< — Memories of Mother — > (3)
Lucia sat in the receiving room using her free time till dinner to embroider a handkerchief. Her embroidery skill had improved quite a bit. In the past, the embroidery of Damian’s name at the edge of the handkerchief looked quite nice from afar but up-close, it looked less intricate. Now, even on a closer look, there was almost no misalignment.
‘I’ll send some books along with the handkerchief this time. There are good books for the child to read.’
It had almost been a year since she first saw Damian in the north. Because the child grew so fast, Lucia wondered how much he had grown. When could Damian be brought to the capital? His heartless father would never bring up Damian first if Lucia did not ask.
‘Tea parties are good for public opinion if you makes good relationships. I have to work hard for Damian. The child’s position is bound to be rejected. I have to make a path.’
It wasn’t something she could avoid by saying meeting people was too complicated. As she embroidered, Lucia affirmed the responsibility that she should have as the mother of a child.
Jerome came in audibly and began to talk.
“Master sent a message. He said his return today is likely going to be later than expected. And although it will be a little later than dinner time, he wishes to have dinner together.”
“Is that so?” (Lucia)
Yesterday, he told her he would probably be late today. Hearing that he was unexpectedly coming back earlier, Lucia felt better. Seeing the glow on his Mistress’s face, Jerome turned his head and laughed.
The couple’s show of love wasn’t fazed by the servants and it grew stronger day by day. Usually, the madam was swept up in his master’s pace but the madam did not show active dislike as before.
The overflowing affection between their masters had quietly affected the servants. Today, Jerome received a resignation from a maid. The maid was getting married. This was already the third case.
“Jerome. Are there still party invitations for me these days?” (Lucia)
“Yes, Milady. They are increasing more and more.”
“Exclude balls or large scale gatherings. Pick out invitations for mainly small tea parties.”
Jerome fixed his gaze on the handkerchief that Lucia was embroidering. The handkerchief with flower embroidery that his master always carried in his coat flashed into his mind.
His master’s change was really surprising. He was someone that never carried a handkerchief because he hated cumbersome things. Jerome tried hard to recall the faint former visage of his master. His master was changing from a savage wild beast to a tamed animal. But strangely, the new change was nice to look at.
It didn’t mean the Duke was a tough master in the past. He was an extremely rational person so he was never one to nitpick pointlessly.
It was just occasionally. Jerome was keen enough to catch the hidden bloodlust coming from his master. Jerome had never encountered a terrifying visage but he got the chills. It was at the worst when his master came back from hunting, and very rarely, there were times when Jerome felt like something that his master usually suppressed was coming out.
However, for about six months now, Jerome had not felt such a thing from his master. To phrase it excessively, his master who was wearing the skin of a ‘human’ was now becoming a real human.
“Milady. What do you think of gifting master an embroidered handkerchief as well?”
“The thread I use is thick so my embroidery will ruin a silk handkerchief.”
“Not a silk one but a cotton handkerchief…”
“Jerome. How can a grown man carry this around?” (Lucia)
Jerome’s expression was strange as he watched his Mistress chuckling. As expected, the Madam did not know. Well, since serving was entirely left to servants, it was natural she didn’t know.
“Even if Master doesn’t carry it around, he will be very delighted with Milady’s gift.”
“Mmm…my skill is embarrassing though…alright, I’ll make one with his name on it.”
Jerome broke out in a grin. A great butler who understands his master’s thoughts. The name of the man who was called to be a butler was Jerome.
* * *
Hugo arrived home a little later than dinner time. Fabian had something to report separately so he followed Hugo inside. He thought of seeing Jerome whom he hadn’t seen in a while and having a meal together as brothers.
As soon as Hugo arrived, many people came out to greet him but Hugo was only happy to see one person. He wrapped his arms around his wife’s waist and pulled her into his chest then he greeted her with a light kiss.
“I’m back.” (Hugo)
“Welcome back.” (Lucia)
It wasn’t easy to do this in front of the servants but Lucia’s face was flushed with many subtle feelings that she didn’t hate at all.
“What about dinner?” (Hugo)
“You told me to wait.”
“If you’re hungry, you could’ve eaten first.”
“I’m not that hungry.”
Hugo turned to Jerome and asked.
“Is the meal ready?”
“You can go to the dining room right away.” (Jerome)
When the Master and Mistress of the house entered the dining room, the gathered servants scattered in search of their respective jobs. They all had impassive expressions that stated they had something to do now.
The servants had reached the point where they thought that if the ducal couple were together, they would definitely do that. The older servants knew from experience that a frigid relationship between their masters would make the atmosphere at home suspenseful and anxious so they preferred this and thought it was very good. In this situation where everyone was satisfied, there was one person that was unable to be.
“You. What are you doing?” (Jerome)
Seeing Fabian who looked stunned with a gaping mouth, Jerome clicked his tongue.
“…I think I’m seeing things now.” (Fabian)
“Wait for me while I serve during dinner. Either you wait in my office or have dinner first, do as you please.”
Fabian held back Jerome who was going to the dining room.
“Is it like this everyday? I mean, do they do these goosebumps raising act everyday? Why is no one surprised?” (Fabian)
“Well. They are used to it now.” (Jerome)
The end is coming. This is a sign of the world’s destruction. Jerome glanced pitifully at Fabian who was murmuring with a dark aura around him, then he headed for the dining room.
* * *
While they were taking a walk after dinner, Lucia told him that she had signed a new dressmaking contract with Antoine. He didn’t say anything but from his expression, he didn’t seem pleased at all.
“I like the dresses Antoine makes. I plan to continue commissioning Antoine in the future.” (Lucia)
“It’s up to you.”
“Therefore, you cannot have a different contract with Antoine.”
Lucia had only speculated that he had signed some contract with Antoine. She thought it was strange for the cost of the coronation dress to be so cheap. But when she told Antoine, ‘it is a contract with me’, she could make a guess from Antoine’s reaction. There was a contract between her husband and Antoine that she didn’t know about. So she stealthily poked her husband and he also looked caught off guard. Thus, the guess hardened into conviction.
“I’ve talked a lot with Antoine about the last contract.” (Lucia)
Lucia’s ambiguous words sparked Hugo’s misunderstanding. Antoine told his wife everything about the contract!
If Antoine knew this, she would pound her chest in distress. Antoine had that much tact and common sense. No matter how much Lucia interrogated her, she would have kept her mouth shut about the dual contract and the blank check of the coronation dress. And as a matter of fact, the dual contract was meant to be used in the future and the Duke declared termination the contract before it could even take effect. The real gain was just the blank check.
“I didn’t want you to worry too much about money.” (Hugo)
Hugo nursed a grudge against the talkative designer. The Duke of Taran whose resourcefulness was as good as his fighting prowess had fallen for a very poor inducement.
“I won’t be so sensitive to that issue in the future. Don’t make a situation where you and someone else knows something but I alone don’t. I’ll be much more upset when I find out about it.” (Lucia)
“Okay. I won’t.” (Hugo)
When Lucia stopped walking, Hugo also came to a stop. Looking into his questioning eyes, Lucia spread her arms and embraced him. She had a lovely, gentle husband all to herself, and she was thankful for him. Feeling his arms wrapping around her to return the hug, Lucia’s heart was filled with happiness. She wished this moment could last forever.
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