The haziness in Rashid’s brown eyes brightened at Holly’s call.
“It’s impolite to think differently when facing someone… I seem to keep committing this rudeness.”
He excused himself with an apologetic smile.
“Maybe it’s because Holly makes me feel at ease.”
For her, he didn’t seem entirely unfamiliar from their first meeting. Holly speculated that they might be from the same country.
So, she decided to show a bit more kindness.
“If you plan to stay in Centuria for a while, it might be better to stay on the other side of the bridge. I recommend ‘Halidem’ if there’s room in your budget.”
She didn’t forget to humorously recommend her old workplace.
“You seem to know the geography around here well, Holly?”
Rashid asked with a bright face.
“Yes, I lived here until recently.”
Holly casually agreed. Since she had already provided various introductions, pretending not to know much about Centuria would be pointless.
“Now, I’m traveling the continent with my friends.”
Cahill and his subordinates had transformed into her friends.
“I see. Do you have any plans to visit the desert?”
She nodded with a welcoming expression in response to Rashid’s question.
“Yes, I plan to explore everything since I started traveling.”
Rashid’s eyes sparkled.
‘…Could he be thinking of suggesting that we go together?’
While he seemed like a decent person, she wasn’t comfortable pretending to be a man throughout the journey. However, Rashid, seemingly oblivious to Holly’s reluctance, continued to speak with a cheerful tone.
“I’m originally from the ‘Haman’ in the desert. If you mention my name at the largest inn in the capital, you’ll receive generous treatment.”
Unexpectedly, Holly’s eyes widened at the words completely different from what she anticipated.
“The inn is called ‘Salwa.’ As the name suggests, we’ll do our best to make your stay comfortable, so please do visit. I want to repay you for your help.”
[ T/N: Trivia: Salwa in Arabic means solace or comfort! ]
Whether she would actually visit the inn Rashid mentioned was uncertain, though she nodded to put his mind at ease.
“I hope you find your younger sibling.”
As her sincere words drew a curve on Rashid’s lips, Holly’s eyes naturally traced the subtle contours of his cheekbones. Somehow, she felt an inexplicable attraction.
When he mentioned his sibling, he seemed to become anxious again, and his eyes flashed open.
“Well then, I’ll be on my way. Thank you very much.”
With those words, Rashid briskly walked towards the bridge. It seemed like he was heading straight to the ‘Deer Antler Guild’ that Holly had mentioned.
‘If only there were more time to ask about the desert….’
Holly shook hands as if releasing her disappointment.
At that moment, a loud voice came from behind her. It seemed that Rashid noticed it even from a distance and turned to look at her.
“Who is this?”
Cahill glared at Rashid with a wary face. Instead of causing trouble by saying unnecessary things and disturbing his feelings, Holly just nodded her head.
“He asked for directions, and I told him.”
Cahill, responding to her words, shifted his gaze away from Rashid before he hugged her and placed her back on the fountain.
“What were you doing alone?”
As he knelt in front of her, paying no mind to the surrounding gazes, she watched what he was doing, trying not to be conscious of the looks around her. While Cahill began to unpack a bag he had brought in front of her, inside, there were several pairs of shoes with different sizes, colors, and shapes.
“Surely, you don’t mean all of these are mine?”
He gazed at her intently at her question. It was a gaze that said, ‘If they’re not yours, whose could they be?’
“You don’t need to buy so many.”
“I didn’t know shoe sizes varied so much.”
In the face of her nag, Cahill mumbled proudly. He had never cared because he had only worn shoes given by those below him until now.
“Well, you could have just gone with me from the beginning.”
As she sighed, his expression became even more melancholy.
“I had a rough idea of your shoe size, but they say shoes should fit perfectly…”
Cahill’s mind was undoubtedly filled with the thought of wanting to gift new shoes to her.
“Try them on, and if they don’t fit, we can return them.”
As she spoke with a softer tone, he looked rather displeased.
“Well, I can’t wear them anyway if they don’t fit.”
“Your feet might grow, and they could fit later.”
Cahill still retorted without giving in.
“I’m already an adult. It’s uncertain whether my feet will grow any further, and it’s highly likely they won’t grow anymore.”
Holly placed her hands on her hips and stated confidently. Cahill, however, stared at her chest, which wasn’t clearly visible and spoke.
“But your chest did grow, though?”
Startled by his explicit remark, she quickly covered his mouth.
“That, that’s because you keep touching it…”
Blushing, Holly glanced around. Perhaps due to the approaching sunset, people were busy heading home, and no one paid attention to them.
“Well then, I’ll keep touching your feet.”
When she sighed in relief, he smiled gleefully as if he had found a good solution. Unable to find a counterargument, she bent down, exploring the scattered shoes.
“Anyway, one pair of shoes is enough.”
As she picked up a pair of shoes that fit her size, Cahill’s lips protruded displeasingly.
“N, no. Like last time, it would be inconvenient if they tore during the journey, so let’s take one more pair.”
As Holly picked up another pair, his expression eased a bit. Holly checked his expression and smiled subtly.
“Still, since you chose it, I’ll just take one more pair.”
As the collection of shoes in her arms increased, Cahill’s face sparkled with expectation.
“Why not just take all of them?”
“Then, at least those that fit your size.”
He glanced at the shoes she was holding, and he carefully placed similar-sized ones on the floor. The tactic of preventing her from returning them to the store by getting them dirty with mud was cunning.
Holly gave him a narrow-eyed look.
“If you put them all in your pockets.”
She uttered with a helpless face, and a bright smile spread across his face. Worried that she might change her mind, he hastily put all the shoes into the pockets of the coat he always carried, not forgetting to wrap them in the handkerchief he brought to prevent any scratches.
“One pair should be left for wearing, right?”
When he stuffed all the shoes of the same size into his pockets, Holly spoke in amazement. Cahill, belatedly realizing something, sighed and took out one pair from his pocket.
* * *
After finishing the scuffle at the fountain, the two of them quickly did some grocery shopping and headed to the inn.
“The harbor is quite far, so it will take some time for the two of them to come back.”
Crossing the bridge wasn’t convenient either, with thugs blocking the way, demanding tolls. This was one reason why Holly decisively chose to go to the market.
“Let’s get a room and wait at the restaurant.”
Hearing her suggestion, Cahill nodded and agreed without hesitation. As the couple opened the door and entered, all eyes in the inn were on them. Holly, piercing through the warm gazes, stood in front of the inn’s counter.
“Please give us two double rooms.”
Instead of Cahill and his party from ‘across the bridge,’ she decided to pay using the change she had, except for gold coins and jewels.
Holly, being the most familiar with dealing with people, took charge. The innkeeper, standing at the counter, looked them up and down as if assessing them. When the emotions seemed to have settled, the innkeeper’s eyes sparkled cunningly.
“We only have single rooms…”
Cahill, who had been excitedly thinking about using a room alone with Holly, felt his smile fade.