༺ Festival (4) ༻
It was a meal that left the both of them satisfied in different ways.
As they left the restaurant and stepped out onto the street, the two of them continued their conversation in a much softer atmosphere than when they came.
“Are we going to the night market now?”
“Yes, we’re heading to see the outdoor performances first, since the food areas will be crowded. Is that okay with you?”
“I’ll just trust Vera.”
Vera’s lips pursed tightly at the answer that Renee gave with a smile.
Why is that smile so distracting today?
Frowning at the confusion in his head, Vera quickly held his breath and calmed his racing heart before speaking again.
“Then let’s go.”
They continued on their way.
On the streets where the sunset was slowly fading away, the sound of a tapping cane and stomping footsteps blended together, creating their own unique beat.
4th Street, the center of the festival.
As they entered the place where all sorts of loud noises and fragrant scents mingled, Renee felt a smile bloom on her lips.
Although she couldn’t see it, there was a clear liveliness in the air.
“There are so many people.”
“Yes, it seems especially crowded this year.”
He wasn’t just saying empty words. In fact, more people were flooding the Imperial Capital this year compared to the previous years.
The reason was… because of Renee.
Rumors of the miracle Renee had performed on the day of the terrorism attack had spread throughout the continent, causing an influx of people.
All kinds of people, ranging from pedestrians hoping to catch a glimpse of the saint in person, to the sick who suffered from incurable diseases, and even the descendants of bankrupt households who squandered their ancestors’ wealth and were seeking the Saint’s power, had come here to see Renee.
Of course, Renee was unaware of this fact.
It would be more accurate to say that Vera deliberately hid it, not wanting to burden her with any unnecessary pressure.
Pushing aside those thoughts, Vera led Renee toward the crowded area and spoke.
“Please hold my hand tightly so we don’t get separated.”
He tightened his grip on her hand as he spoke, causing Renee’s face to flush with embarrassment.
Renee nodded in agreement, but suddenly thought that this was an opportunity.
– Saint, remember this. Men, no matter how clever and good-looking they are, become idiots when it comes to physical attacks. So you should go all out and link arms, move your body against his, and since there are so many people, it’s perfect! ‘Ah~ There’s not even enough space to hold my cane~’ Stick to him like this and… Huh? It’s embarrassing? Oh gooosh! Saintttt!!! If you care about that, you’ll die of old age alone, you know?! Stop worrying about that and think that you’re in the middle of a war!!!
Annie’s furious words replayed in her head.
Renee felt like her brain was boiling with that thought and hesitated.
‘Do it? Should I do it? Should I really do it?’
No, she had to do it. Just as Annie said, everything would come to nothing if she remained sluggish like this.
She had to use every means possible.
Renee felt her heart pounding and a dryness in her mouth, but she then made up her mind, took a deep breath and stopped walking.
It’s now. I have to do it now. I have to make sure that he recognizesme as a woman! Remind Vera of what happened today even in his sleep! Make him dream of me!
Once again, she swallowed dry saliva.
Amidst all the noises around them, Renee spoke so quietly that only Vera could hear her.
“…Vera, there are so many people.”
“Yes, so hold my hand just in case…”
Renee released the hand she was holding. She had put too much strength into the move as she was nervous, so it looked like she was shaking off his hand.
At that, Renee flinched while Vera was taken aback.
In the meantime, Renee, who had regained her composure first, took a big step towards Vera and wrapped her arm around his arm in aswooping motion.
Then, she added the other arm, which was holding a cane, to their intertwined arms.
Rather than linking their arms, Renee clinging to Vera… was more accurate.
In the midst of her embarrassment, Renee did not even realize what she was doing and justified herself, blurting out an excuse while tightening her grip on his arm.
“I-It’s because there are so many people! We shouldn’t be separated! If I get lost, it’ll be difficult to find me, so we have to stay close like this, right? Don’t you think so?”
As she spoke, Renee felt that her heart was about to burst as she felt Vera’s forearm, which was thicker and harder than her own.
Therefore, she urged him to respond.
As Vera flinched in surprise at Renee’s outburst, the soft sensation squeezing his arm made him stiffen like a stone once again.
To explain it… He had hardened. It was too shameful and vulgar to say out loud because Renee’s gesture, which had made him unsure whether they were linking arms or doing something else, was currently pressing against his arm.
A huge presence reminiscent of a big mountain. A distant touch that makes one’s head go blank.
Each time Renee was pushed by the crowd, it became much worse and messed up Vera’s mind.
“Yes, yes… yes. You can’t get lost. Right… That’s true.”
His head turned towards the sky.
He saw the black sky and the yellow lanterns lighting up the streets. He saw the colorful lights.
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.
Oh, it’s a rainbow.
Vera, who suddenly realized that the color arrangement of the lights was that of a rainbow, made a blank face.
“Th-then shall we go?”
Vera creaked along with an indescribably dumbfounded face.
In the outdoor theater hall on 4th Street, where the street performance was in full swing.
Albrecht stood there managing the crowd with a wide smile.
“It’s the Prince!”
“Please look at me too!!!”
“The Prince saw me!!!”
“Nooooooooooo!! He saw meeee!!!”
The reason for all the cheering was because they had spotted him while he was patrolling the area to maintain public safety.
Ah, what a sweet sound this is.
The pleasure of receiving praise from the masses was indescribably exhilarating.
“Ah! That’s right! I’m the Second Prince of this Empire! Commander of the Imperial Knights, Albrecht van Freich!”
At his powerful cry, cheers erupted once again.
Feeling the excitement course through his entire body at the response, Albrecht’s shining gold eyes curved finely and he flashed his pearly white teeth as he shouted.
