As if he knew something was going to happen, Riley covered his face with one of his hands and sighed.
The teleportation doorway eventually became small to the size of palm.
As Riley thought, until the doorway that Nainiae opened disappeared… Ian didn’t show.
“Y… Young Master… W… What do we do? Mr. Ian… Mr. Ian didn’t come? Should I say he couldn’t come? Uuuuaaa!”
Sera started to tear up. With pale face, she shivered as she looked at Riley.
“What do you mean what do we do?”
As if he had no answer either, Riley furrowed his brows. Wondering if there was a way to resolve this, he then turned to look at Nainiae.
“That is… As I said earlier, the dimensional doorway that I open takes quite a while before I can open again, so…”
“Two weeks at least…”
“T… Two weeks?”
Sera flinched her shoulders. She looked like she just lost her soul.
“It’s Ian’s fault for not timing it right.”
He was thinking the old saying, reap what you sow. Thinking about Ian who must be crying out loud at the mansion, Riley put a bitter smile on his face as he walked.
“Y… Young Master? Are you really going to just leave here?”
“It cannot be helped.”
As he said, it was impossible for Nainiae to go back to the mansion right now and bring Ian.
“Nothing will get solved by us hesitating and standing around here. It would be better for us to move. As for Ian, we can contact the mansion during the dinner time.”
Riley muttered as he looked around the area. He breathed out long.
The frosted breath made it look as if he was smoking.
Looking at the long, frosted breath coming out, Riley seemed satisfied. He tightened the scarf on his neck a little.
“Anyway, this place is pretty nice.”
The place they arrived through Nainiae’s Teleportation magic was a wide-open field that was covered in snow.
It was not snowing right now. However, perhaps because it was snowing until just now… the field in front of Riley’s eyes was white and soft snow field.
Like Riley, Sera tried blowing out the frosted breath. Sera put on a bright look on her face after realizing the scenery late.
“… It is.”
No matter where they looked, everywhere was white.
Sera enjoyed the sound of the snow being crushed as she walked. She turned the bag on her back toward Nainiae and asked,
“Nainiae, can you please bring out the map from my bag?”
“Yes. It is probably already sticking out from the bag. It is rolled up.”
Nainiae approached the bag and found the map that was sticking out like a tongue. She drew the map from the bag and opened it.
“Did you pull it out?”
Nainiae answered as she opened the map. Sera turned around to look at the map together.
“Can you guess where we are?”
Although they moved instantly using the Teleportation, Sera thought it would be best to confirm for sure about their current location, so she asked Nainiae.
It seemed Riley was also curious about the current location. He stopped looking around for a moment and joined them.
“I think we are around here.”
They were at quite a distance from the Iphalleta mansion and the Solia Castle.
The area around where Nainiae pointed was surrounded by mountains. The area didn’t have a name.
Riley was looking at the part that Nainiae pointed with her finger. Before anyone realized, he was furrowing his brows.
‘It was near?’
He was not sure if this was just a coincidence, but Riley found words that read ‘Duke Philisneon Manor’ not far from where they were on the map. This was why.
* * *
Thanks to the magic that Nainiae used, they had been stepping on snow. Still, they were able to walk without slipping or falling. The group found a suitable place to rest, so they started to unpack there.
“… Is he planning on walking aimlessly and going back?”
“I’m talking about the Young Master.”
Of the two maids who were getting the dinner ready, Sera opened her mouth first and asked. Nainiae flinched and said,
“… I am not sure?”
From what Sera just said, Nainiae noticed that Riley must have not told Sera the truth about the trip. Nainiae pretended to be busy and worked on the potato she was handling.
“Well, he is going through the puberty, so I can understand something like this.”
This wasn’t something like puberty.
Nainiae thought about what happened during last fall at the Lower Solia. Nainiae suddenly fell into deep thoughts. Meanwhile, Sera asked as if she was just muttering to herself.
“Now that I think about it, Nainiae, you are around the same age as our Young Master, right?”
