The story was much more severe and heartbreaking than Riett expected. She struggled to hold back her tears. There were still many things she needed to tell Duke Kreutz.
“So, the skeletal remains that were found… Does that mean the Duchess tried to escape but didn’t make it…?”
“I don’t know either. The last time I saw her was when she gave birth to Evan and left the mansion. If the owner of those skeletal remains is Madeline, then that might be the case,”
Duke Kreutz replied, looking bitter.
In his sorrowful eyes, Riett had one question that arose.
“Why did you try to admit the charges?”
“There’s no evidence to prove my innocence.”
It was a lie. Riett knew that the current situation was highly disadvantageous for him, but it didn’t make sense for him to simply admit the guilt without any resistance.
Pondering over it, Riett asked with a glimmer of hope,
“Could it be because of the departed Duchess?”
Duke Kreutz fell silent for a moment, seeming to be taken aback.
“Riett, you’re smarter than I thought. Even the dead have their honor. I made a promise to keep quiet about her, and even if she is dead, I have to keep that promise.”
He was considering the honor of his wayward wife, even when he found himself being accused of murder. The honor of someone who may already be dead.
Truly, he was a devoted lover. However, there was something he had overlooked.
“Isn’t Evan’s honor important as well?”
Riett brought up Evan once again, and Duke Kreutz’s gaze trembled greatly.
“Do you… not love Evan?”
Riett knew that Duke Kreutz didn’t lack love for Evan. The way he looked at Evan with affectionate eyes resembled a mother gazing at her newborn.
But through their conversation earlier, she realized that the mention of Evan was the only thing that didn’t move Duke Kreutz’s heart.
“It’s impossible, isn’t it, Riett! Evan is my son, no matter what anyone says!”
“Then from now on, actively deny the charges,”
Riett asserted firmly.
“There are many people who will help you, and I am one of them.”
Riett’s eyes were filled with determination, more serious and resolute than ever.
“I will find the evidence, no matter what.”
* * *
Riett, after leaving the courthouse, headed straight to Duke Kreutz’s mansion. She engaged in a conversation with him, trying to gather as much information as possible before the visiting hours ended.
“Who discovered the skeletal remains?”
“…My brother, Haart, found them,”
Duke Kreutz reluctantly admitted.
“It’s quite a remarkable coincidence that he discovered the skeletal remains after all these years, precisely during the time he was visiting,”
Riett remarked sarcastically.
Duke Kreutz understood her sarcasm and simply nodded.
“I… I didn’t want to suspect Haart, but I found it suspicious as well.”
“Did he display any other strange behavior?”
“He asked me to accompany him for drinks, saying he was going through a difficult time for the past few days.”
“Did he slip up and say something unintentionally?”
“…I don’t remember.”
Duke Kreutz looked at Riett with a remorseful expression. But it was enough for her.
With a smile, Riett bid him farewell, understanding that Duke Kreutz had gone through enough hardship.
After reminiscing, Riett narrowed her eyes.
She tried hard to recall the character of Haart from the book. However, it had been over ten years since she lived as Riett, and she couldn’t remember the intricate details or the story from the book very well.
Frustrated, Riett’s mind raced as the carriage came to a stop. She got off and entered the Duke’s mansion. Climbing up the familiar staircase, she stopped in front of the door.
“I’m coming in!”
There was no permission granted from the inside, but Riett swung open the door without hesitation.
The bed covers were haphazardly sticking out.
“Tsk, I knew you’d be doing this.”
Riett mercilessly pulled down the covers, revealing Evan underneath.
The sudden flood of light made Evan squeeze his eyes shut. Then, with a resentful tone, he murmured,
“Why did you come?”
“Because I thought you’d be doing this.”
Whenever Evan felt upset or down, he would curl up inside the covers like a caterpillar. And when he felt better, he would crawl out from under the covers. Each time, an impatient Riett forcefully pulled down the covers and dragged Evan out.
“I met the Duke,”
Evan remained silent.
“What are you going to do, Evan? I was right.”
Riett’s nonchalant words made Evan lift his head and look up at her.
“I said he wouldn’t do something like that.”
Riett sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“You know, Evan, sometimes my words are right.”
“…Did Father do that?”
The corners of Evan’s eyes turned red. He wanted the truth so badly that he pretended to be mean.
Riett still considered Evan, who was only fourteen years old, to be young.
“There’s nothing wrong with the Duke.”
And she began a long story.
Evan listened intently, completely absorbed as if he didn’t even realize he was breathing.
“So, whenever you mentioned your mother, he avoided the topic.”
“Why… Why didn’t he tell me?”
“You idiot. If he did, then you would have to say that you’re not his biological son. Could he have said that with his personality?”
Evan acknowledged Riett’s remark by nodding his head. Riett grabbed Evan’s cheeks and lifted his face.
Then, it became evident that Evan’s eyes were reddened from crying.
“We have a lot to do.”
Riett’s firm voice made Evan wipe away his tears.
“We need to find evidence. Evidence that proves the Duke didn’t kill his wife.”
