Chapter 161 : Their Thought
It had been almost an hour since their departure from the Rock House.
The new hideout was a certain rocky area near a highway. It bordered a city in the southwestern part of the Paladia Kingdom.
Rio carefully lowered himself, setting Flora on her feet.
「Flora-sama, may I have a bit of your time before we enter the city?」
「Yes, what could it be?」
Tilting her head, Flora asked Rio.
「We need to prepare for our journey, so we need to enter the city to acquire supplies. I believe it would be best if we avoided attention, so we need to wear a disguise.」
「Yes. Please wear this necklace.」
Rio handed a necklace to Flora.
She wondered a bit about it, but did as requested and put it on. To Flora’s surprise, as soon as she finished clasping the necklace her long, orchid colored hair turned light blue.
「It’s a magic tool to change your hair color. Don’t worry, it’s not permanent. Once you remove the necklace, your hair will return to its natural color.」
「Such a magic tool… !!!」
Rio’s explanation was enough to amaze Flora. She marveled at the incredible artifact for a while before opening her eyes wide. She stared at Rio’s ashen-colored hair and lowered her gaze to his chest.
Just as Flora thought, from what she could see, Rio wasn’t wearing the same kind of necklace as her. Or perhaps it was hidden beneath his cloth armor and turtleneck sweater.
Rio had noticed her inquisitive gaze, but he feigned ignorance.
「… Is something the matter?」
Flora shook her head in panic.
「I’ll be grateful if you refrain from disclosing any information about this necklace to anyone. It is made with a magic equation that has yet to be published. And I have no intention of publishing it.」
She nodded obediently.
「Also, for safety, may I call Flora-sama by a different name while in public? How about… 『Laura』 as an alias?」
「… Ah, yes. But if we have to use an alias, why not something less similar to my real name?」
Her confusion was evident just by her expression.
「An alias that is too different from your name will be harder to respond to. It’ll take longer to get used to it, and you might not react to it when it’s needed.」
「I understand. Of course, you’d feel uncomfortable being called by another name…」
Eyes opened wide in realization, Flora promptly agreed with his reasoning.
Rio smiled at her wryly.
「Thank you for understanding. Also, it’s a bit too late to think of another alias, don’t you think?」
(Rio and Haruto… Those names are way too different, right?)
As she pondered about aliases and magic tools that changed hair colors, Flora’s suspicions resurfaced.
Based on Haruto’s theory, it would be too difficult for someone called 「Rio」 to use an alias like 「Haruto」. It was too different from his name. Or perhaps there was a hidden meaning to the name “Haruto”.
She was having a hard time thinking of various possibilities.
(I really can’t understand, after all.)
Meanwhile, Rio was still waiting for Flora to finish her thoughts.
「… Did you come up with a good alias?」
「Eh, no, it’s hard to think of a good name! Uhm… Please let me use Laura. Ahaha, it’s a bit embarrassing to use another name to call yourself with, right?」
Flora shook her head, feeling a bit embarrassed about using an alias.
It was a strange feeling, changing her name and assuming a new identity.
「I understand, Laura-sama.」
Rio used the same respectful tone that he used with her real name. Maybe because he was so at ease with her new name, she couldn’t help but feel a bit ashamed.
◇ ◇ ◇
Their first stop inside the city was a tailor shop which catered to wealthy people.
「Uhm… What do you think about this one?」
Inside the tailor shop, a young lady stood in front of her male companion, waiting for his input on her choice of clothing.
It was a simple yet durable one-piece dress, paired with knee-high socks and long leather boots. The design was simple but cute, allowing a good degree of freedom to her movements.
「It looks good on you.」
Rio praised Flora, but it was not empty flattery. Even the shop assistant beside him forgot to serve the other customers. She had been completely bewitched by Flora’s overwhelming cuteness.
The sincere praise made Flora feel a bit self-conscious.
「Thank you very much!」
「What about the size of the dress? Please confirm it since it’s a ready-made product.」
「Uhm… I think the size is okay.」
Prompted by Rio’s question, Flora twisted her body to confirm how well the dress fit her. She sounded unsure of it, maybe because she wasn’t used to wearing such a dress.
「Since it doesn’t bring you any discomfort, I suppose it’s fine. Allow me to hold onto it while we look around a bit more so you can choose the most comfortable one.」
After that, the duo spent some time picking clothes for Flora. Her royal status had never permitted such activity. She was thoroughly enjoying this experience, a gleeful expression visible on her face.
Every time she asked for Rio’s opinion, he’d say it looked good on her. It was all he could say since he lacked a discerning eye for such things.
Flora wore a constant smile on her face, maybe because she was having fun or… maybe because of Rio’s constant praise. After trying on all the different clothes, Flora turned to Rio.
「Which one do I choose?」
「Hmm… Honestly, I doubt I can give you any advice since I lack a sense of fashion, but everything looks good on you.」
Rio scratched the back of his head, feeling a bit sheepish.
This left Flora feeling a bit confused. She remembered what he had worn back at the Rock House. They had looked very good on him, giving him a neat and tidy atmosphere.
