This is Greater London, a city where every item of the world gathers.
From the high-quality merchandise to worthless trash, from real to imitation, and fakes made with masterly workmanship so to be more exquisite than the original, and yet mysteriously, the people in this town act as if only real, genuine works exists here.
People here are separated into class by birth and upbringing, and no matter how much wealth or fame they gain along the way, they could not go up the ladder so easily. This is different than from the New World like when the wealthy could go bankrupt and the penniless strike a gold vein in a night. it is a shrewd empire that stubbornly protects its class society like there weren’t ever any changes even though it was in this day of age, with whirling changes, such as running locomotives and gas lamps lighting up the night streets.
It was the first time for Lota to come to a country like that.
Because of the sunset and the little drizzle which was falling from the sky, the color of the streets appeared hazy and blurred.
One could say it had a long history or that the place wasn’t trying to make a display of its glamorous wealth, but to Lota, she only thought it felt the place looked old and rustic.
She had been in London for a week now where the temperature was low and it was an unexpectedly cold late autumn, and the coat she immediately bought at an used-clothing store which had patches sewed all over it, could have made her look like a beggar.
Her hair tied up in a ponytail at the top of her head, was beginning to come apart, but she didn’t care about her appearance in the first place on a normal basis.
Lota leaned against the wall at the corner of a street waiting with a rolled-up paper cigarette in-between her teeth, keeping her attention focused on a carriage that stopped to park in front of the building diagonally across from her.
It was a carriage that Lota had been keeping watch. She casually asked the driver about their destination and hurried to arrive to this location ahead of their arrival.
The figure who stepped out of that carriage was a young man in finely dressed clothing.
He wore a white high-collar shirt and white tie, with a black tail coat and dashingly stepped down onto the ground. From his top hat to the stick he gripped in his hand, one could tell at first glance that his clothing were high-class, supreme quality.
Lota fanned away the smoke that was fuming from her cigarette in front of her eyes and squinted to confirm the face of the young man.
He had an elegant, polished handsomeness like that of a noble and the hair that hanged down over his forehead was golden. There was no mistake, it was him.
A young boy who she met in a certain town in the south east end of America, was the leader of a gang made up of street children from the poor part of town. She heard that he was captured and hanged.
Until Lota came to London, she had believed that was true.
However, she witnessed him in this town.
And from that point, she investigated.
Earl of Ibrazel, Edgar Ashenbert. When she uncovered his name, she thought he was a completely different person.
From the beginning, the young boy was rumored of being born an England aristocrat, but she thought that kind of person wouldn’t be in a place like the lower streets of America.
However, at this very moment, she was convinced it was him.
“That bastard, did he even steal a peerage?”
When it turned out that he was the earl she was looking for, she had to ponder what her next move should be.
“Lota, is that the man who kidnapped Betty?”
The figure who spoke was a tall, muscular, bearded man that stood right next to her.
“Well, there’s no mistake that he’s Earl Ashenbert.”
“Then we should go capture him and make him confess where Betty is.”
“Well, hold on just a moment. We need to investigate his surroundings a bit more.”
There was someone still remaining in the carriage that the young blond man had just exited. He offered his hand and let his eyes follow a women stepping slowly and carefully out of the carriage.
Yes, the one who was accompanying him was a nicely dressed woman.
Just when the woman stepped down onto the ground, she friendly wrapped her arms around the young man’s neck and kissed him without pausing to check who was watching.
After a passionate kiss, Lota watched the two disappeared into the building, and she let out a sigh about how he hadn’t changed at all.
“….I can’t believe it. That skirt-chaser!”
But the one to raise her voice wasn’t Lota.
When Lota swiveled her neck around, she noticed it was a young girl who had just exited from a near-by book store and was standing in front of the show window.
Her age was around seventeen or eighteen. Her dull, reddish-brown hair was untouched, hanging freely, but it wasn’t poorly kept or shabby, as it shined with gloss and had no frizzles or twirls. She was a normal girl wearing nicely kept clothes; however she didn’t seem to be from a prestigious, aristocratic family.
Her reaction was that of someone who happened to witness her lover having an affair.
That bastard, he even laid his hands on a decent gal like this.
But she is the type that he would like, strong-hearted and cute.
The girl must have noticed that she was being watched and girl’s eyes met Lota’s when she turned around.
She must have remembered she let out a loud voice, widening her golden-green eyes in surprise and quickly dashed away in embarrassment.
A gray-haired cat went dashing after her.
“What a pity. She’s probably going to cry because of him.”
“Just like Betty?”
“Well, Betty wasn’t the type of girl who would cry from something like that.”
“But she was a real crybaby, and would cry all the time,” he argued.
“That’s her just pretending,” Lota answered.
