Chapter 33.
Hunt?


“Your carriage is very special.
It’s something rare in the East.
I could almost feel the talented touch of the master craftsman on it.”

“How about this riding suit? I don’t think it’s of ordinary fabric, may I ask what kind of fabric you used?”

Nadia answered each question one by one, trying to smile as naturally as possible.
Even though they weren’t all that great of answers, thanks to the kind response of the noble ladies, the more they talked, the more relaxed she became.

How fortunate, they don’t seem to hate me.

As soon as Nadia got off the carriage, she got worried that her first impression would be bad.
It was a real relief for her.
The topic of conversation for a while was Aylesford, probably because of all the stories that were going around that centered on her, a new face.
Thanks to many new outbreaks of events that recently took place in Aylesford, the talk went on with that topic.
In particular, people seemed to be very curious about the wealth that Aylesford had acquired from the mana stone mine.
Nadia lightly cleared her throat and straightened her back at people’s expectant eyes.

“It is said that the magic stone mine has considerable reserves.
Recently, we even established a contract with a merchant.
Unfortunately, I don’t know the details.”

When they learned that Aylesford had signed a contract with the second largest merchant guild in the empire and even the size of the down payment, the eyes of the noble ladies seated at the table changed from curiosity to fondness.
It meant that Nadia’s image had been elevated from an “unknown baroness” to a “baroness that would be nice to get close to.”

I wonder if it’s a little snobbish? They seem so, but…

That’s unavoidable.
Aristocrats valued face and honour, but in the end, they needed money to maintain that face and honour.
In particular, if it was a magic stone, it was an essential item for the nobles’ life.
Perhaps everyone was thinking that it would not be bad to get close to the Aylesfords.

“By the way, it’s been a long time since Baron Aylesford last attended a meeting.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes.
He hasn’t come out since his parents passed away.
I haven’t seen him in ages.”

As they chatted about Aylesford, the subject traced back to the past.
There were many things Nadia didn’t know about Altair’s past, so she was naturally tempted to listen.

“The fire incident was tragic.
How could that even happen…”

“That’s right.
Had it not been for that incident, his parents wouldn’t have…”

“They were really nice people…”

As the story flooded in at people simultaneously speaking, Nadia’s head turned to them quickly.

Come to think of it, there was an abandoned area in Aylesford Castle.

She once inspected the castle for repairs and found an abandoned building that was no longer in use.

‘That’s the building where the fire broke out.’

Pavel seemed reluctant to mention it, so she didn’t want to pry either, but it seemed that the incident had been concealed, unspoken of.

“Since then, the situation in the Aylesford estate had only gotten worse.
It seemed that the previous baron owed a lot to his relatives.”

“The previous baron?”


When Nadia asked back in surprise, the lady who brought up the story covered her mouth with her hand as if she had made a mistake and put on a soft smile.
Perhaps it was because she was so absent-minded that she forgot that a person related was present.

“Though it is all in the past now.
Things are better now in Aylesford.”

The startled lady hurriedly changed the subject, and at the same time, a low, majestic trumpet sounded in the distance.
It was the sound announcing the start of the hunt.
The said lady, who happened to be in a difficult situation, was the first to get up from her seat.

“Shall we go too? We cannot lose to the gentlemen.”

“Sure.
You didn’t forget that I caught a deer last hunting season, did you?”

“Of course.
Countess Gillan also hunted down a bear… and a lion, too.”

Bear? Lion? Question marks floated around in the young baroness’ head.
The eyes of the noble ladies, who boasted that they had caught remarkable preys among themselves, were now fixed on her.

“How about the Baroness? What did you hunt in the capital?”

“You must have caught a bear, right?”

“She’s the wife of Baron Aylesford, who subjugated a dragon, and you said she only caught a bear? She must have captured a lion.”

Nadia was completely baffled when they said like it was a natural fact.

A-are they joking?

The kind of joke that would lighten the atmosphere by bluffing with each other? Looking at the eyes of the noble ladies full of anticipation, Nadia couldn’t bring herself to say ‘I’ve never properly caught a rabbit, let alone a deer or a bear…’ In the end, she couldn’t tell the truth.

Goo-good then! I’m joining this bragging party too!

She pretended to be confident, lifted her chin slightly, and held up the bow she had prepared.

“Of course.
I caught a lion without much effort.”

“Oh my goodness! As expected!”

As if the noble ladies knew she would say that, they smiled with admiration.

“The heroine of this gathering will be Baroness Aylesford for sure!”

“Then shall we go to the forest?”

❈❈❈

After going into the forest, the noble ladies gathered in groups of twos or threes as if they were used to it, and began to disperse in search of prey.
The host of this meeting, Countess Gillan*, remained by Nadia’s side.
She was a middle-aged woman with an elegant impression, she looked like a quiet and calm person, almost similar to Nadia.
T/n: Since count Gillan appeared in the previous chapter, maybe he and countess Gillan are both hosts and held this event as a couple.
(we’ll update further if there’s any mistake, sorry if there’s any confusion.)


But the way she holds the bow…

Even Nadia, who knew nothing about hunting, could tell that she was very proficient.

“There are footprints over here.”

The Countess, who took a close look at the ground, followed the trace without hesitation.
At first glance, a very large bear footprint could be seen on the ground.

