Chapter 1 - Prologue
“Dear Saintess. I’m Simon, a knight of Count Charlotte. Please call me Sir Simon. It’s a pleasure to meet you……”
“It is an honor to meet you, Saintess! I’m from the Liam family of the East!”
Lina, who was stifled by the passionate knights’ self-introduction, stared at the dance floor when the music began as if possessed. Lesche and Seria were dancing.
The grand banquet hall was very beautiful and filled with sweet melodies, but she couldn’t help but sigh.
Though most of the people were conversing with each other, they kept watching them. Whispers were heard from time to time, but they kept their eyes fixed on the dance floor.
“Sir… Sir,” Lina asked Viscount Issac standing next to her in a quiet voice.
“Why are His Highness and Seria the first ones to dance? Is it because they are the hosts? If I host a ball, can I do that?”
Viscount Issac responded with a smile.
“This is because the hierarchy of His Highness is very high, as stipulated by Imperial law. For generations, the Grand Dukes of Berg and the Imperial Family have been equal in rank.”
Berg was a family of imperial merit, one of the few families that had been allowed to have a sizable private army to protect the empire from the glaciers for generations.
“Then what about me and Kalis?”
“Hmm… Saintess is of course an amazing person, but in the empire, the division between nobility and royalty is strict.”
The imperial family of the Glick Empire was relatively generous in dividing noble titles.
This was not to say that they would buy and sell titles, but they were humane enough to give at least an Earldom to the heroes who came back from the war with achievements. It was a generosity that could have benefited the entire empire, as it was broad and had a population of its own. However, this generosity was only limited to the rank of Count. The probability of a Count being promoted to a Marquis was very low. It was as rare as looking for a needle in a desert for a nobleman, especially one below the rank of Count, to step into the imperial lineage.
Even as a Lady below the level of a Countess, whose beautiful appearance and grace of manner had attracted attention in social circles, she rarely succeeded in joining the Imperial Family through marriage or war merit. It was common for most of the royal family to marry into the aristocratic families of the Marquises and above. The Saint would probably receive at least an Earldom. Even so, the emperor was very happy that a Saint was born in the Glick Empire. However, it would be difficult for the custom of the Glick Empire to go any further. If Lina didn’t marry a royal family member, it would be difficult for her.
As Lina gazed blankly at Lesche once more, she saw a group of noblewomen approaching. They were noblewomen from the Haneton estate. They were from families closely connected to Haneton, so socialites sometimes referred to them as the “Ladies of Haneton.”
Lina, who had followed Kalis for a few days and had made an acquaintance with the ladies of Haneton, exclaimed happily. But she immediately panicked. Because the way the noblewoman looked at Lina was not so friendly.
Countess Martyr, who was the most influential among them and thus effectively the head of the group, spoke up first.
“Saintess, I thought you weren’t coming to the ball.”
“I got an invitation.”
“Oh, my. I see you still don’t understand the physiology of society.”
The ladies exchanged glances.
“The master of this place is the Grand Duke of Berg. So, isn’t it right for the Saintess to enclose flowers with the invitation and send it back?”
Lina did not feel good about the Haneton ladies who were agreeing with Countess Martyr. Lina gritted her teeth.
“No, no. That’s what my teacher taught me. To become the Grand Duchess of Berg, you have to have the permission of the imperial family. So Seria is still Lady Seria Stern. Isn’t she? And… it’s not right for you to pick on me like this.”
“What do you mean, pick on you? How dare we? Aren’t you the Saintess?”
Lina answered resolutely.
“Yes. This is not moral.”
She could hear the ladies around her gasping for air.
‘Oh, I’m in trouble.’ Viscount Issac touched his forehead in distress.
Lina was quick to absorb the knowledge. But there was absolutely not enough time for her to learn to fully grasp the subtle conflicts of this society and how to answer them gracefully. With a perfect grasp of the social scene, a Young Lady would naturally leave such a bad situation or escape the predicament with a sharp but perfect courtesy, letting people know that she was the one who was invited to this occasion. It was a graceful and normal way of dealing with the situation.
Lina would have been able to deal with the situation in this way if she studied for a few months more, as Viscount Issac had predicted. That way, if Lina had made her debut in the social world with time to spare, he would never have had to deal with such immaturity. However, they had already returned to the overturned tray. Moreover, those noble ladies seemed to have a very good impression of Seria Stern, who was originally scheduled to be the Marchioness of Haneton. That’s why, even though Countess Martyr wasn’t the host herself, she came at Lina out of spike.
