Rockwall Lou – V3 Chapter 4

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟒

(4)

The young girl loved to gaze out of the window.

Her room was on the third floor of a tower protruding from the residence. However, the surrounding walls of the castle were much taller. All she could see from her window were the dilapidated courtyard and cracked stone pavement, as if time had forgotten them. Yet, she could sense the passage of seasons by the way the plants and leaves changed color.

Hence, whenever she was in her room, other than study, reading, or meal times, she would always gaze outside.

This act might have been a vague yearning for freedom or perhaps an unconscious resistance, given the various constraints she faced since childhood.

The girl had a secret delight.

A pair of birds she couldn’t name made their nest at the base of a tree branch in the courtyard. After a while, she heard the lovely chirping of chicks demanding food from their parent.

The eggs had hatched.

Observing the parent birds tirelessly feeding their chicks, and the yellow-beaked fledglings begging for food, filled her heart with joy.

There were three chicks in the nest: Gaubau, the most active and always hungry; Puichi, who turned away unless begging for food; and the smallest, Peppoko. At first, she couldn’t differentiate them, but with time, she discerned their unique traits and decided to name them.

The chicks grew rapidly. They would soon leave the nest. She might feel lonely then, but perhaps they would return as parent birds to this castle.

That was her greatest wish.

On a rainy day, change came to the deserted castle. It was to be cleaned over ten days by a single cleaner.

Visitors were rare in the castle. As far as she knew, only the occasional wagon driver who brought food and supplies. The housemaid, Rayza, usually met them, while she stayed inside. She had been told never to casually converse with common folk.

“The appearance might improve a bit. But in a while, it might return to its former state.”

According to Rayza, the cleaner would stay in a detached guest room. The girl was warned to keep her distance. This cleaner, it seemed, was one of those dangerous individuals known as wizards.

Three days later, the relentless rain finally ceased.

Opening her window after a long time, she witnessed an unbelievable sight.

The castle walls were shining.

In just three days, the grimy and eerie walls had transformed, as if painted with a bright white coat.

While she was astounded, she noticed a small figure moving around the grounds.

Could that be the cleaner? He was collecting fallen ivy and moss, and sometimes climbed the fountain or statues in the courtyard. He was remarkably agile. She would have been exhausted if it were her.

As she tracked the cleaner’s movement, he occasionally looked her way. During such moments, she quickly hid behind the curtains.

The girl wore a mask, a white one covering more than half of her face, from her forehead down to her nose and cheeks. She didn’t want to be seen like this. Yet, curiosity soon made her peek out again.

“We were able to hire a good cleaner.”

During dinner, Rayza reported.

Rayza is the only maid working in this castle. Her job is not just to take care of the girl. She’s also a tutor and prepares daily meals. She is a strict yet excellent woman. Ideally, she should be serving in the royal palace. The girl realized she was keeping Rayza bound to this abandoned castle.

There is no bright future here. The girl felt sorry for herself. Therefore, seeing Rayza in a rare good mood made the girl happy.

“I saw from the window. The castle walls have become very beautiful.”

“Yes, Your Highness. This is a blessing, especially considering our budget.”

About two hundred years ago, this castle was a beautiful chalk-white castle, Rayza said. We might be able to restore it to its former glory.

“Since we’re at it, should we also request a budget for shrubs and flower seedlings?”

The girl wondered about the cleaner who was working.

After finishing his work in the courtyard, the cleaner finally started on the building. On the grounds, there’s the residence where the girl and Rayza live, and a chapel that they can’t even enter.

The girl saw another unbelievable sight.

The cleaner was on the chapel wall. Without using ropes or ladders, he clung with just his hands and feet. He moved smoothly, like a spider, without making his weight felt.

Is this what professionals can do?

He didn’t seem to be wearing a safety line. What would happen if he slipped? The girl became so scared she couldn’t look directly.

To calm herself, she looked at a bird’s nest in the courtyard trees.

There was a significant difference in the size of the three chicks. The largest chick, Gaubau, opened its beak wide, asking for food, and kept growing robustly. The clever one, Puiti, was also growing. But Peppoko remained small. The girl hoped all three would fledge healthily.

Then, an incident occurred.

