Chapter 1 - Prologue
As a result, O’Bron was ravaged by the flurry of activity.
“I would like to order as many pot plants (trees planted in pots to maximize the convenience of movement) as possible.”
The merchant was in a hurry to transcribe Linon’s words.
“Let’s make topiaries out of wood, cypress, butterfly boxwood, and juniper. Evergreen trees never go out of style.”
“Yes, of course. The chief aide is very nimble.”
The merchant broke out in a cold sweat. O’Bron’s earthy face was pale and sullen. Seria sat there pretending that she understood everything Linon had said, but she really didn’t.
‘What are all those trees?’
The ladies and noblewomen at the tea party wouldn’t seat Seria down and talk about the garden trees, would they? The original Seria didn’t know much about gardens since she had never been taught by her mother. There was one more thing that bothered Seria.
Right now, Linon was kneeling next to her in front of the merchant, demonstrating his knowledge of the garden effortlessly. He laid a handkerchief on the floor and immediately knelt down, looking as neat as a priest reciting the Bible.
As a result, the merchant moved his hips up and down in a frightened manner. O’Bron was a vassal of Berg so he must have attended the meetings from time to time, but he was less used to seeing Linon like that than the merchant. He didn’t know what he was witnessing, his eyes widened for a while.
The merchant glanced at Linon, taking notes and looking uncomfortable the whole time. It was uncomfortable for Seria as well. She had an idea why Linon was suddenly on his knees and was more than willing to help.
“Young lady, I think we’ve laid the groundwork for this.”
Linon’s voice was polite. But Seria was sure that the real meaning behind those polite words was, ‘This much is perfect.’
That was what the words sounded like. The merchant wanted to avoid this discomfort as soon as possible. So unlike before, he asked in a concise manner, without any glittering qualifiers,
“Do you have any trees that you like, Grand Duchess?”
“I want to make a small garden with orange trees.”
“Orange trees! What an excellent choice!”
At that moment, the blackened face of the merchant finally regained some color.
Orange trees were very expensive. Saving money is not always a good thing.
Seria thought that this expensive orange tree would be incomparable if it were to be planted in the garden, also from a practical point of view since people could eat the oranges later.
The merchant who tried to make a fortune through her, whom he knew nothing about, was outrageous, but when Seria asked him about it, he didn’t try to intimidate her. She just watched from the sidelines as O’Bron tried to make a fortune. Perhaps O’Bron was trying to get some sort of middleman commission from the merchant after this aggressive sales pitch to the Duchess.
“There are already two fountains, but only one small pond, so I would like to dig a larger pond to raise the fountains. And I heard that the existing garden is very difficult to draw water from.”
He continued, “We could also dig out a longer lake to expand the low marsh so there would be plenty of water.”
Seria decided to make a long green carpet with a yellowish-green variety of grass and also a large flower bed for the purpose of planting only flowers.
It was going to be a much bigger project than she thought, even though it was simply organized.
The merchant bowing formally and hurriedly retreated, saying that he would bring an orange tree bonsai the next time he came. The bonsai, which had become a small forest in the parlor, was soon out of the way.
Instead of re-signing, Linon grabbed the atmosphere heavily, and O’Bron, who intuited that his own position was over, was also kicked out with a face of death.
“Linon, get up.”
“Yes, my Lady.”
Linon got up and shook his knees. He rolled up his gloves so that the outside didn’t touch his hands, and folded them neatly, and put them in his pocket along with two handkerchiefs he had taken from his pocket.
“Hey…what were you doing kneeling down so suddenly?”
“Since the Young Lady trusts me enough to call me, I have to do this.”
Linon was brazen. Of course, Seria had an idea why he was kneeling in front of the merchant. Many wealthy merchants who deal with the aristocracy pretend to be soft-spoken. They would deliberately bring up other noblemen when in fact they were tight-lipped.
Since the construction of the main castle garden in Berg was quite a rumor, the merchant would be called around from place to place. She was sure they would casually mention Seria there. It would be the same no matter what kind of merchant she called.
“You did a good job calling me. Since it’s a large construction project, and you’re the Grand Duchess, many merchants would try to sell a lot of expensive and good products.”
The aristocrats, who were more concerned with appearances, and the merchants, who were more concerned with practicality, pursued different paths. After hearing about a merchant who had made a fortune from a certain Count, Seria felt fortunate. Because the salesmen’s suggestions she received would have easily exceeded the yearly budget of any other respectable noble family.
So calling Linon was a good idea.
