After walking more than ten kilometers north, I arrived at the town that the girl at the meat kebab stand had told me about.
Being a village located at the foot of the mountain, it seems to have the function of hosting those who cross the bridge.
It is said that the river bridge at the end of this town has fallen and cannot be crossed....
I asked people on the street and they confirmed it was true.
Perhaps because the bridge had collapsed, this town had become very crowded.
Apparently, there is a route to the northern city that avoids this path, and it is crowded with travelers and traders who want to pass through.
"Can't I walk across?"
I asked a man who lived nearby.
"It's a very steep road. There's also a fairy forest nearby, which is very deceptive. Unless you don't value your life, I wouldn't recommend going through there."
Unfortunately, I do value my life, so I decided to use a carriage.
When I went to the town's transport stop, there was a long line of people.
Everyone seems to be thinking the same thing....
I have no choice but to stand in line quietly, but there is no sign of progress.
When I look at the end of the line, something seems to be holding it back.
Taking advantage of the free time I have, I decide to take a look.
"There's a thief at this horse stand! Trader, please do something!"
A woman in a maid's uniform is the one who confronts the owner with a firm tone. The woman's hair is cut short around her neck, and her appearance is like that of a doll. It is rare to find someone like that in a place like this. Usually, maids are found in big cities.
As I turn my attention to the maid, I notice that the figure beside her is that of a lady.
She had a pure white hood over her head, and she had her head down waiting for the situation to resolve itself.
I thought it might be a trap, as it was quite strange that two women like that would be present in such a place, but before I could think more, the owner opened his mouth.
"No, young lady, you have to take care of your valuables yourself. This is not a social gathering place in the capital."
People around me laughed and said, "that's true."
"I know, but you said I could leave my luggage there!"
The maid's anger does not seem to cease.
"It's true I said so, but I also didn't give you a vote of confidence that your things would be safe. Seems you ladies haven't been brought up properly."
Her point was well taken. The lady to the side pales while biting her lower lip and blushes regretfully, at the same time she tugs at the maid's dress and says to her;
"...Marie. The owner is right, it's our fault."
"This will serve as experience for the future. Instead, our goal is to return to the royal capital."
"...That is correct. I understand. Let's just end it here... You may already be feeling uncomfortable in a place like this."
The lady smiles at the maid named Marie, she probably did it to calm her down.
This was enough to give me an idea of this girl's character. But the peace was not going to last long.
When Marie checked at the counter, she discovered that the ticket that should have been on the counter was missing. It was a ticket for a carriage ride.
"What, it was there a moment ago! My lady, do you have the ticket?
"I don't know. You didn't give it to me."
"That's absurd. It was right in front of me."
"I don't know. Because before I could check, you said your wallet was missing."
Both the merchant and Marie check to see if the ticket has fallen to the floor, but there is only dust.
"This must be a joke. Was it also stolen...?"
The maid realized that it was useless to complain to the merchant after his previous attitude related to the luggage. This time, she shows no sign of anger and her expression sinks into despair. The lady puts her hand gently on the maid's shoulder and comforts her heart.
And the merchant was more ruthless than before.
"If you don't have a ticket, you're not a customer. Get out of here."
Marie is frustrated, and the lady looks disappointed as they try to leave the stable.
The two girls walk past me.
At that moment, I caught a glimpse inside the lady's hood.
She had a very beautiful face, and her golden hair was very striking. All in all, she was very pretty, but what worried me the most was that I had already seen this girl somewhere.
I have confidence in my memory, but I have trouble remembering exactly where.
("You are very good at reading, and you remember a lot about magic and history books... But you suck at communicating with people".)
My sister once told me.
("Big brother Licht can't remember people's faces because he doesn't care to know anyone. You are so cool and smart that you can't recognize others who are inferior to you.")
But Ellen underestimates me.
The Estarks often held many gatherings, but it was rare for the ladies to approach me more than 3 times a night.
"...You're a mess."
I thought I heard Ellen's voice, but now is not the time to remember such things.
The question now is, who is that blonde girl?
If I know her, she must be one of the daughters of the nobles who came to the Estark family balls. If so, it makes sense that I don't remember her. I've danced with many women at those gatherings, but I've never been interested in them.
I do remember that they were elegantly dressed and very beautiful, but the beauty is only in their appearance, on the inside they are really empty. They have nothing but vanity.
Their daily concerns include what kind of candy they want to eat as a snack, playing pseudo-romance with her piano and language teachers, and when they get tired of that, they look for men on the social scene.
I am not interested in a woman without substance.
...But there was something different about this woman.
She may be a noblewoman, but it seems to me that she has a nobility and intelligence that sets her apart from other women who are only an empty shell without a brain.
I can feel Ellen's essence in that woman.
I was curious and followed them to the end of the line as they left the horse stall. Then, as they leave the store, they apologize for causing trouble for the merchant and customers.
Something stirs inside me when I see that non-trivial apology.
I should say that a chivalrous spirit grew in me.
I felt like I was on a mission to save these unfortunate women.
I approached the girls and said; "don't worry, this is not over yet, wait here."