“Whether it’s genuine or not, so what? What’s the meaning of it?”
Taking a bite of the crunchy green apple she had been rolling in her hand, Parme chewed thoughtfully. The crisp texture mingled with the sweet and tangy flavors, making her mouth water.
Parme leaned back against the worn-out cushions of the old sofa, feeling the straw filling gently compress beneath her. On the adjacent seat, Rio was reading a different book this time, a slim volume filled with various pastoral illustrations.
Neither of them resembled his father, and he couldn’t help but wonder about the woman who had given birth to this angelic child. He had never seen her, but she must have been quite a beauty.
She vaguely remembered what children used to call their parents when they were very young. Asti and Liberri, a fateful pairing from old tales. A story of a shepherd who created music for the dancing riverside fairies and their enchanting love story
When the mischievous father plucked the strings of his lute, the young mother would shake her tambourine and dance a forest-like dance.
Staying in one place for short weeks or long months, their never-ending nomadic life felt like a joyful journey that never ended. The three families loved each other with all their hearts.
In her memories, her mother remained forever young. She would have barely aged more than a year or two compared to Parme now. She passed away from an illness at a vibrant and lovely age. The young daughter, unable to overcome sleepiness, awoke to find that she had lost her mother forever.
Afterward, both their life and spirits dwindled. They moved to a city with more job opportunities, where they found a small, shabby house. Music, songs, and dance all came to a halt. The father did whatever work he could find, and on days with nothing to eat, they went hungry. He started spending more days away from home as time went on.
Then, one day, he disappeared. Parme didn’t know if he was alive or dead. Parme went through periods of worry, waiting, hoping, and futile guessing, only to eventually learn how to give up.
With trembling hands, Parme helped with various tasks and relied on the sympathy and compassion of neighbors to get by. Before a full year had passed, his father returned, holding a newborn baby and crying.
He had always been sincere. He sincerely loved his wife, felt genuine despair when she died, and his love for her when he returned, after running away, was undoubtedly sincere. That’s why he must have brought the child back with him. And now, he sincerely felt guilty toward Parme.
What was the point of all that? His father didn’t even know how to take care of a child. That young baby was on the verge of dying, whether it was from hunger or sickness. Was that considered a noble sincerity and love?
Parme and Rio locked eyes. Rio’s gaze seemed to ask why Parme was reacting this way, so Parme just smiled and turned her gaze away, lost in thought once more.
In the end, sincerity, like everything else, couldn’t change the outcome or reality. Even now, Parme invoked the noble name of her master, met her, but everything would eventually return to its original state. People must change when circumstances change.
That man, too, would eventually collect his self-proclaimed noble heart as circumstances dictated. He would either have to collect it or desire to collect it.
Therefore, it was meaningless. The premise of having that “sincerity” was flawed from the start. It’s a misconception and a falsehood.
He’s a person worth having goodwill for. There’s nothing he’s not good at, and it was pleasant to converse with him. He knew how to maintain a suitable distance, knew how to appeal to my perspective, and showed his charm without pressuring others.
thought it was difficult to dismiss the pleasant feeling he had, a natural affinity I no longer had.
Things that were unfamiliar, restricted, prohibited, or obstructed naturally pique a person’s interest. Denying and ignoring them often leads to an uncontrollable direction. Parme contemplated.
Should she just accept things as they were and enjoy the time together if it was pleasant? Adapt and become familiar.
Before her affinity grew, she could gradually deplete it, and everything would return to its rightful place, and the situation would sort itself out.
Yes, that way, nothing would happen at all.
The streets of the capital city, The place, were quiet as night fell. Around the central square, the shops that stayed open late illuminated the inner city, but as one ventured further down the side streets, both light and sound rapidly dwindled.
He walked briskly through the alleyways without a lantern. The faint yellow light from distant inns and the moonlight peeking through the cloudy sky were the only sources of illumination. At that moment,
As if annoyed by hearing that irritating ringing in his ears, the man plugged one of his ears. The silence of his companion annoyed him even more. His frustration must have been the reason his steps faltered slightly, and the sound that still reached his ears infuriated him.
“Get lost! Stop bothering me”
For a moment, the presence that had been circling around him like a persistent gnat seemed to vanish from the vicinity.
“Why does it always have to involve swearing for you to understand? I don’t get it,”
he muttered to himself as he turned a corner in the narrow alley. Suddenly, someone grabbed his coat and pushed him against the wall.
The assailant gripped his shoulder with one hand and used the other to pull back the hood that concealed his face, revealing just enough to be recognized.
It was someone he knew, and a sigh of relief escaped him. “Hey… what’s with this lack of manners?”
