Chapter 1 - Prologue
Linon left to check on the locations in the manor that needed repairs once more. Once a year, they would call for plasterers, who mind their own business and kept secrets well, to repair the large defects of the manor.
“Young lady, you did not think that our lord would turn those plasterers blind, right*?”
(*TN: I think what Linon meant was did Seria think Lesche made those people blind (took out their eyes) so they wouldn’t see and talk about the manor to the outside world.)
No, who in the world would even create an image of his lord to be like that…? After all, he was so thorough, there must not be any rumors about the Laurel Manor in the imperial society. In the first place, the Grand Duke was not very receptive to outside nobles.
The residence was half ruined by the hard Magi, but that didn’t mean that the elegant framework was going anywhere. As Seria looked at the huge tapestry hanging in the first floor hall, she wondered how people were going to wash that, then she looked at the clock and headed for the kitchen.
The main dining room had already been closed down, only the kitchen in the servants’ dining area had a faint warmth in it. She was told that in houses that are located in areas with harsh winters, the whole family would gather in front of the stove fire to get warm and do their own things. It was similar here.
The two servants and the gardener were sewing something. They looked at her and said,
“Well, we can’t have lint flying around the breakfast.”
With that, they immediately left the dining room.
‘They don’t like me much.’
As they rarely interact, it made sense for them to think of her this way.
‘Oh well, I’m so used to the hate I receive as Seria that this means nothing to me.’
While thinking about it, Martha and Ben greeted her.
“Lady Seria. Did you sleep well?”
Seria greeted them back, but Martha said with a worried look on her face.
“What shall we do now that the sorcerers are coming late? This is not a good place for a guest as beautiful as you to stay, Young Lady.”
“It’s all right. I like it here.”
It wasn’t a lie, Seria liked this green manor quite a bit. This manor, which was beautiful enough to appear in the social scene, was turned into a semi-ruin by the hard Magi, but Seria couldn’t help but look at it frankly and admire it again and again.
Most of all, she loved the fact that the manor was located in a remote area. Surrounded by a quiet snow mountain, it felt like she was in another world.
It had been a long time since she had this kind of rest. Ever since she possessed Seria, she had been busy running around, trying to live day by day.
Looking at the snowy landscape outside, she could ignore the hardened Maggie to some extent as she walked through the quiet corridor. Seria really liked this vast, serene green manor.
“I’m honored, Lady Seria.”
Then Ben said with a smile on his face.
“Breakfast is just about ready.”
Seria looked at the table and was dumbfounded. It was because there were several cakes on the pale yellow marble table, befitting the name of the Laurel Manor.
They were all made in a relatively small size. The decorations were magnificent. There were cakes with spider webs delicately squeezed out of melted chocolate, pound cakes artfully topped with candied soft fruits, brown rustic cakes baked with molasses, etc….
“Isn’t this Berg’s mansion pastry chef skills?”
“Up until the year before last, Linon ate a lot of sweets. He ate every last bit of pudding, chocolate, sugar, and fruit… Since last year, I’ve been worried about his health. But this year, His Highness brought a lot of cakes again, and I was wondering why. But I heard that Young Lady likes cakes.”
Seria tilted her head.
She liked dessert, but she was not crazy about cakes like this.
There were a lot of cakes that anyone could happily eat for days, but of course Seria Stern, like the official villain of the original story, has a blessed body, not gaining weight no matter how much she ate. This Seria liked sweet and clean treats, but this was too much. How could she eat all this, she gasped just looking at it.
“Yes?” Martha said.
Martha looked at Ben with a dismayed expression. Ben looked puzzled, too.
“I saw the cakes when it came out of the wagon and asked if the Young Lady liked it, to which His Highness replied, ‘Yes.’”
There was a moment of silence in the dining room, where the fireplace was crackling with slow-burning woods. Suddenly the conversation she had with Lesche came to mind.
‘The others said they liked the house and wanted to stay. I know it’s not true.”
Lesche brought in a lot of desserts every year. The excuse for it was Linon loved sweets, and this year’s excuse was because she liked cakes. Something was not right. Seria had an idea.
“Yes, Lady Seria?”
“What’s the reason you stay in this manor?”
“Huh? Oh, um…”
Ben coughed uncomfortably. He seemed to realize at once why Seria was asking such a question.
“Have you seen the rocky cliff on the left side of the manor? It’s a sugar rock, but It’s palatable.”
Ben’s expression was one of contrition as he fumbled through the words of the past.
“His Highness came to visit me when he had just taken over the position of Grand Duke, and he said…”
“Do you think Martha would be pleased if you died with her in this ruin? I’ll take responsibility for your damn sympathy, so why don’t you just come back to the mansion now?”