Having heard what Sera said, Nainiae looked at Riley who unpacked and just sat there with blank look on his face. Nainiae stopped her hands which were handling the potato.
“Lady Iris was worrying about him. She said he looked anxious somehow? That’s why I came. I’m sure you know too, but Mr. Ian is somehow… lacking in sensitivities? You know?”
“Yes, well… Yes.”
“Um… I really think wandering around aimlessly is a little… Still, I think it would be good to move with a destination in mind. Ah! If we get the chance, I think it would be fine to stop by at the Duke Phillisneon’s Manor. There happens to be an invitation too.”
With the mention of the Duke’s Manor, Nainiae asked what the invitation was about. Sera nodded and said,
“Yes. It’s the end of the year banquet. Young Master Riley was invited to it, although I think he said he won’t go in the end. I saw the map earlier, and it seemed pretty close? Ah, right. Without the invitation, being allowed in will be highly unlikely… I guess it will be hard.”
It was not certain what Nainiae was thinking. She was vacantly handling the potato, but she dropped the carving knife she held.
“Um? Ah ah, what are you doing!”
Nainiae was thinking about the scene of Riley and Reutrina being on the prospective marriage meeting at the garden. While thinking about this, Nainiae cut her thumb.
“Are you all right? Did you cut deep?”
“Ah, Yes… I’m all right.”
Putting up a look on her face as if she was fine, Nainiae put her thumb inside her mouth. Sera sighed in relief and asked,
“Ugh! What were you thinking about so vacantly?”
“I was just…”
Nainiae was blurring the end of the sentence. Sera brought out the emergency herb from the bag that was full of stuff. She rubbed the herb and got the juice out of it. Sera snatched Nainiae’s thumb.
“If Ms. Willa saw this, you would have been scolded by the bucket load, you know? You should be careful. Nainiae, your hand is quite pretty.”
“Your hand. It is pretty.”
Sera tightly held Nainiae’s hand that was missing two fingers. Nainiae’s thumb had a pretty deep cut. Sera applied the herb juice on it and continued,
“It will sting a little.”
Unlike what Nainiae said earlier, the cut appeared to be deep. With concerned look on her face, Sera looked at Nainaie’s face.
Although this herb was definitely going to make the cut wound to sting, Nainiae’s face looked completely fine. It was to the point of being weird.
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, a pain like this is…”
Nainiae had endured significantly worse pain at the Magic Tower.
When it came to a cut on her thumb, she couldn’t even call it pain. It was more like tickling.
However, for some reason…
Nainiae couldn’t finish her sentence. Instead, she cringed.
“Excuse me, Ms. Sera.”
With the herb juice applied, Sera carefully wrapped bandage on Nainiae’s thumb. Sera looked at Nainiae’s face and tilted her head to the side.
“What is it?”
“My hand, is it really pretty?”
When Nainiae was at the Magic Tower and being experimented on, in order to withstand the pain and hunger, she chewed off and swallowed her own fingers without realizing. This was why she didn’t have two of her fingers.
“You know… It is definitely hideous.”
With her hand, she couldn’t even wear the precious treasure that Riley gave her some time ago. Nainiae mumbled as she looked at her hand.
“You don’t need to say nice things that you don’t really mean. Please tell me honestly. My hand… it is definitely hideous, right?”
Sera’s first aid was perfect.
Nainiae looked at her thumb which was neatly wrapped in bandage. She picked up the carving knife she dropped to the floor and started to clean up the potato again.
Sera watched Nainiae working on the potato again. She then grabbed her carving knife as well and said,
“I was being honest?”
“It’s hard to use that hand, but you use it to swing sword, pour tea for the Young Master, do laundry, and even now, like this… you are cooking too?”
Facing Nainiae who was vacantly staring back at herself, Sera greeted with bright smile as she continued,
“Nainiae, your hand is a pretty hand. If you get it injured more, it really will become ugly, so you shouldn’t let it get any more scars, all right?”
Nainiae watched Sera’s smiley face. Nainiae’s cheeks were red from the cold weather. Now, they were even more red.
“O… Of course.”