However, the fact that the Grand Duchess had called the Chief Aide for advice without making a direct decision was enough for the nobles to mock her. But Seria didn’t think it mattered. She called for Linon without hesitation.
But for Linon, who knelt before her as soon as he came, the merchant would have had to fumble. People sometimes indicate their position just by the seat they are sitting on.
Seria exchanged a few more words with Linon. He looked disappointed.
“Still, young lady, you could have been more extravagant.”
Linon continued, “Didn’t I hear you talking about building a garden out of orange trees?”
Seria actually liked trees that bore fruits. Something edible. But imperial aristocrats did not plant trees that bear fruit as garden trees. This was because there was no difference between an elegant garden and a country orchard. And orange trees were expensive.
“Is that a luxury? You know they are different, don’t you?”
“It’s fine for me to get down on my knees for you, young lady.”
Linon was very good at talking, even if he wasn’t a chief aide. Seria fell for it and answered honestly.
“I don’t want to be extravagant with other people’s money. ….”
It wasn’t because Seria was particularly frugal. When she was a graduate student, she knew a professor in another department who misused state research funds and even bought a foreign-made car before he went bankrupt, so she wanted to be as careful as possible about such things.
So Seria confided in Linon frankly, and Linon had an indescribable look on his face.
“What’s the matter with you?”
“Nothing, My Lady. It’s a good thing I asked first.”
Linon cleared his throat and diverted the conversation. The conversation was about gardens. The 48 themes that O’Bron had recommended was too much for anyone to take, but she still felt that she wouldn’t mind six of them, so she listened to Linon’s opinion. After a while of drinking tea, Seria asked Linon what she was curious about.
“Linon, do you know all the garden trees by heart?”
There was no such thing in Seria’s knowledge. If it was something she didn’t know, she would have learned it from her mother for generations, and she could have learned it separately, but the odds were high that Seria wouldn’t have even cared about gardens, even for the sake of her pride.
“No, it’s rare to have a grand project like this. Even so, people tend to the existing trees and use different kinds of flowers in the flower beds. Even if we were to proceed all the way from there, it would only be to build one or two more fountains.”
After a brief answer, Linon looked at the paper Seria had scribbled all over and said,
“Anyway, My Lady. You will be sorely disappointed when the butler sees you.”
“Ben? Why is that?”
“You’ll find out in the evening.”
Seria nodded with a puzzled face, and they finished talking.
After a warm dinner, Seria took a bath. There was nothing much to do outside, so she quickly went back to the bedroom and threw herself on the soft bed. After lying on her back for a while, she reached over to the table. It was the document about the garden that she had been catching all day.
Gardens were not a very trendy thing to do, but the booklet the merchant had brought with him had once described one clear trend. It was to plant a large tree as the centerpiece of the garden. Seria liked the fact that it would provide natural shade in the summer.
‘I should plant one in my own garden, and buy magic soil.’
The bigger the tree, the harder it was to bring in, so if she plants the tree in magic soil, the tree would never die, even if it was not in the right season.
The only drawback was that the price and the maintenance cost was too high.
It was not long before Ben came in with a knock on the door.
“I heard you wanted to see me earlier, Young Lady.”
“Oh, Ben. I’ll have to go to the Laurel Manor tomorrow. I’m going to call a lot of workers while I’m working on the main garden anyway. I think it would be very efficient to work on the manor garden with them.”
Ben’s spirits sank at the mention of the Laurel Manor.
‘Did I say something wrong?’ When Seria hurriedly asked again, Ben said in a somber tone.
“My Lady. ….I only wanted you to enjoy decorating the garden, but for no reason I called the merchant. I didn’t expect you to work all day without taking a break like this…I was not thinking clearly. I didn’t know you would work so hard. It was true what Linon said.”
“Because the faster I work, the faster I can rest.”
Not listening to Seria, Ben squeezed his eyes shut with his handkerchief.
“I’ll have a carriage ready to take you to Laurel Manor. But don’t go back too early. You can stay a day or two.”
“How happy Martha and Joanna will be.”
Seria nodded at Ben’s suggestion. It would probably take at least a week for Lesche to return, so it would be nice to stay in that beautiful manor for a day or two. She was curious to see what the green manor looked like with the shadows gone.
Come to think of it, when Lesche comes back, he would see this empty garden. Would he be as solid as the stone like his knights and Seria had become? She couldn’t imagine what kind of expression Lesche would have on his face.
It was not long before she fell asleep.