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With the last drop of the wine that fell into his glass, Leonard kept aside the empty bottle which was mostly poured into Vivian's glass.
The wine was a gift from one of his fellow councillors, who had gifted him on the completion of a certain job when he had travelled down to Mythweald. It was a wine made for vampires with a higher amount of intoxication if one consumed it as normal alcohol didn't work for the pureblooded vampires. It wasn't his intention to get her drunk to take advantage but there was something he wanted to confirm from his end.
Vivian wasn't an ordinary human, with the recent knowledge he had acquired from Sister Isabelle, he had concluded her to be a healer. Rarest of all kinds. But before drawing any conclusion he wanted to make sure what he found was true.
And just as he thought, the wine had no effect on her.
Leonard had limited himself to not more than a glass. Pureblooded vampire or not, the wine would hit straight to the mind if he took more than two glasses, therefore, limiting only to one. Vivian looked calm and serene, her delicate fingers holding the knife and when she caught him staring at her, the knife slipped from her fingers making a sound of clatter against the plate.
"Sorry," she murmured as the sound of the utensil took up the entire space of the room. In realization, she said, "What about Nelson?"
"He's having it in the carriage," In the cold? thought Vivian to herself. They were inside the mansion and yet it was cold. She wondered how the coachman was holding out in the air, "Don't concern yourself with other things when I am with you, Bambi."
"I didn't say anything more..." she trailed to receive a pointed look from him.
"I don't like anyone else occupying your mind," he said not adding the 'but me' in his words. Taking the last bite from his plate before placing down the knife and fork.
Just because he was lenient and close with her, that didn't mean it held the same for the rest of his staff who worked for him. Vivian was an exception. Leonard might have been raised in a family where his mother taught him to be kind to the people who were lower to him but he was also influenced by his Uncle, Sullivan Carmichael who held no regard to the humans or the lowly vampires.
While he picked the napkin off his lap, dabbing it gently on his mouth, Vivian couldn't help but look away from him to place her gaze on the oversized window where they could see snow fall outside.
"Does it always snow here?" she asked curiously. Surely they were still in Bonelake as they hadn't traveled that far but the weather here was questionable. It wasn't even close to Winter to snow, "It started snowing after the second lord passed away," she saw him nod.
This further piqued her curiosity for the mansion.
"Can we take a stroll in the mansion later on?"
"Anything you want," he offered her a sweet smile to which she responded back with a happy one, "There's no hurry," he commented when he saw her trying to complete her meal quickly after seeing his empty plate.
As they took a walk around the mansion both Leonard and Vivian took hold of the lanterns, carrying them as Vivian explored the mansion. All the doors were unlocked, leaving it open and free to open. It was a surprise that thieves didn't know about this place where they could reside in luxury. Apart from the terrace which was filled with the magic of its own, the rest of the mansion looked dull and dark. Portraits of the previous lord along with his family were still on the walls.
Coming on the next painting which had only the second lord, a look of confoundedness passed her feature. Staring at it she bit her lip.
Leonard who had been looking at the previous portrait turned to find Vivian staring at one of the paintings with a dumbfounded expression. Coming to stand next to her, he chuckled,
"Interesting painting, isn't it?"
"Ah yes," she answered, bringing her lantern closer to the portrait to have a much better look at it.
All the painted portraits she had come across were the kinds where the lord was either standing in his majestic chair or standing high and mighty. One could hardly say that he was human but then it was the painter who had painted what he saw. They were family paintings, but never did she see a child in it. Maybe he didn't have any offsprings of his own.
The one she now stood in front of was entirely different than the others or rather she would say unique. It wasn't a smiling or a proud lord in the portrait but a shocked mixed fear which looked quite out of place.
"The painter never reproduced this one in front of the lord but can you blame the guy for doing what he was supposed to do. In fear of being beheaded, he hid this one where no one would find, right below in the dungeons where the paintings took place which was accessible only to the painter and the lord of course," Leonard explained to her as they moved ahead while she gave one last look at the painting, "The painting was brought out and hung here when they were cleaning the mansion after his death. It is something to think about."
"He looks scared," she commented.
"That he does."
"What do you think made him react like that?"
"Unfortunately, no one has ever found an answer to that painting. One of the council back then had been so intrigued about it that he had gone in search of the painter to only find out that he had killed himself," Leonard took her through the passage of walls that led down to the dungeon.
