18. The Princess Enchants the Witch (2)
After that, Roze slides the bucket away and dries Lau’s feet with a cloth.
Lau waits until after Roze has wrapped the cloth around her feet a few times before asking.
“Why aren’t you inquiring about my identity?”
“I already heard it from you—you’re Lau.”
Hearing Roze’s response, Lau’s eyebrows twitch. Her neatly trimmed eyebrows display her uneasiness, and at the same time, her innocence.
Shouldn’t such a young, noble lady be more coddled?
Yet—of servants, butlers, or bodyguards—Roze sees none. The only thing protecting Lau is an apple-colored robe. Coming to this kind of place alone must have been quite a challenge.
“Or, would you prefer me to ask? Witches usually don’t pry into their customers’ lives. They don’t usually gossip about it, either. Because it doesn’t matter—everyone who comes here has a wish that they can’t fulfil on their own, and needs to rely on a witch’s secret potion—that’s all we, the witches, need to know.”
Roze knows nothing but the noble lady’s name.
It isn’t required for Lau to explain her story, her trouble, or what kind of desire she has—
—Lau just needs to order a potion, and Roze makes it, that’s basically it.
Roze intended to reassure Lau with her explanation, but Lau seems to misunderstand.
“So, just because it’s wished so, we’re allowed to order for a potion that distort people’s minds?”
Lau’s expression, which is full of curiosity, fills with resentment at a glance. It’s directed at Roze. The coldness in her gaze is such that it’ll freeze anything it touches.
It’s the kind of expression that usually comes from people who despise the witches’ heretical magic.
Roze has received the same kind of treatment several times before.
There’s no way for those who cannot use magic to ultimately understand the witches’ secret. At most, they’ll end up feeling uneasy.
It’s the same as those who can’t wield a sword and cower at the sight of one.
“Does a healer hesitate to cure a sickly person desperately clinging to life?”
“You consider yourself a healer…?”
“In principles, yes. All medicines have a special effect on the mind and body—that’s basically what they are. Be it healer’s curative or witch’s potion.”
Lau’s face distorts in confusion.
This entire time, Roze has been clenching her jaw, holding back her tears.
“Another thing that might be different is, those who come here are usually well off—which is why I treasure them very much.” Roze says nonchalantly. “All in all, they’re my precious customers.”
Lau bursts in laughter.”Ahaha!”
“I see… precious customers, huh? Do you genuinely believe so?”
“Yes, I do.”
Roze didn’t intend to crack a joke, however, it seems like that isn’t the reason Lau bursted out laughing. In short, she can’t comprehend why.
It’s rare for Roze to be so close to a customer—both figuratively, and literally. Usually, they won’t enter farther than the front door, much else sit inside.
Lau has an ability to attract and make people do her bidding.
Lau laughs as much as she can and then speaks to Roze. Her voice is mellow.
“I may have wanted your potion.”
Roze calmly nods, not missing a word of Lau’s confession.
Lau’s denunciation of the witches’ secret is probably her way of concealing the fact that she actually desires it.
This development—where it turns out that the customer is this person all along—is nothing new to Roze.
““Soon, I am to be married. Somewhere far. Very, very far away. Never again, on this land… The land which I have loved and protected for so long! I may not step foot here again.”
Her voice is accompanied with all the emotions that have been bottled up in her chest.
Lau pauses, regaining control of her feelings, and changes her tone.
““But at the same time—I wish to succeed for the sake of my home. However, wishes are naive, as they tend to be. As it happens, my entire life from now on hinges upon such a wish.”
“—Should I be hearing this?”
The hand of the noble lady is reminiscent to that of a girl’s. Womanly charm has yet to appear upon it. Roze gently drapes a robe on Lau’s shoulder.
“The groom is a widower in his forties. Oh, this is top secret. Everything I’m saying, if anyone knew that I told you, four people’s heads could fly.”
“…Even if I steel my resolve, it frightens me to imagine such a life. As I cannot take with me the family and friends whom I love, I want to have someone I could rely on—Hence. What I wanted, Witch, is your creation.”
—it’s the Love Potion, isn’t it?
Roze blinks once the lady’s scarlet lips spell the last sentence.
It was originally a highly demanded drug, but it has also been connected to a lot of occurrences lately.
“With your beauty, Lau-sama, the potion will be rendered useless.”
“What? That’s not the reason I wanted it.”
“I want to use it on myself. To fall in love.”
“To… fall in love?”
“If I love him, then no matter what happens there, I’ll keep doing my best, right? No friends, no acquaintances, not being able to see my family again—no matter what happens, no matter what I do, I can keep smiling. I will use my love for the man as my own foundation.”
The fire lit in fireplace, reflected off Lau’s eyes, appears to be dancing.
To think that such a heavy load weighs up on such small shoulders, shoulders which are currently draped with my worn-out robe…
Roze can’t find a word to say to Lau who has to marry at such a young age and leave for a place far away from home. She can only narrow her eyes.
“Even if I’m obliged to, even if I’ve prepared my mind—I can’t, no matter what, dictate my heart. That’s why I relied on you, Witch.”
Witches do not belong to the kingdom and are not baptized in the church.
King or god; such things don’t exist for Roze.
But now, for the first time, Roze feels like she’s seeing the radiant aura of something close to them. It is right in front of her.
There’s a proudness within Roze, to be relied upon by Lau, who trusts her and confides to her about the real purpose of the potion.
“I’m glad you say so.”
Lau smiles at Roze’s words.
“Oh, how refreshing this feels! This is the first time I have been able to chat openly about my feelings to another! It’s also my first time walking alone and deciding for myself which road would take—kind of like a journey! Today has been very unusual. It has been dim for a while—the sun seems to have fallen before I knew it.”
Lau has a sunny smile. Every aspects of her life contrasts that of Roze’s, who always has to make her own decision.
However, Roze heard too much about the consequences of Lau’s life before she could even begin to envy her.
When she’s about to make tea in the kitchen, the bell—chirin—rings to inform her of a visitor yet again.
Another customer? Today is unusual, indeed.
She gazes into the dark forest through the window. Thankfully, the customer has a lantern, allow Roze able to identify the person in an instant.
“Lau-sama, it’s someone you’re familiar with. Stay inside, I’ll refuse the visitor.”
Roze leaves Lau, who nods obediently, and closes the door behind her.
Roze approaches the boat, carrying a lantern. Attaching the lantern to the tip of the boat, Roze begins rowing.
Harij, who notices Roze from the forest, waves his hand.
“Roze! You’re just in time! The boat wasn’t here, I don’t know what to do—”
“Calm down. I’m sorry, but today…”
“This is urgent! Is there no potion or spell to locate a missing person? If you don’t have enough tools or materials, I will—…”
Harij, who’s rushing towards Rose in the middle of the night, stops mid-sentence. He looks stunned.
What on earth happened this time…?
Roze follows Harij’s gaze, only to find out that her door is open.
A girl is standing in the garden. She is illuminated by the faint light leaking from the door. Her red robe flaps as she waves her hands.
Harij grits his teeth, sighing with frustration after calling a name that shouldn’t be said.
It doesn’t matter whether or not Roze is part of the kingdom. When the capital, and thus, the kingdom, is right next to the forest where you live in, you’re bound to know the name of your neighbor.
Even more so when they are part of the royal family.
“…about that something to track the missing person—”
“Sorry. It’s no longer needed.”
Looks like he has found the missing person—Roze gently gulps.
***T/N: Boohoo, I feel sorry for Lau, boohoo.