A Fleeting Moonlit Dream (7)
With the candlelight put out, the silvery moonlight creeped onto the surface of the dusty table.
Sitting by the table quietly under its illumination, Lorist thought that the moon was really bright tonight.
Sounds of a horse cart could be heard approaching from a distance. Quickly, the sound stopped nearby and a high-pitched neigh of the horse followed by the sound of an opening door rang out. Lorist listened to the familiar sound of a set of footsteps thumping up the building at stopping outside the door.
The door slammed open and candlelight filled the room, dispelling the subtle, mystical illusion of peace created by the moonlight.
Miss Windsor stood by the door wearing a sleeveless white dress. This must be one of the dresses I've designed, but with a little more golden thread embroidery than I had drawn. The pure white dress somehow looked seductive and tempting when she wore it. Probably due to her rushing back from a party somewhere, she appeared to be breathing heavily.
Both of them understood that if they missed each other today, they would probably never be able to meet again.
With a calm voice, Lorist said, "Could you blow the candle out? I think I prefer the soft glow of the silver moon tonight."
Blowing the candle out and placing it in a corner, the young mistress of the Windsor house silently walked into the moon's gentle embrace and stopped still in her tracks, silent like a quiet moonlit night.
Neither of them made a sound. Lorist felt a thousand emotions as he looked at the girl before him who used to be the most important person in the world to him that had left him for another man. When he initially heard about the affair, he rushed to her side with a frantic heart. But now, while it still pained him to remember their past, he no longer felt any desire to be with her.
"Should I address you as Lady Marchioness?", said Lorist, disrupting the silence in the room.
"You already know?" said the girl as she raised her head.
"When I was at the Relic Islands three months ago, I met a group of mercenaries from the Jigda Kingdom who said that the marquis of the Lorf house was going to host a banquet by the end of the year at the capital to celebrate the marriage between him and his second wife. They were on the islands on behalf of the Lorfs to obtain some precious materials for the banquet. During their free time, when they were guessing the identity of the second wife, I already knew it was you."
Breaking into a light smile, Lorist said, "You did pretty well to keep the news hidden. I believe that no one else in the city knows that you've accepted the marquis's proposal three months ago, including even your handmaidens. Lina even told me to not break up with you just now, hehe..."
"I don't have a choice, Locke. I know you hate me for leaving you for power. It's what I had to do for my family," said the girl as she sat down on the floor, tears flowing down her face. "Ever since you left, he used his family's influence to force the other four lords to return the dominion to the Windsor house. But the dominion was still under relentless attack from the lords and greatly wounding Knight Hurd in the process as well as throwing Knight Somm into disarray. They sent their forces masquerading as bandits and burnt our farmlands as well as sold the people they captured to the slave traders. There's no way the dominion can flourish with all this going on.
"It was at this time when he offered me a suggestion. If I were to agree to marry him, he will mobilize the family troops to help the Windsor house out on behalf of familial ties. I have agreed to his proposal and the moment we complete the ceremony back in the Jigda capital, the Lorf family will declare war against the other four dominion lords. At that time, his armies would surround the dominions of the other four lords and wipe out the four family's influence, giving the Windsor dominion time to recuperate and rebuild."
The girl continued to chatter rapidly, seemingly in a hurry to finish what she had to say, "Only Suzy knew about my agreement to marry him, everyone else, even Lina, was kept in the dark so that the four dominion lords won't know about the marriage alliance that is to be formed. He told me that it would only succeed if the marriage came as a surprise, and that once the marriage is announced, the Jigda nobles wouldn't have time to react to the sudden attack. Once the four dominion lords have been defeated, we will get the official sanction from the royal family to rule over the dominions so that no other nobles can have a say in it. With the Lorf family as a backer, tragedies like the one that happened to my father would no longer occur to the Windsor house."
Lorist struggled to hide his amazement at the delicate planning a setting up of the whole plan. His initial plan was to use the rebels to slowly bleed out the forces of the other four dominion lords and eventually overwhelm them with the full force of the resistance army when the time was right and send a representative from the Windsor house to hold peace negotiations with the other lords. After that, the Windsor house only had to maintain an elite military force to defend themselves from other invasions or attacks as their dominion spent time redeveloping.
