Author: Missme Editor: Missme

* * * * *

I tried exercising in my room and found it doable.

I did stretching and weight training in my room as soon as I got up in the morning.

It was doable because the weight training I conducted was just repetition of movements like squats and crunches that didn’t require any tools.

When I ordered the maids to prepare a bath for me, soaking in sweat early in the morning, they were concerned about my health.

Then, after neatly dressed, I went to Thalia’s room and found her already awake and reading a book.

“You’ve already woken up.”

Thalia, who had had a decent night’s sleep due to the priest’s intervention, had requested the maid for some books in the evening.

I recalled seeing several interesting books in the study earlier, so I requested that the maid bring them all to Thalia.

They were fairy tale books in ancient language which Karpel read to me when we were still children.

Thalia, who was looking at me, closed the book with a puzzled expression on her face and got out of bed.

“……..Lady, you’re up early.”

“Just call me Ina. Should we have breakfast together?”

“Yes, Ina-nim. It’s an honor.”

After that, we had breakfast in my parlor room.

Because Thalia was sick the day before, I took the measurements of a maid who was a similar size to Thalia and purchased some finished-dress for her.

However, Thalia seemed to be skinny and thinner than she seems, so the dress looked too baggy on her.

Nonetheless, she did not appear to be impoverished or malnourished.

She had the impression of a sickly aristocratic young woman, mature and intellectual.

Perhaps since I ordered employees to take extra care of Thalia, the breakfast served to her was a stew with fatty meat and a salad with nuts.

I used to skip breakfast, but nowadays I’ve requested the chef to jot down several recipes for salad without protein and dressing sauce to help me improve strength.

Thalia then glanced up and compared my breakfast to hers.

She appeared to be burdened by the mound of meals in front of her, which included stew, bread, bacon, scrambled eggs, and grilled veggies, when I merely had salad with bluegrass and boiled meat.

She beckoned me warily, holding a fork in her hand.

“Uhm…… Ina-nim?”

“Huh? Don’t worry about that, and let’s dig in. This is because I rarely eat breakfast.”

“However, this is too……”

I next poked the boiled meat, which had been sliced into bite-sized pieces, and the chicory with a fork before putting them in my mouth.

I didn’t like the flavor of the chicory…… but I ate it anyway.

“It’s alright. It’s impolite for a noble woman to hesitate.”

“However, how can I……”

“Rhaya, you mentioned that you had nothing to give me, but talent is also an asset. Isn’t it uncommon for a 13-year-old to master an ancient language well enough to work as a clerk for the aristocracy? Do you believe this treatment is excessive for someone as talented as you?”

“…… If you say so, Ina-nim. I am grateful for all you grant me.”

“Yeah, don’t hesitate and dig in.”

I realized Thalia must have been born with such elegance and dignity as I witnessed her eat graciously.

When she stepped into the carriage that day, she definitely looked like a beggar.

Today, maybe as a result of the priest’s healing the day before, her skin appeared white and clean at first glance.

Though her previous wound persisted, it could only be seen clearly when I looked at her closely.

“Rhaya, I have a question for you.”

“Yes, please ask, Ina-nim.”

“Can you tell me about your relationship with Clara? Do you originally know her?”

“Ah……”

“I just don’t comprehend how Clara became the lady of Marquis Zelude when we first met. Your names and appearances are completely different. Clara, unlike you, has brown eyes. Furthermore, I’ve heard her talk about numerous memories of her and Marquis Zelude when they were children.”

“If she’s Clara, as I believe she is, she was the eonni who lived next door. I assumed that those who dragged Louis had mistaken him as another youngster at the time, so I waited for him outside the door, expecting him to return shortly. That’s when I met Clara. Clara and I had similar red hair, which is why we became friends quickly. As a consequence, because I missed Louis, I constantly told her about him.”

“Ah… I see.”

Clara, who was talking about Marquis Zelude as a child as if it were her own memory, came to mind.

“Does it imply Clara and Marquis Zelude have never met before?”

“Yes.”

“How was your token taken away?”

“What type of token were you referring to?”

“Clara was acknowledged as Marquis Zelude’s sister since she possessed a token proving she was the daughter of the former Marquis Zelude. She was not acknowledged as Marquis Zelude’s sister purely on the basis of her story regarding Marquis Zelude’s childhood. Anyone who saw her couldn’t believe she was the actual thing since her appearance was nothing like Marquis Zelude.”

