Chapter 7 - The Calm Before the Storm
Lenoa finally noticed Elena’s hands, which had been shaking constantly. They began to tremble even more when the voices of Logan’s subordinates grew louder.
“I can’t reveal who I am to them. Get up now. Stand up straight and command them with a stern voice. You are in charge of them.” Elena helped Lenoa up, being careful to not let the mushrooms spill out from Lenoa’s muddy dress. She then looked straight into Lenoa’s amber eyes and said, “You can do it. Don’t let them have their way. This will be up to you. You are still a strong woman right now because you are willing to run away. I’m so sorry I can’t help you. I’m so sorry that this is the only thing I can do for you.”
Lenoa saw the sadness and regret in Elena’s deep emerald eyes and nodded vigorously without realizing it. Yes, Lenoa was also a nobleman’s daughter, but was she capable of this? Could she order around those men like Elena told her to? Her body was still shaking all over, so how could she…? Resentment for Elena naturally rose deep inside her.
Just then, something rustled nearby, and Elena quickly hid in the bushes. Lenoa took a deep breath as the reality of what was happening hit her. She calmed her trembling body and gripped the hem of her dress.
“Here you were, madam,” one soldier said, “Do you know how much time we wasted looking for you?”
Elena, who was hiding in the bushes, reflexively clenched her fists at the soldier’s extremely profane tone.
Still, it was natural for subordinates to look down on the lady of the house if she was not treated properly by their lord. Elena wasn’t sure whether Lenoa could do as she was told, but the die had already been cast. If Lenoa said something even slightly wrong, Elena would not be safe, either. Elena carefully unsheathed the dagger hidden in her sleeve again. Time went by slowly, leaving her to feel as if her blood was drying in her veins. The stifling silence only served to increase the tension.
At last, Lenoa spoke, her voice elegant, “Why were you looking for me? Did you think I ran away or something?”
“We have no idea. That’s a mystery to us,” the soldier said as his fellows snickered.
Lenoa endured their ridicule and proudly poured out the generous number of mushrooms she had been holding in her dress. “Do you know what I found for you guys? These mushrooms are a good remedy for fevers. They’re precious medicine that you guys wouldn’t have found no matter how hard you looked. Hurry, pick them up and follow me. Lord Logan must be waiting for me.”
Lenoa’s act was beyond Elena’s expectations, and she felt a rising desire to compliment her. If Lenoa had hastily looked back to where Elena was hiding or said something…
Elena quietly took a deep breath and exhaled. Now that she thought about it, Lenoa wasn’t just some coward. She must have been frightened, yet she had done so well. Elene held her breath and continued to watch with admiration. As she had expected, the soldiers grumbled at Lenoa’s stern tone but began to pick up the mushrooms as they’d been told.
“Pick up every single one,” Lenoa said, her voice still sharp.
The soldiers frowned at that, but they couldn’t argue with her anymore, as she had confidently told them that she had not been running away. Moreover, mushrooms were definitely not something just anyone could forage; the soldiers couldn’t even distinguish poisonous mushrooms from edible ones. Therefore, they just obediently gathered up all the mushrooms.
“Let’s go,” Lenoa ordered smugly when they had finished. She confidently flapped her muddy dress and walked without looking back. As she walked along the shady forest trail, Lenoa dwelled on the identity of the woman who had helped her. Elena… She had heard that name before. It was the name Logan had called as he defiled her on their first night together.
“Elena.” She was sure it was her. Rumors mocking the newly-wed Lenoa had been circulating in Logan’s castle. They called her Logan’s puppet wife, and it was because of a certain woman: Elena Townsend, who Logan had been chasing for the past four years.
At that moment, Lenoa’s resentment at Elena for refusing to hide her disappeared. Elena probably knew what Logan was like and what he longed for as well. That was why she was afraid. Lenoa remembered Elena’s hands which had been shaking so much it looked like she was spasming. Nevertheless, the woman had not run away by herself.
Lenoa took a deep breath. Logan came into view, looking angry. He held a long snakeskin whip in his hand. Having already felt the lash of his whip before, Lenoa flinched unconsciously but struggled not to reveal it. She jerked her chin toward the soldiers carrying the mushrooms and spoke before he could say anything, “Why are you here? Did something happen?”
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Lantern Against the Wind
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