Chapter Sixteen: Invitation to the Royal Palace
On the night of the boat competition, I looked at Nolan, repeatedly sighing with a letter in his hand and wrinkles between his eyebrows.
It made me contemplate what kind of information was written on it. What could worry Nolan this much?
Don’t tell me it’s… Was it the due date for a debt or something?
After sighing for who knows how many times, Nolan seemed to have decided on something as he talked to me, “Liese. A party will be held in the Royal Palace celebrating my father’s 20 years of being king next month.”
In Nolan’s words, the father he was referring to was, of course, our country’s king.
To take it from another’s perspective, it’s an invitation to the party. Nolan had discarded his title of being a prince, but it seemed like he was still being invited as the king’s son.
“Are you thinking of attending the party in the Royal Palace?”
There was a slight hesitation on his face, but he replied in a firm tone, “I am.”
Nolan had been avoiding his relationship with the Royal Family ever since I came to this island; that’s why his answer came as a surprise to me. I assumed it was because of it’s an important celebration regarding his father, that he would not refuse the invitation.
“Besides, it’s about time to elect the next king given father’s age. Who knows, maybe it will be announced at this party. I also want to ascertain it.”
I heard that the second prince was the most promising successor, with the third prince closely following behind.
Nolan must be disheartened being the only one left behind, so this was a good chance for him too.
“I understood. Please be careful.”
“…You’re also invited to come with me.”
I was at a loss for words.
“Is it really fine for me to go with you?”
“Naturally. Married couples go together in events like this. Don’t get yourself worked up unnecessarily. Besides, it wouldn’t be a large-scale event given the situation with my little brother. It’s also a perfect chance to introduce you to my family.”
Things have unexpectedly taken a tense turn.
I’ll be participating in a function within the Royal Palace…?
I was utterly clueless about it since I didn’t have any prior experience.
Moreover, the problem was my dresses. I doubt I could go to the Royal Palace wearing the simple and modest clothes I’d been wearing here.
All the valuable dresses and accessories my stepfather had brought for me in the Teddy Viscounty had been snatched and stolen from me by Daphne. Even now, I’m not too fond of Daphne.
I tried consulting with Nolan about the dresses and accessories before, while swallowing my embarrassment. Nolan had said he was going to buy them all for me eventually. In his credit, I’d never seen Nolan wearing expensive clothes besides unsophisticated ones since our wedding.
While it may be rude to the former prince, I still couldn’t help myself from asking, “Does Nolan-sama have any better partywear adequate for the celebration in the Royal Palace?”
He gave a bitter smile as I asked him so directly.
“I do have a few clothes in mind.”
Then I can be reassured, at least.
Well… It should be expected from the former prince.
I was relieved, but the question still remained with regards to my own clothes. Thereupon, Nolan said, as if he had read my mind, “The rest of the problem is in getting you dressed up.”
“…But, do we have that much leeway to splurge on these things?”
“I will do something about it.”
The cow shed roof had been broken recently, which took little to repair. That made me curious how he was going to scrap together the funds for a dress.
“…Wait, you’re not going to sell the cow, are you?”
“Of course not. If I sell the cow, we wouldn’t be able to secure any milk.”
“You shouldn’t sell the horse either.”
“That’s even more impossible.”
Without knowing why, we both burst into laughter.
Nolan put away his laughter, and after throwing a sloppy gaze at me, he took a sigh once again.
“Everything will be alright, so relax. I’m sorry to make you unnecessarily worried.”
To be honest, I didn’t want to go to the Royal Palace.
That’s why when it was the day of our departure, I was full of anxiety.
We left much earlier in the morning, so I fell asleep sometime after leaving the island. In between the cycle of sleeping and getting woken up, I eventually fell into a deep sleep.
While I was taking a pleasant nap, the carriage suddenly stopped. I awoke from the sudden jolt and saw that we had stopped in a town somewhere.
I saw a brown-colored stone-built wall of a building from the window.
