The Duke’s mansion was completely free from the plague.
The fact that no one died was due to the consistency of the treatment of the employees, and the help and support received from the Duke and the Duchess.

With that, the plague gradually disappeared from the Duchy.
The people of the streets said it was all because of the Ducal couple, and they drank and sang excitedly to their names.
Every bar, even the small ones, in the region was filled with this excitement.

It was the bar near the main street leading to the Duke’s mansion.
A bushy man who had survived the plague a few days ago held up his beer mug.
“drinks are on me today, people!” The man said, ringing the golden bell.
Those who were holding food or alcohol whistled and cheered.

“That’s great!”

“Then we should have more alcohol.
Bring me another large mug of pale ale!”

Among the guests was a thin, small middle-aged woman.
A cloth was wrapped around her head so that not a single portion of her hair could be seen.
Her name was Olivia.
The man smiled slightly at Olivia, ‘it’s the first time you’ve come to the Duchy, so consider yourself lucky.’ Then he proceeded to raise a toast, “for the Duke and the Duchess!”

Those with free food and drinks responded with joy.

“Cheers!”

“For Duke Ian Reinhardt and Duchess Laritte Reinhardt!”

“Cheers!”

Olivia stopped, “……Laritte?” So there was someone other than her who gave that d*mn name to their child? Laritte was the name of a Goddess who was born of lowliness and deceit.
No ordinary person would ever use such a name.
Giggled, she thought, ‘of course, dear Duchess Laritte Reinhardt would have a very different life than my child!’

Eventually, she got drunk and it felt good.
Though she was staggering, she began a song.
Others followed her and began to sing.
Someone even created a hymn about the Duchess on the spot.

“Royal with golden eyes, our Duke returned to the Duchy a year ago, yes–,” the song was a bizarre song without a note or a beat.
Those who were already intoxicated responded by pounding the table with spoons or shoes.
“There was a small girl in his arms,” they continued.

“Hahahaha!”

“At first, everyone was shocked.
Oh! She was a love child? But the silver-haired girl with blue eyes–”

Thud! The chair fell backward.
Olivia, who had been listening to the song, was startled when she heard the lyrics.
In an instant, the bar became all quiet.

“What? What’s wrong?”

Olivia limped toward the man who was singing.
Although she was small and old, she looked intimidating.
“What did you just say?”

“Woah, what do you mean?”

“Didn’t you just describe the color of the Duchess’ hair!”

“Yes, that’s right.
Silver hair and blue eyes…….
Seeing that you didn’t know that either, are you an outsider who doesn’t care about the world?” Olivia stood still for a while, and then she suddenly clenched her fist.

“Oh my God.
It can’t be,” she muttered softly and walked out of the pub at a rough pace.
She was also limping heavily.

“What’s with her?” the man frowned, not hearing Olivia’s last words.
The people quickly forgot about the commotion and resumed their entertainment.
“Royal with golden eyes, our Duke returned to the Duchy a year ago, yes–”

A single strand of silver hair shone in the place where Olivia stood.
Nobody noticed it.

 

***

 

“Today is the 30th day since we started dating.
The next stage would be where we start hugging,” Ian and Laritte sat in the study, facing each other.
After holding hands thirty times, they were moving on to the next level.
Laritte stretched out her arms toward him, a gesture to initiate a hug.

Unlike the carefree Laritte, Ian was very hesitant.
First of all, it was bizarre to set a date here.
But he was also waiting for this day to arrive.
‘Calm down, Ian Reinhardt.
You’ve kissed her before, but why does hugging feel like a big deal?’

Ian tried to maintain his stability, wishing that Laritte would not know his inner feelings.
But he couldn’t concentrate because of Laritte, who was staring at him.
“What are you doing, Ian? Hurry up and get it done.
I have work to do.” Ian wanted to procrastinate by any means possible.

“Can’t you wear the jacket that is hung over the chair?”

“I have to wear a jacket for hugging?”

Laritte was getting up to search for the book of dating advice.
She didn’t think she ever saw such a word there.
But Ian canceled his own stupid remark, “no, no, you’ve got work to do, so you can do it like this.” She sat down, while he took a deep breath.

Finally, he mustered up the courage to hug Laritte with open arms.
“Madam! Your Highness,” Alice knocked on the door of the study.
He quickly backed away as if he was caught doing something very bad.

In the rush, he bumped his head against the bookshelf, “ugh!”

“Oh my gosh, are you okay?”

Grabbing his head, he yelled out at the door, “what’s the matter?”

Alice gently opened the door.
She had some disturbing news.
“You have a guest, Your Highness,” she cautiously looked to the side.
She hesitated when Ian frowned.

“Who is it?”

“We were trying to get rid of her at first, but from the color of her hair, we think she might not be bluffing.” Ian continued to wait impatiently.
Rubbing her hands together, she finally said, “she says she’s Madam’s family.” Ian froze.

“You mean someone from Count Brumayer’s family? They were sent to the North, but how did they get back?”

“No.
That’s not it…….
The woman claims to be the Duchess’ mother.”

Ian and Laritte exchanged glances.
“Laritte, was your mother alive?” Everyone in the world knew that her mother gave up her upbringing, and after that, she faced difficulty in the County.
Was she really her mother? Then it was more of a problem.
It was unforgivable that she had come to visit Laritte now.

Laritte never saw her mother after she turned eight.
She only knew that she was abandoned at the house of Count Brumayer.
“I never heard of her death, so she could be alive.”

“Was she a good person?” Laritte did not answer.
When did she start getting abused as she grew up? There was not a single good memory.
Ian wasn’t hoping for a positive response either.
If Laritte had grown up with even a little love, it wouldn’t have troubled him every time he saw her.

First, he had to make sure it was her biological mother.
The two walked down the hallway to see the alleged woman.
“My mother’s name was Olivia.
Since she was a commoner, she didn’t have a surname.
She was a famous dancer, but I’ve never heard of how she got me.
It must not have been a good story to share as the nobles usually say,” Laritte had no memories other than this.

“My mother was very picky.
She always scolded me.
I remember living in an old house in the slums.” Ian grew angry while he heard her childhood stories.
The Count was so low.

“I wonder what he was looking for there,” he gritted his teeth.
Just then, a woman was seen through the large iron gates of the mansion.
Laritte looked at the woman with subtle eyes.
The ‘Olivia’ in her faint memory….
yes, she had such a face.
She looked ten years older than when Laritte saw her last time.
She was beautiful nonetheless.

Ian was even more puzzled when Olivia had a look similar to Laritte.
When Olivia’s eyes spotted Laritte, she gave her an exaggerated smile.

“Oh my God! That’s really my daughter, Laritte!” she stopped over the iron gate.
“Do you remember me? It’s your mother!” The gatekeeper glanced at Ian, he still hadn’t given the signal to open the gate.
Olivia continued to speak to Laritte, “I’ve been thinking a lot while I’ve been here.
The last three months after I left you, I really felt regretful.
Will you please forgive your mother?”

Ian snorted.
There have been many flies aiming at the property of the Duke, but he had never seen such a brazen person.
“What do we do, Laritte?”

Olivia hesitated beyond the door.
She was still limping.
Laritte let out a sigh.
Olivia forced her smile again.

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