Since waking up, I had taken the time to explore my records from the past five hundred years, but I haven’t had time to leisurely go see my portrait. No, actually, I had time to spare, but going all the way to the art museum just to see my own face seemed bothersome.
But now that I’m recuperating in Archduke Daniel’s mansion with nothing specific to do, and, above all…
I studied Daniel’s face, a very fine face, with nothing outwardly wrong with it. I looked straight into his blue eyes and smiled slightly.
The past week I spent in Daniel’s mansion wasn’t bad at all. He had treated me exceptionally well. Just like he claimed, there was no ulterior motive; all I received were delicious meals, books, and attentive care.
However, I wasn’t ready to dispel my suspicions just yet. I calculated that if I really wanted to find out what Archduke Daniel was thinking, I’d better do something and see how he reacted.
“Shall we go out before lunch?”
“Yes, at your convenience.”
And so, Daniel and I embarked on our first historic outing.
The world had changed a lot in the five hundred years I’d been absent.
Not for the better, not for the worse, not in a good or bad way, but in a way that is fundamentally human.
Since the deaths of me, my cardinals, and my eight paladins five hundred years ago, the mysterious powers that went by the name of magic have begun to fade away.
Nevertheless, as is always the case in the human world, there was never anything truly irreplaceable. In the five hundred years I was absent, technology had advanced in place of magic. The world, once moved by magic, was now propelled by human-made technology. Cars, trains, and even guns had taken over the role of transporting and wounding people.
Well, even though a cooling crystal-powered air conditioner hadn’t been invented yet, and despite my now somewhat faded memories, the technology available in this world was still far less advanced than the air conditioner I used in some other world before coming here. Also, guns were too expensive for common folk to handle, so small knives were still much more popular in the slums.
Regardless, the important fact was that even without the power of magic, humans were still living their lives.
So, even if I were no longer around, there wouldn’t be any problems in this world.
I know that now.
“Aren’t you going to get off?”
I opened the carriage door to step down to the ground, and looked at Daniel, who was reaching out his hand towards me, blinking a few times.
While his personality isn’t my cup of tea, I have to admit that he is handsome, dressed in a well-fitting suit with a bowler hat that’s all the rage these days, and reaching out a gloved hand to me. No, I wouldn’t say he’s handsome, I’d say he’s attractive as a man…… but that would be too blatant.
“My hands are okay.”
Refusing Daniel’s hand, I stepped out of the carriage. Whether he was being considerate or had some other motive, the carriage we rode in had no family crest and was a plain black color, lacking any distinctive features, like a family crest.
The Lyon Art Museum was situated atop numerous stone steps. Along the sides of the grey stone steps, rows of trees provided scarce patches of shade under the scorching sun.
People stood under the shade, filling their pipes with tobacco and puffing away on cigarettes. This was a time when it was not yet medically recognized that tobacco smoke was bad for the lungs.
I unfolded my green embroidered parasol. Honestly, I never bought one because I thought it was an unnecessary luxury, but now, with attendants and money not my own, I accepted whatever was given.
“Smoking a pipe in this scorching sun. Just looking at it feels hot.”
“Is it too hot for you?”
Daniel, paying no mind to the gathering stares around us, took the parasol I was holding and held it for me instead. I don’t know the meaning of this behavior, but now Daniel and I are under the same parasol.
“I did request clothes made of cool material, but it seems I made a mistake with the order.”
“I don’t know what to say to you.”
No matter what I say, he’s thinking about whether he’s done something wrong or made a mistake, which means he’s either a really good guy or a really bad guy.
Whether I said something or not, Daniel, with a serious expression, took the parasol and continued up the long staircase with me.
As we ascended the stone steps, the people standing in a circle and chattering amongst themselves started to notice Daniel. They exchanged murmurs upon recognizing him. Well, it’s not surprising considering he’s someone who appears in the newspapers.
And it was only then that I realized that Archduke Daniel was hiding my face from their gaze with the parasol, and he was much more skillful at hiding my face than I thought.
Hmm, is he really not a bad guy?
