Time passed by in the blink of an eye while I was hard-pressed making preparations, gathering information, and studying. By the time I noticed, about half a month had passed since I asked my father for permission to leave, and today at last we were leaving.
The time could still be called early morning, but the port town was crowded with people. I made my way through the thoroughfare even when it seemed like I’d be swept away by the human tide, but the harbor was no different. It was congested. I slipped by a traveler who was loathe to part with their escort, wove my way through the sailors who were hard pressed to prepare for set off, and drew closer to the ship.
I sighed in admiration as I looked up at the ship, glorious against the clear blue sky.
The exterior of the carvel-built ship was painted blue and the three masts were wooden. The first two were attached with squared sails, and the last was a triangular fore-and-aft sail. Its grand appearance had a strong resemblance to the ship to make the first trans-Atlantic crossing during the Age of Discovery—“Santa María“.
My first sea. My first ship. My first foreign kingdom.
Just imagining it brought a lump to my throat. Naturally, my worries and fear of a strange land haven’t disappeared, but I was also filled with hope.
“Marie,” said a bright tenor voice.
From behind, someone took my hand and pulled me back. I turned around and found Klaus, my royal guard, peering at me. He wasn’t in his familiar knight’s uniform. Instead, he sported black trousers and boots, and a white shirt with a simple deep blue vest. The cloak he wore on top of that protected him from the sun and rain, and probably kept the long sword he wore at his hips from standing out as well.
“Please don’t go ahead without me. I’ll lose you,” he said, looking slightly troubled.
When I saw this fine young man, the corners of mouth started to twitch.
Stop, Rosemarie! You can’t suddenly ask him, Who are you?
I smiled. “I’m sorry, big brother.”
Warning myself sternly, I obediently stood in line with him.
Today, I was not Rosemarie von Wervard. I was simply Marie. The daughter of Master Julius’s acquaintance, and Klaus’s little’s sister. I was going to visit my older sister, who had married in Flamme.
In order to further change my image, I loosely braided my dark brown dyed hair over the shoulder. My attire was a dress made out of white linen with a bright blue overskirt. My clothes were lighter than usual, but I was wearing a cloak like Klaus so it was hot.
“Careful, watch your step,” he prompted with a gentle expression as he guided me to the wharf.
I couldn’t get over how well he was playing the role of an older brother, much better than I ever expected. Especially after he was so disgustingly giddy for several days after I asked him to go with me. When I tested the waters and called him “big brother,” he grinned foolishly, so good looking it couldn’t possibly be legal. To get used to it, I made him practice speaking casually with me behind closed doors, but it came unnaturally and he kept being polite. It was terrible.
What in the world happened to Klaus?
Well, whatever it was, the good news was he calmed down.
While I was walking and worrying endlessly, a burly sailor in front of me looked down at me.
“Ohh, what a cute guest. On a trip with big brother?”
“Yes. I’ll have to trouble you for a short while. Pleased to meet you.”
“Oohh, what a polite young lady. Nice to meet you as well.”
There were laugh lines carved into his masculine suntanned face. The sailor grunted and patted my head with a giant hand.
“Big brother, you have a great little sister. She’s too adorable.”
“Indeed. She’s my pride.” Klaus smiled sweetly.
From his easygoing air to his calm expression and his excellent posture, right now he was very attractive no matter which angle you observed him. Even though he was a little quiet, you could tell he was a good guy who adored his little sister.
Strangely, I wasn’t taken in by the act. In fact, I was getting goosebumps.
I rubbed my arms and looked away from him, but I kept an ear on their conversation.
“This time we have so many beautiful ladies. Really brightens up the place, ahh.”
“Are there other female passengers?” I raised my head.
“Yeah. Over there.”
When I turned to where to where the sailor pointed, I found a group who stood out from the rest.
There was girl a few years older than me, accompanied by a woman who looked like a maid and a guard in armor. A pretty girl with wavy reddish blonde hair and blue eyes. She had a light dusting of charming freckles across her fair skin. Judging by her pink dress with its abundance of lace and frills, and the white parasol she carried, she came from a good family.
However… Even though I thought she looked refined, was I the only one who found it unsuitable for sea travel?
“Is she also boarding the ship?” Klaus asked the question on my mind. He was probably thinking the same way, there were wrinkles around his brows.
“Ahh. According to the rumors, she’s the daughter of a good family and related to House Eigel. And, just between the two of us…” For no reason, the sailor lowered his voice. He leaned toward Klaus and brought a hand up to cover his mouth, as if they were having a private conversation, but he naturally had a loud voice so I heard everything anyway. “Apparently, she’s the rumored goddess.”
“Goddess?” I said in surprise.
What goddess? Where was this rumored goddess from?
“What?” Dubiously, Klaus responded a beat slower than me.
Surprised by his low rumbling of his voice, I looked at him. For some reason, the look in his eyes had become strangely sharp.
Uh, hey, wait… When did your mask start slipping, Klaus? I mean, why are you angry?
“Oh? You two don’t know? Right now there’s this food called ‘Dew of the Sea’ that’s making explosive sales. It’s the story of that product’s inventor.”
I paled and my original worry faded away. The sailor didn’t notice the change in Klaus at all and continued chattering.
Hold on, what?
Right now he mentioned “Dew of the Sea” right? It can’t be…
“To hear it from Master Julius, she seems like an unearthly beauty. What’s more, she’s a lady with a pure heart like a goddess’s.”
Ahh, I got it wrong. It wasn’t about me.
Yes, yes, I misunderstood, I misunderstood—
“Why do you say this girl is her? You only said she was a beauty, aren’t you being hasty in jumping to conclusions?
“Er, well. Look at her. She’s related to the Eigels, and whoever’s listened to Master Julius’s story knows that she has blonde hair like the sun, and eyes like the sky reflected in the sea. Don’t you she’s a perfect match?”
Klaus glanced at her with cold eyes. “Like the sun? If it’s a very dull one.”
“B-big brother! I, I want to go on the ship soon!” I forcibly grabbed his hand. Tugging continuously, I dragged him toward the ship.
The sailor smiled affably, waving at us as he said, “Sorry for keeping ya.”
The sailor didn’t seem to suspect a thing, but I was sweating disagreeably.
“Now see here, big brother. Can you not show your true character?” I casually released his hand and slightly glared at Klaus.
He looked like he’d swallowed a frog as he turned his face away. “I could not reconcile that fraud with the goddess who created ‘Dew of the Sea.'”
Before we left, I had explained the situation to him to some extent. Of course, I didn’t touch on the areas about the likely spread of the disease or my foreknowledge of the future, but I did tell him that I was going to Flamme in search of the medicine, and that Georg and the others were helping me. Afterward, I also told him that the one who created “Dew of the Sea” was me, and that I had asked Master Julius to distribute it.
And that must be why he couldn’t accept it.
Honestly, I would’ve perfectly preferred that we finish our business without standing out. If people noticed us it would make it hard to move around, so it was much better, but whether I could convince him to see it my way or not was questionable.
“So, um, big brother…”
A charming female voice drowned out my voice.
My eyes widened in surprise. All escorts should have been turned down. Furthermore, there weren’t a lot of people who knew my assumed name.
Nonchalantly, Klaus protectively positioned me behind him, and I peeked at my surroundings from his shadow. The voice revealed itself from above.
“Over here. On the ship!”
I was stunned to find a beautiful woman leaning from the ship’s deck, waving her hand at me. “Miss Bianka!”
“I’m so happy to see you again! So we are on the same ship.”
The one lavishing me with friendly smiles was the beautiful lady I had just met for the first time the other day. It was Michael’s older sister, Bianka von Diebold.