< — Meeting People — > (2)
Anita’s gaze was cold as she watched the Duchess leave the break room. After going through a lot of heartache, Anita’s atmosphere had changed in the past year. As she lost weight, her cheeks grew hollow, her impression became stronger and her temperament hardened.
A large amount of funds was suddenly pulled out from her company without notice. She didn’t have time to find why and had run all over the place trying to settle it. Although she has managed to avoid bankruptcy, most of the shares in her company went into other people’s hands. The only thing left was a superficial shell. The attack of funds that tore down the foundation of her family business was only the beginning. The aide of the Duke of Taran came and gave a cruel finish.
[You did something you shouldn’t have done. If you don’t have the ability to handle investigating someone else, don’t do it. My lord was very offended. If this is done again in the future, be prepared to pay the price. This is just a very light warning(1). My lord has no forgiveness for those that ignore his warning.]
Fabian already didn’t like the Countess of Falcon and had contemptuously relayed his master’s warning. After Fabian left, Anita fainted out of humiliation and was ill for a few days. When Anita woke up, her eyes were filled with venom.
‘So you have been communicating with that female novelist.’
Anita thought that Princess Vivian found out about her through the female novelist. Then went on to tattle to the Duke of Taran.
The Duke was a man of great pride. Even if it was an affectionless marriage, he would be unhappy if someone went after his person. However, the punishment he gave her was too much. There was no reason for the Duke to go that far.
‘How badly did she speak of me?’
Princess Vivian must have gone above and beyond in her tales to the Duke and acted as if she was bullied or something. It was indeed the case of a frog getting killed by an accidentally thrown stone. Princess Vivian threw a stone without any aim and she was hit by that stone.
‘Do you think I will fall like this? Even if I die, I won’t die alone.’
Anita was born the youngest daughter of a fallen aristocrat and thanks to her appearance, she got married to a wealthy man. Within a few months of marriage, her husband died of a sudden cardiac arrest. Anita became rich in an instant. Since she had money, she also wanted to have status. She got a baron who had fallen for her to divorce and then married him. In just half a year, her second husband fell off a horse and died.
Her third husband was Count Falcon, whom she met while she was doing business. Anita was greedy for status and the Count needed money. They got married to fulfill each other’s needs. After a year of marriage, the count went to another country on tea business and died of a fever. Anita did not have any children with her dead husband, nor did he designate a successor to inherit his title. Unless she remarried, according to the law, she was the Countess until death. The youngest daughter of a fallen aristocrat had become a wealthy Countess.
It was not her fault that her husbands died. But people pointed fingers at Anita and said she was cursed. She fought against prejudice and lived clenching her teeth. She was harsh on others as much as she was harsh on herself. Even if people cursed and swore at her from behind, she closed her ears to it. It was because of such venomosity that she was able to get so far. She wanted to become famous in the high society with her wealth and status. But that didn’t go as she wished.
Rather than being famous, Anita was an outsider. The noblewomen were sticklers for class and hated Anita. They used the reason that she was inauspicious but the way Anita saw it, that was only an excuse and the truth was ugly jealousy.
Unlike the pretentious noblewomen who only knew how to gossip about others, Anita could converse with the men. She was able to discuss the economy and talk about business. She also looked attractive. As though showing off, Anita did not refuse the males that were tempted by her and if necessary, she sometimes did the tempting. She didn’t care if they were married or unmarried.
‘You think you are excluding me? I am the one excluding all of you.’
She sneered at the noblewomen and held her head upright. Her business was continuously successful and unlike other women, she didn’t have to cater to her husband every time she spent money. If she had to go to balls, she was adorned in very luxurious dresses and jewelries. The wealthier she got, the more the women in the high society could not ignore her. There were even some who clung to her, hoping to get crumbs. The world worked in funny ways. Anita took her few followers and played an active role in the social circles.
