- The Fifth Chapter -

A Peculiar Sensation


"Umm, Anton, are you sure you're all right? You don't look so good to me, if I were to say."

These were the words of a confused Fredrich worrying over his older brother, who was acting very, very strange for the past few days. The latter would usually reply just with "Yes", "Don't worry", "I'm just fine", or something similar along those lines. For some reason, Anton always seemed like he was lost in thought recently...

It was days ever since that amazing night of the ball. During this small duration of time, peace and happiness were all over the place. Even to that day, the townsfolk still talked about the event, and they seemed to be very satisfied with the experience. Aside from this topic, the matter about the maiden to be chosen as the duke's partner was rather popular among parents and the young ladies. When walking around town, you can't help but overhear someone who just passed by talking about these things. No wonder everyone knew the latest happenings in town!

While these lively people were curious on what's to come, the Herzens were kind of indifferent. Duke Herzen prioritized the improvement of the town and the gold mine first, although the thought of his son's future decision stayed in his mind. Fredrich lived life as usual, attending to his appointments, completing his tasks and responsibilities, and unwinding at the end of the day. There's something new this time around for him though, and that was his worrying over his brother. Anton, meanwhile... well, it was obvious that there was something off with him.

This attitude wasn't the same with the one Anton had days before the ball, when he was very anxious about the night and that he will never meet a real, sincere lady in the celebration. It was more like he wasn't himself in the sense that he didn't act like how everyone knows him. He's alert most of the time, but it seemed that he couldn't think straight this time around, and only gave vague and roundabout answers every time he was asked. With this, the members of the castle believed that the young duke was ill and didn't feel well.

On the same day, there was a time that Nigel tried to ask his master what was wrong. When he came in Anton's room, the blond stared blankly to the scenery outside his window, immobile and motionless where he stood.

"Master, is there something wrong? You have been acting odd ever since the celebration. You can ask me to get anything you'd wish to make you feel better."

"I'm perfectly fine...", he said in a monotonous voice, making him seem like an emotionless puppet. Anton didn't even turn around to face his butler.

Nigel, trying to make his master speak in the most polite way, only gave a befuddled look behind his little pair of glasses. "U-uhh, I understand, Master. But, you see, many of us here are starting to get worried about your unnatural behavior lately. You are a son of the duke, and you are in line to rule our town. In addition to that, you have been very kind to everyone in this castle, including myself, Master, so it is no wonder that your indefinite replies would just cause us more worry than relief."

The young duke turned his head 45 degrees to his left, though his eyes stared straight to the direction he's facing instead of Nigel, seemingly lifeless from the looks of it... "Is that so? Forgive me then... I don't mean to cause you trouble." And then, he went back to his original stance.

"What to do, what to do? If Master will not return to his self as soon as possible, I do not know what the duke will do to us servants anymore," the Herzen family butler thought to himself, placing a palm on his forehead. An idea suddenly popped in his head, making him rush out to his younger master's room.

"Master Fredrich! Master Fredrich!"

Fredrich turned to the direction of the voice, leading him to a breathless Nigel who nearly tumbled down after running without rest. "Nigel? What's the matter?"

"About Master Anton... I-I could not do anything... to bring him back... to normal. I-if it isn't rude to ask, could you aid me with that, Master Fredrich? I am sure... t-the master will listen to his own brother."

"Goodness, he's still acting like that? Now I'm getting really worried about him. Well, sure, I would be willing to help you out, Nigel. Now let's go, shall we?" Immediately after talking, the little brother bolted out of the room, leaving poor Nigel leaning by the hallway wall, catching his breath.

Fredrich went in Anton's room and stood beside his brother. He took a deep breath, and then spoke. "Err, Brother, I want you to tell me things straight. What's wrong with you?"

There was no response. He repeated the question, but to no avail. After so many attempts, he tried to shake Anton's arm so wildly just so that he would get a reaction. The result? Nothing. However, the older brother seemed to whisper something to himself, something unrelated to Fredrich's question...

"Hmm? Is he finally talking to me?", Fredrich asked himself, raising an eyebrow from what he heard. He focused on his brother, listening intently to what he was saying. Anton's sight was still directed towards the window, seemingly staring at the vast scenery, but this time he spoke with genuine emotion in his tone.

"Her emerald eyes... they pierced through my soul."

Fredrich was rather dumbfounded by Anton's words, rendering his mouth open as he tried to fathom the latter's words. "What did he just say? I... don't quite get it. What, is he blurting random lines from a poem?" He tried to listen more as the older brother continued on speaking to himself.

"The look in her eyes warmed my heart the very moment mine met hers.

