shadow: Hmph! (Corti)
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Picking up from the last line of the previous post thanks to a missing fragment. Gotta love the Japanese language sometimes... >.>


"You're the Earl of Ibrazel. You believe me, don't you?" Francis asked looking at him pleadingly.

"Is that true? Or are you making fun of me?"

"Lydia said that Ibrazel really exists, right? Hearing that, I was able to believe that the two of you really are the Earl and Countess of Ibrazel," Francis said speaking more and more seriously. "The city at the bottom of the sea is similar to your Ibrazel, isn't it? If so, I wonder if maybe it really does exist. Diana said that before she went to England, she had to go to the princess's royal city."

Francis squeezed Edgar's hand as though begging with him.

Edgar could only wish to be spared having a man hold his hand like that, and he pulled his hand free. However, Francis showed no signs of being offended.

"Edgar, would you take me to the city at the bottom of the sea? I think the only one who definitely knows Diana's whereabouts is the princess. I'm sure Lydia's there, too."

"Weren't men who went near there supposed to end up being killed?"

"I have this," Francis said as he pulled out a leather string that was hanging around his neck. A gold key hung from the string. Edgar suspected its shape was unfamiliar most likely because the key was extremely old.

"And that is...?"

"It seemed very important to Diana. She was probably intending to take it with her to the city at the bottom of the sea. I thought that she wouldn't just leave me if she didn't have this."

"In other words, you took it away from her? ......You're the lowest of low for a man."

"You're absolutely right." Francis looked away sadly. Most likely, there were a number of things he regretted now.

"Are you saying that as long as you have that, even men won't be killed?"

"I'm not sure, but legend has it that if you give the princess what she wishes for, you'll be able to come back alive, right? I think this is the key to the city's floodgate. She ended up losing the city because this was stolen from her. I think, most likely, she wants to get it back. So don't you think it might be what she's wishing for?"

"And if you happen to be wrong in your reasoning?"

Francis looked surprised. Apparently, he hadn't considered that possibility.

"That...... You're the Earl of Ibrazel. Diana's master. ......It's possible even the princess would show some respect to you because of that."

His tone dropped slightly.

Edgar could only wonder if that were true. It's questionable whether Diana knew about Edgar or not, and even if she did, he didn't know whether she would have acknowledged him as her lord. And the same was true for the half-fae princess. And above all, Edgar didn't know of any way to enter the fae realm. With neither Lydia nor Nico there, to him, the city at the bottom of the sea was a place that existed in fairy tales. That's why he couldn't help wondering. There weren't many people who could take women to the princess's city.

"By the way, is Aeris human?"

Or could she be someone from another realm?

Edgar couldn't tell the difference.

"You mean she's not?"

"If she's human, how is she able to take women to the city at the bottom of the sea?"

Francis considered the question.

The manner in which Lydia and Diana both were taken away to another world was wrapped in mystery. If that were true, then Edgar could do absolutely nothing. But he couldn't help wondering. If Aeris was taking people away to another realm through magic, she was doing a number of things in a rather human manner. Listening to the ladies at the resort hotel and seeking out those who are wanting help. Having the person leave a note behind before taking her away. She was taking a great deal of care to ensure that no one tried to follow after them. If she was taking them away to the bottom of the sea by magic, it shouldn't be possible for anyone to follow. Even if she herself wasn't human, wasn't it possible that the paradise she created for human women was in the human realm?

"Francis, do you know if Aeris owns any islands?" Edgar asked thinking of the painting he'd seen in London--the portrait of Madame d'Armor and the island floating on the sea. A castle-like building had been drawn on the island. If Aeris and the d'Armor who owned the portrait were the same person, that island might provide a hint.

"Island? ......Come to think of it, I think I heard something before about her having bought an island with an old castle on it."

"Where is that island?"

"Hmm, I didn't learn that much."

Edgar stood. Raven had said he'd been in the midst of investigating the island in the picture, but he'd gained a major hint. Most likely, it wasn't far from the hotel where Aeris once lived.

"Edgar, where are you going?"

"To get Lydia back."

"Eh? You're going already? ......What if you get killed?"

As if he could do anything once he's dead.

"I guess our fate depends on that key."


