< — The Capital’s High Society(1)– > (2)
Jerome and Dean followed a few steps behind Lucia as she came down from the carriage and headed towards Norman’s house. Lucia knocked on the door. She expected to see Ms. Phil’s plump face greeting her at the door but there was no reply.
She knocked a few more times but there was still no response.
‘Did she go out? But Norman doesn’t like going out. Why isn’t Ms. Phil here?’
She felt sad to leave without even seeing Norman’s face so she stood in front of the door for a long time.
Lucia heard a voice calling her name from afar. A pair of two, male and female, were some distance away and out of the pair, the woman excitedly ran towards Lucia, waving her hand. She was no longer the lean girl from Lucia’s memory. The surprisingly plump Norman rushed towards Lucia quickly.
Norman hugged her tightly.
“My goodness. It’s been so long. Let me look at you. Aiyo, you’ve become prettier. Look how fair your face is.”
Norman was crying while holding Lucia’s face and turning it left and right. Jerome and Dean were uncomfortable seeing the precious body of the Duchess mishandled and turned away slightly.
Norman fussed over Lucia, checking her face, hands and repeatedly saying things like ‘you look healthy, thank goodness’ or ‘fortunately, you’re not hurt’.
“Let’s go inside. Just where and what have you been doing all this time…”
“Ah, Norman. This is…”
Lucia was curious about the identity of the man standing beside Norman. He was walking alongside with Norman and after Norman ran off, he followed after her.
The man grinned as though grateful for Lucia’s lack of knowledge and promptly clung to Norman. Norman fixed him a lovable glare and jogged him with her elbow. Lucia’s eyes widened at the very intimate display.
“I almost forgot to introduce him. This is Thomas. My fiancé.”
Lucia’s voice increased in surprise. Norman gave an embarrassed laugh then briefly introduced Lucia to Thomas and vice versa then she quickly chased him away.
It was obvious from Thomas’ gaze that he wanted to go into the house together and stick his head in their conversation but Norman pretended not to notice.
The man who turned around without concealing his regret gave off a nice and gentle impression. Norman linked arms with Lucia and tugged at her, showing her interest in the two attractive men behind Lucia.
“Who are those men? By any chance, you too?”
Norman sent Lucia a strange gaze. Which one is it? It was such a gaze. Lucia quickly resolved the misunderstanding. If Hugo were to hear this, it would be a disaster.
“No. They are my escorts.”
“Escort? Wow. Lucia. What happened to you? I think we have a lot to talk about. But the people that came with you…”
“We are fine, you do not have to be worried.”
Hearing Jerome’s reply, Norman’s eyes widened in surprise. From his attire, she thought he was just a regular person but his tone and attitude showed etiquette and grace. It seemed he was not an ordinary person working under another.
Even though she knew it was rude, Norman kept glancing at the two men until she and Lucia entered the house and closed the door. As soon as the door was closed, the thoroughly maintained indoors of the small two-story house came into view.
As Lucia was seeing Norman’s house again after a long time, she looked around in appreciation. The plainly formal atmosphere of the living room was unchanged.
Norman brought out some tea and sat on the couch facing Lucia.
“Where did Ms. Phil go?” (Lucia)
“She quit because of back pains. Plus I will be leaving soon anyways.”
“You know, my fiancé you saw earlier. I decided to go to his hometown and get married.”
“Norman, congratulations! When are you going?”
“The day after tomorrow.”
“The day after tomorrow? You leave in two days?”
“Yes. We nearly missed each other. I didn’t know you were coming so I was going to put this house up for rent. I was planning to have them contact me if you were to ever come.”
Lucia felt deep regret. Norman was her first friend and her family. She was able to arrange a dress and meet Hugo with the money that Norman gave her, and she went to visit the ducal residence with the courage gained from Norman’s advice.
If not for Norman, Lucia would not have been able to marry him. On the other hand, perhaps it was for the best. Lucia had experienced the life of a commoner and a noble.
So she knew how nobles looked at commoners. For the common people, the world of the nobility was an insurmountable wall, akin to heaven and earth and it could not be mixed with the world they lived in.
