Chapter 30 - At Sword Point
Dragged into the room, Edna fell on the bed at Eli’s push. He said nothing but reached out and began to caress the sword at his waist. At the threat, Edna hardened her face, wondering if he had changed his mind about his territory, and said, “You said it. You said that I could give out supplies and that I didn’t have to ask for your permission anymore, but now you’re going to go back on your word? However, you should continue to give out supplies until the fear of you hanging over the entire territory is diluted. That’s how those people will know that the lord has begun to pay heed to the estate. I believe granting them this reassurance will be the only way they can cultivate the land themselves.”
But Eli wasn’t interested in what she said. There was only one thing he was interested in: her identity. It occurred to him that she might have been a discarded lover of the late king or an aristocrat. He wondered if she had survived alone and was captured by slavers to be sold as a maid… Eli’s thoughts had gone that far. Not many women were able to win over people with a few words, including naturals. People did not change with a sugar coating. There has to be more to it. Not just the power of words, but with inner strength. Edna had that.
With a clang, the blade of his sword kissed Edna’s neck. His previously tightly sealed lips opened and he bluntly asked, “Are you really an illegitimate child?”
Edna looked straight up into his eyes, ignoring the fact that she was held at sword point. Facing her fearful but solid eyes, an exclamation escaped him unwittingly. Her eyes were sorcery.
Suddenly, Eli realized that he was trapped in her eyes. At first, he was fascinated by her scent and now he was caught in those eyes. The hand holding the shaft of the sword eased slightly. The wind caused the blade to slip his grasp unintentionally, the sharp end slightly cutting her neck in the process.
Edna, feeling blood running down her neck, spoke in a quivering voice, “Are you asking how I lived in the viscount’s castle? Let me answer that now. I lived as a maid. It was normal for me to be beaten for my poor work and most of the time I was starving. I was also brutally beaten as I resisted the knights of the castle who were rushing to rape me. Do you remember the bruises on my face? Do you want me to tell you how desperately I ran away from them every night? I lived miserably in a place where no one helped me because I was an illegitimate child, and because I was a maid, I took it for granted. I lived in a place where I couldn’t dare think that anyone like me deserved to live.”
Her unrestrained words twisted Eli’s brows. There was no lie in what she said. She was merely narrating the reality of her past two years.
Eli’s face distorted when he saw more and more blood trickling down her neck. Edna saw how his eyes narrowed and continued, “I used to be an illegitimate child and a pathetic maid in the viscount’s castle before, but now I am your wife and Duchess. I wanted to reduce their pain because I’ve been hungry like them, and I’ve lived a desperate life like them. I wanted to show them that they had a reason to live. But I didn’t know it would garner your suspicions.”
When Eli saw the blood tripling from her neck and soaking white sheets, he threw down his weapon and approached her, picking a cotton cloth from the table. He didn’t mean to hurt her at all. He was only trying to threaten the answer he wanted out of her. Eli sat on his knees beside her and carefully wiped her neck with the cloth. The white cotton cloth was quickly stained in red.
Edna grabbed him by the arm with a whitening face from the smell of blood, and he wallowed in regret. Her wound was unexpectedly deep. It was his fault for always keeping the edge of the blade sharp. And it was also his fault for being mesmerized by her eyes. “I was foolish. I didn’t mean to hurt you, and I’m sorry,” he said with a low sigh.
As he apologized with an expression of regret, Edna smiled softly and tried to say that she was okay. However, her face twisted with pain, and her grip on his arm slowly lost its strength. Her fragile figure shattered the doubts lurking in Eli’s mind.
Her honest words and hands that seemed to lean on him created the image of a powerless and defenseless woman, shaking his mind. When Edna closed her eyes, Eli did not miss the chance and looked at her wound again. It wasn’t deep enough to need stitches, but it was clearly hard to bear for a woman.
With her eyes closed, Edna listened to Eli scurrying out of the room. He must have had no intention of hurting her. His guilty expression and flustered gesture spoke so. It was just a mistake. Still, it seemed to have helped ease his doubt a little.
As soon as Eli got out of the room, he called Rowell and ordered her to bring a styptic and a cotton cloth. White-faced, Rowell glanced at Eli, thinking that he must’ve disliked the fact that the new lady was showing interest in the land he had been ignoring all this while. Rowell rushed to the kitchen, thinking it a fact that he had stabbed his wife.
This was a place where people used knives a lot, so she always had a styptic prepared in case of an accident. Rowell passed it on to Eli along with a clean cotton cloth with trembling hands.