Chapter 34 Long Ride and Mountain Chestnuts
The next day, I had the day off from work, so I took Nonna to visit Miles’ house. Miles was in the garden.
“Oh. Is that child yours?”
“Yes, well, kind of.”
Nonna wasn’t listening to our conversation. She was staring at my horse Aleg. Her sigh of excitement ‘Hawawawa’ was leaking out. Her movements were a little stiff, perhaps because she was excited.
Miles approached Nonna and talked to her.
“What do you think, is the horse big?”
“Aren’t you scared?”
“I’m not scared. I want to ride quickly!”
Miles gave Nonna a few pointers about riding a horse.
Don’t turn around, don’t yell and startle it, match the horse’s movements, and don’t be afraid.
Nonna and I immediately hopped onto Aleg. Both of us wore self-made trousers that were close to riding trousers. And I had shoes that resembled real horse riding boots on my feet.
I placed Nonna in front of me and made Aleg walk slowly. Aleg is a smart horse. He walked more carefully than when I was riding him alone. Proving Miles’ great eye for horses.
“If you don’t mind, I can accompany the two of you on horseback.”
“Are you sure? Let’s go together then. If you know a good place, please let me know.”
Thus, the three of us set out on horseback. Miles maneuvered his horse next to Aleg and traveled with us.
“Speaking of which, what is the name of Miles’ beloved horse?”
“Night. He was called Nightmare in the military.”
“Nightmare? Did he gain that name from the battlefield?”
“I had a jousting match with friends when this guy was younger. That’s when he got his name.”
To be called a nightmare. Miles and Night must have been really strong. I wanted to see what he looked like in action.
After that, we let the horses rest and entered the northern district of the royal capital. The North Ward is called an industrial district, and there are woodworking workshops, lumber mills, furniture manufacturing workshops, weaving factories, and so on. After passing through there, it continues to a gentle slope leading to a forest. It was my first time there.
We traveled there at a leisurely pace, but we still took a break.
“It’s about the season.”
While I was wondering what season he meant, Miles got off his horse at a spot where many large chestnut trees were lined up.
Nonna and I also dismounted and we allowed the horses to roam free.
Many split chestnuts filled the ground. They were quite large despite being mountain chestnuts.
“I’ll gather some chestnuts, so the two of you can do whatever you want.”
“I’ll pick some too!”
Miles and I stepped on the burrs with our boots to open them wide and picked the chestnuts inside.
“Here” Miles threw a cloth bag over. He even prepared a bag for me.
From there, we were engrossed in picking chestnuts for nearly an hour. Nonna approached Aleg and Night and stretched her neck to sniff them.
“Don’t touch the horses without permission okay.”
Before long, the bags were full of chestnuts so we rode the horses again. I let him trot at a leisurely pace, but young Aleg snorted several times and looked back at me.
“I think he wants to run. Would you like to try? I can take care of Nonna.”
“Nonna, can you ride with Miles?”
“It’s Nonna’s first time riding a horse today, so you can’t ride Aleg when he runs at full speed. I’ll let you ride after you get used to riding.”
As Nonna nodded reluctantly, Miles stretched out his arms and nimbly picked her up, positioning her to sit in front of him, and held her tightly with his left arm.
I signal Aleg’s belly. Aleg immediately started galloping as though he had been waiting for the signal for a long time. I adjust to Aleg’s movement as he cut through the air. They call it human and horse as one, but I felt it was closer to sensing each other’s thoughts. It’s been a long time.
Before long, Aleg gave off an atmosphere that said, ‘I’m done’. I gradually slowed down and stopped Aleg next to Miles and Nonna who were watching.
“Vicky is cool!”
“You’re good. I see you in a new light now.”
“Thank you very much. Well, it’s about time we return home.”
From the mountain side of the north ward, we went around the west ward, avoided the crowded south ward, passed in front of the royal castle and returned to the east ward. I gave Aleg some water, brushed him down, thanked him, and parted ways with Miles. We went around the lot and arrived at Mrs. Yorana’s house.
“Vicky, won’t we be at the main house once we jump over Mr. Miles’s fence? I can see the roof from here.”
“Yes, but people don’t usually do that. Let’s walk using our legs.”
“Then, is it okay to jump over when it’s an emergency?”
“Only when your life is really in danger. In short, don’t jump over the fence on a normal day. Let’s walk.”
As soon as we got home, I used a small knife to peel the skin off the chestnuts. Nonna wanted to do it, but I forbade her by saying, “It’s still too early for Nonna to peel chestnuts”, and I handed over the chestnuts that I’d peeled 80% of the skins. I asked Nonna to be in charge of removing the fruit from the skin. There were plenty of chestnuts and my shoulders were stiff when I finished.
After doing the household chores that had piled up typical of a day off, I made stewed pork belly and chestnuts, put a little in a bowl, and went to Miles’ house to deliver it. Nonna said she would stay at home.
“Good evening. I cooked with the chestnuts today so I brought some for you.”
“Ohh. I only know to boil chestnuts.”
“I simmered it with pork belly. It may have a strong flavor, but it goes well with alcohol.”
Miles slowly walked toward the entrance, put his hand in his pocket, and suddenly threw something at me.
I instantly twisted my upper body to avoid that something and prepared for the next attack.
“Ah, I’m sorry for trying something like that. I threw a wooden toy. Don’t worry. You said you were just a commoner, and you may fool other people, but you can’t fool me.”
“I mentioned that I learned about horses from my military brother, didn’t I?”
I gently placed the chestnut and pork belly bowl on the small table meant for keys.
“You almost ruined the meal I brought for you. Sheesh.”
“That’s amazing. Even the food is safe? Although I did assume you could do that.”
I checked what was thrown by shifting my line of sight for just about one-third of a second. It was a very small bird carved out of wood with a knife.
“I didn’t expect Miles to be a person to pull such a nasty prank.”
“You were trying to hide the fact that you are an expert in that sort of field, but you failed to hide some aspects. Today, you entrusted that child to me so I understood you weren’t here for me. However, it was careless of you to entrust your child to me.”
Miles offered me a chair and turned his back to make tea. He’s confident enough to show me his back?
“What made me notice about you wasn’t how you handled the horse. Your skill with a horse was decent. But you always kept me in the corner of your field of vision. Even if I try to get into your blind spot, you move nonchalantly to keep me in your sight. It’s probably a habit.”
“So? Are you going to do something to me now?”
“No. Today, I understood that you’re lovingly raising a child who doesn’t look like you at all. That child is a complete stranger, right?”
“Yes. I met her after she was abandoned.”
“Taking care of a child. That’s a very careless act.”
“I have no regrets. Thanks to her, I can live an ordinary life.”
Miles served me some tea.
“I’m sorry for just now. You were just such an interesting person.”
“I’ll say it again, I’m a commoner raising a child.”
“I understand. I’ll keep it that way. Then I’ll just say one thing. If you ever need help, rely on me. I can at least impede your enemy.”
“It’s clear that you are blending in with ordinary people to work and raise a child. I don’t intend to ask for your reason, but I wish to help as an old man with plenty of spare time. Children are the treasures of a country after all.”
I smiled and showed an ‘innocent smile’ that looked like something you’d find in the organization’s textbook.
“Commoners have no enemies. I just need your help to take care of my horse, that’s it.”
Miles dipped his finger into the dish I brought and put it in his mouth.
“Oh, it’s delicious.”
“Thank you very much. Thank you for the tea.”
I turned around as I was about to close the door.
“And thank you for your advice.”
“You’re welcome. Next time, be careful when approaching people who are likely to be skilled.”