Chapter 1. A horrible death
A week after the funeral, Jessica’s daily routine went on monotonously. It had become her routine that after waking up and eating breakfast with her father, she would keep an eye on training of the Marquis’ knights and soldiers while reading books at the training ground. Marquis Viterne said she shouldn’t go there as it was dangerous.
“That’s why I’m watching over these members of the Marquisate. These men are going to protect us, right?”
She pretended to not notice that Anna took out her handkerchief while saying that her lady had grown up after hearing her words. That was what actually happened to her. The moment she entered the Dukedom, Alter was the only one by her side. Alter merely wasn’t the only one who left though.
A new Marchioness came in and many knights of the Marquis of Viterne left, but there was also Sern who remained stubborn. Being the knight of the Marquis at that time, he opposed her marriage to the end and even provided her a way to escape in order to give her a chance to live. But Jessica rejected it. It was because she couldn’t put a lot of the Marquisate’s people at risk.
“You’re here again today.”
“They can’t concentrate if you are here.”
Sern’s face was crusty when he openly told her not to come because it would be inconvenient for the soldiers. She didn’t know why she was scared of his face back when she was young. Upon closer inspection, his eyes were filled with affection toward her.
“So….. Should I go?”
She was taken aback when he said, with a sullen face that was not what he meant. Seeing him like that made her laugh. Knights of the Marquis spent more than half a year at the border, and they only stayed for a few days at the Marquisate. However, when Marquis Viterne returned with them once in a while, Jessica’s mother always welcomed them with a smile. As she looked at Sern and the knights, it reminded Jessica of her mother’s face.
“Jessica, they’re protecting us and your father as well. So you should always be grateful to them.”
Come to think of it, her mother was such a kind person.
‘But I don’t know how a daughter like me could come from her.’
My father was also kind, almost like a pushover, and my mother was such a good person that she was even called the reincarnation of an angel. But the Jessica that came from those two was different. Of course she wouldn’t just dump people if they didn’t fit her standards, but she also secretly got rid of them.
“All of those are already in the past.”
Now that she wasn’t the Duke’s wife, she wouldn’t have to sharpen her blade. Her fingers flipping through the bookshelf were light as if they would fly away. Why did she feel comfortable at the sound of clashing swords?
The soft spring breeze tickled her face. As the sunlight descended through the trees onto her book, she unknowingly lowered her gaze to the light. She couldn’t take her eyes off the shining light.
“It’s dangerous, my lady!”
“Ahhh, my lady!”
She lifted her head at the sudden voices of Alter and Anna, and then something falling along with a ‘clashing’ sound came into her ear. She couldn’t take her eyes off the back of the man who blocked her body with his long sword.
“Are you all right?”
She couldn’t open her eyes because of the blinding bright sunshine coming from behind his head. She blinked slightly. Sern ran to her and raised his voice at the knights.
“Get a hold of yourself! The lady almost got hurt!”
“But still, my lady-“
“I’m really fine.”
Jessica smiled gently even though she was a little surprised, waving her hand calmly while smiling softly to Sern. The man who had blocked the blade from flying toward her, had already approached her and stared at her before he opened his mouth. As if to calm down this little commotion while holding out his hands.
“It’s dangerous here, it would be better for you to adjourn at another place.”
“……It’s an honor. Your Highness The Prince.”
She didn’t have to ask who he was. Because they knew each other. The Crown Prince of this country and the man who got killed with her own hands, the First Prince. Salipe Ert.
She hesitated for a moment, fearing that he would notice her trembling hand. The hand held out toward her wasn’t withdrawn. After taking a deep breath, she took his hand and slowly stood up. She couldn’t do anything to the green stain at the hem of her skirt even though a cloth had been laid out over it. Salipe’s eyes eventually turned toward the hem of her skirt as well.
“There’s a stain there.”
It was her favorite dress, but she couldn’t do anything about it. This happened because she did something that she shouldn’t do. It was her fault that she insisted on wanting to move the patio table here as usual and experience the feeling of being outside. At Salipe’s words, she could see Anna’s attention was back on her face after lingering at the hem of her dress for a brief moment, but Jessica didn’t look back at her.
“May I know what made you come here?”
“I’m here to discuss something with Margrave, but you got in danger just as I arrived.”
“I forgot to say, thank you for saving me.”
Salipe moved his eyebrows as she expressed her gratitude toward him with her skirt spread out politely. She spread her skirt courteously and greeted him which made Salipe furrowed his eyebrows at her behavior.
“You know the etiquette of the Imperial Palace?”
“I’m also a noble of this empire.”
She laughed it off even though cold sweat was dripping down her back. Jessica in the present time has never entered the imperial palace and she didn’t go through her debutante either. The fact that she foreknew the etiquette of the imperial palace could have inculcated suspicion from Salipe.
