PIASPM Chapter 5
Todd and Thanos set out to search for Canto. The former carried a sword while the latter held a spear and they headed to the place where Jade had an accident since it was also the last location where his horse was seen.
To outsiders they would have appeared imposing and conspicuous, especially since they had towering figures and were quite brawny. Admittedly, they often met people in the past who were wary and suspicious of them because of their demeanor, however, they did not have to worry about curious onlookers because aside from them, there were no other human beings in the forest. It was just the two of them there and they were grateful for that fact.
As the pair continued on their trail, Todd could not help but voice out a question that has been plaguing him ever since he met Thanos and the rest of the inn people, “Sir, I have been wondering how you managed to run an inn business in a forest like this?”
Todd by nature, was not a talkative person, and he would normally prefer not to stick his nose in other people’s business. However, this time he decided to ask on purpose mainly because he knew he and his master needed to stay at the inn for many days. He thought it was necessary for him to know what kind of people they were going to live with and he was hoping to get a sense of their characters through engaging them in simple conversations.
When the older man remained silent, he decided to press on, “I mean, is the inn even doing well?”
“We’ve had people come to our inn who are as ignorant as you are, so you don’t have to concern yourself with how we make business with our inn.” Todd realized that Thanos was even more straightforward than he was. Still, despite the man’s bluntness, he found himself oddly comfortable with the man even though he was twenty years his senior.
Though he was a man with few words, Todd could sense that he had a subtle consideration for others around him and did not use intimidation needlessly. As they quickened their pace and went deeper into the forest, Thanos held out his hand and faced Todd, “Tread carefully, there is a swamp up ahead.”
It was with that simple gesture that Todd was able to ascertain that Thanos was a good person.
As Todd was walking a few paces in front of Todd the latter suddenly called out to him, “Come back here.”
When Todd casted his eyes back at his companion, he noticed that he was looking at a distance, but he couldn’t decipher what it was that captured his attention. The only thing that stood out to him was Thanos’ serious face and so he unconsciously found himself obeying the former.
“Tell me the characteristics of a horse.” Thano’s tone became a little softer this time, perhaps because he had heeded his words without any complaints.
“It is a striking horse. You’ll be able to recognize it when you see it. However, it is more wild than ordinary horses. If something is wrong with it, then it’ll be difficult to handle, even if there’s two of us.” Todd didn’t make it obvious in front of Thanos, but he was a little relieved that he did not come here alone. Canto was originally a hard horse to tame.
“You look like an escort guard; so how did you encounter such misfortune?”
Much like Todd who tried to find more information about the people working at the inn, Thanos also did not try to mask his curiosity with their new guest.
Todd gave Thanos a pensive look, as if he was trying to understand what the latter’s intentions were by asking him that question before he answers him. After a few seconds of silence went by, he finally opened his mouth and replied, “I’m still ashamed and regretful about what happened. I wasn’t able to guard my master because of someone’s tricks. Furthermore, I think the sudden and unexpected downpour contributed to the accident. Long story short, Master Bastille was hunting alone, and I was trailing far behind him. That’s what happened. I feel like I’m just making excuses for myself, it is all my fault.”
Todd clenched his teeth in frustration after he finished talking. He felt as though he was just finding justifications as to why he was remiss in his duties rather than explain what really happened.
He knew he wasn’t completely to blame for the unavoidable circumstances they faced, however, when he saw Jade’s injured he couldn’t help but feel responsible for the accident. He regretted that he wasn’t by his master’s side. Even if he had to break regulations, he should have been close to him.
“Even the most skillful knights know the stories about Espin Forest. They all know it is easy to get lost here. It is also undeniably harder to navigate these woods during bad weather, what more if someone used schemes to cause an accident. Injuries would have been unavoidable, so don’t blame yourself.” The frank remark of the older man brought comfort to Todd’s guilt stricken heart, and he only grew more curious about the real identities of the people who worked at the inn.
“Why aren’t you asking us about who we are?”
‘Why didn’t he ask for our identities and names? Whether it’s a real name or a pseudonym, I wonder why he didn’t ask for anything, even though he would need to write about us in a lodging book. It’s even more suspicious because the inn didn’t seem to have a clear system for its operation.’ This Todd thought as he waited for Thanos to answer.
When he thought that Thanos was ignoring him, Todd continued, “I mean, aren’t you the least bit curious? Shouldn’t you know who your guests are?”
“It is the will of our master not to pry into our guests’ privacy, that’s why I don’t bother to ask you anything.” Thanos replied with an undecipherable look on his face.
Todd’s eyes widened in surprise, “Then does that mean, you’re not the owner of the inn?”
This time, Thanos looked at Todd, who couldn’t hide his disbelief. Then he opened his mouth and asked, “Do I look like I’m the owner?”
“I thought it was an inn run by a couple.”
“I think you assumed Linda as my wife, but you’re mistaken, we’re not a couple.”
Thanos said succinctly so that he would not misunderstand any further.
