North x Northwest - Chapter 148
Volume 5 Chapter 148
Translators – Pru and Formidable
The faint curve portrayed a figure in deep sleep. It was a woman whose face was half buried in her pillow. The lit-up hairline was most likely caused by a close lantern. The light flowed over her forehead, down to her closed eyelids, and eventually to her cheeks. The bridge of her nose pierced the pillow. As Lil’s gaze went down as if to touch the figure, she got the impression that Ed had purposely drawn it that way. Lil inadvertently looked at the woman’s lips, and her face heated up. There were dense wrinkles on her parted wet lips, and the smooth teeth peeked through the gap with her tongue slightly visible.
‘What the hell was Ed thinking when he saw and drew such a detailed scene? The expression stimulates my senses even though it’s the face of someone fast asleep and oblivious to the world around her…’
It was sensual enough to make Lil’s cheeks flush. Lil lifted her head out of wonder.
‘Who the hell did you draw, and why is it as detailed as this…’
“Don’t tell me…”
Lil stuttered and lowered her eyes again. She needed to check if the face indeed belonged to a woman. Despite seeing the figure’s hair hanging down her neck and shoulders, such figurative confirmation didn’t help.
‘Her gender is clear enough to be recognised even at first glance. This could never be a man…’
Lil flipped to the previous page so forcefully that she almost ripped it out.
‘Bellus on the back of a whale shark…’
The hand holding the page slowly moved again. Lil’s sweat was making the pages damp, and her heart raced nervously as if she was seeing something she wasn’t supposed to see.
‘It’s on the next page, which means that he drew this after meeting Bellus. In that case, it doesn’t make any sense. No, this drawing itself doesn’t make sense! This figure belongs to a woman who couldn’t possibly exist anywhere in this sketchbook. She never should have been like this….’
“…That woman is me…”
Lil had no idea what her own face looked like whenever she has the necklace on, but she was certain it wasn’t the face she was seeing. This sketch was clearly ‘Liloa’.
“How did this… happen…”
Lil flipped through several pages again.
‘There’s nothing more to it. Only this portrait. This is all that’s given to me.’
Her heart felt constricted as if she was trapped inside the drawing.
Lil pulled the necklace over her shirt, feeling the presence of the crude jewel clearly.
‘I can see a string around the neck of the sleeping woman in the sketch. While there’s no guarantee that it had been like that in reality because it’s merely a drawing, the necklace’s presence or absence doesn’t matter to me. Ed knew who I was even though he pretended not to. And I have no idea when or why it happened…
Could it have been from the beginning? Was there no difference between the courtesan from Amiaeng and Lil Schweiz for Ed? No, he thought the Captain of the Bell Rock was a man. He acted that way in public, and his actions towards ‘Lil’ were all as expected, too. He couldn’t have been treating the Captain that way if he had recognized me as a woman from the start. Then he must’ve been perplexed as to why the gender had shifted.
… Or did he realise it was due to magic?’
Hm… However, the necklace has always been covered by my shirt. I’ve never shown it to him … I did say I had something to find when we were kidnapped by the Western pirates, but I never mentioned anything about the necklace… It’s nothing more than my own speculation that he detected it was magic even though he didn’t know the medium. Is that kind of magic even possible? As far as I know, only artefacts possess powers… No, I can’t rush to conclusions in fields I’m unfamiliar with. I never really believed Ed’s stories, but he might’ve heard ancient tales on his way to and from the Imperial Clairaut. If that’s the case, Ed held more knowledge about ancient history than I thought. It’s a side of him I know too little about…
Then, there’s another possibility…
Did he… did he come to find ‘Liloa’ in the first place? While looking for Liloa, he met a woman wearing a strange disguise in Amiaeng and found out about my identity. If he did, it’s questionable why he didn’t immediately grab me by the hair and drag me away… Well, he might’ve wondered what I’ve been up to while I pretended to be dead. And he may have wanted to check those involved. But then there’s no way he didn’t recognise Cesar… Why would someone like him even be sent to find me if he’s that dull and ignorant?’
Anxiety surged all the way to Lil’s toes.
‘Has my relationship with Cesar been discovered? No one is eager enough to find me, but some people will establish justification according to their needs. Whom can it be? Which one of them is it? Mireille? Obernyu? The Imperial family? If so, it’s foreseeable that Cesar won’t be left alone either. Even the Lemoine family could be damaged. They’ll all fear the leak of my bloodline the most, so these people won’t stand still since they’re from prestigious families… They’ll go out of their way to find out if there’s an illegitimate child, even if they have to search the Lemoine house…’
Lil wiped her face nervously.
‘Count Lemoine, Lady Maribella, Amelia, Ellen and Dylan. The entire family will be in danger…’
Lil knew how much Cesar cared for them. Until the first year of their relationship, not a day got by without him talking about them.
‘Cesar’s and Count Lemoine’s story is extraordinary. Cesar was the second son who stood out too much but voluntarily postponed his marriage to give way to his older brother. Without settling down, he devoted his teenage years rigorously to the fleet and refused to be promoted to senior officer. Those actions really showed his humanity.
That’s also why Cesar never asked for a child, even though he loved children and envied his older brother who has three, both daughters and a son. He naturally wished to have children of his own, but he had been patiently holding back till his brother had completely settled down. After abandoning all of his loved ones, of course, he’d still worry about them until the very end…’
The reason Lil came up with wasn’t an implausible one either, because her children would have the right of succession. For most people, the meaning of ‘Liloa’ was no wider than her womb.
‘So, did Ed stick around all this time to check if I had a child? What the hell did he want from me? He’s someone who gets to eat well and live well, so what else was there in it for him?
…No, no… How many times have I already killed Ed? Doubt truly is a scary thing. How can I treat someone who is dead like this?’
Lil grabbed the slanderous thoughts and threw them out.
‘It’s only been a few hours since I vowed to prove his innocence, but now I’m adding more dirt to the pile again.’
She felt so guilty that she couldn’t even lift her head.
‘I can’t guess Sesbron’s dark intentions from far away…’
Lil needed to bring her mind back to a reality that she did know, instead of speculating over something she had no knowledge about. And that reality was Ed.
‘If you think about it, Ed was well aware of my appearance, eyes, and other body parts that are unique to a woman’s. It reminds me of that strange gaze I had felt from him that one time and his overly gentle attitude towards me as a man. It was strange, overindulgent behaviour… Was it all because of this? If he saw his opponent as a woman all along, everything starts to make sense…’
Lil realised she had become overly reliant on her artefact. Although she was once sceptical of mysterious jewels, she now believed in them as a spiritual human believed in God. Because of this, she missed such an easy answer even when it was right in front of her. She never for a moment thought that the magical curtain could’ve been lifted and had naively been wondering if Ed was interested in a man.
– Slam! –
The fist that hit the desk trembled, and papers fluttered at the force. She felt so pathetic that she couldn’t stand it. Lil glared at the drawing of her face, her eyes shown to be closed in peace without a care in the world. A woman in a rare, deep sleep.
‘Why did Ed draw this? Why did he pretend to be asleep without waking me up until morning came? He didn’t even have the perfume. If he knew he was in danger, he should’ve let me out of his room as soon as possible. But I can’t figure out why he wasted his time doing this. Did he want to keep an eye on me? Did he want to make me sleep longer so that he could draw a picture of me like this? Did he risk his life because of that?
Or was he simply a fool?
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