“Leave the security of the capital to me, Albrecht! Enjoy yourselves, everyone!!!”
To call it the ‘sound of heaven’ would be fitting.
As Albrecht’s beautiful and sweet voice spread, the entire street was engulfed with excitement.
Albrecht waved his hands in the air and turned around, his red cloak flapping in an exaggerated motion.
He was happy.
He felt like he had finally returned to his rightful place and was filled with the sense of security one would have in their mother’s womb.
It felt like his self-esteem, which had plummeted while exploring the slums and interacting with the Holy Kingdom’s people, was being restored.
‘This is my place!’
This is Albrecht Van Freich!
At the sight of Albrecht walking down the street with a flushed face, Count Baishur, who was following him, sighed.
‘A person who’s supposed to maintain security…’
What if he makes the streets a mess?
At the sight of the security force blocking the crowd that was flocking toward the Prince, Count Baishur felt a pain in his neck.
The noise of the bustling street was overlaid with music.
The tickling sound of stringed instruments, the rumbling of wind instruments and the cheerful sounds of percussion instruments mixed well into one and became a harmony.
However, the most prominent sound that could be heard despite the loudness of the music was the beating of their own hearts.
When Renee lightly spoke, Vera’s answer came back.
“Yes, it seems to be a band with considerable skill.”
“It’s amazing. I was expecting something more lighthearted when I heard it was a street performance, but I never expected such skilled people to come out…”
Renee said those words as quickly as possible and without much thought.
The words she spoke without thinking were an attempt to drown out the sound of her own heart. Vera responded with a somewhat stiff tone, as if he was trying to hide the fact that his heart was also beating too loudly.
“…It’s due to the special nature of the festival’s outdoor performance. There are only a limited number of halls compared to the number of bands, so it’s been upgraded as the bands have to compete in order to perform in the halls.”
“Is the competition that fierce?”
“During this period, many influential people from around the world gather here, so the bands tend to compete fiercely to catch their attention. This hall is kind of a scouting place, in a way. In fact, the Imperial Orchestra was scouted here 10 years ago, so you can imagine how important this hall’s performance is to them.”
Vera shuddered again as Renee nodded her head in affirmation.
It was because of ‘that thing’ that showed off its presence every time Renee moved.
He was trying to maintain his composure and without stuttering, but at this moment, his thoughts were hazy and he found it hard to keep his composure.
I shouldn’t have such wicked thoughts.
As Vera tried to regain his composure, a commotion spread among the people.
Their whispering voices penetrated Vera’s and Renee’s ears.
“It’s His Highness the Second Prince!”
Renee’s body trembled, and her expression also became grim.
Everything is going well, but why does that person have to show up?
It was because she had that thought.
However, unlike Renee, who was getting annoyed, Vera was relieved to have an excuse to settle his confused mind in the meantime.
“…Shouldn’t we at least say hello?”
“Do we really have to?”
Renee’s lips pouted out.
The atmosphere was nice, so can’t we just pretend we don’t know him?
Feeling that Vera was becoming insensitive, Renee continued to talk in a complaining tone.
“We’re just tourists now. Wouldn’t it be better for us to pretend that we don’t know him?”
For some reason, her spinning head made up a plausible excuse.
Vera was stunned by Renee’s words and his pupils shook as if an earthquake had occurred, feeling flustered.
He needed to calm himself down, but his current condition was vastly different from usual, and there was no way out.
Sweat trickled down his forehead and he looked away, unable to answer.
“Aah! Please calm down! I hope everyone can maintain order!”
A sweet voice reverberated through the space.
It was a voice that penetrated the music of the band that filled the hall.
Renee clicked her tongue lightly.
This was because she felt that Albrecht’s presence was getting closer.
She hoped that they would not be discovered, but in no time, that presence found them.
“Oh, it’s the priests! You must have come to see the festival! How is it? Are you enjoying it?”
Annoyance welled up inside Renee.
She gave a curt answer.
Albrecht shuddered at her answer, and Vera, who finally took the opportunity, released Renee’s arm and whispered to her.
“I’ll get something to drink for a moment.”
Vera, who rose before Renee could say anything, pushed past Albrecht.
“Please take care of her for a moment.”
Vera disappeared into the crowd.
Only then did Renee realize that Vera had run away, and she let out a bitter laugh.
An angry look was rising on her face.
Albrecht swallowed his embarrassment at the sight.
A cold sweat broke out from Albrecht’s forehead.
The atmosphere became very awkward.
As Albrecht tried to think of something to say, he heard the murmurs around him.
“Who is that woman? Does she know the Prince?”
“Are they dating perhaps? Is she the Prince’s fiancée or something?”
Voices of passerbys were linking him and Renee together, creating a scandal.
At that, Albrecht felt an overwhelming sense of unease.
It was because he was afraid that Renee, who was offended by their remarks, might condemn him.
Albrecht carefully watched Renee’s expression and tried to speak cheerfully.
“Hm, it seems like I’ve interrupted a good time.”
There was no answer. Renee just sat there with a curt look on her face.
“That, I-I think there’s a misunderstanding! Sir Vera should be back soon! It-it’s not good if this scandal gets any bigger…”
“Ah…! Please speak!”
“You’re being noisy.”
Albrecht stiffened like a stone.
The murmurs around them grew louder.
“What, did the Prince get dumped?”
“Oh my gosh!”
“What should we do with our Prince…”
Count Baishur, who was one step away and was watching the scene, covered his eyes with his hand.
He felt miserable.
In the streets of the Imperial Capital in the middle of a festival and with a great number of witnesses.
His stomach began to churn at the thought that by tomorrow, rumors that the Prince had been dumped would’ve already spread across the Imperial Capital.
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