Chapter 1 - Prologue
*Spoilers: Lina and Kalis are coming back at chapter 51. More interesting and annoying than ever.*
“Are they the Grand Dukes of Berg?”
“How could the painter draw so well? It’s so realistic that it is giving me goosebumps.”
“These are portraits of the successive Grand Dukes of Berg. You can’t hire a third-rate painter.”
Lesche quickly averted his gaze, as if he wasn’t interested in looking at the portraits of his ancestors. Meanwhile, Seria looked at the portraits one by one. Once the fear was gone, other singularities came into view.
It looked like they’d used the gold and gems powder in the paint.
These were excellent portraits, a fine work of art.
They were the most prestigious figures of the Empire, some of whom were also in Seria’s knowledge.
A legendary hero who drove hundreds of demons out of a frozen lake. A hero who saved the emperor in a war with another country.
A Grand Duke who vowed to protect the frozen lake forever, and was awarded all the existing medals from the imperial family, and so on…
‘With this many, they could have stood on their own as a royal family.’
What dozens of Grand Dukes had in common was that they all had red eyes.
It seemed that Lesche’s eyes were genetic.
Seria suddenly found her gaze drawn to one. The red eyes were strangely glossy, they seemed to protrude in a strange way.
“May I touch the portrait?”
“As you wish.”
Seria quickly reached out and touched the portrait’s eyes. The texture felt extraordinary.
It was indeed a gemstone. Was it a ruby?
The original Seria was very interested in jewels. Not out of intellectual curiosity, of course, but purely out of vanity satisfaction…..so, this much could be distinguished without difficulty.
Seria pressed it, and with the sound of the button clicking, the ruby red eye went inward slightly.
The sound was much louder than she expected, and the basement filled with a ringing noise.
It was so loud that Lesche came over. Then Seria pointed at the ruby.
“It’s a gem called Ruby.”
Lesche’s eyebrows rose gently as he looked at it. It was the first time he had seen it.
“I didn’t know there were such things in portraits.”
“They had done a good job of hiding it.”
“How did you find it so quickly?”
‘Perhaps because Seria was very fond of extravagant jewelry?’
Lesche gazed at it with interest, and then, without any hesitation, he reached for the pressed ruby.
“What shall we do now?”
“Oh, I’ll do it.”
“What if it hurt your hand?”
Certainly. Seria even thought that something might pop out.
“What about your hand, Your Highness?”
“I have better reflexes than you do.”
“Turn it to the side…”
The moment Lesche turned the small ruby to the side, with a clicking sound, the floor area where Seria was standing opened up. Of course Seria didn’t fall down, because she was caught in Lesche’s arm in the blink of an eye.
Her legs dangled in the air. Seria looked down in disbelief. The place where she stood a moment ago had quickly become a staircase. Of all places, there was a hidden staircase right where she was standing.
No, what surprised her more was….
Lesche, holding her in his arms and looking at the stairs as if nothing had happened. How could he lift a person so easily with one arm and that too in an instant? Lesche was steady, without even a hint of distress.
“I didn’t know there was a space like this.”
“The sacred power also seems to come from below.”
As Seria said with a frown, Lesche raised his eyebrow. He put her down on the floor and strode down the hidden stairs.
‘Wait a minute. Is he going to leave me here by myself again?’
“Stay there. I’ll be right back.”
Lesche’s compassion scared her to tears. He didn’t seem to understand her fear of darkness, and he also didn’t seem to understand that for an ordinary person like her, being alone in such a dark and silent place was the most terrifying thing of all.
“Let’s go together….Aren’t you afraid to go alone?” Seria asked.
(*Haaha, Seria was scared but she asked as if the scared one was Lesche.)
Does this man think that everyone in the world is as fearless as he is? A sincere smile appeared on Lesche’s face. He held out his hand to Seria. She took Lesche’s hand and took a big gulp as if she was grabbing a lifeline. They walked downstairs together.
The smell of dampness.
At the same time an increasingly vivid sacred power. As they were walking down a long flight of stairs, the light lit up.
A silence drifted over the room. Seria felt like she was about to faint.
The first thing she saw was a tremendous amount of jewels. Gold, gold, gold. That wasn’t all. Rubies, sapphires, diamonds, emeralds were piled up like a pirate’s treasure island. The next thing, there was not even a single shadow in this hidden space to compare with the floor above. Just a white pile of dust accumulated over time.
Dozens of drooping skeletons with swords in their hands, embedded in every wall.
‘Is this a dream?’
