Chapter Five: Dahl County and the Lovely Entourage
Dahl County was a long way off from the Royal Capital I was living in until now. We got off the carriage once in a town midway.
“Let’s have lunch.”
Nolan made a brief meal declaration as soon as we get off the carriage and walked away in a stately manner. I quickly chased after him so that I wouldn’t be left behind. As I nervously followed his trails, wondering where he wanted to go, I saw Nolan entering a park located downtown.
The tables and chairs were arranged here and there, set in the lush park. And as it was just the time for lunch, many families and lovers were having a picnic there. Nolan made his way unhesitatingly, quickly finding an empty table, and putting down the basket he was carrying in his hands.
My non-existent brain churned at a high pace, immediately understanding his actions.
—He’s planning to have lunch here…
I, sensitive to Nolan’s urging signal, hurriedly sat down across from him. He opened the lid of the basket, took out two pots inside it, and placed one of them in front of me. Bread, fruits, aromatic meat, and other food staples were in it.
“Eat whatever you want.”
I was considerably shaken by the situation that he had decided to eat here. If my memory served me right, we finished our wedding ceremony just a while ago. No matter how I looked, I, wearing a new lavish dress my brother cheerfully prepared for me, clearly stood out from the people around me, most of whom were commoners. My eyes darted at our surroundings and saw that even the two coachmen had taken a seat nearby and begun to rest. Both of them also took out bread and bottles from their respective baskets.
Nolan tears apart something that looked like deep red dried aromatic meat in long, narrow strips holding it in both hands. What’s this? Prince-sama indeed was intending to eat quite a wild-looking food. Nolan then piled them on a plate and put them in front of me.
I forced myself to eat it with half-heartedness, but unexpectedly, the dried aromatic meat turned out to be delicious as the taste of meat slowly seeped in the more I chewed it. It was surprising. I guess it’s true you can’t judge a book by its cover.
“This is delicious. It’s the first time I have eaten this.”
“It’s Olivia’s handmade food. It seems like some type of preserved staple from her parent’s hometown.”
“A woman I hired for the mansion. She’s the one who does all the cleaning and cooking.”
It seemed as though there weren’t many servants working for him if one servant was in charge of multiple tasks. In the Teddy Family, the garden cleaner never cleaned the mansion, and it absolutely never happened that a servant in charge of cooking was left with laundry.
Seeing that I have understood the between-the-lines meaning, Nolan added further: “It’s tough to say, but there’s no other servant beside Olivia at my home.”
Although I got the gist, I needed some time to adjust.
Only one person is employed in the house of Prince-sam— or to say, Ex-His Highness…? It was getting increasingly incomprehensible to judge what kind of life he had been living… Instead, I now wonder what kind of lifestyle I should strive for…? Suddenly, the elegant dress decorating my body seemed ridiculous to me now.
We finished our lunch and once again returned to our carriage. The ride from then was long, and it was hard on my body to continuously just sit in the narrow cabin. I very much wanted to just place a cushion and lie down on my seat, but I was ashamed to do so in front of Nolan, whom I’ve only met for the first time today and could only force myself to sit well. However, it was more due to Nolan sitting in a prince-like beautiful posture with his back straightened from beginning to seemingly until the end.
Even if deprived of his position, I guess he was still a true blue prince. And just when the evening glow squeezed out the brightness of the day, we reached Dahl County.
Dahl Island wasn’t entirely out of touch with the land but was connected to the ground by a long reclaimed road. There seems to be one more road connecting to the land that should be apparent in low tide. The carriage we were boarding ran on the narrow road sandwich between the sparkling sea from either side. Eventually, a tall and massive stone gate towering the end of the road was what led to the island itself.
“This is the entrance to the island. There’s a drawbridge in front of the gate.”
I looked above as we passed from under the gate. The gate was quite thick, and they seemed to have installed a steel lattice on the top section. I wonder if it’s for times of emergencies…?
“It’s made quite robust, isn’t it?”
“I heard it was once used as a fort.”
