The Prince Doesn't Cry From Mere Onions - Chapter 21.1
The round vacant lot must have once been a garden that provided the scenic view below the building’s terrace. Now, its only audience consisted of dismally crumbled stone walls.
That must have been the case since Anna had been a child.
But as soon as Bertram stood there, as he was now, everything changed.
More than anything, Bertram himself seemed like a different person, basking in the moonlight and standing at Anna’s eye level for the first time.
Even though she swore that just a moment ago, that human being had been an occasionally adorable but altogether frustrating bear….
His jet-black hair, which had only looked disheveled before, glistened now like the mantle of night, and the cloak wrapped around the fortress walls that were his shoulders gave him the magnificence of a monarch.
The man stood there, wielding the moonlight of the castle ruins like it was his authority. If an army of ten thousand men had been on their knees for him, it wouldn’t have looked out of place at all.
When Anna stared slack-jawed at this scene in front of her, Bertram spoke up, seemingly having misunderstood her.
“Miss Anna, you’ve arrived. I confirmed that there were no preying beasts nearby. Please come in.”
Anna quickly moved to where Bertram was. Once they were on the same level ground, her line of sight was completely filled with Bertram’s upper body. The familiar sight gave her a sense of security.
Of course, that didn’t change the fact that Anna was in an old abandoned building.
Wiping cold sweat off her palms on her skirts, Anna spoke.
“Mr. Bertram, I didn’t get to tell you this earlier, but there is someone who used to go in and out this building and happened upon misfortune.”
“Who was that, if I may ask.”
“My father. Hans Wirst.”
“Was it not that your father passed during the war?”
“….Yes. He did die in the last year of the war, but he didn’t die at war.”
Holding the ends of Bertram’s sleeve, Anna pulled. Bertram obediently followed, and soon they discovered a collection of objects that appeared to have been used up until recently in the hall.
Although the cup or bowls were filled with mold to be called too ‘recent.’ Still, they weren’t artifacts that had laid untouched for decades or years.
“My dad used to come here often to research crops, he said, when he was alive.”
“Wasn’t your father a farmer?”
“He was. But he wasn’t satisfied with just planting what we had. So he researched what would make the fruits bigger, or what fertilizer would be best, and things like that.”
“All the way out here?”
“Because if he did that down there, he’d be reproached for playing around on farming grounds.”
Anna’s voice didn’t hold the slightest note of anger. After all, she had been one of those people who thought her father weird, too, once upon a time.
“Even when we were evacuating, Dad was always worried if his hometown farm might be destroyed. Ironically, he was conscripted in the last year of the war of all times, and he had to enter the battle in this very village. And Dad returned to the refuge alone like he’d been bewitched. He’d come back unable to say a single word about the war.”
“The shock must have been great for your family.”
“Yeah. And funnily enough, the people who gave my dad the hardest time when he came back alive were the military commanders.”
“How did you survive and escape from there, testify how cruel the enemy soldiers were to us, explain who made the biggest contributions, so on and so forth…. Those stuck-up, snooty things just kept going around asking the same things, again and again. What’s even more ridiculous was, one b*st*rd dragged him back to his own unit saying that he’d remember better if he was back in action, and then a sudden skirmish broke out there, and….”
Anna swallowed down a sob-like inhale. She’d thought she’d run out of tears now. It seemed that wasn’t true yet.
“….All of this is just too much bad luck. I’m not trying to say that he was unluckier than the other people who died at war. But I do sometimes wonder whether he might have had a less eventful time going if he hadn’t come here so often.”
“It really must have been difficult.”
“There’s no point thinking about it now. We can only say that that’s just how life is sometimes, I guess. And I think I feel a bit better, since you told me that the curse is probably a false rumor.”
Forcing herself to smile, Anna clapped Bertram on the back lightly.
“Anyways, if you see anything newer around here, they’ll definitely be my dad’s, so feel free to use them. He’s not so nitpicky as to curse anyone just because they used his things!”
The two people went on roaming the castle to look for a space one could rest in. And at the end of the hallway, decorated with grass and bugs—
As soon as Anna entered the last room, her eyes widened into saucers. The room had been renovated so that humidity couldn’t seep in, making it clear that this was Hans’ work.
In the corner of the room was a large cot. Though it was covered in a thick layer of dust, it was better than moss and mold.
“Looks like you can use this bed if you just replace the blanket. I’ll bring you one. You said you might need to sleep here if your pursuers come here, right?”
“Thank you. But Miss Anna—”
“Please don’t think of this as something else you’re indebted to. I love taking care of people I find until the day they leave, you know what I mean? This is my hobby! Alright?”
Now that she knew how he worked, it was easy for her to figure out what it was that Bertram wanted to say. Anna felt quite proud of herself.
Cautiously sitting on the cot, he laid down only after he’d confirmed that the bed was quite firm. The moment she saw Bertram stretching out his legs to the fullest on the cot was the moment her self-satisfaction hit the highest peak.
All that was left was to bring him new blankets, and since he might need to stay for days, he’d need a pillow too, and oh but washing would be hard crouched at the nearby stream, so she should also get him a washbasin, and….