Our attempt to shorten the travel period by hurrying through the country road would have gone smoothly if it weren’t for the vibrations of the carriage shooting pain through our joints, our carriage being stopped on the way when a flock of sheep surrounded it, and the wheels getting stuck in mud.
On the way there, we were able to stop at a rest stop to eat food, but to be quite honest, it tasted horrendous.
The food was cold, and the seasoning was light, almost as if it wasn’t even seasoned at all. But I wasn’t in the position to complain, so I just quietly ate it. Lizia seemed apologetic about leaving some leftovers, so she probably didn’t find it delicious either.
When Bernhardt skillfully put away just the beans on the side of his plate, Lizia got angry at him.
It seems that he doesn’t like beans. I laughed at his childlike behavior, having gotten used to it on this trip.
But nothing ever goes smoothly, and finally halfway through our itinerary, we entered the Bormann territory.
Lizia’s face hadn’t looked well for a while now, so after lunch, she was almost forcefully removed from changing shifts with driving and returned to the back of the carriage.
As always, I silently sat across from Lizia, motionless. She sat wrapped in a blanket, repeatedly falling into a cycle of shallow sleep and waking up.
“Are you really okay? I really do think you should lay down and rest.”
Lizia abruptly raised her head with a low groan, and even in the darkness, I could see that she didn’t look well.
“Are you sick?”
What’s with that questioning look on your face?
Lizia rubbed her head on her raised knee multiple times, and apologetically mumbled in a slightly gossipy voice. “I have to apologize ahead of time. Sorry.”
“What do you mean ‘ahead of time’?!”
“Sorry if I throw up.”
“I haven’t thrown up yet! I’ll get hurt if you move so far away!” Lizia once again groaned and returned her head to her knee because of the volume of her own voice.
This is really bad.
After that, Lizia broke out into a severe fever, so we looked for an inn to have her rest in.
Because the closest town was by chance the center of the Bormann territory, we finally arrived before the sun set.
To be quite honest, the inn that Bernhardt found didn’t look stable, but it was better than the cheap one we passed by earlier that had looked close to collapsing.
Lizia repeatedly said she was okay, but by the time we arrived at the inn, she was almost lost in her chatter.
Her gestures and her voice sounds as if she’s about to throw up.
When we were taking care of our lodgings, I could only pat her back while talking to her, and for some reason, she looked really uncomfortable.
“I hate Bormann… I hate Bormann…”
As Bernhardt negotiated with the inn employee, Lizia shivered from the cold and looked completely pale. But even so, she repeatedly said, ‘I hate Bormann.’
If she opens her mouth, won’t that make her throw up?
I recalled the same words I asked about the king when I read a fairy tale as a child. ‘Why do you hate him so much?’
“I hate Bormannnn…!”
Lizia shouted weakly, and cried a tiny bit.
“Why do you hate him so much…?”
I wonder what Viscount Bormann did. I mean, I’ve never heard any good rumors about him.
I entrusted Lizia, who had more strength than a sick person should have, to Bernhardt and went to my own room in the meantime.
No matter how you look at it, the inside of the inn was plain and shabby, but I was relieved because the unrefined appearance could prevent crimes. Even if I wasn’t able to get a peaceful sleep, this place was paradise compared to the carriage.
I left my luggage and when I entered Lizia’s room in order to help her change her clothes, I heard a sniffing sound come from the bed. Even her nose was stuffy. She sounds so pitiful…
“I brought your change of clothes, but you might be able to…”
I was startled upon seeing Lizia’s face.
Lizia was crying with the blanket up to the tip of her nose.
“W-why are you crying?!”
“I’m sorry, I’m so useless this whole time.”
Not understanding why she was crying, I cautiously brought a chair beside the bed, and sat down.
Lizia looked embarrassed at having shown her tear-stained face and hid the upper half of her face that peeked out from the blanket with the back of her hand.
While I was satisfied at looking at her sniffling nose, it reminded me of how this girl was three years younger than me, which made me recall my complicated feelings so far.
“There’s no helping it, right? You’re sick.”
I didn’t know how to comfort her, and even as I desperately tried to think of a way using my childhood, I could only remember my extravagant but desolate room that was twice as spacious as this place.
Should I hold her hand?
I thought that but didn’t have enough courage to do so.
“But I couldn’t even help with driving the carriage, and even though my body’s only redeeming feature is how healthy it is, I ended up catching a cold at this time.”
Even though I can’t drive the carriage either and could only be a burden…
Which reminds me, she might have gotten sick from the food when she had leftovers at lunch. She also could have gotten sick from being out in the cold when she drove the carriage.
