Liese was taken aback by the unexpected gift and involuntarily nodded her head.
She never wandered around the busy streets late at night, and the reason was the fear that danger always lurked beneath the glamorous city center.
“Please understand the worried heart of a grandfather who is concerned about his granddaughter who goes out frequently. Knowing that you have a weapon in your hand will make me feel much more at ease.”
Liese easily understood her grandfather’s meaning and nodded her chin.
“I won’t have to use this. But don’t worry. I promise to always be careful.”
“Well, I’ll be grateful if you do.”
Liese looked down at the old gun that had been buried for many years and carefully put it in her pocket.
As Liese’s footsteps along the blue forest path drew nearer to the lake, they became lighter. The spring breeze blowing through her hair tickled her neck and improved her mood, which had been a bit depressed.
It had been less than a month since she had come to Bachmann, but the forest behind the orchard had become her favorite place.
No, it was a place that made her heart feel at ease rather than liking it actively. It was a luxury to express excitement about something.
Even so, she didn’t want to stain the alone time she managed to set aside for a walk with a sense of guilt, just like her grandfather said. She wanted to cherish the time she had alone, even if it was just a little more relaxed. Her footsteps grew lighter as she walked through the grassy field.
Finally, Liese’s gaze crossed the lake, glittering in the sunlight.
Having arrived at her own secret place, a beautiful lake hidden deep in the forest, she sat on the grass with a familiar gesture. She even leaned her back against the cool shade of a water oak tree.
“… It’s pretty.”
The sound of buzzing grasshoppers was peaceful. The waves that clearly reflected the greenery added to the serene atmosphere.
This lake, situated on a high hill, was supposed to be connected to the Mellir River, which flowed through Bachmann. The stream of water that flowed peacefully in a quiet place flowed into the most prosperous area.
It was a sentimental moment as she followed her thoughts uninterrupted by the public. She had been admiring the beautiful scenery of the forest for a long time, listening to the peaceful sound of the flowing water. A pleasant drowsiness crept over her, and Liese lowered her eyelids gently.
Then, just when she was sure that no one would disturb her, she suddenly heard a noise.
The sound of a twig breaking suddenly echoed in her ears.
Liese’s entire body tensed and she slowly became aware of the threat looming over her, like a herbivore sensing danger too late. The leisurely footsteps on the grass were weighty and composed. There was a sound of dry leaves and twigs snapping as they approached, becoming more regular and mechanical. The closer the footsteps got, the more her skin crawled with fear.
Then she saw it clearly. Half hidden by the dense trees, but getting closer and closer to the lake, was a large human figure.
In a flash of realization, Liese rolled her body behind the tree and landed in an awkward position, unable to move for a while.
The thick and beautiful tree completely covered her small body, but she could not relax. Clutching her knees to her chest, she stifled any movement, her heart beating wildly.
Who was it?
She had never met anyone in the forest before. The figure appeared on the grass, opposite the direction Liese had come from. What did this person want? Wasn’t everyone gathered in the square for the lively festival? Perhaps this person, like Liese, was looking for a quiet place.
But she could not be sure if this person had seen her. As she thought about it, she suddenly felt a fleeting doubt.
“Why did I hide…?”
She had done nothing wrong, yet she had hidden in fear at the slightest sound. She felt stupid, like a weak and helpless animal that had hidden its body.
Liese clenched her sweaty hands tightly. Her chest heaved as she tried to control her breathing.
Before any unnecessary misunderstandings could arise, she rose from her seat, casually brushed off her clothes and confidently walked away in the direction she had come from, whether she was noticed or not.
With a clear conclusion in mind, Liese peeked out from behind a tree for a moment. She wanted to confirm the intruder’s movements before pretending to get up calmly.
While she thought she was alone, a man in formal attire stood by the lake Liese had been looking at. Her gaze, fixed on him, widened in a slight shock.
The first thing that caught her eye was a particularly bright blonde, fully bathed in the spring sun. The man’s hair softly waved, having been tousled all day by the mountain wind aboard Liese’s sailing ship.
Liese’s mouth fell open and she gasped for breath. It was the first time in her life that she’d been so transfixed by someone’s appearance that she’d lost her concentration.
The man who had stepped onto the lakeshore seemed to leave an impression in Liese’s mind like a lingering scar.
His well-proportioned features and sharp jawline were so strikingly attractive that even the most obvious thoughts were wiped away, leaving her unable to take her eyes off him for a second.
Could it be that Liese had unwittingly intruded on someone else’s privacy?
The blond man gleamed like a painting in the shimmering lake scenery, with nothing but his neat navy blue uniform to detract from the impression he made.
“Uh…” Liese belatedly realized the truth and gave a weak sigh. The golden epaulets on his shoulders, several tightly closed pockets on his chest. It was undoubtedly a military uniform.
The man dropped the navy cap he was holding to the ground. Then he brushed back the blond hair that had fallen over his tidy eyebrows and unbuttoned his jacket with a few quick movements. There was no hesitation in his actions.
As Liese watched his movements through her drowsiness, her eyes widened in confusion.
‘Could it be…?’
Like someone who hates chaos and seeks quiet places, perhaps the man had come to the forest to be alone and was now taking off his jacket at the water’s edge.
If you couldn’t guess what this sight pointed to, it would be a lie. Liese had felt the urge to jump into the cool lake every time she had seen it.
But even in the sparsely populated forest, would it be sensible to undress in the open air?
Maybe he’s just too hot and wants to take his clothes off.
It wasn’t a cool day. Liese, wearing only a thin layer of clothing, felt the sun burning hot, while the man in the solid uniform seemed to have no discomfort. It was probably the man’s lazy gaze that made Liese’s spine tingle.
Then, the man unbuttoned the last button at his waist. Liese’s hand twitched as the jacket that was wrapped around his large frame loosened. The weighty jacket that lay on the grass was more substantial than the army coat that had been discarded earlier.
The white shirt was pulled tightly over the man’s narrow chest. As Liese’s concern grew, he began to unbutton his shirt.
While Liese was stunned, the blond man undressed without fuss.
Smooth flesh showed through the open shirt. Liese turned her head quickly, closing her eyes, her heart pounding furiously.
It was unexpected. He was undoubtedly going for a swim in the lake.
‘I have to get out of here now.’
The worst thing would be to be caught hiding. The man would be embarrassed, and it would be a frightening situation for Liese. The stranger who appeared in front of Liese and took off his clothes with vitality was threatening no matter how he looked.
Liese turned her head again and watched the man, hoping to find a way to escape. If she kept her eyes on him, she might have a chance to escape unnoticed.
It did not seem like a good idea though, considering she was not the only one watching him.
The man had tossed his shirt revealing a well-developed upper body. The well defined abdominal muscles of a strong man were divided into several parts and swollen tightly. Liese swallowed.
Oh my God. He was unbuttoning his trousers!
In addition, the hand that held the belt lowered everything that covered his lower body in one fell swoop…
‘Oh my God.’
Liese couldn’t stand the shocking display of flesh tones any longer. Her heart pounded wildly, as if it were aiming for her forehead, as if the most dangerous and terrifying weapon in the world suddenly appeared.
She was so surprised that her hand automatically reached for the pistol her grandfather had given her.
Of course, she had no intention of shooting the man. It was an instinctive gesture to find something to protect herself from the threatening weapon pointed at her.