Chapter 1 - Prologue
The food was quite hearty, though the manor had so few people that it looked as if it was abandoned.
Cooled gingerbread, cooked potatoes sprinkled with salt and pepper and flavored with butter. Hot chicken stew sprinkled with finely chopped croutons. And the sweet smell from the tea, which was boiled over the fire. Seria poured a little sugar into the warm tea and gave Linon a cup.
Linon said as he accepted it with both hands.
“I heard you’re a perfectionist.”
Linon blinked and said,
“His Highness must have told you.”
“Yes. By the way, are your hands okay?”
“Yes, they’re fine.”
“Then why?” Seria asked.
“Because it’s you.”
Linon lifted both ends of his mouth and said smoothly,
“Lady Seria is high rank, right? The high nobles are clean, so it doesn’t matter. It is the commoners who are dirty. I just don’t want to come into contact with them, and the high nobles have nothing to do with it.
That sounded very strange.
Of course, the nobles thought of cleanliness as a virtue, so they took a lot of interest in keeping themselves clean at all times. Many nobles bathed twice a day, and herbs were a necessity for them because of their purifying properties.
And it was also theoretically correct to say that the lower class people, who lacked the luxury and time to boil water, were relatively dirty.
However, if any other aristocrat had told Seria that commoners were dirty while spouting off this kind of talk, she would have thought they were arrogant and cocky. But, in Linon’s normal speech and behavior, he didn’t sound like that at all. He sounded subtle.
“By the way, this is a private matter. His Highness is quite a troublemaker, isn’t he?”
Linon, who was nodding enthusiastically, suddenly said, “Ha,” and his shoulders shook. Seria quickly turned around. Her eyes rolled back in her head as she watched.
Just a moment ago, the wall was just black, and now mold was jiggling around. One thing immediately came to mind.
( *T/L: magi is something that the demon makes. In a sense it’s magic from demons. Ah… you know when you watch horror movies, suddenly black shadows or black waves cover the walls. The black thing moves like waves. I hope you understand. If you know the term for it, please let me know so I can use it. For now I’ll use magi. Something like this.)
The shadow of evil which demons use to infect humans. Linon immediately panicked.
“It’s not a sign of demons, young lady. It’s not.”
With a serious look on her face, Seria saw the fungus moving stealthily. It was disgusting, like thousands of cockroaches crawling around.
‘It isn’t even mold. That’s… a hardened Magi.’
It was a byproduct of the curse that Lina later named ‘Mayoung’.
It was an important element of an incident that appeared in the latter half of the original story. The place was the Imperial Palace of the Glick Empire, and the person who purified it was Lina. Lina purified that strange Magi that the other Stern and even the priests couldn’t figure out.
That made Lina have a great impact on the imperial family, but the repercussions caused her to fall very ill. Lesche, who had already confirmed his heart with Lina at that time, turned violently against the emperor, and even the atmosphere of civil war between the Berg and the imperial family became dismal.
Of course, miraculously, Lina woke up and the situation was resolved peacefully.
How Lesche and the Emperor reconciled, thanks to Lina’s perfect timing, was the gist of the episode by this hardened Magi, Mayoung.
‘I’m not sure if I can tell if it’s actually Magi when I see it in person.’
The demon’s Magi represents a vivid change in a person’s body when they are close to it. The pitch-black marks that speckled the body were noticed by only ones who actually knew what it was. In the original story, Lina purified it.
But Seria couldn’t. Because Seria was not that strong in purification among the Sterns. She couldn’t even be compared to the Saintess Lina.
So the only way to fix this is to get Lina back?
“Lady Seria? What do you have in mind?”
“Linon. When will His Highness be here?”
“A number of demons suddenly appeared, they will be checking the boundaries. He will be here in the evening.”
“There are too many.”
“Did he have a message for me?”
“No, he didn’t send one.”
Suddenly, Seria remembered a question she had forgotten. The conversation she had with Lesche in the carriage.
“I heard that knights are not allowed in the Laurel Manor.”
“Didn’t Linon explain it to you?”
