Rachel put away the book she was reading and calmly exited the room.
Verengela stood at the mansion’s entrance, looking around the hall with an arrogant expression. The moment she saw Rachel making her way down the stairs, she covered her face with a fan and started barking, “Countess Rachel, the mansion is not even big, yet it’s in such disarray! Why does it seem like you are incapable of managing it properly?”
Rachel ignored Verengela’s words, choosing to greet her politely. They were going to become strangers in the near future anyway, so why in the world should she care about her petty insults?
“It’s been a while, Countess.”
While there was clearly some hidden contempt beneath her polite courtesies, her movements were dignified and full of elegance.
‘A beauty, decorated for the sole purpose of being on display.’
That was Verengela’s main characteristic.
Verengela was like any other typical mother of an aristocratic family, she valued honor, discipline, and status.
Verengela’s greediness for success was why Theodore worked in the capital and the palace. She was always nagging the high-ranking officials of the Imperial Palace to get ahead.
Theodore only started working at the palace so he could meet Jane to his heart’s content and get away from Verengela at the same time.
When she heard that Theodore was in charge of preparing for the Prince’s birthday banquet, Verengela was overjoyed. Such an opportunity meant the future of Count Elosa’s family would be as bright as the stars.
Verengela’s eyes, which were not covered by the fan, emitted a poisonous glow.
“Countess, don’t you find the decor in the mansion to be too outdated? You need to be sophisticated if you want to survive in the capital, don’t you agree? When was the last time these curtains and decorations were changed?”
“I’m lacking in so many ways, therefore, I apologize if it bothers you.”
“I’m glad you are acknowledging that. Nowadays, things can be imported from the south… Also, those heavy antiques…”
“Did you have a hard time traveling by carriage? I’ll attentively listen to the details over refreshments. Would you mind waiting in the living room for a moment? I’ll bring out some tea.”
Verengela could only shut up after her attempt at nagging Rachel failed.
Indeed, the carriage ride had been a stressful one. The food she ate during the trip was not delicious and her back hurt from sitting for extended periods of time.
“…That’s a good idea. I shall rest in the living room for a while, so please bring refreshments and prepare some of the popular dishes from the capital for me to eat.”
It was such a Verengela-like request.
Theodore arrived at the mansion shortly after Verengela headed into the living room. Rachel was busy ordering the servants to prepare tea and some delicacies. He looked pale, like a man that was afraid of his mother’s scolding.
Rachel’s tongue poked the inside of her cheek.
‘He’s already 30, yet still scared of his mom.’
Of course, she played the good wife role on the outside.
“You’re here already? You don’t look so good. Did you rush to get here?”
“Oh, no. The Prince’s birthday banquet turned out to be bigger than I imagined, so things became a bit difficult. I wasn’t going to come home because I was too tired to make the trip, but alas, mother just happened to arrive today.”
It was true that Theodore devoted all his energy to the Prince’s birthday banquet. The crown prince was going to become the next Emperor after all, and of course, he wanted the prince to see him in a favorable light.
Theodore took off his jacket and handed it to Carl. Then he began to gloat, “Do you have any idea how big this banquet is going to be? I’ve just been informed that the Grand Duke Sian and the Great Sage Titienith would be making a public appearance! Both are infamous for not attending such events!”
Originally, Rachel had no intention of attending to a banquet prepared by Theodore, but she was reconsidering her decision.
She couldn’t possibly miss an official banquet that her future-in-law, Sian, would be attending.
“If it’s that grand of an event, then I should attend this year.”
“Well, of course… Wait…what?”
“Why are you so surprised?”
“Don’t you dislike these kinds of events? I thought you wouldn’t be going.”
“You’re right. I do hate crowded banquets.”
Theodore’s eyes glistened as if he was expecting a certain answer, but to his dismay, Rachel had a different response.
“Since you personally planned this banquet yourself, I must show up. Everyone will be entering the banquet hall with a partner, what would others say if you show up without a partner? Others aside, I wouldn’t even be able to face Mother.”
Theodore groaned at the mention of his mother.
“Well, I guess that makes sense. Just don’t go over the top, though.”
“Of course. If you would excuse me, Mother has requested I get her a few things. Let’s talk again afterward.”
“A few things? What did Mother request?”
“She wants to eat the popular dishes from the capital.”
“Oh! Then I know what she’d like! I’ll be right back!”
He put on his jacket again and rushed out of the mansion.
It was funny to watch him struggling to run an errand that was supposed to be carried out by a servant just so he could delay meeting the mother who birthed and raised him.
Rachel went to the living room with a selection of simple snacks and tea.
“Mother, the Count went to fetch some food that’s popular in the capital. I’m sure you’re already hungry, so please have this first.”
“You mean the Count himself went to get food for me? How can a busy person like himself go through such a hassle?”
Although she spoke in such a manner, she seemed very happy.