After doing it for a few years, she realized the high society was nothing special and lost interest. And after that, she did not participate in social activities unless it was absolutely necessary. She wasn’t interested in anything other than increasing her money. She was pouring more of her energy into expanding her business.
Then she met the Duke of Taran. For the first time ever, Anita felt a sense of fulfilment like she had gotten it all. Everything was perfect. It was a solid castle that she had built by giving it her all.
But the castle she had painstakingly built was torn down with one word from a woman who was lucky enough to be born a princess and lucky enough to become a Duchess. Anita had thought it was sturdy but seeing her castle collapse in an instant, she was overcome with shock. When she asked those that had sucked up to her for help, they all turned tail and ran. All the wealth and people suddenly seemed like an illusion.
‘I have to at least see what she looks like.’
Anita tried to get an invitation to the tea party that the Duchess was going to attend. She mobilized her contacts and connections. Count Jordan blew his horn claiming that he would come to her rescue but said something else with an awkward expression.
[Hmm. So I talked to my wife. Ahem. Things are a little…]
Even without listening to the end, it was obvious. They must have mocked that someone on the Countess of Falcon’s level could not get into the party. In the end, she failed to get an invitation and felt a sense of deprivation and misery. If her business was doing well, she would not have suffered such humiliation. At this thought, her resentment against the Duchess grew.
Anita stood far away and watched the ducal couple enter the celebration party venue. For a moment, her heart throbbed seeing the unchanging Duke of Taran and she watched as the Duchess receive people’s gazes with a sparkling dress and triumphant expression as if she had the entire world. Her stomach churned and she could not keep watching.
She evaded the crowd and went to the break room. In the break room, she met Lady Alvin. Lady Alvin was one of the contacts that Anita was steadily putting effort into. Thanks to her well-to-do brother, Lady Alvin was a young miss that had grown up without lacking anything. For Anita who was a seasoned merchant, scratching her itch and gently humoring her was child’s play.
Lady Alvin thought of Anita as a friend. Although her reputation in society wasn’t great, the Countess of Falcon was a rare woman with great business talents. Such a person stuck to her, humored her, gave her advice and with that advice, she made a gain on investments. Because of this gain, her brother praised her and rather than the Countess of Falcon pointing out her contribution, she praised her for being excellent and brilliant. She was a really nice person.
Even though Anita was having business difficulties, Lady Alvin talked with her more frequently. Lady Alvin comforted Anita by saying that it was her turn to help. But in fact, her sincerity was because her inferiority complex from when the Countess of Falcon was at the peak of her success had disappeared.
As the two women got closer, Lady Alvin occasionally talked about the situation at home. As of recent, she lamented and spoke about what happened between her sister-in-law and the Duchess.
‘She is not ordinary.’ (Anita)
Anita had to correct her thinking that made light of the Duchess and thought of her as a young princess that didn’t know the realities of life.
[Lady Alvin can try giving a sincere apology on their behalf. If things go well, Count Alvin will be pleased and reward Lady Alvin.]
Tempted by Anita’s enticement, Lady Alvin approached the Duchess and offered an apology. But she did not get the reply she wanted. Anita acted like she was comforting Lady Alvin but inwardly, she was collecting information about the Duchess.
‘She can’t be taken lightly. Her character is stronger than I thought.’
Anita abandoned her plan of approaching the Duchess. There would be an opportunity someday. There was a large difference in status between her and the Duchess but this difference was not absolute. Anita’s life was evidence of this.
‘The Duchess is a great beauty? The Duke has fallen in love? Bullshit!’
Anita did not believe the rumors. It was likely she wouldn’t believe it even if she saw it with her own eyes. She had reached a state where she only saw what she wanted to see and heard what she wanted to hear. The Anita who made calm judgements was no more.
1. Here, he’s referring to the pulling out of funds.
My lord: He doesn’t say ‘my lord’. He says ‘that person’. I put ‘my lord’ so you know who he’s talking about.