I would like to at least wipe her tears with the towel I brought along with her change of clothes, but the hand guarding her face is sturdy, and I might end up looking like a fool doing a dance all by herself. I couldn’t possibly tell her to remove her hand; I wonder what I should do.
With an obviously congested voice, Lizia trailed on and continued, unaware of who she was talking to.
“There’s nothing special about me, and I’m sure there are other people who like Bern like Elmenhilde, but even so, to keep a secret from him… ‘It’s okay to tell him, I have to tell him!’ Despite thinking that, I couldn’t tell him for so long.”
Lizia’s head was in a mess due to the fever, and thought that her words to me were closer to a monologue.
Flustered, I comforted her while wondering if I should tell her that’s not true or not.
“I wonder about that.”
“But doesn’t that make me a coward…”
“No it doesn’t.”
Seeing that she had worn herself from crying, I quickly tried to end her worries.
But it seems to have backfired and Lizia began to cry again, ‘Huhuhu.’
Wh-what should I do…
‘Should I not be here and have Bernhardt take care of her?’ Just when I thought of that, I heard footsteps approach the room, and someone knocked on the door.
When the door quickly opened like a godsend, he noticed Lizia crying, and sat on the chair that I had been seating on just earlier.
“What’s wrong, Lizzy? Does it hurt anywhere?”
Bernhardt put his hand on her stomach, and asked in a extremely worried voice.
When he did so, Lizia took several deep breaths and violently wiped her tears with the back of her hand.
And despite being distracted earlier, she smiled and said, ‘It’s nothing.’
It looked to me like a child not wanting to trouble their mother about unnecessary things.
Thinking that it would be best to leave them alone by themselves, I absentmindedly waited outside the room in the meantime.
Bernhardt came out of the quiet room, and for some reason, he looks smaller than usual.
“I’m going shopping before Lizzy wakes up, you want to come with?”
Probably because he was thinking of something, he asked with a slightly uncomfortable expression.
Of course I have no reason to refuse. Because I wanted to have a look at the town, I quickly put on my coat, pushed all of my hair inside a wide-brimmed hat, and fixed my appearance.
I suddenly looked like a successful merchant’s daughter. I asked myself if I should change into clothes that look more of that of a town daughter, but on the other hand, that might make me stand out even more.
Walking through the town during the evening behind Bernhardt, it wasn’t as lively, and for some reason, the atmosphere felt unsociable.
The main street immediately after coming out of the inn was completely laid in stone, and was spacious enough to let carriages pass each other by. Despite that, it was lined up with storefronts with withering vegetables, and out-of-date western clothes, and if you peeked through the alleyway, you would see a stray dog sleeping with a beggar. Everything was dusty and stale.
Everything was inferior to the Royal Capital, so much so that I wanted to ask if this really was the center of this territory. Is everyone like this in the Viscount’s town?
I’m slightly unwilling to ask that in fear that I would be seen as ignorant of the world’s ways.
I put my right hand over my eyes as I squinted at the setting sun passing over the rising spire, and Bernhardt quietly started talking.
“She was worried that she showed you something unsightly.”
“That’s not true…”
It didn’t need to be said that he was talking about Lizia.
After what had happened, I wonder if she had told him why she was crying.
Bernhardt expressionlessly gazed at the setting sun. But for some reason, he looks listless.
“She cried because she was hiding a secret from… you.”
He turned his sharp grey eyes towards me. I couldn’t see any emotions in them. It has always been like this. I was attracted to them, not letting themselves be controlled by anyone, nor anything.
“I don’t quite know the details. But I think that you both should have a proper talk about it…”
Bernhardt didn’t say anything about my being meddlesome, but only sighed.
I’m not sure if he did that because he thinks it’s none of my business, or because he’s disappointed in me.
Whenever he talks, or looks at Lizia, small flames of jealousy arise within me.
But now, it’s not directed only at Lizia. Well, that’s what I think.
Lizia has exposed and seen many unknown sides of him. Every time that happened, it made me realize that he is human, but for me, there is surprise, and at the same time, loneliness — but even moreso than those, there is relief.
It’s probably because I’m restless from all the various emotions welling within me. Maybe.
“I might be imposing myself with you.”
Bernhardt let out a bitter smile and in a low murmur said, ‘I know.’
He already knew, huh?
The hesitation that had been filling my chest felt like it melted away, and made me relieved.
“Bernhardt-sama, what do you like about Lizia?”
