Chapter 1. Harsh season (1)
After the butler left…
On the second floor of the white house where the widow of Sevitas, brought by Grand Duke Axias, stayed.
A faint candle was lit in front of the plaque bearing the name of the small child.
Rietta sat enraptured in front of it for a long time.
And for a long time, she prayed.
The night passed with nothing to be seen outside the dim candlelight, and when the moon, floating in the sky, flowed toward the west, Rietta finally lay down on her bed.
The cool but cozy bedding wrapped around her body.
It was her bed.
Not a bed for someone to get drunk in…….
It was a bed just for her, for her to rest and sleep in.
Rietta casually thought of the most violent man in the empire who had rescued her and thrown her out onto his land.
He was a cold-blooded man who decapitated his brothers…….
He would kill a woman if he wasn’t satisfied.
He was a lunatic tyrant with such heinous rumors.
Could that really be the man?
Rietta thought about the words of the butler, Ern, as she felt the cold bedding slowly warm up.
“You don’t know the master very well, Lady Tristy, but he doesn’t hold women who don’t want to be held by him.”
His manner was natural, as if he knew she had misunderstood Killian.
The smiling butler’s face was filled with respect and affection for his owner.
“If he’s not going to hold me, why did he bring me here?”
The butler, with a kind smile, answered the question of the foolish woman.
“Perhaps the master felt sorry for Miss Tristy.”
Riteta sighed shallowly and covered her eyes with the back of her hand.
A part of her felt a sense of emptiness and guilt that she was the only survivor in a world where her husband and child had left her.
It was frustrating that there was a sense of relief to be alive.
Belatedly, tears flowed soundlessly down her hands.
She thought she had abandoned the whole idea of living.
Countless people said they felt sorry for her.
But the only one who reached out to her was the most notorious cold-blooded man in the empire.
Rietta finally wobbled to her feet at dawn, the eastern sky pale after a cold night.
The faint dawn light coming in through the window wasn’t bright, but after sitting for so long without having eaten, it was completely dark before her eyes when she stood up. Rietta put her hands on the wall for a bit and waited for the dizziness to subside.
‘Now that my body is comfortable, I can afford to create a dainty atmosphere.’
As she sat with her daughter’s memorial plaque in front of her and lit candles day and night, the flint and candles she brought in her small luggage were gone within a day. So she decided to get up.
Rietta began to move her body as if by instinct, chiding herself for hanging on too long.
Spending time in a daze, doing nothing, was the luxury of time spent waiting for death in the funeral of the lord.
It had been a long time since she was able to adapt to the habits of her body, to stay cooped up in the house like this, not waiting for death. Rietta moved almost unconsciously.
Too much time had passed for her to dwell on the excuse that she could not accept reality. She had to come to her senses quickly since she survived.
So that she could light a candle and pray for her daughter to find her husband well….
Commoners have to work for a living to survive. It was only by keeping moving and not resting, no matter what they did, that they could endure the famine of spring and the harsh times that could strike at any time. The long hours of mourning were also a luxury.
They offered her money to live on, but she couldn’t just sit around and take it. It was spring when food was expensive.
The difficulties of spring did not apply to Grand Duke Axias, but as a commoner, Rietta felt the financial support she received at this time of year was even heavier.
The thought that the debt of life alone was already an unbearable weight irritated Rietta.
As she was organizing her luggage with a sluggish body, she thought it would be bright soon, but she didn’t bring anything, so that was it. It was still dark outside.
‘I really didn’t bring anything.’
In the midst of all this, she realized that she needed candles for her daughter’s memorial plaque.
Rietta, who didn’t move much but got tired quickly, stared blankly at the extinguished incense burner. Then she looked out the window again.
It was still too dark and dangerous to go out and buy things.
She moved her weak body again and began to wander around the house like a ghost.
She wondered if there was a tool in the house that could light a fire.
It was only when the people of this world who loved the departed lit a light in his honor so that the one who had left beyond the river of the other world would be able to see those who had gone before him with God’s guidance.
Having lived in the monastery for more than ten years and having seen many times how such superstitions were used to make money, when it came to her, Rietta too became obsessed with it.
At the monastery of Sevitas, where Rietta spent her childhood, she made money by putting flesh on her beliefs that when the devil was on the rampage, she should light up all night and hold a ritual, buy a talisman, and listen to the priest’s blessing.