Most commoners would never see a high-ranking noble like a Duke in their entire lifetime. Lucia believed that Norman was not a person to change according to the status of another. But if she knew Lucia’s real identity, she wouldn’t be able to help feeling some distance in her heart.
The gap between the maid Lucia and the formerly princess but now Duchess Vivian was too big. It was hard to keep hiding this fact from Norman and Lucia was always worried that if she were to tell Norman, their relationship would become estranged.
She wanted to send Norman off as the Lucia that Norman knew. She wanted Norman to live a calm life, and perhaps if Norman didn’t know, she could live carefreely.
“Actually, I am married too.”
“I couldn’t contact you because I got married and had to go far away with my husband in a hurry. I’m sorry.”
“I see now. And no. I am getting married too so I know there are a lot of things to prepare and a lot to worry about. So I understand. Then, is it also your husband that placed those escorts?”
When Lucia nodded, Norman remarked, ‘they did seem hired…’ and exclaimed in admiration. Lucia was intimated by the questions of, how old, what kind of man, where does he live, where did you meet, that poured out non-stop from Norman.
Noticing that Lucia had difficulty answering, Norman did not push for an answer.
‘In any case, I don’t think the man Lucia is married to is an ordinary man.’
Norman recalled the men that followed Lucia as her escorts.
‘Maybe she married a rich merchant or a noble. She did come with a valuable carriage from who knows where. Ah. A marriage with a noble. That is really what is called romance.’
“Is your husband good to you?”
“Yes, he’s affectionate.”
“Does he earn well?”
Lucia burst into laughter.
“Yes, he earns very well.”
“What? Don’t act so innocent about marital affairs. You’ve already done it all.”
Norman giggled as she looked at Lucia who was bright red. She teased Lucia about if she had any advice to share on a couple’s night to her junior since Lucia was a senior in marriage. Lucia blushed fiercely, not saying anything and seeing that, Norman began to giggle again.
“You know, I thought of sending you a letter to ask if you were okay but honestly, I was a little worried about the medium. Something strange happened, you see.” (Norman)
“Some woman came to me saying she was a fan of my novel. I couldn’t find out who she was but to my senses, she felt like a noble. Even if one doesn’t want to be exposed, whether it is from their tone or their actions. Something is different.”
“A noble can be a fan though.”
“That is true. But she was looking for you.”
“…Looking for me?”
“She came to find me a few times, mentioned your features and asked what you guaranteed when you made a bank account. When I asked why she was looking for you, she said she was looking for news as you were someone she knew. I just said you were a dongsaeng I knew. She wasn’t interrogative but I pretended not to notice that she was quietly guiding me to talk about you. She isn’t someone you know, right?”
“I don’t know. I can’t…get a sense of who it is at all.”
Who could it be? Lucia was appalled by the fact that someone had come after Norman to ask about her. Someone was investigating her without her knowledge.
‘Maybe they were aiming for him, not me.’
While there was no reason for anyone to go after her, his political opponents could still try to take advantage of her to get to him.
“Does the lady still come?”
“No. She suddenly stopped coming. It’s already been several months. I haven’t seen her ever since.”
Lucia listened to Norman’s detailed description of the woman’s features and saved it in her mind. Since the woman tried to investigate, she would surely try to approach Lucia someday.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
Norman had been staring at Lucia for a while now, so Lucia had to ask.
“It feels like you’ve changed a little.”
“It has been a while after all.”
“No. It’s different from that.”
Being the Duchess for more than a year, Lucia handled people under her and the leisure and skillfulness with which she dealt with the ladies of the northern high society flowed out of her unawares. Norman caught this with her sharp eyes. But Norman did not know exactly why or what was different so she just thought that something was different.
“Because you weren’t here, I got to learn precisely how great of a storyteller you are. I paid someone to get news of the noble circles a few times but it wasn’t as funny and informative as when you tell it.”
“Was there any interesting story?”
“The most memorable one…was news about the Duke of Taran.”
Lucia almost choked on the tea she was drinking.
“Apparently, the Duke of Taran got married. Do you happen to know anything?”
“I-I’m not sure.”
