Chapter 121 City Date
…Should I say that it was inevitable, or indescribable?
After Dean arrived, all work progressed at a breakneck speed.
It felt just like there were two of me.
Work that I’d been keeping piled up was handled, bit by bit.
There were two reasons that I had to work so hard.
One was because I was also dealing with the merchants’ guild’s work at the same time.
The second was because I was busy handling various tasks related to our territory’s politics.
My usual work, plus all this additional work, plus all the other events that had happened, had resulted in such a big buildup of work. Normally it wouldn’t get to this degree.
We’ve been building up the structure and principles of territorial politics. The same went for the guild.
That’s why I had to keep the number of paperwork mounds on my table down to two or three.
That aside, thanks to Dean I was able to handle all that work.
All I could say about his skill was that I admired him.
Most officials would see him and think that the devil himself had come…that was what they would mutter to themselves anyway, as if in a trance. Or “If only I could take a vacation…” they would say this, walking past.
Only the financial department’s members always made up their minds that “this time we have to beat Mr. Dean”.
…Dean, what have you done.
I couldn’t help but ask him. “All these people are talented. I can’t help but be passionate about it.” He would answer me like this, and flash a bright smile.
The speed at which we worked had increased by quite a bit. As for the officials–although they looked quite exhausted, they did their best to keep up with Dean’s pace. I didn’t have to ask twice for anything.
That was also why all our urgent work had been taken care of. Today was the day we were going for a stroll on the street.
Because Tanya started doing my makeup beginning early in the morning, my face gave off a look that could only be described as “Who is this?”
This was more than just makeup. It was basically facial reconstruction!
Other than that I also put on glasses, and changed my hair color with the products of the Azura merchants’ guild.
Finally, I put on a cotton dress.
Even people who knew me probably wouldn’t realize unless I went out of my way to say hello to them. It was that kind of disguise.
“Well then, Dean. Let’s go.”
“Please be careful along the way.”
Surprisingly, Tanya was not tagging along this time.
It seemed like she had something to look into.
Ryle and Dida were the same. Both of them had left the capital by now.
Dida had gone to the East, while Ryle went to the North.
I was originally going to take several guards with me, but strangely enough Tanya was the one who jumped out to oppose me.
If I had brought guards, no matter what kind of disguise I had put on, there was the possibility that they would realize I was the duke’s daughter.
Minae had said what she had to say, but considering what might happen, it was better that I stay low-key.
Even so, without guards I was honestly a bit unsettled…in the end, the one who was chosen was Dean.
As skilled as Ryle and Dida, and had the benefit of no one on the streets knowing him.
There was no one better to be my guard on this trip.
Tanya didn’t oppose it either.
Not only that, I’ve been hearing words from her that seem to suggest that she’s beginning to approve of him.
Really, what had happened to change Tanya’s mind?
Recently I’d had the feeling that something had changed about her aura. Was this a consequence of that change?
All in all, Dean and I visited the streets together.
As always, they were bustling, vibrant.
The products on the market were laid out side by side, and the many people who sought them walked along the road.
I hadn’t walked in a crowd for a while so of course I made the elegant move of bumping into someone and almost falling over.
I’m half hikikomori by now…
“Are you okay?”
Dean was the one who grabbed me as I fell.
Raising my head in embarrassment, I saw that he was even closer to me than I had thought.
It felt like something was itching inside of me, but also like I was embarrassed or shy.
This light, airy feeling brought heat to my face so that I couldn’t help but lower my head.
“There are so many people.”
“Yes…it’s quite pleasant.”
He seems to have understood the real meaning behind the quiet words I spoke. Looking up, I saw a gentle smile on his face.
If there were so many people walking about, it meant that this street was quite well-off.
More importantly, the fact that people could be out and about shopping without concern meant that it was a safe district.
In my past life I lived on the peaceful streets of Japan, so this was nothing new to me. But of course I knew all too well that this wasn’t something to be taken for granted.
That was exactly why I felt like a scene like this was a product of my work, and I could begin to be happy.
“…Standing here will block other people out. Let’s go.”
I had poured too much of myself into admiring this scene.
Thinking a bit harder, Dean was right. We were in the middle of the street.
As I was about to start walking, Dean extended a hand.
In that moment I stared at him, completely taken aback.
“There are too many people. I don’t want us to lose each other.”
Dean smiled as he said this.
That was true. I extended my hand in return, but felt a strange nervousness and ended up having to dress up my true expressions.
After we were holding hands, Dean began to walk immediately.
The hand in mine was bigger, a bit coarse…but also very warm.
The temperature seemed to warm even my heart…and I became very, very happy.
If only this moment could last forever.
That was the thought that was born in a corner of my mind.