“Then who is the master of the inn?” By this time, Todd could no longer hide his curiosity, especially when it comes to the owner of the strange inn located in such a remote area.
“You will find out when we return.” Thanos answered simply as he quickened his steps. He then turned to his companion and asked, “Do you remember where the accident happened?”
His sudden question reminded Todd of their original purpose in the forest.
“I honestly don’t know. The only thing I remembered is that there was a small waterfall nearby, but I think we passed by two waterfalls which looked to be of the same size. However, I think it wasn’t too far from the location of the inn.”
“If it’s near the inn then perhaps that’s why you met me.” Thanos nodded his head at his statement and glanced around the area. He then pointed at a trail, “I think it might be over there. The closest waterfall to the inn is over there, so let’s go there first.”
Todd obeyed Thanos’ direction without hesitation.
Ahin carried a meal towards Jade’s room. She then carefully set the plates down and greeted the young man with flushed cheeks, “Bon Appetit!”
Jade responded by giving the young maid a slight nod, which only caused the girl’s blush to deepen. The latter then excitedly went out of his room and closed the door behind her softly.
As soon as she exited the premises, Ahin started bouncing on her steps while pinching herself, “It’s unbelievable! I’ve never seen such a handsome man before.”
Ahin was very excited about the young man who was not only very handsome but also appeared very poised. The girl patted her warm cheeks and smiled, “He looked quite regal, like the royal family, and he seemed very kind as well.” She told herself as she tried to recount her small exchange with their new guest.
She couldn’t help but compare his visuals with other men she’s seen. After all, whenever Ahin had an opportunity, she would often volunteer to accompany Linda or Thanos when they made visits to the capital city and needed to shop. She recalled she’d often see several men and even famous gentlemen during her short trips. Though she was convinced for a long time that there were many pretty faces, after seeing the injured young man, she began to doubt the beauties she used to consider. Suddenly, they’ve started to look ugly in her mind, or perhaps their guest was just too handsome that all others fail in comparison.
“What are you doing?” An unwelcome voice interrupted Ahin’s pleasant musings and wiped the grin off her face. She quickly dropped her hands that used to cradle her cheeks and face Kai.
It was he who interrupted her thoughts when he arrived upstairs and carried a broom with him.
“Shh!” Ahin put an index finger to her lips and quickly walked over to Kai and pulled him aside. She then leaned closer to him and whispered, “I was thinking of our new guest. He’s really handsome. He looks very expensive. It’s like, he has gold spilled on his face!”
Kai looked at the love stricken girl with disgust, “What nonsense are you saying?”
“He’s just such a beautiful person. I’m sure that when you see his face, you’ll also think the same.”
“Whether or not what you say is true, doesn’t matter to me. Why would I make a fuss over that, like you?” Kai gave her a look like she was talking crazy. He couldn’t understand her at all.
For her part, Ahin just let out a sigh and shook her head, “He must be the son of a noble family, but what use is that if they don’t know he is hurt?”
Kai grimaced as if he couldn’t hear her anymore and shook her, “Are you crazy? After what you’ve been through, how can you still afford to worry about a nobleman just because he is handsome?”
At Kai’s ministrations, Ahin couldn’t help but pout her lips, “You are right about that. However, what happened to me is not his fault. You best remember not to be mean for no reason.”
Offended by her simple and thoughtless plea, Kai let out a heavy sigh and released his grip on her, “Stop loitering around here, make yourself useful and go downstairs. Your mother is looking for you.” Kai often referred to Linda as Ahin’s mother.
The younger girl flung her tongue out at him, like a child having a tantrum before she hurried down the stairs.
Kai looked at her retreating back and couldn’t help but think that she was rather pathetic. Judging by his standards, he views her as a rather immature girl, ‘How can she live thinking like that?’
Kai puffed his chest out and glanced at the closed doors where their wounded guest was staying.
He couldn’t help but revisit his memories. His and Ahin’s lives were once threatened because of nobles. It came to a point, wherein they were forced to retreat into the forest to avoid the mob that were chasing after them. Truth be told, he didn’t know there was an inn that existed in Espin forest, but somehow he came to this place.
He remembers that it was late at night, and he had been starving for several days, and it was at that moment when he no longer had the strength to even walk because of his injuries that he had a fateful encounter with the cats. He thought he was going to die back then. However, instead of dying, he managed to wake up and when he opened his eyes, he was already at the inn and his injuries were healed.
He later found out that they were healed by Millen. Since then, she became his new master.
Thanks to the bizarre and scary rumors that plagued the Espin Forest, nobles rarely dared to tread on its path so he lived peacefully therein without worrying about the nobles that pursued him. He was content to live there peacefully until the end of his days.
Even though it has been a long time, because of his past and what he has experienced, it was still difficult for him to look at nobles without prejudice. He couldn’t stop himself from muttering towards the door’s direction as he cleaned the area, “Just stay here quietly and leave just as quietly, my Lord.” He spoke those last words sarcastically before he concentrated back on his task.
