Chapter 1. Harsh season (1)
“You look happy, Your Highness.”
Leonard threw off his armor, and gasped while laying on the floor.
A dozen other knights were scattered all over the place, taking in the beauty of their big sky counterparts, who hadn’t been excited in a long time.
Killian chuckled like a slender, fierce beast, his red eyes narrowed.
“It seems my beloved knight’s skills are rusty.”
The knights lying down at the ominous sound cried out as if they were spoiled.
The sad premonition never failed to come true. The Grand Duke’s voice echoed as he rolled them over.
“All with the exception of Leonard, who got one shot at me, will be doing 20 laps. The one that came in last will add 10 more rounds.”
“I love you, Grand Duke!”
Leonard, the loyal knight, confessed his love loudly. He was still lying on the ground in front of his lord in a large figure, but only his sycophantic voice had the perfect amount of discipline in it.
The knights stood up slowly, groggily, looking like they were dying.
Killian looked at them and raised one corner of his mouth.
“Except for Leonard, who loves me, all will do 30 rounds. And the slower ones will do 10 more.”
“I love you, Grand Duke!”
The knights stood up shouting in unison and leapt to their feet, taking off their armor.
The noble knights started running and shouting loudly, trying to reduce the number of laps.
Killian smiled flirtatiously and looked at the knights who said they loved him.
“Not a single one of you thinks you’re going to be in the bottom half by any chance, but you don’t think you’re going to be the last one if you slack off, do you?” (*I don’t really understand this sentence.)
“It’s the foundation of the end of comradeship. I’m not as good as him, but at least I’m better than him.”
Killian opened his mouth, staring at him quietly.
“Leonard, did you know that Rietta has the ability to cast blessings?”
Leonard had told Killian that Rietta was an ordinary widow. There wasn’t any mention that she was a mage.
He didn’t mention it because the information was not relevant to her situation?
It was an ability worth noting. And her husband had died of an illness.
Leonard looked uncomfortable and squinted his eyes.
“The lady from Sevitas….?”
“I didn’t know.”
That was to be expected.
There was no way his capable subordinates would have divulged such information.
Leonard, who had been lying on the ground, quickly raised his upper body up.
“I’ll look into it, sir.”
Killian replied distantly.
He wasn’t the kind of superior who bullied his men senselessly. The difficulty of gathering information was different from when they were in Sevitas. It wasn’t information about anything very suspicious or important.
It wasn’t even something that could be investigated, since it had already been verified that she was a woman without any questionable history.
In any case, she’s not someone like Cassarius, where money and interests were directly involved.
Leonard understood his master’s intentions, but apologized for the lack of information he’d gathered.
A man of integrity.
Killian waved his hand curtly.
The story was not of great interest to Killian.
Leonard was used to Killian being that way, so the information he gathered should have been enough to verify that she was not a woman of questionable background.
It was enough to confirm that Rietta had never been openly known in Sevitus as a person with ability. Killian thought he could ask Rietta next time he saw her.
When he had forgotten that such a thing had happened, Killian met Rietta again.
Killian, who had warmed up with the knights in the castle’s training hall and was returning to the main building where he stayed, spotted Rietta and called her name.
As if she had already spotted him from afar, Rietta was ready to greet him. She bowed politely.
She was dressed in ordinary clothes again today.
Perhaps it was because of the warmer weather, but her clothes were lighter than the last time Killian saw her.
“Ah, yes. My Lord.”
Rietta blushed and bowed as Killian absentmindedly corrected her.
She has been living in Axias for a month now, and it’s outrageous that she called him ‘Your Highness’. She called him as if he was someone else’s lord.
She wasn’t dressed up, but she looked much more beautiful with her light clothes. Her neatly pulled up blonde hair, her unadorned linen dress, and light blue eyes fit well in spring.
She was indeed a beautiful woman.
Killian thought nonchalantly.
“What’s going on?”
“I’m on my way to the East Annex on a request for a blessing.”
Killian nodded lightly, recalling the words of Ern, whom he had reported to pass by as she was safely ensconced as a mage.
“I see you’re doing well.”
“Thanks to your care.”
Killian wanted to ask Rietta.
