Chapter 326

“Everyone, please stand up. Only His Majesty the Emperor is fit to receive a bow before the goddess.”

Ian spoke in the softest voice possible. He was firm toward the strong but gentle towards the weak. The people slowly stood up while stealing glances. However, they did not dare look at Ian from the same eye level. They fidgeted around with their heads held low.

“I apologize for this, sister. I did not send a messenger in advance because I thought you would already know about our arrival…”

He was not required to show respect due to his status, but Ian still acted polite towards the principal nun.

“Not at all. It is my fault. I did not imagine that Your Highness would personally come down to this humble place. Furthermore, I did not expect His Excellency Duke Pendragon to be accompanying…”

The nun quickly turned her head towards Raven and bowed.

“It is my honor to meet you, Your Excellency Pendragon.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Raven answered with a polite bow of his own. As a child, he had wandered from place to place to meet his father after losing his mother. He had experienced the kindness of Illeyna’s church as he ate and slept in the monasteries and temples. However, the nuns and the people of the monastery were not aware of this fact. As such, they were deeply moved by the politeness of Duke Pendragon. He was being so considerate and respectful even though this was just a simple monastery in a rural area. 

In the meantime, those gathered were wondering why the prince and the duke had traveled to the countryside. Nevertheless, no one had the courage to speak their thoughts. They could only steal glances at Ian, Raven, and the principal nun.

The principal nun finally spoke while shifting her eyes behind the two figures. 

“Then that must be…”

“Yes. That man is Sir Isla.”

“Good evening.”

Isla stepped out from between Ian and Raven, then greeted the nun in a knightly manner.

“Hooh…”

A glimmer appeared in the eyes of the principal nun, then her eyes gradually curved into a gentle smile. She observed Isla’s face with curiosity and favor. A large smile quickly spread to her lips as well.

“Why don’t you come in first? Although it is quite close, the road must have been rough and troublesome. It will be best for the sir knights to take rest inside as well.”

“Let us do that.”

The accompanying knights dismounted their horses with Ian’s permission. The people of the monastery busily led the horses to the stable and guided the knights.

“This way, please.”

Ian, Raven, and Isla followed behind the principal nun and headed toward the monastery. It was quite small, but seemingly possessed quite a history as well. The interior was filled with antique murals and sculptures. 

The paint was peeling off and smudges could be found here and there, but even the faults added to the simple and cozy atmosphere. Raven found it quite nice since he was never the one for extravagance and luxury. Even Ian, who was unpretentious, seemed to find the building to his liking. He had a comfortable expression as he followed the principal nun into her office.

“Please sit. It is quite lacking to greet your exalted selves, but this is the life of an ascetic.”

The principal nun gave an apologetic laugh as she brought forth wooden chairs. Ian hurriedly took the chairs from her hands and shook his head.

“That is not the case at all, sister.”

Soon after, the three men were seated on the chairs. The principal nun continued while personally pouring hot water into a teapot.

“It just so happens that we had some lavender left over after selling it at the market. We grow it ourselves.”

“Hooh, I see.”

Temples and monasteries located in larger cities and towns usually operated by receiving donations from nobles and local merchants, but the small, poor monasteries located in the countryside sustained themselves by growing their own crops and selling them.

In particular, monasteries serving Illeyna produced crops with excellent taste and quality because they farmed with the same sincerity they held for their goddess. 

“Please try some.”

The principal nun offered teacups to the three men.

“Hmm, it is very fragrant.”

The deep scent of lavender herbs soothed the mind and body of the three figures.

“It is great.”

Ian smiled satisfactorily after taking a sip of tea. 

The tea tasted great. Even Raven and Isla, who were unfamiliar with tea, were amazed at the taste and smell.

“Goddess Illeyna and the believers will be pleased that the tea is to your liking.”

The principal nun smiled brightly before turning her eyes to Isla. She continued.

“This tea was personally grown and harvested by Sister Serin herself.”

“I see…”

Isla responded rather apathetically. Ian stepped up with a grin.

“I heard that the scent and taste of a tea are reflective of the person who grew it and harvested it. Just as expected of Miss Serin Reiner.”

“Ho-ho! Since Your Highness is saying so, I cannot help but chime in as well. To speak of Sister Serin, she is the kindest and most sincere lady among those at our monastery. Since she has been staying with us for more than a decade, some people even specifically ask for tea leaves grown by Sister Serin when we sell leaves at the nearby village market.”

“Ho! Hooooh!”

“That is amazing.”

Ian and Raven pretended to be astonished while secretly gauging Isla’s expression.

“…..”

Isla’s eyebrows were twitching ever so slightly. He appeared rather embarrassed, unbefitting his reputation as a southern man of passion. The two smiled insidiously on the inside at his reaction.

“Hmm? Is there something wrong, Sir Isla?”

“He is my knight, but sometimes, Sir Isla can be quite hard to gauge because he speaks so little. But principal nun, please don’t misunderstand. It’s not that he does not like Miss Reiner…”

Isla put down his teacup and opened his lips.

“She is to my liking. I cannot wait to see Lady Reiner.”

“…..”

“…..”

The two quickly shut up at Isla’s unexpected attitude. They had been planning to poke fun at him just like they had been doing until now…

“Oh! I see.”

The principal nun nodded her face with a bright expression, then opened the door before speaking.

“Could you go and call Sister Serin? She is probably in the back garden.”

“Yes, sister.”

A girl quickly ran off.

“By the way, the letter was stamped with the seal of the Reiner family. But sister also knew that the Reiner family sent a letter of introduction to Duchess Pendragon, correct?”

“Of course. Actually, I was the one who made the suggestion to Mistress Reiner.”

“Huh? You did, sister?”

“Yes.”

She continued with a bright smile.

