Chapter 11: Past 04
That night, Orpheus did nothing to me.
We slept next to each other since it was our first night together, but he was worried that I was tired after my long journey and did nothing but touch me from time to time.
After praising the colours of my eyes which he said, “looked like the summer sky”, he confessed quietly, “My father made a woman who looked like your mother his wife. He couldn’t forget the Rose Princess, Louise. My father found a woman with black hair and made her, Katherine, the Rose Princess and loved her. But Katherine found out about this at one point and became depressed. She cheered up again after her child was born. She didn’t look at my father at all and only doted on her child. However, the child, Orpheus, died before his seventh birthday. He fell into the pond.”
The gulping sound that I had heard then probably came from my throat.
I had goosebumps even though I was lying in a warm bed.
“Katherine went mad. She cried, went crazy and weakened because she’d stopped eating. At night, she would wander around the mansion looking for her child.”
Until then, Orpheus had been stroking my cheek, but his hand moved to my head.
I could clearly feel the warmth from his hands and the stiffness of his fingers.
However, I couldn’t see him well, even though he was next to me.
It was as if he had melted into the darkness.
“My father felt guilty towards Katherine and tried to return her back to normal. Then, one day, he searched for a boy who looked like his late son and adopted him. He named him Orpheus. The boy was a year older than his late son, but Katherine was happy that her son had returned and slowly returned back to sanity. But, one day, she realised that the boy wasn’t her son and went mad. Six months later, she ended her life from despair.”
Orpheus was still stroking my head.
I stared into the darkness without moving.
Only the sounds of us breathing could be heard in this silent room.
“I don’t have noble blood. My parents were commoners. A man and a woman who were like trash. I was sold in the red light district or somewhere similar to be a pet doll for nobles, and my adopted father bought me. That person, Earl Rosenstein, raised me like a real son. He protected me from my adoptive mother who went crazy and tried to kill me.”
“I respect and appreciate him,” Orpheus whispered. “So, I had to follow his last request,” he continued.
“Only Diana, Juris and Elze know about this. I wasn’t going to tell you this… but I wonder why? I wanted you to know about it. I thought it would be alright to tell you.”
I exhaled slowly.
I wanted to calm down my beating heart.
“That’s why we’re the same.” I was still shocked, but I had muttered that by the time I’d realised.
I honestly confided what I was thinking to Orpheus, “I knew it the first time I met you. You’re the same as me. We have a similar past, are equally gloomy, and somewhat distorted.”
I was surprised by Orpheus’s confession but accepted it somewhere deep down.
My impression of him was correct after all.
“We may certainly be the same,” Orpheus said and hugged me.
When we hugged like this, I felt a strange sense of security, and all the things that had been ripped apart had finally come together.
For some reason, I felt that I had known the warmth and sensations of his arms for a long time.
From that night on, I decided to devote my all to Orpheus.
The feelings which I had towards him were neither love or admiration, but a strange feeling that I couldn’t name, but now that I look back, I should have called it affection among kindred souls.
But, once I had decided that, my feelings of not wanting to be unhappy and not wanting to follow that man’s words were like a lie, and I found myself humorous. What a silly thing I had been clinging to, I thought.
I had found a reason… more important than my own life to live for.
The next day, Orpheus showed me around the house.
We went around the first floor in this order: the parlour, study, library, entrance hall, dining room, and the sections where the servants work. On the second floor, he showed me: his room, the spare rooms, the children’s rooms, the bathroom and even where the servants stayed.
The Rosenstein mansion was bigger than I had pictured. I listened to his explanations, and my tour was over in no time.
We spent a lot of time in the library and in Orpheus’s room, and I made Orpheus smile wryly as he showed me around.
“I know you’re interested in the books in the library, but my room isn’t anything special. The floor plans are the same as your room, and the furniture isn’t that much different. My room just looks plainer than yours.”
I couldn’t tell him that I wanted to stay here for a second longer because he usually slept here.
