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1575-chapter-186

After taking Tommy to the village, we immediately returned to the mansion. Though nothing was explicitly said, I sensed that our impromptu outing had come to an end.

“Mother.”

I called out as I approached the previous Duchess in the garden.

“Have you returned?”

As she set aside the shears for the rose she was pruning, I quickly joined her side and picked up one of the pruned roses, inhaling its sweet fragrance deeply.

“The scent is wonderful.”

Hoho, I’ll place some in your room today.”

She seemed more vibrant than before. Holding the rose and looking at it, I asked.

“Could you perhaps prepare these to take with us?”

Recognizing the meaning of my request, she paused her bustling movements.

“…Yes, it seems you’re busy.”

I addressed her with a hint of sadness in my voice.

“Next time, why don’t you visit our mansion? It’s as much your home as this place.”

“…Ray.”

“Thank you for staying close by. Once the urgent matters are settled, perhaps we could travel together?”

“First, you should go on your honeymoon.”

“Yes, of course. Don’t worry. We’ll put out the fires first. The new settlers’ needs are more pressing.”

“All right.”

The previous Duchess smiled softly at me. I fiddled with the rose in my hand and then asked gently.

“Mother.”

“Yes?”

“Mother, are you happy now?”

“….”

At my question, she was silent for a moment before her lips curved into a wide smile. The smile seemed to represent her feelings.

“Yes, very happy.”

“I’m glad to hear that.”

I responded, standing to leave. As I turned to go, the previous Duchess added.

“Ray, all of this is thanks to you.”

“…I’ve received more help than I’ve given, and I haven’t really done much.”

“No, I don’t think so. If you hadn’t consistently knocked on the door, I might still be confined to that room.”

“….”

To be honest, I was mostly a bystander to this family. I only cared for my bias and hardly ever delved deeper.

At that time, this world was almost fictional to me—a dream bound to shatter, making me complacent. Yet her words, stating that she received help from me, filled me with both gratitude and remorse.

“…It’s my.”

“What?”

“No, our family.”

“…Yes, Ray.”

“Let’s all be happy from now on. Our whole family.”

“Indeed.”

Tears welled up in the eyes of the previous Duchess. Perhaps to hide her crying, she slightly turned away and spoke.

“Hurry and get ready. I’ll prepare a bouquet of roses for you to take when you leave.”

“Okay.”

As soon as I entered the mansion, I saw Lucian and the previous Duke engaged in serious conversation.

“Father.”

“Ray, you’re leaving?”

“Yes, I need to attend to something.”

“It’s good to be busy, but make sure to go on your honeymoon before much longer.”

“We will.”

The previous ducal couple seemed concerned that Lucian and I hadn’t yet taken our honeymoon. Holding Lucian’s hand, I told the previous Duke.

“Mother just said the same thing.”

“Did she now?”

He glanced briefly toward the garden, a small smile on his face.

“I shouldn’t keep you long. Go on up and pack your things.”

“All right.”

“And Lucian.”

He called out just as we started up the stairs, so both of us turned our heads back.

“You can leave the matters of the residential area here to me. Send a letter if you need anything.”

With those brief words, he walked back to the garden.

Lucian’s expression as he watched was hard to pinpoint. It was as if a lost child had finally found his parents or as if he had been through wars and was just now returning home. It was the expression I had longed to see.

His golden eyes, swaying slowly towards me as if floating in the air, finally met mine.

In the moment we faced each other, his slightly curved eyes seemed to express his feelings.

After flicking his lips a few times, he silently began to walk away. As we walked the stairs together, a soft voice from beside me whispered.

“Thank you, Ray.”

Even a small voice can convey genuine gratitude.

I responded not with words, but by squeezing the hand I held as if to reassure that I would always be there.

 

* * *

 

After returning to the Duchy, the two tackled the backlog of work. Rachel was especially busy with a new plan.

Meeting Tommy had sparked many thoughts. She realized that loneliness like hers in childhood could affect other children, too.

Since Tommy’s father was a priest, she felt it was right to help and honor those who sacrificed for the kingdom. Thus, she planned to employ children who had newly come under her care. She intended to raise and educate them from a young age.

