Chapter 34 |
content warning: mentions of war and carynne’s callous thoughts on the matter. given the state of current events, i thought i should mention it here first.
“Do call me Carynne. I rarely go by the name Catherine—it’s awkward. That’s my mother’s middle name.”
Watching him act more familiarly with her, Carynne smiled reluctantly and looked out the window.
Raymond was the kind of person who would treat someone else casually right away. While thinking of how she had fallen so foolishly in love with him before, she stiffened up. It was Raymond, this remarkably chatty guy. He was someone who was in no such position to be that way—someone who had no need to make jokes at his own expense.
“The weather is nice,” Raymond noted.
Carynne set aside the scope covering her eyes as she looked at Raymond, the one tainted with her previous memories of him. The topic he brought up just now, 7 points.
Looking down at Raymond’s clothes, she saw that he was wearing a deep navy hunting outfit, the top and trousers matching nicely. She wondered who picked that for him.
“It seems so. Do you like the summer, Sir Knight?”
“I like all the seasons except the winter.”
“Winter at the White Mountains is quite harsh, I believe.”
“It was terribly cold.”
She recalled a distant past, them both lying in bed together, when Raymond once confided in her with a hushed voice.
“At one point, I wanted to cut my fingers off. Everywhere I looked, I could only see the white expanse. I thought that it might be better if I bled.”
He said so as he lifted a lock of Carynne’s bright red hair, giving it a kiss.
“I truly love the color of your hair.”
“You know about it very well, Lady.”
* * *
“Women should have someplace else they could go. We just sit inside the house and either listen to others with strained ears or read books.”
“These are dangerous times. It’s better to stay cooped in a safe place.”
It was a dangerous time to live. Even now, wars were still being waged in the countries beyond the White Mountains, but this country they were living in had nothing to do with that war. Rather, Carynne wondered if she could soothe her boredom more if she’d get caught up in the war despite being far away from it. If she’d say these thoughts aloud, Raymond would surely be angered.
In the end, it was someone else’s business. It had nothing to do with her since it was so far away.
During an afternoon like this, she was supposed to be embroidering, watching the dust dancing in the air that looked like golden specks beneath the sunlight. She didn’t care about the people who were suffering beyond that mountain range. Whatever those people’s names were or however their faces looked like, right now, they were all nothing but entertainment for her. Whether this entertainment came in the form of comedy or tragedy, they both weighed the same in the end.
Even if she hadn’t verbalized these musings to him, this was how Carynne thought. In fact, the whispers of opinions that could be heard at the countess’ salon were something that held more weight for her. The war that Raymond had participated in was not honorable, and neither was it a war that affected the majority of this country.
When the countries at the other side of the mountain range had gotten backed into a corner, they asked for support, and so soldiers were pushed to the battlefront. The army that Raymond had been part of was one that people did not care about, whether they lived or ended up dying.
The army was composed of these people for the most part: third or fourth sons of aristocratic families, sons of fallen nobility who were now part of the middle class, young men who wanted to use this war as an opportunity to rise through the ranks, men of the lower class who needed aid because they had no other means of earning money. This country sent troops like that, just the bare minimum in order to save face and say that they did send aid to that foreign war.
Verdic profited greatly from this war. Countess Lawton secretly gained exclusive mining rights, and Baron Norring had set up a large-scale gambling den where people could bet on the battles being fought. This country held that war with only this much regard—only this much weight. The tragedy was only to that extent for them.
However Raymond, someone who was directly involved in this, refused to think in the same way. He didn’t want to be told that the war he was fighting in was for the benefit and for saving the face of only such a few. Carynne decided to give him props for at least that.
She bowed her head.
“It is through the knights’ hard work that the people of this land can continue living in peace. Thank you.”
If she didn’t think so, then it would be unbearable.
“I only hope that the people’s deaths would not be in vain.”
Unbearable for this man who was too much the epitome of a knight.
Keeping her head bowed down, Carynne organized her thoughts.
How much was he suspecting her?
