The soldiers raised their fists and shouted his name. Chloe stared at the man slowly turning his head, making eye contact with each and every one of his soldiers. Then—”Ah”—Chloe made eye contact with him. It felt as if he had known her presence as a member of the audience, and she fell off guard. As she pulled herself away from the window, she breathed heavily against the wall and bit her lip, belatedly realizing that she had not turned off the lamplight on the table. It was natural that the only lit room in the dark building would have looked bright and noticeable. Chloe slowly reached out her arm and pulled the curtain, then she approached the table with a limp and blew out the lantern.
Darkness sank into the room, but her heart was still pounding. She sat carefully on the bed. First raising her working leg first, she then pulled up her weak right leg with her arm and laid down properly on the bed. One skinny and unsightly leg was revealed through her scattered pajamas. Chloe pulled her clothes down and fixed her appearance, then she blinked quietly in the dark room. Outside, she could now hear the soldiers moving vigorously. As she could hear someone bringing out a late meal, the noise outside became more loudly.
“Damian Ernst Fawn Teece is an amazing person” was Chloe’s first impression of the commander. Even in a crisis, he was a calm and strong man with energy that overwhelmed his audience. If it were her, could she have said that even after hearing the news that her father had been killed? Ha! Just imagining her father’s death made her shudder. She lay down with her eyes closed and tried to sleep but only remained wide awake. Chloe finally opened her eyes gently, raised herself, and sat on the edge of the bed. Outside the window, she could still hear the soldiers talking with the sound of a bonfire in the background.
‘The man probably went back inside the tents. He must be trying to prove what he said there.’
“Please help us win. So that our soldiers can go back home… To protect their precious things…”
It had been a long time since the evening prayer was over, but Chloe put her hands together again and prayed sincerely for everyone to be able to return to their peaceful daily lives.
Early the next morning, Chloe got up from her bed with a light heart. The sky was blue when she opened the curtains. The dawn sky was also Chloe’s favorite color, a darkness that embraced brightness different from the night sky. It was a sky where she could see the purple dawn beautiful enough to make her stop breathing and stare blankly on a clear day.
Creak! She got prepared to leave and hurriedly went out of the room. She knew she had to wake up before Mary, the maid, woke up as she wanted to avoid any cumbersome happenings. Chloe carefully passed the room next to the stairs where tired servants were sleeping, passed through the kitchen, and left the castle. The tents were full of soldiers, so it was better to use the side path next to the stable.
Next to the stable, Gray saw her and opened his mouth. It was a long time ago when Mr. Chester had brought home a child from the market who had been beaten. Gray’s weakness was that he was very quiet and woke up earlier in the morning than anyone else.
“Hi, Gray. Good morning.”
“Why are you heading to the forest so early in the morning?”
“I’m going to pick some herbs.”
“If so, I can pick them for you.”
Gray looked at her and spoke politely. Long ago he used to speak informally to Chloe and get scolded a lot by Mr. Chester, but now Gray was treating Chloe politely like a well-trained servant.
Chloe lightly laughed, “Are you going to surprise me by picking the silver bell flower petals?”
Gray’s face turned a little red as he recalled the past of picking poisonous herbs instead of the herbs Chloe had wanted.
“I’m not like that anymore.”
“I’m relieved to go there alone, Mr. Gray Wilson.”
“But it’s still dangerous. The weather is very cold.”
Chloe cleared her throat while looking at Gray’s hesitating face. This was the reason why she left home early without her servants knowing. The servants in Verdier Castle were too worried about the disabled Chloe. Out of the many servants, the boy with black eyes in front of her was especially worried.
“Gray, did you do all the homework I gave you?”
Gray nodded. Chloe felt somewhat envious of how fast he was growing. The last time she saw Mr. Chester’s old vest on him it seemed very long, but now it seemed to be right up to his waist. Gray was the same age as Chloe’s sister Alice, but both seemed to grow like bean stocks while she remained the same.
“The homework… Do you want to see how I completed it?”
“It’s okay. But can I test you right now?”
As Gray kept silent, his face turned red to his ears. As it seemed obvious that he was not confident with passing his exam, Chloe muttered a small apology while passing him. The more time she took on her way, the more people would stop her.