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The composure that lingered around Karla evaporated without a trace. As he faced his sister, who was looking at him warily, Isaac folded his arms leisurely.
“Don’t worry. That doesn’t mean I’m going to do something to this house. It’s just… I should, at the very least, occupy a seat of power before I depart from this mansion when I have come of age.”
“… You’re doing something absurd, Isaac.”
The sonorous sound of chirping stopped at her chilly tone.
“Didn’t you intend to stay in an annex until you died? I believe that that’s what you said to me when we arrived at the mansion.”
“It’s a foul to drag up events that had occured five years ago to this day. Humans are animals that are capable of change.”
“Are you going to contradict Max and Mother directly? Mother is currently developing a knife against Father.”
“I’m also aware of that.”
“I had definitely made it clear that I would also be implicated if you’re unruly. Did you forget about it?”
Karla took a step closer and leaned her face closer to Isaac.
“I’m trying to help your side as much as possible. But… what are you… You. Are you capable of handling what would happen to the maid?”
The relaxed hand grazed against Karla’s arm and touched her neck.
Above the pearl necklace, a hand whiter than that glanced against it and continued to wander as if it was touching something precious.
Karla looked downwards at his hand, before slowly directing her gaze upwards. A pair of languid black eyes stared at her without wavering.
She unwittingly began to feel the chilling power of her half-brother, who was almost at her height.
“It’d be better for you to consider it carefully before opening your mouth. That’s the first thing you taught me as soon as I entered the mansion. So, the maid? What are you planning on doing?”
“Don’t ever listen to instructions like a fool and get carried away by your emotions. Do you want to cause harm to me?”
The hand that brushed past the necklace stroked Karla’s jawline lightly. Karla didn’t have the confidence to face him, so she gazed at the ceiling and moved her stiff jaw with difficulty to spill a few words.
“What in the world are you planning to do?”
“It’s just as I’ve mentioned previously. I’ll humour your father adequately and leave the mansion with a Baron title. Don’t I deserve this much, after putting up with two people that loathe my existence and their excessive fuss over an illegitimate child?”
“…Is that really everything?”
“Of course. Did you think that I’d be after the position of duke?”
Isaac couldn’t help but laugh as he brushed against Karla’s cheek with the back of his hand.
“That too isn’t that bad, but not now.”
Contrary to his sarcastic tone, each of his gestures were overflowing with dignity.
“I’d disappear from your sight as soon as I have become an adult, I’ll also remain silent about your love affairs. Instead, you’ll have to help me before that happens. It’s in your best interest to cooperate with me if you want to live a quiet life.”
“Is that an order?”
“No. How could someone like me dare to give orders to Young Lady Eufgenschult.”
“It’s just a cooperative relationship.”
Isaac retracted his hand and stared at it blankly for a moment, before holding it out to Karla. At the gesture to shake hands, Karla slapped Isaac’s hand away with a look of ridiculousness.
“I don’t have the luxury of choice, so how can this be considered cooperation? Get rid of that.”
“You’re cold-hearted, Sister.”
At the word ‘sister’, Karla pushed Isaac away out of disgust. Despite that, Isaac wasn’t offended and cracked a joke with a smiling face, “What’s wrong, so fiercely?”
‘You want to live properly?’
‘Would a twisted human like you be able to live properly after putting in so much effort?’
Goosebumps rose unwittingly at the sight of liveliness in a person that had been living indifferently. As Karla wondered inwardly, she frowned and looked out of the window.
Before she knew it, thick snow turned the forest white.
As winter left, spring arrived and coloured Helman into a light green colour. The light green leaves became darker as summer passed, and the green leaves turned red, heralding the arrival of autumn.
Spring, summer, fall, and winter. The seasons overlapped and just like that, three winters passed by.
Another life sprouted in a place where life waned. Plants weren’t the only things that grew amidst the cycle of seasons, but also people.
Along with another layer of trees that wound around the mansion, as the youngest maid grew older, her appearance also matured. Instead of the girl that rushed about the hallway with a mop that’s taller than her height, a young lady with soft curves walked with large strides and hurriedly swept and polished the mansion. Her curvy brown hair would ruffle at her slender waist with each of her movements.
“Dahlia, have you had lunch?”
Edina, who had finished cleaning first, started a conversation with Dahlia with a bright face.
Unlike Dahlia, who grew tall as soon as she became an adult, Edina’s figure was still petite. Dahlia folded the rag she was holding and looked at Edina with a smile.
“I had just eaten. Today’s food was quite fancy.”
“Right? Wasn’t there a banquet for the Little Duke’s graduation in the morning? It’s all thanks to him.”
“There were so many guests, but there’s enough for us to have some?”
