Chapter 1 - Prologue
“You don’t know that you almost died. I won’t tell you to get up, so lie down.”
After getting permission from Lesche, Seria felt a little more comfortable. She lied still and closed her eyes, then, Lesche suddenly asked.
“I can’t understand your mind. What dream did you have that made you cry like that.”
“Did I cry?”
“Or why would I wake up a sleeping person?”
“I woke you up because you were crying.”
Seria blinked slowly. “I had a dream of dying.”
“Are you afraid of dying?”
“Is there anyone who is not afraid to die?”
“I thought you weren’t afraid of that.”
Seria chuckled at the absurdity. How hard she had struggled to live.
“You mean that you normally acted fearlessly?” (*Lesche meant that all along she just acted like she was gutsy and unabashed.)
For that, Lesche’s voice felt a little softer than usual. Didn’t they have a very long conversation just now? Usually, Lesche was a very difficult person to talk to. Suddenly, Seria remembered that she had forgotten something.
“What about Kalis?”
Lesche looked cynical. He plunged into her bed, took the handkerchief and rubbed her forehead one after another as if he was wiping a ceramic vase.
“….Your Highness? What are you doing?”
“I wonder if you have a memory loss.”
“Don’t you remember what happened at the wedding?”
When someone was in too much pain, they just let go of their grip on reality. In other words, the memory Seria had before was blurred like a dream. She remembered the wedding hall vividly and how she fainted and cried because the pain became overwhelming. However, from then on, it was a blur.
“l ended the wedding.”
Seria knew she was married because she didn’t die. However, she did not remember seeing Kalis at the end of the wedding. The only thing she remembered was Lesche Berg, who looked at her with his red eyes which she couldn’t shake off the sight, and the cold air from his body. Wasn’t that a dream?
“Did I….marry you, Your Highness?”
For a moment, Lesche didn’t answer. As he looked at her, he slowly opened his mouth.
Seria blinked blankly. Incomprehension, embarrassment, surprise. All kinds of emotions were mixed together and she couldn’t take her eyes off Lesche. And Lesche never avoided her gaze.
“…Why?” Lesche clicked his tongue.”Should i just let you die and bring dishonor to the Berg estate? I would rather throw the knight’s badge into the lake.”
It was short and clear, but it was a convincing statement. But there was one thing Seria couldn’t understand.
“How did you know that I was going to die?”
She remembered that she didn’t say a word to Lesche that she was going to die. As a matter of fact, she couldn’t say anything because she was in pain. However, there were many priests there. Their scream rang out at the wedding hall, so of course, everyone must have guessed there was a problem with her divine power. Lesche glanced at her and opened his mouth.
“Am I the only one who knew?”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“Even if you kill Marquis Haneton, you won’t be held accountable.”
A chill went up her spine. What a weird thing to say. She found it terrifying. Just wanted to be sure, Seria slowly asked Lesche with the hope that it wasn’t what she thought.
“Did you mean that Kalis know that if he was late for the wedding, I might die?”
Lesche looked away from her and said. “Yes.”
At that moment, her heart turned cold as if it was cut with ice. As a Stern, she didn’t even know about it. Perhaps Kalis was the only one who knew. If so….he knew she could be in danger, but he went out anyway and didn’t come back? Her hands, which were placed warmly under the blanket, felt chilled. When she was barely able to hold her trembling hands, there was a knock at the door. After Lesche looked at her, Seria sat up.
The one who opened the door was none other than Linon, the chief aide. He bowed his head and said.
“Your Highness. A call came from the temple. The High Priest will visit soon, but you should come and check it out.”
‘The High Priest?’ For a Stern, hearing about the High Priest wasn’t that surprising. But that’s just her position. To the criminals, he was a divine person with high-level existence. In addition, the High Priest would not come out to other places very often. But now he is coming in person? Unlike her wide eyes, Lesche showed no signs of surprise. He just had a deep look with annoyance.
Lesche went out without looking back. He was tall and his stride seemed to be in a hurry. Linon, on the other hand, slowed down and quickly returned to see her as soon as Lesche left the bedroom.
He called her name in a friendly way which was very unlike him, who usually called her Lady Stern instead. Linon said while rubbing his hands like a trembling subordinate.
