Chapter 1 - Prologue
“It’s not that bad. Why?” (Seria)
“Because you like flowers.” (Lesche)
“Of course I do. I love them.” (Seria)
“I’m glad.” (Lesche)
“Glad? What do you mean?” (Seria)
Lesche couldn’t answer. The nobles who had been vigilantly waiting for an opportunity quickly began to follow Lesche, including Prince Jeun, who had started speaking. So Lesche was not the only one who was trapped in the crowd. Besides Prince Jeun, Duke Polvas was also trapped with him.
No one boldly spoke to Seria, perhaps because of her close conversation with Marlesana, or because of Seria Stern’s notoriety.
Lesche’s red eyes were sinking by the minute. She needed to push them out which was not a difficult task, as that was another one of Seria’s specialties.
‘The prince has already been pushed out.’
The chance of meeting the Grand Duke who mainly stayed in Berg territory was rarer than meeting a Prince who lived in the Imperial Capital. Most importantly, Prince Jeun had nothing obvious to show other than that he was the son of Empress Ekizel.
Lesche was a nobleman who was greater than the royal family, and he was the male protagonist. Even if Seria detached all her personal emotions and looked at him objectively, he would still be a wonderful man. It was not just a matter of appearance. Seria still couldn’t forget Berg’s ring Lesche put in her hand.
‘I’ll probably never forget it. Words like that, actions like that. From whom could I get such affection?’
After looking at Lesche for a while, Seria shifted her gaze to Marlesana, who was standing next to her.
“Duchess……? What’s the matter?”
Because Marlesana was looking at Seria in a very strange way, she blinked quickly.
“Would you mind taking a closer look with me for a moment?”
Seria was confused but nodded.
Marlesana quickly shifted her gaze to her own husband, the Duke of Polvas, who was answering the greetings of the nobles one by one.
But what could she say about Marlesana’s eyes, her expression, and the way her hands clasped in front of her chest? It was very peculiar. Marlesana looked like a wounded victim looking wistfully at her unrequited love from afar…
‘Am I right in pointing out exactly what it was?’
“You just looked at His Highness with this same expression.”
“What? I did?”
Marlesana looked rather bewildered when Seria asked back.
“Doesn’t the Grand Duchess also have a crush on His Highness?”
“Of course not…”
Seria was about to deny it at once when she encountered something really strange that instantly made her lips clenched.
‘What is it? I can’t open my mouth. Did someone cast a spell on me?’
In the midst of all this, Marlesana had a look of understanding that made Seria even more embarrassed. On the one hand, she thought it was strange. Duke Polvas loved his wife, but why did Marlesana say she had a crush on him?
Marlesana whispered with an embarrassed look on her face.
“Actually, I have a crush on my husband….”
“But just now I felt as if I were looking in a mirror.”
There was silence between them for a while.
‘Do I have a crush on Lesche? Do I?’
Oddly enough, Seria couldn’t deny Marlesana’s words for a moment when she confessed her secret feelings to Seria. This was the first time she had ever had this kind of conversation.
Marlesana opened her mouth slowly and cautiously.
“Grand Duchess Berg. From now on, can you please call me by my name?”
“Yes, Marlesana. You may call me by my name as well.”
“I would be honored, Seria!”
Marlesana smiled and squeezed Seria’s hands. In the Glick Empire, the higher the nobility, the more meaningful was the act of allowing others to call them by their names.
“Your husband is truly wonderful, Seria. It makes sense that he’s the center of so many rumors in the imperial social circles.”
She shifted her gaze to the Duke of Polvas with a gentle smile on her lips.
“My husband is a little picky, but that’s okay, he’s my favorite. I fell in love at first sight in the past.”
“Before you were married?” (Seria)
“Yes. It was before we were even engaged.” (Marlesana)
Seria laughed a little. Duke Polvas never forgot Marlesana, even after her death. Even though he was a stern and silent person, he still showed his unbelievable behavior by wearing a pink suit to social gatherings. There was no mention of him getting married again until the end of the original story.
How can that not be love?
“Don’t you think the Duke has feelings for Marlesana?”
Marlesana, who had always been full of life and friendly, immediately looked gloomy. She smiled awkwardly, so unlike her normal self.
“I appreciate your wonderful words, Seria, but it can’t be. I’m the one who has a significant difference in status with him, and this marriage is purely a case of luck. Actually… I feel a sense of distance.”
“It’s a one-sided love. That’s why I was so surprised earlier.”
“What is it?”
“I told you it was like I was looking in a mirror when I saw the way you looked at His Highness. But, Seria is from a prestigious family and also a Stern…”
Marlesana was polite enough not to make a direct reference, but it was understandable enough. Seria wondered why she felt so distant from Lesche. Marlesana said that she felt distant from the Duke of Polvas because of their different status, so Seria understood why she felt the same distance from Lesche.
Once again, Seria realized that Marlesana loved her husband very much. And that she had been thinking about her feelings for a long time too. After she knew what kind of look she was giving her husband, when others gave their husbands the same look she was able to immediately recognize it.
In order for Seria to survive, she had to gaze at Kalis’s expression, and in the end, she was able to read his and even Lesche’s expressions very well.
That was unless this was someone who had a deep unrequited love like Marlesana, no one would dare to read her mind again.