Fortunately, after a long period of monastic life, Rietta’s prayers, celebrations, and rituals were able to be done by herself. Still, she could not miss only the symbolic ritual of lighting a candle.
Lacking strength, Riteta moved her shaking body.
She opened the drawers, cupboards, and closets in the living room and her room and was a little surprised to find so many things.
There was no shortage of things, much more than she had in the house she had lived in.
There was even dry food to eat. Dry biscuits that would not get damaged even if kept for a long time.
It was then that she finally felt the hunger from her long starved stomach. Rietta took out the entire bucket of biscuits, held it in one arm and ate it, continuing to rummage through the drawers.
Her stomach was upset and she felt nauseous twice from the hard, dry food and the earthenware, but she still managed to get her hands on the cookies again.
Before long, Rietta found a match in the drawer. She quickly grabbed it with her eyes wide opened.
It was a high quality match that could only be used when there was an important event at the monastery. She even found a lamp with plenty of oil right next to it.
If the lamp was lit, there was no need to worry about that candle that frequently went out of light.
No, shouldn’t there be candles too? It would be weird if there was even a lamp and the match, but no candle.
As expected, after a short time of searching, Rietta found a candle in a nearby drawer and took it, feeling pleased. It was a fine candle made of beeswax.
Returning immediately to the altar – or, more accurately, the small drawer where she had placed the plaque and the incense burner – Rietta squatted down in front of it again.
After lighting the candle with a match, Rietta looked at it as it burn slowly, forgot to do anything else, and after a while, she chewed the biscuit in her mouth and swallowed it.
The tub with the biscuits was half empty before she knew it.
It was funny how hungry she was in this situation, and she mocked herself when the food went down her throat.
Rietta immediately hung her head. There was nothing to be happy about….
Rietta cried. She cried not because of the happiness that her daughter ate all the side dishes she made, or made a mess of her pretty clothes, or chewed cutely in her sleep.
She cried because she was so happy to see the candle lit in front of her daughter’s plaque.
She thought she was going to die, but she lived.
Shethought she was going to be a consolation prize for the nobility, but she was released.
Still, sad was sad.
As she silently chewed on a tear-stained biscuit, Rietta thought about her daughter, and her husband’s grave, who she had left in the distant land.
It hadn’t even been two months since her child was gone. Being a mother who lost a child, she chewed her food with relief that she was alive.
There was nothing to be happy about, but she was delighted knowing that the candle in front of the plaque was a luxury item.
Chewing on dry bread was not only because there was no water. (*I don’t really know what this sentence meant.)
She didn’t know when she fell asleep, but Rietta woke up to the sound of someone knocking on her door.
The bright daylight and the wind were coming in peacefully through the window.
Once again there was a dull thumping sound – a knock at the door.
Suddenly, she felt scared,
Was it the Knights of Sevitas? Guards?
No. This was Axias.
Did the Grand Duke of Axias change his mind?
Nervously, Rietta quietly opened the door and was stunned to find a middle-aged woman with a gentle impression and a man and a woman, who looked about ten years older than Rietta.
The middle-aged woman standing in front greeted Rietta first. Almost as if following in her footsteps, the man took over.
“Oh, it’s true. The landlady is here. Wow, she’s really pretty! I’m Martin. Call me Uncle Martin!”
The woman next to him punched the man in the back and pinned him before his quick bow could hit Rietta in the head.
“Really, you’re ridiculous! I’m Nella. You don’t need to worry about his nonsense.”
The middle-aged woman smiled and held out a plate in her hand.
A sweet and savory aroma wafted through the air.
“Welcome to Axias. Do you like apple pie?”
It was then that Rietta finally realized that they were her new neighbors and had come to offer a mundane welcome greeting.
“Oh, thank you…. ….”
Rietta took the plate absentmindedly and thanked them with a stutter voice. They giggled and waited for Rietta’s next words.
After a while, Rietta came to her senses and realized that she was the owner of the house, and feeling unsure of what to do, she flinched and stepped back from the door.
When she was alone, she naturally searched around like it was her house, but she felt so strange when she stood in front of others and asked them to come in.
“Oh, um, ……………would you like to come in? …… Please wait a moment. My house isn’t organized yet.”
