The Discarded Bride’s RemarriageーThe Icy Margrave Swears His Loveー

Completed ― The Discarded Bride's RemarriageーThe Icy Margrave Swears His Loveー

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐁𝐫𝐢𝐝𝐞’𝐬 𝐑𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐠𝐞ー𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐈𝐜𝐲 𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐒𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐇𝐢𝐬 𝐋𝐨𝐯𝐞ー

𝐒𝐲𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬:

Five years after marrying a Count who has a mistress due to her father’s sudden death, Chloe is proposed a divorce by her husband while serving breakfast. 

The hard days of marrying at a young age, in turn, had allowed Chloe to acquire the cultivation of a lady. Afterwards, Chloe, on the butler’s suggestion, takes refuge with Margrave Heyerdahl, an old acquaintance of her real father, and works as a female tutor for his adopted children. 

Chloe was working strictly as a job, but the Margrave loved Chloe as a woman, in a gentlemanly and passionate manner.

―――

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏: 𝐒𝐮𝐝𝐝𝐞𝐧 𝐃𝐢𝐯𝐨𝐫𝐜𝐞 𝐀𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭

“I want a divorce, Chloe.”

At the breakfast table, I let out a deep sigh upon hearing these words casually thrown at me, realizing that this day had finally come. The tasteless baguette. The salad that tasted like sand. The only thing I was ever praised for by my husband was the way I brewed coffee, a skill I had worked hard to learn after marrying into the Strelitzi family. But this morning’s coffee tasted like muddy water.

ーーNo, I hadn’t been able to taste anything for a long time.

“Chloe? Are you listening?”

My husband Stephan hurried me, his gaze never leaving the newspaper, his tone impatient.

His hawk-like eyes, which would turn 39 this year, didn’t even glance at me when he brought up the divorce.

I looked down at the coffee I had brewed with a hollow feeling.

Reflected in it was the face of a plain 19-year-old woman, looking as if she was dead.

“. . .It’s been five years since we got married, hasn’t it?”

“Yes.”

My husband responded with a noncommittal grunt.

He probably didn’t even want to have this kind of conversation anymore.

“What do you think? You don’t mind getting a divorce, do you? I’ll provide for your living expenses for the time being, and if you want a house, I’ll buy you one.”

I quietly reflected on the past five years as a 19-year-old.

As a decorative wife, I kept the main house in order so that we could invite anyone at any time, obeyed my father-in-law and mother-in-law’s orders, took care of them, handled the household affairs, and continued to fulfill my duties as Countess Strelitzi.

And our relationship was what you would call a “white marriage.”

We never shared a bed, nor do I remember having a conversation while looking into each other’s eyes.

ーーI got married to have a place to live.

ーーHe got married to live with his mistress.

It was truly just a political marriage.

“I understand.”

I told him, looking straight at him.

“Please give me time to pack my things and write letters to my acquaintances. As usual, may I leave the procedures to our butler, Simon?”

“Hmm.”

In the end, he never looked me in the eye.

◇◇◇

The lord’s office. The writing desk had become almost exclusively mine. As I was preparing letters to send to various places, there was a knock at the door.

“Chloe-ojousama. Excuse me.”

“. . .Simon.”

At Simon’s call, who had continued to call me “Ojou-sama” after our marriage, I raised the corners of my mouth just a little.

Today, as always, Simon was dressed in a perfectly wrinkle-free butler’s uniform, and he bowed without a single misstep. This elderly gentleman, with his long white hair tied back and wearing silver-rimmed monocles, was a calm and reliable figure, like a father to me.

“I have prepared all the legal documents for the divorce proceedings. I have also received the master’s signature for the property division.”

“Thank you. Please send this letter to the royal capital at the end.”

I lined up the bundle of letters sealed with wax on the desk. Since it would be slow to leave it to the local post and there was no compensation for loss, I had decided to leave the procedures and important documents to Simon to take to the royal capital post office.

When Simon received the letters, he looked at me with a softened gaze. It was a gentle gaze, like a father’s.

“. . .You’ve worked hard, Ojou-sama.”

I also smiled at him, with the face of “Lady Chloe.”

“Thank you, Simon. Even when I lost my father and had no one to rely on, I was able to make it this far because you were there.”

Simon shook his head as if to say it was nothing.

“If I had more power, I could have protected you without causing you any trouble. . .”

“Simon. . .”

Behind his monocleーーSimon’s emerald eyes, which had aged considerably in just a few years, narrowed. The corners of his eyes were heavily shadowed with years of regret.

“The only way to create a place for you, Miss, was to marry into the Strelitzi family. Since then. . . I have vowed to serve you for the rest of my life and protect you, the beloved daughter of my late master.”

ーーMy brother Cerrado became a court magician, and I had no relatives to back me up. Indeed, for a 14-year-old me, marrying into the Count Strelitzi family was the best option.

Even now, at the age of 19, I think this was the only fate for me.

“Ojou-sama. . . you have overcome hardships safely and grown beautifully and splendidly.”

“I don’t know if I’m beautiful, but I’ve grown a bit.”

“I have a proposal for you, Miss, for the future.”

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐: 𝐁𝐮𝐭𝐥𝐞𝐫 𝐒𝐢𝐦𝐨𝐧’𝐬 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐚𝐥

Behind his silver-rimmed glasses, the jade-colored eyes of the old gentleman narrowed.

I tilted my head.

“A proposal?”

“A dear old friend of the late Danna-samaーーCount Maclouge, has expressed his regret for not being able to help you in the past. He says that if anything happens, he would like you to come to him. Do you remember the name Margrave Heyerdahl?”

“Margrave Heyerdahl. . .”

Caught off guard by the sudden news, I blinked and thought.

Come to think of it, I remember seeing that name in the list of attendees at my father’s funeral. At that time, I was already married into the Count Strelitzi family. So I wasn’t allowed to greet him.

Simon continued the conversation.

“He says that if it can be a place for you to rest your wings, even temporarily, until you decide where you truly want to settle down, he would be more than happy to have you.”

“But. . .it would be too sudden to impose on him.”

“Please don’t worry about that.”

The old gentleman smiled at my hesitation.

“There are many children in Margrave Heyerdahl’s mansion. He has adopted all the children of his subordinates who lost their parents in the border invasion seven years ago. . . He is also looking for a female tutor for them now that they are of age.”

“So, I would be taken care of as a female tutor.”

In that case, there’s no need to worry. Simon must have thought it through and put the story together for me. I thanked him.

“Thank you. It would be a burden to stay with Cerrado-niisama, and I felt guilty about having my husband prepare a house for me. . . Now I can move on to a new life.”

“Yes. I wish you all the best in your new beginning.”

Simon stated firmly, backing up my decision.

・・・

『”ᴀᴡᴇʙsᴛᴏʀɪᴇs.ᴄᴏᴍ” – ᴅɪsᴄᴏᴠᴇʀ ᴀ ᴄᴀᴘᴛɪᴠᴀᴛɪɴɢ ᴡᴏʀʟᴅ ᴏғ ʟᴏᴠᴇ, ᴘᴀssɪᴏɴ ᴀɴᴅ ᴀᴅᴠᴇɴᴛᴜʀᴇ, ᴡʜᴇʀᴇ ʏᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴ ɪɴᴅᴜʟɢᴇ ɪɴ ᴀ ᴄᴏʟʟᴇᴄᴛɪᴏɴ oғ ᴛʀᴀɴsʟᴀᴛᴇᴅ ɴᴏᴠᴇʟs ᴡɪᴛʜ “ᴅᴀɪʟʏ ᴜᴘᴅᴀᴛᴇs” ᴀɴᴅ ᴇxᴄʟᴜsɪᴠᴇ ᴀᴄᴄᴇss ᴛᴏ “ᴀᴅᴠᴀɴᴄᴇᴅ ᴄʜᴀᴘᴛᴇʀs”.』

・・・

I sorted out my personal affairs in a week and had a modest farewell dinner with the people I had become close to.

On the day I was to leave for Heyerdahl, I bid a temporary farewell to Simon at the station.

“Please leave all the procedures here to me. Once everything is finished, I will also go to Heyerdahl to report.”

As the wind blew his silver hair, Simon bowed politely to me, and I returned the gesture with a lady’s courtesy.

Simon’s jade eyes, which had aged beautifully, narrowed gently.

“Take care, Ojou-sama.”

“I’ve caused you trouble until the end. . . Thank you very much.”

Holding back the tears that threatened to spill, I boarded the train with a smile.

I kept waving at Simon, dressed in a black long coat, until I could no longer see him.

Two full days of changing trains north of the royal capital.

It takes a week by carriage to reach the territory of Margrave Heyerdahl.

“Margrave HeyerdahlーーI wonder what kind of person he is.”

Despite going to a completely unknown land, my heart was excited.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟑: 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐖𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐍𝐚𝐦𝐞𝐝 𝐂𝐡𝐥𝐨𝐞

Before we arrive at Heyerdahl, let me tell you a little about myself.

My name is Chloe. I come from the Count Maclouge family.

I was married into the Count Strelitzi family without even making my social debut.

This was because my father, Count Maclouge, had fallen ill with a terminal disease, and it was necessary to decide on a marriage partner quickly.

My husband, Count Stephan Strelitzi, was a man 20 years my senior, 34 years old at the time. Shortly after we became a married couple on paper, my father passed away.

After that, it was revealed that he had a 25-year-old mistress, Owenna, living in a separate house.

She was already pregnant with several children.

My mother-in-law said,

“I want to let my son do as he pleases, but I can’t leave the mistress in charge. In that regard, there’s no problem with Chloe-san’s family background. . . Are you worried because you have no experience? Don’t worry, I’ll train you properly as a mistress. For Chloe-san, who has no mother and no home to return to, this must be a dream come true, right?”

ーーIt seems my mother-in-law intended to use me like this from the start.

Having no home to return to, I had no choice but to accept everything.

The wedding ceremony was a simple affair with only those involved, and the person who stood in for my father was Simon, the butler who had served us since the days of the Count Maclouge family.

As for my husband.

On the eve of our wedding and on our wedding night.

He left me alone in the Count’s house and spent his time with his mistress.

After my father’s death, my brother Cerrado inherited only the title and wealth, and arranged for the land to be under the jurisdiction of the Count Strelitzi family, where I was to be married.

It is difficult enough for court magicians to manage territories as nobles, and the Count Maclouge territory has a magic stone mine, which is state property. “If the heir cannot manage the magic stone mine,” the transfer of land was smoothly accepted by the country, and it became the property of the Count Strelitzi family, where I was to be married.

My husband’s mistress, Owenna, lived in a separate house that was several times more magnificent and luxurious than the main house, had many children, and the beautiful ones were adopted by various noble families.

Since they are legally my and his children, the children of the mistress went to be adopted as children with the value of my family, the Maclouge family, and played an important role in connecting the Count Strelitzi and various noble families.

ーーIt’s ironic that I, who have never even held my husband’s hand in our white marriage, have become a mother of many children on paper.

I had always dreamed of becoming a “mother,” with the memory of my late mother in my heart.

For me, who has never been touched by my husband in our white marriage, Owenna was dazzling, hateful. . . and very enviable.

In the third year of our marriage, in the spring when I was 17, my father-in-law passed away.

With my husband’s permission, I built a school on the premises and started a charity activity to teach reading, writing, and handwriting to poor children in the territory who had no opportunity to learn.

My late parents were passionate about charity work for their subjects as a duty of nobility, so I wanted to be involved in charity work as much as possible, following in their footsteps.

Both my mother-in-law and my husband were disgusted with me, but I continued the school project, soothing them by saying, “This will also contribute to the reputation of the Strelitzi family.”

The only time I was truly happy was when I was interacting with the children.

In the fourth year of our marriage, during the winter when I was 18, my mother-in-law passed away.

Although our relationship as mother-in-law and daughter-in-law was based solely on mutual interests, it was she who taught me the basics of household management as a lady of the house, as I had been married off while still young, without even making my debut in society. I was indeed indebted to herーーof course, she treated me as nothing more than a “decoration for her son” until the end.

I mourned her with gratitude for raising me as a “Countess.”

On the other hand, after the death of his mother, my husband, her beloved son, stopped coming anywhere but his mistress’s villa.

It seemed that to my husband, his mother was nothing more than a thorn in his side.

It’s pitiful that the mother-in-law, who did everything for her beloved son, no matter how she did it, ended up like this.

ーーAnd then.

This year, in the fifth year of our marriage, his mistress finally obtained the status of an adopted daughter of a certain Viscount family. With the backing of various noble families who owed her favors for adopting her, she, who had become an adopted daughter in her thirties, seemed to have decided to finally drive me out.

My husband told me he wanted a divorce while chewing his breakfast.

It was the morning after I turned 19. 

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟒: 𝐓𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐋𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐇𝐞𝐲𝐞𝐫𝐝𝐚𝐡𝐥

The Margrave Heyerdahl territory is located to the north of the royal capital, beyond a rugged mountain range and a lake as vast as the sea.

As I approached by changing from a carriage to a train, the first thing I noticed was the change in the accent of the language. As I left the land I was accustomed to, the clothes of the people I passed changed, the smell of the food changed, the humidity of the wind touching my cheeks, the color of the sky, and the scenery I saw all changed completely.

“How are you feeling, Ojou-sama?”

The one who was concerned about me was a young maid who had come all the way from the Margrave Heyerdahl territory before I set off. As soon as the Margrave knew I was coming, he sent several guards and servants like this.

According to the knight escort,

“Our lord deeply respects Lord Maclouge. He said that we must not let his daughter suffer any inconvenience.”

“I’m not such a big deal. . .”

Although I felt sorry, honestly, I was grateful for his consideration. My husband said he would give me money, but I didn’t want to owe him any more if I could help it.

I turned my eyes to the guards and maids.

They were wearing long coats that I was used to seeing in the royal capital, but the clothes they wore underneath were somehow different from the maids and knights in the royal capital. The fabric was unusual, and the blouses and jackets peeking out from the cuffs and hems had embroidery I had never seen before.

The color of their silver hair, as pure as snow, and their handsome features were also something that no one I had ever dealt with in the royal capital or my territory had.

(I wonder if Margrave Heyerdahl also has silver hair. . .)

I don’t know his face, his voice, or the details of his connection with my father.

After passing through the mountainous region and traveling along a surprisingly well-paved highway, I finally arrived at his territory.

◇◇◇

As I imagined, everything I saw in the Margrave Heyerdahl territory was fresh and new to me.

The color of the roofs of the houses, the color and shape of the bricks, everything was different. Even though the religion was the same Goddess religion, the motifs displayed on the roofs had a strange shape that merged with nature worship, and I was just amazed.

The air was moist, and despite the early summer, the wind was cool. Wherever I looked, there were mountains with perennial snow in the distance.

“No wonder. . . It’s a strategic location on the border. . .”

There was a sturdy stone fortress on top of a small hill.

However, what I was guided to was not that for defense, but a castle built at the foot of a mountain near the city.

As soon as I stepped into the castle, the wind blew through. The wide corridor was always circulating with wind, and whether it was using magic or not, every room was strangely bright and maintained a comfortable humidity and temperature.

As I walked down the corridor, I heard children’s voices from the courtyard.

“Wait!!!”

“Kyahaha. . . I caught you, Nii-chan!”

In the bright green courtyard, the children were running around in great excitement. All of them had silver hair and long limbs, and they were well-dressed children, innocent yet well-dressed.

At the sight of their peaceful play, I couldn’t help but stop and stare.

“. . .Chloe-sama?”

The knight ahead called out to me. I was startled.

“I’m sorry. . . They just seemed to be having so much fun.”

“It’s them. I want you to tutor them.”

At that moment.

A soft, low voice that was not a knight’s reached my ears.

From the back of the mansion, a tall man approached with slow steps.

His long, wavy silver hair and deeply carved handsome features. He was a man with a sturdy physique, wearing a black cloak with splendid embroidery on the lining. A unique colored cord swayed as if entwined in his long hair. Whether it was a traditional attire of this region or something that indicated his status.

He stopped and stared at me with wide eyes.

“You are. . . finally. . .”

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟓: 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐨𝐝𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐇𝐞𝐲𝐞𝐫𝐝𝐚𝐡𝐥

He mutters as if in a delirium.

He was a beautiful man.

His eyes were a clear, icy ash-blue – perhaps he was from the Margrave Heyerdahl family.

