22. The Princess Enchants the Witch (6)
…What’s with this sudden increase of visitors?
Until just yesterday, this place was still the remote area that Roze knows and loves. Usually, customers would only visit once every few months.
“Those uniforms belong to the City Guard.”
Following Roze, Harij looks outside the window, too—
—too close… She can feel his warmth on her back. She’s nervous, however, she refuses to let it show on her face.
“…for what purpose are they here, I wonder?”
“I don’t recognize their faces. However, I take it they usually don’t patrol around here?”
—this is troublesome…
When Roze thinks so, the two men already sighted the boat near the pier. They are attempting to ride it—
“—w, why is the boat there—!?”
“…Ah, I thought some customers might show up, hence I docked the boat there so they could ride it. I was planning to reel it back upon leaving.”
Roze is a bit annoyed—he did something unnecessary…
If the boat is docked there, then anyone—absolutely anyone—can reach this place—
—true to that, the two men are already rowing towards her home.
Roze immediately places the finished Love Potion on her workbench and pulls out the rug from under her bed.
Hidden underneath is a secret passage to the cellar.
Calling it ‘cellar’ isn’t entirely accurate since the space below can only fit two people.
Without a second delay, Roze pushes Harij inside and closes the lid. Immediately, barrage of protests can be heard coming from below. Roze lowers her lips to the ground and whispers to him—
“—please be quiet. Don’t make a single noise, okay?”
Guessing Roze’s intentions, he stops protesting.
What Roze worries about isn’t the potential trouble that might come with those two;
As of now, Harij is visiting a Witch’s Dwelling—
—those guards mustn’t see him, no matter what.
He’s an aristocrat who supports this kingdom and also the sword of the Princess.
His good reputation would surely be tarnished if he’s seen in such place.
Roze spreads the rug over the secret door and pulls her hood back up as if nothing had happened.
Finally, one of the guards knocks on the door.
With caution, Roze opens the door.
“Hello, are you a customer?”
“Is this the dwelling of the ‘Witch of the Lake’?”
“Yes, and I’m said ‘Witch of the Lake’. How am I to be of service?”
“Do you think I’m here for one of your wretched potions?”
One of the guards doesn’t even bother to mask his contempt.
Indeed, she’s used to this.
Only a small minority of customers would treat her with respect—the rest adopt that sort of attitude.
However, even if she’s used to it, it doesn’t mean that she has to take it lying down—
“Is that so? Well, good day.”
Roze quickly attempts to close the door—the arrogant guard immediately panics.
“Oy—! Do you think I’ll let that attitude of yours pass—?! Who do you think you are—!?”
“But you will, because I am a Witch.”
Roze is indeed the Witch.
She isn’t afraid to let everyone knows that—
—after all, in the end, it only means that she’s aware of her background and also her business.
—witches are similar to people. Some of them also reside near or in the kingdom—however, that doesn’t mean the Kingdom’s rules apply to them;
Since the ancient times, witches are independent beings that live while abiding to their own laws.
Presently, they aren’t as powerful as they used to be and have also become scarce. As such, their status has risen to ‘Rare Creature’. In short, they own some special privileges.
It’s also evidence that witches are great necessities to those high-born people.
In that small island of her’s, none of those kingdom’s rules apply. As such, no punishment can be executed since she hasn’t violated anything.
—witches live in a different world from humans.
The future where Roze can be together with Harij is but a pipe dream. They tread different paths t—in the first place, their worlds are different.
“By all means, leave.”
“You—… if you think I won’t strike you just because you’re a woman—“
The guard puts his foot between the door’s gap and starts pushing.
Roze is a little taken aback by the guard’s crudeness. All the customers she ever had come from noble upbringing. Therefore, they—including their servants—were usually at their best behavior.
“Hey, you, stop it…” The other guard calls out. He looks nervous—it’s either because he feels sorry for her, or because he just doesn’t want to risk being tossed into the Witch’s cauldron.
“Excuse me, ‘Witch of the Lake’—actually, I have some questions for you.”
“If it’s related to Witch’s knowledge, you’ll be charged.”
“Unfortunately, no… I also didn’t bring any cash with me. Recently, there have been frequent cases of theft around the capital. It seems that the thief doesn’t discern his targets; the houses of both average townsfolks and wealthy merchants have been stolen from.”
Roze wonders if they actually came to warn her about the thief. She peeks at the two men from the small gap in the door.
“—let me be straight. We received a report that a man who visits your dwelling regularly possesses some characteristics very similar to the thief.”
“Huh—!?” Roze exclaims in surprise.
