– Lick, lick
I woke up to a tongue licking my face.
I could see the morning sun shining through my leaf blanket.
The early morning fog that had yet to subside smelt like water and I could hear birds all around us.
My back was hurting but the fresh air was nice to breathe in.
‘Where am I again?’
‘I was supposed to be standing guard!’
I jerked my body up.
Demy and Percy rolled off of my stomach.
Thankfully, I managed to grab them before they fell.
It was good that I didn’t drop them, but… Demy’s tongue is short.
‘He can’t lick my cheek while lying on my stomach.’
I got the chills and turned around.
“Ah, you scared me!”
My shoulders shook as I gasped. It was the water deer.
The water deer fawn was flapping its ears while looking at me.
I inspected its body, wondering if it was the one from yesterday, and noticed a white cloth around its right hind leg.
“You…… Are you the one we met yesterday?”
– Chirp, chirp!
The water deer energetically chirped like a chick, as if to agree with my statement.
The blood would have still been there even if the injury was healed, so someone must have wrapped the cloth around its leg out of concern.
But Christelle had said that this little guy ran off as soon as we got here.
‘Then who put the cloth on there?’
“Your highness…… What time is it?”
Christelle, who was laying down next to me, scratched her forehead and scowled.
I finally realized that the two young ladies had yet to rise.
I looked around and noticed that Sir Johann was not there and that Gerrit was sleeping in the spot between the Imperial Prince’s and minet.
‘He must have moved Gerrit here because he was worried.’
The Imperial Prince was missing as well.
“I do not know what time it is, but the sun is up. Did you sleep well, young lady Sarnez?”
“Yes, your highness. Good morning……”
She smiled before turning to her side to face me.
‘Wait, hold on.’
“This is weird.”
The mood was quite odd. I hugged Demy, Percy, and even the water deer before retreating.
The corners of Christelle’s eyes curled up as she squinted.
“What is weird, your highness?”
“I don’t think that we should do this, young lady Sarnez.”
“I have yet to do anything.”
She extended her arms and slowly started moving toward me.
I stiffened up like a stone in fear.
‘I have no idea what is going on, but no, you damn novel without any common sense There are kids here. Eva and Gerrit are sleeping!’
“What are you doing?”
I heard a cold low voice at that moment.
Christelle started laughing like an exploded cream puff at that moment.
“Ahahahaha! Eek! Your highness, you’re so funny, ah…… The look on your face, hehehe. Oh no, what do I do? My stomach hurts from laughing so hard……”
I realized that I had been played by Christelle from the first breeze of the morning after seeing her rolling on the ground laughing while clutching her stomach.
My cheeks flushed and my ears felt hot. I quickly looked up at Imperial Prince Cédric.
I had never been so happy to see him before.
“Did you sleep well, your Royal Highness? Do you know where Sir Johann went?”
He must have realized that I was the only one who was completely embarrassed as his voice had returned to normal.
He then pushed something in his hand forward.
I almost screamed like yesterday but I miraculously held it in.
A wild hare that he must have caught for breakfast was dangling in his hand.
‘Would it hurt to be nice and warn me in advance?’
“…Thank you very much. You worked very hard, your Royal Highness.”
I barely managed to get those words out. His eyebrow twitched before he headed toward the bonfire.
The white-haired Holy Knight soon landed behind the young man.
He must have flown up to look around again.
His mint-colored eyes located me and curled up in a smile.
“Did you sleep well, your highness?”
“Sir Johann, you should have woken me up.”
“Cardinals are fine even after not sleeping for three or four days, your highness.”
Christelle and the Imperial Prince scowled at the same time.
‘I don’t know what it is, but they must have had a moment of telepathy.’
I calmly returned to the situation at hand.
“Thank you very much for working through the night. Sir Johann, was it you or his Royal Highness that put the cloth on this guy’s leg? This seems to be the water deer we healed yesterday, he suddenly appeared.”
“Oh! Now that you mention it, he is here. I’m glad you survived.”
Christelle petted the water deer and smiled.
The water deer seemed to recognize everybody as it did not run away and just jumped up and down.
Sir Johann spoke as if he was amused.
