< — 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 though 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 she 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’s 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 one was drenched. At worst, it could even invade the authority of the butler so most noble butlers 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 will 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 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 pitiful for Anna who was shaken up. She would probably gain a handful of gray hair.
‘I hope Milady continues to be beside Master this way. I am earnestly hoping and looking forward to it.’
Looking at Lucia relaxing in satisfaction as she drank tea, Jerome thought this way.
People didn’t know much about the Taran family. Apart from the fact that it was a very famous knight family, nothing was known. In the north, the land was harsh, the population was small, and day in day out, war with the barbarians broke out on its borders.
It was indeed a land without room to spare for profits. This was a reason that 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 Taran territory, the north, had been ruled by the Duke of Taran for quite the long time and in the north, the Taran family was like King.
Nobles saw the people’s support as a trivial thing but at times the support could become a tremendous force. If the Duke of Taran took the lead, the northern people would all follow without complaints. Taran’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, in the north, there were no occasional uprisings.
One might think that the reason 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 with power. Rewards and punishments were certain and no matter how noble, one couldn’t harm another without reason. As long as one obeyed the law, nothing irrational would happen.
The northern people knew how good it was to live in the north. Even though the land was barren and one couldn’t amass wealth from farming, one didn’t have to starve. Rather, because one wasn’t well-off, one 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 power of the family that 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 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 the 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 indifferently 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 and he was certain that the reason was the Madam. If for any reason or in 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 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 she 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 from here on 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’ excellent design with heat-dissipating features, Lucia’s first impression of the house was that there was no warmth. At the time, she didn’t know she would get married and stay there for a few days.
She was able to compare to it because she had stayed in Roam. The cold stone wall of Roam was much warmer than this. Even though it was steadily managed, she realized than indeed one had to live in a house for it to feel like home.
She felt sorry when she realized he’d 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.
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