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LoaMR: Ch.XIX: Léonard and Monique 7

by MailicedeNamedy


It had been Julius' idea to leave Valdebourg, and it was Claire who led the way. A small village on the slopes of two mountains lay to the west of the town. They were separated by a narrow and dangerous ridge and the Ice Lake.

The three of them wanted to understand the world better. The three of them wanted to forget everything. Emma panicked. A wild, lost fear returned that she never had in her life. She could hardly grasp the story and was surprised at his background after she realised who this Haarmann was. She had only seen him for minutes at the Melaten estate and yet he was a man whose face stuck in her mind.

It posed a threat. The abbey knew where Léonard and Monique lived. The estate hidden in the Northern Tree Line was no longer a safe place since he had sent out the invitation cards.

"I wouldn't write to him now," Julius suggested, "If you tell him everything, you'll get into trouble. I don't know how your father deals with such news -" ("He probably takes it as a joke.") "-but he shouldn't worry. It would complicate everything."

"You're right."

The sweet smell of honey was on a road. Their journey through the normality of time took them to a hut of the village beekeeper. His pungent yellow creations gave the incentive to drink warm milk. It was a good thing because it distracted her. Claire could switch off. What had happened yesterday had become a nebulous dream. Other scenarios opened her up, which became a counter-offensive. Léonard saved her, her father, or she herself showed courage and could confront Haarmann.

"Grandpa often brought back delicious honey. Mr. Fink sells it at the market," Emma explained, "With the hot milk you can fall asleep right away."

She raved about the great fairy tales her grandfather had read to her in the evenings.

"Honey reminds me of a forest," Julius chattered calmly, "I don't know why, but it just reminds me of it."

An old couple took a seat at the table next door. As the beekeeper mentioned to the couple, the stag's antlers hung above them, indicating a hunt.

"Giselle likes honey. I'm not a big fan of it. It tastes sticky..."

"That's why it's honey, Claire."

"I know. I don't like it very much."

"What do you like?"

"Any kind of berries. They are delicious! Auntie always brought some, depending on her mood. Sometimes it was currants, raspberries, strawberries... I'm sure there's not an untasted one left in the world."

"Beyond our vegetation zones exist fruits and animals we cannot imagine," Julius spoke, "Have you tried bananas?"

"This is that crooked yellow fruit?"

"Right. Very tasty and an ideal hunger suppressant. They are rare to find. They are expensive."

"Auntie had once brought cranberries. They were extremely sour.”

"I've never heard of a cranberry,” Emma said.

"I could never bring you any, I had eaten them all by myself," Claire grinned.

Julius laughed heartily.

"I don't remember hearing about such a fruit."

***

They listened to the visitors to the hut and recognised the everyday conversations and concerns of the people. It was a good time. The friendliness on the part of the trio rubbed off on the surroundings. It was sunny and cold. Snow lay on the hilltops, autumn leaves landed on the ground. Children were playing with them.

The new school year had long started. It was a liberating and oppressive way for Claire to think back on those years. It gave her the security to learn something every day and take a monotonous tour of her life every day.

The sun was smiling at her when a letter for Claire had appeared. At a turbulent pace, almost knocking Monique over, she had disappeared into her room with Daphne's letter.

She was fine. She was in Vaubourg and now travelling to Sagauvela City for quite a while. Besides her amazement and eagerly continuing Léonard's story, she explained that it was good that Rothmann was forwarding the mail, so he would start keeping the flat clean as well.

Claire was on fire to write Daphne back. Finished with a new letter as long as a log, Emma had almost kicked the door in. A snowstorm had turned the view out the windows into a white, impenetrable landscape. Claire had to take part in this spectacle of nature. Her friend liked the white splendour that lit up the world every year.

Regenschloss often had snow. The Hedera was barely a hundred miles from them and rarely offered shelter from the oncoming storms from the ice desert.

***

Claire was missing something.

She didn't know what and that feeling wasn't lost when Léonard enthusiastically invited her and the others to go out for dinner. Even at the restaurant, a pretty location on the Flio. The river followed the course downhill, past Vogtstadt to the Great Lake. The prevailing snow blindness required one man to fall into the cold water although there was iron protection. Valdebourg puzzled over it the next day.

"We're only autumn," laughed Léonard after the little banquet.

She was glad to be outside. Claire did not tolerate all this spontaneity. Going out to eat without a reason was an offence, she believed. Everything must have a reason. Name day, birthday, funeral, wedding... something...

"You never played the violin in my presence."

Monique was behind the three of them as Claire fell into a sombre mood away from them.

