Chapter 27: Freedom
It was so easy to pass through the gate.
All I had to do was give the gatekeeper a little bit of money and told him to keep his mouth shut.
I slipped out of the mansion alone and walked on the road that led to the city centre.
The impression of the rural scenery was completely different when I was walking compared to when I passed through here with a carriage.
The blueness of the sky and the twinkling of the lights were different.
I can’t feel the sunshine and the wind blowing on my cheeks or smell the grass and soil in the carriage.
I also can’t feel the hard ground under my feet.
――― I see. Am I free right now?
I stopped, wiped the sweat on my forehead and looked up at the sky.
The blue summer sky. It was nearly dusk, but the brightness in the sky was the same as noon.
Only the intensity of the sun had softened.
White clouds were in the sky, and the mountains were covered by a hazy shadow.
I could hear summer insects buzz, and when I quietened my breathing, I could hear the refreshing sounds of water flowing.
Freedom, I thought.
I can go anywhere.
I’m finally free.
And yet, why do I feel so sad?
I couldn’t stand the pain in my chest.
The blue skies and mountains didn’t yield to the strong sunlight, and the lush green leaves that were growing everywhere were beautiful. It should be wonderful, but why aren’t I happy?
I could see the white walls of the Rosenstein mansion when I turned around.
The mansion looked pretty under the blue sky with the trees that the gardener carefully attended to.
I didn’t want freedom.
I just wanted to make my loved one happy.
Until a few hours ago, my freedom was the same as Orpheus obtaining happiness.
I should have been able to make him happy when we divorce.
However, that wasn’t true.
So, I’m sad.
I’m not happy even though I’ve gained my freedom.
I’m not happy at all.
I stopped in the middle of the road and pressed my hands against my chest.
I closed my eyelids which felt hot and breathed out.
――― What should I do?
I continued walking to look for the answer.
I understood perfectly just how reckless I am.
It took about 30 minutes to ride a carriage to Claude’s apartment from the outskirts.
I don’t know how long it would take to get there on foot.
Moreover, I wasn’t used to walking.
I don’t know if I would be able to reach his apartment safely or not.
I had my face covered with a hood and was wearing a dark-coloured overcoat, but people can immediately tell my social status from the quality of my coat.
It wouldn’t be difficult for a thief or hoodlum to attack me.
They would steal all I have on me, assault me, and then throw me in the mountains or river.
But, if that happens, then it’s fine.
I want to be punished.
I want to be judged for my crimes.
I want to be tormented.
I want to suffer more pain than what Orpheus feels.
I probably wanted those things to happen, so that was why I acted recklessly by walking to the city instead of using a carriage.
It was around the time when the clouds got darker, and I left the rural countryside and entered the forest road which was dotted with noble villas ―――.
Cool wind instead of lukewarm wind blew against my sweaty skin, and I looked around curiously.
I finally noticed that it had gotten dark and looked up at the grey clouds that were beginning to gather. “Is it an evening shower?” I muttered while sighing.
“God might punish me right away.”
I stared ahead and continued walking as the strong wind blew and howled.
My overcoat swayed in the wind, and my hood flew off, but I left it as it was since I was the only one who was on this dim mountain road.
When the dense forest became a forest that was clearly tended to by people, and then turned into mediocre tree-lined country roads, it finally began to rain.
The small raindrops falling on the dry road quickly turned into a shower and my vision became hazy.
It was pointless to quickly wear my hood, and my overcoat became soaked with water as large raindrops fell between the trees; it didn’t take long for my clothes to get heavy since even the dress that I wore underneath the overcoat got soaked with water.
I could have continued walking like this, but I couldn’t see well, and it was difficult to move my heavy body.
Claude’s apartment was still far away, and I couldn’t wear myself down, so I decided to go into the forest and wait under a big tree for the rain to stop.
I sat down on the tree roots which were looming from the ground and stared at the roads lined with trees beyond the forest while listening to the sound of the raindrops.
When I started freezing, I felt like I could hear the sounds of horse hoofs mixed with the heavy sound of rain.
Who on earth is out in this heavy rain? I raised my face.
The sound of the hoofs grew closer, and before long, several men who appeared to be servants of nobles came from the direction that I had walked, and quickly rushed through the road lined with trees.
“Ah!” I reflexively raised my voice when I saw the man who was leading them.
Orpheus was riding the horse without flinching when the rain hit him, and he had a thoughtful expression on his face.
The two men behind him were also familiar faces and were servants of the Rosenstein House.
――― What happened?
It’s rare to see Orpheus in a hurry, I wonder if something serious must have happened.
“No way…” I suddenly realised.
