Chapter 37: Victoria
I woke up to the uncomfortable feeling of rattling and shaking.
How long was I unconscious for―――?
I opened my eyes, but it was pitch black and I couldn’t see anything.
It was horribly hot and suffocating, and to make matters worse, I couldn’t move my body.
My entire body seemed to be wrapped in a large cloth, and my hands and feet were also tightly bound.
I felt a sharp pain from the rope when I tried to move.
This led to a tingling pain in my stomach from being hit earlier.
“This is the worst,” I tried to mutter, but the cloth wrapped around my mouth made my voice muffled and indistinct.
They went this far to restrain a powerless woman? I was stunned.
I let them catch me without resisting, but they still had to cover my mouth, tie up my hands and feet and wrap me in a cloth, this is just too horrible.
If they’re not going to kill me straight away, then can’t they treat me with a little more respect?
My right arm, which was pinned to the ground, grew numb, so I tried to twist my body in a different direction.
Then, “Don’t struggle,” an irrational voice came from above me.
“We’re almost there. We’ll let you out when we get there, so behave yourself.”
Which means we’re heading towards the client’s house.
I was probably on a carriage or cart.
The continuous vibrations are probably from the wheels.
It’s no use now that things have ended up like this.
I can’t resist in this situation, and it was better to stay still than lose strength trying to struggle.
I relaxed and closed my eyes.
I thought about Orpheus, the beautiful person who smiled sweetly and bewitchingly.
Then the vibrations stopped after a long, long time had passed.
“We’re here, lady.”
I heard other noises along with the man’s voice and my body was lifted up in an uncomfortable way.
After the disgusting floating sensation hit me, something solid slammed against my chest and stomach causing me to moan in pain and shock.
I knew that someone was carrying me over their shoulders, but I didn’t know where I was being taken.
I was shaken, and my anxiety grew every time my face was hit.
――― I wish they would let me out of these cloth ties at least.
The shaking finally stopped when I began to complain about how he said he would let me out when we got here but didn’t.
The person who was carrying me seemed to have stopped.
“You brought her here?” Out of nowhere, a familiar voice sounded.
Rather than feeling nostalgic, I didn’t want to hear it again, it was unpleasant ―――.
“Let her out.”
I floated in the air again, and the moment my vision cleared, I was dropped to the ground.
I wasn’t dropped from a high height, but I hit my head, cheek and shoulders hard because my hands were tired.
“Argh…” I writhed in pain while moving my gaze to look up at the owner of the unpleasant voice.
His chubby body, expensive clothes, jewellery and stagnant eyes.
His blonde hair hadn’t changed since he was young.
He was grinning grossly.
The man who I shouldn’t have had to see again ――― my father, whom I had already severed ties with.
『Where are you taking me?』
『To the client’s house.』
I remembered the conversation I had with the bald man and it sent a chill down my spine.
――― Was this man the ringleader?
Don’t tell me he’s going to demand a ransom from Orpheus in exchange for me?
I can tell that his business investment isn’t going well.
This man has been investing in various businesses for a long time and failing, and every time he fails, he takes it out on me.
I wonder if he was trying to get more money because he ran out of the additional funds he had gotten from Orpheus ―――.
If so, what a stupid thing to do.
I thought in annoyance when I saw that his eyes were filled with a bizarre light even though they looked dark and stagnated.
――― Did he lose his reason because of greed?
It would have been fine if he had only taken me, his daughter, but the coachman was murdered, and he also had Diana and Marion kidnapped.
Those are criminal acts that are unforgivable ――― and not tolerated by society.
Furthermore, I have already severed my familial ties with this man.
Orpheus may have paid this man to help me, but from now on, he will probably hunt him down mercilessly, convict him and throw him in prison.
I don’t even have to think to know this, but he may have lost his ability to think normally either because of desperation or because he was taken in by someone’s get-rich scheme.
――― Or did he want to hurt me?
It was far dumber to do that than kidnap me for ransom, but this man would do it.
This, too, would be because his investments weren’t successful.
