Like a Dry Branch in the Wind - Chapter 9
Rietta and Killian went up together to his bedroom. Having no idea what Killian was thinking, Rietta answered all his questions innocently and entered his bedroom with nothing to be ashamed of.
Rietta prayed sincerely starting from the entrance of the bedroom that was connected to the hallway, the window, the door connected to the bathroom, the door leading to the office, and even at the top of his bed. She swept the surroundings with her hand that had glowed a faint light. She meticulously surrounded the room with blessings, effectively blocking disease or a demon’s entry. It was a clean and tidy attitude. Killian leaned against the wall quietly with his arms folded as the small, beautiful woman with a good scent moved around in his bedroom.
Last month, when she was sitting on his bed in a see-through slip, he did not feel like doing it. Seeing the same person moving lively in his room in such a simple and neat commoner attire, it was so strangely heart fluttering. Just looking at her sincere face made him feel good.
She prayed quietly with her eyes closed. The subtle light surrounding her hands moved from her body to the wall, window, and bed. Even her unfamiliar and modest clothes added a mysterious atmosphere. Even though she was busy giving blessings, she was calm and quiet. It was quite something for her to come into his room without even giving him a subtle glance, let alone being lewd.
Rietta had no thoughts. She knew he was watching her but she paid no heed to it. It was just a few hours ago that her work was observed and surrounded by dozens of chattering women. She just thought that her work could be quite amusing to the public.
Rietta worked meticulously regardless of whether Killian was watching her or not. She did her best to the point that even if a high-level blessing priest came, there could not be a better result. A high-density blessing wrapped around the bedroom almost resembling that of a barrier.
Even from Killian’s perspective, an outsider, he could guess that the blessing was done quite well when he saw that clear and pure lights gathered and soaked through wherever her hands touched. Finally, Rietta turned toward him.
“For about a month, no demon or disease will invade this bedroom. After that, the effect will begin to decline. If you allow it, I can come back and enhance the blessing.”
Is she naturally making a promise to meet regularly?
He nodded and praised her for her hard work.
Rietta smiled faintly and bowed her head. She stood still next to the bedhead.
Killian was in conflict. He was going to ask her to drink wine first. But he thought she wanted to do it right away. Rietta was just standing there and looking at him. It was like a temptation asking him to approach her.
It was the first time Killian experienced seduction that drifted into his heart by a woman who did not even lift a finger. Casting blessings without even giving him a glance, it was as if she did not even have such intentions. The sight of her standing still in an ascetic state and only looking at him felt like a type of seduction only meant to attract his heart.
It was not the type of temptation one would use to say that I wanted you, that I need you, but one that was asking him whether he needed her or not.
Killian hesitated. He felt immoral, as if he was having blasphemous feelings against a pure priestess. He took off his feet and approached her.
As the distance approached, Rietta gradually looked up at him and blinked. Killian glanced down at her. As soon as he raised his hand towards Rietta’s white neck, she let out an exclamation.
Seeing his hand, Rietta moved sideways and stepped back. Killian’s hand stopped in the air. When Rietta stepped back, a bell line appeared, hanging next to the bed.
While Killian hesitated, Rietta bowed politely.
“Have a good rest.”
Killian was momentarily taken aback by Rietta’s words. Thinking that they were getting closer to each other, Rietta thought she was blocking his way. She thought that Killian wanted to pull the bell cord to call the butler. She had no doubt thought that he wanted to send her to the butler so that he could take a rest. Rietta took a step back from the bedside. Then, she bid him farewell with a face that had clearly shown no doubts.
“I’m going to get going now.”
“It’s already late. Spend the night here before you go.”
Only after he finished his sentence that he thought he might have been mistaken. Rietta smiled gently.
“Yes, I will. Thank you.”
Killian regretted what he said for a moment, but was more flustered by Rietta’s calm answer that came out too easily. Rietta could never even dream about what he really meant. Unfortunately, his words sounded similar to ‘Eat before you go’ to Rietta, who had established a policy for dealing with Killian; put aside polite refusal and follow his orders immediately.
For Rietta, she only responded in the same way she did during the evening because Killian had approved of it. She unconsciously thought that he did not need a woman like her. The incident when she first came to this bedroom wearing only a slip and ending up being guided to another room without anything happening had also played a part in her response.
Rietta did not notice Killian’s confused expression. She looked up at him while bowing down, thinking that the Archduke would pull the bell’s cord and call the butler.
