A rough-looking brown carriage rode along a well-traveled path.
The cool breeze blowing through the trees carried the faint scent of the river’s water flowing nearby.
Red and yellow leaves gently fluttered down onto the roof of the carriage.

Several men rode on horseback, escorting the carriage from the front and back.
With the crack of a whip, the horses picked up speed once again.

The exterior of the carriage might not have been considered beautiful, but it was quite sturdy, able to handle rough roads without much shaking.
It was well-suited for traveling.

Inside the carriage, two people were seated.
On the side facing the carriage driver’s seat, a man wearing a shirt and vest with sleeves rolled up to his elbows, along with pants secured by a belt, sat.
On the opposite side, a woman dressed in a yellow dress that reached down to her knees was seated.

The man looked out of the window of the carriage and exclaimed with enthusiasm, 

“The scenery is really beautiful!”

“Yeah, it is.”

“The river looks so refreshing… I wish I could just jump in and play.”

A sense of excitement was evident in his soft voice.
The woman who had been fondly watching the lively man soon responded, 

“Well then, should we take a break over there for a while and go?”

“Should we? We do have plenty of time anyway.”

Following the woman’s suggestion, the carriage came to a stop by the side of the path.
Leaving the soldiers in casual attire behind, the two individuals headed straight for the riverbank visible in front of them.

Beneath the gently flowing clear water, pebbles and aquatic plants could be seen.
A fish that had been swimming near the riverbank caught sight of the man’s eyes and was startled.
It swiftly flicked its tail and darted away.

Taking off his shoes and rolling up his pants to his knees, the man walked into the water with deliberate steps, shivering as he felt the refreshing sensation. 

“Come over here, Noah!”

“You’re not supposed to call me by my name!”

Amused, the man laughed mischievously and splashed water toward her.
Startled by the sudden splash, the woman retreated in surprise.
While chuckling at her reaction, Cordelia, with water reaching her legs, looked downward.
The fish was darting away with a flick.

“This little rascal!”

Removing only his shoes and sitting down on a rock with a makeshift tree branch, Noah watched quietly as Cordelia crouched down with her back slightly bent, engaged in a battle to catch fish.
A gentle smile soon graced his lips as well.

Cordelia and Noah were currently heading to the Rete Territory in the southern part of the kingdom.
Rete was one of the regions governed by the Weichen Dukedom, and it was the largest city in the southern part of the kingdom.
The most notable feature was the temple that governed that area.

Ultimately returning to Noah’s side without having caught any fish, Cordelia plopped down next to him with a sigh.
Adjusting her hat to keep it from falling off, Cordelia tilted her head upward.
Through the crimson-tinted leaves that had begun to show hints of blue in between, patches of the clear blue sky were visible.

Savoring the cool breeze with her eyes closed, Cordelia finally spoke, 

“How much longer do you think it’ll take to reach Rete?”

“After riding for over two days, wouldn’t we arrive within a half-day at the latest? I think we might make it before nightfall.”

“It’s already past October, so the harvest should be over by now, right? The freshly harvested grain porridge there is so delicious.
I haven’t had its taste in a long time.
The wine is most famous in the western region, though… My father was quite curious about that territory.
If he hadn’t been on good terms with the previous Duke, I wonder if there could have been a war over alcohol?”

Cordelia’s father, Duke Isaac, was a recognized lord within the kingdom and a man who could not be trusted with alcohol.
While he was known for his integrity, there were even jokes about how he would hesitate for three seconds before declining a bribe in the form of alcohol.

Watching Cordelia chattering away affectionately, Noah nodded with a smile.

“It would be nice if things go smoothly with Linus.”

Currently, they were pursuing Linus, heading to the nationwide survey team that had been dispatched from the temple.
This was also Jerania’s suggestion; she had brought a map of the kingdom’s geography and pointed out their route with her finger.

‘They’ll likely start from the west and move south and then east.
They don’t have a good relationship with the Gracia family, who governs the West, so they won’t linger there for long.
They’ll probably start moving south gradually.
So, for now, you should head to the Rete Territory located in the southeast and meet up with that official from the survey team who will be there.
It seems we’ll need her power to forcibly change your body back.’

‘Huh, do we need to go all the way to Rete? Wouldn’t it be better to just ask another official to sever the connection?’

‘It’s best to involve as few people as possible who know about this.
Both of you have uncertain schedules, right? We’ll arrange for someone to accompany you, so think of it as a leisurely journey.’

‘Question! Even so, why specifically Rete? If we hurry a bit, couldn’t we meet up with them in Debron as well?’

‘Rete is close to the border with the Yurit Sanskrit Principality, so a variety of people gather there.
Even those who don’t abide by the kingdom’s laws sometimes appear.’

With that explanation, both of them could understand Jerania’s intention.
She was suggesting that they take the opportunity to find a mage from another country while they were at it.

‘As you’re well aware, the temple and the royal family don’t exactly get along.
Starting from His Majesty the King, they’re wary of forging ties with the religion.’

Jerania wasn’t inclined to delve into political discussions, but considering her persistent younger sibling, she needed to provide at least some explanation until they grasped the situation.

‘What do you think would happen if news of your bodies being switched by magic were to get out in this situation?’

Though her voice carried a sense of urgency, its tone remained gentle, yet the content was undeniably serious.