『I won’t let you be happy. I’ll make you suffer more than I have.』
He even declared this before.
If he’s in a situation where he’s up to his neck in debt and he had to flee the country or commit suicide, then he would probably want to drag me with him instead of doing it alone.
After he takes it out on me that is.
I know this because he’s oppressed me for so many years.
That’s the type of person he is.
He hates me because I resemble my mother and is attached to me in a perverse way.
I have kept my distance and was going to start over a new leaf, but it seems like it’s not easy to cut ties with him.
――― I was vaguely aware of this, but I didn’t expect him to go this far.
I turned my back on the familiar mansion and stared at the man who was arrogantly looking down on me.
Normally, he would get angry and say, “What’s with those eyes?” but today, he kept on smirking.
“It’s been a while, Louise. I haven’t seen you in a really long time.” I didn’t mishear, this man certainly said that.
He didn’t call me by my name, but my mother’s.
“It looks like you’ve run away from that guy again. No, should I say that you were abandoned?”
He’s always been crazy, but has he finally lost it? I shivered.
Was he so mad that he couldn’t distinguish between reality and delusion?
The man slowly approached me, crouched down, peered at my face, then smiled wider.
“It’s because you became pregnant even though you’re a prostitute.”
His breath smelled like alcohol, and I knew that he hadn’t gone mad, he was just simply drunk.
――― No, he might have gone mad.
His mind might be so broken that he couldn’t distinguish between right and wrong, and so had to drink starting from sunrise.
“Hahaha! It’s fun to see you suffer. It’s great. I never thought that you would make that face as I look down on you.”
He grabbed my hair and pulled it. A twitching pain ran through my head.
“Kneel down and beg for forgiveness. If you do, then I’ll forgive you for the countless times you’ve been rude and support you. I’ll take care of you. And that baby in your stomach.”
If that’s all it takes for him to release me, then I’ll apologise.
I’ll even get down on my knees.
However, the man only grinned and wouldn’t even take off the cloth that was wrapped around my mouth, let alone the rope around my hands and feet. I couldn’t even apologise even if I wanted to.
I moaned in anguish and the man’s expression suddenly changed, and fury flashed across his flushed face.
“Don’t look down on me!”
I was thrown onto the hard ground when he hit my cheek strongly.
The impact was so strong that my eyes went completely white, and I thought the bones in my face had shattered.
In addition, I seemed to have hit my head when I was thrown to the ground. My vision blurred and I felt dizzy.
“Whatever. Lock her in the dungeon.” With those words as the cue, I was picked up again and carried over a man’s shoulder.
I only managed to stay conscious halfway and passed out again while being shaken violently.
When I opened my eyes, it was pitch black and I couldn’t see anything.
I got sick of this happening again.
The cloth that was in my mouth had been removed, but my hands and feet were still tied, so I couldn’t move.
I’m probably in the dungeon.
I can tell by the feel of the cold floor that deprived me of my body heat and the musty smell.
I had been thrown in here many times when I was working as a servant.
For trivial reasons such as making a small mistake or because that man was in a bad mood.
“I never thought that I would be back here like this…” The voice I hadn’t heard in a while was terribly cracked and echoed well in this room which had no other noise.
I was exhausted and my body limped.
It’s dark, I’m tired, and it hurts everywhere.
I’m thirsty and don’t have the energy to get up.
I still don’t know why they went to such lengths to kidnap me, but it doesn’t look like I have to worry about being killed right now. It should be fine to lie down like this.
――― Come to think of it, I wonder if Diana and Marion got away safely.
There was plenty of time for them to get far away.
I’m sure the kidnappers wouldn’t go to the trouble of chasing after them since they had let them go.
I’m sure they got away safely and were found.
However, both Claude’s mansion and the Rosenstein mansion must be in such a big uproar.
Diana and Marion had returned safely, but I was kidnapped and disappeared instead.
And I don’t think there will be a single person who would think that I had been kidnapped by my biological father.
