T/N: ‘medicine’ will be changed to ‘drug’ because it’s a more neutral term, sorry for the confusion!
“D, d, did you perhaps g, g, give that drug t, to s, s, some–someone?”
“What? Speak properly.”
As Esma was trembling so much, all of the words that came out of her mouth were unclear.
Atalante reached out and grabbed her shoulder, causing Esma to stop shaking. Instead, her face became even paler than before, as if she was about to stop breathing.
“Breathe in, breathe. Because I won’t kill you.”
Atalante did not enjoy murdering others just because the Young Lady before her was frightened.
Esma then took a deep breath in slowly, perhaps because she could tell that Atalante was being serious from her eyes.
“Did… someone, consume that drug?”
Her words were still spoken haltingly, but it was much better than before.
At her question, Atalante, who was choosing her words, nodded slowly.
What was so shocking about that, causing tears to pour out of Esma’s eyes?
How could a person start crying in the blink of an eye?
Atalante, who didn’t have any memories of crying properly, couldn’t comprehend the scene before her.
“Huueng…what have I done!”
“Why are you like this all of a sudden? Stop crying.”
Embarrassed, Atalante wiped away her tears with awkward motions, but Esma kept crying.
Contrary to her appearance, this guileless young lady was a competent apothecary.
However, in the current aristocratic society, it was ridiculous for a young lady, whose duty was to marry someday, to be doing something practical.
The ultimate goal of young ladies was to marry into a good family and become her husband’s wife, the lady of the house, as well as the mother of her children.
However, Esma possessed an exceptional talent in making drugs, and after begging the Count and Countess, she was able to continue making drugs as a hobby until it was ‘time for marriage’.
Of course, this was done in secret from the other nobles.
“Stop crying and tell me quickly. What is this drug?”
From the looks of her reaction, it definitely wasn’t an ordinary poison.
Atalante started to become restless with anxiety. She needed to know what drug the Grand Duke had drunk in order to be prepared, but the lovely Young Lady Evita kept crying.
Eventually, Atalante slowly patted her on the back.
Like she was soothing Yuffie, she patted Esma very gently. Although she didn’t have any parents, it was very familiar to her to placate children as she had been the leader of the alley kids since she was young.
As Emma slowly stopped crying, she looked up at Atalante with teary eyes. Her lips moved slowly several times, before her voice appeared reluctantly.
“That drug, it’s a…love potion…”
“It’s a drug that makes you fall in love with someone you’ve never met before…”
It was due to Atalante’s tremendous patience that she didn’t let out a curse towards Esma, who said that.
‘Why did you make that kind of drug?’
Before Atalante’s could scrunch up in irritation, Esma beat her to the punch and spoke with a sullen face.
“Well, a few years ago at a resort, I… I happened upon a piece of magical ore.”
What does she mean, magical ore? That’s a rare mineral that’s completely vanished in current times, and only existed in records of ancient texts.
Before it’s depletion, the mineral, which had a light similar to an amethyst, was considered as a symbol of mana.
Apparently, it was a precious item that was used to make artifacts at the magic tower in the past.
“At first, I thought that it was just a pretty rock… But no matter how I look at it, it has the exact same characteristics as the magical ore written in books.”
“So… I made a love potion.”
“How did you come to that conclusion?!”
When Atalante raised her voice, Esma made a strange sound, “Hiik”, and tried to justify herself.
“Magical ore contains the magical power that controls another’s personality…”
“I’m not asking about that! Why exactly did you make such a ridiculous drug?”
Transparent tears began to well up in Esma’s sparkling green eyes.
With such exposed expressions and timidness, she made others wonder how she would survive in a society that wielded their tongues like knives.
‘It’s said that there’s nothing more foolish than worrying about aristocrats, but this is absurd.’
Atalante emptied out all of those useless feelings, and stared at Esma with urging eyes.
“There’s, there’s someone I like! That’s why…”
“If there’s someone you like, you should confess properly. What’s the difference between brainwashing and the drug you made?”
Atalante, who belatedly corrected ‘you’ to ‘Young Lady’, let out a deep sigh.
It felt strange to call her with a formal title when she was using informal language casually.
Esma didn’t point out her unfathomable etiquette, but lowered her eyes and replied in a fairly loud voice.
“Miss Atalante is someone that has the freedom to do what you want, so you wouldn’t understand. However, in the case of aristocrats, they have a lot more to prioritise than their feelings.”
“Hooh, are you disregarding me because I’m a commoner?”
