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Outside The White Mansion

Chapter Text

Winter has ended, the snow has melted in the cemented pavements of the town, lakes have returned from the freezing ice, the flowers start blooming in different hues, and the leaves of some trees that shed during autumn begin to sprout again. People changed their clothes into something light and colorful, they have stopped using the fireplaces in their homes, and began drinking something cold again. Spring has finally arrived.

Catherine, a sheltered youth under a wealthy family, has been glancing through her window to look at the cherry trees if they have began blooming ever since the start of springtime. She also waited for days for the flowers to color up the garden with their array of hues. She hardly goes outside her mansion aside from the weekend strolls in the town with her parents and a couple of servants, but she still recognizes the outdoors through her garden. Her garden is filled with plants. These plants show different colors as seasons pass. Green leaves, pink, yellow, purple, and pastel blossoms during spring, the leaves turn to rich green and more vibrant flowers like eye-catching reds and oranges bloom during summer, and the leaves dry out and turn into red, brown, and orange during fall. She imagines that outside the white mansion and the town, there are plenty of plants, colorful flowers, and fresh air. Yet, she still keeps the stories her parents, especially her father, told her ever since she was young. Outdoors is a dangerous place for her, and she must be extra cautious to her surroundings whenever she will leave the mansion.

Catherine sometimes fantasize about going to lush green fields, or vivid flower fields, or forest rich with trees. She knows that there is a valley that is near to her town, which she believed to show spectacular sights in nature. However, this valley is stuck to eternal winter and everybody moved out because of the condition, as her father told her ever since she was young. Her father was one of the first people that inhabited this valley, according to his story, as she believed. She was intrigued about this lost valley, and wondered what the valley was like before it was blanketed in snow. The thought of a vast, yet abandoned valley with land so white in snow may not be the most appealing outdoor landscape Catherine wanted to go to, but maybe eventually she will go there with some people to explore the mysteries that lie ahead. She was thinking, if this nearby valley stuck in eternal winter was abandoned for many years, is it devoid of all living creatures? How about plants, do sturdy trees like pine and cedar still grow sturdy despite the snow?

The lady loves trees and plants, as evident as she keeps on visiting her garden and asking her dearest father about them. She doesn't want to let a lot of people know about her passion for sturdy trees and greenery. She kept this interest to herself, as it is not very ladylike for a refined dame like her. Only her father knew about this. To her, springtime is a very wonderful time for her because many plants begin to grow again, and the green leaves and grass when spring arrives calms her down and soothes her eyesight.

On the tenth day of spring, she began hearing rumors which she heard from her servants, being passed by some people in the town.

"Can't you believe it? There's a brave, brave man that began residing in the valley!" Said one of Catherine's servants.
"Huh?!? What valley? You mean... THAT valley?" Said the other.
"What do you mean THAT valley? Well... that valley the rumors were referring to is that valley near to our town, which is said to be cursed to experience winter for eternity!"
"Really?!? What brave soul that person has for living there! Experiencing eternal winter could lead to hypothermia! Living in that valley alone and experiencing nothing but seeing snow and feeling the cold is very scary to me."
"I agree with you."
"Can you two stop your chit-chat and clean the bathrooms?" A bossy servant interrupted the conversation of the two servants.
"Y-Yes Ma'am..." Said both gossiping servants.

Catherine eavesdropped the rumors of her servants. She thought, "Who in the right mind goes to an abandoned valley of endless winter and live in there?" She wanted to know if this is true. Her parents are not at home and it looks like she has to be assisted by one of her servants to prove to herself the rumor being passed around her town.

"Excuse me, are you not doing anything right now?" She asked to a servant resting to her garden.
Her servant was startled.
"Wha-WHA-?!? L-Lady Catherine! I am so sorry for slacking off! I promise not to--" The servant said, quick to her words and trembling, only to be cut short by her master.
"I think you're shirking work. But that's okay, for now. You see, I want you to accompany me around the town. You're not really doing anything, aren't you? Go with me," Catherine commanded.
"Yes, Lady Catherine," The servant complied.
Catherine handed the servant a large, frilly white parasol.
"What are we waiting for? Let's go! Guide me to the restaurant. It will be our first destination," Catherine said.

Catherine and her servant stepped out of the iron gates of the white mansion to go to the town. Catherine's servant is trying to catch up with the uppity lady's fast pacing to shade her from the sun with a parasol. When their paces met, Catherine turned to her servant and asked, "Have you been hearing any rumors? Specifically about some madman that decided to live in the valley nearby, which is stuck in winter."
"Hm? Yes, I think I have heard of it. A few days ago, I was doing errands, buying floor polish in a shop. Then a couple of madams have been talking about what you were saying. I think I saw the owner of the restaurant talking about it too. We should ask her," the servant replied.
"Good. We're going to the restaurant first, you know?" Catherine said.

