Perhaps as the wheel was caught in a stone, the carriage violently shook once. Renato, leaning on his seat with soft cushions, lifted his heavy eyelids when he felt the carriage shake.
“……While the barracks are being prepared……”
“All right, then…… Ah, Your Imperial Highness. Are you awake?”
In the midst of talking to someone through the window, Louis heard noises from Renato’s seat and turned his head. Renato raised his aching body and asked in a low, hoarse voice.
“What’s going on?”
“We are going to stop moving and camp here for today.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, Sir Nasir just came and went. It is cloudy today, so he tells us to stay in the carriage until the barracks are ready.”
Renato looked out the window while listening to Louis’ explanation. His gaze reached the dark sky that seemed to snow soon and then went down to the snowy mountain below it.
“It’s really winter here……”
Renato admired the snow-covered mountain and muttered in amazement. Just a few days ago, he was passing through fields with spring flowers in full bloom. But now, he was on a snowy mountain road. He had only crossed the border, but the seasons had completely changed.
‘Please make sure to prepare winter clothes.’
Before leaving the Empire, Khalid asked Renato to pack some winter clothes. When Renato first heard that, he thought it was a joke. But Khalid was very serious.
‘Spring in the Khan Kingdom is very late. By the time we arrive in the kingdom, the last cold snap will be in full swing. Compared to the Empire’s weather, it’s no different than midwinter, so you will need thick clothes.’
‘Is it really to that extent?’
‘It will be more than anything you can imagine. Please listen to me if you don’t want to get sick again.’
After hearing about Khalid’s threat from Renato, Louis carefully packed the winter clothes he had put in the dressing room with a solemn face. For the past two weeks, after crossing the border, the winter clothes that occupied a corner of the carriage had been in use.
‘Put on your robes, everyone. Keep your faces and hands and feets warm too.’
Shortly after crossing the Empire’s border, the scenery outside the carriage completely changed. The moderately warm air also immediately turned cold. Then, the kingdom’s people, including Khalid, took out their winter robes and put on their scarves as if familiar with it. In addition, they also wore thick leather gloves and changed into winter boots.
Following them, the Empire’s people also hurriedly put on the robes they had prepared in advance or put on new layers of clothes. However, they were less prepared than the Black Wolf Knights Order.
‘Please lower the curtains and spread blankets on the carriage floor to prevent outside winds.’
Khalid brought the blankets used by the Knights Order and laid them on the carriage floor by himself, then gave Renato his spare winter robe. Then, he distributed the remaining items for cold protection to the Empire’s people. Just like that, the party set out again after making all the preparations.
The white breath flowing from his small lips scattered into the air. Renato looked around, watching the knights skillfully preparing to camp. Perhaps because of the forest or the bad weather, it felt like late evening even though it was still afternoon.
“I heard that weather varies greatly from region to region, but……”
Feeling the chilly air, Renato shrank his shoulders and muttered. A biting wind struck him in the face, making his body shiver. Unlike the Empire where spring had begun in earnest, just like what Khalid said, the Khan Kingdom was still in winter. For Renato, who had never left the capital since he was born, this trip to the kingdom was a series of small surprises.
Among the busy people, a burst of clear laughter echoed. Turning his head toward the sound, Renato saw Trudy running on the pure white snow, and softly smiled. Louis, who was unloading his luggage from the carriage, also burst into laughter.
“His Imperial Highness the 2nd Prince seems very excited.”
“The Empire’s winters are quite warm, so it is rare for snow to pile up like this. It must be a new experience for him.”
As Renato looked at the excited Trudy, the corners of his lips curled up pleasantly. It had been a long time since he last saw the child so happy.
“I guess it’s a good thing we brought him here, even if it might be tiring……”
Renato murmured with relief. After Khalid and Renato’s engagement was decided, a delegation going to the Khan Kingdom was formed. Tristan included Trudy in the delegation for the reason that the child would attend the engagement ceremony on behalf of the imperial family.
Marquis Medus and Blanche wondered if it was to interfere with Renato’s engagement or to create a connection with Khalid, but in reality, it was to protect the child from them.
Tristan judged that it was safer for Trudy to be with Khalid and Renato in a foreign country than to be left alone in the Imperial Palace. Renato agreed with his thought.
‘Why don’t we control public opinion to divert Marquis Medus’ attention to another place?’
