Chapter 1. The fiancé is back
“Then, I’ll see you at dinner. I’m exhausted, so I want to rest a bit.” Philen tapped my shoulder and entered the mansion.
I stood there even after Philen disappeared.
“My lady.” The maid looked at me and asked slowly.
“Are you fine?”
“… What would it change if I said I’m not fine?”
“I’m just joking. I’m alright.” I laughed at myself and took out the pin that was holding my hair up.
A feeling of ridicule spread throughout my body. I had dressed up prettily to look good for my fiancé… who returned with another woman.
“I’m fine, so don’t worry.”
“Let’s work fast and prepare dinner.”
Honestly, I didn’t want to do anything. I had the urge to stomp to my room and throw everything down to vent my anger. But my position wouldn’t let me do that. My ambiguous position as Philen Williot’s fiancée and future duchess held my ankle tightly, and didn’t let go, so I had to swallow my bitter feelings and force myself to move ahead.
Misa, who guided the woman to the room, asked me what kind of maid I would like to assign to her.
I contemplated for a while, then ordered Misa to serve her in person. It would be like surveillance. Surveillance to keep her from doing anything stupid. There was nothing important in the Duchess’s room right now, but there could be something that she might not know about.
“If you see anything strange, don’t hesitate to come and report it to me.”
“Yes, my lady.” Misa nodded and left, like an elite soldier on a very important mission.
It was cloudy in the afternoon. As if it would rain anytime soon, the sky was filled with dark clouds. When the smell of rain wafted to my nose through the open window, I closed the window.
Because the former Duke and his wife died on a stormy day, my mood remained dampened on rainy days. I couldn’t sleep at night when thunderstorms struck, I’d hide under the blanket and tremble. My cries weren’t that different from a child’s. Misa was the only one who knew about it. It would be shameful to show that side to other people, so I thoroughly hid it.
Though, Philen also knew, back then. I didn’t know if he still remembers, but… nevermind, he probably forgot.
After shutting the window and returning to my seat, I began to go through the documents I hadn’t checked, in the fuss of meeting Philen. The duchess’s work alone wasn’t much in a day, but I was really busy with the duke’s work, which was supposed to be done by Philen. I was able to come here safely because the competent aides helped me well. I checked the documents carefully and then stamped Duke Williot’s seal below.
It had been nine years since the Duke Williot’s seal, which should be in the Duke’s office, entered my office. At first, people thought that it was bad if I was the one who did it but as time went by, they took it for granted.
Yet, if I made a mistake at least once, they would sneer at me with a knowing look in their eyes and lament. There were also people who pulled their tongues out and pointed their fingers. As a result, I realised, there shouldn’t be any mistakes. Everything can’t be perfect, but I still have to do my best to make it seem so.
As I was stamping the seal, confirming there was nothing wrong, dinner time was over. As that happened in the morning, I didn’t want to face Philen and eat, but I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t a normal day, but the first day since he returned to the mansion after a long war. I couldn’t have lunch together, but it was manners to visit at least for dinner. I pulled the bell and called a maid.
“Did you call me, my lady?” Soon after, the maid came in and bowed.
I asked, tidying my desk without looking at the maid, “How did dinner preparation go?”
“That’s….” The maid couldn’t answer my question right away, hesitated, and ended up shutting her mouth.
I stopped and looked at her, on receiving an unusual response. “What’s wrong?”
“That… the master said he would have dinner in his room tonight.”
“He’s going to eat in his room… not in the dining room?”
“Yes. He said he was tired and didn’t want to go to the dining room…”
The sound of the table drawer closing rang.
The maid apologized, tucking her neck in like a turtle. “I apologize.”
“It’s not you who should apologize.”
Yes, it wasn’t the maid’s fault. She simply conveyed Philen’s words to me. If there was nothing special, it was only normal to go out and eat with your family on the first day of returning to the mansion.
‘Family… Come to think of it, am I Philen’s family?’
Suddenly, I came to the conclusion that I was not. I was also not included in the list of Duke Williot’s family. The Duke and Duchess said they thought of me as their real daughter, but it was just a ‘thought’. It wasn’t real.
