Chapter 1. Harsh season (1)
“May I ask you to bless my room as well, lady mage?”
“Yes. But first, I have to stop by Miss Giselle’s room, so can you wait a moment?”
Elise secretly interrupted.
“I think you’d better go to Helen’s room first. Helen’s room is much closer from here. Mine and Giselle’s room is the furthest, so we’ll go last.”
“Oh…. Can I do that?”
Giselle agreed without hesitation, smiling.
“Yes, let’s do that.”
They were all chatty, good-natured women.
The problem was that there was more work to do than Rietta thought.
The women outside began to gather, and when Rietta entered the annex, the women in their rooms also came out.
All the women started following Rietta. Everyone wanted their rooms to be blessed.
It was a burden to see the people who had gathered, chattering away in the back and peering at her work, but it was much more comfortable than the gloomy and scary atmosphere she had first thought.
One of the women asked,
“Lady mage, I heard we can get blessings for our belongings too, not just our rooms?”
“Yes. But it is more difficult and time-consuming to bless objects, and it doesn’t last long.”
“Is that so? I still want my belongings blessed nonetheless. It’s hard to find a reliable mage.”
“If you do it, I want one too.”
The women began to buzz. Again, more work for Rietta.
Then she remembered Killian had asked her to come see him after…She felt frustrated and nervous about the delay. Then she asked the women to bring the items they wanted to be blessed and send them to her. She should return them with her blessings after some time.
The women said they would leave their goods in her hands.
It was quite a lot, and Rietta didn’t have to worry about living expenses for a few months. However, all she could think about was worries, ‘I don’t suppose the lord is waiting for me?’
When she finally went around the rooms and was almost finished with her work, a young lady approached Rietta.
“We’re having tea in our garden, why don’t you join us? The flowers have bloomed beautifully.”
Rietta flustered and shook her head lightly.
“Oh, no. Thank you for the invitation, but I have someplace to go.”
“It seems that you had other plans.”
Rietta wondered for a while if it would be better to tell the Lady a fake reason, but Rietta decided it was better to be honest. There were a lot of eyes and ears in the castle anyway.
“No, I just happened to see the Lord on the way here, and he asked me to stop by after I’m done here.”
Giselle widened her eyes and covered her mouth with her hand. Then she said quickly.
“Oh! Then you should go.”
“Please go quickly.”
The women pushed Rietta out the door without hesitation. Rietta found these women a little hard to understand, but she greeted them with an embarrassed but grateful smile and withdrew.
With hurried footsteps, Rietta left the annex.
“You’re truly heartless ….”
Rietta stopped at the sound of a woman’s voice pleading as she hurried towards the main building where Killian was.
“I thought I told you not to visit me without my permission.”
The cold voice echoed.
Rietta’s gaze moved toward where the sound came from.
“But… How come you never come to see me? I came in here, looking only at you, Your Highness.”
“Then why don’t you just leave?”
“‘That’s not what I meant.”
“I did not grant you any privileges. I did not say it’s okay for you to bother me.”
Killian stopped when he spotted Rietta. A beautiful red-haired woman in a pink dress stared at Rietta along his gaze as she followed Killian. Her green eyes were wet with tears.
Rietta stopped awkwardly and bowed to Killian. Killian opened his mouth, keeping his gaze fixed on Rieta.
“Castle Axias is not the place for you. You can’t do whatever you want, so pack your things and go back.”
Killian didn’t even look at the poor woman next to him and gave her a cold order.
He kept his gaze on Rietta, and for a moment Rietta thought he was talking to her.
As soon as she thought, “Oh, it wasn’t me,” Killian called out to her.
Quickly regaining her composure, Rietta’s shoulders shook slightly.
Without waiting for her response, Killian disappeared into the main building of the castle.
The beautiful woman’s wet eyes glanced at Rietta in despair. Rietta had no choice but to bow her head and follow Killian with an awkward feeling.
As Rietta entered, Killian gave his coat to the butler, and spoke without looking at her.
“Let’s dine first.”
Rietta was startled.
“Yes? Um, I’m fine….”
“Well, It’s time for me to eat.”
Rietta panicked for a moment, not knowing what to say.
It was because she came too late.
“I’m sorry I’m late……………”
Then the butler asked Killian.
“Shall I have them prepare dinner, Your Highness?”
Killian stared at Rietta.
“Only if Rietta responds…”
Rietta’s heart skipped a beat.
“Thank you, Your Highness. I am honored….”
“There’s no honor in a simple meal.”
