41. The Witch and the Mysterious Visitor
The lake didn’t dry up just because Roze changed.
It’s still the same forest—just because Roze left, the number of animals didn’t lessen nor did the number of fruits growing on the tree drop.
The same can’t be said about Roze.
To Roze, the lake and the forest are both an important home and workplace. If either of the two change, she won’t be able to continue with her duties as the Witch as before.
For Mother Nature, the Witch is but a tiny speck of existence.
Said trivial existence of a Witch arrives at the forest early in the morning. The morning fog originating from the lake scatters through the trees.
The flowers have finished blooming and their petals fall.
With firm footsteps, Roze walks on the path scattered with petals. Step by step, the soft soil tries to swallow Roze’s feet. It’s a little tricky to walk.
She puts the fallen petals inside her basket. She chooses those that are still beautiful, but a little faded—of course, as the ingredient for a potion.
It’s also difficult to bend down and pick up the petals. Immediately, Roze’s waist begins to scream. As she rubs her aching waist, Roze stretches out—“…nnn.”
Right at that moment, she hears a faint voice carried by the forest’s breeze.
She lifts her robe, her ears perk up. She immediately scans her vicinity—it might be a beast.
From the rhythm of the voice, it’s likely a human. As the voice approaches, the fact becomes much clearer.
“Is there someone one—!? Anyone—!!”
The voice sounds desperate. However, it’s also muffled. Roze has trouble discerning from which direction it comes from.
Roze warily looks around and finally finds the voice’s owner.
In the woods, there’s a voice from a big gaping hole. A pitfall used to hunt beasts.
It seems that the hole was being obscured by the fallen leaves a tad bit too well, someone fell into it. Someone also might’ve forgotten to bury a pitfall that was no longer being used.
…I seem to recall that Grandma was who used it… there’s no way, right?
Roze probably misremembers or something.
“Anyone—!? Is anyone there—!?”
Hearing Roze’s footsteps crushing the leaves, the person utters again.
Roze looks into the hole.
The forest is dim, so the inside of the hole is dark. She can’t tell the appearance of the voice’s owner. However, judging from the voice, it seems to be a girl.
The girl’s tone changes from desperate to bright in an instant.
The hole is dug so that beasts can’t climb back up. As such, it would be impossible for a little girl to crawl out on her own.
If by any chance—one in a billion chance—that it was indeed dug up by her own Grandmother, then it’s her responsibility.
Roze, who takes off her robe, is forced to reach down from the edge of the pit. She slides her robe down the hole, careful not to fall.
Since there’s no rope at hand, the robe will have to do.
The girl understands Roze’s intentions and grips the robe tightly.
“Thank you! You can pull up now!”
“—no, I don’t have the strength to pull you up, so you’ll have to climb up on your own.”
“Climb up… on my own? Is there a scaffold anywhere?”
“Why don’t you kick the wall and create a gap where you can stick in your foot?”
The girl seems to be dismayed at Roze’s suggestion, nevertheless, she starts kicking the wall.
But, the softness of the soil worries Roze. What if she kicks too strongly and causes the hole to collapse? However, saying so will only make the girl anxious. It won’t help in any way.
After some struggle, the girl manages to climb out of the hole. Roze, who has been gripping the robe, is completely exhausted.
The girl plops down as she gathers her breath.
“Why… would there be a hole… in such a place…”
The girl is relieved to be out of the hole, but her voice is filled with regret like none before.
The girl’s gorgeous cloak and shoes are coated in mud and slime. They must’ve been stained by the fluids of both insects and roots. They can’t easily be removed through washing alone.
Due to all the mud caking her hair, the color can’t be seen. Her hair is, of course, a mess.
Roze stares at the girl.
Plump cheeks with large, round, eyes. Each of the girl’s features is defined to perfection. Such that even though she is caked in mud, Roze can still marvel at her beauty.
“Aaah! I made a lot of preparations, too!”
The girl had been holding a bundle of cloth the entire time she was trapped in the hole. Therefore, upon seeing its miserable state, the girl collapses down onto the ground.
Judging from the way she has been speaking, she can’t be from the area. There’s a high chance that girl is an aristocrat.
There’s also a high chance of an aristocrat being her guest.
All of the aristocrats who delve this deep into the forest usually have business with the Witch.
“For it to be reduced to this…”
The girl stares down at her attire. Looking that dirty, it’s inevitable for the girl to be scolded by her parents.
The girl is afraid of being scolded. The girl looks over her entire body in desolation.
When the girl touches an area on her body, she lets out a shriek.
“I, it’s missing—!?”
Roze is stunned by the heartrending scream the girl lets out. The girl seems about to faint.
The girl then checks all over her body for whatever it is that she’s missing.
“There is… no way…”
Without worrying about soiling her cloth, the girl crouches down and cranes her neck to peer into the hole.
Roze stands up behind the girl—after painstakingly helping the girl up, she obviously can’t let the girl fall down into the same hole again.
“I can’t believe it, for it to fall in such a place…”
The girl mutters, appalled. Roze also sneaks a peek from behind, but she can’t tell what fell down there.
As Roze peers further, she can see something small reflecting the sunbeam.
The girl turns around with a troubled face.
“Help me retrieve it?”
The pleading face of the girl is so adorable that any man in the world would probably fall victim to it and adhere to any of her commands.
But Roze is a witch.
The girl seems awestruck at Roze’s innocent reply. The girl most probably doesn’t expect to be turned down at all.
“B, but, without it, I would be in trouble…”
“I don’t want to be trapped in the hole.”
“I will reward you grandly—“
Tears slowly brim at the corners of the girl’s vibrant green eyes.
She resorts to crying, now?
Roze backs away a little.
It …may be her first time seeing someone cry.
Roze thinks she doesn’t care, however, her body is getting fidgety…
Roze is surprised at herself. Turns out she’s actually worrying over what she should do if the girl does cry—even though it has nothing to do with the Witch Roze.
***T/N: Ya I miss this no-nonsense side of Roze.