It had been a tough day.
Carinne couldn’t help but think that if every day continued to be like this, she might be better off going back to her previous life.
Fortunately, since Iris had left, things had been relatively uneventful at the mansion, allowing her to rest and regain some of her former vitality.
However, she hadn’t been idle during this time.
In preparation for her future as the heir, she had been immersing herself in various readings at Duke Tricia’s mansion.
It was during this process that she stumbled upon a particular document.
While rummaging through the papers, she found a joint investment contract sent by Viscount Frank.
The contract outlined a partnership between Frank and the Second Duchy to collectively bear the initial expenses of a mine development.
The mere fact that it involved Frank, who she despised, made her angry.
Still, what infuriated her even more was the unfairness of the contract.
Even someone as foolish as Carinne could discern that.
In comparison to the investment made by the Second Duchy, Frank’s contribution was meager at best.
Yet, the profits from the mine were to be divided equally between him and the Second Duchy.
It was an imbalanced and one-sided agreement where the mustache guy reaped all the benefits.
She couldn’t bear to see such an unfair contract, especially if it favored someone like Frank.
Determined, she sought out Duke Tricia and persuaded him to nullify the contract.
After numerous attempts to persuade him, he finally accepted her request.
As she was persuading him, he continuously uttered words that rang hollow, claiming to always hold her opinions in high regard.
In her eyes, it seemed like a belated apology for the previous incident where she was forced to attend the meeting.
After listening to his words with a cold attitude, Carinne tore the contract into pieces and threw it into the trash bin.
A week passed since then, and it was finally Esmeril’s National Founding Day.
With all the nobles in the capital attending the commemorative party, she couldn’t help but feel excited about meeting Archen again.
After a long time, she was eager to see him again.
Only a few hours remained until the party, so all she needed to do was change into a dress.
“Where’s Marie? She’s running late.”
However, it was strange that Marie still had yet to arrive even after a long time.
She had never disappointed her even once before.
Her efficiency in serving tea was unmatched, and it led Carinne to appoint her as her exclusive maid recently.
Though today, Marie was running late.
Could something have happened to her? Perhaps she had slipped on the stairs or accidentally bumped her head while rushing?
An array of unsettling thoughts crossed Carinne’s mind.
In the end, as she was unable to bear the suspense any longer, she rose from her seat and opened the door.
However, from the balcony, she spotted Marie conversing with the other maids.
‘…What, was she late because she was gossiping?’
A wave of relief washed over her.
Although Carinne had been waiting for quite some time, it seemed that their conversation wouldn’t end soon.
She cleared her throat, intending to interrupt them, but she sensed the unusual atmosphere.
Marie was standing tall, exuding an air of anger.
She couldn’t help but wonder what might have provoked such a reaction from the typically gentle Marie.
Momentarily forgetting her obligation to attend the party, she directed her attention toward the ongoing conversation.
Marie exclaimed defiantly.
“The Young Lady has been so nice lately!”
However, her outburst was met with dismissive remarks from the other maids.
“Have you forgotten everything after getting hit with a broom?”
“Don’t you understand that people’s personalities won’t change? Who knows when she might change and hurt you again?”
Listening to their conversation, it became apparent to her that Marie was actually defending her.
Oh, so the maids were gathered here to bad mouth their lady, huh?
Regardless, she wasn’t the original Carinne from the story, so she had no intention of causing a scene.
She simply wanted to listen to what they were gossiping about.
“The lady had completely changed.
Just like that.”
While the maids continued their critique, Marie defended her.
She couldn’t help but find Marie’s loyalty admirable.
Still, the two maids had displeased expressions, clicked their tongues, and regarded her with pity as if she had fallen victim to Stockholm Syndrome.
“There’s no way it was like that.”
It’s because the Saint granted my wish, so she had become kind!”
“What? What are you talking about?”
At that moment, Marie spoke cryptically, causing the other two maids to look at her in confusion.
“…Huh? The Saint, what does that even mean?”
Even Carinne’s eyes widened at the unexpected statement.
“Every night, I wished to the Saint to make the Young Lady’s personality kinder.
The Saint was pleased with my sincerity and granted my wish.
‘Well, that’s… cute, I guess.’
Explaining how a person’s personality could change in an instant was difficult enough for an adult to comprehend, let alone a child like Marie.
“If you have any wishes, you should pray to the Saint, too.
If you pray with all your heart every night, she will definitely grant your wish.”
It was briefly explained that in Esmeril, the saint was revered as a divine being, akin to a god on the continent.
According to stories Carinne had come across, the saint had played a significant role in the founding of Esmeril.
However, she knew that it might just be a mere tale.
The citizen of this Kingdom held an unwavering faith in the saint, with numerous statues and paintings dedicated to her scattered throughout the city and even temples erected in her honor.
“Oh… I see.”
Meanwhile, the two maids looked at Marie with pity, patting her shoulders before leaving.
“Hey, it’s true!”
Marie grumbled under her breath before making her way to her.
Carinne, in turn, returned nonchalantly to her room, closing the door behind her and pretended to sip her tea.
Shortly after, Marie entered the room, holding the dress in her hands.
“My lady, I brought the dress!”
“Great, thank you.”
She helped her change from her indoor clothes into the dress.
Perhaps due to her nimble hands, it only took a few minutes to put on the dress.