At 10:20, Catherine and her servant arrived at the restaurant. The aroma of freshly-baked bread with butter is on the four corners of the small establishment. A redhead lady wearing a white shirt and apron, yellow skirt and beret, cheerfully greeted the two with a wide grin on her face.
"Good Morning! Welcome to Hanna's Eatery!"
"Excuse me, but have you heard about the recent rumors about a madman... I mean, a person living in the valley nearby?" Asked Catherine.
"Right... Yes, I did! Actually, mom and I have went to the valley already! We saw it in our two eyes, the only house in the valley is occupied by a dashing young man! He claims to be a farmer and he said that he will reshape the valley and restore the seasons of the valley so people will come again!"
"That's ridiculous! My father owns that land. He should've asked for permission to my father if he wanted to live there! And claiming the seasons back? Who do he think he is? A hero?"
The redhead shrugged. "Well, that's what he said, and before mom and I came there that's what the rumors said! Ask Old Man Sam!"
"Old Man Sam? Well it's a bit insulting when you call someone an old man..." Catherine shook her head.
"You know him right? He's the traveling merchant! Always on the job, leaving his little child and wife at home, just to get some money for his wife's medicine?" The cheery girl said, a little bit smugly.
"Of course I know him! But calling him Old Man Sam? Tsk, tsk! That seemed rude of you!"
"Awww, come on! Lighten up a bit, princess! Old Man Sam even calls himself 'Old Man Sam' or 'Uncle Sam'!"
"Uh... Lady Catherine, looks like your conversation is losing the main topic," Catherine's servant interrupted.
Catherine sighed. "I know," She replied. "I think I got carried away for a bit."

"Ah, so what are you lovely ladies talking about? Heheh, Emily, dear, what brings our Lady Catherine here?" Said a deep, husky, yet matronly voice that tried to join the conversation. The voice belonged to a huge woman whose hair has the same shade of red of the cheerful girl. The woman wears a white bandana on her head, a charming collared yellow shirt, a burgundy skirt wrapped by a white apron, and olive slippers worn with black socks.
"Mom!" Exclaimed Emily, the cheerful girl in white and yellow.
"Catherine came here because she wanted to know about the rumors! You know... The rumors about a man living in the valley, trying to bring the seasons back to the place by farming and stuff? That's all true!"
"Well, yeah. That's all true. The two of us went to the valley to prove it. The first one to do so was Old Man Sam, wanderin' around, visited the valley again, then he saw a man living there. Sam sold him seeds in hopes of something to grow in the valley. To the man that began living to the valley after a long time, there's still hope that life is still possible in the valley," The matron, who happens to be Emily's mother, tried to explain to Catherine about the rumors.
"Oh yeah, Catherine," Emily said. "Mom and I, we don't go to that valley often. It's too cold. Besides, we still have work here in the restaurant!"
"I see, I see," Catherine nodded. "I have to go now, I still have a lot of things to do."
"Bye bye!" Emily waved with a smile.
"If you want, you can ask Sam about the guy residing in the valley! He knows more than what we know!" Emily's mother said before saying farewell to the lady.

Catherine and her servant left the restaurant. The restaurant just opened and there weren't any customers Catherine can ask. Emily and her mother mentioned Sam, so she will go to the traveling merchant's house. Catherine commanded her servant to knock on the door of Sam's house. The servant knocked three times. After a few seconds, the door was opened by a little girl whose hair is tied in twin buns.
Catherine's servant bowed. "Good morning to you, little one," she said to the child. "Lady Catherine wants to see your father."
"Sorry," The little girl said. "Papa isn't here. He is out."
"Good morning to you," Catherine greeted. "Excuse me, but do you know where your father went?" She asked.
"Papa went to the valley," The little girl, who is Sam's daughter, said. "Mama and I were worried for him because the valley is all snowy and dangerous."
"I understand what you feel," Catherine sympathized.
"Papa said he looks forward selling his stuff to a regular customer in the valley!"
"So the rumors of a person living in the valley were true?"
"Yep! Papa said the boy living in the valley is a hard worker! He is very friendly too! He tells some stories to my papa before he goes to work!"
"Does your father pass this man's stories to you?"
"Yep! Before I sleep, papa tells me stories. Papa told me that the man that is living in the snowy valley was saved by a voice during a snowstorm!"
Catherine was a little bit surprised from what she heard from Sam's daughter. She nodded and keeps on listening to what the little girl says.
"The man climbed up to a mountain and suddenly a snowstorm had struck. He rushed and found the valley, then he heard a voice, and decided to settle down in a house and found some farming tools. He met a yellow Harvest Sprite that taught him how to shape the farm. Since then, the man became a farmer to the valley with the help of his Harvest Sprite friends! But papa doesn't believe in these Harvest Sprites. He is just telling what the man said to him. The man is trying to fix the valley!"
"Well that's ridiculous! Fixing the valley is an impossible task when done alone! If he believes in the Harvest Goddess, he would ask for her help, but that's not enough! There should be more people that will help him achieve his goal of fixing the valley, even returning the valley to it's four-season state!"
"Why don't you go there yourself and help him?"
"I... I can't for now! I will wait and see if there are enough people that are helping him and he is slowly achieving that goal!" Catherine added, "And for his information, the land he's farming and the house he's resting on belongs to my father. I will call him out."
Catherine bowed. "Thank you very much for sharing some information with me," then she and her servant bid farewell to the child.

"Let's return to the mansion, lunch is likely prepared," Catherine said to her servant.
"Yes, Lady Catherine, let us return to the mansion," her servant replied.
Catherine and her servant walked their way back to the mansion. Catherine's servant is trying to follow the lady in blue's fast pacing to cover her to the sunlight with the frilly white parasol she's holding. Walking in fast steps, Catherine is thinking about the truth that there is finally a person living in the lost valley where winter is eternal, and this person is the hope of bringing back the valley to its former glory. After the snow-white winter, there will be cherry trees with pink bloom during Spring, a rich green Summer, and Autumn with red, orange, and brown leaves. Not only that the valley will be once colorful again when the seasons are restored, but there will also be a variety of crops and flowers awaiting for the valley as this man is said to be a farmer as well. Catherine is secretly looking forward to the beauty of nature being brought back to the valley.