However, Killian showed no signs of pulling the string. He did not even call the butler right away.
There was only a strange silence. Rietta thought she was being rude for hoping the Archduke of Axias to do something for her. She decided to act on her own like a quick-witted subordinate. It was not like she did not know where to go or who to find already. The butler would have been waiting outside the room or somewhere not far away. Rietta smiled slightly and bowed again.
“Thank you for everything today. Have a good night.”
Fortunately, Killian was not much of a fool than he already was. His awkward hand headed to his forehead. He covered his eyes and pressed it hard.
“…Yeah. you too.”
He gave his answer, barely managing to forgo the awkwardness.
When Rietta opened the door silently and came out, Erne, who was waiting on a chair at the end of the hallway far away while riffling the pages of a book, stood up a little surprised. The butler, who noticed Killian’s strange gaze chasing Rietta, was flustered when Rietta walked out of the room in a neat outfit without anything going on. But soon, he skillfully hid his expression. Rietta bowed down to Erne and lifted her clear face. Then, she said innocently.
“His Lordship told me to sleep here.”
Erne’s eyes widened. At once, he noticed the meaning of those words that Rietta failed to understand, he also noticed how Rietta interpreted it. How can a 26-year-old adult woman be so naive?
The beautiful woman, who had clearly shaken his master’s heart, had an innocent face and blinked her sky blue eyes. It was obvious what kind of misunderstanding had occurred.
Haa… It’s been a while since he has found a woman to his liking.
Erne felt sad with a miserable feeling inside as he quietly agreed with Leonard.
Rietta was guided into the same guest bedroom as last time, not noticing Erne’s gloomy atmosphere. She laid down in the cozy bed with a proud feeling.
From the east annex to Killian’s bedroom, she suffered from the physical and mental labor of walking all day and meticulously casting blessings. It was twice as much as the usual labor intensity, so when her tension eased, the fatigue flocked.
She managed to relieve a bit of her burden. She also got to eat a lot of delicious food. She needed to sleep out of her house but she still felt comfortable. The last time she stayed here she could not sleep all night.
‘Are you satisfied living in Axias?’
Of course. Very.
Rietta babbled her sincerity that she could not convey enough to herself. Axias—a place where she had a house where she could put her daughter’s memorial tablet and light a candle for her. She managed to hold a funeral for her husband who left last year, so Benjamin, the grave keeper could take care of his grave. But let alone a funeral, she could not even send her daughter off properly so she had only buried her in her heart.
Rietta was slowly taking root on this land, starting with a house with her name written on it. A good land where no thieves enter even with an unlocked door. Neighbors naturally knocked on the door of new people and took care of strangers.
Rietta thought of the door of her house in Sevitas, which had been closed for a long time without anyone visiting. A long time after her husband died of the plague and when Casarius began to threaten her for a long while, none of the friendly neighbors visited Rietta’s house anymore.
Rietta laid down and put her hand on her chest. Before giving it to Killian, it was where her daughter’s keepsake was located.
Instead of lighting a candle in front of the memorial tablet today, Rietta closed her eyes and said a short but sincere prayer.
After living in Axias for a month, Rietta realized it was warm. The prices were higher than Sevitas, but it was not beyond her expectations, and the payment for labor was also enough. There were no beggars on the street and people were cheerful and kind.
It was the same for Axias Castle. The East Annex had a warm and crowded atmosphere and there was an energetic dinner with the knights, along with a false smile that appeared on their faces.
‘We love you, Your Grace!’
That was really funny.
Killian’s gesture of casually pouring down milk for the small cat without hesitation as if he was familiar with it… He was a good person. He was not as scary as she thought. This was a nice place. It was probably because Killian made it so. Rietta silently blinked her eyes.
‘It’s already late. Spend the night here before you go.’
Rietta belatedly thought that Killian’s last words were misleading but she soon realized that was impossible. She smirked at that thought.
Even though they were the same ‘lord’, it was too much of a misunderstanding to be used on Killian. The bedding was getting warmer. Soon, she was in deep sleep.
Long after Rietta fell into her slumber, Killian was tossing and turning, unable to sleep. After eventually giving up sleeping, he got up and opened a book. He had read ‘The Empire History of War’ dozens of times enough to memorize it, but he could not focus on it now. He quickly closed the book and threw it on the drawers next to the bed.
