Chapter 1 - Prologue
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“Yes, Marchioness. I was thinking of something else for a moment. What did you say?”
“I asked if you wanted to be called Grand Duchess.”
“Yes, you may call me that. I think it’s about time people should start calling me by my title.”
Of course, the Marchioness was a difficult woman to please.
“Yes. If that’s what the Grand Duchess wants, then so be it. While the Grand Duchess is staying here, she must dine only with us two couples. Cassius and Nissos are too low in the hierarchy to dare to sit at the same table as the Grand Duchess and eat with her.”
‘A normal, educated noblewoman would have blushed upon hearing the words of the Marchioness. It is impossible not to know the ridicule in her words. But I….I’m just an ordinary graduate student who possessed Seria, and I’m in a position to say what I want to say, but there’s no reason to hold back.’
The Marchioness’s smile was slightly distorted.
“As the Marchioness suggested, you and I will be eating together from now on. How can I refuse when you have so much respect for me?”
Seria looked back at Nissos and deliberately made a gentle sound.
“Nissos, I’m afraid today will be our last meal together.”
Seria raised her voice again. It had taken some courage to raise her voice in front of Lady Mensla earlier, but it was even less of a burden the second time around. The butler, who was standing behind the Marquis, quickly approached.
“You heard what the Marchioness said, didn’t you? From now on, make sure you have only three pieces of cutlery ready.”
At that moment, the butler’s eyes turned to the Marchioness. She didn’t look at him, but nodded slowly. The old butler immediately bowed his head in submission and retreated.
The Marchioness, who immediately changed her expression like a good noblewoman, shifted her gaze to the Marquis sitting next to her.
“Perhaps it was because we hadn’t seen her in a long time, but the Grand Duchess’s personality isn’t the same as before.”
The Marquis listened in silence and opened his mouth.
“You’ve changed a lot, haven’t you? I also heard that you ordered for the central bridge to open.”
When Seria stared at him without replying, the Marquis added.
“I’m telling that you have yet to receive approval from the Imperial family.”
‘You are referring to the imperial family’s authorization is necessary for Grand Duke Berg’s marriage.’
“Until the official imperial approval is granted, you will treat us like your parents. Later, after the imperial authorization has been granted to the Grand Duchy of Berg, I will act as politely as you wish.”
“Yes, father. Do as you wish.”
When Seria replied, the Marquis looked at her strangely. What is it? What’s the matter? The Marquis gave Seria a stern expression, but having spent a year with her former fiancé who could cut off her head at any moment, and having spent time with the Grand Duke whose ruthless eyes never lagged behind wherever he went, she wasn’t afraid at all.
So Seria silently made eye contact, and surprisingly, the Marquis looked away first.
‘Isn’t he used to Seria’s eye contact?’
The Marquis shifted the subject in another direction.
“Did you have to open the central bridge?”
“Yes. I am the Grand Duchess of Berg.”
“Before that, you’re a Kellyden.”
“If I had come alone, I would have used the open bridge on the right. But the carriage I rode in was visible from the watchtower, I believe.”
Seria averted her gaze toward the old butler as she was saying that. He cleared his throat and avoided her eyes.
“The carriage I rode in had the Berg pattern engraved on it and even the Berg flag on the roof. On top of that, I was accompanied by the Commander of the Berg Knights. So, how could I compromise while undermining the prestige of the Berg?”
“His Highness cares so much about you.”
“Somehow it happened. I have a reputation to protect, so please.”
“Are you ordering me?”
“I told you, didn’t I? You have to be careful. What good will come from Berg and Kerryden feuding?”
The Marquis, who was silent, said,
“As you say, nothing good will come of it.”
“Thank you very much. By the way, why did you ask me to come, father?”
For a moment she saw the Marquis’s eyes go wide.
‘It happened in a flash. I would have missed it if I were my usual self, but I am different now. I was quick to notice the change in other people’s facial expressions in order to survive for the past year….What is it? What surprised him?’
Seria frowned and continued talking.
“I’d like to meet with you alone for a moment to discuss some things about Berg.”
Seria thought he would ask her what she wanted to talk about, but the Marquis raised his hand without delay, and the old butler came close. The Marquis told him to prepare for the meeting, then continued.
