Home Post 452-chapter-118


“The garden is so beautiful.”

“I’ve never seen a garden like this before.”

Choosing the garden as the venue for the tea party was a wise decision. Julia had paid the most attention to the garden restoration, so the current state of the Grand Duchy’s estate garden was no less impressive.

No, it could even be considered more splendid than the imperial garden.

Occasionally, she would sit in the garden doing nothing. With a vast area that seemed endless, a large dragon fountain in the middle, and even a maze garden. On top of that, there was an indoor garden in the shape of a dome.

The garden of the Grand Duchy, a scale that would be overwhelming for an ordinary estate, was truly remarkable in its landscaping, even to someone like her, who was not deeply interested in gardening. That was one reason why she intentionally chose this place.

“Even if I explore all day long… I feel like I won’t see everything.”

“You’re exaggerating. It’s not all completed yet.”

It was different from the parties held in the palace.

Perhaps because it was a party hosted by the Grand Duchy, she felt more at ease. Or maybe it was because the number of attendees was relatively small. Probably both. At least more than half of the ladies in attendance were Estelle’s people.

“There’s an indoor garden too.”

“Yes, the weather is nice today, and… I wanted to show you all the garden.”

“On a day like today, the outdoor setting seems more enjoyable.”

Among the ten attendees, there was only one person aligned with the Empress—Countess Arienne. Three were aligned with Lady Armand, and the rest were people close to Estelle and those with a neutral stance.

Of course, among the neutrals, there was no one definitively against the Empress. If the neutrals were forced to choose between her and the Empress, excluding Estelle, all would choose Cassandra.

“I agree. Thankfully, the weather is nice.”

Arianne’s straightforward tone, as if she didn’t appreciate the peaceful atmosphere, made Elysia quietly smile. She must have come under some order from the Empress… She wouldn’t have sent her only as a surveillance.

“Actually, it’s my first time seeing the Grand Duchy up close like this.”

“I never knew the inside would be this beautiful.”

It was the expected reaction. Just seeing the Grand Duke’s castle, which had been closed tightly and inaccessible to anyone, excited people.

Elysia took advantage of this.

To win the neutral’s favor, she intentionally showcased the most glamorous side.

Choosing the outdoor setting to show the garden was one thing, but here, within the massive walls, the secretive Grand Duke’s castle revealed itself. The Grand Duke’s was almost on par with the imperial palace in size and grandeur.

“As you all know, I haven’t been active in society.”

What sets her apart from Cassandra? It was nothing but honesty and immaturity. Elysia had to skillfully use these two aspects to win people’s favor.

“I’m getting help from Estelle, but…”

“You’re not lacking at all.”

“So, wanting to get closer to all of you and seeking help, I invited you.”

Elysia knew she hadn’t fully entered the noble society yet. It was just because of her position as the Grand Duchess that no one dared to speak.

At this rate, she might end up dying in Damon’s hands before creating a position for herself among the women who liked him. Before that happened, it seemed necessary to establish her standing in the noble society.

“We’re honored to be invited to the Grand Duke’s castle.”

Now, it was an onslaught of delicacies.

Elysia instructed the serving of various desserts. Julia was waiting nearby, anticipating only her signal. All she could do now was make them think they were receiving special treatment from the Grand Duchy.

“Oh…by the way… I heard the food at the Grand Duchy is very delicious.”

“For those without evening plans, you can have dinner before leaving.”

Originally, one way to entice people was to let them taste only some, not everything. Since they opened the doors of the Grand Duke’s castle that never opened, they would want to go inside. The Grand Duchy is a place wrapped in mystery.

If they became one of the few people to explore that place? Everyone would think they had become someone special.

“Is that okay?”

“Of course.”

Although they pretended otherwise, everyone seemed excited. Among them, the only one not swayed was Lady Armando, who kept looking at her.

The lead was different, after all…

The purpose of today’s gathering was not only to avoid being a target when she left Damon but also to meet Lady Armando.

“Do you plan to hold regular gatherings, Your Grace?”

In response to Arianne’s question, Elysia looked up.

Even amidst the people eating desserts, Arianne hadn’t touched the cake. Perhaps a matter of the last bit of her pride. The chefs Damon brought were exceptionally skilled. Those who tasted their food for the first time couldn’t stop moving their forks.

“Regular gatherings?”

“Yes, wouldn’t Your Grace consider having regular social gatherings?”

