Chapter 46- Even One Worthy Friend Can Be Enough
The first person to welcome me back home was Florinda.
“You’re here, My Lady?”
“Yes, Florinda,” I said with a pleasant smile on my lips as I walked through the front door. Florinda looked me over and saw the package of tea leaves in my hand.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“Oh,” I answered awkwardly. “It’s ‘that thing’ Dorothea asked.”
“Ah,” Florinda said with a nod. “Thankfully, His Highness gave you more tea leaves.”
“I got it for free. I should have given him something more.”
“You gave him a handkerchief, but I don’t think His Highness is the type to want anything in return.”
“I think so too,” I said, but even so, I felt guilty. “Send these tea leaves to Cornohen’s mansion, Florinda.”
“It’s such a waste,” Florinda complained, and I had the same feeling as well. However, keeping my promise was the right thing to do. Otherwise, my ankle might get caught again out of nowhere.
“Since I’m back now, I’ll take a bath. Will you prepare it for me, Florinda?” I asked.
“Of course, My Lady. I’ll tell the maids.”
I went to my bedroom and took off my dress with the help of the maids. I dressed myself very formally for my visit to the palace, and there was a lot of work to undo.
Soon the bath was ready, and I moved into the bathroom. Swirls of steam rose from the water, signalling its tempting warmth.
I closed my eyes in contentment as I sank into the water. Then, I remembered what I said to Xavier earlier.
“Should I say where he should meet up?”
Xavier and Odeletta were in a relationship in the original novel, so it wasn’t like them meeting each other was completely without basis. Xavier didn’t specifically persecute or was mean to Odeletta in the story. Even if he did not love her, he at least chose her to be his empress.
If I were Xavier, I didn’t think I would refuse, but that was only my opinion. I didn’t know Xavier’s true inner heart. If he didn’t have a special crush on anyone, was there any reason to turn down a meeting?
“Argh, I don’t know.”
This was too confusing. This was all speculation anyway. I decided to wait and see for an answer.
But as I slowly sank towards the deep end of the bathtub, I thought I’d prefer to get the better results.
As soon as I got out of the bath, I saw there was a letter waiting for me. The maids dried my hair while Florinda extended an envelope, which I accepted. I turned it over, and a frown crossed my face.
“What is this?”
“It’s from Trakos mansion,” Florinda replied, and I knew that the letter was from Odeletta. Come to think of it, the wax seal had the Trakos family crest on it. I opened the envelope in anticipation and read the letter. The contents were couched in flowery language, but the message was simple.
“She wants to know if I would like to have a cup of tea at Trakos mansion in two days.”
Florinda looked at me in mild surprise. “You must have gotten close to Lady Trakos.”
“I think so.”
“I’m glad that you have friends other than Lady Cornohen. I was worried because you seemed to only be around her…”
“I’m happy too, Florinda. Odeletta is a very nice person,” I agreed, a small smile curving my lips as I thought of Odeletta.
“You can’t go to the mansion empty-handed, can you?” Florinda queried.
“I don’t think Lady Trakos would care, but maybe you would be bothered.” Definitely. A grin spread on my face. “What should I bring? A handkerchief again?”
“Why don’t you set up a handkerchief shop?” Florinda quipped.
“Haha.” I giggled bashfully at the joke. However, I couldn’t think of any other proper gift. What did Odeletta like? I felt a little ashamed when realizing that I didn’t know much about Odeletta yet.
‘Well, we can go to know each other more from now on.’
Why should we be expected to know everything about each other from the beginning?
“Well, I think a handkerchief is good, too,” I concluded. Normal was the best. Since Odeletta said she owed Maristella a handkerchief last time, it was a symbolic gift.
“You’re going to embroider everything again in two days?” Florinda said with a shake of her head. She seemed to think I was pushing myself too far again.
“I won’t do anything complicated this time. You don’t have to worry,” I reassured her with a smile.
It would have been easier if I just knew what flowers Odeletta liked. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had the chance to ask her that…
‘Wait a minute.’
I narrowed my eyes as I retraced my memory. Come to think of it, I must have picked up a detail like that from the novel. What was Odeletta’s favorite flower again?
‘Was it a violet?’
My memory was fuzzy, but I thought that had to be it. Dorothea liked tulips while Odeletta liked violets. The fact that Dorothea liked tulips was useless information, though.
A smile spread across my lips when I recalled my memory.
