Embarrassed, I couldn’t bear Sir Leonhard’s gaze.
I looked away, setting my sight on the scenery.
Tao was a rugged place.
Houses dotted the steep slopes, and the winding roads and stairs made it complicated to navigate, not to mention all of the homes looked the same with their white walls and orange roofs made of unglazed bricks.
“It’s like a maze,” I said to myself.
“Indeed,” he replied, clearly paying attention to me. “New visitors have a high chance of losing their way. If you enter without a guide and make a poor choice, it won’t be easy to get out. Many who are unfamiliar with the town will choose to use these stairs instead, even if it means a detour.”
The stair I was standing on had been built along the stone wall, so it was relatively easy to look over the city. It became a bypass to avoid the center of town, but you passed up opportunities to meet wonderful people.
This town had such an interesting makeup.
“It’s rather thrilling.”
“Yes. Like I’m on an adven…ture…”
I thought nothing of my words until they came out of my mouth, then I realized how stupid I sounded. What part of walking on a stair made it an adventure? And I wasn’t even walking by myself. How appalling.
I got carried away imagining it was like a dungeon. For someone who has seen pretty much nothing except the inside of the palace like me, the complicated spread of the town looked like the stage of a fine adventure. Even if there weren’t any monsters or treasures.
I thought he’d be scandalized, but Sir Leonhard smiled and gave a nod.
“I understand. I was lost here once when I was a kid, and it did seem a little like a grand adventure.”
“Really? You did?”
“I was a profusely inquisitive brat who could not keep still. I got separated from my parents on purpose and got lost in the course of my explorations.”
His eyes became distant, as if he was seeing the past.
It came as a surprise that he was such an active child. I had always assumed, with no basis, that he had always been the calm person he was now.
“Did you get in trouble?”
“Of course. ‘It’s a different if it had only been you. Don’t involve your two younger brothers as well!’ my father said as he gave me a taste of his fist.”
If I claimed they followed me on their own, I would get another serving, he added with a mischievous smile.
Was he like the leader of the group? I imagined him taking care of his little brothers even while he complained about them tagging along.
I really wanted to see it: an overactive and smart-mouthed bratty Sir Leonhard who was nonetheless a caring older brother.
Nevertheless, it seemed like his family was rather forceful. I couldn’t hide my surprise over that fact. After all, House Olsen was a distinguished family and held the rank of earl. I really wanted to meet his parents one day.
Oh. I wasn’t wishfully thinking: as their daughter-in-law. Nope… Okay, maybe just a little.
“We’ve arrived at the bottom.”
It happened while I was daydreaming.
“Thank you. If you will please set me down, I—”
“It’s easiest to lose sight of each other here, so please hold on a little more.”
I was happy but also embarrassed, so I wanted him to put me down, but I lost to the pressure of his smile.
He may have been right, however. The moment we stepped onto a wider street, the foot traffic increased remarkably. Donkeys bearing luggage and carts wove their way through the crowd of people. Shops peddlng a great number of rare goods were open for business on both sides of the road, all of them thriving. Getting lost while distracted by all there was seemed easy.
“Finding Master Julius will be…difficult.”
I looked at the crowd with trepidation.
“Truly. Ahh, well, someone taught me the landmarks, so we’ll manage somehow.”
Without hesitation, he joined the fray.
Down the line of shops with similar height we walked, until suddenly a single tall building popped out. There, we turned the corner until we came to the next landmark, a sign for restaurant and once again turned to the left. For a while, we were in a narrow alley.
“It should be around here…”
Sir Leonhard surveyed our surroundings as he walked. I imitated him, restlessly searching as well.
“Did you find it?”
“There, in the store we just passed!”
He retraced himself a few steps, and we peered in. Inside, I could see the back of a tall, slender man. His light brown hair was combed back.
From behind I could see a resemblance, but I couldn’t see his face so I say it was for certain him.
He seemed to be in conversation with someone and probably wouldn’t turn around for no reason.
We should just enter, but if were wrong it’d be rather awkward. Wouldn’t he at least give us a profile so that we could confirm his identity?
The heavens must have heard me. The man touched the back of his head with his left hand, and looked away from his partner. At the sight of his familiar face, I sighed in relief.
Great, we found him.
“It is Master Julius.”
“He seems to be in the middle of a conversation. Let’s wait a little.”
“You’re right,” I nodded. We mustn’t interfere with his work.
I was about to reply to Sir Leonhard when he suggested we go kill time somewhere, but I took another look at Master Julius. I could now see his conversation partner as well, probably due to his change in position.
It was a young woman.
I tilted my head to the side.
They must be talking about trade so it was a little unexpected since I was assumed his partner to be a portly gentleman or a burly sailor, but that wasn’t why I was puzzled.
I had a feeling I’d seen her somewhere before, was it just my imagination…?
“I’m sorry, can we go back?”
He looked at me curiously, but he did as I asked.
If I saw her one more time, I might remember.
She didn’t look low-born. I searched my memory.
It wasn’t recent, I thought.
The woman was stunning, but she had a fierce expression on her face for some reason. I’ve heard people say women, especially the beautiful ones, are scary when they’re angry.
Must be true, I thought, when images flashed through my mind like a bolt of lightning.
They were memories. Old memories, but not from my childhood. No, they came from even farther back, from my previous life.
She was a character who appeared in the Dark Lord’s route of the otome game.
Michael’s full sister——Bianka von Diebold.
Miss Bianka, why are you in a place like this…?