Huge thanks to Sammikinns for the kofi! (1/1)
She was under the impression that the whole family didn’t like Isaac, but the Duke’s words made her wonder if she misunderstood.
The Duke did not take offence to the young maid’s daring question and burst out laughing.
“How can I not care for such an intelligent child? When he was brought to the mansion, he seemed like an idiot, but he had managed to go beyond the Royal Grammar course in less than a year, surprising everyone with his talent. Even if you put the heads of the Duke’s vassals together, they still won’t be able to reach the feet of that boy.”
His deep voice made his pride for his son evident. The Duke sat at the base of a tree’s trunk and looked towards the sky with squinted eyes.
“If only Isaac was born as the eldest… No, if only he had a good enough friendship with Max so that he would be willing to assist him.”
The light of the setting sun shone through entangled branches and turned the Duke’s face yellow. As if he was intoxicated with speaking, the Duke continued to lament to himself.
“If he was raised in the mansion from the beginning, would it have been a little better? If so, the boy’s mother left behind her son and disappeared. If Rene was here, he might have a little more will to live.”
“Isn’t the Young Master’s mother… deceased?”
“Yes. I had planned to bring Isaac here first and when the family is stable, I will fetch his mother and let her stay in the annex… Apparently she disappeared soon after giving birth.”
While holding his forehead, the Duke lowered his head in anguish.
“What’s the use of being something like a Duke? I’m a fool that can’t even protect a woman that’s pregnant with my child properly. Just the thought of Isaac living in the gutter alone without his mother makes me unable to sleep from the guilt. Rene too… I promised to fetch her when I knew that she was with child. I acted in a way I shouldn’t have towards both of them…”
His soliloquizing, like a mumbled confession, was filled with topics too heavy and sensitive to be heard by servants like Dahlia.
‘How should I react? Should I stay put, or should I reply to him?’
Dahlia approached the Duke with a look of awkwardness and offered her condolences.
“That’s… Master was in a situation where he didn’t have a choice. Then the Young Master will be understanding of everything. He must have stayed in the annex quietly as he understood, and he wouldn’t express it even if he liked his father.”
“Is that so…?”
“Of course. The Young Master is very thoughtful. Besides, he said some rather regrettable things about the other members of this family, but he didn’t say such things about you, Master.”
At her kind consolation, the Duke could only let out an undignified snort with a bitter face.
“Hah, that can’t be. He probably doesn’t have enough interest to make it into a conversational topic.”
“No, the Master is his father. Although I didn’t get along with my parents, I still love them both, as they had me and raised me.”
The Duke looked upwards at Dahlia with damp eyes, before wiping the corners of his eyes with a bitter smile.
“I heard from the head maid that you lost your parents during the war. Is that the truth?”
Dahlia hesitated for a moment, worried that if she answered in affirmative, a prejudiced gaze would appear, but in the end she closed her mouth and nodded her head. She can’t breath around the bush with him anyways.
The Duke’s eyes narrowed slightly, accepting her awkwardness and shyness.
“What you say is convincing. Since you’ve lost your family and are living alone… Perhaps the reason Isaac is close to you is because you both are of the same kind.”
The Duke sighed deeply and looked at Dahlia calmly.
Dahlia drew back her neck and looked at him composedly. There was a slight sense of incongruity in the changed atmosphere.
“Child, I have a request, will you listen to it?”
Although he said that it was a request, there was a clear pressure that made her unable to refuse. His emotional appearance washed away, and the authority as the head of the family hovered around him. Dahlia nodded her head politely.
“Yes, Master. Please speak freely.”
“I want to atone for what I’ve done to that child. That child… he won’t be able to carry on the title, but at the very least I hope that he can build his position and live the rest of his life comfortably under the family. For that to happen…”
His thick eyebrows were almost touching each other. The Duke continued to speak as he stared at the forest sharply.
“I hope that you’ll stay by his side and encourage him. Isaac needs someone that he can trust.”
She had thought it would be some extraordinary request, but the words he spoke were like chasing waterfalls. Dahlia’s eyes widened and she waved her hand.
“Wouldn’t the Master be better suited for that? What kind of encouragement can a person like me give him?”
“I heard from both Thelma and Hoover that the only maid Isaac calls for is you, delivering the books he borrowed and drinking tea, you both spend a lot of time together.”
“That’s… the Young Master was just killing time.”
“You both also went to town together not too long ago. How could Isaac, who hated crowded places… oh, right. Last year the secretary went in and was speechless in surprise when he came out.”
Dahlia pursed her lips and remained silent. She had originally thought that she was being as careful as possible when she was with Isaac, but it was useless to make any excuses before the master of the mansion, who had everyone as his eyes and ears,
“Didn’t you notice anything strange when you were beside Isaac?”