But an intervention from the marquis had disrupted the whole operation and forced the four dominion lords to return the ruling rights to the Windsors and effectively got them to owe the Lorf house a favor. Following that, the Windsor house would then add the rebel soldiers to their military ranks to bolster the dominion's defense. The four other families of the previous dominion lords would naturally be pissed at the affair and the damage done to their forces and would naturally cause as much trouble as they can to mess things up.
The situation at the dominion suddenly underwent a huge change: the resistance army had become the official dominion's garrison force while the forces of the previous lords had become the rebel forces. Unable to cope to the sudden change, the Windsor family could only endure the situation. Suddenly, the marquis of the Lorf family would then descend like a messiah and propose a marriage alliance to the Windsor mistress and promise to mobilize their armies to defeat the enemies of the Windsor house and wipe the four families out, following which they will return the lordless dominions to the royal family and divide the remaining land between the Lorf and Windsor houses, gaining the Lorf house both a righteous name as well as making a loyal ally out of the Windsor family.
Was he going to kill five or even six birds with one stone? Lorist only let out a long sigh in his heart. As an outsider, he felt that the Lorf family may have been plotting this ever since the WIndsor house started the operations of the resistance. They had unnoticingly went with the flow and slipped themselves into the heat of the action and effectively took over the entire operation. It was clearly apparent that the Lorf family had the most to gain out of the whole affair. There was much more to the character of the marquis of the Lorf family than meets the eye.
Seeing the girl who earnestly thought that the intervention of the Lorf family was beneficial to the Windsors, Lorist suddenly felt disillusioned. Was this truly the girl that he had loved so much in the past? Was this the angel he held so dearly deep in his heart? Vain and clueless, she was still unaware that she had been used as a pawn in someone else's plan. Poor young mistress, what are you good for other than your beauty?
Don't act like you're sacrificing your own happiness to enter this marriage alliance with the Lorf family. Isn't this what you wanted in the first place? As the marchioness, you will be hanging around the likes of the royal family day in and out and stand high above so many others in a position worthy of much admiration and envy. Wasn't this the life you had always desired? Oh naive little young mistress... this would not solidify your family's power at all, nor will the parties you attend glorify your family's reputation either. Fully relying on the Lorf family is akin to being unknowingly used by someone else and finding nothing wrong with it. There is no better ally than yourself. When will you understand that simple fact, young mistress?
Sigh, this has nothing to do with me anyway, thought Lorist as he shook his head lazily. He suddenly thought that the whole thing about breaking up with her was rather laughable. Now that he had finally let go, he felt much relief and catharsis, as if he had managed to set aside a great burden.
"What's wrong, Locke?" asked the girl curiously after seeing Lorist shake his head.
"It's nothing, I'm just feeling a little nauseous after a spending a month or two on sea. I'm still not too used to being on land yet," said Lorist, excusing himself. "Oh, is that man good to you?"
"Yes, he is," said the girl, nodding. "I feel like I'm being lovingly caressed by him in his warm embrace the whole time. He settles everything perfectly for me, unlike you, who always want me to figure out every little thing by myself. Seriously speaking, Locke, being with you is really tiring. I'm always doing so much work while you look like you have so much time on your hands. You always solve any problem that's thrown to you like it's no big deal. I was so envious of you for that."
"Hehe, that's because you're just silly," joked Lorist as he let out a soft laughter. "I'm really curious why his wife supports his proposal to you."
"Oh, you're talking about sister Fina? Having had a miscarriage from horse-riding sometime in the past, she can no longer bear any children. And she doesn't like to attend parties to entertain the other nobles. That's why she hopes that I can attend the parties in her stead and one day bear the descendants of the Lorf family," said the girl with a blushing face.
Ah, I see. The first wife is planning to use you as a tool for child-making and entertaining guests. After delivering your first child, I bet she will offer to help you raise the child since you're so busy entertaining the other nobles at parties and you will even thank her for it until one day when your children don't even want to acknowledge you as their mother, thought Lorist cynically.
