Chapter 1. The fiancé is back
Duke Williot is called the Sword of the Empire.
In the summer of the year I turned 14, I got engaged to Williot’s only successor, Philen Williot, and entered the Duchy. Thankfully, the Duke and Duchess treated me as their real daughter, the daughter of a noble. If there was anything good or delicious, they brought it to me before Philen, and even when they attended tea parties or social parties, they praised me more than Philen. Philen always complained about it.
“It’s really strange.”
It was the same on that day.
Philen, who returned to the mansion after practicing swordsmanship, wiped the sweat off his forehead as soon as he saw me and said bluntly.
“Is it possible that our parents got swapped?”
“That’s not the case, Philen.” I smiled softly, closing the book I was looking at.
“You even look like His Excellency the Duke.”
“Aren’t you the only one who thinks like that?”
“No. Everyone thinks that way.”
It really was. He looked just like Duke Williot, so you could predict how Philen would grow in the future. Was it just the appearance? His sword skills and appetite were similar. Unfortunately, his brain wasn’t the same.
The Duke of Williot had a brilliant brain, but Philen was an idiot who only knew swordsmanship, and according to Duchess Williot, he barely learned the Imperial language.
“Leila, you have to be Philen’s brain.”
She had often held my hand and spoke earnestly before I officially engaged to Philen. “As a wife and duchess, fill what my stupid son cannot do. Please take good care of Philen and Duke Williot, Leila.”
At the time, I had no reason to refuse. Rather, I was grateful, so I replied willingly. Since then, I have followed Duchess Williot and learned about what I have to do in the future.
That alone was busy, but the Duke had to spend more busy days than he thought because he had informed him of what he had to do.
Philen was busy with swordsmanship training, and hence, we rarely talked face to face even after we were engaged. However, it wasn’t that we had a bad relationship or anything. We weren’t dynamic like lovelorn couples or close like best friends, but we had a pretty good relationship. Sometimes, when I had a chance to talk, I made jokes and played pranks.
People felt sorry for me, but the pity was useless. I was very satisfied with my life here. It felt like I was wearing clothes that fit my body. Every day was happy like a dream. As if to laugh at me like that, misfortune came suddenly.
It was when I had been engaged to Philen for two years. I was managing the estate on behalf of the Duke and Duchess, who temporarily left the estate after receiving a royal order.
Originally, it was Philen’s job, but I took charge of it according to the strong opinion of the duke couple, that they couldn’t entrust the mansion to him who didn’t know the circumstances of the duchy more than me.
While looking at the papers for a while, I glanced out the window. That was when I heard a loud thunder. It was raining heavily, as if trying to turn the world into a sea of water.
“I hope there will be no major damage to the people.” I muttered worriedly.
Misa, the maid of the mansion, put down a cup of tea in front of me and smiled a little. “Your lady will be a great duchess, just like her current lady.”
“Do you think so, Misa?”
“Of course. Not only me, but everyone does.”
The Duchess was my idol. When I heard that I would be like her, I smiled lightly. I have to work harder to live up to expectations. I tried to concentrate on the papers again with the intention of surprising the Duke and Duchess when they came back.
The door opened with a loud noise without knocking. The one who opened the door was a servant of the mansion, exhaling a rough breath.
“What a rude…”
“Oh, young lady! We’re in trouble!”
Before Misa pointed out the servant’s rude behavior, the servant shouted. I didn’t know what the matter was, but it wasn’t polite to talk or scream like that. When Misa tried to approach the servant to reprimand him, I grabbed her by the arm and asked the servant.
“What’s going on?”
It was definitely something bad if he rushed over, so I decided to listen to his story first.
“The master and madam’s carriage slipped in the rain and fell down the cliff!”
My judgment was correct, and the news the servant gave was shocking. Misa also opened her eyes in bewilderment.