We walked like that for a while, inspecting the market, the flowers for longer than I expected.
Suddenly an alley came up before us. I stopped in my steps.
“Is there something wrong?”
Hearing the concern in Dean’s voice, I smiled back to show that everything was fine.
“This alley…it’s quite similar.”
“Yes. After I accepted the position of substitute leader, I led a few people to survey the territory. Something happened in a place like this.”
“I heard about it from Dida.”
“Really…as a matter of fact, after seeing a dim alleyway in the east, I wanted to go in. I couldn’t help but be interested.”
“Yes…I assume everyone stopped you.”
“Yes. Especially Dida. He said it was still a bit early for me.”
Now I understood what Dida was trying to say.
No matter how safe an area is, if you leave the main path just a single step, it’ll turn into something completely different. There was a world in the shadows.
It wasn’t because of a slum, or the difference between poverty and richness. It was another kind of darkness.
No matter in terms of atmosphere or order, it was a completely different world from the one on the surface.
In my past life I had encountered something like that too.
It was something that had happened when I was traveling.
With the idea that “this was just a tourist spot”, I was excited to go everywhere and got careless when walking around.
It was in the middle of the city.
But the moment I walked into the alleyway, the atmosphere and everything else changed.
All the eyes of the people on the street shone with a sharp, hidden light.
There wasn’t any change to the town itself, but somehow there was a forced, painful sensation that crushed me.
Instinctively I thought that this place was dangerous.
Despite the fear I felt in that moment…I did the same thing after being reborn. Should I say that I hadn’t gotten any better, or was it something else?
All that was irrelevant. In this territory, there were places where the shadows of the city were hidden.
There were organizations that ran this city.
Although I wouldn’t call them a necessary evil, they were crucial to maintaining order on the surface.
I didn’t think much back then, but it was a good thing I hadn’t barged into there. That’s a feeling I have deep down.
Unlike in the past, I wasn’t traveling. Right now my position and responsibilities were completely different.
Even so, if I had encountered an organization like that, I wouldn’t be able to match up against them.
Perhaps I would be consumed.
If I had to act against an organization like that, then I needed to take into consideration how I would reconstruct the order after everything had happened. Making them obey would take a considerable amount of strength.
“I was thinking, if it were the me of today, what would Dida say…”
“What would he say? Even if he saw that you had reached a certain level, he would give you the same response…it’s because he’s been there before that he doesn’t want you to get involved.”
“Yes. When we were training under Duke Anderson together, I heard about some of it.”
“…Is that so. What did you think after hearing it?”
“There isn’t much special about it. It’s nothing unusual.”
“I’m quite concerned to hear that. What counts as unusual for someone like you?”
“Well…that’s why Dida’s ability to sense danger was so acute. I can understand that. He must have started training from a young age. What do you think, milady?”
“I don’t think much of it either. No matter what happened in the past, he never let me see that side of him. Compared to a past that I never got to witness or spend with him, the past that we have shared is more important. Most importantly, he’s an essential part of my family.”
“Your emotions are anything but simple.”
“Is that what you think?…We’ve been spending our time on strange things. It’s about time to go.”
Just like that, we started to walk again.
We initially walked to the man who ran the diner.
Although I was very nervous, he didn’t notice me at all.
I shuddered in awe at Tanya’s scary makeup skills. After I told him my name, the man was stunned at first…and then he was happy that I had come to visit.
He was so happy that he raised his voice and announced that all the drinks of the people in the diner were on him. His wife glared at him.
But even she welcomed me with tears.
In the end, she gave us a discount on food.
We spent some lively, happy time there.
It was the same at the flower shop and the fish store.
I waved at all the people who knew Alice.
No one was about to hurl insults at me. Everyone cried as they confessed their apologies.
I couldn’t help but let my tears flow as well.
Dean commented on the way back.
…I was happy.
I felt that, from the bottom of my heart.
In my past life I had also given up most of my time to work.
But what did I get from that?
As time passed, my relationship with others only weakened.
I had no time to use it, so I saved all my money up.
Somehow, my heart could only beat when I was immersed in the fiction of games.
Lonely yet free.
A world of my own was happy, but also hollow.
Right now I gave up all my time to work as well.
Even so, I…was so happy.
My heart would tremble because of someone’s laughter, someone’s words.
Was it because my point of view had changed? I felt that it wasn’t so.
It was because I had changed.
Well, it’s natural that I would change. I had combined into another self.
But more importantly, I experienced so many different things.
I immersed myself within them without reservation.
If this was the path I had ahead of me…I thank god for a rebirth opportunity like this.
Suddenly, I looked up at Dean.
Dean sensed my gaze and smiled at me.
Without thinking, I smiled back.