< — I love you — > (2)
The evening cemetery was quiet and bleak. Lucia didn’t see any shadows of people let alone people tracking her.
She packed only a few of the jewelry that she had and left the rest hidden in the tunnel. She changed into the old clothes she had prepared, pulled a hood over her head and walked out of the graveyard.
She kept herself from being seen and aimlessly walked towards a remote area. She had no destination. She just wanted to get somewhere far away. Around day break, she discovered an old house standing alone in a desolate plain without any human traces.
Lucia felt very exhausted. She had walked all night and couldn’t feel her feet anymore. She felt like if she relaxed, she would immediately fall asleep. She approached the house, unable give thought to the aftermath. As she carefully approached to the house, the door suddenly flew open and an old woman came out.
The old woman fixed a stare at Lucia’s startled frame then suddenly shouted at her.
[Lucy! Where have you been that you’re only crawling back now! Go out and quickly draw water so we can eat breakfast.]
When Lucia looked on blankly, the old woman continued to roar. Lucia was too tired to think clearly. Hearing the old woman talk about food, she realized she was hungry and picked up the bucket as she was ordered.
[Where should I draw the water from?]
The old woman yelled, calling her a stupid wench before telling her where the well was. Lucia didn’t feel hostility from the old woman’s rough words, so it didn’t really affect her.
She carried the bucket and went to the well site. And seeing her reflection on the surface of the water, she grabbed her hair with trembling hands.
Her reddish-brown hair had turned white. While she was trembling in the darkness for over a month, her body had been unable to endure the extreme stress, and this was the result.
Sometime later, Lucia realized that the old woman was not mentally sound. The old woman could not remember anything she said and only repeated what she had said in the past. The old woman had a daughter named Lucy and Lucia realized later on that the girl, Lucy, fell in love with a man she knew for a long time, and left the house without sending back any news.
Lucia lived together with the old woman as her daughter, Lucy, until the old woman passed away about six months later.
The past or the future. Lucia thought back to her memories in the dream as she sat in the carriage returning home. Sometimes, Lucia thought to herself:
‘What did I really see? Did I really dream about the future? Or, did I experience the future and come back to the past?’
When she woke up in the morning after having the dream when she was twelve, Lucia was convinced that the dream was her future. And after that, she ran around trying to change her future without thinking about anything else.
The weight on Lucia wasn’t an experience of living through one lifetime but that of having a dream. It was certainly her own life but at the same time, she also felt like she was watching it.
Lucia’s life in the dream was tough and difficult. The pain and sorrow were vivid as if she had experienced it herself. However, the vividness did not exceed a certain limit. No matter how terrible the pain was, it did not leave a fatal wound on her mind.
‘Some parts are detailed and clear while some parts can’t be remembered.’
Lucia couldn’t remember seeing herself reach old age in her dream. She could only vaguely remember the quiet life she lived as an elderly woman after quitting her job as a maid and getting a house in a secluded area.
The way Lucia saw it, if she had come back from the future, her last memory should have been the clearest in her head. Which is why she thought it was a dream. It wasn’t something she could talk about with anyone, so the dilemma always circled around the same place in her head.
“I want to stop somewhere for a bit.”
Lucia asked her maid to tell them to turn the carriage around. She wanted to go take a look at the house that Norman gave to her as a gift.
* * *
Lucia slowly looked around the cozy two-story house. All of Norman’s furniture remained unchanged, bringing forth nostalgia. The house was supervised regularly so it was squeaky clean but perhaps because nobody lived in it, there was a desolate aura in the air.
‘I heard that a house without occupants will get ruined quickly. Do I rent it out?’
Some time ago, Lucia’s lifelong dream was to buy a small, cozy house like this. In just less than two years, her life had become completely different. Her life was flowing in an unpredictable direction. The heart-pounding anticipation in her heart was larger than the fear of the unknown.
[Do you know how boring life would be if you knew what would happen in the future? Life is only livable because it is unpredictable.]
Lucia chuckled as she vividly recalled what Norman had said before. Norman was a wise individual. At least to Lucia, she was.1
On the way back home for the second time, the carriage was brought to a stop. None of the carriages on the street were moving. The maid passed along the words from the coachman who went to check out the situation.