It suddenly developed into something incomprehensible…
“Huh, a man? …not me?”
The only man that regularly visits here is Harij. However, she can’t, no matter what, picture such an honest knight to be a thief.
If that’s the case, it would be more believable if the guard just pointed at her and accused her of being the thief on the spot.
“I won’t sugarcoat this. We have some underlying suspicion that you might be colluding with the thief. Thus, we hereby came to investigate your dwelling.”
Roze blinks. Layers of sweat begin to drench her back.
Even more reason for them to not see Harij here. Since her bad reputation might drag the innocent Harij straight to the prison.
Of course, not even once has Roze suspected Harij of being the thief.
The problem is that he is here—and Roze can’t lie to hide such fact.
“I would like you to understand, ‘Witch of the Lake’. We have to protect the people, and we also have to punish those that violate the law.”
“That much I’m aware.”
“Then, please cooperate.”
It’s difficult for Roze to reject such an earnest request. As a witch, Roze wants to aid others.
Taking Roze’s meek expression as a sign of agreement, the guards push the door hard—Roze immediately loses her balance and staggers back. As if that isn’t enough, they also pushes her aside as they barge in.
“—please wait. You can’t enter the house right now.”
“Because there are stolen goods? Those heaps of things are suspicious.”
“Those are just piles of clutter…”
“The amount is too much for a woman who lives alone. It’s also too messy.”
They just don’t know the sloppiness of a woman who lives alone!
—so what? I’m used being within a scattered mess, anyway!
It’s usually like this when I’m changing clothes!
“…or, could it be because you’ve been hiding the thief all along?”
“I’m not hiding any thief here.”
“Who knows? You could also claim you aren’t familiar with the young, tall, gray-haired man, whom reportedly enters and leaves here, all you want.”
Roze trembles—she’s a witch, and a witch doesn’t lie. Once witches lie, their magic cease to exist.
Roze squeezes the hem of her robe.
Regardless of what would happen, or how many times she thinks about it—
—it wouldn’t lead to anything good if Harij were to be seen in a Witch’s dwelling.
The guards’ impression of her was made clear by that earlier statement—
“Do you think I’m here for one of your wretched potions?”
Anyone who visits the Witch’s dwelling usually will do so in secret or send a servant.
It’s because the Witch is either feared or chastised. Said bad reputation would also carry over to those who relied on the Witch’s secret potion.
Roze loves Harij.
—please, I want you to always walk under the sun.
“I, k, know, no, such man…—“
Each words she stammers unleashes severe pain on her.
Her throat burns—it’s as if her windpipe is being crushed.
Her ears are ringing, and her field of vision narrows.
A dull and sharp pain shoots through her heart.
“—no one, has, ever, visited me… recently.”
She begins grasping for air—she can no longer stand upright and has to place her hand on the wall for support. Dizziness creeps on her; she’s losing her focus.
Her chest constricts in pain, she can no longer breath—
—her sweat won’t stop and falls to the floor.
“—are you okay?”
She trembles because of the voice she has just heard. Refreshing air suddenly fills her lungs again. She holds her chest and exhales in relief—she is freed from the pain.
A large palm nestles on Roze’s back. The hand, which was coarse due to years of training, rubs her back like stroking the back of a cat.
“Don’t be reckless. You obviously need rest—go lie down on the bed.”
The owner of the voice—Harij—shakes his head. At first, she can’t comprehend what he’s saying.
—or why he is here, for that matter.
Why did he come out? Why didn’t he listen to me? Why didn’t he understand my intentions? …What was the point in lying?
Now, she can only imagine the worst—Harij’ll surely fall into trouble… Unconsciously, tears well up in Roze’s eyes.
“It’s fine, already. I’m an adult that doesn’t need any covering up.”
Harij, whispering reassuringly on Roze’s ear, gently embraces Roze from behind, before trying to pick her up to the bedroom.
However, he only manages to lift her up, before she desperately shakes her head and clings to him. Her fragile arms encircle Harij’s neck.
Roze is still shaking.
“You can sleep now.”
She shakes her head again—that won’t do any good…
“Not good enough?” Harij sighs, before sitting on a chair with Roze on his lap—further embracing her. “Sleep here, then.”
***T/N: R-Roze… your feelings, it reaches me, huweeee *tears up
THE POWER OF HARIJ COMPELS YOU TWO RUDE GUARDS INTO THIN AIRS THAT HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO WITNESS THEIR
beautiful RIAJUUS INTERACTION.
S-S-S-sleep “””””here””””” where, Mr!? tEll Me So I cAn Be At PeAcE.