Chapter 77 – Against The Original (1)
Hesse’s voice was strangely calm.
“Lord Warren has passed away.”
Although Hesse finished his brief report, Ian couldn’t answer.
Count Warren. Ian’s maternal grandfather, with a title bestowed on him only because he was the father of the late queen. The country farmer that Ian and Louise once visited.
“Although I am this way, I am still a grandfather of a prince. I want my only grandchild to promise me this. It will be my will.”
Louise remembered his words.
“Don’t go against what I say.”
She could see the next moment vividly in her head. The glass in Louise’s hand crashed to the floor. The words were a warning to Louise and Ian. The entanglement of a common girl with the royal family would bring nothing but misfortune.
Louise looked down at the floor. The sweet liquid seeped through the cracks in the old wooden floor and clogged in the black dust.
Ian hurried to the capital with only a short goodbye.
Louise sat dazedly in her room for a while. In the silence, one thought came to her mind. Lord Warren did not die in the original story until the very end. There was even a chapter where his heart was healed through Stella. This…this was clearly against the original story. Nothing had changed for him.
“Don’t go against what I say.”
Except this. Ian tried to disregard his advice that his grandfather left as a will by having a close relationship with Louise. The world was built to achieve the love of Ian and Stella. So, to remind Ian of the warnings…death was used as a tool.
Louise vigorously shook her head. No matter how much she thought about it, this was too much of a leap. If the story was to be made right with death, then it would be easy to simply kill Louise instead.
She stood up. There was a lot of work to be done. She was also going back to the capital.
A few days later Louise arrived at the capital. The funeral was to be held at the largest central cathedral. Louise felt somewhat relieved when she heard the news. To be honest, she was worried that a bad place would be chosen because of the opposition of the nobles.
Louise carefully broached the subject in the carriage trip to the cathedral.
“It’s the same place as the Queen’s funeral…that’s good, right?”
“…I don’t know.”
Louise’s mother sat opposite of her and shook her head slowly. Louise could see her mother’s swollen eyes under the veil.
“Whether he would like or hate the place…I cannot guess.”
Her mother squeezed the hem of her dress as tears coursed down her cheeks. Her father sitting next to her quickly replaced her mother’s wet handkerchief with a new one.
“I made a mistake. With the weather this hot, I should have visited him. It was only after hearing he was sick that…”
Her mother had repeated the same thing for thirty times. But Louise shook her head again in consolation.
“You went as soon as you heard.”
Louise’s vacation and business plans were now all put on hold.
“I was surprised to hear that when you were away from the house, you were actually with the Count.”
“It’s because…because he’s the father of my friend.”
Her mother’s voice quivered when she said the word “friend.”
“And my friend’s son treated me like a mother…So I mean, sometimes I think…”
She swallowed her remaining words. But Louise was able to guess. She must have thought of Warren like a father. So she kept her end, on behalf of her best friend.
“He was already weak, and the weather suddenly became scorching …”
An old body can fail easily even against the slightest change in seasons. Count Warren, who had little will to live, had even less of a chance.
As her mother leaned her head against the carriage window, Louise remained quiet. It was a day of sorrowful sunshine. The small carriage was filled with tears, as if the rainy season had come already.
Louise leaned against the backrest and stared at the carriage’s rattling roof. She worried about Ian the most. Did he have time to grieve? She wondered if he would pretend to be okay and bite his lips. She remembered the precious handkerchief that he had given to her mother as a present. Maybe it would be a comfort again.
The carriage gave a small jolt. She looked out the window and saw that they had arrived near the cathedral. Its gables and towers seemed to touch the sky, and she could see priests moving within it’s halls. She didn’t see many people dressed in black. Usually on the day of funerals, the spacious temple grounds would be packed with carriages. That wasn’t the case today.
Louise stepped out of the carriage, and she realized that she had gotten it wrong–it wasn’t a good thing to hold the funeral at such a large and extravagant cathedral. The elderly country folk who were actually close to Ian’s grandfather wouldn’t be able to attend. There were few other nobles to mourn his death, and fewer people to share their sadness. The unshared grief grew, and so the funeral began in a heavy mood.
After the priest’s mass and services, a choir of boys sang a hymn that reached the heavens, the song echoing in the mostly empty hall. It wasn’t until the guests went up to pay their respects did Louise see the Count’s face. It was very thin, thinner than she had ever seen before. On his small, skeletal body lay a portrait of his daughter, whom he had cherished all his life.
“…He asked me to.”
Louise’s mother whispered behind her. The Count seemed to want to embrace his daughter’s portrait until the very end. His treasure. Louise placed a white flower near his face.
She couldn’t help but apologize. Maybe the cause of his death was because Louise had twisted the original story. She felt an incredible guilt.
‘If you lived a little longer, there might have been more happiness left.’
She thought of his faint smile from the original story.
‘If you did, maybe…’
He might have tried hang his beloved portrait properly on the wall at least once, leaning on the courage of a smile.
Her father gave her a light pat back from behind, signaling her to step back.
Louise turned away quietly. Beyond her blurry vision she could see Ian. He gave a slight nod towards Louise’s parents, perhaps to convey a sense of gratitude for being with his grandfather until the end. Other than that, Ian’s face was blank. There were no marks on his lips.
‘You’ve become better.’
Better at enduring sadness. Louise was hurt by the fact that he was trying to suppress his emotions, even here at his grandfather’s funeral. She knew Ian had an inner affection for the Count, to the extent that he wanted to visit him secretly.
He couldn’t even show his honest feelings.
Louise followed her weeping mother back to their seats. The funeral did not have a large attendance and ended early. Louise told her parents to go ahead while she stayed a little longer.
“I don’t know if it’s possible, but I might be able to share a word with him.”
She wanted to give a warm word just to make sure he was alright, and her parents allowed her wish. Louise saw the both of them off at the carriage, then turned to walk slowly inside again just as a few people were leaving.