Angelo pushed the hand on his shoulder away and stood upright. The other person, with a hostile glare, hesitated for a moment before finally speaking in a hushed tone.
“What are you up to? Whispering sweet nothings to a woman? Feeling all content, huh?”
“It’s a misunderstanding. I’m just seizing an opportunity.”
“Sure, sure. Is it that hard to report with a single word? Do you have to stand guard like this every time? Or are you up to some nonsense…”
“Fine, I won’t rush it. But it’s not just your side that’s in a hurry. And it’s not as easy as you think; the lady isn’t as cooperative as you’d hoped.”
The other person expressed their displeasure.
“I told you it would be easy.”
“You knew, yet you keep pushing like this? Just be patient. The deal is still valid.”
Their gazes locked for a moment. After a brief standoff, both men in hoods stepped back.
“If you get distracted by other thoughts, you’ll see. And hurry up a bit.”
“Got it. Now go back and do your job.”
The man shot one final glance before disappearing into the darkness.
Exhaling his discontented breath, Angelo hurried his way to a small, ordinary earthen house. Serving as both a makeshift workshop and dwelling, the inside of the house was chaotic, with papers strewn about from the desk to the floor.
He casually discarded his outerwear onto the ground and collapsed onto the makeshift bed, feeling a throbbing headache due to fatigue.
Nothing was going as planned. Trying to juggle several tasks simultaneously only led to them tripping over each other. Moreover…
“That woman, who is she?”
Angelo furrowed his brow.
At first, he thought she was someone easy to sway, but now, her face and various antics were not entirely unimpressed. Yet, she had a strange way of gaining the upper hand, making it difficult for him to control the situation.
Somehow, it felt like she was becoming increasingly audacious. Previously, hadn’t he refrained from acting too boldly in front of her? As she grew more familiar, her ability to counter her words became astonishingly eloquent, leaving him with no room to relax.
This was different from what he had expected, in many ways…
Conversing with her felt like a practice duel with a blunt practice sword, where he tried to find openings in his opponent’s defenses. After a few exchanges, the original purpose of the conversation became somewhat hazy. He realized that, at some point, he became engrossed in the act of the verbal clash itself, akin to focusing solely on the sensation of the blade’s impact.
In that peculiar realization, his thoughts briefly halted. Was it like that? Did he get absorbed into it?
He let out a sigh, feeling a sense of discomfort. Anyway, with things as they were, he wouldn’t make progress on any of the tasks at hand. He lowered his head. He had come this far thanks to a series of fortunate coincidences. If he returned now without any results, he didn’t know how long it would take to get back outside the Levanto domain. What measures should he take…
As he pondered that, he suddenly sensed a familiar and unpleasant feeling.
“Why here?” He sighed at the end of his muttering.
“Ugh, what now…?” He stood up, his head wrapped in thoughts. It was undoubtedly some sort of inconvenience that had arisen.
“There’s a reason for this! Just let me stay for one day, and tomorrow I’ll give you the money-“
“We’re strictly prepaid here! Hey, I’m trying to run a business, and now some beggar is giving me a hard time.”
“What, what did you say? How dare this woman insult me, who does she think she is?!”
“Isn’t it so? Just by looking at your half-and-half face, I could tell you’re probably from a traveling theater group or something. Clean your ears and listen well, beggar. If you want to eat, bathe, and sleep in the city, bring money!”
With a noisy exchange, the door was finally slammed shut. The face of the ‘beggar” standing there paled a beat too late.
“This country’s sentiment is completely messed up! Compassion is considered treason, and being hospitable is against the law! Even if you kill a rundown inn like this, they won’t bother investigating. They’re acting like high and mighty lords!”
Venting these complaints to himself, Angelo glanced at his seated master and touched his forehead.
“What’s troubling you?”
“Wha- Oh! You’re, uh, Adelio!”
“It’s Angelo, Master. Here, I’m called Elio.”
“Ah, right, right, Elio. How wonderful to see you! But, what did you just say?”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“I definitely heard something.”
Angelo tilted his head and refreshed his attention.
“Right now, that’s not important. Why are you in Sole? Moreover, in such a state.”
He gestured from head to toe, indicating the state Sole was in. From the innkeeper’s perspective, anyone would raise an eyebrow upon seeing someone in such a condition. Even if they recognized that he was a high-ranking official of the country, it wouldn’t change the initial impression.
His hair was disheveled, dirt smeared on his cheeks, and his shabby clothes were in need of a good wash. Ligeri explained the situation concisely.
“He got robbed of his travel expenses.”
“I see… Pardon my bluntness, but what did you say?”