Chapter 7

 

With the heir’s return, the mansion was revitalized, but in a negative sense.

Max kept finding fault with the workers endlessly, from the unsatisfactory interior decoration, to making a mess of mealtimes.

He’d beat up his servants all the time, and in the name of hunting, brought his servants to the Northern Forest where Isaac lived, and made a wreck out of it. The precious young saplings that the keeper of the forest, Grandpa Bones, had raised to the best of his abilities, were ruined as a consequence. As he wandered through the forest teary faced, the other employees were unable to comfort him despite feeling sorry, as they were kept busy with Max’s orders.

“Dahlia, have you completed your morning tasks?”

The senior maid Thelma, tapped near her temple and nodded towards Dahlia.

Dahlia, who nodded while observing the tired look on Thelma’s face, concluded that she must have been having a hard time. Dahlia only realized that her headcap was crooked after Thelma’s hand touched her head.

“There’s no need for a separate inspection, as you’re good on your own. Let’s wrap up tidying the main building, and attend to the Young Master in the afternoon.”

“Is there anything I need to deliver to the Young Master?”

These days, Dahlia has been running an errand almost every two days.
Even if it was called an errand, it wasn’t difficult as she delivered trivial items such as books, handkerchiefs, bookmarks and ink. It was a little odd that she was told to come and go so often, when she could’ve brought it all at once.

She wondered what else she should bring him today, but Thelma shook her head and held out a toolbox with cleaning tools.

“It’s not an errand. These days, the Little Duke goes out hunting in the northern forest daily. It was noisy and dangerous, hence the Young Master’s residence was moved to the Left Wing.”

“Oh, is that so?”

Thank goodness, Dahlia thought as she patted her chest.

Even so, it was Dahlia, who found it hard to fall asleep as she was worried about the glass-like boy being injured accidentally. Thelma nodded her head, lifted her lips a little as if she understood.

“As such, could you clean the Young Master’s room in the afternoon? They are the two innermost rooms on the third floor of the Left Wing. I thought of sending the maids in charge of the Left Wing, but the Young Master would be more comfortable with you.

If it was any other maid, she would have been frustrated to have to clean up instead of running errands that were easier in comparison. But Dahlia smiled and accepted the toolbox happily. It bothered her that everyone else would be kept busy while she was wasting time on errands, and this was a good opportunity for her to show off her strengths to the Young Master.

“Leave it to me. I will finish it soon.”

Dahlia bounced towards the Left Wing energetically, holding the toolbox tightly.

The autumn sunlight shone through the window and gently warmed Dahlia’s cheeks. Her brown hair that was pulled into a high ponytail, swung from side to side with her steps. At the appearance of the youngest maid, smiles appeared on the faces of passersby.

A song reached her ears, one that she had heard somewhere. It wasn’t until she had almost reached the front of the room that she realized it was her that was humming. Suppressing her excitement internally, Dahlia opened the door with a mature attitude.

“Hello, Young Master!”

As she greeted him cheerfully, Isaac, who was seated in front of the shady table, slowly lifted his head to meet her gaze. A faint smile spread slowly, like paint spreading over his indifferent face.

“Hi.”

With a shy smile, Isaac got up from his seat. Dahlia dissuaded him from rising as she gathered the curtains together and opened the window widely. Isaac looked out with his relaxedly from his seat by the window. From the autumn wind gazing past the tip of his nose, the arid scent of winter permeated.

Isaac, who had been looking out of the window for a long time, turned his head again.
While he fiddled with the chess piece in his hand, he captured the scene of the busy youngest maid.

“When did you start working in the mansion, Dahlia?”

Her hand, which was lifting the bedsheets, paused at a low question. With her head tilted to the side, Dahlia replied with a puzzled look on her face.

“It will be three months soon. It hasn’t been that long since I’ve started.”

“Were you working as a maid before that?”

“It wasn’t for very long as I’m young. Before coming to the Duchy, I worked in Baron McFon’s mansion for about half a year.”

Isaac raised his eyes slightly at the name he seemed to have heard of somewhere.

“Baroness McFon… I’ve heard rumors that she’s pretty tough. It must have been difficult.”

“Ah… haha. I can’t say no.”

Dahlia smiled helplessly with her eyebrows raised.

The old baroness was someone who appeased her broken heart by tormenting her maids. When she is upset, she screams, and when she is angry, they are beaten for no reason. Once, the sound of footsteps annoyed her and so she slapped its owner, the youngest maid. Ever since that day, all the maids have always stepped with anxiety, wondering if they would offend the Baroness.