“. . .I’ve been waiting to meet you for a long time, Miss Chloe.”

“Ah, um. . .”

His gaze pierced me, and I felt as if something had penetrated deep into my heart.

My chest hurt sharply. I was frozen in place for a while, struck by this new sensation.

Noticing the silent salutes of the knight and maid, I snapped back to reality.

I hurriedly greeted him.

“Nice to meet you. I am Chloe, the daughter of the late Count Maclouge.”

“Nice to meet you, huh. . .I see. That’s right.”

I felt a cold sweat trickle down my back at his faintly bitter smile.

Had we met before? I don’t remember.

Noticing my confusion, he shook his head as if it was nothing.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s only natural that you don’t remember. I’m the one who’s been unilaterally aware of you.”

He said this casually, then gave me a gentleman’s bow again.

“Let me introduce myself again. I am Margrave Theodore Heyerdahl. Nice to meet you, Miss Chloe.”

“Thank you very much for inviting me, Margrave Heyerdahl. I will be in your care for a while. I know there may be some shortcomings, but I hope for your kind guidance.”

“You can call me Theodore. If you’re his daughter, we don’t need to be so formal.”

His voice was low and pleasant.

Although he had a dignified presence, there was a gentleness in his eyes as he softly narrowed them.

It was surprising that he was the Margrave himself. I thought he would be older since he was an old acquaintance of my father’s, but he was surprisingly young. Mid-twenties – even if he was older, he wouldn’t be more than 30.

“I understand. Then. . .Theodore-sama.”

“Miss Chloe. It’s an honor to entrust you with the tutoring of my adopted children. But don’t overdo it. I want you to enjoy your time at Heyerdahl with a relaxed heart.”

“I appreciate your consideration.”

“I’d like to have a leisurely chat with you, not just a standing conversation, but unfortunately, I have an inspection of the magic stone mine today. You can rest from your journey and we can take time from tomorrow onwards, if that’s okay.”

“Of course. Please take care.”

“Then.”

Theodore-sama signaled to the knight and maid who were guarding me, looked at the children with a satisfied expression, and walked away leisurely.

I let out a sigh.

He was a man who exuded such dignity and beauty as a lord that I almost forgot to breathe. The presence of the eldest, who manages the defense of the country at such a young age, was so overwhelming.

The knight lowered the corners of his eyebrows apologetically.

“I’m sorry. The greeting with Danna-sama ended here. Danna-sama is always on edge to prevent mining accidents. . .please don’t take it personally.”

“. . .Not at all. It’s just. . .”

“Just. . .?”

“I apologize. I was just. . . surprised. . . Lord Heyerdahl, even to a mere tutor like me, he is someone who can look straight into my eyes and talk.”

“Oh, is that so?”

The knight looks relieved.

“Danna-sama is a wonderful person who is loved and respected by all the citizens of the Margrave territory. Please forget about your past hardships and spend peaceful days in Heyerdahl.”

The laughter of children echoes.

(Somehow, it seems like I can spend happy days. . .)

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟔: 𝐀𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐨𝐝𝐨𝐫𝐞-𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐚 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐨𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐌𝐲 𝐇𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐨𝐰𝐧

Upon arriving at the castle of Margrave HeyerdahlーーTheodore-sama, I received hospitality like I had never experienced in my life before.

I healed my travel-weary body in a medicinal bath, my hair, coated with fragrant oil, was dried with wind created by a magic stone, and all my clothes were newly prepared.

I slept soundly in a private room with a clean bed, and in the morning, there was even a new dress prepared for me.

“Um, I brought my own dress. . .”

To my confusion, an elderly maid smiled warmly.

Her name was Nowariya. She was probably about the same age as Simon.

“The climate here is different from the capital. We won’t force you, but the master has ordered us to prepare clothes suitable for the climate.”

“Theodore-sama. . .?”

“Yes. Why don’t you try it on for today?”

“Well. . . if I may indulge. . .”

With a bright and easy-to-understand smile, Nowariya cheerfully helped me dress.

The traditional Heyerdahl blouse, skirt, vest, stole, and decorative apron were all different from the dresses that tightly fit the body with stiff fabric. There was hardly any tightness in Heyerdahl’s clothes. Yet, my face reflected in the mirror looked smaller, and my waist looked slimmer. Was it the effect of the vivid embroidery, or the color?

“It suits you very well. It brings out the color of your chestnut hair and your soft blue eyes.”

She then beautifully braided my hair.

It was a style where a complex braid was loosely hung to the side.

After breakfast, I was to meet with Theodore-sama in the drawing room.

When I arrived, Theodore-sama was already sitting on the sofa with his long legs crossed. The morning light streaming in from the window made his silver hair and long eyelashes shine. His beauty was so stunning that I couldn’t help but admire him.

Theodore-sama looked at me and smiled faintly.

“Beautiful. It looks like you’ve been wearing it for a long time.”

Being praised so directly for the first time, my cheeks grew hot. I wanted to ask if it wasn’t too flashy, but I could only swallow in front of his straightforward words.

“Um. . . I’m just a tutor, and I’m grateful for all this.”

“You are Lord Maclouge’s precious daughter, no amount of courtesy would be enough. Even if that weren’t the case. . . Seeing a beautiful woman like you dressed up is dazzling and pleasing to my eyes.”

“. . .Really. . .”

Even when he spoke such flippant words, he was dignified and not at all insincere.

(If my ex-husband said the same thing, it would probably sound trivial)

Shaking off the unpleasant face that came to mind, I sat on the sofa facing him.

“Now, what should I talk to you about firstーー.”

While savoring the sweet tea, Theodore-sama explained to me about the Margrave Heyerdahl territory and about himself, breaking it down carefully.

ーーMargrave Theodore Heyerdahl is 25 years old this year. At 18, he inherited the title from his father, the previous Margrave, and has since been protecting the Margrave’s territory with the vassals he inherited from his predecessor.

His connection with my father dates back seven years, to when we were invaded by a neighboring country.

“It was right after I became the new lord, seven years ago. We were invaded at the border, taking advantage of the death of my predecessor, my father. They probably thought they could expect some territorial expansion against a greenhorn lord. As they expected, I had a hard time getting my house in order. . . But the one who helped me then was Lord Maclouge.”

He looked into the distance, his eyes falling on the surface of his tea.

His eyes were filled with nostalgic respect.

“Your fatherーーCount Maclouge, as a lord who owned the same magic stone mine, pleaded for the importance of the Margrave Heyerdahl territory, which was being underestimated at the royal palace at the time. I heard that he even crawled before His Majesty the King to explain the necessity of helping us.”

“My father. . . did such a thing. . .”

Seven years ago, my father was already being eaten away by illness. It must have been very hard for him to even go to the royal palace.

“At that time, I was still a child who had never left the territory. My father was not the type to bring work matters into the mansion. . . That’s why I didn’t know about the connection with my father.”

“Yes. So if the situation had been different, . . .”

Just as he was about to say something, the voices of children could be heard from the other side of the corridor.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟕: 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐧

“Ah. . . They’re here.”

His face changed from that of a lord to that of a father.

“Let me introduce you. These are my children.”

They lined up in front of us and greeted us one by one, starting with the oldest, with shy smiles.

The youngest is 6 years old, then one each of 7 and 8 years old, two 10-year-olds, two 12-year-olds, three 13-year-olds, one 14-year-old, and one 15-year-old. A total of 12 children.

All of them were dressed in ethnic costumes, with various shades of silver hair, from brownish silver to peach-colored silver, to silver that was almost black.

From their curious looks, it was clear that they had been raised in a healthy and loving environment.

The eyes of Theodore-sama, looking at them, were warm like a real father’s.

I stood in front of them and curtsied as an example of a lady.

“I will be your tutor from now on, my name is Chloe. I am your teacher for manners and studies, but please be my teachers when it comes to the life of Heyerdahl.”

“”Teacher, nice to meet you!””

“Nice to meet you too.”

Their synchronized voices were very adorable.

After we finished greeting each other, a girl ――12-year-old Berretta-sama raised her hand.

“Teacher, may I ask a question?”

“Go ahead.”

“When will you become Lord Father’s bride?”

“Eh?!”

I let out an unladylike voice without thinking.

As I covered my mouth in surprise, Theodore-sama gave a wry smile.

Feeling my cheeks heat up under his gaze, I cleared my throat.

“No, that’s not it. I am here as a tutor. I am not Theodore-sama’s bride.”

“Eh, you’re not?”

“Because Lord Father, he never gets married.”

“But he has a lot of children. He became our Lord Father after our real father passed away.”

“It seems like he’s been down ever since he had his engagement broken off a long time ago.”

“That’s right. The broken engagement.”

“So we’ve been saying it would be nice if the teacher was his new lover.”

“Right?”

“Women are always talking about marriage.”

“Right. Lord Father is not hung up on his broken engagement, he’s just not interested in women because he’s working hard as a lord. Right, Lord Father?”

“Please say something, Lord Father.”

As the children started to chatter, Theodore-sama gave a wry smile.

“Hey, you guys. You’re making the teacher uncomfortable. And don’t talk about my unpleasant past without permission.”

“Do you want to show off your cool side, Lord Father?”

“Kyaa.”

“That’s not what Lord Father is about.”

“Serio, you’re just complaining because you don’t want Lord Father to be taken by a bride.”

“What did you say?!”

“Well, well, everyone.”

I tried to calm them down.

While re-crossing his legs on the sofa, Theodore-sama was shaking his shoulders and laughing as if he couldn’t help it.

“Haha. . . I’m sorry. It would be better if they were more like noble children, but whether it’s my upbringing or not, they’re all so innocent. . .”

“Not at all. It’s great to see them having fun. I’ve been teaching the children of my subjects, so I’m eager to get started.”

“That’s reassuring.”

I nodded back at Theodore-sama’s smile.

Then, I clapped my hands to gather the children’s attention.

“Alright. Everyone, please sit on that sofa. Today, your teacher will introduce herself and talk about the royal capital and her hometown. Please tell me about Theodore-sama and Heyerdahl.”

“Okay!”

I took advantage of the children’s curiosity and started by learning about them.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟖: 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 𝐚𝐭 𝐇𝐞𝐲𝐞𝐫𝐝𝐚𝐡𝐥 

Two weeks have passed since then.

I had completely adapted to life in Heyerdahl. 

In the mornings, I taught the younger children things through songs and walks, and in the afternoons, I taught the teenagers about manners and the basics of noble society.

Theodore-sama would occasionally make time to visit the children’s study room, sitting in a small chair and listening to my stories.

Teaching in front of an audience was somewhat embarrassing.

“Don’t mind me. Just think of me as a mischievous boy who’s intruded.”

“Even if you say that. . .”

Even so, seeing Theodore-sama getting along with the children made me happy, so I tried to focus on my duties as a tutor as much as possible without worrying about it.

When he started singing a cute nursery rhyme with the children during a walk, I had to tell him, “Please stop, it’s not appropriate for a lord.”

I worked on education tailored to each child’s personality and aptitude, in cooperation with the nanny maids. For children who were good at singing, we expanded their interest from singing. For those interested in magic, they learned while looking at the magic stone mine and actual magical tools.

“Forget studying, I want to be of help to Lord Father as soon as possible.”

For children who appealed in this way, we let them learn from knowledge related to Theodore-sama’s work.

I had felt this way since I was involved in education as a charity, but I think I really enjoy interacting with children who have a future.

・・・

『”𝔸𝕨𝕖𝕓𝕤𝕥𝕠𝕣𝕚𝕖𝕤.𝕔𝕠𝕞” – 𝔻𝕚𝕤𝕔𝕠𝕧𝕖𝕣 𝕒 𝕔𝕒𝕡𝕥𝕚𝕧𝕒𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕨𝕠𝕣𝕝𝕕 𝕠𝕗 𝕝𝕠𝕧𝕖, 𝕡𝕒𝕤𝕤𝕚𝕠𝕟 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕒𝕕𝕧𝕖𝕟𝕥𝕦𝕣𝕖, 𝕨𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕔𝕒𝕟 𝕚𝕟𝕕𝕦𝕝𝕘𝕖 𝕚𝕟 𝕒 𝕔𝕠𝕝𝕝𝕖𝕔𝕥𝕚𝕠𝕟 𝕠𝕗 𝕥𝕣𝕒𝕟𝕤𝕝𝕒𝕥𝕖𝕕 𝕟𝕠𝕧𝕖𝕝𝕤 𝕨i𝕥𝕙 “𝕕𝕒𝕚𝕝𝕪 𝕦𝕡𝕕𝕒𝕥𝕖𝕤” 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕖𝕩𝕔𝕝𝕦𝕤𝕚𝕧𝕖 𝕒𝕔𝕔𝕖𝕤𝕤 𝕥𝕠 “𝕒𝕕𝕧𝕒𝕟𝕔𝕖𝕕 𝕔𝕙𝕒𝕡𝕥𝕖𝕣𝕤”.』

・・・

One afternoon.

When I tried to report to Theodore-sama about the day, I was guided by a servant to a carriage outside the castle.

Theodore-sama was already there. Dressed in a gray suit with a black cloak inspired by ethnic clothing, he smiled softly at me.

“Let’s talk while we move.”

“If you’re busy, we can do it another time. . .”

I was worried that he was so busy that he had to talk even while moving.

He laughed off my concerns, saying, “That’s not it.”

“I thought it wouldn’t be bad to have a conversation while sightseeing in the city.”

While worrying about whether I was interrupting his work, I talked to Theodore-sama about the children’s behavior today in the departing carriage. He looked me in the eye and listened with interest.

“Miss Chloe is amazing.”

“Eh?”

“You’ve bonded with those children faster than I imagined. They seemed nervous until they saw your face, being a tutor from outside Heyerdahl. . . I’m glad.”

“All of them are honest, well-behaved, and kind children. . . It’s all thanks to everyone who has been carefully dealing with the children.”

“Indeed, the nannies in the castle are doing a good job. But that, and Miss Chloe being a good teacher, are two different things. It’s because they recognized you as an adult worthy of acceptance.”

As the wind blew in from the window, Theodore-sama looked at me with a dazzling gaze. His gray eyes were capturing only me, and it felt too precious, so I turned my gaze outside.

The mountains with perennial snow, the fresh greenery.

I feel as if I’m being watched by the magnificent view from the carriage.

“. . .I myself became the wife of my divorced husband without even making my debut, not knowing right from left. My mother-in-law thoroughly drilled into me the education of a lady, as I was a child so ignorant it was foolish. I am grateful for that. . .but I don’t want young children to go through the same hardships due to ignorance. So, it’s like I’m doing it for my past self.”

“You’re kind, Miss Chloe.”

“I’m not kind, it’s my self-satisfaction.”

“Then let me say it for my own satisfaction. You are kind.”

He praises me with a stubborn seriousness.

My cheeks heat up under his gaze.

“Those children are the children left behind by my subordinates. They are children who have lost their parents in the chaos of war, who have grown up in their hearts while still young, and who have endured hardships to survive. . .If they can show just an innocent face in front of adults, it’s because of your kindness.”

“That’s an exaggeration. . .”

“Humility is unnecessary. You will be properly recognized and accepted here. . .Rest assured, and spend your time in our castle.”

“Thank you.”

The carriage enters the city.

Theodore-sama, his hair and decorative cord swaying, tells me in a boyish, buoyant voice.

“There’s a shop that serves good cake. Let’s go together.”

“Eh. . .Um, isn’t today your official duty?”

When I ask in confusion, he smiles.

“I’ve been having Miss Chloe taken away by the children. Today, you’ll accompany me.”

“Eh. . .Eh.”

“Do you mind?”

“. . .Not at all. . .”

“Then.”

Theodore-sama gets off the carriage and extends his hand to me.

I place my hand on his firm, strong palm and follow him off the carriage. I think his palm is hot. His large hand supports mine as if handling a fragile object.

ーーThis might be the first time I’ve been treated as a lady by having my hand taken like this.

Even while eating a cake set at the café, I felt as if my chest was about to burst with tension.

・・・

『”𝘈𝘸𝘦𝘣𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴.𝘤𝘰𝘮” – 𝘋𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘢 𝘤𝘢𝘱𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘭𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦, 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦, 𝘸𝘩e𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘶𝘭𝘨𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 “𝘥𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘺 𝘶𝘱𝘥𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘴” 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘦𝘹𝘤𝘭𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘰 “𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴”.』

・・・

“I’ve always wanted to spend time with you like this. . .Thank you, Miss Chloe.”

