Chapter 1 - Part 1
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It was the morning of the fifth day since the carriage left the capital.
Only two more days left before they’d reach Rendinium.
Outside, the servants that were driving the carriages took turns to eat and rest.
The knights gathered in groups, they chewed on jerky and polished their swords.
Lelia, who lifted the cloth slightly and spied outside, rubbed her hands helplessly.
[Why is my body so hot?…]
Lelia lay still where she first hid.
For the past few days, she snuck in and out late at night when everyone was sleeping.
Usually when they neared a river, or stream, they would rest. So she was able to get enough water to drink.
In order to not be noticed by knights, who were sensitive to sounds, she deliberately went to places where the servants were sleeping.
Maybe because she didn’t eat at all, she didn’t have any strength left in her body.
There was also a limit to taking medicine. She needed to open the screen again and take medicine out of her inventory, but she didn’t even have the energy to do that.
She felt like her whole body was on fire.
[Don’t tell me I’m going to die like this…]
Lelia tried to reach out to her pendant, but lost consciousness.
When she opened her eyes again, the whole world seemed strangely bright. She was sure it’d normally be dark because she was hiding in the carriage’s luggage compartment.
The moment she felt something was off, Lelia opened her eyes and raised her upper body like a surprised animal.
Despair filled Lelia’s eyes as she checked her surroundings.
“…what in the world is this?”
“Where did she come from?”
“I told you I saw her. I saw her in the capital itself.”
“So she followed us from there? She didn’t get caught? Does that make sense?”
“I don’t know… I don’t know…”
“She’s a child… doesn’t have a living… how do we know?”
The knights in blue armor were talking around her.
Everyone’s brows were creased, a constant frown on their faces. It was enough to scare Lelia.
[I can’t believe I got caught….]
Lelia unknowingly clutched her bag in fear.
“She looks scared.”
The knights were confused on seeing Lelia in such a state.
Frightened, Lelia was not thinking straight. She was about to cry like a child. It was all the more so because she had been starving for a while.
As tears began to gather in her eyes, the knights began to panic even more.
In that situation, Lelia was barely able to reason properly.
[Sleeping gas spray…]
The thought of running away instinctively came to her mind, and she hastened to get the sleeping gas out of her bag.
But her body didn’t want to move like her mind wanted. Just moving her hand made her feel weak.
At this rate, even if she took it out, she wouldn’t be able to spray it at the knights.
“What’s the situation? A kid snuck into a carriage?”
A very low and dignified voice was heard.
When the owner of the voice appeared, the knights surrounding Lelia straightened their backs and bowed their heads.
“I think she came from the capital.”
Lelia blinked slowly as she heard the conversation.
The person talking was a tall old man with a huge build.
His forehead creased as he bent down and looked at Lelia.
“A girl, huh?”
Lelia bowed her head and trembled at this action. The man in front of her looked like a lion.
The knights were restless as if they had become bad people who had offered a wild baby animal up for bullying.
“…bring the physician.” The man commanded in a low voice. A knight said, “Yes, sir!” and disappeared.
Then the man knelt down to align his vision with Lelia. The old man looked at Lelia for a long time and said, “Following us from the capital… You must be hungry, aren’t you?”
He had a deep, low voice, but not a hostile tone. It was a rather soft tone.
A friendly adult’s way of speaking that she had never heard before back home.
With that reassuring tone, Lelia carefully lowered her bag and raised her head.
When their eyes met, the old man who looked as scary as a tiger, grinned.
Surprised by his smile, Lelia bowed her head again.
One of the knights who was watching couldn’t hold back his laughter and burst out.
“…are you laughing?”
“Oh, no, it’s not that. My nephew always trembles like that when he sees you, saying that your face looks scary.”
“Are you saying I look scary?”
“…o-of course not…”
The knight said, stuttering as if he could not bear to say any more empty words than that.
The old man’s face gave a scary impression no matter who saw it. He was a handsome man with bold features, but his eyes were outright fierce.
Even as a young man, he was probably quite popular.
But he must have had a scary look even back then. The knights thought so too.
If it weren’t for his position, he’d certainly look like a member from the criminal underworld.
The old man contemplated for a moment, and the corners of his mouth rose up gently. He said carefully, “Aren’t you hungry?”
It was a question to Lelia. At his friendly tone, Lelia slowly raised her head again. Then she nodded cautiously.
“Come on, let’s go. I’ll give you some food.”
The old man held out his scarred hand.
Lelia hesitated to take his hand for a moment as he was the first adult to reach out to her.
Lelia grabbed a big chicken leg and tore at it with her teeth.
On the other side, the tiger-like old man was looking at Lelia, who was eating like a starved beggar.
