Cedric stiffened in surprise. The Duchess turned to him and warned him.

“You see, even when you’re in the wrong, it’s not you who gets the blame.”

As Cedric heard those words, his body began to tremble uncontrollably, as if seized by convulsions. Something was not right. It felt like his back needed to be patted off and calmed, but she couldn’t step forward due to the obstacle posed by the Duchess.

Estella nervously looked back and forth between the Duchess and Cedric. The Duchess, on the other hand, seemed satisfied with Cedric’s rapidly subsiding reaction. She turned to Cedric and said.

“Tell me, Cedric. If your tutor isn’t enough, shall I bring Cecilia?”

Cedric’s face went dead as he spoke. For a moment Estella did not understand the Duchess’s words. It was as if she realised something intuitively, but avoided drawing conclusions because she didn’t want to admit it.

Estella slowly turned her head towards the Duchess. A barely contained tremor escaped her voice.

“Is that…… what do you mean, madam?”

The Duchess glanced over at Estella and spoke up irritably.

“You are disciplining Cedric, are you not?”

“No. What do you mean by saying you’re going to bring Cecilia here if he doesn’t behave himself. Have you been spanking…… Lady Cecilia all this time?”

Estella asked, taking a step toward the duchess, her clenched fists white with exertion. The duchess laughed at her determined demeanour..

“You must be out of your mind to speak to me with your eyes open on the subject of a mere employee!”

“For God’s sake, Duchess, you are abusing children!”

Estella’s accusation was met with irritation by the Duchess.

“When you’re raising children, a little corporal punishment is sometimes necessary.”

The words cut off Estella’s reasoning. Estella stalked over to the Duchess and stood in front of her. The Duchess was shorter than average, which put her below Estella’s line of sight. Estella looked down at her with disdain and shouted.

“How can it be considered a just punishment to lash out at the young lady because of the young master’s actions?”

Had her mother’s abuse slowed Cecilia’s development? Or did her weakness fuel her mother’s sadistic desires?

The last time the Duchess came to the classroom, Cecilia remembered Cedric standing in her way, eager to please. Cecilia, too, looking terrified in front of the mother she should be embracing.

The pieces of the puzzle were finally coming together. The assumption that the Duchess’s zeal for education was based on affection was completely wrong. She wanted nothing more than personal enrichment. If she never touched Cedric’s body, it was because he was the golden goose that would prolong her wealth. She would not have done it if she truly cared about him. No parent would ever try to break a child’s spirit.

“You mentioned that hiring a private tutor was not solely for the purpose of education. If that’s the case, then you have indeed made a wrong choice in employing me. If this is what the madame believes to be right and wrong, I cannot comply. You lack the qualifications of a parent.”

Estella gritted her teeth and snapped. How far this mansion would go to ruin the children growing up here, how far the world would go to be cruel enough to leave Diego and his siblings with nothing but despair.

“Did it make you feel like a parent just because you played with the children? Don’t criticize my parenting methods without understanding them. It’s presumptuous. Arrogant, even.”

The Duchess snarled back. Her tone was stamped with authority, as it had been with Cedric and Cecilia. Estella retorted, her voice rising.

“Your discipline is not education, it’s abuse! And I’m the teacher who’s supposed to protect them!”

“Oh, well, that’s too bad, because now you’re not.”

Estella sucked in a breath. The room fell abruptly silent as the words died away. The Duchess gave her a cold glare.

“You are dismissed.”


* * *

The Duchess left a note saying to leave the manor by this evening and disappear. If she was still here when she returned from the temple, she would be driven out, unable to show her face, with the most ghastly of warnings.

Estella froze in place as soon as the Duchess left. It was all too much to bear, all at once, and all swept away. She didn’t even have enough strength left to stand on her own two feet.

A wry smile escaped Estella’s lips. Now she understood why the manor’s tutors had been replaced so many times. She can’t have been the only one who resented the Duchess’s pompous ‘education.’ Estella’s face hardened again.

I wonder who else in the manor knows about this. Is Duke Berta even aware of his wife’s abuse? And if he does, did he turn a blind eye?

Her head was spinning. She needed time to collect her thoughts. Cedric came to her, looking devastated. It wasn’t until she saw his tear-stained face that Estella came to her senses. After staring at him for a moment, Estella pulled him to her and quickly pulled up his shirt. Cedric looked embarrassed, but he didn’t stop her.

Fortunately, Cedric’s body didn’t show any marks. She was relieved to see that his skin was unmarked, but she suddenly remembered the Duchess’s words about him not being the one to be beaten when things go wrong. She couldn’t bring herself to call Cecilia in to confirm the facts, not if she bore any trace of abuse.