On the way home, he thanked me with his face lit by the setting sun.

Somehow, his words seemed to carry the weight of a truly long wait. . .I felt strange, but I couldn’t ask any more about it.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟗: 𝐀𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞, 𝐚𝐭 𝐦𝐲 𝐞𝐱-𝐡𝐮𝐬𝐛𝐚𝐧𝐝’𝐬 𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐞

When his sister Cassie stopped by the mansion that Stephan, who had inherited the family headship, lived in, she screamed when she was greeted by my foolish brother’s mistress.

She asked why it wasn’t the young wife who had been entrusted with the household affairs and had been bullied by her mother-in-law until she became thin.

“Why are you acting as the mistress of the house, Owenna?”

“Because I’m the legal wife now. Didn’t you know? Even though you’re his sister.”

Cassie, who had turned pale, immediately called for the house steward, but it seemed that the steward, who was directly under my foolish brother, was out on business in the royal capital with him. Instead, a young servant who was not very familiar with household affairs came out.

Cassie dragged him into the parlor and grilled him about the whole story.

From his explanation, which he gave in a flustered manner due to her fierce demeanor, Cassie was finally able to grasp the situation.

“. . .So, that idiot Stephan kicked out his young wife and is going to remarry that mistressーーOwenna, who has become a Viscount’s daughter on paper. But since they can’t remarry immediately due to the law, and Owenna can’t handle the household affairs as a mistress at all, you’re taking over the household affairs instead.”

“That’s correct.”

Cassie sighed deeply while fanning her lemon water.

“Really, what is he thinking. . .”

Cassie had already married into another Marquis family, but the aristocratic society is a small one connected by blood. That’s why they report each other’s situations through letters and social interactions.

The fact that Cassie didn’t know until now means that she wasn’t informed. It’s too sloppy not to have been able to grasp the current situation of her family.

“. . .What about the division of property?”

“Ah, yes. It seems that the former Oku-sama was only given the bare minimum of personal belongings and alimony. Since there was hardly any division of property, I suppose Danna-sama didn’t inform Cassie-sama.”

“. . .What about the land?”

“The land? Yes, of course, there was no land allocated to Oku-sama.”

At that moment, Cassie stared at the servant with wide eyes. The servant held his breath.

“Ah, um. . .Cassie-sama?”

“Chloe went far away, didn’t she?”

“Yes. She left the territory immediately.”

“. . .”

Cassie pondered. Something was too perfect.

The former wife who was gotten rid of with just her body.

A pitiful disposable wife who was entrusted with the care and nursing of her mother-in-law and father-in-law, and the household affairs, without having a child, and was kicked out when she was no longer needed.

ーーIs that really the case?

“Hey.”

“Ye, yes.”

“Who handled this divorce procedure, division of property, and all other procedures? You? Or Stephan? Or the steward?”

“Yes. It was not me, Danna-sama, or the steward, but the former Oku-sama’s servant who handled everything. Apparently, since he has been handling all of Oku-sama’s financial management since her time at the Maclouge family, the paperwork was smooth. . .”

After thinking for a while, Cassie looked at the servant.

She gave an order in a low voice to the servant who was breathless from being shot by her gaze.

“Let me check those documents right away.”

“But, but. . .”

“Are you saying I can’t?”

“I’m afraid. . . since Cassie-sama is already a wife of a Marquis, I cannot show you the documents related to the mansion’s assets.”

“Then who can see them?”

“Er. . .! Once Danna-sama returns, I can arrange for you to see them immediately.”

“Then hurry up and do that. And send a letter to that foolish younger brother. Tell him to come back soon, something terrible might be happening.”

“Yes.”

The servant bows and leaves the room as if fleeing.

Cassie grips a goblet filled with lemon water and glares into space.

“If it’s just Chloe, there’s nothing to be afraid of. She’s just a naive little girl. . . It wouldn’t be strange if she signed the divorce papers under overwhelmingly disadvantageous conditions and went somewhere with nothing but the clothes on her back. But that servant. . . would he allow that. . . No. . .”

Cassie drains her water. Then she frowns at the fogged surface of the goblet’s glass.

Back when the young wife was here, every corner of the room was beautifully arranged, and even a single glass maintained a flawless beauty.

As the Countess Strelitzi, the mother-in-lawーーshe had been thoroughly treated by her mother, and they met several times a year.

Cassie knew that the life of a noblewoman in charge of household affairs was surprisingly harsh, but she was well aware of the sight of her thin sister-in-law, who had never had a glamorous debutante or girlhood, being worked hard all over the house, to the point of being mistaken for a maid.

ーーWhen she saw that, as a woman, she felt some sympathy and pity.

However, she was an incredibly good-natured person.

After the death of her father-in-law, she thought she would have some respite, but she started working again, covered in dirt and sweat, to build a school for reading and writing for the common people as a charity.

Moreover, she devotedly took on the care of her mother-in-law who had bullied her, and even shed tears at the funeral.

Cassie’s assessment of Chloe was that she was a good-natured and eccentric person beyond comprehension.

Where had that servant, who had watched over and supported her like a father, gone?

Did he really approve of her being driven out of the house with nothing but the clothes on her back?

“There must be something going on. . .”

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏𝟎: 𝐅𝐢𝐞𝐥𝐝 𝐓𝐫𝐢𝐩 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐃𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠

Today, on a clear day, I accompanied the children to inspect Theodore-sama’s magic stone mine.

“Because the actual mining pit is dangerous, let’s guide you to the inspection building.”

We headed to the inspection building on a hill overlooking the mining pit dug into the mountain. Theodore-sama pointed from the terrace and explained each building to me and the children.

“That tall tower-like structure is a hoisting machine. It’s used to transport the mined magic stones by cart and to send workers to the site. Those blue glowing lanterns are magic stone detectors, necessary for safety management inside the pit.”

“. . . It’s quite different from the magic stone mine I know.”

I honestly expressed my impression. 

When I think of a mine, I remember it as a rough working environment where so-called “mountain men” with artisanal spirits manage the site. However, the people working here are wearing clean, uniform work clothes provided as uniforms, and the atmosphere is orderly and good. The color and letters on the armbands attached to the work clothes easily indicate who is in charge of what.

While I was admiring and touring, Theodore-sama narrowed his ash-blue eyes.

“It’s surprising, isn’t it?”

“Yes. The magic stone mine I knew was much smaller than this one, but it felt like it relied more on the abilities of each worker. . .”

“Instead of relying on the craftsman’s intuition or the customs of the site, we prioritize safety management by thoroughly managing it. Other mines say it’s a waste of money, or sarcastically ask if workers are more important than magic stonesーーbut by improving safety management and working conditions, we can increase the number of excellent workers and have them work longer and safer, which leads to the profit of this place.”

“That’s wonderful. . .”

“You can’t save anything with just beautiful words, but that doesn’t mean there are no beautiful words that can be put into practice.”

It must be a very good workplace in reality. Everyone is full of vitality, and those who notice Theodore-sama’s presence direct their genuine smiles towards him. Just from that, it was clear that he was loved by his subjects.

“The governance of my territory is made possible by magic stones. . . Each of them is a precious treasure.”

All the children were fascinated by Theodore-sama’s profile. There must be something for the children to learn from the way he is as a lord, who is also their stepfather.

At that moment, Berretta tugged at my sleeve and whispered in my ear, stretching herself.

“Isn’t Lord Father really cool?”

“. . .Yes, he is.”

My heart jumps at her suggestive way of speaking.

It’s a failure as a teacher to be excited by a child’s comment. 

“Teacher, we’re going home after this. Go on a date with Lord Father.”

“Eh, but. . .”

As I was flustered, two of the younger children tugged at Theodore-sama’s sleeve and clung to his arm.

“Hey, hey, Lord Father, I’m hungry~.”

“I’m sleepy~. Can we go home just by ourselves~?”

As if to support their sweet requests, an older boy bluntly said,

“Lord Father. I have a study session for a school exam with the son of a minister this afternoon. I’ll take everyone home.”

“E-Everyone. . .”

It was clear that the children were trying to leave Theodore-sama and me alone.

Is this okay? I wondered if it would be a bother to Theodore-sama. While I was flustered, the children quickly returned home in a carriage with their servants.

Theodore-sama and I were left on the terrace.

“. . . Theodore-sama. . .”

“You’re worried, aren’t you?”

He gave a bitter smile and returned to the room from the terrace. As I followed him, I was thinking about how I should behave from now on.

“I think it’s not too late, so I’ll go home with the children.”

“Don’t say that.”

To me, who was trying to escape, Theodore-sama turned around and gave a bitter smile.

“If you’re okay with it, I’d like you to join me for lunch. This place has a restaurant that is also inspected by the royal family, so I can guarantee the taste.”

“. . . If I’m acceptable. . .”

“It’s decided. Come, Miss Chloe.”

ーーCome.

The sweetness of his words, as if rolling them on his tongue, made my heart flutter in a way that was inappropriate for my status.

I had never felt this way about my former husband or anyone else.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏𝟏: 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐨𝐝𝐨𝐫𝐞-𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐚 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈 𝐭𝐨𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫

The restaurant, which was said to host royal family members visiting for mine inspections, was beautifully designed and served exquisite dishes.

While enjoying the ice cream cake and tea after the meal, Theodore-sama and I spent a peaceful time.

“How is the mine in your hometownーーthe former Maclouge territory?”

“I. . . left the management of that to Simon.”

Feeling embarrassed, I answered honestly.

“I used to accompany my father on his inspections many times when I was a child. But after marrying into the Strelitzi family, I lost all opportunities to visit. My mother-in-law disliked me interfering in the management of the territory, and I didn’t have the luxury to leave the main house due to my training as a mistress and household affairs. Besides.”

“Besides?”

“More than anything. . . it was painful to see the Maclouge territory, where my father’s memories are, become the Strelitzi territory. It felt like being confronted with the fact that my father was really gone from this world.”

“It must have been hard. . .”

I was taken aback by Theodore-sama’s pained expression as he furrowed his brows.

What a childish and shameful sentiment I had voiced.

“I’m sorry. During our meal. . . I shouldn’t have brought up such a thing.”

“No. I’m glad you talked to me.”

Theodore-sama shook his head. The cord tying his silver hair swayed vividly as it slid over his black formal attire.

“You don’t have to carry everything on your own. You’ve done enough. . . There’s no hesitation in mourning the death of your real parents. Especially with me. It’s comforting for me too, to be able to talk about the memories of the Count Maclouge whom I respect.”

“Theodore-sama. . .”

“It was a wise decision for you to leave the management of the mines and the territory to Simon. It’s not a bad thing to entrust your burdens to those who wish to take care of Miss Chloe.”

Theodore-sama intertwined his fingers on the table and spoke to me gently.

Since coming to this landーーI’ve been cherished and spoken to with kind words.

“You’re not alone anymore. I’m your family.”

When he tells me that straight with his strong ash-blue eyes, I can’t stop my heart from melting sweetly.

“. . . Theodore-sama. . .”

“If your pain eases even a little, let’s go to the old Maclouge’s magic stone mine together someday. I want to feel the land of Miss Chloe and your father’s memories together.”

“Thank you. . . Yes. If the day comes when we can go together, by all means.”

At that time, he said with a slight squint in his eyes.

“We’ll be able to go eventually. If you leave it to Simon, everything will go well.”

Encouraged by the strength of his assertive words, I nodded, saying “Yes.”

If Theodore-sama says so, I feel like the future will be filled with smiles, and I’ll be able to visit the old Maclouge’s magic stone mine.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏𝟐: 𝐅𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐞𝐫 𝐇𝐮𝐬𝐛𝐚𝐧𝐝’𝐬 𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧

When Stephan returned from the royal capital, he was confronted not by his beloved mistress – or rather, his newly wedded wife Owenna, but by his sister Cassie, who was standing defiantly with her face flushed red.

He remembered receiving a letter from Chloe stating that they had divorced. Had she come here after reading Chloe’s letter?

“Hey Nee-san. What the.”

“Never mind that. Come to the office right away.”

He was taken aback by the sight of his sister stomping into the room.

“Good grief, even though I’m the master of this house now, how long is she going to act so high and mighty. . .”

Sighing, Stephan headed to the office with heavy steps.

“Even though I’m saying I’m tired, she. . .”

The truth is.

Since driving Chloe out, Stephan had been surprisingly busy.

Until now, he had left all the housekeeping to his mother, and after her death, to Chloe, who was his wife.

He had thought that the housekeeping done by the mistress of the house was not a big deal, but there were more small tasks to do than he had imagined.

From charity to the villagers, responding to requests, dealing with sudden visits from nobles, accommodating pilgrims, regular inspections of the mansion, organizing documents, letters, ordering gifts, personnel affairs of the servants, dealing with troubles, managing the vigilante group, and so on – there were countless tasks that Chloe had been involved in.

He had thought that even Owenna, who had no education or culture, could manage the housekeeping as long as there were servants to keep the house, but his foresight was short.

So, the troubled Stephan had just solved most of Chloe’s work by leaving it to the servant she had left behind――Simon.

He was a man who had originally served as the house steward of the Count Maclouge family, and since he had been watching Chloe’s work from the sidelines, he took over Chloe’s work without hesitation.

It was a pleasant miscalculation for Stephan that he, who had come to Chloe from the Count Maclouge family, stayed in the Strelitzi family even after he broke off relations with Chloe.

Why did he stay?

Probably because there was no benefit in following a woman who had been disowned with nothing but the clothes on her back.

Stephan had only thought about the reason why Simon stayed in the Strelitzi family to that extent.

Unaware that it was calling hell.

・・・

『”𝕬𝖜𝖊𝖇𝖘𝖙𝖔𝖗𝖎𝖊𝖘.𝖈𝖔𝖒” – 𝕯𝖎𝖘𝖈𝖔𝖛𝖊𝖗 𝖆 𝖈𝖆𝖕𝖙𝖎𝖛𝖆𝖙𝖎𝖓𝖌 𝖜𝖔𝖗𝖑𝖉 𝖔𝖋 𝖑𝖔𝖛𝖊, 𝖕𝖆𝖘𝖘𝖎𝖔𝖓 𝖆𝖓𝖉 𝖆𝖉𝖛𝖊𝖓𝖙𝖚𝖗𝖊, 𝖜𝖍𝖊𝖗𝖊 𝖞𝖔𝖚 𝖈𝖆𝖓 𝖎𝖓𝖉𝖚𝖑𝖌𝖊 𝖎𝖓 𝖆 𝖈𝖔𝖑𝖑𝖊𝖈𝖙𝖎𝖔𝖓 𝖔𝖋 𝖙𝖗𝖆𝖓𝖘𝖑𝖆𝖙𝖊𝖉 𝖓𝖔𝖛𝖊𝖑𝖘 𝖜𝖎𝖙𝖍 “𝖉𝖆𝖎𝖑𝖞 𝖚𝖕𝖉𝖆𝖙𝖊𝖘” 𝖆𝖓𝖉 𝖊𝖝𝖈𝖑𝖚𝖘𝖎𝖛𝖊 𝖆𝖈𝖈𝖊𝖘𝖘 𝖙𝖔 “𝖆𝖉𝖛𝖆𝖓𝖈𝖊𝖉 𝖈𝖍𝖆𝖕𝖙𝖊𝖗𝖘”.』

・・・

ーーAbout an hour later.

In the office were Cassie, her face red, and Stephan, his face pale.

“We absolutely won’t help! You have to do something about it!”

Cassie, her face red with anger, yelled and threw documents at her brother Stephan.

Stephan tried to retort to his sister’s violence, but he just clenched his jaw and closed his mouth. His hands on the office desk were clenched so hard that they changed color, and his sweaty palms were dampening the desk.

Beside the siblings were the steward, who couldn’t lift his face from the carpet, and the young servant.

Stephan directed his irritation at the document.

“I can’t believe Simon would go this far. . .”

“It’s not that you were tricked, it’s because you didn’t read the contract properly. . . Because you just casually signed it!”

Remembering the expressionless old butler with his monocle, Stephan gritted his teeth.

Chloe, who owned neither land nor property, agreed to the divorce and left the house with nothing but herself.

It was a trap.

With the death of the previous Count Maclouge, the land of Maclouge, which had become unmanageable by Chloe’s brother, the current Count Cerrado, had become the territory of the Strelitzi family.

