Chapter 1 - Prologue
Kalis Haneton mounted the horse and looked back. The huge castle of Berk was now a blur in the winter mist. Kalis, conscious of the presence of the jewelry box in his pocket, said to his aide,
“Bin, you go up to the Capital first and control the rumors. It is entirely my fault that Stern’s wedding has been disrupted.”
“Yes, Marquis. What shall I tell Marquis Kellyden?”
“Don’t need to tell them. I’m sure they’ve already heard the rumors, but they haven’t contacted me at all.”
Kalis knew that Marquis Kellyden didn’t even treat Seria as his child, but when he finally felt this situation with his heart, he couldn’t help but feel bitter.
Besides, how noisy would the imperial society be again? The next three years were going to be a tremendous amount of gossip to worry about. It was only natural because each person expressed their interest in various ways.
Kalis knew that Seria wouldn’t stay married to Lesche Berg for long. This was already expected by many people, except for him. Knowing that Lesche never did favors without a reason, everyone would have guessed that some sort of deal had gone back and forth in the process of marriage and annulment, and some of it was true.
Lesche went into the wedding hall to save Seria’s life. Stern’s divorce would be difficult, unlike those of other nobles because it was closely tied to the Temple.
It would be quick and difficult, but still a few years away.
It was Lesche Berg who became Seria’s prospective husband, but Kalis was officially recognized by Seria’s family. Marquis Kellyden would have to acknowledge their marriage, even if he didn’t want to raise Seria to the rank of Grand Duchess.
Yet Kalis was also Lina’s husband. Once his divorce from her was finalized, Kalis would return to Seria and kneel down again.
Before that, he should hand over the role of Lina’s guardian to someone else. That was when he thought he would find the right person.
The elegant and large carriage that Lina and High Priest Amos were riding in suddenly stopped. Since this long procession was the main axis, the horses in front and behind immediately stopped.
“How could you lie to me!”
Lina jumped out of the carriage.
“You said we will go to the temple in Haneton! I believed you, but why would you take me to the main temple in the capital?
When Amos shouted in a harsh tone, Lina’s tears fell from her eyes. The sight of her strangely brought to mind the image of Seria crying, which made Kalis feel uncomfortable.
“If the procession stops, it will cause trouble for those following behind. Let’s just get in the carriage and talk again.”
Kalis couldn’t understand why Lina was so reluctant to go there. In the end, Lina cried and got into the carriage again.
After hearing that Kalis and Lina had departed, Seria slept all day. She wasn’t a good sleeper, but she overworked the past few days. When she heard that the High Priest, who was the most important guest of the castle, had left quickly, she felt as if her body had lost some of its strength.
The nobles who came to the castle were about to leave.
An estimated 500 or 600 people? Lesche seemed to want her to see the guests off at the mansion as well. Seria thought she had signed a slave contract in exchange for saving her life.
She told the maids to wake her up immediately if Lesche came to visit, but it was in the evening when the maids finally woke her up.
“My Lady, have dinner and go back to sleep. If you go to bed on an empty stomach, you will be hungry.”
As usual, the tray brought by the servants was plentiful. The main course was baked flounder with butter sauce, grilled chicken with peppercorns, and tender steamed beef. After warming up with a light soup, she ate salad with dried fruit. Then she finished the meal with cheese and wine. She felt so much better after a big meal.
“Hasn’t His Highness been looking for me?”
“Yes, my lady. Oh, by the way, the Chief Aide is waiting for you outside.”
The spoon stopped in midair.
“Linon…? Since when?”
The servant looked at the clock and said,
“It’s been about an hour.”
Linon’s hands were frozen to a crisp when Seria frantically called him in. She asked the servant to hurry up and bring him a hot water bottle and hot stew and asked her why she didn’t wake her up earlier. The servant said that Linon told her not to, and Linon’s answer was even more dismissive.
“Because I’m not the man who has the heart to wake up a lady who fell asleep from crying!”
It was true that he was not afraid to say things that could be misunderstood. When Seria cried in front of Kalis earlier, Linon saw it too. Seria sighed and asked,
“Why? Are you going to get me to see the guests off? Are there any important guests that are leaving at this time?”
“Huh? No, My Lady. Our guests have already left.”