"No."

Monique was an appendage. Just like herself. She had rarely spoken to her and didn't know what to make of her. Monique was Léonard's fiancée, of course, but she didn't seem to be anything more. She was the one who brought him back down to earth when he had his unrealistic ideas. Probably even before their time in the Eternal Realm, she was the one who believed the facts rather than his wild-eyed thoughts.

"Mandolin is a beautiful instrument. It's a pity I forgot to bring it, otherwise, we could be a duet."

"I prefer to play alone," Claire said tersely, "It's where I can keep my rhythm."

"It brings out the imagination more."

The light snow swept the last people into their houses. The path seemed empty as the five of them walked down the promenade.

"Did you teach yourself?"

"Yes. Shortly after we moved to Melaten."

"How did you come across this building?" asked Claire awkwardly.

"Everyone knew about it - at that time. When we reached it, it was very run down and dirty. It took us almost a month to get everything up to scratch!" laughed Monique, "Do you have a big house in Regenschloss?"

"Hm, I think so. It seems so... foreign when I think about it."

The first house in her mind was Lime Avenue in Berlyne. Only then came Hadewych Street in Regenschloss.

"Everyone has different views on it, don't they?"

"Why Melaten?"

"I guess it was the seclusion and the touch of freedom."

"It was a hospital," Claire interrupted.

"That too means freedom," Monique smiled childishly.

They stood by the river and looked at the black shimmer. Chunks of ice lay on both banks. Behind them, Léonard began to form a snowball and hit Julius. It became noisy and the conversation between the two women was interrupted when Emma and Julius joined in, throwing snow at each other.

With not a soul tempted onto the street, they were able to peel off the cold splendour even between the automobiles and their roofs to form the perfect sphere. The gentle snowfall calmed Claire a little. Mixed with the laughter and chasing of her friends, she forgot to keep up the conversation with Monique.

"Where would you most like to live?"

"Hm..."

Valleys and mountains were flown over, a large expanse of water, deserts, forests, and meadows before she was allowed to land on a lonely plain. There was no right answer. Berlyne was on the tip of her tongue, but why did she like it? Because she was together with Daphne, not because she was wandering the streets alone.

"A desert island?" she guessed.

"One that hasn't been discovered yet," Monique concluded.

"Yes. Which is also not discovered for a long time."

Claire giggled as she thought about it. She got a snowball off. Emma must have been the target, as she was almost on the ground smiling at her friend.

"Excuse me!" shouted Julius from across the street, "Emma, that's not funny!"

"Exactly!" added Claire, forming a strange ball. It landed just in front of her feet before Emma could get up and run away.

"Help!" Emma laughed.

Oblivious to her thoughts, she ran after her, ever mindful of throwing snowballs at her. In between, there was a commotion as Léonard and Julius tried to hit Monique. Claire finally caught Emma as Monique threw a load of snow at her fiancé.

It escalated in the street. The laughter and joy grew and sprinkled the lonely lanterns with embers. The game did not end briefly. Only when all faces were red with cold and hands frozen, clothes dripping almost damp and jackets white, did they have to stop. There was no one who did not go to bed that night with a smile. Emma had fallen asleep in the car just as they were speeding past the library.

The empty paths were ideal to give Léonard one last bit of speed and leave Valdebourg behind them in a breath-taking slide.

***

The sad, snowy reality returned in the morning.

Everything had seemed like a wonderful illusion; even the meal was a funny memory, had Claire not been eating apathetically and talking in reply. Thoughts of the chaotic snowball fight were deposited. That she did not contemplate the beautiful and the good was entirely due to her character.

In passing, Léonard had mentioned in the car that he planned to visit Haarmann the next night. Emma wanted to know why he was not going to see him during the day. Since he did not trust him, he preferred to go to Seelenherz when no one was there. There could always be problems if the staff were present.

He gave them permission not to leave the house. With Monique, he entered into a quarrel, as she insisted on coming along. During the journey home, he gave in.

Emma was furious about it. She told him openly; that she wanted to help. Only Julius and Claire were able to bring her to her senses when she was ready to go home. Whether her temper cooled at midday was not perceived through the sleepy mood.

There was more talk about the future; after the successful plan to hold the casket in their hands, they had to travel immediately. The last of the four had to be in Virchow, either with the duke's family or with the abbey. Why not both? Julius' theory that the duke could be a subordinate of the abbey was greeted with a satisfying smile by Léonard.

The realistic pessimist spoke out of Claire when she said that they had to get back safely before they could go to the last casket. But the question of what would come next was on the tip of her tongue.

