Chapter 1 - Prologue
Kalis Haneton and his knights were ready to head to the Great Temple. The High Priest was dead and the Saintess was missing. The atmosphere in the barracks was dreary, but the Haneton Knights were exceptional in the depth of their gloom.
It wouldn’t be the same again.
Seria, who knew that Lina was coming back, had no significant emotional changes, but most of the priests here looked dead except for one or two unusual ones.
The Great Temple had yet to make a major announcement that Lina was a Saint. Although there wasn’t any official announcement, most of the nobles were aware of the fact that a Saintess had descended.
However, the Great Temple pursued perfection. They wanted to bring a strong Saint from the Berg territory, the frozen lake, to the temple, to finish her education, and announce that God’s representative came down in the most perfect condition on the most perfect day.
Of course, it was not a forced education. The Great Temple voluntarily decided that for the sake of Lina’s stability, she could stay in the Berg territory for another six months. She was a messenger of God.
They didn’t want to bring her here by force and have the Saint turn against the priests. So they sent the priests to the Grand Duchy of Berg, and asked the Grand Duke’s permission to take the Saint away as soon as possible. There must have been a deep respect and love for the Saint.
When Kalis reported that the preparations were almost finished…
“Marquis Kalis Haneton.”
An old priest approached and spoke.
“I have received urgent news from the Temple. Another person is to be added to the procession to the Great Temple.”
“Stern is to be brought along.”
At that moment, Kalis’s heart sank.The priest who had delivered the news also knew how Kalis, Seria’s fiancé, had ended up in a complicated marriage. So it wasn’t a good idea to put them in one procession, but it wasn’t a matter of mixing his own personal feelings.
“We have a big group. Among those who were in the same place at the same time on the day the Saintess disappeared… They asked to send one person who possesses divine power along. So, after a hasty meeting with the high ranking officials, they decided to bring Stern.”
“So I should be the one to do the guarding?”
“Stern will be escorted by us. It will not be easy for either of you, so we won’t run into you unless Stern wants us to.”
There was quite a distance to the Great Temple. Seria wouldn’t want to make eye contact with him, let alone talk to him, but Kalis still wouldn’t mind at least guarding and protecting her. Suddenly, a bitter feeling arose in him, and he touched his wrist, which had a magic crystal bracelet, the last gift Seria had given him.
It was then.
A short call. At the same time, something flew to Kalis at a great speed. Kalis caught the flying object with a gulp. Kalis’s eyes went wide. What was in his hand was none other than the water bottle that he gave directly to Seria earlier.
But the warm water bottle had already cooled down.
Kalis turned around. The man he had already expected to see was standing there. It was Lesche Berg. Lesche asked, throwing a glance at the old priest with his characteristic cold blank expression.
“Yes, Your Highness…!”
“Who are you taking and where are you taking them?”
“Your Highness… Your Highness…the High Priest is gone…”
The old priest said with trepidation.
“And the Saintess is missing. Due to this great tragedy, we need someone with divine powers with us….”
“My wife has a lot to do in Berg’s castle. She doesn’t have time to go.”
The old priest’s eyes shook.
“Of course, I’ve been told that the Grand Duke of Berg saved Stern’s life, but… how much do you intend to use her for your great benefit? She’s an important Stern, no matter how much…”
It was expected the Grand Duke of Berg would be uncomfortable, for he was not of a disposition friendly to the temple. But the old priest didn’t expect him to refuse so straightforwardly, like cutting a radish. The old priest finally regained his composure.
“Your Highness. In view of the gravity of the matter, please be generous…”
“I will go instead.”
For a moment, the old priest could not believe his ears.
“You said only one person with divine powers is needed. So does it matter if I go instead?”
Lesche was also the head of the seventeenth family, so he had divine power. However, the old priest didn’t understand it. Lesche was an arrogant and powerful man. He didn’t even pretend to hide that fact. Even if the temple politely invited him, he wouldn’t bother to visit, but now, he wanted to go on his own and on behalf of Stern, too?