Wh-wh-why follow this?! If you see a bear’s footprints, shouldn’t you avoid them?

“Um Countess…?”

“Shh!”

Nadia carefully tried to stop the Countess of Gillan, but she interrupted her with a sharp hush, and hurriedly hid in the bush.

“It’s over there.”

“Over there?”

“Do you see that?”

As her eyes followed the direction the countess pointed, she saw a huge bear wandering among the trees, breathing heavily.

W-w-wh-why is the bear so big?!

She had seen a bear in the capital before, but it was much smaller than the one in front of her right then.
The East was said to be a paradise for animals, and the bears were much bigger.

Fortunately, we haven’t been caught yet.

If she ran away right now, she thought she could avoid the danger.

“Madame.”

As Nadia cautiously tugged at the countess’s sleeve, she, who had been concentrating on the bear’s movements, turned to Nadia and smiled softly.

“I think you can shoot an arrow now.”

“…pardon?”

“Fortunately, since the prey didn’t notice us, we should be able to take action easily.
It’s a pity that it’s a bit small, but…”

“A bit small…?”

Little by little, Nadia gradually came to grasp the reality at the Countess’s calm words.
The conversation she had with the noble ladies a moment ago, and the current situation, it was never a joke or a bluff.
These people really thought that catching a beast of that size was an easy task!


“I am the host, so I have to yield the prey to the guests.
Come on, catch it quickly.”

The Countess offered Nadia her spot with a kind look.

“Uh…”

As soon as she was pushed to the spot, the bear’s sharp eyes turned to her.
The timing was so right that it almost seemed like a huge prank.
As soon as she flinched in surprise, her strength was released and the arrow flew toward the bear.

“(GROWL)!”

The gigantic, or rather small bear by local standards, growled loudly at the sight of the flying arrow.
The sound seemed to have suppressed the momentum, and the arrow that was flying through the air fell helplessly to the ground.
The arrow rolled around at a distance far short of reaching the bear.

“…”

“…”

“…”

Nadia was silent, so was the Countess, and even the bear, as if bewildered, had stopped growling.

“Ha-, ha ha.”

“(ROAR)!”

The bear roared again along with her awkward laugh.
Perhaps he thought he had a complete advantage, but he seemed quite vigorous.
The giant bear started running towards her with his arms wide open and feet thumping.

“Ma-madame! Get away!”

Nadia hurriedly turned her head and reached out to the Countess.
However, her hand only stirred the air, and the place the countess was once in was empty.

Huh…?

She hurriedly looked around, but the countess was nowhere to be seen. 

Did she run away first after seeing the bear’s acting up? 

Then she just needed to take care of her own body.
It was fortunate that the countess was not in danger because of her.
But before Nadia could feel relieved, she felt the bear’s warm breath right in front of her.
Startled, she turned her head back and saw the bear’s large face before her.

“(GROWL)!”

Nadia was so shocked that she couldn’t even scream.

It’s too late to run away now.

Her legs gave in, so she sat down and took an arrow from the quiver she was carrying.
It was the only thing that could be used as a weapon.


The bear’s weakness is…its eyes?

Looking into those fierce eyes, she couldn’t help but think those were a weakness.

“(GROWL)!”

The moment the bear approached Nadia with its huge mouth open, she pierced its eye with an arrow and the bear collapsed to the ground with a painful sound.

“(SQUEAL)!”

The bear was in much more agony than she thought, and as it rolled on the floor, she felt puzzled even in the midst of fear.
Could this happen just because she stabbed its eye? As Nadia looked at the bear, which was gradually losing its strength, she heard a rustling sound not far away.
Could there have been one more bear? When she raised her head, startled, she saw an unexpected figure approaching.
It was Prince Orca.

“Are you all right, Baroness Aylesford?”

Alone, unaccompanied, he crossed the forest and retrieved the dagger from the back of the completely knocked-out bear.
As she watched him in daze, Prince Orca lowered his body and tilted his head to one side while examining her condition.

“You seem very surprised.
I put poison on the blade.
It’s a fast-spreading poison, so the bear won’t wake up.
Don’t worry.”

Prince Orca smiled softly and stretched out his hand.
At that, Nadia came back to her senses.

“Th-thank you.”

It was difficult to get up on her own because her legs were weak.
Nadia didn’t refuse Prince Orca’s goodwill and grabbed his hand, and he lifted her up without much force.
Contrary to the word ‘sickly’, she felt quite the strength in his hand.

“You are brave.
If you’re from the capital, you’re probably not used to hunting like this, but you’re here alone to hunt a bear.”

“Uh.
I didn’t know hunting in the east was like this…And I didn’t come alone…”

As Nadia muttered in embarrassment, Prince Orca took a step back with a smile on his face.

“There are many differences between the capital and the east.
It’s hard to meet people from the capital in these kinds of areas, aren’t we rare comrades in that respect?”

Prince Orca spoke to her in a friendly way, but knowing his appearance as the villain in the novel, she felt uncomfortable and suspicious of his kindness.

“I-is that so?”

“By the way…madame….”

As Nadia shrank her shoulders and responded awkwardly, Prince Orca, who had been silent for a moment, narrowed his eyes and took a step closer to her.

“Why are you afraid of me? I don’t think I did anything…Not yet at least.”

She instantly felt an inexplicable coldness in Prince Orca’s smiling eyes.

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