“Can you bring me my sewing box, Florinda?”
“Marie, why don’t you go to the boutique with me the day after tomorrow?” Countess Bellafleur said at dinner.
“When?” I asked.
“After breakfast. Madame Lovoire made a new dress, and I thought it would look beautiful on you.”
I was supposed to meet Odeletta then. A troubled expression crossed my face, and Countess Bellafleur looked at me in puzzlement.
“Is there something going on?” she asked.
“Actually, I was supposed to visit the Trakos mansion then.”
“The Trakos mansion?” Countess Bellafleur said in mild surprise. “What brings you there?”
“Lady Trakos invited me to have a cup of tea with her. I already said I would go. What should I do?” I asked.
“Oh, your promise with Lady Trakos is more important, Marie. We can go to the boutique tomorrow instead.”
“Thank you for understanding. I’d rather it be two days from tomorrow.”
“Are you doing anything in the meanwhile?”
“I’ve been embroidering a handkerchief. Lady Trakos’ favorite flowers are violets. I can’t go empty-handed—”
“Oh, splendid. A gift like that should be perfect if it’s filled with sincerity.”
Was it just me, or did Countess Bellafleur’s voice sound strangely excited when she heard that I would visit Lady Trakos? Even her mood seemed buoyant.
Martina seemed to notice it earlier than I did. “Mother, do you think it’s good that Sister and Lady Trakos are close?”
“Yes. The more friends, the better,” Countess Bellafleur said with a smile. “Of course, even one worthy friend can be enough.”
That was the least applicable to Dorothea. I smiled lightly and gave a word of praise to Odeletta. “Lady Trakos is a good person. She’s kind and elegant in every way.”
“I haven’t seen her that much, but she seems like a nice young lady from what I did see. If you’re close to her, then she must be a good person. Our Marie has an eye for people.”
Countess Bellafleur seemed to be ignoring the big loophole that was Dorothea. I gave an awkward smile.
“Then let’s go to the boutique two days after tomorrow, Mother,” I said.
“That’s fine. There is no need to rush. The party will be held next month.”
“Do you not know?” Countess Bellafleur said with a startled expression. “Next month is Duke Escliffe’s birthday. I thought you knew, since you’re close to the Duke…”
“Oh.” I did hear about that, but I forgot. I gave a nod. “Right. I heard from the Duke.”
“I wanted to get you a new dress for the occasion. The invitation came from the Duke while you were at the Imperial Palace.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t have a partner since he’s not courting anyone yet… I wonder who will be his dance partner that day.”
It’s…it’s going to be me, Mother.
Martina suddenly looked keen-eyed. “What about you, sister? You’re friendly with the Duke these days.” Martina, the most perceptive member of the family, guessed correctly. She was right. I have been close to Claude lately. Enough for him to ask me out as his partner.
Countess Bellafleur stared at Martina with a look of doubt. “That’s…that’s not really true, is it?”
“Martina’s perception is on the level of a national treasure,” I answered deftly. Countess Bellafleur, who had been waiting for an answer, as well as Count Bellafleur, who so far had little interest in this conversation, suddenly looked surprised.
Martina’s face lit up with pride at having guessed correctly. “Sister is the only one that Duke could ask that kind of favor.”
“Even so…is he interested in you, perhaps?” Countess Bellafleur asked curiously.
“No way,” I said, laughing as if the idea were ridiculous. “I’m sure it’s because he had no one else to ask. It’s not something you can do unless you’re friendly with someone.”
“That’s true, but…it’s interesting that it’s you.”
“Hm…is that so?”
Countess Bellafleur’s words kind of made sense. I felt a slight shudder in the foundation of my beliefs. I was certain that Xavier had no interest in me, since he had shown great interest between Dorothea and Odeletta in the novel. In Claude’s case, it was difficult to be sure because he was a supporting character.
After a moment of hard thinking, I concluded, ‘If that’s the case, then I can just ask.’
That wasn’t too hard, right? I could just ask him out of the blue, but I didn’t want to damage a relationship. It wasn’t good to muddy the atmosphere unnecessarily.
“Anyway, the Duke is a good man,” I said.
“Yes, he is a good man,” Countess Bellafleur agreed with a small smile. “Forget what I said Marie. Your mother is only complicating your mind by saying useless things.”
“It’s alright, Mother,” I replied with a smile back. “I’ll keep it in mind anyway.”