“I’m not sure what that is…… what kind of token is it? There was nothing that indicated Marquis Zelude at home. My mother never mentioned my father, and my aunt blasted me every time I mentioned him, so I didn’t dare to ask. Now that I think about it, I can see why my aunt acted the way she did. My aunt’s hatred towards my father was reasonable given that my mother was raising me on her own.”

“Aunt?”

There was someone Thalia might refer to as her aunt.

The Queen of Lecce.

The Emperor purged all family members who supported the former emperor, but he couldn’t kill the one who had already become a queen in another kingdom.

“I stayed with my aunt until I started working for Baron Malesa. She was a woman who got along well with my mother.”

That wasn’t her. If they lived together, she wasn’t referring to the queen.

“She always complained she despised supporting her sister, who had been duped by an aristocracy and had two children. Nonetheless, she never spoke badly about my mother to us.”

As I listened to her story, I assumed Thalia didn’t know the truth about her origin.

I assumed the aunt she was referring to was someone who served for Ducal Princess Ceres.

‘Is it conceivable that Marquis Zelude is unaware of his connection to Duke Ceres?’

I had a sudden realization.

The Empress was the one who informed me of Clara’s birth.

Marchioness Zelude was aware of the situation, but I doubted she would tell Marquis Zelude.

That woman despised Marqus Zelude, her husband’s illegitimate son.

She couldn’t have a kid with the man she loved, no matter how hard she tried. Nonetheless, the man she loved had two children with another woman.

So, despite the fact that Marquis Zelude was a genuine child of the family, she just regarded him as a tool to keep the family intact.

When the young marquis Zelude attended official events, he would stand next to the marchioness like a doll, expressionless.

As I was reminded of Marquis Zelude, Thalia suddenly exclaimed.

“Ah, I remember my aunt being quite furious with me once. It was when I lost the necklace my mother had given me.”

“……perhaps, was it a necklace with a shield and daisy flowers on it?”

“How do you know that?”

Because it was the family pattern of Duke Ceres.

The patterns of the purged family were recorded only in books classified as forbidden books.

And such forbidden books may be found in the library of this mansion.

I used to read that book with Karpel when I was a kid.

I recalled the Duke Ceres family pattern because it was Duke inside Krenberia territory, and also because the flowers trapped in the shield were beautiful.

I’d never seen what Clara took as proof that she was Marquis Zelude’s sister, but I suppose that must be it.

Because that was the very reason why the Empress believed Clara as a descendant of the Duke Ceres family.

“Well…… you’d be in a lot of trouble if you lost it.”

“Not at all. My mother claimed that was fine as it was already lost.”

Perhaps she believed it was appropriate to lose the necklace because her family had been purged.

Because it was something that, if revealed, could endanger her life.

Clara might have stolen it without knowing that fact.

“And how about your aunt? Is she okay?”

Clara would be aware that Thalia lived with an aunt.

The aunt, who knew who the necklace’s original owner was.

I didn’t think Clara, who tried to kill Thalia, would leave her aunt alone.

Thalia grinned bitterly.

“When my mother passed away, my aunt introduced me to work for Baron Malesa and returning to her grandmother’s hometown. I wanted to write her a letter, but she refused since she couldn’t read…… I haven’t seen her since I was employed by Baron Malesa.”

“If Clara was the one who was after you, then that person may also be in danger.”

“I suppose so.”

“If you’re concerned about her health, I could find out for you. However, I believe it would be safer not to learn anything about her.”

Since this world is a world inside a novel, I couldn’t ignore the possible red flag.

Thalia nodded in response to my words.

“I also think that is the best thing to do. Thank you for your consideration.”

“Don’t mention it. And, to answer your question, I recognized the daisy blooms on the necklace since it was the pattern of the Duke Ceres family.”

“……The Dukes? Isn’t Duke Krenberia the only duke within the Empire?”

“That’s the case for now. Because it was a family that had disappeared ten years before.”

“Do you mean my mother had a connection to the Duke Ceres family?”

“Well…… what do you think?”

I was certain that the story about former Marquis Zelude and Ducal Princess Ceres was authentic because it was told to me by the Empress. However, if the same story was given to me by someone else, I would not believe it.

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