Thank you Sahsahsah for the kofi~ This is the second chapter~
This chapter may have content that is vaguely disturbing and triggering for some. If you’re uncomfortable with abusive words and treatment, I suggest you skip this.
“I know that Lady Furiana is an old friend. I don’t want you to worry about it, either.”
I saw her clenching her hands. “… Everyone was shocked to hear that you had collapsed.”
“I’m sorry to have troubled you. I didn’t think something like that would happen.”
“It’s our fault.” Her sharp tone when interrupting me was the same as Izek’s. They were siblings, after all.
I smiled awkwardly and nudged the porridge with the spoon again.
It was silent for a moment.
“I’ve never seen him that upset before.” She had a faraway look in her eyes.
“I…” I didn’t know what to say.
“It’s not your fault that he got upset. Anyway, I’m glad you’ve recovered faster than expected. If you’re feeling well, why don’t you join us this weekend for our horseback riding party?”
The party that Ellenia and Freya held every summer? Of course I had to join. It was the perfect opportunity to leave a good impression on social circles.
“Thank you for inviting me. Of course I’ll go.”
The horseback riding party.
The party wasn’t really about riding horses, but more of an outdoor gathering where young nobles came together under the pretext of horseback riding to build friendships, catch up on gossip and to seek lovers. A social gathering club is technically what it was.
As the club was led by Duke Omerta and Marquis Furiana’s daughters, only important Northern nobles could attend. During my first banquet, I hadn’t made much of an impression, so I had to try harder and socialize to make my presence known.
I had to use all the opportunities I had as much as I could for the next half year or so.
The clothes I had ordered from the tailor were yet to arrive, so I chose the simplest-looking dress I had brought from home. A sky blue dress with ruffled sleeves cut off from the elbow and my hair tied up in a long braid with blue ribbons.
“Are you sure you want to keep it this way, My Lady?”
The bold-faced maid who was combing my hair glanced at the drawer I had left open.
I left it open on purpose. The hair ornaments I had brought from Romagna were extravagant enough to make her eyes pop out of their sockets.
Cesare had given them all to me, so I didn’t care how eye-catching they were.
“Hmm, why? What do you think would look better?”
“… I don’t think that is something I can give my opinion on, My Lady.”
“Then, how about you choose one for me? And while we’re at it, let’s pick one for you as well.”
The hands threading the ribbon through my hair stopped. A moment filled with only silence passed.
Doubt slowly spread over the maid’s face, her eyes brimming with surprise. It was only natural. Either way, I grinned at her through the mirror.
Like always, act like a half-witted fool, and be jolly kind to everyone.
“You mean, for me? But, how come…?”
“It’s just… You’ve been taking such good care of me for the past few days while I was sick. I don’t use these much anyway, so I wanted to give you something as a gift. Choose whichever one you like.”
The maid kept looking at me with wariness in her eyes, but she was also greedily taking in the colorful accessories. Even the smallest hairpins in that drawer would be enough to exceed her yearly salary.
So pick one up already.
“It would get complicated if the others were to find out, so let’s just keep this between us, okay?” I winked at her for good measure.
That was when she stopped hesitating.
The maid, pretending to still mull it over for a short moment, soon picked up the biggest and the most colorful ornament out of them all.
An emerald butterfly-decorated comb. I guess it did look expensive.
As if I were going to go back on my word, a forced smile rushed to her previously mistrustful face, and she quickly hid the bejeweled comb between her arms.
A familiar expression. That was the expression of a pushover being caught.
“… Thank you, My Lady.”
Got you. “Yes, yes. Please take good care of me! By the way, how long have you been working here?”
“Three years, My Lady.”
“Then you must know the head maid. How long has she been working here?”
She answered immediately. “The head maid has been here since the Young Master and Lady were children. I heard she started out as Lady Ellenia’s nanny first.”
Well, she didn’t seem to like the head maid very much.
All I remembered the head maid as from my vague recollection of the original novel, was a loyal person to the Duchy. But if she had been Ellenia’s nanny, their bond must run deep. That was probably why she disliked me even more than other people did.
It would be kind of funny if she were the one that blew out the flames on my first day here. She hadn’t done that to the original Rudbeckia.
Haa, was she the type to bully someone just because they looked easy?
“Thank you. Then, you may leave.”
“Oh, My Lady, I’m glad you’re well! I was so worried when I heard that you were sick! I wanted to visit you, but I didn’t because I thought you’d feel too uncomfortable.”
“Aha-ha, what’s there to be uncomfortable about? But thank you for your concern.”
