20. By the Lakeside (2)
After enduring the carriage’s jolts for about an hour, Amelia finally arrived at the destination.
Marquis Spencer’s estate; on the shores of the lake—where the deep green fields and rich forests extended.
The water reflected the color of the skies like a clear mirror, and the pleasant breeze carried both the scent of trees and the songs of bird.
“What are you waiting for, William-sama! I know where it is—let’s go!”
Carla was the first to alight from the carriage. She showed William a hearty smile as she grabbed his arm and led him to the forest path.
“Carla, please stop for a moment. Let’s wait for Lady Amelia so I can accompany her…—”
William glanced at Amelia. But Amelia smiled, showing she didn’t mind about such trivialities.
“Don’t worry about me. William-sama doesn’t need to stay by my side all the time.”
—Amelia recalled while they were still in the carriage, Carla didn’t speak a word and instead, was glaring with hostility towards her.
Carla’s feelings for William were obvious.
But perhaps, that wasn’t the only cause of her attitude…
“Forgive my little sister.” Edward stood by Amelia’s right, looking back and forth between Carla’s and William’s backs. Edward shrugged his shoulders.
“My little sister is envious of you guys—she thought you’ve stolen her William, or some stuff…” Meanwhile, Bryan appeared on Amelia’s left side, continuing Edward’s sentence. Hearing such, Amelia’s smile vanished.
She said in a low voice that was still audible to the two—
“—you guys told her, didn’t you?”
The two stiffened.
“—A-ahaha. I’m ready to keep it to my grave, y’know! But his Excellency Arthur is also exceptional in the art of extortion…”
“Be, besides what were you doing until just a moment ago? Your perfect lady façade is good and all, but—what happened to the ‘Ice Queen’? Does William still not yet know of your true nature?”
The two grinned, while Amelia frowned.
“My, aren’t you guys getting worse? Unfortunately, William does know about it.”
“Huh, the heck. Everyone here knows the real you, then. You can just drop the fine lady act now!” “Yeah! After all, we like the real you better!”
…Saying such things with straight faces…
Amelia only smiled, as if denying it.
“Ara, no can do. I am pretty fond of the ‘current me’, regardless of anything you might say. Better yet, it helps me settle down.” Saying that, Amelia walked ahead without waiting for their replies.
Yes—‘settle down’. To Amelia, pretending to be someone she wasn’t was her way of disentangling herself. She was pushing away her real self, her true feelings. Her mind that was once perfectly unperturbed had become disturbed since meeting William.
That was why—if she was acting, she wouldn’t feel any of those disturbances. She could wear a bright expression, a clear smile—anything that she wanted others to see, while believing she was doing and feeling what she wanted to all along.
This way, she could suppress William’s voice, smile, the urges to cry when she remembered that man, the cry of her heart…—she cut down everything.
Amelia went along the forest path. On her right side, she could see the sparkling lake, basked in the afternoon light through the gaps between trees. Birds chirping, insect voices, and the leaves rubbing… Clear air filled her chest.
Throughout the year, the falling leaves carpeted the road, making it so fluffy and somewhat nostalgic—
—a painful feeling sprang up in Amelia’s chest.
A long time ago, I used to meet him in the woods like this…
It was truly a long time ago. She was a childish girl who knew nothing—…together, she walked while holding hands with him. Spending time together until sunset. The passage of time went forgotten; chatting, having fun every day, and being happy just in the presence of each other—
—I love the voice that called my name…
I love him, I love him—from the bottom of my heart, I love him.
I don’t need anything but him…
For him, I would do anything…
His happiness—I sincerely hoped to be happy with him.
That’s my only wish. It’s only a small wish.
Even if he had no family, no money, as long as he keeps on living—that’s it.
The past came barging. Cherished, happy memories—I want them to disappears, I don’t want to remember them.
What terrible sin did I commit to suffer this?
Recently, those things filled the entirety of her mind. Not like she could stop thinking about them, either.
To never fall in love with her—William had certainly vowed that. But nothing is certain.
When he broke that vow, she would disappear from him.
So, until that moment… she would stand next to him, faking her smile…
While Amelia was preoccupied with her past—from behind, the slight sound of fallen leaves being stepped on could be heard. At the same time, her name was called—
The voice came from Arthur. Hiding her furrowed eyebrows, Amelia stopped.
“It’s dangerous to walk alone!”
Amelia took a deep breath, then turned around slowly. A gentle smile appeared on her face.
“Arthur-sama… yes, indeed. I apologize. The forest is just so enchanting that I couldn’t help it…”
“I agree. This place is undoubtedly beautiful—yet it pales in comparison with your shine.”
Arthur suddenly said so, smiling and looking straight at Amelia with his deep amethyst eyes. He resumed.
“Let’s walk together for a little bit.”
That said, Arthur immediately approached Amelia, leaving only a slight gap between them. Amelia unintentionally stepped half a step back.
In her chest, the feeling of bad omen bloomed …—yet she couldn’t just decline Arthur’s offer…
Amelia had no choice but to agree. She nodded a little, turning away from Arthur’s gaze.
—on the other hand, Carla and William, thus Edward and Bryan, had already arrived on the lake’s cove. The cove was surrounded by the forest and the lake, but the lakeside offered an enormous, spectacular view.
On the lake, one boat was floating. Carla and William were alone on said boat. Carla urged William in such a way that had never been before, he had no choice but to relent.
Edward and Bryan, whom were watching the boat drift away from the shore, were beyond amazed.
“After all that, Carla still refuses to speak with Lady Amelia…” “Oh god, this is really troublesome…”
The two then shrugged their shoulders.
“…but hey, they sure are slow.” Edward sat on a nearby log and complained about Amelia and Arthur whom had not yet arrived. Bryan sat down next to him.
“Well, every paths lead here, at least… so there’s only little chance of getting lost.”
“I’m more concerned that she’s with Arthur…”
“Nah, he isn’t the type to lay hand on another’s fiancée, I think… especially William’s.”
“Yes, but he’s still a black-hearted prince, nonetheless. He doesn’t really know the meaning of moderation…”
Edward threw pebbles on the lake’s surface and stared far away. Meanwhile Bryan’s eyes widened hearing his twin casually badmouthing the Prince like that…
“But, even if Arthur does anything to her, she won’t just take it laying down, right?”
“Yeah, she can take care of herself just fine, I guess…”
—besides, there were more important things to worry about.
The two stared at their sister who was currently on the boat.
“Something terrible is surely going to occur…” “I hope she gives him a break…”
They mumbled and sighed. But in the next moment—
“—huh?” Edward’s head suddenly rose.
“What is it?”
“…Something… I feel like I’ve forgotten something important…”
“Honestly, what are you talking about?”
Then, they looked at each other—
They finally remembered Lewis, whom they hadn’t seen again after getting out of the carriage, and screamed.
***T/N: These twins are adorbs, too… Gosh, there are just too many to choose…