Chapter 1 - Prologue
“I will not have a cicada larva on my horse.”
“That would be an honor, Your Highness.”
“You sound sarcastic.”
“Do I? Would I do such a thing to a noble lifesaver?”
Lesche looked at me and chuckled. He gave some instructions to the knights, then took the reins and said,
“Hold on tight, Young Lady.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Even without him telling, she would have held on anyway because who would want to fall when riding a horse. In fact, if Lesche had thrown away the quilt, she would have been much more comfortable even if it was a little cold. She could at least hold onto him with her hands. But Lesche wrapped her tightly with a blanket with her arms in it, so she actually had no choice but to stick to him. It was entirely up to Lesche to support her.
‘He wouldn’t throw me away just because I’m heavy, would he?’
Even with the blanket and the cloak binding her tightly, her body was still cold.
They say that winter in the center is like a drunkard. That word fits perfectly.
‘Isn’t this man cold?’
Seria raised her head slightly. Lesche’s silver hair looked amazing against the snowy winter landscape. It was almost indistinguishable from the snow.
She opened her mouth as he rode on in silence.
The snowfall was heavy and the wind was strong. She didn’t care if Lesche could hear her or not, she kept her voice at the same volume as usual.
“Aren’t you cold?”
She didn’t think Lesche could hear her, but his answer came surprisingly quickly.
“I see no reason to be cold when Stern is in my arms.”
“I’m not talking about the constellation gold armor. I’m talking about the cold.”
“I’m used to this.”
Lesche’s voice was indifferent. It was as if the people living on the plains thought nothing of the gale force winds.
How long did they run?
She was so limp from the cold that she suddenly realized that her speech was slowing down. It was hard to raise her head and she blinked only her heavy eyelids out of annoyance, but something cold touched her cheek. It was a little late to find out that it was Lesche’s hand with gloves on.
She couldn’t react right away, she just blinked, but this time she could feel his chin. Then it was warm, a different feeling than before. The touch of skin that felt very hot touched her cheek.
How could Lesche’s face be so close to hers?
It was an unbelievably close distance. She slowly realized that it was Lesche’s tongue that touched her cheek.
‘Did Lesche lick me?’
Her slow breathing regained its original speed in the blink of an eye. She shuddered in surprise.
“Your Highness! What are you doing?”
“I had to do that to wake you up. You’ll die if you sleep in the cold. Young Lady.”
“That’s amazing. Please tell me then.”
“I’ve been calling you for a while now.”
Seria groaned in surprise. She didn’t hear Lesche call her name at all. She must have been looking at the Jordan River without even realizing it. Lesche brushed her head, shoulders, and back lightly. Each time, the snow fell to the ground.
“Your Highness! My Lady! Are you alright? Come to your senses!”
Linon shouted loudly. His appearance was quite a sight. His hair and shoulders were covered with snow, and most importantly, his face was pale. He looked like he was about to freeze to death.
“We’re going to be in a lot of trouble soon,” he said, but Lesche didn’t give Linon much attention.
“We’re almost there.”
At Lesche’s words, a low sob escaped her lips.
The mansion was beautiful from afar. Befitting to its name, Laurel Manor, the outer walls were made of green marble.
“It’s very beautiful.”
She could tell that great care had been taken from the bird’s eye view stage of the building. The magnificent three-story building looked the size of the Count’s residence on the Yellow Road. It was different from the overwhelming majesty of the main Berg mansion, but it didn’t look small or shabby. Just as the moon was different from the sun when it comes to its beauty, so was this one.
Finally, they arrived at the manor. However…
”Wow. It’s really bad.” (*t/n: expectations vs reality 😀)
“It’s winter, so it must be a bit bleak…?”
Despite her low expectations, the sight of the Laurel Manor defied her expectations.
“Laurel Manor” was the name of a unique master or mansion. Naturally, there was a garden, but that garden was near ruin.
‘No, I stand corrected. It was just a ruin.’
It reminded her a bit of the large garden of Berg’s main castle. To be honest, it was as vast as a park.
The gardens of the main castle were very well maintained, even though it was winter. It was not technically beautiful, but it was quite a feast for the eyes as there were many expensive crops planted on the expansive land. The guests who stayed in the main villa for her wedding were sure to wander around and explore the garden at least once a day.
‘Why is this place in such a state? It’s not that they didn’t take care of it, it’s just that the plants were rotting away.’
