The fireplace construction was completed only in the evening.
When the work was over, Dahlia was finally able to rest her exhausted body. She turned towards the dormitory with slow steps.
Soon after, Thelma, who came out after the end of the work, caught Dahlia.
Taking Dahlia to a corner, Thelma asked in a low voice.
“Dahlia, did you move all the cushions in the salon to the laundry room?”
Unlike her sudden action, the topic Thelma brought up was just normal. Dahlia replied gently, blinking slowly.
“Yes, but the cushion covers embroidered with golden thread should be handled by the company, so they took those first. All covers have been replaced by something else for the meantime.”
“Okay. You know that Friday is the day to clean the curtains and mats, right? Don’t forget to change the carpet in the conference room.”
The two, who had nothing to say, closed their mouths and stared at each other.
Dahlia was thinking about going back slowly, but Thelma’s reaction was so strange that she waited silently for her words to continue.
It was not a significant matter for her so she thought it was strange to bring it up first and emphasize it. And as expected, Thelma, going straight to her point with a disapproving expression, spoke in a very low voice.
“Nothing really happened in the annex earlier, right?”
“Yes. It’s just as I told you after I came back.”
“The Young Master didn’t say anything? Really?”
“Really, nothing… Is something wrong?”
After visiting the annex, when Dahlia reported that she had delivered the package, Thelma had replied bluntly as if she got it. So Dahlia could not understand why Thelma asked again.
Thelma held her forehead and was lost in thought for a while before opening her mouth in an unexpected tone.
“…. No. Nothing. Go ahead.”
Thelma, whose face was full of worry, pressed Dahlia’s back and urged her to walk, which was so unlike her, who showed a thorough and tough appearance…
Dahlia wondered why, so she turned around to look back once again, but Thelma looked at her saying she was going to see her tomorrow with her same stern face as usual.
What worries her so much?
After contemplating for a while, Dahlia forgot their conversation less than an hour after entering the dormitory. All thanks to the letter she received, for which she had been waiting for all along before going to bed.
“What? Whose letter made you feel so happy?”
Edina, who was brushing her hair hard with her back against the bed, jokingly talked to Dahlia, who was flashing a broad smile.
Dahlia spoke, looking at the letter without taking her eyes off it.
“It’s a letter from Laurel.”
“Laurel? Your sister?”
“Yes. It hasn’t been long since I gave her the mansion’s address, but I already got a letter. She is saying she misses me.”
The younger sister who is eight years younger than Dahlia, Laurel was Dahlia’s sore finger, who she had no choice but to leave her in the orphanage due to poverty.
After carefully reading the letter, Dahlia looked through the letter again and put it in the envelope with a careful touch. Edina laughed at the way she treated the letter as if she were dealing with holy relics.
“Anyway, she is in terrible condition. How is her health?”
“I think it’s okay. But since it’s going to be winter soon… she needs to be extra careful so that it doesn’t get any worse.”
“I know. You said her lungs are weak, right? It will be especially bothersome in the winter.”
Dahlia nodded and gently rubbed the name written on the envelope with her index finger. Laurel Beroch, the crooked writing seemed to emit warmth.
“I should buy a new blanket and send it when I get paid this time.”
Laurel, who had been suffering from asthma since she was a baby, had weak physical strength, so she would lie down immediately when she was exposed to the cold wind.
Especially in winter, her coughing intensifies, and if there was no medicine, she used to have seizures, making Dahlia’s stomach boil in worry.
At the poverty centre, only food, clothing, and shelter were provided, and they couldn’t pay for Laurel’s medicine. Therefore, Dahlia had to continue doing side jobs day and night, such as making paper decorations and sewing to help her sister.
It was to pay for Laurel’s medicine that Dahlia came to this distant land of Helman. She’s sending all the money she’s making to the poverty centre, leaving only the minimum amount she needs for her living expenses.
“The head said he was looking for a new doctor. And they said they already changed her medicine to a good one… So I really hope she doesn’t get sick and has a warm winter this year.”
‘Wool blankets are probably expensive, right?’ Dahlia thought while laying flat on the bed.
It was her problem but accompanied by a subdued voice, she could feel a pitiful gaze coming from the bed next to hers. Dahlia turned the topic to a lively tone, trying to expel the heavy atmosphere.
“Yeah, Edina. Something very strange happened today. I went to a place today on an errand for Thelma.”
Edina jumped out of bed with her answer.
“The Annex? Are you talking about the one in the northern forest?”
“Why? Thema…? But why? Did you really go there…?”
As Dahlia nodded her head, a sigh escaped. Edina stared at Dahlia with a look as if she couldn’t believe it. She quickly blinked her eyes and opened her mouth.
“I heard that Thelma was in charge of the Annex. So… why did you go?”
“There was a commotion today because of the fireplace cleaning so Thelma was extremely busy, but she said she had to deliver it today. She didn’t tell me what the ‘it’ was but ‘it’ turned out to be just a book.”
