Please Answer Me - Chapter 58
The town was not far from the castle.
A short ride down the hill brought them to the main street. Numerous shops lined the main street, and it was as bustling with people as it had been the first time Rosetta had been here.
Rosetta slowed her horse and looked around.
Rosetta slowed her horse to a walk and looked around. She wore a cloak with a hood, just in case. In fact, unless she was with Rashid, she doubted anyone would pay much attention to her even without the cloak.
“Riga, it’s been a while.”
Recognizing Rashid’s face, the merchants all called out to him, each with a pleased expression. When royalty passed through the streets of Lysa, people always kept their heads down, waiting for the royal procession to pass by. It was unheard of for them to have such casual conversations with each other.
“How’s business these days?”
Rashid’s question was answered cheerfully by a man who appeared to be the owner of a fabric shop, holding up a bundle of fabric.
“Take a look. I’m now importing these silk fabrics and selling them at a much lower price. This is all thanks to you, Riga, for opening up safe trade routes.”
This time the owner of the next shop gestured to the woven woolen goods in his store.
“I make a pretty penny buying wool and carpets made in Katan and selling them to other countries for a premium. Just today, several merchants came by.”
Before long, a crowd of merchants had gathered around Rashid. Rosetta and Sika were naturally pushed to the side.
They told Rashid the same bragging story as before and discussed practical difficulties like taxes and rent. Rashid’s eyes were serious as he listened, hanging on every word.
“It’s always like this.” Sika chuckled as he watched. “When we’re out on the streets, everyone flocks to Riga. You didn’t know he was so popular, did you?”
A popular leader. The whole concept was very foreign to Rosetta. The people of Lysa were certainly fond of the royal family, but the emotions they displayed were one of adoration and submission, mixed with reverence for God’s descendants and a bit of fear. These emotions were not human.
Before long, Rashid’s hands were full of things. People were offering him all sorts of things as gifts.
Sika took them from him and began stuffing them into a large pouch on her horse. Rosetta had been a little curious about the travel pouch that Sika had placed on his horse, and apparently, this was what he was using it for.
Rashid came up to them a moment later, having been released from the crowd. This time, like Rosetta, Rashid had his cloak’s hood pulled down low on his head. It was easier to maneuver the horses now that no one was crowding them like they had earlier.
“So the Quats make their money from the relay trade?”
After a moment, Rashid nodded at Rosetta’s question. “Yes. If the sea and land routes were equally dangerous before, now that the land routes are safer, supplies are bound to flow here. And if word gets out, even more so.”
As Rashid said, traveling by sea was dangerous. Not only were pirates plentiful, but they lacked the shipbuilding and navigational skills to navigate the open seas. There had been countless instances of ships loaded with goods that had met with rough seas and sank into the depths of the ocean.
Rosetta marveled at the stories she’d only read about in books, and it was fascinating to think that his establishment of trade routes could change the very flow of goods.
Rashid explained more: that the trade routes had been in the works since his father’s time, but he had completed them, and that he was working to increase agricultural production as well as commerce.
“By the way, the silk fabric you were talking about before…”
“It’s one thing to buy silk fabric from Lysa and sell it to other countries for a lot of money, but why don’t we buy the silk ourselves, dye it, and sell it back to Lysa? It would probably make a pretty penny.”
Rashid looked at Rosetta, a little surprised.
She continued, “We have advanced dye technology here. The finest dyed silk would be coveted by anyone, especially the nobles of Lysa, who would spend a fortune on it.”
Sika’s eyes widened as he listened. “Huh? Riga, this is a really good idea, isn’t it?”
Rosetta looked back at Sika, her eyes shining. “Really? You think it’s a good idea?”
“Yes. It’s the most refreshing idea I’ve heard in a while, selling things for more money where you bought them. Don’t you think, Riga?”
Rashid looked a little dazed, but soon nodded. “…Yeah. Now that I think about it, it’s really… Why didn’t I think of that before?”
Rosetta smiled when she saw that even Rashid was saying that. It was the first time she had done something that could directly help someone.
Rosetta was overjoyed and poured out all the information she knew. “Red was the color of choice among the noblewomen of Lysa until recently, but now it’s going out of style, and pale blues and rosy colors are becoming more popular. The young ladies have been scrambling to get hold of them lately, so you might want to focus on those two colors for now. I’ll tell you exactly what they are later.”
Sika tilted his head at that. “But how do you know that, Rigaina?”
“You know more details than I thought.”
“Oh, because, because I heard something from my father, the chieftain…” Rosetta stammered, visibly flustered.
Rashid suddenly threw a small pouch at Sika, who was still frowning in confusion. Despite the suddenness of the toss, Sika snatched it up with one hand.
“I’m thirsty, go buy something to drink. We’ll go to the central square first. Come right there.”
After Sika left, Rosetta breathed a sigh of relief, glad that Rashid had sent him away just in time.
Glancing up, reminding herself to be more careful with her words when she was excited, she soon realized that they were alone now.
The awkwardness immediately set in. The casual conversation she’d been having with Sika was gone, replaced by extreme tension.
Rosetta tightened her grip on the reins. She tried to think of something to say that would make the conversation as natural as it had been earlier, but he spoke first.
“The square is this way.”
Rashid turned his horse’s head first. Rosetta followed his lead, riding her horse toward the square.
The road to the square was a different landscape. Gone were the small shops and bustling crowds, replaced by large buildings.
A river flowed steadily along the straight road. Rosetta watched in awe as the water’s surface glistened in the afternoon sun. As the wind blew, the floating leaves seemed to dance as they moved to and fro with the waves.
On the other side of the river were some quaint buildings, one of which was a school, judging by the number of young children pouring out at once.
Rosetta couldn’t help but smile as she watched the children run around energetically.
“Hehe, how cute.”
Muttering to herself, Rosetta realized that she had come to a standstill. Rashid had stopped a few feet away and was looking at her.
“I’m sorry, I was just looking around…”
Rosetta hurried to his side. As they headed for the square again, a thought occurred to her. Maybe this is the first and last sight of the town I’ll ever see. I won’t be able to roam the streets this freely when I return to Lysa.
Before long, a huge stone gate appeared, and as soon as they passed through it, a vast space was revealed. A large fountain sat in the center of the square, and people sat freely around it.
As she had noticed earlier, unlike the other places, the area around the square resembled the architecture of Lysa. The fountain in the center, the arched gates, and the many pillared buildings were particularly striking.
While Rosetta wondered about that, Rashid led the way to a secluded spot in the trees, away from the crowd. He dismounted first. Rosetta was about to dismount when he held out his hand.
“Ah… Thank you.”
Rosetta took his hand and shoulder and dismounted. It had been a long time since their bodies had touched, and her heart thumped in her chest. As soon as her feet touched the ground, Rosetta quickly pulled away and stepped back.
A heavy silence fell between them. As Rosetta fidgeted with herself, Rashid suddenly stood in front of her. She looked up at him with a very ominous sense of foreboding.
“I think we should probably get this out of the way, you know, on the night of the last banquet–”
“If you’re talking about that night, I have no recollection of what happened!” Rosetta shouted, cutting him off.
It was a blurt, but Rosetta soon realized it was for the best. Okay, let’s say I don’t remember. You don’t question someone who doesn’t remember.
It’s cowardly, but so be it. But I can’t say, “I’m so sorry I kissed you forcibly.” I’d rather drown in that river.
“…You don’t remember?” Rashid asked.
Rosetta nodded her head vigorously. “Yes, I don’t remember anything after I got drunk…”