*


The sky had completely cleared when dawn came. Lydia climbed to the highest point in the castle, and as Nico had said, it was a castle standing on a small mountain island. It was surrounded on all sides by the sea. She stepped out onto the stone lookout surrounding the tower, and her hair streamed behind her as a gentle breeze went by. It reminded her of the touch of the person she wanted to see.

Lydia felt lonely. It might be that she would never be loved like that again. He'd seemed disgusted at Lydia for having kept things from him. He'd left without a word after seeing the ugly bruises on her. Could it be he'd become disenchanted with her? If he'd already been feeling unsatisfied with the marriage, perhaps it's become something definite. But she wanted to see him. She didn't want them to end up being separated like this.

She walked slowly following the railing. The dress she borrowed was a loosely fitted medieval design and it was lined at the bust. Being told that there was no need to wear a corset there, she decided to try doing that, but the feeling of having the wind making its way through the dress only made her feel even more helpless. Even so, Lydia still didn't feel like returning inside the castle.

She could barely make out the pink granite coast in the distance. And while it was faint, it helped to calm her down. Because it let her think that she wasn't so far away from that hotel and Edgar. The problem was that there was no boat there. There wasn't a single boat on the shore. And when she asked the women she met in the dining room, they only looked at her strangely as though wondering why she wanted to go back. They all realised that they were under the protection of the princess of the famous Bretagne legend, but the princess was like a symbol and the place they were in was like a nunnery under the protection of the Holy Mother.

Most likely, Aeris was different, however. She didn't seem to think anything of Lydia having been brought there by the fae. And though she wanted to speak to Aeris, she'd been unable to find her anywhere that morning. So Lydia could only wander through the castle.

"Hello."

Lydia turned at the sound of a woman's voice. She was unable to remember who the smiling lady was.

The lady was too thin and seemed to be over 30, but it was possible that she was younger. Since she seemed familiar, Lydia figured it was one of the ladies she'd met that morning.

"You look lonely. Are you thinking of your husband?"

"Yes, well......" Lydia wondered if this lady too, couldn't understand why Lydia was thinking of going back.

"But you're here. You can't come to this place unless the princess allows it, so I think there's a reason for you to be here," she said. She then walked to the stone wall surrounding the balcony.

"In that case, I'd like to meet the princess. How can I meet her?" Lydia asked not expecting an answer.

"I don't know, but I wonder if you might be able to see her if you went to the royal city."

"The royal city......? It's at the bottom of the sea, right? How can I get there?"

The lady pointed at the sea. There was one part of the sea's surface that was slightly different coloured than the rest. A thin path seemed to connect the island to that part which appeared to be a shoal as it spread out offshore.

"When the tide goes out, supposedly you can see the church's steeple in the sea. Since the royal city is supposed to have existed over a thousand years ago, for a person to be able to see a city there probably means that they're seeing another world overlapping there."

"You mean that royal city used to be there? And it was connected to this island?"

She nodded slowly. "This island is the only part of the princess's domain that didn't sink away."

Could that be why Aeris chose this place to protect the women?

"You know a lot about the legend."

"I was born in Bretagne. My family went to America and I married an Englishman who made his fortune there." The woman had a dark look on her face. Most likely, she'd been disillusioned by that marriage and ended up here. But perhaps she felt happiness there because she smiled peacefully.

"Mrs. Lydia, your husband cares a great deal about you, doesn't he? You've never been afraid of men. Otherwise, you'd never think to try to stop a big man with only a woman's thin weak arms, right?"

Lydia's eyes widened in surprise. She recognised the woman before her, but she hadn't met her this morning. They met much earlier, on the stairs at the hotel......

"......Mrs. Slope......?" No, she wasn't supposed to use the husband's name when addressing someone here. What was her first name? Or rather... "......You're alive?"

That wasn't possible. The autumn sun was unusually bright, and her smile at having been freed gave some comfort to make up for Lydia's surprise and confusion.

"I wanted to give you my thanks. It was the first time a person ran out and tried to protect me like that."

But in the end, Lydia had been unable to do anything.

"I'm sorry to have surprised you."

Lydia hurriedly shook her head. The lady's figure faded threatening to disappear in the sun's rays.

"I don't know if it'll be of any help, but there's a portrait of the princess here in this castle. It's the portrait of a lady wearing a red moonstone ring.

The portrait of a lady wearing a moonstone ring. The thing she's looking for might be there?

"Wait! Do you know anything about the legend of that moonstone?"