“This is the first time his Royal Highness or I saw the water deer today…… But there was a village nearby. Maybe a villager there helped him out?”
I asked back.
“I couldn’t see it yesterday because of the fog. It is a very small neighborhood. It is in the opposite direction of the mountain in front of us. There seemed to be less than twenty houses.”
My head started spinning after hearing Sir Johann’s explanation.
I looked toward the path we arrived on. There was still nothing there.
However, Vice Captain Élisabeth was in our group along with two priests, Sand and the priest who brought Gerrit from the Vatican.
There were even two divine beasts, Rhea and Perry, with them.
It was unlikely that they could not come to find us because of the demonic beasts.
‘As expected, there must be an issue with the portal.’
“How about we go to the village?”
“Let’s go to the village.”
The Imperial Prince spoke just as I asked. Christelle and Sir Johann nodded their heads in agreement.
“The fact that there has been no news all night must mean that they can’t come and not that they are choosing not to come. Maybe we can get a map at the village?”
“Yes, your highness. We should be able to rent a carriage if they have one, and even if they don’t, we should be able to ask the Lord’s Castle for assistance.”
It was a great explanation.
We exchanged solemn glances before waking the children up and preparing our meal.
We needed to wash up and fill our stomachs so that we could start the second part of our adventure to return to the Imperial Palace.
‘……Although I don’t know if you can call this an adventure. It feels more like just trekking.’
– Chirp! Chirp!
The water deer in front of us chirped as if urging us to keep going. The Imperial Prince was in the front of the group, slashing branches with the Sword of Wisdom.
Demy was supporting him while Percy would fly above the trees every so often to check our direction.
Eva looked at Sir Johann with a pleading gaze, asking why he couldn’t just fly all of us. However, there was a significant difference in ether usage between just floating up and flying.
Furthermore, there would be a lot of air resistance and it would require significant focus to control six people in the air.
Eva and I were here but no book would ever recommend depleting a Holy Knight’s ether, especially when there were no battles to be had.
We might as well walk through the forest and get some exercise since they said that the village was not far away.
Christelle seemed quite happy behind the Imperial Prince.
“We saved little chestnut and he ended up being our guide.”
I answered while following behind her. Chestnut was the name we gave the water deer.
Christelle mumbled something about Bambi so I thought that we might finally get a decent name but… She ended up suggesting uncooked. (TL: Korean has a different term for raw chestnut and cooked chestnut, so she suggested uncooked chestnut vs Jesse’s choice of cooked chestnut so I just used chestnut)
I just modified it a bit.
“If a hot spring shows up…… Do we need to steal some clothes and take a person hostage?”
Our main character was mumbling something very scary to herself.
I feigned ignorance and peeked down, wondering if Gerrit, who was in my arms, might have heard it.
Sir Johann was guarding the back and erasing the traces of our stay.
We wondered if we should leave something to help the Imperial family’s search but it was better to erase our traces so that demonic beasts and wild animals did not follow us to attack the village.
Gerrit stared at me for a while before carefully placing a flower in my hair.
“Are you giving it to uncle?”
It was quite a struggle to wear flowers in my hair despite being almost thirty, but I was fine with it since the child was happy.
Eva, who was watching us from the side, suddenly commented.
“Your highness, remember when I asked you in the past if you were a pushover?”
The young lady was energetically climbing up and down boulders with her ripped dress and shoes that were covered in dirt.
“I still think that you are a pushover, your highness. If you help everybody like that, you might end up penniless. You may end up with nothing.”
I smiled bitterly and listened carefully to the child’s words.
“However, there is one thing I do understand.”
Eva stared at me with her large brown eyes.
“At that time, you mentioned that they needed a chance to start over at the same starting line.”
She and I made eye contact.
The day Christelle, the Imperial Prince, and Eva climbed over the balcony of Juliette Palace…
I definitely remembered saying that when the child mentioned that she could no longer trust Sir Johann.
Eva stumbled but grabbed onto my clothes to regain her balance.
“Now I understand why you said something like that, your highness. That child…… And even Sir Geens are continuously smiling. They look so stupid.”
Eva snickered and looked behind her.