“Do you speak of morality to us, Saintess?”
“I don’t think it’s something that can be easily incorporated.”
Lina’s face turned pale at the words of the noblewomen, who meant Lina was the reason that Stern’s wedding got destroyed. She clenched her hands tightly.
“Saintess, we’re leaving now….”
Viscount Issac hurried to stop Lina from saying anything else, but he was too late.
“Do other people know that you are doing this to me? What about Kalis?”
Viscount Issac couldn’t bear to look at the cold faces of the noblewomen, so he turned his head away. Lina had chosen the worst possible option now. If only Seria Stern was friends with the Saintess, she would be able to save Lina at a time like this…
Seria Stern was like a viper. She was absolutely unbeatable even in the jungle-like imperial society. If you stared into her beautiful, venomous eyes, many people would tuck their tails. Rumors abounded. When Viscount Issac thought of the impossible hope, Kalis’s voice came from behind.
“What are you doing now?”
Viscount Issac and Lina turned around excitedy, as if the savior had come.
Lina hurried behind Kalis and leaned her forehead against his back as if to hide. He glanced at Lina, who was hiding behind him, and then looked at the noblewomen in front of him. The noblewomen bowed gracefully as they faced the lord of the estate.
“Marquis Haneton.” Viscount Issac quickly rose to his feet. “The noblewomen and Saintess were chatting.”
“Yes. It wasn’t a big deal.”
Viscount said, hoping it would work out nicely. However, the situation was not going the way he intended. It was because he heard sniffling sounds behind Kalis’s back.
Viscount Issac almost covered his mouth. Lina was crying profusely. Kalis looked ahead with an angry face.
“I would like to ask the ladies here. What is the meaning of this? Did you all just gather together to bully Saintess Lina?”
Countess Martyr slowly bowed her head. As long as Lina continued crying, this situation could not be easily passed as Viscount Issac wished.
“It seems that our direct words have offended the Saintess.”
“Be extra careful because it’s not a direct statement when the subject is in the past.”
Their faces became as cold as if they were carved out of ice. The only thing that hit harder than jealousy in social circles was indifference. They treated Lina like she was a nobody. It seemed that the ladies had decided to cruelly suppress any trace of curiosity or emotion towards the Saintess. There was no warmth left in their eyes. They withdrew, and Lina lifted her head.
Kalis sighed tiredly, and Lina’s body shuddered. Viscount Issac spoke with concern.
“Saintess? Your dress is wrinkled. Please, go adjust it.”
After Lina left to the common room for a moment to fix the crumpled dress with the maid, Viscount Issac spoke to Kalis.
“That was a bad choice. How could you offend the ladies? Some families work very closely with the management of the Haneton estate.”
“I know. I know, but Lina cried.”
“When we return to the territory, we will have to distribute the treasures as we see fit. I’m sure we’ll be quite tired when we get back.”
If Lina hadn’t cried out, he would have managed to let the ladies off with the unspoken agreement of the society. The result would have been better. But he couldn’t ignore Lina’s tears. There was nothing he could do about it, but the situation that followed was undeniably bad. Viscount Issac sighed.
‘But the ladies were fond of Lady Seria Stern, that’s why it happened.’
“Kalis…..Marquis Haneton did that?”
“Yes, that’s what he said to the ladies of Haneton. Lady Stern.”
“Thank you for telling me, Lady Aston.”
If there were aristocrats who serve as gossipers, in order to impress the high social class, Seria Stern would be in the gossip. When she married Lesche, there seemed to be even more such nobles. The rumors in the social circles spread many times faster than when she was single.
One of the noblewomen had secretly come and told Seria what had happened while she was dancing with Lesche, and she frowned her forehead as soon as the Lady retreated with a satisfied look on her face. In the original story, the noble ladies of Haneton were very friendly to Lina. There was a part where Lina made her debut in the capital, and then she was invited by Kalis to go down to the Haneton territory. She did very well there, too. She didn’t think something like this would happen.
No wonder Viscount Issac was looking strangely pale. Seria had limited meetings with the ladies because she was tired after going to the glacier in the morning. She didn’t want them to find out that her face was swollen which would be noticed if she had to talk to them so close and for so long.
Maybe some had already noticed it.
But what could she do? She was drinking the bubbling champagne while leaning her back lightly against the wall.
Her place was on the west wall.
On the opposite wall stood Kalis, watching her.