I quickly chewed and gulped down my bread so I could help them pack. We all had a quick bite just so we could leave early.
I took a quick glimpse at Duke Kyron and saw that he did not even sway from his seat. He even seemed like he was slightly bored. That was when I realized that he was used to this kind of thing. I was a little depressed when I finally realized what George meant by ‘The Duke does not need anyone to look after him.’.
To be honest, I was still under the impression of Arielsa who was looking after the five-year-old Ducal Prince Kyron. I thought that I was some sort of hero since I knew all about his fate as the main character. Keeping a secret was so sweet that it even flattered and made people arrogant. However, I was as good as a five-year-old when I entered the middle of the forest at night without knowing that wolves were wandering around.
“Ah… I think I’ve grown up a bit.”
As I murmured in melancholy while glancing at the sky, Chaers, who was passing by, glared at me.
“You did not even grow a bit bigger. Are you really awake? We’ll be on our way soon.”
I pouted as I turned to answer him.
“Of course! I even got all of my cushions.”
His eyes widened a bit when he heard me answer him defiantly. Then, he snorted lightly as he climbed up on his horse. The servants who passed by as they climbed up in the wagon giggled at us.
Chaers shouted when saw that Duke Kyron was already sitting on his horse.
I quickly got on the wagon that followed behind them like a tail. As I sat there, I was able to watch the colors of the northern forest change from the colors of the early morning to the colors of the brightest hour of the day without dozing off.
Because I learned after what happened yesterday, I stuck near the vicinity of the knights and the servants and acted with caution even during breaks. Over time, I could see that their unseemly attitude towards me was due to their friendship with George. They were the ones who had watched Arielsa grow up from a child to an adult. In other words, it seemed like I was slowly fusing into Arielsa’s life a bit more than before.
Movale village in the east was much bigger than what I thought. When Chaers entered the village, the first thing that he did was to send me and the wagon to the village inn. Then, the Duke and the knights went to look around at the site where the landslide happened.
I quietly went to the inn to prepare for Duke Kyron’s return. I unpacked his luggage and went down to the kitchen and ordered their dinner menu. After doing that, I made sure to watch their cooking process.
Because the inn was emptied out for the entirety of Duke Kyron’s stay, everyone was preoccupied in preparing for Duke Kyron’s comfortable stay. The servants and staff in the inn were all strangers to me but no one said otherwise about what I ordered for the Duke. It was fortunate that no one treated me like a fool unless it was time to move on the road.
Duke Kyron returned after sunset. Together with his vassals, the East Administrator Hallisa and the Chief of Movale and all of the elders rushed in all at once.
Now was the time to prove my usefulness. I had been preparing the food all day and no one had found any fault with me.
The Duke and his party had a meal and talked about the restoration of the village. I ate separately at a table near the wall as I listened carefully to their stories.
I focused a lot on their words so I could revive some memories but Arielsa did not seem to know much about the things outside of Harpel Castle. She did not have a curious personality and she also did not seem to have any complaints about staying in the castle for the rest of her life.
But everything I saw and heard were things that were very interesting to me.
Duke Kyron ordered the administrator to buy wood and other building materials. But they lacked wood so they decided to do some logging. Since the weather would get warmer, the trees would start to suck in the water and sap from the ground which would definitely increase the time for them to dry it and turn it into timber. So they decided to mobilize the men of the village to help as loggers before it was too late.
Mr. Doctor disappeared to who knows where and did not return to the inn. But it seemed like he was staying at the tent where the wounded were all kept together. There was also a temporary barracks set up as they rationed free food to those who have lost their homes. Just around the corner of the barracks was a tent for the injured and the wounded.
The disaster countermeasures and prevention were being carried out together by the people from Harpel Estate. He was a handsome man that was good at fighting and talented at politics and management. I watched their discussion with pride as I pretended to not look at them.
I felt sorry for those who suffered from the disaster but Duke Kyron’s current appearance was something that I was extremely proud of.
Their meeting went late into the night before they all went back. I quietly took the winter strawberry tea that I brought from the castle to the Duke’s room. I placed the tea down as I quickly took out his change of clothes.
He turned around as if he was going to change his clothes whether I was there or not but when I stood still, he asked me…
“Do you have something to say, Arielsa?”
