…and Elaina’s letter quickly arrived at the baron’s house.
Those were the first words from Baroness Foluin, who cherished Elaina’s letter.
Elaina’s letter came in the morning, so she received it at lunchtime sitting at the table.
“Citrina went somewhere with two men?”
“Did she defame the family? Elaina is going to become a star someday, and I don’t know if this will ruin our name for her.
There was no honor in a fallen aristocrat.” Knowing that, the baron scolded loudly.
The baron’s screams were insignificant, but he didn’t actually know that.
“Phew… she should be working hard to make money and help Elaina, so what can she be thinking.”
Baroness Foluin clicked her tongue.
“What is happening?”
The baroness tilted her head as she talked to herself.
“She hasn’t sent money or letters so…I’m sure that something is wrong.”
It may not have felt that way at all to Citrina, but Baroness Foluin did not hate Citrina.
It was just a waste of money to spend it on Citrina rather than Elaina.
Her second daughter Elaina was a shining star while her first child Citrina was less demanding.
“Elaina needs to do well in order for us to do well.
We need to wait a little more.
The baroness spoke to herself while reading the letter.
The baron who was drinking heavily, put the champagne down on the table with a thud.
“Wife, Citrina, did Citrina send money? Hasn’t it been a while since she went to the duke?”
The baron had a red nose from drinking too much.
He banged his sweaty forehead on the table.
“I can’t sober up.”
There was the sound of a head falling down.
The baroness pretended to be cool-headed and replied.
We already spent all of the money Citrina left behind and the money from selling the territory.
So you need to wake up.
At this rate, we may have to sell the aristocratic title-“
It was an era when aristocratic titles were being sold under the table.
Baroness Foluin, who wanted to prevent the situation, squeezed her husband’s body.
“Our, our Elaina, our Rina? We haven’t heard from the academy….”
As Baron Foluin called out Elaina’s nickname, ‘Rina’, his voice became sweet again.
His smart daughter, Elaina Foluin, she was the only salvation for the gambling addict Baron Foluin.
“Our Rina must be busy.”
Baroness Foluin smiled brightly.
She was always smiling at the thought of her beloved daughter, Elaina.
“As long as our Rina succeeds, I, everyone who ignores me….
The baron murmured as he gripped the poker cards with his bloodshot eyes.
After a certain point, the baron only stared at the poker cards, saying he was studying them.
The baroness looked at him and sighed.
It was because she felt like she was constantly pouring water into a bottomless jar.
“I’ll go to Citrina for now.”
The baroness lifted herself from the chair.
The baroness who was arranging the brooch on one side of her dress, nodded.
For that reason, Baroness Foluin of the Foluin Barony, or Citrina’s mother, visited the duchy.
Regrettably for the baroness, Citrina was not the first person to find her.
Arriving from the barony, Baroness Foluin met her first unexpected ambush.
She thought it would be easy to enter the ducal estate if she identified herself.
“Please identify yourself.”
But that was her delusion.
The first person who happened to meet the baroness was the butler, Harold.
“I am Baroness Foluin of the Foluin Barony, and I have come to see my eldest daughter, Citrina Foluin.”
“I’m sorry, but the lady is currently away.”
Harold replied, bowing politely.
The baroness who discovered the first ambush, tilted her head in embarrassment.
“What do you mean that she is away?”
“She is out for a while.”
I’ll wait until she gets back then.”
Harold smiled awkwardly as if it were troublesome.
It was difficult to send Baroness Foluin back without a good reason, no matter how much the family had fallen.
He decided to let the baroness into the drawing room and have her come back in due course.
‘Lady Citrina Foluin seemed to want to disconnect with all of her family.’
Harold concluded as he looked at Baroness Foluin with a cold stare.
“Then follow me.”
‘For now I’ll send her to the drawing room and ask Citrina nim if she is willing to meet with her.’
Harold was quite a loyal butler.
The day the baroness came to the duchy, Citrina was with Desian.
Desian had been subtly busy these days.
