Chapter 25 – Eyes of Fear (1)
“Ah, I see you are out for a walk too. No wonder I saw this little guy.”
Now that she was found standing in front of them, Gris couldn’t just turn and walk away, even if she wanted nothing more than to flee, she had to acknowledge their presence now that she was seen. Gris dragged her heavy feet towards Vianut and slightly bent her knees to bow before him in greeting.
“I just came for some fresh air.” Gris told them as soon as she raised her head, all the while being careful that she doesn’t meet his eyes. From the corner of her eyes, Gris saw a ball of fur moving around, she glanced ever so slightly to her side.
Teer had escaped and was now busily chasing after a white butterfly that flew into the garden, hoping from flower to flower. Gris watched Teer run away, flapping her white fur. Unlike Teer who was free, she was stuck where she stood and anxiously waited for Vianut to dismiss her. Gris could fear the sweat onto her forehead become thicker.
Unfortunately, it seemed she wasn’t going to be dismissed so easily. Vianut started to put down the book he was reading and rested it on his lap and then moved to place one of his arms on the backrest as he leaned back to stare at her.
“Hello,” he said, and Gris felt a lump on her throat. She swallowed and suddenly felt her throat ran dry.
It was not what Gris had expected to come out of his mouth. She did not expect a friendly greeting, why was he talking to her?
Gris nervously smiled and she could feel her eyes loosing focus. He once again put on a sleek smile to address her as if amused by her state of shock. She noticed faint dimples gracing his cheeks, pulled out by his smile.
He was acting like a light-hearted boy, who was merely exchanging small pleasantries with his sister but Gris suspected that he could be trying to catch her red handed by making her lower her guard. She remembered Stephan saying he was already looking for the horseman because he was suspecting her.
There must be something behind that smile, she thought. Gris kept willed herself to be on her toes.
“Yes, hello, brother….” she greeted him, while forcing a smile.
A cold breeze blew past them carrying a bit of dirt that dusted her underskirts. As Gris’s skirt flapped in the wind, his blue eyes slowly slid down to look at her toes.
She was wearing her casual dress which only had one layer. Due to the fear paralyzing her in her place, Gris did not notice that the strong wind managed to lift her dress above her knees, exposing the angry rash on her upper legs. Aware of the awkwardness between the two, Quentin cleared his throat loudly and finally opened his mouth to speak.
“The weather is still a bit cold isn’t it?” he blurted out.
Gris realized that Quentin must be pointing out her thin attire and how inappropriate she must have looked. Finally noticing the cold wind blowing freely between her legs, Gris replied in embarrassment.
“Um, the weather is fine. The puppy Sir Byrenhag gave to me, is indeed quite a hand warmer.”
Teer was untroubled and was mindlessly running around them, unable to read the tense ambiance between the human occupants of the garden. Teer’s only concern was the white butterfly that flew over her head as if teasing her to jump higher.
Gris silently stared at the butterfly too.
Noticing that their lady companion’s attention was elsewhere, Quentin followed her line of sight and noticed the white butterfly Gris was looking at. He glanced back towards her and took interest in how she watched the butterfly.
“You were looking at a butterfly last time too…. Do you like butterflies?” Quentin asked her.
This surprised Gris, and suddenly an image filled her thoughts. Quentin must be recalling the black butterfly that sat on Vianut’s shoulder the last time they were all together by the lake which she also found herself staring at back then.
“Yes,” Gris replied a moment later.
Impressed at his own insight, Quentin nodded and crossed his arms.
“Ah, it is no surprise that you are fond of butterflies too for you are both related. Sir Byrenhag is also a fan of butterflies.”
With this Gris who has been eyeing the flying butterfly stole a quick glimpse at Vianut. She didn’t expect that a man like him was fond of butterflies….
In retrospect, all her assumptions about him thus far were wrong, or rather everyday she was finding new things about him that made him more complex; unexpected things that to Gris made him harder to read, it was almost ironic.
Vianut had a penchant for collecting luxurious items and yet gave out valuable gifts to others. He used his sturdy arms to paint in his spare time which Gris found to be extremely unlikely for someone like him who had on a number of occasions used those same hands to kill enemies in the battlefield.
A man like him should have bloodlust running in his veins, and here again she finds out that he liked small vulnerable creatures like butterflies, it didn’t make sense to her.
Perhaps she was completely wrong about him; he may have a humane side to him after all, a side that is different from the threatening face he had shown when she first saw him. He could have devoted himself to god to comfort the ones he inevitably killed in battle.
Gris felt her stiff muscles slowly ease at the thought that perhaps he would not blindly slice her throat in the end.
Fixing his eyes on her, Vianut ran a hand through his hair. A weak smile still lay on his face as a deep voice slipped out of his lips.
“Yuliana,” he said, breaking the silence around them.
Without knowing why, Gris’s eyes fell on his chest. Startled by herself, she tightly shut her eyes and lowered her gaze.
He made an eye gesture to the bench he was sat on. “Come sit”, he told her as he handed Quentin the gray wolf fur cloak he took off on the bench, so that she may have a place to sit on.
Gris hesitated, seeing that Vianut was already taking up almost half of the seat of the bench. Extremely tensed up, Gris only slightly placed her bum on the bench, careful that her body doesn’t come near his.
Gris felt that she wasn’t sitting, nor standing up; but she was in an uncomfortable position. Vianut beside her didn’t seem to care that she was struggling in her position. She realized that his intentions weren’t to have her sit down. She grew more nervous after realizing this.
Just then, he lifted his arm from the backrest and grabbed her chin to turn her face toward him. Spooked by the cold touch of his fingertips, Gris dropped her gaze to his knees, she could feel the embrace of fear upon her again.