They’re probably looking for me since I had suddenly disappeared from the mansion―――.
“But I can’t believe he’s coming after me…”
I remembered the warmth that had enveloped my body and the hot breath that had touched my ears.
『I don’t need anything else if you’re by my side.』
――― Orpheus might really love me.
I don’t know since I’ve only been loved by my mother.
I don’t understand normal love even if I know about one-sided love.
The person I love, loves me back. I can’t believe in such a miraculous occurrence.
And if Orpheus’s love is real, then my crimes will become heavier.
It would become so heavy that I wouldn’t be able to make up for it in this lifetime.
――― What am I supposed to do?
Orpheus and his servants continued forward without noticing the woman in the forest.
The sound of the rain drowned out the sound of the horse hooves, and I couldn’t hear them anymore.
I grieved in secret and buried my face in my knees.
I can’t do anything about them leaving.
I ran away to begin with. I ran away because I wanted to talk to Claude, and it was painful to stay by Orpheus’s side.
There’s no point to me running away if I get caught.
“This is fine.”
I miserably kept my head in my knees and waited for the rain to stop.
I’ll start walking again when the rain stops, I thought.
Orpheus is gone, so it’s okay.
He probably won’t be back for a while.
However, it wasn’t only Orpheus who was chasing after me.
After the rain stopped, I heard horse hooves again when I dragged my wet body through the tree-lined road.
I got fed up, looked back and saw a horse in the distance.
It would be troublesome if it’s someone from the Rosenstein House again. I looked around carefully and decided to enter the forest again.
That was the only place I could hide.
I didn’t go too far in since it would be horrible if I got lost.
I stood in a place where I could see the tree-lined road and waited for the horse to pass by.
However, the horses didn’t run past the road.
It stopped near where I was hiding, and the person, who was mounted on the horse, stared at the forest as if they were looking for something.
“Why is she here…?”
I was shocked to see a slender person with tied-up brown hair.
Renee was on the horse.
She wasn’t wearing the female servant’s uniform, but a white shirt with black trousers and long boots that stopped below her knees. She was dressed gallantly and could be mistaken for a man.
However, at the same time, she was exuding a terrifying aura.
Her shirt was sticking to her skin because of the rain, and the outline of her body could be seen clearly.
――― Why is Renee here?
Renee walked the horse slowly towards the forest, but eventually descended smoothly down onto the road.
“Ophelia-sama!” I almost jumped the moment my name was screamed.
Apparently, Renee was looking for me too.
――― But, why?
Why the heck was a female servant dressing herself as a man and riding a horse to look for me?
“Ophelia-sama! Please reply if you’re there!”
Of course, there’s no way I will answer.
I don’t know why she’s looking for me, but I turned around to run away before she found me.
“I didn’t come here to take you back to the mansion! I came here to help you, Ophelia-sama!”
My feet stopped.
What does she mean when she said that she came here to help me?
“You want to go to Claude-sama’s apartment, right?! I’ll take you there, so please come out! It’ll get dark soon! It’s dangerous in the forest!”
She must have been anxious since she wasn’t getting a reply, and her expression became stern.
I watched as Renee tied her horse to a nearby tree and pondered.
Renee had said that, but can I trust her?
Her appearance, aura, and stern expressions; the current Renee is different from the one I know.
Most importantly, I don’t think she’s a normal servant.
Who the heck is she? I tilted my head curiously.
――― Don’t tell me she knew as well?
Renee entered the forest while I was pondering. “Ophelia-sama,” she shouted many times.
“I’m here.” I couldn’t bear how frantic she was, and finally replied.
I came out from where I was hiding and raised my hand at the wide-eyed Renee.
“Ophelia-sama, are you alright?!”
“Yes, I’m fine. I’m sorry for hiding.”
Renee rushed up to me and checked me from head to toe, then sighed in relief.
“It doesn’t seem like you’re injured, but you’re soaked. We need to go somewhere for you to dry or change clothes… Anyway, let’s get out of the forest for now.”
“Renee, are you really here to help me?” I asked Renee as she pulled my hand and walked. She opened her eyes slightly, then nodded.
“Yes. That’s why I came here.”
“Will you take me with you then?”
I wouldn’t mind even if she hated me and was trying to harm me.
If that’s what she wants, then it’s fine.
“You want to go to Claude-sama’s apartment, right? But you need to change first. You’ll catch a cold like this.”
“I don’t need to change. I want to meet Claude. Please. Take me there.”
Renee frowned in confusion, but she knew that I was determined, and nodded, “Alright.”
When we got out of the forest, she untied her horse, grabbed the reins and walked it to me.
“Where did you get this horse?”
