As she turned her head, one of the soldiers escorting them was approaching.
Seeing the unfamiliar man walking up to him, Cordelia quickly took off her hat, letting her bangs cascade down.
He was a beautiful man with slightly reddish silver hair and crimson eyes.
Even while walking on the gravel path, his dignified steps, broad shoulders, and languid gaze reminiscent of a cat’s halted at a distance where the two could see him.
He waved lightly from afar.
“Greetings, Lady Cordelia.”
After exchanging a glance with Noah, Cordelia and Noah descended from the rock, put on their shoes, and walked slowly toward the man, standing face to face.
Usually, unfamiliar individuals should have been screened out by the escorts, but Cordelia’s mind spun as she observed the soldier who was fumbling and unable to easily approach.
The face was one she hadn’t seen in social circles before, but judging from the attire and demeanor, he was undoubtedly noble.
His proficiency in this language made her think he might be from another country, given the subtle inflections in his speech.
As Cordelia tugged at the hem of Noah’s clothes from behind, they once again entered small playacting.
“Do you know me?”
To Noah’s hesitant question, he replied with a cheerful smile.
“I do indeed.
Didn’t we meet a few days ago at the Queen’s birthday celebration?”
As Cordelia looked at him as if questioning the meaning of this, Noah subtly shook his head.
It meant that he didn’t recognize the face.
“Well, I might have seen it from my perspective.
Your skills in evading are quite impressive.”
So they don’t know each other.
While Noah was taken aback by the man’s appearance, who suddenly appeared and showed familiarity, Cordelia maintained an indifferent expression.
She had encountered men approaching her in this manner more than a few times.
Noah silently glanced between the guards standing behind him and the young noble before him.
Noah’s gaze, softened by his gentle tone, held a veiled threat.
“In a situation where formal introductions haven’t been exchanged, your approach could be seen as rather impolite.
Please provide your name and status.”
Despite the chilly tone, the man extended his hand with a cheerful smile.
His aristocratic manners were evident, and his flawless white fingers caught the eye.
“Oh, I apologize for the belated introduction.
I am Raymond Persique.
You may also call me Ray if you prefer.”
Up until then, Cordelia’s expression had been somewhat aloof, but it twitched slightly with a hint of realization.
She might not have known his face, but that name was unmistakable.
Cordelia leaned slightly towards Noah, who had a perplexed expression similar to hers, and whispered,
‘He’s the owner of the Yurit Sanskrit Principality.
‘I’ve heard about Duke Persique before.
But he’s much younger than I thought.’
Noah replied in a hushed voice.
Raymond who had been watching the two whispering with interest, spoke up calmly.
“Who are those people behind you?”
“They’re with me.”
Noah’s gesture of clamping his mouth shut and stroking his chin as if reluctant to provide more information matched so perfectly with Cordelia’s expectations that even she would have wanted to applaud and give him a round of applause.
Of course, the person in question was objectively quite handsome, but since he had interrupted their pleasant conversation, he didn’t seem all that welcome.
Of course, Cordelia wasn’t the type to show such feelings on her face.
“For what reason have you come all the way here?”
“While being captivated by the splendid scenery and seeking a moment of rest, I saw a carriage nearby and curiosity got the best of me.
After all, isn’t there more enjoyment in interacting with people while traveling rather than going alone?”
Listening to his elaborate explanation, Cordelia almost nodded in agreement, but then she snapped out of it.
“May I ask about your destination?”
“There’s no reason for me to tell you, but…”
“If you were heading in this direction… Is it likely to be Rete?”
He seemed polite in his speech yet incredibly self-assured.
Rather than genuinely showing interest in this side, it felt more like he was testing the waters to see if he could provoke a reaction.
“I was also on my way in that direction, but would it be alright to accompany you?”
“I will decline.”
Instead of the high and elegant voice that had cajoled earlier, a mellower, pleasing tone followed.
As Noah’s shoulders tensed in surprise, Cordelia pressed her left hand to her lips, her gaze defiantly peeking through the sparse bangs.
The reason was simple.
She found the way the man treated her like an object quite distasteful.
His attitude of ignoring Noah rubbed her the wrong way.
It felt disrespectful to Noah, and that did not sit well with her.
Even though it might be considered proper behavior for a noble, she couldn’t help disliking it.
His arm was bent so much inwards that it was almost at a breaking point.
“I was asking the lady for her opinion, right?”
The moment Cordelia met the man’s eyes, she was certain.
This person, he’s in the same league as her.
“But… she’s already traveling alone with me.
Lady, do you intend to accompany this gentleman?”
Noah’s face, blinking innocently towards her as if to say, “Are we going to this extent?” made her almost sigh in exasperation.
If it were his face, it might have been understandable, but seeing her face making such an expression was embarrassing.
Of course, these thoughts lasted only three seconds.
“I apologize, Your Grace.
As I mentioned, I have companions.”
Noah quickly responded while catching Cordelia’s cues.
Despite the calmness of her voice, the intensity in her eyes, the way she wanted to get rid of him as quickly as possible, sent chills down his spine.
While he was being cautious in his choice of words due to potential diplomatic issues, Noah was equally exhausted.
How could pretending to be someone with such a different personality not be draining?
