Chapter 1. I was abandoned by my family
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“Is it that weird?”
It was finally the day of the Hunting Festival.
Leticia cautiously asked if the dress that Elle chose from the boutique looked nice on her. Instead of answering, Elle looked at Leticia like she had lost her mind.
Her pale white skin and slightly peach-colored cheeks, and her brighter-than-usual pink dress that fluttered as she moved. She looked as gorgeous as a freshly blooming flower.
With embarrassed blue eyes blinking down at her, Elle couldn’t stand it anymore and hugged Leticia.
“Who has a prettier older sister?”
Elle was much more adorable than she had imagined, and Leticia was feeling really touched.
Leticia looked at Elle with affectionate eyes and carefully grabbed her hands as she wriggled them around.
“I’m so happy to have a sister as kind and beautiful as Elle.”
“Why does my sister talk so nicely?”
Elle seemed to be embarrassed and avoided glancing at Leticia, but a cute and bright smile was spreading across Elle’s face.
Staring at Leticia’s long pink hair, Elle came to stand beside her at the vanity. Leticia turned to Elle who had an eager expression on her face. She showed Leticia the ribbon she was holding in her hand.
“I thought it would be prettier if you tied your hair up.”
“Oh, I’ll do it then.”
“I mentioned it because I want to do it.”
Elle lightly patted her shoulders to say it’s okay. She started tying half of her hair up with the ribbon that is the same color as Leticia’s dress. Leticia looked down, feeling self-conscious.
“Come to think of it, who are you going to give your ribbon to?”
“What? Oh, um….”
Leticia immediately realized that Elle was talking about the Hunting Festival tradition, she hesitated and smoothed out her dress with her fingers. At that moment, a cool voice descended from above her head.
“You’re not giving it to that rude man, are you?”
The word “rude” was said with a lot of emphasis.
Leticia didn’t immediately realize who Elle was talking about at first. She tilted her head slightly, but eventually realized and shook her head with a smile.
There was no way to mend a broken relationship when both sides had given up on it.
A few days ago she would have felt bitter at thoughts of Levion, but now she didn’t care either way.
Leticia firmly rejected her suggestion, but Elle still looked suspicious.
Helplessly, Leticia had to reveal her private feelings.
“There’s someone else I want to give it to.”
“Who is it?”
Elle opened her eyes wide in shock. She didn’t think there was anyone that Leticia wanted to give her ribbon to. Leticia just smiled softly and didn’t answer.
“Who is it, huh? Who are you hiding from me?”
“It’s a secret.”
Elle asked her until they got into the carriage and all the way to the Imperial Hunting grounds, but Leticia stubbornly kept her mouth shut.
“It’s a pity Ian didn’t come with us.”
Leticia sighed shallowly, she looked at the vast expanse of grassland as soon as they arrived at the hunting grounds. Ian, who they expected to come with them, refused and said that he had things to do. So Leticia and Elle went on without him.
Elle shrugged carelessly as if she expected this.
“Ian is very motivated these days.”
“For the Imperial Civil Exam.”
Leticia muddled her words, she was bothered because of what Ian said to her last time.
[I don’t really want to study, but the only thing I can do is study.]
It bothered her because she knew that Ian wasn’t doing it out of interest.
Elle nodded as if it was okay and told Leticia.
“Because he has a motive.”
“There is no better motive than revenge.”
Her twin brother, who always lived despondently with a disinterest in the world, had been studying until late at night with venom in his eyes these days. Elle was worried that she never saw him away from his desk except when he was eating, but she couldn’t stop him because he looked lively for the first time in a long time.
Actually, she didn’t want to stop him.
Who is lowering themselves? She wanted more than anyone else to get revenge on that guy who spewed out hateful words.
“Revenge? On who?”
Elle grinned as she looked at Leticia, who’s eyes widened in shock at Elle’s next words.
“I’ll tell you, if you tell me who you’re giving your ribbon to.”
When she pointed her finger at the blue ribbon, Leticia was startled and belatedly hid it behind her back.
“Eh, that’s not possible.”
“I’ll keep it a secret. So just tell me, please?”
“No, I can’t. Absolutely not.”
Leticia prepared to back away when Elle began to approach her slowly.
“Here you are!”
“We’ve been waiting for you!”
The aristocrats sitting at a nearby tea table recognized Elle and approached her with bright smiles. Not surprising, Elle was surrounded by ladies almost immediately.
“The wishing bracelets you made this time.”
“It’s so cute and adorable, you know?”
“Do you have any plans to make more?”
“If you make a new one, let us know.”
The young ladies gathered around Elle made it obvious that the popularity of the wishing bracelets had yet to wane.
‘You’ve been recognized by so many people.’
Leticia looked proudly at the scene.
As soon as she turned towards the familiar voice, a bright smile spread across Leticia’s face.
The Count approached Leticia with a happy smile.
“How have you been?”
“Good! Has Count Aster been doing well?”
“Thanks to you, I’ve been doing well.”
After a few moments of friendly conversation, Leticia asked cautiously.
“How’s the Countess?”
“She’s improved significantly, and she’s become healthy enough to do small outings these days.”