To Killian, it was no big deal, but to Rietta, it sounded like a cold sneer, even more so now that she had just witnessed such a scene. It seemed to make her heart shrink.
“You didn’t have dinner plans, did you?”
Even if she had a dinner appointment, how could she dare to refuse the Lord’s order? Also he would not eat if she didn’t.
Rietta replied with her head down.
“No, Your Highness.”
Killian said, addressing her.
“Is your habit of talking to the floor part of the Sevitas culture?
“Now that I know how polite you are, you should lift your head and look at people when you speak. In Axias, it is polite to talk to the face, not the feet.”
Rietta flinched and raised her head to look straight at Killian.
“I will. Your Highness.”
With another glance of those light blue eyes, Killian turned his gaze to Ern.
“Show her to the dining room. I will join her when I’ve changed.”
The butler bowed his head as Killian walked away.
“Yes, I understand.”
‘I can’t believe I’m dining with Grand Duke Axias.’
Rietta didn’t know a single thing about the dining etiquette of the nobles.
Where did it go wrong?
If she was able to get here a little earlier, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place, but it was inevitable.
As she waited for Killian, Rieta felt sick to her stomach, even though she hadn’t eaten yet.
It would have been better if she sat far away, but the butler gave her a seat in the vicinity of the upper table.
‘What shall I do?’
She wanted to ask if she could sit somewhere else when it was so empty, but she couldn’t just run away because she might have to talk.
More than anything, Rietta was concerned that the modest and reserved behavior she had shown so far seemed to have bothered the Duke. The last time he said she was rude.
‘I understand everything now. Thank you very much. Should I have said that?’
‘Well, as a commoner, I dare not to say no.’
In the first place, I don’t think that person is an empty talker…’
The survival instinct of the commoner, who had been wary of the aristocracy, was close to Rietta’s answer.
The Grand Duke of Axias did not like to repeat his words.
Rietta tore at her fingernails nervously, repeatedly reminding herself that from now on, when dealing with him, she must give the desired answer as quickly as possible, rather than with polite reserve.
And the conversation will be face to face. …. No matter how great a nobleman is, don’t look at his feet but his face…
Rietta thought it was going to take some time to get used to his ways. If possible, she also hoped that something like this would never happen again.
Today’s meal was going to be very long.
She still hadn’t heard the reason why Grand Duke Axias had called her.
If they were going to talk over dinner, she would have to listen carefully to make sure she wouldn’t miss a single word the Duke said.
If they didn’t talk, she would have to sit in a tense state, not knowing when Killian would bring up the business that he called her.
Rietta was sure she would pass out.
Shortly after waiting, she smelled something delicious and soon the food came in.
She had never smelled anything as delicious as this, even at the annual harvest festival. ………. But what good were they all for?
She would eat food without knowing if it would go in her mouth or nose.
All kinds of food that she had never seen before began to unfold on the gorgeous dining table.
There was tomato salad, cut into bite-size pieces, topped with cheese and brown sauce, and garnished with kale; a salad of lettuce, rose, oak, tenderloin fillets with peppers, and peeled oranges; a sweet and sour soup of shrimp and an unknown flavor; a potluck of mushrooms, potatoes, onions, romaine lettuce, bok choy, and meat.
Red sausage and white sausage sautéed with vegetables and topped with almond slices; an unnamed dish of mashed pumpkin topped with cream and rosy sauce and seeded; a steamed dish stuffed with yellow grains and olives; a huge fish that Rietta had never seen before, one of which was roasted whole and smelled fragrant ……
There was no limit.
Rietta, who at first had vaguely thought she was a glutton, began to feel panic.
‘How in the world are two people going to eat all this?’
‘I’m sure most of it will be thrown away. Does he always eat like this?’
One after another, the dishes arrived.
A huge, sizzling poultry roast, which she couldn’t tell if it was chicken or turkey, and grilled back ribs with sweet-smelling cheese were being served on a huge silver tray.
At that moment, suddenly she heard a lot of noise. A group of men in armor gathered in the dining room. They were knights. Rietta was astonished.
The knights stopped when they found Rieta sitting alone at a large table with a sumptuous meal.
“Huh? It’s a woman.”
“Where is she?
“Who is it?”
“Oh that woman, from Sevitas.”
“She was about to be buried.”
Rietta stood up in a panic.
Something seemed to have gone wrong.
The butler saw her and came up to her.
“Is there anything you need, Miss?”
Before Rietta could speak, Killian entered the door on the other side where the knights had come in.
He had changed into his light loungewear and wandered over to the upper table and sat down, not looking at anyone. Then he threw a glance at the knights, who were standing around along with Rietta.
