Chapter 12

***

 

In fact, unlike what Stephen knew, Roxana didn’t hate festivals. She actually liked them.

 

No matter how extravagant the banquets held at social gatherings were, festivals held in the city had a different appeal.

 

We all pursue the new and crave for freedom. The city in Roxana’s memory was a mysterious, free-spirited place that did not need to be bound by heavy formalities and dignities. In the city, there was a rare sight to see people from the distant East and West. The wandering musicians and acrobats performing throughout the city, the roadside stores, and finally the spectacular fireworks that lit up the night sky on top of the hill were so enchanting to watch that it brought tears to my eyes.

 

Festivals were usually attended with families or lovers.

 

However, the Duke, who spent most of his time on the battlefield and in the office, never went to the festival with her.

 

Roxana didn’t want to spend an awkward time with her cold father either.

 

She had bravely suggested to the crown prince that they go to the festival together, but he refused, saying that had to work a lot lately and it was difficult to coordinate their schedules.

 

In the end, Roxana went with the maids to see the festival.

 

The maids tried to keep her in a good mood, and Roxana’s spirits were lifted by their efforts and the unusual sight she saw for the first time in her life.

 

But her happiness did not last so long.

 

And, as usual, it was the Crown Prince and Claire who turned those happy memories into a nightmare.

 

**”

 

A few months ago, Roxana and her maids visited East Hill to watch the fireworks.

 

East Hill was a famous tourist attraction because it had a beautiful natural landscape with wild flowers in full bloom and they could see the streets below.

 

Not long after she climbed up East Hill, people started setting off fireworks from the city. The fireworks at the top of East Hill were indeed beautiful.

 

The spring breeze on the tip of her nose was refreshing and the fireworks were diverse and spectacular.

 

“It’s beautiful.”

 

As Roxana looked up at the evening sky in admiration, the maids at her side chimed in.

 

“I know. I think this year is more spectacular than last year.”

 

“It’s a shame we can’t see it often.”

 

Roxana replied with a pleasant look on her face, keeping her eyes on the sky.

 

“That’s why it’s more special.”

 

It was that time when they spent a peaceful moment admiring the fireworks.

 

Roxana spotted a lover couple at the bottom of the hill, surrounded by knights. The two were dressed in commoner’s clothes, but the number of knights guarding the area showed that they were not of low status.

 

As they watched the golden fireworks go off in the dim evening sky, they kissed, not caring who was around them.

 

East Hill was a famous landmark frequented by lovers, as there was a popular belief that if they watched the fireworks with their lovers during the festival, their love would come true.

 

Roxana could also pray for their happiness. The only problem was that the man was her own fiancé.

 

Why would the Crown Prince, who had refused to go with her on the pretext of busy political duties, be here with Claire?

 

She wasn’t foolish not to know the reason.

 

Roxana watched the two of them for a moment from a short distance away, then turned and started leaving.

 

“Miss, what’s going on all of a sudden?”

 

The maids, who did not see the Crown Prince and Claire, could only wonder.

 

“I’m going home now!”

 

Roxana’s high-pitched voice made the maids clam up.

 

Roxana could no longer see the dubious reactions of the maids, or even the night view and fireworks.

 

After returning to the Duke’s residence, she quickly retreated to her room.

 

The maids of honor, who were with her but did not see the couple, 

suddenly changed their attitudes and could not understand her nervous whims. After returning to her room, Roxana suffered for some time, unable to forget the scene she had just witnessed. 

 

Her first visit to the festival ended that way.

 

Her own fiancé, who had said he was busy with work, was happy and with his girlfriend for the first time.

 

Roxana did not confront him and returned home.

 

The Crown Prince probably had no idea that Roxana had seen him at that moment. But what would have changed if Roxana had grabbed him and questioned him at that time? If she had, how would he have reacted? Would he be embarrassed or sorry?

 

Or would he be angry?

 

As I pondered for a while, thinking of the faces of the Crown Prince and Claire that day, the carriage stopped and the door opened.

 

“Lady, we’re here.”

 

I slowly got off the carriage, taking the knight’s outstretched hand.

 

“!”

 

The city was decorated with flowers and insignia, and there were cheerful musical melodies.

 

I walked slowly, my heart pounding with excitement at the sight of so much more life than what I had seen in my memory.