The scenery took a complete U-turn after the carriage passed through the gate. I clung to the window of the carriage and eagerly observed the view.
—I’m going to live here from now on.
A sloppy hill with a carpet of lush greenery adorning it… Dark emerald trees growing sparsely… Cows grazing the vast undulating here and there… And small animals hopping in between occasionally… Probably rabbits? Houses also began appearing around, and even islanders burying themselves in farm works were furthermore in sight.
I wouldn’t call the rows of houses in the islands wealthy-looking by any means, but they don’t seem that destitute either… As the carriage advanced further, a giant lake filled with ample water in the island’s center appeared. The lake shone as sunlight poured down, with the water surface appearing still.
Dahl Island was a stunning island.
“It’s a wonderful place blessed with nature.”
Nolan didn’t say anything, but I saw the corners of his mouth slightly curling.
The carriage advanced to the deepest part of the island and stopped in front of a stone-built mansion. The door of the carriage opened, and Nolan stepped down first. Then he looked up at me and gave a stern warning.
“The ground is still muddy due to the continuous rain for several days.”
It was indeed wet as I stretched out my neck from inside the carriage to look. Saying so, Nolan extended his hand to me.
“It will be troublesome if you lose your balance with your unreliable shoes.”
As soon as he finished speaking, his arm coiled around my waist as he pulled me firmly and held me in his arms. I struggled to breathe when he placed my abdomen against his stiff shoulders as if piercing it, carrying me like a sack of rice.
“I… I can’t breathe, my lord…!”
“Just call me Nolan.”
“Please put me down, Nolan!”
“We are just around the entrance, so hold on until then.”
Several staircases led to the entrance, and each time he stepped up, Nolan’s shoulder caved further into my stomach, causing me immense pain. I couldn’t even stand up properly when he finally put me down and fell on my butt.
“Seriously…! That is not how you should treat your wife, Count-sama!”
Startled by a voice close to screaming, I looked up to see a middle-aged woman standing at the entrance with the white door open.
Nolan jerked his chin to point at the woman. What a short introduction. But Olivia didn’t seem to care much about it and rushed up to me, rocking her plump body.
“Welcome, far-away guest. My, my… Aren’t you a cute lady?”
I finally got up, arranged my dress, and greeted her, “My name is Liese, and thank you. I will be in your good hands from today onwards.”
“Please call me Olivia. I have never left this island, so you can say I’m ignorant about the outside world. But of course, you’re welcome to ask me anything about the island!”
The coachmen brought my luggage to the entrance. One was tall and lean, while the other person was short and stout. The difference in their physique when they stood side by side was so wide that I began to doubt my eyes if they really did the same work. Nolan stopped the taller one and began to introduce him to me.
“He’s my follower Ricardo, who has supported me since I was ten.”
I looked at them both and then at Ricardo. I thought he was an just ordinary coachman… So he turned out to be Nolan’s servant. Being a servant from age ten meant he had quite a long-standing relationship with Nolan from when he was still a prince. That must mean he’s someone with a good lineage. Probably at the level that’s equivalent to being Nolan’s right-hand man. I guess he had asked him to work as coachman to cut labor costs.
Ricardo, whom I’m assuming was in his late 20s, had shoulder-length brown hair. With an amiable expression on his face, his smile looked so professional that it made me think he might be able to maintain his smiling face even if he’s facing a mortal enemy.
“Nice to meet you, Liese-sama. Please don’t hesitate to put me to work.”
“And next to him is my guard, Marco.”
The introduced guard, Marco, held his hands to me, which were as thick as my thigh.
“I will protect the madam from today onwards! Nice to meet you!”
Marco’s face went utterly round as he gave a pleasant smile. His big, round eyes and soft but curly red hair gave him even more cheerful vibes. I shook hands with him as I stared at his muscular arms.
“I will be relying on you, Marco-san. Nice to meet you.”