It seemed natural that the Strelitzi family, where Chloe, who was of Maclouge blood, had married, and whose territory was adjacent, would inherit it.

On the land of the Maclouge family, there was a magic stone mine.

The magic stone mine is, in principle, state property, except for the special case of the Margrave related to national defense.

The lord who manages it is entrusted with the management of the mine by the country, and all magic stones exceeding the amount allowed as management fees must be paid to the country.

In other words, managing a magic stone mine is a hassle, and it doesn’t directly bring profit to the territory. That’s why Stephan had been dismissive of it.

However.

Among the property management documents, Stephan had overlooked a small sentence. It was written in a document based on the national magic stone mine management law.

[The management of the magic stone mine is delegated to (a) a nationally recognized magic power holder or (b) a nobleman or his male spouse listed in the royal family’s magic stone mine miner list. If a person who does not fall under either (a) or (b) becomes the manager of the magic stone mine, they shall pay a quality guarantee fee based on the calculation in Table 12.]

Looking at the amount of the compensation in Table 12, Stephan broke out in a cold sweat. It was an amount that even the annual income of the Count Strelitzi family could not cover. Moreover, only payment within the deadline was accepted.

“You’ve got to be kidding me, there’s no way such a ridiculous law exists.”

In modern society, unlike hundreds of years ago, magic power is a rare special ability. Most families with magic power holders rarely produce people with abilities. In such a modern age, magic stones are an important resource.

It was a bolt from the blue for Stephan, who had lived forgetting the importance of magic power holders.

There are no nationally recognized magic power holders among the relatives close to the Count Strelitzi family.

The closest one, or rather, the one who was closest, was Chloe’s brother.

“I’ve never heard of Chloe being a magic power holder. . . And yet, just because someone of that bloodline is the manager, there was no need for a quality guarantee fee. . .”

“What are you going to do? You’re the one who signed the property division and divorce papers. At this rate, the Count Strelitzi family will have no choice but to go bankrupt.”

“Hey, help me out.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I’m already married. You have to do something about it.”

In his panic, Stephan remembered something crucial.

“Wait. Where’s Simon?!”

The pale servants looked at each other and then tilted their heads.

“Come to think of it. . . I thought he was here this morning. . .”

“Find him!!! Find that damn old man!!!!”

Stephan shouted.

“Find that old man and make him spit out a solution. Then get Chloe back. At any rate, even if she’s just for show, I want her to come back to this house.”

Stephan, his sister Cassie, and the servants were all in a panic.

They had completely overlooked the fact that Owenna, who had taken the position of the main wife, had not shown herself since morning.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏𝟑: 𝐅𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐞𝐫 𝐋𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫, 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐎𝐰𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐚

ーーThe time goes back a few hours.

The former mistress, now Countess Owenna Strelitzi, was bored.

Ever since Stephan’s sister Cassie came, the mansion has been in an uproar.

“What happened?”

Even when she asked my husband, he dismissed her with “It’s none of your business,” and Cassie even clicked her tongue and glared at her.

Bored, Owenna decided to go back to the separate house where she used to live, a little away from the main house, and drink. The separate house is familiar to Owenna, with only a few servants, and she knows where the alcohol and cigarettes are.

“The atmosphere is terrible, isn’t it?”

“Okaa-san, stop drinking from noon. . .”

Next to Owenna, who was drinking on the terrace, her 10-year-old daughter frowned. This daughter, who has a plain face full of freckles, is probably the child of a different man than Stephan. Unlike Stephan, who was a mistress for an easy life, she was the child of a serious one-night love affair with a lower-class man.

“I can’t stand it without drinking. Anne, give it back.”

“No. I’ll bring some water.”

While watching the back of Anne, who was pouting in anger, Owenna lost herself in thought.

When you’re a nobleman’s mistress, you can get pregnant and give birth painlessly and calmly with a magic stone, which is a lifesaver. For Owenna, who was born lowly, pregnancy and childbirth were things to overcome severe pain and death. If there’s no pain in the body and the security of money, Owenna would give birth as much as she wanted, and the born children would be adopted one after another, and Stephan would be grateful. It was the best cycle.

That being said, she kept this plain daughter, Anne, with her.

She had a large spot on her face when she was a toddler, so she was disliked for it and no one wanted to adopt her. It’s okay to keep one with me. The daughter she raised with that thought finally lost the spot on her face around the age of 5, and now it’s just freckles.

Perhaps because Anne was always kept with her, she grew up to be a strangely caring and serious child.

“. . . Ah, it’s boring to be a legal wife.”

Owenna muttered, sighing.

Being a legal wife was a dream. But once she became one, it was endlessly boring.

When she lived in the separate house, she would bring young men into the house when no one was there, or have drunken parties with her girlfriends, but since she started living in the main house, she felt like she was living under surveillance.

The old servants looked at Owenna with a disgusted face, and the peasants and nobles kept bringing business to her, the mistress, so it was troublesome all day long.

It was because Chloe, who had been divorced, was half-heartedly involved in the management of the territory. She wanted to curse.

“You seem to be free.”

The one who came to Owenna’s side was an old man with a monocle and long white hair slicked back.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏𝟒: 𝐒𝐢𝐦𝐨𝐧’𝐬 𝐈𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬

“You’re. . . that Chloe’s butler, right?”

“My name is Simon, Oku-sama.”

With a beautifully straightened posture, the old gentleman bows.

“I was managing the villa today, so I thought I’d greet Oku-sama.”

“I see.”

Owenna wasn’t interested in Simon, but she wanted someone to talk to out of boredom. So Owenna spoke to Simon.

“You were Chloe’s butler, why did you stay here?”

“Yes. As for the management of the mansion, I had to stay because there was no one else who could handle it.”

“You’re as serious as Chloe. You don’t have to be loyal to this house that made your Ojou-sama unhappy and took over the Maclouge territory.”

Those were not words that Owenna, who had caused Chloe’s cold treatment, should say.

But Owenna was the kind of woman who could say it.

Even to the blunt Owenna, Simon answers without moving a brow.

“I am simply fulfilling my role.”

“I see.”

What a boring man.

Owenna thought so as she lit a cigarette.

And while they were talking, she asked Simon.

“Where did Chloe go? Her brotherーーthe current Lord Maclouge is a palace magician, right? Doesn’t she have a place to stay?”

“Chloe-ojousama is currently in the Margrave Heyerdahl territory.”

“. . . Heyerdahl?”

Owenna didn’t know the place.

“It’s a mountainous territory at the northern end of the kingdom, beyond where you change from a carriage to a train from the royal capital.”

“Hmm. . . She’s gone to such a countryside.”

“Yes. So she probably won’t come back to the Count Strelitzi territory again.”

At that moment, Owenna reacted to the temperature of Simon’s words that somehow hinted at something.

“What do you mean she won’t come back?”

“Yes. Margrave Heyerdahl is a person with deep ties to the Count Maclouge family. And he is young and single. . . I hope that Ojou-sama will remarry as it is.”

“Remarry. . . You’re joking, right? That plain woman can’t do that well.”

She thought Simon wouldn’t retort here.

But contrary to Owenna’s expectations, the old gentleman smiled.

It was a bright smile, so much so that he seemed somewhat triumphant.

“The Margrave is a compassionate person. Ojou-sama will surely be happy. There’s also a magic stone mine, and she’ll be much wealthier than living in the Strelitzi house. . . Oh, I misspoke.”

At Simon’s deliberate words, Owenna leaned forward.

It was not a time to be lazily smoking a cigarette.

“There’s a magic stone mine here too, isn’t there? What’s the difference?”

“Even though they are the same magic stone mines, all of them here belong to the country. But over there, due to a special case of border defense, most of the revenue from the magic stone mine becomes the property of the Margrave territory. So the more you dig, the richer you become. Ah, I’m envious.”

“. . .What did you say. . .”

Chloe, the legitimate wife who had always been looked down upon.

A stupid, weak woman who always drew the short straw. The thought of such a woman becoming happier than herself made Owenna’s irritation bubble up from the pit of her stomach.

Even though she didn’t have any children. She adopted the child she gave birth to under her own name, lived a carefree married life with a white marriage, and lived comfortably as a legitimate wife.

Owenna doesn’t know about Chloe’s hardships. She doesn’t even try to know.

That’s why Owenna suddenly started to see Chloe as a cowardly woman who always gets the best of everything.

“I can’t stand the thought of such a protected, weak woman becoming happy.”

Simon says nothing.

As Owenna gets up to go inside, she bumps into Anne.

“Okaa-san, what’s wrong?”

“Anne. Get ready. We’re going on a trip.”

“Eh?”

Anne, with her eyes wide open. Simon called out to Owenna’s back.

“If you’re going on a trip, I’ll take care of preparing the passports and such.”

“I’ll leave it to you.”

“Eh. . . Eh, what’s going on?”

To the flustered Anne, Owenna tells her with bloodshot eyes from alcohol.

“We’re going on a trip. We’re going to see how the former legitimate wife is living now. You’re coming too.”

“Eh. . . Wait. I, I don’t understand. . .”

“The trip is just a pretext. I’m going to sell you to a 25-year-old Margrave.”

At her mother’s glaring gaze, Anne is at a loss for words.

“Me. . . All of a sudden?”

“That’s right. You’re not very talented and you didn’t have anywhere to go as an adopted child, so find a good match and make your mother’s life easier.”

“Wa. . . Wait, Okaa-san!”

Simon just stood still, watching the two of them from behind his monocle.

“Oku-sama. How should I explain the sudden trip to Danna-sama?”

“You can tell him the truth. That I’m going to sell my daughter. It’s fine if it goes well, and there’s no loss if it doesn’t, right?”

“I understand.”

The old gentleman narrowed his eyes behind his glasses, watching Owenna bustling about, making the maids prepare.

“I hope there really is no loss. . . It would be nice.”

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏𝟓: 𝐖𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐝𝐨𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐨𝐝𝐨𝐫𝐞-𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐚

Heyerdahl is in the midst of the holiday season. Nobles and commoners of Heyerdahl alike can be seen heading out with their picnic preparations to the highlands, fields, and lakes.

“I’m embarrassed to say, I didn’t know it was such a beautiful and comfortable place.”

At my words as I walk along the lakeside with a parasol, Theodore-sama next to me seems proud.

“In the royal capital, the impression of Heyerdahl is still strongly associated with the suspicious border invasion seven years ago, and the transportation is also very poor. So it’s natural that it’s not well known. It’s not something to be ashamed of, rather, I’m glad you didn’t know.”

Theodore-sama narrows his eyes as he looks at me.

“I can see your face, genuinely moved by the scenery of Heyerdahl.”

“That’s. . .”

“I want to show you more of the beauty of Heyerdahl. And I want to see your happy face.”

My cheeks become hot, and I don’t know what to say.

Even when I fall silent, gripping the handle of my parasol, Theodore-sama seems pleased.

I quietly peek at Theodore-sama’s face from the corner of my parasol.

His handsome face with silver hair swaying in the lakeside wind is so beautiful, strong, and gentle that it’s hard to look directly at him.

ーーWhy is he so kind to me?

Noticing my gaze, he tilts his head.

“Hmm. What’s up?”

“. . .Um. . .Theodore-sama. . .”

“Lord Fatherー! Chloe-senseiー! I found a beautiful magic stone piece~!!”

From the lake, the youngest Maria comes running. I put down my parasol and kneel down to catch her, who is running barefoot in her water play dress, looking happy.

In her small palm is a transparent purple stone.

“I’ll give it to Chloe-sensei. Here!”

“Thank you. . .What a beautiful gem. If we put it in a glass locket, we can make a pendant.”

When I hold it up to the sunlight, it shines like amethyst.

The older children who followed her make a dumbfounded face at Maria.

“Maria, you shouldn’t interrupt adults’ dates.”

“A, a date.”

When I deny it, they look at each other and grin.

Thinking that Theodore-sama next to me must be troubled, I look at him, but he is also squatting next to me, stroking Maria’s hair, which is damp from the water. There is no anger or confusion on his face.

“You chose a good present. Thank you.”

“Hehe.”

Maria and Theodore-sama, they look like accomplices.

I deliberately clapped my hands as if I remembered something.

“L, Let’s have lunch. Everyone, you must be tired from playing so much, right?”

“Yes.”

The children run to the villa by the lake, giggling happily.

The heat in my cheeks is not just from the direct sunlight.

“Shall we go, Miss Chloe?”

Theodore-sama picks up the parasol and holds it over me.

“Thank you. . .”

And so, we decided to have lunch.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏𝟔: 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐟𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐨𝐝𝐨𝐫𝐞-𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐚

At the lakeside villa, I served the lunch I had prepared. The main dish was a cold pasta, combining a sauce full of spring vegetables I had prepared in advance with pasta I had boiled and chilled.

Heyerdahl has many food temperature management items using magic stones. This is due to the abundance of magic stone fragments, the enthusiasm for technological development to live comfortably even in harsh winter climates, and above all, the efforts of Theodore-sama, who has been actively working on technological development to restore the territories exhausted by border invasions.

When I brought the dishes from the kitchen to the dining room, the children’s faces lit up with smiles. Theodore-sama also looked at the plate and me with a pleased expression.

“You didn’t have the maid make it, you made it yourself.”

“Yes. I enjoyed cooking as a hobby. . . I apologize for having a hobby that’s not very ladylike.”

“[Don’t let go of the hand that wraps your tongue, it’s more important than a cliff], right?”

“Huh?”

“It’s a saying here. It means that a person who cooks delicious food for you is something you shouldn’t let go of, even more than a cliff you grab when you’re falling. . . you see.”

As he said this to me while licking his fingertips, I felt my body temperature rise.

The older boy, Serio, looked at us and pursed his lips.

“Teacher and Lord Father, you’re staring at each other again.”

“You two look so good together, you should just get married already.”

“Marriage. . .”

As I choked on my words, Theodore-sama burst out laughing.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or scold, and I felt indescribable.

“Marrying Theodore-sama. . . that’s rude.”

“It’s not rude at all. I’m always complaining to the children about how to catch Miss Chloe’s attention.”

It was a bombshell.

Stunned, I watched as Theodore-sama tilted his head, his hair swaying.

“Haven’t you noticed? I’ve been courting you.”

Theodore-sama touched my cheek, which had turned bright red.

“There’s a petal falling. I wonder if it came in through the kitchen window.”

“Ah. . .”

As he picked up the white petal, Theodore-sama kissed it while looking at me.

“. . .It’s not fair to kiss it before me.”

Overwhelmed by the intensity of his narrowed gaze, I found it hard to breathe.

As if regaining his composure, Theodore-sama clasped his hands together in prayer.

“Let’s eat while it’s delicious. . . Miss Chloe, please sit down.”

“Yes. . .”

Watching us, the children clasped their hands together, their faces showing a sneaky smile. It was embarrassing, butーーas long as I wasn’t making the children uncomfortable by watching their precious “Lord Father” and me, I felt relieved.

(Relieved. . . no. What am I thinking?)

ーーAfter the meal.

“Why. . . why would you. . . try to court someone like me?”

Watching the children start playing in the lake again from the balcony of the villa, I voiced the question I couldn’t ask in front of the children.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏𝟕: 𝐖𝐡𝐲 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮, 𝐦𝐞

Theodore-sama, sitting in a wicker chair, quietly spoke after showing a moment of thought.

“We have to start over. . . the lost time.”

“Lost time, you say.”

Playing with a piece of magic stone that Maria had picked up, Theodore-sama began to speak.

“Originally, there was talk of a marriage proposal between you and me.”

I held my breath at his sudden confession.

The piece of magic stone reflected the light, illuminating Theodore-sama’s distant gaze.

“I didn’t know.”

“Since we’re both from families that manage magic stone mines, the Count Maclouge family and my Margrave family had interactions. There’s nothing strange about it.”

“Indeed. . . that’s true.”

“Your fatherーーLord Maclouge, before he sent you to this frontier, seemed to want you and me to slowly develop a relationship. However. . . something unexpected happened.”

Theodore-sama tightly gripped the piece of magic stone.

As if he was trying to grasp the past that had slipped away.

“The invasion by the neighboring country and the reconstruction, Lord Maclouge’s illness. . . various misfortunes piled up, and we couldn’t welcome you. My late father told Lord Maclouge that he wanted to push for the marriage proposal, even if it was forceful, but he firmly refused, saying, ‘If I send my daughter, who hasn’t even received a proper education as a lady, she and the Margrave will eventually become unhappy.'”