Marie then rubbed her hands together, a satisfied smile on her face.
“I’ll go and prepare the carriage.”
She called Marie, who was about to leave the room, before picking up a jewelry box on top of the dresser and bringing it over to her.
When Carinne pressed the round part of the lid, the box clicked open, revealing an assortment of colorful jewels and accessories.
Marie asked in surprise.
“Choose one, it’s for you.”
Her eyes widened like lanterns as she looked at Carinne.
It was a natural reaction.
Each jewel inside the jewelry box exceeded her monthly salary significantly.
Marie’s eyelids trembled as if she couldn’t believe it.
“…Why are you giving me something so precious for doing nothing?”
“No, you’ve worked hard all this time.
Marie, you deserve it.”
Carinne’s generosity went beyond mere gratitude for Marie’s support in front of the other maids.
It was a sincere token of appreciation for her unwavering assistance.
Besides, Marie was the first person she had truly opened her heart to since arriving in this world.
Naturally, she felt a deep affection for her and wanted Marie to lack nothing.
“If you don’t choose quickly, I’ll give it to someone else.”
Carinne said playfully.
Marie hesitated for a moment before finally reaching out her hand towards the jewelry box.
After a moment, the item Marie held in her hand was a butterfly-shaped brooch adorned with imitation gemstones.
Despite the numerous genuine gemstones, she had chosen one with imitation stones.
“Is this okay?”
“Young Lady, I’m more than happy with this.”
Although Carinne had hoped she would choose something else, she could see the resolute expression on Marie’s face.
She had made her decision and had no intention of changing her mind.
Marie tightly clasped the brooch in both hands and spoke calmly to Carinne.
“You’re truly a kind person, Young Lady.”
Carinne couldn’t help but be touched by Marie’s sincerity.
“The same goes for you.”
She replied, gently stroking Marie’s head.
Marie’s eyes became teary.
As her eyes welled up with tears, she discreetly wiped them away with her sleeve before uttering.
“Then, I’ll really go now.”
Then, she hurriedly left the room.
Carinne’s heart swelled with emotions as she listened to the fading sound of Marie’s footsteps.
She then made her way out of her room as well.
Once they were on the carriage, it didn’t take long to reach the palace.
Carinne got off the carriage and looked around, scanning the crowd.
Where could Archen be? While she stretched her neck and scanned the crowd, she couldn’t find Duke Lucas anywhere.
Perhaps he hadn’t arrived yet.
She decided to relax and wait for him, settling herself in a corner.
It was a situation similar to the previous ball, where she had waited for Duke Lucas.
The only difference was that people seemed to be less wary of her.
Whether it was because she had behaved properly for a while or for some other reason, people no longer avoided her.
It was fortunate.
It would be nice if Archen did the same.
At that moment, Carinne spotted a familiar face and her eyes widened.
It was the mustache guy.
‘…Why is he coming this way?’
The mustache guy continued to approach her with determined steps, leaving her no chance to avoid him.
As he promptly knelt down before her, causing murmurs to ripple through the crowd, Carinne stood up abruptly, startled.
“What are you doing right now?”
“Young Lady, please forgive me!”
The mustache guy grabbed her dress hem and pleaded.
It seemed to be related to the joint investment contract from before.
Judging by the situation and the fact that he was kneeling in front of everyone, it must have been an extremely important contract.
“I beg you.
Please convey my words to the Duke again.”
With the subsequent words of the mustache guy, Carinne’s speculation turned into certainty.
It was indeed because of the investment contract.
Her retort was cold and resolute.
She had firmly decided not to forgive the mustache guy, regardless of the circumstances.
The memory of what had transpired with Archen during their previous encounter still fueled her anger, leaving no room for forgiveness.
“Young Lady, please…”
Despite the mustache guy’s pleas, she remained steadfast.
Frustrated by her refusal to grant him forgiveness, he began pounding his forehead on the floor.
It looked quite painful as he did it on the cold stone floor.
Still, he was the one and only mustache guy.
She felt no sympathy for him.
Whether the mustache guy bled from his forehead or shed tears, it was irrelevant to her.
“Wasn’t she quiet these days? She caused some trouble again.”
“Of course, it’s Carinne.”
‘No, it’s not—!’
…If her actions were to be misunderstood by others, it would be a different story.
However, it was the mustache guy behaviour that caused it, making all of her efforts to change her reputation in vain.
She had no intention of forgiving the mustache guy and creating a harmonious atmosphere.
Before she faced any more misunderstandings, she needed to leave as soon as possible.
However, as they say, nothing was ever easy.
The mustache guy had grasped her dress so tightly that any slight movement caused the fabric to pull taut.
If she forcibly moved her foot, it seemed like the dress would tear and she couldn’t walk around the party venue with a torn dress while people murmured.
Especially considering the person she was about to meet in a little while.
Instead of pulling her dress, Carinne raised her voice.
“…You’re not letting go of this?”
“Promise me that you’ll review the contract again!”
Why should I?”
“Then, I won’t let go either!”
He did a good job.
As the mustache guy shouted in reply, the crowd of onlookers continued to grow.
‘I’m going crazy…’
Carinne bit her lip and twisted the strands of her hair.
At that moment, a familiar yet graceful voice could be heard.
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