Chapter 12.1

As Cura had mentioned, Serin stood a bit shorter than Kennard, but his physique outstripped that of most other grown men. He toiled diligently in unassuming attire, donning a plain shirt and jeans without any pretension. His work gloves extended up to his elbows, with a small basket strapped to his thigh. While his countenance remained impassive, his brownish-silver locks seemed to capture the muted sunlight within the enclosed space, casting a brilliant and somewhat exotic glow upon him.

In stark contrast to Kennard, who exuded an aura of impending danger akin to a wintry field or the dark night sky, Serin presented a different image, distinct and enigmatic.

“Oh, there he is,” Cura murmured to Elena, hastening forward. Elena followed suit, gently lifting the trailing hem of her dress.

“Lord Serin, I’ve brought Lady Elena,” Cura announced.

Serin glanced down as he placed freshly plucked flowers into his basket.

“Lord Serin?” Elena repeated.

Serin’s brow furrowed, and he regarded Cura with a narrowed gaze.

“You instructed me to use that title when others were present,” Cura chimed in, her playful mischief evident as she leaned in and cocked her head, a teasing gesture aimed at Serin.

“Let’s keep the chatter to a minimum. Are you Elena?” Serin’s stare pierced Cura once more before shifting to Elena.

“Yes, I’m Elena,” she replied, lifting her gaze to meet Serin’s and gently gathering the hem of her dress.

“Hmm.” Serin continued to scrutinize Elena, his gaze seemingly searching for something deeper before he audibly sighed. His annoyance was palpable, and Elena, making no attempt to hide her discomfort, briefly met his disapproving eyes and then quickly averted her gaze.

In this castle, with the exception of a handful of individuals, most of the inhabitants regarded her with similar disdain. Though familiarity had dulled the sting, it remained challenging to acknowledge and disregard open animosity. Even Kennard, who showed her favor, couldn’t entirely mask the similarity of his gaze to Serin’s.

Elena was fortunate that only Kennard had the power to unsettle her with a mere glance.

With measured care, Serin descended the ladder, nonchalantly placing the basket on a nearby bench. The basket brimmed with flowers, boasting yellow centers and leaves spanning a spectrum from white to purple, all vividly colored. Elena and Cura received no acknowledgment from Serin as he transferred the blossoms from the basket to a sizeable sack, treating them with a delicate touch to avoid harming their petals.

Having secured the sack’s opening, Serin removed his leather gloves, which reached up to his elbows, and turned to face the two of them.

“So, what can you do?” he inquired, directing his question at Elena.

“What?” Elena was caught off guard by the sudden query.

“Have you ever worked with trees or flowers?”

“Me, tending to trees or flowers?” Elena lowered her gaze to her hands, marked by calluses and old scars. Her hands might have been weathered, but she couldn’t recollect ever tending to flowers or trees.

“Well, if you tell me what to do, I can assist…”

“Help with what when you’re unfamiliar with the tasks?” His response dripped with a touch of disdain before Elena could finish her sentence. She tightened her index fingers within the long, opulent sleeves of her dress.

“You agreed to accept an offering on a whim, even though you know nothing, and now you’re offering to help?”

Serin flung his leather gloves, which he had held until then, onto the bench with a resounding thud.

“Gardening wasn’t a voluntary choice for Lady Elena; it was a direct order from the Duke. There’s no reason to be confrontational with her,” Cura defended Elena, planting her hands on her hips as she positioned herself between Serin and Elena. Her freckles seemed to converge at the center of her face, and her nostrils flared as she shot a glare at Serin.

“Who’s causing trouble?” Serin’s brows furrowed.

“Who do you think, Serin Oppa?”

“Cura, it’s alright.” Elena quickly reached out and touched Cura’s shoulder, prompting Cura to turn around. As it stood, it appeared that a quarrel between siblings was on the horizon. When Elena subtly gestured with her head, Cura let out a resigned sigh and stepped aside.

“Why are you foisting this nuisance onto me? What’s going through your head? Are you trying to get back at me for making you write those answers against your will?” Serin grumbled in annoyance, while Elena remained silent. It was apparent that Serin harbored not only an aversion to Elena but also some dissatisfaction with Kennard.

Cura whispered to Elena, “What should we do? Oppa seems quite upset. He’s likely to grumble for a while in this state.”

She continued to speak to Elena in hushed tones, attempting to shield the conversation from Serin’s ears, though Serin appeared resolute in maintaining his discontented expression.



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