Chapter 80 – Burnt into Ashes
If word got around about the situation, it would bring a positive impact on her and Lucius’s public image. It was also a good way to clear up the misunderstanding about Lucius. Of course, it wasn’t only for that. The main priority of this gathering was to spend time with the kids, as an additional part of her duty as a duchess. She was thinking of this as a precursor before she started her social activities.
“What are you so worried about, Viscount Grassel? They said it will be fine,” convinced Lona.
“Oh! Since you mentioned it earlier, please buy some of the snacks that you bought for the kids before.”
“Yes, understood. Now let my arm go…”
“Please watch your feet and don’t slip, Director Ezac.”
“You are supporting me, Viscount Grassel, so I am alright.”
“You are not alright.”
Kenil couldn’t control the hideous look in his eyes when he saw the burnt-out Lona holding onto the viscount’s shoulder. Whether she knew what Kenil was thinking or not, she smirked at him as the viscount struggled to pull her arm off of him, avoiding his stare.
It seemed that the viscount knew Kenil had feelings for Lona. Though Lona never seemed to notice. Seeing her unexpected friendly behavior to Viscount Grassel, this smelled like a love triangle.
Lucius whispered to her as he studied the trio.
“There is something weird going on between them.”
“You felt it too? Anyhow, it looks like they have an interesting relationship.”
“Like a… love triangle?”
“Huh?” She turned to look at him quickly. “You know what that is?”
As the shocked Tiana stared at Lucius after the random phrase came out of his mouth, he flinched and slightly avoided her gaze.
“I just heard about it once, and it just popped up in my mind.”
“You heard? From who?”
I knew it. Siblings. Somehow Alexandra seemed closer to Lucius than Rael. If she had told him what a love triangle was, then she must have read the Lady Series books Tiana had found in the study a while back. Tiana’s chest felt like it would burst as she wanted to ask him about it, but seeing his face redden told her it wouldn’t be so easy. Maybe she shouldn’t mention the Lady Series books after all…
“Shall we head to the restaurant?”
She smiled and held her hand out to him, making him look away from the three weirdos in front of them. The moment they backed up; a voice cried out.
“F-f-fire! It’s on fire!”
All five of them turned their heads to where the voice had come from. Black smoke rose from the back of the botanical garden, the flames blazing red beneath it.
“In th-the g-garden! I think the fire’s coming from the flower garden!”
“How… The kids!” Tiana gasped.
“No!” Lona looked at the rising black smoke with wide teary eyes and ran towards the garden.
“Director Ezac!” Kenil followed close behind her. Tiana instantly bolted after them too.
Shocked, Lucius ran after her, and Viscount Grassel chased after him.
Tiana had heard him call out her name, but she didn’t stop running. When she ran around the corner leading to the flower garden, looking only at the black smoke and flames, what she discovered was not a beautiful flower garden but charred flowers and howling children running through the flames. The blooming flowers were now completely swallowed by the fire, and there was soot everywhere.
“It’s too dangerous!” Viscount Grassel said to her before yelling for his companion, “Director Ezac!”
“Children, th-there are still children over there.”
“He’s right. It’s too dangerous.”
With all his might, Kenil was holding back Lona who was about to jump in the raging fire. As Tiana followed her gaze and looked into the fire, the kids who couldn’t escape were crouching with painful expressions.
Lucius followed her gaze and softly said, “Tiana, you can’t.”
“Lucius…” She still took a step forward
Before she could realize it, he grabbed the back of her dress and pulled her. With his face stiffened, he then grabbed her body that was still trying to move forward.
“Go and help the kids who can’t escape the flames, and put out the fire.” He ordered the knights that followed them for safety.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
At the grand duke’s request, they helped the employees of the botanical garden put out the fire.
“Lucius… the kids, the garden…”
“They will be alright. They are working to extinguish it, so it will be under control soon.”
“But those children…”
“The knights went to save them. It will all be okay.”
“No, it won’t. There, and over there, there are lots of kids who cannot get out. I have to do something. I have to…”
“Tiana, don’t worry too much, it’ll be okay.”
She couldn’t control her trembling body. Words kept flowing out of her mouth. The rising flames were scary and she was out of breath as if they were encroaching on her, but her head was filled with images of children crying in pain. Someone had to save them.
Her trembling body felt the need to break free from Lucius, but his hand wouldn’t let her go. Holding his hand tightly, she couldn’t stop her tears from falling. Seeing her condition, Lucius bit his lip.
“I will go. I will go save those kids.” He said after much thought. “But you stay here. Don’t move a muscle until I come back.”
“Understand? Do not go anywhere else.”
When Tiana nodded reluctantly, he hugged her again, pulled out his sword hanging on his waist, and ran into the flames.
Suddenly feeling very empty, she wrapped her arms around herself. She watched, anxiously staring at the fire that was still burning. Standing in a chaotic flower garden, she was very angry at herself for not doing anything.
What the hell was I thinking sending him alone into the fire? She looked down at her shaky hands and clenched her jaw. Everyone was risking their lives trying to save the kids, but I’m just standing here doing what? I know more than anyone else here how dangerous and scary a fire is!
Slowly she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them back up, her hands were still shaking, but she was much calmer than earlier. Lucius had told her to stay put, but she couldn’t just stand there and not do anything. While looking around for some water or anything she could grab to at least try to put the fire out, she heard a small voice from the side of the tree between the slightly decreasing flames.
“Help! H-help… me!”