How far did she say that night. What did he see. At what point did he start watching her. Did she say something useless. She shouldn’t have let her face be seen. Was it a good decision to get Tom? Why didn’t she just stay still that day.
Doubt festered further the moment it had started taking root. Like ink poured into water. While Carynne couldn’t be sure that Raymond had genuinely fallen for her like he did in the past, it was the same for Raymond—he wouldn’t be able to think that she had genuinely fallen for him either. What that doubt was, when exactly this suspicion started. She didn’t know.
“You truly know me well.”
“This expression of yours, too. I know it well.”
“Why did you do that?”
“Why did you tell me to step on Tom?”
Carynne raised her head to look at Raymond. However, what could be seen on her face was only the well-manufactured smile of a noble lady whose sanity was seemingly intact.
“That wasn’t directed towards you.”
“Then, to Tom?”
“That child seems to be harboring some sort of illusion. Carynne, I agree with Verdic’s opinion on the matter. It’s better not to keep a relationship where grudges could form.”
“If that’s what you’re concerned about, then I think it has already been formed.”
But I can overcome it with love. Grudges through good will, malice through forgiveness. Carynne repeated her words.
“The look in your eyes seems to convey how unimpressed you are by good will. If you wish to be kind, then why don’t you send him to the kitchen?”
“Won’t the kitchen be more dangerous for him?”
When Carynne giggled, Raymond turned his gaze slightly to the side. At the end of his gaze was that boy.
Staring out the window of the carriage, Raymond spoke once more.
“I do not know what kind of work he’ll do in your household, but boys are bound to grow stronger at a fast rate. He will be stronger than you in just four years.”
He’ll die in a month though. It doesn’t matter.
“If someone is destined to die, shouldn’t there be a cause for that death? Thank you for the good will that you’ve expressed, however I do not wish to reverse a decision I already made, and so quickly as well. Let’s stop talking about this, Sir Raymond.”
Carynne cut off the conversation right there, glancing sideways to gauge Raymond’s reaction. Fortunately, he didn’t seem offended. As she safely played the role of a good-natured young lady, Carynne let out a small exhale.
This reminded her of a similar conversation. Tom worked as an odd-jobs boy or a dishwasher several times before in past iterations. Whenever that happened, Raymond would always tell her not to do anything unnecessary—but unlike the words he spoke, he would admire Carynne for her kind-heartedness.
“It’s because, on the battlefield, there’s no one I can trust.”
“That’s why you have to look forward to it even more.”
She remembered the slight melancholy that could be seen on his face.
“People’s good will, their forgiveness and anything like it. You must look forward to them even more. If it’s possible to forgive the enemy, shouldn’t it be the same with comrades? Even love is possible, perhaps.”
It was what he desperately longed for. And Carynne was enough for the role he yearned. A beautiful girl who always forgives, always loves, always warmly faces him. Nevertheless, a woman who was of decent rank, but still in a position that needed his help.
“I will remember you in the next life.”
“You can’t. It’s already the …th time with you.”
“Is there something on my face?”
“I’m just looking at you because you’re handsome.”
It was futile.
Even though she matched as he wanted, he never gave her the answer she wished to hear. Not in life, not in death. In the past, she thought that this man would save her—as if he was the very sun that rose high above the deep ocean, she looked towards Raymond in such a way.
But the one who will save Carynne wasn’t Raymond. The sun was just that. The sun. Time moved forward. The sun would rise, the sun would set. It did not even move through the help of a god’s carriage, and neither was it a deity’s eye.
The sun just produced light and heat, and that very light was too far away to reach for a creature living in the deepest parts of the sea.
Nevertheless, this time again, Carynne will play the role he wants out of her. And to give him the gift of death.
“We’re almost there.”
“It seems so.”
While getting off the carriage, Carynne almost fell this time while trying not to step on Tom. Feeling Raymond’s gaze on her, she hoped that her actions could somehow cover up those doubts he had about her. And, with years of experience, she was convinced that he was already attracted to her.
After that, it was a trivial matter to receive the piercing gaze of Isella, who arrived on horseback while her eyes were swollen. At this point, Raymond cared little about her already.
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