Clyde thought he would have a lot to say when he met Stella. He quickly got on a horse and headed for the palace. The servant’s words asking him to wait a bit for the horse carriage to be prepared didn’t reach his ear. Ignoring the servant’s request to leave his horse in the stable, he headed from the stable and fastened up his horse.
Just a few more steps ahead when he thought that he would see Stella.
He recognized the familiar figure at just one glance.
Clyde gave the horse reins to the servant and walked over toward Stella.
As if the servant was grateful, he accepted the reins while thanking them continuously.
Clyde stood in front of Stella and looked down at her quietly.
He easily found traces of tears on her face.
The eyes that he always thought were pretty, now burning red and the tip of her nose was also red.
At that moment he was at loss for words.
It felt like all the thoughts in his head had disappeared entirely. He grasped her hand tightly.
He wanted to ask who made her cry. Anger covered his eyes, and he agonized about what to do with the emotion seething inside him.
Who was it that brought tears to the eyes of this little, soft, and lovely thing?
And then a part of his heart ached. It was a really strange feeling for him to ache like this.
His life was never a smooth one, but it was the case from others’ views, they thought it was his life was smooth.
He honestly didn’t know where it hurt as he was enduring each day breathlessly.
The pain was bearable when the wound was festering at the time when he was being whipped or his hands got swollen.
Even when he was being sold in a bag like an animal with the permission from his father.
He just couldn’t feel anything at that time.
The murmur of the conversation was heard between the slave trader having a talk if he was a sad dog and the sound of rain could be heard over the sack.
The sound of the carriage window wavering may have been vivid, but it didn’t hurt him.
However, looking at her face made his heart ache.
“…you’re seriously hurt. I haven’t seen you in a while.”
It was only when the woman touched his wound that he felt the pain.
She soothed him even though she was already hurt as well and looked at him with a worried look, saying he was seriously hurt, and the place where her fingertips touched his body was hurting. He thought he didn’t know why.
He looked at Stella quietly, forgetting what he was about to say.
He didn’t even know what to do. He wondered if he could steal her eyes with his hands?
If she doesn’t like it when I want to crumble her in my arms. He wanted to hold her in his arms and give her a hug as if he was going to crush her but choose not to do that if she doesn’t like that.
Although he wanted to hold her hand, he had no idea whether she would completely elude his grasp or not, so he clasped his hand.
Conscious of his gaze, she turned her head and he felt like almost losing his mind.
Next thing she knew, she looked at him with a surprise look. His thumb slowly swept around her eyes. He came to ask her a lot of questions, but decided not to ask anything when he was looking at her eyes.
He only held her in his arms without saying a word. His rough hand stroked her back.
When she struggled to tell him about what had happened and buried her head in his arms, he lowered his head and took a deep breath.
The scent tickled him and filled his nose when it was almost impossible for him to reach it.
The rough hands landed on her slender back and stroked there as if to comfort her.
‘What have I done?’
Joseph was still absent-minded and unable to move even after Stella left the room.
“…Y-You are not my sister. Stella didn’t do this. My sister.”
“Then it’s alright if you still see me like that.”
He still couldn’t forget that cold face.
She was his sister who had come back after ten years, and she would have suffered more than anyone else in the past.
He wondered if he should have said that.
All that remained was only terrible consequences.
“It would have been a shame if I still looked like a sister who is begging for love from her brother.”
It was a relationship that couldn’t be reversed and had been too out of line.
Such relationships couldn’t be carried in ragged quilts, no matter how hard he tried.
This meant that it couldn’t be as new as it used to be.
Joseph instinctively knew that nothing could comfort Stella’s broken heart.
He should’ve acted emotionally, but the situation pushed him to the limit.
Unfortunately, his eyes were blinded and he somehow wanted to win the trifling quarrel, being a righteous and competent man, and there was nothing left for him.
It was just an empty room with a deeply hurted brother.
The guilt of hurting someone filled himself and the remorse that shouldn’t have pressured him.
Then he remembered that Stella’s coronation ceremony was close.
The debutante. He recited to himself.
I forget about it when I look at the busy streets.
Who I am. What kind of duty would be placed in front of me. What would happen to that duty later.
In the midst of this busyness, my concern was hidden and my senses focused on the noise outside. People were so busy moving around.
People who placed and sold seafood. People who offered the fresh fruits and raised their voices.
The mailers. People working diligently on making the lace over the window.
The pretzel sign that hung on the bakery was very lovely. The children passed by while smiling ear to ear.
The noise from the small printing shop buildings wasn’t as bad as I thought.
Clyde held my hand in silence. I stared at the hand that caught me in surprise and looked up at him.
His hands were so big and rough.
His hand was very flabby, perhaps because he held the sword all his life.
It was hard rather than smooth and quite different from Joseph’s soft hand that I wanted to hold so badly, but this hand was warm.
Does this person know that my heart is throbbing at this moment?
He fixed our holding hands while looking to the front again and his body flinched.
Even that little delicate emotion was conveyed through the hand that held mine.
We walked without saying a word.
He didn’t ask anything and I also didn’t explain anything to him.
That was more comforting for me.
The fact that there was someone who stayed by my side even without saying a word.
“There you go.”
I pointed ahead with my chin while looking up to him.
There was a place I used to know in the middle of this busy street. A very friendly place.
<The Adventurer’s Refuge>
A pretty wooden sign hung at the end of a steel bar and left a cozy reflection.
Mary, Hans and Daisy would probably be in that building.
“It’s such a pretty place that I hope it will remain that way. As always.”
I didn’t even bat an eyelid to put this beautiful scenery embedded in my head as if I were drawing a picture.
Whenever I became weak, I thought I should come to this place.
The happiness of those people behind that door was depending on my shoulders.
