Chapter 1 - Prologue
Back in her room, Seria took off her winter travel clothes. She removed the thick warm cloak that hung heavily on her shoulders, then put on an indoor dress. It was winter, so the dress was made from the same thick fabric, but it was much lighter that she felt like flying.
Seria drank a cup of warm, strong tea that Ben had brought, then she called for Linon. It was to check the size of the fund available for the garden project. Ben and Susan were worried about Seria wanting to work immediately as soon as she returned, but not Linon.
He was one of the few people who welcomed Seria’s way of working. Because as soon as he was called, Linon immediately came with the ledger.
Rebuilding the garden was not something that was in Seria’s plans. She remembered that there was plenty of surplus money, but it was money that Linon had saved like acorns. So Seria was worried about spending it.
‘I was worried unnecessarily.’
It was only after she checked the available fund that she realized, unless she was going to pave the entire garden with colored marble and the finest crystal, they would never run out of money.
“Lady, do you remember what I said with confidence?”
“Yes, I remember.”
It would be fun to spend a lot of money. Linon and Seria stared at each other and nodded. There was a deep understanding between people who had built trust and did not need anything said. Like now.
“But I don’t know much about the garden…”
“Then I’ll give you some help. His Highness isn’t here anyway.”
Linon asked while looking at Seria.
“Is it perhaps too much of a privilege?”
“Why? Is it too much of a burden?” Seria asked.
“I think it would be really frustrating if someone was jealous of me being trusted so much by the Young Lady and conspired against me. Like Susan, or Ben…”
After that, Seria called in the main gardener. The gardener who was guilty of accidentally spreading the wrong fertilizer on the shrubs in the garden. He looked pale, as if he thought he was going to be punished.
Seria panicked as he knelt down with his face on the floor.
“I’m sorry, Grand Duchess! I made a big mistake using the wrong fertilizer.”
“No… Never mind. I didn’t call you here to blame you. Stand up.”
Ben, who had brought the gardener, was heard sighing with relief, but Seria was a little puzzled. Did he think she would still be mad and punish the gardener even after she already told them everything was fine?
Well, it was possible if she was the original Seria.
Ben was in the green manor all his life, so she didn’t think he knew about Seria’s raging past. But now, she had a feeling that he might actually know. He was the butler of Berg anyway. But he was still nice to her even though he knew her crazy past….Somehow Seria remembered Alliot.
It made her feel a little better. She possessed Seria, and no matter how many bad deeds she committed or acts of kindness she showed, it was hard to find someone who believed in her. Maybe that was why Seria sometimes felt irresistibly good when she met people who had faith in her.
Seria smiled and asked the gardener what the garden needed. The gardener faltered, but cautiously answered. His voice was subdued, but just like a professional, he said exactly what was needed and it was easy to sort out.
She wrote down all the gardener’s requests and organized them, and before she knew it, hours had passed. She put down the pen and lay her head on the desk.
‘I’m really tired.’
“I’ll do the rest tomorrow.”
“You worked too hard today. Miss.”
Susan, who had been taking care of Seria, sitting by her side the whole time, bringing her tea and filling the ink, was happy. At first she told Seria to rest, but after more than an hour of sitting at the desk, she chose to wait quietly.
Later, Seria went out with Susan and had a conversation with Ben. But Ben had a concerned look on his face. When Seria asked what was going on, he smiled and replied that it was because he was deciding whether to have lamb or beef for dinner tomorrow.
Then Susan and Seria left Ben and went outside. Suddenly, they heard a commotion coming from the first floor.
“It’s important! Let me see the Grand Duchess, butler!”
Susan and Seria turned to each other, and as they came closer to see what the commotion was about, they saw a man shouting at Ben for some reason. A well-dressed man who looked like a vassal of the Grand Duchy of Berg…
“You know what I’m talking about!”
“As I said, this is a castle-related matter.”
Ben replied calmly, but that was all.
Why was he shouting at someone else’s butler?
It was very rude behavior. Moreover, this was where the Grand Duke of Berg lived.
“What’s going on?”
Ben then turned around. The angry man did the same. His eyes lit up the moment he spotted Seria.
Ben approached quickly when Seria called. As soon as he was standing beside her, he whispered in a very quick voice.
“His name is O’Bron. He was originally in charge of general supplies for the garden, but even though the contract ended a few days ago, he’s still delivering them.”