Still, he had visited her frequently in these past few peaceful days.
Actually, they didn’t do much in particular together.
Citrina was busing testing her ‘rehabilitation project’ and Desian was busy giving her gifts.
It was the same today.
Desian spoke to her as he knocked on her door.
Citrina tried to act indifferent as she opened the door.
Desian had given her various gifts lately.
It was an obvious sign of favor from Desian.
“Desian, thank you again for today.”
Citrina took the lead since she thought there would be another expensive and pretty gift today.
Desian’s expression became subtle.
Citrina smirked at the thought of the expensive mana stones and dresses in her wardrobe.
‘Did you think I would like that?”
“I think you have a present for me today as well.”
“… There is.”
Desian looked serious.
Then he somehow felt cute, so Citrina burst into laughter.
‘I never thought I would live long enough to see the villain acting cute.’
Why did it feel like he was her first friend? He followed her like a duckling follows its mother.
So it seemed like her rehabilitation project was seeping into Desian.
“These are flowers.”
Desian handed her roses that was still wet.
Straight from the garden, the flowers were fresh.
Come to think of it, Aaron did ask her if she liked flowers.
It was unexpected that it was Desian, not Aaron, who handed her flowers.
“I thought you’d like it.”
Come on in.”
Come to think of it, Desian had been standing at the door for a long time.
Entering the room with Desian, Citrina put the roses in a vase on the table.
The roses were freshly blooming.
She sat facing Desian at the table.
It was a natural routine in recent days.
The book they read together yesterday was still on the table.
Citrina opened the book.
Citrina smiled at the image of Desian reading a book.
“It’s not something big, but it’s good.”
“… if you like it.”
Citrina didn’t realize that bit by bit they were becoming a bit more close with each other.
She was just proud that Desian looked like a gentle sheep now.
‘I think reading books is the fastest way to learn.”
When Desian first visited her, Citrina was troubled.
Meditation, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, kendo? What was the best way to stabilize a person’s body and mind?
They had already had tea once, and they had tried meditation….
‘The tea ceremony was boring, and meditating with your eyes closed was a failure.’
She thought about his eyes as he had watched her when she suggested meditating with their eyes closed.
It was a rather obsessive gaze.
It was then.
Desian closed the book at abruptly asked a question.
“I’m curious about something, Citrina.”
“What are you curious about?”
Desian winked at the book.
The book was called
It was a title she had chosen because it was close to Citrina’s feelings.
“It’s in the book you gave me.
People give nicknames to close friends.
Pet names or whatever.”
Desian looked at her with his chin jutting out a bit.
Citrina was pleased that he was clearly remembering what he read in the book.
“Ah, they do when they’re close, usually as a sign of affection or interest.”
Citrina focused on arranging the flowers after speaking.
Desian spoke again with he head turned askew.
“I need that too.”
“Proof of your affection”
Citrina let that one slide.
Instead she decided on a nickname for him.
“Oh, okay? Since you’re Desian, how about…”
Citrina smoothed the petals of the roses in the vase with her fingertips.
Desian’s eyes seemed to bore into the side of her face.
She was in the middle of a dilemma.
Yeah, which would be the best
“Del, I like the sound of that.”
“Yeah, Del, what do you think?”
Desian burst into a cool laugh.
This was the first time Citrina had heard him laugh out loud.
It was somewhat surprising.
Desian bowed his head forward.
Since Citrina was leaning her head above the flowers, his breath was almost touching her.
The husky low-pitched voice echoed little by little.
His face felt too close to hers.
Citrina noticed a little later that his gaze was approaching.
She was embarrassed.
“How did you come up with that?”.
‘How did you know that? That was my nickname.
Citrina’s nickname was definitely Rina.
But that was just a dead language now.
There was no one to call her that.
‘That nickname disappeared after Elaina asked to be called Rina.’
Since Elaina called herself Rina, she had gone back to Citrina rather than Rina.
No one ever called her by a nickname.
“Can I call you that?”
Desian whispered with a serious look.