“. . .So, that’s how it was. . . and then, I was sent to the Strelitzi family. . .”

“Perhaps influenced by books, the children seem to believe that I was ‘engaged and then broken off.'”

Guided by his gaze, I turned my eyes to the children.

The children, whether they were blood-related siblings or not, were getting along well as “Lord Father’s” children.

It’s not hard to imagine how intense the invasion that caused so many children to lose their parents was.

The young lord who had just inherited his title, the devastated territory, the Margrave Heyerdahl territory where many vassals were lost.

As the lady of such a land, I was too immature at 14.

“Choosing the Strelitzi family as your marriage destination seems to have been a bitter decision. The previous lady of the house was still alive, and the family was not bad. The territory was also adjacent, so it wasn’t completely unfamiliar land. As a place for you, who knew nothing, to take refugeーーeven if it wasn’t the best, it was much more appropriate than the Margrave territory.”

When I was a young bride in the Strelitzi family, I was just devastated.

I wondered if I would end my life as a decorative Countess, being used by my mother-in-law and father-in-law, without ever having a child or loving someone.

“I must also thank the people of the Strelitzi family. They provided me with the education and culture to be a female tutor like this.”

At my words, Theodore-sama laughed, “haha.”

“You’re dazzling, being able to say words of gratitude so honestly, even though the treatment was certainly not good.”

“It’s my true feelings.”

I straightened my back and expressed my will. Looking at me, Theodore-sama narrowed his ash-blue eyes.

“That’s right. I also have to express my gratitude. . . For raising you into a beautiful lady while keeping your marriage white, and for letting you go so soon, I am grateful.”

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏𝟖: 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐟𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧

His gaze is filled with affection and warmth.

“I knew about you unilaterally. I saw you holding back your tears alone at your father’s funeral, and smiling bravely at Lord Cerrado, who was worried about you being left alone at your husband’s house.”

That day of the funeral.

Theodore-sama was watching me.

“However, I couldn’t speak to you because I couldn’t welcome you. So. . . I decided to desperately build up my territory, hoping that I could be of help to you if you ever got into trouble.”

“Theodore-sama. . .”

He tucked a tassel, tangled in the wind, behind his ear and looked at me.

“Miss Chloe. Actually. . . I visited the magic stone mine in the Strelitzi territory once a year under the pretext of ‘inspection’.”

I widened my eyes.

“I didn’t know.”

“Yes. You wouldn’t have known. . . Every year during the inspection, I just watched you from afar and couldn’t speak to you. Because of my immaturity and incompetence, I couldn’t welcome Miss Chloe and made her suffer. I thought I didn’t deserve to talk to you.”

“No way. . .”

“. . .It’s disgusting, isn’t it?”

Theodore-sama laughed as if mocking himself.

“But. . . I. . . I relied on the once-a-year opportunity to see you, and lived my days as a lord. Seeing you live bravely even when you’re suffering, and working hard to fulfill your role as Countess Strelitzi. . . I tried to be a worthy lord, so as not to shame you.”

“Theodore-sama.”

Unable to bear it, I called his name.

“Could it be. . . the one who polished my father’s grave every year. . . made a large donation to the church that manages it. . . and offered flowers. . . was it you?”

Theodore-sama smiled as if to affirm.

“. . .It’s self-satisfaction.”

I felt a warmth in my chest.

“Every time I saw my father’s grave polished, every time a donation was made to the church or the orphanage affiliated with the church, I was happy to feel that someone was remembering my father and carrying on his thoughts.”

“You were watching.”

“Yes. . . That’s why I also opened a school for the children of the territory, like my father. To be a [Countess] who does not shame the nameless someone who is protecting my father’s grave.”

Without realizing it, I had been encouraged by Theodore-sama all along.

Just as Theodore-sama had been watching me and relying on me.

“Miss Chloe. I love you. I hope you will marry me if possible.”

He looked straight at me and confessed his love to me.

“But I am aware that I have only just started. Please take your time to get to know me and let me hear your answer. Even if you don’t choose me, I will treat you with respect as a tutor. I swear to your father and Simon-dono. . . So, someday. . . I want to hear your answer.”

The wind blows with a rustle.

The surface of the lake ripples, and white petals dance in the wind.

I thought I wanted to watch Theodore-sama’s silver hair sway forever.

Ah, Iーー

“. . .Theodore-sama.”

“Hmm.”

“. . .I don’t understand. I’ve never been in love or anything like that.”

I hold my pounding chest and slowly spin my words.

“I’m sure love is something that drives people beyond reason. . . That’s why my ex-husband loved his mistress, not me. He surpassed reason.”

I do my best to put my current feelings into words.

To respond, even a little, to his serious feelings.

“. . .Theodore-sama is a wonderful person. Such a person piles up words for someone like me, earnestly, seriously, expressing love and thoughts. . . Love must intensely set a person’s heart on fire.”

My chest is hot, and just putting my thoughts into words makes my throat hurt, it’s painful.

Did Theodore-sama also confess to me with the same sweet pain? ーーIf so, I would be happy. 

“I have a history of divorce, I’m not young, and I’m not cute. . . Because I’m like that, I think Theodore-sama will soon realize that I’m a boring woman. That’s why I think I shouldn’t accept your favor. I think that’s the reason. . . I think.”

Theodore-sama is looking at me, his eyes wide open.

I wonder what kind of face I’m making. For some reason, I feel like crying.

“I too. . . a little, to you. . . have I been affected? . . . Beyond reason, I am. . .”

“May I touch your cheek?”

Theodore-sama asks quickly. I lower my eyes to his trembling fingers, which are cautiously extended.

His gentle fingertips were trembling.

“. . .Miss Chloe. . . Thank you.”

We spent some time alone together.

The voices of the children running around. His calm demeanor.

All of these are too precious to me. . . They are things I don’t want to let go of. To the point where I want to paint a dream that is beyond my status. 

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏𝟗: 𝐓𝐢𝐦𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐰𝐨 𝐚𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐞

Theodore-sama and I began to spend a little time together every evening after dinner.

Not as lovers, but as a tutor, reporting on the day’s events.

We sat on the sofa in the softly lit parlor, spending a relaxed time. Most of our common topics were about the children, but sometimes we gently asked each other about ourselves.

“How about homemade wine? Don’t worry, it won’t get you drunk because it’s boiled with honey and fruit.”

“Then, Itadakimasu.”

When Theodore-sama smiles happily, the maid Nowariya prepares the warm wine. When I held the cup with both hands and drank, I felt my body getting warm.

“When children in this territory catch a cold, they drink this. It’s perfect for nourishing even when you don’t have an appetite.”

“It’s delicious.”

“Is that so. . . I used to drink it with my mother on sleepless nights.”

Theodore-sama, who spoke of his memories, had a very calm face. 

While he was looking at the lamp light with a distant look, he switched to a serious face and looked at me.

“I have some bad news for you. . . Your ex-husband’s wife, Owenna, seems to be coming here with her daughter.”

Owenna.

The moment I heard that name, a chill ran down my spine.

“Why is she coming here?”

“According to the letter, she wants to apologize to you for kicking you out. Well, it’s probably an excuse. If it was just an apology, she wouldn’t bring her daughter. She probably wants me to marry her.”

“. . . Speaking of which, there was a girl who was not sent out for adoption and kept with her. Her name is Anne.”

“She probably can’t stand the idea of Miss Chloe, whom she kicked out, being happy in this territory. She must not like the idea of Miss Chloe becoming my wife. And probably in the future, her ex-husband will also visit Heyerdahl to chase her. . . There are various reasons for this. . . Anyway, we have to do something about them.”

He made a stern face and crossed his legs. 

I felt my warm feelings from earlier completely cool down, and I gripped the cup with my stiff fingers. I felt as if my happy days in Heyerdahl were melting into a dream.

“Chloe-dono.”

Theodore-sama looked at me intently.

“Are you okay?”

“. . . I’m sorry. The thought of her, who took everything from me. . . My cold husband. . . Disturbing the faint happiness I finally obtained, makes my head go blank. . . And because I came here, I’m causing trouble for Theodore-sama.”

“It’s not a trouble. Finally, I can protect you.”

He shook his head firmly and gently gripped my hand.

It was only when he gripped it that I realized my hand was shaking.

Theodore-sama’s hand, which I touched properly for the first time, was many times larger than mineーーand it was reliable. 

“Miss Chloe. Please go along with me until this matter is settled. No matter what I say, I will always respect Miss Chloe’s final decision. I’ve only been with you for about a month, but please trust me and leave it to me.”

I smile at him and nod.

“What’s necessary to trust someone is not time, but sincerity. I believe in your heart, Theodore-sama. . . If it’s alright for me to rely on you, please lend me your strength.”

“Yes. . . Let’s put an end to this, to start our new life together.”

・・・

『”𝙰𝚠𝚎𝚋𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚜.𝚌𝚘𝚖” – 𝙳𝚒𝚜𝚌𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚊 𝚌𝚊𝚙𝚝𝚒𝚟𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚕𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎, 𝚙𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚍𝚟𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚎, 𝚠𝚑e𝚛𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚞𝚕𝚐𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚊 𝚌𝚘𝚕𝚕𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚜𝚕𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚗𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚕𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 “𝚍𝚊𝚒𝚕𝚢 𝚞𝚙𝚍𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚜” 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚎𝚡𝚌𝚕𝚞𝚜𝚒𝚟𝚎 𝚊𝚌𝚌𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚝𝚘 “𝚊𝚍𝚟𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚎𝚍 𝚌𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜”.』

・・・

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟎: 𝐎𝐰𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐚, 𝐯𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐭

A week after that night.

A familiar mother and daughter visited the castle of Heyerdahl.

Owenna, with her long black hair and vibrant lips, and her daughter Anne, who greeted with a shrunken demeanor.

In contrast to Owenna, who was plump from drinking, Anne was thin and looked unwell. Even though there was food, the nutrition was probably unbalanced.

When Owenna saw me, she opened her big eyes, made a face as if she was a close friend, and opened her arms to hug me.

“Chloe-san! I was worried about you because you moved to such a countryside. I was lonely without any greetings or divorce.”

“Owenna-san, we’re in public. . .”

Despite the presence of knights and maids, and various people around, she didn’t seem to notice. When I pulled away, she shrugged her shoulders in exaggerated dissatisfaction.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you like me? You always have a sulky face, you’re so childish. So, where is Theodore-sama? I want to greet him. Show him this child.”

She pulled her daughter Anne’s hand and made a bright smile.

I turned my eyes to the knight. He bowed politely and said,

“Theodore-sama is inspecting the magic stone mine all day today. I will guide Countess Strelitzi and the young lady. This way, we have prepared a room.”

“What? It would have been nice if he had taken the day off because I was coming. Right? Chloe-san.”

I’m at a loss when she turns to me.

Not only me, but Anne also seemed troubled, bowing her head to the people around her from a position where her mother couldn’t see. She understands how rude her mother is being. It must be embarrassing. My heart ached.

I called out to Owenna, who was moving ahead.

“Owenna-san.”

“What?”

“May I borrow your daughter? I will be working as a tutor from now on, and since she is close in age to Theodore-sama’s adopted children, I thought it would be nice if they could deepen their friendship. What do you think?”

Deepen their friendship. At those words, Owenna’s ambitious eyes sparkled.

She immediately pushed her daughter’s back with delight and sent her off.

“Go on. Get along as much as you can.”

“. . .Yes.”

Anne followed me, looking apologetic.

When we were alone in the hallway, I smiled at her.

“I’m sorry for inviting you without asking. If you’re tired, I can show you to a room where you can rest alone.”

“No. . .I’m fine. Thank you. Um. . .Chloe-sama. I’m sorry for my mother.”

“You don’t have to apologize for your parent. It’s not your role to take responsibility. Instead, look forward to it. Theodore-sama’s children are all very fun and kind.”

When we headed to the room I always use for lessons, they looked at the girl I brought with me and their eyes sparkled.

“Teacher, is that the girl Lord Father was talking about?”

As Serio stood up, I put up my finger. It’s sensei mode.

“Yes. Today, let’s start by giving a polite greeting to the Count of Strelitzi’s daughter, Anne-ojousama. I understand the feeling of forgetting the manners of a gentleman or lady in front of a cute girl, but let’s show Anne-ojousama. your cool side.”

“Yes.”

They look at each other and laugh, then switch their mood and straighten their backs.

I looked at Anne next to me. I could feel her eyes filled with excitement and anticipation.

(I hope that while she’s here, she can be. . . freed from taking care of her mother.)

From that day on, Owenna lived in the castle and was treated as a guest.

It was clear that she was actively participating in dinner parties and luncheons, trying to connect with the nobles of the Margrave Heyerdahl territory.

She seemed to be doing something rude or causing trouble with the commoners in the town, but every night, Theodore-sama would pour his wine and say to me, who was nervous,

“It’s all part of the plan.”

He just smiled.

“Don’t worry. I’ve told my subjects about her, and I’m also covering for her with the people of the territory. It will be tough for a while, but I want you to let her do as she pleases.”

“If Theodore-sama. . . says so.”

I didn’t understand what Theodore-sama’s plan was, but I nodded, trusting him.

I must believe in him, who told me with serious eyes that he wanted me to trust him.

・・・

『”𝐀𝐰𝐞𝐛𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐬.𝐜𝐨𝐦” – 𝐃𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐚 𝐜𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞, 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚𝐝𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞, 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧 i𝐧𝐝𝐮𝐥𝐠𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐚 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐧𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 “𝐝𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐲 𝐮𝐩𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬” 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐞𝐱𝐜𝐥𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐨 “𝐚𝐝𝐯𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐝 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬”.』

・・・

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟏: 𝐀𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐓𝐫𝐮𝐞 𝐈𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬

It was the morning of the third day since Owenna arrived.

As I was walking down the corridor of the castle, she suddenly appeared and grabbed my arm.

“What’s your relationship with Theodore-sama?”

“Eh. . .”

I couldn’t answer immediately. I didn’t understand the intention of her question, it was abrupt, and being grabbed and glared at made my mind go blank.

She raised her dark eyebrows and clicked her tongue, distorting her red lips.

“He never lets me be alone with him, and he’s very guarded. Chloe-san, can’t you help me establish a relationship with him?”

“Establish a relationship?”

I took a deep breath.

“. . . Even if you say establish a relationship, Owenna-san is the Countess Strelitzi, isn’t she? It’s unlikely that a man would be alone with such a person, and I don’t understand the intention of establishing a relationship. . .”

“I’m not officially the Countess Strelitzi yet.”

“Eh?”

Owenna smirked.

“Nobles can’t remarry immediately after a divorce, right? They say it’s because if the divorced woman happens to be pregnant, there would be a problem determining who the father of the child is. I thought there might be an exception since it was a white marriage, but there’s no such thing and remarriage isn’t allowed for a year. So. . . if it’s impossible for my daughter, I can become the Margravine.”

I felt like my heart was going to stop.

My head was spinning, and I didn’t know what to say. She peered into my face and laughed.

“Hey, Chloe-san. You’re just a tutor, right? Then please support me so that he and I can get married. Anne is attached to you, and you and I understand each other, don’t you think everything will work out? Let’s start a new life together.”

“. . . I, am. . .”

At that moment, I imagined Theodore-sama standing next to Owenna as a couple.

The fantasy of Theodore-sama, his gentle silver hair fluttering, gazing at Owenna with a dreamy look.

ーーI felt like I was about to collapse from a violent sadness, as if I had been hit hard on the head.

“. . . Owenna-san. . .”

“Oh, a knight is coming. It seems I’ve caught his eye. I’m going.”

Owenna clicked her tongue and suddenly let go of me.

As I watched her leave like a storm, I sat down weakly in a corner of the castle.

“. . . What a shameful feeling I have now. . .”

When I imagined Owenna and Theodore-sama standing side by side, what came to my mind was a certainーーundeniably jealousy, a disgusting, muddy emotion.

I am neither his wife nor his fiancée. Yet I was afraid of him being taken away.

It was a sticky emotion, different from the emptiness, loneliness, and sadness I felt while Stephan was being taken away from me during my previous marriage.

“I. . . have fallen for Theodore-sama. . .”

I heard the children’s voices calling and snapped back to reality.

I slapped my cheeks, put on my teacher’s face, and headed towards the children.

