Chapter 9-The start of the story
While on my mission of exploring, I find out that the house has two libraries, one big bathroom, a small gym, a drawing-room, a living room, and the rest are empty rooms that are being used for one thing or another. Soon, I spot Ryou, sitting on one of the couches with his coffee mug and reading one of the books from the library. It looks like he is not aware of my presence since his back is turned towards me.
Slowly, I tip-toe inside the library while trying to not make him aware of my presence. Though I doubt he will notice anyway, he looks pretty immersed in the book. I take note of how he has changed into a black t-shirt and grey pajama pants, and how he has his reading glasses perched on his nose. And I have to admit, he does look good in them.
I try to peak at the cover of the book he is reading but I can’t see it from here. He has so many books in the library, he must have a habit of reading. I wonder what he is reading right now. What types of books does he read? What are his interests? All of sudden, He snap-closes the book puts it on the table before reaching for his coffee mug. I put my hand on my heart and let out a sigh. My God, that startled me. Why did he move all of sudden?
“What are you doing here?”
My eyes widen and I jump a little on hearing his voice directed at me. I quickly face him with a jerk. What? He knew that I was inside? But how? He didn’t even glance at me once? And I was careful to not let my footsteps sound. How did he hear me? How did he know?
“Uhm...I was just looking around.” I try to come up with excuse but come clear when I don’t find anything to say.
“I see. Did you select your room? Was it to your liking?”
“Yeah...I liked it.” In fact, it was in my favorite color.
He takes a sip from his coffee mug before continuing, “So...did you finish exploring?” For some reason, I find a hint of amusement in his tone. I wet my lips as I answer him, “Yes...Actually, I was trying to find books on psychology, do you have any?”
“I don’t think so,” He turns to look at me at last and drapes his arm over the backseat of the sofa. “this reminds me, your major is psychology, right? Why did you choose it?”
“Of course because I love studying psychology and understanding people.” Why else would I choose it?
He looks away from me, “So you chose it because...you loved studying psychology?” Though he is asking a question, I feel like he is more of talking to himself than asking me, therefore I keep quiet. And the tone of his voice is almost strange. When he says nothing more, I turn around and start looking through the shelves.
After 20 minutes of exploring the library in silence, I decide its time to take my leave. I can feel my system shutting down. Right before I could walk out of the library, I stop in my tracks and eye Ryou, who is still sitting at his original place.
“Goodnight,” I say after some hesitation before walking out of the room without waiting for his answer. Beacause I knew he was not going to answer me.
PRINCE RYOUHEI DE VAL FRANSICH POV:
Pink is definitely not my favorite color but that doesn’t mean I hate it as well. I am usually neutral about all the colors but right now, I am almost in the middle of hating pink. When you start to get or see something in excess, you start to hate it or get tired of it and that is what is happening with me right now. I don't think I can stand it anymore.
I look up at the wavering cherry blossom petals as they descend on the ground. I extend my hand to catch one before feeling its smooth surface. I wonder why am I here? I don’t remember coming to this place. Where is this place and why am I here?
I let go of the petal when a soft zephyr caresses my skin. The soft sunlight peeks through the spaces between the trees, gazing at the cemented footpath. I stare at the scenery for few more minutes before continuing on my way. I can’t afford to waste my time here. I have to find the exit and reach the palace by evening.
Walking past couples, friends, and families who are enjoying the beautiful view, I never slow down my pace. Just where is the exit? If there is a way in, then there should be a way out as well but why am I feeling like I am getting nowhere. Why am I repeating the same route? Why others can leave but not me? This is getting irritating.
After walking for another 10 minutes, I come to a stop. There is no point in wandering about aimlessly, I need a plan. I let out a sigh and look around while trying to spot anything that could help me in getting out of here. The weirdest thing is, I haven’t seen the boundary of this place even once. Just where is the boundary?
