Chapter 14 - Her Will To Survive
In the next moment, Eli squinted his eyes and discovered a bruise on her face. It had faded a lot, but it was definitely a sign of being punched by someone.
“Who the hell did this?” Eli growled, held her chin and pulled her face up, muttering in a dumbfounded tone. Only then did Edna realize that he had caught a bruise on her face and try to squirm away from him, covering her face with both hands. But Eli hissed again, unperturbed by her rebelliousness. “Did Viscount William beat you up to force you to come here?”
“No, that’s not it.” Shaking her head reflexively as she answered, Edna tried to distance herself from him. Eli then clasped her shoulders tightly in his arms and asked again in a powerful tone of pure anger.
“Who was it, then? Did I make you like this?”
“You know it wasn’t you. I just tripped. I make a lot of mistakes…”
“Tripped? Are you saying that you tripped and hit yourself in the face with someone’s fist? Didn’t you fall after being punched?” Eli viciously poked at the holes in her lies.
Under his sharp eyes, Edna realized that he had a keener sense than she thought. She couldn’t believe that he spotted a mark that was barely visible now. But she couldn’t tell him the truth. She obstinately shut her mouth.
“Fine, at least you won’t be beaten if you stay with me.” He relented.
Edna glanced up at him following the echo of his determined words. His hair was brilliantly blonde. Blonde hair was not an easily seen hair color among the common people. But his blond hair was definitely the color of sunshine and his eyes were dark blue mixed with gray. His broad, solid shoulders and war-torn body were frighteningly lively. It was not rumored that he was blond, perhaps because his hair color had never been fully revealed during the war. He would have been seen wandering around the battlefield, all blood-stained.
“I’m hungry. Rowell, when am I going to get some breakfast?” He shouted out loud, let go of Edna’s shoulders, and headed to the kitchen at a quick pace.
“Rowell is resting. I’m not sure if she caught a cold, but she coughed a lot, so I told her to rest. Is that okay?” Edna said, hurrying to follow him.
“What about breakfast? Who would prepare it if not for Rowell?” Eli asked with an ashen face, unable to withstand his hunger, and Edna replied with a shrug.
“I did. Though I don’t know if it will suit your taste.”
Edna brushed past Eli into the kitchen and brought out an already prepared tray of bread and stew. Red-faced, Edna spoke after putting the food down on a rough oak table, “I’m sorry, but I’m not good at cooking. I do hope it suits your taste regardless.”
“I don’t care as long as you don’t put poison in my meal.”
Edna poured wine into his glass and tried to go back to the kitchen.
“You won’t eat?” Eli addressed Edna again and when the latter stood still without a word, he continued, “You had better eat. It’ll be a long day. I’m thinking of going out to town as soon as I eat. We can hold the ceremony as soon as the clothes are ready.”
Edna gulped down dry saliva at the thought of it. “Are you sure you’re okay with that? You won’t be safe should the king find out. It’s a crime of deceiving the king.”
“You have a lot of nerve coming in here instead of Anna despite being well aware of that.” Eli mused and then added calmly as if to reassure her, “I only just jokingly said that I found Anna pretty and that she’d make a for a good wife, but the king mistook my playfulness for intention and ordered me to marry her. Plus, all the king wants is for me to get married and settle down, so he won’t say much if I don’t marry Anna.”
Edna looked at him in spite of herself, hearing his confident tone. She induced from his words that he did not receive land and status simply for winning the battle. It was clear that he had something else backing him up for him to blatantly reject the king’s order.
“So don’t worry, just sit down and eat. I’m saying this because I appreciate the fact that you were chaste.”
Edna cautiously approached the table again when he suggested that they eat together. Eli tapped the chair next to him and signaled her to sit down.
She sat down next to Eli and began to eat with a great appetite. Although the food reflected her experience as a maid, the taste of it was still lacking. But it all tasted sweet to her now. Edna ignored the table manners Anna had taught and began to eat in a hurry. The quick reaction to appease her hunger was not a habit easily fixed. Her life over the past two years was nothing but hunger. Therefore, she had to eat as quickly and as much as she could when she had the chance to.
When he saw her eating in a hurry, he could tell how she had lived prior to coming here. He opened his mouth softly, watching her. “I guess they starved you in addition to flogging. But how could you remain a virgin until now? It would have been impossible considering your appearance and body.”
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