While staring at Dahlia calmly, Karla’s lips twitched due to an unfamiliar happiness. As a young and innocent maid, she wouldn’t be able to grasp the meaning of her words.
Karla took a sip of alcohol and slowly opened her mouth.
“I don’t know if you’ll believe me when I say that I don’t hate Isaac. If that kid likes you, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being friendly with each other. It’s really pitiful to not have any friends in this spacious mansion… Of course, you have to be careful to not get caught by Mother or Max, but personally, I want to cheer on you both.”
Karla got up from her seat and took something from above the fireplace.
It was the relief sculpture of a wolf, the family’s emblem, on a white plaque.
Karla spoke in a gentle tone as she reached out for Dahlia’s stiff hand and closed her fingers around the plaque.
“It’s a gift. Please take good care of Isaac from now on.”
After finishing her words, Karla gently wrapped her arms around Dahlia’s shoulder and dismissed her. The glass in her hand made a sloshing sound of ice melting.
Looking at the plaque with surprise, Dahlia stood up from her seat unsteadily. Her pupils were filled with confusion while looking at the plaque.
‘What is this?’
Although she knew it was an important item, she was shocked as she couldn’t figure out what was it used for. While Dahlia agonized over this, she decided to return back and think about it.
“Thank you, Young Lady. I will cherish this.”
Her hand holding the plaque trembled slightly. Karla opened the door and saw Dahlia out personally with a cordial expression on her face.
An air of emptiness descended in the room. Karla, who had been shaking her glass, erased the expression of friendliness from her face and sat down on the sofa again.
Traces of the maid’s retreating image lingered in her mind.
If she used that maid.
If she can’t control the monster, she can reign over its master.
She was tired of being ordered about by her family, and she didn’t want to be manipulated by Isaac. If she coaxed the maid, it wouldn’t be too difficult to control Isaac.
‘I had only figured out who you liked.’
Contrary to her cynical mumbling, Karla’s face was full of bitterness.
It wasn’t a lie that she didn’t hate Isaac. It wasn’t a commendable mindset, but simply that she didn’t want to be eroded by the monster’s frenzy.
If Isaac had been an ordinary kid, if only she hadn’t faced the events of the day, their sibling relationship might not have been so bad.
But she knows the real face of that monster. And she wasn’t the kind of person who had enough magnanimity to embrace such a monster as a part of her family.
…It was already taxing for her to cover for herself, but having to cover for someone else?
The monster that came to the mansion wore the hat of a victim, and completely pretended to be weak. Perhaps there was no other option for Isaac to live on, but in Karla’s point of view, as long as she didn’t participate in the abuse, she had already done the best she could.
An onlooker. Some may point their fingers, but it was the best that Karla could do given her position.
Her life was too hard for her to confront her pettiness herself. Karla slowly closed her eyes and leaned back deeply into her sofa.
She only hoped that the monster would not hate her. Hoped that he would not hurt her.
Karla listened quietly to the sound of the fire embers crackling, as she hoped that the maid’s green eyes could edify the monster.
A flock of migratory birds flew up in the skies at the peak of winter.
Although it was the same winter as always, winter in a place other than the mansion gave off a different feeling. Blankly staring at the mountains, Isaac pointed towards the mountaintop and spoke.
“Dahlia, look at that. It’s only white at the top.”
It was a magnificent view, where snow-capped peaks were piled up one upon the other. Dahlia looked toward the direction Isaac was pointing at and gave a bright smile.
“It’s perpetual snow. I heard that the snow-capped mountains in the North don’t melt even during summer, is that true? I’m so curious whether it will melt in summer.”
“The snow doesn’t melt even during summer? How is that possible?”
“…Young Master, have you not seen that mountain before?”
“I don’t know. It’s my first time seeing it today.”
The giant mountain range enveloping the North was symbolistic of Helman.
But when she asked if it was the first time he saw it, Isaac nodded his head.
“Because I’ve been in the mansion all the time… Today is the first time I’ve come out. There’s only flat ground in the mansion grounds, so I thought everything would be flat. So Helman has many mountain ranges.”
Isaac smiled brightly as he tucked his disheveled hair behind his ear.
Dahlia untied her scarf and wrapped it around Isaac’s neck, not knowing whether she should laugh or not. A cool breeze blew past them towards the section of the town at the bottom of the hill.
“We still have a little more distance to cover. Young Master, please take my hand.”
As soon as she finished speaking, a large hand approached and grabbed Dahlia’s.
Isaac looked down at her hand with a gentle expression, narrowed his brows lightly. Dahlia’s hands were red and frost bitten from the cold, not even wearing any gloves.
He frowned while looking down at her hands, before taking off his gloves and putting them on Dahlia’s hands. Then, he tangled their fingers tightly so that the glove wouldn’t free itself.
A warmth spread throughout the palm of her hands gradually. Dahlia tilted her head as she glanced dazedly at their clasped hands.