Nolan was also looking at the outside situation through the window doubtfully. Thereupon, Ricard opened the carriage door and called out to us, “Apparently, ruffians have attacked this city’s town hall. We can’t take the road ahead, so we have to take a detour.”
The opposite scenery changed when the carriage turned around, and the road looked clogged and congested. I couldn’t see clearly from the blind angle of the building, but there seemed to be lots of people gathered.
“Ruffians… The public order of this town looks awfully bad.”
“Because of the recent riot in Itia. This might be the influence of that.”
The carriage took a detour, but eventually, even that seemed futile. The people were rushing from the back of the road towards the city hall. The number of people was increasing with so much momentum that the road filled up almost entirely. Ricardo judged that it would be dangerous to proceed with the carriage any further.
Many people were seen running past the window of the carriage. Let alone men or women, there were also children rushing about.
“So many onlookers…”
“They aren’t onlookers. They are most likely rushing to participate in the attack of the town hall.”
I subconsciously jumped up and clung to the window to see the situation better. And just as Nolan had said, the expressions of everyone running were grim. If anything, most of them were poorly dressed. There were even some vagrant-looking people.
Dahl Island was undoubtedly a tiny territory, so there weren’t any wealthy people, but at the very least, its inhabitants were not struggling with poverty.
It’s not only because of the geographical advantage or difference between inhabitants; equal responsibility was dependent on the territory lord’s capabilities. There were also those scum lords who exploited their citizens and lived luxurious lives from unethical profits. When thinking about it, Nolan was quite an excellent lord for his fief.
Furthermore, people with all sorts of circumstances lived in this big town… Their life struggles had been reducing their patience.
“Liese! Get away from the window!” Nolan called out to me with a tension-filled voice. When I looked over my shoulder to see what happened, he quickly pulled me away from the window. When I looked at the other side, the carriage which stopped at a distance from ours was under the attack of many men.
Nolan tightly gripped by hand.
An old couple was riding that carriage. The older woman looked terrified while, the older man was shouting something at the opposite party.
A man carrying a pickaxe hit the window of their carriage, forcefully opening it.
The assailants took no time in entering the carriage, snatching a purse and wallet from the older couple. Just that much wasn’t enough for them, so they even dragged the two out of the carriage.
However, I didn’t even have the time to think, “I have to save them.”
Because together with the sounds of glass being smashed, I realized our carriage was also being attacked. The fragments fluttered inside the carriage like large rain droplets, causing me to shut my eyes.
At the same time as I heard Nolan calling me, someone grabbed my dress. I opened my eyes to see four hands stretching toward my dress, grabbing and pulling me forcibly outside.
I was being dragged out!!!
Terror struck me as I couldn’t make my voice come out. Nolan’s hand that was trying to pull me back collided with another man’s hand who was dragging me outside. Tragically, I fell outside, and both my knees crashed to the ground. I was immobilized for a while by the shock, which almost broke my knees. The pain that followed was excruciating.
The one who dragged me out, grabbing my wrist, was a young man. He looked at my necklace with bloodshot, impatient eyes and tried to pull it roughly from my neck. He tugged at it firmly, like he was dealing with a pet dog being pulled by its neck. It made me almost collapse, so I supported myself with both hands. I felt the pain from my scraped hands, but my neck hurt even more.
All of this transpired so fast I thought in the corner of my mind that it had to be a dream.
However, the pain I felt in my neck and knees reminded me that it was, indeed, my reality.
“Hey, you! Hand over it!” The man continued his violence even more by pulling on my necklace once again, but the double pearl necklace was unexpectedly fine even after the force he was putting in getting what he wanted. It didn’t break right away…
It hurt so much… As if the back of my neck was going to be cut.
“Stop it! I will remove it, so get away! I will give it to you!”
The man, seemingly annoyed, kicked me hard on the chest. I couldn’t believe it.
I felt a blinding rage boiling in me for a moment.
“You bastard aristocrat, stop putting on air!”