I really wanted to check every inch and see how the room was.
I wanted to touch his traces.
However, I remained silent because he would think it was disgusting if I were to be honest about this.
We had a late lunch and took a walk around the garden.
Most of the trees were green, and their leaves weren’t falling, but the lawn had withered, and the other plants seemed to fade.
There weren’t any blooming flowers anywhere, and the roses planted around the garden silently endured the winter cold.
Only the fountain at the end of the stone path was filled with abundant water all year round, and every time it sprouted water, the water flashed like crystals.
“I’m looking forward to seeing these roses bloom. I’m sure it’ll be a wonderful sight.” I said as I looked at the hazy clouds in the distance, and the sloppy hill beneath them, while picturing the roses in full bloom.
Red, white, yellow, pink and orange.
They probably would look beautiful.
“Do you like roses?”
“Yes, very much. I think all women do.”
Roses are flowers my mother never stopped loving.
When I look at them, I feel nostalgia and sadness tightens my chest.
“When the roses bloom, I’ll deliver them to your room every day.”
“Oh my, then my room would be filled with flowers. Apparently, Claire is going to decorate my room with jasmines.”
“I’ll deliver more roses than the jasmines that Claire will give you,” Orpheus joked, and took me to the greenhouse behind the mansion.
It was an everlasting summer unlike the desolate garden, and flowers which didn’t bloom at this time, colourful flowers from the southern countries and plants I’ve never seen before were growing everywhere.
I was frightened by the rotting smell of the carnivorous plants and the lotus leaves, which were big enough to ride on, were interesting.
Orpheus said that it was actually alright to ride them.
“Then, I’ll wear clothes that are fine even if they get wet and try it,” I said, and Orpheus opened his eyes wide, covered his mouth with his hands and turned sideways.
Apparently, he was laughing. His shoulders were trembling a little bit.
――― What’s strange?
I wondered while waiting for his laughter to die down.
Orpheus, who had finally stopped laughing, looked serious as if he hadn’t laughed and said, “Then, I’ll lend you a hand if you fall off.”
That night after dinner, we sat on the couch in my room and talked like yesterday.
Orpheus knew a lot of things and taught me a lot, and the thing that made me the happiest was when he told me his real name.
Even Diana didn’t know his name, and he also told me never to call him that at the same time, so I locked away his name at the depths of my heart.
Since then, we built a good relationship through days like that.
Orpheus is a kind man.
He was nice to a woman who he had to marry because it was his foster father’s last request.
We had dinner together when he didn’t have any plans, we had tea, took walks together, he took me out of the mansion on weekends, we had picnics, went horseback riding, we went shopping and to the theatre.
Orpheus was kinder and gentler than I deserved.
I tried my best to become a suitable wife for Orpheus.
I was involved in managing the mansion and his fief, I appeared in social circles, increased my acquaintances and expanded my network.
In doing so, I wanted to give back to Orpheus who had freed me.
However, there was one tough thing.
Being his bed partner.
At first, I had resisted when he embraced me.
It was the wife’s duty to give birth to the successor, and I knew that we wouldn’t have a child if we didn’t sleep together, but I hesitated when I thought about Diana.
How hurt would she be if she heard that her lover had slept with another woman… and had a child with her?
――― There is no love, just obligation.
Even if I told myself this, the feelings of guilt which resembled self-loathing didn’t disappear, and the more I thought about it, the more depressed I became.
As a result of my worries, I tried to tell Orpheus “I don’t need to give birth to a child, if another woman” ――― I didn’t dare give Diana’s name ――― “gave birth to your child, then we wouldn’t have to cross that line.” However, he questioned me, “Do you have another man?” and I didn’t have time to explain before he pushed me down.
We started sleeping together little by little from then on.
My guilt didn’t disappear, but I decided that it would be quicker to give him a child or two as soon as possible and accepted his advances.
I’m sure Orpheus is only embracing me out of duty, and it’s also hard for him.