Lota dropped her cigarette to the ground and crumbled it with her foot and crossed her arms to think.
So he’s the Earl Ashenbert? And Betty is supposedly with that man?
Actually, that was the part Lota couldn’t believe.
There was no doubt that Betty had been completely head-over-heels about him, but after she found out about his bad-habits with women, Lota remembered Betty saying she wished that bastard would die.
How he flirted with her was fine and well thought out, but he shouldn’t have had that much emotional attachment towards Betty.
Or perhaps, he could have found another use with Betty.
If that were so, then Lota was going to feel quite responsible.
“Lord Edgar, Miss Carlton has arrived.”
“Is it that time of day already?”
Edgar returned home at daybreak and had just woken up now and took a bath.
The spirits he had been drinking since midnight had finally gone out of him and his head was starting to clear up.
He tried to remember what his plans were for today.
“Raven, how was Lydia’s mood?”
“Normal, sir” replied Raven as he tied Edgar’s necktie who was getting dressed.
This dark-skinned young man was the Ashenbert’s valet and a loyal servant of Edgar ever since they were in America, and although he was asked everyday about Lydia’s temper when she came to work in the morning but he didn’t make an annoyed expression.
First of all, he had never shown a displeased face to Edgar, as he was the type to silently obey any kind of absurd command that he was ordered.
“Only she asked if you were late coming home last night.”
“Why did that conversation come up?”
“Because she had just passed by me when I was carrying your change of clothes.”
Edgar slightly knitted his brows.
If he woke up late, then it could mean he came back home late.
It was almost like she suspected he had gone out to play for the night.
“I guess it could mean she wanted to see me as soon as possible.”
He said that in order to deny the bad feeling in him.
“I have a feeling that might not be so,” remarked Raven with no ill-will.
Edgar knew Raven wasn’t able to understand the delicate works of the human heart that had the characteristic of running from the bad and painful, but regardless if he was childish, Edgar felt a little offended and responded with retaliation.
“It is so. Lately, it has been wonderful with Lydia. When I invite her out, she doesn’t show dislike anymore, and even when I hold her hand, she doesn’t get angry, and she even looks like she’s enjoying herself when she’s with me, so I think we’ve become like lovers a little more.”
“That is quite different from your previous lovers.”
Raven pointed out that part sharply, however, Edgar let his comment pass.
“Just last Sunday, the two of us went to church together. I went to a church. I patiently listened to the service and spent tea time at her house after that. I’m doing nicely with her father, and well, I still haven’t brought up the topic of our engagement, but I think I have succeeded in showing my sincerity. Isn’t that quite a pure and proper courting? If things keep going like this, I’m sure that Lydia would come to accept our marriage.”
Raven made a half-hearted reply, as he looked like he didn’t think it would be that easy.
But then, Edgar suddenly realized that Raven would answer anything close to the truth that Lydia might ask him.
Edgar thought a reminder would be a good idea and turned to face his valet.
“Raven, it just happens that last night I was playing seven bridges at Slade’s club until daybreak…”
“Don’t you think it shouldn’t be Raven who you should be making excuses to?”
The one who appeared was Ermine. She was Raven’s older half-sister, a maid dressed in men’s clothes, and interrupted in a sharp and clear tone as she walked over to Edgar.
“There was this female handkerchief in your coat pocket. What shall I do with this?”
“……Throw it away,” he retorted carelessly and sat down on the sofa.
“Lord Edgar, since you had asked for Miss Carlton’s hand in marriage, didn’t you cut off your ties with other women? In order to win her trust, I heard that you were going to clean up your act.”
“I cut them off. I just had a nice, lively conversation with the owner of that handkerchief, I haven’t done anything guilty.”
“Your bad habit has come out again.”
Ermine peered down at the child-like face which looked like he was being scolded for mischief.
“It is a bad habit of yours to make excuses and make such irresponsible, careless choices. You do wonderful when you have relationships with several women, but when you start to do well with just one, why do you become so blind and careless?”
Most likely, what she was saying was exactly true so Edgar became irritated.
“You aren’t thinking that if she were to notice, you would be fine if she comes to hate you, do you?”
“Are you my governess?”
He said that in order to shut up Ermine. It had an immediate effect.
Edgar stood up, feeling discouraged and miserable.
“How will you be spending your day today?”
Raven asked him a routine question as he was about to leave the room.
That’s right, he was just trying to remember what his schedule was going to be for today.
And after he remembered, Edgar felt like sighing.
He was planning to invite Lydia to spend the day together outside. For Edgar, who felt that the two of them were starting to get along, there shouldn’t have been any reason to change plans.
But on the other hand, he continued to question himself if it was all right for things to go on like this.
If they continue to work together, surely, he was going to get Lydia involved in his bitter strife.
