Chapter 1. A horrible death
She walked slowly, following Anna, who led the way for her. The elegance was shown in her steps, so the passing servants and maids stopped to look at her. Their pleased expressions were filled with pride for Jessica.
After the morning training, the knights who were enjoying their break, jumped from their seats at Jessica’s sudden visit.
“What are you doing here so suddenly, my lady?”
Sern, the Knight Commander of the Marquis, stood up and slightly blocked the eyes of the Knights. Sern, whose body was large, stood in front of Jessica so that her body was completely covered. When the large man stood right in front of her, he expected she would feel intimidated, but when he saw that Jessica didn’t move from her seat and had a smile on her face, Sern exclaimed in his mind.
‘She has grown up a lot.’
In the past Jessica was busy avoiding the large knights and ran away from them. He was overwhelmed with emotions seeing her standing in front of him as she had grown so much in no time.
“I have a request for Sir Sern.”
“Please tell me.”
“I need a knight so I can go out.”
“Oh, do you mean an escort?”
He felt a sense of admonition when he saw Jessica nodding her head without any answer. Sern was under a silent pressure like a noble wife who went in and out of the Imperial City to keep an eye on her husband. Jessica’s eyes were calm and composed but he couldn’t fathom the firmness carried in them.
“……Is there a knight you prefer?”
“I’d like someone who has seen my face a few times.”
Sern narrowed his eyes at Jessica’s explicit request for Alter. Nothing could be found in Jessica’s eyes who wasn’t avoiding his gaze. He wanted to see if she had other intentions.
Sern became concerned and raised his hand to rub his chin. If Alter was to be sent alone, rumors would quickly spread in the Knightage. It would be a fatal problem for Jessica, who hadn’t even made her debut yet.
“Sir Sern, would you like to accompany us?”
What Jessica suggested was the answer, but Sern couldn’t go with her. The First Prince was supposed to come today in order to inspect the situation within the Knightage, therefore, the majority of the knights could not be sent as escorts. And Jessica knew all of these.
‘Because I can’t go after all.’
In the morning, she heard the maids’ chatter who were diligently adorning her. The maids’ information can become very useful at times. It was a long time after she entered the Dukedom before Jessica realized this in her previous life.
‘It was too late when I realized it.’
It was too late when she understood that other people aside from the nobles’ hand and foot can give her crucial information. If she had been aware of this fact, she wouldn’t have fallen and been betrayed.
As she seemed to think towards the grim side, Jessica partly closed her eyes then slightly opened them again. Her shaky eyes looked straight ahead, and Sern was facing a dilemma looking into those eyes of hers.
“I apologize, my lady, but I have orders for the day.”
“If it’s like that, I can’t do anything about it.”
Jessica’s hand moved to spread out the folding fan that seemed to flutter like a butterfly. The nights who were watching her gesture were mesmerized by her elegance. If Sern had seen it, he would’ve shouted at them at their meeting and disciplined them severely. Fortunately for them, he couldn’t see this scene as he was standing with his back facing them.
Some of the knights uttered a sigh as her beautiful smile was hidden behind the fan. There were some knights whose faces appeared to be flushed as her eyes curved in a crescent shape.
“Yes, my lady.”
“I understand you have a lot of concern, but I don’t have time.”
Her irresistible dignity was shown through her attitude while half of her face was covered by the fan. When they were knighted, they broke out in a cold sweat behind Sern, as they saw her elegance that is comparable to the Imperial Family.
The knights, who were also aware of Jessica’s vigor, kept their mouths shut while they watched the confrontation.
“What are you doing here, Jessica?”
“What’s your business with the Knightage that’s full of men?”
At the words of Marquis Viterne, who seemed to reproach her for going there, Jessica smiled slightly and opened her red lips.
“Well I was about to go out, but should I depart alone? Without a knight?”
Her bright smile was terrifying. It had been a long time since Jessica requested for a knight escort, but there was a reason why an escort hadn’t been assigned to her so far.
The first reason was that Jessica didn’t go out often, and the second reason was that Marquis didn’t like the fact that an unmarried man was going to stay next to his daughter.
“No, Jessica! You can’t do that!”
“Then assign an escort to me, Father.”
“I can’t believe you’re still calling me ‘Father’! I told you to call me ‘Dad’.”
“I’ll think about it once I’ve returned from my outing.”
Marquis Viterne’s expression became sullen at Jessica’s remark. It meant that if she wasn’t satisfied with her outing, she would not give his request a thought.
If it’s like this, he would have no other choice but to assign her a knight escort for a pleasant day. Marquis Viterne turned to face Sir Sern.
“How many men still remain, Sir Sern?”
“Just two or three men left, except for the knights who were going to be appointed in the afternoon. The Marquisate will be empty if all men were sent out, my Lord Marquis.”