Rietta hesitated and stepped back, greeting them awkwardly.
She turned around hurriedly.
The place was so perfect and clean that she was ashamed to say it wasn’t organized.
It was obvious. It was a new house and there was very little stuff that Rietta had brought with her.
She happened to see a table with four chairs in the living room in front of the kitchen.
Rietta awkwardly ushered the guests in and set their plate on the table.
The middle-aged woman handed her the apple pie, smiled and introduced herself.
“I live next door. Call me Mrs Phenyl.”
The younger man and the woman, who had already revealed their names, added their words again. (Martin and Nella.)
“We run the M&N store in front of the intersection. It’s Martin & Nella General Store.”
“Glad to have you, my new neighbor lady!”
Her head told her a step later that she had to say her name.
Rietta finally bowed her head and greeted.
“Oh, hello. I’m Rietta.”
“Rietta? What a lovely name!”
“Oh, no! I’m Rietta. Rietta Tristy.”
“Tristy! That name is beautiful too!”
The woman was powerful and energetic with a strong voice.
Rietta was in a hurry to breathe because she felt like she was out of breath, even though she was barely saying anything, but she was embarrassed another step later when the guests who entered the house stood in the daze and offered the chairs to them.
The guests chuckled and sat down. Then Rietta realized that she had no drink to offer them.
Rietta turned to the guests in embarrassment.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry…..but there are no drinks in the house. Ah, please wait a moment. I’ll go out and get it.”
‘The money. Where did I put the money?’
As Rietta searched her mind obsessively, Nella smiled and waved her hand.
“Don’t feel pressure. Water is okay.”
Rietta was embarrassed again.
“Oh…I don’t have any water. Oh, could you tell me where the nearby well or drinking water is?”
The three people’s eyes widened in surprise.
“My goodness, didn’t you move in here two days ago? But no water in the house? Have you eaten?”
Nella turned and slapped Martin on the back.
“Martin, go and get some milk.”
“Ouch! Wait a minute!”
Martin reacted nervously after being hit in the same spot as before.
Mrs. Phenyl saw Rietta’s pale face and looked concerned.
“My God, you look so glum. Looks like you’ve been pretty busy moving and organizing! Still, you need to eat.”
Nella’s eyes widened.
“Busy? Was there a lot of things to do?”
Martin finally noticed that Rietta’s complexion was darkening and spoke.
“We’ve been waiting for the right time to come….I think it would have been better if we came sooner and helped you. You must have a hard time.”
Mrs. Phenyl motioned towards Rietta.
“Come out with us. I’ll show you where the well is.”
Nella listened to the conversation, exchanging a few words.
“Oh, that’s better. Did you ever go outside at all? Do you know where the market is?”
Nella also stood up quickly. Martin followed.
It was a fast flowing dialogue that didn’t leave any room for interruption. Rietta instinctively began to fidget, raising and lowering her hands in the air rapidly to adapt to their fast pace.
“Oh, go, thank you. Wait a minute…… Where did I put the key?”
When Rietta, who couldn’t find the key, panicked and tried to go upstairs, but Nella pulled her hand, saying, “You can just go.”
With her arms half-folded in Nella’s, Rietta blinked as she looked at Nella dumbfoundedly. Nella gave a friendly smile.
“It’s all right. You don’t have to lock the door. You’ve never been to Axias before, have you? There are very few thieves in Axias.”
Mrs.Phenyl, who had already opened the door, passed on the word.
“Well, you still have to lock the door at night. But you can leave it open for a bit when it’s bright. Hmm, but this lady should be more careful about other thieves than night thieves. Rietta, you’re really beautiful.”
Nella reached out with a pity look and touched Rietta’s cheek.
“You look pale. Did you sleep? You must eat well and sleep well. You’re still young.”
Riett blinked blankly at the sudden warmth that passed by the touch.
“It will hurt your good skin.”
“Still, you’re very beautiful. I have some nice creams at the grocery store, would you like one?”
“Nella. Don’t touch people’s face when you’ve just met them.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I got carried away.”
Rietta was dragged away by Nella, as if she was caught in a torrent.
Even if this was a well-designed kidnapping, there was no time to think.
Rietta was so engrossed that she did not refuse, but was pulled into the arms of the cheerful people.