And yet, when he imagined if he could refrain himself from pursuing her, he simply felt he couldn’t.
Even if Lydia couldn’t love him, he wanted her to stay by his side no matter what measures he had to take.
Even if he rationalized about what the best interest was for Lydia, in the end, Edgar chained her to him using an engagement by his ego, and forced her to stay here.
While he did that, he was also doing things which would be bad if they got into Lydia’s ears.
He didn’t have any right to act like a good man and be hesitating.
“We’ll go with the plan. Ermine, take the housekeeper to Lydia’s room.”
Fairies hate the intrusion of humans. And yet, they wish to interact with humans.
They long for human food and just when you think that they stole someone’s livestock, they would trick a traveler to lose their way.
On the other hand, they would bring good fortune to humans at times.
It was a wonder why fairies would want to a connection with humans like that.
Even fairy doctors, specialists in fairies, had come to accept that was normal. That it was natural.
That’s why the job of a fairy doctor was to solve the troubles created when humans and fairies came in close contact with each other and not to eliminate the connection between them.
However, perhaps humans didn’t care less if fairies were to disappear. In this day of age of the 19th century, most people in society regarded fairies as beings from story books.
However, as long as fairies desired to stay with humans, fairies doctors will continue to remain as the bridge between the two species.
Even as they felt hurt at the fairies’ tricks that periodically concluded bitterly and were heart-breaking.
“A changeling, huh…..” grumbled Lydia, in her work office at the Ashenbert manor as she read letters written from people troubled by fairies.
Lydia was the private fairy doctor of the Earl of Ibrazel (Fairy Kingdom), Edgar Ashenbert.
Just like his name, the Ashenbert family governed land in the fairy realm, and because the fairies have been familiarized with the family as the Blue Knight Earl, there were many fairies who still lived in the human realm.
That’s why there were all kinds of questions flooded at Lydia asking for her advice.
Normally, the earl would use his magical powers to handle these fairies, but since Edgar couldn’t even perceive fairies, Lydia had to take his place.
From all the Ashenbert family estates located all over England, Lydia received all kinds of letters seeking advice, but changelings were a very serious issue than what she had been dealing with until now.
“Is it a real changeling?”
Lydia just noticed that a gray-haired cat was sitting itself down on the edge of her desk speaking to her as he leaned down to read the letter.
“According to content of this letter, it seems real.”
Uh-huh, mumbled the gray-haired cat Nico as he swapped his tail side-to-side and crossed his arms.
“A changeling happened at one of the Blue Knight Earl estates. Weren’t those kinds of things admonished by one of the former earls in the past? There hadn’t been any kind of letters regarding those kind of thing till now.”
“Yes. But if this is true, then I need to hurry and get back their baby.”
A changeling is when a fairy stole a human infant, and in exchange, they would leave behind a log, stone, an old-aged fairy, or sometimes an infant fairy.
There were numerous reasons why fairies wanted a human baby, they find them cute and desire to raise them themselves or they were forced by a demon to bring them as a sacrifice.
At any rate, from the older days, it was common to put charms on the baby’s cradle to ward off dark forces so that the baby wouldn’t be stolen by fairies, but presently, those traditional customs had become forgotten.
First, Lydia needed to learn about this land as much as she could. However, this was about a land that was Edgar’s estate. She would have to ask him what his thoughts were on this, but that it made Lydia become drastically depressed.
“……Why on earth would I have to be in a bad mood when I think about him.”
She remembered about the incident that happened yesterday.
About the seductive-looking woman who carried a dreary yet lovable air about her.
And their kiss.
If that was the kind of kiss lovers shared, then when Lydia had her lips lightly brushed against his, it must have been a kiss to give to a baby.
“Calm down, Lydia. You shouldn’t be surprised about that happening now. Actually, I’m more surprised that we haven’t witnessed such an obvious scene like that until now.”
He was right.
There is nothing between Edgar and me.
Even if I saw that scene, there was nothing for me to be flurried about, repeated Lydia to herself.
“An obvious what?”
At that voice, Lydia swiftly straightened up and placed her hands on top of her thighs before she gave someone time to catch her off guard.
“Good morning, Lydia, you’re so beautiful today. I’m a blessed man to be able to see you everyday like this.”
Edgar came striding into the room wearing a pleasant smile on a face and walked over to Lydia.
“Your hair is still damp,” Lydia pointed out.
She said that hinting how late he came home last night.
“I couldn’t wait till I was completely ready and so I came to see you as quickly as possible.”
“You don’t have to pay me any respects, just get some rest if you’re tired.”
“I’m not tired at all. Last night I was just having a little fun with a game at Slade’s club.”
He brought out the name of the high-class club exclusively for men, possibly claiming that he hadn’t any female contact last night.
