“Ha…, hng, hnnngh…”
The sad cry of a girl showed no signs of stopping. She was wearing plain travel clothes while riding on the back of a shabby horse. But the people who were in front of her and behind her only glanced at her with irritated expressions and said nothing to her.
That was because the pretty-faced girl was the youngest daughter of one of the Empire’s 13 High Lords. Or at least, she was, until yesterday.
A girl of such status was reduced to a mere maid of another territory and riding a crummy pony. She must have felt like the sky was collapsing on her.
But not everyone who was accompanying her was considerate.
“Stop crying. If you keep crying, I’ll throw you in the stream.”
The young man who was at the forefront turned his head and spoke to her with an indifferent look. The girl immediately stopped crying in a fit of surprise.
The girl carefully glanced at the young man with fearful eyes as her weeping turned into subdued hiccups.
However, the young man turned his head forward once more and rode his horse disinterestedly.
The trembling girl’s head fell.
‘I, I’m so scared. Sob! Father, mother…’
Tears streamed out of her eyes, but Sophia Bresia forced herself to not make any sounds.
She did not know how she ended up in this position…
She was sorrowful and scared, but her body ached, and she felt tired. They had moved without rest for five days straight, except for when it was time to eat and sleep. She felt horrible as she was not used to riding horses, and because she did not catch enough sleep.
In the past, she would have become angry and thrown all sorts of fits. But she definitely could not do that in front of the handsome, but cold-hearted young man.
If he said he would throw her into the stream, he was someone that would really do so. He was the heir to the Pendragon Duchy, Alan Pendragon.
Alan Pendragon was a strange and scary person, contrary to his handsome face.
She could not understand how one of the highest-ranking nobles who was set to become a duke, was bearing through such a rough lifestyle without complaint. He had a knight and a dragon by his side, but he still insisted on doing everything himself.
He was good at hunting, starting a fire, and he even personally cooked a few times.
In fact, the hare stew he made in a large pot yesterday was more delicious than any food she had in Bresia Castle.
Moreover, he talked casually and joked around with the mercenaries, who were heavens apart from him in terms of status. And that was one of the reasons why Sophia felt so sad.
In the small group consisting of eight people, only she had never heard a kind word from His Grace Pendragon.
“Your grace! There’s a fork in the road about two miles ahead, and there is a pub located there.”
“Well, it is lunchtime, so let’s get some rest there. Good work, Scylla.”
“Heehee! Don’t mention it.”
Sophia had a jealous expression watching the female mercenary grin with a red face in response to Alan Pendragon’s compliments. He had never said such words or shown such an expression to herself.
“Please pay attention to your facial expressions, Lady Bresia.”
Sophia turned her head in surprise to the sudden voice that was heard from her side.
It was the oldest of the mercenaries that was accompanying Alan Pendragon. He was looking at her from the side with a smile on his face. He continued in a subtle voice.
“You were envious of Scylla just now, were you not? Because His Grace Pendragon treated her kindly?”
She wanted to deny his words and yell at the lowly mercenary for daring to stick his nose into someone else’s business, but she knew from the past few days that she should not do such a thing.
“You are upset about what I just said, aren’t you? Kekeuk! But you still can’t make that sort of expression. His Grace Pendragon doesn’t like it when you make such facial expressions.”
“Well, what do you mean.. by that?”
Jody’s words piqued her interest, and she carefully asked the mercenary. Jody moved his horse closer to Sophia and spoke in a very soft voice.
“People can’t always be in a good mood. But when my lady is in a bad mood, it’s too easy to see it from your expression. I don’t think you know it, but it is easy to tell when you’re looking down on other people.”
“W, what? When did I…Ah!”
Sophia started to raise her voice, then stopped her words. The mercenary had thrust forward an object as if he had been waiting. It was a mirror, and she could see the reflection of her ugly face.
“Do you understand? When you look at yourself in the mirror, you see your own pretty and kind face. But when you are dealing with others, especially those that are lower in status than you, you take on this kind of expression. And His Grace Pendragon has consistently seen this expression.”
Sophia’s eyes started quivering and her face became pale.
“You will have to practice maintaining your facial expression quite a bit before we get to the Pendragon territory. There’s no way that the duchess and the ladies will miss out on something that even His Grace sees. Then...”
“Wait, hold on… please.”
Sophia hurriedly called out as Jody bowed his head and moved away. He was the first person who properly engaged with her in a conversation throughout the trip.
She wanted to talk more.
“Well, I… I’ve never done that before… you see. So, I do not know what kind of expression I should be making….”
Looking at Sophia speak hesitantly, Jody approached her with a grin.
“You have already gotten a lot better. How you spoke just now, that is where you should start.”
Sophia showed confusion at Jody’s strange words.
“My lady, do you know what my name is?”
“Uh…..n, no… I don’t.”
