This… What is this?
What is this taste? Just what is this taste?
Thoughts about Thelma and everything else disappeared as Dahlia focused only on chewing what was in her mouth. Interestingly, as she chewed, the sweetness became stronger. After she swallowed the meat that had appropriate chewiness and a firm mouthfeel, her tongue, feeling the emptiness, savoured the meat’s lingering aftertaste from her saliva.
At her joyful expression, Edina, who had been looking at Dahlia with shining eyes, laughed for a long time. At the same time, she didn’t forget to affectionately shove deboned crab meat into her mouth.
‘Oh my goodness, I thought grilled chicken legs were the tastiest food I’ve ever eaten so far. I can’t believe there’s such delicious food.’
It was shocking.
Excited, Dahlia realized that there weren’t many crabs left and hurriedly picked up her fork. Continuously chewing the crabs in front of her led her to a realization, that even after suffering a shock, she did not dwell upon it and shoveled crab meat to her mouth faster than anyone else.
That night, after eating crabs till she was full, Dahlia dreamed of holding the pincers of a crab as large as her body, and dancing. Dahlia danced by the resplendent emerald sea of her hometown, Ubrang, while Laurel was sucking on the leg of a crab larger than her own forearm.
Even after dwelling upon it, it really was a happy dream.
“It was so delicious that it even appeared in my dreams!”
As she recalled the crab she ate yesterday, Dahlia stared dazedly at the duster she was holding. Isaac, who was organizing the bookshelf, stopped his movements and burst into laughter.
“Did you like it that much?””
“Of course. I’ve never had such delicious food before. Young Master, do you like crabs too?”
Isaac tilted his head, before shaking his head with a slight smile. At his response that he didn’t particularly like it, Dahlia stared at him with round eyes that were asking how could he not like it, and commented, “Oh my gosh.”
“It can’t be because it’s not delicious that you don’t like it. Could it be that there’s something more delicious than that?”
Isaac eventually laughed heartily at her pure reaction.
“I don’t really enjoy eating gourmet food, so I just wasn’t interested. Also, there are many things that taste better than crabs. Since Dahlia responds well to everything, I want to feed you those.”
Dahlia breathed in and replied maturely.
“Young Master, I’m a ladylike girl. I won’t carelessly put anything into my mouth.”
At her response of, “But if you do give me anything, I’ll gratefully accept it,” Isaac covered his mouth and gently curved his eyes. As the pleasant atmosphere warmed his room.
The door opened suddenly and a round, black mass flew in and landed in the middle of the room with a thud.
Not long after, thump, thump. Two masses flew in and landed on top of the first one.
The pale yellow fur was spotted with bloodstains. The moment he realized that the bloody figure was that of a rabbit’s carcass, the smile on Isaac’s face vanished without a trace.
“It looked like rabbits were gathering around the northern warehouse, Hoover that b*****d was very restless when I killed him. Could it be that you raised them?”
With a swagger, Max pushed open the door and entered the room while holding a shotgun.
From the looks of the blood dripping from the dagger worn on his waist, it was clear that the rabbit caught with the gun was stabbed with a knife again.
“Young Master. That’s, that’s…”
At the horrible spectacle, Dahlia grabbed Isaac’s sleeve. But it was Max, and not Isaac, who first expressed concern with words that sounded like a groan.
“What’s this? What reason is there for a maid to be sticking around you? But then, it’s…It’s my first time seeing her.”
The maids of the mansion disregarded Issac as if he was a ghost, due to the fact that the Duchess would be enraged if there was anyone close to Isaac.
But, just what is this, of all things?
The young lass’s face was as pale as a sheet, and the image of her standing side by side with Isaac made Max feel annoyed. From a glimpse of her face, she possessed a decent face, which increased his feelings of unhappiness.
“You looked like you wouldn’t have any interest in women in this lifetime, but it seems like you’re undoubtedly a man.”
Max grinned as he stared at Dahlia from head to toe. At his undisguised gaze, Isaac’s eyebrows furrowed.
“Max, just because you are like that doesn’t mean that I am too. The room was in such a mess that I had no choice but to call for a maid. As everyone was unwilling to do it, an oblivious stranger came instead.”
Isaac dispelled his suspicion with a plain tone. If he pretended to be close to her here, Max’s anger might be directed to Dahlia. Isaac pushed a hesitant Dahlia as he pointed to the door with a sour expression.
“If you’re done with cleaning, leave. Don’t bother me.”
“But Young Master, if you want to get rid of those rabbits…”
“Didn’t you hear me ask you to leave?” It was spoken in a brusque manner, unlike his usual self. Dahlia belatedly realized the seriousness of the situation and quickly left the room.
Max, who followed her back figure with eyes filled with suspicion, smirked and looked back at Isaac.
“What an ill-bred child. No matter how trivial you are, should they be acting like that? You still are a young master of Eufgenschult.”
“What’s your business here?”
“I came over to give you a present, because you seemed to like rabbits. It just so happened that there were more than 20 rabbits gathered near the annex, so I couldn’t have just passed by.”
“What do you think? Shall we have a stew?”
Max shrugged and pointed to the dead rabbits. Issac could feel the malice in his smile.
