Chapter 28: Fuzzy Conscious
My body was so hot that it felt like it was burning.
I opened my eyes while suffocating, and an unfamiliar scene showed up in my blurry vision.
It was an elegant room with antique furnishings.
All the antiques seemed like they would cost a hefty amount to repair if the delicate craftsmanship was damaged, so I didn’t feel like approaching them even if they looked gorgeous.
The pillow under my head felt uncomfortable, so this must be a room that I’m not familiar with.
――― Where is this?
I tried to get up, but my body didn’t want to move the way I wanted it to.
My whole body felt as heavy as lead.
I also have a headache.
It felt like a sharp needle was prickling my head.
――― Why am I here?
“Hello, Phelia. How do you feel?” I heard a low and pleasant voice near my ear. Who said that? I turned around.
“Ah, you look like you’re in pain. You’re sweating a lot and your face is red. You look like an apple,” a gentle, young man smiled softly while saying.
Fluffy golden hair that was sticking up as if he had just gotten out of bed, bright eyes that remind me of the spring forest, and white skin that hasn’t been sunburnt ――― my best friend, Claude.
He sat on the chair next to the bed and looked at my face, dressed in his usual clothes, dark brown pants and a plain white shirt.
I felt like I hadn’t met him in a long time, and I missed him so much that I almost cried when I remembered various things.
――― I wanted to meet you.
A sob escaped from the back of my throat.
I wanted to meet you.
I wanted to see you so much.
I have a lot of things I want to tell you.
Claude, I tried to call his name.
But the only sounds that escaped from my mouth were wheezing sounds.
“You can’t speak? Looks like you’ve hurt your throat. Poor you.”
When I reflexively grabbed my neck, Claude stretched out his hand and gently brushed mine away. “It’s alright,” he said softly.
“You’ve caught a cold. That’s why you can’t speak. But it’ll get better soon. Take your medicine and have a good rest.”
But I hardly ever catch colds, I thought.
When I was at my parent’s house, I couldn’t take baths, so I used to wash my body by drawing water from the well in the middle of the night; sometimes I did this on snowy and frosty nights.
The water from the well in winter was cold enough to make my skin red, but once I got used to it, I didn’t even get sick from it.
My body became robust thanks to my harsh life.
I can’t believe that I would get a cold from getting wet in the rain when I’ve been so healthy.
“You’re probably exhausted. The doctor prescribed some medicine for you, so you should take it. Take another nap afterwards. If you do that, then you’ll surely get better.”
Claude got up and started preparing something at the small table by the bed.
He searched for something in a paper bag, poured water into a ceramic cup and stirred the water with a glass rod.
“Can you get up? I’ll give you a hand.”
He held the ceramic cup with one hand and supported my back with the other.
His thin arms were stronger than I had expected, and he lightly prompted my limp, weak body up.
There was medicine in the cup.
I drank it all up at once and I felt like I would throw up from the bitterness, so I immediately drank the water that was offered to me.
The cold water slid down my throat, and I felt the burn subside a little.
“Where… is this…?” The voice I had squeezed out was hoarse and sounded like a chicken who was being strangled.
“It’s the mansion that my father gifted to my mother. It was built on the outskirts of Nabel, but it’s located a little further from the house you married into. The Rosenstein Mansion is on the south side of Nabel, but this mansion is on the east side.”
Claudie smiled mischievously, then he shrugged and continued, “Well my mother passed away a long time ago, so I inherited this place, and it’s mine now. ――― I’m sorry, Ophelia. I lied to you.”
“Yes. I’m not poor, and I have many titles besides painter. Claude Ritter is a temporary alias I used to live as a painter, the right me… No, that’s not right. I guess that’s the real me. Yes, that’s right. Claude Ritter is who I am. But I did lie to you about my identity.”
“Are you a noble?”
“Something like that. It’s a little different.”
――― Ah, I can’t take it anymore.
I went blank and my mind became hazy.
Too many things happened in one day, and even if my brain could comprehend these things, my heart couldn’t.
I remained behind in the rose maze.
