Chapter 1 - Prologue
The next day.
Seria rode with Abigail in the carriage to the Laurel Manor.
One good thing about the disappearance of Magi in the green manor was that the list of visitable knights, which used to be strictly restricted, has been lifted. Seria was excited because Abigail constantly doubted that a manor built of green marble actually existed.
“We have arrived.”
The footman moved quickly to bring Seria a footstool, and Abigail took her hand and escorted her in.
The sun was shining brightly in the sky. The green manor, located in the middle of the white snowfield, was as graceful and beautiful as a rare peacock on the verge of extinction. The manor, devoid of Magi’s characteristic deadliness, seemed sublime.
Perhaps it was because Magi was gone that she was not familiar with the place where she stayed for several days. As Seria gazed at the overflowing beauty with an emotional heart, she suddenly spotted a strange person near the manor. The man was sitting in front of a canvas with snow piled up on his shoulders and head. He was brushing the canvas nonstop.
When her gaze reached the man, Abigail’s gaze was already fixed on him. Her eyesight being particularly good, she blinked a few times and said,
“He looks like a snowman, but it depicts that green manor.”
“The green manor? Is he a painter?”
Why was there a painter? Suddenly, the door of the manor opened and someone came out.
It was Martha, whom Seria hadn’t seen in a long time.
“I’ve been waiting for you! I see that His Highness is still doing well!”
“Lesche is what….ah!”
Seria was startled. It was because Martha had picked her up by her waist and spun her around. Abigail was able to snatch the wide-brimmed hat from Seria’s head as it blew away.
“I’m a good knight, young lady.”
Seria burst into laughter at Martha’s words. It was awkward, but at the same time, her heart was thumping a little.
“The trees have been growing in the garden without dying, all thanks to you, My Lady.”
“In spring, I’ll pick some blueberries and make some jam.”
While they were talking and catching up, Martha and Joanna fed Seria something the whole time. Before she knew it, the green manor was filled with flowering flowerpots. When the shadow was here, the flowers would wither away, it was sad.
“In the spring we’re going to start with the main part and work on the garden…”
Seria tried to talk, but the amount of cookies they fed her was more than the words she spit out. Abigail ate the cookies baked with rock sugar better than Seria did. After going around the manor with a basket full of cookies, they went back to the kitchen to recharge.
Maybe it was because Abigail was a knight that she didn’t gain weight even after eating so much?
Anyway, they didn’t leave the green manor until four days had passed. They finally returned to the main palace, feeling relaxed as she often did after taking a break in the countryside, when…
In the distance, Seria saw a tall man with silver hair in front of the main gate.
‘Lesche? When did he come back?’
“When did you come?”
The timing was appalling, and Lesche had just returned. She could see the words of the knight who had headed to the Great Temple with him snorting out. Blinking, she knew in time.
“…They saw it. They saw it.”
The knights blinked their eyes several times as they entered the gardens. They must have been really surprised, because the garden, which was there when they left, disappeared without a trace when they returned. It was hard to read Lesche’s expression as she could only see his side, but in the meantime, the carriage she was riding in stopped in front of the door.
As soon as Seria got off the carriage, she saw a man standing right in front of her. Seria was startled.
“Seria, where have you been?”
“I’ve been staying at the Laurel Manor for a few days. By the way, you came back already?”
“I kept on riding. Shall we go inside and talk?”
Lesche answered simply and held out his hand to Seria. Seria’s hand rested lightly on the pitch black leather glove he was wearing.
“Have you seen the garden?”
“Yes. I thought we were robbed.”
“Bibi said the same thing.”
“Then why is the garden in such a state?”
“They say they accidentally spread the wrong fertilizer and damaged the shrubs.”
“That’s a terrible mistake. Did you get rid of the gardeners?”
“No, we’re going to do some major work. Not now, but in the spring… Do you have any trees you’d like to plant in the garden?”
“No. Do as you please.”
Seria knew that was what Lesche would answer. As they entered the hall, the servants were already lined up, waiting to greet them. Ben took the coat and gloves from Lesche, and Susan removed Seria’s cloak.
Ben bowed deeply to Lesche and said,
“I’ve been informed that you’re coming. The vassals are…”
“Call them to the meeting. I have something to discuss.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
‘Meeting? He just got back, does he need to work already?’
As Seria was thinking, Lesche looked at her and asked,
“Are you done talking about the garden?”
“Yes, I’ve almost finished a rough draft of the garden. I’ll show you in the evening.”
“You’ll show it to me?”
Lesche tilted his chin.
“Don’t you just dress it up?”
“But since it’s a garden everyone can see as well, let’s be gracious about it.”
