Aaron gently held Maki’s hand and turned it around.
“This hand. It’s just a normal hand.”
“It really is.”
Edwy listened to this conversation that lacked any romantic undertones, and he sighed in relief. Of course, he was still holding Chiharu’s hand at this point.
It was clear that Maki had only involved Chiharu as a way of hiding her own embarrassment, but Edwy was happy none the less. Of course, he hadn’t comforted Maki because of any hidden intentions. But Maki was more hurt than Chiharu, and Maki was very important to Edwy. And so he wanted to let her know that she had nothing to worry about and that he thought highly of her.
It hadn’t even occurred to him that he should comfort Chiharu as well. Her hand was so small in his, and there was something about it that made him feel lighthearted. Edwy wondered if this was how the Gazers felt.
Chiharu seemed to be chuckling to herself, and it was as if the area around her was glowing. Before he knew it, he realized that all three of them were staring at him.
“Uh, you can let go now?”
“Oh, uh, yes. Sorry.”
Edwy quickly let go of her hand. Then he coughed as he returned to reality. He looked around to make sure that no one else was watching them, and then he whispered quietly.
“So, we’ll sell the oranges tomorrow again. And then we’ll leave the town in the afternoon and return at night in order to infiltrate the villa. Ortha will then help us save the merfolk chief. And then we’ll follow the dog people from the mountains. They’ll help us escape.”
The two nodded.
“I would actually prefer it if you waited for us.”
Edwy said, but the two of them shook their heads.
“I know. Well then, have a good night.”
And so their long day came to an end.
The next day, they checked out of the inn and went out into the market. However, as they had finished questioning people on the previous day, and had received information from the beasts, Edwy and Aaron left the selling to Maki and Chiharu, and they went off to make arrangements.
“Soluna oranges! This is the last day! We’re almost sold out!”
Maki shouted loudly. They hardly had any left, as they had sold quickly. However, by now it seemed like everyone in the town who wanted the oranges had been able to get them.
“Just half a box now. We could sell the rest on the way or just eat them ourselves.”
Maki muttered after there were no more customers and she looked into the crate. Chiharu nodded dumbly. Their activity last night had resulted in a lack of sleep. While she seemed to be enjoying herself, everything after they had been carried by the birdfolk since Lowland, had been very tiring.
But then she suddenly shook herself out of it.
“No, no. This is the day.”
She muttered to herself as she started to line the oranges up, even though it was unnecessary. The old man who sold vegetables next to them looked at her worriedly. Maki was also looking at her with some concern. But the rest of the town seemed to be getting more lively all of a sudden.
“Mister, what’s happening?’
She asked the old man.
“Ah, for several days now, there have been rumors about Prince Norfe visiting. So it is probably that. See, that group coming near the entrance. That’s them. Look, it’s Prince Norfe!”
Norfe! Those terrible royals. The old man and the other townspeople seemed very happy. But all of those memories at the castle were very bitter for Maki. No, that wasn’t even the important part. They had assumed Norfe’s visit would be days later. So how would this affect their plan to save the merfolk chief?
Indeed, Maki could see Norfe riding a horse now. That proud and not exactly unhandsome face had remained in the corner of her memory. So, that’s why he was able to arrive early. He was in a very small party.
For now, they would probably be fine if they stuck with the others in the market and made sure that they didn’t draw any attention. And so, even when Norfe entered the market and smiled to the people, Maki acted normally. When she saw him like this, Maki was surprised to see that he seemed like a normal prince. He was loved by his people and didn’t seem so pompous.
Maki then turned around, thinking that she would hide Chiharu behind her. That’s when something bright rolled away in the corner of her eye. Why was that orange rolling away?
“Oh, I dropped one.”
Apparently, Chiharu had been in a daze again and had dropped it. It was so sudden that Maki had no time to react. Chiharu immediately ran after it.
As Chiharu jumped out to grab the orange, a horse raised its legs in surprise. And then a different horse moved towards her.
“Now, now! Calm down. You’re used to being around a lot of people, aren’t you? There, there.”
A commander that was on a large horse had arrived, and the surprised horse started to calm down. However, Chiharu was still crouching on the ground. Though, she was clutching the orange tightly.
“You jumped out in front of a horse. What a dangerous thing to do!”
The commander who came down from the horse was none other than Norfe. What should I do! Maki thought frantically.