< — The Beginning and the End — >(5)
It was her first time meeting Anna since Anna stopped working for her. Lucia had received the headache medicine from Anna, but in the meantime, she had asked her maid to only give her that drug.
Anna was visibly pleased to see the Duchess whom she had not met in a long time. Lucia had a wry smile, knowing fully well that she had not called Anna here with good intentions. And she immediately went straight to business.
“We are suspicious that a special medication, targeted at me, was mixed into the drug for headache that you gave to me, Anna, and we are looking into it. Personally, I do not think you are involved, Anna. So I want you to honestly tell me everything, without hiding a single thing.”
Anna’s face went deathly pale with horror. She stumbled over her reply in complete disbelief.
“The-The prescription for the headache medicine…I got it from the Duke’s doctor at Roam, Sir. Philip. But Milady, he’s not someone like that.”
Philip. Lucia felt strange hearing that name.
‘We keep getting oddly involved with one another.’
In her dream, he was someone she was grateful to because he gave her the prescription for her treatment and in reality, he was the person whom her husband’s late twin brother owed his life to.
However, because her husband appeared uneasy with Philip, Lucia couldn’t feel any goodwill that Philip might be a good person.
“Anna. I am pregnant right now.”
“My word! Congratulations.”
“Thank you. As you know, I was infertile. But unbeknownst to me, I was treated, and I believe the source is the headache medicine.”
Anna’s expression gradually stiffened gravely.
“The fact that it resulted in my pregnancy does not matter. I have been taking a medication without me being aware of it. If it was a poison that was killing me slowly, what would become of it? Do you understand why I am taking this seriously?”
Anna heaved a sigh as if she had remembered something.
“I…I was used.”
“Is there something you can think of?”
“Sir Philip was…obsessed with Milady’s pregnancy. I didn’t think much of it at the time but when I think about it now, it was excessive.”
“I see. If I remember correctly, Sir. Philip tried to meet me through you. Now, I am curious why Sir. Philip tried to do that. Tell me everything, from beginning to end. Don’t leave out what you talked about with him too.”
Anna looked back, recalling her memories from her first meeting with Philip. And as she spoke, going into the details one by one, she realized Philip’s intentions. Anna came to the end of her story with her eyes heavily reddened as she reeled from the immense shock.
“This is my fault. I…I was so foolish.”
The headache drug was not only taken by the Duchess. A countless number of patients had taken Anna’s headache medicine. All this while, she had sold a drug despite not knowing how it would affect a patient’s body. She was so absorbed in the profit from selling that she had forgotten her duty as a doctor and she was completely disillusioned with herself.
Anna apologized several times before leaving with a haggard expression. After Anna left, Lucia began to solve the mystery based on the information she had gained.
The cure that Lucia knew had a unique scent. However, she couldn’t detect such a scent on the headache medicine. Philip was someone who had the treatment method within his family’s vision. He would have been able to change the drug’s formulation as much as he wanted.
‘He heard from Anna that I knew about the drug’s unique scent and took the precaution to get rid of it. Why did he go to that extent? Plus, even if he treated my infertility, it’s not like we could have a child just because my infertility got cured. My husband cannot have a child normally. He said that the woman has to prepare her body with a special herb.’
There was no way Philip wouldn’t have known that.
An idea suddenly flashed into her mind.
The Philip that she met in her dream was very knowledgeable about mugwort’s effects whereas other people had no idea. And he had a cure which he called his family’s vision. The question was, why did Philip’s family discover the cure for such an uncommon illness and leave it as their family’s vision?
‘Since I took mugwort when I was a child, I made my body into something that is infertile but not infertile. It is an unreal coincidence, but if this condition was really the condition for having his child…’
[Sir. Philip said that for the treatment to be effective, Milady must have been pure before your bridal night. It is strange when I think about it now. Why did I believe such words back then?]
‘So Philip checked if I met the conditions.’
Lucia felt a chill run down her spine. Philip’s thoroughness made her very uncomfortable.
‘I have to tell him.’
And there was something she wanted to ask him because she just couldn’t figure out the answer.
* * *
Hugo, who went to the north, returned after three weeks. Hugo went straight to his office, followed by Jerome who had come out to greet him.
“Is my wife sleeping?”
“The Madam went to her bedroom early in the evening. I did not inform her that Your Grace would be returning.”
“You did well. What happened to the prescription I gave you?”
Before Hugo left for Roam, he handed over the prescription that Philip gave him to Jerome. He told him that if Duchess began to suffer from sudden abdominal pain and the doctor couldn’t find the cause but the pain persisted to an intolerable degree, she should be given medicine as the prescription states.