To have Trudy join the delegation, Renato had Arche publish a series of newspaper articles criticizing Maximo’s behavior and asked Tristan to move the imperial faction’s nobles.
Fortunately, Renato’s move worked well. Marquis Medus and Blanche couldn’t prevent Trudy from attending Renato’s engagement ceremony, because they were busy defending Maximo against the imperial nobles’ attacks and controlling the social circle’s sentiment.
It would take about three weeks from the Fleurette Empire to the Khan Kingdom’s capital, so it would be mid-May at the earliest for Renato to return after his engagement ceremony. With that, Trudy would be freed from Marquis Medus’ threats for a while.
“Hyung-nim! Please look here! There is a lot of snow piling up! I think I can make many snowmen!”
Trudy, who was laughing and stepping on the snow up to his ankles with his chief attendant Max, waved his arms from side to side like a puppy waving his tail when he found Renato. Renato also waved his hand toward the child. At that moment, a shadow was cast over his head.
“Why are you out here?”
“Ah, your highness.”
A soft smile appeared on Renato’s face after he confirmed that the person speaking to him was Khalid. Khalid briefly glanced at Renato’s long, slender neck exposed outside the thick robe, then opened his mouth.
“My aide must have told you to stay in the carriage.”
“It’s a bit stuffy to just stay inside.”
Renato awkwardly answered Khalid. It was much better than riding on horseback, but being in the carriage for several hours was also quite arduous.
It was easy to move in the Empire since most of the land was flat, and large-scale road maintenance was carried out during the late Emperor’s reign. However, things changed when they crossed the border and entered the Khan Kingdom. Unlike the Empire, the Khan Kingdom where more than half of the country was mountainous didn’t have good road conditions.
“Are you feeling very uncomfortable? Do you have sore muscles or pains anywhere? Would you like to slow down the travel speed a bit?”
“Ah, no. You don’t have to. I just feel a bit stuffy after staying in the carriage all day……”
Renato quickly waved his hand when Khalid said he would slow down the travel speed. Just a couple of days ago, he happened to know that Khalid and the Black Wolf Knights Order were moving more slowly than usual because the Empire’s people were not familiar with mountain roads.
He heard the knights on their night watch chatting that it was frustrating because if they moved by themselves, they would take from half a month to three weeks at the latest, while at this rate, they might be arriving after an entire month.
“We were originally scheduled to enter the Emmett territory today, but we have to camp because of the bad weather. My apologies.”
Khalid said sorry with an apologetic face. For the kingdom’s knights who wandered around the battlefield just like having meals, camping was no different than daily life, but it was not the case for the Empire’s people including Renato.
So, for the past two weeks, they had been to territories and villages and made arrangements to sleep in buildings, but since they had left the border, it was likely that they would have to camp once or twice more in the future.
“It seems like we will be late by a day compared to the schedule, but…… We should be able to arrive at the capital next week.”
It had been about half a month since they left the Empire for the engagement ceremony, and if nothing happened in the middle, they would arrive at Azad, the kingdom’s capital, in the next five days.
“I am looking forward to it.”
“Please don’t expect too much. Compared to the Empire’s capital, it is a small and simple place……”
Khalid looked up and down at Renato wearing a winter robe, then trailed off his sentence and untied his fur scarf. After that, he put it around Renato’s neck. Renato’s eyes opened wide when feeling the warm scarf on his neck.
“Your throat seems cold.”
“T, thank you. But you must be cold too……”
“It’s not that cold for me. And I don’t have to ride a horse anymore for today. So please keep it on until the barracks are ready. It will be big trouble if you catch a cold.”
Not stopping at wrapping the scarf for him, Khalid only withdrew his hands after putting the winter robe’s hood on Renato’s head. Renato vaguely smiled at the man’s meaningful words.
Khalid took great care of Renato’s health ever since the man found out he was sick. Some would call it excessive interference and nosiness, but Renato didn’t mind the man taking care of him. On the contrary, his chest felt ticklish each time. He could feel that Khalid was genuinely concerned and worried about him.
Feeling his chest become warm, Renato arbitrarily fiddled with the soft scarf. His body was warming up because of another reason.
At that moment, together with a loud voice, adorable hands wrapped around Renato’s waist to hug him. Seeing Khalid and Renato talking to each other, Trudy quickly ran over.
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