“Leave your safety to me!” As Marco said this, although no one particularly asked him to do so, he bent his elbows and alternatively put pressure on the muscles on each of his arms and shoulders, showing their robustness. Was he boasting about his muscles? I was genuinely astonished and gave a heartfelt applause.
The Dahl County’s Residence was a cozy, two-storied mansion. Nolan took me with him and gave me a rough explanation. There was even a room that seemed like a small library with bookshelves lined up at the back of the first floor. He said while looking at me, who was scrutinizing the neatly lined up binding, “Just tell me if there’s any books you want to read. It’s not much, but there’s a small bookshop on the island.”
I see. I was a little happy to hear that. As I stared at the bookshelves, I noticed they all looked gorgeous, all without a single scratch. All the other furniture in the mansion looked used from a simple glance, but only this room gave a sense of dissonance. By chance… Realizing something, I asked to confirm.
“Excuse me, but is this library recently made?”
When our gaze met, Nolan’s aquamarine eyes darted away, as if escaping a confrontation.
“…I heard you like books.”
What should I do?
I feel really happy…
Although the story about the prince falling in love with me at first sight was still unbelievable to me, I could see his thoughtfulness in various ways to make his home a comfortable space for me. My heart was slowly but gradually being dyed in warmth. I bowed in gratitude as a smile naturally formed on my face. Nolan, on the other hand, just calmly shook his hand.
“It’s just a trivial matter… You should hear the rest of the details from Olivia. She’s much more informed about this mansion than me.” Just as we exited the room, we found her in the corridor. She must have followed after Nolan and me.
There was a small tower in the center of the mansion, and a grey-colored bell was hanging from it. The big bells could be seen clearly from below, looking up at the atrium and passing through the narrow stairs of the second floor. Nolan touched a thick rope hanging down from the bell’s bottom part, “This is the Bell of Gate.”
“Gate?” I tilted my head in confusion, to which Olivia, who was standing behind, silently laughed mischievously.
“You must have seen the gate when coming to the island, right? It’s the tradition of Dahl Island that when the sound of the Lord’s bell echoes, gatekeepers will close the side gates, and the drawbridge will be pulled upward.”
I hurriedly retreated backward, as my hand was about to touch the rope.
“That’s why you must be careful not to ring it accidentally!”
Everyone laughed it off.
There were around ten rooms, approximately half of which were seemingly unusable as white sheets were hanging on the furniture. Cleaning the whole mansion by herself must have been difficult for Olivia. The estate itself looked old as the floor was already creaking here and there. However, the furniture placed in the room seemed to be quite luxurious, reminiscent of the bygone past that the owner of this mansion was once a prince.
There was even a room for my personal use, and I was again overjoyed from the consideration of seeing the apparently new table set and the couch. I had already sent my dresses and other personal belongings I used at the Viscount’s beforehand, following my older brother’s order.
I suddenly noticed something strange as I unpacked them with Olivia and asked in puzzlement, “Excuse me, Olivia. Is this all my luggage?”
To which Olivia nodded in affirmation. I instinctively understood; I was duped. My sister-in-law had helped me with packing. I felt like I was having one heck of a dream when she bothered to help me, and sure enough, nothing good came out of it in the end. She had only packed up the most valuable items among my other dresses and accessories while I handled the other things. The luggage I couldn’t find was the one she supposedly helped me with. Everything should have delivered here already because I had carried all my luggage into the carriage at noon the day before I left the Royal Capital.
—It was Daphne’s farewell harassment.
I felt weak in my knees and feebly sat down on the couch. I practically lost all of my valuable dresses and items. I would have at least left them to Leticia had I known Daphne would just steal them away in the end. I wondered if there will be a day when I will be able to purchase a new dress later… I couldn’t possibly request money from my husband… Not when he’s currently a self-acknowledged poor man.
I looked outside the window. It was painted with a peaceful rural landscape no matter where you laid your eyes… I guess there might never even be an occasion for any need to wear a gorgeous dress or accessories from now on.
It’s the sole silver lining among my many misfortunes… Probably.