“I do hear there are angry wives upset at their husbands who stay out all day and night at those kind of places and don’t come home. But if you are worried about that happening, then I promise. After we marry, I won’t have you feeling lonely.”
“I am not worried and we aren’t getting married. You are free to go to any clubs or any woman’s house as you please.”
“Are you perhaps mistaken? I only have eyes for you and I’ve decided I will only get aroused by you.”
“I said you don’t have to!”
She couldn’t hold back from getting hot-tempered, slammed her hands on top of the desk and leaned herself forward, but then she was only kissed on the forehead.
I-if I lost temper now that will only be doing what he wants.
Lydia repeated that to herself in her head and took a deep, calming breath.
Recently Lydia finally began to understand that Edgar would interpret them as a pair of happy lovers teasing one another, even when they had interactions that made Lydia obviously uncomfortable.
That’s why when she was approached by him too personally and she made a big reaction, it only made him happier.
“M-…….more importantly, there is a matter of grave importance happening on one of your estates.”
Lydia calmly brought up a business topic.
“This matter is much more important. Listen carefully, Lydia, I need you to hurry and go to Windsor with me. You will come with me, won’t you?”
Since he made such a serious face, she couldn’t help but ask “What happened?” to him.
“We need to hurry, so I’ll explain in the train. Harriet will help you get prepared to go.”
When Lydia switched her attention towards the door, Harriet the housekeeper was holding a dress, and blocking the exit with her round body.
Whenever Edgar would dress Lydia up, his underlying intentions was to take her out to places to gatherings and show her off. It wasn’t anything important at all.
“I’m not going; I’m busy as it is……”
Lydia stepped back as she was struggled to think of a way to escape, but when she bumped up against someone with her back, she turned to look behind her and saw it was Ermine looking down at her.
“I’m terribly sorry, Miss Carlton. Please follow Lord Edgar’s request.”
Even if she spoke politely, Ermine didn’t show any signs of allowing Lydia to escape as she clenched Lydia’s shoulders.
“Lydia, don’t forget about this as well.”
Just when Lydia felt him lifting up her hand, he had slipped on a moonstone ring onto Lydia’s ring finger.
It was an engagement ring which possessed fae magic. Probably because the moonstone power would awaken, once it was put on, only Edgar, who was recognized as her ‘engagement’ partner by this ring, could remove it.
However, this should have been left in the care of Lydia and she had kept it at her house.
“Co-Coblynau! You did this!” screamed Lydia, who spotted the small, mining fairy on top of her desk, pushing his hand under its triangular-shaped hat to scratch his head.
“Yes Miss, My lord told me to bring the ring to him.”
This fairy took care of maintaining this mysterious moonstone and didn’t understand that the engagement between Lydia and Edgar was fake.
He was hoping that their marriage was read for the sake of the moonstone jewel he was in charge of caring.
“Well, all should be fine. At least you should wear it when the two of you go outside together,” said the fairy.
“Now then Lydia, if you would accompany me I will take if off afterwards.”
“Now, Miss Carlton, let’s quickly get you changed.”
Lydia’s arms were tightly held back by Harriet too, so now she was like a fish on a cutting board.
“My lord, would you please head out of the room.”
Just when the housekeeper was about to take off Lydia’s plain, day-clothes, Harriet noticed that Edgar was still in the room.
“Oh, so I can’t stay, can I?”
“Of course you can’t, you pervert!” screamed Lydia whose bubbling rage finally exploded.
After they headed upriver of the banks of Thames from London, they arrived at a peaceful landscape surrounded by forest and water.
This peaceful, quiet town was home to a castle of the Royal Family from the old days and the scenery of trees set in autumn colors reflecting on the water surface was a wonderful sight that could put anyone in awe.
The weather was also beautiful, Lydia wore a blue dress the same color as the Irish-blue colored sky, and when they glided across the water on a small boat to reach the noble’s castle located near the riverside, her irritation had also soothed down.
Edgar explained that a friend of his was hosting a party to announce his engagement.
Lydia decided to hide her irritation to the back of her mind because couldn’t keep a scowl on her face at such a happy occasion.
She sneaked a glance over at Edgar. She didn’t know how long he had been gazing at her, but when their eyes met, he made a joyful smile.
Lydia couldn’t stop from smiling and she thought it was because of the peaceful and calming ray of the sunlight. The sparkling light
dancing along the surface of the river made everything seem like a dream.
Their small boat glided up alongside the pier, which was located on one corner of the estate’s garden where numerous people were enjoying a garden party, and the female visitor’s dresses looked like flowers blooming on top of the spacious grass lawn.
While Lydia had her eyes distracted by the colorfully dressed guests around her, when she came to her senses she finally noticed that she was walking with her hand settled onto Edgar’s arm.
