A familiar yet unfamiliar figure stood in front of the wide-open front door.
“That person… is it?”
Dahlia wondered if she had seen something wrong, so she moved a little closer.
She wasn’t wrong though. The man in front of the door looked exactly like the person in the portrait hanging at the far end of the wide wall in the gallery that Dahlia cleans every day.
Carla’s twin brother and the heir to the Duchy, Maximilian Eufgenschult.
The neatly curled black hair and blue eyes that were reminiscent of the autumn sky were proof that he was of the great Eufgenschult’s bloodline.
It was only for a moment that her body was about to jump from the fright of unexpectedly seeing the great figure she’s only seen in portraits when Dalia processed and reflexively shuddered at the ensuing shouting.
“How dare you go to the same school as me!?”
Max tore the paper he was holding and threw it inside.
His large shoulders trembled incessantly in anger. But beyond Max’s roaring voice, a soft and gentle voice that had not gone through the transformation period yet could be heard.
“I wasn’t even going and I never said I wanted to go. His excellency applied to this with my name on his own.”
“I won’t believe that my Father has gone so crazy that he would put you in the same school with me. How shameful! Don’t pretend to be a cunning, smart j*rk. Did you secretly go to Father and request this of him?”
The quietness of the forest was broken by his loud cry. Max, who couldn’t suppress his anger, punched the front door and urged Isaac to answer.
Dahlia looked on anxiously.
She didn’t know what was going on, but seeing him so angry, she was worried about what would happen if he hit the Young Master.
Can that slender body withstand that big fist?
‘Please, Young Master. Just say you’re sorry and move on. It’s not shameful to bend over to the strong.’
However, Dahlia’s earnest wish was shattered in an instant due to the following words.
“I don’t know who you are talking about. You’re the one bringing disgrace to the family, Max.”
A calm voice came out along with the rustle and the sound of picking up paper. Max, who was staring blankly in front of him, understood his words a beat later and stuttered and opened his mouth.
“It’s not a crime to be dumb. Still, what would other lords think of Eufgenschult if your grades were like this? There’s a lot of noise already because of your gambling and messy matters with women.”
A soft voice ended with a short sigh.
“Don’t worry too much because you are the one who’s not qualified. We might not be accepted for the same school after all. The school is meant for aristocrats, and they have no intention of having a fool like you there.”
A horrifying silence ensued.
Max, whose face and lips were distorted, had a horrible expression.
With the sound of the wind, Max’s fists ripped through the air. Dahlia covered her mouth with her hand to prevent the scream from coming out. The moment she closed her eyes tightly, unable to see, a very small whisper passed through her eardrums.
“Have you forgotten Maya Oubric?”
As soon as he spoke those words, Max’s raised fists went still.
There weren’t noises of hits nor groans. All that remained were the sound of Max’s breathing, the rustling of the leaves, and the eerie silence.
“Maya Oubric, that damn b*tch.”
Max, who spat swear words with a slurred pronunciation, looked down at Isaac with bloodshot eyes.
The little boy looked at him with a calm face, doing nothing. On the other hand, Max’s hand which was holding Isaac’s collar to leverage his past attempt to hit gradually lost its strength. The prevailing tension only disappeared after he let the collar go.
The little boy said his last words, pushing Max away with a weary face.
“Again, I have no intention of going to school. I will live quietly until I die in the forest according to your wishes… Don’t fight for nothing and go back, Maximilian.”
Max’s embarrassment didn’t last long. Whenever he saw his half-brother gently lowering his tail whenever he provoked, Max always felt an exhilarating yet empty sensation. It was only then that he backed away.
Max looked down at Isaac for a moment, then arrogantly raised his head and sneered at him.
“Don’t be presumptuous because I held it in today. I’ll let it pass this time, but if this happens again, I won’t let it go, so you can look forward to it.”
Max kicked the front door with a loud noise and without hesitation, he turned around and left the annex. Dahlia quickly hid in the grass before he turned around, fearing that if she was found out she would be in trouble.
When the muffled footsteps disappeared, peace finally came. As she was hesitating whether to get up or not, she heard a familiar voice above her head.
“Looks like spying is your hobby.”
Dahlia slowly lifted her head, feeling her heart sinking. The Young Master, the fierce but lifeless little child from a while ago, was looking down at her with a calm face, which was not overshadowed at all by the fuss just before.
Dahlia pondered on what to say first, and then spit out her honest feelings.
“I think I came when you were… I think I came at the wrong time. You two seem to have a very bad relationship.”
“As you can see.”
“…So, Uhm, I think the Little Duke doesn’t really hate you! My sister and I are usually good friends, but sometimes we fight…!”
“No, well, siblings usually grow up fighting. It’s called hateful affection. You can fight!”
After speaking, Dahlia wiggled his fingers, wondering if she was being too innocent. It was a rather rude topic for someone to spit out, but Isaac didn’t care and just smiled softly.
