“I’ve finished cleaning, Young Master. I’ll get going now, so please rest comfortably.”
After she had finished tidying the room, Dahlia nodded her head while holding the toolbox. Then Isaac, who was leaning by the window, slowly raised his head and looked around the room.
Even before undergoing Dahlia’s touch, the room was clean but after, it became so clean that a single speck of dust couldn’t be seen. From the neatly lined stationery, chairs that are aligned precisely at the same angle, and the ribbons that hung from the curtains looking identical, as if they were printed on a board… It was truly perfect.
Dahlia smiled proudly as he scanned through the room blankly with his mouth agape.
When she heard that it was the residence the Young Master was staying at temporarily, she put all her energy into cleaning it. The room was immaculate even for a person who was fussy about cleanliness, so others would also be surprised about the spotlessness of the place.
And as expected, his next words made Dahlia burst into laughter.
“It’s so tidy that it would be a waste to lie down on.”
Isaac raised his eyebrows as he gestured at the bed awkwardly.
A pretty puppy made out of towels was placed atop the perfectly made bed. When he asked what that was, Dahlia laughed shyly, saying that she learnt to make it when she was working in a side job of making ribbons.
“I’ll be leaving then, Young Master. Feel free to call me If you need anything.”
“Have you read all the books I had lent you a while back?”
“Ah… those books.”
It’s been a while since she had finished reading it, but it was difficult to return it to him, so she kept it in her room. She was embarrassed to approach him just to return a book, so she was scrambling for a reason to meet the Young Master.
‘…Did he think that I wouldn’t return them?’ At that thought, Dahlia’s face turned bright red.
“I have read them all! I’ll return it right away, so please give me a moment!”
“No, no! It’s not urgent.”
Surprised by her flustered appearance, Isaac brushed the nape of his neck and spoke in a subdued voice.
“I was just asking because I was curious about your opinion. If you have finished reading it, I’ll lend you another book. Could you come back at this time tomorrow, if you don’t mind?”
Isaac asked carefully, hoping that she would not refuse, unlike previously. Fortunately, instead of refusing, Dahlia nodded her head and accepted readily.
“I’d be grateful if you’ll lend it to me. I will be back tomorrow then.”
She greeted him with a lively voice left, closing the door behind her. As soon as she took her hand off the handle of the door, Dahlia dropped the toolbox onto the floor of the hallway.
The composure she kept was replaced with embarrassment and loss of what to do.
“Didn’t I… look so foolish today?”
She sighed as she looked back on the flow of events. She pressed her temples down to cool her head. It seemed that she made it difficult for the Young Master by replying back to when she should’ve cleaned silently.
‘Why did I talk about my parents? Why haven’t I returned the book yet?’
Upon recalling his hesitant face whenever the conversation stopped, she was so embarrassed that she couldn’t control her limbs. Dahlia held back her desire to pound her head on the floor, and exhaled quickly.
‘…But the Young Master is generous. He won’t think of me as weird.’
She consoled herself as she picked up her toolbox again. As she listened to the rattling sounds of cleaning tools bumping together, Dahlia quietly vowed not to make a mistake next time.
That’s how half a month passed by.
Dahlia was able to confront her awkwardness around the Young Master, due to their book exchanges that took place every two days. While they weren’t at the point where she could say that they had a close relationship…
“Young Master. Won’t you feel lonely if you’re living in an annex alone?”
She could ask such questions without hesitation.
Isaac let out a short sigh as he stopped shuffling the cards in his hands. The languid expression that he usually had disappeared as if washed away and only vividness remained.
“I’m not sure. Now that I’m used to it… Besides, I’m not alone as Hoover is around.”
“Oh, that’s right. Mr. Hoover was there too. Um, come to think of it, if Mr. Hoover is Young Master’s attendant, why is he not staying in the Left Wing?”
“Hoover stayed in the annex. The Duchess will only find fault with him if he stays with me, so it’s better to leave him.”
Isaac carefully gathered the divided pile of cards into halves and continued to shuffle, but raised his head again after finding the absence of an answer strange. At the sight of Dahlia biting her lip with a difficult expression on her face, he raised his eyebrows.
“You don’t have to be considerate. I’m used to the people of this house hating me.”
“…Do you also hate your family?”
“What does it look like to you?”
The boy glanced at Dahlia with thinly curved eyes and then divided the deck of cards in half. After skillfully shuffling the cards, he picked up eight cards and pushed them in front of Dahlia.
Dahlia pondered for a moment, before pulling out the rightmost card and turning it over.
‘Will he be able to guess what card it is this time too?’ Unlike Dahlia’s excited face, Isaac retrieved the remaining cards instantly with the flick of his wrist, and looked at the cards Dalia was holding with an expressionless face.
“I don’t particularly hate it. Ace of Spades.”
Dahlia’s eyes widened as she looked at the card and Isaac alternately. Held in the tip of her fingers, which turned white due to lye, was an ace of spades.
“No, how did you… did you mark the cards?”
“That can’t be. These new cards were brought by you, Dahlia.”
When he managed to accurately guess the Queen of Hearts earlier, she thought it was just a coincidence. What kind of trick did he do to be able to identify the cards without looking at them?