“Then cut down the chauffeur.”
“It’s my daughter’s first outing, and I can’t let her go without at least two knight escorts.”
“If that happens…… “
Marquis Viterne made the decision right on the spot and pretended not to hear Sern’s concerns.
“There should be at least two escorts.”
“I think you’re busy today, so one is enough for me, Father.”
“It’s the first time my daughter is going out, therefore this much must at least be done.”
Jessica nearly teared up at his stern but affectionate voice. How sad would she feel after she loses this kind of father. Her eyes were wet, and the Marquis looked at her face and felt embarrassed, wandered back and forth in front of Jessica, not knowing what to do.
“It’s not that Dad didn’t assign an escort for you on purpose.”
“Please stay by my side for a long time.”
Marquis Viterne’s body stiffened at her whispered remark. It hurt his heart. His little daughter had grown up so fast that she didn’t need his help after his wife, Mielle, passed away. He felt a lot of bitterness when he returned after hearing his wife’s obituary, but on the other hand, he thought it was fortunate.
He always had to be at the border, so if Jessica was doing well by herself, it would take some burden off his chest. But it wasn’t that Mielle’s absence was just nothing. He just didn’t express it. Marquis Viterne grabbed Jessica’s hand after hearing her words that she still needed him.
“Of course, where would I go?”
“You’re not leaving for somewhere else again, are you?”
“…… I’m not going.”
The Marquis replied to her after pausing for a moment. Even if it was a lie, the satisfaction on Jessica’s face as she smiled broadly couldn’t be hidden. She was shining brightly like a portrait.
“Then the escort would be…….”
“I would like Sir Alter to do it.”
Alter was astonished when his name came out of the Marquis’ precious lady’s mouth. Then he straightened his head in haste. Alter, one of the three sons of the Southern Baroness, a noble family who had nothing other than a noble title, left the house and devoted himself to the Marquis as the dispute over succession among his brothers became a lot worse.
The only reason he was able to join the Marquisate was because he had remarkable swordsmanship skills. Knights who held important duties at the Marquisate went to the war and they were called to fill the unoccupied Marquisate.
Alter’s expression didn’t change when his senior knights looked at him with unpleasant gazes.
The Marquis who was watching the scene unfold in front of him carefully, opened his mouth after a moment of consideration.
“Is he a good knight?”
Jessica grinned at his straightforward remark.
“It’s not about him being good or not. It’s about my safety, isn’t it?”
“There are more capable knights than him.”
“But the others need a break as they had just come back.”
Sern’s bewildered expression could be seen after hearing Jessica’s remark, who pointed out something he didn’t even think of in the first place. Marquis Viterne also looked at Jessica with astonished eyes.
“It’s not that I doubt their skills. But as a member of the Marquisate, I can’t make people who just returned from the war suffer just because they have to escort me during my private outing.”
Sern and the Marquis closed their mouths at her perfectly logical words. A victorious smile escaped from Jessica’s lips as soon as the Marquis gave his approval.
Marquis Viterne raised one hand to stop whatever Sern was going to say.
“You’ll go out with Sir Alter today, and we’ll select the chauffeur later. That’ll do, right?”
The Marquis said as if to declare he was aware of Sern’s concerns. Jessica had a flowery-like smile while nodding her head. The Marquis stroked her shoulder gently, and smiled ear-to-ear when he saw her satisfied expression.
“You’ve grown up a lot.”
“It’s all thanks to you, Father.”
A smile also bloomed on the knights’ faces when they looked at the happy pair of father and daughter.
“Yes, My Lord.”
Alter replied to Marquis Viterne as he took a step forward.
“Please take good care of my daughter just for today.”
At the Marquis’ words clearly expressing to take care of his daughter just until the end of the day, Alter put his hand to his chest.
“I accept your order.”
He whispered while smiling at Alter behind Jessica’s back.
“Please do your best, Knight.”
Alter didn’t understand what was going on, but he didn’t show it on his face. Including today’s encounter with Jessica, they had only met for about three times in total. He couldn’t see the real intentions of the precious lady who had shown him favor. The affection in her eyes wasn’t like the one between men and women nor did it seem like she was infatuated with him.
Actually, Alter was also popular among noble women to the point that his eldest brother’s wife tried to flirt with him. One other reason he left the house was in order to escape from her ogling stares.
‘That’s not it.’
The favor she showed to him wasn’t like that. A part of his heart was throbbing because of Jessica’s eyes who looked at him with a warm gaze, as if she’d known him for a long time like a friend. After leaving his house, he lost touch with his friends, but when Jessica looked at him as if he were an old friend of hers, unexplainable feelings engulfed him.
“Where are you going?”
Just before getting on the carriage, Jessica raised the corner of her mouth slightly and answered Alter’s question.
“Moncharto General Store.”
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