My body is heavy, my headache is terrible, and I’m not in any state to think.
“I won’t tell you anymore today, neither my real name nor my real status. I don’t want you to be unable to sleep.”
I wonder where she is right now.
She dressed up as a man and rode on a horse, who the heck is she?
“I can tell you, but let’s stop here for tonight. You have to rest. ――― Renee was originally my bodyguard, and I had her slip into the Rosenstein mansion as a maid to see how you were doing.”
So, she really isn’t an ordinary servant, after all.
But I never imagined that she was pretending to be a maid under Claude’s orders.
――― Let’s stop. My brain isn’t working today.
I won’t get anywhere even if I think about it. It’ll only get more and more confusing.
Like Claude had said, I should get some sleep now.
It’s an unfamiliar mansion, but he’s here so it’s safe. I’m sure it’ll be fine.
“I’m glad she kept an eye on you. If she hadn’t, then you would be in a tough situation right now. You could’ve fainted, been attacked or killed, ――― or be brought back to the mansion and placed under house arrest. I’d like to lecture you for an hour or so on your recklessness, but you’re sick and I’ve also been lying to you so I’m not one to speak… On second thought, I’ll say it after all. After you’ve gotten better. You better be prepared.”
I obediently obeyed Claude, who had just finished saying a lot.
I relaxed and felt as if I was sinking into the bed, then I became drowsy.
“In any case, it was hard on you, Phelia. It was painful, wasn’t it?”
Claude adjusted my blankets while comforting me, and I thanked him.
Then, he smiled as if he was troubled or sad.
“I’ll stay by your side until you fall asleep, so don’t worry and close your eyes.”
The hand that was patting my head was pleasantly cool and felt nice.
I closed my eyes because it felt comfortable, and heard a quiet whisper, “Goodnight.”
When I fell asleep, I felt something soft and warm graze against my forehead.
I had a dream while I was sleeping.
A dream about my mother.
“Your father gave me a lot of roses,” mother said.
“He gave me a lot of roses in red, white, yellow, pink and orange.”
The side profile of my mother who had said this was weary since she had been sick for a long time, but she looked beautiful, and faint as if she could disappear at any moment, and her thin smile appeared lonely.
She stared off into the distance and squinted fondly as if my father were there.
“I like red roses the best. Red roses as deep as the colour of blood and passion. Do you know what roses means in the flower language? Love, beauty, virtue, and passion. Isn’t it wonderful? That person, your father, he gave me so much love. The red roses are proof of his love. Of course, your mother also sincerely loved your father. I loved him more than anyone else in this world.”
My mother looked down with her hands on her chest and cried.
Her tears dropped like pearls, and her body trembled quietly.
I think she actually wanted my father to comfort her.
She probably hoped that he would show up and hug her.
But father never came.
Both mother and I knew that he wouldn’t come.
I reached out and hugged my mother. I hugged her slim body which looked like it would break in half and her black hair.
Then, she muttered, “Sorry.”
“But I loved him. If my wish can come true, and if I am allowed, then I want to be by his side. I want to be with him. I love you, let’s live together, ――― he said that while presenting me with a bouquet of bright red roses, but we couldn’t be together.”
Even though I love you, even though you love me.
Mother repeated this while I hugged her.
Even so, he didn’t come, and I, her daughter, couldn’t take his place.
I wanted to at least comfort her, so one day, I sold my long hair and brought a single rose with the money I had received.
Roses were expensive when they were sold out of season, and it was impossible for me to afford a bouquet of roses.
I hurried home because I wanted my mother to be happy and laugh.
My heart leaped with expectations, and I didn’t care that my hair was cut as short as a boy’s or that the cold wind was hitting my cheeks.
I rushed up to Mother’s bed as soon as I got home and looked at her face.
“I’m home, Mother. I have a present for you today. What do you think it is? It’s your favourite red――.”
That was when I noticed that something was strange.
My mother, who always greeted me with a smile, couldn’t open her eyes.
Her eyes didn’t even twitch.
The rose slipped from my hand, and I don’t remember what happened afterwards.