“I was worried when I went there… The annex looks really eerie on the outside. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought. It’s clean and there are a lot of books inside…”
Edina jumped into Dalia’s bed and squeezed her face with her hands.
Her round, freckled cheeks glowed softly with excitement. Edina looked around her and lowered her voice to ask as if something was going to sprout out and bother them when there was no one watching.
“Did you meet the ghost?”
Dahlia let out a flat laugh as she drew the transparent traces left by the boy in her mind. Ghost was a nickname that she thought would suit him, but at the same time, it didn’t suit him at all.
“Are you talking about the Young Master?”
“Yeah! The Young Master. They said he was very gloomy and ugly. They said he had a hunched back, is that true?”
“No. The person with a crooked back is the servant of the annex. He’s kind of harsh and eerie, that person is the one who is like a real ghost. But the Young Master…”
She paused her speech for a moment and picked her words.
She couldn’t think of a proper word to describe his atmosphere and his look.
Dahlia, mindful of what would suit him, recalled the picture drawn on the cover of the creation myth and raised the corners of her lips so subtly and unconsciously that it was almost invisible.
“He was more of an angel than a ghost.”
Dark eyes contrasted with his white skin like an ink drawing on paper.
Black eyelashes flickering slowly over the pupils and soft black hair that was too dark and bluish.
The figure of the boy sitting leisurely under the afternoon sun was exuding a detached beauty as if he was about to spread his wings and fly. Thinking of his slender fingers moving softly over the puzzle, the nape of her neck got itchy for some reason.
“What kind of angel? What does he look like, huh? Everyone curses him every day for being ugly.”
“Hey, Dahlia! Can’t you hear me?”
Edina poked Dahlia in the side and urged her to keep talking, but Dahlia kept her mouth shut.
In her dazed mind, there were only those slender white hands that were completely different from her rough ones and the thought of when to return the book she had borrowed.
The reunion with the Young Master came sooner than expected.
The next day, after cleaning and being examined by Thelma, Dahlia opened her mouth to the shocking news she had never expected.
“You want me to take charge of the annex?”
Thelma frowned and let out a sigh, not knowing whether it was a sigh or a groan.
Thelma, who stared into the distance with an expression of displeasure, worry, and bewilderment, told Dahlia again. She fixed her gaze and opened her mouth to speak.
“It’s not like you are going to be the one in charge, it’s just that whenever I have an errand, I want you to go in my stead. After all, most of the work related to the annex is done by Hoover. Was there a man with a crooked back of the same age as me in the annex?”
Before entering the annex, Dahlia nodded as she remembered the man who had treated her with a dreadful face.
“That man is Hoover. He’s the one who came in with the Young Master when he entered the mansion, but his personality is… blunt and gritty. Don’t worry about it, because you won’t see him often.”
Thelma continued, slowly scanning the organized cleaning tools.
“Anyway, the Young Master has asked for you, so if I need to run an errand in the future, you’ll just be the one to go.”
“Did the master personally appoint me?”
She expected to see him again, but she didn’t expect it to happen this way and so soon.
Feeling that didn’t know whether to like it or not, Dahlia lowered her perplexed gaze. Thelma, who saw her sullen appearance, wondered if she was going to back down because she didn’t like it, so she grabbed Dahlia’s arm and offered her consolation.
“There are a lot of concerns about the rumors about the Young Master, but… you met him in person yesterday. He is not bad… It’s just because the Duchess and the Little Duke hate the Young Master so much, the nasty rumours were purposely spread like that.”
Young Master, Isaac Eufgenschult, was a child the Duke suddenly brought from outside one day.
Of course, the Duchess couldn’t have loved an illegitimate child whose mother she did not know. As soon as she saw Isaac, she cursed him and drove him out to the annex.
Years have passed since then, and the Duchess’ hatred has not faded but served to only burn more. To avoid her anger, the servants were also busy hushing about Isaac, and the results have come to this day.
The ghost of the annex, no, mansion, that no one pays attention to except his father, the Duke. The nickname, ‘Ghost’, that people call him in the public contained the dark and dirty side of the Duke.
Thelma took a step closer and continued her advice in a low voice so as not to be heard around.
“Never tell other people what you know or what happened because there are no children who have seen good things when they served the Young Master. So if you need to run an errand, turn east where there are fewer people and go quietly. Got it?”
“Yes. I’ll be careful. Do not worry too much.”
She nodded her head and said it was okay, but Thelma gave her a worried look, not knowing whether or not she could relax. Not saying anything, Dahlia silently endured Thelma’s gaze to show she understood her concerns well enough.
After staring at the young maid for a while, Thelma took the little envelope from the pocket of her skirt and handed it to Dahlia. She was secretly revealing that the wrapping paper decorated with black ribbon was a luxury item even at a glance.
“Then come on, deliver this right now. Don’t take too long.”
Dahlia put the envelope in her arms and walked out of the mansion.
Dahlia went with lighter and slower steps than yesterday. She went carefully like that until she reached the northern forest through the eastern garden, and was stopped with a surprised expression as soon as she entered the front yard of the annex.