All of a sudden, I notice a family of three coming my way. I stare at them for a minute, why do they look familiar? They somehow give me a bittersweet taste. The man in a striped button-up shirt, khaki pants, and the woman in a cobalt blue maxi dress are holding their child’s hand on both sides. And the boy not more than the age of 4 is laughing out loud when his parents are making him jump. Even as they pass by me, I keep looking at them.
I watch as the child leaves his parents’ hand before running towards the swing. The man wraps his arm around his wife’s waist with a smile and they walk towards their child. The child tries to climb the swing but unfortunately, he is too short to climb on his own. Seeing his struggle, his mother picks him up and places him on the swing while his father takes a stand behind him to give the swing a push.
I snap out of my daze and shake my head, why am I watching them? They are just a perfect family of three. Why did they attract my attention? There is nothing special. I glance at them before turning around and leaving without a backward glance. I much better things to do than to watch a family having their moment.
Thirty minutes later, I had to come to another stop when I notice someone on the side of the footpath. Since her back is turned towards me, I can’t see her face, all I can see is her black hair which is half covered from her black hat and her victorian-style black lace dress. Her head is titled up with her hand locked behind her back as she is watching petals fall. I can’t help myself but be drawn towards her. I don’t know why I am feeling like this.
She looks strange yet familiar. Slowly, I start taking large steps before stopping right behind her. What should I say? I don’t even know her name. How should I call her? I hesitate for few seconds before tapping on her shoulder.
I take in a shaky breath as soon as she turns around. She is beautiful. She has light brown skin and big brown eyes, one of the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. She reaches above my shoulder since she is wearing heels but I am sure she is shorter than my shoulder. She doesn’t say anything and looks at me curiously, waiting for me to say something.
“....Uhm” What should I say? I didn’t even think before calling her out.
She keeps looking at me waiting for me to say something. Suddenly my gaze falls on the petal stuck in her hair. I back at her face before slowly raising my hand. She doesn’t comment or say anything to stop me when I reach for the petal on her hair. I remove the petal but instead of drawing my hand back, I run my finger through her hair. Am I going crazy? Because it does look like that to me.
But I can’t control my actions as well. It’s like my hand have a mind of their own. She turns her head a little to watch my hand before looking back at me. After a minute, I tuck her hair behind her ear and pull my hand back reluctantly.
The next moment I feel something vibrating from my pocket which makes me look away. I put my hand in the pocket to grab whatever is causing the vibration. My hand stills for a second when I recognize the shape and surface of the thing in my pocket. Why is this here? I didn’t bring it with me. How did it come here?
I take out my ancestral watch and look at it for few seconds. the vibrations have stopped and everything looks normal. But it bothers me, why was it vibrating in the first place? It is such an old watch, it doesn’t even have a vibrating function. Then how did it vibrate?
While I am trying to figure out why is this watch here in the first place, all of sudden, the ticking needles stop. I down at the clock with furrowed brows, What happened to it now? Why did it stop? It was working fine until now. It had been working fine for the last seven generations, so why did break only now?
To my shock, the next moment, the needles start ticking anti-clockwise. What is wrong with this damn clock?
Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock.....
Before long the sound of the clock ticking becomes louder and louder till my ears are ringing before everything turns dark. The next time I open my eyes to find myself back in my room.
I stare blankly at the ceiling for the next few minutes and cover my eyes with my arm. “What the heck? Just what the heck was that?” I grumble to myself. What was that weird dream? What was all that about? And who was that girl?
I sit up and lean against the headboard as the comforter slides down and pools around my waist. I rub my face and let out a sigh. Pushing aside the grey curtains that are covering the bed, I step down while glancing at the clock on my bedside table. It is 8:05. Wait...8? It is already 8 am?
I turn around with a jerk to find the curtains of the windows already drawn open. It looks like I am late, Bentley must have done it but why didn’t he wake me up? He wakes me up at sharp 7 am? I walk back to the table and quickly press the intercom.
“Send Bentley in.”
By the time I am done with my bath, Bentley is already waiting for me inside the walk-in closet. Ignoring him for the time being, I reach to take out my shirt and pant. As I am buttoning up the last of the buttons of my shirt, I call him out.