Gaubau was practicing flapping in the nest, and Peppoko, hit by its wings, was pushed out of the nest.

“Ah.”

The girl turned pale.

Peppoko’s round body did a roll and landed on a branch right below the nest. With unsteady steps, it desperately tried to return to the nest, but the height difference was too much.

Eventually, Peppoko slipped off the branch.

Fortunately, it got caught on another branch. Confused and unaware of what had happened, Peppoko cried out. But the parent birds were away from the nest. Even if they returned, they probably couldn’t get Peppoko back into the nest.

Peppoko will die.

The girl, sensing this future, trembled in despair.

Should she consult Rayza? No use; the branch was too high. Even with a ladder, it didn’t seem reachable.

“Cleaner, please help!”

Desperately clinging to her only hope, the girl shouted towards the chapel. Even though she had always hidden behind the curtain whenever their eyes met, now she was begging for help. She leaned out of the bay window, trying to make her distant voice heard.

Before she knew it, the cleaner, who was on the chapel roof, glanced her way.

“Please help. A chick has fallen from the bird’s nest in the courtyard. Please!”

 ㅤ

The wind was strong up above, and there was a significant distance. It seemed impossible to hear anything. The cleaner tilted his head, seemingly puzzled. From inside the room, the young girl called out again. The cleaner stopped and looked her way, appearing to nod in understanding. It was no illusion. He quickly descended from the chapel and hurriedly ran to the courtyard.

“It’s that tree over there.”

He confirmed the tree the girl was pointing to and smoothly climbed up. Gently grasping the chirping Peppoko from the branch, he climbed further up and returned it to its nest.

It all happened so quickly.

Unbelievable. Everything went so smoothly.

The girl was deeply relieved, but at the same time, she wondered.

Her voice shouldn’t have reached the chapel’s roof. Yet, how did he know?

Suddenly, she noticed the cleaner was right in front of her.

He was crouching by the window, and to her surprise, he was a boy about her age.

The girl was shaken. She didn’t want her masked face to be seen. She shouldn’t interact with commoners. But she had to thank him. Oh, what to do.

In her confusion, the girl instinctively closed the window to shield herself.

“Whoa!”

The boy, losing his balance, tilted backward. Flailing his arms, he fell backward.

“Ah!”

The girl turned pale.

She quickly reopened the window and leaned out.

The boy hadn’t fallen to the ground. He stood vertically just below the window, close enough for their breaths to almost touch. Their eyes met directly, and the girl froze.

“H, Hello.”

The boy greeted her.

“G, Good day.”

Reflexively, the girl responded.

Both of their faces were bright red, but neither seemed to realize it.

“Um.”

The first to regain composure was the boy.

“I’m Luo. I clean at Akkare Castle.”

I know. I’ve been watching from here.

“Could you be, the young princess?”

The girl snapped back to reality.

Not introducing oneself after being addressed was considered rude. However, Rayza had taught her not to casually reveal her name to commoners.

[Is it okay, young princess? If you must introduce yourself to a stranger, use a pseudonym. For instance—]

But the unexpected situation left her mind blank.

“Um, I am.”

The image of Rayza in her mind burst, and the image of the baby bird the boy saved earlier popped up.

“Pe—Peppoko.”

The moment she said it, she deeply regretted it.

As if her peculiar mask wasn’t suspicious enough, having the name Peppoko was quite peculiar. But she didn’t have the courage to correct herself.

The boy named Luo seemed to accept her pseudonym naturally.

He nodded once and smiled warmly.

“Nice to meet you, Peppoko.”

Though she didn’t understand the mechanics, the boy was standing vertically on the wall. If he were to fall from there, the consequences would be severe.

“Um, Mr. Cleaner. It’s dangerous for you to be there. Please, come inside quickly.”

 ㅤ

The girl didn’t realize it, but inviting commoners into her private room was something that shouldn’t be done.

The boy climbed up to the bay window, but he didn’t enter the room.

“Rayza-san told me. It’s forbidden to enter the tower.”

However, he said that there should be no problem if he’s outside the window.

“I’m working right now, so see you later.”

“Y, Yes.”

Without thinking, the girl answered like that.

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