I have to let go, she thought, but it was much easier for her to leave her hand resting on him to walk in a dress that dragged along the top of the grass, so she decided, oh well.
The more she put her guard down little by little, she was starting to feel it was natural to be with him.
She wondered if that meant she was falling into his trap.
Lately, even Lydia’s father wasn’t saying any criticism towards Edgar. But then again, that could be because no one brought up the subject about marriage in front of him.
“These kinds of garden parties are quite nice. The sky and the wind are congratulating the two. What do you want to do at ours?”
As she gazed up at his shining golden hair and ash mauve eyes, Lydia actually thought why he was looking back at her with such a happy face.
It was like he was feeling such happiness at being with her from the bottom of his heart. And it was like he was truly gazing at his beloved lover.
“We have to make sure that your fairy friends would be able to attend. And prepare herb sweets and plenty of fresh milk.”
“Huh? Oh, no! I was just, thinking about something right now.”
“Too bad. My heart was beating so hard just now.”
Most likely, Lydia was the one whose heart was beating more rapidly.
She had a strange feeling that they were going to get engaged at this rate and that they were going to hold a party.
Lately, at certain moments for some reason, this kind of feeling would arise in her. She didn’t know what to do with the tingling sensation that was festering in the depths of her heart.
“These two are the star of this event,” explained Edgar.
When Lydia was told that, she managed to hide her nervousness and walked along-side Edgar up to a finely dressed man and woman.
“Congratulations on your engagement,” said Edgar.
“Thank you Edgar, I’m happy you were able to attend.”
Surprisingly the friend of his turned out to be the man.
“This is my fiancée, Jane,” said the man.
When the man introduced the woman next to him, Edgar greeted her in a normal manner and gave her his tributes, and since he didn’t even show a hint of flirting with her, it gave Lydia a feeling of strangeness.
When she thought about it, it would be outrageous and rude if he would flirt with the fiancée of his friend, but because his greeting was so brief and simple, in contrast, it made her be suspicious.
“So, Edgar, introduce me to your fiancée.”
Hold on a moment, panicked Lydia. It seemed definite that she was already his fiancée.
However, she was wearing an engagement ring so she couldn’t deny it, so Lydia tried to slip on a smile somehow, and greeted the couple.
“I heard that you haven’t announced your official engagement yet, right? When do you plan to?” asked the friend.
“We haven’t decided yet. To tell you the truth, I still haven’t gotten the approval from her father,” replied Edgar.
“Oh, my, are you being opposed?” questioned the bride-to-be.
“I’m just carefully waiting for the right time. It seems an aristocrat can’t be trusted that easily.”
It isn’t any aristocrat, but ‘you’ can’t be trusted.
“You may be right; it’s easy to be misunderstood if you have a long history of female relationships.”
His is really long.
“But, I’m thinking if I sit down and have a good talk with him, my feelings will come through. Lydia, I promise to convince him, so please believe in me. Let’s forget about the obstructions before our love today and get a share of their happiness and enjoy the rest of the day.”
The obstruction to my love is you!
“Oh, yes, please enjoy yourselves. Oh, Miss Carlton, I also happen to be from the middle-class. Marriage of social class differences would make anyone nervous, but I’m sure we’ll be able to help give each other advice from now on. Would you become my friend?”
“Huh? Oh, yes…”
The woman held Lydia’s hand, so she couldn’t refuse and nodded.
“Thank goodness. I was suddenly brought into the upper-class, so I was frightened at the thought of not being able to fit-in.”
Lydia felt a prickle of guilt, and became exhausted at the realization that this was also a part of Edgar’s plan.
It seems like dragging the dressed-up Lydia around wasn’t his primary objective.
He was certainly narrowing the range of choices left for Lydia. So that she was only left with a future of there being no problems if she just got married to Edgar.
It even appeared like he was preparing friends for her from the upper-class so that she wouldn’t feel lost.
“Oh, Miss Carlton, I would love it if I could introduce you to some of my friends.”
It looked like for the mean-time, Lydia was going to get away from the calculating Edgar and she decided to follow the woman’s lead.
As they kept walking, it wasn’t long till they stepped out of the party grounds and had entered into a grove of trees.
Just when she was wondering why the woman’s friends would be in a place like this, she spotted two young men holding wine glasses in their hands.
It seemed like the two of them were quite drunk.
“Hey you two, you’re drinking too much.”
The woman spoke to the two men. What, her friends aren’t women?
“Hey there, Jane, it seems like you’ve brought along a cute friend.”
“Hey, miss, join us for a drink.”
One of them came walking over to Lydia and grabbed her arm. She was overwhelmed with fear and disgust at the smell of spirits.
“No thank you. Excuse me but I’ll be going.”
