Chapter Twenty-Two: Leaving the Royal Palace
I spoke to Nolan as we walked through the spacious garden of the Royal Palace.
“I knew it. Both His Majesty and the queen were quite worried about Nolan-sama! They even took precious time out of their busy schedules…”
“That’s how it looked to you?”
I looked at Nolan walking next to me with a puzzled expression, to which he just shook his head at.
“That’s all it matters, then.”
The way he put it made me anxious.
“Let’s talk later. We’re a bit behind schedule. Make your preparation in a haste. We are leaving the Royal Capital soon.” Saying that, he swiftly scanned our the surroundings.
It didn’t seem like he cut off the discussion because he wanted to return quickly. Apparently, he just didn’t like to discuss anything here. Nolan appeared to be sure someone was eavesdropping on our conversation from somewhere.
In fact, I was also bored with the vast emptiness of the Royal Palace and the crowd of people.
“I also want quickly to return to Dahl Island.”
Nolan, with his stern expression slightly loosening, looked at me.
“Ohhh, I bet. Nothing’s better than our old but sweet home.”
I felt happy and ticklish in my chest that we shared the same sentiment.
We left the Royal Palace before noon.
Our stay was short, but to be honest, I’m glad that everything ended uneventfully, which greatly relieved me.
The tranquil scenery unfurled before our eyes as we left the Royal Capital behind. As if responding to the tranquility, my hanging heart also gradually loosened.
However, I quickly got bored just staring at the calm scenery, so I looked at Nolan.
He had piled up lots of books in the carriage. They were crammed into the corner of the seat with a violin case sandwiched between them. “Nolan-sama, is that violin…”
Nolan shifted his gaze and looked at the violin case when I called out to ask him.
“Oh. This is what my friend gave me after the evening party.”
Now that he said so, I recalled Nolan’s friend once shouting in drunkenness for him to play the violin again in their special meeting.
“—He was astute in me bringing it. Of course. I just brought it along since he incessantly pushed it to me.”
Nolan, who finished saying it with a highly natural tone, stared at the violin in satisfaction.
“It’s quite an excellent piece—albeit inferior to my violin in the Dahl Island mansion.”
Oh, so Nolan apparently had his own instrument back in the mansion. However, I’m a bit sad since I never saw him taking it out to play after I moved in with him. It’s a waste of talent to lock it somewhere when he had such exceptional skills.
I recalled the beautiful piece of music Nolan played after being urged by the guests at the evening party.
“The music Nolan-sama played at the party was wonderful.”
Nolan displayed a refreshing smile when I praised him. After quick eye contact, he shifted his gaze slightly away from me and muttered, “Thank you. Your praise makes me happier than anyone else’s… After all, it was the piece I played for you.”
After a flash of surprise, a feeling of bliss overflowed from the depth of my heart, filling every corner of my body, and I said to Nolan with an undisguised smile, “I am also delighted to hear that coming from you.”
Nolan’s aquamarine eyes turned to look at me in a startle. He blinked a few times, averted his gaze, and gave a bitter smile.
“…You sure seem to be happy.”
“Yes. Very much.”
He reshuffled his legs awkwardly and looked at me with a slightly uncomfortable gaze when I stared at him sitting across from me as my cheeks flushed even more, recalling the beautiful melody.
“I didn’t know you would be so pleased…”
Naturally. Who wouldn’t be pleased to hear that such an excellent performance, which seemed to have come from heaven, was for them?
“Buie’s… Errr, what piece was that? Something second…? Speaking of, everyone praised that it was a fitting piece for us, but I still don’t know what its title is.”
Nolan stiffened when he heard me asking that as I reeled back my memories of that party.
“Are you seriously asking that…?”
“Yeah, it’s the first time I heard that piece… It was Buie’s piece, wasn’t it?”
Nolan seemed to have muttered what could be the piece title be as he lowered his gaze, but it vanished amidst the creaking sound of the carriage’s wheels.
“Huh? I didn’t catch that. Please say it a bit more loudly.”