The sudden question made Dahlia turn around with a surprised expression. The Duke looked at her once with a frown on his face, before staring into the distance and his answer flowed out from his mouth.
“That child doesn’t have the will to live.”
As Dahlia blinked her eyes dazedly, she opened her mouth slightly and let out a sigh.
Isaac has always expressed his emotions dully, whether it was happiness or sadness.
His breaths were like sighs, and he always spent his day seated by the window. Whether it was Max getting angry or getting beaten by the Duchess, he just shrugs his shoulders helplessly.
Although it was odd, indescribable images of him flashed through Dahlia’s mind quickly. The conflicting emotions that she had felt up until now became unified into a single sentence.
“Whether it’s because he had a difficult childhood, or it’s because he wasn’t given concern by another. If he had lived in that brothel village without his mother, it would have been enough to make him like this. In any case, when Isaac came to the mansion, he didn’t open up his heart to anyone. All except for you.”
“That child, who always answered questions, and stayed in the annex, came to the Right Wing to ask for a favour. What kind of request do you think it is?”
“…I’m not sure. What kind of request was it?”
“He asked me to protect you from Irmina, so that she can’t harm you.”
For a moment, she struggled to remember where she had heard of that name, before widening her eyes in realisation of the name’s owner, and stared at the Duke.
The Lady of the mansion that bore plenty of hatred towards Isaac, the Duchess of Eufgenschult.
“I heard that he had gone out and was severely scolded by Irmina, but the day he was being lectured, he was on the edge in worry that she might harm you. I was aware of your existence before then, but I came to a realisation upon hearing his request. Someone that could break his shell has finally appeared.”
The Duke got up from his seat and took a step closer to Dahlia. There was a desperate light within the eyes that was similar to Isaac’s.
“I won’t ask for much. All I hope for is to make that child into a member of the Eufgenschult.”
“Even if you say that…”
She couldn’t figure out what she could do for him. Understanding her meaning even without hearing the following words, the Duke
stretched out a palm and interrupted Dahlia.
“I’ll tell you how to proceed, so all you have to do is encourage him at the side from time to time. You only have to stick to your role as his friend.”
She vaguely understood what he was trying to say. He probably meant for her to be a source of motivation for Isaac.
She recalled how Isaac talked to the former Duke earlier. His appearance then was dignified and acutely intelligent, a stark difference from his hazy expression when playing chess usually. This gave a very fresh shock to Dahlia.
She had somewhat guessed that the Young Master couldn’t have been a normal person, but the way he recited foreign languages and theories seemed really smart and cool. If he could show others such a side of him… It would be great.
It’s quite regrettable to see his talents rot without being displayed. For Dahlia, who had a thirst for knowledge, but couldn’t even attempt to carry out her thoughts due to her situation, her position was all the more similar.
…No. Aside from his talents, just being acknowledged as a member of the Ducal family when he was an illegitimate child… That alone was well worth it.
Children like Isaac, who had grown up with difficulty, deserved to be happier.
“Alright, Master. I will try as best as I can.”
As she spoke determinedly with her fists clenched, the Duke’s mouth slowly drew an arc. It wasn’t a smile of the head of the family, but a warm smile characteristic of an old father.
The sound of crackling firewood broke the eerie silence. The Duke placed the wine glass he was holding down onto the table and looked at the light beyond the wine glass.
A faint shadow appeared in the flickering light. As always, the illusion reflected by the shadow was Rene.
Gehern Eufgenschult first met Rene at the Opera House in the capital more than twenty years ago.
At that time, Gehern was troubled over the matter of succession to the Dukedom. He came to the Opera House to cool his head, but the presence of an unknown woman seated in the family’s assigned seat made him bewildered.
Of course, his feelings of puzzlement were fleeting.
Fascinated by the woman’s face and alluring figure, Gehern had instantly become her captive. Just like that, Rene, who sold her body in back alleys, became the mistress of the Republic’s most prestigious man.
No one knew how much love was between them, or if it was even true love. Only that their love ignited the wrath of Irmina, who was preparing to become the next Duchess of Eufgenschult.
“The succession ceremony of the Ducal title is just around the corner, yet you intend to view that cheap prostitute as a courtesan? Are you insane?’
Irmina, who has always viewed elegance as the best virtue, was truly angered and hit the table.
Of course, it wasn’t because she loved Gehern. The reason for her anger was due to the high society and gossip reporters comparing herself with that lowly woman.
As the daughter of the Marquis of Solvon, the richest man in the northwest, and had a lifestyle that was comparable to a queen, her pride wouldn’t allow her to be placed within the same line as a cheap woman that sold her body on the streets.
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