She tried to go back, but he wouldn’t let go. She turned to look back at Jane for help, but she turned her back on her suddenly and started to walk off.
“Miss, say something to these two. Aren’t they your friends?”
“Why refuse; you should join them. It seems like they want to enjoy the company of a woman.”
“Wh-what are you saying? ….Why are you saying such a horrible thing.”
“I don’t know, there’s something loathing about you.”
After the woman disappeared beyond the trees, Lydia’s temper reached its boiling point, and she turned around to face the men.
“I said let go of me!”
“You’re sure energetic. Although I don’t hate a chick like that.”
The man wrapped his arm around her shoulder, making her grow even more frightened and in reaction, her hand striked at him.
“Ow! What do you think you’re doing!”
The man that her hand slapped was made to go into a rage and shoved Lydia away.
Lydia was forced to slam up against a near-by tree, which secured a nasty knock on her forehead that made her slump down to the ground.
“Why don’t the two of you stop there,” interrupted a deep voice.
When she lifted her head up, she saw that there was a senior gentleman standing in front of her. He stood with his spine standing straight up and lifted up his irritated face deeply lined with wrinkles and released a bodily presence that would make any young man back down.
“Using violence against a woman, have you lost your honor of a British gentleman.”
He glared at the two men with ferocious eyes, and they must have decided it was reckless to cause a commotion, so they went dashing off in the other direction.
The elder gentleman turned around down at Lydia and hushed in a completely different, gentle tone.
“Are you all right, young lady? Are you hurt anywhere? Ahh, its best that you stay still for a bit. I’ll go and call for your escort. What is your escort’s name?”
She felt a little resistance in calling for Edgar. However, Lydia didn’t have any other acquaintances here. She couldn’t cause any more trouble to this elder gentleman that she met for the first time.
“…..I’m sorry for the trouble. I came with Earl Ashenbert….”
When she said that, she saw he made a faint frown with his brows.
“Earl Ashenbert? Pardon me but what would be your name?
“My name is Lydia Carlton.”
“Lydia! What happened? Are you all right?” shouted a familiar voice.
Lydia saw Edgar come running towards their direction, so she didn’t noticed the elder gentleman having a hard thought.
“Yes, I was just caught in a little trouble, but this gentleman helped me.”
As Edgar gave his thanks to the gentleman, he gently passed his hand over Lydia’s forehead with a worried look.
“It looks like there’s a scratch. I came to take a look because Jane returned to the party by herself, what on earth happened?”
“I can see that you passed this young lady over to your male friends,” said the elder gentleman.
Lydia thought the only reason for that happening was because of this philanderer in front of her.
“Edgar, you have flirted with her before, haven’t you?” she asked.
“And then you did something to hurt her, didn’t you. That’s why she did this horrible thing to me…”
“I didn’t do anything. I haven’t sold my honor to make me go flirt with a friend’s lover,” declared Edgar.
“Then why would something like this happen!” cried Lydia.
The elder gentleman had been listening their conversation, then opened his mouth to interrupt them again.
“‘I had been dreaming of marrying a noble, but just when I was sure I caught one, he turned out to be the younger son. I didn’t know that he had already decided to depart and work in Egypt. It’s all too late now,’ was what the young ladies had been discussing just earlier.”
Feeling disgusted, Lydia let out a deep sigh.
Even if it was the son of a noble family, any sons other than the eldest needed a job make a living. So there was quite a difference between the younger and eldest son who would inherit the family title, lands and fortune.
The woman must have decided that Lydia, who was from the same middle-class, was assured a future of becoming a countess, and that was the reason why she felt a ‘loathing’ towards Lydia.
Edgar helped Lydia up onto her feet and she managed not to swoon, but just like her wine-stained dress, Lydia’s mode was in a miserable state.
I had to go through a horrible experience like this because of a ridiculous reason like that?
This is why she didn’t like going to gatherings with a lot of people.
When Lydia was younger, gatherings was a place where people whispered about her behind her back, however after she came to London and had more opportunities to meet new people, her guard must have been down because when Edgar would escort her, there wasn’t anyone who would say nasty things that she could hear.
“Lord Earl Ashenbert, I’m sorry this is right after the misunderstanding has been solved between you and your fiancée, but I have a question I would like to ask of you.”
With a dubious expression, Edgar looked over to the elder gentleman.
“What has happened about the marriage between you and my granddaughter?”asked the man.
Blood boiled in Lydia’s head again.
“Edgar! Y-you of all people…”
“Wait just a moment; I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Exactly how many have you proposed to?” grumbled Lydia.
“You’re mistaken. Besides, may I ask who you are exactly,” asked Edgar after he turned to the man.
When the elder gentleman introduced himself, Edgar straightened himself like he was a little surprised.
