Chapter 1. Kill the Empress
Sponsored by Vina 💖 (¼)
‘Where did I hear that name?’
Anna was troubled for a while, and soon remembered that the name was the same as the current Duke of Gertium.
She was a little surprised but largely unconcerned.
‘It’s not that unique a name, so there can be someone else with that name.’
How could this young man, who carried her luggage and patrolled the castle every day, be Duke Perso Gertium?
The clothes that this knight wore were not that expensive or aristocratic.
He wore leather protective gear and comfortable pants and shirt that looked as sturdy as those of ordinary knights.
Also, the coat he wore over it was an old, sturdy-looking wool that was out of fashion.
“Thanks to knight Perso, I was able to return to the castle without embarrassment. As a thank you, I would like to give you a gift, is there anything you want?”
She asked desperately, and Perso refused.
“If you really want, there is a diner near here that serves good deer food. Would you like to go there with me?”
It was a little early for dinner, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t time to eat.
Just in time, she felt a little hungry for the long shopping trip.
Anna was happy to comply with his request.
“I’d like that, too. Do you know where it is?”
The nearest restaurant was in the center of the city, in the biggest building of all.
It had a realistic drawing of a deer head on the sign, as if to tell the customers that the restaurant specialized in deer cuisine.
It was probably the most popular restaurant in this small town, and there were quite a few people inside even though it wasn’t dinner time.
Perso took her well up to the third floor.
“It’s pretty big.”
“It’s famous. Some people even come from other nearby territories to sample the cuisine.”
As he said, there was even a separate carriage waiting area in front of the restaurant for customers who came from far away.
The first floor was an open terrace that was crowded with people enjoying drinks and food, the second floor was for dining, and the third floor was for people with money, perhaps, where the tables were spacious and the atmosphere was even more luxurious.
A staff member waiting on the third floor escorted them like a chambermaid escorting a nobleman.
It was somewhat crude by Anna’s standards at the Imperial Palace, but it was quite proper manners to see in the dining room of such a small estate.
“I didn’t know there was a restaurant like this here.”
“It looks like this, but it’s been here for over 30 years. It’s quite famous in the northeast.”
“…… I see.”
Anna looked at Perso carefully.
They were just going out for a bit and coming in for a quick meal, but she had a strange feeling that he was escorting her.
This was not any kind of meeting, banquet, or invitation.
“Do you like deer food?”
“I’ve tried it a few times. I didn’t enjoy eating it.”
“Then may I make a recommendation?”
“Order as much as you like. I’m ready.”
Perso stared at Anna with a smile.
His expression was still unreadable, but his staring gaze was very strong.
Anna turned to face him, trying hard not to blush.
For a few moments, they stared at each other in silence.
She didn’t want to look away at all to see what the misnomer was.
How many seconds had passed?
Suddenly, Perso lowered his gaze with a smile.
At that moment, for some reason, Anna’s efforts not to blush were ruined.
She averted her gaze, sighing so quietly at the heat that had swept over her face in an instant.
“I’ll order a soft stew of tomatoes and a thigh dish steamed in pine wood. We’ll also order one of the local wines to go with it, as they are very flavorful.”
A man in an old coat and an old shirt ordered a fine meal naturally and skillfully.
Suddenly, Anna realized that he was showing her around with more perfect posture and manners than any nobleman she had ever seen at the Imperial Palace.
‘Is he really a knight?’
A senior knight escorting a local noble.
There was a time when those who had the ability worked for local nobles, although they did not operate in the capital for various reasons.
However, the status of knights in this country was not that high.
No matter how high the rank, it was difficult to go above the rank of baron.
Unless he was a member of the imperial family’s Order or a captain of the Kingsguard.
It got even weirder when the food was served.
The order of using the forks, the manner of eating, nothing was missing.
He didn’t talk a lot, but he didn’t keep it completely silent to make the atmosphere uncomfortable.
Anna observed Perso curiously and sipped the region’s specialty wine, which had the best acidity.
Seeing his perfect manners, she became even more curious about the identity of the knight.
It was true that he was a knight who directly escorted Uncle Henrik, so he wasn’t just nobody without manners.
Gertium was a family that was more dedicated than any other noble house in training competent knights.
It was famous for accepting commoners, fallen nobles, and foreigners without prejudice, not to mention gender, as long as they were competent.
Perhaps this man in front of her could also be from a fallen nobleman or a nobleman from another country.
There were many countries that used the official language, so there would be no difference in language…
And really, maybe, for some unavoidable reason, he was working alone in this faraway place, away from his beloved family.