But it was too vivid to be a dream. How could such a terrifying situation be in this story? She heard somewhere that when a person is too scared, the body freezes and tears flow incessantly, but she never thought she would experience this herself. She was on the verge of shedding tears.
‘I thought this was a romance novel. Did I come into horror fiction?’
While Seria was gasping for air and tears were rolling down her face, Lesche turned to her. He twitched his eyebrows and picked her up again with the same ease as before. Normally she would have been embarrassed, but not now. She held onto Lesche tightly.
“Lesche, what the hell is this place?”
“It seems to be the Grand Duke’s Ossuary.”
“The Grand Duke’s Ossuary? There’s a tomb under the manor, didn’t you know that?”
Seria couldn’t believe her ears. As soon as she heard it was a tomb, she freaked out and asked again.
“So those skeletons are the remains of the previous Grand Dukes…?”
“They can’t be. They’re too big.”
She shifted her gaze to Lesche. Lesche didn’t know what this place was either, so he looked around and searched inside. Seria looked at the skeletons again. Indeed, they were too big to be human bones, and they weren’t even in proportion to the human body. Only then Seria could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
“…It’s probably ornaments for decorations.”
“What an odd taste.”
“Thank you for speaking my mind.”
Seria didn’t say anything because she was afraid it would be disrespectful.
Suddenly Lesche’s long fingers wiped her wet eyes gently.
Seria blinked. Lesche stared right at her. Perhaps it was the red color of his eyes, she felt strange for some reason. A short moment later, she came to her senses. She pushed lightly on Lesche’s shoulder and he put her down gently.
Seria cleared her throat and shifted her gaze to the skeletons.
“If it’s an ossuary, is this where the remains of the previous Grand Dukes are kept?”
“No, it’s just a place in name only. I didn’t know it really existed.”
Lesche bent down and picked up an emerald that was lying like a stone nearby.
Then he fiddled with it with his fingers.
“I can’t believe that’s the only part that’s torn.”
Seria couldn’t help but ask back.
“What was torn?”
“It must have been torn by the previous generation.”
At the same time, the jewel fell from Lesche’s hand and tumbled on the floor. Seria finally noticed that the man’s gaze was fixed behind her. As she turned and followed his gaze, she was speechless.
It was the same as upstairs. On its broad walls hung numerous portraits of the Grand Dukes. Most notably, on the far left was the portrait that looked pretty new.
It was a portrait of a very handsome man who resembled Lesche, whom one could easily recognize as a blood relative. As Seria looked at the portrait with its graceful edges, she realized once again.
‘The previous Grand Duke, a real piece of garbage.’
Berg’s memorandum. The head of a family often has secrets that are passed down from generation to generation. It goes without saying that the Grand Duke Berg was no different. In addition, Berg was the highest-ranking nobleman who ruled over a vast land that no one else could match. Since they inherited their fame and fortune from generation to generation, the long history must have been recorded. Even if only the secrets of the family were recorded, the memorandum would have been enough to fill a thick book.
‘It’s in the original story. There’s even mention of some parts that were torn apart.’
But that was it. In the original story, Lesche did not express any personal feelings about the fact that the memorandum was torn. Perhaps it was insignificant to mention since the memorandum had existed for a long time.
When Seria read the original story, she understood it that way and passed on it. It was a memorandum that would have been kept by the head of the family, so it must have been lost a long time ago due to unavoidable circumstances.
Underneath the memorandum, however, hung a portrait of the previous Grand Duke, Lesche’s father. In other words, the memorandum was in perfect condition even for the previous generation until Lesche’s generation.
His father intentionally broke the memorandum so that Lesche would be unable to completely inherit it. Linon’s voice suddenly came to Seria’s mind.
“However, the previous Grand Duke and his illegitimate son wanted to remove His Highness from the position of the heir of Berg.”
What did they do with the torn pages? Did the previous Grand Duke give them to his bastard son? So later his son could use it to become the Grand Duke of Berg and say Lesche was an undeserving one?
Seria couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Of course, Lesche’s facial expression was no different from usual. He also did not pay much attention to the portrait of the previous Grand Duke. They quickly turn their backs and slowly capture the gloomy ossuary.
Really, Lesche looked unconcerned. Perhaps he actually was.
But Seria couldn’t help but feel depressed. She couldn’t understand the barbaric behavior of the previous Grand Duke, who would go so far as to ostracize his own son.
How could he really be that bad? Lesche was his own son after all. However, the original Seria had never felt the love of her own father, and their relationship was also at the bottom, so Seria had nothing to say about Lesche and his relationship with his father.
Nor did Seria look at the portrait of the previous Grand Duke for a long time. She averted her gaze from the portraits and walked to the other side.