Chapter 5 - An Impolite Stranger
I thought this would just be a simple outing, but my father was buying everything I laid my eyes on.
‘This is uncomfortable.’
Although shopping was an inevitable part of my new life, I didn’t want to lavishly spend money without careful consideration. I liked to buy things that were to my liking.
‘Is he testing me to see how I behave when I run out of patience?’
All I wanted to do was to return home, but reality was that I was the duke’s daughter. My dependence on my father meant that I couldn’t rebel against his will, otherwise, it would only bring me trouble.
‘This is all my fault for not creating means to be independent of him.’
I sighed. Something suddenly appeared in front of my face. It was the bizarre porcelain rabbit I saw.
‘If I break it and pretend it was a mistake… will I be scolded?’
I accepted the rabbit without a choice. My father looked at me.
For some reason, his expression was more relaxed than before. If someone he knew had seen him, they might’ve even asked if he had good news.
‘I don’t think he’s pleased to have annoyed me… or is he?’
I sighed and glanced at all the things he bought. Perhaps he was the type to relieve stress by shopping. I followed him without a word, careful not to put him in a bad mood.
Then, something caught my eye again. This time, it was a person.
‘She’s carrying a sword.’
The empire had clear-cut gender roles, so it was difficult to find swordswomen. As such, she couldn’t help but stand out.
‘I know that the steady stream of swordswomen stopped after Sir Yulia, the first empress’s captain of guards, went missing…’
People around us began murmuring, but I thought that it would be nice to see more women wielding swords again. At that moment, my father also caught sight of the swordswoman and stopped in his tracks.
“Wait here for a minute.”
He approached the woman everyone was looking at.
‘Does he know her?’
When they disappeared into the crowd, people’s conversations shifted.
“Was that person Duke Floyen?”
They were whispering, but I could still hear them. I felt uncomfortable with all the unwelcome gazes on me.
‘I just want to rest at a quiet place…’
I cautiously stepped away from the crowd, but my movements were noticed by Geraldine, my escort knight. He was also my older cousin.
“Where do you think you’re going, Jubelian?”
I frowned at Geraldine, who was looking at me with suspicion. He must’ve thought I was planning on making mischief.
“There are many people here. You should speak with respect, Sir Geraldine.”
He sulked at my remark, but quickly composed himself in embarrassment.
“So where are you going, Lady Jubelian?” he asked more respectfully this time.
“I want to buy something from that shop.”
Geraldine’s expression hardened when I carelessly pointed to a lonesome shop at the corner of the street.
“Is that really… where you want to go?”
He spoke in a strange tone, so I turned around to look at the shop and flinched.
The sign read “Growling Bear Armor Specialty Shop”.
‘Ugh… why did I point to a place like that?’
Just as I was regretting my actions, Geraldine said sarcastically, “I will respect the lady’s wishes.”
Unable to change my decision now, I simply nodded and answered, “Thank you.”
I entered the store with Geraldine and was greeted by an owner who possessed the physique of a bear.
“Welcome to… huh? An angel in our store?”
Although the shop was mostly empty, I was still embarrassed at his exaggerated praise.
“What do you need?”
‘I can’t say I don’t need anything if I’m here…’
I glanced at Geraldine, but he was already distracted by something else.
“Oh, I love this gauntlet!” he gushed.
‘He’s here to protect me, but he’s just shopping for his own stuff.’
Although he had only spit out a single word, his cold and desolate voice made me tremble. I peeked to the side inconspicuously and saw a man wearing a black cloak that covered his entire body. His face was likewise covered with a hood.
‘He looks a little suspicious…’
“Ten silver coins, sir!”
In response to the owner’s lively voice, the man searched through his pocket.
‘He’s so tall. I can also tell he’s a handsome guy just by looking at his nose…’
At that moment, red eyes that I could barely make out under his hood turned to me. I hurriedly avoided his gaze but not before our eyes briefly met.
‘Well, this is embarrassing… I should apologize, right?’
At that moment, I heard him speak in a distasteful tone.
“What are you looking at?”
‘Wow, he’s so rude.’
It was true that I had stolen a glance at him first and displayed bad manners, but I didn’t want to apologize to someone who spoke so impolitely to a stranger.
“Oh, um… I was looking for the thing you’re buying right now.”
When I answered, the owner stiffened.
“Miss, you want to… buy this?”
‘Wait a minute, is that armor polish?’
I tried to maintain a serious expression when I realized what I was looking at. Knights were usually associated with armor, but in reality, they didn’t have to wear them unless they were fighting in a war. In other words, armor polish was useless to me.