These blood soaked rabbits weren’t treated properly after slaughter and as such will not be palatable even after proper treatment. Above all, those rabbits were animals that Isaac had fed and raised personally, so there was no way he could eat them.
However, it was clear that if he caved in here, the intensity of his malice would only increase. Isaac fixed his eyes on the dead rabbit and gave a hazy smile.
“It’s chilly, so I wanted to eat something warm. Stew…That’s great.”
At sunset, the dim light enveloped the mansion. Dahlia, who visited the dining hall for dinner, looked down at the bowl and sighed deeply.
It was a luxurious menu of rabbit meat stew with plenty of vegetables, rye bread, and pickled vegetables. However, her appetite disappeared the moment she saw the meat in the clear soup, which reminded her of the rabbits in Isaac’s room.
“It smells gamey. Did they not drain the blood properly?
Edina, who came to the dining hall with Dahlia, tasted the stew and frowned. Unlike her grumbling words, Edina hurriedly moved her spoon to empty the stew.
Dahlia, who was hesitant, followed Edina and took a mouthful of the stew. On the contrary to her concerns, the stew was quite tasty.
Edina propped her chin as she smiled at Dahlia actively putting the stew into her mouth.
“It’s winter soon, so I’ll be going on my vacation soon. Dahlia, are you going to visit your sister?”
“Vacation? What kind of vacation?”
“We have a vacation period of 15 days, from the last week of this year to the first week of the next year. You didn’t know that?
Dahlia, who was blinking while fumbling with her memories, exclaimed, “Ah.”
She remembered that on the day she was officially hired, Mrs. Prada did explain to her about the vacations she would get.
“There’s two vacations a year, and one occurs during winter. Not much time’s left before the last week comes.”
“Okay. If you’re buying a train ticket, it’s better to get it in advance, as tickets to the capital will be sold out soon. Shall I ask someone who’s not working tomorrow to buy it?”
“No, the poverty center is not near the capital, so it’ll be okay. Edina, are you going back to your hometown?
Edina smiled broadly and nodded.
Edina smiled broadly and nodded her head. Edina was excited at the thought of returning to her hometown, which is a small town near the capital, hummed as she put bread into her mouth.
Dahlia also felt excited. In most of the estates, vacations were a welfare that only senior maids or ladies-in-waiting could enjoy. So when Mrs. Prada was explaining to her about her vacation, she was only half-listening without paying much attention. If she had known earlier, she would have listened attentively.
As her eyes started to twinkle with the thoughts of how to get to the poverty center and what to buy as a gift, Dahlia realized a troublesome matter and frowned.
“What will the Young Master do while I am away?”
“Young Master? What Young Mas…That Young Master?”
At her nod, Edina looked around and moved her head closer.
“Why are you worried about that? Didn’t I tell you not to be close with him?”
“But how can I ignore him when I meet him every day while cleaning up? Also, the young master has a gentle personality and is a very good person. Edina, if you’ve experienced it yourself…”
“It’s fine, child. Do you want to enter the Madam’s radar and receive a harsh scolding? What do your vacation plans have to do with the Young Master?”
“I’m in charge of cleaning right now, as others don’t like approaching the Young Master.”
As her words became vague, Dahlia pursed her lips.
In fact, cleaning was secondary. There was something else that she was more concerned about.
‘…If the Little Duke harms the Young Master.’
‘What if that happens?’
The image of Max trying to hit Isaac in front of the annex a while ago, as well as the image of him tossing the carcass of dead rabbits and scoffing at him today, overlapped and cast a deep shadow in her heart.
Good premonitions are rare, but bad premonitions, strangely, come true. It’s always been like that. Be it the day her father and mother died, or the day her sister had seizures, an ominous feeling surged up on the back of her neck.
Even now, while she was thinking about the vacation plans and recalling Isaac, the same feeling appeared on her neck.
Although she comforted herself by thinking that she was overreacting, she couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. She had a feeling that something bad was about to happen, so much so that she couldn’t concentrate on her work all day.
Dahlia pondered whether she should be happy about her vacation or not, racking her brains on how to let Isaac know she was leaving the mansion.
But, to her dismay, a few days later, Isaac brought up her time off first.
“It’s December next week, right? The time left before the new year arrives isn’t much… Has Dahlia made any vacation plans?”
The sound of paper rustling cut through his low voice that rang out. Dahlia stood stiffly, twisting the rag in her hands.
“You knew I was going on a vacation?”
“It happens yearly, so of course I’d know about it. So, where are you going?”
He stared at the small book and pulled the corners of his lips slightly.
At that moment, the wind blowing through the open window brushed past the black hair that was covering his forehead. As she faced the smile that light spreaded over his uncovered pale face, her lips twitched involuntarily.
Dahlia swallowed her embarrassment as she touched the corner of her mouth.
“I’m leaving in the last week of the year, and after spending the end of the year, I’ll be back by the following week. Everyone says they’re going back to their hometowns, but I have nowhere to go except for the poverty center, so I’m going to meet my younger sister.”
“Where is the poverty center?”
“It’s the Cerecopalts Poverty Centre.”
It was a distant city that could be reached by train from Helman, where the Duchy is located, to Cerecopalts. Isaac stared at the edge of the book with his squinted eyes and let out a small whisper like a self-talk.
“Cerecopalts… it’s far away.”
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