“Well indeed. People like us don’t quibble over which noble marries whom. But the rumors about the Duke of Taran’s marriage are interesting. They say, there was no wedding, and as soon as the secret marriage was over, he kidnapped the bride and dragged her to his estate.”
Lucia ended up spitting out the tea in her mouth.
“What’s wrong? Is the tea too hot?”
Norman handed her a handkerchief and Lucia wiped off the spilled tea on her skirt.
“Oh no. I don’t think the stain will come off completely.”
“What was I talking ab…Ah, right. The Duke of Taran. Anyway, they say the Duke lost it and did that because the woman who became the Duchess is a woman of incomparable beauty, beautiful enough to ruin a country.”
Lucia now had cold sweat forming on her back. That ‘incomparable beauty’ was none other than herself who was in front of Norman.
“At home, the Duke confines the Duchess…”
“Nor…Norman. Will you keep writing novels after you leave?”
Lucia couldn’t listen any longer so she quickly changed the topic.
“It is uncertain. If not in the capital, my novels might not sell well so I don’t know if it will be profitable. But I have the money I’ve made so far so I’m not worried. My fiancé runs a shop that has been in the family for generations so I think income will be okay.”
“How did this ever happen? Norman used to not believe in love.”
“That’s why life is fun. Hahaha.”
The afternoon went by as Lucia spent several hours listening to Normans’ love story. As Lucia listened, it was a very typical and romantic encounter, compared to the romance novels Norman wrote, but Norman told the story with her eyes shining as if she were talking about the masterpiece of the century.
She really seemed like the one of the heroines in her novels that had fallen in love.
“What of you? Are you happy?”
Norman asked at an interval and Lucia replied with, ‘yes, I’m happy.’ The happiness in her smiling face was not a lie. Lucia was truly happy with her days with him. Her sincerity was fully conveyed to Norman. Norman made an expression of happiness and relief.
“Well, this can work as your wedding gift. This house. I transferred it to you.”
“Your account was still open in the bank so I left it to the bank manager to process it. I’ve processed all the paperwork and taxes so all that’s left is for you to receive it.”
“Norman, this is the first house you bought, isn’t it? A house with such precious memories…”
“And that is why I would like for you to accept it. The memories in this house are memories built with you. I don’t want to sell it, but I do not know when I will be back to the capital.”
Nolan stood up from the other couch and came to sit beside Lucia then gave her a firm hug.
“Lucia, I always worry about you because you are much younger than me. You have to be happy. You will know where I live, so come to me if your husband makes you unhappy.”
“Norman, thank you. If it wasn’t for Norman, I…”
Lucia was all choked up and couldn’t speak. They hugged each other and cried, sharing the joy of reunion and the sorrow of parting.
Lucia dissuaded Norman from seeing her off. She declined saying that Norman would be busy all day tomorrow preparing and the day after tomorrow, Norman would have to depart in the morning so there was no need to see her off.
Norman didn’t want to inconvenience Lucia who wasn’t free to go around without an escort. Even though the two of them said their lenghty goodbyes inside, they stood in front of the door unable to let go of their regret.
“Please take good care of her. She is someone I think of as a younger sister.”
Norman requested this of Jerome.
“Do not worry. We will serve with our utmost sincerity.”
Norman watched as Jerome carefully escorted Lucia to the carriage and she thought:
‘He seems like a really good man. I will be relieved if Lucia’s husband is such a man. Ai. Lucia is already married. My small dream is gone.’
Norman had planned to introduce Lucia to the younger brother of her fiancé for marriage, when they got back in touch with each other. That way, she and Lucia would move westward and live close to each other forever. She was worried that the young Lucia wouldn’t know a good man.
‘I hope you aren’t being held up by some strange guy and suffering.’
But still, she was relieved that the lonely Lucia was no longer alone. Even though the carriage was no longer in sight, Norman remained standing outside for a long while.
1) Dongsaeng means: someone younger that you. Usually a close term. Can be used to refer to male or female. Direct translation is younger sister/child…
*We are getting to the point where we might need a term glossary.
*If someone can teach me footnotes, I’ll do em lol.
*This chapter is the longest we’ve had I think. Phew.