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6. Capital Stabilizer

I have long harbored the desire to conquer the social circles of the Capital.

Upon my return to the Capital, rumors had spread that the Young Duchess Icard had fully recovered and planned to reside in the Capital henceforth.

The truth was that I hadn’t properly fulfilled the role of the Young Duchess for a long time, so it was inevitable that there were people who held opinions like, ‘She was just stuck in the countryside, no wonder,’ or ‘She seemed weak, there must be room to exploit her.’

Of course, it was fine not to bother subduing such people.

Now, there was no rival household to contend with in Duchy Icard. So, even without taking much action, there were many people ready to align with me. Simply maintaining friendly relations with the people who approached me this way allowed me to live more or less comfortably.

Of course, I wasn’t just living comfortably.

‘Everyone is dead, just wait.’

Even though I thought about starting in earnest after traveling with Evan, I got pregnant and had to abandon the idea.

Since the entire Duke’s residence trembled at the slightest of my movements, it was almost impossible for me to attend social events. I, too, refrained from devising too many schemes during my pregnancy and spent my time quietly doing prenatal care.

Regardless, it didn’t mean that I had given up on conquering the social circles. I did plan to start gradually after giving birth and recovering my strength.

Arienne was growing well, and my body was almost fully restored. Amidst this, I noticed something about Lady Olivia and ‘Marchioness Daniac’s Salon’ and investigated through the information guild.

“I see.”

I nodded as I read the report sent by Sven. When I wondered why Marchioness Daniac’s salon was chosen, it turned out that there had been some past entanglement.

“So, about our Arienne…”

It seemed like she wanted to proudly display her happiness in front of those who had cursed that Icard’s prosperity would cease because of Lady Matilda. She must have worked hard to counter the gossip about the deteriorating relationship between the Icard father and son after Lady Matilda’s passing.

Arienne was the symbol of happiness enjoyed by the Icard family. Therefore, it seemed that Lady Olivia wanted to prove that happiness in front of them.

“Lady Olivia is something else. But still, flaunting it with photographs… well, because of Lady Olivia’s position, no one can say anything upfront.”

I sighed and shook my head helplessly.

“I guess it’s not going to work. I’ll have to make sure they can’t speak ill behind my back either.”

Lady Olivia was excellent in mischief, boldness, and misdeeds, but she lacked one thing: a strategic scheming.

While I couldn’t ruin their perfect gatherings, I could at least prevent any negative talk about the Icards.

“It’s time to establish my position properly in the capital’s social circles as well.”

It seemed like the moment I had been waiting for had finally arrived.

“Arienne, Mom needs to get into some serious social activities now.”

I smiled as I took Arienne from the nanny.

“My daughter… you really take after Lady Olivia, so dazzlingly beautiful. But when you smile, you look just like me, without a doubt.”

As I happily pressed my cheek against Arienne’s plumped one, I momentarily halted at a passing thought. If she were to become Lady Icard like Olivia of old, and if she were to resemble me even in her inner self, with the same qualities and background…

I reached a conclusion, drawing upon rational reasoning and sharp intuition.

“The Icards will continue to prosper, Arienne.”

In the afternoon, as Arienne began to doze off again, I wrote another letter to Sven.

It seemed that I would need to prepare for my first official social event after giving birth, which was Princess Elanie’s tea party.


* * *


Princess Elanie hosted a grand tea party once a year. It was akin to any small event in the Capital’s social circles, with almost all the prominent nobles in attendance.

Marchioness Daniac Cynthia, too, was leisurely enjoying her tea in a quite opulent setting. Though well over sixty, she still held a significant position in the Capital’s social circles, running one of the largest salons still left in the waning salon culture.

Even among the aged, it was one of the most prestigious gatherings despite the lack of young members.

In a social realm where connections were power, such a strong sense of belonging was crucial. Consequently, despite their advanced age, everyone affiliated with the salon was invited without fail.

Of course, Cynthia’s salon hadn’t always been so cohesive. There had been a crisis that almost shattered this sense of belonging a long time ago, during Olivia’s visit to find Kallaudin’s marriage partner.

Back then, Kallaudin was such a tempting match that everyone was envious, leading to some underlying tension between them. However, Cynthia adeptly handled the crisis, uniting them once again with a shared disdain and curses for the unfortunate Matilda.

“Look at our Arienne’s picture. She’s so beautiful. Make sure to praise her for at least three sentences.”

Recently, Olivia had come over again, plastering the walls with pictures of her great-granddaughter and demanding compliments. Everyone felt a bittersweet pang, recalling the past, realizing that Duchy Icard was thriving well even after Lady Matilda’s death.

And Olivia, even at Elanie’s tea party, consistently showed up with photos of Arienne.