"Why?" Vivian frowned in question.
"Who knows. There have been a series of speculation on what might have happened for him to react that way but in the end, it's nothing but theories. Careful inside," he said leading her to a room which smelt strongly of paint, turpentine, and dust, "Welcome to the painting room."
She jumped in fright when a spider hung not far from her face. Breathing in and out to calm herself, she took a wooden stick that laid on the ground to move the cobwebs in her way.
"This room hasn't been cleaned," she stated in knowledge, with the amount of dust and cobwebs that were collected, she wondered who had last stepped in here.
"Can't complain about it. With the way it looks I doubt even a vampire would step in," she heard Leonard speak, turning back to where he currently stood, she caught sight of a skeleton that sat on the ground.
"Why isn't the person buried," she whispered to him as if the skeleton would hear her if she spoke a little louder.
"It was written in the will of the Lord that nothing was to be touched. The council respects the dead," he said bending down to look at the skeleton, "Frankly I am not sure at all," he sighed, "Rules and edicts were different a few centuries ago unlike now which are more straightforward that can't be bent."
Nodding her head, Vivian stepped forward that she came to face another spider which was an inch away from her, this time giving her a fright before she fell flat on her bottom.
"Ow. There are too many spiders here," she exclaimed sitting on the dusty ground.
"Are you okay?" Leonard offered her his hand.
Vivian caught hold of his hand while unconsciously she placed her hand on the skeleton's leg that was spread long making her scream suddenly. Fortunately, Leonard had already pulled her up and he had pulled her close to him in a protective stance.
Not knowing what happened, he offered her comfort, "Shh, you're alright," he rubbed her head while looking around to see if there was anything suspicious but he could neither see or feel anything here.
Did she see a bigger spider? He was well aware that she wasn't fond of those little creatures when they were little it was the easiest way to scare her. As sadistic approach it was, it was one of the effective ways when he had to make her do things.
Though right now he doubted it was the case, especially with the way she shivered in his arms.
Stepping back into the hall which was burning with lit candles around them, Leonard didn't let go of Vivian's hand. She looked obviously shaken about something she had seen and though he wanted to inquire on it, he decided to give her some time.
Letting go of her coat for a moment, he removed his jacket to put it over her shoulder before holding her hand again to walk outside the mansion. The carriage wasn't parked far from the entrance, and Leonard didn't bother to wait for his coachman to pull it over.
Upon seeing the Duke and the girl approaching the carriage, the coachman was quick to jump on the ground to open the carriage door for the couple.
The entire way back to the Carmichael mansion was filled with silence. Vivian had stopped shivering from whatever had triggered her. Leonard noticed her staring at the front of their seat unmovingly. She looked deeply lost in her thoughts.
When they returned back to the mansion, Vivian couldn't describe how safe she felt here. Away from the mansion where she had experienced something she felt she wasn't supposed to. On her way to her room, maids gave her many looks, some that were blank while some that looked at her scornfully which she didn't notice with her occupied mind.
Opening the door to her room, she turned the knob to lock it. Once she was done changing to her nightgown, she wiped her face with the container of water that was kept at the side of the room. As she pulled the cover of her bed, a firm knock was heard on her door. Opening it, it was none other than Leonard himself who hadn't changed his clothes since the time they had returned. Leonard didn't have to say for Vivian to know the reason he had arrived at her door at this hour of the night.
"Were you about to sleep?" he asked, seeing the covers that looked untidy on the bed. She nodded her head.
"I will have to wake up early for tomorrow's work."
"That won't be required," he stated coming into her room, "I need to go visit Lord Nicholas at his mansion and would like it if you would accompany me there."
"I wouldn't mind," she answered mustering a small smile.
"You wouldn't mind if I tucked you in, would you?" this made her laugh.
"I am not a child, Leo," she reminded him.
"I am aware," he responded back, nonetheless helping her to bed, "I am sure we have established the fact of you not being a child more than once now," he gave her a look that reminded her of the time when they had kissed, "Comfortable?" he asked her.
"More than anything," her reply brought in a sweet ache in his chest.
"You'll be much more comfortable in the future," he said without hiding his thoughts that replaced her worried thoughts in a complete embarrassment.
"You don't think you'll be sleeping here forever now, do you? As much as I like the space here where I can reach you, I would rather have you sleeping in my bed," he stated as if he were talking about what she was supposed to wear.