“What are you doing? Sit down.”
Then the knights sat around the table in perfect order.
The momentum of the crowd made Rietta sit down, flustered.
Killian thought nothing of it and started eating as usual. The knights picked up their silverware and started eating. Rietta stared blankly at Killian and the knights.
A handsome knight who sat across from Rietta, whom she had seen sometime before, called out to Killian.
“The lady is embarrassed. You didn’t explain anything to her, did you?”
Finally realizing that Rietta was there, Killian looked at her indifferently.
“These are my knights. Let’s eat together. We can talk after the meal.”
Rietta nodded, perplexed.
Leonard covered his face with one hand, a miserable expression on his face.
He gave up on his lord and began to take matters into his own hands.
“Don’t mind us, lady. Just eat comfortably. I know it must be uncomfortable for you.”
Then, he gently jerked his chin at Killian and frowned.
“He’s a man far from romantic.”
Rietta hurriedly glanced at Killian’s face.
Killian, who had been carving the food without saying a word, glanced at Leonard with one eyebrow raised, only to drop his gaze to the food again and take the fork from his mouth.
Leonard caught his gaze as if nothing had happened and continued talking, looking at Killian with a pitiful expression.
“He’s still very charming. He is good at everything except for matters of the heart.”
Swallowing his food and reaching for his wine glass, Killian casually spoke.
“Like your love life is very good. Keep the concern for yourself.”
Leonard retorted shamelessly.
“I’m not concerned about it because I know that love is more about quality than quantity. But I can’t say the same for you, Your Highness.”
Rietta stared at Killian as he plopped the knife on the plate, feeling like she was walking on thin ice.
Would he take that knife and stab that knight right away? Would he break the plate? Would he turn the table upside down? Rietta’s head was spinning.
Killian raised his red eyes to look at Leonard and tilted his head, smiling faintly.
“What’s wrong with my beloved knight?”
“I love you too, Grand Duke.”
Leonard responded to Killian’s words naturally. Then he put his hand up to his mouth and whispered to Rietta.
But he only pretended to whisper with his hand and facial expression, and he did not lower his voice. He had no intention of hiding it.
“But he only loves his knights.”
“I don’t agree with that statement!”
“He doesn’t love us!”
“He only loves Leonard!”
Leonard’s words were interrupted without fear by the other knights from across the table. Instantly, the table became noisy.
At that moment, Killian suddenly smiled.
No, he had been laughing faintly before that.
The expression on his face was something else entirely.
It was only for a moment, but Rietta, who had been watching his expression with a fluttering heart, did not miss the strange smile that appeared on his lips.
Rietta stared at Killian, confused as if she was looking at someone else. Before long, Killian’s face returned to the indifferent look, then he spoke with a cold voice.
“I see. I guess I didn’t love you enough.”
Killian placed his chin on his hand. Then, with those languid, dangerous-looking red eyes, he scanned the knights sitting around the table.
“I will regard you more in the future.”
The knights knew what his love and contentment was and became quiet as if they were poured with cold water.
Not letting that moment of silence pass, Leonard touched the wine glass with his fork and shouted loudly.
“I love you, Grand Duke!”
The brief toast was followed by an animal-like chorus.
“I love you, my lord!”
It was a soul-splitting cheer. The knights began to eat briskly. Laughing and talking around the table.
No one was vulgar, though there was none of the elegance of a refined aristocrat.
Suddenly, an unexpected voice sounded.
An amber-eyed cat with brown fur approached Killian’s side.
Leaning up and placing its small paws on his chair, the cat licked its nose while wagging its tail. Once again meowing, the small thing tilted its head.
Killian only glanced at it, but didn’t pat the cute thing’s head. He just took a piece of grilled fish from a nearby plate with a blank face and gave it to the cat.
The cat kept its eyes on his moving hand like a magnet, and as soon as the fish came near, it removed its paws from the chair and walked towards the dish.
With a rather large fish in its mouth, the cat took up residence in the shade under his chair, wrapping its tail around its body.
Then, with its paws on the fish, began to eat it deliciously, munching with a pleasant sound.
The knights were still eating their food like nothing happened.
Killian, who had finished his meal earlier than the others and was drinking tea, put his cup away with a curt look and poured some milk into a plate. Then he set it down on the floor.
In no time at all, the cat, who had finished the fish and was licking its paws, approached the dish and started licking the milk in it.
When Rietta came to her senses when she saw it, she had already eaten comfortably, filling her stomach with unexpectedly delicious food.