“Come, come quickly. Look at the photo of the universe’s most beautiful Arienne. You don’t know how gentle, pretty, and smart she is. She coos so clearly and consistently.”

Although no one quite understood how cooing clearly and consistently worked, they all humored Olivia to appease her.

‘Please, let the host of this tea party, Princess Elanie, put an end to this bragging!’

Cynthia was aware of the animosity between Elanie and Olivia. Nonetheless, as the host of the tea party, Elanie’s every move was anticipated, and Cynthia eagerly waited for them to clash again.

Ku, kuhm, kuhuhm.”

Indeed, Elanie gave a fake cough while looking at Olivia. Cynthia waited with a hopeful gaze as she had been anticipating Elanie to give Olivia a piece of her mind.

“I, too, kuhuhm, want to see it…”

However, Elanie’s words shattered Cynthia’s expectations.

“Look at it quickly.”

No matter how strained their relationship was, no one refused to show the baby’s photos when asked. As Olivia presented the photo, Elanie, with an expectant expression, gazed at it before she murmured in slight disappointment.

“No, dark hair and red eyes… I didn’t expect the Icard features to be so distinct. I don’t see much of the Rostri.”

At that moment, Fred, Count Rostri, who was seated beside her, spoke gently.

“When you look at the smiling photo, you’ll see our family’s features.”

Fred, Count Rostri, was considered the next royal chief justice and also one of Elanie’s closest confidants.

Sure enough, when she saw Arienne’s smiling picture, Elanie exclaimed in delight.

“That’s right. The smiling face is exactly the Rostri lineage! Icards don’t smile this beautifully.”

Cynthia sighed, giving up on getting a shot at Olivia.

Well, that cursed old lady’s great-granddaughter was indeed cute. However, no matter how much Olivia paraded her great-granddaughter’s photos, boasting, ‘This is how happy the Icards are!’ to everyone in the neighborhood…

‘Hmph, the Icards truly have fallen. Bringing in a rootless girl like Matilda in the first place, no wonder Kallaudin ended up with such a dull child as his daughter-in-law.’

Cynthia’s gaze then shifted quietly to Laria, who was sipping her tea this time.

With her small frame and gentle demeanor, she bore a striking resemblance to Matilda. Since usually, only one person from each family attended, it seemed that Laria was representing the Icards in Evan’s absence.

‘Fallen for swindlers and sent to the South from a young age.’

No matter how prestigious Laria was, her inability to leverage it made her far from threatening. Besides, they had all experienced a weak Duchess once.

Matilda and Laria, who stayed quiet no matter how much they were ignored and belittled, seemed to overlap.

‘Well, the brother will probably follow suit eventually, but there’s an ingrained inertia from living flat on the ground for so long. She’ll probably continue to hover between existing and not existing.’

Olivia would soon return to Livienne. Thus, even though Kallaudin and Evan had raised Duchy Icard duchy significantly, it meant that they didn’t need to pay much attention in the social circles.

‘Of course… Duchy Icard is impressive. Still, with a weak duchess, even without any manipulation, we should be able to keep her in check.’

Therefore, they had been enjoying some amusing gossip about Laria at the salon several days prior.

“It’s a relief that Arienne clearly carries the Icard lineage, isn’t it?”

At that moment, Laria spoke in a soft voice.

“Otherwise, some really strange rumors might have spread.”

“What do you mean, Laria?”

Fred furrowed his brow, and Laria answered gracefully with a smile.

“A few days ago… I heard there were some truly embarrassing rumors circulating about my period of recuperation in a certain salon.”

At the mention of ‘embarrassing rumors,’ everyone at the tea party fell silent. Such provocative language inevitably commanded attention.

“Embarrassing rumors? Is it… about secret affairs?”

Fred’s words made everyone swallow a lump in their throats.

Discussions about secretive and dirty affairs were always of interest to everyone. Of course, there were those who were swallowing hard for different reasons. Specifically, it was Cynthia and the members of the salon.

“Well, I heard that there was talk about me having a tryst with a certain Baron in the South while I was there.”

Cynthia, who had experienced it all, quickly managed her expression but felt embarrassed inwardly.

Her salon had been in existence for over forty years, and any potentially divisive remarks made between them were securely contained within their tight-knit circle, never leaking out.

‘Stay calm. It’s usually vulgar to react to such a scandal, so there’s a good chance she won’t ask any further.”

A gentlemanly person could just wrap it up with something like, ‘Oh, what a nuisance you must have had from those baseless gossip. Please don’t let it bother you,’ then…

‘It’s okay if it didn’t escalate and shift the focus.’

However, there was someone who paid no mind to being considered vulgar.

“What on earth! What dirty rumors have been circulating about my goddaughter? Tell me every detail!”

It was Olivia.