It looked like a dour wife was living there. However, she was the only wife of this Grand Duchy. Of course, Seria had a very difficult past.
‘I have never received any reports about this.’
Maybe it was because the garden was more bizarre than she imagined, or maybe because of the heavy snowfall… A feeling of discomfort enveloped her.
Without realizing it, Seria squeezed Lesche’s arm tightly.
“No, it’s just…”
Without saying a word, Lesche looked at her and lowered his gaze.
“Let’s get off.”
He got off as quickly as he did when he put her on a horse, and this time again, she was in his arms, he stepped toward the manor.
Linon, who took the lead, took the key from his pocket and opened the door. When Seria entered, she felt a palpitation inside.
Which one was it really? Was it the beautiful exterior or the ruined garden?
Seria was speechless for a moment.
That was the best way to describe this green manor. The beautiful manor was covered in black mold. It was impossible to tell what color the walls had originally, and the floor was no different. The pillars were also peeled off, and the door rattled out of teeth.
Nonetheless, the mansion was beautiful because of its unusual decorations. Perhaps because the original Seria was meticulous, there were a few points that came under her very watchful eye.
What could she say? It was like a wealthy nobleman poured his heart and soul and vanity into building a petite castle that would go down in history, but in the end it was dishonored and left in ruins?
Anyway, it was a shock in many ways to the Grand Duchy of the Glick Empire, that the Laurel Manor that was called the cradle with all kinds of rumors was this horrible. Seria silently looked around the mansion the whole time.
It was then.
A middle-aged woman came out from behind the stairs and looked at her, and her eyes went wide.
“…Your Highness? Your Highness Lesche?”
She came running a bit, wiping her hands on her apron, and looked at Lesche and Seria alternately in astonishment.
“Who is this beautiful lady frozen like ice?”
“Weren’t you told who she is?”
That was a bit surprising. Linon was a solid working aide. More than anything, the fact that this vassal of the Grand Duchy of Berg knew everything about this manor, but…… It was a little strange that this lady, who seemed important, didn’t know.
Lesche pointed at Seria with his chin and said,
“She’s the temporary Grand Duchess.”
That was a misleading enough word to hear, especially someone who didn’t know what was going on.
“Temporary? Your Highness! It is not the virtue of a gentleman to see if you will marry a lady or not! And is this a kidnapping? Did you kidnap the bride?”
“No, it’s not that.”
At that moment, something crumbled down from outside with a “whirring” sound. When Seria flinched, the old woman, who assumed Lesche was a bride kidnapper, said in a gentle voice,
“Don’t worry. There’s so much snow on the tree branches that they broke.”
Eventually, the door slammed open and Linon, who was holding onto the horses outside, hurriedly said,
“Your Highness, there are knights still on the border…”
“I’ll have to go and see them.”
Lesche called the old woman, “Martha,” and tried to hand Seria to her. Seria’s eyes grew wide.
‘He’s going to hand me over to a woman who looks shorter than me?’
“I have legs, Your Highness?”
“The floor is dirty.”
Lesche ignored her words.
‘Please just put me down on the floor! Please put me down! I’ll just wash my feet afterwards!’
“Oh, my God!”
Seria screamed with anxiety. But surprisingly, she didn’t fall. Rather, she was held by Martha with stability. Furthermore, unlike Lesche’s hard and cold chest, Martha was soft and warm and felt better to be held.
“Ma’am. You’re very strong.”
“Thank you, My Lady. Please, call me Martha. Don’t use honorifics with me.”
It was a slap in the face.
Before Martha could finish, the door opened and closed. Lesche had gone out.
Martha and Seria looked at the door, and then back at each other again.
“You don’t use honorifics with Linon either, do you?”
“Yes? How about it, by the way…”
“Well, Martha. I don’t think so…”
As soon as Seria was about to answer, her words overlapped with Linon’s as he opened the door and walked in. But Martha looked as if she understood exactly what Seria was about to say. She raised her head and stared straight at Linon.
Linon shuddered. Martha said in a stern voice.
“I’m sure you’ll be able to give me a good reason.”
Seria had never seen Linon shake so much.
It was a fresh and strange sight. However, Martha wasn’t looking at him with a mean expression. She still had a soft look on her face, and when Seria looked at her with a curious face, Martha converted her gaze, saying,
“Oh, let’s give you a bath. You must be freezing.”