Arriving at the stables after getting ready, I saw Ellenia waiting ahead along with Freya like we had scheduled. Freya, stroking a white stallion while wearing a riding dress that seemed to be tailored by Ellenia’s seamstress, looked to be very friendly with the horses here.
I couldn’t believe that a horse could have such puppy-eyes. Was this the power that came along with being the main characters’ childhood friend?
Everyone was already thinking that Freya should have been in my place.
Freya, I don’t know how you truly feel about me yet, but if you let me live, I can give you this position any time.
Ellenia, who looked at me and then back at Freya with that expressionless face of hers, soon placed her hand on my shoulder and led me into the stable.
“They’re all well-trained stallions, so you can choose whichever one you like. Except for the ones on the right.”
“Oh, those over there?”
“Only my brother rides them, so they’re a little bit…”
I see. It would be more befitting to call them devil spawns instead.
Freya burst into laughter. “Aha-ha, that’s right. But is it all right for My Lady to ride? You just recovered.”
“It’s not going to be a long ride, so it won’t be too much for her. But if you don’t mind, Ruby, we’ll pick the most docile one for you. Cedric?”
Oh, so there were docile ones in here? All of them looked vicious to me. Look at those glares. Haa, I couldn’t believe that I was being discriminated against even by horses.
I don’t like you guys either. No… I just don’t like stables themselves.
“Oh! Good morning! Are you on the way in or out?” Freya greeted someone behind me.
“What are you doing here?” Ellenia did as well, cold as ever.
“Your lovely wife is going out with us today. Do you want me to let you in on the party if you’re feeling lonely?”
I wasn’t even sneakily hiding and creeping around like last time, so why did it feel like I was getting stabbed in the back of my head by a certain someone’s glaring eyes?
As I turned my head slightly, I saw my husband trudging close to me, wearing black equestrian clothing. The sight was unfamiliar because it was my first time seeing him wear anything other than armor.
A strange silence fell.
In contrast to Freya, who was smiling sweetly, Ellenia just stared at her brother and said nothing. And Izek looked straight at me, holding on to the stable fence, a frown on his face.
As cold as ever. If he keeps that up, I’ll also act the same.
“Wow, you look so cool today! Where are you heading off to?”
“Nowhere. I don’t do anything on the Sabbath.”
What the hell was this answer? Was he being sarcastic?
“What are you doing here?” he shot back.
“I was about to choose a horse to attend the horseback riding party. Do you… want to go with me?”
What the hell? You just said you weren’t doing anything, you contradictory b*stard!
Obviously, I knew that he’d say no, so the grin on my face didn’t falter. “Well, is it okay to pick any horse?”
“Do you even have an eye for horses?”
“Ha-ha, I don’t really have a good eye for things.”
That’s why I fell for you. Although I’m only pretending to have fallen for you.
He glared at me like he always did before blinking slowly and turning towards the other two women in the stable. Freya opened her eyes wide, and Ellenia spoke without a single change to her expression, “Sergei said it was fine. If that’s what you’re curious about.”
I could see Izek’s eyebrows twitching.
“If you don’t believe me, why don’t you check for yourself and take Ruby with you? Freya and I will leave first.”
What? Now, hold on, Ellen, why are you abandoning me like this all of a sudden?
I thought she was joking, but Ellenia got on her stallion with a quick maneuver. She was really going to leave me alone here with this monstrous husband of mine.
As a result, not only I, but Freya too, was dumbfounded.
To make matters worse, Izek just observed me silently instead of trying to put a stop to this strange situation of which I knew he wouldn’t be happy with.
The embodiment of Satan had his arms folded, glaring proudly.
“I-I’m sorry. Because of me, Ellen…” His motionless countenance made me clam up. “I-I’ll just go back h-home and reflect on myself.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
The man spat out, clicked his tongue, then fully opened the fence door and came closer to me. He gestured to the stableman that was waiting nearby.
“Yes, Young Master.”
“I said get out.”
Cedric looked puzzled for a moment, but hurriedly left his seat, the will to live making him hasten his footsteps. For what reason was he kicking him out again?
The snorts of the horses rang out. I felt overwhelmed.
I hated stables.
Especially stables with a merciless person inside.
I hated stables in my previous life and I hated stables in this life.
The sound of horses whinnying. The sound of a whip cutting through the air.
The memories of my eldest brother’s disgusting whispers and my pathetic cries blended together and echoed in my ears.
‘Do you know what you did wrong?’
My breath caught in my chest. I shook my head to get myself together.
No, I shouldn’t get swept away by trauma and mess things up here.
I’m past that stage. I’m way past it, so… So…