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    *** 

    On the third day after escaping from the mansion, Liev and Renard sneaked into a large city. The city, located along a large river, was a common stop for travelers and its defenses were relatively loose. Liev took advantage of the arrival of a large number of travelers through the city gates among the crowd without arousing suspicion. With the presence of a small adult-looking man and a boy who clearly appeared younger, they managed to enter safely without drawing much attention.

    “Today, we can rest a bit more comfortably.” 

    Using the saved travel expenses, Liev rented a room at an inn. He intentionally wore his robe and pretended to be a mute person. Fortunately, the innkeeper read the note and provided them with a room key for a slightly higher fee than the others. Despite the temptation of the soft beds, both Renard and Liev knew there was still work to be done. 

    “First, he needs to buy some herbs.” 

    Since they couldn’t leave Renard at the beginning of the Impassable forest, Liev had to accompany him to at least the point where the forest began. Considering the time it would take to reach there and return, he estimated the number of herbs needed. Liev advised Renard to stay put and wait before leaving the room. 

    “Now, let’s see where the herbalist’s shop is.” 

    Still wearing the robe, Liev navigated through the crowd, and the gossip around him irritated his ears. Tales of someone getting married, or a romantic relationship falling apart, and even stories about crop failures in a certain area causing prices to skyrocket. All the mundane gossip one might expect in a fantasy game with NPCs. 

    “It really feels like a fantasy novel world here.” 

    As Liev strolled down an alley, men who seemed like guards walked briskly toward him from the opposite side. 

    “Oh!” 

    Liev momentarily stopped in surprise but then casually resumed walking, feigning nonchalance. He couldn’t afford to appear tense or as if he had done something wrong. Just pass by naturally, as if nothing happened. As he walked past the men, he returned to his original pace. However, as he passed them, a low voice came from behind. 

    “Ha, seriously. It feels like we’re errand boys who have to do everything. Shouldn’t they give us some extra bonus or something? It’s just annoying.” 

    “Working hours are getting longer for no reason. What’s going on, seriously?” 

    After that, the sound of yawning was heard, and it seemed like someone was grumbling about being assigned to find something based on someone else’s orders. The eerie chill of being at the mercy of someone’s command sent shivers down Liev’s spine. Surely, they weren’t looking for him or Renard, right? 

    It’s not like there’s only one Count in the entire country. He was not the only high-ranking nobleman, so let’s not worry about unnecessary things. Trying to stay positive, Liev resumed walking. However, at that moment, the sound of footsteps approached him. Trying not to show any signs of concern, Liev quickened his pace. 

    Just as he was about to leave the alley, someone’s hand grabbed his shoulder. 

    “Hey, you. Stop for a moment, will you?” 

    Startled by the sudden touch on his shoulder, Liev thought in that split moment. Can I escape? Could I outrun them if he ran with his full might? No matter how much he thought, it seemed impossible. Being confined to the mansion all this time, he hadn’t done any proper exercise, and it had been ages since he had run to the point of gasping for breath. Escaping from the guards seemed out of the question. 

    “If I shout for Renard loudly here… He can probably run over here quickly. 

    But that would certainly attract more attention. Anyway, if he ran away, Renard would have to return to his dragon form, and the news of a dragon appearing in this city would surely turn the entire country upside down. 

    “That absolutely must not happen.” 

    Liev desperately hoped that Renard’s illusion magic had successfully taken effect as he calmly responded,  

    “Yes? What’s the matter?” 

    Nonchalantly tilting his head, Liev looked at the man when suddenly the man roughly removed Liev’s hood. 

    “Well, as expected, it’s not a girl. 

    At the same time, the man who touched Liev’s hood scoffed, while the other man apologized with an embarrassed expression. 

    “Oh, sorry, sorry. We’re currently searching for a wanted criminal. Based on your physique, you looked like a boy, but your shoes are from that region. We’ve been checking people from the south, and this was the first time seeing you. Sorry for startling you.” 

    Then I shrugged my shoulders and went on my way. However, a shiver ran down Liev’s spine as he realized that if Renard hadn’t cast the memory spell beforehand, he would have been in serious trouble. 

    Trying to calm his pounding heart, Liev continued walking. It’s okay. The magic worked well, and there’s not much distance left until the Impassable forest. They don’t even know where he is headed. They’re just being cautious with people from the southern region. Reassuring himself with these thoughts, Liev entered the pharmacy, where an elderly man welcomed him. 

    “Welcome. What are you looking for?” 

    Taking advantage of the fact that his face was already shown, Liev decided not to pretend to be mute and replied. 

    “I’d like to buy some Pladerium. I think a medium-sized root should be enough.” 

    To his surprise, the old man raised an eyebrow and asked suspiciously, 

    “What are you talking about?” 

    “Pladerium? What is it used for?” 

    Pladerium was basically a poisonous herb. Due to its distinctive bitter and tangy taste, it was quite impractical for use as an assassination tool. However, as it was not a commonly used herb, the fact that someone was looking for it seemed strange to the old man. With a sigh, Liev answered, 

    “My father said it’s for the horses. He asked me to buy it quickly, so I need to check quickly.” 

    While a large quantity of Pladerium could be toxic, in small amounts, when fed to animals like horses or cattle that needed strength, it acted as a natural nourishing tonic, providing extra vitality without causing fatigue. Since even a slight overdose could turn it into poison, it was crucial not to misuse it. Nevertheless, this brief explanation should be enough. 

    But if he still doubts even after this…

    “Should I go to a different pharmacy? The city is big, so there must be more than just this one pharmacy.” Nervously waiting for the old man’s response, thankfully, he handed over the herbs without further hesitation. As I left the pharmacy with the advice not to touch them with my bare hands, another long sigh escaped me. 

    That’s enough for now. I just need to blend in and slip away when the time is right. 

    Urging his steps towards the inn, he fervently hoped that nothing had happened to Renard while he was away. 

    Strangely enough, he had a bad feeling. A vague anxiety fluttered in his chest. I hope it’s just the pressure I feel due to my own unease.

    But unfortunately, Liev’s instincts have never been in favor of the good side.

    “Renard…!” 

    Without realizing it, he opened the door and entered the room quietly. As if waiting for Liev’s return, a knock followed, as if they had waited for Liev. He didn’t know if the guards were pretending to let him go or if the innkeeper was waiting for Liev. 

    Liev placed his finger on his lips, holding his breath, shushing whether Renard had welcomed him or not. Please let it be nothing. Silently waiting and hoping it was just a misunderstanding, another louder knock echoed, stronger than before. 

    It seems there’s no turning back now.

    Renard’s magic worked properly. As long as Renard wasn’t caught, he could handle it. Liev hid Renard under the bed and knocked on the door to keep the lie that he was mute.

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