The Prince Doesn't Cry From Mere Onions - Chapter 21.2
While Anna was drawing up an entire plot of bringing him a houseful of things, Bertram rose from the bed to ask.
“Miss Anna. Are you not afraid of me?”
“I am asking as I’m wondering if you aren’t trusting me too much. Coming into a place like this, too…. Though this is hardly an appropriate response to all the kindness that you’ve shown me thus far, at times I have a difficult time understanding you, Miss Anna.”
Having said as much, Bertram scrunched himself up squatting in the corner of the bed.
It seemed like his attempt to not be threatening to Anna, but thanks to that, Anna was able to answer with a chuckle.
“Sir, if you were an actually dangerous b*st*rd, you would’ve made trouble already. Besides, I have an eye for people. Do you know how many people I’ve picked up until now?”
In all the people Anna had met, there had been no one absolutely ‘good,’ and the amount of ‘evil’ that people displayed had also varied.
The fellow who combed through other people’s belongings when he was alone was rather the gentleman of the folk. There had even been scumbags who crawled into her room in the middle of the night as soon as his two arms healed, thanks to the treatment they’d given him.
Some of them had appeared to be settling in as workers before they began coaxing the other workers to try to take over the village.
Rather than churning up those unpleasant memories, she decided to talk about what he wouldn’t have experienced from the battlefield.
“Do you know what maddening work farming is? We think the day is good and then the leaves begin shriveling up, and we welcome some rain but then it doesn’t stop. If the crops don’t turn up, we starve, but if it does too well, we have to sell all of that, but it’s worth less than poop even in the city and it doesn’t even pay for travel expenses. And if flies begin infesting when we try to compost it into manure…. Ugh.”
Anna shook her head, as if to clear away some horrible scene in her head.
“But we have to keep farming. If we let it go because we were too scared of how the process and the results will look like, we’ll all starve to death for certain. But even a bad harvest will feed a few more stomachs. That’s why we do it.”
“And your way of ‘picking’ people up? You do it because even if there is a risk, because you could potentially save someone?”
“That’s exactly right!”
“But that is not something you can speak of on the same level. Farming can fill your stomach, but saving people does not. Did those who left for their homes return to repay you? I’d think not. With at most some assistance in the kitchen, you….”
That very moment, Anna began approaching Bertram.
Her two hands pressed on the bed, and her knees slid over the mattress, her skirt rising and falling around them with every move.
Bertram tried to move back, but the wall was at his back.
This vicious wild hamster of a woman cornered him and began exclaiming.
“Mr. Bertram, do you know how absolutely ragged you were when I first saw you?”
“….Was it so very bad?”
“Yes! Your hair was a bird’s nest, and your eyes were practically hollow! And clouds of dust rose up every time we so much as grazed your clothes! But while you ate at our house, we, uh, this wasn’t intentional, but we washed your clothes for you. You became very neat and tidy after that. Enough that you wouldn’t be called a bum now, wherever you go.”
“How is your life right now?”
“It is very satisfactory.”
“That’s what I’m talking about.”
Her two hands on either side of Bertram’s cheeks, she placed his face right in front of her eyes and smiled softly.
“This is when I feel the fullest. This is farming for my soul. Even if I fail multiple times, I have to continue.”
“Really? Even the folks back at the village can’t understand me. Hearing that you do, when you’re the one who’s not supposed to have emotions, is really strange.”
“That is because your expression just now looked just like a squirrel that successfully monopolized a chestnut.”
Was this really being understood, or was she supposed to yell at him for comparing a fully grown adult to a squirrel?
While Anna wrestled with this question, Bertram nodded his head in big motions as if to emphasize his opinion anew. Loosened strands of his hair flowed down and tickled the backs of Anna’s hands.
The tickling sensation did not only affect her hands. Trickling down bit by bit, it seemed to travel all the way down to her chest.
Anna belatedly began taking her hands off of Bertram, but then realized that he had his eyes closed. He looked as if he was contemplating something.
When she waited by idly counting his eyelashes, Bertram opened his eyes, and Anna spoke up to ask if what she was thinking was right.
“Did you feel something again?”
“I cannot be certain.”
Bertram slightly lifted his shirt to inspect his own chest.
The blue-lit dragon bone was only shining in tempo with his heartbeat, as per usual.
Meanwhile, now that her hands were free again, Anna moved back.
The sound of her skirts grazing the bed faded into the distance as well. Even as he inspected his chest, Bertram’s ears honed in on that sound.
In due time, the rustling came from afar, and Anna spoke from where he could not reach her even if he stretched his arms.
“Let’s go back down now. I’ll bring you the blanket to use here tomorrow.”
“Understood. Please do not go too quickly. I cannot let a lady walk alone in a deep forest like this.”
“Uegh, lady again! The sound of that makes me cringe, so don’t call me that anymore!”
Anna scurried out of the castle.
Following her white-laden footsteps full of moonlight reminded him of his childhood, when he had chased after rainbows.
Those days he’d spent chasing the intangible illusion in front of his eyes.
Those days of worthless work that had born him no results.
Just like how useless his guide was, today.
Bertram could memorize every path that he walked through once. Anna as she cautiously led them out was less a guide and more a cumbersome obstacle in his way.
But every time Anna looked back to see if Bertram was following her and smiled, there was only one thing Bertram came to want.
To return to Anna that very same expression, back to her.