Chapter 114

Irene’s journey did not go smoothly.

The journey was uncharted territory and a series of hardships for her, who was born as a noble lady and lived her whole life comfortably, with any number of maids at her beck and call.

The main purpose of the journey was to catch up to her brother, so Irene was always on the pony’s back except when she was sleeping. Her meals consisted of some dry bread, raisins, and a little bit of wine and plain water.

They did not have any money, so they could not stay at inns and camped in the wilderness every night. Naturally, the chores of making fires and securing water were left up to Kazzal, but it was frightening for a 16-year-old noble lady to be sleeping in the wilderness with nothing but a bonfire to light up the dark.

At first, she was enthralled and amazed by the adventure, but the enthusiasm rapidly disappeared after a few days. She could not sleep well at night, so she often dozed off while riding on the pony. But as they said, humans were adaptive creatures.

After three or four days, even Irene, who grew up like royalty, became a little used to sleeping in the wild and waking up to the morning dew. In proportion, her fairy-like cute and beautiful face was marked with dark circles around the eyes, and her clothes became messy.

Still, there was some good news. Kazzal had lived a rough life in the duchy’s wilderness before meeting Raven, so they were able to travel without much trouble. Jody’s group was watching out for her secretly, which was a huge help as well.

In only five days after running away from home, Irene Pendragon passed Bellint Gate and finally arrived in front of Ronan Bridge.

“What should we do?”

“Well, I thought she would have already met His Grace by now.”

The bridge was in the midst of renovation. Jody stroked his shaggy beard while watching Irene cross Ronan Bridge on the back of her pony from a small hill.

“Well, we have no choice. Gus and I will take care of our work, so you can continue to follow her. I will notify Sir Ron.”

“Sure, let’s do that.”

Scylla rode towards the bridge, and Jody took out a tool and lit it on fire. After watching the black smoke rising thinly, Jody put out the fire.

This was a method of signaling between the three people, and Gus would soon return from the other side of the bridge.

“Well, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about…”

While observing the packed bridge, Jody shrugged his shoulders and stretched out his tired arms into the air.

Gus returned from the other side of the bridge after observing Jody’s signal. When he saw Irene pass him by with a hood on top of a pony, he intentionally lowered his head to make sure she did not recognize him. But Irene was exhausted from her journey thus far, so she could not afford to properly look around.

‘Oh my, she seems quite haggard. Well, maybe it’s better this way considering her safety.”

Irene’s appearance --a dirty dress full of dust and a shabby pony-- made it quite hard to recognize her. It seemed that her adventure had taken its toll on her original appearance, which made Gus relieved. As he neared the end of the bridge, he saw Scylla.

“Great work. Everything is fine ahead, right?”

“Yeah. Some mercenaries are coming, but they did not seem like big troublemakers. None of them were handsome either.”

“Is that so? What a shame… I mean, don’t say such useless things.”

“Huh? The lady finished crossing the bridge, are you not going to follow her?”

“I’ll deal with you later.”

“Hehe, sure, sure. Good luck.”

Scylla glared at Gus, who quickly disappeared, and hurried across the bridge.

“Hmm?”

As she was confirming Irene’s location, a certain group of people caught Scylla’s attention. Unlike ordinary people who carried small bundles or dressed simply, a certain group of people were carrying weapons while heading across the bridge.

“They must be the mercenaries Gus mentioned.”

The five men who were crossing the bridge possessed crappy equipment and ragged weapons.

They were glaring, spitting, and rambling to the passersby, which made it obvious that they were nothing more than random third-rate mercenaries who had come seeking opportunities after hearing rumors about the Pendragon Duchy. Mercenaries with experience would never behave in such ways. Even those that had bad intentions would hide their actions in the broad daylight. There were many observing eyes and listening ears in the mercenary world. Word got around fast.

“Foolish bastards…”

Scylla chased after Irene while clicking her tongue. The lady was disappearing around a corner. At that moment, a strong gust of wind from the river blew the hood off of Scylla’s head.

“Huh?”

The mercenaries were now about 10 yards away from Scylla. One of the mercenaries became wide-eyed when he saw Scylla’s face. Scylla also became quite surprised when she saw his face. But she frowned and quickly pressed the hood over her head.

‘Dammit! Why now, and why that guy…’

“Scylla! It’s Scylla, right? It’s me! It’s me, Gelang!”

The mercenary hastened his steps and stepped in front of Scylla’s horse.

“What is it? What?”

“Gelang, do you know this person?”

The other mercenaries that were following showed curiosity.

“Remember what I told you before? I said there’s a female mercenary I know, right? The prettiest, most talented female mercenary I have ever seen. And… hehe!”

Gelang skirted Scylla’s body with lustful eyes. There was no way to see through the thick robe and see her body, but Gelang’s eyes were persistent and insidious, as if he was able to peer through the robe.

“Ah, that person you…”

The other mercenaries’ gazes were similar.

‘These sons of bitches…’

Just from their gazes and brief conversation, it was quite obvious how they usually talked about her, but Scylla attempted to avoid the confrontation and pass them by.

“You got the wrong person. Then, excuse me.”

“What do you mean the wrong person? You are Scylla, the one who used to go around with Jody. It’s me, Gelang! I was with you briefly last year in Doppan, remember?”

“Where is Doppan? And I do not know anyone like that.”

Scylla tried to ride her horse away by snapping down on the reins, but she was a step late.

“Hey! It’s been a long time, so let’s have a conversation. Face to face.”

The other mercenaries surrounded the horse and grabbed the horse’s reins. The passersby hurried along without looking back, and Scylla turned her gaze to the end of the trail where Irene had gone off to. As expected, Irene was no longer visible.