Estella tried to calm the trembling in her hands. She sighed deeply and tightened her grip on Cedric’s arm. Estella spoke in a determined tone.

“We must tell the Duke.”


“Whatever the conclusion, he needs to know about this, and maybe we can come up with a plausible solution.”

Cedric stared at Estella, his eyes dark for his age. It was as if he was looking at something pitiful. She suddenly realised it was pity, not for her, but for Cedric himself.

“It’s no use.”


Estella opened her stiff mouth, her trembling tongue producing only indistinct pronunciations.

“It’s useless, even my father knows.”

Cedric cut her off. Then he added, in a stuttering voice.

“He only sides with my mother. He only wants me to succeed him because I’m her son.”

Despite suspecting the involvement of Duke Berta in the matter, the reason she thought to approach him and initiate a conversation was because she believed in the kind face of the father she had seen during the previous dinner gathering. On that occasion, he did not exhibit any particularly intimate behavior towards Cedric. Estella spoke hesitantly.

“But…… the Duke was very fond of you, it was clear at the last dinner.”

“He’s just using me to impress my brother. He doesn’t even pay attention to me when we’re alone.”

Estella opened her mouth to say something but hesitated and closed it slowly. He loved the Duchess, so he cared for her son as well. However, it was not enough to endure the trouble. The reason he had pretended to be an affectionate father was solely to torment Diego…

A wave of physiological nausea washed over her. Estella stared at the floor and stopped talking. Not daring to meet Cedric’s eyes, she asked.

“Does your mother…… beat Lady Cecilia badly?”

Tears formed in the corners of Cedric’s eyes again. Cedric sucked in a breath and barely nodded.

“Yes, I hid Ce, Cecile so s,she wouldn’t find her, and she’ll end up hitting me. I was hurt too, so he deserves even more…”

Estella felt the urge to run from the room, but there was something she had to check. A shaky voice came out of her.

“Did she ever do that when I was here?”

Were there nights when she hadn’t recognised the children’s wounds, when she’d let them sleep in fear?


Cedric shook his head. But Estella knew this answer so well that she knew the nicknames he’d been called. The troublemaker, the brat, and the liar…….


“I’ve been attending classes diligently, and Cecile has also become well-behaved.”

Cedric snorted as he said it. The redness in his eyes refused to subside.

“I enjoyed being with the teacher.”

With that, Cedric opened his arms and hugged Estella. It was the first time he had ever held her in his arms.

“Really… It was the best.”

His face was a mess. Estella wiped his tears away with her cuff.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“But you just got fired.”

Even in this situation, the lack of consideration in her words doesn’t seem to disappear. So, this embrace was like a kind of farewell to Cedric.

Estella laughed hoarsely. In a cracked, hoarse voice, she said.

“I’m going to go to someone who can fix it.”

Cedric was still stunned by her words. The only person who could stop the Duchess was, at best, Duke Berta, and he had no objection to his wife’s methods of upbringing. To him, child-rearing was the sole domain of the mistress and servants.

Estella cupped both of Cedric’s cheeks. She locked eyes with Cedric and spoke in a cautionary tone.

“You are a very good boy.”


“You have really grown well. Cecilia also likes you the most, you know.”

“……She seems to have changed her favourite person to you these days.”

Estella gave another small laugh at Cedric’s quip.

“I don’t think so.”

Cedric still didn’t seem to accept her opinion. She stared at his face for a moment.

This is the grown-up kid who said he hid his sister in case she got spanked instead of him. If he was afraid, he could have passed the whipping on to his sister and avoided it, but he didn’t. That’s why Cecilia was able to rely on her brother through such an unjust situation.

Estella stood up and brushed her knees. She squeezed Cedric’s shoulder forcefully.

“Master, it is time for you to return to your room. Ask the maids for some warm milk with a spoonful of honey, and get a good nap, do you understand?”

“But it’s the middle of the day.”

“Silly. Naps are supposed to be taken at this time of day.”

With that, Estella wiped the tears from Cedric’s eyes again. Then, after a moment’s hesitation, she kissed him on the forehead. Cedric rubbed at the area in embarrassment. It was the same behaviour as when Duke Berta’s lips touched his, but his expression was different. It was obviously embarrassed, but not really disliked.

Estella hurried Cedric out of the room. Only when she was sure the footsteps were out of earshot did she wipe the smile off her face. She turned and made her way to the desk where Cedric sat. She braced her hands on the top, barely holding herself up. Then she let out a muffled scream.

I was careless. I was foolish. There’s no way Duke Berta, who raised Diego in that manner, could have been warm and affectionate towards Cedric and Cecilia!

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