Lydia tried to stop her, but the lady's figure slowly faded. Only her voice reached Lydia.

"......I've heard that it was her fiance's ring--the only person who tried to save the princess...... That person gave the ring to the princess and tried to save her using its power, but......"

Which means that person was a member of the Blue Knight Earl's house?

Lydia was lost in thought as she stared at the stone wall where Mrs. Slope vanished. In the end, her fiance let go of the princess's hand because if he didn't, he too would be swallowed by the incoming wave. But a portrait was done of the princess wearing his ring? If that was the case, perhaps it meant that she didn't hate him. Because he tried to save her? She didn't know what the princess's feeling were, but Lydia felt she'd definitely come one step closer to her goal. And she felt some hope in that.

I'll find some clue about Ibrazel then go back to where Edgar is.

It didn't matter how he might react, Lydia wanted to go back. Nor did it matter if she ended up feeling hurt; she wanted to see him. Even if Edgar had been disillusioned with her as a woman, it was possible that he'd still accept Lydia the fairy doctor. And that was enough. Because she wanted to be by his side.


*


On a rose-coloured rocky island, a castle stood where the pinkish boulders had been piled. More than on the island, the castle appeared to have been built on the surface of the sea.

"It's the island from the painting. I'm sure of it," Edgar murmured as he looked up at it from the boat. He was slowly getting closer to the island that had been finely drawn in the background of the portrait.

After the conversation in the bar, he and Francis returned to the hotel. Edgar combed through the information he had dealing with the island Aeris owned, and bringing Raven and Kelly with him, he headed for where he thought Lydia might be. Naturally, Francis also came with him. While Francis had previously given up even confirming whether the woman he loved was alive or not, this time he seemed serious.

Edgar had told Kelly to wait at the hotel, but she refused to listen saying she would go too. If the castle in question was the women's paradise Aeris had built, it might be easier to sneak in if a lady was present. Having realised that, Edgar ended up bringing Kelly as well.

"Rumour has it that a widow's been living at that castle for a long time now, but she supposedly hasn't once stepped off that island," the crewman steering the boat said. The tour boat Edgar hired was normally used to view the pink granite coast from the sea, but apparently, it wasn't unusual for tourists to want to see the other islands in the area as well. The crew seemed to think that Edgar and the others as those sorts of foreigners.

"Huh, I wonder how she manages to survive there."

"There's supposed to be someone who delivers any necessary items to the island once a month. But there's no ship on the island itself. The folks at port were wondering about that, since it seems the castle's owner doesn't even allow the servants to leave the island.

"Could it be there's a ship that'll come help them out when they need it?" Francis asked.

"If such a ship existed, you'd quickly be able to find out about it in out in the country. After all, there's no need to hide it in the first place, right?"

Certainly, there'd be no need to hide if a widow or her servants came and went from the castle on occasion. But if women who run away from home were hiding away there, it would be better not to have a way to come and go from the castle freely. They wouldn't want to run into someone they knew if they went to town, and if it seemed that no one was coming and going from there, no one would suspect that they were hiding in that castle.

"The tidal range in this area is quite great, right? I've heard that there are a number of islands that are connected to the mainland at low tide, but what about that island?"

"It doesn't get completely dry. If you don't mind getting your feet wet, it might be possible to go along the shoal. Well, you'd really have to know the shoal well. If not, the tide would come in and sweep you away while you wandered the shallows."

It was possible if you knew the area well. Edgar suspected Aeris used a carriage. At low tide, she had a carriage come meet her. There would be no wheel tracks left on a path that was lightly covered by seawater. No doubt, she could use that path even at night, so no one would ever see her.

"If you could find the legendary royal city's road that was supposed to be surrounded with walls that held the waters back, it might be possible to come and go on foot."

"From the legend? The royal city that sank to the bottom of the sea?"

"Yeah, that."

"Was it near that island?"

"When I was a kid, I heard that the island was supposedly part of the city...... but those sorts of places seem to exist all over the place along Bretagne's coast," the crewman said laughing. No doubt he meant to say that lots of opinions existed about the legend complicating things.

"My lord, there are no signs of a watch or guards. There's only one dock and someone who seems to be a scullery maid uses the nearest entrance to it, so most likely it's the back entrance," Raven reported. He'd been observing the island using a spyglass.


This brings us up to somewhere on pg 167. Enjoy.

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