“Yes, I need it!” I declared loudly anyway. I didn’t want to admit that I had been secretly looking at the cloaked man.
“It’s a shame that the decorative armors in my house have lost their luster.”
The owner nodded to my answer.
“Of course, but one would not be enough to shine everything in a house.”
“What? No, I just need one…”
I tried to refuse him, but it seemed like the owner didn’t hear me. He continued to speak.
“Wait here. I’ll go through the warehouse to find more!”
After the owner had disappeared, it sunk in that I had purchased something out of impulse.
‘I just bought useless armor polish… I can’t criticize Father when I’m doing the same thing.’
I sighed, thinking that I had dug my own grave. The man next to me placed a gold coin on the table, picked up his polish, and turned around. I would have ignored him if he had placed down a small amount of money. However, a gold coin was an enormous value. This amount could feed a commoner’s family for two weeks.
“Hey, what about change?” I shouted after him loudly and clearly, but he didn’t respond.
“Change!” I followed him and shouted even louder.
He should’ve been able to hear me and I began to wonder if he was deaf. Maybe he had heard the wrong amount from the owner. I suddenly felt sorry for him.
“Hey, can you hear me?” I asked again.
At that moment, the man stopped in his tracks. He turned around and stared at me.
‘Okay, so he’s not deaf.’
Despite my embarrassment for causing a commotion, I said, “I think you heard the wrong thing from the owner. The amount you paid is ten times the price.”
While I was explaining to the man, I heard Geraldine call for me.
“My lady, what’s going on?”
“Um… this guy…”
I tried to explain the situation, but the man took that opportunity to leave the shop.
‘Is he just that rich or something?’
I was frowning in embarrassment when I heard the owner’s voice again.
“Hahaha, miss! It turns out that we have ten more of these.”
“No, I don’t need ten…”
I tried telling him that I didn’t need that much, but the owner wouldn’t listen to me.
“One gold coin for all of these! Oh, you have already done the math!”
One gold coin. It was the same amount that the man in the hood had paid before leaving.
I tried to clear the misunderstanding with the owner, but he continued to make his own assumptions.
“By the way, did that guy take my stuff without paying?”
“No, you’re mistaken…”
“That damned bastard!”
The owner began to curse at the man. Despite my attempts to interject, I wasn’t able to get a word in until he was finished.
“That one gold coin was paid by him!” I finally burst out.
The owner became embarrassed.
“Is that so? You should have told me earlier.”
‘Is this guy really blaming me? I tried to tell him all this time!’
In my exasperation, I decided to never step into this shop again.
* * *
Next to a carriage parked in a vacant lot, a short-haired woman was waiting for someone anxiously.
‘Where is he?’
When the man arrived, she sighed in relief.
“My Lord, I have informed Duke Floyen of your appointment.”
Although his voice was cold as usual, he sounded somewhat annoyed. The woman realized this and asked, “Did something happen?”
“Hey, can you hear me?”
The man was thinking about the woman in the shop. She had no fear, even around a vicious dog who bared its teeth to warn people around him to stay away. He had been annoyed for a second, but the moment he turned around and met the woman’s eyes, all hostility disappeared. Reminiscing what had just happened, the young man frowned.
* * *
‘Ah, I’m so tired.’
I left the shop with frustration. As I walked away, I tried to brainstorm ways I could recover from what had happened today.
“Where have you been, Jubelian?”
For some reason, my father bore a displeased expression. I quickly answered him.
“Oh, I bought something.”
My father turned to Geraldine, who was carrying the bought goods.
“And what is that?”
“It’s armor polish.”
At Geraldine’s answer, my father glanced at me with a slight frown. He then sighed and said, “Let’s go.”
‘I know I bought something useless, but there’s no way he can berate me. If he has a conscience, that is.’
I began to follow my father for who knows how long. When an obstacle appeared before my eyes, my composure threatened to crumble.
I had been following him for several hours today, so my feet throbbed.
‘I only need to endure this a little while longer.’
I tried to ignore the pain by imagining the bright future I was going to have after inheriting my father’s wealth.
‘Wait, what’s going on?’
I suddenly felt a tingling sensation in the back of my head and my eyesight became speckled with black dots. My legs also lost their strength as I tried to take another step.
Fortunately, I didn’t fall down because I grabbed onto something in front of me.
‘Whew, I survived.’
As soon as my eyesight came back, I looked up to see what I was holding and stiffened with fear.
“What are you doing?”
Although I was tired, I couldn’t believe that I had latched onto my father’s arm.