It was springtime, everything aglow in the warm colors that creep out when Nature springs back to life. It was the time the birds came back, that flowers started budding, and it was the time that thoughts turned to love. It was a perfect time to meet.
Maybe too perfect.
People would later talk about them. Ludovich was young; he had a secure position as an officer, now that he had graduated from military academy; and as a noble, since his parents had recently been taken in an accident. The only thing he lacked was income. Most agreed that he had done an excellent job, considering the circumstances, in the way he had handled the affairs and debts left to him by his parents. He had even been able to retire most of the servants with minimal hurt feelings. But even with these drains on his finances gone, he did not own anything that was actively producing much cash flow.
So it seemed like too much of a good thing that he should somehow happen to be in the right place to catch the eye of the daughter of the wealthiest man in the country.
It was a party of some sort. The first of the season. It wasn't especially big, and it wasn't something one had to attend, but he had been invited, and that counted for something. He had made his way off onto the veranda, ever-present glass in hand, to get away from the crowd. Just because it was something he should attend, it didn't mean he had to mix. Being seen was enough.
That's where he saw her. Bobbed blond hair, big blue eyes, with graceful carriage, walking down the path that meandered around the lake, talking and laughing with her father about something he couldn't quite catch. All he did was look. He didn't call out, he didn't even move. But she turned her head in his direction and their eyes met. 'Love at first sight' was not, and still is not, something he believed in. It wasn't even something that crossed her mind, he was sure. But attraction? Yes, that is entirely plausible. The ability to love someone unconditionally without so much as even speaking to them was not a notion he bought into. The idea of love, as he was made to understand it, was a feeling of caring about anothers well being, caring because this person was like an extension of oneself.
Having never experienced this feeling, Ludovich questioned the validity of what he had been told. Even so, the idea of this feeling manifesting itself over a glance...Fascination was a better word he would also ascribe to the scene.
There were lovelier women. There were even richer. But there was something in the way she held her head, the way she held his eyes, the way she deliberately flirted with him on whim, he supposed. Then again, there was also her father, who gave him such a disdainful glance, almost daring to let any potential gold-digger try to scam his way into money. It was a challenge. The looks lasted all of 15 seconds, maybe less. But he would stare after the boat they both sailed off on, obviously private, with the name "Josephine" beckoning to him.
They met again at another party. This one was bigger, something that one did have to attend, and though he still did not have the requisite numbers that one usually had to obtain to be invited, the family name was still enough to get an invite, though he certainly wasn't treated as an honored guest. Not that he wanted to be. It was hard enough to make contacts with anyone while being paraded like an animal on display. It was also hard to make contacts while you had nothing but your youth, but unlike the last party, people of importance were attending, so mingling had to be done.
She found him, coming up from behind and then getting rather brashly in his path. "Herr Ludovich?" He made a very military bow in response, an ingrained gesture. "Fraulein Kattsburg?", and he got a quick curtsy in response. She came up close to him quickly, and in a very smooth motion, entwined their arms and moved toward the doors leading to the garden. To an observer, it would have looked as if Ludovich had made the first move, though he himself knew better. If he was surprised at her forwardness he did not show it, though surely he appreciated he efforts to make it seem like a normal situation. Young girls do not lead officers of the military out to moonlit gardens.
She led him away from the party, not far enough away to be deemed indecent, but not close enough to be overheard.
"I saw you by the lake a few weeks ago. Do you remember? You looked so interesting, but you were gone when father and I walked back."
Not really knowing how to answer, or even if he should, he just kept silent. Or maybe that was his plan all along. He was never really a man that could be understood. She continued, in any case, looking him over. There was almost an appraising light in her eye, as if she was weighing her options of how long she would talk to him. "Where do you live?" she asked, without any preamble. Ludovich found himself explaining his family estate, the farms located on it, and other aspects of his life that he wouldn't normally share with others. He would have never told any of his peers, nor women, either. Privacy was a sacred privilege. But her eyes, they were genuinely interested and her questions were nosy yet well intentioned. After the span of about 20 minutes of rapid fire questioning, she made her excuses and said she had to go. Ludovich observed to himself that while she seemed to have been able to buy everything she wanted, her father kept a close eye on her.
He seemed to bump into her quite often after that. At parties, or even just on the town. Of course, it would have been easy to find out her schedule. She was one of the most popular and eligible women around, but she was the one who usually initiated the conversation. Of course, as they bumped into one another more often, he would go across the room and exchange words. Polite ones, nothing more. Sometimes they would share a dance. But anything beyond that, he let her decide. Was it that he was humoring her, one of his many admirers? He did not lack in admirers, though he did not have any assets. He was handsome enough for that. Or was it that this was his plan? Was he drawing in an innocent girl into a trap that was almost invisible? Letting her make all the moves while he just waited for the right time to strike? Or was it a chance encounter, an opportunity that he was riding out? Did he know himself?