Winter rain showers mixed with grainy hail surprised Valdebourg as darkness fell.

The surrounding area of the flat was peppered with empty buildings, working men, and the madhouse where people regularly ran away. Just last week, an elderly gentleman had come to a donkey and was annoying the travelling public by always wandering from one side of the street to the other.

Léonard and Monique had left the flat.

It was a strange farewell, as contrived and unnecessary as the good caucus member's encyclopaedia, published by the party's publishing house.

Julius was in the living room. The balcony door was open a little. His cigarette came to an end when Claire woke the sleeping Emma. The fact that she had been falling asleep all the time lately surprised everyone.

"You brought your violin?" he asked, surprised.

"I didn't want to leave it in Berlyne."

"Are you playing something?" yawned Emma considerably.

"If I may - to take our minds off things."

"Do you know the Sonata of Fallen Tears? A remarkably interesting piece."

"No."

"Too bad." said Julius disappointedly, "A creation of yours?"

"I'm trying."

It was a dreamy aura when she really got going. First, she had to get used to it and let the cold instrument touch her body before the melody woke up the listeners.

A mixture of a whistling train, winged by the existence of a human being, he wandered towards the horizon until he reached a forest. A forest with horses and a mansion. Well-kept and crazy was the large garden - just like the play.

Dancing from one low to the next high, the mood tugged at the everlasting grief of a deceased. While the waves carried him away, an avalanche of friendship overturned the remaining companions to continue their journey.

A long time since Claire had played last. It ended with loud applause from Julius and Emma.

"Free music is the best," he joked.

It had obviously offended her, so he quickly apologised.

The mood improved again after Emma was able to bring them to the window. Flake after flake landed on the ledge. It was not five minutes before the night darkness was shrouded in a soaring glow. It was their last evening in Valdebourg. Tomorrow they were off to Virchow in the car.

Unlike the previous time, they knew what they were getting into. Mönchsberg Abbey was just waiting for its victims. Bared teeth and waiting demons hid in the black halls of the Seelenherz Inc.

To turn back now was suicide. They were trapped deep in the hole and for someone to pull the rope to get the bucket out of the well, it had to be filled first.

Emma was tense. So were the two of them. They could hide it better.

Being in a room together scared her more than being alone in bed. Could Mönchsberg Abbey find her whereabouts so easily? Rush in like the WA and kill everyone? It was not the thought of Léonard and Monique; more they were afraid for themselves.

To XIX.8.


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371 Reviews


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Sun Nov 06, 2022 12:50 pm
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Mailice!

First Impressions

I like this little breather we’re getting after a lot of tension and big reveals. It feels a bit surreal and dream-like, since the tone is so different, but at the same time the usual atmosphere comes back by the end. I find it interesting that something seems to be not quite right with Emma – there’s been quite a few hints sprinkled in throughout the chapter about that. I wonder what’s wrong.

Characters

Something I like about this chapter is we get to see the characters interact in a less pressurising situation and they are still distinctly themselves, but also showing a more relaxed side. I enjoyed reading the conversation between Emma, Julius and Claire about food. The part where Claire recounts never bringing Emma any cranberries was also a nice nod to their backstory growing up together.

Speaking of Emma:

Emma was furious about it. She told him openly; that she wanted to help. Only Julius and Claire were able to bring her to her senses when she was ready to go home. Whether her temper cooled at midday was not perceived through the sleepy mood.

I thought this paragraph was interesting because it shows Emma having a negative reaction to something when she’s usually quite positive. At the same time, she reacts differently than Claire typically does because Emma is more upfront about things.
The fact that she had been falling asleep all the time lately surprised everyone.

I wonder if this ^ is because she was upset about the earlier situation.

Style

Something I think made some paragraphs hard to read is that it’s not always clear how one event relates to the next? For example:
The sun was smiling at her when a letter for Claire had appeared. . .
Claire was on fire to write Daphne back. Finished with a new letter as long as a log, Emma had almost kicked the door in. A snowstorm had turned the view out the windows into a white, impenetrable landscape. Claire had to take part in this spectacle of nature. Her friend liked the white splendour that lit up the world every year.

It’s not mentioned earlier on that Emma had also received a letter, so her appearing in the bolded sentences was a bit abrupt for me. Also, the sudden change to talking about the weather also made me a bit confused when I was reading. It would be nice to have a connector like ‘because’ or ‘but the thing was . . . ‘, if the meaning here is that although Claire wanted to write Daphne back immediately, she was also really eager to go out and see the snow. Hope that makes sense and let me know if it doesn’t!