 

The scenery of the town where the festival was held was certainly different from the usual. Stores were more crowded than usual, and as I walked along, I could see musicians, acrobats, and exotic dancers performing in the streets. The faces of the people passing by were bright, and it seemed as if the whole city was in a state of buoyancy.

 

The bright and joyful atmosphere made me feel better.

 

I walked leisurely through the streets until I arrived at my destination, leaving aside useless thoughts for a while. Fortunately, there was a large crowd on the streets and the costumes were also diverse, so it was not very noticeable to wear a robe and a mask.

 

It made it easy for me to look around without being noticed. 

 

I didn’t hesitate to buy anything I liked.

 

It would be suspicious if I bought something expensive while dressing like I was, but the items I bought in the stores were not that expensive.

 

It was simple items that Roxana would never pay attention to. But to me, it felt like a memorial.

 

It was fun to see the items for sale in the store, and it made me even happier to know that I could buy as many items as I liked without worrying about my pocket. Even when I collected them all, I could not say that the amount was small. This should be enough to cover the cost of living for a few months for an ordinary person.

 

Besides, the hats and brooches I bought in the stores afterwards were worth a lot of money. In fact, I was not a true noblewoman, and in my previous life my family was more common than wealthy, so I was not used to this kind of consumption habit.

 

But a day like today was quite interesting because it was something I had dreamed of for once.

 

For a brief moment, I truly enjoyed myself to the point of forgetting my current situation.

 

As night fell and a distinct darkness descended on the sky, the stores began to close one after another.

 

One by one, the lights of the stores began to go out and the streets became a little deserted.

 

When I saw the stores were closed, I finally realized that I had been so absorbed in shopping that I hadn’t been able to do as much as I planned.

 

While I was looking away, the sky became dark, so the moonlight and starlight alone were not enough to distinguish the surroundings.

 

However, after a little while, the streets were covered with bright lights.

 

In front of the closed stores, merchants settled down on mats and began selling goods.

 

Those who were in a better position brought carts and set up tents.

 

The lights they turned on made the streets much brighter than it had been at sunset.

 

This scenery was something that even Roxana had never seen before.

 

At first I was confused, but then I saw the people laughing and talking, and I naturally smiled.

 

“The night market. I didn’t expect to see it here.”

 

There was not much difference between the night market I had often visited in my previous life and the one I could see in front of me now.

 

Delicious smelling food was prepared and sold on the spot, and the merchants raised their voices to invite customers. In the taverns, lively laughter echoed with the sound of clinking glasses.

 

For the first time this world, which had always been unfamiliar and alien to me, felt familiar.

 

It was late, but I didn’t feel like going home when I saw the brighter lights of the city.

 

When the stores closed too early I was disappointed, but now I wondered if I should stay until dawn and go home in the light, since it was late anyway.

 

Even if I left early, there was one one waiting for me at home anyway.

 

It didn’t take me long to make a decision.

 

I decided to go home early tomorrow and walked with a blank look on my face. It was fun to browse the street vendors as I had done in the past, but it was also a different kind of fun to watch the wind lanterns blowing on the bridge.

 

In this way, I enjoyed a leisurely stroll, soaking up the atmosphere of the festival.

 

I wondered how much I had walked.

 

Finally, I saw the building of my destination in front of me.

 

The building, achromatic and seemingly monotonous with only gray, was very impressive with its high walls and thick iron gates.

 

When I told the guard at the gate that I had come to make a request, a person immediately came out from inside and told me to follow him. He led me in, and I walked with a nervous feeling.

 

The floor was carpeted, the wallpaper was a dark gold color and all the interior decorations were luxurious. I was not an appraiser, but I felt that the interior of the upper building was no less dignified and wealthy than the Duke’s residence.

 

The inside of the building was gorgeous, unlike what it looked like from the outside.

 

This had to be either because the wealth of the upper level of Hermes was not insufficient compared to most high-ranking nobles, or because the master was a vain man. Anyway, that was just my observation.

 

The man who led me in showed me to a room. 

 

“Please wait here for a moment.”

 

I nodded and went inside. The room was luxurious, but small and desolate. The only furniture in the room was a table with a cup and a teapot on it. However, I did not want to mess with the tea in front of me as I recalled the notoriety of Hermes. So I did nothing and waited patiently. I felt the thirst in my throat as my energy was exhausted from walking around. And eventually, a person came in.

 

“Nice to meet you.”

 

I looked up and saw the man’s face and wrinkled my brow.