Chapter 40 - “I want you, Master.”
“I’m not just straight-up giving this to you. I’m letting you borrow it,” he clarified. Bearing the most merciful expression in the world, he stood up from his seat on the ground, wobbling as he did so. Anna rose as well, following him. “Soon it’ll be dark, so go back home. It’s not my position to say so, but your family must be worried about you. And you need to bring Button back home, too, right?”
Anna began to sob as she nodded in assent. She wasn’t crying due to grief anymore. Instead, she was relieved, the thought that she could reunite with Button bringing tears to her eyes.
Dylan chuckled and patted her on the head a couple times.
“See. I told you that something would come and help you endure in the end.”
Knock knock. Someone tapped concisely on the library door.
“Come in,” David answered.
Anna peeked from behind the door like a little rabbit. He knew it was her without even having to lift his head because he had specifically called for her to come by. She walked in, stopping a good distance away from the table he was sitting at.
“Is there something you wanted to request of me?” she asked.
He stopped as he was flipping over a page and lifted his head to look at her. Glancing up from below his glasses, his eyes met hers and she smiled awkwardly. “I wanted to have a chat since it’s been a while,” he said, “but since you asked, I have to order you to do something now.” Disappointment thickly laced every word.
“No, that’s not why I…”
“It feels like, during my month-long absence from this household, the distance between us has grown by six—no, by eight feet further apart than it once was before. Did something happen?” David asked, his voice gentling into a kind, brotherly tone.
Anna kept her mouth shut as she fidgeted. Her mind was preoccupied with concerns, wondering if he could still look at her with eyes as warm as they were now if he heard about the rumors floating around on the streets. Would he blame her for getting him involved in such vulgar gossip?
“Did you hear about a rumor or something?”
She kept her gaze directed downward and shook her head.
“Then I guess there could only be one reason why you’re acting like this,” he said. Hearing him speak so confidently, fear seized her heart. She lifted her head slightly and as she did so, David began to act strangely, sticking his nose into his arms and sniffing himself. “It’s because I smell terrible, isn’t it? That’s why you’re standing so far away.”
“N-No, that’s definitely not it at all,” Anna protested, shaking her head once more and frantically waving her hands in front of her.
David, who had looked completely serious the entire time, now began to smile. Seeing his demeanor shift, she realized he was intentionally saying things just to tease her. It occurred to her how quick she was to scramble to deny his claims just a second ago and she couldn’t help but giggle.
“Finally, you’re laughing. Now that’s the Anna I know,” David said. His voice was deep, yet gentle. “I won’t ask what had happened or what kind of thoughts you’ve had that drove you to start staying so far away from me, but if you still love books dearly, and if you don’t mind chatting with me, then you can always come by whenever you’d like. Just like how it’s always been.”
He must have been a saint in the past. Otherwise, there would be no way he’d be able to convey such touching sentiments so honestly.
“We’re still managing to converse quite well despite this distance between us, after all.”
Anna nodded in agreement. Master David was someone who would comfort her when faced with terrible rumors rather than push her away in disgust. However, it was because of this that she had kept such a distance between them. She knew he was someone that would willingly take the brunt of the damage unjust rumors would bring.
David eventually told her it was fine for her to leave. Exiting the library, she closed the door behind her.
However, on the other side of the door, opposite the entrance to the library, stood Dylan with his arms folded across his chest, staring down at Anna with an unknown expression in his eyes.
“Master?” she asked.