134 The Dark-cloaked Traveller Pt.2

    With more energy to her step, Gyuri made her way back to the Kim household with a wide grin stretched between her lips.

    My grandma's ring! She thought as she excitedly admired the jade on her forefinger. I can't believe I have it back.

    Despite being chilled to the bone and being weary from her long trek, Gyuri's smile never faltered as she gripped the jade tightly. The ring, while offering more questions rather than answers, resembled hope being restored. It signified a small step to solving the puzzle of the time-slip, but even more so, an item of comfort that reminded her of home. Knowing that she had something of her true self helped Gyuri remember that she was Min Subin, just an average teenage girl who should be studying for her exams.

    Gyuri skipped ahead as she relished the feeling of reassurance the ring provided. As she admired the ring some more, a sudden thought crossed her mind.

    "Huh." Gyuri murmured as she twisted the ring on her forefinger. "That's funny. I swear the ring Chim Chim has looks exactly the same."

    But before she could contemplate more about it, the sudden sound of galloping hooves caught her attention. She glanced behind her.

    "Out of the way!"

    Gyuri stumbled to the side as a dark-cloaked traveller darted past her, his horse almost trampling her in the process. She watched as the traveller came to an abrupt halt, causing his horse to topple over as he managed to avoid Gyuri in time. Panicked shouts escaped the traveller's lips as he tried to calm his fallen steed. Once his horse had regained its composure and was upright again, he glared at Gyuri as he pushed himself up and dusted his clothes.

    "You silly wench!" he berated with a scowl forming on his worn face. He grimaced as he attempted to put some pressure on his injured leg. "Look at what you've caused!"

    Gyuri's jaw dropped at the traveller's insolence. "I beg your pardon?" she remarked, her voice rising in pitch and her brows knitting together. She had initially felt concerned for the traveller's welfare, but his arrogant tone made her think twice. With everything that had happened to her recently, the last thing she needed was to be insulted.

    The traveller scoffed. "You'll need to do better than that to beg for my pardon."

    Gyuri blinked. She pursed her lips as she narrowed her eyes at the dark-cloaked traveller. "It means 'excuse me' you dimwit," she spat, earning an eyebrow raise from the man. "Why should I be the one to apologise when you were the one who almost got me trampled by your horse?" She gestured at the dirt path as she climbed out of the mud. "This path is wide enough for both of us. You should have been looking at where you were going!"

    "I could say the same for you," he retorted. "I have been shouting for you to make way, but you were too busy traipsing about like you were walking on sunshine." The traveller flapped his arms as if impersonating Gyuri like she was skipping earlier. "If you hadn't been so distracted, none of this would have happened."

    Not knowing what to say, Gyuri scowled at the traveller as he limped toward his horse.

    "I can't believe this," the traveller grumbled. "Ten days of travel and not a scratch on me until coming across this negligent wench."

    The traveller turned to glare at Gyuri, and she noticed how his sharp jaw was peppered with bristles. His lips, while chapped, were full and pillow-like while his long, raven hair was pulled into a partial ponytail. With his messy fringe adding to the broodiness of his intense, obsidian eyes, Gyuri swallowed as their gazes met. Something about the way he was looking at her sent a familiar chill down her spine, but she couldn't pinpoint what.

    "I want compensation," he declared.

    Gyuri blinked. "Wait... what?"

    "You heard me," he replied. "I demand compensation for the injury you caused. I'll have to go to a physician and physicians cost money."

    "That's absurd," Gyuri answered. "I can't compensate you- I don't have a penny to my name!"

    The traveller glanced Gyuri up and down slowly as he pondered.

    "Why- why are you looking at me like that?" she asked, instinctively covering herself. Gyuri backed away when she noticed the questionable glean in his eye. "Don't you dare try anything funny on me, mister."

    "I was just wondering," the traveller remarked as he drew closer to Gyuri. "You're a maid, aren't you?"

    Gyuri shuffled back. "Yeah, and what of it?"

    "Whose house do you belong to?"

    Gyuri took another step back as the dark-cloaked traveller approached her. It was only when he was a metre away from her did she realise how tall he was.

    "I- I belong to the House of Kim," she stuttered.

    A blank expression crossed the traveller's rugged face. "The House of Kim?"

    Gyuri nodded.

    "You're a servant at the House of Kim?"

    Finally regaining her confidence, Gyuri spat, "As hard as it may be to believe, yes," she reiterated, "I am."

    The traveller paused for a moment as he inspected Gyuri, temporarily disappearing to his thoughts as he inwardly laughed at how his misfortune had turned to something fortunate. He grinned.

    Without warning, the traveller hoisted Gyuri up on his shoulders, earning a surprised yelp from the confused maid.

    "What are you doing? Put me down!" she screeched as she struggled against his grasp. "Let me go!"

    "No can do," the traveller replied as he carted an uncooperative Gyuri and mounted her onto his horse. "You're my ticket through the household's gates."

    A wave of panic overwhelmed Gyuri as she clung to the saddle of the traveller's horse. It was a lot farther from the ground than she thought. "What are you on about?" she shouted. "I'm just a maid so put me down!"

    The traveller hoisted himself up, hissing slightly as he accidentally put too much pressure on his injured leg.

    Gyuri tensed up as she felt her back hit the horseman's firm chest. They were too close. She turned to glower at him and immediately regretted it. Tossing her a smug smirk, the traveller reached for the reins of his horse, wrapping Gyuri in his strong arms. Almost teasingly, he let out a long breath, warming Gyuri's neck and causing her heart to skip a beat.

    "Not so tough now, huh?"

    Gyuri could only huff in embarrassment.

    "Don't worry, I won't go too fast so that you don't fall."

    Gyuri whipped her head around, alarmed. Somehow, she knew he was lying. "Don't you dare-!"

    But before Gyuri could finish her utterance, the traveller had already prompted his steed into motion. Gyuri screamed in fear as she clung to the saddle for dear life. As the horse gained in speed, the dark-cloaked traveller chortled amusedly at Gyuri's hysterical reaction, his laugh sounding unmistakably like windscreen wipers.
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