6.1 Outside the Circle and the Snow Forest
Looking around the snowy forest, Dia’s eyes beamed.
Joel was the only one in Dia’s company as of the moment. The figure of her ex-fiancé—Richardo, along with his favorite knight were nowhere to be seen.
Joel was also Richardo’s knight, and up until recently, he was in charge of escorting Dia from the night violet wing. Usually, when she went out with Richardo, a different knight would escort them.
Although Joel was assigned to the nearby area, they didn’t see each other very often.
By the time the engagement was dissolved, the escort knights in Dia’s wing were replaced by members of the kingdom’s knights.
After all, Richardo’s guardian knights would now be in charge of protecting his new fiancée.
The turquoise sky was obstructed by branches and leaves. The snow blanketing the top of the forest resembled a canopy.
…it is as if forest crystals had manifested on the tree branchs—sparkling and shimmering in the soft radiance falling from the snowy sky.
Albeit there were no fairies in the forest of Fashitar, the squirrels would bring the blessed stones and crystals deposited in this forest to the branches of the trees. They would sparkle exactly like the ornaments of Evemeria.
“…how beautiful.” The knight beside her was also stunned.
In the depths of the forest, a little away from the location of the winter hunt, the horse Dia rode rebelled—as such, the two went astray.
Her exhaled breathe turned white.
Dia didn’t wear gloves because she never intended to delve too deep into the forest.
She also put on a dress that prioritize the prevention of falling. However, this time, it seemed that the horse finally decided that taking a leisurely stroll through the forest was a better sport than swinging the person it carried.
Remembering what happened earlier pained her chest. Dia was amazed with how fragile her mind was.
The feeling of being hurt was so unpleasant, she thought it was unbearable.
The Kknight riding a black horse silently along with her seemed grumpy. His expression was as if someone had stolen his bag of snacks and hid it somewhere in the forest.
Dia looked at the entirety of the beautiful forest and breathed in the clean air to refresh her heart.
The hustle and bustle up to now was so far away that not even the slightest noise could be heard.
…he’s being indifferent, I guess.
The winter hunting which had just begun wasn’t only a winter sport for men, but also a glamorous social occasion.
If the ball was a women’s battlefield, then the hunt was the men’s battlefield.
At the starting point, tents with vivid crimson clothes were set out. Mobile fireplaces stuffed with fire ores were set here and there. Women who wanted to watch the gallantness of the knights and nobles of interest gathered, uncaring about the coldness of the forest.
To the viewing pleasure of such spectators, the men casually showed off their new bows, along with arrows and swords. They also wore luxurious but practical coats especially tailored for hunting.
The beauty extended to the well-maintained horses and hounds.
The royal family arranged an orchestra to signal the start of the hunt, provided warm drinks, strong liquor, and tents for women.
Richardo was praised for the splendor of the arrangement, and was also congratulated for his new engagement with the beautiful woman.
The men weren’t only skillful in dancing in this social area, but also in ensuring what kind of prey they would bring home later.
Dia was present only when Richardo invited her into the circle of conversation and was treated like a ghost as soon as he left.
Those who celebrated Richardo’s engagement were nobles close to the Fashitar Royal Family along with the knights whom served the Royal Palace.
It was apparent they couldn’t have fun if Dia was around.
They would smile and bow, but whenever Dia was nearby, the sound of chattering disappeared. They secretly exchanged glances; wondering when she would finally leave.
Everyone put on a smiling mask; deciding that was all they could do to get rid of the nuisance—which was, wait for said nuisance to leave.
The uncomfortableness she felt wasn’t similar to stepping on thorns. After all, it didn’t contain malice—only alertness because a stranger was in the vicinity.
Nevertheless, one thing was certain—
—Dia wasn’t welcome.
…Having lost the role of Richardo’s fiancée, I’m but a faceless person to the people of this kingdom…
The steadily falling snow seemed to rob the surrounding of its sound.
When she was still Richardo’s fiancée, some people would raise their hands to stop and socialize with Dia.
Now, those same people were happily chatting with Richardo’s new fiancée, the daughter of Marquis Marietta. Those pleasantly humble people were unsure of how to deal with Dia, his now ex-fiancée.
Even though Dia hadn’t been killed yet, if the world was a table, with people as palates—then Dia had already been pushed off, falling to the floor. On the ‘table’ where Dia formerly was, the merry festival continued, everyone danced happily—as if nothing had happened.
…How envious. I want to dance, too.
How much she had wanted to be able to take the hand of that Prince, smiling at the ball that night—! How much she had wanted to flip the hem of her own skirt and dance as part of the world—!
How happy she would be if the family she cherished so much was also there in that world—!
“—just because I have activated a mute spell to remove all the noise, there’s a limit to how careless you should be.”
“Fufu, even though you’re impersonating an escort knight, you’re uncharacteristically silent—how am I supposed to know that you have activated a sound-negating magic?”
As soon as Dia laughed, he seemed to realize that he was indeed being silent.
If so, what was it that occupied his mind so much to the point his impersonation became sparse?
“…Noin, why can’t the dead return from the Land of the Dead?”
“Why would you ask such a question now?”
“What better time is it to ask such question other than now in such a remote place? …I didn’t have many opportunities to socialize with people, so what I deem as ‘normal’ might not be so to others… Normally, the dead return to this place on the Day of the Dead, but why didn’t my family return? They don’t want to?”
Such was the rule of that world.
The Dead would fall into the Land of Death, managed by the King of Death. They would then reside in said land until their souls were purged.
Then, on the Day of the Dead, they would return to Earth.
…but my family didn’t.
It was said that in a few years, the dead’s memories would be wiped out, as such, they wouldn’t rise from the ground.
Also, if someone were killed by something unique, that person might not be able to go to the Land of the Dead—the soul might also became trapped.
“It was the knights of this kingdom that killed my family… Would they still return to this place? At first, I thought the reason they didn’t show up was so I could retain my position… They know the truth, but the dead cannot harm the living… but, that isn’t so, isn’t it?”
“…and why do you think so?”
The Night King, assuming the form of Joel, trudged along with the horse as he asked her such a question. He looked like an evil being that led humans into the path of destruction.
Looking at how calm the horse was, Dia felt like she was straying farther away from the human realm.
“…—Joel, or, the knight you’re currently impersonating, he’s the same knight that you reduced into petals on that anniversary day. Even by the end of the anniversary, there was no complaint regarding Joel’s fate in the Royal Palace. I don’t know how he usually lived… but, since you’re using his name and appearance… the real Joel isn’t here anymore, is he? When you aren’t possessing him, he’s but a doll that moves without a soul.”
The knight’s cape swayed in the pale snow breeze.
The cape bearing the same color as the forest swirled along with the snow, which was carried by the wind—it was beautiful.
…When I look at this knight, the thought always comes…
Dia had lived her entire live without touching what shouldn’t be touched.
The thought that in some cases, it might shed a lot of blood stirred Dia’s heart.
However, this cold man, who always deemed everything human-related as ‘troublesome’, for the sake of enabling her to life to her utmost and survive, touched a lot of inconvenient things without ever mentioning any of them.
***T/N: I see! That’s how Noin protects Dia! …///Press F///