“From the Rosenstein mansion. I stole it from the caretaker. ――― Ophelia-sama, do you know how to ride a horse?”
“I can’t do it alone, but I can ride on it if someone rides with me.”
“Then, that’s good.”
Renee got on the horse first and pulled me up.
I didn’t sit like a man like Renee did, but instead, sat in a womanly way that didn’t require me to roll up my dress.
Both my legs were almost to one side, ――― although it’s weird for people of the same sex to sit like this, ――― and leaned against Renee who was holding the reins.
“We’re going to run now. Please hold on tightly so that you won’t fall off.”
The horse ran like the wind.
Renee controlled the horse so skilfully that she didn’t seem like a woman, and we ran through the scarlet road.
――― Honestly, who the heck is she?
I don’t think she’s just a servant.
I was really curious and wanted to ask, but she said, “Please leave the questions for later. You’ll bite your tongue if you talk now.”
Renee seemed to know shortcuts that I didn’t. She went off the tree-lined roads, and into a narrow road which was hard for carriages to drive through.
I was worried since there were no guideposts if we got lost, but we came out onto a wide road a while later, so I felt relieved, and decided to leave it to Renee.
Fortunately, we didn’t come across Orpheus.
I raised my face when we left the forest and saw an eerie red sky.
The setting sun looked blood-red, dying the blue skies and white clouds from the sudden rain the same colour.
――― It’s a little scary.
I suddenly thought.
It’s so beautiful in its eeriness that it caused my body and lips to tremble.
“Are you cold?” Renee said when she noticed this.
My body trembled strangely.
My teeth grinded together and made a sound.
The wind was warm, but I was freezing.
My wet clothes snatched my body temperature.
“We’ll run faster.”
My consciousness started fading for the first time in my life, and I clung desperately to Renee so that I wouldn’t fall off the horse.
“Renee, wait. This is…”
“We’re nearly there,” Renee shook me. I raised my head while feeling unwell and was stunned.
We were clearly in the outskirts, this wasn’t the city, there was nothing around, and I didn’t know this place.
I looked around but couldn’t see the elegant apartment building where Claude lived. It was dark, and I couldn’t see very well, but there were probably fields and I could see a mansion on the same scale as the Rosenstein mansion not far from here.
The mansion was magnificent and was built in an old architectural style. The light coming out from the rooms, and the bonfire in the garden gave the mansion a golden glow and made it look as beautiful as a picture.
However, I couldn’t afford to be fascinated by this scene.
“Where is this?”
“Claude’s… mansion?” It was cold and hot, my body hurt for some reason, and my head wasn’t working well.
So, I thought that I had misheard her and asked back.
But Renee continued to look forward and didn’t answer me.
The horse continued to run, and we were getting closer and closer to the mansion.
“Wait a minute, didn’t you make a mistake? You said this is Claude’s mansion, but he lives in an apartment.”
“It’s a long story, so I’ll explain it later.”
“But… Hmm, we won’t be driven away, right…? I don’t have anything to prove my identity…”
“Don’t worry. Please stay still. We’re in a hurry.”
Instead of being turned away at the gate like I had expected, the two men at the gate looked grim when they saw Renee and bowed. They opened the gates without stopping us.
Renee stopped the horse a short distance away from the front door. She got off first and helped me down.
It would have been fine for me to slip onto the pavement, but I felt so dizzy and found myself collapsed on the spot.
At any rate, I felt hot, cold and weak.
It was hard to breathe.
“Are you alright!? Are you hurt?!”
“I, I’m okay. I’m fine.”
I wasn’t fine, but I stood up with Renee’s help, and went into the mansion.
I nearly fell down many times on the way there. Renee would support me each time this happened, but I would say, “I’m fine,” and walk by myself.
We stood in the hall, and a young maid ran up to us when she noticed us.
I was prepared to be kicked out, but she was probably someone Renee knew since she seemed surprised when she heard what had happened.
I couldn’t follow what they were saying.
I couldn’t hear what they were saying even though they were right next to me.
It was as if I was under water.
In addition, my vision grew hazy, and my heart beat faster.
Renee and the young maid stared at me, worriedly, and I wanted to tell them I was fine, but my voice wouldn’t come out. I felt so sick that I was breaking out in cold sweat.
My vision shook and turned white and then black.
The moment I tried to talk to Renee, the floor began to distort.
I felt as if my whole body was hit, but I was fascinated by the bright light that was hanging down from the ceiling, and thought indifferently, that it’s beautiful.
“Ophelia-sama! Susanna, call the other servants! And, get a doctor as soon as possible!”
I heard someone scream orders impatiently just before my vision went dark and my consciousness faded.