Chapter 23

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“If Garcia were to help, he would do so without Lanten knowing.”

 

Ana’s smile did not receive an immediate response this time. Eliza looked down and hesitated before whispering,

 

“It might not be a significant amount for our brother, given his generosity. He might not mind much. But even so, I would have come to you, Ana.” Her tone was small but firm. Ana’s smile faded, understanding the difference in their embarrassment.

“Why is that?”

 

“He is my brother and cares for us in his way, but… truthfully, I find him intimidating.”

 

It had always been that way, ever since their first contact with his golden gaze.

 

“We were all young, but he seemed somehow…” Her whisper, small as a mouse’s, trailed off. Ana waited for her to continue, but Eliza seemed unwilling to say more, offering a troubled smile instead, slightly pale.

 

“I shouldn’t have said that. Please forget it.”

 

“Not at all.” Ana smiled awkwardly in return. “It’s not uncommon for siblings to have their difficulties. Perhaps it’s easier among women?”

 

“It’s truly fortunate for our family to have someone as kind as Anais,” Eliza said while looking at Ana with appreciation, thanking her repeatedly before leaving the mansion.

 

As Ana watched her go, she realized she had heard something similar before.

 

“It’s fortunate for our family to have someone like Anais. I can’t tell you how reassuring it is to have you by his side.”

 

Madam Denian had said this with teary eyes on Garcia and Ana’s wedding day. It was truly a coincidence.

 

* * *

“Please keep it a secret from my brother for now. Lanten would be terribly embarrassed.”

 

Ana felt awkward but eventually nodded. Keeping silent for her quiet sister-in-law, who had gone to the trouble of asking, was the least she could do. Garcia might already know, after all.

 

Ana sighed and leaned back in her armchair, needing a moment to think. She considered the cash she could immediately access from her own assets. The wealth received from her father upon marriage, her late mother’s inheritance, and the collection of jewels and paintings accumulated from social activities could be liquidated to address the urgent need.

 

The plight of the young couple seemed tragically unfortunate. How could she get that much money?

 

Recalling Lanten, Eliza’s husband, from their wedding day, she remembered his fair, freckled face and the honest depth in his eyes, understanding why Eliza loved him.

 

Ana frowned, displeased. Didn’t the Sibil family have any competent advisers or friends to prevent such reckless investments? It seemed Hector’s connections lost their value after his death.

 

Ana decided to look for a capable lawyer for Sibil, though asking Garcia would be quickest. She wrote a letter, thinking it best to consult her eldest brother, Edward, for advice.

 

Edward, seven years older than her, always treated Anais with protective affection. How can she not love that strict face that became awkward when giving affection?

 

After finishing the letter and drying the ink, she paused to think and then took out a new sheet of paper. Suddenly, she found herself missing her three brothers, especially one in particular…

 

[To my beloved Oliver,

As the early blooming spring flowers start to fade, I wonder how my inattentive older brother is doing. Have the roses in Dirshel already bloomed? It’s been over three years since Oliver rode away from our estate. How can you not have visited the capital even once? I forgive you for missing my wedding – I respect you as a knight and a soldier, Oliver – but your continued indifference afterward is harder to excuse. Surely, leaving home hasn’t extinguished your love for me? If not, you owe me a very long and loving reply to prove your brotherly affection. Better yet, come visit in person!

With love, Ana.]

 

Ana has three older brothers: Edward, the first brother, and heir; Deiram, the second brother, who was building a reputation as a theologian; and Oliver, the third brother, pursued a military career. Ana loved all her brothers dearly but had a special bond with Oliver, the playful and affectionate one. Unlike the rest of her brothers, Oliver was only four years older than her, so Ana grew up very close to him. In fact, what she loved most about him was his playful and affectionate nature.

 

I hope he’s not still obsessed with wine and merrymaking.

 

Oliver’s love for wine and good company often made Ana sigh. Despite his cheerful and sociable nature and his deep love and care for his sister, Oliver had a tendency to ignore advice. Ironically, he joined the military during the Jacqueline War, earning both a knighthood and a medal.

 

It would have made more sense if he had followed his childhood dream of becoming an explorer. Nonetheless, Ana supported him, as he seemed very content with his life, though she couldn’t help worrying about him sometimes.

 

As for Garcia, he too had served in the military, but Ana never felt worried or anxious about him. Perhaps it was a matter of trust. Garcia always seemed unlikely to take unnecessary risks, prioritizing his responsibilities in all situations.

 

Interestingly, Oliver and Garcia were comrades in the same war. It was odd that they hadn’t mentioned each other, given Oliver’s personality; they might have enjoyed sharing a drink. Were they on different fronts, unaware of each other? To Ana’s knowledge, they hadn’t even exchanged greetings, let alone recognized each other.

 

Oliver missed Ana’s wedding due to a border dispute that had just broken out. She was disappointed, but since it was the nation’s business, Ana understood and moved on.

 

By the time Ana finished writing her letters, including one to Oliver expressing her feelings and teasing him for his absence, much time had passed. She also wrote to friends she hadn’t contacted in a while.

 

As she was relaxing with a cup of tea, Garcia returned from his outing. Hearing of her husband’s return, Ana stood up, eager to greet him. She wondered how his day had been, noticing his troubled expression when he left.

 

Turning the corner of the staircase, Ana, wearing a shawl, saw Garcia entering through the front door. His expression was impassive, not showing much fatigue, but Ana was concerned about how he looked that morning.

 

Tall and slender, wearing a thin spring coat, Garcia appeared more slender than Oliver, who was from the same military academy. However, Ana, familiar with his physique, knew this was an illusion. Despite his aristocratic demeanor, Garcia’s broad shoulders and firm body reminded her of the stern Archangel Michael from the Bible.

 

Garcia handed his hat to the butler and crossed the hall, pausing briefly when he saw Ana on the staircase before continuing towards her. A faint smile crossed his lips, and Ana smiled back.

 

“Have you returned?”

 

“I’m home.”

 

He stopped at the foot of the stairs, waiting for Ana to come down, watching her small feet in silk slippers walk carefully as if worried she might trip. Meanwhile, he received a brief report from his aide. With a slight nod, Garcia extended his hand for Ana to take as she neared the bottom of the stairs, ready to escort her.

 

“It’s nice to be welcomed by my wife.”

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