Catching his gaze, Citrina pondered briefly.
However, she didn’t agonize long.
‘It was originally my nickname.’
“Rina, am I the only one allowed to call you by your nickname?”
“You’re probably the only one calling me that.”
That was because Citrina had no friends and her family never called her that nickname anymore.
Desian responded briefly.
But Citrina could see joy in his expression.
It was her first time hearing Desian directly express what he liked or disliked.
Citrina raised her eyebrows slightly.
This situation seemed somehow dangerous.
“Don’t let anyone else.”
Desian spoke in a low voice.
Making nicknames for each other means you have imprinted on one another.
Interest and curiosity turned to fondness, which slowly turned to obsession.
It was the beginning of a new sensation.
He never intended to let go of all of these feelings.
Citrina noticed the subtle atmosphere then.
Someone politely knocked on Citrina’s door.
“Yes? What is it?”
“Baroness Foluin has visited.
Shall I send her back?”
She had to sever these strings before she left for the other empire.
Desian had been somewhat civilized, so it was time to settle things with her family.
Desian looked at the conflicted expression on Citrina’s face and asked.
“Can I help you, Rina?”
Citrina hesitated a bit when she heard his suggestion.
But the decision came out easier than she thought.
I’ll do it, Del.”
Citrina was determined.
It was up to her to fully cut ties with the baroness.
“It’s something I have to settle.
If I don’t get out after a while…”
The most gentle eyes were looking at her.
It was an unthinkably amiable stare for a villain.
“I’ll be there, of course.”
Those words made Citrina feel they had become quite close.
So Citrina headed for the drawing room while Desian stayed in the adjacent room.
Citrina thought about how long it had been since she met with the baroness.
In terms of time it had been about a month.
Quite a few things had happened during that time, but the baroness never changed.
The baroness seemed in a hurry.
She got straight to the point without even touching the tea Harold had prepared.
“I’ll put it bluntly.
We are short of money.
That man needs the final amount of money to invest…”
The baroness was at a loss for words.
She knew why.
“You mean the money to gamble?”
The baroness looked slightly away from Citrina.
“That…it’s not enough.
I think you’ve been paid by now, and this is the last time I’ll ask.
Help the family, our good Citrina.”
Citrina had lived in pain every day in order to be good.
“You said that every day and then just took the money.”
In the future she had seen, the baroness had taken money until the day Citrina died.
All the while, she repeated that she would give the money back.
‘Citrina, you made so much money and died in vain.’
The baroness who saw Citrina smile said in a hasty tone.
“If you have anything to do with the duke’s young lords… even if you borrow a little money… well, you wouldn’t need to give me enough to cover gambling.
Just enough to buy a real sword for Elaina.”
How did such a person become her mother? This was a person who sent her daughter to the rumored ducal estate and still only thought of Elaina.
How could that be?
The baroness’s eyes showed some anticipation.
“We raised you, we dressed you, we fed you.
We’ve done everything so that you could be educated…….
and you’re our good daughter.
Don’t you think so?”
What she was saying was actually a joke.
From what Citrina recalled, she had worked every day since she had grown up.
She earned what went into her mouth and fed her family.
It has nothing to do with Del.”
“I just thought of something, so let me ask you one thing.”
“What the hell are you talking about kid..
Our kind eldest daughter, what the hell-“
“Just give me an answer.”
“So what is it? Tell me.”
Citrina closed her eyes.
Her body trembled slightly.
“Do you know what my nickname is? Not the name Citrina.”
The baroness went silent at Citrina’s question.
That first kind voice of a parent.
The kindness that was used when calling a nickname.
Even the small happiness that came from expectations.
‘I remember everything changed from the moment Elaina stood out.’
The voice that called her unconsciously became cold.
Citrina had lost the voice she used to have.
At some point, Elaina had claimed the nickname ‘Rina’ as her own.
Citrina did not cry then.
She was just trying to forget the nickname Rina.
But the only thing she recieved in return was the demand for money.
“…is that your question now? It doesn’t matter, Citrina.”
