Louise had her back against a wall, Ellis peeked around the corner.
"Did they escape?"
"Uh, I don't think they did.... just what was that?"
"It's hard to explain but to be brief, it's my friend," Louise had perspiration around her red face while smiling. That felt like an incredible adventurer filled with unknown dangers.
Ellis and Louise were currently in one of the small cracks between two buildings. If they continued through, it wouldn't be long before they reach another main road. For escapist reasons, they chose this route.
"Are you talking about Curtis.."
Louise laughed, " No, no. He's not Curtis."
Ellis tilted her head and her brows crooked in surprise. There was someone else like Curtis is this world?
"I should probably have you meet him though I'm scared of directly exposing his identity. He's my personal bodyguard and his identity must be kept a secret.... for now."
Ellis looked down at the cemented floor, dark green moss growing in seams between the tiles, spurts of struggling anemone filled the gaps. It wasn't long before a shadow loomed over Ellis and she instinctively looked past Louise. There was a man.
He wore a dark-blue mantle but, his face being exposed. From just a side glance, Ellis could see the focus in his eyes, accentuating the cold temperament she though his charming face imbued. His striking white hair with the sharp chin accompanying his dishy facial features, but the aspect that caught her attention the most was that stray swirl of hair above his head. It was just like the one Curtis had, and up until that point, she had never seen anyone else having that same characteristic.
"Will? I see. Then WILL you mind introducing yourself?" Louise laughed, recognizing the man instantly. So he was the mage who created that mini glacier!
That wasn't it..
Ellis looked at Will befuddled. Presence isolation?!
Ellis had heard from Curtis before that such a spell existed, something like a concealment spell application. The requirement was an incredibly high wind magic aptitude; circumventing the air in a way so people wouldn't feel anything.
Will who all this time held a cold expression, smiled.
"Will Everett, nice to meet you," he shook hands with Ellis.
"Ellis, the pleasure is mine. Uh, do I just call you by your name?"
"Any ideas for dinner?" Louise looked at Will with a smile that resembled the gentle warmth of the sun.
And the two looked at each other, eye to eye.
Ellis looked at the two, almost about to drool.
Will suddenly let out a crooked smile, "Why would I?"
"Haven't you explored enough?"
"I just followed you around, that's all," his voice was bright. The coldness of the air around him before disappeared.
"Ellis, any ideas?"
"Uh, what?!" Ellis came back to reality, "Erm.. since Curtis and I are having.. a sort of budgeting thing plus his sister that's off tomorrow.."
"I... don't get what you're saying."
"Ahh... forget it. How about the place we first met? At Croquel's cafeteria."
"Seems good. Will, do you have any objections?"
"Yes, I do. I'll be staying behind."
Louise leaked out a voice of surprise. Will wouldn't usually reject an invitation like this.
"I understand. Then how should we deal with your dinner then?"
"No worries Princess, I can deal with it on.." Will didn't continue further—couldn't continue further, the words seemed to be stuck in his throat when he saw Louise pressing at him furiously with her eyes.
"Lou-ise, how many times do I have to repeat."
"I.. understand. Sorry, Louise."
Warning. Pink space, pick space. Warning.
Ellis was about to puke sugar; alarm bells going off inside her head.
"Then I'll be going, be careful Louise. Signal if you find yourself in any threat," and disappeared.
This presence isolation spell—just how versatile was it? One moment he was there and the next, he was gone.
"You'll definitely act proactively even before my signal arrives," Louise muttered something. Turning to Ellis, "Shall we?"
"Yes, let's join up with Curtis first," Ellis walked ahead, increasing their pace.
"I trust that you will not say anything about Will, until the time comes, keep it a secret."
When Ellis looked behind to face Louise, she saw a hint of sorrow in Louise' eyes as she stared into blank space.
"Don't be too worried about me, putting the issue aside, for now, let's go," when Louise noticed, she quickly averted with a remark, preventing Ellis from asking any further.
The cafeteria was normal as usual. As the time for dinner came closer, more and more people began to fill up the place. The clamour in the cafeteria increased in proportion.
Curtis, Ellis and Louise sat close to the corner of the cafeteria, not wanting to squeeze in the middle with the other adventurers.
Louise was still fairly unknown. Almost no one recognized her; it was apparent that commoners held no interest in royal affairs.
Curtis sat opposite to Ellis and Louise who sat together. The seat beside Curtis was vacant, prepared for Ruth. Since tomorrow was Ruth's off day, it was decided that they would join up together to enjoy a meal. It had always been like this whenever Ellis and Curtis were not out on a voyage, become their own mini tradition of sorts.
Ruth was busy finishing matters on her end and nobody knew when she would arrive. Based on previous experiences, Ellis knew it would be too long, so they decided to order first.
Curtis ordered Fillet Noodles. Thick noodles, fish broth cooked overnight in seaweed stock together with a few pieces of fish fillets on top. And, dried seaweed acting as the garnish.
Ellis ordered salmon—again. This time, it was with a side of rice and the salmon was drizzled over with the sour gravy that she liked, a lot.
Louise had a pretty hard time deciding. At the castle or in her own kingdom, what she would eat mainly consisted of bread or the likes, paired with other dishes like salad or soup. Rice and noodles weren't frequently served. Though, if she were to say honestly, noodles were served more commonly than rice where she lived.