“That’s great. I hope she continues to be healthy.”
Count Aster felt moved by her sincere joy at their good fortune.
“My wife wants to invite you over for a visit.”
“I’m grateful, I’ll be expecting it soon.”
Leticia clasped her hands together and nodded.
She was relieved to hear about Countess Aster. She was able to breathe a sigh of relief and felt better at the good news.
“Oh, I met with your father recently.”
“What? My father…?”
“It was a shame we only talked about business and I wasn’t able to ask about you.”
“Ah… I see…”
“How is your family doing?”
Leticia smiled awkwardly at the question about her family’s well being.
Count Aster didn’t seem to know the story spreading around high society about her.
“Oh, the fact is…”
Leticia had a troubled look on her face, and was hesitating with what to say next.
“I was excommunicated.”
“So I stay away from my family.”
Now it was almost awkward to call them family.
Count Aster’s face turned pale, as a troubled Leticia averted her gaze
The Cout stammered, unable to believe what he was hearing. He came to his senses late and tried to ask why, but Count Aster held his tongue. He was careful because he was worried it would hurt her feelings.
The Leticia that he knows was not a child who would do anything dreadful enough to be excommunicated. Even if there was a reason to be excommunicated, it was ridiculous to kick Leticia out. She worked harder, and sacrificed more, than anyone else to support the family.
‘I can’t believe they’re abandoning her.’
Is that what a good person would do?
Count Aster was stunned and bewildered, when he suddenly realized something with a sudden gasp.
“So where are you staying now?”
The mere thought of where and how this little child, abandoned by her family, had spent her life so far was enough to break his heart
“No, no, no. How about staying at the Aster residence? I’m sure my wife will be more than happy to hear that you’re coming.”
Leticia shook her head with a smile, surprised by his willingness to take her in right away.
“Thank you for your kind words, but I’m living at the Achilles mansion right now.”
“The Achilles mansion, with the Duke of Achilles?”
“Yes, I’m in the care of Duke Achilles.”
“Yes… I see.”
Count Aster gave a complicated sigh of relief when he heard that Leticia was safe and sound.
‘I didn’t even recognize what kind of a person he was, and I didn’t know that he had excommunicated this child, so I decided to help him.’
He felt so pathetic and ashamed of his past self, who was so proud of the things he’d done for Leticia without knowing the truth, he was tempted to run away. It was important to hear Leticia’s feelings before making any future decisions.
“Are you comfortable with staying there?”
“Yes, everyone there treats me warmly and dearly.”
Leticia’s happy smile didn’t leave her face while talking about the Achilles family.
Count Aster, who had been watching her quietly, slowly nodded.
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Leticia smiled softly at his relieved statement. The moment she spotted Enoch some distance away, Leticia began to feel restless.
“I’m sorry. I have some urgent business to attend to, may I go?”
“Of course, I’ll see you next time.”
“Thank you, Count Aster.”
Leticia bowed and quickly ran to Enoch.
Fortunately, she was able to quickly catch up with him.
Enoch was looking forward with indifference, he turned towards the voice calling out to him. The moment he made eye contact with Leticia, he broke out in a smile.
“Why are you here?”
“I wanted to give you something.”
Not confident enough to face him, Leticia lowered her eyes and held out a blue ribbon towards Enoch.
“I hope you have a safe hunt.”
“You don’t have to feel pressured to take it! It doesn’t have any significant meaning.”
It was in fact meaningful, but she said otherwise because she was worried that Enoch might feel uncomfortable.
Enoch looked down quietly at Leticia, murmured softly.
“I hope it’s meaningful.”
As soon as she raised her head to see if she’d heard correctly. She met Enoch’s eyes, who was smiling affectionately at her.
“Can you tie it for me? I don’t think I can do it alone.”
As soon as she saw his wrist, Leticia smiled brightly and lifted Enoch’s sleeve slightly. As soon as she saw his strong, pale wrist, she felt shy and had trouble tying the ribbon neatly.
Without showing signs of discomfort, Enoch quietly watched Leticia as she moved her small hands.
“Thank you, but…”
Instead of answering, he looked at Leticia’s head.
“Your hair ribbon is slightly loose.”
Embarrassed, Leticia tried to smooth her hair down.
“I’ll tie it back up for you.”
“What? No, it’s okay…”
Enoch already moved behind her before she could refuse, and began to carefully smooth out her pink hair. Leticia covered her face with her hands as she felt his touch.
Soon after, Enoch returned in front of her as he had finished fixing her hair.
“Thank you, Duke Achilles.”
Enoch trailed off his words, then slowly bent down and locked eyes with Leticia.
The moment our gazes intertwined, his eyes were half-folded, scattered like fog at dawn on a winter day.*
“This is meaningful.”
“What do you mean?”
She asked with her blue eyes open wide, but Enoch didn’t answer her and returned to the hunting grounds.
Leticia watched him walk away. She gently touched her cheek, while feeling some complex emotions.
White roses bloomed in the middle of the ribbon that was tying her pink hair back.
*Sorry, I wasn’t sure how to translate this properly, so I left it as is. Hopefully it makes sense to everyone.