“Didn’t Madam prepare for the banquet elaborately? There was so much food remaining that it came to us. Seeing the chocolate cake being served as dessert, it’s something worth living for.”
Unlike Edina’s blooming face, Dahlia smiled bitterly. This was because the moment she thought of Max, yesterday’s incident would automatically come to mind.
After announcing that he wouldn’t return home until his graduation, Max stayed in the dormitory the entire time. Thanks to that, everyone in the mansion enjoyed days of peace.
It was ironic that the reason why peace was especially sweet was because everyone knew that this grace period would end soon. As if to prove that thought right, as soon as he returned to Helman after his graduation ceremony, the ferocious attitude of Max’s caused waves to ripple in the mansion that has enjoyed peace.
Of course, the heart of it was his half-brother Isaac, whom he hated the most.
Fatigued and annoyed, upon meeting Isaac in the main building, Max began to provoke Isaac with a ferocious tone like he has been waiting for this moment.
“Was there a change in successor during my absence? I never thought that I would see your face in, not the annex, but the main building.”
Dahlia, who was serving the Little Duke with the other maids, glanced at the two of them anxiously. Max’s hand twitched as if it was about to slap Isaac’s cheek at any moment.
“I thought that I’d repeatedly told you to never come out from your place in the woods. You must have been living pretty decently during this period of time, right? Seeing as to how you’d forgotten such a simple piece of advice.”
All the other maids had an ominous foreboding of the volatile situation. However, as if he was making a mockery of such a premonition, instead of avoiding or grovelling before his brother, Isaac bowed gracefully.
“It’s been a while, Maximilian.”
The corners of Isaac’s eyes curled gently as he approached Max. Isaac, who was much bigger than Max now, looked down at him and continued in a plain tone.
“So I’ll be the one to say what I have to say first. I’m sorry to say this, but it’s a little surprising to see that your face is bright.”
“To think that you managed to graduate with the lowest grades. I guess that you don’t find it shameful to show your face around the mansion.”
A low voice broke through the eerie silence and settled in the hall.
The expression on the faces of the maids disappeared. Dahlia also stared at the two with a stiffened face. In a place where mask-like faces were lined up, only Max was expressing humanity with a reddish-blue expression.
“Don’t babble on without—”
Max clenched his fists and let out a groan. Just as he was about to raise his fist because he couldn’t stand the insult, Isaac reached his hand out first to stop Max.
“Are you planning on hitting me when there’s so many eyes here?”
“You’re the one that will succeed the family, so please behave in a civilised manner.”
Max gritted his teeth at the sight of his caught wrist trembling slightly. He tried his best to shake Isaac off, but he couldn’t even budge an inch as Isaac was so strong.
Mrs. Prada, who was visiting the maids for the end of the evening, was the one that broke the impasse. Mrs. Prada realised the situation immediately, and skillfully intervened to appease Max.
Isaac followed the head maid’s intentions and left in a dignified manner. A low-pitched voice resounded between the faces of the two people, who had mingled feelings.
“We’ll see each other often, now that you’ve returned home. In any case, let’s get along well. Max.”
Isaac left his spot first after giving him a greeting with a soft voice. His composure made Max’s miserable appearance even more prominent.
Perhaps he had suffered a shock, Max remained dazed for a long while, before turning towards the right wing. That evening, the maids of the right-wing suffered insults as they served Max liquor, like it was to be expected.
It was a dizzying situation even when Dahlia thought about it again. Max’s eyes looked like yesterday looked exactly like he wanted to kill with his eyes, if looks could kill. Dahlia swept the back of her neck lightly as cold sweats seemed to be forming there.
“Oh… The atmosphere at the main building was really gloomy yesterday. How was the banquet today?”
Giving up on continuing her train of thought, Dahlia asked a question with a bitter tone. Edina then shrugged her shoulders and recalled with a troubled smile.
“The Little Duke drank a lot yesterday. He was grumpy throughout today’s banquet due to a hangover, and left for the right wing after his temper flared up in the middle.”
Dahlia covered her mouth with her hand and gasped.
“Isn’t the main character of today’s banquet the Little Duke? Can the main character leave?”
“Of course not. It just so happened that all the vassals were gathered there… Master also left first with a displeased face, and only Young Lady Karla and Madam were busy taking care of the aftermath.”
It was only then when Dahlia understood the reason for the fancy lunch. Since there were only a few main vassals that could enjoy the banquet with a ruined atmosphere, all the leftover food became delegated to the servants.
For Dahlia, who knew how much painstaking effort that the Duchess had poured into preparing for the banquet, she could not imagine how dreary the atmosphere would have been. As she frowned, Edina continued with a knowing smile.
“It wasn’t that messy. Since Count Newett was present.”
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