Miscellaneous

"Right. Very tasty and an ideal hunger suppressant. They are rare to find. They are expensive."

I like this little detail about bananas. It helps situate where they are in the world, I think.

"Free music is the best," he joked.
It had obviously offended her, so he quickly apologised.

Hehe I feel bad, but I definitely had a chuckle at Julius’s joke here – it was just so unexpected!

Overall

Overall, I thought this chapter’s main strength was in showing the character interactions and doing a bit of worldbuilding along the way. I can also see Claire’s relationship with Daphne and what Daphne means to her is being explored a little bit through her thought process and the letter, and I’m interested to see how that will progress.

Hope this helps and feel free to ask for more feedback!
-Lim




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Sat Sep 17, 2022 7:03 pm
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RandomTalks wrote a review...



Hey Mailice!

RandomTalks here with a short review!

This part was more like a filler - a short moment of quiet calm and respite before the inevitable, which I suppose in this case, is going to be Leonard's meeting with Harmaan. It is really interesting how Leonard is the only one who is not worried about the confrontation. The fact that even calm and composed Julius is a bit shaken up by the news shows the gravity of the situation. Yet, Leonard is approaching the whole thing with a kind of nonchalance that makes me wonder if he had been prepared for such a situation after all. There is not much that fazes or surprises him and sometimes, I really admire the endurance and tenacity with which he handles all the difficult situations in life.

Now coming to the review, I liked how random and unimportant the conversation in the beginning was. We can feel in that moment, all of them are nervous and a little shaken up; and it reflects in their dialogues as well. Still their efforts at assuming normalcy gave us a short moment away from the plot and solely with the characters. I also appreciated the fact that Emma was more present in this part. Even if she was in the background or delivering one or two unimportant dialogues, it made the story feel more integrated.

I also liked the brief conversation between Monique and Claire. Like Emma, Monique does not get featured very often, except for in relation with Leonard, and I liked the fact that this reflects in the initial hesitation of their conversation. It was a short exchange, but it was meaningful because of the absolute sincerity from both sides.

In the moment, where they separated from the snowball fight only to join in themselves made me realize that they are perhaps not so very different from each other. Both of them are quiet, reserved, sincere and a little cynical in their own ways. Of course, Monique is a lot more matured and experienced - she does not suffer from as many insecurities as Claire does and she certainly does not share her wild imagination. But their ways of speaking are a lot similar, probably because they both think more than they speak. It makes sense how Monique is the voice of reason that grounds people, especially Leonard, back to reality.

I liked the violin scene, especially because we know that Claire really does not like playing for other people. The fact that she was willing to do so voluntarily shows her growth and the growth in the friendships she has come to share with these people. In fact, I think that was my favorite thing about this part - those little moments of friendship in the middle amidst a nervous apprehension for all of their futures. The conversation about fruits, the snow fight, the short musical moment were all very spontaneous and unexpected and this was probably the first time that I actually believed them to be a group of friends and not just a bunch of people who share the same goal.

A few specifics:

They listened to the visitors to the hut and recognised the everyday conversations and concerns of the people.

I think it will be 'visitors of the hut'.

The first house in her mind was Lime Avenue in Berlyne. Only then came Hadewych Street in Regenschloss.

I liked this conversation because of these little moments. The fact that the first house in her mind was the one she shared with Daphne in Berlyne suggests she considers it more of a home than the one she grew up in. While it makes me feel sad for the childhood she had to experience with the lack of proper and stable parental care, it also re-establishes Daphne's importance and role in her development. The freedom she experienced with Daphne gave her the space to grow into her own individual.

Berlyne was on the tip of her tongue, but why did she like it? Because she was together with Daphne, not because she was wandering the streets alone.

This was again an important moment. I like the fact that Claire introspects more deeply now. Her acknowledging the importance she attaches to Daphne shows that she is not just ruled by her fondness for Daphne but is more aware of her emotions and their implications.

Overall, this was a rather wholesome read and a good set-up for the next part!

Keep writing and have a great day!

Until next time!

(Also, I just realized its now been an year since I first started reading this novel while we were RevMo Buddies in '21. Can't believe how far you have come and how incredible and satisfying this journey has been and will continue to be!)






Hi RandomTalks!

Thank you very much for your review! I just can't seem to get around to thanking you at length lately.

Yes, exactly, this is more of a filler to just have a "good time", I thought just now as we are heading towards the end it would be fitting.

Thanks again and thanks for being around and reading for so long! :D

Mailice




Courage, my soul! Now learn to wield the weight of thine immortal shield...
— Andrew Marvell