Marlesana’s words stuck in Seria’s mind.
It was unrequited love and distance. They were both words that opened a deep chasm in her heart. The latter, in particular, didn’t seem to be something that simply ended up being her problem. For no reason, Seria became conscious of the circlet on her neck.
“You can’t read that kind of distance in people’s eyes, right?”
Marlesana smiled and nodded.
Marlesana turned her gaze to the Duke of Polvas, who was still surrounded by nobles.
“I don’t know from the party’s point of view. I wish I knew at least a little bit.”
‘It would be better if you didn’t know.’
Seria shifted her gaze to Lesche. He looked like he was walking on a tightrope, on the edge between hassle, courtesy, tantrums and politeness when he suddenly met her gaze.
As soon as he met her eyes, Lesche smiled softly.
Several people followed Lesche’s gaze and shifted their eyes in Seria’s direction. Seria averted her gaze. She felt her cheeks hot for no reason.
‘Why is he smiling and making my heart drop when there are so many eyes around?’
“I’m going to get my husband out of there now.”
Lesche looked at Seria from time to time, listening to the people at random. He didn’t particularly mean to but his eyes went in that direction.
Seria was having a conversation with the Duchess of Polvas. He had known for a while that Seria liked her since they shared quite a lot of letters.
He could see that Seria was getting closer and closer. She stopped in front of a crowd and lifted her chin.
She lowered her voice as if hinting to others ‘I need to talk to him’.
She pushed the nobles who were circled around Lesche with her shoulders in a show of force and advanced into the center of the crowd with all her might. The aristocrats, who opened their eyes in embarrassment, turned their heads away, unable to speak when Seria glared at them.
Lesche could barely hold back the laughter that was about to spill out.
He wondered what Seria was going to say.
(*Seria is so sassy 😆)
A brief word. Seria crossed her arms and held out one hand haughtily. Fingers tinkering in turn as if playing the piano. It was a problem because she was so imposing as if to give Lesche the opportunity to hold her hand. Each viewer couldn’t take their eyes off of it. So thought the man who could not take his eyes off Seria the most in this empire.
All the nobles in the same place saw Lesche’s eyes glued to Seria, watching her move, and even smiling. They had startled expressions on their faces. Several pairs of flickering pupils did not even enter Lesche’s eyes.
Lesche gladly took Seria’s hand.
“The banquet doesn’t seem so bad with you here.”
It was the first thing Lesche said when he got away from the nobles. Seria tilted her head.
“But you don’t like banquets.” (Seria)
“I don’t enjoy them.” (Lesche)
“Then every time we have a banquet to attend, I’ll come rescue you like that. If we repeat it ten times, you will enjoy keeping people company.” (Seria)
Lesche burst into laughter. The two held hands and enjoyed the paintings hanging in the corridor quite leisurely. Seria bought some paintings, saying she wanted to hang them in the green manor, and this time the curator came out himself and bowed to them with appreciation.
The tour was almost over.
The Duchess of Polvas came over to Seria.
“Seria! I didn’t know you were here! I just ran into two of the members of my tea party…!”
Behind her stood two slightly nervous-looking noblewomen. As soon as they met Seria’s gaze, they immediately greeted her politely. They all looked the same age as Seria.
“There is a very beautiful teahouse nearby, why don’t you go with us and have a chat?”
Lesche saw Seria’s cheeks flush red. She seemed troubled. When he saw the look in her eyes, he knew what she was worried about.
“Go. I’ll pick you up in the evening.” (Lesche)
“It’s a long way from Berg residence.”
“You can just wait around. I have some business to attend to.”
“What’s business?” (Seria)
When Seria blinked and asked, the silent Duke Polvas spoke up.
“I’ve been asked to consult with the Grand Duke about the subjugation plan. I’ll also come to pick my wife later, so please relax and have a chat.”
A skeptical Seria looked at Lesche with an expression that asked, ‘were his words true?’ After he nodded, Seria smiled. Lesche stared at her and asked,
“Seria, did you want a teahouse?”
“No. I’m just happy that it’s been so long since I’ve hung out like this.”
Seria’s words were very serious. It had been a long time since she had relaxed and had tea with a friend of her own age and gender. She was always busy trying to survive, so her head was about to explode considering the original story that changed into a scary Oracle, and the fact that Duchess Marlesana Polvas liked Seria’s personality also played a part.
Peaceful daily life. She could already smell the tea she hadn’t even drunk.
“I’ll see you later, then. Lesche. I’ll buy you a cake if it’s good.”
Seria, speaking in a whisper, walked over to the excited face.
There was no hint of fear in her voice. Surely there was no way Seria would be afraid of a social gathering. But he didn’t think she’d be happy that much, to the point her cheeks blushed red.
Lesche stared at Seria’s back as she moved away. Her hair fluttered slightly in the wind. As Seria was walking away, she turned around and smiled at Lesche.
Then he saw her back again. Lesche couldn’t help but extend his hand towards Seria. But of course, there was nothing to catch. Because Seria was already far away. He lowered his empty hand. He only clenched his fist and opened it.
The red eyes were still fixed on the distant Seria.
Oddly enough, she seemed to disappear somewhere. An unknown feeling suddenly arose. Even after Seria got into the carriage, Lesche couldn’t take his eyes off her for a while.