"Why have you stopped the businesses in Morante City and sold off the boutique and your mansion?" asked Lorist.
"The devastation done to the dominion is too great and according to Knight Somm, there isn't one building there that isn't damaged in some way. To rebuild the economy of the dominion would cost mountains of gold, approximately 10000 gold coins. Additionally, I will need to prepare some kind of dowry for the marriage so I am currently rather short on cash. That's why that man encouraged me to sell all of it and begin my boutique anew in the capital. He said that the capital was his turf and that he would take care of everything for me," she said with a satisfied expression.
Lorist almost couldn't resist applauding in admiration at the marquis's plan. Not only is he going to return to the kingdom with a beauty in his arms, he has also acquired the gold-laying hen that she had for himself. Once the business gets set up in the capital, the young lady would effectively be demoted from being the business owner to the position of a highly-paid worker, after which all the profits of the boutique would go straight into the marquis's pockets. Lorist only hoped that the marquis wouldn't eat everything up and at least leave something for the young mistress.
"So, why have you come today? Surely not to meet me for one last time? I'm going to move my stuff away tomorrow since you're already going to sell the place. There's nothing else here anymore but our memories together." Lorist realized that he was being too spiteful to the girl. Even if he told her what he thought, she probably wouldn't listen anyway and think that he was just being jealous and trying to cause discord between her and the marquis. Forget it, people have their own fates. My encounter with her was merely like two shooting stars passing by each other, leaving behind nothing but a distinct trail of memories together.
"So what if I wanted to meet you one last time? I have been in love with you for over four years after all. While you have made me disappointed, I will never forget you. You're always like this, unwavering and merciless once you've made your decision. Don't you still feel anything for me? Aren't you going to say anything to stop me from leaving? Ever since the breakup, it's like you lost all interest in me all of a sudden. I know you hate me and cannot forgive me because this was all my own doing. But I still wanted to see you just in case we would never meet again..." said the girl as she raised her voice, angered at what Lorist had just said.
If there's anything she's good at, it's her unrelenting, open expression of how she felt.
"Sigh..." Standing up, Lorist continued, "Wouldn't it have been better to only remember our good times? There really isn't a point to meet up just to end up arguing..."
"There is. I want to see you, to hug you and to kiss you before I leave. I know I have wronged you and I appreciate all you have done for my family without asking for much in return. I know giving you money would just be an insult to you, so I got you a few Battle Force manuals instead. I hope they will be able to help you break through," said the girl as she opened the table's drawer and took out five high-ranked Battle Force manuals. She then turned back and hugged Lorist, burying her head in his chest.
"Can you hug and kiss me one last time?" asked the girl with her eyes closed.
Lorist only smiled bitterly. That girl didn't know that those manuals wouldn't be of help to him at all. Money would be much more useful for him in this case.
"Don't forget that you're the wife of the marquis now," Lorist reminded her.
"The marriage is not officiated yet, so I'm still a free person," she replied.
Seriously? What's wrong with her...
"No way, I don't want to make a habit out of kissing other people's lovers," said Lorist firmly.
"Locke, come on... Let me spend the night with you, okay? For old times' sake..." said the girl as she tugged tightly on Lorist's waist, refusing to let go...
"Do you think that Marquis who's standing right outside the building can wait all night? I wouldn't mind leaving one last memory with you tonight, but he seems to be rather impatient," said Lorist as he looked at the horse cart parked at the entrance of the building and the Lord Marquis was circling the horse cart as he looked towards the third floor window from time to time instead of coming into the reception hall to wait for Wenna.
"Pffft!" the girl instantly broke into laughter and swiftly stole a kiss from Lorist's lips. Loosening her arms around him, she said, "Alright, we've met, hugged and even kissed. I'm already satisfied. Farewell, Locke."
Her rapid footsteps rang out as she went down the stairs, and shortly after that, the sound of the horse cart leaving slowly faded away.
Sitting back on the chair, Lorist waited for a good while before saying, "Els, how much longer do you plan on hiding there?"