Chapter 1. Harsh season (1)
Together, they went up to Killian’s bedroom, where he had finished preparing to rest.
Unaware of what Killian had in mind, Rietta answered his question honestly in a whisper, looked up to the sky, and entered his bedroom with a pure heart.
Rietta prayed sincerely from the entrance of the bedroom that led to the hallway, to the window, to the door that led to the bathroom, to the door that led to the office, and even to the bed, sweeping it with her faintly glowing hands and carefully blessed the areas to prevent illness and demons from entering.
It was a beautiful and clean attitude.
Killian silently leaned against the wall with his arms crossed and stared as a small, beautiful woman with a pleasant scent busily moved about in his bedroom.
Last month, when that woman was sitting on his bed in a transparent slip with no expression on her face, it didn’t phase him.
Now seeing the same person, in such a plain and neat commoner’s dress, moving lively in his room, it was strangely uplifting.
It felt good just to see a sincere face.
As Rietta closed her eyes in silent prayer, the faint white light that covered her hands shifted from her body to the wall, to the window, to the bed.
Her unfamiliar attire also added to the mystical atmosphere.
There were times when she was just still and quiet.
Rietta had no idea.
Killian was staring at her intensely.
It was only a few hours ago that she was observed working surrounded by a dozen chattering women. It was a sight that might have seemed strange to the average person.
Rietta worked carefully, not caring that Killian was watching her.
A high-quality priest came and did her best to the point that no one could be better. The blessing light was so strong that it enveloped the whole bedroom.
Even from the eyes of an outsider, Killian, he could guess that the clear, clean light penetrated wherever her hands were brushed was quite well built.
Finally, Rietta turned to him.
“No more demons or diseases will invade this bedroom for about a month. After a month, the effects will begin to wear off, but with your permission, I will come back and bless it again.”
“Are you promising that we will even meet on a regular basis naturally?”
Killian nodded, appreciating her hard work.
Rietta smiled faintly and bowed. She stood still by the side of the bed.
…… By the bed.
Killian was conflicted.
Should he offer her a drink?
No way, right away?
Rietta just stood there looking at him.
It was a temptation to bring him closer without getting closer.
He had never had a temptation to come into his chest so softly without lifting a finger.
He didn’t even look at her, only praised her, pretending he had no such feelings for her.
Even just the way Rietta stood quietly and stared at him….
It felt like a temptation that tugged at his heart as hard as it could.
It was not a temptation filled with an appeal of wanting or needing her, but for her to need him…
Killian stepped and moved closer to her, hesitating at the immorality of disrespecting a pure priestess.
Rietta blinked as she turned to look up at him as the distance grew closer.
Killian, who had been staring at her, raised his hand to Rietta’s white neck.
Seeing his hand, Rietta quickly moved aside and stepped back.
Bone-Rietta quickly moved his hand to the side and stepped aside.
Killian’s hand stopped in the air.
A string of bells appeared where Rietta stood earlier, hanging beside the bed.
While Killian paused, Rietta bowed politely.
“Please go ahead.”
Killian was momentarily confused by Rietta’s words.
Thinking the distance was too close, Rietta thought she had blocked his path. The lord must be trying to call the butler by pulling on the bell cord.
Rietta had no doubt that he wanted to rest. She stepped back from the side of the bed, then said her goodbye.
She said goodbye to him with a beautiful, unsuspecting look on her face.
“Then I’m going now.”
What drove him crazy was the thought that he might have made a mistake.
“It’s late, why don’t you stay here for the night.”
It was already after a regrettable sound had come out of his mouth.
Rietta smiled softly, as if she understood.
“I will do that, sir. Thank you.”
The calm answer that came out so easily made Killian, who instantly regretted the words he had spoken, even more flustered.
Even in her wildest dreams, Rietta hadn’t thought he meant it.
Unfortunately, his words seemed to Rietta, who had made up her mind about her policy towards Killian, to be similar to the earlier “Let’s eat and go home”.
Polite specifications aside, follow orders immediately.
As for Rietta, her own reaction to the evening was simply to respond in the same way, for good measure.
The idea that her lord didn’t need a woman like her was basically laid on unconsciously, and the experience of being shown to the other room a month ago when she first came to this bedroom wearing only a slip also played a part.
Unable to catch the confused look on Killian’s face, Rietta meekly kept her head down. She was sure that the Grand Duke would pull the bell cord and call for the butler like last time.