“I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. However, I do plan to occasionally host parties at the Grand Duchy.”

Regular social gatherings. The Empress was, through Arianne, essentially asking Elysia if she would become her enemy.

…Silently join the Empress’s side.

“In fact, Her Majesty also had something for the Grand Duchess.”

As expected of her master’s lady-in-waiting. The reason for speaking out while everyone was present was evident. Malicious gossip spreads everywhere.

“What did she say?”

“Her Highness suggested that even though the Grand Duchess is young, it would be wise to maintain dignity.”

It was almost a threat not to align with Lady Armando.

There was a reason Elysia didn’t believe when she heard that Rowena had become the Empress’s lady-in-waiting. All of the Empress’s ladies-in-waiting were married ladies. Probably, to maintain dignity while holding the position of the Empress, only older ladies-in-waiting were hired.

So, when Rowena became a lady-in-waiting, no one believed it. In contrast, Lady Armando took a different path. The group she associated with consisted only of unmarried young ladies, and oddly, it included capable women regardless of their social status.

From there, the two began to differ.

“Is that so… Please convey that I’ll think about it.”

Her mood was gradually souring. In reality, she didn’t want to fit in anywhere. Elysia tried not to create unnecessary trouble.

If she were a legitimate Grand Duchess, she wouldn’t have hosted such parties. She was building an image solely to survive. And so far, it seemed that Sierra could be more helpful to her than the Empress.

“And I want to apologize for being rude before.”

“Thank you for the apology.”

She wanted to pretend she hadn’t heard, but Elysia forced a smile, feigning compassion. Her lips trembled, and the taste in her mouth turned bitter.

What was her motive? Did the Empress suddenly order her to be friendly with Elysia?

It was impossible to discern the Empress’s motives. She seemed to despise Elysia as if she would kill her, yet it was challenging to gauge why she was keeping her close.

Was it to torment her while keeping her nearby?

“Lately, my daughter…”

“Marriage is probably the least of Marquisate Alloen’s worry.”

Looking at it this way, the divisions were clear.

The once rigid atmosphere vanished, and married ladies suddenly bloomed with stories about their children. The unmarried ladies were mainly discussing love and dresses. Arianne was in the middle, unable to fit anywhere, occasionally engaging with the married ladies.

Certainly, marriage was a crucial issue in the social circle.

The change in conversation topics was inevitable. Now, the Empress was telling her to decide where she belonged. In truth, she didn’t want to fit in anywhere. She had no intention of having children and didn’t plan to discuss her husband.

Yet, she couldn’t play around like the unmarried young ladies.

“Since the Grand Duchess’s relationship is good, you’ll have children soon, won’t you?”


“I’ve never seen the Grand Duke laugh so much. He rarely even attends parties.”

She didn’t know why the conversation suddenly turned in her direction. Perhaps Arianne decided to engage her by talking about her. It was uncomfortable, especially since the topic was about children.

“We also had our moments of burning passion.”

“That’s true.”

As Elysia pondered how to respond, the temperature dropped slightly, causing her to shiver.

“Does anyone have other engagements? It seems it’s about time for dinner.”

“I don’t think I can. I should be leaving now.”

She expected everyone to commit to having dinner together. The most unexpected person who declined surprised her.

It was Arianne.

Elysia thought she would endure until the end due to the Empress’s command. Though she felt relieved that Arianne left first, an uneasy feeling lingered.

“Can we see the Grand Duke too? How does it feel to live with the most magnificent man in the Empire?”

While the young ladies spoke quietly, the married ladies engaged Elysia in conversation with experienced, witty remarks. Fortunately, Damon didn’t appear during the meal. If he had, she wouldn’t be able to finish eating.

Though their intentions were likely kind, Elysia found it challenging to respond each time. Fortunately, she managed to divert the topics. If not, she would have been tormented without a doubt.

“It was a pleasure meeting you all today.”

“Grand Duchess….”

She bid farewell to each person, handing them a gift. It was customary for the invited guests to bring presents. However, what mattered most to her now? The significant sum of money was rotting away anyway.

It was a kind of bribe.

At least, it was a gesture that could make them think of her at least once.

“This is the first time receiving such gifts. Thank you very much.”

“It’s nothing special.”

“I will gratefully accept it.”

When almost everyone had finished their farewells, there was one person who remained, not joining the others until the end.

“You’re not leaving, Lady Armando?”

“Can we talk today?”