・・・

『”𝒜𝓌𝑒𝒷𝓈𝓉𝑜𝓇𝒾𝑒𝓈.𝒸𝑜𝓂” – 𝒟𝒾𝓈𝒸𝑜𝓋𝑒𝓇 𝒶 𝒸𝒶𝓅𝓉𝒾𝓋𝒶𝓉𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓌𝑜𝓇𝓁𝒹 𝑜𝒻 𝓁𝑜𝓋𝑒, 𝓅𝒶𝓈𝓈𝒾𝑜𝓃 𝒶𝓃𝒹 𝒶𝒹𝓋𝑒𝓃𝓉𝓊𝓇𝑒, 𝓌𝒽𝑒𝓇𝑒 𝓎𝑜𝓊 𝒸𝒶𝓃 𝒾𝓃𝒹𝓊𝓁𝑔𝑒 𝒾𝓃 𝒶 𝒸𝑜𝓁𝓁𝑒𝒸𝓉𝒾𝑜𝓃 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝓇𝒶𝓃𝓈𝓁𝒶𝓉𝑒𝒹 𝓃𝑜𝓋𝑒𝓁𝓈 𝓌𝒾𝓉𝒽 “𝒹𝒶𝒾𝓁𝓎 𝓊𝓅𝒹𝒶𝓉𝑒𝓈” 𝒶𝓃𝒹 𝑒𝓍𝒸𝓁𝓊𝓈𝒾𝓋𝑒 𝒶𝒸𝒸𝑒𝓈𝓈 𝓉𝑜 “𝒶𝒹𝓋𝒶𝓃𝒸𝑒𝒹 𝒸𝒽𝒶𝓅𝓉𝑒𝓇𝓈”.』

・・・

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟐: 𝐈 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐯𝐞

Night.

As usual, Theodore-sama and I were talking in the parlor, facing each other on the sofa.

While sipping on wine that had been aerated, I told Theodore-sama about what had happened with Owenna. I tried to keep my emotions in check so that I could convey it as a fact, not out of jealousy.

“I see. So she’s after me.”

He gave a suggestive smile, swirling his wine while crossing his legs.

“I’m glad it’s going better than I expected.”

“Um. . . Theodore-sama. I hope this doesn’t sound presumptuous, but I have something to tell you.”

“Hmm.”

“She is. . . a woman who has never received education or worked as a lady. If by any chance you were to marry her as your Oku-sama, I think it would be best to assign several people to assist her. . . This is only if you choose her. . .”

“So, you think I’m going to choose her.”

He chuckled and put down his cup, pulling my hand towards him. Losing my balance, I ended up falling on top of him.

Our faces were close. He gently touched my flushed hair.

“As I said, I want you to believe me. I will never take any woman other than you as my wife. I promise.”

For someone who had realized her feelings of love, these words were sweet poison.

He smiled at me, who involuntarily averted my eyes from his intense gaze, and released me with a kiss on my hair.

“Just a little more patience.”

He told me clearly in a reassuring voice.

“I will never go to a place where I could be misunderstood with the Countess Strelitzi or a young lady, and all the people in the territory know that I have always had someone I longed for. Of course, it’s Miss Chloe. . . It won’t go as she plans.”

“Theodore-sama. . .”

“What concerns me more than Countess Strelitzi is her daughter.”

Theodore-sama’s face softened with paternal affection.

“I’m glad she’s getting along with my adopted children, but when I think that she’ll eventually return to her territory with her mother. . . I can’t help but think if there’s anything I can do for her.”

“Yes. . .”

I thought about Anne. Anne had become much brighter since she came here. The children seemed to sense her situation and were trying to make her time here as enjoyable as possible.

“Anne is a legitimate daughter of Count Strelitzi. I think it would be helpful for her future to establish a close connection with the children of the Margrave. . . Just as I was helped by you through connections.”

“. . .You’re right.”

“Children can’t choose their parents or where they’re born. Even I, who am not her parent, can do little for her. But as an adult, I want to do what I can to help her choose a better future.”

“I share the same opinion, Miss Chloe.”

We looked at each other and smiled.

ーーThe story took a sudden turn the next day.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟑: 𝐓𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐌𝐚𝐢𝐝 𝐍𝐨𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐲𝐚

Despite her sudden visit, Owenna was treated with great respect as a guest. However, her behavior was so off-putting that even I, watching from the side, felt uncomfortable.

She complained about the food not suiting her taste, ordered changes if she didn’t like the maid’s attitude, insisted on accompanying Theodore-sama on his inspections, dragged her guards around the city, and did as she pleased.

Then one dayーーa decisive incident occurred.

“They’re late. . . Everyone is always on time.”

Today, I had planned to gather all the children for a morning lesson. However, no one came to the dining room designated as the meeting place. I tilted my head in confusion with the maid.

“I’ll go check.”

“I have a bad feeling, so I’ll go too.”

As we left the dining room and searched around, we suddenly heard the angry voice of a boy who had just hit puberty. It was the older boy, Serio.

We hurried towards the sound of the voice. The scene was in the guest dining room.

There, the children were gathered around a maid, shielding her, and glaring angrily at Owenna, who was standing in front of them.

The older maid had been doused with tea from head to toe. It was Nowariya, who always greeted me with a smile and treated me kindly. The children were wiping Nowariya’s hat and holding her hand.

Serio asked Owenna in a voice that could not hide his anger.

“Countess Strelitzi. Why did you need to pour tea over her head just because there was no sugar in it?”

“I just disciplined her because she didn’t remember that I always have her bring me tea with sugar every morning.”

Owenna shrugged her large body with a look of disbelief at the angry Serio.

“I wonder why such an inconsiderate old woman is assigned as my maid? I’d like to suggest to Theodore-sama that he should fire her.”

Serio glared at Owenna with eyes filled with inarticulate anger.

From behind Owenna, Anne, who had turned pale, tugged at her mother’s sleeve.

“O, Okaa-san. Stop it, it’s just tea. . .”

“What are you talking about? It’s also for Theodore-sama’s sake to reprimand a maid who was rude to the Countess.”

“But you didn’t have to pour. . .”

My heart ached at Anne’s tearful expression.

With Serio, who looked ready to strike at any moment, behind me, I stepped in front of Owenna.

“Countess Strelitzi, please let this matter rest for now. We will apologize again when Theodore-sama returns.”

“Teacher, we don’t need to apologize to someone like her.”

Serio shouted. I turned back and silenced him with a look.

Owenna, on the other hand, looked down at Serio with a snort.

“Really. . . Such an ill-mannered child. Even though he’s Theodore-sama’s adopted child. I wonder if it’s the tutor’s fault? Or maybe his real parents didn’t discipline him properly?”

At that moment.

Not just Serioーーall the children present turned pale.

It was a powder keg.

The person who changed the flow of the situation was an unexpected one.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟒: 𝐅𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐞𝐫 𝐡𝐮𝐬𝐛𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐨𝐝𝐨𝐫𝐞-𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐚 * 𝐛𝐞𝐠𝐢𝐧𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐚𝐜𝐥𝐞

“Owenna! Stop!!! It’s all Simon’s doing!!!!”

Just a short while ago, he was my husband.

Stephan Strelitzi rolled into our presence, his face pale, without even unpacking his travel gear.

“Eh. . . Stephan-sama, why are you here?”

Owenna is dumbfounded.

Coming leisurely from the direction my ex-husband came from was the imposing figure of Theodore-sama.

“I see. Countess Strelitzi has harmed my precious servant and insulted my precious adopted child. . .”

A smile of intensity I had never seen before was on his face.

“Now, let’s settle this, Count Strelitzi.”

・・・

『”𝓐𝔀𝓮𝓫𝓼𝓽𝓸𝓻𝓲𝓮𝓼.𝓬𝓸𝓶” – 𝓓𝓲𝓼𝓬𝓸𝓿𝓮𝓻 𝓪 𝓬𝓪𝓹𝓽𝓲𝓿𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝔀𝓸𝓻𝓵𝓭 𝓸𝓯 𝓵𝓸𝓿𝓮, 𝓹𝓪𝓼𝓼𝓲𝓸𝓷 𝓪𝓷𝓭 𝓪𝓭𝓿𝓮𝓷𝓽𝓾𝓻𝓮, 𝔀𝓱𝓮𝓻𝓮 𝔂𝓸𝓾 𝓬𝓪𝓷 𝓲𝓷𝓭𝓾𝓵𝓰𝓮 𝓲𝓷 𝓪 𝓬𝓸𝓵𝓵𝓮𝓬𝓽𝓲𝓸𝓷 𝓸𝓯 𝓽𝓻𝓪𝓷𝓼𝓵𝓪𝓽𝓮𝓭 𝓷𝓸𝓿𝓮𝓵𝓼 𝔀𝓲𝓽𝓱 “𝓭𝓪𝓲𝓵𝔂 𝓾𝓹𝓭𝓪𝓽𝓮𝓼” 𝓪𝓷𝓭 𝓮𝔁𝓬𝓵𝓾𝓼𝓲𝓿𝓮 𝓪𝓬𝓬𝓮𝓼𝓼 𝓽𝓸 “𝓪𝓭𝓿𝓪𝓷𝓬𝓮𝓭 𝓬𝓱𝓪𝓹𝓽𝓮𝓻𝓼”.』

・・・

Gathered in the conference room were Theodore-sama, Count and Countess Strelitzi, the Prime Minister of the Heyerdahl territory, the house steward, a notary to record the proceedingsーーand me.

I felt out of place, but Theodore-sama had me sit next to him, as if treating me like a lady. As I was puzzled by the situation, Theodore-sama whispered to me in a hushed voice.

“I want you to back me up here.”

When I nodded, he narrowed his gray-blue eyes and smiled.

The cord tied in his silver hair swayed brightly.

ーーJust as the meeting was about to begin.

“Sorry to keep you waiting.”

Simon entered the room with the maid from earlier.

They seemed to know each other.

As soon as he saw Simon, Stephan stood up and shouted.

“Simon, you!!!”

Stephan stood up. But with one glare from Theodore-sama, he sat down.

Despite the cool conference room with the windows open, sweat was pouring from his cheeks like a waterfall.

Stephan sat down with a bitter look on his face. Seeing Stephan for the first time in a long time, I felt that he looked much more worn out than the him in my memory. Had his skin always been so loose? Had he always been so hunched over?

Simon and the maid took their seats at the end of the tableーーand with all the parties present, Theodore-sama looked at Stephan.

“Let’s hear from Count Strelitzi first. It was a sudden visit, but what was the urgent matter?”

Overlapping with Theodore-sama’s words, Stephan rattled off quickly.

“I came to withdraw the divorce from my ex-wife, Chloe.”

“Hold on a minute. What did you say?! What about my position?!”

The one raising her voice was Owenna.

Stephan glared at the woman who had been so sweet-faced with hatred.

“You shut up. Damn it, you’re causing unnecessary commotion.”

After saying this as if spitting it out, Stephan quickly changed his expression and spoke to Theodore-sama with an upward glance, as if trying to please him.

“Margrave Heyerdahl. I realized after Chloe was gone, how important she is. I came here because I want her to come back to Strelitzi.”

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟓: 𝐄𝐱-𝐡𝐮𝐬𝐛𝐚𝐧𝐝’𝐬 𝐀𝐫𝐠𝐮𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭

Stephan looks at me.

I feel a shiver run down my spine at his fawning gaze.

“Listen, Chloe. I don’t ask much of you. Just keep working as my wife as you have been, and do as you please. So please, come back.”

Next to Stephan, Owenna’s face is beet red, ready to explode at any moment.

“Right? We’re a couple who’ve been together for many years. Please come back. I’ve reflected on my actions.”

I was at a loss for words, unable to respond.

Why would my ex-husband, who had been so cold to me, be sweating and begging me to come back?

It was simply eerie.

“Please, I beg you, come back!”

His pleading voice grows louder and louder.

Seeing my stiffened expression, Theodore-sama gives me a gentle look.

Under the table, he gently holds my hand. Encouraged by the warmth of his palm, as if enveloping mine so as not to crush it, I squeezed his large, gentle hand back.

I faced forward and looked directly at Stephan.

It’s okay, I can speak up. 

“Before I answer, please tell me why you want to remarry so much. Why would you, who hardly ever came home and maintained a white marriage, suddenly. . .”

“That’s right! What about me?! What about Anne?!”

Owenna, with her shrill voice, interrogates him. Before answering my question, Stephan glares at her with an attitude as if swatting away a gnat.

“I told you, didn’t I? I realized how important Chloe is.”

“That’s not enough, I don’t understand!!!”

Ignoring Owenna’s screams, Stephan looks at me again.

“So please, I want to reconcile. If you just nod and withdraw the divorce, everything will be settled, everything will be smooth.”

I take a deep breath, feeling the heat of his palm.

And then, I muster up the courage to answer Stephan.

“I’m sorry. I will not withdraw the divorce.”

“What. . .”

“I am now taking care of precious children here in Heyerdahl. This is where I belong.”

“This is no joke. Owenna doesn’t have the ability to be a mistress, and she can’t take over from you. . . That’s right, don’t you think it’s unfair to abandon your ex-husband’s territory and just be happy by yourself?!”

He finds a reason to blame me and starts to talk eloquently.

“That’s right, Chloe. . . The Strelitzi family took you in and raised you when your father died and your brother became a court magician and you had nowhere to go. Don’t you owe my family? A woman who can’t repay her debts can’t be happy elsewhere.”

“That’s. . .”

I felt a pain in my chest.

Indeed, because I was married into the Strelitzi family, I was drilled in the skills of a mistress, allowed to engage in charity work, and am still useful as a tutor.

ーーEven if I keep the divorce, should I at least help with domestic affairs? 

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟔: 𝐄𝐧𝐠𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐃𝐞𝐜𝐥𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧

I voiced an alternative.

“. . .At least let me hand over the management of the household to Owenna-sama.”

“No! That’s what I’m saying. Cancel the divorce! Don’t you understand?!”

“But. . .”

At that moment.

The one who spoke next to me was Theodore-sama.

“Count Strelitzi. Why don’t you speak clearly? If you weren’t married to Chloe as the nominal manager of that magic stone mine, the Strelitzi family would be in danger of falling into ruin.”

I looked at Theodore-sama as if I was being shot, and then at Stephan.

Stephan was at a loss for words. His expression told me that Theodore-sama’s words were true.

“. . .That’s right. That’s why I need Chloe to come back. My territory will be shut down as it is.”

“If, if that’s the case. . .Come back quickly, Chloe-san!”

Owenna, whose face was red, turned her palm and urged me to remarry.

“I. . .”

I was in trouble.

I have no lingering affection for the Strelitzi family, but it hurts to think that the family will collapse because of me.

As for the management of the magic stone mine, I had left everything to Simon since my father was alive. That’s why I didn’t know.

ーーWhy wasn’t I informed of such an important matter all this time?

Simon remained silent.

I realizedーーDid Simon deliberately not tell me?

Next to me, Theodore-sama made an outrageous statement.

“Even if the two of you blame her, Miss Chloe can’t come back.”

“Why?! She can quit being a tutor anytime!”

To Owenna, who was shouting and forgetting to use honorifics, Theodore-sama slowly shook his head.

“A Margrave is allowed to make his own laws. According to the law here, if a man and a woman drink the same wine for three days and three nights, it is recognized as an engagement. . .This is due to the fact that in the era when this territory was an independent small country, wine was a special drink that was only drunk at wedding ceremonies. Of course, even now, if it is homemade and under certain conditions, it is established as a [unique custom].”

ーーExcuse me.

Whispering in a voice that only I could hear, Theodore-sama put his arm around my shoulder.

I was enveloped in the scent of Theodore-sama.

My heart pounded at the warm heat.

“She is already my fiancée.”

Only Stephan and Owenna opened their eyes wide, showing the most surprised faces of the day.

Everyone else had a calm expression. Perhaps they were all in on it.

I just believed in Theodore-sama’s words, “I want you to go along with it,” and kept a calm attitude.

“I would like the Margrave to stop joking. After a divorce is finalized, one cannot get married or engaged for a year.”

“That’s right. After all, I’m not officially Countess Strelitzi yet!”

Theodore-sama answered in a calm voice without being disturbed.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟕: 𝐈𝐧 𝐒𝐮𝐫𝐠𝐞𝐫𝐲

“Didn’t I tell you it’s the law of the Margrave? The Margrave Heyerdahl territory has a different cultural sphere from other territories, so the unique laws of the territory take precedence.”

