Chapter 1 - Prologue
“But there is a blizzard right now….”
“I won’t get hurt, I think I can somehow get through. Thanks to the map, I know where we are currently, and if I walk all the way in the right direction, I will meet with the search team.”
Kalis’s eyes were shining with determination.
“Lina, I know the number of this cabin, as soon as I meet the search team, I’Il send them over here.”
“Are you leaving me here?”
The glacier was obscure on the outside, while the inside was like a vast sea. To be alone in a place like this? Lina was frightened and trembled.
“It’s too dangerous to take you with me.”
“Do you have to go? It’s your wedding, isn’t it? Isn’t it okay to postpone it for a day or two? Isn’t it the wedding of the nobles?”
Kalis spoke in a very heavy tone.
“To postpone a Stern’s wedding is not okay. It’s never okay, Lina.”
Lina couldn’t understand Kalis’s words well. How was Stern’s wedding different from those of other nobles?
“Then, when the blizzard stops a little, we can leave…Kalis?”
Suddenly, Lina’s eyes wide opened and called out nervously.
As he wiped his mouth, his gaze wavered at the bright blood stains on the back of his hand.
“Are you alright? Why suddenly are you bleeding?”
Kalis glared at the red blood without answering and headed to the small window. When he opened the wooden window, one more vertical window appeared. As he opened it carefully, the snowy wind raged outside. He squinted his eyes as it was dark outside, but he was sure that the wedding was starting. He coughed and closed the window. He needed to go back somehow. Kalis, who was walking toward the door, suddenly sat down like a sick man with a broken leg.
Following a series of coughs, blood spilled from his mouth. In that short time, Kalis’s face was pale like wax. Lina somehow was able to pull him and put him on the bed, then covered him with a blanket. She wasn’t a doctor but just by looking at him, she could tell Kalis’s condition was unusual. In the meantime, Kalis, who vomited more and more blood, muttered confusedly.
At that moment, Lina’s face was hardened. A constellation-like chain* emerged from Kalis’s neck, and began to squeeze his throat. (*It’s not a physical necklace but it’s like a halo or a magic circle light suddenly appeared and tightened his neck.)
Lina closed her mouth with both hands. She didn’t take a formal class about Stern, but she learned it briefly when she took a doctrine class from the priest. It was a sign of the oath made to Stern’s covenant. But why was it choking Kalis?
Lina hurriedly tried to rip off the chain of light from his neck, but to no avail. Suddenly, blood dropped down from Kalis’s face.
The wedding hall on the day of the main ceremony was more beautiful than ever. The lights shone from the luxurious chandelier was dazzling. The red sash, which started from the entrance, was laid out to the altar, and at the edges, abundant flowers were placed in glass baskets to refresh the wedding hall. Divine insignia shone over the floating candles. Many priests who came here only for the wedding were gathered together like a choir. Their expressions were deep. Sighs of concern were occasionally heard.
Kalis didn’t come. In the wedding hall without the groom, Seria stood alone in front of the altar. Fortunately, the guest seats were full. No, actually she didn’t know if it was fortunate or unfortunate. A bride, standing alone in an empty space, would have been a laughingstock.
The veil, which designer Begonia secured with a water droplet diamond pin, gently covered her face. As confident as she was, the wedding dress that she carefully touched up until the end of the day was extraordinarily beautiful. With the lighting of the wedding hall, special attention was added, and hundreds of multi-angle beads shone beautifully. Like this glowing wedding dress, golden vessels were placed on each side of the officiant’s seat, shining brightly.
In the golden bowls, the holy water was constantly dropping like a water clock. A month ago, during the covenant ceremony with Kalis at the temple, there was such a golden bowl. With the bowl of holy water in his hands, Kalis swore an oath to become Stern’s man. The ceremony began when the holy water started to fall, and when it fell completely, the ceremony would end. She was not sure why it needed such a time bomb. As she was looking at the golden bowl quietly, suddenly a scream was heard from behind.
“My Lady..? My Lady!”
Belatedly, Seria recognized that she was the target of the scream. As she looked down, all she could see was blood. As if it was poured out from a bucket, her shoes were covered in blood, then she burst out a cough. The white wedding gloves, which took two months for the designer Begonia to make, were stained with blood.
She couldn’t figure out what was going on.