Hands so big it didn’t feel like they belonged to a boy.
If his physique is bigger than his peers now, and his hands and feet are this big, how tall would he become when he has fully matured?
“Dahlia, I want to go to a bookstore. Are there any bookstores downtown?”
Isaac asked excitedly while holding her hand. At his natural attitude, Dahlia gave an embarrassed smile while nodding her head.
“Yes. I thought you would want to go to the bookstore, so I had found its location in advance. I heard that there is a big bookstore near the fountain in the center of the city. Apparently it is a place with a very long history, and the signboard of the bookstore says 120 years…”
Dahlia continued explaining in a low voice. She looked calm at first glance, but her excitement was obvious through her longer than usual strides.
It was her first vacation after ten days.
Dahlia felt apologetic for giving an old book to the noble Young Master, so she decided to go out to town on the day she received her salary. Then, she suddenly wondered what would it be like if they went out together, so she asked the Young Master for his opinion.
She originally thought that she would be rejected, but Isaac happily agreed and pulled on Dahlia’s hand and left the mansion. Leaving behind Hoover’s aloof gaze, they boarded a wagon heading towards downtown.
“What if you’re caught by the Duchess later? I’m worried that I’m getting the Young Master in trouble for nothing.”
“It’s okay. Even if I get caught, I’ll only be rebuked. Since it’ll be the same even if I stay inside quietly, I’ll just do as I please.”
“…That doesn’t seem like a very good solution. I should think about what kind of excuses I’ll use later…”
“Don’t worry about it, Dahlia, I’ll take care of it. Instead of that, look over there.”
When they reached the commercial street, colorful signs and awnings attracted both theirs’ and the large crowd’s attention.
Isaac craned his neck and looked around, before stopping in front of the gift shop. His widened eyes without double eyelids slowly began to scan the music box, notebooks, and dolls displayed at the window.
His gaze, which had been moving about, stopped at a location. With a faint smile on the corners of his mouth, Isaac took Dahlia’s hand and entered the shop without hesitation.
“Give me this and this.”
Isaac picked up the white leather gloves and the rabbit fur scarf that were displayed in the shop’s window and passed them out to the store owner.
Just as the owner was about to name the price of those items, Isaac took something out from his pocket first.
An ivory plaque with the relief sculpture of a wolf.
It was the emblem of Eufgenschult.
The owner, who had been examining the plaque doubtfully, looked again at Isaac’s attire and the plaque, and bowed with a pale face. Although his expensive clothes were uncommon, the plaque he was holding was undoubtedly an emblem of Eufgenschult.
The owner kept greeting him with an expression of shock, but Isaac left the store leaving only a sentence behind, “Thank you for your service.”
As soon as Isaac had left the store, he placed new gloves on Dahlia’s hands and wrapped the scarf around her.
The combination of an old dress and a worn coat, with a luxurious scarf and gloves could not be described as harmonious, even with empty words.
However, in Isaac’s eyes, such disharmony only served to highlight Dahlia’s charm.
Isaac gently caressed Dahlia’s cheek with the back of his hand with a satisfied smile.
“It’s beautiful. It suits you well.”
Looking at him with a puzzled face, Dahlia looked alternately at the store and Isaac, before asking in a voice filled with curiosity.
“Why did you suddenly buy this? No, Young Master. What was that thing earlier?
“That thing earlier? I didn’t buy anything besides these.”
“No. The item you took out of the coat earlier.”
Isaac, who had his head tilted, gave an exclamation as he took out the ivory plaque from his pocket.
“It’s a family plaque. I heard it’s used to prove your identity, but it can also be used to buy things like before. I guess the bill will be sent to the mansion later.”
In addition to the family’s crest, the ivory plaque was also engraved with complicated and elaborate imagery, so it could not be imitated without exceptional delicacy.
Dahlia kept staring at the plaque, and was shocked to learn that the item that Karla gave her a while ago is exactly the same as this one.
She knew that it was a precious item, but she never thought it was something that could be used to replace money. As she lightly caressed the side of his chest pocket which concealed the plaque out of pointless worry, Isaac cheeks turned red and he looked away.
Dahlia, who belatedly noticed her behavior, said it was a misunderstanding with a pale face while giving an explanation that didn’t explain anything.
An awkward atmosphere followed.
Isaac, who was staring at the street with a slightly red face, suddenly pulled Dahlia into his arms.
Before Dahlia could feel shock, a carriage passed the spot where Dahlia had been standing speedily.
After the clamouring noise, Isaac sighed.
“The road is narrow, so it’s dangerous. Stand closer to me, Dahlia.”
A husky voice echoed in front of her. From the tightly pressed upper body, she felt a firm, muscular chest that couldn’t have belonged to a young boy.
The wind blew the dry scent of winter nights past the tip of her nose.
The moment she realized that it was the scent emanating from Isaac’s body, a pink blush spread across Dahlia’s cheeks.
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