I had to get up early in the morning because I had to see Alastair Aguernia off.
I had slept curled up, I stretched.
“Sister, have you seen that bastard Carron by any chance?”
Indeed, the people of this family had the talent of suddenly appearing behind your back and spooking the soul out of you.
Maxion had a black eye. Apparently, after fighting with Carron.
I shook my head with a drooping yawn. “Oh, really. That jerk….”
“…. What’s wrong? Is there a problem?”
“No, just. Carron threw his gloves at him this morning. But oh—”
Today isn’t like every other day. I stopped him with my startled expression.
He had to be talking about Alastair.
Maxion lamented at his injustice as he recalled the story.
I nodded and listened to him. Throwing gloves in this world meant challenging someone to a duel.
Carron often sought out duels with Alastair and had a record of defeats.
Each time, he gritted his teeth and vowed to train harder. Despite such efforts, however, he never won the Alastair.
What’s sadder is that often Alastair couldn’t be bothered and blew my brother away, but now he couldn’t do that anymore.
At one point, the effects of brainwashing worked on him, and he couldn’t bring himself to fight back.
So Alastair’s tactic was to avoid Carron and evade his attacks.
Carron was tired of attacking him and not being able to get a fair fight in.
“He has been gnashing his teeth since this morning when Carron saw him.”
“Isn’t he always grinding his teeth?”
This morning, Maxion witnessed Carron outrage at Alastair and endured the brunt of his anger while Max tried to hold him back.
Carron vaguely disapproved of Alastair, but he didn’t get violent with him outside of matches.
This time, though, Carron decided Alastair deserved his ire.
What kind of a brother would not get angry when he finds a man in his unmarried sister’s bed, arms wrapped around her?
When Carron saw the scene, startled, he angrily interrogated him, and in the process, increasingly incited his growing wrath.
For Maxion and Mikhail, they didn’t bat an eye; it was a familiar sight.
It hasn’t been once or twice that Alastair has slept in Serina’s room.
But only Carron was clueless.
If there were a contest for the most naive and purest Melford family member, Carron would win hands down.
“I have to go now. I hope you find Carron.”
Alastair was different today.
Dark, tangled hair would curl around his face with a handsome boyish charm.
His shirt’s front end was always slightly open, and the skin peeking out would have the sheer sheen of exertion.
His eyes were always steeped in a flushed haze and half-lidded.
As far as I know, Alastair was always this disheveled.
But not today.
His hair was brushed, his clothes looked neat, and his eyes cleared.
He wasn’t what I knew.
Would he be similar to that when the brainwashing enchantments loosened?
Standing in front of the Aguernian duchy’s carriage, he looked dignified, taller.
Still, the one looming catastrophe he had in mind was no different than before.
Alastair, who was watching his family carriage in an aloof manner, turned his head toward me.
“Will you give me your left hand, Serina?”
What are you doing? I gave him my hand without much thought.
At the instantaneous act, the Alastair laughed as if he was really pleased.
“Older sister! Don’t hold his hand!”
“Hey, you crazy bastard! A little ··!”
Carron was furious that he hadn’t caught Alastair and shouted, while Maxion held him tight at the waist in case an accident occurred.
The servants of Aguernia laughed as if they were flustered at the sight.
But I had already given him a hand.
I tried to sneak my hand out of his, but Alastair gripped my hand tighter.
“Don’t leave, don’t run off with anyone. I won’t ever let you go.”
With graceful movements, he bowed his head and kissed me gently on the back of my hand.
His heroic appearance made my eyes ache.
Alastair bit my left ring finger.
I flinched and tried to pull my throbbing hand back to the safety of my palpitating heart, but my hand didn’t budge from his grip. I managed to swallow my yelp of surprise.
This was entirely out of character. Very different from Alastair’s typical demeanor.
His usual conduct always had an element of cautious reverence, but now he’s doing something bizarre.
What is he doing with my eyes wide open?
When I asked him with my inquiring gaze, he only smiles mischievously.
I was dumbfounded and laughed in disbelief.
“Why can’t anyone take me away while you’re away?”
The sharp imprint on my finger pulsed as if my heart had moved there.
I was bewildered; he smiled as if he is amused at my reaction and watched me.
My eyebrows went up. What the hell is so funny?
“I’m replacing the ring.”
“I don’t need the mark.”
I took my hand out of his hand and clenched my fist to conceal it.
Alastair frowned as if he didn’t want to go and was reluctant to get on the wagon.
The carriage set off.
Now he’s back where he should be.
