Encounter – 2
The bear-like man’s name was Rodolgo, and he appeared to be the leader of a small, decrepit settlement that was just outside of the forest.
“Before that damned bastard came here by order of the king…”
Rodolgo’s eyes shined with the luster of someone boasting, as Chizuru looked down at the dark and damp-looking settlement.
“…It was I who ruled this entire region. And yet that stone-faced, former Hero robbed me of it all. Now, we just live humbly in this corner.”
Even under the dim moonlight, she could tell how poor it was. There were only a few desolate houses in this place that Chizuru had been brought to. There were no paved roads, and the buildings looked more like slightly painted sheds than houses. However, among them all, there was one building that was much larger than the rest and that was made of stone. This building was what Rodolgo called his ‘castle.’
Chizuru had now stopped resisting beyond what was necessary.
This was partly out of a faint hope that this Rodolgo would be the one who would bring her to Lukrov.
Rodolgo opened the bolt on his door himself. It screeched and ground violently as he did so. It meant that he had no servants to do such things for him. The others around him, who appeared to be his subordinates, said nothing as they entered into his house and disappeared.
As soon as the doors were open, the air was filled with the smell of old, dried grass.
Rodolgo grabbed Chizuru’s arms and pulled her inside.
“Now, enter! Hey, Dorothy. Get up! I have returned!”
It was clear that he would have been heard without raising his voice so much, but Rodolgo announced his return in an exaggerated fashion. It was pitch black inside the mansion, and just as cold as it was outside.
After a moment, footsteps could be heard from above, and a short, middle-aged woman began to descend the stairs from above with a lantern. The sight was so eerie that Chizuru could not help but let out a small cry and jerk back.
“What is it? Have you brought a guest then…”
The middle-aged woman’s voice was so deep that it was difficult to hear. And so very slow.
“You really are a curious one… But there is nothing to eat here. Only potatoes.”
“I didn’t bring her here just to play. She’ll have value. I might be able to ransom her to that cold-hearted duke.”
The woman called Dorothy raised the lantern higher now as she came closer. It was as if she was dragging herself across the floor. Chizuru could see Dorothy better now. She did not appear to be that old, but her skin was covered with wrinkles and half of her hair was white. She looked like a witch.
“I thought that that man stopped looking for his heavenly maiden long ago?”
Dorothy said with undisguised exasperation. Then she began to touch Chizuru’s arms and waist without restraint.
Seeing her mouth moving up close, Chizuru now realized that Dorothy had lost most of her teeth. That was likely why she was hard to understand when talking.
For now, Chizuru decided to stay silent.
While both Dorothy and Rodolgo were rough and ill-mannered, she did not sense any immediate malice towards her.
Once Dorothy was finished with her inspection, she let out a deep sigh and put down her lantern. Then she began to mutter to herself as she disappeared into a back room.
“Bring me some wine as well!”
Rodolgo shouted in the direction that Dorothy had disappeared in. But there was no reply.
Several minutes later, Dorothy returned with what looked like a bundled blanket under her arm, and she pushed it into Chizuru. Dust flew in the air and the smell of mold drifted around them.
“Food and drinks will come later. Young lady, you will sleep on the floor in my room tonight.”
Rodolgo muttered some complaint, but it seemed that he would not go against what she had decided. Dorothy picked up the lantern again and pulled Chizuru away with a strong grip. And so Chizuru followed her up the stairs.
The stairs were narrow and made of uneven stone. Chizuru nearly tripped several times and bumped into Dorothy, but the woman was much stronger than she looked. She kept pulling Chizuru up, and before she knew it, they had arrived in what seemed like a small bedroom.
“Here it is. You must be hungry, but you will have to wait for the morning.”
Chizuru nodded and looked around at the room.