No one would think that someone would kidnap me to the Lagerfeld House since it was half a day’s journey from that forest.
“… I wonder what will happen to me.”
Will I be released in exchange for a ransom, or will I be locked up and beaten depending on the mood of that man?
Or ――― in the worst case scenario ――― will he make me commit double suicide with him?
In any case, the more I think about it, the more depressed I become.
I rolled over, gently closed my eyes and imagined a happy future with Orpheus.
It was better to hold onto hope than to wallow in despair to keep my heart strong.
I haven’t given up completely yet.
I don’t intend to obey him at all.
“I’ll run away when I see the opportunity. Definitely.”
I’ll start over with Orpheus and make him happy this time.
I won’t cower with just this much.
I’ll resist until the very end.
I made up my mind and stared into the darkness.
Some time after, I heard footsteps in the distance.
The heavy footsteps seemed to be coming this way, and the sound got louder little by little.
It wasn’t the footsteps of several people, but of one person.
Thinking that an opportunity to escape might have presented itself, I put all my strength into my limp hands and sluggishly raised my upper body.
Before long, a light appeared in the darkness.
The hazy orange flames dimly, yet charmingly, lit up the person’s face.
Blue eyes, white skin, rose coloured lips, and chestnut curly hair ――― it was a cute appearance of a life size doll.
“You are… Victoria….?”
There stood my half-sister, Victoria Maria Lagerfeld. She was a year younger than me.
She wore a light red dress with lots of ribbon and lace, which looked out of place in a savage dungeon, with a candlestick in one hand.
“Why… are you here… sister?” Victoria said with a stunned and disbelieving look on her face.
I couldn’t tell if she was a friend or foe, so I kept my mouth shut and held my breath.
Victoria and I are half-sisters, but we were treated completely differently in this house.
I was shunned and treated as a servant, but Victoria was doted upon and cherished like a locked up princess.
I had to call her ‘-sama’ and I was forbidden from talking to her, let along get involved with her.
As a result, we sisters have never had a decent conversation.
To begin with, it seemed like she didn’t care about me at all and didn’t even make eye contact with me when we passed each other.
Therefore, I can’t read her.
Is she an enemy or an ally?
――― What did she come here for?
She acts boldly at times.
She was probably interested in who her father had kidnapped and couldn’t suppress her curiosity, so she came here to see who it was.
From the surprised look on her face, she probably didn’t think that I was here―――.
“I can’t believe this! That stupid, idiotic man!” Her voice was so loud that I was worried that someone might have heard her from upstairs.
My shoulders jolted in surprise and I widened my eyes.
“That useless drunk old man! Despicable! What the hell did he do?! He can’t just kidnap his own daughter and put her under house arrest! Unbelievable! Despicable!”
“Useless… drunk old man…”
――― Where did she learn those words?
I know I shouldn’t worry about that right now, but I’m stunned by the verbal abuse that was spewing from her flowery lips.
This girl was bold at times, but didn’t she usually act more lady-like and graceful?
“That man, his investment failed again. He’s been crazy ever since and always drunk. In addition, his delusions got worse, and he screams nonsense everyday. He beats the servants and screams your mother’s name… Immediately after, he hired those strange men…” Victoria said with harsh breathing and her cute face scrunched up with shame.
“I’m sorry, sister. I never thought he would do this. I put up with his actions because he’s my father, but I can’t anymore. I’ve had enough. I hope this house is destroyed.”
“Wait, Victoria. What―――…”
“I meant what I said. I hate that man so much that I can’t stand him. I hate this house too.”
“You… Aren’t you loved by that man?”
Victoria, unlike me, is doted on by that man.
Even from a distance, they look like they’re close.
So why is she criticising him so much?
Why is she speaking ill of him?
“Love?” Victoria snared mockingly.
“I’ve never been given that. The only people who loved me were my mother and my nanny. That man only gave me a place to live, fed me, brought me dresses and a few luxuries, that’s all and nothing else.”
“But he was nice to you, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, he was. Just to let you see, that is.”
It can’t be, I thought but Victoria’s smile was awfully cold.
