“Let’s all eat.”
Although there was a slight delay compared to the originally expected plan, I was able to come back in time for dinner after taking a bath and resting.
I did write a note for Kaelan so they can all to eat together by themselves if I couldn’t return before dinner time, but since the auction house started early in the morning, I was confident that I would come back within dinner time, no matter how late it was.
Besides, there was an unspoken competition between the children and me regarding dinner. After the disappearance of the Duke, we were engaged in an unseen competition of who would break this dinner tradition first.
Will I be the first to break this suffocating dinner appointment, or will they be the ones to break it?
If the promise with the Duke is broken even once, the blame can be shifted to the one who broke it, and we would no longer have to have dinner together anymore.
So until that situation happens, we are forcibly continuing this dinner gathering, even though we don’t like each other.
I cannot afford to lose.
“Did everyone have a good day today?”
Feeling so happy about getting Oksanna’s ring, I found myself talking to the children without realizing it.
Oh, I guess I was the only one feeling good.
Anyway, they probably won’t answer.
Everyone was surprised and looked up at an unexpected response.
As soon as I confirmed the person who answered, I was so surprised that I blurted out nonsense.
Anna also stopped slicing the meat, and Reina and Haldyr, who were chewing their food and mumbling, were the same.
The only person who continued eating amidst all this was Kaelan.
“Ah. Is that so. Kaelan. I guess you had a good time today.”
Once again, I realized that it wasn’t that everyone had misheard when Kaelan answered.
I didn’t even expect an answer, but I was taken aback when Kaelan answered again.
Before the regression, I had spoken with Kaelan only a handful of times, under the Duke’s semi-forced introduction. Among them, Kaelan was the first to speak, and if you look closely, it wasn’t even a conversation.
It was just a typical rant.
During the meeting with the vassals, there was an incident where one of the vassals insulted the Duke and raised his voice during the meeting. The vassal in question was Viscount Cranus, who was mentioned in the Duke’s will as someone who would lead the Duke along with Kaelan if he couldn’t lead the Duke due to problems with me.
Viscount Cranus left the meeting room in a hurry after the meeting, and Kaelan, who heard the news, came to me and said the only words he ever said to me.
[Are you in your right mind.]
I was surprised by Kaelan’s first visit, but I told him to calm down and invited him into my room.
As soon as we sat facing each other on the sofa and asked the maid for tea, Kaelan’s violent outburst began as soon as the maid left the room.
[Is it true that you raised your voice against Viscount Cranus in the conference room?]
[Is it true?]
[…It’s true. But that’s something that can happen between adults. But who told you about what happened in the conference room? How did you guys–]
[There are degrees of ignorance.]
[No need to–what?]
[You know what kind of person Viscount Cranus is yet you still caused such a problem?]
[Well, the Viscount insulted the Duke–]
[Today’s agenda was also related to the flood five years ago. Do you know that many innocent people were injured as a result of Father’s order at that time? Although fortunately there were no casualties, Father’s decision was not right. So it’s a natural evaluation that Viscount Uncle said the Duke’s decision was wrong. Do you understand?]
[I…I didn’t know. How could I know about something that happened before I even joined the Duke’s household! It wasn’t written anywhere, and no one told me–]
[If you’re sitting in the position of Duchess and don’t know anything, you should just stay still instead of wandering around everywhere. Understand?]
[Then I’ll take it as you’ve understood. I hope I don’t hear such news from you in the future.]
That was the day Kaelan first spoke up and had the most conversation with me. Of course, there was hardly any conversation with Kaelan after that.
I was afraid to speak to Kaelan after receiving unexpected criticism and contempt, and Kaelan’s usual indifference continued as if nothing had happened.
When the maid brought tea, Kaelan had already left for a long time, and I was sitting alone on the sofa with a pale face.
It was surprising to see Kaelan responding to my words like that. I couldn’t help but wonder if everyone misheard.
I wondered what had caused this change in attitude.
I didn’t want to engage in conversation anymore, given the memories of his past harsh words. Still, I spoke up again to figure out his intention.
“What did you do today, Kaelan?”
Will he answer?
“I was in the study all day.”
“I see. Did you read the books in the study?”
As the conversation with Kaelan, who answered obediently, continued, my appetite dwindled.
Why doesn’t he act differently than usual? What changed him?
If there was something that was different from usual, it must have been because of the note.
Did my investigation turn out to be pointless again?
Kaelan hates it when things don’t go according to his plan or when unexpected things happen to him, so he must have been frustrated with my information that doesn’t come out no matter how much he investigates.
“Can I ask you what book you read?”