Ludovich would at least acknowledge the egoism that partly fueled their meetings. They both knew her father did not approve of him, 21, jobless, titled but still 'beneath' Josephine and all her millions. Ambitious, but for what? Ludovich was still looking for the answer to that. Ludovich, therefore, felt some sort of small victory whenever he spoke to Josephine, or danced with her, or she came up to him. It was nothing her father could object to, yet he knew it bothered him. Josephine felt the same way, but more out of a feeling of defiance than anything. Josephine, when she did ask questions of him, always listened with such earnestness. It is always nice to be listened to in that way.
So they both had selfish reasons why they would meet up and chat. Why one day Ludovich invited her to his castle to see the antiques, could be interpreted very nicely or very badly as to his intentions.
Josephine had said one day that she loved antiques and heirlooms. "I love them to death. They have such history, they have such depth. They are beautiful not only to look at, but to learn about as well. It started with own family's pieces, but now I've got collecting myself."
Ludovich had taken a slow sip of wine before answering, "I have quite a few antiques myself. Entailed with the estate my parents left. They just collect dust right now." Another thoughtful sip. "Would you like to come see them?"
She would have been well within her rights to cut ties with him right then. There was enough of an understanding between them that the invitation was for her alone, with no chaperone, and certainly not her father. In fact, for her to come it would have to be secret. Ludovich wasn't a welcome suitor or even friend for Josephine. And while certainly the rules of society were not as rigid as they were so many, many years ago, chaperones were still needed to have a good reputation in high social circles.
Josephine said, "Yes," without any hesitation. Her frankness was something astonishing and refreshing. Of course, it was the product of a girl who always got what she wanted, and right now Ludovich was her toy. This much he thought. But the over-done coyness that made dealing with most other women 'of marriageable age' was thankfully missing in any dealings he had with her.
The antiques started a new phase in their relationship. The tour he gave of his home, not even her father could have complained about either of their behavior. She came to see his treasures, and he showed them off. She was quite knowledgeable herself, filling in gaps that his rather limited grasp of the family heirlooms history. She enjoyed herself immensely; he found out that some of the things he inherited were worth quite a lot, though he could not sell them. But the notion that he possessed something that no one else had, that was priceless, it gave a feeling of superiority, inane as he knew the reason was. At the door, she said, "There's an antique show and auction tomorrow in town. My father is away on business, so maybe we will bump into each other. I usually go early to watch them set up, by the old church."
That was how it started, and the whole thing just gathered momentum from there. Josephine considered it her duty to instruct him on all she knew about antiques, and he listened, because she turned out to be something of an amateur-expert, if such a thing could exist. Ludovich found himself to be drawn into business as well. Was it Josephine's enthusiasm? She certainly came alive when she was asking questions about the background of a piece, or even just browsing. He found it was very easy to make her happy by finding some small piece of jewelry and calling it to her attention, or occasionally, buying it for her outright.
At a small outdoor fair, which was also hosting an antiquing show, they had been strolling arm in arm when a sudden downpour suddenly opened up on them. They quickly ran back to town and found an awning to hide under. Ludovich would have liked to go inside a building and order a drink, but Josephine stopped him. "It's going to stop soon, just wait here." She shivered slightly while saying that, and stood closer to him. A dangerous move, considering that her father was still in the dark about how much time she spent with him. She stood even closer, so that he was compelled to put his arm around her, or she would knock him off balance. Though some would later say she was brash, it could have been all according to a plan of Ludovich's. It is something that will remain a mystery. They stood there, waiting for the storm to end, Josephine enjoying the contact and Ludovich inscrutable.
She looked up at him, her eyes trying to draw him closer, waiting for that moment that usually happens when two lovers are finally alone. He leaned in closer, so that she could feel his breath on her neck, smell his cologne.
"Let's go inside now, shall we? It's cold and I still need that drink." Josephine normally would have felt disappointment over anyone who would be so spineless as to miss an opportunity like the one she had handed him. But as he pulled away, she thought she read something in his eyes like, You think I'm that easy?
It was something to look forward to. "I never know what you're going to say." She said simply.
They went in search of drinks.
Any kind of reviews are welcome, since this is an experiment for me. I don't usually write this kind of story.
And while no one really cares, most of the details in this story are found in artbooks. But this is fan fiction, and I don't really expect anyone to care that much...Especially with the anime I'm writing for.
And he's German, so I will use those stupid terms like Herr.