Leaving that aside, despite wearing very low-heeled, comfortable shoes, my stamina was less than stellar, and by the time we had climbed halfway up the stone steps, I was already out of breath.
A long dress made of airy material didn’t help much in the sun, either. Sweat beaded on my forehead under my wide-brimmed, white-ribboned hat.
My steps slowed down gradually, and Daniel matched my pace with incredible patience. When we finally reached the top of the stairs leading into the Lyon museum, the nape of my neck was already damp with sweat. I took a deep breath.
“It feels like I’ve been sunbathing, not catching the breeze!”
“It will be better once we enter the museum.”
“It better be, I’m already starting to feel sleepy… tired.”
“You should exercise a bit regularly.”
I sighed. I had never considered enhancing my stamina. With the ability to use magic, lifting and throwing a man effortlessly were well within my capabilities, so I had never bothered to strengthen my physical endurance. Besides, no one had ever suggested I should.
“I never thought about it, but I guess I definitely need it…… I don’t know if my muscles aged while I was dead, but it’s so hard.”
“It’s not that, you’ve been staying in the room the whole week, and even a normal person would be unhealthy like that.”
“Wow, why don’t you just swear at me instead?”
In truth, attacking verbally was cowardly. I patted my aching knees and stretched my waist. I surveyed the line of people waiting to enter and gasped.
“Is this all the line to get in?”
“Yes. The portrait of Saint Viviane is only open to the public for a certain part of the year, and it’s very popular.”
“Well, then, it’s not easy for someone to recognize me.”
As I said this, I discreetly observed Daniel’s reaction, hoping to glean some information about his true intentions, but he didn’t move an eyebrow and continued nonchalantly.
“I recognized you because I knew you were alive and saw you. But others, I don’t think they’d imagine it. They probably just see a resemblance, don’t you think?”
“Is that so? Well, considering it’s a portrait, it must have been beautified.”
I replied casually, while internally pondering whether Daniel’s words held any truth.
During my stay at Daniel’s mansion, my interactions were limited to a handful of people. An elderly maid named Marie, his personal assistant named Laurel, a few servants who brought me meals and bath water and a designer who came to take measurements for clothing.
There were no famous politicians or nobles present who could be of help to Daniel, and among them, only Marie and Laurel treated me with a respectful aura, akin to how they treated the Saint Vivian. In other words, besides them, it seemed that even if people vaguely thought of something upon seeing my face, they didn’t seem to recognize my true identity.
That is, unless they knew I was alive and heard about it, they wouldn’t easily believe it was really me standing in front of them.
….Could he genuinely be helping me without any ulterior motives?
It’s not that it’s always what I thought about, but haven’t I suffered and died too many times to trust a man’s good will so easily?
Daniel and I stood in line, and he led me to a noticeably shorter line, suggesting he had purchased reserved tickets.
The guards recognized Daniel, tipping their hats or exchanging greetings. It was a time when the aristocracy didn’t wield as much power as it once did, but the Archduke was a nobleman and a celebrity, and no one would have stopped him if he wanted to skip the line. Nevertheless, the fact that he honestly waited in line to enter the museum was a clear indication of his character.
No, no, no.
I forced myself to change my thought. Having barely spent a week with him, it was challenging to form a solid opinion about him. Even if he appeared naive, who knew what he was truly thinking internally?
Luckily, the line moved quickly and Daniel and I were inside the museum before long. As we walked through the door, a blast of cold air greeted us.
I took a deep breath, and Daniel quietly folded the umbrella in his hand.
“Wow, I think I’m going to live. I thought I was going to steam to death.”
“Even though Cartillon is hot, it seems you’re even more sensitive to heat. Are you really from the north, as recorded in history?”
“Is that what’s recorded?”
What kind of baseless rumors are written in there?
“I’m not from the North, I’m from the South if you want to call it that, and I’m from indoors, where machines like cooling crystal balls run all day.”
As we walked through the museum, making small talk, the security guards at the corners gave us brief glances.
It wasn’t too hard to find the pavilion where my portrait was on display. It had the longest line of people.