“… We have been eating only sugar here for a very long time, and spices from other places are not to our taste. Young Master…… no, Your Highness. Neither do Susan and Joanna.”
“I don’t think I could eat it unless it was a dessert with rock sugar from the manor.”
Ben’s retrospect made Seria irresistibly upset. Lesche used to make a whole bunch of desserts and bring them here every time, even though he knew the reason why they wanted to stay in this manor was not because they actually liked the sugar.
It was not difficult to make sense of it. If only she could hear a single word about how Lesche felt.
“We said we wanted to stay here because we like the sugar. We told a lie so His Highness would not worry too much about us.”
What was Lesche thinking as he carried such a ridiculous dessert in his carriage each time? He was thinking of Martha, bound to this ruin to die while his father tried to oust him from the heir position. And thinking of the people who had decided to stay by her side.
Martha sounded frustrated, which was unlike her. Ben’s expression was much the same.
“I don’t understand…”
“I don’t see what you mean by young.”
Lesche was big and tall. The coldness of his face seemed to reveal his feelings. Don’t they see the same thing Seria sees?
Martha erased her bitter look and said with a soft smile.
“Perhaps it’s because we’ve seen His Highness’s face since he was a child, but even now he still looks like one.”
It had been a while since Seria thought about what young is. As she watched Ben and Martha’s desperate reaction, she kept thinking of Lesche’s sunken red eyes.
Somehow, her heart ached.
“I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve tried to braid a lady’s hair.”
After finishing eating, Martha braided Seria’s hair. She never specifically asked the servants to pack her accessories, but the faithful servants at the main mansion packed her hair pins with jewels and ribbons in her luggage. Among those, Martha used the jeweled pins with a daisy flower pattern for her hair.
“When will the sorcerers leave the manor?”
The sorcerers from the Kingdom of Nethra had arrived earlier.
“They will probably stay for a day or so. They’ll be staying on the fourth floor, so you won’t run into you.”
“I will not be going up to the fourth floor either.”
The High Priest treated sorcerers from other continents as heresy. It was why they would probably be frightened in front of her to avoid being seen, but it would be easier for all if they avoid each other as much as possible.
What if it was the original Seria Stern? Perhaps she would have freaked out when the sorcerers stared at her and pulled out their eyes.
She gazed at Martha, who smiled and opened a scented jar.
“Oh, this oil smells so good. Is it the scent of lily flowers?
Here in the manor, mugwort is easy to find, and we make fragrant oil from it, so it’s refreshing to smell fragrant oil from flowers.”
It was the fragrant oil that her servants also packed for Seria. Martha dropped the fragrant oil in her palm and gently applied it to Seria’s hair. The sweet scent wafted to her nose.
“This is the shawl that Susan and Joanna made.”
And Seria received an unexpected gift.
She thought they weren’t too keen on her. So this was what they were making earlier in the dining room.
It was a shawl with a hat attached to it that Susan and Joanna had made, and the quality was very good for something that was made in a hurry. Seria said thank you and tightened the ribbon on the shawl, then walked out to the garden.
When she first came here, she was surprised to see that the plants were all dead, but with the snow falling on top of them, she couldn’t even see them. Now it had such an idyllic atmosphere, just like the garden of an ordinary country mansion.
Seria gazed at the large, silent garden, blanketed in white snow. Lesche said that he would not come to this manor unless it was time for the sorcerers to work on the manor each year. Even when he did come, he wouldn’t stay long. Of course, he’s busy as he’s the Grand Duke of Berg, the great lord of the land, and the man who has to protect the glacier, the tomb of demons.
It may be speculation, but she could see why Lesche would not stay long. This was a place no one shouldn’t see for a long time.
Even though she knew that the place was crawling with Magi which were frozen in place right behind her, the tranquility of the spacious manor made her feel at ease. And what about the people who were guarding this green manor?
Suddenly she wanted to come and stay here every year when the season was ripe.
Somewhere along the way, Seria thought she had grown fond of it.
Damn it. It was not a good sign.
It would be a real disaster if she got attached to this place. This was the “real” hometown of the male protagonist of the original novel, but the human mind was really cunning, she was thinking of something else. This was a place that didn’t even appear in the original novel anyway.
It’s a place that never existed. It’s a place that would probably disappear soon.
Therefore, she thought it was okay for her to get attached to this place. Because Lesche would not go to Lina like Kalis. It was a place that he didn’t share with Lina. She had a feeling that she was leaning towards comfort, but it was true.
“What if I can purify it? I’m a Stern, right?”
Seria stepped into the manor with a little hope.