Nolan had a slightly resigned expression on his face seeing me leaning forward not to miss the name this time.
“…It’s the second variation of A Melody Dedicated to My Beloved Wife.”
I didn’t know the song was titled as such…!
I even felt ashamed to hear it directly. I nodded in acknowledgment once with my instantly stiffened expression and averted my eyes in a fluster.
Then, as if reproaching me, a voice flew out from the front, “Why are you feeling embarrassed now when you have already heard it?”
However, I didn’t reply and just quietly sat deeper in the carriage’s seat with my head dropped down.
…So that’s why the people at the party jeered when they saw me.
It felt ridiculous now that I think about it… How I was the only one in that place impressed with his skills without knowing what the piece he played was.
In contrast to the unsettled me, Nolan seemed to have pulled a book from the bundle and had begun to focus on reading it.
When I came to my senses, I found myself having fallen asleep in the carriage. When I opened my eyes, I saw that Nolan was still reading a book.
The book he had unfolded on his knees looked like the one he used for territory management.
He seemed to be seriously thinking about something as he looked at the handwritten table between the book’s pages.
I peeked out of curiosity from the sideline, and it appeared to be a table representing the fluctuation in the island’s population. I subconsciously blurted out my thoughts, “Dahl Island’s population is constantly decreasing, isn’t it?”
“…That’s right. And it’s the most headache-inducing problem yet.”
“I guess people’s nature to yearn for big cities never goes down no matter the time, huh? The majority of youngsters, once they get married, they leave.”
Nolan’s eyebrows topped up, and he looked at me in surprise.
“You can discern it? Could it be that the Teddy Viscounty’s territory suffered from the same problem?”
I unwittingly chuckled, for no one in the Teddy Viscounty would talk about territory management. As the Viscounty relied on their territory’s specialty, precious gems, to trade. They raised lots of artisans and were known for their gem business. However, management had been entirely left up to the people in the lower hierarchy to handle, and my parent’s home just reaped the benefits generated from the trade without needing to lift their fingers.
That’s why I never once found my stepbrother reading such management-related books. It may be wrong to put it this way, but the Teddy Viscounty had nothing to worry about if they just continued with their old-fashioned system.
“I have just read it in the books. I’m sorry since I can’t help you.”
The difference between acquiring the knowledge from books and actually applying the solution to Dahl Island’s population to put it back on track must be abysmal.
Nolan may have been claiming himself as a poor rural aristocrat. However, he never slacked off regarding his role as the island’s count and seriously tried to solve its problems. He’s truly an impressive person.
There was quite some distance between the Royal Capital and Dahl Island, so the carriage needed to stop once midway. We had also been starving, so Nolan and I chose a cheap restaurant that caught our eyes when we entered the town.
Nolan looked quite handsome when he confidently stepped into the restaurant.
Nolan and I had changed to commoners’ attire just before leaving the Royal Palace, so we didn’t attract any special attention. However, I was pretty curious how Nolan didn’t look fazed and appeared to actually be accustomed to such a cheap restaurant. It was unthinkable for royalty, so I asked him, “So even princes can come to such places to eat?”
“Not all. My eldest brother preferred easy-going and lively places to eat, so he often visited them. However, someone like Eugenie would rather kill herself than eat here.”
With all my due respect to Nolan’s relatives, they would really do so, in my opinion.
There was a crowd of lightly dressed people noisily chatting inside, making a boisterous atmosphere. The wooden tables looked worn out from every angle. The chairs had numerous scratches, and it seemed as if they were going to collapse at any moment each time they moved and wobbled.
If it’s that princess, let alone eating, she wouldn’t even want to breathe in a dozen-mile radius of a place like this.
The wine barrels laid down sideways in the back of the store were lined up as if items of artwork. I was pretty impressed with the wine barrels’ layout, which had been laid to the point of reaching the ceiling.
There was also a group of men engaging in discussion with red faces, seemingly drunk from the liquor.