“A carriage toppled over so we’ll have to turn around the street, Milady.”
The carriage started moving again. As Lucia looked out the carriage window, she felt that the street they were passing looked strangely familiar.
‘This is the neighborhood I lived in when I was young.’
Feeling sentimental as she looked on, Lucia made the carriage pull over. The carriage stopped on one side of the street. Lucia came down from the carriage and stood in front of the old pawnshop. There were miscellaneous goods with prices listed on them beyond the window.
She walked into the pawn shop, reliving the old memories where she walked along this particular street, holding hands with her mother.
The old man who was nodding off to sleep in his chair was awoken by the screeching sound of the door opening. The owner of the pawn shop sprang to his feet with bulging eyes. A woman in luxurious attire and an air of importance, a woman standing modestly next to her, and a man who looked like an escort. It was the typical noblewoman and her attendants. The old man was flustered because it was a customer he would never have the chance to meet as the owner of a long-standing local pawn shop.
“Is there something you’re looking for…?” (Shop owner)
“How long have you been the owner of this place?” (Lucia)
“I have been the owner for decades.”
“I want to find the whereabouts of an item than once stayed for a while. It was pawned here more than 10 years ago. Is it possible for you to know?”
“I remember all the decent items that come through here. I also write all of them down in the ledger. What sort of item is it?”
Lucia traced back the years and told him the approximate time the pendant was sold, the age and appearance of her mother when she left the pendant at the pawn shop, and the description of the pendant. The owner of the pawn shop tilted his head with an odd expression.
“There was someone also looking for the same thing recently.” (Shop owner)
“They were looking for the pendant I’m talking about? Who?” (Lucia)
“It was a young man. But I don’t know who it is.”
Fabian’s subordinate came to the pawn shop looking for the pendant, but there was no way for Lucia to know that.
“I also said this to that person but, I have never seen such a pendant. It has never been to our store.” (Shop owner)
“That can’t be right. I definitely saw it on display here.” (Lucia)
“As you can see, this is a small shop aimed at people who live in this neighborhood. It’s obvious what kind of items come in here. If such a rare article was pawned here, there is no way I would not remember it. Although I am old, I still have a good memory. I have not been left with an item like that pendant for decades.”
The owner of the pawn shop looked certain. When Lucia continued to say that it wasn’t possible, he brought out all his old ledgers and showed them to her. It was a thoroughly documented record of who pawned what, how much they borrowed, and what process happened afterwards. Through the records, one could get of glimpse of the thoroughness of the pawn shop owner.
Lucia scoured through the 20 years of records. Just like the pawn shop owner said, the pendant had never come to the pawn shop. It was difficult to claim that he purposefully manipulated the ledger to hide that fact.
‘But I saw it. The sight of my mother standing vacantly in front of this store is still vivid in my mind.’
Lucia left the pawnshop with confusion and doubt in her mind. Dean who was following behind her as her escort decided to ask:
“Is there another place you want to stop at?”
“No. Let’s go home.” (Lucia)
Walking a few steps behind Lucia and her maid as they headed towards the carriage, Dean brought his wrist to his mouth and muttered in a low voice.
“We are departing now. Destination is the mansion.”
On Dean’s wrist was a simple-looking silver bracelet. It looked more durable than silver and had a certain sheen to it. One of his ears also had a unique accessory hanging from it. The hook shape of the accessory was too strange to call it an earring. A part of the tip was inside his ear and the hook-like part curled around his ear. The accessory was covered by his hair, so it wasn’t very visible.
There were four distant carriages standing in each of the four directions of the carriage that Lucia was climbing into. The carriages were located beyond the turn of the corner so Lucia could not see them. Inside a very ordinary-looking carriage with an ordinary-looking coachman, were knights in armor disguised as plain clothes.
“We’re leaving. Team 1, Team 2, head out. Team 3, stand-by. Team 4 at the rear.”
The Knight giving out the orders wore the same accessory as Dean on his wrist and on his ear.
Lucia knew that one Knight called Dean was escorting her. But she didn’t know that she was under heavy security like that of a mansion. The convoy was so secretive that they were undetectable.
1. The word used for ‘wise individual’ here is ‘sage’, ‘wise man’.