Chapter 6.1 – Walking Through the Gardens
Along the corridors, Ran walked behind the maid with her eyes strained outside. Her heart was occupied with tons of swirling thoughts and conflicted emotions, that she didn’t even realise they have finally reached a huge sculpted linestone door leading to the gardens. This door stood atop a marble staircase overlooking neat rows of well-trimmed hedges of roses and various flowers. Despite the obvious absence of gardeners, the gardens were still magnificent and no attempts were done to have them fit the shabby atmosphere inside the castle.
She looked like she really was stressed out and needed some fresh air, Belle snorted. She stood behind Ran and observed the young woman intently, as she closed her eyes and bathed herself in the warm sunlight. Seeing her this way, the maid eased her guard. Meanwhile, the sun’s warmth and a cooling breeze on her skin pressed unto Ran like suffocating weights. She was alive in a foreign world once again and she hated that thought. Shadows of distant memories appeared in her mind, and the sight of neat rows of roses pricked her heart and her eyes into pools of water.
She was startled to have caught herself in this reverie. In her haste to chase away those grim thoughts, she slapped herself awake. Ran groaned. Wondering how she must have put too much force in that hit, she massaged her cheeks with regret. She puffed her round chocolate-coloured cheeks and wondered if they had turned red. Her maid gave her a suspicious look, but she ignored it and focused her attention on her surroundings. Since I’m already here, I better start finding more about this world. She emptied her mind and focused on her senses. When her eyes opened, her former gloom had been totally replaced by a lively expression. As if coming back in time, Ran’s hazel eyes twinkled with innocence, as she radiated with a childlike aura.
Ran went down the stairs and ran directly towards the closest bush of roses. She softly touched the petals, plucked one, and brought it close to her nose. While taking in its scent, her brain was busy scanning the garden. A well-manicured garden like this should hold useful plants. As to what I could do with them…, she smirked. She stood dazed for several minutes, the wheels inside her brain were turning at high speed. She turned towards Belle, flashing her with her most blinding of smiles.
“There’s a bathtub in my room and I’ve always dreamt of having a flower bath. Is it okay if I pluck the flowers I like?” Ran looked at Belle expectantly.
“I believe it’s fine,” the maid replied, a flash of disdain crossing her eyes.
“Do you have something to put them into?” Ran thought for a second and continued, “Oh! I remember I was given an item box! I can use that, right? But how though? Do you know how to use it, Belle?
“Ran-sama only needs to think about the thing she’s holding and it should go directly inside the item box.”
Ran nodded and focused on the rose in her hand until it disappeared. She felt small ripples of magic power flow from within her. She relished the feeling and grinned foolishly without missing Belle’s disdainful look at the corner of her eyes. Could she feel the disdain rising in her heart? Is she complaining now how weak and useless I seemed to be now? Ran felt pretty good about herself seeing how Belle’s growing contempt towards her had turned the maid’s guard loose.
Eager to practice her newfound skill, she went from bushes to bushes, collecting flowers left and right. She would pick up stones, pieces of bark, whatever picked her interest. Her mood was soaring and she was even humming softly. On the other hand, Belle’s expression was as downcast as a cloudy sky before a downpour. She must be busy cursing the Heavens for being assigned to such a foolish girl like me. Ran giggled and rejoiced inside.
She followed a random path and came to a big pond. A refreshing breeze blew and sent the willows swinging. On the pond, lily pads and lotus flowers were swirling gracefully. Around the pond, Ran discovered several types of herbs which she carefully collected. These people! For the sake of their little play, they had left lots of medicinal herbs lying around everywhere unsupervised and even kept access to this good pond unrestricted.
“Look at this water!” She thought, “What kind of water has these special properties? I bet the fishes there are special too. I must find a way to go in.”