Chapter 1 - Prologue
4. The Laurel Manor
“The High Priest took Lina with him?”
The next day, Linon came early in the morning and gave Seria the unexpected news. She looked at the clock on the small table in the bedroom with a puzzled look on her face.
It was seven o’clock.
The sun was shining through the gaps in the window curtains.
‘Am I dreaming or am I half asleep?’
Normally, at this time she would still be sleeping. Usually, banquets last until dawn. So the day after that, the nobles usually sleep beyond their lunch break. Of course, she left early yesterday, but she waited until 3 a.m. when the banquet was over. Because she had to change the decorations of the castle in a hurry.
There was nothing more unsightly than the decorations of a party that was already over. Of course, she had to change the atmosphere to make it appropriate for the High Priest’s visit. At least she wanted to be the perfect hostess since Lesche sacrificed to save her life.
Thanks to her advance preparation, the redecoration took only about an hour. She decided to give the servants a special allowance. It would be frustrating to work like that at night and not get paid. She had to supervise here and there directly, so she went to bed at dawn.
Even so, Seria made sure to ask the servant to wake her up in the morning. The servant faithfully obeyed her order. But as soon as Seria was up, she was informed that the chief aide was waiting outside. She was naturally dismayed by this. She thought there was a change in the schedule of the visit of the High Priest, so she told him to come in quickly.
“The Saintess and the High Priest already left the main palace.”
For a moment, the thought of clean, unmarked bowls and cups that the servants had worked so hard to polish for the High Priest’s reception passed through her mind, but… But that wasn’t what mattered now.
“You said High Priest Amos was here?”
He was one of the nine High Priests who worked relatively outside the ministry, not in the temple. So he got acquainted with Seria, a Stern, who he had never visited much before.
Seria didn’t have much trouble in the temple, which was her power base. Due to her nature, it was best not to go there in the first place to avoid any accidents. Amos would certainly be able to visit Seria, but he didn’t even stop by and left the mansion with Lina. She wondered what the reason was.
“The High Priest Amos paid a visit to the main mansion half an hour ago. After having a brief tea with His Highness the Grand Duke, he immediately took the Saintess with him. He didn’t eat anything, and he didn’t even finish his tea.”
“Did Lina follow him willingly?” Seria asked.
“He…,” Linon hesitated to speak for the first time.
“High Priest Amos was very angry…”
‘He was angry?’
The High Priest Amos that Seria remembered was not a man who could be offended by anything out of the ordinary. Even when Seria made mistakes when she was in the temple, rather than getting angry, he handled it with a determined look on his face, following the rules of the temple. He wasn’t a kind and warm character, but he wasn’t an angry one either. However, she never spent enough time with him to experience such a drastic change in emotions.
“Saintess initially didn’t want to go, but High Priest Amos got angry and asked to speak with her alone…Then she got into the carriage, sobbing. That’s how they left. By the way, the Saintess’s unexplained seizures all subsided at dawn.”
‘I was under the impression that he was very strict.’
High Priest Amos was like a dour old professor, and yet Lina had a solo meeting with an angry man. She could not help but sob. Seria nodded at the fact that all the other priests also left with her. That was expected. In the first place, Stern’s wedding was over, and also the priests that Kalis invited from the High Temple had no reason to stay after she recovered naturally.
‘I’ll write to the priests later. I have to find out why they suddenly took Lina away like that.’
“Did you come to my room early in the morning, in the wee hours to talk about this?”
Linon cleared his throat. Seria was still sitting on the bed in her nightgown. Well, nightgowns, but not much different from a chemise dress. The sleeves are long and the hem of the skirt falls below the knees. She thought she didn’t have to be so strict about it since they were friends anyway.
She thought something was wrong because Linon rarely hesitated. However, before Linon could answer, there were urgent knocks at the door.
The bedroom door slammed open with a bang. It was Kalis, and the maid was seen following him with a perplexed look on her face. He strode over and stood in front of the bed.
“Seria, please give me one last moment before I leave. We need to talk.”
Seria looked at him. Kalis was overbearing to proceed with the conversation somehow, but on the other hand, he seemed a bit uncomfortable as if he was afraid Seria would ask him to leave.
