< — To the Capital — > (3)
After a few days, Lucia got off her sickbed and was good as new. She had been in bed for quite some time because of the indigestion, but there were no aftereffects.
As if it was a reward for the last few days of poor food, the table was full of high quality dishes for lunch, as well as for dinner. They did not forget to be considerate and only gave her food that was easy to digest.
“Jerome, the number of maids has diminished a lot. There are faces I haven’t seen too.”
“Yes, Milady. The employment period has expired for many.”
The Duke ordered for the servants waiting on the Madam to be changed because their attitudes were bad. In any case, most of them were employed temporarily. They were initially to take all subsequent temporaries to the capital, but since such a situation occurred, the Duke just terminated all the contracts.
The plan was to find the whereabouts of the maids that worked in the residence in the capital and re-employ them. After which, he would leave one maid in charge of managing the Roam castle.
Even though the maids that waited on her for over a year were changed in a single morning, the madam simply replied with, ‘I see’, and said nothing more.
At first, Jerome thought the madam was an innocent and delicate person but over time his thoughts changed. It was rare for someone to deviate so greatly from his first impression but the Duchess was truly a mysterious person.
‘She is truly strong.’
As soon as she got married, she was taken to her husband’s home where she didn’t know a single person, so she was bound to be lonely and uneasy. If she looked for someone to rely on, it would usually be the maid who took care of her like her hands and feet.
When a maid was favored by the mistress of the house, a ranking forms among the maids. Discord among maids was like a drizzle that went unnoticed until you were drenched. At worst, it could even invade the authority of the butler, so most butlers of nobles were worried about such tiresome things happening.
The Duchess handled those working under her with a clear line. She ordered only what was necessary, and did not bother with superfluous actions. Even if something was done wrong, she simply pointed it out and it was rare for her to raise her voice.
In that respect, the madam resembled the duke closely. The reason why servants found it hard to attend to the couple’s needs even though they had never been disciplined before, was because the servants weren’t given any room for engagement.
‘Is it because their marital harmony is good?’
It was very strange but no matter how Jerome thought about it, if the couple’s relationship became estranged, the one to suffer the biggest blow would not be his mistress, but his master. Jerome couldn’t give an objective reason why, but it was an instinctive feeling.
“His Grace sent that you should recuperate well and come to the capital at the end of this month.”
“What recuperation takes that long? It’s just indigestion. Everyone is making such a big deal out of this.”
Jerome smiled ambiguously.
‘Milady says so because you didn’t see Master properly during your fever.’
Jerome was on edge in the receiving room when his master called the doctor and kicked up a storm. When Anna was called back at dawn and came out looking pale, Jerome’s heart sank, thinking that the Madam’s illness was very serious.
When the Madam finally fell asleep and his master came out, one didn’t know how much his master rebuked Anna for not treating the Madam properly. It was the first time Jerome saw his master expressing such extreme emotions. He truly felt pity for Anna who was shaken up. She would probably gain a handful of gray hair.
‘I hope Milady continues to be beside Master in this manner. I am earnestly hoping and looking forward to it.’
Jerome thought to himself as he watched Lucia relax in satisfaction as she drank tea.
People didn’t know much about the Taran family. Apart from the fact that it was a very famous knight family, nothing else was known. In the north, the land was harsh, the population was small, and day in, day out, war with barbarians broke out on its borders.
It was indeed a land without room to spare for profits. This was a reason why no one coveted the vast land that was the Taran territory.
Of course, the Duke was wealthy. No matter how ungainly the land was, there was no way the owner of such a vast land could be poor.
Even though everyone acknowledged the financial and military power of the Taran Duke’s family, no one looked beyond that. The Taran family was a family that had existed for a very long time.
They didn’t thrive enough to stand out conspicuously but they weren’t invisible. Their years of power could not be ignored. The north which was the Taran territory, had been ruled by the Duke of Taran for a very long time and in the north, the Taran family was like King.
Nobles saw the support of the people as a trivial thing, but at times, that support could become a tremendous force. If the Duke of Taran took the lead, the northern people would all follow without complaints. The Taran family’s military power was not the knights that belonged to the family, but all of the northern people. Other nobles were unaware of this.
The north was calm. It was contradictory to say that the north which was always at war with the barbarians was calm, but except from the war, the north was calm. Unlike other territories, there were no occasional uprisings in the north.