The red rose that my mother loved.
The rose that was as red as blood, and passionate like a scorching heat.
Where the heck did the rose that I was going to give my mother to prove my love for her go?
I wonder if that freezing cold house is silently being forgotten.
I opened my eyes because I felt like someone was calling me and saw Orpheus.
I thought that I was still dreaming.
About Mother and Orpheus. A dream about the people I love.
Black hair, blue eyes, and white skin.
Ah, how beautiful he is!
This person is really beautiful.
Everything about him is beautiful, even his spirit and soul.
“Ophelia,” Orpheus called my name.
He spoke my name with a painful and heart-breaking expression on his face.
Down his cheeks were clear ―――.
“Are you… crying?”
I raised my heavy arm and rubbed his cheeks.
I wiped his tears with my index finger and my heart hurt.
Please don’t cry ―――.
I wiped my beloved’s tears with love.
Don’t cry ―――.
I’ll make you happy, so please don’t cry.
Laugh like you did on that day.
“Let’s go home, Ophelia.”
The warmth that covered my body disappeared, and I floated in the air.
My vision swayed, and I reached out my hand in surprise to try and grab something.
“I’m sorry I came so late to pick you up. It took a lot of time to find you. But, it’s alright now. It’s nothing to worry about. Let’s go home together. Go home and take a good rest.”
“――― Hey, you said you were just going to take a look at her.”
Claude was standing near us before I knew it, and he put his arm on Orpheus’s with a stern expression on his face that revealed that he was clearly annoyed.
“… Won’t you let go?”
“Alright. But give Phelia back.”
“Cut it out! Do you want to kill her? She still has a fever. She’ll get worse if you put her in a carriage. You know this, don’t you?”
Orpheus also put on the same stern expression on his face as Claude’s and was glaring at him, but he finally sighed after a while, and put me back down on the bed.
“Sorry. Did it hurt?”
Orpheus looked down, gloomily.
He placed the blanket on top of my cold body and rubbed my head and cheek.
“No,” I answered, and someone gasped in shock.
“It’s not “no”, is it Phelia? I’m sure you feel pretty bad. Lord Rosenstein, please go home for today. You are also at fault for her running away from home. She didn’t want to be near you. I don’t have to tell you why.”
Orpheus’s beautiful face distorted as if it had cracked, but Claude continued, “Don’t linger around and leave already. If you’re around, then she won’t heal even if she could.”
Normally, I would flare up and say, “Don’t speak like that,” but unfortunately, I don’t have the energy for that right now.
“I’m sorry,” I had no choice but to apologise for Claude’s rudeness.
“It’s fine, Ophelia. It’s my fault. It’s all my fault. Please don’t apologise.”
“It is your fault. This wouldn’t have happened if you had been more honest.”
I’m the only one to blame.
Orpheus, Diana, Juris, Claude, and other people. No one did anything wrong.
“I want to think. Please let me think about this for a little bit.”
I still don’t know what I should do.
I just want to sleep right now.
I’m really tired, so I want to sleep.
“I’ll come back,” Orpheus said as if he was begging for forgiveness.
“You might not like it, but I’ll be sure to come back. You don’t have to say anything. I want you to stay by my side even if it’s just for a little while.”
It took some time before I could fall asleep again.
I stared blankly at the ceiling and Claude returned. He bowed as he apologised, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry about the disturbance. I told him not to wake you up, but he seemed cornered in many ways.”
“Why… is that person… here?”
“I told him you were here.”
Claude brushed back his quirky hair.
“I told him that I’ll look after you here. Since it would be troublesome if he accused me of kidnapping you or caused a fuss. Well, I’m sure he would attack me if I didn’t tell him you were here.”
“Why… did he come to pick me up?”
Orpheus loves… Wait, no.
Orpheus didn’t love Diana.
He said that he loves…
“Who knows? I’m not him, so I can’t answer that question. Why don’t you ask him next time?”
Claude stared at me for a while with a mysterious smile on his face, then he said, “Goodnight,” and left the room.
I fell into a deep sleep and didn’t dream this time.