「That’s not true. All the clothes that were worn by Haruto-sama in that house were stylish.」
「Ah… Those clothes were chosen by Miharu-sa… I mean, they were chosen by someone else.」
It was as if a switch had been flipped inside him.
The moment he recalled that name, Rio’s smile was instantly replaced with a gloomy expression. He remembered going shopping with her in Almond several times, and she had chosen several shirts for him.
Now that he had accomplished his revenge it felt sacrilegious to even think about her.
His soul was stained with blood and filth for the sin he had committed when fulfilling his revenge.
「… I see.」
The change in his demeanor did not escape Flora’s notice. He seemed very troubled.
(Miharu… San. Isn’t that the name of that girl from the spirit world? The one who was under Haruto-sama’s protection?)
There was a moment, during the evening party of the Galwark Kingdom, when Flora had met that woman. However, they didn’t have a chance to talk, so Flora had no idea what kind of person Miharu had been.
All she could recall was of Miharu being a very beautiful, very lovely woman. Flora was very curious as to the relationship between those two.
「Well then, I’ll trust your judgment on this matter, Laura-sama. Also, judging by the amount of luggage that we can carry, you can choose some second and third options as well.」
It was a blatant attempt to change the subject, but Flora just nodded obediently. There was nothing that she could say to him at the moment, so they stood in an awkward silence for a while.
「Even so, will you choose the best clothes for me, Haruto-sama?」
Flora’s wish surprised Rio’s eyes wide opened as if he never expected this situation to happen. He couldn’t understand why she’d make such a request.
「… You can’t?」
「Of course I can, it’s just that… Oh, well. As you wish. Allow me to choose one for you.」
Her anxious expression made Rio accept it with a smile, even though he was bewildered by her strange request. It wasn’t like it would take that much time, anyway.
Not to mention that despite not being affiliated to any country, he still couldn’t simply refuse a request coming from royalty.
His answer made Flora smile from ear to ear.
「Thank you very much!」
◇ ◇ ◇
Two ladies sat in a private room, in a faraway place.
That room belonged to Liliana, First Princess of the Saint Stella Kingdom. It was where she had private lessons of Japanese, taught by Miharu.
「Well then, let’s do our best in today’s lesson too, Miharu-san.」
Princess Liliana greeted her teacher by bowing her head.
Miharu bowed in greeting as well but when she straightened back up, she noticed the Princess’s face did not look so good.
「… Liliana-sama, is something wrong? Your face seems paler than usual. Does this have anything to do with your health?」
When she heard Miharu’s concerned question, Fril, the only maid in the room, sighed heavily.
「Look! Even Miharu-sama noticed your condition. My eyes aren’t just for decoration, you know. Please don’t force yourself and rest more, Liliana-sama!」
It seemed like Fril had already complained about Princess Liliana’s condition before her meeting with Miharu.
The teacher took another look at her student’s face and couldn’t help but worry.
「If you’re not feeling well we can cancel today’s lesson. What do you think?」
「It’s alright, I can continue. Truth is, I merely had too little sleep last night. I stayed awake quite late while looking at the dictionary I borrowed from you, Miharu-sama.」
Princess Liliana felt a bit awkward with the teacher’s concern, so she shook her head and explained the situation as best she could.
Miharu tried to suppress the small guilt that appeared in her chest.
「… That’s not a good enough reason to be neglecting your sleep. Also, you’re worrying Fril-san, you know?」
「Yes, I agree with Miharu-sama.」
「Fufu… Thank you very much, Miharu-san. And you too, Fril. But I really am okay. I shouldn’t be considered royalty if I can’t even do official business while in this condition.」
Liliana gave both women a small smile.
「Naturally I won’t say anything if you just stay up late only once in a while, but…」
Fril sighed heavily as she muttered in a tone low enough that Miharu wouldn’t be able to hear. With a closer look, anyone could see the princess hadn’t been sleeping well for quite some time.
「Today too I must ask you to clarify some characters for me. I was unable to understand them even with the dictionary. Please teach me. I want to know their meaning as soon as possible.」
「Certainly. How about today’s lesson be about investigating the meaning of these characters?」
Liliana shot an apologetic smile at Fril. She turned towards Miharu and showed her a piece of paper with the that she was having trouble figuring out.
Miharu’s expression stiffened when she took a look at the characters.
The written characters were all gloomy, like 『Cowardice』, 『Apathy』, 『Greedy』, 『Ugly』, 『Regret』, and 『Death』.
Liliana noticed the change in her teacher’s expression and snatched the opportunity to ask her.
「… What do they mean?」
「Ah… Well… I’m a bit surprised. All the words you’ve written here have a negative meaning.」
Miharu’s smile returned as she placated the princess.
She quietly marveled that Princess Liliana managed to pick such characters among the immense amount contained in that dictionary.
「… Oh, really?」
「Yes. Since you picked this many characters, allow me to explain each of them.」
Miharu immediately started her lesson.
She now had the suspicion that it wasn’t just her complexion, even Princess Liliana’s tone sounded slightly stiff when bowing just now.