However, Killian remained frozen and showed no sign of pulling the bell string. He didn’t even call the butler.
A strange silence flowed.
Rietta suddenly felt that she was being rude, waiting for Grand Duke Axias to do something for her.
She decided to act like a smart subordinate. It wasn’t as if she didn’t already know where to go and who she needed to find. The butler was supposed to be waiting not far from outside the room.
Rietta smiled and spoke.
“Thank you for your consideration today. Have a good night.”
Killian put his hand on his forehead and replied awkwardly.
“….. Yes, you too.”
When Rietta opened the door noiselessly and stepped out, Ern, who was sitting in a chair at the end of the far corridor, closed his book and stood up in surprise.
The butler, who had noticed Killian’s strange gaze following Rietta, panicked when Rieta walked quietly over, neatly dressed and uneventful, but quickly and skillfully hid such an appearance.
Rietta, who bowed to Ern, lifted her head and told him without the slightest hesitation.
“The lord told me to go to bed.”
Ern’s eyes widened.
He immediately realized the meaning of Rietta’s words that she hadn’t quite caught.
It was still how Rietta had understood it.
How can a 26-year-old adult woman be so tactless!
The beautiful woman who had swayed the master’s heart blinked her sky-blue eyes as she stood pensively with an honest face.
It became clear what kind of misunderstanding had occurred.
‘Oh… This is the first woman he liked in a really long time…’
Ern felt miserable and sad, and in his heart he agreed with Leonard’s opinion.
Unaware of the somewhat somber mood of Ern, Rietta was led into a guest bedroom like the one she had been in the other night and laid down on the cozy bed, feeling full and content.
She was troubled by the mental labor of carefully casting spells as she walked around all day from the east annex to Killian’s bedroom. It was labor robbery that was two or three times as much as usual, and as soon as the tension relaxed, the fatigue set in.
She lightened the load on her mind as much as possible.
She also ate a lot of good food.
She slept outside for the first time after a month of getting used to the house, but she couldn’t feel more comfortable.
The last time she stayed here, she couldn’t sleep all night.
“How’s your life in Axias?”
‘It’s too much.’
Rietta uttered the feeling that she could not fully express in her heart.
It was a place where her daughter’s plaque could be placed and candles could be lit.
Her daughter, whom she couldn’t even give a proper send-off, let alone a funeral, was buried in her heart.
Now she could light a candle in front of it every day.
Rietta was slowly taking root in this place, in the house where she had written her name.
It was a nice place where thieves don’t bother to come even if she didn’t lock the door.
Neighbors naturally knock on the doors of newly moved-in tenants and care for strangers.
Rietta remembered the door of her Sevitas’ house, which had been closed for a long time without anyone coming to visit.
Long after her husband had died of the plague… ….
While Cassarius began to frighten her for a while….
None of the kind neighbors came to visit Rietta at her home.
Rietta lay on the bed and placed her hands on her chest.
This was where her daughter’s belongings were kept before they were given to Killian.
Instead of being able to light a candle in front of the memorial plaque today, Rietta closed her eyes and said a short but heartfelt prayer.
The hospitality Rietta received in the one month she stayed in Axias was warm.
Even though the prices here were higher than in Sevitas, they paid a good price for labor.There were no beggars on the streets, and the people were jovial and friendly.
The same was true of Axias Castle.
The warm, crowded atmosphere of the east annex, and the energetic dinner she had with the knights.
And the false smile that briefly appeared on Killian’s face.
“I love you, Grand Duke!”
It made her laugh.
The hand that casually poured milk for the little cat, who approached him without hesitation, as if it was used to Killian… ….
He was a good man.
He was not as scary as she thought.
It was a nice place.
It was where the lord made it.
Rietta blinked quietly.
“It’s late, why can’t I sleep?”
Killian’s last words were open to misinterpretation, she thought it a step too late, but Rietta immediately thought that it couldn’t be, and she smiled. It was funny when she thought about it.
It was too much of a misunderstanding that he would woo her, even though he was the lord.
The bedding became warmer.
Soon a sweet sleep descended.
Though Rietta had fallen asleep for a while, Killian just tossed and turned in bed, wide awake.
He eventually gave up on sleep, stood up, and opened his book.
It was the History of Imperial Warfare, which he’d read over dozens of times, but he couldn’t get it into his head.
He quickly folded it and threw it on top of the table next to his bed.
A little Rietta in a plain, neat dress came into his mind constantly. He didn’t even remember Rietta in her transparent slip very well.
