I want Your Grace to support Ilya so that my soon-to-be-adult child can make her debut in the social world of the capital.”
Wells frowned at the baron's request.
Is he really asking for a favor for his daughter, or is he trying to set foot in the capital by riding on her rise as a socialite?
The Baron of Titonsser vigorously waved his arms, and with a look at the duke's eyes, he could probably guess his thoughts.
“No! No, no, there's no other meaning.”
Wells kept silent; he still required a reason before he could accept such a request.
Without fail, the baron took a deep breath before he began divulging his reasons.
“I hold the title of a baron, but helping His Majesty in the capital does not suit my personality.
After careful consideration, I brought my family to this barony and have resided here for a long time.”
“Occasionally, when invited, I attend the banquets hosted by the Imperial Family, but the capital, which is gorgeous beyond compare, is like an ice shard on the inside.
It is not a place I would stay for long.”
“Then what intentions do you have for sending your daughter to that icy shard of a place?”
“It is not that there is something strange about it.
In fact, I just wanted Ilya to continue living here and continuing the family line.
These days, even women tend to get titles and enter politics.”
It was six years ago, when the present emperor had risen to his seat of power at the tender age of nineteen, that his first action at the beginning of his reign was the amendment of the laws.
Specifically, the law that prohibited women from obtaining titles and serving the Imperial Family.
Although the opposition of the heads of the families was severe, their emperor was a person who did not easily bend his will.
He stood firm in his beliefs.
So, by the time his rule completed its first year, except for a few women, many were allowed to take charge of their family lines and serve the empire.
The duke agreed.
“Right, if your family agreed to pass the title to your daughter, then a son-in-law marrying into the family would be fine.
Why didn't you do that?”
Baron's expression was stained with trouble.
“That's just a suggestion, and I don't think Ilya would like that.
Maybe it's because she's the only daughter.
I don't want her to continue the family if there is a path that will lead her to her happiness.”
Wells could see the fatherly love in the baron's eyes.
He truly cared deeply for his daughter, Ilya.
“By the time she becomes an adult and leaves my wife's arms and becomes self-reliant, I thought she would probably leave this place without looking back.
In that case, I thought that it would be better if she stayed in the capital under the patronage of the duke so that my child could marry into a family that could take care of her.”
Wells swallowed down his disagreement.
It seems that the baron has some illusions about the capital, or maybe it's because the marriage between him and his wife was one brought about by love.
Where did the capital nobles marry only for love? The benefits of each family and the greed of each person are what drive them.
Is that what you mean by living in harmony?
…It must be the same for the Duke of Proud.
He must have accepted his engagement to Rose because he can reap benefits.
After listening to his bitter thoughts, Wells felt deflated.
Even if your daughter receives my sponsorship and makes her debut into the social world of the capital, marriage will not come easily.
If you wish for your daughter's well-being and happiness, you're probably thinking of a count-level noble as her marriage partner.
There are many young aristocrats who have inherited their family names and titles, but will they want a baron's daughter as their companion?”
[TL/N: Meaning, will those young nobles who've come into power want to marry a woman of a lower social or political standing? Remember, everyone in the capital, especially if they're noble, desires to strengthen their family and themselves, so they normally aim for the daughters of nobler families so that they can obtain some help or support from these families.]
“They are nobles.
When a party is held in the imperial family, everyone finds a marriage partner by comparing their family name to that of the other person.
Will they notice the daughter of a baron who owns a small estate and has no connections in the capital?”
All I have is this small territory.”
Baron Titonsser slumped in his seat.
Was it because the baron was of a similar age to his parents? Wells regretted his harsh words; he was worried that he was too honest.
Coughing to hide his embarrassment, Wells took a sip from his teacup only to realize that it was empty again.
“Hmm, well, I still owe the baron…
Let me help Miss Titonsser make her debut into the social society.”
Wells looked at his empty teacup; there wasn't even a single drop of tea left.
With a roll of his eyes, his droopy shoulders returned to the correct posture.
“Really, Your Grace? Thank you so much! Ilya will be so very happy to hear about this.”
Baron Titonsser was so exhilarated that he was just short of falling to his knees in gratitude.
After putting an end to their business, Baron Titonsser left the room after saying his goodbyes to Wells.
Left alone in the silent room, Wells was troubled.
Sponsoring someone was too difficult for the Honeywell family.
He was not an aristocrat's son, but wasn't he already able to send donations to the orphanage and temple in the name of Honeywell?
“What bothers me is Rose's letter.”
He wiped away the tiredness from his face and got up to pace.
Putting on a thick coat, he took a lantern and left the room.
Wells remembered passing by a garden right next to the baron's house earlier.
Deciding to go there, Wells started walking.
However, as he passed through the hallway of the quiet manor, he paused and retreated.
There were footsteps that hastily backtracked the moment he turned around.
With his hand on the wall, Wells raised the lantern and inspected the person who had been sneakily following him.
From his deduction that it was light enough to belong to a woman, Wells assumed it to be one of the ladies-in-waiting who had not yet slept.
The spy turned out to be Ilya Titonsser.
Ilya covered her mouth with both of her hands and stared wide-eyed at Wells.
“What is Miss Titonsser doing here?”
To think it was Ilya who had been following me since earlier.
Wells, who laughed, noticed that both of the young lady's cheeks were flushed red.