A whole village is needed to raise a child, as the saying goes. While not the entire village, she intended to organize the adults of the estate to assist the children.

She also aimed to properly manage the orphanages in Leon territory.

After visiting and reviewing their accounts, she found them to be even worse off than those in Korea. Rachel hoped to prevent other children from experiencing a dark childhood like Rachel and Lucian.

“Butler, could you call Amber?”

“Yes, Madam.”

Still seated near Lucian’s office, Rachel stood up to stretch her weary body.

Ignoring the persistent gaze that followed her every movement, she walked around the office. As she moved, her dress fluttered, and the persistent gaze moved with her.

“Oh, right.”

Rachel approached the aide who managed the Duchy’s finances.

“The orphanage’s accounts seem a mess from what I can tell. Do we have any standard templates or samples for managing something like this?”

“If you’re asking about basic templates….”

“Yes, nothing special. I want to know the main expenses. I have a rough idea, but I think it would be wise to consult an expert.”

“…Thank you, Madam.”

The aide was flustered by her praise. He blushed, uneasily shifting his gaze as he felt a piercing stare from somewhere.

His eyes met those of the Duke.

Huhp!

The golden eyes were shimmering coldly like metal.

“Ah, um, Madam.”

“Yes?”

“I’ll look into it myself and prepare the information you need.”

“Will you do that?”

“It’s a project you’re focusing on, so I’ll ensure to meticulously gather and prepare the necessary data. You can rely on me.”

“You really think differently as an expert. It’s reassuring to hear that. I was worried about how to handle this.”

“Don’t worry. This is part of my job.”

Despite feeling the intensifying gaze, the aide was buoyed by receiving noble praise for the first time and could ignore it.

“Madam.”

“Yes?”

“Wouldn’t it be quicker to ask Madam’s husband about this? You could have issued the instructions directly…”

By now, Rachel had grown somewhat accustomed to being called ‘Madam.’ She calmly replied,

“Hmm, but he is your superior. Isn’t it a bit presumptuous of me to make requests directly?”

“Hmm, Alex.”

“Yes, Duke.”

“Prepare a report as my wife wants, along with the current items used by the orphanage and suggestions for improvements.”

“…Yes.”

“And make sure it’s easy to review.”

“Of course, it will be.”

The aide, Alex, managed to hide his unease as he responded. Lucian, having relayed his instructions, then turned to Rachel with a cheerful smile.

“If I can handle it like this, is there really a need for you to ask the aide directly?”

Rachel finally grasped his point, and with a chuckle of disbelief, she approached him. She casually sat on his lap, wrapped her arms around his neck and asked.

“I asked direcxtly because I was worried it might be too much for Luci…”

“There’s no way it would be difficult. Always ask me first.”

“Hmm… really?”

“Of course.”

The aides in the office collectively bowed their heads, seeing the affectionate exchange between the two.

Amidst them looking at the paperwork diligently, a knock resounded through the room.

“Madam, I’m here.”

“Come in, Amber.”

The Amber she was looking for entered the office. Observing the scene before her, she approached the Duke’s desk with an unaffected expression. Though it was not a sight one would typically see in such a sacred workspace.

“I called you because I have something to ask. I’m considering hiring children around ten years old for the estate.”

“How many?”

“Well, I’m not sure yet, as it will depend on the applications we receive. But I want to teach and nurture these children as employees of the Duchy.”

Without hesitation, Amber responded immediately.

“If the children will be staying here, it would be best to refrain from such affectionate displays.”

“…Ah, really?”

Rachel quietly got up at Amber’s direct words. Lucian felt a bit disgruntled as her warm body moved away from him.

However, Amber wasn’t to be taken lightly.

“Of course, they may not come all the way to the office, but children are quick learners. So, as the most prominent adults in this mansion, you two should set a good example for them.”

“…Yes.”

As he glanced at Rachel, who was now further away because of Amber’s words, Lucian began to worry about the future.

Had he accepted her proposal without thinking it through?

Regret was starting to creep in.

 

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