I had been working for the Duchy for over 10 years, but I was still a stranger. I didn’t have the right to tell Philen to be polite and have a meal together. If he said no, I had to accept it. Even if I felt bad.
‘There is nothing to feel bad about.’
It was awkward for me to eat meals face to face with him too. I should have been glad, but my heart was throbbing painfully. I pressed the left side of my chest, where the heart was.
“My lady, are you in pain?”
“No, I’m fine.”
Since I wasn’t having dinner, I could take off these clothes. And this stuffy makeup. This fact made me feel a little better.
I headed to my room to change my clothes. My room was the third largest room in this mansion. The largest room was the Duke’s room. The second was the Duchess’s room, and the third largest was mine. People around me told me to just use it because I would be the Duchess anyway, but I didn’t. The Duchess’s room had been untouchable because I wanted to enter it after I became the official Duchess.
If I knew this would happen, I would have entered it. I regretted, but it was in the past. Regretting now didn’t make any difference.
“Bring it over here!”
“Hey! What about this?”
The hallway, which was usually quiet, was bustling today. It was because Philen, the owner of the mansion, returned.
“Good afternoon, my lady.”
“Hello, my lady.”
In the midst of my busy day, when I passed by, I stopped what I was doing and bowed down to say hello. I didn’t want to disturb them, so I hurried to walk.
I stopped again and called the maids who were dragging the food tray.
“Where is that going now?”
“To the master’s room, my lady.”
I could know that without asking. The servants of the mansion wouldn’t have eaten such luxurious food. The problem was that the prepared dishes were not one set, but two sets. There’s no way Philen would have asked you to prepare two sets to eat it all alone, unless he invited me to the room and ate together…
“…is that woman with him?”
At my words, the maid nodded with a troubled look on her face.
“Ha.” I swept my head up in the air.
He said the reason he ate in his room was because he was tired, but I guessed it was for eating with her. If he ate in the dining room, he would see me.
‘Philen probably didn’t want to see me. Sounds about right.’
It was Philen, who’d clicked his tongue, saying that the people around him, even the Duke and Duchess, were tactless. He had no idea why I was upset before, that’s why he couldn’t eat in the dining room while looking at me.
‘Is it because of her act?’
Philen got my eyes on him, so did she seduce him to eat together in his room? I was curious, but I couldn’t confirm it. I couldn’t ask Philen or her, or the maids I was with. It wasn’t enough to use the Duchess’s room, but she was also eating with Philen on the day of his return. Someone would think I wasn’t Philen’s fiancée, but her.
It hadn’t been a day yet, but that woman’s behavior had already started to get on my nerves. The same was true of Philen. I wondered how far I could endure their acts in the future. However, even if I didn’t hold back, it wouldn’t make any difference, and that fact made me sadder. As I stood up and stared at the food tray, the restless maid spoke up, “We have to go before this food gets cold, my lady.”
“…yes, you can go now.”
I held them and let them go because there was nothing different. The maids pulled the food tray and left in a hurry, in case I would catch them again. I lifted my foot from the floor by the time they were barely visible from my sight.
“What would you like for dinner, young lady?” The maid who told me Philen’s story followed me and asked.
“I’m not going to eat.”
My appetite fell sharply due to the overlap between what happened in the morning and what happened a while ago.
“More than that, you’re not the one who serves me, right?”
“Misa asked me to serve my lady.”
She should be busy serving that woman, but she had the time to assign a maid to serve me?
I laughed a little because I could see how worried Misa was about me.
“Oh, you laughed.” The maid clapped and smiled brightly. “Since the master returned, it’s the first time you laughed.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. Well, there was nothing to laugh about. The master is mean too. How could he do that to my lady?”
It was cute to see her pouting her lips in anger. Would it have been this way if I had a younger sister?
“What’s your name?”
“It’s Sarah, my lady.”
“Yes, Sarah. Please take care of me.”
At my words, Sarah blushed shyly and bowed her head. “Please take care of me too, my lady.”
(ED/N: Dude, I seriously feel so bad for her.)