Sir Johann, who noticed our gazes, waved from a distance.
The child quickly turned her head away.
“That must be why you were angry with my brother, isn’t it, your highness?”
This was an unexpected question. I blinked and looked at the young lady.
Eva’s voice quieted down.
“It was because my brother kept saying bad things to me and making me curl up in fear. You were angry because he made it so that I could not start the same way as other people, right?”
I was temporarily at a loss for words.
I walked side by side with the child who kept moving without any rest while feeling bitterness fill my mouth.
I was thankful that Eva finally learned about this but I also pitied her.
“Yes, young lady Eva, there is that issue, but……”
I broke the silence. Eva stumbled while looking up at me.
I used an arm to firmly grab the child’s shoulder.
A shocked Eva thanked me.
“Young master Blanquer would not have helped you like this. That was why I was angry.”
“When your younger sibling falls, you need to pick them back up. If they are lacking, you need to cheer them on. If they do something bad, you need to scold them.”
Gerrit tightly hugged my neck.
“That is the job of an older brother. I got angry because that bastard was acting in a completely opposite manner.”
I smiled. Eva blankly stared at me before the corners of her lips gently twitched.
She then grabbed my arm and swung it around as we walked.
“I am making my Beau Monde debut next month. My father said that it would be the largest celebration in the east.”
“Yes, I heard about that.”
“However, I still do not have a partner for the ball.”
‘……Why is she saying that to me?’
I looked at the young lady with suspicion in my eyes.
The child’s eyes sparkled mischievously.
– Chirp! Pi pi!
Our guide, Chestnut, chirped loudly. We flinched and looked forward.
The forest had ended and the blue summer sky welcomed us.
I could see a well-decorated rear garden.
‘Wait, is this trespassing?’
“Chestnut, you are a danger-loving water deer.”
Chestnut retorted rebelliously to Christelle’s comment.
As for the Imperial Prince, he looked at the small house and… Seriously mumbled some crap about if it was a stable.
I put Gerrit down and instead held Demy and Percy while looking around.
‘We should probably greet the owners first to apologize respectfully and ask…’
“Oh my goodness!”
We heard a dramatic gasp from a corner of the garden.
An old woman, who was curled up quite a bit from old age, stood up in shock after seeing us.
She had a hoe and a carrot in her hands.
I bowed out of reflex and started speaking to her.
“Hello madam. Please excuse us. We were lost in the forest-”
“This…… What is this? Did a bunch of angels descend? Is this a mysterious phenomenon caused by the Almighty God?”
I did not finish my sentence.
‘Is it better to reveal our identities despite the fact that it might make her suspicious?’
“Please leave it to me, your highness. There is an extremely efficient way.”
It was at that moment.
Sir Johann, who was the last to walk out of the forest, commented in a low voice before standing in front of us.
His back looked quite reliable.
“Ma’am, please help us. This is an urgent matter of life and death.”
Sir Johann’s hand was shaking as he pointed at Christelle and the Imperial Prince. The old woman immediately focused.
“These two are lovers on the run to the Imperial Capital. The young master was being forced into a marriage and the young lady barely managed to get him out of it. Both sides of the family and their soldiers are chasing after us.”
“Aigoo, why would you do something like that!”
The old woman swung the carrot as if she pitied the two of them quite a bit. My jaw dropped.
The Imperial Prince and Christelle were staring daggers at their instructor.
“As for us…… We are family who was in the same carriage. This young master and lady are siblings while my son and I are attendants who followed to save the two of them. Unfortunately-”
“It’s obvious what is going on! The first born must be chasing after you to kill the illegitimate children. He’s trying to make it so that he doesn’t have to give up any of his wealth!”
Sir Johann weakly lowered his head.
The elder swung her hoe around before slamming the back door of the house open.
“Stay right here! I will go round up everybody in the village. You’re bound to find a solution when you put your heads together! Aigoo, no wonder. No wonder your clothes are made of silk but look so old……”
The old woman disappeared so quickly that it was almost unbelievable. I was blanking out at this shocking development.
Sir Johann’s eyes curled up as he looked at me.
‘Maybe he was an actor and not a mercenary?’
Well… we knew he was a good actor.