Predatory Marriage — Chapter 123. Cerdina’s Sorcery
Translator: Atlas / Editor: Regan
She thought she wouldn’t be surprised by any name. But she had been naive.
“…Countess…Melissa…” She said weakly. Baroness Cinael nodded slowly.
Inside, Leah didn’t want to believe it. Though she had come looking for answers, the reality was so cruel. Most distressing was the Baroness, who had spoken the terrible truth, was also suffering. She was grieving because she knew her words hurt her Princess.
The silence hung in the living room for a long time. Leah sipped her cold tea and regained her composure.
There were only two options.
Either Baroness Cinael was lying, or Countess Melissa was lying.
Of course, Leah wanted to trust the Countess.
It made sense that the Baroness had not defended herself to the other ladies-in-waiting and accepted her suspension, doomed to disgrace. At the Princess Palace, Countess Melissa was the most influential person, after Leah. No matter what the Baroness said, she thought she would not be believed. Besides, knowing how deeply Leah trusted the Countess, she probably would have been thrown out before she finished speaking.
The Countess had stood by Leah’s side with love and affection since she lost her mother as a child. There was a bond between them that couldn’t be broken by money or power. But it didn’t seem like the Baroness was lying. Leah wanted to believe in the innocence of her ladies-in-waiting.
Perhaps the Baroness and the Countess were telling the truth.
Leah, whose mind felt strangely clear and clean lately, suddenly found another explanation.
It seemed quite possible. If Cerdina could cat spells, surely she could have done something in the Princess Palace. Suddenly, Leah felt afraid. She didn’t know how powerful Cerdina was, but she couldn’t help feeling trepidation.
Had Cerdina cast a spell on Leah? Leah had never acted abnormally, like the King or the Countess Melissa. Leah shook her head when she thought of the King, who was little more than Cerdina’s puppet.
“Thank you for telling me, Baroness Cinael. As this is the situation, I think it’s best if you rest for the time being.”
Leah promised to think carefully about what the Baroness had told her and pulled out the gift of cookies she had brought. In a few moments the Baroness was eating a cookie and gazing at a paper that Leah had given her with red-rimmed eyes, bewildered.
“This is….” She mumbled, astonished.
It was a certificate of ownership for a small farm. The Baroness was speechless.
“I’m arranging a few things before heading for the frontier,” Leah said quietly. “I’m giving equitable contributions among the Princess Palace’s ladies-in-waiting, so please accept it.”
“No! I can’t accept it, I was just doing my job…!”
“It’s fine. It’s a reward for all the hard work you’ve done for me so far.”
The Baroness’s tears had only just ceased, and now her eyes filled again. Leah soothed her for a while and then left to return to the palace.
Her heart was heavy as she looked out the carriage window.
By the time she arrived at the palace, her thoughts had become more clear. She was going to speak with Countess Melissa and listen to explanation, and then determine if sorcery had been involved.
Stepping out of the carriage, Leah stopped abruptly. The palace was too quiet. When she had gone to visit the Baroness, she had been accompanied only by knights, without her ladies-in-waiting. But now she saw no one.
Only the haunting sound of her own footsteps echoed in empty hallways. Cold air brushed her skin. Leah rubbed the back of the hand with the sudden chill, and went to her room to change her clothes. She was startled to see a woman sitting on her bed, and her body reflexively stiffened. Leah’s lips moved awkwardly.
“Huh, why did you come unexpectedly…”
Cerdina slowly stood without replying, approaching Leah. A bitter scent emanated from her, wafting to Leah’s nose. Why did she smell of grass, rather than her usual perfume?
But she did not have time to wonder. Cerdina’s eyes were right before her, a gaze like a dagger, slowly piercing Leah. Cerdina had completely removed her mask of generosity and kindness. She no longer intended to hide anything. She clicked her tongue.
“I tried to do it moderately.”
The cold voice gave Leah goosebumps, and she took a step back. Her head vibrated as if someone was ringing a thunderous bell. The thought of escape seized her, and she turned quickly to grab the doorknob. But no matter how she tried, the door wouldn’t open.
There was a laugh behind her, and suddenly she had a monumental headache.
It felt as if someone had reached into her brain and squeezed. Leah collapsed from the agonizing pain, clinging to the carpet as she lay facedown on the floor. She felt nauseous. Saliva trickled from her lips and tears spilled down her cheeks.
Cerdina watched as Leah squirmed, and snapped her fingers. Every time she snapped, Leah grabbed her head and writhed.
“Ah, aah, arg, ahhhhhhh……!”