“From the perspective of our monastery, we are very grateful and proud of Lady Reiner. But the maiden of a noble family, a family as respected as the Reiner family, spent her prime years in such a place. Naturally, I sent letters of introduction to decent families over the years, but no one was willing to wait for a maiden to serve 10 years in a monastery. Besides, as you know, Lord Reiner is not very ambitious when it comes to these matters…”

“Hmm, that is true.”

Ian nodded.

Just as the principal nun said, Serin’s father was a faithful person who quietly carried out his duties. He wasn’t one to pursue success in the political world. Even if they were related to the empress, there wasn’t much to gain from being in-laws with the Reiner family. It was only natural that Serin Reiner went unnoticed by the highly reputable noble families.

“And so time continued to go by, and now it is time for Sister Serin to leave. Even if they did not say anything, Lord Reiner and Mistress Reiner must have been quite bothered and concerned that Sister Reiner already missed her opportunity.”

“Hmm.”

It was only natural. No matter how trusting the parents were, their concern for their child’s future would only grow larger with time.

“In the meantime, I heard that many noble families were sending letters of introduction and recommendation to Lord Isla. I expressed my intention with the faintest of hope. I had heard that Mistress Reiner had shared a relationship with Duchess Elena when they were both in the imperial castle.”

“I see.”

“But I heard that all the prominent noble families had sent letters to the Pendragon Duchy. I was about to give up. But now that Your Highness and Your Excellency are here… I cannot think but it is only by the grace of Goddess Illeyna and the deep faith of Sister Serin.”

The principal nun drew a holy symbol in the air without hiding her joy. At that time, a young girl called out from outside the door after knocking.

“I brought Sister Serin, sister.”

“Oh! Come on in.”

“Yes.”

The door opened with an answer.

Squeeak.

The gazes of Ian and Raven shifted toward the door.

“It is an honor to meet you. Your Highness the Prince and Your Excellency Duke Pendragon. I am Serin, daughter of the Reiner family.”

A clear voice.

“Hm.”

“Hooh…”

Serin Reiner slightly bent her knees and pulled back her leg to bow in a rather nervous manner. Raven nodded lightly in response, while Ian became wide-eyed.

In their honest opinion, she was by no means an outstanding beauty.

However, her eyes were kind. She shyly lowered her eyes under her finely curled brown hair. 

In addition, she appeared completely unpretentious, even though she was in the presence of three great figures. One was a prince who would likely become the next emperor, one was a duke of the empire, and the other was a man who could become her husband. However, she looked just like a country girl who had come straight from work.

But her appearance and her pale, copper skin made her look healthy and lively, unlike any other noble maidens. The two were rather charmed by her appearance, along with the simple, kind atmosphere of the monastery.

Most importantly, it seemed that her appearance had made a good impression on Isla as well.

“Hmm?”

“Huh?”

Raven and Ian became wide-eyed. As soon as Serin Reiner came into the room, Isla had jumped up from his chair. But disregarding the two people’s shock, Isla walked over to Serin Reiner before bowing politely.

“I am Elkin Isla, King of Valvas and a Knight of the Pendragon Duchy. It is an honor to meet you, Lady Reiner.”

“Ah, well, I…”

Serin Reiner was at a loss. For more than a decade, she had lived in a place where the only males were two older men who were similar in age to her father. However, she quickly came to her senses and stretched out her hand befitting her noble status. Isla reached down and gave a light kiss on the back of her hand.

Perhaps because of the kiss, her flushed cheeks turned a shade darker. It was the first time Serin Reiner had received a kiss on the back of her hand.

“This way, please.”

Isla took her hand without hesitation and led her to a chair.

Raven and Isla, who had been staring at the two with dazed expressions, awkwardly stood up and waited for her to sit down.

“Ah, I am fine….”

She was once again flustered by the courteous attitude of the two. Even though she lived in the countryside, she heard rumors of the world. Her anxiety and embarrassment had doubled when two men of the noblest stature rose from their chairs for her.

“Now, now. Come have a seat, Sister Serin.”

However, she soon regained her calm and sat down at the soft voice of the principal nun. Raven and Isla took their seats once again, and Isla took his spot beside Serin Reiner.

“Sister Reiner, as you may already know, Mistress Reiner and I sent a letter of introduction to Duchess Pendragon recommending you to be Lord Isla’s bride. That is why His Highness the Prince, His Excellency the Duke, and Lord Isla came here in person.”

“Yes.”

She lowered her eyelashes while feeling her heart pounding.

“Miss Reiner, please do not mind us. We are only here as his companions. Is that not so?”

“Yes. Elkin is my knight, but he will be fully responsible for deciding who to marry. So just pretend that we are not here and share a comfortable conversation.”

Raven added to Ian’s words. But how could any lady comfortably converse with a man who might be her husband in the presence of a prince and a duke? Naturally, both Serin Reiner and the principal nun were aware of this fact, but they dared not mention it. The two people were simply too high in status.

‘They have a bit of a naughty side towards them.’

The principal nun thought to herself as she saw Ian and Raven look towards Isla and Serin Reiner with a grin. A calm and powerful voice resounded.

“Lady Reiner, do you have any complaints or dissatisfactions about the letter of introduction that your mother and the sister sent to Duchess Pendragon?”

“C, complaints? None at all.”

Serin Reiner shook her head in shock while looking at Isla. At that moment, her eyes met Isla’s eyes, which were calm but also filled with a strong light. She heard some incredible words as she was about to bow her head in a rush of embarrassment.

“Then, to my understanding, you are in favor of establishing a relationship with me. I ask of you, Lady Serin Reiner. Will you be my wife?”

“Pffft!”

“Puhaa…!”

Raven and Isla spewed tea from their mouths.

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