< — Realization — > (4)
TN: One more chapter till book 6! Also, I’m sorry, I dozed off.
Gio Baden, head of the Count Baden family, and nobleman of the southern frontier, devoted his entire life to restoring his collapsing family. The household was not in that much difficulty during the childhood of the Count. Because it was family with deep history, they maintained their local influence and lived exercising small influence over their region.
His late father overdid himself trying to do business and it went wrong, causing their financial status to decline greatly. His late father was tormented with self-reproach at destroying the foundation of the family; his heart grew weak and passed away leaving the responsibility of settlement to his son. The inheritance taken over by the Count of Baden was a title, an old mansion that existed for generations and a tremendous amount of debt.
It took a lot of money to retain the title. He had to pay a considerable amount of tax to the king every year. The debt increased without him doing anything. But when he thought of his father who passed away with regrets, he couldn’t give up the title at all.
The Count busied himself in trying to save his family. Because he was running around here and there, he had no time to take care of his family. He reduced the debt and went out only for the revival of the family. His wife quietly supported her husband, and raised their two sons and one daughter by herself.
One day, his wife suddenly collapsed. The Count was not even at his sick wife’s side and could not protect her properly. He thought she would recover soon but his wife left the world sometime after. The absence of his wife who had always been there was too big. His two sons understood their father within reason but his young daughter resented her father for the loss of her mother.
The thing that made him get back to his feet after he was drowned in the sorrow of losing his wife was ironically, his family’s debt. He believed that it would be beneficial to his children in the future if the family was brought to prosperity. The Count had no time to comfort his wounded daughter’s heart. He believe that his eldest son would take good care of his siblings, in the place of their mother.
When he was away on an important business and couldn’t come back home for a while, his youngest daughter ran away. His sons didn’t want their father to worry so they didn’t tell him. When he asked where the immature child was, they told him she was sleeping at a friend’s house for a few days so he didn’t look for her and left it alone for a few days. When her brothers couldn’t find her after combing through every place they could think of, they finally realized that this was a serious matter. The Count only came to know that his youngest daughter was missing, a month after she had disappeared.
Alone with his son, the Count searched for his daughter for nearly over a year, but he couldn’t find a trace of her anywhere. To make things worse, the high-end business he invested in went bankrupt. The family that had risen a little bit, fell back to the ground. As things stood, he wanted to just embrace his sons and pass away but eventually he gave up looking for his daughter.
Over the next 20 odd years.
The Count of Baden lived life diligently. He could confidently tell anyone who asked that he had worked hard. But the heavens did not reward according to the effort put in. Everything he did kept running off course. When he thought things were improving, they would go back to how they were.
During the height of the war, the south enjoyed the peculiarity of war because it was not that far from the battlefield. Everyone was earning money but Count Baden was in the minority that couldn’t.
His debt increased. The mansion passed down in the family for generations was about to collapse. The Count, who had never asked anyone for a favor even though he had been living a hard life, made a big decision. He decided to ask his friend in the capital for help.
The Count had lived in the capital for some time when he was a child. There was a friend he had been in contact with since back then. It was the only cord he could lean on.
Because he couldn’t afford to take the expensive gate to the capital, the Count of Baden gathered his old bones and arrived at the capital after several months of traveling. When he arrived, the capital was in great excitement over the coronation of the new King. When he found his friend, he was received with great delight and given a room to stay. He hadn’t been able to ask his friend for help yet.
His friend was the son of a Count with decent influence. Even if he didn’t inherit the title, he was able to receive an invitation to the celebration party in the Inner Palace. Thanks to his friend, the Count of Baden was able to enter the palace for the first time.
At the celebration party, the Count was able to see high-ranking figures that he had only heard of before. He even saw the face of the King. While enjoying a luxurious party for the first time in his life, the Count poked his nose here and there and heard people talking about ducal couple of Taran. The Count was curious because the Duke of Taran was a famous person that he knew about as well.
The Count squeezed into the crowd that gathered at the news that the ducal couple of Taran had arrived. And as soon as the Count saw the Duchess, his heart stopped.
There was a noblewoman there, resembling both his pitiful wife who was buried deep in his heart, and his lost youngest daughter, as if he was looking at the two of them together.
How could someone look so similar? The Count kept stealing glances at the Duchess then he asked his friend and was informed about her.
[I heard she’s a princess. I think she’s been married to the Duke of Taran for a little over a year? It wasn’t too long ago. She’s famous in the social circle. Whether it’s my wife or my daughter, once they open their mouth, they’re talking about things like that, it’s very annoying.]
A princess of all things. The Count’s expecting heart died down with a thud. It was a status that had no relationship with his daughter at all. His heart hurt, and maybe because he was remembering his daughter after a long time, that night, he saw his daughter in a dream. She looked like a young lady, just like he remembered her.
But when he woke up, he couldn’t tell whether he had seen his daughter in the dream or the Duchess from earlier in the day. The memory of his daughter that was vivid enough that he could draw a picture of her, was mixed up in his head. The Duchess resembled his daughter to that extent.
[Can you get an invitation to the ball today too?]
The Count asked his friend. His friend happily agreed stating it wasn’t a difficult matter.
Seeing the Duchess again today, the Count felt his heart stop, again. She looked more like his daughter today than she did yesterday. A stranger wouldn’t resemble his daughter so much. He passed by a few times, secretly looking at the Duchess who was talking to other noblewomen.
She was the exact image of his daughter when she smiled. The color of her eyes that couldn’t be seen from afar were clear amber. Girls in the Baden family with amber eyes were said to be symbols of good fortune so they received a lot of love. The Count fell for the color of his wife’s eyes, and was delighted at the birth of his daughter who resembled his wife and had an eye color of good-luck.
The Duchess who had the same amber eyes as his wife and his daughter. The Count felt overwhelmed and his heart hurt like it was being pierced.
Could it be? It can’t possibly be. Maybe? There’s no way. The Count was agonizing and indecisive. Even if he wanted to approach her and talk to her, there was no chance. There were people densely gathered around her and it was not an atmosphere where an unfamiliar old man could approach her. He saw the Duchess dancing in the hall and the heart was moved. It overlapped with the scene of his daughter dancing at her first ball.
Later, the Duke entered, hugged the Duchess and left the party venue. The Count followed from a distance. As the Ducal couple moved to an increasingly secluded area, he couldn’t follow any longer. He snooped around inside the hallway where the ducal couple disappeared and paced around for a while. Then he discovered a familiar maid coming out and his eyes opened wide. He saw the Duchess talking to the maid several times, both today and yesterday.
He took his seal from his breast pocket and stamped it on his handkerchief then he squeezed it in into the hand of the maid, making a request. If the Duchess had anything to do with his daughter, she might know of the Baden family. It was a tiny sliver of hope.
The maid looked troubled but thankfully took the handkerchief. After a while, the maid came back carrying a bag and bowed to the Count who was still standing there then she went inside the room. The Count was anxious and could not turn away from the direction the maid had gone.