Abigail came running towards her but the priests grabbed her arms and held her back.
“No! You can’t touch her!”
“Are you crazy? The lady is covered in blood!”
“It’s Stern’s ritual! If you touch her and something goes wrong, her divine power might cause more harm.”
The priests said nothing was wrong. Until the wedding was over, Stern could not be touched except for those who had finished the covenant ceremony. It was an unwritten rule. The same was true if an accident happened on the day of the wedding, and even if she seemed like dying from bleeding, no one could touch her. Because if there was a contact, her divine power could go wrong and she would go crazy. Now she understood the words of the priests, who had been demanding that the wedding be punctual.
“When is Marquis Haneton coming?”
“Gather all of Stern’s insignia! I’ll do whatever I can with my divine power.”
At some point, Seria was lying on the podium. Her head was dizzy. She thought she had somehow avoided the tragic ending of the original story, but was this how she’s supposed to die? It couldn’t be helped because Seria Stern was a villain? But she had never even disturbed the main characters. She had never even coveted them.
‘I’m still a villain. What did I do wrong?’
Tears trickled down her cheeks. Heavy diamond accessories and the long veil that were worn on her head fell down together. Even though her tangled hair hurt, the pain on the other side was greater. It was terribly painful, and even in the midst of pain, she knew clearly that she was going to die here. At Stern’s wedding, which everyone envied, and the man who said he loved only her didn’t even come. Everything felt like a skit.
“Ha! Your Highness!”
“Grand Duke Berg!”
Seria slowly perceived there was a lot of noise at the entrance, but there she was immovable on the floor. Blurrily, metal plated boots covered with white snow and mud came into her view. It came closer and closer. Then, he knelt down in front of her and removed the veil that was covering her face.
“No, your Highness!”
“You must not touch Lady Stern!”
The cries of the priests deafened the ears.
“Is it going to solve any problem by watching her die?”
Lesche shouted loudly and looked down at her.
She looked up blankly at the man, who was shaking her body. He was not her fiance, Kalis Haneton. A crumpled veil fell on the floor. He clenched his teeth and called her name as she lay in a bloody wedding dress. Even his beautiful silver hair had some of the blood on it.
“Wake up. Do not die. Don’t die, damn it!”
She couldn’t tell exactly what kind of expression he had while looking down at her. Her vision was unclear and out of focus.
Lesche looked down at her bloody hands and rose from his seat. With a blurry vision, she can see him striding and dipping his hands in the holy water bowls placed on both sides of the altar.
“Get ready for the covenant.”
“Make it simple. Now!”
The priest stiffened like stones and, as if possessed by something, he took out the Bible, read it, and put his hand on Lesche’s forehead. A pure white light burst out. The steps were skipped, and simplified a lot, but the outline was similar to the covenant ceremony that Kalis had received. Linon ran over and handed Lesche white gloves. Then, he strode toward her, wearing the gloves on his hands. Suddenly, her body raised up, belatedly she knew she was being hugged by him, Lesche Berg.
“Go ahead with the wedding!”
She felt that people were thrashing around. The bloody veil was held in his hand once again.
“….Thus, I pledge eternity to Stern, who is blessed by the Holy Spirit…”
Suddenly, there seemed like a strange patterned circle of light was engraved on Lesche’s neck. Perhaps because Seria was dying, she couldn’t see anything clearly. She lost her consciousness like that.
“Please don’t kill me so terribly. I want to live. I want to live. Don’t kill me!”
“Stern! Seria Stern!”
Seria woke up with a cold sweat all over her body. The familiar ceiling catched her eyes. It was the bedroom she had stayed in. Her eyes were wet. Did she cry in her sleep? She thought she had a nightmare, but she couldn’t remember it well. As she rubbed her wet eyes with the back of her hand, a soft cloth fell on her forehead. It was a men’s handkerchief.
“Use it to wipe your eyes.”
Only then she turned and looked to the side. Clean silver hair. Dark, red eyes were seen through such long silver lashes. It was Lesche Berg. Normally, she would have been surprised by seeing him at her bedside, but now she had no strength left. She was just dazed, perhaps because she had overcome her death. It felt like she was chewed up by a tsunami and washed ashore.
After all, as she in fact feared him for an entire year, Seria asked hesitantly.
“May I …..lay down?”
Lesche scoffed with a smirk.