Above all, the person on the other side was a very handsome man by his standards as well.
However, if Cordelia’s attitude, which seemed disinterested despite that, didn’t ease his worries, that would be a lie.
If you put it that way, I suppose I can’t do much about it.”
Unexpectedly, as Raymond cheerfully retreated, a natural question mark seemed to appear above the heads of the two.
Is he going to back off like this?
“Then, I will see you in Rete.”
Well, that’s how it is.
With a casual remark and a turn of the back, the man’s appearance seemed to cast a shadow over the pleasant journey.
“What should we do, Lady Cordelia?”
Noah whispered beside her.
Cordelia murmured in response,
“He’s somewhat gentleman, in his way…”
Even though she thinks he might be valuing his looks too much.
“Just wait and see.
But in this case, who might he be interested in?”
“What have you been saying since earlier?”
“Oh, that… Well…”
As Noah asked with concern, about to explain straightforwardly, a lightbulb seemed to switch on in Cordelia’s mind.
Her thoughts, which had been racing straightforward, suddenly veered off course.
“…Because I thought he’s quite handsome?”
Answering sincerely, Cordelia watched the direction in which the man had gone.
As if gazing at something left behind, she whispered.
“Among the men I’ve met, he’s probably in the top five.”
This was true as well.
Of course, Cordelia didn’t judge solely based on looks.
If someone had good looks, she would add about half of the maximum points to their score! Anyway, it was something like that.
Family background or wealth honestly weren’t factors she took into account.
After all, what did it matter when she already had everything herself?
Once she set her sights on a goal, she wouldn’t divert her attention elsewhere.
Even in relationships, she hadn’t even dipped her toes in, let alone both feet.
If the other person wanted to break up, they could go ahead and do so!
In that sense, whether it was Raymond or Rymon, the man was outside of Cordelia’s interest.
He might slightly deviate from her preferences and there might be someone next to him who not only surpassed the highest score but also earned additional points, making her intrigued.
However, Noah didn’t know about that.
“How does Noah feel?”
Cordelia playfully grabbed Noah’s unresponsive hand and tilted her head with a smile.
Is it okay that she’s showing interest in someone else?
“Yes, he seems like a very impressive person.”
Noah’s face, as he untangled the ring on his finger, was quite bewildered.
His clear eyes, like glass beads, didn’t show any hint of distress.
Calmly, he spoke to Cordelia, who was more flustered than before.
“Are you perhaps interested?”
“If my attitude wasn’t appropriate, I apologize.”
“…No, it’s not like that.
Do you have anything else you want to say?”
“What? I don’t have anything.”
Cordelia found herself widening her eyes in surprise at Noah’s nonchalant response.
No, why is she feeling hurt? This shouldn’t be happening.
“But for now, changing back to our original bodies is the priority.
We should quickly meet with Linus again.”
Cordelia silently glared at Noah’s back as he walked ahead, urging them to return.
Pretending not to notice Cordelia’s frustration and carefully stepping on the gravel, Noah placed a hand over his chest.
His heart was pounding heavily as if he had been running.
* * *
As Raymond leisurely walked towards the carriage he had arrived in, a group of knights who had been sitting and resting in the shade suddenly stood up.
[Your Highness, have you returned?]
Have you all rested well? Let’s start getting ready to depart.]
Ignoring the knights who respectfully lowered their heads, the man climbed up onto the jet-black carriage made of ebony wood.
Shortly after, the carriage began to move again and soon distanced itself from the travel carriage over there.
Compared to the woman who looked like nobility, the man was dressed relatively casually.
Despite his inability to discern the subtle currents passing between them, Raymond wasn’t entirely oblivious.
It was unexpected to feel a more reserved aura compared to the confident demeanor she had displayed at the gathering, yet when considered from a different angle, it was quite charming.
After all, he hadn’t been interested in women with weak personalities from the start.
The crimson irises that leaned against the window, gazing at the ever-changing and beautiful scenery outside, curved into a sly smile.
[It’s worth offering the Marquis as a dowry.]
The Marquisate of Rete, which bordered the Marquisate of Eispain, was one of the borderlands belonging to the Duchy of Debron.
Being a territory of Debron, it possessed fertile soil and a decent transportation network.
Not just the nobles within the kingdom, even nobles from other countries would be tempted.
So, was there a chance that Raymond hadn’t heard about it? Until he saw the other party directly at the gathering, it hadn’t been a significant point of interest for him.
[Why is that? Kion.]
Sitting across from him was a figure dressed in a pitch-black robe, his face obscured by a tightly-pulled hood.
[It’s nothing, really.]
The voice answering in Florentine, the official language of the duchy, was a melodious one that could enchant anyone, but Raymond just shrugged without much enthusiasm.
[It’s weird, no matter how you look at it.
As Raymond began to stroke his chin, Kion, who knew his habits well, quietly opened his mouth to ask a question.
[Are you thinking of delaying the schedule?]
For the sake of the kingdom, it would be best to return as soon as possible, but he had slightly adjusted the schedule in his mind.
He was sure that chaos would ensue once they left, but he didn’t care.
Having seen through his lord’s thoughts, Kion let out a soft sigh, prompting Raymond to break into a faint smile.
[Look forward to it.
Interesting things are bound to happen.]
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