“I’ve been vaguely aware of it for some time, but as soon as you got married and left this mansion, his attitude suddenly changed. He ignored me. He did buy me things, but it’s barely anything. I don’t even see his face when I pass him.”
“I knew he would act like that,” Victoria shrugged.
“That man, you know, he doesn’t love me. The kindness he showed me was to spite you, no, your mother. This was his revenge against Louise-sama for abandoning him. You, my mother, and I were only pawns for his revenge. Even though Louise-sama isn’t here anymore.”
“That man isn’t a father,” Victoria spat out.
Her blue eyes were stained with sadness and it was painful to look at them.
“Pawns… for revenge…”
――― Oh, she’s the same as me?
I don’t know much about their relationship.
I was always an outsider.
But I’m sure Victoria is just as troubled by her relationship with her father as I was.
She was conflicted since she knew that she wasn’t loved and was only a tool for revenge.
She couldn’t leave the mansion like I had since she was the heir, so she continued to endure it alone.
This whole time in this dark mansion.
“The truth is,” Victoria muttered. She sat down on the cold floor and put the candlestick down.
“It’s too late to say this, but I wanted to get along with you, sister. I’ve always wanted to get along with you. But you’ll get punished if I talk to you. You’ll also get punished if I try to protect you. That man hit you and threw you out into the cold. So, I could only act as I had. I could only ignore you to avoid provoking that man,” she said and hung her head.
Her glossy, curly hair fell from her shoulders and flowed to her chest.
“I’m sorry. I’m sure I gave you unpleasant memories. I’m really sorry.”
I thought she hated me.
I thought she had ignored me because she hated me and looked down on me.
But that wasn’t true.
My heart hurt.
The back of my eyes heated up.
――― Why didn’t I notice this sooner?
We could have supported each other as sisters. We could have stood against him together.
“You protected me in your own way, didn’t you? I won’t hold a grudge against you and that man is to blame in the first place, so don’t blame yourself.”
“I’m glad to hear how you feel. I want to get along with you from now on. ――― No, let’s get along from now on. Since we’re blood related.”
I will shake free from that man and face forward. I hope that Victoria can do the same.
Therefore, I want to help her.
I want to protect her as her sister.
“Thanks,” Victoria said. Her face, lit by candlelight, scrunched as if she was about to burst into tears.
“I didn’t think that we would make up like this. But I’m glad. ――― Oh no. This isn’t the time to talk.”
Victoria stood up. She took a deep breath and tightened her cute face.
“I want to let you out right now, but I don’t know where the key is. That man probably has it. It’s hard to run away since those guys are gathered in the garden… I’ll do everything I can to contact Earl Rosenstein.”
“Hold on for a little while longer,” Victoria said apologetically and shook her head.
“Thanks, Victoria. You’re saving my life. Thank you so much.”
“You’re exaggerating. I’m only doing what I should do. Ah, and I’ll get you something to eat and drink.”
“Thank you very much, but don’t overdo it.”
That man is out of his mind.
If he knew that Victoria was trying to help me escape, then he’ll hit her as well.
“It’s alright. That man is drinking in his room and the people he’s hired won’t come inside the mansion unless he calls them.”
“It’s fine even if I move around freely,” Victoria laughed. “If the old housekeeper finds me, then I’ll just get a good scolding.”
“I’m sorry, I’ll leave now. ――― Ah, yes, sister.”
“If Father is arrested and this house is destroyed, can I rely on you?”
I laughed and replied, “Of course.”
“Come to the Rosenstein mansion. I’m sure Orpheus will forgive you too.”
“Yay!” Victoria clenched her vacant hand and jumped up and down in joy.
“We’re going to get along this time! I’m so excited!”
After laughing for a while, she said, “I’ll be back,” and left.
I watched her walk off with a smile and muttered, “Thanks, Victoria.”
――― I see hope thanks to you.
Even as the light faded and the darkness returned, and even as her light footsteps grew further away, the lingering sound of her bright laughter remained.