“I’ll be free the day after tomorrow.”
‘I, once again, have grown accustomed to Lesche’s free pass. At Berg, I can see him anytime if I want to. It’s a strange feeling. I was always rubbing my face on the warm and fluffy cradle, and suddenly I feel like I’m bathed in cold water. The Grand Duchy of Berg is not my home, either. And this is Seria’s house.’
“Start the food.”
As if the Marquis’s words were a signal, the dining table immediately began to fill up with food. Surprisingly, the food placed in front of Seria was also warm. She thought they would set her cold food, just because…
As she was eating, Seria suddenly became curious and shifted her eyes.
“Oh, by the way, I understand you told me to be sure to visit Kellyden. What was the reason for that?”
The Marquis paused for a moment, then said.
“The entire empire was rumored that you were on the verge of death due to the distortion of the divine forces. I understand that His Highness Grand Duke Berg saved your life.”
“Yes, he did.”
“But seeing as how you are now in too good health, it seems that the rumors were wrong.”
“Unfortunately, it is not wrong. I was dying from a complication of divine power at the ceremony.”
“… It’s true?”
The Marquis’s face stiffened greatly, while Nissos sarcastically said right beside him.
“Don’t take it so seriously, father. Seria has always been like that. If you don’t give her something she likes, she will deliberately scratch her arm and pretend to be injured by a blade… You don’t know how many servants got fired because of her.”
‘I didn’t know that Seria was self-inflicted. And since it was Seria who had done it as a child, and not me, I felt that I had no choice now.’
Instead of sticking her knife into the back of Nissos’s hand, Seria plunged it into the bread.
“Brother Nissos poured out words to my father like this, but you didn’t send a single person to Kellyden when I was dying, did you?”
“Thanks to you, my position is very embarrassing.The nobles who came to the Berg also talked a lot behind my back. When I was vomiting blood and was about to die, not a single person from the Kellyden came.”
“If you don’t believe me, ask the captain of the Commander of Berg knights who escorted me, father. He’s a straightforward character and he doesn’t lie. In fact, I’m not even worthy enough to lie for myself alone.”
Nissos’s expression visibly hardened. So did the Marquis of Kellyden. Then, more than all of them combined, the Marchioness’s face stiffened horribly, and Seria shifted her gaze.
When Seria finished eating and walked out of the dining room, no one saw her off. The Marquis’s mood was unusual, and the atmosphere at the immediate dining table was very heavy. However, even in the midst of all this, mourners were pouring in, and among them were people of high status that the Marquis could not ignore.
No one ate until dessert time because they were too busy with something else.
But the old butler followed Seria and called out in a quiet voice. When she turned to look at him, the old butler said that the master of the house had sent him, and then continued modestly.
“I think your room is almost ready.”
“I see. Let’s go there together. If it’s still a mess, I’ll be in a very bad mood, so it’s a good idea to figure out in advance what excuses you need to give me.”
“Yes? Yes …. Of course. I’ll take you, Miss.”
Seria thought she had made a rude request, but she just moved her feet. She followed the old butler up the stairs and back to her room. If it was still a mess, she would call Abigail for real this time, but fortunately the bedroom was normal.
“That’s enough. You can go.”
As the old butler was about to leave, Seria asked.
“How long has Lady Mensla been living in this castle?”
“It’s been about three months.”
“Three months. Okay. Go ahead.”
“I’ll leave you to it then.”
The old butler bowed lightly and left the room.
Seria looked around the room for a while. The empty shelves had been filled. When she looked closer, she could see that they had hurriedly brought in things from other places. Perhaps that was why they didn’t look expensive. Anyway, it wasn’t like the bedroom was a great western home.
Even if it was a rush, Seria thought she wouldn’t leave it alone if her room didn’t fill up properly by tomorrow.
It was then.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Along with a knock on the door she heard a voice from the outside.
When she opened the door, Cassius was waiting outside. As soon as she saw his face, Seria clenched her trembling hands tightly. It wasn’t as bad as the first time as if she had become immune to it. Seria lifted her chin and asked,
“What is it?”
“Lady Mensla said she’s sorry.”