The sun was still high in the sky, but there was already a group of red-faced men in a remote area, engaged in a debate.
“The only problem this kind of restaurant has, is if it’s a hit or miss.”
“I vaguely understand what you mean. I hope the food here is delicious.”
We began to eat as the food we ordered was delivered subsequently. As soon as I took a bite, I realized we had made a blunder in choosing a restaurant this time.
The first thing I tried was the soup. The spices tasted like a novelty. The taste of mixed herbs hit my tongue.
The first one to speak was Nolan.
I guess it would be impossible for a prince raised in the Royal Palace to keep quiet at a taste like this.
“This soup is delicious… Let’s try this bean dish, too.”
“It… It’s soft, isn’t it?”
“It’s so soft that anyone from an elderly person to an infant can eat it.”
“…Yeah. I mean, it’s so soft that other explanations wouldn’t do justice.”
The dishes were rapidly delivered to our table.
When were they made? Or rather, how were they serving this fast?
The waiter placed the meat dish between Nolan and me with such swift motions as if they didn’t want to waste another second. The dishes spilled on the table with the momentum they carried, not to talk about their fingers on the plates. I was already stunned by all this.
Nolan put down the bean dish and aimed for the meat dish this time.
“…This is also delicious. The ingredients didn’t lose their original flavor. There’s almost no seasoning.”
“Yeah. But there isn’t any flavor of ingredients either, though?”
After a moment of silence, we laugh at how bad it tasted. Then, Nolan said in a somewhat impressed tone, “You really can smile at any time. You can have fun even at a place like this.”
I only realized now when he reminded me. I didn’t laugh because it was fun to come to this restaurant. I laughed because I was happy at the silly conversation I was having with him.
But I didn’t tell him.
“You smile a lot.”
“Is that so? I didn’t notice.”
“Yeah, you’re often smiling… Often getting mad.”
“I don’t get mad that frequently!” I turned around and scrunched up my face in a huff. However, Nolan just laughed and said, “To be honest, it’s a refreshing sight for me, whose nature is inherently gloomy.”
“Nolan-sama isn’t gloomy.” Though, he’s not a cheerful guy either.
I really don’t know if I actually smiled a lot, but if it’s really so, maybe it’s just my habit then. This may be what I, raised in such a complicated environment, perceived as natural.
I noticed Nolan staring at me when I twisted my finger on the sauce of the meat dish that I didn’t know what the cook had meant to make.
“I recall the haystack whenever I look at you.”
This was the first time someone had made an analogy of a haystack to me. Just what does he mean by saying I reminded him of a haystack?
I didn’t think it’s a suitable metaphor for a woman… Or heck, I felt like it’s unfit for all human beings.
I furrowed at the annotation I didn’t understand. “Well, do you mean I look like someone about to die?”
Nolan looked at me in surprise and explained when I nervously asked him the meaning of annotation.
“Of course not… The haystack for me is like the warm sunlight and pleasant smell from it.”
Oh, so that’s what he meant. Then I think it’s worth rejoicing if he thought so.
Though a haystack for me was simple dried-up grass.
“I see… Then I, errr, I will strive to be the best haystack to Nolan-sama.” When I finished saying so, Nolan suddenly burst into laughter.
This was the first time I had seen him laughing so loudly.
Eventually, I noticed the voices of drunk men engaging in conversation echoing till our seats.
“Just how long will they stick their necks in the war between Ryoluka and Sevesta!”
“Nothing good has happened since the current king took over.”
Apparently, they were criticizing the king and his way of ruling.
Marco and Ricardo, who were in a nearby seat, turned their attention to us, apparently worried about their threatening atmosphere. Marco then stood up. I turned to look at Nolan to implore what he thought, but he was calmly eating the bean dish.
He finally noticed my gaze and said in a subdued voice, “This is the will of people. Something you will never notice by shutting yourself inside.”
He was referring to Royal Palace.
Previous | Table of Contents | Next
If you enjoy our content, please consider following our Instagram!
Leave a Reply