“He didn’t say anything.”
When Seria told Linon about what they talked about in the carriage, Linon immediately looked flustered.
“That… honestly, His Highness seemed insensitive.”
“No, actually I was the only one who was deeply troubled about how to say this so that an important lady of the castle could comfortably come to the Laurel Manor.”
“Is that so? You just worry about me?”
Seria would have been seriously worried about coming here, too, if she knew about the black mold moving naturally in the manor, which was impossible to get rid of.
“It’s just…..,” Linon coughed, pointing to the shadow lingering on the walls.
“The sorcerers from Nessla Kingdom will be here soon.”
“The Kingdom of Nessla? Why so far away?”
“It’s the only Kingdom on the continent that is famous for its magic.”
The Kingdom of Nessla was a distant land of immigrants that required crossing the continent, and it was a polytheistic kingdom where gypsies thrived, and it was famous for its folk magic.
Seria had heard that they had certain abilities, unlike others. The problem was that the High Priest treated all this as heresy.
“But can I know this? Linon, do you realize I’m a Stern?”
“His Highness will probably give you a little something extra as hush money.”
Money? There was no reason for Seria to refuse money to keep the matter secret. But there was a fundamental problem.
“He didn’t have to bring me here.”
Linon said with a scowl.
“I think it was because His Highness wanted to show you to Lady Martha. He had a lot of help from Lady Martha since he was a child.”
‘There was something warm about that person. Was she a nanny?’
But Martha was a little young to be Lesche’s nanny. Was it more of a playmate? No, most male nobles would rather have a servant than a playmate, but in any case, it was inferred that Lesche and Martha had no small bond.
However, there was still a hole in the story that didn’t quite add up.
“Why couldn’t he just bring me here when things got resolved? It’s not like I’m going to leave Berg territory suddenly.”
“Because this is the last time, My Lady.”
Linon’s voice was not heavy, but his meaning was. Seria raised her head and asked again.
“What do you mean it’s the last time?”
Lesche looked up at the sky. The snow was falling heavily.
It was a unique season for Central territory. Whereas the weather in all the other seasons was mild, only a few weeks of winter were cold enough to remind one of the North in this way. This was due to the Tomb of the demons – the frozen lake that kept the cold air of the North neatly accumulated for three seasons and spat it out unannounced sometimes in the winter.
In spite of this, the people of the Grand Duchy loved the heavy snowfall. They believed that plenty of snowfall was the secret to a good harvest. Many of the householders came all the way to the warm Central territory to see a snowy landscape.
Snowy landscapes go well with Laurel Manor. At first glance, it sounded odd that a green mansion reminiscent of early summer would go well with pure white snow, but there was no denying the beauty of the scene one could actually see.
Knights were already on standby near the border.
“How many demons are there?”
Then the knights glanced at the black shadows undulating at the border.
The black shadows were wavering near the border. The knights cracked their knuckles and started to move. There was no denying that those strange shadows looked like demons. However, it was Magi. A normal person would die if exposed to Magi’s proximity for too long, but there were no dead people yet.
But no one could deny that there was something fundamental in common. Most of the knights were experienced wizards. So when they first saw the shadows, they drew their swords and stabbed them like crazy. There were still dozens of sword marks in the manor that were made for that reason.
It was the reason why Lesche banned the knights from entering the manor. The people trapped inside it were not happy to come in contact with outsiders either.
Lesche’s eyes glanced down at the ring on his left hand’s finger. It was a ring with the half split pattern of Berg estate. It was a very old ring.
For a moment, Lesche recalled the past.
It had been fifteen years since the beautiful green manor was infected by this sinister shadow. It wasn’t this bad at first. The servant in charge of the cleaning was scolded for neglecting to clean it. However, time came to know that it wasn’t her fault because the unidentified shadow continued to grow. Actually, Lesche did not know much about it at that time, because he was attending an academy for the best talents outside the empire.
He only learned about it from Alliot, a young knight who ran to find his Lord at the academy’s dormitory at the time, crying.
Lesche still remembered what was once the Laurel Manor.