious.

"I told everyone that I'm not of noble birth."

Edgar felt relieved. For the most part, the things Lydia worried about weren't very important.

"Oh, is that all."

"'Is that all'... They might think you're not a proper aristocrat for having married a commoner."

"Let them think what they want. An aristocrat's true worth isn't their social position or their lineage, but their personal pride. They don't have any proper pride, and that's why they're particular about that sort of thing."

Edgar regretted taking Lydia to the salon when he saw the hurt look on Lydia's face. Apparently, socialising while travelling didn't result in fun memories.

"Please cheer up. I have a present for you." He smiled as though to say it was nothing major and stroked Lydia's hair. He then picked up the box that was sitting on the table and handed it to her.

"It just arrived from the shop in Paris. Go ahead and open it."

Lydia looked at it curiously and nodded before undoing the ribbon. Inside was a handbag with white butterfly-shell beads. When they'd been out shopping in Paris, Lydia seemed to really like it. While she'd considered it, she ended up not buying it. She hadn't realised that Edgar secretly bought it.

"This...... Why? It was so expensive." Lydia looked at him surprised.

"I thought it really did suit you. I know you don't care for luxuries. So this will only happen while we're on this trip. If I can buy it, I want to give you everything you want."

"I see, you...... Um...... thank you. It's lovely." Lydia said with a smile, but she didn't seem truly happy.

Perhaps she was simply taken aback because of the price.

However, Lydia then something completely unexpected. "I was just thinking I should have bought it back then. Because I'd ended up doing something as embarrassing as not buying something at such an expensive shop."

"Lydia, what are you talking about?"

"The maids at the hotel in Paris were incredulous as they talked about it. I'm sorry, I didn't realise it."

While he didn't intend it, he might have hurt Lydia's pride with his gift. At the very least, the timing of his gift might not have been the best given how she'd only just had problems with the other ladies over social class.

"Um, that's not what I intended. I just wanted to make you happy."

"I'm really happy about it." Since she was forcing herself to smile, it didn't look that way in the least.

"I'll be able to look more like a countess with this bag."

"The embroidered bag you usually use suits you very well, too. You can use it with the dresses it matches with."

This brings us up to pg 119.


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January 2012

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