Lantern Against the Wind - Chapter 5
Elena became frustrated when she couldn’t think of a solution to her problems, but she still couldn’t stop thinking about her father and Logan, ‘What on earth am I supposed to do? How long is this conflict going to last? Is it only going to stop after Logan seizes this land, or will it be when he snatches me away? Why isn’t Father lowering his standards about his son-in-law? More than that, who would want to inherit such an insignificant plot of land from a man who has become enemies with Count Logan…?’
The family name was the only thing her father had, but Elena wasn’t even sure of this anymore, since there was no way of protecting it. She continued to walk, lost in thought. Her sighs deepened with each thought.
Then she heard something. Elena froze, looking around, but fog covered her vision. She heard the sound again, a sob. She crouched, unsheathing a dagger hidden in her sleeve as she strained her ears to listen.
The sobs continued and Elena relaxed. It sounded like someone was crying out in sorrow. The sad cries seemed to reflect her own emotions, and she found herself unable to pass by. Instead she moved into the forest to find the source of the sound. It wasn’t long before she found a woman drenched in water, shivering and crying.
“What are you doing here? Did you get hurt?” Elena asked.
The sobbing woman’s head jerked up as she looked around fearfully, surprised by Elena’s voice. When she laid eyes on Elena, her eyes went wide with fright.
Seeing the woman was about to scream, Elena quickly jumped in front of her to cover her mouth. This forest marked the border to Logan’s territory. Although there was only a slim chance that someone might find them, Elena did not want the woman’s screams to reveal her.
The woman looked Elena up and down, taking in her appearance. The first thing she noticed was Elena’s outfit: elegant, even if it wasn’t particularly expensive. The hand that covered her mouth gave off a faint perfumed scent as well, letting the woman know Elena was the daughter of a nobleman.
Elena also quickly examined the woman. Expensive clothes covered her tiny, trembling body, and sparkling accessories decorated her braided hair held in an updo. However, her damp brown hair and timid gestures made her seem pitiful. She looked young, too.
“Are you going to stay quiet?” Elena asked quietly. The woman still had her eyes wide open but nodded vigorously as if she had calmed somewhat. Elena double-checked her surroundings, then removed her hands from the woman’s mouth. “Are you alone? Why are you in the Townsend territory?”
The woman’s eyes shook, as if startled by the question. Then she turned her teary face away. Bruises marked her cheeks and ears, turning the skin black and blue.
Surprised, Elena sheathed her dagger and moved closer to the woman. “Were you attacked by wanderers? Are you badly hurt? Oh, my goodness.” Elena raised her hand and gently stroked the woman’s hair to calm her.
After some time, the woman slowly looked up at Elena. Terror was obvious in her amber eyes, and it pulled at Elena’s heartstrings.
“I’m Elena, the first daughter of Count Townsend. Don’t be scared. I won’t hurt you,” she said with a soft smile. Then she took out a handkerchief and wiped away the tears of the woman trembling like a fawn. Taking a closer look at her bruises, Elena realized someone had definitely hit her.
Gradually, the woman calmed down thanks to Elena’s ministrations. As her trembling subsided, she slowly approached Elena and sat closer to feel her warmth. It was a long time later when she opened her mouth and said, “I’m Lenoa, Count Logan’s wife.”
When she realized the woman was Logan’s wife, Elena stiffened without her realizing it. Her hand froze and she stopped wiping Lenoa’s tears. She had already known that Logan was married, but she never imagined she would meet his wife in a place like this. Did that mean Logan was also here? With effort, Elena loosened her stiff body so she could observe her surroundings.
“Why are you here? You should know that the Townsend family and Logan are on bad terms, don’t you?” Elena asked.
“I don’t know where I am. Because… I just ran away without much of a plan. I was so scared that I ran away as quickly as I could while he was asleep. I want to go,” Lenoa rambled, trembling. She looked up at Elena with huge, pitiful doe eyes.
At her words, Elena knew at once who had caused her bruises: Logan. Pity and compassion automatically welled up inside Elena, but she closed her mouth tightly and began to comfort Lenoa again.
Lenoa continued to tremble, bursting into tears as she said, “Logan doesn’t treat me like a human being. I want to go back. I want to go back home,”
Elena patted Lenoa’s head even as her heart pounded uncontrollably. Logan was near… What was she supposed to do in a situation like this? Elena waited for Lenoa to stop crying, conflicted. Goosebumps rose on her skin as she realized that, if she’d married Logan, she could have been the one who was running away and crying.