‘For example, aiming for the position of the Prince’s wife.’
Luckily, he walked away slowly. Thanking Salipe for not asking any more questions. As she walked around at her own pace, Jessica sighed in relief once she saw Salipe entering the mansion.
As soon as Salipe disappeared, she smiled while looking at Anna who was calling for her. She averted her eyes while listening to Anna’s nagging over her stained skirt. Alter caught her eyes when he was still practicing on the side of the training hall.
“I’ll protect you this time.”
Just like what he did for her before.
“Anna, where’s the wet towel?”
“Yes, my lady?”
“I asked, where’s the wet towel?”
She suddenly wondered why the lady was looking for a wet towel, even though it was her duty to follow her lady’s words. Anna went inside the mansion and came out again while bringing a wet towel. She walked toward the training hall once she saw the wet towel and Anna hurriedly followed suit.
“My lady, why are you going to the training hall…….”
Alter, who was still a newly-appointed knight, was surprised at the fact that the noble lady of the Marquis knew his name. The knights then turned toward Alter when they were taking a short break from wielding their swords. There were a lot of noises from various voices about how she came to know their fellow’s name until the rampant words asking what had he done to their lady. Jessica’s expression remained calm whether those words were beyond her hearing or not.
“Did you call me, my lady?”
Seeing Alter kneeling in front of her, Jessica accepted the wet towel from Anna’s grasp.
“You sweated a lot.”
Jessica held out the wet towel with a smile as Alter’s gaze looked up to her.
“What are you doing, are you not going to accept it?”
Staring blankly at her hand, he accepted the towel after hearing Anna’s harsh words. It was wrong for Anna, who was a maid, to chime in, but it was necessary in this kind of situation. The eyes of the knights who looked at Alter were disconcerting.
“Uhm, my lady.”
“The training hall is dangerous, so it would be better for you to not come here.”
“Oh, I understand.”
Sern, who sighed while looking at Jessica, who said to not come there anymore, opened his mouth to talk again.
“I’ll be careful.”
Sern shook his head as if he couldn’t prevail against Jessica while she answered with a smile. Alter, who had prostrated himself in front of her, then stepped back at Sern’s gesture. The other knights held him as if they had been waiting.
“Knight Alter, it seems like your physical strength is a bit weak lately…….“
“That is not true!”
“What do you mean not true, I think it is, indeed. Are you saying the word of a senior is wrong?”
“No, I didn’t mean it that way………..”
Jessica smiled brightly watching the knights disappearing that surrounded Alter. Anna whispered to her in a small voice.
“Lady, you don’t have Knight Alter in your mind, do you?”
“Why, what if I do?”
Jessica laughed at Anna’s ramblings, saying that such things only happen in novels and moreover, the daughter of a high status Marquis and a knight apprentice would be an absurd pair. So what if it’s right, or wrong? Now, she has no intention of leaving this Marquisate. She was going to stay here and protect the people in the Marquisate as well as thinking of grasping everything owned by the Marquis.
She had to earn money for the Marquisate that wasn’t wealthy in the first place. She would increase the Marquis’ finances secretly without being noticed by the other families to the extent that they can overpower the Duke. As she looked at the knights who went away, she smiled and there was a strong belief behind that smile.
Salipe hadn’t entered the mansion but remained in the training hall, and said in a low voice.
“It feels strange.”
She was really weird. A Marquis’ daughter who knew about the etiquette of the imperial palace. Imperial etiquette was not something someone could learn just because they wanted to. Due to the exclusive characteristics of the imperial palace, only the ladies who went in and out of the imperial palace were taught about the etiquette. There was no Marquis of Viterne on the name list of the ladies.
“It’s certainly strange.”
“What are you talking about, Your Highness?”
Salipe was lost in thought without noticing the approaching Marquis. He was only able to get away from his own thoughts that engulfed him when he heard the voice of the Marquis.
“Oh, you are here.”
“I just saw you holding my daughter’s hand.”
“I was just escorting her.”
“My daughter is forbidden for you.”
“What nonsense are you talking about?”
“Anyway my daughter is forbidden for you. My Jessica is pretty and kind……… but she’s too soft-hearted to enter the imperial palace anyway!”
He couldn’t believe that the woman was fragile as she presented herself with sensible etiquette like those who went in and out of the imperial palace and told lies without blinking an eye in front of the prince.
“That’s not going to happen.”
“I can’t believe no matter how much you are going to say that, Your Highness. My Jessica is so beautiful…”
The Marquis of Viterne put a straight face at Salipe’s voice that carries power in it.
“I didn’t come to the Marquisate to have such a talk. Let’s go in first.”
[TL/N: I lost it when the marquis thought that the prince came only to talk about marrying his daughter xD]
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