all the employees of the Grand Duke’s residence  responsible.”

“Doesn’t this sound more like a threat than an invitation?”

Biern opened the door with a dry smile.
His red eyes and his slow gait showed a feeling of fatigue that did not match the lively morning atmosphere.

Every May, the founding ceremony of Lechen is held.
The royal ball, which marked the beginning of the year, was a grand event that drew the attention of all social circles.
There were not a few stupid nobles who were preparing for a full year for that day.

After the abdication of the throne, Biern was no longer present.
It seemed that the will of the elders of the royal family had changed when they saw that the absence of participation, which had been tolerated, was brought into question again.
The reason is probably Gladys.
It must be the name that gets a lot of attention these days.

Biern slowly took off his jacket and untied his tie while the maids who followed, put up the thick curtains to block the sun light.
Fitz, standing silently with a serene face still haf left to say, but reluctantly turned back as he began to unbutton his shirt.

‘Do you have any ladies you like?’

Towards the end of the Royal Hospital’s charity party, her mother asked him.

‘I don’t think you’ll think that one divorce is not enough.’

Biern responded with a moderately light and witty joke.
His mother’s eyes, looking at him slowly, deepened with an unconcealable concern.
The reason the invitation suddenly flew in was probably this.

Biern took off his shirt haphazardly and threw himself on the bed as if collapsing.
The maids, who closed the last curtain, retreated with minimal footsteps.

Biern, who was silently staring at the ceiling, quickly closed his eyes.
The sound of regular breathing began to seep into the dark and quiet bedroom.

* * *

The atmosphere in the house was strange.

Based on the last three days of staying at the Hardi family, Erna’s conclusion was this.
It felt like an unfamiliar and gloomy atmosphere was weighing down the entire house.
It would have been better to return to Buford if he gave her a word of refusal sooner rather than later, but Viscount Hardi rarely gave a definite answer.

Don’t think about it any more.

The answer to the question she asked after squeezing out all her courage came after four days.

If that was the only answer today, Erna was going to give up cleanly.
It’s impossible for her to sit down like an uninvited guest for so long.
It was difficult to bear because she was worried about her grandmother who would be worried because of her granddaughter, who left just one letter and left as if she was running away at night.

Would I feel better if I went for a walk?

Erna thought deeply, and soon changed her mind.
When she thought of yesterday afternoon when she went out for a walk because she couldn’t stand the frustration, her hands were still trembling.
A man she met in the plaza kept talking to her and chased after her, so Erna had to run away frantically.

“Miss! Miss Erna!”

Tuk, tuk, tuk. A lively voice was heard along with the sound of  light knocking on the door.
Erna, who was looking out the window, sighed and closed the curtain.
As she was tidying up her clothes, another knock rang out.

“Yes! Come on in.”

Erna, who was hesitating, hurriedly sat down in front of the table by the window.
Moments later, the door opened and a maid with a tray of afternoon tea came in.

“Thank you.”

“You do it again, miss! It’s easy for you to talk.”

“What? Ah……Yes.”

A shy smile appeared on Erna’s face, who was quietly looking at the maid.

The young maid, who introduced herself as Lisa, was in charge of carrying out Erna’s care.
She was a friendly girl with an impressive smile on her face.
Erna was thankful for taking good care of her in many ways, but it was a little strange for Erna to deal with people her age that she hadn’t met in a long time.
It was the first time after Pavel had left his hometown to attend college.

Come to think of it, she heard that the city where the Royal Academy of Arts is located is Schwerin.

Belated regret came along with the sudden memory.
She wished she had brought Pavel’s address.
She didn’t have time to think about it because she was leaving as if she was on a night escape.

The town of Baden was located in the most remote part of the country village.
It was like a secluded island, where one had to walk an hour to the nearest neighboring village.
The Bardens of Baden, who had turned their backs on the world, lived there, and Erna, who had grown up with them, did the same.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that plants and livestock were more familiar to her life than humans.
Without Pavel, it certainly would have been.

“Excuse me, Lisa.”

When Erna carefully called out her name, the maid’s eyes lit up while she kept the tea.

“Yes, miss! Please speak!”

“Is the Royal Academy of Arts near here?”

“It is about five stops away by stagecoach.
Will you be going there?”

It’s not like that.
I was just curious.”

Erna quickly shook her head.
It seemed rude to suddenly visit Pavel.
She was in a situation where she had to stay quietly and leave instead of doing whatever she wants to do.

“By the way, Lisa, is there something going on with the Hardi? I think the atmosphere is a bit cluttered.”

Erna, who sat with her posture fixed, carefully asked what she had been curious about.

“What? Well…… I it’s fine?”

The maid quickly changed her expression and avoided her gaze.

“I don’t know about that, miss.
I haven’t been to this mansion for a while.
therefore…… Huh…… So, I don’t know.”

“I see.”

“Of course.
Nothing serious.”

The maid hurriedly brought a cup of tea to Erna.
She didn’t seem to notice that the tea had splashed on the saucer.

Erna quickly wiped away the saucer while the maid looked away for a moment.
She didn’t forget to hide the tea-stained handkerchief out of sight.
It was then that an unfamiliar maid’s voice was heard along with the knock.

“Lady, the master is looking for you.”

It was the message that Erna had been waiting anxiously for.

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