The presence of others nearly brought me death,

but her presence revived my battered spirit."

After a few minutes of rest and walking at a slow pace, Nigel finally caught up and reached the door to Anton's room. Although he was tired and knew nothing of what was stirring, he was intrigued by the look on Fredrich's face. The butler then joined in the bandwagon and kept silent to see what was going on with his masters.

"Ever since that fateful day, I felt something has changed in me.

In the past, everything around me seemed boring, dull and dead.

But now, everything I see appeared fascinating, interesting and full of life."

After a few seconds of silence, Nigel took the opportunity to ask about the situation. "Master Fredrich, what was Master Anton telling you just now?"

"He's not talking to me," the little brother retorted. "He's talking to himself!"

"Your sweet, charming face has been etched in my thoughts for so long.

I try hard to forget, but I simply can't."

He closed his eyes and placed a hand over his eye, seemingly deep in thought.

"I don't understand...

What is this warm feeling in my chest, this peculiar sensation?"

As Anton spoke these words, he slowly put the same hand on his chest firmly, feeling the beat of his heart. Unconsciously, his cheeks also turned into a reddish hue. He felt very nervous.

"Oh, how I long to know your name, to see you once again..."

Once again, there was an awkward moment of silence in the room. However, both of them couldn't get themselves to speak after heeding Anton's bizarre, poetic words. Instead, they were frozen in place, with eyes wide open and expressions showing bewilderment. It took at least two minutes before one of them broke the ice...

"Master Fredrich...?"

"Y-yes, Nigel?"

"I think... I already know what Master Anton meant by that."

"...I think I get what you're thinking."

Both nodded in unison, facing each other. The clueless expressions they wore on their faces turned into looks of certainty. The answer suddenly popped into their heads, like a spark that started a fire.

"Ah! Nigel! I think I know what's behind Brother's sudden change of attitude!"

"What is it, Master?"

"He...

...He's so focused on memorizing a declamation piece! That's all!"

Nigel couldn't help but turn around and place his palm on his pale face. He just gave a sigh and faced his younger master back after he has regained his composure.

"I'm not quite sure, Master Fredrich..."

Fredrich only gave a puzzled look in reply. "Eh? What do you mean? I mean, what he's saying sound like they came from a declamation piece... and he never talks like that!"

Before speaking, the butler adjusted his spectacles, pushing it back with one finger. "I believe that Master Anton is perfectly well and he suffers from no illness." Nigel then put a smile on his face, readying himself to tell his conclusions. "However, from everything the master has said, it seems that he's very fond of the young lady he met in the ball a few nights ago. Master Anton must have been very happy to meet the girl for him to say such words."

The little brother's sight turned to the ceiling, his fingers on his chin. After giving it some thought, he suddenly gave off a smirk. Fredrich and Nigel then shifted their attention to the mesmerized young man, unresponsive as ever.

"Oh, I see! So you're saying that my brother..." He pointed a finger to his brother.

"...that Anton likes that girl very much! Yes, that's probably it, isn't it!"

"Indeed, Master. Now I would not wonder why he was very out of character ever since."

Still by the window, Anton Herzen, with his eyes closed and hands placed on his chest, took a deep breath and finally opened his eyes. "I must... I must make an effort to see her soon." He then put down his hands and closed his fists, showing determination in his stance and tone, albeit with uncertainty at the back of his mind.

From a distance, the butler and his younger brother attentively gazed with a mischievous look on their faces. Nigel placed his hands behind his back, while Fredrich crossed his arms, still keeping the naughty look.

I think my brother needs some serious help...

...from us. Hehehe...


Sorry for the delay! I just waited for school to finish, and here I am, finally free from schoolwork! SUCCESS! :D

This chapter was inspired from a random thought I had months back, first implemented in my storybook. For those who has seen the page previews in my drawing blog, then you may find this familiar. Yes, this whole chapter stemmed from that single page, where I had fun drawing a stressed Anton XD

To make up for the delay, here's some news, or rather a question, for you!

Would you like me to work on Sophia's fic (for newbies: the girl Anton's been thinking about throughout the whole chapter) to coincide with this fic's events, or would you rather finish reading Anton's story first before reading her point of view? I would be willing to do both, since I've already typed a portion of the first chapter (coinciding with Chapters 1-2 of this one). I have trouble deciding though, so I'm asking for your opinions. Don't worry about me doing double the effort, I have more than 2 months to freely work on both :)

Anyway, I'm really inspired by everyone's reviews so far, especially from the previous chapter! I love that part so much, but I also had a hard time to convey it in words. To cut the long story short: you guys inspire me to write and do better. Thank you so much! See you on the next chapter :D