Leonard knew it would be selfish of him to ask her to move suddenly to his room when her feelings were only settling down for him. He had waited for a long time and if she needed a little more time, he would give it to her.
He took a seat on the bed. His hand moved up to her head, brushing the errant strands away from her face gently as he stared at her black eyes. Her eyes didn't look dilated in fear anymore and her heart beats were steady, beating in a rhythm he was used to hearing from her.
And then he heard her ask, "Won't you ask me what happened there?" embarrassed she tried changing the conversation.
"I will wait until you're comfortable to speak about it. There's no rush," he assured her.
"Why are you so nice...sometimes," she added to see one side of his lips curl.
"Because it's you."
She turned to her side to see him without having the need to crane her neck. Vivian hadn't thought about a few matters that deeply but as time had passed in the recent days, she had come to realize that Leo had always been special and she didn't share the same bond with anyone else. The more she acknowledged the fact the more it made her heart flutter when he was around.
His smooth blonde hair fell right over his dark blooded eyes looked gentle and patient as they gazed down at her. Done with brushing her hair away, he returned his hand to place it back on his lap. Drops of rain began hitting on her window and the roof above in a pitter-patter fashion, camouflaging every other sound in the surrounding.
"Can the new rules wash away the old ones?" she asked.
"Some can and some can't be changed. Is it with regard to the mansion? Skeleton?" very slowly she moved her head up and down. Pushing her hand on the hard mattress, Vivian sat up to face Leo with the covers coming to fall on her lap.
"I think the skeleton needs to buried. The person's soul...the soul has been tortured enough," Leonard raised his brows at her words.
"Why would you say that?" he coaxed her for an answer.
Vivian swallowed the saliva down her dry throat, gathering her thoughts before she opened her mouth to speak, "When I touched the skeleton, I, I saw something," she drew in a deep, her eyes shifting away from his, "There was blood, too much blood all across the floor a-and torn flesh..." she trailed unable to recollect her memory at the sight of it. She closed her eyes, "Even though it was for the briefest time, I couldn't watch it," she shook her head. If she had previously thought she had witnessed gore and blood, what she had seen today was far worse.
Why did she see it? Leonard had seen nothing yet she had seen something, like something that had been hidden and wasn't to be known.
When she looked up to meet his eyes, he softly sighed, "You're special, Vivian. I don't know how or why but you aren't like the rest."
"What do you mean?" she frowned.
"Our world has many different kinds. Kinds we are familiar with and kinds that aren't known by common people. Humans, white witches, black witches, vampires, pureblooded vampires," he began to which she interrupted.
"I'm a white witch?" her words were filled with curiosity.
Leonard shook his head, "No. You're a different kind. A kind that is extinct. A healer."
"Yes. I don't have much information on it but as the name states, you can heal people. That's your answer for the incident that took place in the market place, the wound you spoke about."
"I don't think it's true," she shook her head.
"You cannot heal yourself though. You can heal anyone but yourself, Vivian but the more you do it, the shorter your life will turn out to be. Consider it to be something where you're giving your life to fix someone else's," he explained to Vivian who looked confused right now as she tried to take in the revelation, "As healers belong to the rare kind, exposing your abilities would put you into trouble. Witches, councilmen, vampires, there's no saying who will try to hunt you down. Please refrain from using it," though his reason was true, on the major side he didn't want her life to be shortened. Hunt? thought Vivian as the blood drained out of her face, turning her pale, "The vision, it must have something to do with being a healer."
"Okay," she nodded.
How could she be something she never was? After all, she was a human all this time. Opening the palm of her hands, she looked down to see that nothing had changed.
"I think I need to find where I came from," though she had murmured, Leonard had heard it clearly.
"Let me help you with it then," and she gave him a small smile of agreement.
"Come here," he said, opening his arms wide. Call it to be the way the mood of the night was as Vivian hesitate to get close to him, "You don't have to worry about anything, Vivi. No matter how things turn out I will always stay by your side," with his arms around her she hugged him.
"Thank you, Leo" came her small voice. It was still something to process about, maybe if she could find from where she came, it would answer the questions she had in mind. After a while, she then spoke, "I think something really bad happened in there," she whispered, talking about the mansion.
"A lot of things happen which we don't get to see. Let me try digging into it and see what I find," he offered, knowing she wouldn't be able to rest with having this matter unresolved, "Sleep now," he kissed the top of her head.