Chapter 4

Translator: Alice

Editor: SoaringPeaches

***

Eileen spent her conversations with Lotan in laughter as time passed. When the sun began to set, he looked through the window and got up.

 

“I think I should be going now.”

 

Eileen walked him out, but only to the front door. When she tried to step outside, Lotan’s seriousness stopped her.

 

“It’s chilly outside, my lady. You needn’t go that far.”

 

It seemed strange that the early summer breeze could be so cold in the evening. But Eileen, who was used to the knight’s overprotectiveness, did not argue and bade him farewell.

 

“I’ll see you next time.”

 

“Until then, Miss Eileen.”

 

Eileen tried to mirror the knight’s polite salute. The endearing sight amused Lotan, who couldn’t help but burst out laughing.

 

“I’ll be back shortly with a gift.”

 

Lotan lingered after saying goodbye, waiting for Eileen to close the front door securely behind her. The cheerful expression he wore in the girl’s presence had vanished, replaced by his usual stoic demeanour. After carefully checking the house for any signs of strange activity, he left.

 

Once inside the vehicle, he coldly asked the driver,

 

“Any news about Baron Elrod?”

 

“He is in a meeting with His Excellency.”

 

Baron Elrod was Eileen’s father. The very thought of the man caused Lotan to utter obscenities that would undoubtedly have shocked the young lady.

 

The driver glanced through the rear-view mirror at their master’s right-hand man and added cautiously,

 

“I am concerned about the young lady’s state of mind.”

 

This concern mirrored Lotan’s. He narrowed his eyes gently and gave an order.

 

“Let’s head back.”

 

Lotan glanced at the orange tree and the small brick house as the black car pulled away.

 

***

 

The Elrod family first made their fortune through usury*, using their accumulated wealth to acquire titles of nobility, thereby consolidating their social position.

 

(Ed. note: Usury is the practice of lending money at ridiculously high interest rates.)

 

During Eileen’s grandfather’s reign, the wealthy and prestigious family fell into decline.

 

Eileen’s father was at the root of it all.

 

Despite his notorious recklessness, he was the family’s only legitimate heir. When Eileen’s grandfather died and her father assumed the title of Baron Elrod, a chain of tragic events began.

 

With no one to challenge him, the new Baron did as he pleased. His family fell into ruin after he gambled away their fortune. 

 

The Elrod family’s last hope laid with Eileen’s mother, who tirelessly begged her parents for support. She sold property to pay off debts, but even after they had downsized to a modest brick house, Eileen’s father continued to drown himself in alcohol and gambling.

 

The family’s decline culminated during Eileen’s university studies in botany and pharmacology. Eileen rushed home after receiving a distressing letter from her mother, only to discover that their situation had already spiralled out of control.

 

Unable to afford Eileen’s tuition and struggling to put food on the table, the family was forced to sell their only remaining asset, the brick house. Despite Eileen and her mother’s tireless efforts to keep it, they found themselves fighting a losing battle.

 

In the midst of their despair, Eileen’s father casually mentioned Cesare.

 

“Just ask him for help. Why are you so hesitant?”

 

Her mother glared every time he said it.

 

“Do you have a death wish?!”

 

Cesare was aware of the Elrods’ predicament. He subtly inquired if Eileen needed any financial help. The girl always refused, insisting that they were doing well.

 

But her reason was different from her mother’s. Eileen was not afraid of her crush. She simply did not want to appear miserable in front of her crush. And yet, there was a time when she was forced to seek help.

 

Eileen’s father was the root of the cause.

 

‘I didn’t even have enough for my mother’s funeral.’

 

Perhaps she would have died the same day as her mother had it not been for Cesare.

 

The day her mother passed away…

 

After gathering every penny she had, she sent it to the doctor, who confirmed her mother’s death. After that, all that was left was a single, lonely house.

 

She had no idea how long she had sat there alone by her mother’s body. At some point, Eileen got up and made her way to the Imperial Palace. She did not have enough money to hire a carriage, so she wandered aimlessly until she met Cesare by chance.

