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This brings us to late pg *153*...? Methinks someone's been slacking... >.>

The manager left after giving Edgar the update. Edgar didn't have the will to stop him and sat in the chair. He remembered the look on Lydia's face. The bruises on her that were so painful to see and her mixed expression of shame and dismay. He wanted her to always be smiling, so why did things end up backfiring on him. He couldn't bear the thought of losing her like this.

Swearing to make Lydia happy, hope had become a definite reality. So if this happiness were to come to an end, he thought it would only be if the prince's memories should ever take him over. It certainly wouldn't be now. It was impossible for him to lose her now.

"My lord, Mr. Nico's also missing. It's well past dinner time," Raven said upon returning.

Kelly continued praying to God.

Could Nico's disappearance have anything to do with Lydia? Edgar wasn't even sure if that gave him hope or not. Was it possible that Nico fell with her? For example, if he tried to save her......

"What about Arrow?"

"I can't tell anything about the spirit of the sword."

Normally, even Edgar rarely saw that fairy. In the moonlight or in dreams, he could sometimes speak to him in places close to fae domains. In the human realm, when called Arrow appeared in the his sword form. And that had been more than enough for Edgar, but right now, regardless of how much he called, the sword didn't appear. Even though Arrow should be able to tell where Lydia's marriage ring was located.


"......Please forgive me."

"No, not you. I'm talking about Arrow."

Raven still hung his head, however. Most likely because, like Edgar, he was upset he hadn't realised something might have happened to Lydia and Nico. The other thing bothering Edgar was Aeris d'Armor. She'd left the hotel pretty much while the commotion was taking place. And he wondered if that too, might have something to do with Lydia's disappearance.

Edgar slowly got to his feet.

"I'm going out to search for Lydia."

Raven started to follow him, but Edgar stopped him.

"I'd like to be alone."

Leaving the hotel, he went down to the port town. While the rain had died down quite a bit, there was virtually no one on the streets. Inquiring at the station, the station master told him in heavily accented French that he hadn't seen any English young ladies. Even though it was a resort area, the summer season was over. If he'd spotted any wealthy-looking foreigners headed towards the hotel or their vacation properties, he would have spoken to them in the hopes of earning a tip.

The same was true with the ships. The weather was bad today, so there were only a few passengers. The last ferry left before sunset, so there was no chance Lydia would have been on it. It could be that someone threatened Lydia or tricked her and stole her away. In which case, she was still be alive. But it could be that he only wished that to be true. There was no evidence that she'd been kidnapped.

Hoping to at least find Nico, he checked the back alleys where the cats seemed to gather, but it was no use. Perhaps it was only natural. After all, he was fae.

"I wonder if even a fairy would die if they fell from a cliff," Edgar murmured. His fully glass of cider felt unusually heavy.

The cafe near the pier was crowded and buzzing with conversation, but what he heard was all in unfamiliar Breton.

"Hmm, I wonder."

The person who said that spoke English. The man before him, resting his chin in his hand, was one-eyed and had his silvery hair tied back in a tail. Francis had spotted Edgar wandering around the port town and spoken to him. Perhaps he'd been unable to ignore Edgar, who'd been completely worn, so he suggested they have something to eat at a cafe.

"So these are galettes? They look like rags."

They're made from buckwheat flour and thinly cooked. Well, try it. They go well with cider."

"I was supposed to have them with Lydia."

"Every time you open your mouth, it's "Lydia this", isn't it?"

"What else would I need to talk about?"

"Hmm, well, I guess it's okay."

"Lydia...... I wonder if she's crying all alone right now. She can't live without me."

"Isn't that the other way around?"

"I'm that way, so Lydia is too. Otherwise, she wouldn't have married me."

"Huh, and here I thought it was just you that was head over heels in love."

"Lydia's shy."

"I see... When it comes to being your wife, she must face a number of embarrassing situations."

"Sill, why am I telling you this sort of thing when I've only just met you?"

Francis laughed and took a drink of cider. "Maybe because we resemble one another? Just because a single woman disappeared, we're pathetically hopeless."

Edgar laughed too. He took a drink—the apple wine was surprisingly sweet. "......No thanks. I really don't want to become like you."

"You're one to speak. But if you continue drinking the way you are, that's what's going to happen."

"You're quite right about that."

Now wasn't the time to be wandering aimlessly about town. He needed to think clearly about what was happening. Edgar shook his head trying to clear the fog from his brain, and pulled his thoughts together. His ash-mauve eyes were determined as he looked at Francis.

"I'm not going to let Lydia become a memory," he said.

Francis became serious at Edgar's statement. "Good. I can finally discuss things with you."

"Discuss matters?"

Francis nodded and leaned forward. "Edgar, this is the exact same as that time. The time with Diana. I'm sure Aeris must have taken her away."

"What did you say?"

Aeris d'Armor did?

"Why? For what purpose? And where?"

Edgar clenched his fist.

If she was the one who appeared in the past at Sylvanford, and if she happened to know his roots, her target should be Edgar. In which case, she should direct her hate or whatever it was at him. So, why did she go after Lydia?

