The sound of the wind winding around the carriage wheels mixed with various noises, and they started to blend into their surroundings.
In the background of the wide river visible far away, a tall fortress wall at the end of the road loomed over the carriage they had been riding.
Rete, the territory of Eispain occupying the southern border, was the city located at the southernmost tip and was known as the center of trade even in this region.
A large river stretched from the south and west of the city, flowing smoothly between the Yurit Sanskrit Principality and Rete.
“Well, it’s probably better to head to the guild after all.”
Instead of wandering around the bustling city, inside the slowly moving carriage, Cordelia and Noah rested their heads together, pondering their destination.
With the curtains drawn, the interior was quite dark, except for the sunlight seeping in through the gaps.
“But no matter how cautious… it’s something that’s legally prohibited.
Even if we try to find a magician, it won’t be easy.”
“There must be people willing to take risks if you offer them enough money.”
“Information available from the guild might not be substantial, though.”
“That’s why they assigned soldiers to us.”
Not so much for surveillance as for protection.
It wasn’t too difficult to guess her older sister’s thoughts.
“They said they’d send someone to help us in Rete, so maybe we can seek assistance from that person.
Let’s first head to the inn we agreed upon and join up.”
“Who is that person?”
“They didn’t mention it.
But they said we’d recognize them immediately once we see them.
Do you know someone?”
Cordelia, who had been shaking her head, opened the lid of the chair and took out the neatly folded brown robe, draping it over her shoulders.
Noah also checked his crimson cloak and pulled up the hood.
Cordelia smiled, thinking it was almost conspiratorial.
It was almost like she was having fun with a serious situation.
“Oh, and if anything happens to me, you can sell my name with this card, this is my family’s territory.
That’s probably why her sister sent her here.
No matter how much they argued, Cordelia was forever the youngest in the Weichen family.
It might have seemed overprotective, but given the recent dangerous events, Cordelia understood Jerania’s feelings well enough.
“Didn’t they say we shouldn’t inform the family?”
“As long as they don’t figure out about the body swap, it should be fine.
Since this is the area our father governs, it’s still better.”
“The former duke?”
“Yeah, he’s still lively.
He retired from politics because he didn’t have any more ambitions.
Thanks to him, Rick’s getting on my nerves even more.”
Sticking her lips out in a pout, Cordelia thrust her face towards Noah.
Seeing Noah’s shoulder twitch, she chuckled.
“Why are you so surprised by your face?”
“Anyone would be startled if a face suddenly comes close.
By the way, you’re too close.”
Responding to Noah’s questioning look, Cordelia smiled with her eyes squinted, as if she was about to engage in a playful struggle.
“Both of us are pretty exhausted, not being in our bodies.”
“True, I suppose…?”
“In fairy tales, they say that a kiss can cure all.
So, I thought it might be worth trying at least once.”
“If we’re fast, we could meet Linus in three days.
It wouldn’t be bad to wait patiently.”
Noah lightly parried Cordelia’s teasing, and just then, the carriage came to a halt.
Sensing that it was time to step back, Cordelia opened the door, concealing her disappointed expression.
Stepping outside, she extended her hand to Noah.
“Well, let’s get down.”
As Noah gazed at Cordelia, who was speaking courteously, he gently placed his hand on top of hers.
Then, with a small leap, he landed on the ground.
With the soldiers in tow, Noah’s expression as he entered the inn seemed somewhat troubled.
After booking a room at the inn, Cordelia and Noah set out into the city.
As a bustling trading hub, the cacophony of unfamiliar languages echoed loudly in their ears.
“Perhaps there are many soldiers here because it’s close to the principality.”
Cordelia murmured as a patrol just brushed past her side.
This marked the third time already.
“Because the extraterritorial jurisdiction applies here.
Pickpocketing is also quite common, so be careful.”
If the city were of similar size to others, there would typically be just one courthouse.
However, in Rete, there were three courthouses due to the continuous influx of people from various countries and the city’s characteristic of having no shortage of incidents.
“What’s with the way you’re talking as if you’ve been here before?”
“Because I have been here before.”
“Oh, the client lives in this city.
It’s not a portrait; it’s a request to draw the city’s scenery.
It couldn’t be handled in the capital.”
“What? You can even come this far?”
“His Majesty the King granted permission to leave the capital with the soldiers.
Even so, either my mother or I need to stay at the estate…”
No matter how you look at it, those conditions are quite unconventional for dealing with a rebellious household.
Sensing that thought, Noah added with a wry smile.
“It might be a privilege, but it’s more like a deal.”
“Not something I did, though.”
Seeing Noah uttering confused words, Cordelia remembered a fact that she had forgotten.
However, it might be impolite to ask herself, so she chose to keep her mouth shut.
As they entered what seemed like a marketplace, the noise grew even louder.
Walking amidst the bustling crowd, Cordelia tightly grasped Noah’s hand.
“We might lose each other like this, so hold my hand tightly.
Just in case.”
Offering an excuse that couldn’t be refused, Cordelia was secretly satisfied by the warmth of Noah’s hand gripping hers, as if he had no choice but to comply.
After fiddling with her fingers and putting on her gloves, he followed suit obediently.
She had never thought about her hands being small, but holding Noah’s hand made them feel oddly petite.
Oh, how she wished to return to her own body and hold hands properly again.
Cordelia was already slurping soup, with no intention of giving bread to anyone, when a street vendor approached and tried to lead her by the hand.
She waved off the vendor’s advances.