I felt hurt from the pain of his kick and his curses. I had prepared myself more lavishly than usual because I was attending the event in the Royal Palace, but who would have thought it would backfire on me even though our family’s carriage was relatively unsophisticated compared to the carriage other nobles rode in?
Were we enemies of all that were poor?
The man suddenly took a distance from me and retreated backward, his gaze was looking behind me. Drawn in by his actions, I saw Nolan standing there with a sword in his hand.
“Get away from my wife.”
“You think you can scare me with!?”
The man taunted Nolan, while another man from the side supported him. However, Nolan didn’t flinch from it as he swung down his sword, cutting the hand of one man while kicking vigorously at the other’s chest.
The man who was kicked away lunged even more fiercely, but Nolan cut off his leg with another swing of his sword. I shrieked, seeing another man trying to sneak attack from behind. I shouted Nolan’s name loudly… But slightly earlier than my yell, Nolan had raised one leg and kicked away the man trying to attack sneakily without looking.
Seeing the man fly towards him, Marco swung his robust arms and defeated the surrounding ruffians one after another. I searched for Ricardo, and he was helping the older couple from before who was nearby, fending off the thieves with his sword. His movements were tricky, without showing any hesitation.
I thought Ricardo was kind of reliable, but now, he didn’t have any shred of unreliability.
I didn’t know it then, but from looking at them now, both Ricardo and Nolan were proficient in swordsmanship.
With the help of two brandishing and mowing down any incoming ruffians with their swords while the other was defeating them effortlessly with his muscles, the number of assailants drastically lowered.
I was so terrified I wanted to cry, but it would be inappropriate and would not help if I began to weep while sitting on the ground, so I stood up and moved towards the horse.
My knees hurt so much… It feels like they’ve been fractured.
Our two horses seemed scared at the sudden situation as they were repeatedly stamping up and down.
“Calm down, Blue and Diamond. Everything’s alright now!”
I called out their names and caressed their neck scruffs to soothe them.
There was a tinge of panic in their usually brown-colored, gentle-looking eyes, but I somehow calmed them down after calling their names repeatedly as I caressed them. I pulled at them and moved the carriage slightly forward. There was severe damage to the glass window of the carriage, but besides that, everything seemed fine.
Ricardo, who successfully saved the older couple, hurriedly took on the coachman’s seat and shouted, “Please quickly ride in the carriage with Nolan-sama! We are heading out immediately!”
Immediately after Ricardo shouted, Marco took the seat beside Nolan while Nolan grabbed my hand and pulled me to the carriage door. Glass fragments were scattered here and there in the carriage, but we didn’t have the spare time to care about it.
I somehow boarded the carriage with the help of Nolan’s support as my legs shivered. After kicking off the glass fragments and sitting inside, Nolan turned towards Ricardo and shouted to move the carriage quickly.
That was scary… I was helpless against my body, gradually being unable to stop myself from shivering.
“Liese… It’s alright now.” Nolan gently hugged me and patted my shoulders in what seemed to be an effort to stop my trembling body.
I thought it was him trying to calm me down, but Nolan’s face looked ashen when I looked up.
I myself was so afraid of what had just befallen me that I felt like not wanting to live anymore. However, my fear deflated like a balloon after looking at Nolan’s pale face inside the carriage.
I had no idea if Nolan knew if I could hear him or not, he quietly muttered, “I thought I was going to lose someone again…”
“…I suddenly remembered my little brother.”
Nolan faintly shook his head as if to shake something off his mind and asked me, “Are you injured anywhere…?”
In fact, the pain in my knees was unbearable to me, but it didn’t seem to be the right time to say it.
So I replied, “I’m alright,” in a faint voice.
Nolan, too, nodded once lightly.
My waist started to hurt because he hugged me in a strange position that strained my abdomen. However, Nolan’s hand was coiled around my back like steel, so I couldn’t move even if I wanted to.
“Nolan-sama… Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m completely alright.”
But his complexion was saying something else...
That was just how pale Nolan’s face was.