Rietta in a simple and neat dress kept replaying in his mind. Funny enough, he could not even remember Rietta in the slip. Every time she greeted him, she put one hand on her chest. The woman who was married with a naive face.
Killian glanced at the head of his bed that her hand had touched. Her face as she put her hand there as she quietly closed her eyes was pretty. When she told the story of her dead husband, she looked miserable as she vacantly concealed her sorrow.
‘Should I cast blessings in Your Grace’s bedroom too?’
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…What a cunning woman. I can’t be blamed for being deceived.
‘Oh, I mean, milord!’
Killian grinned as he thought of her blushing face that bit the tip of her tongue.
Even though he had never been desperately in love, he was not so stupid that he did not know the feeling at all. He knew it would be an exhausting feeling as it progressed. He did not want an emotion that damaged his rationality to take over his head. Killian got up. He knew how to deal with such feelings.
Soon he moved to the office. He sat in front of his desk with a quill pen in his hand and began to deal with the piled documents one by one. It was not difficult. Killian skilfully got rid of his newly discovered feelings of romance.
Having been working all night, Killian took a brief nap on the sofa in the office. Rietta gave her greetings through Erne and returned home. Upon hearing about that in his office, Killian just replied, “Okay.” without even looking at Erne.
As he had already forgotten about Rietta, he picked up the documents he had checked at his desk with no expression. Then, he asked Erne.
“When did this report arrive?”
“Report of Grand Temple Havitus recommending the blessing in my land.”
The report stated that Casteiner, not far from Axias, was wiped out by the plague within two months. Therefore, it is recommended that Axias be cast with blessings and strengthen the city’s defenses from evil spirits and demons.
“It has been less than a month.”
“Really? Was it early May?”
“End of April.”
When Killian was traveling around the Empire with his knights, he had also stopped by Casteiner. It was a large city neighboring the temple, not far from Axias. On his way back to Axias with Rietta, he tried to stop by Casteiner but he eventually avoided the land after hearing the story from a local peddler that the plague had greatly started to spread in Casteiner.
A report arrived at the end of April. It is stated in this report that it has been completed and dispatched in mid-April. That was quite fast.
“You called for me?”
Killian, who was leaning on the sofa, put down the report and looked at Leonard.
“When did we stop by Casteiner before the plague broke out?”
“In early March.”
“When did the plague break out in Casteiner?”
“In early April.”
Killian, who had been quiet for a while, smiled and gave the report to Leonard.
“It stated here in early March.”
Leonard took the report. The report included the manifestation and damage caused by the demon plague, the spreading path of the plague, and more. Leonard skimmed through a few pages and replied.
“Well. As far as I remember, we stopped by the County of Casteiner in early March. There was no mention of plague back then.”
“That’s what I remembered too.”
At the very least, Casteiner still had no plague at that time. They were certain because they even stayed there. However, the report explained that the process of plague, casualties, and ruin of the land occurred between early March and April.
The terrible situation was currently ongoing. The path of the plague seemed to be approaching the north where Axias was located. They compared the information they knew with the information in the report. Casteiner was not the only suspicious one.
Sevitas’ plague was also briefly recorded in the report. The timeline itself was consistent with the one they knew, but the spreading aspect recorded in the report was exaggerated more than it actually was. There was indeed a plague outbreak in Sevitas, but it was not in such a devastating condition as stated in the record. If it was that bad, they would not have even entered Sevitas in the first place.
Although the information was not significantly distorted, it was subtly adjusted in the direction of rationalizing the conclusion.
“Well, there may be some errors or exaggerations in the date and extent of the spread.”
Killian smiled coldly and looked at the report in Leonard’s hand.
“But isn’t this report almost as if they predicted the plague in Casteiner?”
The report from the grand temple expressed serious concern that the plague was spreading rapidly. It stated that, due to fear of plague demons invading Axias, it was advisable to receive blessings from a trusted institution. It also stated that the grand temple would gladly cooperate if Axias wanted to.
“Put our people in the grand temple.”
Killian gave his order. He was suspicious of the temple. Leonard, who rarely objected to his liege’s opinion, denied him without realizing it.
He had a brother who was a priest.
Killian’s red eyes thinned and he raised his body from the sofa as if an idle beast had just woken up. A cold smile formed on his sharp impression.
“There’s something I always say to you. To make the right judgment.”
“…When something happens… Think about who will benefit the most from it.”
“Who benefits the most when the plague spreads?”
Leonard’s expression hardened.
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