“Bentley...why didn’t you wake me up? You knew I had an important meeting but you....” I look at him through the mirror. He meets my eye and his weary old face is in full view. Sometimes it amazes me how fast time passes, it is almost like only yesterday I saw him with his younger looks. Just how much time we have spent together.
“Your Grace, you went to bed late last night, I worried you are not getting enough sleep these days so I didn’t wake you up. I was going to wake you at 8:30....”
I stare at his face for a moment before looking away, “I appreciate your care but don’t do it again. You know I can’t afford that.”
“Yes, Your Grace.” He looks reluctant but he still willingly comply and leaves after a short bow.
I reach for the third drawer from the bottom and pull it open. My gaze swipe through all the watches before stopping at the one which haunted my dream. I garb the hand clock and feel its weight. I still can’t understand why this clock is so important besides being antique. I flip the clock to find the incarnation I have become familiar with in the last two weeks. I still can’t understand this language, I don’t even think there is such a language but why is this written here?
I caress the incarnation with my thumb. After a minute, I stop all my movements and put it back in its place before grabbing the watch I will be wearing today. Why am I wasting my time again? As soon as I am ready, I walk out of the room to find Bentley and Tanay waiting right outside my room.
I give them a nod and motion them to follow me. While on the way to the dining room, Bentley and Tanay make sure to remain 3 steps behind me. “Had he already arrived?”
“No, Your Grace,” Bentley answers me knowing who I am talking about.
“Yes, Your Grace?”
“Prepare the car, I will bring only 10 bodyguards for the inauguration, that will be more than enough. And we will back in one hour.”
“Yes, Your Grace, I will get it ready.”
I don’t even know why I have to go to an inauguration when I have so much work to do. Why did ‘he’ even prepare such a schedule for me? I cut off all my thoughts as soon as I reach the door of the dining room. After making sure to straighten myself, I push open the door. The dining room is bathed in the yellow light, penetrating through the large windows with a long dining table right in the middle which has more than 20 chairs, out of which 15 are already occupied.
I take my seat on the first seat on the right side of the head seat. I completely ignore my relatives’ stares and reach for the napkin. As I am placing the handkerchief, my eyes meet my uncle’s who is sitting directly in front of me. He gives a smile as a greeting, which looks as fake as his personality. I turn away from him without any acknowledgment. He should look at the mirror and practice his smile again. It is too unconvincing.
“It looks like you are not in a good mood, Your Grace,” I look back at him when he continues, ” you came late, and now you didn’t even greet me properly. Stress me getting to you, after all, you are carrying more responsibilities you can handle. I can show you how everything works if you need help. Don’t hesitate to ask me, okay? We are family after all.”
“..Thank you for your support, it looks like you keeping a close watch on me since you are free these days, aren’t you? You must have been happy, being relieved from your post, you can consider this early retirement...even if it is due to a corruption case.” I say as one corner of my lips rises in a smirk. While my second uncle is busy biting his lips, I throw a glance around the dining table to find my cousins, not to my surprise, trying to control their snickers.
I draw my gaze back and continue, “And though I would like to ask for your help, I am afraid since our positions are different, you might not be able to help me after all. But I am deeply grateful for you trying to help me, u-n-c-l-e.”
As soon as I finish my sentence, I hear the sound of the door opening and the room is full of scraping noise the next second. I stand up with others without throwing even a single glance towards the door. Once the sound of footsteps stops near the head seat, we all get seated.
Soon the room is filled with the clatter of fork and knife and whispers as the silence in the background continue. Once I am done, I wipe my mouth from the corner of the napkin and throw it gently on the table. I stand up and incline my head towards the person known as my father, who is currently sitting on the head seat without acknowledging my greeting, before taking my leave.
As soon as I am out of the door, Tanay joins me and we both make our way to the front exit. During the ride, I scroll through the report sent by Juan in peace but my peace is disrupted once the car reaches the stop. The sound of people shouting, the sound of shutters and flashes surround me, cornering me from all sides as I step out of the car with my most practiced smile.
Here we go again.