The baroness clenched the glass with trembling hands.
The chilly coldness rose up her palm.
There was no doubt that the thing floating in the drink was ice.
The transparent ice sparkled dazzlingly.
“Where did you get the ice? As far as I know, the palace hasn’t distributed ice yet.”
“I know. This year, materials are delayed due to the war with the Phaede Kingdom.”
“Did you forget that my family is from the north?”
Only then did the baroness understand.
Isabella’s family was located near the Enrir border area in the north. So it was easier to get ice than in the capital Glyce.
Of course, the ice Laura had was not sent from her family.
It was ice made by magic.
She even made a box to store the ice for a long time.
But she couldn’t reveal the source of the ice, so she told the Archduke’s employees that it was sent from her family.
“Marquess Wyatt probably sent it for his daughter.”
To be honest, Laura didn’t know what Marquess Wyatt thought of his daughter.
In fact, when she told the employees that the ice was sent from her family, they all seemed surprised. That meant that no ice had been sent from her family since she got married.
“I don’t think this has ever happened before….”
The baroness tilted her head suspiciously.
Oh no. The baroness seems to know too.
“By the way, how were you able to get ice so quickly, Baroness Grayson?”
“I have an upper hand that trades with the Mago Kingdom. I specially urged them to get it for the Archduchess.”
The Mago Kingdom was a country located right next to the Phaede Kingdom and was famous for its rugged canyons and harsh weather.
“Well, thank you.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Anyway, is there a reason why you brought ice?”
As Laura spoke, the baroness’s expression stiffened slightly.
“To be honest, I have some doubts. Considering the behavior you showed me, baroness.”
“I remember at the victory celebration ball, you were very excitedly talking about me….”
Laura looked at the baroness over the glass.
The Baroness’ eyes trembled as she had not expected her to point it out directly.
“If a couple loves each other, they have children even in times of war?”
Laura repeated what the baroness had said at the victory celebration ball.
The baroness raised her head soon after.
“I have something to say about that too.”
“What is it?”
“The Archduchess confided in me. You said that you two had entered an arranged marriage, so there’s no affection between you, and you haven’t even spent your wedding night yet.”
“Well, that’s true.”
Laura muttered to herself in thought.
Contrary to her expectations, ‘Isabella’ seemed quite close to the baroness.
Considering that she tended to follow trends, she might have tried to become friends with the baroness.
Baroness Grayson had a wide range of connections, being able to lead the fashion in society and being particularly close to Duchess Tormaite.
Even so, Laura was very uncomfortable with the baroness’s attitude at Duchess Tormaite’s tea party.
“If we’re supposed to be confidants, why did you act like that at the last tea party?”
“……Are you talking about Duchess Tormaite’s tea party?”
“We’ve only met recently then, haven’t we? To be honest, I was really upset because of the baroness that day.”
Laura lowered her eyelashes. She also pretended to wipe her eyes with a towel after putting down the glass.
“I knew it for sure then. That you dislike me. Did you think I wouldn’t notice?”
Laura glanced at the baroness.
The baroness pursed her lips in surprise, then soon exhaled deeply in resignation.
“Yes, you saw it correctly. I don’t like the Archduchess.”
The baroness’s frankness left Laura speechless.
But that wasn’t the end of it.
Shocking words poured out from the baroness.
“You know that I like Marquess Wyatt, right?”
Gradually, anger began to show in the baroness’s blue eyes.
“…What? Who likes who?”
“You’re still pretending not to know. You’ve known for a while, but you’re being too much.”
“No, wait a minute.”
Laura raised one hand.
Marquess Jensen Wyatt, ‘Isabella’s’ father, is currently divorced and has not remarried.
Although he is a middle-aged man in his 50s, he is a commanding officer who guards the border and has a strong and handsome appearance that rivals that of young men.
He was a courteous and gentlemanly man who was attractive enough to be a suitable partner for women.
“The baroness likes my father?”
Yes, that beautiful widow could also like my father.
Laura nodded her head.
“You keep ignoring me even though you know it. Why do you think I brought the precious ice and came to see you first?”