‘That’s good. I have something to give back to him anyway.’
“Excuse me, Marquis Haneton, but am I invisible to you?”
Kalis glanced back at Linon with a smirk when he heard the question.
“Please excuse me for a moment, can you, chief aide?”
“I’m sorry, but I’m here by order of His Highness.”
“Did His Highness order you to expel all the guests of this annex?”
“No, but he told me to watch out for trouble makers. He also told me to get rid of whoever Young Lady doesn’t like.”
After listening to Linon, Seria understood why he came to her place so early in the morning. At least Linon, who was the Grand Duke’s chief aide, would have to be there to deal with Marquis Haneton. Anyone with lower status, it would be inevitably difficult to actively deal with the Marquis.
By the way, was it okay for Lesche to put his chief aide by her side all the time like that? As far as she knew, Linon had a lot to do. Without Linon, wouldn’t Lesche, himself, have to take on more work?
While asking such trivial questions, Seria waved her hand to the servant girl. It was then that she bowed her head and walked out.
“Then just stand there. Do as you please.” Seria told Kalis.
Kalis looked less energetic than usual. He rubbed his face with one hand, as if he was tired of playing against Linon continuously. Then he took a step closer to Seria. She was sitting on the bed, looking at Kalis. He stood in front of her and stared at her. Up close, he certainly looked many times more tired than usual, probably because of the dark circles under his eyes.
With the familiar call, Kalis dropped down on his knees in front of Seria. For a moment, her eyes widened helplessly.
“I’m sorry. I can’t begin to count all the hurt I’ve caused you with this apology, but ……”
Seria looked at him silently.
“Can you give me another chance, Seria?”
Without hesitation, Seria spoke.
“What would be changed if we were married again? Kalis Haneton, Are you sure you won’t run to Lina again when she calls you?”
“Yes, I am sure….”
“No. Kalis, you will run to her again.”
Seria said firmly. She felt hurt saying it. The self inflicted thoughts never crossed her mind, but yesterday she looked at the sparkling crystal chandelier and all she could think of were these words.
“You asked me yesterday if I pushed Lina, remember? The servant didn’t suspect me, but you did. I understand. There are so many things I’ve done to you. I’m notorious for it.”
Seria understood why he suspected her. Kalis almost lost one of his arms because of the original Seria. Above all, Seria was a recognized villain in the original story. It was not something she (the new Seria) had built up over the years, and it was frustrating at times, but there was nothing she could do about it.
‘I’m already Seria Stern, but I want to live, unlike the original story I’ve been assigned. So I thought that I deserve this karma, but what about my heart?’
She always knew that she couldn’t blame Kalis for being overly nice to Lina. He was the second male lead, so it was inevitable that he would fall for the original heroine, but Kalis believed that he loved Seria.
However, just because she understood him, it didn’t mean that she could pretend to be ignorant of all the circumstances around her. To avoid a tragic death, she swallowed her miserable feelings.
‘I know the situation was unreasonable, but how long do I have to convince myself that it’s inevitable because the star of this original story is involved?’
How long does she have to do this?
“I’m…so hurt by you. I don’t want to live in fear anymore, and I don’t want to worry about when you’ll go back to Lina….”
Seria suddenly burst into tears. She wiped her wet cheeks with her hand and said,
“Let’s get this over with, Kalis.”
Just then, with a small knocking sound, the servant Seria sent out earlier returned. She had a small box in her hand. Knowing the heavy air, she quickly and cautiously gave the box to Seria and left the room.
She opened it and presented it to Kalis. It was Kalis’s ring, which he gave her as a token of their engagement.
“I’m returning it to you. Take it.”
Kalis glanced at the box and slowly accepted it. The moment their fingers touched he suddenly grasped her hand tightly.
“Seria,” Kalis said, his eyes were pooling with tears.
Suddenly Seria realized something. After she possessed Seria, she could read people’s expressions. She thought Kalis loved her. But he was too easy to renege on the promise of a holy marriage. Even if she could read his expression skillfully, she couldn’t read the depth of his mind.
There were so many emotions on Kalis’s face that it was hard to decipher their meaning. She just looked at him in silence. Then, as if he made up his mind, Kalis gave her hand a squeeze and released it.