It was understandable. Suddenly, the castle’s garden was turned upside down, so the vassals who had been maintaining the castle’s garden that was now in ruins, did not know what to do.
“Grand Duchess! I’m really frustrated! How can you cancel the contract in an instant? If I can’t sell this out after how much inventory I’ve saved, I’m done for!”
This time, though, the castle was going to make some major adjustments to its capacity and turn to a minimum bid system. They had a lot of money available for the garden anyway, so they didn’t need to be frugal and cause a vassal’s bankruptcy. Seria came up with a generous solution.
“Yes, I’ll buy everything you have in stock. Ben?”
“Yes, My Lady. I’ll be ready.”
Seria thought she had made a reasonably generous offer, but O’Bron’s face was only pale.
“Does that mean that you won’t be signing your next contract with me?”
“I heard that your contract expired, but you were still delivering the goods?”
It seemed that O’Bron’s delivery was still going on because the Grand Duke and butler were absent.
“I wish to renew the contract, Grand Duchess! You should’ve renewed your contract with me in the first place. But without discussing it with me, you…”
O’Bron said with so much unfairness in his voice that Seria suspected that there might be some hidden clauses in the contract that she didn’t know about. For example, if the contract expired and without O’Bron’s consent, the castle would never be able to change the supplier of the goods….
Seria soon came to the conclusion that it was a ridiculous contract.
There was no way Berg would make such a dumb contract, and if it did, Ben would have managed to overturn it, even if he had to borrow Linon’s powers. He just seemed to want more.
It was true that he hadn’t had a boss who was properly involved in the garden business, and he had been delivering for so long that this business felt like unearned income. Somehow he managed to show up because he was suddenly deprived of the holy geese that laid golden eggs.
“The decision to re-sign will be made after we discuss the terms with our other business partners.”
“What? What terms….?”
Seria immediately raised her eyebrows.
“Are you saying that you want to re-sign the contract without adjusting the terms?”
“Oh, no, no. How could I dare!”
‘No, you would. It was obvious.’
“I’ll be back! Grand Duchess!”
“That’s enough for now.”
Ben informed about the merchant’s visit tomorrow and then sent O’Bron on his way. After a brief conversation with Ben, Seria went with Susan, who was still waiting for her.
“I’m glad I told you to boil the bath water again earlier.”
There were two fancy bathrooms located on the second floor. Seria had assumed that the bathrooms would be the same, just as the Grand Duke’s and Grand Duchess’ bedrooms were clearly separated, but that was not the case. As the name implied, there were only two bathrooms, and there was no fixed owner. When she heard about the bathrooms being chosen and used at will, she had a feeling that some of the successive grand dukes and their wives must have washed together.
Warm steam rose up from the bathtub, which was gorgeously filled with colorful rose petals. Come to think of it, it had been a long time since she had taken a hot bath.
“Young lady, I heard there was heavy snow on the Tshugan Plains. Wasn’t it cold in the barracks?”
“They put a leather rug on the floor, but it was still cold. The cold wind came in little by little….”
“Oh, I should have come along and taken care of the Lady. The problem with these ignorant Berg knights is that they prepare their barracks to suit their bodies. They have never had a precious lady in their lives……”
Susan, who in a few words had disparaged the Knights of Berg, the most powerful order in the Empire, as mere ignoramuses, looked at Seria and smiled warmly again.
“The bedroom is very warm, so after your bath, you can rest comfortably.
Her whole body relaxed sluggishly.The rose bath salts dissolved in the tub gave off a rich scent. It was fragrant.
‘When will Lesche be back?’
Seria suddenly remembered her room in the Great Temple. The original Seria Stern wasn’t an overnight guest, but belonged to the Great Temple, so she had a fixed room. It was a room that had not changed since Seria received it when she was 15 years old.
Seria went there when she and Kalis had their engagement. She stayed in the original Seria’s room. The room was cleaned and organized. But she didn’t stay there long because the food was not very good.
Then she had to go to Berg territory to have her wedding with Kalis.
Would Lesche be shown to the original Seria’s room when he was at the Great Temple this time? Or is it the next room?
But the next room was assigned to Kalis. As he was Stern’s fiancé, the High Priest offered him a permanent room. It was a kind of privilege.
Seria wondered if they seized the room after she and Kalis broke off their engagement.
She had a feeling they did. She couldn’t remember for sure.
Seria threw herself on the soft bed and soon fell asleep.