The next day, Lobelia was jolted awake at dawn by a series of knocks on the door.
Lobelia got out of the bed and put on her shawl before opening the door.
At that same time the knob turned, the door was pushed from the outside and Lobelia was carried by the abrupt force.
With an unnatural smile on her face, Aina scrutinized Lobelia with sharp eyes if she had changed overnight.
Aina breathed a sigh of relief; Lobelia looked haggard as usual.
Lobelia watched Aina quietly, who summoned the handmaiden who had followed her.
“I brought some hot tea for my sister,” she said.
The handmaiden held forward a tray with a silver kettle and a teacup on it, along with some refreshments.
Lobelia smelled herbal tea from the kettle.
“Sister has been very depressed since Julia died,” Aina said, “Sister can’t seem to sleep well at night, so I brought her a tea which is ideal for a good night’s sleep.”
Lobelia was puzzled by Aina’s gesture.
There was something strange about her.
“I’m coming in,” Aina said, entering the outhouse without waiting for Lobelia’s permission.
Lobelia, knowing that saying no would only provoke Aina even more, didn’t say anything for now.
Aina ordered the maid to return to the mansion after serving the tea and snacks, but the maid hesitated.
“But miss…” she trailed off.
“It’s alright,” Aina said, “And don’t let anyone come to the outhouse today.”
The maid bowed her head, acknowledging Aina’s implication, and left without a word.
When the two of them were alone, Aina smiled and approached Lobelia.
“Stay with me all day today, sister,” she said as she poured tea into the teacup and forcibly handed it to Lobelia.
“You’re not going anywhere today, are you? You’re gonna stay in this house with me, right sister?”
At her unnatural request, Lobelia put the teacup back on the table. I guess she didn’t like what happened yesterday, she thought.
Aina’s true colors had begun to show.
She was deliberately trying to drag out the time by lingering around Lobelia, lest she be invited to the Duke of Ferrado’s residence again.
The reason why she had ordered the handmaiden to prohibit anyone from coming to the outhouse was probably to prevent the duke from contacting Lobelia.
Lobelia could not understand Aina.
Why would she hate it so much that she was invited by the duke when she had already so much greater things than that? The duke was, of course, highly esteemed.
Jade Ferrado’s debut in the society had been the object of admiration for all the young nobles.
But this was excessive.
How would she react if she became aware of the relationship, although contractual, between Lobelia and Jade?
“Miss, I don’t think that will be possible,” Lobelia said in a calm but firm voice.
Aina, who was clutching the teacup, flinched.
“Does my sister hate being with me?” she asked anxiously.
“No,” Lobelia answered, “I have work to do today.”
When Lobelia stood up, Aina hurriedly put down her teacup and followed after Lobelia.
“Sister!” Aina cried out loud.
She used to speak with so much grace.
“If you go out now, if you go out now–”
“What if I leave now?” Lobelia interjected as calmly as she could.
Suddenly, a polite knock erupted on the door.
Lobelia and Aina turned their heads at the same time.
Since Lobelia was closer to the door, she managed to open the door before Aina could stop her.
At the door stood a familiar man with blonde hair.
It was Joheim.
A look of relief flashed across his face.
“You are safe…” Joheim caught himself and hastily corrected himself, “No, the Duke is looking for Miss Lobelia.
Come with me.”
Behind her, Lobelia heard Aina breathing heavily.
She had ordered the handmaiden to stop unwanted guests from coming, but the maid seemed to have failed to comply, and she was angry.
Lobelia ignored Aina and left the outhouse with Joheim.
On the way to the mansion, Joheim repeatedly glanced back at Lobelia.
Lobelia pretended not to notice.
She knew Joheim was strangely attentive toward her, but it didn’t matter.
Lobelia was busy reviewing in her head the plans she had made with Jade Ferrado.
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