I didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow my heart felt tight as if I had sinned against them. I had a strong urge to get out of here.
Feeling anxious, I asked in a trembling voice.
“Why, to this place…?”
“There was someone who called, so I brought you.”
The moment of intense anxiety when I heard the chief handmaid’s words was quickly dispelled. Was there anyone other than Ian who could call me to the main building?
Even if it wasn’t him, then I had only one thought in my mind: I couldn’t live like this anymore. If I couldn’t even eat, I’d collapse. More important than the strain on my body would be the damage to my contract with him. So I wondered if it would be better to tell him the truth.
I entered a certain place following the chief handmaid. The only place I ever entered in the main building was the office. I only found out later that the place I’m going now was the main building’s dining hall. There was a familiar figure sitting at the head of the fancy table in the middle of the dinner hall.
We spent close to ten years together. However, Monica’s voice felt very strange when we’re only been apart for a few months.
“Aren’t you happy to see your niece after a long time, Aunt?” Monica asked.
Not liking my short answer, Monica tilted her head and lowered her eyebrows for no reason.
She had never been directly angry with me. This was probably the first time she had seen me since leaving the County.
Monica was always clever at making a fuss and she deliberately called me Aunt. I didn’t like the title ‘aunt’ because it always seemed to be a stark reminder that I was merely an illegitimate child.
I felt as if I had gone back to the days when I was living in the County in an instant.
As I slowly raised my gaze, Monica, who looked as beautiful as usual, looked at me and gave me a big smile.
Jessie, who occupied her imposing side, gave a sneer no different from before.
Even the chief handmaid of the Duchy and the handmaids who were just strangers to me as I didn’t know any of their faces. Everyone stood around Monica and mocked me. Suddenly, my shoulders shook.
“Aunt. I brought food from the County thinking of you. I thought you’ll miss your old meal if you only eat food prepared by strangers…”
She beckoned someone as she said this. Then Jessie put the basket she had brought on the table.
“What are you doing? Please sit down.”
I had escaped the County, but it seemed that I could not escape from Monica. I sat down in the chair as if I were accustomed to her commands.
As if she liked the way I looked, Monica’s eyes lit up. She stared blankly at what was being served in front of her, powerlessly leaning against her back.
The food that came out of the basket was something that I was tired of seeing in the County. Barley bread that was so hard that you’d only be able to eat it by kneading it a few times with your hands. Salad that would reduce your appetite because it was so dry. Then, thick jam and watery soup made with leftover fruits all at once.
“No matter how deliciously you eat your new meals, people tend to miss the food one used to eat. Now, don’t be shy and eat everything, Aunt.”
I didn’t even raise a fork at her words. My attention was focused on other questions than Monica, who was trying to humiliate me with food.
Although it was a contract marriage, I was the wife of this household’s young lord, however I couldn’t even enter the main building without permission. Meanwhile, Monica was confidently seated at the top seat.
Did Ian allow this?
Then, even though he knew all about this situation, was he turning a blind eye for the sake of his beloved lover?
Had I known this was going to happen, I would have added it to the contract clause.
Don’t let me cross paths with Monica.
Then I wouldn’t have to feel this miserable again.
I didn’t want to eat even though my stomach was shrinking due to hunger. If I eat that food, I think more ridicule will weigh me down. Then it makes me feel more stupid than I am now.
When I didn’t move my hand, Monica called again. Her voice, which had been lively even if it had just been made up, was low, as if displeased.
“Are you ignoring my sincerity?”
When she started to use this voice, Monica became quite insistent.
“…It’s only because I have no energy.”
Hearing my pitiful excuse, she said with a laugh.
“Just tell me right away. Jessie, what are you doing? Help Aunt with the meal.”
Jesse moved swiftly and came closer to me. I felt no better at the sight of her lips that were curled in pleasure.
How long do I have to repeat this?
I had a deep skepticism and at the same time she grabbed my shoulder. It was something that happened often in the County, so I didn’t know what she was going to do to me.
The moment I was just about to let go of my strength and accept it, the door to the dinner hall opened. The well-oiled door opened silently and smoothly, but people could see that it had been opened.
Then there was the sound of shoes ringing across the large dinner hall.
I turned my head helplessly. Even though I knew it was Ian who entered, I wanted to confirm it with my own eyes.
He had never been angry with Monica. That’s why he might just ignore the current situation.
Before that, I had to say that I wanted to add an extra clause to the contract. It might be more effective if I say it in front of everyone.
Ian, who had come right up to the table, slowly looked around at the food on the table.
The cold, shining gold eyes looked at the thin soup and slowly moved his gaze to me. I could clearly see the movement of his eyes, so my eyes met his immediately.
At that moment, I opened my mouth quickly.
“What is this?”
At the same time, Ian asked a question. His eyes were on me, but the question seemed to be directed at someone else.
“Ian, you see.”
Then Monica intervened. Her voice was familiar. The way she behaves in difficult situations she uses a voice mixed with an adorable charm. But even when Monica called him, his gaze did not leave me.
The intense golden eyes started at my face, slowly moved down, then quickly rose up again.
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