I’ll do my best to protect them.
Because as much as my ordinary daily life was precious to me, so would my family.
Aunt Mary once said this.
“This building descended from my aunt. Maybe it’s even older. My grandmother used to sit me on her lap and tell me that this building would be three times older than you. She said this building might have been more than 400 years old.”
Back then, I blinked helplessly while listening to the story of the old inn building.
“Someday this place will belong to you and Daisy. This place used to be my mother’s, my grandmother’s, my great grandmother’s, my great-great grandmother’s resting place.”
Mary offered me a warm soup when I became depressed. She said while stroking my head as I lay face down and sat on the desk.
“Baby, that’s why you don’t have to be worried.”
“Because you’re my family, too. No matter where you’re from, no matter what happens.”
I knew better than anyone that I couldn’t run to meet Mary and Hans right away even though I was overwhelmed with the urge to do so.
What’s more terrible than not being able to see them would be to face them and say, ‘You’ve been threatened because of me, so pack up right now. I’ll take you somewhere safe.’
That building, the harmonious and simple daily routines that unfolded in that place, was life for them.
So the best I could do was go back to where I had come and quietly reminisce about my time with them, as well as hoping earnestly that their favor wouldn’t turn out to be their calamity.
Returning their lives quietly to the way they were before so that they wouldn’t regret picking me up.
I was just disappearing from their lives.
When I was about to turn around, I heard a voice behind my back.
I heard the name that I missed very much so I had no choice but to look back.
A group of boys who looked about three spans taller surrounded Daisy and said.
“Here it is, rattlesnake. I was wondering where you went.”
“Hey, I heard your sister ran away. Did her name Ethel?”
“No, I said she was sold off. Your parents sold your sister, didn’t they? Huh?”
“I said no!”
Daisy snapped at them with tearful eyes.
“One day, someone as beautiful as an angel came and took my sister! My mother said she took my sister because she was a high-class princess from a faraway country!”
‘Princess from faraway country?’
Was that how they made up the reason for my leave to Daisy? Why?
That’s what I was thinking.
Pftt, a scornful laughter escaped one of the boy’s lips.
The boys’ laughter grew wilder.
“Hey, you’re a high-ranking person.”
“Why don’t you just call the second princess who just returned is your sister?”
“Hey, wake up. Your sister didn’t go to another country. She was hunted, being kept as a slave somewhere, and whipped.”
Clyde grasped my hand tightly.
Looking at his side profile, I remembered that Clyde was a dogfight slave before entering the palace. My heart pounded.
[T/N: the term ‘dogfight slave’ might have meant someone being enslaved to fight constantly and without proper treatment.]
I was afraid he might have been hurt by that. A part of my heart was sore.
The boys were still chattering.
“…if you don’t have enough luck to wipe the floor until it becomes dirtless, you’ll be serving the host tonight.”
“Hey, that’s why you have no luck. It’s your fate.”
They giggled among themselves.
The boy said while pressing his index finger firmly to Daisy’s forehead as she looked up at them with glaring eyes.
“Why didn’t you ask your lying mother if the inn wasn’t going well back then. She wants to sell her daughter to get money….”
I was about to come forward when I was unable to stand the scene any more, Clyde held my hand tightly.
I looked at him with a look of asking him to let me go there, but he shook his head.
He let go of my hand and walked forward.
I held his hood in my hand.
Clyde went in front of Daisy and said.
“Princess Ethel… sent me to you.”
Daisy blinked her eyes absentmindedly. Clyde knelt down on one knee in front of her and they made eye contact.
The really big man then grabbed Daisy’s little hand and kissed the back of her hand.
I stood there and looked at both of them, not even imagining that he would do such delicate action.
Daisy said as she remembered Clyde’s face when he came to the inn.
Clyde looked Daisy directly in the eye and nodded.
“As you said, Her Highness Princess Ethel returned back to become the princess of the faraway country.”
“W-Was it true?”
The boys who bullied Daisy just a moment ago suddenly became contemplative and looked at Daisy and Clyde alternately.
Clyde didn’t pay attention to them and continued.
“Your Royal Highness the Princess is fine. However, His Majesty The King of the kingdom and Her Highness The Queen haven’t sent her away so she hasn’t been able to come. But she misses this place and her family every day.”
“Is my sister really a princess?”
Daisy said with an excited face.
“Really? Like the princess in the fairy tale, right? She is the type of princess who wears a pretty dress and drinks tea every day, right?”
Clyde pulled out some gold coins from his pocket and slipped them into Daisy’s little hand.
“She is the most noble and beautiful woman in the world. …She asked me to deliver this.”
Daisy exclaimed as she looked at the gold coins in her hands, then turned around and faced the boys.
“My sister is really a princess! You idiots!”
The boys trembled while looking on each other’s faces at the condescending face of Daisy.
Daisy turned her head and said to Clyde.
“Sir Knight, Sir Knight. Can you tell my sister that my family really misses her a lot and I love her as well?”
Clyde nodded slowly.
“I swear to tell her for you.”
As if he had been so kind toward her, Clyde’s sharp eyes turned to the boys behind Daisy as they trembled beyond his gaze.
“Oh, and also.”
When Clyde stood up and turned to the boy, they froze and shivered with his aura.
“As the representative of Her Highness…”
Clyde took a step forward and headed for the boys.
Daisy looked very confident with her figure turned against them.
“…the next time I see this, I’ll be willing to punish you severely and make an example out of you for everyone on the street.”
Hic, one of the boys started hiccuping.
“You’d better behave carefully.”
The boys darted away after apologizing over and over.
Daisy’s eyes gleamed as she looked at Clyde’s back.
 Sad dog: an unfortunate person, morose or dismal looking person.