“Oh. All the guests who are supposed to leave today are gone?”
“No, all the guests have left Berg Castle.”
Seria blinked slowly.
Linon was right. There was not a single light in the many outbuildings. It was as quiet as if a typhoon had blown over.
“You must have kicked them out nicely.” Seria said.
Linon cringed. He looked at Seria with an unjust expression.
“Are you talking about me?” Linon asked.
“Well, if it’s not you, then who?” Seria said.
“It was His Highness’s order. I’m a powerless minion who obeys him, young lady.”
She knew for a fact that Lesche hated noises.
In an aristocratic society where appearances were important, was there anyone in the world who could say to people’s faces “You have enjoyed the banquet, now get out?” Obviously, if it wasn’t Lesche, it would probably be the emperor of the Glick Empire.
“Then why did you come to see me?”
“Oh, there’s a place you need to go tomorrow. You’ve probably heard of the Laurel Manor.”
“Yes, I have heard of it.”
The Laurel Manor was a secretly famous place in Berg Castle. Along the rear garden of the huge main castle, a horse-drawn carriage ride inward for a while through the white birch forest across the glacier would reveal the beautiful green marble mansion. This was the “Laurel Manor,” where only the immediate members of the Berg family could live.
Rumors said that the underground warehouse was filled with treasures and was decorated with luxurious ornaments. Not many people were invited there.
That was a story Seria picked up after a long time in society.
And she knew one more thing.
Originally, the laurel manor was described as a completely evaporated place.
The whole area of the manor, including the beautiful green mansion, was just a huge black hole. This was also the story that Lina (in the novel) heard when she questioned the rumors she heard from the social circles and begged Lesche to tell her. Lesche, that cold male protagonist, never once properly mentioned the Laurel Manor.
“You’ll go there tomorrow.”
“Yes. Do you have a problem with that?”
“No, I don’t.”
Seria was just surprised that she was going tomorrow to a place that wasn’t even mentioned properly in the original book.
Linon nodded and continued talking.
“Anyway, Lady and His Highness will go there together. It won’t be long, just a couple of days stay.”
The next day, when Seria left the bedroom early in the morning, the number of people she saw was reduced by one-tenth. The castle was much quieter. Somehow it seemed unfamiliar.
Then the iron gate opened.
It was Abigail, who was locked up for a week for insulting Marquis Haneton. As Alliot had said one day, she still looked healthy. She was a little thin, but…
“Come on, this is the thickest cloak I have.” Seria said as she gave Abigail the cloak.
Still, she must have struggled. However, Abigail didn’t refuse and meekly wrapped the cloak around her. Alliot, who came with Seria, took out a stew and a spoon from a heavy box made of mahogany wood. Seria gave Abigail a spoonful herself. The beef stew, which was brought early in the morning from the main kitchen, was still steaming.
“Eat this first. There’s more in the kitchen. Are you cold?”
“It’s less cold than when I was soaked in ice water for three days.”
“What? Who tortured you?”
“Just kidding, My Lady.”
Abigail said lightly and chuckled, but her hands were really cold. It was a relief that Berg was thorough in managing prisons, but she was worried that there were many cases where trapped people freeze to death in dungeons in the winter elsewhere.
“My lady, you must have killed either that man or that woman while I was locked up, right?”
“It would be better if you killed both of them.”
Seria chuckled. She was a little tired from Abigail’s early-morning release, but after seeing her, her tiredness seemed to have gone away.
“I didn’t kill him.”
“That’s too bad. Do you mind if I kill him?”
“Do you want to get executed?”
“I won’t get caught.”
“Aren’t there two witnesses here?”
Abigail smiled at those words as she stared at Seria. Her smile disappeared the moment she turned around. Alliot, who carried the stew, was standing behind.
Seria also turned and glanced at Alliot. Alliot’s gaze was strangely fixed when he was looking at Abigail.
He seemed to be bothered by Bibi’s words. Well, Lina and Kalis were important figures anyway.
Furthermore, for Berg Castle, he was the head of security for Berg’s Grand Duke, the words must not be very pleasant to hear.
Alliot stared at her with a look of bewilderment. But soon waved his hand in a panic.
“I’m not going to press charges, Lady Seria.”
“Is that right?”