He thought he would ask her a quick question now, but it might be a long story, and he thought it would be vague to grab someone who was going to work and ask them, so Killian said.
“If you don’t have much to do after work, come see me.”
Rietta replied, bowing politely.
“I understand. My Lord …….”
Rietta bowed until Killian had completely hidden himself inside the main building, and when he had completely disappeared from her view, she finally raised herself up, sighed briefly, and stepped toward the East Annex.
‘I hope I didn’t sound aloof. Even after being so indebted.’
She only had one lord in her entire life, Cassarius.
So it had to take a little time to get used to the new lord.
Rietta thought now that it felt strange to call the person who had nearly ended her life and the person who had rescued her from the mire by the same title.
“Oh, oh, oh, ah!”
Rietta was startled by the scream that suddenly came from above and looked up.
A little blonde girl was holding onto a tree branch, as the tree was falling down towards Rietta.
She was so startled that she couldn’t even speak, and her eyes were wide open and hardened. When she heard a loud crack, the fallen tree suddenly stopped.
“Oh, my God! Anna!”
Rietta didn’t know where she jumped out from, but to her surprise, a woman grabbed the tree trying to uproot it and pushed it to its original position.
When the little girl, who was about to fall headfirst to the ground, shivered and could not come down, the monstrously strong woman extended her arm toward the girl while supporting the tree diagonally with one hand.
“Come here, please!”
It was an amazing monstrous strength, but when she tried to support the tree with one hand, it was unstable and the tree the child was hanging from was wobbling.
“I’m scared! I’m scared! I’m scared!”
Rietta, who was frozen by the child’s crying voice, managed to come to her senses and ran quickly.
She briefly struggled with whether she should go towards the girl or the tree, but decided that it was better to lend her strength to the dangerous tree than to leave a frightened child in the hands of an unfamiliar person, so she rushed over and pushed the tree together for support.
When Rietta lent her strength, the woman thanked her briefly, then quickly regained her balance. As Rietta supported the tree with both hands, the force it took to hold the tree firmly was reduced by half.
The monstrously strong woman leaned her freed upper body and stretched her arms high towards the child in a more stable position.
When she reached as far as she could reach, the little girl reached out.
As soon as they grabbed each other’s wrists, the woman quickly shouted.
“Let go. Come here.”
The little girl quickly let go of one hand, which was grasping onto the branch, though she could have been frightened by the unsteady posture. As if trusting the woman to accept her, the little girl, called “Anna,” clung to the woman’s upper body.
The woman shielded the girl’s body, spun her around, lightly balanced her, and gingerly pushed away the tree that was supporting her.
For a moment, the weight of the tree that had been added through Rietta’s hands disappeared.
Rietta stopped after taking a couple of steps toward the tree with the force of the push, and looked vaguely at the flying tree.
A rather thick tree had been overturned and thrown over without power with its roots pulled out.
The roots seemed to have been weakened by the rain that had swept away the soil.
The sound of the girl called Anna whimpering behind her rang out.
“Ah, Miss Seira!”
The monstrously strong woman who pushed the tree, shook Anna’s little arm.
“Didn’t it say you’re long past climbing trees? Do you think you’re still a little girl? You broke a branch the other day and fell!”
The girl said in a tearful voice.
“So this time she climbed a thicker, sturdier branch.”
“Why did you climb the tree in the first place?”
“I wanted to see the Lord!”
Seira, who had lightly tapped the girl’s head, laughed apologetically and called out to Rietta, whose eyes widened.
“Ah. Anna startled you, didn’t she? I apologize for that. Are you injured in any way?”
“No, no, I’m fine.”
Rietta waved her hands in the air to say that she was fine.
Seira picked Anna up and said,
“You could have hurt her, too!”
“Ah, I’m so sorry!”
Rather, there was a long scratch on the little girl’s calf. When Rietta discovered this, she informed her that Anna’s leg had been injured and recommended that she take her to the hospital for treatment as soon as possible to avoid scarring.
Seira immediately examined the wound on Anna’s leg. The girl was so startled that she didn’t even notice that she was injured and followed her gaze all the way down, craning her neck and widening her eyes.
Seira, who became impatient, thanked Rietta and asked her name so she could pay her respects.