When I opened my eyes slowly, a monotonous room came into focus.
The room, surrounded by white walls, gave a sense of quiet minimalism.
It goes well with a temple that emphasizes cleanliness.
On one side of the room, there was an altar and a silver candle beside it.
I slowly looked around the room and prayed with my eyes closed without a purpose.
I must look like a believer, but I don’t believe in god. But, here I was, playing at being a devotee—at least for now.
I ‘prayed’ for a long time.
Finally, I got up and left the room.
The god of this world, Elio, emphasizes solitude to followers.
It was not difficult to be a believer.
Anyone can if they consistently donate high amounts to the temple. Therefore, most of the people who retreated in the temple were aristocrats.
In rare cases, wealthy commoners used rooms for meditation.
“Oh, praise, Serina! You’re here again today.”
I was heading out of the temple.
A woman in a sacred white suit called me, waving honey blonde hair shook. She smiled purely, bending her eyes gently.
“It’s been a long time, my lady,” I smiled in reply to her smile.
“Oh! I’ve wanted to talk to you for a while. How the donation you gave to the temple was used in a good way.”
“… Is that so?”
“Yes. Thanks to you, I was able to add more projects to help improve the lives of people living in the slums,” she smiled, very grateful.
I mimicked her shining, bright smile, mirroring her delight.
“Thank you, Saint. For making my contribution a worthy one.”
“How is that thanks to me? It’s all thanks to you. We are lucky to have such a good person like Serina at the temple of Elio.”
“I’m happy that I can be of service.”
The reason why I came to the temple, prayed hard, donated money, and acted as a devout believer is right in front of me. To befriend Saint Juliana, the heroine of the original novel.
Juliana was my insurance and last resort to remove Alastair’s glamours. So why haven’t I asked her to remove his enchantments already?
Of course, I know it’s faster to ask her for a favor than to implement my plans.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t ask her now.
Alastair would need to go to her. And how should I tell her?
It was an inevitable question that Juliana would ask, ‘Why are poisonous plants and dangerous spells piled up in his body?’
When she asks, Alastair or I would have to tell her, and I couldn’t explain it without condemning my whole family.
A saint does not tolerate crime.
If the Melford family is indicted, not only me but also my brothers, our employees, and the whole dukedom will suffer.
Regardless, if I ask her to do it, I have to be prepared to lose a lot of things or have her help Alastair while keeping her in the dark.
She’s my last resort.
“That’s what the saint should say.”
“I’m so embarrassed. I just did only what I could as a believer in the god Elio.”
This was not even in the novel.
Juliana looked at me with her hands tightly clasped together as if she were moved.
“Well, I’m going to get going. I hope I can run into you next time.”
“Oh, if you have time during your next visit, would you like me to show you around the temple?
It’s an unexpected harvest.
I could see the temple by myself. Perhaps Juliana’s guidance refers to giving me a tour where public access is restricted.
There’s not much to say about restricted access areas. But this is a step in the right direction for our relationship.
“Oh, my God. Then I’d appreciate it.”
To be honest, I have no interest in the inner part of the temple.
What I’m interested in is Juliana.
My goal was to be as close as I could with Juliana, befriend her, and earn her trust.
I hope the day comes when I can meet her if I want to.
Juliana just started to express interest in me.
I had to seize this opportunity and use it as much as possible.
“I’ll tell the temple in advance.”
“I’ll be looking forward to that day; then, Saint, I shall take my leave.”
“Me too, Serina.”
Serina smiled softly and turned her back from Juliana.
Juliana stared blankly at Serina as she drifted away from her. The silver hair fluttering in the wind looked like silver liquid, light-reflecting, casting a halo.
It looked so sacred that it seemed like an angel ascended from heaven.
Juliana sighed in happiness.
Serina was a woman with an enthralling smile. Even a demon would visit the temple to hypnotize itself willfully.
It was no exaggeration to say that the increasing number of men who came to the temple in truth came to get a glimpse of her, thoroughly enchanted.
‘She’s a good woman.’
Juliana has lived in the temple since childhood.
She’s been raised in isolation, and she’s always been lonely.
Although she had a friend of her age, they—like the others—ended up distancing themselves from her.
When Juliana became a saint, and no one truly remained by her side as an equal, her position was too high.
There are only those who felt burdened by her or flattered her.
But Serina was different. She never flattered and had an attitude of respect and consideration for others, even as a noblewoman of a high-status family.
Because of that, it was comfortable to be with her even though they were not familiar with each other.
So Juliana wanted to get closer to Serina.