While people were approaching Noah as well, unlike Cordelia, who at least engaged in conversation, they withdrew without any reaction, as if they were even blander than her.
Cordelia glanced at Noah from the corner of her eye.
She always knew, but the lack of even a hint of desire in his eyes was incredibly peculiar.
Seeing those simple pupils, so different from her own eyes that had always lived by their desires, made her realize how even the same faces could hold different contents.
“Come to think of it, you’re an artist, right? Since we’re at the market, don’t you want to buy something?”
For building rapport, showing material interest was the most basic approach, and she had forgotten this obvious fact.
Trying to ask subtly without revealing her motives, Noah fell into deep contemplation.
“Something I want? Well… I should probably buy some new brushes.
Brushes for oil painting tend to be hard to maintain.”
“You have to clean the brushes with oil.
When we switched bodies back, didn’t the room smell like oil?”
It had emitted an unpleasant odor, indeed.
Imagining it, Cordelia wrinkled her nose.
“Because the smell bothers the nose when you paint in an enclosed space, I always leave the windows wide open.
Among the pigments, where would you find something generally odorless?…”
About to mention that he didn’t even have the energy to clean that up, Noah bit his tongue.
Remembering what he had painted at that moment could prolong this topic dangerously.
Fortunately, Cordelia didn’t seem to pay much attention to that aspect.
“Pigments? They’re generally expensive, so it’s difficult to buy them in a place like this market.
Even if they’re available, it’s hard to find good quality ones.”
“Some are even made by grinding gemstones.
Do you know lapis lazuli? Pigments made from grinding that gemstone are the only ones that produce a vibrant blue.
Just like Cordelia’s eyes…”
Noah’s last remark was drowned out by the suddenly increased ambient noise, and Cordelia, looking at Noah with curiosity as he seemed to hesitate, raised her voice.
“What did you say?!”
Noah, who was unnecessarily ducking his head, suddenly noticed a pair of shoes rapidly approaching him.
He tried to twist his body to avoid them, but the person was too fast.
He collided with the person with more force than he expected, and Cordelia’s hand quickly grabbed Noah as he staggered.
From the appearance, it seemed to be a wealthy merchant, and he shouted angrily.
“Where are you looking with your eyes?!”
“No, you were the one who rushed and bumped into her!”
Blocking Noah’s attempt to apologize, Cordelia shouted confidently.
The man didn’t even bother to look at them properly.
Slightly taken aback by the sudden appearance of the robed figure, the man seemed to hesitate for a moment, but he continued shouting without backing down.
Behind him were his soldiers.
“You should have moved aside!”
“What’s with this person everywhere? Even if your body was only half as slim as it is now, you would’ve passed through just fine!”
“What? I am Count Elan’s attendant! Who dares raise their voice so boldly?!”
The man’s voice, scanning Cordelia up and down, became even more forceful.
With his forehead covered by his bangs, he looked somewhat rustic, and even though he seemed like he had just come from the countryside, it wasn’t surprising at all.
“Oh? So, is it a city dweller’s habit to raise their voice when they don’t want to apologize?”
Finding it amusing how the man’s voice grew louder when he thought he was addressing someone weaker, Cordelia openly teased.
Her tightly clenched right hand trembled slightly.
Whether it was her remark that provoked him or not, his thick eyebrows twitched with anger.
By now, people around them had gathered at a distance to observe, but no one stepped forward to intervene.
“Just a moment.”
A melodious voice cut through the escalating tension.
Walking a few steps ahead to stand in front of Cordelia, Noah calmly spoke to the man.
“Why fight over a minor collision? How about we end it here? And you mentioned being Count Elan’s attendant, but I doubt he’d be pleased with this kind of commotion.
Am I wrong?”
As if he knew the man well, Noah’s demeanor seemed to fluster him for a moment, and his eyes rolled in uncertainty.
“I just stated the facts.
If you want to keep up this fuss, I won’t stop you.”
Seeing the woman’s calm response, the man finally took a closer look at her face and inwardly gasped, suppressing a curse.
The elegant and cool demeanor of the beauty, evident from her manner of speech and attire, was unmistakably that of a noblewoman.
And quite likely, she held a high rank.
“However, you seem busy… I don’t know if you have the time…”
When Cordelia gestured toward the letter clenched in the man’s hand, he turned his displeased face away and went his way again.
As Cordelia was about to grab the man’s shoulder, who still hadn’t apologized, Noah held her back firmly, calming her down.
“Geez, what a character he is! Of course, people like that exist.”
“But it’s over now, so don’t worry too much about it.”
A calm voice quelled Cordelia’s emotions.
As she noticed the dispersing gazes of the crowd, Cordelia took a deep breath to calm herself.
“Noah, why are you so composed? Aren’t you…?”
Even though his status was even higher than her.
Why is he so nonchalant when people like that are ignoring him?
Cordelia trailed off, but Noah chuckled lightly at the omitted afterthought.
“Have you forgotten my occupation? I’ve encountered more than a few of those types of people before.”
Not only had he been exposed to insulting remarks, but he had also occasionally faced light temptations.
Many people belittled his modest profession, so he might have thought it was acceptable to treat him as insignificant.
“Moreover, I don’t want to invest that much emotion in someone I might or might not meet again.”
Looking at him with a face that seemed to genuinely believe that sentiment, not trying to convince her but truly feeling that way, Cordelia was left speechless.
Although the hands he extended to her were warm, a part of her heart seemed to turn cold.
A premonition brushed through Cordelia’s mind.
Perhaps Noah was even more composed than she had thought.
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