To be honest, I was just distracted for a moment when I saw the fine muscles on his back. Fortunately, he had his back to me so he did not see my face so I tried to clear my throat. But before I could even speak, my face seemed to heat up.
“Back then, at the forest, thank you for saving me from the wolves.”
“I just cleaned up what was in the way of my trip.”
In fact, I was prepared to hear something along the lines of ‘Thank me until the day you die.’ so when I heard an answer that seemed like everything that he did had nothing to do with me, my heart strangely felt cold.
My bottom lip popped out in a pout and somehow I felt that my defenses against his roughness and bluntness had diminished somehow. Well, when I thought about it, there were some days when I was a bit oblivious about the light that was sweeping around his body. To the point that I needed to think about it deeply and purposely or I would hardly be aware of it. But it did not mean that he became less beautiful or any less cliche.
“Do you have anything else to say?”
I bid him goodbye with a very, very sulky voice as I left the room.
“You’ve worked hard today. Good night, Duke.”
“Tonight’s dinner was great.”
I closed the door quietly before coming back to my room. I layed down on the strange quilt in my room as I buried my nose on the pillows.
I shook my legs wildly as I lamented the fact that the only way I could show my happiness was through such a primitive and bizarre sound. I did not know what would happen tomorrow as I screamed through my pillow but all I could think of was that my fatigue had been overcome by my happiness.
The next day, I woke up at dawn in a good mood. I have already become accustomed to the rhythm of the northerners’ lives so I could easily wake up without anyone waking me up.
I quickly fixed myself as I went down to prepare breakfast for Duke Kyron and his knights who would be in a meeting early in the morning.
Movale’s restoration would take a long time so the Duke would also have a lot of spare time while the chief of the village took the men to log. And it seemed like Duke Kyron had the habit of spending all of his time without having a bit of a break.
Of course, I hated the plan. The journey here was ruined by the wolves and we have been too busy. If he had some free time, shouldn’t he just take a rest and look around. Of course, he should take me with him.
But the schedule for the inspection was decided in a flash so I had to prepare food that the Duke and the knights could take on the road like dried meat and fruits.
Before Duke Kyron set out in front of the inn, I was able to speak briefly with Sir Tyra, one of his escort knights.
“Do you think I could follow you if it’s just a light inspection?”
Sir Tyra, a man with his fine old age, glanced down at me from atop his horse as he clicked his tongue.
“You… Then, your father will give you a slap instead of a flick.”
In a fit of rage, I replied to him.
“No. How old do you think I am—”
“—Sir George has already told the knights. He told them to not let you do anything stupid. I heard that you kicked the ball after falling off of the ladder these days? Tch, tch.”
“Don’t worry your father too much. You won’t even get married!”
During that time, Duke Kyron departed and Sir Tyra drifted away with a grin on his mouth. Meanwhile, I felt upset. I hated the fact that Duke Kyron just gone ahead without even saying goodbye.
In fact, the maid had missed giving her farewell greeting to her master because she was chatting away but my situation was subjective anyway.
I went inside as I grumbled a bit late when I recalled that old knight treating me, a grown woman, like an eight-year-old child. I felt a bit sorry for George who must have been restless and worried by now but on the other hand I was also scared. No matter how stupid his daughter was, I thought that I could never get married. He would definitely treat me like a child and keep me away if he could until I turned 40. When I become an old maid, I would be like ‘Huh, is this how long it has been? I don’t have any choice, should I just live with my dad?’. I felt like I was a person who would just pretend that I did not know anything.
Of course, that was only the case if he was still alive…
I liked George. And the people around me were nice too. They all seemed brusque and rough but they were meticulous and vigilant. I was still uncomfortable with Chaers but I was not really complaining since he did that to protect Duke Kyron and ensure his safety. But I wanted to live with them and George for a long time without ever going through terrible things.
Perhaps it was a bit strange. In the past, I had never experienced a variety of emotions for the people that were surrounding me. I did not feel anything whether it was being very fond of them or disliking them. My life was just drifting into a monotonous and pastel tone and I was just being dragged into a repetitive life where others told me what was important in life. But right now, I was pushed into this world and for the first time in my life, I was living a lively and cheerful life. I would be a bad person if I did not value this time.
I thought that I should cook something delicious for Duke Kyron’s return. And maybe I could share some with Chaers too.