The house steward silently opens the law book and displays it to the entire conference room. Although the text is too far away to read, it was sufficient as proof.

“. . .That can’t be. . .”

“What, what are we going to do, Stephan?”

Stephan turns pale and looks down. Next to him, Owenna also turns pale.

Theodore-sama strokes his chin and continues, as if mocking the two.

“Count. Isn’t there something else you should be more concerned about?”

“. . .Huh. . .”

“What, what other thing?”

The two are dumbfounded.

Theodore-sama draws an arc with his ash-blue eyes and leisurely crosses his legs.

ーーThey were the eyes of a predator targeting its prey.

“The lady has harmed my castle’s maid, Nowariya. And she slandered the children of the Margrave family, and even their parentsーーthe loyal servants who protected the Margrave family. Do you understand the weight of insulting the brave officers who protected our country from the ravages of neighboring countries?”

“. . .!!!”

“The Margrave Heyerdahl family may not stand out much in the royal capital’s parliament. However, on the memorial built on the high ground of the royal palace, the names of the loyal servants who bravely fought in our territory are engraved and receive flowers from the princesses of the royal family every day. ーーThey are our pride, and at the same time, the pride of our entire country.”

Theodore-sama’s soft tone gradually mixes with heavy anger.

The atmosphere in the room seemed to freeze. While piercing Stephan and Owenna with his gaze, Theodore-sama asks the notary.

“How long will it take to create the minutes and the complaint to the judiciary?”

The notary, with a satisfied face, pushes up his glasses and answers.

“If it’s this complaint, it will be completed by tomorrow morning. If we send the documents by magic stone express, it should be in time for tomorrow’s reception hours.”

“So it seems. . . The next time we meet will be in court.”

Theodore-sama lifts the corner of his mouth.

Stephan and Owenna looked as if they had lost their sanity.

“What, what are we going to do, Stephan. . .”

“. . .!! How dare you. . .!”

Stephan shakes off Owenna’s hand as she tries to cling to him.

Then, he swings back and slaps Owenna hard on the cheek.

“Kyaa. . .!!!!”

Owenna’s large body tumbles from the chair. Stephan kicks her again. Several knights who were standing by restrained Stephan.

“Lord Heyerdahl!! I’ll say it clearly! This woman is not my wife or anything!! She’s just a parasite!!!”

Stephan, with his hair disheveled, screams in a shrill voice.

“If you’re going to enforce your laws, then I’ll enforce mine. Under my laws, this woman is not my wife. She’s just a parasite eating away at my wealth!!!!”

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟖: 𝐓𝐫𝐚𝐩 𝐨𝐟 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐞𝐝𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐬

“. . .Stephan. . .”

With her lips trembling, she looked up at Stephan with a stunned face, her tears dried up. Her flashy dress was torn, her hair was a mess, and she was abandoned by the only man she could rely onーーshe had become the most pitiful woman in this place.

As I was about to approach her, Nowariya, a maid who was sitting nearby, offered her a handkerchief. Owenna opened her big eyes wide and began to cry like a child.

“. . .I did such a terrible thing to you. . . Why. . .”

Nowariya just shook her head, wiped Owenna’s tears, and straightened the hem of her disheveled skirt. Stephan clicked his tongue at Owenna and glared at Theodore-sama.

“That’s why I want you to judge this woman, not me. Do whatever you want with her. . . Ah, I should have kept her as my mistress. If I had known that Chloe was an important woman, I would have. . .”

While I was frightened by Stephan’s excitement, I quietly looked around at the people.

The notary who was writing something down smoothly.

The Prime Minister and the house steward, exchanging glances with Theodore-sama.

And Simon, who was sitting at the end of the table, watching the situation with a blank expression.

When I looked at Theodore-sama, he smiled softly at me with just his eyes.

He shot Stephan a cold look again.

“I understand your complaint. However, unfortunately, sheーーLady Owenna has already been officially recognized as Countess Strelitzi. Therefore, she is your associate.”

“That’s a lie. It can’t be.”

Stephan shook his head. I agreed with him on this matter.

Under the general laws of the kingdom, nobles are not allowed to remarry or get engaged for a year after divorce. That’s why Owenna was after Theodore-sama.

“Tell me, Count Strelitzi. Who handled the divorce and marriage procedures?”

“The procedures for divorce and marriage are handled by the household. I left the procedures to Chloe and just signed. At that time, they were just ordinary divorce and marriage documents, and there was nothing strange about them, right?”

Next to Theodore-sama, I nodded.

“Simon, the former butler of the Maclouge family, is familiar with how to prepare the documents, so I made them while learning from him. After that, I got a signature from my ex-husband and handed the documents to Simon to submit to the royal capital. . .”

“That’s right, that’s right. I checked it, so Simon can’t do anything cunning like the magic stone mine case. What on earth. . . Don’t tell me, .”

Startled, Stephan and I looked at Simon at the same time.

“Well, Simon. Show them.”

Theodore-sama urged Simon in a calm manner.

Simon, who nodded, stood up, bowed, and spread out a piece of paper.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟗: 𝐓𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐖𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐄𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐒𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐁𝐞 𝐒𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐥𝐞𝐝

It was an official letter with the magic stone seal of the Royal Judiciary. 

It was written on special paper that a magician had cast a spell on, so there was clear evidence of when and by whom it was written, who approved it, and who overwrote it.

“Now, let me read it out loud.

[𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐑𝐨𝐲𝐚𝐥 𝐉𝐮𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐫𝐲, 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐚𝐦𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐞𝐟 𝐉𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐉𝐨𝐬𝐞𝐩𝐡 𝐌𝐚𝐣𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐮𝐬, 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐠𝐧𝐢𝐳𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐢𝐯𝐨𝐫𝐜𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐳𝐢 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐂𝐡𝐥𝐨𝐞, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 𝐌𝐚𝐜𝐥𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐞, 𝐚𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐌𝐚𝐲 𝟏𝟐, 𝟑𝟒𝟏𝟕 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐢𝐫𝐢𝐭 𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐫. 

𝐍𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲, 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐀𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐥𝐞 𝟑, 𝐏𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐩𝐡 𝟐 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐍𝐨𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐋𝐚𝐰, 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐳𝐢 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐂𝐡𝐥𝐨𝐞, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 𝐌𝐚𝐜𝐥𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐞, 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐛𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐲 𝐚𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐝𝐢𝐯𝐨𝐫𝐜𝐞, 𝐰𝐡𝐢𝐜𝐡 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐛𝐞 𝐌𝐚𝐲 𝟏𝟑, 𝟑𝟒𝟏𝟖 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐢𝐫𝐢𝐭 𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐫. 𝐇𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫, 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐜𝐚𝐬𝐞, 𝐚𝐧 𝐞𝐱𝐜𝐞𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐢𝐬 𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐝, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐳𝐢 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐎𝐰𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐚, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐕𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐠𝐨𝐧𝐞, 𝐢𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐠𝐧𝐢𝐳𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐉𝐮𝐧𝐞 𝟏𝟓, 𝟑𝟒𝟏𝟕 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐢𝐫𝐢𝐭 𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐫.

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐱𝐜𝐞𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐬.

⑴ 𝐈𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐠𝐧𝐢𝐳𝐞𝐝, 𝐛𝐚𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐧𝐨𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐟𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐬, 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐚 𝐝𝐞 𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐚𝐥 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐩 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐎𝐰𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐚, 𝐚 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐫 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐢𝐫𝐢𝐭 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝟑𝟒𝟎𝟓, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐕𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐠𝐨𝐧𝐞.

ーー𝐃𝐮𝐤𝐞 ◇◇◇ 𝐒𝐢𝐠𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞: ◇◇◇

ーー𝐃𝐮𝐤𝐞 ◇◇◇ 𝐒𝐢𝐠𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞: ◇◇◇

ーー𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐪𝐮𝐢𝐬 ◇◇◇ 𝐒𝐢𝐠𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞: ◇◇◇

ーー𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 ◇◇◇ 𝐒𝐢𝐠𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞: ◇◇◇ . . .

⑵ 𝐀𝐜𝐜𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐑𝐨𝐲𝐚𝐥 𝐉𝐮𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐫𝐲, 𝐢𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐠𝐧𝐢𝐳𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐢𝐫𝐢𝐭 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝟑𝟒𝟎𝟔, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐧 𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐎𝐰𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐚, 𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐕𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐠𝐨𝐧𝐞, 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐜𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰𝐥𝐞𝐝𝐠𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐳𝐢 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐝𝐨𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐮𝐭, 𝐚𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐰.

ーー

𝐁𝐚𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐞𝐱𝐜𝐞𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 ⑴ 𝐚𝐧𝐝 ⑵, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐳𝐢 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐟𝐞 𝐎𝐰𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐚 𝐢𝐬 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐛𝐲 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐝.

𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐞𝐟 𝐉𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐑𝐨𝐲𝐚𝐥 𝐉𝐮𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐫𝐲, 𝐉𝐨𝐬𝐞𝐩𝐡 𝐌𝐚𝐣𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐮𝐬

𝐄𝐱𝐞𝐜𝐮𝐭𝐨𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐢𝐜 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐚𝐥, 𝐀𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐫𝐝 𝐒𝐞𝐚𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐭 𝐌𝐚𝐠𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬, 𝐂𝐞𝐫𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐨 𝐌𝐚𝐜𝐥𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐞]

The conference room fell silent as Simon read out the contents of the letter in a clear voice. There was no one left to comfort Stephan, who was shaking uncontrollably.

After Simon finished reading everything and took a seat with a bow, Theodore-sama opened his mouth.

“Even in a white marriage, our country’s law states that one cannot remarry within a year after divorce. But that’s only in the case of [strangers]. If you gather evidence of a previous common-law relationship and submit it to the judiciary, exceptions can be granted.”

“. . .So that’s why. . .Simon had me write the marriage registration. . .”

“He’s a competent servant of the Strelitzi family. He took responsibility, gathered evidence of the two’s relationship, and worked to ensure that the marriage was concluded as soon as possible.”

I was at a loss for words at Simon’s skill.

The irreplaceable butler who had always been by my side when I lost everything, who had stood in for my father at my wedding.

While I was enduring the white marriage, he had been quietly preparing to make sure that the time I had endured was not wasted. . .to strike back at the Strelitzi family.

Theodore-sama continues the conversation.

“Well, I have a proposal for Sir Strelitzi. Normally, I would want you to take responsibility for your wife’s outrageous behavior in my territory, but. . . to be honest, I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.”

A spark of life returns to Stephan’s face, which had been as pale as a corpse.

“If you won’t take me to court, I’ll do anything. Please, don’t ruin my house.”

“Yes. I also can’t bear to destroy the historic Strelitzi family. . . By the way, Sir Strelitzi. You mentioned earlier that you’re having trouble managing the old Maclouge territory’s mine?”

“Yes. . . That’s why I wanted Chloe to come back. . .”

“There’s a solution.”

Theodore-sama showed an untroubled smile.

“I want you to transfer all of the old Maclouge territory to me, as an exclave of my territory.”

I looked at Theodore-sama as if I was struck by his words. He winked at me.

“I have the qualifications to manage a magic stone mine, and after all, I’m going to marry Miss Chloe. If she wishes, I’m thinking of appointing her as the territory’s governor and entrusting her with the internal affairs of the territory. This way, you can avoid bankruptcy. What do you think?”

Stephan nodded weakly and honestly.

“Yes. . . I’ll do that. That land is too much for me to handle. . .”

Then Stephan stared at Simon, who was standing quietly.

“. . .Simon. Did you plan all this. . . to reclaim Count Maclouge’s territory. . . for Chloe. . .”

Simon just kept his eyes down and didn’t try to answer.

In the end, we agreed to Theodore-sama’s proposal, and the discussion was settled.

・・・

『”𝐴𝑤𝑒𝑏𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑠.𝑐𝑜𝑚” – 𝐷𝑖𝑠𝑐𝑜𝑣𝑒𝑟 𝑎 𝑐𝑎𝑝𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑙𝑑 𝑜𝑓 𝑙𝑜𝑣𝑒, 𝑝𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑎𝑑𝑣𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑒, 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑐a𝑛 𝑖𝑛𝑑𝑢𝑙𝑔𝑒 𝑖𝑛 𝑎 𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑓 𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑠𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑛𝑜𝑣𝑒𝑙𝑠 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ “𝑑𝑎𝑖𝑙𝑦 𝑢𝑝𝑑𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑠” 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑒𝑥𝑐𝑙𝑢𝑠𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑎𝑐𝑐𝑒𝑠𝑠 𝑡𝑜 “𝑎𝑑𝑣𝑎𝑛𝑐𝑒𝑑 𝑐ℎ𝑎𝑝𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠”.』

・・・

At the meeting, thanks to the public notary, the Prime Minister of Heyerdahl, Theodore-sama, and Simon, who had prepared all the necessary procedures, the transfer of the entire old Count Maclouge territory to Margrave Heyerdahl was completed in no time.

After Stephan and Owennaーーthe Count and Countess Strelitzi left the conference room with their shoulders slumped, Simon deeply bowed his head to me.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟑𝟎: 𝐒𝐢𝐦𝐨𝐧’𝐬 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐟𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧

“Ojou-sama. I apologize for keeping secrets from you.”

“Lift your head, Simon.”

I stood up, took his hand, and shook my head.

“I was truly surprised. But I understand that all the secrets and plans were for the sake of protecting Otou-sama’s territory.”

“Chloe-ojousama. . .”

“If it had been about the mine manager, and if I had known when the divorce was brought up, I think I would have definitely confirmed it with my husband. Then I would still be trapped by Stephan, living a lonely life in a white marriage. . . Thank you, Simon. You’ve always protected me in place of my father.”

When I smiled, he widened his eyes. Then he crumpled his face, holding back tears.

“I thought you wouldn’t be able to bear such a deceitful revenge drama because you are so sincere, Ojou-sama.”

What Simon spoke of, his eyes behind his monocle distorted, was the suspicion surrounding my father’s death.

“Your fatherーーCount Maclouge had been tormented for many years by troubles with the Strelitzi family over water sources. The Strelitzi family was having poor harvests, and they were blaming it on the water pollution caused by the people of Maclouge’s territory.”

“I see. . .”

My father never tried to talk about the territorial issues when he met with me as a child.

He probably didn’t want to expose the young me to the muddy world of adults.

“Ojou-sama. I am convinced that the Strelitzi family had a hand in the sudden death of the Count. But for now, I’m glad we were able to make the territory yours. From now on, Cerrado-sama, who has become a court magician, will be a great force in exposing the evil deeds of the Strelitzi family.”

“. . .Did Cerrado-niisama also become a court magician on purpose to gain authority?”

Simon nodded.

“Yes. He thought that becoming a court magician was the quickest way to clear your father’s regret and become your support. And the trial went smoothly this time thanks to the efforts of Cerrado-sama, who became the third assistant to the court magician.”

“. . .Even now, my father is moving everyone’s hearts. . .And I am still being protected by him.”

Simon shed tears, and the maid Nowariya stroked his back.

Nowariya smiled at me.

“He’s my childhood friend. . .He really has continued to care for Count Maclouge and you. . .”

According to Simon and Nowariya, everything, including Owenna’s rampage in the territory and Stephan’s arrival after the rampage caused problems, went according to plan.

“But I never thought that woman would even hurl abuse at children.”

Simon shook his head in exasperation.

“I hope it hasn’t left a scar on the children’s hearts. . .”

Seeing Simon furrow his brows, Theodore-sama and Nowariya exchanged glances and chuckled.

Theodore-sama said,

“There’s no problem. The children knew our true intentions.”

“Really?”

Theodore-sama nodded at Simon, who widened his eyes in surprise.

“The children deliberately antagonized Owenna and intentionally provoked her to utter rude remarks. They said, [Because we are children who do not appear in social circles, there are things we can do for teacher].”

“That’s right. Even the tea was lukewarm. Every time, I served her tea without sugar to provoke that woman.”

I was taken aback by the revelations from Theodore-sama and Nowariya. Simon shrugged his shoulders.

“Haha. . . Indeed, it’s quite a farce.”

“Speaking of farce, let’s have some tea. Everyone must be tired, so please moisten your throats with some tea. The scones are freshly baked.”

Nowariya suggested, trying to lighten the mood.

We all looked at each other and decided to start a late tea time.

◇◇◇

By the way,

I thought, looking at Theodore-sama’s profile.

What will happen to the engagement?

Since it was a lie to help me, I don’t think there will be an engagement.

Theodore-sama will probably bring up that topic later.

More importantly,

There was something I was more concerned about than my own marriage.

“Theodore-sama.”

“Hmm?”

