Chapter 7 – The Almost Fiance of a Deposed Princess (1)
Gris turned her head slightly. She couldn’t understand why he so strongly believed she was somebody she wasn’t. Or maybe he had an ulterior motive for wanting her to be Yuliana…
Her attention was called elsewhere, towards Vianut kneeling in front of the Bishop. Her gaze followed his movements as he turned his palms face up, the Bishop washing them with holy water. As Vianut gazed towards the distance, she could see his handsome profile accentuated by the moonlight.
Almost hypnotized, Gris stared at his face and suddenly remembered something she had heard from the brothel. Someone had said that despite being a man of youth and handsomeness, Sir Byrenhag avoided women.
There were two speculations as to why he did this. One, he was a devoted disciple of God and swore to stay a virgin until marriage. The other was that he was unable to have s*x.
Rowdy men at the brothel enjoyed gossiping and with their foul language made it clear why they expected Vianut Byrenhag to have been the latter. The rumor was that Sir Byrenhag diverted his sexual desires into killing people on the battlefield.
Despite the lurid stories, Gris never took any interest in the gossip. She didn’t believe that a man as powerful as Vianut would swear to stay a virgin because of strong religious beliefs. Unless he was impotent, he would have lusted after women, just like the men Gris saw coming and going in the brothel.
She suddenly realized that she was focusing on Vianut more than the scenery she claimed to appreciate. It must have been his finely-sculpted face that distracted her. She turned toward Stephan, paying more attention to what he had to say.
“When I was young, there was a plague in Byrenhag. My mother was the successor at that time. She raised me at home while Vianut was sent to the Archbishop for education. “
Stephan couldn’t disguise the hostility in his voice.
“Oddly enough, despite being close to our mother and having earned her trust, I didn’t become head of the Byrenhags. Instead, it was Vianut who, with the Archbishop’s approval, became head of this house a few years after father passed away. Not only did he have the Archbishop’s support, but he also had the Church of Byrenhag and the knights of Byrenhag behind him,” explained Stephan.
It wasn’t difficult to figure out that Stephan wasn’t fond of Vianut.
Gris carefully studied Stephan’s face reflected on the window glass. She expected a frown as he contemplated the turn of events, but for some reason, a malicious smile spread across his face.
“A monarch and now the respected chief commander of the army. If you’re smart and try to ally yourself with him, he could become a big help to you.”
She had the nagging feeling that Stephan was still insisting that she continue with the charade of being Yuliana, the daughter of this highly respected family. Was he being genuine? But why? After a further moment of thought, Gris hesitantly asked Stephan.
The room was getting stuffy, and Gris felt increasingly claustrophobic as the windows steamed up.
“If you try to become Yuliana.”
Now it seemed as if the windows were covered in a haze. Gris stared straight into the opaque glass and nervously asked him another question.
“Why do you… need a Yuliana?”
Stephan smiled instead of replying.
The windows slowly cleared up to the point where the scenery outside could be seen again.
Vianut suddenly raised his gaze and looked directly at Gris through the window. His piercing gaze caught her by surprise. Was he really looking at her or did it just seem that way? Didn’t he gaze at her earlier, or was this all in her mind, or was it wishful thinking?
She was transported back to her old life in Grandia, her family, her majestic home filled with so many giddy memories. Her heart was pounding as she thought about her other life from eleven years ago.
She surmised it must be these memories of longing, making her heart pound against her chest erratically. She refused to believe it was caused by the man before her, no less than a stranger.
But she was brought back to reality as Vianut turned his head toward the Bishop and stood up. The Bishop quickly draped the white robe around his shoulders and rewashed his hands with the holy water. Vianut only wore a thin sheet of cotton around his lower half, and so his muscular and robust body could be seen through the slightly transparent cloth.
Feeling quite perverse at her spying, Gris quickly looked away in shame.
She felt a tightening between her thighs, a strange feeling inside her gut. She had seen all kinds of s*xual acts between a man and a woman, so why should she be flustered? Was she taken aback that a man who devoted his body to God had an unnecessarily voluptuous body?
What a wicked mind you have, Gris. She chastised herself.
With so many thoughts running through her head, she wasn’t aware that Stephan was still standing behind her. He let out a peal of laughter and inwardly ashamed of her wild thoughts, Gris looked down at the wooden floor.
“I… I wish to stop by the church of Byrenhag.”
Gris had spent the last eight years hoping to meet this man called Johannes. It was never her plan to pretend to be a girl named Yuliana and live in a mansion, gazing on the young head of the Byrenhags.
“… Because… I am not Yuliana.”
Stephan nodded his head and smiled. His smile could mean many things. A sneer towards a determined whore trying to be morally upright, and his desire to thwart that determination. But Gris had the intuition that he knew all along that she was not the person he was looking for.
Then what was his purpose? Gris felt like a helpless fly trapped in a spider web, waiting for the inevitable end. But Stephan left the room first as if to avoid any further conversation.
“I will take you to the church. After we have verified whether or not you are Yuliana.”
“Good night,” he said as he closed the door behind him.
Unsure of what to do, Gris stood still for a while. With hesitant steps, she finally climbed onto a proper bed for the first time in eleven years. But she couldn’t fall asleep, she wasn’t comfortable yet, tossing and turning in the stranger’s bed. Yuliana’s dolls occupied more than half of the space, and they looked like eerie creatures gazing at her, especially the bunny missing one eye.
After a couple of hours’ respite, she heard the rumble of the metal gates as they opened. Gris instinctively looked out the window again and saw soldiers on horses exiting the mansion gates in a single file.
Stephan had said these soldiers were riding to battle. This meant that they were going to kill or be killed.
The holy cross draped over their armor was entirely hypocritical. She could only think.