No matter how tidy it was, if there was a single speck of dust in the display cabinet, it would result in merciless accusations. No matter how she looked, Dahlia couldn’t say that it was a good job.

“The majority of the maids couldn’t last longer than a week, and quit. My roommates must have changed five times over the span of half a year.”

“Did you quit like that too?”

“No. The wife fell ill and sold the mansion to travel to the south. Then I got a letter of introduction and came to the Duchy.”

“I am lucky to be working for the Duke,” she added, and gave a clumsy smile.

“Of course, it was difficult to work for the baroness, but it is very rare to find a place that is willing to take in a girl from a poverty house like me. I have to endure it in order to send money.”

“Where are you sending money to?”

Instead of answering, Dahlia stared at the boy in front of her curiously.

While she can’t claim to have a wealth of experience, the nobles that Dahlia worked for used to think of their servants as furniture or objects. In other words, they did not pay attention to the feelings or daily life of their servants.

As she was just staring at him without answering, Isaac tilted his head and turned his curious gaze back. His black hair fluttered softly against his pale white forehead. When she caught the vivid appearance in her eyes, Dahlia’s eyes curled in a crescent without even realizing it.

‘In the first place, was I the kind of person that lowered my guard down in front of a good-looking person?’ At that thought, she became speechless.

“To the poverty house. I have a younger sister. She’s not feeling well, so I am paying for medical bills and medicines. They said she has asthma, so I have to keep taking care of her.”

A glimpse of surprise flashed into Isaac’s black pupils. “You weren’t alone.”

“Yes. My parents were alive too. They both died in the war.”

“If it’s a war, is it during the civil war with Ubrang?”

“…Yes.”

She unconsciously gripped the mop harder, as the corners of her lips that she tried to keep raised drooped down.

Images of the past she tried hard to forget came crashing through her mind like a tidal wave. The sounds of loud bombings and shouts of soldiers, charred houses and crumbling walls. Her mother’s slender arm jutted out from underneath. Dahlia hugged a younger Laurel, and ran endlessly, without being able to retrieve her body. It was a really harsh winter.

Ever since she ran away from her hometown, Dahlia had to become a bright and smart child without any weakness. She had to do so to survive among adults. However, whenever the memories of that winter were recalled, she reverted back to her ten-year-old self regardless of her will. Dahlia Beloch became a child that was not desperate and perpetually depressed.

Uncontrollable emotion swelled up and Dahlia’s face was washed with her tears. Regretting having said something pointless, she bit her lips and apologized.

“You’re impressive, Dahlia.”

The unexpected words from Isaac instantly diluted the thick haze of depression. The face of Isaac staring at her calmly greeted her when she turned her droopy gaze upwards.

“I’ve heard that even the civilians in Ubrang were annihilated during the civil war…I heard that it was horrendous. You were a survivor of that…”

…..

“It’s easy to talk about tragedy and everything, but the words of someone who was directly involved in the incident is far more precious. If a young child like you had lost both of her parents and managed to live with your sister, it must have been really, really hard.”

Her round eyes slowly narrowed, and her thick eyebrows lifted upwards, giving her a pitiful expression.

Isaac continued with a sad smile. “It’s really amazing. You’ve worked hard?”

‘You’ve worked hard.’

She didn’t do anything great. Although she heard this phrase being said to her multiple times, for some reason this time it sounded completely different. Dahlia felt her eyes twitch and blinked quickly. She bit her lip while scrambling for a suitable reply, but she couldn’t get any words out. She shut her mouth again.

To soothe her rising emotions, she pressed the mop she was holding on her chest. A brief moment passed, before Dahlia gave an answer nonchalantly.

“I think that it was the will of heaven that I managed to survive against the odds…As such, I believe that good things will happen if I work hard.” Dahlia responded with a slightly shaking voice, smiling calmly. At her old fashioned answer, Issac thought of a faint smile.

“It’s a positive mindset. I would like to believe that if I work hard like Dahlia, good things will happen to me too.”

“It is said that happiness will come after suffering. Good things will surely happen to you too,” Dahlia replied cheerfully while lifting the bedsheets.

Dahlia returned back to cleaning with a brighter face, as if she was encouraged by her own words. The Young Master pulled a knee up and rested his chin on it, watching Dahlia with interest.

She acted as if she had not suffered before, despite experiencing the horrors of that war. If she was wearing his half-sister’s dress, she would’ve been much prettier than Karla, compared to the apron she was wearing currently.

As the maid, engrossed in sweeping the floor with a broom carefully, Isaac hid his smiling lips behind his knee and laughed at the humorous image of her lips protruding unknowingly.