‘In principle, only the temple in this country has jurisdiction over magic and bears the corresponding responsibilities.
However, the autonomous territories of Tritan and Cladan have exceptions in place.
Especially, Cordelia, since you have Weichen lineage, your family has a legitimate reason to protest at the temple.
If I were the temple, I would suggest the possibility of involvement by mages from the autonomous territories to evade responsibility for this incident.
There would be resistance from that side, and it could escalate into a feud.’

Jerania’s expression darkened slightly, but it passed quickly, unnoticed by anyone.

‘So, what I mean is that I want to avoid the possibility of turmoil as much as possible.
Do you understand my intention?’

Given the calm explanation, both of them could only nod their heads.
Jerania offered a faint smile to Noah, who has Cordelia’s face.

‘It’s a relief to see you looking healthy, Your Highness.’

‘Please lower your form of address.
I am no longer of royal status.’

‘Then I’ll do that.
Is it okay if I call you Noah?’

‘Yes? Oh, sure.
Please call me Noah.’

Watching Jerania smoothly sort out the titles, Cordelia bit her tongue inwardly.

Wow, even her sister isn’t quite normal.

‘Well then, Noah.
Please take care of my unpredictable younger sister.’

‘Who’s calling me unpredictable!’

While sending a resentful glare at her sister for joining in, Cordelia noticed that Jerania finally seemed at ease, her expression now comfortable as if she had found the right balance.
Cordelia was the only one who didn’t realize that Jerania’s comfort stemmed from having an unchanging younger sibling.

“Don’t worry.
Even after we arrive, it might take around three to four days.
During that time, we’ll be looking for other ways to resolve this situation.”

As Cordelia spoke, suddenly, she burst into a fit of giggles.
Noah asked, perplexed, 

“Why are you laughing?”

“Well, I just imagined her, wearing the priest’s robes and trying to look solemn among the people.”

“…Considering how you, Cordelia, elegantly laugh at events, wouldn’t she have similar thoughts about you at social gatherings?”

No, wait.
What’s that supposed to mean, Noah? I laugh elegantly normally, don’t I?”

Avoiding Cordelia’s playful gaze, Noah quickly changed the subject. 

“By the way, Cordelia, how on earth did you end up getting to know the priest?”

“By chance, I ended up helping Linus once.
About 9 years ago, I think? She was still just as hot-tempered back then.”

Cordelia could see right through Noah’s subtext, but she decided to let it slide because it was cute.
Her hands, soaked in water, left dark fingerprints on the rock.

“While she weighs gains and losses like a sharp blade, she’s willing to risk her life for someone she considers her own.
Is there any harm in getting closer?”

“The relationship seems to only benefit me.
She’ll only incur losses, Your Highness.”

“Oh, come on.
What are you saying? It’s not as if gains and losses can be neatly separated like that.”

“Cordelia, am I not intimidating to you?”

“Perhaps if your face wasn’t just a little less appealing?”

As Cordelia playfully cracked a joke, she quickly added on as she sensed Noah’s gaze turning hazy.

“It’s not something that would make someone shy away.
I also believe only what I’ve seen.”

However, Noah’s face still didn’t show any signs of relief.
He seemed resolute and opened his mouth to speak.

“Um, in case I…”


Before Noah could finish his sentence, the voice calling out to them made both of them turn to the side.

* * *

The long and elegant fingers tapped the desk rhythmically.
After Franz had finished pondering, he pulled out the magic mirror he had kept in his pocket.
Instead of his reflection, the image of a man with black hair appeared.
He spoke politely.

-Your Majesty, I’ve nearly completed the inspection in the direction of Cladan.
There’s nothing particularly unusual so far.
I suppose I can take a break now…

“It’s urgent.”

-Excuse me? I might have misheard, but… Ha-ha, surely you, the merciful King, wouldn’t be considering putting your loyal servant, who has been running tirelessly for a month, through it all over again without even giving him a chance to return home, would you? Right? That’s not the case, right?!

Franz disregarded the man’s disdainful gaze, as he usually did.

“It’s about Ian.”

– …Ian, you say? What has happened to that child?

Right now, he’s with Cordelia Weichen.”

– What?! No, why are you suddenly mentioning that name? Could it be he’s been completely entrapped by that cheerful young lady…!

“Enough with the chatter.
Go to Rete and join them.
By the way, is his bangs deliberately styled like that?”

– Ah, that… Yes.
They do resemble each other quite a bit, after all.

Both knew who the subject of their conversation was, even without saying it.
The man added with a bitter smile.

-It’s a decision he made personally.
He said he dislikes things standing out.
Well, such a face isn’t exactly common, after all.

“Why make a fuss over something that should be straightforward? Just cut it.
It’s frustrating just to look at.”

– Oh, are you concerned?

Franz responded without answering the hesitating questions of the other party, adding a few instructions.

“Let the rest be heard and learned in Rete.
Move carefully so as not to attract the attention of the temple.”

– Yes, understood.
Anyway, His Majesty the King has so few words, so I… 

Thanks to the impatient nature of the King, who immediately flipped the mirror, the man who ended up scrutinizing his face rubbed the communication mirror and stretched with a yawn.
His well-toned biceps, with muscles tightly attached, moved lazily like a leopard.

“Well then.”

Let’s take a look.

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