Chapter 1 - Part 1
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“They are looking for a 10-year-old girl from the Imperial Palace who looks like she’s seven or eight years old.”
The old knight’s expression was somewhat distorted by those words. Lelia was stunned by the escort’s words and couldn’t even blink.
The checkpoint was processing people at a high speed, and the turn of the caravan, that Lelia belonged to, was fast approaching.
The old knight thought for a moment. Then he leaned forward and thumped one side of the carriage floor. Lelia was struck dumb when she saw this.
On closer inspection, she found that he had not struck the floor of the carriage, but had grasped something and opened it.
A trap door was opened and a narrow space was revealed.
“Little one, you better hide for a while.”
Lelia hesitated for a moment at his words, but quickly entered the small space.
She curled up like a shrimp, and the old knight closed the trap door again.
Lelia lay down with her arms wrapped around her knees and trembled. If she was caught and returned to the capital, she might really die.
[It’s not just about a forced marriage to a strange person, it’s really…]
She closed her eyes tightly and grasped her necklace. Even if she was caught, there was hope. There’s an item made from this necklace…
“But knowing that they’ve hidden me, these people might suffer.’
The problem is the old man and the knights who helped Lelia. They might be risking their lives for her.
That’s the only thing that she wanted to prevent. Lelia trembled while thinking of what to do.
The turn of the carriage, in which Lelia was hiding, arrived.
Within a moment there was a noise outside, and someone outside the carriage window said;
“At the command of His Majesty, I am going to search your carriage. Could you step out of the carriage?”
With a roar, the door of the carriage was almost broken.
It was not opened from the outside, but the old man in the carriage kicked the door open.
“Why are you going to search my carriage?”
“Yes, but this is His Majesty’s order…”
Lelia bit her lips and trembled with fear, “Please, please.”
Some angry voices could be heard from outside the carriage.
There seemed to be a problem between the soldier, who was trying to search the carriage, and the old knight, who was trying to stop it from being searched. Though she could not hear the details.
Lelia was waiting while her hands were sweating.
At some point, it became quiet outside.
She felt the rocking of someone getting into the carriage. At the same time the carriage began to set off.
[They didn’t find me?]
Then she heard the voice of the old knight above her.
“We’ve come far after passing through the gate, and now I’ll open the door for you.”
The door to the secret space opened at the same time as she heard a gentle voice that relieved my heart.
“…Oh my gosh.”
The old man clicked his tongue at Lelia’s tear-stained face. Then he reached out and lifted Lelia up.
[T/N: My heart- T_T]
Lelia greeted him by wiping her eyes with the sleeves of her robe.
The old knight banged on the floor with one hand and closed the door to the secret compartment.
“You were scared. Did you think you were caught?”
“ I thought you were a brave kid, but you are quite the scaredy cat.”
At those words, Lelia’s brow wrinkled. The old knight smiled mischievously and handed Lelia a bottle of water.
Lelia didn’t refuse the water. She took the bottle of water and gulped it down.
Lelia pondered as she returned the bottle of water. She had to figure out how to explain, but her head wouldn’t cooperate.
He might be very upset if he found out she had lied.
[Or he might send her to the capital so he doesn’t get caught up in her mess…]
However, it was quite difficult for her to come up with a reason for a 10-year-old girl to be chased by, none other than, the Imperial knight.
She couldn’t think of anything other than the answer, ‘Be honest.’
“How much did I tell you? Yeah… you said you have never seen a map of Auraria?”
But the old noble did not ask Lelia anything. He brought up his story, as if nothing had happened.
[Aren’t you wondering why I ran away from the Imperial Castle?]
Or he didn’t know that it was Lelia that the soldiers were looking for. That he just happened to have a ten-year-old child in his carriage. So he might have been hiding her to avoid an annoyance.
It was her they were looking for. She was caught trembling and crying in a small secret compartment.
[I’m in a situation where anyone would doubt me…]
Lelia looked at the old man doubtfully. The old knight pondered for a moment and asked;
“So, have you ever heard of the Duke of Superion? We are going there now.”
Lelia was so startled that her chin almost fell down.
The old knight said nonchalantly;
“The estate of the Duke of Superion is located in the northwestern part of Auraria. It’s on the border, so it’s the farthest from the capital.”
Lelia swallowed her saliva. So… The place we’re going to now is the territory of the Superion family?
The Superion were the parental family of Elizabeth, Lelia’s biological mother.
[If so… surely…]
Lelia looked at the old knight in front of her with a puzzled face. The dark brown haired old nobleman was smiling brightly in contrast to his grim appearance.
“Then… by any chance, do you happen to be…”
“Yes, I am the Duke of Superion.”
The old knight said casually. Lelia was quietly astonished.
[How crazy… I thought they inherited their hair color from their father… ]
Perhaps the present-day Superions inherited their red hair from their mother.
[No, more than that. You’re saying I’m heading to the Superion Territory now?]
Tension sweat dripped from her forehead.
[… He is my mother’s father.]
Lelia looked at the duke with a different perspective from before. She carefully observed his features, tenaciously scanning his face.
Which part of the old nobleman’s face resembles her mother, or does he have no resemblance to my mother at all? She thought maybe so…
The old duke looked at Lelia, who was confused, and then spoke up;
“… In fact, little one, when I first saw you… I thought my dead daughter had come back to life as a child.”
“Your eyes… They are very similar to the eyes of my dead daughter.”
To that, Lelia did not reply and hesitated. It was difficult to comprehend.
Before her mind could fully process his words, strangely, tears began to flow down.
The old man continued his words calmly, in a very soft voice.
“The first time you looked at me with terrified eyes, I thought of my daughter. She was always afraid of me. It was because I was a strict father.”
“I should have been a more loving father… It’s been a regret that’s been bothering my heart all my life. So I couldn’t turn a blind eye to you.”
[T/N: This is a very emotional part T_T]
Lelia bit her lip. She didn’t make a single noise, but her tears were dripping down.
Tears welled up in the corners of the old man’s eyes. Wet tears flowed down the corners of his wrinkled eyes.
“How do you look so alike when you’re afraid of me? Of all things….”