“Would it be even called a fight? It’s just a one-sided attack. Still, it was fortunate because I didn’t have any chance to meet him at all after I entered the annex.”
“-It must be their vacation”, he muttered while reaching out to Dahlia.
Dahlia hesitated for a moment, then grabbed his outstretched hand.
His white, slender hands were much stronger than they looked. His hand then patted the hem of her messy skirt, then cleaned her messy hair.
“It would be best not to run into Max as much as possible. He has bad hand habits when it comes to women. Especially for new maids.”
Dahlia kept her mouth shut, pondering over Isaac’s words.
What did he mean by bad hand habits?
It was already surprising that the Little Duke had just been wrestling with Isaac before, but when she heard these almost blasphemous words of caution directly from Isaac’s mouth, she thought that all the rumors about the Little Duke might actually be true.
Maximilian Eufgenschult, whom she saw in portraits every day, was a noble with a solemn and good-natured image. Of course, even young Dahlia knew that she shouldn’t judge people by their outward appearance, but she still thought the people of the Duchy would be different.
Because it’s Eufgenschult. Because he was born with a noble and clear status, which is regarded as a symbol of aristocrats.
“There is nothing different from being a noble. They’re also just human beings.”
Dahlia raised her eyes at the words that pierced her heart.
The black eyes which were looking at the forest slowly turned towards Dalia. The soft smile that had stayed at the corners of his mouth from before went away, and a bitter blank expression rose upon his face.
“Yeah. It’s all the same.”
Along with the calm words, an indescribable disdainfulness shrouded the past expressionless face.
The words with an unclear subject seemed to be muttering he directed to himself, not to Dahlia. She didn’t know what to answer.
Dalia kept her mouth shut and only looked at the sunlight pouring over his black hair.
The right wing side of the residence, which had been engulfed in gloomy darkness, lit up with a light brighter than usual.
With the return of the heir, the mansion was much more lively than usual. When the Duke and the Little Duke joined the dining room where the Duchess and the ladies would only come and go, there were more than ten attendants to serve them.
Dahlia also helped the servants with their chores with a stiff face. She could not help but be nervous as she encountered all the members of the Duke’s family that she would not normally see.
A sweet voice came from over the shoulders of an attendant preparing for the next tableware, “One more drink.”
Max frowned and raised a glass of wine. The Duke clicked his tongue as if Max had thrown away his table manners.
All the family members gathered after a long time, but the atmosphere at the table was cold. Under the breathtaking silence, only the clattering sound of tableware was cutting through the tense atmosphere.
It was an atmosphere that could not be described as harmonious even in empty words, but it was a familiar atmosphere for the four sitting down. In fact, the silent atmosphere was already a good thing for them, who would not have gathered if not to keep appearances as Eufgenschult’s.
It was necessary to show the morality of a family. Even if only to be seen by the attendants, or to show off their individual magnificence to other family members.
The first person to break the silence was the Duchess.
“You came back earlier than I thought. There is still another week left before the semester ends.”
The Duchess swirled her spoon around the bowl and talked to Max. Max, who had been drinking wine one after another, responded in a sour tone.
“I heard things that weren’t fun to hear at school. I couldn’t wait until vacation.”
Max said, staring at the Duke with a distorted face after gulping the remaining wine at once.
“Was it really father who tried to get his illegitimate child into school?”
The duchess, who was looking at her son with a puzzled face, belatedly understood the meaning and looked at her husband with open eyes.
“Is that true?”
“I don’t actually have to ask Father. I checked the application form myself.”
Her son’s faltering voice made her heartache even more. The Duchess, unable to overcome her sense of betrayal, forgot her face and cried out.
“Are you crazy? How are you thinking of sending that child to school! No matter how cheap you go, how can you show off your disgrace in a place where only nobles exist…?!”
It was Max, not his wife, that the Duke, who had been silent all along, showed interest in.
Blue eyes full of cold energy looked at his son with overwhelming energy.
“You should do your part well, but why are you interfering at paying attention to Isaac’s work?”
Max puffed his chest more, disregarding the Duke’s gaze.
There was no need to panic. It was his father who was at fault, not him.
“Isn’t this something worth paying attention to? The prestige of our family is at stake. What would happen to me if I went to the same school as him?”
“The Royal Society’s State University is a place no one can so easily enter if they’re not high-ranking aristocrats like me or government officials. How can you do that to such a place? No matter how Eufgenschult he is, his status in this mansion and the social circles is clear: my mother doesn’t recognize him.”
The Duke raised his hand and blocked Max’s continuing words. Max’s excited eyes caught his father’s impatiently smiling face.
“I get that you hate Isaac, but don’t tell me that you’re going to distort your identity for something like that.”
“…What are you talking about?”
“Did you want to lose face by crawling and whining around like that all day where everyone can see you?”
Suddenly, Max got up from his seat and looked at his father with a cold face. His smile with only the corner of his mouth tilted slightly, resembled that of his half-brother, whom Max hated bitterly.
Max, who could not overcome his anger, slowly reached out to a wine glass.