The words came out of my mouth a lot easier than I had thought it would.
Probably remembering when he listened in to us while pretending to be asleep, Bernhardt grimaced.
He stared off into nothing for a while as he looked for an answer and he seemed to have found the words, but suddenly laughed. His laugh was the kind that you let out unconsciously without holding back.
“When Lizzy’s surprised or really amazed, her face looks like a catfish.”
What. It’s too far off from what I expected.
“I-is that so…”
I don’t have the courage to say that ‘I don’t think catfishes are cute, and don’t resemble them either.’
As expected, Bernhardt-sama’s point of view is different from others’.
Suddenly, another part of me whispered feelings of jealousy.
Not for Lizia, but for Bernhardt.
If it’s him, I have a feeling he would understand my feelings of isolation. That’s because we’re the same.
But we’re completely different.
He has Lizia, is more human-like than I thought, pitiable, and has someone who he would throw everything away to protect them. ‘I’m really, really jealous of him,’ is what I thought.
The moment I realized that, the ill feelings in my chest disappeared and everything in front of me looked slightly brighter.
I finally found the clue of how I can sort out my own feelings.
It was a feeling that made me want to skip for some reason.
Because of the mood suddenly turning good, I thought of how mysterious Bernhardt was as we cheerfully bought dried fruits. When we made our way towards the pharmacy, it happened.
We heard the sounds of hooves and the heavy turning of a carriage’s wheels from behind. I tried looking in question from beneath my wide-brimmed hat.
A two-horse, luxurious cart was running through the middle of the road. The carriage was fiercely running through, not minding the fact that the main street had a lot of pedestrian traffic.
It was a carriage that from looking at it, it would give you a bad feeling. Every one of the decorations on the carriage was uselessly shiny and bad in taste.
When I looked back again while moving to the side, I saw an old woman come out from a side street with a cane.
The cane got stuck in a hollow of the stone road, and old woman fell to the ground. Probably because she couldn’t see, she crept along, looking for her cane.
I had a bad feeling about this.
Probably knowing that the carriage was approaching, the old woman hastily looked for her cane, but she was panicking, and was looking in the wrong place. Moreover, her hand was heading towards the way of the carriage.
Of course, the carriage running down the street slowed down, and seemed to stop.
But the coach was exchanging words with the person inside the carriage, and instead of stopping the horses, he whipped it instead.
The horses neighed, and the carriage returned to its initial speed once more.
Are you kidding me!? Why did you speed up?
She hasn’t even gotten up yet!!
Rather than help the old woman, the citizens watching this scene quietly took cover, looking scared of attracting the attention of the person riding inside the carriage.
While they bustled about, the carriage neared the old woman, and I quickly ran towards her.
“Let it go!”
I heard Bernhardt’s voice stopping me from behind, but even so, I ignored it, and rushed towards the old woman.
Seeing as I had no strength to pull the old woman crawling on the ground, I was pressed for time. The carriage’s already right before her!
I extended both my arms out in order to intimidate the horses, and stood in front of the carriage to protect the old woman.
Just as I had expected, the horses were surprised, and reared, suddenly stopping the carriage.
“You bastard, what are you doing?! Quickly move aside!”
“I should be the one asking you that! Or do you mean to say you didn’t see this person? If so, you should go see a doctor for your eyesight.”
“Do you not know who’s sitting in this carriage?”
“Isn’t it a noble? I can’t believe this. Isn’t the duty of a noble to look after the territory entrusted from His Majesty, and protect the livelihood of that territory? Moreover, to make light of a frail woman from this territory, what are nobles for then? Even a five-year-old child knows that. You should be ashamed!”
My voice resounded throughout the silent street, and the blood that had risen to my head slowly came down.
While I was calming down, I remembered something important.
The me right now isn’t the daughter of Hausknecht, but I was pretending to be a powerless merchant’s daughter.
I quickly paled.
This is bad… Wait, this isn’t the time for me to be saying that.
The voice soothed the angry coach, and the curtains parted. It was a nice voice that reached far.
I exchanged glances with the person inside the dark carriage. As if he was interested in me, he scanned me from my head to my toes, and met my eyes in curiosity.
The coach opened the door, and the man slowly alighted from it. His pale hair was neatly combed, and his physique is nice as well, but for some reason, a feeling of nervousness surrounded him.
He smiled like a snake.
I knew right then that he must know of me.
A shiver ran through my spine, and I turned around, looking for help.
I was certain that I had done something outrageous this time.
I looked for Bernhardt within the crowd of people multiple times.
But not once did I see him.