She placed her hand on her chest every time she greeted him.
A married woman with an extremely innocent face.
Killian glanced at the head of the bed where her hand grazed.
Her face was beautiful as she put her hand on it and closed her eyes quietly.
It was pitiful to see the sad look on her face as she hid her grief when she talked about her dead husband.
“Shall I bless your bedroom?”
…… A sly woman.
It should not have been his fault that he was inadvertently tricked. Killian thought.
“Oh, my lord.”
Killian grinned at the thought of Rietta’s flushed face when she bit the tip of her tongue.
He may not have had a terrible love life, but he wasn’t stupid enough to not know what it felt like.
He knew that it was an exhausting feeling to go through.
He didn’t want the feelings that were eating away at his reason to occupy his mind.
Killian got up.
That way of dealing with emotions had once been dinged.
Eventually, he went to his office and sat down at his desk and began to process the pile of papers one by one with his pen.
It was not difficult.
Killian skillfully began to dispel the raging thoughts that were about to begin.
While Killian, who had been processing work all night, was resting on the couch in his office, Ern came to convey Rietta’s departure greetings.
slumbered a bit on the couch in his office and took a morning nap, Rieta returned to convey greetings through Ern.
Killian just casually replied, “yes”, without even glancing at Ern.
He seemed to have forgotten all about Rietta and picked up the documents he had checked from his desk without any expression. He asked Ern,
“When did you receive this report?”
“What kind of report is it?”
“It’s a report from Abbot Habitus from the Great Temple, recommending to cast blessings on my territory.”
The report said that Castiner territory, which was not far from Axias, was devastated in two months by the plague.
Therefore, the report recommended that Axias territory should also get blessings to strengthen the city’s defenses against plague gods and demons.
“It’s less than a month.”
“Was it early May?”
“The end of April.”
When Killian was touring the empire with his knights, he had also stopped by the Castiner territory. It was a large city adjacent to the temple and not far from Axias.
On the way back to Axias with Rietta, he also tried to stop at the Castiner territory, but avoided it when he heard from a local vendor that the plague had started circulating and spreading a while ago.
The report arrived at the end of April.
It meant the report had already been completed and sent out in mid-April.
That’s pretty quick, isn’t it?
Killian gave the order.
“You want to see me, Your Highness?”
Killian, who was leaning back on the chair, put down the report and looked at him.
“When did we stop by Castiner estate before the plague?”
“When did the plague begin to spread to Castiner?”
Killian, who had been silent for some time, grinned and presented Leonard with the report.”
“This report says it began in early March.”
Leonard accepted the report.
The report contained information on the manifestation of the plague, its damage, and the route of spread of the plague.
Leonard flipped through several pages of the report and replied.
“As I recall, it was in early March that we stopped by the Count of Castiner’s office. There was no mention of the plague at that time.”
“That’s my recollection as well.”
There was no plague in Castiner, at least not at that time. It was certain because they were there in person.
However, the report said that the outbreak of the plague in Castiner, the casualties, and the devastation of the territory as having occurred between the beginning of March and April.
The disastrous situation was ongoing. The path of spread of the plague was shaped in such a way that it approached the north where Axias was located.
They cross-referenced what they knew for certain with the information in the report.
It wasn’t just Castiner that was suspicious.
The plague in Sevitas was also briefly mentioned in the report. The timing matched what they knew, but the spreading patterns in the report were more exaggerated than they actually were.
The plague was spreading through the city of Sevitas, but it was not this devastating. If that was the case, they wouldn’t have entered Sevitas in the first place.
The information was not far off, but it was subtly adjusted to rationalize the conclusion.
“Well, there may be some errors or exaggerations in dates and spreading.”
Killian chuckled coldly and stared at the report in Leonard’s hands.
“Doesn’t this report seem to predict a plague on Castiner?”
The report from the Great Temple indicated serious concern over the rapid spread of the plague.
The report also stated that it would be desirable for the large city of Axias to receive blessings from an institution of public trust because of the fear of the invasion of the station demon, and that the Grand Temple would cooperate with Axias if he wished.
“Plant one of our men in the Great Temple.”
He was suspicious of the temple.
Leonard, who rarely disagreed with his master’s opinion, unexpectedly denied it.
Leonard had a brother who was a priest.
Killian’s red eyes narrowed and he sat up. There was a cold smile on his sharp features, like a lazy beast waking up.
“Who benefits most when the plague spreads?”
Leonard’s expression hardened.