Chapter 2 - Away From the County
She heard the maid’s knocks again. It seemed that the two slaps from before had greatly shaken her.
“Hurry up and come out.” However, her chastisement was not enough to fix her crude manner of speech.
Jayna came out of the room sweeping a hand through her messy hair. After walking for a while through a long, grim corridor and run-down flight of stairs, she finally reached a well-furnished hallway befitting a count’s residence. She had never been to this hallway except on the day she first arrived at the estate. She was always confined to her room and her only solace was the three humble meals she received every day.
“Jayna Blake, what’s with that attire?” the countess chided with a fierce glare. The man next to her, Hans Blake, the final boss of the game, turned his head as if he hadn’t seen anything.
“What else could I do when this is the only dress in my closet which is fit to be worn.”
Jayna Blake had never talked back in her entire life. She had always endured unjust persecution silently. She was a loving girl, so she could not bring herself to hate the parents who had raised her. However, she was not the Jayna from the game.
“Why didn’t you buy me clothes if you were so concerned about how I presented myself?” she retorted.
“Jayna Blake, this is no way to talk to your mother!” Hans roared. Yet, he failed to intimidate her.
“Did I say anything wrong?”
Hans Blake’s eyes turned cold. He approached Jayna, an arm raised as if to hit her.
“Go ahead and hit me. I wonder what the archduke would think if he were to see the swollen cheek of his future bride.”
Hans flinched, his hand falling by his side. Despite his uncouth and violent temper, he could not bring himself to mark the cheek of his daughter who was about to set out for the archduke’s mansion.
“Count and Countess Blake, I am extremely grateful for your kind treatment all this time. I am looking forward to the day I pay you back for everything. Until then, please take care,” Jayna said, smiling. The couple turned away their heads in silence, unable to continue listening to her sugar-coated words. She lifted the hems of her dress, straightened her back and walked out of the mansion in confident strides that were never seen in the old Jayna Blake.
* * *
The old carriage rode on for a whole day before reaching the duchy. The servants who had accompanied her scurried back to the county after dropping her off like some unwanted baggage.
Why didn’t the groom come out to welcome his bride? This is rude, even for an arranged marriage, Jayna thought, while pushing the rusty iron gate. The desolate road had finally led her to a towering castle. The eerie view sent shivers down her spine, and she felt like a ghost would pounce upon her anytime.
She walked up to the castle door, but hesitated to knock despite being aware of her groom’s identity.
It’s okay, Jayna, she comforted herself. The man behind this door is a handsome male lead, not some demon. She landed three knocks on the door, yet no one answered her.
She tried again, but the result was the same. The next time, she hammered on the door, causing it to slowly part open. She was hesitant to walk towards the penetrating darkness that came from within the house. Nevertheless, she went inside and tightly shut the door behind her.
The castle was rather bleak, with no sign of warmth. Heaps of dust on the floor were disturbed with every step she took. The entire castle emanated the damp smell of mold. She wanted to escape from the place as soon as possible, so she quickened her pace.
Jayna had replayed the games many times to collect the bad endings and clear the game. Therefore, she was thorough with the layout of the castle. Theoris’s room was at the highest point of the castle, with two large sculptures of snakes adorning both sides of the door.
As soon as she stepped in front of his room, the familiar selection window materialized before her eyes.
[Ask who’s inside.]
[Open the door.]
She sighed in relief. She was worried that she would not be able to recall all the choices in the game down to the last word but now that she had the selection window, there wouldn’t be any mistakes. But how could she choose?
Jayna raised her finger to touch the screen. Nothing happened.
I want to open the door, she thought. All of a sudden, her body moved on its own accord towards the door. She tried to stop herself, but her body moved too quickly for her to control. She twisted herself and barely managed to avoid crashing into the door.
Jayna fell down with a scream. Thankfully, she didn’t get any injuries because of the soft rug on the floor. Her head was spinning. Spotting a familiar figure, she straightened up, swaying a little. Her eyes made out a man with shaggy black hair, clad in black robes, his face hidden by a silver mask. She looked up at the monstrous guy and grinned.
So this is the man who’s going to take care of me from now on, huh?
Catching Jayna’s expression, Theoris faltered and took a step back. She couldn’t see his expression behind the mask but she could guess it quite easily. Her husband, the male lead of this game, was probably thinking that she was crazy.
It didn’t matter what his initial impression of her was. Eventually, he would turn into an innocent lamb who would cling to her every move.
The system window appeared again.
[Who are you?]
[Why did you open the door so suddenly?]
There was no need to ponder. She quickly voiced her thoughts, “How could you open the door so suddenly? I could have gotten hurt!”