“I read several books.”
“What was the most impressive book among them?”
Since I couldn’t find the answer anywhere, it seemed that the last option was to have a direct conversation with him.
He didn’t show any signs of disliking me asking him questions, but instead of answering appropriately to my question, he responded in a way that made me ask him several times.
“Although it’s not really a book, I found the newspaper article about ‘The Implicit Connection between Imperial Economy and Auction Houses’ quite impressive.”
As the conversation continued, I was about to choke on my water when I tried to drink because of his unexpected mention of the auction house.
So he knows that I went to the auction house today. He must have put a Crow on me.
“Oh, it sounds like a difficult subject to understand.”
“It was more interesting than I thought. Why don’t you give it a read.”
“Okay. I’ll definitely read it since Kaelan recommended it.”
It would be difficult if more people knew that I went to the auction house.
No matter how much security is in place, intangible information is easy to leak.
Even a small clue can lead to the whole picture. But if Kaelan eventually enters the palace, he will inevitably meet the Grand Duke and the Second Prince.
What is comforting is that Kaelan doesn’t have a habit of revealing information, so as someone who knows about my visit to the auction house, I am less anxious.
But on the day when the existence of Oksanna’s ring is revealed, Kaelan may also suspect that I have that ring.
“Is there any other news?”
“I don’t know. They said that Countess Theron’s missing necklace appeared in an auction house.”
“Is that so?”
It was too obvious that he intended to mention the auction house again.
“Now, it’s better to focus on the meal. The taste will be ruined if we talk and the food gets cold.”
After that, everyone ate their meal in silence. Anna squirmed and fidgeted her hips, as if she wanted to ask Kaelan about his behavior today, while Reina and Haldyr initially looked at me with suspicion but soon focused on their meal.
After the only conversation had subsided, the meal, which had been filled only with the sound of dishes, finally ended, did everyone went back to their respective rooms.
“Kaelan, is there something wrong?”
“Well… You did something during mealtime that you don’t usually do. If it were normal, you wouldn’t have paid attention to that woman’s words.”
“Did that woman threaten you or something?”
“No. You’re too different from your usual self.”
Kaelan said as he unbuttoned his collar all the way down to his neck.
“You don’t have to worry. Just go back.”
“Aran, bring me some water.”
“I need to wash my mouth.”
Unable to get a response from Kaelan, Anna eventually gave up and walked out of the room.
With a mix of curiosity and regret, she deliberately walked slowly, but Kaelan remained cold and didn’t stop her.
Reina and Haldyr, who were hiding outside the room, approached Anna as she came out of Kaelan’s room.
“Ah! You scared me! Reina, Haldyr. Why are you here instead of going to your rooms?”
“What about you?”
“Well, I’m here for the same reason as you guys.”
Anna smiled and scratched her cheek.
At Anna’s words, Reina approached her and asked in a low voice,
“Is Kaelan okay?”
Anna could only nod her head at Reina’s question.
After finishing their meal and entering their room, Bella called Karen, who was heating up the bathwater.
“Leave the bathwater to someone else and bring me today’s newspaper.”
“Oh, and today, sprinkle some rose oil in the bathwater.”
Karen quickly brought the newspaper and helped me undress for the bath.
After preparing everything, despite having taken a bath after visiting the auction house, I sprinkled rose oil in the bathtub water to relieve the cold sweat and frustration that arose from Kaelan’s unexpected conversation and mention of the auction house.
“Ah, feels good.”
The fragrant and rich scent of roses softened my mind, and the warm water slowly relaxed all the tense muscles in my body. To regain my fading consciousness, I cupped my hands together and splashed some water on my face.
After massaging my temples for a moment, I read through the newspaper that Karen had brought and left next to me.
While carefully reading the newspaper, I came across a news article stating that the precipitation in the Britan Kingdom was decreasing compared to last year.
“It seems that the drought in the Britan Kingdom will begin soon.”
Once the drought in the Britan Kingdom officially starts, it will spread rapidly and featured on the covers of all newspapers.
Soon, neighboring countries will start prioritizing water conservation, but our Krosen Empire, being geographically distant from the Britan Kingdom, was thought to be unaffected by its impact and did not conserve water.
But the drought did reach Krosen as well. Judging by the timeframe, we should start the maintenance work on the Duke’s territory dam soon.
Today’s newspaper had some useful information for me. The news about the Britan Kingdom was the last piece in the newspaper.
“I’ve finished reading.”
I folded the newspaper again and set it aside before standing up from the bathtub.
There was no mention of the implicit connection between the Imperial economy and the auction house in today’s newspaper.