 

Clad in hunting attire, he seemed to have returned from a hunt. As soon as Cesare noticed Eileen’s miserable state, he realised that his old nanny had died.

 

“Eileen Elrod.”

 

Eileen snapped to attention at the sound of her full name. Cesare was not much for consolation. Nevertheless, he decided to be her pillar of strength in his own way.

 

“Pull yourself together. Where is Baroness Elrod’s will?”

 

Cesare was the first to receive the will. He did not wipe away Eileen’s tears until he had handed the papers to her lawyer, far from Baron Elrod’s greedy clutches. Eileen muttered absentmindedly, clutching the handkerchief Cesare had given her.

 

“I have a funeral to hold…”

 

“Eileen?”

 

“But I don’t have the money…”

 

‘I need some money… Please lend me. I’m really sorry. I’ll definitely pay you back.’

 

Eileen could not recall what Cesare had said in response. During this time, she was mostly out of it. Unable to cope with her grief, she eventually lost consciousness. The funeral had already finished by the time she regained consciousness.

 

In the capital’s most opulent cemetery, lilies surrounded her mother’s grave. They had been the Baroness’s favourite flower when she was alive. 

 

Eileen tried to repay the funeral expenses, but Cesare refused, claiming it was his last gift to his late nanny.

 

“…”

 

Eileen could not stop reminiscing. The unexpected proposal and kiss sparked a flurry of thoughts in her mind, making her attempt at reading look pathetic. She sighed and put the book down before rising from the chair and approaching the mirror.

 

The woman reflected was unsightly—untidy, messy brown hair, fringe that half covered her eyes, large glasses, and loose clothes that revealed nothing of her body.

 

The ladies of society were always immaculate. Make-up and well-groomed hair were a given. They wore dresses that accentuated their slim waists and exposed shoulders and arms. Unlike Eileen, who was only interested in plants, they were well versed in a variety of subjects, including dancing and etiquette.

 

There were so many ladies out there who were as beautiful as flowers. Yet someone as traditional as Eileen was about to become the Grand Duchess. It was a complete disgrace to Cesare’s reputation. She could not bring such shame on someone who was more to her than a simple benefactor.

 

How could she avoid execution and not marry at the same time?

 

After contemplating how to persuade Cesare, she felt uneasy and opened the bedroom door. The house was quiet.

 

Her father had not yet returned home.

 

While it was not unusual for him not to return home after gambling or drinking, today felt different.

 

‘Father must have heard that the Arch of Triumph was approved.’

 

That morning, she saw her father with a smile. He most likely heard the news before Eileen.

 

She wondered if he left to find Cesare and engage in meaningless conversations. She decided she would confront her father when he returned. For the time being, she had decided to retire early.

 

But her father did not return the following day. A week later, Eileen remained alone.

 

***

 

It could only be one of two things. Either he was dead, or he had somehow acquired some money and gone on a gambling spree.

 

There were no rumours of his demise, so it was probably the latter. There was only one place he could have gone to lose his money.

 

‘I suppose he went to see His Excellency the Grand Duke after all.’

 

Cesare had never been friendly with her father, seeing him as an outsider. She knew that if Cesare had given him money, he must have received something in return. But she had no idea what her father might have offered.

 

She had to find her father, return the money, and persuade him never to do such a thing again. So she travelled all the way here to find a gambling den that her father frequented.

 

“There you go, little girl. Come on in! Is this your first time here?”

 

“You’re so cute. Wanna play with Big Sister?”

 

Eileen could only stare blankly at the sight before her. The gambling den was nowhere in sight, and she was surrounded by women with partially exposed breasts, laughing and teasing her mercilessly.

 

All this happened because Eileen was afraid to walk the streets alone at night. So she disguised herself as a man, albeit poorly. She wanted to ask where the gambling house was, but she was afraid that her voice would give away her ruse. 

 

Eileen hurried forward, unsure where to look. The women in red shawls burst into giggles whenever they saw someone uncomfortable. She felt like fleeing as they reached out to grab her arm.

 

Then a man appeared in Eileen’s field of vision. He looked like a mobster, leaning against the wall of the shop, smoking a cigarette.


***

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Notes

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