Yet, Louise chose to eat the same dish as Curtis. Though she rarely ate rice and was keen to try something different, she thought that noodles in broth looked more bizarre. It was a little too simple, and it was that simplicity that caught her attention. How would it taste for someone having it for the first time?
As for the drinks, Ellis didn't order anything alcoholic. Which was fortunate since the princess was around....
Ruth appeared in sight after a few minutes. She wore casual clothing, a normal t-shirt with short pants. Her formal attendant clothes suited her better though. Nevertheless, when she saw Curtis, she waved at him but she stopped when she noticed something amiss.
She walked closer, rather— it resembled jumping more than it did walking. It was confirmed that there was another person sitting beside Ellis.
"Who may you be?", Ruth asked in a jovial manner. Looking at the person in front of her she felt a flat rock hit her head. "P..Pri..Princess?!" Ruth whispered, but it was clear she exclaimed that.
"Sh.. Take a seat if do, please," Louise held her finger to her lips, gesturing Ruth to maintain her low profile. A big smile hung on her face.
Ruth bowed before taking a seat beside Curtis.
"What manners. Call me Louise, there's no need to address me formally. Now, how about you introduce yourself?"
"Pri... I'm still not used to calling you directly with your name... "Ruth still had that surge of adrenaline in her system from the shock. The princess? How and why in the world was she eating here!? There were so many questions. "Lou..ise? My name is Ruth, and I'm Curtis' sister. Nice to meet you."
Louise nodded and smiled. "It's a pleasure to meet you too."
A smile that would absolutely brighten anyone's day, Ruth held her breath. This was the smile of an actual princess. It held a beauty hard to describe in words.
"Big brother, why is the princess here?" Ruth stretched her neck to whisper into Curtis' ears.
"You ask her, or Ellis. Either way, they know the answer better than I do," Curtis looked at Ruth in a manner that said: it's a long story.
"Princess... ah. Sorry! Louise, why are you here?"
"That? I came to enjoy the culture."
At that moment, the dishes finally arrived.
"Thank you for waiting," the female waiter didn't even notice that a big shot was sitting on the table. She arranged the dish on the table and noticed Ruth, "Well, if it isn't Ruth. So what do you want for today?"
"Omelet rice and iced tea."
"That again huh?" The waiter kept her smile. It seemed that the two were acquaintances of sorts. "I'll get that for you."
She then looked at everyone at the table, confirming the orders before leaving.
Ruth turned to Louise, "Is it just me or do people not know you?"
"That is true. After all, my appearance isn't widely known."
Ruth who would usually continue the conversation seemed to be stuck on words this time.
The dishes arrived but nobody had started eating. Louise also understood this was a part of their own etiquette, much like in the castle where one would eat only when the king had taken his first bite. They continued chatting about trivial things while waiting for Ruth's food to arrive.
"I was wondering if Louise would like to eat an angler fish, so that's why I took her there," Ellis was talking to Curtis.
"I don't think that's the real reason.."
"Humph, You could guess that much."
"Your black hair is very beautiful you know? It very shiny, probably even better than mine."
"Really? No, that can't be, right? Your hair is practically a gem, so lustrous and.."
They were taking their conversations in separate ways. Louise didn't seem to notice that Ellis and Curtis were talking about her.
Louise made a soft chuckle. "You should take pride in yourself once in a while. This is a genuine compliment from me you know?"
Ruth—didn't know how to reply, "Thank.. you?"
"What did she think?"
"She said it tasted decent enough?"
"Decent.." truth was, Curtis, didn't really like angler fish sashimi. Perhaps it was like alcohol.
Ruth's dish came and they finally settle in to eat.
"Fuah..." Ellis felt satisfied.
"The texture of the noodles are nice, chewy. Though it would have tasted better if the soup wasn't diluted."
"Is Ellis not drinking today?" Ruth turned to Ellis.
Then everyone turned to Ellis.
"Is that so? Can I assume you like wine too? I'll let you have some tomorrow," Louise found a drinking partner.
"Don't tell me you're going to come again..." Curtis wanted to believe that it wasn't true. Why was it that they were the ones suddenly involved with people that have royal standings?
"Speaking of which, I intend to bring only Ellis to the castle grounds. Do you mind? I'm afraid I can't bring too many people."
"If you can do that... Ellis, are you fine with it? This is a good chance after all."
"Erm, I want to go, it's just that will you be fine? After all, it's only me who gets the opportunity to enter."
"Maybe I can bring Curtis in some other day?"
"Well, you don't have to go that far."
"It's decided then. Ellis, you'll be in my care tomorrow."
"Thank you very much?"
"Then Ruth, I'll take you to the library tomorrow."
"Sure, I have something to show you anyways."
Actually, Curtis had something he needed to show Ruth too. With Ellis away, it would become less troublesome in some ways. The two events coincided perfectly.
"Ah, you two form a single party, right? As adventurers," Louise switched the topic. Shifting her gaze between Ellis and Curtis.
"Only the two of you?"
They both nodded this time.
"That's really unusual."
"Certainly is. The unusual one is this one here, my brother."
"A normal party should consist of 5 to 6 people."
"I could perhaps be a misplaced mage?"
Louise looked at Curtis with a raised brow, "You are indeed unusual," Louise stared at the table for a bit then rotated her head to look behind. There, she made a nod?
Louise took a breath, looked at Curtis in the eye. In a serious tone, she asked, "Do you know Will?"