“His Excellency the Grand Duke of Cremona? Weren’t you in exile in the Netherlands?”
The Principality of Cremona was a country name that even Lydia had heard of when she studied history, but she could only remember that it was a small country in the south of Europe.
If he was in exile then that meant there could have been a revolution in his country or something. Or perhaps, they could have lost in a war. Recently, there was said to be some noticeable political movements in the European countries, and she has heard that there are quite some number of nobles who fled to England from the continent.
“You are well informed. Did you hear that from my grandchild?”
“I don’t know your grandchild. When you’re in society, your name will eventually come up.”
“Young Earl, I don’t believe that the London society would still be talking about Cremona that disappeared seventeen years ago. I have been living quietly in the Netherlands till now. What did you do with Charlotte? After you sent me that ridiculous letter claiming that you’ll be marrying her, I didn’t hear anything from you. And after I came all the way here to England, you’re escorting a different lady as your fiancée.”
The elderly man’s voice was calm, but his tone of voice didn’t hide his anger towards Edgar.
“Letter? Are you saying that it was a letter from me?”
“When we were able to flee with just our lives, Charlotte was only three years old. She should have headed to America with my daughter and her husband, but their ship went shipwreck and I had thought everyone had died. However, it had said in the letter that only Charlotte had survived, and you were going to take her back as your bride to your country.”
Edgar suddenly made an intensely stern face.
Did he have something that came to mind?
“In other words, you didn’t know that she was alive until you read that letter….?”
“I would have no way of knowing.”
Edgar thought for a moment and then spoke again.
“Then, why did you believe just by reading a letter that your granddaughter would be alive?”
“There was stamp pressed on it with a crest ring that only my grandchild should have had. What was the meaning behind sending along a wooden doll that was wearing a wedding gown?”
It’s a changeling, whispered Lydia.
The Grand Duke looked over towards Lydia.
“Uh, it is a fairytale well-known in Britain. A fairy would steal a human baby; in exchange they would leave a wooden doll. Even in cases when they take adults, there are times when they would leave behind similar replacements, so I think it’s the same case with your granddaughter…..”
Because when it was fairy magic, leaving behind a replacement in the human realm enabled the fairies to keep their human in the fairy realm.
Suddenly having fairies come up in the conversation only made the Grand Duke make a puzzled face.
“The work of a fairy, you say. This must be one of your jokes as the Blue Knight Earl. So you’ve stolen my granddaughter and made it appear like she was taken to the fairy world. When I investigated this, there truly was a young girl named Charlotte in America, and evidence she was kidnapped by somebody. Lord Ashenbert, your family apparently is described by the London society as one with ties with fairies. It had taken me time to uncover that the name of Blue Knight Earl in the letter was a noble Lord Ashenbert in England, but do you it is rude of you to not go by your real name?”
Edgar appeared inattentive, and it wasn’t clear if he was listening to the Grand Duke’s harsh claim.
He might actually know what the man was talking about, suspected Lydia.
Because, the man claimed that his granddaughter was in America. Although America was a big and spacious country, she couldn’t think that Edgar was surprised at hearing the Grand Duke’s name just because of his social status.
Even though he was a Grand Duke, he lost his position, so it was a wonder why Edgar, who was of the lost son of a duke family, would become more respectful to the man.
And furthermore, before he inherited a title as earl, Edgar had been calling himself by the name Ashenbert to Lydia. He used that name while he was in America, so there could have been the possibility where he used it to gain the favor of women.
If he knew that the kidnapped girl was the Grand Duke’s granddaughter, he might have found a use in her as he desired power.
However, Edgar denied it - plain and clear.
“Either way, I have nothing to do with your case. It is unfortunate that I cannot help you.”
He tried to leave that spot with Lydia. However, the elder man put his stick on the ground in front of their feet to block their path.
“If you had no intention of marrying her, then what did you do with my grandchild? ….You better not have made it so I will never see her…..”
“If you dare to make any more false allegations, I will accept it as insult.”
When two nobles who cared about honor started a fight with each other, it couldn’t end with simple exchange of foul name calling. Lydia couldn’t understand that as a commoner, how they would start a fight and skip the option of using fists but jump to kill each other, but she could understand that this was a delicate situation which could turn explosive at any moment.
In panic, Lydia pushed Edgar’s back.
“Um, please excuse us for now. I will thank you on another occasion.”
As she said that and succeed in separating Edgar from the Grand Duke by taking him away from that spot, she felt exhausted when they stopped to take a breath by the riverbank.
“Why did you have to talk to him like that? If it was a misunderstanding, then you could just explain and make everything clear, then there could have been something you could do to help him.”
Edgar turned around dissatisfied.
“No one would want to get involved with someone else’s business.”