“What will happen to themーーthe Count and Countess Strelitzi?”

“They will leave with nothing but their territory, and they will simply go home empty-handed. That’s the end of it, they will never bother you again.”

“. . .”

“You seem unsatisfied, Miss Chloe.”

I decided to speak my mind to Theodore-sama.

“Theodore-sama. I have a request to make. . .”

It was about Anne, the girl Owenna had brought with her.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟑𝟏: 𝐂𝐡𝐨𝐢𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐘𝐨𝐮

Afterwards, the Strelitzi couple stayed at the Heyerdahl castle for a while to prepare the documents to be submitted to the royal capital.

They, who used to be full of energy, were now completely disheartened. Occasionally, we would run into each other in the castle, but they would quickly disappear from my sight as if to escape.

I was living my life as a gentle female tutor again.

ーーIncluding Anne among my students.

・・・

『”𝓐𝔀𝓮𝓫𝓼𝓽𝓸𝓻𝓲𝓮𝓼.𝓬𝓸𝓶” – 𝓓𝓲𝓼𝓬𝓸𝓿𝓮𝓻 𝓪 𝓬𝓪𝓹𝓽𝓲𝓿𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝔀𝓸𝓻𝓵𝓭 𝓸𝓯 𝓵𝓸𝓿𝓮, 𝓹𝓪𝓼𝓼𝓲𝓸𝓷 𝓪𝓷𝓭 𝓪𝓭𝓿𝓮𝓷𝓽𝓾𝓻e, 𝔀𝓱𝓮𝓻𝓮 𝔂𝓸𝓾 𝓬𝓪𝓷 𝓲𝓷𝓭𝓾𝓵𝓰𝓮 𝓲𝓷 𝓪 𝓬𝓸𝓵𝓵𝓮𝓬𝓽𝓲𝓸𝓷 𝓸𝓯 𝓽𝓻𝓪𝓷𝓼𝓵𝓪𝓽𝓮𝓭 𝓷𝓸𝓿𝓮𝓵𝓼 𝔀𝓲𝓽𝓱 “𝓭𝓪𝓲𝓵𝔂 𝓾𝓹𝓭𝓪𝓽𝓮𝓼” 𝓪𝓷𝓭 𝓮𝔁𝓬𝓵𝓾𝓼𝓲𝓿𝓮 𝓪𝓬𝓬𝓮𝓼𝓼 𝓽𝓸 “𝓪𝓭𝓿𝓪𝓷𝓬𝓮𝓭 𝓬𝓱𝓪𝓹𝓽𝓮𝓻𝓼”.』

・・・

On a sunny day, I invited Anne for tea.

In the modest pavilion located in the middle of the Heyerdahl’s colorful garden, I had a gorgeous tea set with baked sweets and tea prepared. Across from me, Anne was looking down, not touching anything, with a puzzled look on her face.

“Please have some while it’s still warm. Or maybe you have a cat’s tongue.”

“. . . Is it okay for me to eat this? Even though my mother has been causing you trouble. . .”

“What your mother did has nothing to do with you, her daughter. You liked scones, didn’t you?”

A small rumbling sound could be heard from her stomach. She blushed.

It’s natural for a growing girl to want to snack on something sweet a while after lunch.

“. . . Itadakimasu.”

At first, she was hesitant, but gradually she started to eat with a happy look on her face.

“This jam is delicious. . . I’ve never had it before. And what a beautiful color. . .”

“It’s made from local berries. I also had it for the first time when I came to Heyerdahl. I heard that Theodore-sama’s children all pick the berries and make it every year.”

“That sounds fun.”

Anne’s eyes were sparkling at the vibrant color of the jam served with the scones. I was deeply moved by the beauty of her eyes, shining with curiosity.

“The flowers have already finished blooming, but they were very beautiful, a light pink color.”

“. . . It’s nice that they taste good when you eat them and the flowers are beautiful.”

“Yes, why don’t you join us in making it next year?”

Anne blinked in surprise for a moment. 

“Next year, you say. . . ?”

I put down my teacup and slowly looked into Anne’s eyes.

“. . . Do you know what will happen to you when you return to the Strelitzi family?”

Anne’s bright expression quickly faded. She gave a mature, bitter smile and looked down at her cup.

“I don’t know, but. . . I’m sure it will be the same as always. Taking care of my mother, being urged to go to the foster home from time to time. . . No, maybe I’ll get married next time. It seems she’s already started exchanging letters with a wealthy merchant in the south.”

“. . . It’s hard to get married at a young age without even making a debut.”

I was reminded of myself.

I didn’t want Anne, who was in front of me, to go through the same painful life I had, becoming a “Countess” without knowing anything about adult society.

Seeing the color drain from my face, she turned pale.

“That’s right. That’s right. . . My mother has caused you trouble, hasn’t she, Chloe-san? I’m sorry.”

Seeing my expression, she immediately apologizes. This sensitivity to subtleties must have been something she learned from living with Owenna. I shake my head clearly, indicating that she’s mistaken.

“What I want to say is not about me. And you have no need to apologize at all. . . But I can’t stand by and watch you struggle like me, being treated as a household tool.”

“Chloe-san. . .”

“If you don’t mind, why don’t you come to Heyerdahl as an etiquette apprentice? Learn manners at Heyerdahl, and then work as a maid for the royal princesses with the other girls. That way, you can become a lady who can proudly go anywhere without feeling embarrassed.”

At my suggestion, Anne’s eyes waver greatly.

Surprise, confusion, hesitation, various emotions were reflected on her face.

“It’s too good for someone like me. . . And my mother won’t allow it.”

“Of course, Theodore-sama has already given his consent. He said he would be happy to send you as an etiquette apprentice if that’s what you wish.”

“But. . . I, such a. . . .”

I knew that Anne was actually enjoying this lifestyle.

When she was studying with Theodore-sama’s children, when she was having fun eating together. She had the face of a normal, naturally cheerful girl.

I also knew that she seemed reluctant to return to her mother after class was over.

That’s why I made the suggestion.

“It’s okay. Anne, you’re smart and kind, you can become a fine lady. . . I won’t force you to come here as an adopted child. But I do recommend becoming an etiquette apprentice. Anne, you need friends of the same age from noble families and opportunities to learn. It’s never too late to take some time away from your Okaa-san, grow up, and reconsider how you want to live your life.”

I really want to separate her from her mother.

But if I forcibly separate them, it would trample on the love for her mother that remains in her heartーーso I suggested it. To take a little distance and learn.

Even if she wants to protect her mother.

Even if she decides to break with her mother and live on.

Learning will always become a support in her life someday.

“. . . Even for someone like me, you’re saying it’s okay for me to be here, Chloe-san.”

Before I knew it, her eyes were red and swollen.

When I handed her a handkerchief, she burst into tears like a dam had broken.

I sat next to Anne and continued to stroke her back as she continued to shed tears.

Before I knew it, Theodore-sama had come to the arbor and was looking at her with a gentle gaze.

“We welcome you, Miss Anne. The children of Heyerdahl also appealed to me that they would miss you.”

“. . . Thank you, Margrave Heyerdahl.”

Anne stood up and greeted him, holding back her tears.

And then she showed me a smile.

“Sensei, I look forward to working with you from now on.”

“Yes, I look forward to working with you too, Anne-san.”

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟑𝟐: 𝐈’𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐰𝐚𝐲𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐝 𝐚 𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐦 𝐈 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐨

And a few days later, leaving Anne behind, the Strelitzi couple returned to their own territory.

The last sight I had of my ex-husband was him turning his face away from me, looking completely exhausted.

As I watched the carriage leave with Theodore-sama, I muttered to myself as if speaking to no one.

“In the end, he never looked me in the eyes.”

Theodore-sama placed his hand on my shoulder and smiled in a comforting way.

“I’m glad that he doesn’t have the memory of your dignified eyes in his mind. . . Your beautiful blue eyes, Miss Chloe, must have been too dazzling for him.”

Theodore-sama, as always, showered me with compliments today.

“Everything has settled down.”

Theodore-sama muttered.

Yes, everything had settled down. ーーExcept for one thing.

Today, Theodore-sama, who had taken the day off, and I visited the lakeside villa in Heyerdahl. It was lively with children when we visited before, but when we visited alone, excluding the servants, I suddenly became aware of the distance between Theodore-sama and me.

Sitting on the wicker chairs on the terrace of the villa, we were looking at the lake.

The breeze was gentle enough not to cause waves, and it was comfortable. The majestic Heyerdahl mountain range was reflected on the lake surface.

ーーIt was very quiet.

Theodore-sama had taken off his usual formal attire and was dressed only in a shirt and a traditional stole. I, too, was dressed in a dress similar to a white shirt dress to match him.

“The wind is getting warmer. Summer is coming.”

“. . .Yes.”

With his silver hair and hair tie swaying, Theodore-sama muttered, squinting in the sunlight.

I couldn’t look at his profile, his sturdy figure in light clothing, straight on because I was embarrassed.

As I was looking at the lakeside, Theodore-sama began to speak quietly.

“Thank you for believing in my words that day and going along with my story.”

“. . .You’re talking about the incident with the Strelitzi couple, aren’t you. . .”

“Yes.”

I felt like my face was on fire.

At that time, he certainly said that he intended to marry me.

I also managed to get through the situation by pretending that it was a matter of course.

But that wasーーfor the sake of my father, whom Theodore-sama respects, and ultimately, for me, his daughter.

“I want to marry you, Miss Chloe.”

When I looked at him in surprise, Theodore-sama was smiling gently. I wonder if it’s my imagination that his cheeks seem to be faintly flushed.

“Of course, whether you accept me or not is up to you. But. . . I swear that there was no lie or deception in the feelings I showed for you that day in that place. The rest is up to your judgment. . . You don’t have to rush your answer. Compared to the long years when I was watching you from afarーーI am so fulfilled as I am now that I want to thank God.”

Just by being by his side, he squints his eyes happily.

I just didn’t understand.

“Are you sure you want me? Why would someone as respectable and attractive as you. . . want someone like me?”

“I’m not a great or attractive man, Miss Chloe. I’m a pathetic man who fell in love with you from afar, a one-sided love.”

He laughs as if mocking himself.

“I was attracted to you from the start, but as we started spending time together, I fell more and more in love with you every day. Life without Miss Chloe is like all the lights going out in the land of Heyerdahl. Summer is coming, and eventually winter will come. Even on freezing winter nights, I want to sleep holding your warmth. I want to watch over the happiness of our children with you.”

I felt as if his mask was gradually peeling off.

Something like passion was overflowing from his calm eyes that had always maintained a distance.

“Theodore-sama.”

I faced him and touched the hand that was clenched on my knee.

I thought, what a big hand he has.

With this big hand, this man has been protecting me for a long time, the territory, the adopted children, andーーme.

The inside of my chest suddenly became hot. I wanted to touch him more.

When I looked into Theodore-sama’s eyes, his feverish eyes were staring at me intently.

I was clearly reflected in his light-colored eyes.

“I have a wish, just one.”

“What is it?”

Even the thought of speaking it out loud seemed indecent, but it had completely disappeared from me now.

The dream I had kept locked in my heart spilled from my lips.

“I. . . I want a family of my own. It was a dream I had given up on.”

Theodore-sama was holding my hand.

His face was getting closer.

“Theodore-sama. . . If it’s okay with you, I want to be your. . .”

The rest of my words disappeared into his chest that was pressed against me.

Held in his strong arms, I closed my eyes.

“Let’s become a family. . . I love you, Miss Chloe. I won’t let you go anymore.”

・・・

『”𝐴𝑤𝑒𝑏𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑠.𝑐𝑜𝑚” – 𝐷𝑖𝑠𝑐𝑜𝑣𝑒𝑟 𝑎 𝑐𝑎𝑝𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑙𝑑 𝑜𝑓 𝑙𝑜𝑣𝑒, 𝑝𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑎𝑑𝑣𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑒, 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑐𝑎𝑛 𝑖𝑛𝑑𝑢l𝑔𝑒 𝑖𝑛 𝑎 𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑓 𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑠𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑛𝑜𝑣𝑒𝑙𝑠 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ “𝑑𝑎𝑖𝑙𝑦 𝑢𝑝𝑑𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑠” 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑒𝑥𝑐𝑙𝑢𝑠𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑎𝑐𝑐𝑒𝑠𝑠 𝑡𝑜 “𝑎𝑑𝑣𝑎𝑛𝑐𝑒𝑑 𝑐ℎ𝑎𝑝𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠”.』

・・・

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟑𝟑: 𝐒𝐢𝐝𝐞 𝐒𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 / 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐨𝐝𝐨𝐫𝐞-𝐨𝐧𝐢𝐢𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐚 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈𝐜𝐞 𝐂𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐦

Ice Cream with Theodore-oniisama 

“Theodore-oniisama, I want to try eating cold ice cream.”

What she was stroking was one of the picture books that Theodore had brought from Heyerdahl’s castle. It was a story about a girl making ice cream, chosen by the nursemaid as suitable for reading to a little girl.

It’s a food that can’t be reproduced in the warm climate of Maclouge.

“Has Theodore-oniisama ever eaten it?”

“Yes, of course. All children born in Heyerdahl know about it.”

“That’s nice. . .”

Chloe was staring at the picture book with a dreamy look, her small hand on her cheek. Her profile was so cute that Theodore couldn’t help but want to stroke her head――he immediately stopped the hand he was about to raise.

That’s not good. Even though she’s like a sister to him, she’s a proper Marquis’ daughter.

Instead of stroking her, Theodore looked at Chloe’s face and made a proposal.

“Come to Heyerdahl someday. Let’s eat lots of sweet ice cream.”

Chloe’s face lit up with joy. But soon, she looked troubled.

“I want to eat it. . . But my mother might say no. Because it causes cavities.”

“It’s okay. I’ll persuade her when we eat it in Heyerdahl.”

“Really? . . . Is that okay?”

“Yes, it’s a promise.”

“Promise!”

When Theodore held out his little finger, Chloe happily held out hers.

Heyerdahl is gradually getting more and more information about the worsening relations with the neighboring country. For Theodore, who is spending his days studying hard as the eldest son of the Margrave in such a situation, the innocent Chloe was simply a relief to his heart.

“I’m also looking forward to eating ice cream with Chloe.”

――And then many years passed. The first winter came when Chloe came to Heyerdahl.

Now, Theodore was finally preparing ice cream in front of Chloe.

“This is. . . ice cream. . .”

Chloe, who had grown into a beautiful young lady, was looking at the ice cream with the same happy expression as before. Theodore was watching her with deep emotion.

“May I have some?”

“It’s for you. Don’t hesitate.”

“It’s like a dream. . . Then.”

Saying “Itadakimasu,” Chloe gently scooped it up with a spoon and put it in her mouth. With her emerald eyes wide open and her hand at her mouth, Chloe looked at Theodore and nodded slightly.

Just by looking at her expression, it was clear what she was thinking.

“It’s delicious, Theodore-sama. . .”

“I see, I’m glad.”

Theodore also smiled with relief. He had been nervous about whether he could live up to the expectations that Chloe had had since she was a child.

“I’m glad I was finally able to keep my promise.”

“Yes. . . Theodore-oniisama, it’s delicious.”

Huh? He thought.

Chloe seemed unaware, and was busily carrying the white ice cream to her mouth little by little.

Well, it’s okay, he thought, watching her. Suddenly, Chloe turned bright red――apparently, she had realized it belatedly.

“Um. . . Theodore-sama. . .”

“Have you stopped calling me onii-sama?”

When he tried to tease her a little, Chloe covered her mouth and blushed up to her ears.

“Oh. . . I just got carried away with the feelings from when I was little. . . Ah, I’m sorry.”

Seeing Chloe covering her face and turning bright red, he felt a ticklish yet endearing sensation.

Chloe, who usually maintains her composed demeanor, is so adorable when she slips up.

“It’s okay. I liked being called that way too. Do you want to go back to calling me [onii-sama]?”

“I won’t go back, because Theodore-sama is not my big brother, and that. . .”

“hahaha, I’m just kidding.”

Thinking that she must have been so happy and delighted to do something out of character, Theodore also felt happy.

Gradually, it became funny, and the two of us giggled together. 

―𝕿𝖍𝖊 𝕰𝖓𝖉―

𝐀𝐰𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐬: 𝐇𝐞𝐲 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐞! 𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲, 𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐮𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐮𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐝𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐦 𝐨𝐟 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐦𝐚𝐝𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦 𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞!


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