It was a real pity.
Anna was someone who knew better than anyone the pain of separation due to those “unavoidable” reasons.
So was that why?
Her lips, which had been squeezed shut, asked him a question arbitrarily.
“Is your lady here with you?”
Perso, who had been gracefully cutting the meat, raised his head at her question.
‘Oh no, I must be drunk.’
Anna smiled awkwardly as she realized her question.
“I was wondering if she might be far away for some reason.”
Perso stared at her as if to catch Anna’s meaning and replied blandly.
“I’m not married yet. I don’t have a lady either.”
“Oh, I see.”
As if she was thirsty, Anna drank another glass of wine.
From her seat on the third floor, she could clearly see the red sky of the sunset.
She smiled lightly as she watched the sunset turn red.
“…… Why are you smiling?”
“No, it’s just that the sunset is so beautiful when you see it like this.”
It was a meaningless smile.
It was just a smile that came naturally because she was feeling strangely at peace at this moment.
His reaction was calm.
Anna liked this quiet knight more and more.
Rather than liking him as a man, she liked the way he protected her side.
It had been very noisy around her so far.
When she was a chambermaid in the empress’s entourage, many of them would stick to her in their spare time and try to stop her from doing anything.
It was the same in the Puglish family.
Her husband asked her every day how the imperial palace was doing and where and what kind of land she was going to buy.
Her husband’s mother also called on Anna in her spare time for nothing.
Her mother in law was busy bragging about how powerful her daughter-in-law was with the empress and how much money she had made from the land she bought.
Her husband, who did not love her but wanted to be close to her as much as possible, interfered with her every step.
Even interfering with what she wore and what she ate.
He used to say how she looked tacky wearing this and that and eating like this would make her fat.
‘Come to think of it, I lived a really tiring life.’
Smiling bitterly, Anna realized that she was drunk.
“If you’re not married yet, I hope you will marry with love, knight.”
“Nobles almost always marry for political reasons. The women, in particular, can’t stay home long, as if it would be a big deal if they missed the right time. In the meantime, they often marry without knowing who the other person is, and when they actually get married, there are many areas where they don’t match and many couples fall out.”
Perso didn’t say anything, but listened to Anna’s story.
Anna sipped her wine and continued.
“That’s really no fun. Married life.”
Anna looked at Perso, who was staring at her, and smiled awkwardly.
“That’s right. That’s my story. I was married that way and it was really boring.”
Her face grew redder and redder, perhaps because of the alcohol, or perhaps because she was ashamed of herself for saying this to a man she didn’t know well.
However, her red color was supposed to be well covered by that sunset.
It was a day when she let go of strict rules and etiquette.
When she came back to the mansion, she would come back to her senses again.
So, if it’s just a moment like now, just a little moment.
‘It’s okay to relieve the tension once ……. I’m drunk too.’
Perso, who had listened to her silently, asked a surprising question.
“If you are going to get married again, do you want a love marriage?”
Anna’s expression became complicated at his question.
“When you say get married again, do you mean go back in time or do you mean remarry?”
“I mean remarry.”
“Oh, you mean remarry.”
Anna started to laugh.
She poured the last of the wine from the bottle and shrugged.
“I don’t know. The person* I wanted to love is no longer in this world.”
(*she’s talking about Cain. Roselyn’s brother)
“I’m not sure I can love again.”
Anna, who had mumbled the last words as if whispering, glanced up, as if coming to her senses now.
She sat straight up with a frown on her face as she finally realized what she had just said.
“I think I’m drunk. I said a lot of useless things…Please pretend that you didn’t hear what I just said.”
She fanned her hands hotly and said with an apologetic look on her face.
“I’m going to go down first to sober up, take your time and you can come down later. Strange, it’s a bit hot today.”
It was clear that she was embarrassed, but the moment she avoided her seat, she was calm enough to keep her manners.
With her hands covering her flushed cheeks, she went downstairs a little faster than usual.
Perso looked in the direction she’d disappeared and lifted the glass of wine she’d left behind.
The lukewarm wine flowing into his mouth was dizzyingly sweet.
He sighed low and looked at the seat where Anna was sitting.
The redness in her cheeks and lips like the wine, and the wrinkles around her folded eyes, stayed sweetly in his mouth.
After a few moments, Perso went downstairs, picked up Anna who was waiting in front of the carriage, and returned to the castle.
Somehow, the lights in the castle were all bright and there was a visitor.
It was Viscount Rotrega, Anna’s father and Henrik’s longtime friend.