“In that case, would it be all right to use this hand to… brush Young Master’s hair?”
The question was so out of the blue. Sera showed a stunned response for a moment. She then snickered. Sera said,
“I am not sure? I don’t know about that?”
Having heard Sera’s response, the expression on Nainiae’s face changed rapidly.
As if Sera found it fun to watch, Sera snickered again. She looked at Riley, who was just sitting and enjoying the snow field view, and said,
“Why don’t you ask Young Master yourself? No, instead of asking… just do it.”
“Just do it? That would be a little…”
“What’s so bad about it? If you get scolded, then you’ll get scolded… If Mr. Ian heard about this, he might cause ruckus for a bit, but Mr. Ian is not here for the moment. As long as you mean well, I don’t think Young Master would get angry?”
Riley had his chin resting on his hand. He was enjoying the snow field view. Now, his eyelids were flickering, and his head was knocking.
Perhaps he was tired. He appeared to be sleepy. Sera pushed Nainiae’s back hard and pointed with her chin as if she was trying to tell Nainiae to go for it.
“We readied the vegetables. We just need to boil them, so… You can leave the rest to me. Please get going.”
Despite Sera’s suggestion, Nainiae still was not able to put down the carving knife. Sera tapped on Nainiae’s back hard once again. Unable to say no, Nainiae finally laid down the knife and started to walk.
“… Excuse me. Young Master.”
What Sera did was cheering for Nainiae in a way that was not really cheering. Because of what Sera did, Nainiae ended up walking to front of Riley. She carefully looked at Riley’s face.
Riley was staring at the snow field with a blank look on his face. There was a dark shadow casted on his face.
Although this winter trip was to fix Nainiae’s illness, this was a trip still. Riley should be enjoying the trip, but his face had a shadow casted on. Having realized this, Nainiae felt frustrated inside.
Could it be that her voice was too small to be heard?
Nainiae looked at Riley with concerned face. She raised her voice and called him again.
“Um? Ah ah. Nainiae.”
It seemed her voice finally reached him. Riley turned his head and looked at Nainiae. He rubbed his sleepy eyes and asked,
“Is the food ready?”
“No, not yet… The stew is being prepared. I think it will take a bit to boil it.”
“Is that so?”
As if she was hurting inside, she lightly crumpled her face.
It was because of what she noticed under Riley’s eyes.
They were something others would not have noticed without taking a closer look. It was a minor part that only Nainiae would have been able to notice. They were pretty dark and deep.
“Young Master, are you all right?”
“What is it?”
“It seems you have not had good night sleep in the past few days. Your face does not look so…”
Nainiae looked concerned as she asked. Riley acted like there was nothing wrong and said,
“No. Nothing in particular… You saw me yawn all the time, haven’t you? Why are you asking me that all of the sudden?”
“In that case, now that you brought it up, should I get some shut eyes for a bit? You said the stew will take a while, right? Can you bring your lap down here?”
Having heard what Riley said, she sat to turn her lap into a pillow for Riley. Riley leaned his head on Nainiae’s lap and closed his eyes, and Nainiae stared at him.
With his eyes closed, he was breathing like a sleeping baby. Having noticed him being like that, Nainiae called him in quiet voice.
Riley didn’t answer.
If anyone else saw him, they would have thought that Riley was asleep.
“You can’t… sleep?”
Riley didn’t answer this time either.
It looked like he was sleeping.
Nainiae bit her lower lips.
“You can’t… No, you are not sleeping.”
Riley, who had his eyes gently closed, twitched his eyebrows once.
It was as Nainiae said.
Riley was trying not to sleep.
It was to the point where he could not remember how long he had been doing this.
“I’m going to sleep. Don’t bother me.”
Of course, he had no intention of actually going to sleep.
He was planning on just closing his eyes and killing time before opening his eyes and saying ‘Ah, I slept well!’
“Young Master, I…”
Nainiae looked at Riley sympathetically. It was at the moment when she was going to continue her words as she fiddled with her right hand.
They could hear the sound of beastly roar from nearby.