‘For goodness’ sake!”

Then, a mercenary lifted the hood off Scylla’s head from behind using the scabbard in his hand.

“W, what?”

“There you go. See? It’s you, Scylla. Now, what do you think? Pretty as I said, right?”

Gelang grinned at seeing Scylla’s angry face and looked around at his fellow mercenaries.

“Oh? She’s quite fine.”

The mercenaries’ eyes turned more lewd after seeing Scylla’s face. It was a ridiculous situation, but Scylla quickly regained her composure. Even though they were only third-rate, there were five of them. She wanted nothing more than to stab her dagger through their heads, but she could not act rashly. She turned her head back to where she had come from.

‘This goose shithead. Why does he only move fast in these types of situations!?’

Scylla knew that if she had spoken those words, Gus would have responded by saying he possessed an excellent ability to sense crises as a former thief. Forcing a smile, she turned her head again.

“Thank you for your compliments, but I am a little busy right now.”

“Ai! I would be sad if we did not catch up for old times’ sake. We even fought on the same battlefield before. Ah, yeah, there was a town we just left behind, we can…”

An idea came into Scylla’s mind as she listened to Gelang, and she hurriedly cut him off.

“No, no. I am coming from that side of the bridge, and the village there is closer. Why don’t we head over there?”

If she crossed over into the duchy again, she would be able to find Jody and Gus. If she hurried, she would be able to meet the two of them.

It would not be too late if she took care of these grunts with the two, then chased after Irene.

“Oh! Good, very good.”

Gelang’s mouth opened wide.

“Whew~ She’s quite fiery for a girl!”

“Pff! What did I tell you? Skills, sexiness! Besides, I heard when she’s drunk, she gives a good…, Ehem!”

‘Ha! This bitch is really…’

She barely suppressed her urge to put a dagger in his crotch and forced a smile with her eyes.

“Now, now, let’s go quickly. I am craving alcohol today, whew.”

“Good! It’s on me today!”

“Uwahahahaha!”

The mercenaries’ mouths hung off their ears at Gelang’s excited cry.

‘You pervious bastards. You are all going to die today.’

Scylla turned back and headed back across Ronan’s bridge, gnashing her teeth at the five lecherous mercenaries who kept peeping at her figure.

***

“This way.”

After coming to a crossroad, Kazzal raised his hand after a brief pause. Irene showed a curious expression.

“Huh? That’s the way to a town, is it not?”

Irene knew the town of Hoffman quite well. It was the first town that existed after crossing the Ronan Bridge into the Seyrod territory. She had stayed there a few times when she was visiting the Seyrod County in the past.

“That’s right. I smell Master Pendragon’s scent on this road.”

“Really? Maybe he passed through the village? Ah! The baroness is with him as well, so maybe they stayed at an inn. All right. Let’s go.”

She had stopped by several villages in the duchy as well, in order to restock her supplies, so she did not give much thought as she turned the rein of her pony and headed towards where Kazzal had pointed towards. She had simply chosen to go down a road, but she did not realize – that she had made the most important choice in deciding her fate.

***

At the same time.

The high, clear sky was full of long, feathery clouds that seemed to have been painted with a white brush. Two riders were riding their horses down a curvy path of a road. 

Lindsay had been fiddling with something in her hands with a blush on her face ever since they left town a short while ago. Raven spoke offhandedly.

“You might wear it out.”

“Oh, I apologize. It’s so pretty…”

Lindsay shyly lowered her eyes, tightly clasping the butterfly-shaped silver brooch. Raven looked at her with a rather embarrassed expression. The precious treasure she was holding so dearly onto had only cost him one silver coin. She had been captivated by it, and she kept glancing towards it at the market, so Raven had bought it for her. But he had not expected her to like it to such a degree.

“Ehem. I will get you better things when we get to the imperial castle. I thought spending too much money in such a small town would lead to unnecessary trouble.”

“Oh, no! I like this the best. It’s the first gift your grace has ever given me.”

“……”

Raven searched for something to say. He also remembered the first wooden sword his father had made for him. He had used it for years, and when his father did not buy him a real sword, he had attempted to steal it from a blacksmith. Naturally, he got caught in the act, and received a beating from his father and brother.

“…That would be nice.”

“Huh?”

Raven raised his head. He had been lost in thought. Lindsay was staring at him with a strange expression.

“I think it would be nice if you smile like that more often…:”

“Ah, really?”

Raven turned his head away in embarrassment. He seemed to have laughed while reminiscing in the old memories. He wondered why he was so happy remembering almost dying from a beating.

“By the way, is this still weird?”

Raven ran his fingers through his hair. He had cut and dyed his hair brown before leaving Conrad Castle with Lindsay. His appearance was too conspicuous in the duchy, so he had made the decision to move around without drawing attention. His face was still as handsome as before, but the change in hairstyle definitely changed the atmosphere around him. Previously, he was a blonde-haired young man with a cold, somewhat unapproachable atmosphere, but now he was a regular fine-looking young man with natural, brown hair.

“No, it looks good on you. Of course, you looked much more handsome with your original hair… B, but you are still very handsome!”

“If it’s not bad, it’s fine.”

Lindsay answered exactly as Raven expected, so he laughed. Stealing a few embarrassed gazes at Raven, Lindsay slowly turned her head.

“By the way, Your Grace.”

“Hm? What’s wrong?”

“I am curious about something… May I ask you a question?”

“Yes, ask away.”

Lindsay hesitated a little even with Raven’s permission.

“Well… Why are you taking me instead of taking Lady Irene to the imperial castle…?”

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