When she shouted “One more time,” Isaac shrugged and shuffled the cards again. Isaac lifted a corner of his lips and laughed as she picked a card again.
“It’s the Eight of Diamonds.”
‘Oh my God,’ mumbled Dahlia, whose mouth was opened wide, before stammering softly.
“Young Master… Do you perhaps know how to use magic?”
Isaac only replied with a mysterious smile that he had memorized it, when asked for his method of identifying the cards. Dahlia concluded that it was a magician’s trick after wondering whether he meant that he was memorizing even the sequences which the cards were being shuffled in one by one.
The ripe scent of late autumn wafted in through the cracks in the window. As she tapped the duster in her pocket, Dahlia suddenly realized that she had forgotten something important and jumped up from her seat.
“I forgot! I was supposed to change the furniture in the main building’s parlor in the afternoon. I need to hurry up and go!”
“Changing the furniture again? Wasn’t it changed a while ago?”
“These days, a lot of guests have come regarding Young Lady Karla’s engagement. The Madam has ordered for the upholstery to be changed often.”
“Karla… Oh, yes. She made her debut in the social world this year.”
As Karla had debuted into society at the start of this year in the blooming age of 18, and the halo of the Duchy of Eufgenschult behind her, her prospective fiances will flock to her like a wave just looking at her background.
Isaac tapped the card in his fingers on the armrest as he recalled Karla’s uninterested face. The jet-black pupils shifted from looking at the card towards Dahlia.
His half-sister’s miserable back overlapped the image of Dahlia heading out the door. Was she really looking forward to her engagement? The sound of the door closing was heard over his crude curiosity.
The furniture rearrangement was completed in an instant. As it was something done many times these days, both the maids and servants skillfully changed the covers, put fabric under the furniture, and moved the existing furniture to the warehouse.
The room, which used to be in green, was quickly changed into a deep purple color, creating an elegant ambience. Just as everyone was about to return to their assigned tasks after finishing with the laundry, a request for help rang out from the drawing room.
“Those with available hands, please come and help out!”
“Why? What is it?”
“The Young Lady’s clothes have arrived from the dressmaker. We’ll take the dresses, so can you guys bring the shoes and the rest?”
The maids, who would normally have been dragged their feet reluctantly with a distasteful expression, ran towards the drawing room, glowing at the word ‘dress’. Seeing the atmosphere, she felt that she had to go too, so Dahlia hurriedly followed in their footsteps.
Dresses of natural colors fluttered with the movements of the maids, who admired the dresses and fiddled with the lace decorations. As they stepped into Karla’s room, their attitudes changed as if they had always been polite, and bowed their heads.
Karla’s earth-toned room had a clothes hanger and a bust out as if she was prepared for the arrival of her dresses. When the maids held out the clothes, the ladies-in-waiting and a dedicated handmaiden looked at the dresses with careful eyes.
“Leave this, this, and that dress, all five of them here.”
The lady-in-waiting checking the dresses ordered the maids as she pointed to the sofa.
Then, Karla, who was sitting at the dressing table, scanning the dresses, sighed and got up from her seat.
“It’s not that I didn’t like makeup or dresses, but I’m getting tired of doing this every day. Angie, choose an outfit for the tea party occuring the day after tomorrow, starting from a dress.”
“If it’s a tea party, it will be held in the courtyard garden, so a lightly coloured dress would suit you. How about this lavender dress?”
“…Are you being serious?”
“It’s similar to the dress you wore to a picnic previously. I think it’ll look good on you.”
Karla’s expression crumpled as she cast a cold gaze.
“It was acceptable because it was late summer back then, but it’s not suitable now. It’s going to be winter soon, so bright colors are unstylish. Bring a wine-colored dress first.”
“Since you have fair skin, a lightly coloured dress would suit you better…”
While grumbling, her lady-in-waiting Angie, selected a burgundy dress and brought it in front of Karla. The dress, made with thinly layered muslin, gave the wearer a fluttering figure that brought out an alluring beauty, incongruent with the dark color. But Karla was not satisfied. She ordered for more dresses of the darker variety to be brought.
A dark gray dress, a black dress, and even a dark green dress was brought, but she wasn’t sure which one would be better. Karla’s eyes widened when she saw Dahlia standing in the corner while she was fiddling with the hem of the gown she had on.
While she was questioning the presence of that child, a mischievous idea occurred to her. Karla stared at Dahlia with a gaze filled with interest as she opened her mouth.
“Which dress do you think would look the best on me?”
Dahlia, who did not think she would have spoken to her, looked around and realized that the question was directed towards her, was startled and replied in surprise.
“Yes, you. Which do you think looks the best?”
‘Why did she have to ask me instead of her lady-in-waiting?’ Dahlia, who was watching the atmosphere, glanced at the rows of dresses and spoke carefully.
Editor’s note: In case anyone was confused with the differences between ladies-in-waiting and maid, ladies-in-waiting are usually noblewomen of lower rank hired as attendants of a higher ranking lady, whereas the term that’s translated as maid refers to a female servant hired to do housework.