“I will inform them at once. Your Highness.”
The old priest was bewildered, but he had to inform the Great Temple first anyway. And so he hurried away.
Kalis was already gripping his water bottle tightly. What exactly was it that Seria was busy with? Seria had inspected the glacier almost every day until just before they got married. Kalis, the head of Haneton, knew how much of a gain that was for the Berg territory.
“Seria is very frail.”
“So what’s the matter?”
“You seem to be making her work so much that she can’t even go once to the temple, isn’t it too much?”
Lesche gave Kalis a funny look.
“I see that you knew that my wife was weak. I thought you didn’t know about it at all, since you were too busy protecting your Saintess.”
For a moment, Kalis’s jaw tightened. On the other hand, his chest was churning. The veins in the hand that was holding the water bottle were raised tremendously.
However, what Lesche said was horrendous. It was sad and frustrating at the same time. Kalis gave Seria the warm water because he knew her condition. Moreover, he was Seria’s fiancé in the past. There was a lot he knew about her.
*Few minutes earlier.*
“You don’t need to drink his water. There’s a lot of hot drinks here.”
Lesche roughly snatched one of the wooden cups that had been neatly placed on the apprentice priests’ trays and offered it to Seria. However, she only retreated. She had a panicked look on her face, too, which made Lesche think for a moment that he had offered her some kind of poison.
“I can’t drink it, Lesche.”
“You can’t drink?”
“I’m allergic to snake strawberries.”
Lesche didn’t expect to hear that at all. The moment the word “allergy” disappeared, Lesche reflexively put away the cup. He told the priest to clear all the trays, and ordered Alliot, who was looking at him vaguely, to go get any and all other liquors.
He even kindly told Seria that he would throw away the water bottle of Kalis Haneton himself. His tone wasn’t gentle, of course, but if Seria wasn’t there, he would have cut the priest’s throat and thrown him to the incinerator.
It wouldn’t be another important issue for him either. Lesche had kept everything he thought from Seria. However, when he saw Kalis, that man who by all accounts was full of unrequited love for Seria, Lesche suddenly felt angry.
Kalis, who was holding a water bottle in a tight grip, shifted his gaze.
“Let my wife go. You seem to forget that your wife is the Saintess, not Seria.”
“Lina and I married because of unavoidable circumstances, just like Your Highness and Seria.”
One side of Lesche’s mouth lifted.
“You and I are different.”
He said with a very unpleasant smile.
“I, at least, didn’t have the temerity to meet another woman before my marriage to Stern.”
Kalis gritted his teeth. He suddenly took off his gloves and threw them at Lesche with great force. Lesche snatched the glove lightly.
Kalis said in an angry voice.
“As a knight, I challenge you to a duel.”
“Now you’re starting to do something right.”
Instead of refusing, there was not the slightest hesitation in Lesche’s voice. Lesche quickly took out the sword he was wearing, and so did Kalis. The atmosphere quickly turned sour, and it was then that the faces of the priests, who had been watching the two of them from afar with irritation, turned pale.
“Grand Duke Berg? Marquis Haneton? What are you doing now?”
I was the high-ranking priest. When he heard the news that Lesche was going to the Great Temple, he walked quickly to check the facts and found the two men with swords. Whether the priest fumed or not, Kalis said, not taking his gaze off Lesche.
“You came at the right time. Please stand as a witness to the duel.”
The priest was startled out of his wits by Kalis’s sudden words.
“Duel? What do you mean, duel? What are you two doing right now?”
However, the atmosphere between the two was so sharp as if they would chop each other up right away. The priest immediately stepped back.
“As a servant of God, how can I be a witness to a duel… ah! I’ll take Stern as the witness!
“Go fetch the other nobles.”
The high-ranking priest was flustered by Lesche’s sudden order. While flustered, the priest quickly realized. It seemed that neither the Grand Duke Berg nor Marquis Haneton wanted to let Seria see this duel.
If that was the case, the priest gulped and gambled spitefully.