Lesche grinned. He raised his hand slightly and Seria couldn’t help but glance in his direction, suddenly slipping away.
Seria staggered, and Lesche cheerfully supported her. She thanked him but felt strange. Lesche’s wrist was much hotter than usual.
“Lesche. You seem to have a fever.”
Lesche placed the back of his hand against his forehead and tilted his chin.
“I’m not sure.”
‘When you’re exposed to some wood in the High Temple, you sometimes get a high fever. Is that it?’
“Are you hurt?”
“Do I look like a person who easily gets hurt?”
“It might hurt.”
“I see. I might be sick, but not now.”
It didn’t take long for Seria to figure out why he said not now.
Alliot came hurrying over at that moment.
“The knights are asking to see you urgently. There’s been a slight setback in the military supply.”
Lesche looked at Seria.
“I’ll see you later.”
Lesche strode up the stairs on his long legs. The meeting was on the third floor of the main office. Seria watched Lesche’s back as he quickly moved away. He arrived almost at the same time as her, but he had to attend meetings right away.
Lesche looked very busy. He seemed to have a fever, but couldn’t rest. But Seria couldn’t make a fuss about it, speculating on Lesche’s health, the lord of this castle. There were too many vassals around at the moment.
Besides, she wouldn’t be able to pull him out of the meeting room even if he had a real fever.
There was nothing she could do except to bring him some hot tea. After a couple of hours, Seria was walking across the large hall when she came across Linon. She wouldn’t have been able to ask more about Lesche’s condition if she hadn’t seen Linon walking at a trot.
“What, Young Lady? His Highness…sick…? No one in the world would look at His Highness as frail as the Young Lady.”
“…Is it that bad?”
Seria knew better than to ask. Linon said it with so much astonishment that she decided to just let the thought wash over her.
After all, perhaps it was because Lesche had returned and called for a meeting, the work that had been in limbo was now moving forward. The vassals were constantly coming in, and the servants were busy running around. Seria was also busy looking at the draft of the garden construction so she ordered dinner to be brought to her room and ate it there.
“The meeting isn’t over yet.”
Seria was conscience-stricken about Lesche first; she decided to get everything done that she was in no hurry to do. The sky was now completely dark after she was done.
‘I need to show him a draft of the garden…’
Seria thought about showing it to him tomorrow, but she had a feeling that tomorrow would be another series of meetings. It seemed like a good idea to leave the draft in Lesche’s bedroom. He would see it when he woke up at dawn. Because she wasn’t sure she could get up as early as Lesche to give it to him then.
Seria packed up the garden draft and found Lesche’s bedroom. She was on the same floor with him anyway. The distance was a bit far because of the large castle but when she asked if she could enter Lesche’s bedroom, the servant guarding the front immediately opened the door for her.
“His Highness is already asleep.”
“I see. Then may I just leave this document in his room?”
“Yes, My Lady.”
Feeling a bit nervous, Seria quietly entered Lesche’s bedroom. The Grand Duke’s bedroom was exactly the same in structure as the Grand Duchess’s bedroom. Although the second floor of the castle itself was a living space only for the Duke couple, it was very spacious.
As the servant said, she saw Lesche lying long on the bed, asleep. Then quietly, she placed the document on the side table of his bed.
Then she stared at Lesche, who had his eyes closed.
Honestly, Lesche came home unbelievably early. He came back in four days, a distance that would have required a normal person to run for a week. Riding continuously in wet clothes and cold weather, it would make the rider very tired. It might not be too hard for Lesche since his stamina was different than most people’s. But still….
Seria looked at Lesche without saying anything and quietly walked out. She walked down the stairs to the first floor hall and immediately saw Susan.
“Susan, can you get a fever reducer?”
“Fever reducer? Absolutely. There’s a separate medicine in the main hall.”
She told Seria to wait a moment, and Susan came back with a tray with three light brown grains, a canteen of hot water, and a cold hand towel with a wooden spoon.
“It’s hot water, just let him drink it all at once.”
Up the stairs and in front of Lesche’s bedroom, Seria finally became suspicious. Susan’s words about taking it all at once came to her mind belatedly. Did she by any chance know that Lesche has a fever?
‘Don’t they usually call a doctor when they are sick?’
First… Seria went inside the bedroom. Leche was still asleep.
‘Lesche, you idiot…you’re sick, aren’t you?’
Seria opened the lid of the water bottle. She poured a little hot water into the wooden spoon. Steam rose from the spoon. As she waited for the heat to cool off, she carefully brought the medicine to Lesche’s mouth.
Without a sound, Lesche caught her hand.