“Then what about the names of the maids in Bresia Castle?”
“Well, just a few…”
Her voice shrank as she answered. No one had asked her such questions before.
Jody’s smile became even brighter at her response.
“My name is Jody. Please find out all the names of the people in this group. By the time we arrive in Pendragon territory, you will have already changed a lot without needing to practice.”
She still did not understand how that could help, but she did not feel any apprehension towards his words, even though it was coming from a mere mercenary. For some reason, she felt like she could be treated like the female mercenary from His Grace Pendragon if she followed his words.
She felt her mood lighten for the first time since she began this journey, and she called out after nodding her head. She continued.
“Thank you, Jody…”
“Don’t mention it.”
Jody grinned at the sight of Sophia’s awkward and embarrassed smile.
And a smile also hung on the face of the person that was listening in on their conversation – Raven.
As expected, he was right about his intuition.
Mercenary Jody was a man who had more than just a good hunch.
After a meal and a short rest at the pub, the group set off once more. The road, the weather, and the members of the party were the same as before, but everyone could tell that one thing had changed.
Sigh and cries could no longer be heard. And to everyone’s surprise, the person who was no longer crying, initiated an awkward conversation with Leo.
“E, excuse me… Sir Leo Ramelda…”
Leo was greatly surprised when Count Bresia’s daughter, who had never even properly looked at him before, spoke to him while calling him with a title.
“May I please ask a favour from you…?”
“Yes, please tell me whatever you need.”
For Leo, Sophia was still the youngest daughter of the High Lord, so he straightened his back and responded to her question.
“Those mercenaries over there. Have you been familiar with them for a while?”
“Oh, you mean Jody and his companions. The three of them were together for a while, but I only got to know them recently. They came to our village along with His Grace Pendragon.”
“I see. Then they already knew His Grace Pendragon…?”
“No. His Grace said that he met them for the first time in Elma. He did not like them at first, but at the main streets of Elma they… ah, umm, ehem!”
Leo became excited that the High Lord’s daughter was speaking to him, and he started to yap away before coughing awkwardly.
Sophia, too, bowed her head with an awkward expression.
This entire situation had originated at that very moment in Elma.
“Ehem! A, anyways. From my understanding, His Grace has taken a liking to the group since then.”
“Well I see. Is that something His Grace Pendragon told you personally?”
“No. I heard this from Sir Isla, over there.”
Leo carefully turned his gaze, and Sophia followed his eyes and turned her head. The young knight of Valvas who had tanned skin and combed hair, was as difficult as Alan Pendragon for Sophia. He was a scary person.
Then, Sophia noticed something strange and tilted her head. The knight named Elkin Isla was a man of few words, and he did not speak unless he was spoken to.
Leo noticed Sophia’s puzzlement and answered her concerns.
“Sir Isla usually does not talk much, but when I asked him about His Grace Pendragon, he told me many things, although it’s mainly about how strong and brilliant His Grace Pendragon is.”
It was not strange for a knight to boast about his lord, but Leo had never seen anyone as outspoken as Isla when talking about his master. At first, Leo thought that Isla was trying to earn favor in his lord’s eyes by saying such words, but now he did not think so at all.
From the last few days, Leo had gotten to know that Elkin Isla was a man of few words, and that he never lied. He was loyal and sincere about his admiration for his lord.
If it were the words of His Grace Pendragon, Leo had no doubt that Isla would even jump into the fiery depths of hell.
It was a different level of loyalty that could never be seen in a relationship between a regular lord and his knight. Moreover, His Grace Pendragon had absolute trust in his knight.
For Leo, who had served a man like Baron Nobira, the sight was amazing, and he felt somewhat envious as well.
Soon, he would become the successor to the lord of an independent territory. When that time came, he wanted to have someone like Elkin Isla as his knight. But before that, he needed to become a person like His Grace Pendragon.
‘Someday, for sure… I will…’
Leo’s eyes filled with determination as he looked at the back of Raven, who was talking to Isla in a low voice.
Sophia’s eyes slightly quivered as she looked at Leo’s solemn face. He was just one of dozens of respectable people that her father had under him, but somehow, and now, she saw him in a different light.
‘Hehe! I have a hunch, a hunch! Is this what they call youth? Hehe.’
A vulgar smile hung around Jody’s mouth as he looked at the two people.
“We will be in the territory of Seyrod soon, my lord.”
“Ten days… that took a while. It was about 130 miles, right?”
“Yes. There were seven gates, and three cities with populations of over ten thousand. High Lord Count Canberra of Goran had quite an overwhelming force.”
“Even in terms of population they had four or five times more than us, so it’s only natural.”
Raven responded to Isla, but his expression was quite grim.
They had passed through two great territories after leaving Sisak, but the great territories of the empire were bigger and stronger than he had initially thought.Previous Chapter Next Chapter