“It’s very difficult to handle the preparations for such a large banquet. You need to take care of the Count more than ever. Make sure he eats and rests well.”
“Do you know how hard it is to protect and raise a family? Before the birth of Count Theodore, Elosa was originally a small family with little influence…”
She then boasted about how she and the deceased former Count built the current family of Elosa.
Due to her lack of interest, Rachel simply answered ‘yes’, as each word flowed into one ear and out the other.
After a while, Verengela’s words began to catch Rachel’s interest.
“It is said that the elusive Grand Duke and Great Sage will be attending the Prince’s birthday banquet. Seeing that they’re coming in person, they must like the preparations Count Elosa has made. We need to take this opportunity to leave a great impression on them.”
Verengela paused and stared at Rachel.
Rachel didn’t need to hear anything more, Verengela’s next words were as obvious as the sun in the sky. Most likely, it had to do with approaching Sian to curry favor with him.
“The Duke’s daughter is around Graham’s age.”
Rachel frowned at her words.
Verengela also frowned.
“Why do you look displeased, Countess?”
“Are you thinking of using Graham as a way to get closer to the Grand Duke?”
“Why not? If the Duke’s daughter and Graham become friends, it would be very beneficial for the Elosa family.”
It was Rachel’s greatest mission to see Dolorosa and Graham in a relationship together. But it had to be ‘After Graham leaves the Elosa mansion’ and only ‘If it’s something Graham wants.’
No matter how much they loved each other in the original novel, it wouldn’t be good if they ended up in an arranged marriage for the sole benefit of the family.
Theodore was an excellent example of that. He didn’t feel affection for Rachel because of their ‘arranged marriage’.
She couldn’t allow Graham to end up like Theodore.
Rachel looked Verengela directly in the eyes.
Rachel from the original novel feared Verengela far more than she feared Theodore. She had never made eye contact even once.
Verengela’s eyes narrowed.
“Countess, you are quite expressive today. Have you forgotten your manners because you haven’t met an elder in a while?”
“I’m sorry, Mother, but I do not wish to use Graham as a means of getting close to the Grand Duke.”
“…What did you just say?”
“Graham is only four years old. He is too small and feeble to be used for political and economic advantages.”
“No, four is more than enough. You must have forgotten, but you were also four years old when we first discussed your marriage to the Count.”
“I know and that’s exactly why I’m saying this. Four years old is not the age to start sacrificing things for the family.”
“Yes, go ahead.”
“Do you realize what you have just said to me?”
“I simply expressed my opinion.”
“It doesn’t matter how much the times have changed; how dare you speak to the mother that gave birth to the Count in such a manner? The Count’s family is really lacking in discipline. Is this how you act towards the Count?”
‘Who do you think is responsible for the lack of order allowed in the family?’
Before Theodore and Jane became bold with their relationship, their affair was barely noticeable. However, ever since Jane’s last visit, most of the mansion’s servants had suspicions.
‘This is still a secret, so I’m only telling you. Count Theodore Elosa brought a woman home.’
‘A woman? What woman?’
‘I don’t know. She wore fancy clothes, but she didn’t have any aristocratic manners.’
‘Is she a commoner, then? You’re saying the Count invited a commoner as a guest?’
‘Come to think of it, I once saw the Count with a woman on the street…’
‘Oh, is that rumor true, then? Someone said they saw the Count kissing a woman in an alley!’
‘So, the Count is cheating?’
‘Goodness, so he brought the woman he cheated with to the mansion and introduced her to his wife?’
The rumors among the servants of the mansion were gradually spreading to the servants in other mansions. While the whispers were quiet, It was only a matter of time before a noble lady, that enjoyed gossiping with her servants, heard about the affair.
Verengela, who was still in the dark, ran her mouth, making her lectures ring throughout the living room.
“How dare you! Who do you think is behind the existence and success of the current Count’s family? It’s all due to my serious education of the current Count since childhood. Do you understand?”
“I guess that harsh discipline was all for naught, then.”
“What… Countess! What kind of thoughtless remark is that?!”
“Do you really think you raised your son well?”
‘Even though he’s been having an affair with a commoner nine years younger than him for years?’
She wondered how twisted Verengela’s expression would be after she found out. Unfortunately, this was not the time to talk about affairs.
Rachel pretended to be lost in thought while holding back a smile that was threatening to force its way out.
“I don’t really think so, Mother.”
“What in the world are you talking about, Countess?”
“Could you wait a moment?”
“Countess! How can you leave the room? We’re in the middle of a conversation!”
Rachel left the screaming Verengela behind, quickly entered the study, and returned to the living room with the ledger she had finished analyzing earlier.
“Here, read it.”
“It’s a ledger. The son you think you have raised so well has been evading taxes by stealing from the property of the Count’s family for several years now.”
It must have been quite shocking for someone like Verengela as she valued the interests and honor of others more than her own life, and her son’s tax evasion was a huge disgrace.
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