He hoped that what Philip said would not happen.
“Like Your Grace said, the Madam suffered from severe abdominal pain. After she took the prescribed medicine Your Grace gave me, it settled down quickly.”
Hugo’s hopes were shattered. He was greatly disappointed.
“In addition, I found out the components of the Madam’s headache medicine that Your Grace spoke of. I also found out how the Madam’s former doctor obtained that prescription. They are all included in my report.”
Hugo picked up Jerome’s report which was on top of his table and flipped through it. He once again realized Philip’s craftiness in approaching Anna and lamented to himself. His mistake of not recognizing someone like this was painful.
“However, the Madam showed interest in the investigation of the headache medicine.”
“What do you mean by interest?”
“The Madam called her former doctor and met her personally.”
Hugo furrowed his brow. This was unexpected.
“She had a pretty long conversation with the former doctor. I was not told what they had talked about.”
Hugo didn’t have any idea what she would have talked to her former doctor about. He sorted out a few urgent documents then headed up to the second floor with a heavy heart.
He had turned his family’s secret room upside down for nearly ten days but couldn’t find anything.
In his family’s genealogical record, there were only records of the Dukes from generation to generation and the Duchesses who bore the successors. There was no information about the mothers of the Duchesses or the Duchess’ parental homes. In the part about their lineage, Philip’s family was mentioned many times, but there was no reference to what method.
As Hugo opened the door to the bedroom, readying to enter, he paused.
The bedroom was lit up moderately with candles and Lucia, who was lying on the bed, lifted her head and exclaimed in delight.
“Hugh! When did you come back?”
“I’ll come to you. Don’t get up.”
Hugo stopped her since she looked like she was going to jump down from the bed. He quickly reached the bed and climbed up on his knees. She had her arms stretched out to him and he wrapped his arms around her, squeezing her tight.
“You came back, and no one came to tell me.”
“They probably thought you were sleeping.”
“Hugh, do you know what happened a little while ago?”
Lucia took Hugo’s hand and placed it on her stomach. Hugo was momentarily startled. In the span of a few weeks, her stomach had grown significantly.
“The baby sent me a signal that it’s doing well in there. It was just a little while ago. I was just lying down, and I heard a sound like water drops. At first, I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was just something like my stomach rumbling when I’m hungry. But after a moment, I heard it again, twice and suddenly, I got goosebumps and my heart started to race. And so I just knew. The baby is talking to me.”
Lucia poured out a string of words without stopping for breath. Hugo could clearly see that she was overwhelmed with emotion and he was moved too. Hugo looked at his hand which was still on her stomach.
“Yea. Wait a little.”
The two of them waited with bated breath for a while but there was no movement from inside Lucia’s abdomen.
Lucia wanted him to feel the overwhelming emotions she had felt. She inwardly urged the baby to move a few times, but it was still.
“It definitely moved a few minutes ago.”
Hugo gently kissed his wife, who looked disappointed.
“Have you been well?”
“Yes. What of you? Did your trip go well?”
“Roughly. I heard your stomach hurt a lot?”
“It was fine soon after I took medication. I was more worried that something would go wrong with the baby.”
Even if Philip didn’t tell him that the mother would be endangered if he tried to get rid of the baby, Hugo already didn’t plan on doing anything to the child. He had no intention of watching his wife wallow in despair over the loss of her child.
Philip won. When Hugo came back to the capital without finding anything in the secret room, he thought that as long as she could be safe, he would do whatever it takes, even if it meant playing into Philip’s hands.
“Hugh. There is something I wanted to verify when you came back. The headache medicine.”
“What about the headache medicine?”
“The reason I was able to get pregnant is because of the headache medicine, right?”
His wife was an interesting woman. Sometimes, she was naïve and innocent but at other times, she was very sharp.
Lucia told him about her entire conversation with Anna. Hugo listened attentively, not missing even the trivial parts of what she was saying.
This was high quality information that wasn’t present in Jerome’s report. He was able to get a clear idea of how Philip cleverly maneuvered through the gaps in Anna’s heart, utilizing her trust in him.
Hugo ground his teeth at Philip, who had hundreds of snakes crawling in his stomach.
‘Mugwort, huh? Is that related?’
Hugo felt like he was grasping onto something. It seemed like there would be a way to use this information.
“But Hugh. What I can’t understand the most is why Sir. Philip did this.”
It was Lucia’s biggest question and dilemma. She didn’t know why Philip went to the extent of playing so many tricks so that she could get pregnant. It was too much to see it as mere loyalty. Not only was the method less than decent, she could feel an unpleasant obsession.