She's up later than I would have thought.
Ilya and Rose were of similar age, so Wells would always invertedly think of his beloved sister who was left behind whenever he encountered Ilya.
It then caused him to speak out of worry.
“It's cold out here.
Miss Titonsser, you should go back to your room and sleep.
If you are to catch a cold, I am sure that Baron Titonsser and his wife would be worried.”
Still dwelling on his beloved sister, Wells hoped that Ilya would return to her room, but Ilya had a different idea altogether.
Perhaps, if you are going on a walk, may I join you?”
Wells immediately refused her.
There was no way he would walk outside with a young lady who was not married, much less a young girl who was not of age.
“I'm sorry, but that sounds like the beginning of disaster.
Even if the two of us took a walk in broad daylight, there would definitely be scandals.
Taking a walk in the middle of the night would be even worse.”
Ilya, who was initially disappointed, blushed a deep red after catching his meaning.
“Ah—uhm—well then, I have something to say to Your Grace.
Can I say it here?”
“If you have something to say, it's alright to say it tomorrow.
Even if we leave the capital after hearing what you have to say, it will not delay our arrival at the capital.”
Wells glanced down at the girl.
He wondered if she knew that she would be sponsored by the Honeywell family and would make her social debut at the debutante ball held in the Imperial Palace.
It's been a while since the baron left my room.
Did he already talk to her? If he didn't, then she might be embarrassed if I brought it up suddenly.
Recalling his previous conversation with Ilya's father, he hesitated.
However, Ilya was faster and spoke her mind.
“Your Grace, when you go to the capital, please take me too!”
Her cry echoed in the vacant hallway.
Wells was surprised at her cry but recovered his senses quickly.
He covered his mouth, pretending to weigh his options.
I'm sure you want to go to the capital.
Looking at your eyes, it seems there are still fantasies you want to live out there.
“Your father and I had a chat.”
“Yes, you will be accompanying me to the capital tomorrow.
You will be sponsored by the Honeywell family and will attend the Imperial Family's debutante ball.”
The daughter of the Titonsser family was left speechless.
She appeared to be unaware of it and was taken aback.
Wells found joy in her moment of dumbfoundedness.
“Did father really ask for your permission?”
The duke nodded in affirmation, causing Ilya to cheer as she jumped about.
“Kyaa! Thank you! Thank you, Your Grace!”
“You should thank your parents.
Even with the support of the Ducal family, it will not have been an easy decision for them to send their daughter to the capital alone.”
I will go to my parents' room as soon as the morning comes.”
Laughter leaked endlessly from Ilya's lips.
Wells laughed lightly at the sight, then noticed that Ilya's coat was very thin.
“Then I'll take my leave.
Good night, Your Grace.”
“Wait a moment.”
Wells called for Ilya to stop and patiently waited for her to face him as he took off his coat and placed it around Ilya's shoulders.
“Wait, no, thanks, but…”
“These clothes were prepared here, so there's no need for me to bring them back.”
“Oh, then I'll just go.”
Ilya walked away quickly.
“…I wonder if Rose is doing alright.”
Although Wells was the head of the family, Rose was the owner of the manor.
If Rose was uncomfortable with Ilya, though he kept talking about the baron, Ilya would have to find somewhere else to live.
Wells sighed as he subconsciously looked in the direction where the baron's daughter ran.
The hallway was empty, her figure had long since run away.
“If the baron's daughter stayed by Rose's side, will Rose become happier?”
“The capital! Sponsored by the duke's family!”
Ilya raced into her room; each step felt like she was flying.
She took a running start and jumped onto her bed.
Ilya, who had been stomping her feet and expressing joy with her whole body, pulled down the coat that was still hanging over her shoulders.
“Your Grace! You're so tall.
It's probably bigger than Barnes, who works in the forge, and your hands…”
It was only for a moment, but Wells' hands briefly touched her shoulder as he placed the coat on her.
Ilya buried her face in the warm coat and rolled around her bed.
Rose woke up and slowly got up.
Bright sunlight shone through the lightly drawn curtains.
The weather is quite different from yesterday's heavy rain.
After pulling back the covers and getting out of bed, she went straight to the window and pulled back the curtains.
She closed her eyes for a moment, waiting for them to adjust to the light.
She recalled the letter that had come last night during the violent storm.
It was written that Wells' carriage had overturned in the rain, so he would stay overnight in the nearby barony of Titonsser and leave the next day.
“It was inevitable for my brother to stop by Baron Titonsser.
Perhaps even if there is no heavy rain, there will only be a result of heading there.”
She covered her mouth to prevent the rising bile from spilling out.
Tears welled in her red eyes, shining brighter than rubies caught in the sun's light.
“If so, does that mean that no matter what I do, in the end, my brother and I will die? No! It's not fair!”
Even if what happened in the past inevitably happens again, Rose will struggle to live to the end.
Even if we end in death again, my brother and I will not die alone this time.
“Elliot Proud, wait and see.
I don't know what you're up to, but Honeywell won't be as easily fooled as it used to be.”
Determined, Rose clenched her fists.
Staring ahead, Rose caught sight of an oncoming carriage at the gate of the Honeywell Manor.
Realizing that the carriage did not belong to the Honeywell family, Rose narrowed her eyes and examined the carriage's markings.
It was the carriage of the Proud family.
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