Lelia eagerly devoured the food regardless of his gaze.
That man seemed to be a very wealthy noble.
[I can’t believe you sprinkled such precious spices on travel food.]
The clothes he wore looked very luxurious. He looked a little scary, but he didn’t seem like a bad person.
[When he came across a runaway child, he fed the child first. He’s not a bad person. He’s an angel, not a bad man. Such an angel.]
Those were Lelia thoughts as she began to eat another chicken leg.
The old noble squinted at her.
“No… just eat for now.”
Lelia didn’t stop eating until her tiny belly bulged.
By the time she was full, the old man handed her some warm water. Lelia slowly drank the water then burped loudly.
“Now… let’s talk about you. Why did you hide in the carriage, little one?”
What do you mean, ‘little one’?
Lelia was puzzled by the title she had never heard before. She knew that grandfathers and grandmothers usually called their young grandchildren that way.
It felt strange because it was her first time being referred to like this.
[No… I’m ten years old, but I probably look young to him.]
For now it was now more important how she responded.
Lelia thought for a moment.
This old man obviously didn’t look like a bad person.
If she answered well, maybe she’d be able to get help.
Also to call her “little one” without hesitation, he seemed to be a particularly kind person to a child like her.
[I have to look more pitiful.]
She never wanted to be sent back to the capital.
Lelia gazed at the old man after much consideration. Seeing him wait, without urging her to answer quickly, she was sure he’s a really good person.
Lelia slowly brought it up.
“Actually… m-my father hates me. So I ran away.”
“…did he abuse you?”
Again…Lelia hesitated to answer.
Either way, Emperor Perseus did not know that she was his own daughter.
She understood that he hated her because he thought she was Iris’ child.
It was too much to say that it was abuse, but he is her biological father.
When Lelia failed to answer, the old man made his own judgment and said, “I can understand why you’re so skinny now. How old are you?”
“… ten years old.”
“You’re ten and this small?”
The old man frowned. He briefly recalled what his children were like when they were about ten.
He didn’t remember in detail, but they must have been much taller than the kid in front of him anyway.
The old man soon chuckled and asked, “So, that’s why you ran away? You’re quite brave too. Where did you intend to flee to?”
“…I haven’t thought about it yet.”
“The city is dangerous for a child to walk around alone. The countryside is also dangerous.”
“But my home is more dangerous to me!”
When Lelia answered back smartly, the old man made a ‘hmm’ noise. He was thinking that her father must have been pretty abusive for the child to say this.
However, it appeared differently to Lelia.
[Maybe he’s trying to send me back to the capital?]
Lelia looked at the old man with pleading eyes. She never wanted to go back to the capital.
“Please help me.”
If by chance he really sent Lelia back to the capital, everything would go up in smoke.
[Emperor Perseus might want to kill me for touching Juliana.]
With desperation, Lelia put her hands together and begged the old man.
“Help me…. I don’t want to go back. You just have to pretend you don’t know! I won’t follow you from here. So please don’t send me back to the capital….”
“Can you read?”
To the sudden question, Lelia blinked and nodded her head.
Perhaps thanks to Lelia’s earnest request, the old nobles suggested, “My knights just happened to need someone to help out. Can you do it?”
Lelia’s eyes grew round. She’ll be an errand girl for a high-ranking noble and his knights.
Lelia nodded quickly, before the old man could go back on his words.
“Fine, let’s go to the Rendinium together for now.”
Lelia said, bowing her head. She was puzzled. She didn’t expect the problem to be solved this easily.
“What’s your name?”
Lelia pursed her lips. It was dangerous to say her name.
However, the old man ordered a knight who was standing beside them indifferently.
“Take her to the Commander.”
At his indication, a knight in blue armor walked up to her and gestured.
He guided Lelia to one of the men who was combing her horse’s mane.
Lelia gazed at the knight. She was a very tall woman.
Come to think of it, there were only female knights here.
As the eyes of the knight focused on Lelia, Lelia’s body froze.
No matter if the old man had given permission or not, it was difficult for Lelia to stay if the knight she served didn’t like her.
“Cute kid. How old are you?”
The female knight bent down and asked while looking into Lelia’s eyes. She was a knight with long hair that was tied up.
In a more soft voice, Lelia answered cautiously.
“I’m ten years old.”
“I’m blessed to have such a cute errand-runner. Sir Tess.”
Another knight, who had been brushing her horse’s mane, approached Lelia.
“You can call me Sir Tess. You’d better change first. Your clothes are horrible.”
Fortunately, there was no sign of displeasure or suspicion on her face.
Lelia breathed a sigh of relief inside.