“You want me to set you up with my father?”
The baroness shouted with a red face.
“When the Archduchess complains about something, I listened to anything. What did I get in return for that? It’s been over a year since I asked you to put in a good word for Marquess Wyatt.”
“I didn’t understand the baroness’s feelings.”
‘Isabella’ really did wrong. She threw all kinds of tantrums, but she didn’t listen to the baroness’s request?
The angry baroness talked behind her back and criticized ‘Isabella’ in front of others.
“But soon I regretted it. What would I do by opposing the Archduchess?”
“So you brought the ice as a gift of reconciliation.”
Laura looked down at the ceramic dish filled with ice.
Now she finally understood why the baroness had changed her attitude and visited the archducal residence.
But there was something she couldn’t understand.
“Do you really need my help? If you’re as charming as you are, you can easily approach my father.”
Whether at a ball or a party, there would be plenty of opportunities for the two of them to meet and have conversations.
That’s all there was to it.
Many young men admired the baroness, who emitted a more innocent charm than the younger ladies.
If she had set her mind to it, Marquess Wyatt would surely have fallen for her…
“This is just too much!”
It was a valid question, but the baroness became even angrier.
“Don’t you know Father? The Marquess is impenetrable, a fortress!”
“He’s so firmly set in his ways that he won’t succumb to any seduction!”
“That’s right, my father is like that.”
Laura nodded obediently.
“He still holds the late baroness in his heart, doesn’t he? But still, how can he not give me even a single glance?”
The baroness expressed her frustration.
It seemed that the Wyatt couple had a good relationship, contrary to expectations.
“Anyway, I apologize for my careless behavior towards the Archduchess all this time. If you were in my position, I believe the Archduchess would understand as well.”
“Of course. I was truly lacking in consideration.”
When Laura admitted meekly, the baroness looked at her with hopeful eyes.
“Then I suppose I can trust you now, Archduchess?”
“Well, about that…”
Laura avoided the fervent gaze of the baroness.
What could she say to change the mind of Marquess Wyatt, who was known for his impenetrability?
“If you help me, I will never forget your kindness.”
The baroness declared resolutely.
“You really love my father….”
Laura admired her sincerely.
The baroness, who seemed confident in front of anyone, lowered herself for the man she loved. Laura was moved by her actions.
“In fact, my father has gone to the Enrir border, so it will be difficult to meet him for a while. But if there’s an opportunity, I’ll let you know.”
The baroness left the archducal residence with great hope after hearing Laura’s words.
Laura saw her off personally.
Meanwhile, Baroness Grayson, who was riding in a carriage, wiped the smile off her face as she moved away from the archducal residence.
“Ha, you’re lucky to have caught the attention of Archduke Lucendorf.”
The contemptuous words flowed from her mouth.
Her fine lips twisted with disdain toward Laura, and the soft eyes that had been gentle until now oozed coldness.
It was a complete contrast to the way she had just appealed to love with a broken heart.
“A woman with no charm and nothing special.”
Rebecca Grayson poured out her criticism toward the archduchess.
She twisted her insides by saying something she didn’t even mean.
If it weren’t for Marquess Wyatt, she wouldn’t have given a damn.
Since the death of duchess Wyatt, Rebecca had set her sights on that position.
With her sophisticated appearance and gentlemanly manners, Marquess Wyatt had captured the hearts of women.
Even unmarried women took a liking to him.
Besides, as a powerful figure who governed the northern region and had the trust of the emperor, he was a very desirable husband for someone who wanted to reach the pinnacle of society by spending all their wealth.
The title of duchess was more important than anything else, to break the noses of the women in society who ignored her inwardly while welcoming her outwardly.
“Watch me. If I become a Duchess, I’ll crush you so you can’t even whisper.”
But the problem was the Archduchess.
She knows exactly what Rebecca wants but not quite saying or doing anything to fulfill her wishes.
Like she was making fun of her.
“If I become your stepmother, I’ll get rid of you right out of my sight.”
In Rebecca’s eyes as she looked at the receding archducal residence, there was no trace of living compassion.
* * *