On the other hand, Jade, who was unaware of the slight commotion outside his room, remained seated on his bed with a regretful expression painted on his face. He has stayed in that position since he received his meal which was delivered to him by Ahin.
He wasn’t sulking because he thought the food they brought him was poor, he didn’t even have any appetite in the first place. Rather, he was disappointed because he had hoped to see someone else. He didn’t even realize that he was expecting to see another person until after he saw Ahin carry his food in. As soon as Jade heard the knock, he thought of someone else, the image of a young woman wearing a fancy hat was what came into his mind.
‘Will we see each other again?’ He couldn’t help but wonder about that strange lady. He didn’t know why, but he was curious about her face, and he wanted to talk to her too. When he thought it was her that came to his door, he unconsciously straightened his back and tried to untangle some of his hair and cleared his voice before answering.
He had expected to see her and so he mentally prepared himself to greet her, but it wasn’t her. His disappointment was great, but he did not let that show to the maid who stepped in instead.
‘I’m sure there is something rare about her.’ He couldn’t help but imagine what she might look like. Even though his memories were hazy, he doesn’t know why he only remembers her outfit. He doubts he’s fixated on her because he found that she had a lovely face and a nice figure. If he was being honest to himself, he has seen a great deal of lovely women with beautiful figures, and frankly, he’s grown tired of them. How could he not when his older brothers always paraded them around?
‘Should I make up a reason to see her again?’ A small chuckle escaped his lips before he finally broke out in laughter. He found it rather comical that he was thinking deeply and shaking his head for ideas to meet with that mysterious girl just because he was curious about her face. Perhaps he just wanted to see the head that was attached to her body which seemed rather graceful to him.
‘I don’t usually act like this, perhaps I really have hurt my head.’
It wasn’t until late in the afternoon that Thanos and Todd arrived back at the inn.
Millen, who secretly waited for their return, ran straight to the front door to greet them, “Have you found it?”
Thanos took off his coat and answered, “No, we didn’t.” His expression remained impassive, but she recognized that he was using a softer tone than usual when strangers were around them.
“We even searched around the areas away from the site of the accident.”
The pair labored all afternoon in places they think Canto could have run to. They found some traces of hooves, but they weren’t able to determine the route it took and some of its tracks were also washed away by the rain. It became even more difficult to search for the missing horse when the afternoon light was washed away by the darkness that slowly settled, and the shadows of the trees rose higher as the sun set. So they had no choice but to return to the inn empty handed.
Furthermore, the two were also worried about the safety of their masters whom they left behind, all day and afternoon.
Millen gave him a slightly crestfallen look, but she quickly changed her expression and spoke to them in a gentle voice, “Good work.”
She then moved closer to Thanos and pulled him aside to say what she had in mind. She covered the sides of her mouth with both of her hands and whispered in a hushed tone, “I’m going to ask the cats for help.”
Thanos was a little surprised at Millen’s show of eagerness. It has been a long time since he last saw her aggressively being involved in something. Though she tried not to show it, he could tell his mistress felt strongly about helping their new guests, so he just nodded his head in response.
It was at that moment, when Todd, who was standing behind Thanos, interrupted their conversation, “Excuse me, while you were speaking…”
Todd spoke in a cautious tone and approached Thanos. The two stood side by side, and Millen couldn’t help but think they looked like father and son, especially since they seemed to share the same appearance and personality.
This time however, Todd turned his gaze to Millen and addressed her for the first time, “Are you the owner of this inn?”
After hearing a question that countless guests also asked her before, Milen answered by pointing at his head.
It was a gesture that expressed that one was not fond of the current speaker, question or the conversation. It was a response Millen always used, and each time she did so, most of the guests disappeared while looking quite displeased. She may have offended a lot of people by acting that way, but she managed to avoid interacting with their guests that way.
She thought he would act the same way the others did. That’s why she was taken aback when Todd slightly bowed at her and talked once more in a more courteous voice, “I give you my formal greetings, my lady. My name is Todd and I am the escort guard for Bastille, who is staying as a guest.”
As young as she was, Millen had run the inn for a long time. Based on her experience, only a few people treated ladies of unknown origins with respect. Therefore, Millen found herself involuntarily accepting his greetings and also bowed slightly at his direction.
After their small exchange, Todd spoke again, “I have a message from Master Bastille to the owner of the inn.” He paused to catch his breath before continuing, “Master Bastille formally sends his thanks to the master of the inn, his benefactor, and said that he would like to have a conversation with you to discuss the medicine he was receiving. And if you need help with anything—”
From what Millen observed, it appeared as though it was not only the escort but also his master who seemed to have a good amount of human decency and they even wanted to show their goodwill. However, she did not need that from them, so she raised her hands and cut him off while he was in the middle of his speech.
Others may say his offer of help was a sign of chivalry, but to Millen she found it rather offensive, “Who needs help? Do you mean I need help?”
Millen smirked at him as she pointed at herself with her finger.
‘Look, I’m a wizard. Do you think I need help?’
-To be continued
Translator: Byoun Editor: Nine Knights