Citadel of Desire - chapter 22
The cause of her surprise rushed to her side and helped her up. She looked up and found the gardener nervously brushing the mud off her dress.
“Oh, it’s alright.”
She reassured the anxious gardener as he fumbled to pick her up her umbrella, an unreadable expression gracing his face.
Rei wasn’t paying him much attention before. She was busy squeezing the water out of her hair. But upon hearing the gardener’s reply, she gasped loudly.
“This is my first time hearing your voice!”
“I have so many things to ask you! How did you grow this blue rose?”
“Are you asking me if I like it?”
The gardener’s ears flushed red with embarrassment when Rei smiled at him.
“I love them…like a dream come true.”
He secretly peeked at the mesmerized look on her face. His feelings for her weren’t that apparent. His admiration for her formed when she offered him sandwiches every time they met. She took special care to not damage the flowers he worked so hard on and didn’t even look down on him for living in the outhouse.
To someone else, these things might’ve been insignificant. But the gardener had been starving for humane affection, and after meeting Rei, his decade-long thirst was finally assuaged.
“Is the blue rose a variety?”
A human couldn’t grow it. The gardener was only able to gain the skill after begging his master for a long time. But it was difficult for him to lie to her, especially after looking at the twinkle in her eyes. So, he chose to keep his mouth shut.
Mary yelled out in an alarmed voice as she stuck her head out the window. Rei was drenched from head to toe, and her dress was so muddied that she couldn’t even recognize it anymore. It was almost as if she was a mischievous two year old child playing around in the mud. Rei flushed red with embarrassment as she realized the state she was in.
“Please come back in, right now!”
Mary rushed down to the entrance and glared at the gardener. She silently warned him with her eyes, ‘You’ll pay for this.’ The gardener could only avoid her gaze and retreat in silence.
“Mary, it was my mistake. I lost my balance and fell down.”
“Ah, look at your clothes, Lady!”
“It’s fine, I have extra clothes with me.”
“Don’t go out when it’s raining the next time. You’ll end up catching a cold.”
Mary closed the door shut with a firm thud, not forgetting to give one last glare to the gardener.
“Is he trying to dig his own grave?”
Mary looked anxious as she scampered around to shove the firewood into the fireplace.
Rei suddenly recalled the way Mary was rolling on the floor in pain a few days ago and decided to check up on her.
“What is it, Lady?”
“You haven’t recovered yet. Does it still hurt?”
The servant shrugged and said, “I told you, I’m fine.”
“Is there a doctor in the village? Should I ask Clodan to let you go outside for a little while?”
Mary scoffed. Her? Being able to go outside? What a joke.
“Go outside? It’s been so long, I almost forgot what that means.”
“How long has it been?”
“Let’s see. Do people still give each other wrapped crocamishu on a date?”
“Ah… Well, maybe a few.” Rei lied straight through her teeth. That trend was only popular during her grandfather’s time. “Why don’t you go out?”
“Lady, I am quite busy as you can see!”
Crocamishu was a popular dessert sold by Veronica, an extremely famous bakery. It was known for the delicious plum cream sitting on top of a crisp pastry. But Veronica’s days were long over, and the war had crushed the dessert industry. Besides, the relationships were planned by families now. Romantic encounters were a rare sight.
Mary asked her a few more questions and Rei had to try her best not to show her surprise at how old the things she’d asked about.
Rei could’ve let it go, but Mary’s questions only led her to form her own doubts.
Why was it that Mary’s memories of the outside world didn’t exist after that old period?
Rei washed her hair with warm water. Soon, Mary brought her some hot tea to drive away the chill in her body. Such luxury… She hadn’t experienced it in years. Even the nightgown prepared for her reminded her of the time her mother had brought back an expensive present.
A lady who was often granted favours by the king had invited Rei’s mother and gifted her a cloth from a region famous for its quality of fabrics. Rei’s mother didn’t think highly of that arrogant lady, so out of spite, she made a nightgown out of it. Back then, Rei wasn’t even allowed to touch it. And now she had the opportunity to wear something similar.
Through the window, Rei could hear Philip silently lock the entrance.
Rei calculated the time and decided to braid her damp hair. She was planning to sleep soon and didn’t want her hair to turn frizzy.
She drew the curtains on the window, shutting off the moonlight. She turned around and blew out the candle, plunging the room into darkness. A long yawn slipped out of her mouth. She was quite tired and wanted to go straight to sleep. But her steps paused as she spotted a figure lying on top of her bed.
But Rei didn’t have to worry. It wasn’t some shameless thief who’d snuck in to attack her. She carefully lifted the blanket. Clodan’s chest rose and fell softly as he lay deep asleep on her bed. Rei hesitated for a moment and then shuffled in next to his body.
Her heart jumped, thinking that she’d accidentally woken him up. But Clodan’s eyes were still closed. He mumbled for a bit and then pulled her close.
“Clodan, did I wake you up?”
Rei lay stiff, not wanting him to disturb him any further. But Clodan never replied. His warm breath tickled her face and she smiled gently, a warm feeling rising in her chest.
“Good night.” She leaned forward and kissed his cheek.