“Truthfully, if I had a say in it, you know I should be addressing you as Great Duchess right? However, the Emperor’s approval is necessary to officiate this marriage.”
Officially completed? That was strange. Wasn’t it a temporary marriage? A wedding made by Lesche Berg as a temporary measure to save her life. A wedding with no good reason to continue. She wasn’t being pessimistic but it was a realistic understanding of the situation. Seria didn’t know what expression she should make now. However, Linon’s expression changed slightly.
“My Lady, I’ve actually prepared a wedding gift for you….”
Linon was whispering softly, then shuddered suddenly. He looked just like a rabbit who sensed the presence of a predator. Seria quickly followed Linon’s gaze, who looked out the door, but no one was there. His complexion turned pale and he bowed his head.
“I will come back to pick you up soon.”
Then, without a chance for Seria to answer, he ran out quickly. In an instant, she was left alone in the bedroom, blinking at the confusion and emptiness. When she touched her arms without thinking, she shuddered at the pain. As she rolled up the sleeves of her fluffy pajamas, she could see her arms were all bandaged up.
‘I almost died at the wedding.’
Then she pulled the string and called the maids as her arms bled out as if the wound had ruptured. As the maids helped her wash the wound, she listened to them talk about people’s reaction at her wedding. Seria had them prepared comfortable clothes for her to go to meet the healing priest.
“It would be better to wear a cloak over this dress.”
“If you wear something with wide sleeves and tighten it properly with a ribbon, it will not interfere with your treatment…..”
It happened just right after the maids had just taken out the appropriate dress out of the closet. Bang! The bedroom door flew open roughly.
“Seria! Seria Stern!”
A man rushed in. Light brown hair and dark eyes. It was her fiancé…Kalis Haneton. It was that man. Berg’s knights hurried to follow him, who finally showed up in the bedroom after one month.
“Marquis Kalis Haneton! You shouldn’t come in here!”
“The Grand Duke told us not to let anyone enter without permission!”
‘Why are there guards guarding my bedroom?’ Seria thought to herself.
While pondering, Seria noticed Kalis was in a terrible condition. It seemed like he had rolled in the snow, and there was a bandage on his forehead and his wrist. But aside from these things, his eyes that looked at her were burning strangely. Yes, he had something to say. After putting the shawl hanging from the bedside around her shoulders, Seria said.
“Everyone please leave, I have to talk to Marquis Haneton.”
She was going to threaten the knights if they said no, but surprisingly, they bowed their heads and went outside without any scuffles. Like a criminal, Kalis halted instantly and followed her words. The move was very different from his usual ones. It didn’t seem like he minded it. Even the maids noticed, and the bedroom was deep in silence.
Kalis strode over and grabbed her shoulders. His eyes were burning with anger.
“How could you do this? How could you marry another man, the Grand Duke of Berg? Seri….!”
Kalis’s cheek didn’t turn as much as she expected. Her hand didn’t have much strength. She was angry because he didn’t know how miserable she was standing alone at the wedding hall.
“You didn’t show….”
“You didn’t come to our wedding!” She glared at Kalis and said every word.
“I married another man? You did it yourself, Kalis. I would have died if it wasn’t for the Grand Duke. I would have bled and died terribly. Because you didn’t come!”
Her jaw tightened. “What? You wonder how I know about it? You knew that I might die if you’re late for the wedding. Wait, did you actually want me to die, that’s why you went out with Lina?!”
“Seria, please…. It was an accident. I didn’t do it on purpose.”
“It was an accident?” She clenched her teeth. “Who would kill you if you didn’t sneak out to the glacier with Lina? It was just two days before the wedding, you went out to the glacier where you knew accidents occur frequently, and you call it an accident?”
“I’m sorry.” Kalis swept his face down with both hands. “I’m sorry, Seria….”
“Seria. Seria, please.”
Kalis grabbed her hands hurriedly and started to beg.
“I was worried that you might get hurt, Seria. It’s okay if you think it’s an excuse. I even tried to leave when the blizzard was still raging. But I was late because I lost my consciousness at the door….”
Tears began to form in his black eyes. “You know you’re the only woman I wanted to marry. The confession I made was not a lie. I really love you.”