In truth, she hadn’t even thought about where to start. After leaving the courthouse, she came here with the thought of informing Evan of this fact as soon as possible. Of course, she needed assistance.
She considered telling her father, but she knew he would likely dismiss it as a childish concern.
Riett concluded that she needed to learn more about this person named Haart.
“Evan, you have an uncle, right? Someone named Haart.”
“What kind of person is he?”
Evan’s brow furrowed at Riett’s question.
“I don’t really like him.”
“He pretended to be worried and subtly spoke ill of me to Father.”
“He said I was too timid and wondered if I could manage the household well. He said those kinds of things. So, when I was young, Father used to lecture me a lot.”
Riett was familiar with the story. As a result, Evan came to believe that his father disliked him.
Suddenly, she recalled something Duke Kreutz had said.
“Moreover, although Evan is my only son, there are many people outside this mansion who have their eyes on the title. If they think Evan isn’t fit for it, they will seize the opportunity.”
If the duke is proven guilty, he would lose his title, and Evan would also receive unfavorable evaluations.
In that case, the next potential successor, Haart, would benefit the most.
The puzzle pieces fell perfectly into place.
“Riett, do you really think Uncle is framing Father as the culprit?”
Evan looked astonished as Riett began to explain.
“The duke mentioned that your uncle has been coming home late for several days. He told me that your uncle asked him to be his drinking companion, saying he was going through a difficult time.”
“…So, Uncle intended this from the beginning?”
Riett lowered her head.
“It doesn’t seem like it, but it feels like the drunk man accidentally mentioned that day.”
“Your uncle, who knows the whole story, distorted the tale. Besides, no one truly knows what happened that day.”
As she spoke, the situation gradually became clearer.
“Riett… If that’s the case, then I can’t believe that skeletal remains are my mother.”
“Now you’re finally thinking!”
Evan was right.
After concluding her conversation with Duke Kreutz, Riett couldn’t believe the fact that the skeletal remains were Evan’s mother.
The proof that the remains were Evan’s mother was the Bellacris Marquisate’s heirloom, the ‘Diamond Necklace.’
The necklace could be forged easily if one set their mind to it.
That’s why they needed to find out more about the necklace first.
“Evan, do you happen to have a portrait of your mother?”
“…I think I do.”
Evan, who had been contemplating, seemed to have remembered something and quickly got up from the bed.
He led the way to Duke Kreutz’s room.
Evan entered the ownerless room and hesitated in front of the drawer. After opening and closing it several times, he discovered something and widened his eyes.
“I found it.”
Inside the drawer, there was a long cylindrical object. When he opened the lid, a tightly rolled-up paper was revealed.
Evan unfolded the paper, revealing a drawing of a woman with black hair.
The woman wasn’t a dazzling beauty, but she had an elegant and graceful charm.
“She must be your mother.”
Though Evan couldn’t be entirely sure since he had never seen her before, the fact that Duke Kreutz had carefully stored it deep in the drawer made it seem likely.
Above all else,
‘She looks like Evan…!’
Somehow, as Evan grew older, he became more like her.
Riett carefully examined the woman in the picture.
She had a warm and attractive appearance with refined facial features, while Evan was growing up with sharp features and a cold style.
However, the woman in the picture resembled Evan in her somewhat cold appearance and facial features.
Fortunately, the drawing also included what appeared to be the Bellacris Marquisate’s heirloom, the presumed ‘Diamond Necklace.’
“Is this necklace the Bellacris Marquisate’s heirloom?”
“It seems that way. It’s said to be a rare green diamond.”
The diamond, as Evan described, had a unique green color.
As Riett stared intently at the necklace in the picture, she scrunched up her face as if she had seen something hideous.
‘Really, it’s so tacky…!’
The saying a fly in the ointment seemed to have been created for cases like this. Looking at the picture as a whole, the ugly necklace was a glaring flaw in an otherwise perfect portrait.
The green diamond was excessively large, and the silver chain was unusually chunky, like a thick iron chain.
Perhaps it was an old necklace that had been around for a long time.
‘But… why does this necklace feel so familiar?’
For some reason, she felt like she had seen that tacky necklace somewhere before.
As Riett pondered, rolling her eyes, she finally realized.
And like a person struck by lightning, she dashed out of the room.
“Riett, where are you going!”
Evan hurriedly followed along. The place where Riett rushed to in a panic was the room where she had hurt her foot while playing hide-and-seek in the past.
In other words, it was Evan’s mother’s room.
To avoid repeating past mistakes, Riett carefully walked in, making sure not to touch any glass decorations.
And finally, she arrived in front of the wardrobe.
“Why did you suddenly come here, Riett…?”
Evan cautiously asked, seeking an answer.
There was no time to spare to respond to Evan’s question. Riett’s heart was pounding.
In the days when she played hide-and-seek with Evan and hid inside the wardrobe, her hand touched a cold object.
‘What is this…?’
As she looked down, she noticed a silver necklace that had such a unique appearance that it remained etched in her memory despite the passage of time.
If that necklace was still inside this wardrobe…
Riett’s gaze fell upon a corner of the wardrobe.
“I found it.”
She was reunited with the ugly green necklace.