Chapter 1

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The pouring rain soaked the ground.

Every time the wheels of the carriage squeaked every time they passed over the muddy road.
The rain poured down throughout the entire journey, as if it wanted to take away all the vitality of the earth.

“We’ll be there soon.
Akarna, is everything all right?”

At the coachman’s words, the dark-haired woman in the carriage raised her head as she heard the question directed at her.
She watched the raindrops hitting the window dazedly and nodded a few beats later.

“We’ll be there soon, so please hang in there.”

He soon left the woman alone.
The woman overheard the men’s conversations intermittently between the noises of the horses’ hooves, the carriage’s wheels and the mud’s splashes.

“The Akarna doesn’t look too good, do you think she’s alright?”

“Isn’t this the first time she’s going to the outskirts? She might be anxious.”

“Rather than that…”

The voice slightly died down.

“She must be upset that His Highness the Crown Prince got engaged.”

Strength entered her hand, which was neatly placed on her lap.

Engaged.

It was a word she did not wish to hear for a while.

Against the opposition of the temple and the imperial family, the man whom she had loved for five years was now engaged to another woman.

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He was not an ordinary man.
Rather, he was the crown prince of the empire, so he was not going to have an ordinary marriage either.

So it was natural for him to marry a woman from a good noble household.

And that woman was the eldest daughter of the most honorable margrave of the empire.

She hailed from a venerable household that was allies with the imperial family for hundreds of years, protecting the empire from the beasts that threatened the borders.
In addition to the geographical location, there had not been a chance to form a solid alliance with their fief yet, but they seemed to have made a connection this time.

The master of the empire and the noble household that protects it.

The crown prince who has achieved brilliant feats even during his earlier years, and then the beautiful young lady who grew up like a princess and was loved by her noble family.

It was sufficient enough for people to come together and create a romantic story with them as the main characters.

But the woman here, sitting inside the carriage, was different.

The Akarna of the temple was a person held in high regard, but that didn’t mean that the temple was going to back her in everything she did.

Although the temple did treat her according to their responsibility over her, this was only when she would faithfully perform her ‘duty as the Akarna’.
And, that duty was far from any noble task.

To leave and go to the outskirts with only such a few escorts.

To purify the earth as it was is being eroded by black miasma and save those who suffered from it.

This was the duty that the temple had to do for mankind, and it was also the duty of the Akarna to obey the will of the gods.

But the woman never wanted this job.
It was only because she fell in love with the crown prince, and so for the sake of the empire that he would rule over, she forced herself to accept the pain.
And she had no doubt that this love would one day bear fruit.

She loved for five years, very desperately so.

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But her hopes were shattered as soon as he announced that he would be engaged to another woman.

She had also seen that lady from a distance.

She was a lovely noble lady who smiled brightly like a flower in full bloom, and she was being escorted by the crown prince.

An honorable and proud family.
A personality that had no faults.
A household that had an expansive territory and a high peerage.
A fiefdom that would never see any scarcity.
Even her outward appearance was something that everyone would be mesmerized by.

It was all so different from her gloomy and timid self.

“Ha……”

Rumble.
Rumble, rumble!

The carriage kept moving forward.
The rain was getting stronger and the trip was slower than expected.
However, it was impossible to stop here in the middle, so the carriage dashed through the mountain all night long.
The deeper they went into the mountain, the steeper it became.

She wondered if it was her fault for saying that she wanted to go to a farther place than usual.

However, even that shallow self-blame quickly disappeared because the carriage started shaking too much.

No, not the carriage.
The ground itself was shaking.

‘What’s going on?’

As the woman in the carriage grew more nervous, she heard a panicked yell from outside.

“Turn the horses! It’s a landslide!”

“It’s already too late to turn around here! Just ditch the carriage and avoid it…!”

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Rumble, rumble! Bang!

But before she could prepare herself, a huge pile of debris hit the carriage first.

And the woman’s vision also flipped over in an instant.
The carriage shook as if an earthquake was wracking it.
The woman tried to hold onto one corner, but she eventually rolled inside the carriage, and she screamed as the seat in the carriage fell and hit her back.

“Huhk…! Ugh…”

The woman barely clung to her consciousness.

The carriage was half-destroyed and barely hanging over the cliff.

The woman managed to hold on despite the increasingly tilting carriage.
However, the floor on which she was barely standing was wet from the rain.
It was too slippery.

“Aaack!”

In the end, the woman slipped.
She grabbed a piece that barely jutted out of the carriage, but she didn’t know how much longer she could hold out.

Creeaak. The carriage leaned further, and the woman wasn’t very strong.
Even the raindrops that kept pouring didn’t help.

“Akarna! Hold on! We’ll come down soon!”

Fortunately, the escorts came quickly to find the woman.
They were supposed to protect the one and only Akarna properly, but in this way, they would be scorned by the superiors.
Seeing them restless, the woman surprisingly did not feel any emotions.

If she was saved here now, then what?

Either way, she would just go to her original destination, fulfill her duties as the Akarna, and then she’d go back to the empire?

Waiting there was just boring and repetitive.

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She helped people who came to the temple because they needed help.
She also sometimes went to the contaminated land that had been eroded by miasma, just like what she’s supposed to be doing now.

She would also help the people there.
Help.
Help.
Doing something worthwhile.
She was being appreciated by countless people.
She was revered as a saint.

And as she did that, a grand event would soon be held.

The wedding of the man she loved.

“Ha.”

She didn’t know why she was laughing.

The woman impulsively loosened her hold.
The escorts shouted at the Akarna.

She was afraid of the sudden fall.
But at the same time, she felt a sense of freedom for an unknown reason.

She closed her eyes.

That person she met secretly despite the temple’s opposition.

That person was the one who taught her how to read and write.

That person, even after being betrayed by him like that, was who she missed very much.

 

In a place where there was no one else but them, it was together with him that they whispered sweet nothings and held each other’s hands.

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