Please Answer Me - Chapter 35
As darkness fell, a group of men entered the castle. A brief order to disperse was given, and they scattered.
Rashid dismounted and Mark came running to him. His face was usually red, whether he was drinking or not, but today only the color of his nose was intact. Rashid noticed that he hadn’t been drinking today.
[Did you run out of liquor?]
[Gee, why is Riga so upset when I drink or not?]
Mark took the reins from him and gave him a disgruntled look. Then he whispered to him.
[As a matter of fact, Thelma found out where I secretly hid the bottle, so I won’t be able to drink for a while.]
Thelma, who was in charge of housekeeping in the castle, was very strict about misappropriating supplies, and for her, Mark was a target. He was always stealing alcohol from the kitchen. She’d been trying to catch him for a while, and he’d finally been caught.
Rashid pulled a bottle of liquid from a pouch on his saddle. As he held it out, Mark’s eyes widened.
[What is this? How did you get this, Riga?]
[I got this when I went to a village. They said it was old wine, made ten years ago. I know you don’t like wine, but you can drink this.]
[Oh, no, why are you giving me this precious drink?]
[I’ve saved some for the castle, so you can have this one. Just sip it a little at a time until you get over the nanny’s anger.]
[Thank you, Riga is the only one who thinks of me after all!]
Mark grinned and opened the bottle of wine. After taking a sip, his face lit up with ecstasy.
[Wow, this is really good, Riga, just take a sip, it’s really good.]
[I’ll drink some at the banquet later anyway.]
Mark nodded vigorously. [Oh, and by the way, I hear you’ve put off the banquet to welcome Rigaina. How’s her wound?]
[The doctor says there will be scars, but they won’t be big. Luckily, she reacted quickly after being burned.]
[That’s good to hear, and I hope she heals quickly].
Rashid glared at him at that. Mark, who was on his third sip, slowly took his mouth away from the bottle. He’d been told to sip sparingly, but he’d taken too much at once.
[Why, why do you look at me like that?]
[I thought it was a little unexpected.]
[I thought you’d hate her.]
Mark was close to Rashid’s father; they were best friends and brothers, regardless of status. As such, Mark loved Rashid like a son and held a deep grudge against the Basques.
Given the circumstances, Rashid had assumed that he would hate her. But there was no malice in his words just now. On the contrary, he seemed genuinely concerned.
[Well, it’s not like I’ve never felt that way, she’s the daughter of a Basque chieftain, not anyone else.]
Mark scrunched up his face, then shrugged. [But after what happened yesterday, I decided not to. If she’s willing to risk getting hurt to save the late Rigaina’s keepsake, she’ll be good enough for you, and that’s all that matters, right?]
[…I suppose so.]
He let his thoughts drift back to the woman.
Strangely, she seemed to have succeeded in winning the favor of the people here in that short time. Sika, who was naturally blindly loyal, Akal, who rarely had anyone but his master by his side, and yesterday, after winning the favor of Thelma and Benny, she had even mellowed Mark’s heart.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence. She might not have any special abilities, but she just happens to be in the right place at the right time, with the right people, and she wins their hearts so easily.
But what if that’s not a coincidence?
I know from experience that winning a person’s heart is no easy task. Even if you run at it with determination, the human heart tends to avoid it. Not to mention the hearts of many, many people.
But sometimes there are people like that. A person who automatically attracts people around him without having to deliberately plan something.
Rashid knew what such a person could become. The leader of a small group, or the ruler of a large country. Of course, not everyone could rise to such a position; if they are not born with a proper position or if they are unlucky, they may be the first to be purged.
Rashid was deep in thought for a moment when Akal purred and rubbed his cheek. Rashid stroked Akal’s face with a faint smile.
“Well done, Akal. Get a good night’s rest tomorrow.”
Hearing that, Mark asked, [You’re not leaving the castle tomorrow?]
[Yes, because tomorrow I have to deal with the elders myself.]
The meeting of the elders was held today, and tomorrow it was time to hear the results. The outcome will be predictable, but he’ll still have to deal with Elder Perce himself.
[Good, then do your best tonight, but don’t do it until morning.]
The hand stroking Akal stopped immediately. Rashid’s head snapped back to Mark.
[What do you want me to do?]
[How do I put that in proper words? Do it gentlemanly? The rumors spread like wildfire through the castle. Riga, you shouldn’t do that to a wounded person, no matter what, and I’m telling you this because I don’t think Thelma would have the decency to tell you herself.]
[No, why are you asking? You know everything.]
But Rashid really couldn’t figure out why he was saying that, and Akal, who was next to him, bared his teeth and made a neigh sound.
[Don’t spin it, just say it. What rumors?]
[Ha, okay, I’ll just put it bluntly: I mean, if you’re going to have intercourse, get it all done at night. If you don’t let her go until morning, what if the maids see it? Rigaina is injured, but you torture her to the point of making her scream out loud. Everyone says they didn’t know you were such a person.]
Rashid’s mouth dropped open in disbelief, and then he burst out laughing. Thelma and Benny’s eyes looked unusual in the morning, but he didn’t expect such a rumor to spread in just half a day.
[It’s okay. You don’t have anything to hide from me, I get it. No, I’m really happy for you. It’s just that you’ve been so uninterested in women so far, and I was worried that you might not know how to do it.]
Mark patted Rashid on the shoulder, looking genuinely happy. [I’m just saying that you should consider the woman’s situation as well. Now, I’ll take care of Akal, and you can go to Rigaina.]
And he took Akal’s reins and disappeared into the stable.
Rashid stood there alone for a moment, then staggered off. Each of the maids he met along the way bowed to him and then hurried away with a strange smile. It couldn’t be because of the incident where he drew his sword yesterday. If it was, they were more likely to be scared and avoiding him than smiling. Mark was right, after all, there must be some ridiculous rumors floating through the castle.
He was almost near his room when Thelma approached.
“You’re late, sir. Have you had your dinner?”
“I’ve already eaten. Has she?”
“Rigaina has eaten, too. She’s probably resting in her room now.”
“What has she been doing all day?”
Today he had a busy schedule of inspecting the city. There had been recent reports of strangers who appeared to be Lysans acting suspiciously.
It was not that there were no Lysians in the area at all. Traders would come to sell their wares, and sometimes they would even move in.
However, this was not the case with the Lysans that were reported. They were reportedly looking for wagons to carry their goods and secretly rescuing people. There had never been a single instance of a Lysan doing such a thing here in Edirne.
It’s something he should have been doing a long time ago, but he only saw it today because he was trying to prevent marriage between the Basque and Croa tribes.
And in the end, nothing came of it. The suspects were gone, and it is unknown what they were trying to do.
As Rashid walked around all day looking into it, he kept thinking about her. I wonder what she’s doing at this hour. Her hands are injured, and I wonder if she can eat comfortably. Since I said she could tour the castle before I left, maybe she’s touring the castle with someone right now.
“Rigaine took a short walk, but mostly stayed in the room. It looked like her wounds were still hurting,” Thelma replied.
“Did the doctor see her?”
“Yes, he changed her bandages and gave her some new medicine. She took the medicine earlier, so she may be sleeping now.”
Rashid nodded. “I see. I’ll take care of everything, you go get some rest.”
Rashid opened the door and walked in. The first place his eyes went was to the bed, but contrary to his expectation that the woman would be lying there, sleeping, there was no one there.
Not just the bed; the woman was nowhere in the room.
As his face grew stony, he felt a small presence in the curtains covering the window.