Chapter 15 – Good Morning!
Rikku’s body became stiff.
“Don’t look in the mirror,” Ran warned.
Rikku rested his forehead against her head and closed his eyes. Ran felt a faint tremor in the flow of his mana as she waited patiently in his embrace.
When Rikku opened his eyes, he whispered in agreement, “You’re right. The mirror is enchanted… but I don’t think the could hear us. What should we do?”
Ran was pouting and keeping her mouth shut when Rikku suddenly felt her hand trembled with a subtle wave of killing intent. An icy sensation spread from his chest to every part of his body in contact with Ran. His heartbeat jumped in panic as he felt electricity crawled beneath his skin.
“You!” He warned.
Even though he knew she was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, he didn’t imagine she could actually be this hot-tempered. Ran sighed loudly and pushed herself away from him.
“I know. I know,” she whispered.
She took a deep breath and went to sit on the edge of the tub. Her shoulders slouched and her head hung in dejection while Rikku walked over to her and knelt by her feet. Whoever was watching would think they were couple meeting in secret; or that the young girl just got rejected by an uninterested party; or a friend trying to comfort another friend. Whichever scenario it was, whoever would see this scene would be thoroughly dissatisfied. These two people met in secret without their servants’ knowledge. Such negligence was unacceptable!
“Can you trace the fluctuation back to its owner?” asked Ran.
Rikku shook his head.
Thinking for a bit, Ran whispered, “As for the plan, …”
It was early morning, and the sun was barely up. Ran was tucked snuggly in her blankets, sound asleep. Too many things had happened in the past couple of days and it was a relief knowing that Rikku was on her side. She wasn’t sure how long they would be partners, but at least someone now shared her burden.
Belle entered the room energetically, drawing the curtains and opening the windows as loud as possible. Ran stirred but didn’t get up, so Belle walked over to her bed, held a corner of the blanket, and shook it violently. She was apparently agitated and didn’t want to pass the chance to vent her frustrations on this young hero.
“Ran-sama, GOOD MORNING!”
As she yelled, Ran was thrown out of bed, bewildered. Sitting on the floor with red, puffy eyes, tangled hair, and dark circles beneath her eyes, she looked pitiful as hell. One could say that she didn’t sleep much; she even seemed like she had cried. But Belle knew better. If it were yesterday, she would have been disgusted by such a young hero. But recalling the harsh scolding she got, the maid’s eyes glared at the young woman on the floor. This pathetic girl dared to meet a man in secret, at night, and in her very own bathroom!
Belle flashed her best smile to date. “How do you feel this morning?”
“Isn’t it such a beautiful morning? This weather is perfect for setting off on a journey!”
Ran peeked outside and saw that the sky was still dim. Her face was blank with a long, fine crease made by her pillow.
“Oh my! What happened to your eyes?” Belle fawned on Ran with extreme dramatics and ridicule.
The maid reached a hand out to examine Ran’s face. However, her fingers stopped, her whole body went still, and her eyes dimmed. Hearing the maid’s shrill voice early in the morning was like being poured with a bucket of cold water, putting her in a bad mood. She glared Belle and her hovering hand and lightly slapped the hand away, jolting the maid awake. For two seconds, Belle felt something was going on in her body. But before she could realize anything, she saw Ran’s sullen face, and she immediately lit up. The more discomfort this hero suffered, the more she enjoyed herself.
“Ran-sama, today is a big day. We are leaving Linestone for Orchard City.” Belle observed Ran gather her hair and head to the bathroom. “Did you have a good evening yesterday?”
Ran jolted and her fingers tensed.
“Ran-sama must be nervous about the trip and mustn’t have slept well. I saw you had black circles under your eyes,” her voice gloated. “Ran-sama? I saw that your eyes were red and puffy, did you perhaps cry?”
“I..” Ran’s voice trembled as her hand squeezed the doorknob. “No, it’s nothing. I’m going to get ready.”
She hurried in the bathroom and quickly slammed the door behind her. Inside, Ran stood in front of the mirror without any expression. She hated when someone disturbed her sleep. Rest was sacred for her. Whoever disturbs it deserves torture; and her patience was almost used up. She turned the faucet on, sat down inside the tub with her clothes on, and closed her eyes.
This past couple of days had been hard and this whole mess of being summoned and being spied on had been exhausting. Keeping the act was becoming harder each day. She sighed. Back in that place, she was rarely angry or upset. Even when she had a temper, it wasn’t as explosive as now. She shook her head. Who was she kidding? Wasn’t she acting back there too? She had tried her best to live a bleak and tasteless life, but that didn’t turn out that well in the end. As she pondered on these things, Ran heard soft knocks on the door.
“Ran-sama, are you okay? Do you need help?” inquired Belle.
“I’m fine,” Ran barked.
She suddenly regretted not taking any yoga class. She breathed in; as she needed to be calm and serene, mindful of the world and the people around her. She breathed out and became aware of herself and her place in the universe. Breathe in. Refrain from ripping someone’s face and feasting on her blood. Breathe out. Be kind and gracious. You can do it!
Ran dried and style her hair in a high bun secured by two long silver hairpins. She examined herself in the mirror for a while before taking the hairpins out. She was already in a bad mood and having sharp objects too close wasn’t safe. Suddenly, Belle barged in with a light blue dress in tow. Its design was simple and not to her liking. This maid didn’t even bother to ask for her preference. Under her watchful gaze, Ran put on different scented creams and lotions.
“I made this one for you,” Ran handed Belle a small porcelain bottle filled with a rose-scented hand cream.
Belle took the bottle with care, examined it and gave her a nod. Ran put some lip balm she made yesterday before announcing she was ready. She took a lot of time in the bathroom and didn’t have for breakfast, so she put everything in her item box and exited the room.
Ran was too busy chanting mantras in her mind that she didn’t pay attention to her attention. When she went out of the door, she bumped into somebody, sending her frail body stumbling backwards to Belle. She quickly raised her head to apologize to the person she bumped into, but the words died in her throat.
“What bad luck!” bellowed a voice full of scorn.
It was bad luck indeed! Of all the people she could bump into early in the morning, she bumped into Dorian.