“Ho– how can that be? You’re the one that saved my life.”
Ironically, the boss that had no idea how to treat aristocrats with respect, was Esma’s saviour.
A year ago, when she went to a commoner’s festival behind the Count and Countess’ back, the one that saved her when she had almost gotten into trouble was Atalante.
Esma would still shudder whenever she recalls the memories of that day.
The poison was given to Atalante by Esma as a token of gratitude.
Of course, it wasn’t that Esma was lacking in the notion of gratitude enough to present poison to her saviour.
It was because that was the only thing she had when Atalante proudly demanded for a reward after turning the suspicious man unconscious.
“It seems like you’re a young lady from a noble family, don’t you have anything?”
To be more precise, Atalante ripped off Esma while she was confused.
Naturally, even if Atalante didn’t say that, Esma would express her gratitude somehow.
Although Esma said that she would definitely compensate her when she returned home, Atalante persuaded, no, threatened Esma to give her anything she had on her.
“I don’t want to be deeply involved with any aristocrats.”
There was clear resentment towards nobility within her eyes.
It was her first time seeing a commoner look at her with a rebellious gaze.
Flustered, Esma searched her pockets, but she didn’t have anything.
It was because her pocket money was with her lady-in-waiting.
Eventually, Esma had no choice but to take out the reagent that she had made recently.
It was a poison that was made out of consideration for Becky, her brother’s beloved horse, that had to be euthanized due to a leg injury.
It was a strong poison that would make one stop breathing as if they were falling asleep with a single drop. There wasn’t any time to raise the valid question of why she was carrying such a dangerous item around.
“This is a poison that I’d made…Giving poison to my saviour is a bit…”
The moment she added that she would send good items tomorrow morning, Atalante gave a radiant smile.
As the smile was very bewitching, Esma could only stare at her face absentmindedly.
“You’re quite a talented lady. I’m satisfied with this. Thanks.”
With a satisfied smile, Atalante personally escorted her before the Count.
As it was her first time riding a horse and not a horse-drawn carriage, although she suffered from body aches the next day, it was a pleasant experience.
It didn’t take her long to realise that the person that saved her was the notorious boss of Argo.
That was because she was the only one in the Empire with crimson hair the colour of the setting sun and mysterious yet benevolent looks.
“See you around.”
After asking around, Esma finally found Argo’s hideout.
To be more precise, as she was wandering around nearby, she was caught by one of Argo’s members and brought before Atalante.
It was a scary experience, getting her arms bound together, that she didn’t want to go through that again.
“It’s dangerous for a noble young lady to wander around in a place like this without an escort. Even when you’re dressed in a pretty outfit.”
Sitting cross-legged on a black chair, Atalante was wearing pants that were for men.
As it was her first time seeing a woman wearing pants like that, Esma couldn’t hide her expression of shock.
“Do you know this person?”
“Yes, she’s a little indebted to me in the past.”
After Atalante gestured for the member that brought her here to leave, she looked at Esma with interest.
“Are you perhaps here to commission us? I’m sorry, but I don’t accept commissions from nobles.”
“It’s– It’s not like that! I was just going to express my gratitude!”
“Express your gratitude? I’ve already received the payment for saving you previously.”
Atalante waved the bottle that was hanging from a string tied around her neck.
It was a habitual disease. It was somewhat plausible for a villain to have poison hanging around their necks as an accessory.
“I want to reward you properly! Who would dare to give poison to their benefactor?”
Esma plucked up the courage to protest, but Atalante had only burst into laughter about something she found funny.
Even if she had seen it with her own eyes, Esma couldn’t believe that such a pretty looking girl is the boss of an organisation.
“Young Lady, what’s your name?”
“It’s, it’s Esma Evita.”
Oh, a member of the emperor’s faction.
As Atalante pretended to know little about her family, she reached a hand out to Esma, who was kneeling on the ground.
As if Esma was drawn by something, she took that hand, and was helped up with a fairly polite movement.
Although she had almost collapsed again after the strength in her legs weakened at Atalante’s following words, that day, Esma left the hideout and returned home safely.
“Esma, I’m thankful for your sincerity, but this poison has paid for that. Don’t loiter around the hideout again.”
“I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to return alive the next time.”
It was spoken in an infinitely warm tone, but the content spoken was quite brutal.
The voice that she heard that day seemed to linger in her ears still, so Esma inadvertently covered her ears.
“What are you thinking about?”
Only after hearing Atalante’s irritated voice, did Esma finish her recollection abruptly.
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