Rietta refrained, telling her it was okay and to go quickly. Seira didn’t force her, but said, “I’m sorry, thank you,” and smiled and moved away with Anna on her back.
The sound of their conversation could be heard in the distance.
“I’ll tell Helen!”
“No! Please don’t tell Helen! I’ll do the cleaning duty three times for you!”
“No, no. Five times!”
Rietta looked behind them in a daze and saw the tree lying there, pulled out of the ground.
‘Are you sure you want to do this?’
After pacing around the tree for a while in a panic, Rietta suddenly realized the time and turned back to her way. It was in the direction of the East Annex.
Passing through the main building of the castle of Axias, where the lord resided, passing through two unknown buildings, and turning the corner of another unknown building, the East Annex appeared.
This was where the ladies of the Grand Duke of Axias stayed.
Killian’s women lived in the East Annex. This was possible because there was a time when he was single and a prince. There was also no one who dared touch his private life.
The women who were involved with Killian usually went back to where they came from after receiving compensation, but if there were women who wanted to stay in the castle, he would let them stay as long as they wanted.
The number of women who came to live that way exceeded a dozen. It was a small scale compared to the rumors that the Grand Duke Axias had a hundred or so women in his harem……
‘I guess he didn’t even need a woman like me,’ Rietta thought.
Killian didn’t get married even when he was over 30. Rumors had spread that it was due to his bad woman’s habit.
Rietta had heard horrible rumors when she was in Sevitas, that Killian would never look at the same woman twice, that he would kill a woman if he wasn’t satisfied with her, that he would kill her if he liked her, even if he had to stuff her.
Rietta felt lucky, and she was indebted to the Grand Duke……..
Maybe that’s where the women stay, gathered there for their own reasons and purposes.
Before turning the corner of the last building, Rietta took a deep breath.
She stepped nervously.
When she raised her head, an unexpected atmosphere greeted Rietta.
Away to the east, where the sun was shining brightly, there was a cozy building that looked cleaner and whiter than the rest of the buildings, with a group of women who seemed to be friendly and carefree.
Some of the women were laying in the shade of the trees, some were sitting by the window yawning and eating fruit, some were throwing bread to the goldfish by the pond, and some were skipping stones.
There were even women who were hanging their laundry near the clothesline and running around.
Rietta’s panicked gaze wandered, unable to distinguish who was the Annex’s ladies and who was the maid.
Even if there were the occasional women in fancy dresses, they were all in the same comfortable dress without those who were tightly cinched or puffed up.
The air was peaceful, even jovial. No one looked scared or depressed, no one looked uncomfortable or sick.
Rietta stood so absentmindedly, and quickly lowered her eyes.
She wasn’t in a position to observe.
‘Why not just approach someone and ask for the name of the young lady who called me? The mood doesn’t seem as grim as I thought it would be…’
Rietta quickened her steps and walked towards the distance.
A few women spotted her and began to look at her.
At that moment, a woman approached behind Rietta quietly, and spoke to her.
“Welcome. You’re the mage, right?”
Rietta hurriedly turned around and greeted the person who had approached her.
“Oh, hello. Thank you for requesting ….”
A beautiful woman with short black hair and purple eyes smiled at Rietta.
“Yes, I’m Rachel. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Rietta was a little surprised to see her short cut hair, unusual for a noblewoman. Even though her hair was short, it was beautiful. She was beautiful, not flashy, but neat and shrewd.
Among the women who were looking at them, two women started to approach curious eyes.
They seemed to be at ease with each other, as arms on each other’s shoulders and not a single expression changed.
A tall blonde woman asked,
“Rachel. Who is she?”
Rachel turned and answered, introducing Rietta.
“She’s the mage.”
The women looked at Rietta with round eyes.
Rietta quickly bowed her head.
“Hello. I’m Rietta Tristy, the mage. Please meet the ladies of the East Annex.”
One of the women who was playing with each other laughed as if she had heard something unexpected.
“I’m not used to greetings like this.”
Then she gently lifted her skirt and bent her knees in a mischievous greeting, mimicking Rietta’s elegant figure.
“Welcome, Lady mage.”
Another woman laughed, tilting her head gently to the side.
“Welcome to the East Annex.”