“I…shouldn’t have expected anything.”
She felt empty.
This was the outcome for sacrificing for her family.
Well, it all wasn’t a big deal for the baroness.
But she hadn’t expected her to answer like that.
“Alright, Citrina, I don’t know what’s wrong, but I’m sorry.
This mother is sorry.”
Maybe it was not a lie.
Citrina looked at the baroness’s grey hair growing sparsely.
The baroness must have had a hard time as well.
It must have been difficult having a husband addicted to gambling.
‘Just because the baroness had a hard time, apologizing to me doesn’t make a difference.’
Citrina pulled herself together.
Even if the baroness’s life was difficult, it didn’t change the fact that she put all her hopes and love onto Elaina and all of her troubles onto Citrina.
They say that if you’re poor, love flies out the window.
But they had a lot of opportunities.
They had the opportunity to live a happy life.
“You should have apologized earlier.”
Citrina’s body trembled.
She felt as if she had a chill.
She clutched at the table.
But she had to say what she had to say.
The baroness’s face was sweating with impatience.
“Citrina, I said I was sorry.”
“Apologizing doesn’t mean I have to accept it.
I don’t want to forgive”
The baroness washed her face dry.
Years had passed before she knew it.
But it was nothing compared to the calluses on Citrina’s fingertips and the burden on her shoulders.
The baroness spoke up again.
“Citrina, I keep telling you again and again that Elaina will do well, and therefore we will do well.
It’s important for Elaina to rise up and become a knight at the imperial palace.
You, we, we’re not smart… all we can do is sacrifice a bit more.
Can’t you do a little more good for Elaina and give her a break?”
She was done talking.
It sounded almost like a final statement.
Citrina felt like they were traveling in parallel lines where they could no longer communicate.
She let out a long sigh.
“I want to live my life!”
Her voice rang loudly through the room.
It was unprecedented for Citrina to shout.
The baroness swallowed her breath in a hurry.
“I want to live.
That’s what I want to do.”
Citrina’s voice stopped.
“Your life…like that.
Upon hearing her speak loudly, the baroness sat with a blank face.
“You too, then…”
“And you… did you live your life?”
It was a funny thing to say.
If she didn’t have a life, then she was just a piece of artwork.
“Why are you asking me such an obvious thing?”
Citrina waited for a long time.
But contrary to her expectations, there was only silence in the room.
Then a few seconds later,
Strutting, Desian walked in.
Citrina didn’t even know she was shaking.
From behind her, Desian’s hands gently gripped her trembling shoulders.
The unfamiliar warm from the cold fingertips relieved Citrina, albeit weakly.
Citrina let out a long sigh.
At the end of this all, at least all of her connections to the baroness would be severed.
That was the only thing Citrina could conclude to be honest.
Silence fell on the conversation.
It was Desian who naturally intervened in the silence.
Desian called Citrina by the name Rina.
It finally came to Baroness Foluin’s mind.
She remembered that Citrina used to have the nickname Rina.
“Citrina” Baroness Foluin did not use the nickname Rina.
She flapped her lips as if she were only calling Citrina’s name.
Her realization was too late.
The baroness was no longer entitled to call Citrina by her nickname.
“What do you want to do?”
Citrina rose to her feet.
She almost stumbled, but stood up straight.
It was because Desian’s arms wrapped tightly around her.
Desian’s voice was tearfully sweet.
“… I don’t want to meet again.”
“You will have to do things for yourself now.”
There was a rattling sound of a chair dragging.
Citrina and Desian left the bewildered baroness behind.
“Of course, you can count on it.”
Desian’s arms wrapped tightly around her shoulders.
It was like she could lean on his shoulder.
Citrina needed a little of this warmth.
With a little warmth, she could live in this world.
But the warmth could disappear easily.
Like her nickname, ‘Rina’.
So Citrina didn’t intend to lean on Desian for long.
It would only be for this moment.
Meanwhile, the baroness who had sat there a long time after Citrina left, rose.
Now she had to find a way to live too.
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