Disease and Deceit
Even her mother cried out. I gently hugged the girl. Because she stood on the stairs, we were face to face. She possessed a very pretty pair of eyes resembling amethyst gems. There was a shimmering light in her eyes. She looked pale as a sheet; her trembling lips were so pale that they looked as though they were camouflaged. My reflection appeared in her originally lifeless and empty eyes. She had hot flushes on her face for the first time due to shyness and surprise. She didn’t remove her hands from around my neck. She looked into my eyes. Though scared and surprised, she eventually muttered, “Thank you…”
I shook my head: “It’s all right.”
I took a small step back and let go of her. She wasn’t much older than Leah. She was probably around fourteen or fifteen. She had an immature sense of maturity. Her mother looked in our direction, and let out a breath of relief. She smiled and apologised, “Sorry, Mister. My daughter is not very healthy.”
“It is all right. Miss, please sit.”
I took a step back. The girl embarrassingly glanced at me then took small steps over to the table and sat down. As soon as she sat down, she immediately picked up the handkerchief on the table to cover her mouth. She looked as though she was in excruciating pain when she coughed. Her small body looked as though it’d crumble due to her coughing. She coughed blood and panted. It was as if her lungs were damaged wind encasement, and she was coughing out the rest of her organs.
The girl gasped for air one last time. She almost passed out from lack of oxygen. She let go of her handkerchief, which then glided to the ground. Her lips appeared redder, not because she had recovered but because of the blood. There were traces of blood resembling plum flowers on her handkerchief. Concerned, her mother went up to her side. She gently stroked her back and softly asked, “Ascilia, Ascilia, are you all right? Can you manage?”
I stated, “It’s all right; I don’t mind. Miss, if you’re not feeling well, head on back and rest.”
Ascilia pressed her hand to her chest and desperately tried to regain the oxygen she lost. I could clearly hear her lungs gasping for air. She was so frail I thought she’d fall over. Nevertheless, she extended her arm out to stop her mom from lifting her up by her arm. Her mother froze in place. Ascilia tightly grabbed onto her mom’s body. After panting, she slowly sat back down. A task as simple as sitting seemingly cost the girl all of her energy.
The girl straightened up her posture and carefully touched her teacup. She was only capable of picking up a teacup that was half full, and it took her both hands to ensure it wouldn’t drop even with two hands. She gently pursed her lips into a smile. In a quiet voice, she said, “This gentleman returned my handkerchief to me. If I leave without expressing my gratitude, it would be rude of me.”
Ascilia’s mother looked at her daughter with disbelief. Ascilia wore a sorrowful smile. Voice soft, she said, “Thank you very much… for returning my handkerchief… It has been a very long time… since somebody showed me such a gentlemanly gesture… You are not afraid of me, correct?”
I shook my head: “I am not. I am only shy in front of such a pretty girl. I am not afraid.”
“R-Really…? I have been ill… for a very long time. Nobody says I am pretty anymore.” Ascilia pursed her lips then gave into her urge and softly giggled.
Thus, she covered her shy face with her teacup. Any girl, Ascilia in particular, would like being complimented as looking pretty. It had been a long time since she last spoke to someone outside of her home. For a girl at her age, she probably had a severe inferiority complex, as her friends and neighbours all left. That probably torments her more than her pain.
I responded, “I am not trying to just make you feel good. I am being sincere. I, too, have a daughter; I hope she will grow up to be as pretty as you.”
Although I don’t deny I was trying to make her feel and ingratiate myself with her, I was right. If Ascilia’s condition didn’t torment her, she’d most likely be a gorgeous girl. At the moment, I just wanted to get in their good books. They were both the pope’s family members. Therefore, I reasoned they might know some of his secrets. There were no secrets to speak of between family members, especially when the pope deeply loved his family. If I could pry some information out of them, I’d be able to figure out what the chapel was after.
Ascilia’s mother looked at me with a smile and, in a somewhat nostalgic tone, said, “It has been a very long time since someone came to our place. Usually, all of Ascilia’s friends would be here.”
“I am very happy to have Mister here, as well,” said Ascilias, shooting her mother a reproaching gaze. She then quickly turned to me. She seemed to be afraid I’d misunderstand. She pointed at herself and explained, “Ever since I fell ill, everyone believed I was cursed. They did not want to approach me. I, too, do not want for them to come close to me… as somebody really did die, because of me… That said, that said, I really did feel quite lonely. I am truly very happy you are not afraid of me and are willing to chat with me.”
It took a lot out of Ascilia to speak. Perhaps her condition was the reason it took a lot out of her to speak. She almost passed out after saying so much in one go. Her mother asked, “I have never seen you before, Mister. You are from…?”
“I am from the North. I am with Lord Veirya. I, mm… am a businessman, I guess.”
“The… North?” asked Ascilia’s mother, reacting slightly awkwardly. She then struggled to say, “So, you are… a heretic, right?”
“Mom!” Before I could reply, Ascilia reprimanded her mom. She added, “Mom, what are you saying? He… is with the warrior, Lord Veirya. How could he be a heretic? He… should… be another adventurer who defeated the Demon King.”
“You’re right… You’re right… Please forgive my rudeness. Nonetheless, since you are from the North, you… you must be connecting with the elves?’
I could tell Ascilia’s mother was emotional. She was supposed to apologise to me, but it didn’t concern her in the moment. She cared more about what relationship I had with the elves.
Based off the lady’s tone, the elves could treat her daughter, apparently. The elves possessed highly-advanced medical skills. My foot and Veirya’s back were easily treated thanks to them, which meant that the girl’s lung disease should’ve been curable. The bigger problem was that Lucia wouldn’t come over. Lucia was currently taking part in a revolution in the elven lands. I knew Lucia wouldn’t come, but the lady didn’t… Lying to the ill was immoral, but since when did I ever care?
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