“S-so what happened? Are the Duke and Duchess safe? Or…”
The servant stalled as if he didn’t know. I had to find out for myself. I didn’t hesitate to get up and go outside. With the shocking news, I forgot the Duchess’ teaching that a perfect noblewoman shouldn’t run recklessly. With long strides, I ran down the hall.
As I almost reached the end, I saw Philen running from the other side.
“Philen!” I ran to Philen, grabbed his collar and shouted. “The Duke and Duchess…”
“They’ll be fine.” Philen said, embraced me tightly with his trembling arms.
It was my first time seeing him shake like this.
“I’m sure they’ll be fine. Neither of them will die so easily.”
I wanted to believe. I hoped those two were really safe. I desperately hoped that they would open that door, come in, and say ‘my beloved daughter, Leila’, showing their love by calling my name.
But God didn’t listen to my wishes.
With the sudden death of the Duke and Duchess of Williot, Philen was only 16 years old. He became the head of the Duke of Williot at an early age. However, he was disheartened by the sudden loss of his parents, and didn’t take care of the Duchy and the estate. Most of the time, he was stuck in the training ground and kept swinging his sword. It was me who was in charge of the Duke of Williot family and the estate on his behalf. As his fiancée, I had to play the role of the duke’s wife as well as the duke’s deputy.
Since this happened, people around me had encouraged me to hold a wedding and became Duchess of Williot officially, but I didn’t listen. When parents die, it is the duty of their immediate children to stay away from alcohol and color for three years and honor their parents. In line with that, I and Philen decided not to hold a wedding for three years. He skipped the coming-of-age ceremony and his debut at the age of 18.
So, quite a bit of time passed, but Philen was still stuck in the training ground. I was spending busy days on my own, and then one day. As the Emperor, who had a lot of desire to conquer, declared a continental conquest, Philen went to war. The war lasted six years. The long war had exhausted many people, and I was included in it. I had to run in all directions to fill the vacancy of the duke as well as the role of the duchess.
Even though the estate was peaceful, there were so many things to do, but the problem was that not long after Philen left, the price of grains jumped several times because of the great famine, and people who couldn’t handle it, died from hunger. In particular, too many children died, and there were frequent livelihood crimes. To save them somehow, I released a huge amount of food stored in the Duke’s warehouse. Because of that, I could only eat thin soup and bread for a while. Misa felt sorry for that, but I didn’t.
After barely overcoming the great famine, an epidemic came this time. To overcome the epidemic, I freed Duke Williot’s private property and brought doctors and priests together. A huge amount of money was spent at once, so the Duke’s finances were almost shaken. Until now, I was able to pass safely thanks to the continued savings and maintenance money that were given to me.
After six years of struggling as a duchess and an absent duke, the long war ended with the succession of the predecessor emperor and the rise of the new emperor.
When I received a letter saying that Philen would return soon, I dressed up for the first time in six years. I took off the modest dress that I always wore and changed into an elegant and colorful dress. My makeup was thicker than usual, and all kinds of accessories were adorning me. After finishing all the makeup, my reflection in the mirror looked so strange that I stared at it for a while. I smiled brightly, lifting my red-painted lips, but it still looked strange. I felt like I was wearing something that didn’t fit me. The modest navy dress that I always wore seemed to fit me better.
“You’re so pretty, young miss.”
“Right! You look like an angel from heaven!” The maids clapped their hands.
“Stop, I’m embarrassed.”
Everyone burst into laughter when I blushed shyly and waved my hands. I didn’t really love Philen, but he would be my husband soon. Maybe that’s why my heart was pounding at the news of Philen’s return. My heart fluttered and my feet rolled like I was walking on clouds. I felt like an immature adolescent girl. My pounding heart was even higher when the Knights led by Philen were seen far away.
The man who took the lead and rode the black horse was Philen. There was still quite a distance, but I recognized him at once. As the distance grew closer and closer, and by the time he was fully visible, I waved my hands cheerfully.
I was going to call out his name, but I couldn’t. It was because another woman was in Philen’s arms.