“You say that, but your name was used.”
“If it was two years ago, then it happened before I became earl.”
Lydia tilted her head.
“Two years ago? The Grand Duke of Cremona didn’t say when the letter arrived to him.”
“….He said so. Didn’t you hear him?”
Edgar quickly turned his face away, and that made Lydia more and more suspicious of him.
If it wasn’t her misapprehension, there was something Edgar knew about that the Grand Duke didn’t mention. Saying it was two years ago was much too precise.
Was he hiding because he had a guilty conscience?
Did he make a promise to marry her?
Was that to use her? Is she still alive?
She wasn’t able to ask him, and so turned her head down and fell silent.
Edgar went up to the river and soaked his handkerchief in the water.
“Lydia, I will take care of him myself. We already have enemies as it is.”
He placed the cold handkerchief against her forehead. The cut she obtained when she was knocked up against the tree trunk tingled and ached.
Her reddish-brown hair got unraveled and fell down over her face. Edgar combed her locks up with his fingers, grooming it over her ear like he was styling her hair.
His fingers touching her, made her feel goose-bumps.
Out of the blue, the scene that she saw yesterday flashed in her head.
She should have been used to being touched, but Lydia couldn’t stop but pull her body back.
“I can’t understand people well. The reason I had to experience this was idiotic and you are keeping all kinds of secrets from me.”
“…….You really know what happened, don’t you? About the Grand Duke of Cremona’s princess.”
“Are you even suspecting me?”
“Was there a number of women who you took advantage of by bringing up marriage?”
“You are the first one that I proposed to.”
“Liar. Even today, you were lying since this morning.”
“What part is a lie?”
Like he was offended, Edgar knit his brows.
“It was a lie that you were playing games at the club.”
“It’s true. You can make sure with Slade.”
“It’s easy to have someone go along with your story.”
“Then what do I have to do to have you believe me?!
“I won’t believe you. Because I saw it. You were kissing a beautiful woman, and you went into her house with her.”
There was a period of silence. However, Edgar’s expression didn’t change, so she wasn’t able to decipher what he was thinking.
“That……, was most likely a kiss when you greet”
“No matter how childish I am, even I could tell it wasn’t something like that.”
“That happened out of the spur of the moment, nothing more than that. I came out of her house immediately afterwards, and I haven’t done anything else.”
“I-I wasn’t asking you that. Because I’m not your real fiancée!”
“But you’re angry.”
That’s right. She shouldn’t care and yet it was a mystery why she was angry about it.
Even in regards about yesterday, it put her in a foul mood for a moment, but once she cooled down, she came to the conclusion that it had nothing to do with herself.
And she intended on forgetting about it, but when she suddenly did remember, she wasn’t able to hold back her irritation.
“Is it strange for me to get angry? It’s rude and improper of you to do that as you’re trying to flirt with me. ….In the end, it means you’re making fun of me as well.”
“I am serious about you. But at the moment, it’s just my one-sided feelings. There are times when even I feel lonely.”
“So you’re saying that anyone would work for you?”
“It was just something for her to pass the time. She’s sure to have forgotten my name by now.”
The more he talked in defense of himself, the more she couldn’t understand and grew more frustrated.
“…..I understand. You’re just someone who can’t become serious about anyone!”
Letting that come out, Lydia pushed away the handkerchief and started to walk off.
“Why are you being so stubborn? I show you my serious feelings, and yet how am I supposed to show my seriousness even more than now?”
“What do you mean stubborn. I can’t see your sincerity because you don’t have any in the first place!”
Her arm was tugged strongly, so she felt some pain, but more than that, she sensed Edgar was feeling upset with her, and it suddenly made Lydia nervously worried.
Did I say something horrible by claiming he wasn’t able to be serious about anybody?
But Edgar was just too irresponsible and dishonest.
He was doing things that made her not believe him.
Even if she tried to shake away his grip, he didn’t show any signs of letting go.
His ash-mauve eyes glared at her challengingly. Lydia felt she would lose if she turned her eyes away, so she glared back at him.
He leaned his face towards her, to which she barely managed to speak with a trembling voice.
“…….Stop. You do something like this while you’re irritated at me?”
As if giving up, but not hiding his irritation, Edgar slovenly let Lydia go.
“I…., am going home,” she murmured, as she tried to control her nervous state of mind. Her dress had become a mess, so she didn’t have any nerve to go back to the party area.
“All right. Let’s head home.”
“I want to go home alone.”
“I can’t let you go back by yourself from Windsor.”
“Then I’ll go back with Ermine.”
To tell the truth, Lydia felt nervous even in that, as it seemed like she was being monitored by Edgar, but in order to have him take off the moonstone ring, she didn’t want to continue disputing with him.