The Gap Between You and Me - Chapter 24
* * *
It had already been a month since Herietta came to Lavant. During that time, she had attended five or six banquets and ten small social gatherings. Each time, Lilian stood by Herietta’s side, trying to introduce her to numerous unmarried men of marriageable age.
And as if in response to Lilian’s efforts, three men showed interest in her. All of them were children of the Viscount family or higher, and they had a good reputation. Lilian was overjoyed with the outcome and decided that they were good enough for her niece.
But her joy was short-lived. They all stopped their advances after only two or three meetings and even after deliberately stepping to the Jenner’s mansion to see Herietta.
When Lilian asked them what the problem was, they hesitated and answered.
“Unfortunately, your niece doesn’t seem to be very interested in me. Whenever we are together, she always seems to be thinking about other things, and even when I try to talk to her, I barely get a response from her.”
Upon realizing that the source of the troubles was Herietta, Lilian was furious. You have to clap both hands to make a sound. No matter how fervently courtship was made by one side, if the other side did not respond, it was a futile effort.
Herietta sighed as Lilian threatened her that she would die of old age if she continued to behave like that.
“I know they are good people. But I don’t feel any rational attraction to them at all.”
“Herietta, are you in a position to choose between cold and hot meals now? How many couples in this world do you think will be in a relationship solely because of love? You don’t know yet because you are young, but there are appropriate times in life, and there’s such a thing as timing. Youth doesn’t last forever.”
Lilian tried to convince her while holding onto Herietta’s shoulders. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the innocent side of her niece, but for this moment she wished Herietta was a little more clever. But contrary to Lilian’s wishes, Herietta just shook her head quietly.
“Auntie, I don’t want to have a loveless marriage. If I have to, I’d rather just live alone.”
“Still, I didn’t mean to be rude to them. It happened by chance…”
Herietta, who was about to say something to her, trailed away and bit her mouth. She looked like she was thinking deeply. After a while, she finalized her thoughts and opened her mouth again.
“Anyway, I will apologize to them later. Whether it was intentional or not, what I did to them was wrong.”
If she knew that, she shouldn’t have been rude in the first place. Lilian licked her lips and gave a smile, but Herietta just smiled bashfully. She knew well that this came out of love for her.
* * *
“I was scolded by my aunt today because of you.”
With a sulky look on her face, Herietta complained. Edwin, who was absorbed in work, raised his head and looked at her.
“Because of me?”
“Without realizing it, it seems that I have been neglecting them and treating the gentlemen badly whenever they visited. I heard that they were very upset.”
Edwin smirked at Herietta’s words. The corners of his lips rose upward as if he liked what he was hearing. He took his eyes off her and went back to what he was doing.
“But why is that because of me?”
“Are you thinking of denying it now?”
Herietta was furious.
“You kept interrupting every time they visited! An important letter arrived from Philioche, Aunt had a big problem. Do you know how much I tried to pay attention the entire time they talked? The last time we talked, I had something on my face and before that, the knot at the back of my dress had come undone.”
“Tell me, Edwin! How can I properly pay attention to them in that condition? My mind is somewhere else, and my insides are burning black!”
“If they can’t afford that, they will never be able to handle Miss Herietta.”
Edwin replied indifferently. There was no trace of guilt. Herietta looked at him with a shocked expression. Shameless. Yet she knew he wasn’t wrong, so she couldn’t argue with what he said.
“Are you being mean? Or are you just proud?”
Herietta asked gently. Edwin thought for a moment before answering.
* * *
A letter flew in from Philioche after a long time. And on the red wax used to seal the envelope was the Mackenzie family’s crest. Herietta was overjoyed as she opened the envelope. Then she pulled out a piece of stiff yellowish letter paper from the inside.
It was a letter from her father, Baodor, Viscount Mackenzie. As with any letter, it began with the first sentence, “Dear Herietta.” However, the amount of text in it was much less than she expected. At most, it would only fill half of the letter paper.
In addition, Baodor’s writing, which usually uses a relaxed and stylish typeface, seems to have been written very clumsily as if he couldn’t get the words out fast enough. There were several parts of the letter that were written unusually. She had a bad feeling.
Herietta, who tilted her head in an unusual atmosphere, slowly read the letter from top to bottom. After reading her father’s message, her expression hardened like stone.
* * *
Herietta swung the door open without knocking and promptly trudged in with her back straightened. Normally, she would have asked for permission to enter first, but she currently had no time for such pleasantries.
“Edwin, tell me.”
Herietta skipped the morning greeting and rushed to Edwin with her business. Fireworks flashed from both of her eyes. She was ready to push him even if he said no.
Edwin got up from his seat and greeted Herrietta. He stopped smiling, unconsciously when he saw that her expression was grim. It wasn’t hard for him to guess that something bad had happened to her.
“I got this from Philioche this morning.”
Herietta held out the crumpled letter to Edwin. Edwin’s expression turned cold when he saw it.
At the same time, he understood why Herietta was in such a state. He didn’t take the letter but just looked down without a word.
“Aren’t you reading it?”
“… Even without reading it, I can guess what it is about.”
Edwin replied quietly. Herietta let out her breath briefly. She didn’t expect it, but she couldn’t believe it was true. She withdrew the hand which held the letter.
“I heard Father didn’t send you here? They said you suddenly disappeared without a word, and the house was turned upside down when they thought you had run away! It seems like he even sent someone to find you!”
Herietta raised her voice. Her hand, which was holding the letter, trembled.
“Edwin! Why would you do that!? You know that a slave-branded person shouldn’t be moving recklessly this way! If you’re treated like a fugitive, you don’t know how dangerous it would be for you!”
It felt like her stomach was sizzling. When she first read the letter, she thought she was going to faint. Baodor confessed that Edwin had long since disappeared, but he knew that she and he were quite close to each other, so he had never been able to tell her about it.
What does this mean? At first, she didn’t understand the content of the text, and then she denied it, and now, she was engulfed in outrageous rage.
Herietta thought that Edwin had, of course, come to Lavant under Baodor’s orders. When he told her he had come voluntarily, she took it to mean that he wasn’t just being dragged. She did not even dream that those words meant he was acting alone without the permission of Baodor.
“Edwin! Say something!”
Herietta pressed him. But Edwin kept his mouth shut like a stubborn clam. He didn’t even try to excuse his actions. He just waited patiently for her anger to subside.
Herietta, who was out of breath from frustration, threw the crumpled paper on the floor and buried her face in her hands.
“I don’t understand. You are more rational than anyone else and have good judgment. Why would you do such an absurd thing? Edwin, I don’t understand.”
Like dying embers, Herietta’s voice lost its power. Edwin watched her with a gloomy look in his eyes.