"I don't understand very well either."

"Then why are you so sure?"

"There's no trace of Aeris after she left the hotel, right? From my own investigations, she didn't even had a carriage prepared for her. Nor has she been spotted in town at the station or at the port. The injured person I saw in Aeris's room left a note behind and has also disappeared. While no fuss was made about her disappearance, ultimately, it means that Aeris and the lady she'd met at the hotel both disappeared at the same time."

That's right. No one matching Lydia's description was seen at the station or at the port. Since they said they hadn't seen any ladies that seemed likely to be staying at the hotel, it meant that Aeris and the other missing lady hadn't taken the train or a ship. Perhaps it was only natural to think that they'd all disappeared together.

"Francis, was your lady close to Aeris?"

He frowned and nodded. "Do you feel like listening to a story from my past?"

"It seems like it might make for a good diversion."

"In any case, I met Diana. It must have been fate."

Francis suddenly started telling the story from his past. Apparently, it happened before he decided to pursue medicine. Diana had been staying at the home of a wealthy Breton noble family and seemed to be the young daughter of a good home in the midst of learning to become a wife. But in fact, after becoming close with Francis, she admitted that she was from Ibrazel and that she was on a mission for the Blue Knight Earl's household. The nobleman Diana was staying with was apparently Aeris's husband. In other words, Diana had been staying at Aeris's residence.

"Wait a moment. Do you mean Aeris d'Armor is a member of Bretagne's aristocracy and that her residence is nearby?"

"At that time, her name wasn't d'Armor. I heard that shortly after Diana disappeared, her elderly husband passed away. And the residence ended up in the hands of other people. It was bought by an American, renovated, and it's now that hotel."

What was that? Edgar buried his fingers in his hair.

"If Aeris used to live there, that would mean she's extremely familiar with the building, the property it's on, and even the surrounding areas."

"That's right. It lends credibility to my theory that she's taking women away with no one the wiser, right?"

Francis then turned the topic back to Diana.

It seemed that Aeris knew where Diana was from and what her goals were. That's why she didn't think well of Francis. She'd felt that he wouldn't be of any assistance to Diana.

"Diana told me that she loved me. But because she had something she had to do, there was no way she could marry me."

Just before she left Bretagne, Francis tried to prevent her from leaving by drugging and kidnapping her. He'd heard that if she didn't leave when the chance came, she would be unable to leave for a year. So if he robbed her of her freedom for two to three days, he figured he'd have the chance to talk her into it.

"Did she get angry with you?"

"She did. She was extremely upset and said she completely misjudged me. At the same time, she looked at me almost in pity. Even so, I kept her locked up and refused to listen to her pleas that I let her go."

"How cruel."

"Can you honestly say you wouldn't do the same thing? Could you let go of the person you love?"

Most likely he couldn't. But at the same time, Edgar was also prepared to have to let her go. He didn't think it right to drag Lydia into sharing the same fate as he whether she was willing or not. He hoped for her to be herself and that she would always be smiling. If he couldn't do that for her, then the time might one day come when he would have to leave. He'd come to realise that on the island in the highlands. If he was prepared for that possibility, he thought he would simply be able to love her.

"Didn't you think that by doing that, you would truly end up losing her?"

"I wasn't able to realise it at the time." Francis frowned and clenched his fingers as they rested on the table laced together. "In the end, Diana told me she forgave me," he said almost as though saying the words in prayer or in apology.

"......And after that, she...?"

"Disappeared. During the short time I'd taken my eyes off her. There were no signs she'd left using the door, and it was a sheer cliff below the open window...... The way things looked, I thought she must have committed suicide, and a part of me died that day."

The circumstances surrounding Lydia's disappearance definitely resembled those when Diana disappeared.

"But you're thinking that Diana hadn't committed suicide, but that Aeris had taken her away, aren't you?"

Natually, there was no way Lydia wouldn't commit suicide either.

In any case, for me, the only thing that mattered was the fact that I lost her. And it was because I'd forced her into doing so. So I lived a debauched life and tried to forget everything. I applied to serve in the war, and ended up losing an eye. But as time passed, I finally started to be able to think about the meaning behind her forgiving me. I thought that, maybe, it would be okay for me to follow where she'd gone."

He drained his earthenware cup, and the server at the cafe automatically refilled it with more cider. It never went empty, just like fae cups.

"And that's why I tried to find out about you, Edgar, and why I came to Bretagne. Aeris was still quite cold towards me just like she was before, but if she'd taken Diana and the other ladies away, there's no doubt. She must have taken them to the women's paradise."

Edgar leaned forward as they finally reached the key point of their conversation.

"Paradise? Where is that?"

"The city at the bottom of the sea."

They suddenly went from the real world to another reality. It was an old legend told through the years in Bretagne which was surrounded by the sea. Lydia had been interested in it. He remembered that the princess hated men and had built a paradise at the bottom of the sea and only for women.

"You're the Earl of Ibrazel. You believe me, don't you?"

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January 2012

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