You might think this was because people were united to fight against the barbarians, but the biggest reason was because they all had enough to make a living.
The Duke of Taran somehow managed to oversee the north better any other Duke. He did not take too much tax, exploit or suppress people with power. Rewards and punishments were certain and even if you were an aristocrat, you couldn’t harm another person without reason. As long as you obeyed the law, nothing irrational would happen to you.
The northern people knew how good it was to live in the north. Even though the land was barren and you couldn’t amass wealth from farming, you didn’t have to starve. Rather, because you weren’t well-off, you didn’t fall into depravity.
The northern people all had integrity and stability, and that was an enormous asset to the north. And the power that the Duke of Taran held was more than people could imagine.
For many years, the Taran family didn’t have to drain their energy with the likes of succession struggles, and the family’s power which protected and maintained its title, blossomed to a tremendous degree.
No one knew that the Duke of Taran had acquired a few gem mines from the barbarian lands after subjugating them, or that he owned several top business giants actively operating in other countries, or that that he had bought a great deal of land and islands in other countries.
Jerome thought that if the Duke of Taran made up his mind, it would be easy for him to overthrow this country. Overthrowing was one thing and setting up and running the country was another matter but anyways, the power that the Duke held, was much more than people thought.
From the level Jerome could see as a steward of the house, he thought so. But the Duke had no attachment to family. The Duke led his family as though something was tying him down.
Rather than an obligation to perform his duties as a Duke, it was more like he was entangled in something sticky and wanted to break out but couldn’t.
Once in a while, there were times when the indifferent and cold Duke revealed his inner feelings but even then, he had an expression like he’d had enough.
But one didn’t know since when, but Jerome hadn’t seen that expression on the Duke and he was certain that the reason for that, was the Madam. If for any reason or any form, his master lost the madam, what would happen?
Jerome was afraid to even imagine it.
* * *
The carriage left Roam and arrived in the Capital around ten days later. The time spent on the trip was double compared to when Lucia went from the Capital to Roam.
The fastest route was a wasteland with no shade so they couldn’t go through it at midday with the blazing sun. And because Lucia took advantage of the evening and early morning hours for some activity, the speed couldn’t help but be slower.
This journey this time was also escorted by Knight Dean. The last journey, he escorted by order of the Duke but this time, he volunteered. Dean was a man with pure loyalty to the Madam but if it were a knight other than Dean, Hugo would have been uncomfortable.
Hugo had faith in his elite Knight’s loyalty and in particular, he valued Dean and Roy greatly. He believed in Dean’s prudence and sincerity just as he tolerated Roy’s simple character and believed in his ability.
Returning after a year and some months, Lucia felt emotional as she looked at the Ducal Residence. It was here that her life began to change.
On the way back after the exchanging certificates in wedding ceremony, he said:
[If you want to remain in the Capital, you can.]
She really did well in not accepting the Duke’s words and choosing to live apart from him. If she did that then the both of them would have remained as strangers forever.
‘Although I’m no confident in being the perfect couple with him.’
But to some extent, she knew and understood him. At the very least, the phase of other people saying that they were only couples on the surface had passed.
As Lucia entered the mansion, she subconsciously wrapped her arms around herself. Cool air, distinctly different from the hot air outside, hit her skin.
Due to the house’s excellent design with heat-dissipating features, Lucia’s first impression of the house was that there was no warmth. Back then, she didn’t know she would get married and stay there for a few days.
She was able to compare it because she had stayed in Roam. The cold stone wall of the Roam house was much warmer than this. Even though the house was steadily managed, Lucia realized that you had to indeed live in a house, for it to feel like home.
She felt sorry when she realized Hugo had been living alone in this cold, spacious house.
“Milady, your bedroom is opposite Master’s bedroom just like in Roam. It is facing the hallway and the room you stayed in previously when you were here-.”
“I will find it on my own. You must be busy, you can go see to things.”
“Yes, Milady. And this might be needless words of concern, but please be sure to bring a maid with you when you step out of the house, even if it is just to the yard. Unlike Roam, one cannot predict how many eyes are watching or what can happen in the Capital.”
“Alright. I will be going up to get some sleep. When will he be coming in?”
“He is scheduled till evening so it seems he will be returning late.”
It would have been nice to see him today, Lucia thought as she went up to the bedroom on the second floor.