Chapter 91 – No Forgiveness
Petronilla thought Duchess Ephreney would reply immediately but, unexpectedly, she was silent. Petronilla didn’t think the Duchess made a choice entirely based on love.
“If it’s not true, you can reveal the truth in front of everyone. Don’t worry,” Petronilla said reassuringly.
“…Who on earth is spreading such rumors? Is it meant to be an insult?” Duchess Ephreney demanded.
“My Lady, calm down,” Petronilla said, knowing entirely who spread such rumors. “Isn’t this the nature of society? Everyone talks about baseless gossip as if it is all true.”
“Don’t worry too much. The rumors will fade away soon.”
But would it, truly? Petronilla was convinced that even if such gossip disappeared, the seeds of doubt would have already taken root in the Duchess’ mind. Human beings were like that. Once they started to doubt, they couldn’t get rid of it. Petronilla hoped that things would be easier from now on.
“I think you should rest some more, so I’ll take my leave,” Petronilla said, and stood up and bowed politely. Before she left the room, she offered her condolences.
“About the Young Master Ephreney…I’m very sorry.”
“I’m sure he has gone to a good place.”
“…He should,” Duchess Ephreney replied in a tone that indicated the end of the conversation.
Petronilla bowed her head once more and left the room. As she walked out, she ran across January. To her surprise, the concubine had clear nail marks across her face.
“Hello, Madame. It’s been a while,” Petronilla greeted casually.
“Yes. It’s been a while.”
Instead of asking about her condition, Petronilla spoke on a different topic. “Duchess Ephreney seems to be going through a difficult time because of her son.”
“Yes. That is why I look like this,” January said stiffly.
“Oh my.” Petronilla consoled her shamelessly. “Please be understanding. It’s…just the timing.”
“Yes. I have to be understanding.”
“Then I’ll take my leave. Take care of your wounds.”
Petronilla left the mansion and climbed onto the carriage. Now that the first stage was over, it was time to light up the doubts in the second stage. Petronilla sighed and leaned back with a tired expression.
Later in the afternoon, Lucio was informed that the captured assassins confessed that Rosemond solicited their services. He accepted the news more calmly than he thought, then returned to his seat and devoted himself to working on the state affairs.
In truth, he knew that the assassins were fake. He didn’t bother to make it known. Even if he stepped forward and made that claim, he knew instinctively that there was not enough evidence, and that it was time for this fight to end. He quietly closed his eyes and sighed.
“Your Majesty.” The head lady-in-waiting’s voice broke through his thoughts.
“What is it?” he replied.
“Her Majesty the Queen is here.”
Why did she come here to see him? “Let her in,” he said.
The door opened, and Patrizia entered. She wore a navy-blue dress that gave her an air of mystery.
“What is it?” he asked.
“The trial date has been set,” Patrizia replied calmly. “It will be three days, at noon.”
“I’m here to obtain approval. I decided there was no need to drag this on with the confession.”
Patrizia said nothing for a moment, but then soon spoke. “She will receive the death penalty.”
“You’re not doing anything. And yet…she was once your lover.”
“Only God knows if I really loved her or if she really loved me,” he said in a flat tone. “Maybe that’s my misfortune.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“It’s alright. Actually, I…I don’t know either.”
Was it just an illusion, or did he look pained when he said that? Patrizia remained outwardly calm, but knew that Lucio must be inwardly conflicted. She moved her lips and finally said what she wanted to say.
“I know you don’t like this, but even so…”
“No forgiveness. I cannot be that merciful.”
“This is a matter of law, not mercy. Anyone who tries to assassinate the queen cannot live,” he replied in an emotionless tone. “Don’t mind me. Even if I love her, I cannot ask you for her life.”
“…That’s good to hear,” Patrizia said, then turned around. At that moment, a great wave of fatigue washed over her. She instinctively steeled herself.
It will be over soon. Just hold on a little longer.
The atmosphere in the Ephreney mansion since the Duchess’ return had been cold. The fight between Duchess Ephreney and January played a part in it, but now, the household was in mourning. The official commemoration was to be held for three days straight, starting tomorrow.
“Where is my wife?”
Duke Ephreney sought after his wife as soon as he returned home from the palace. The butler politely informed him that she was resting in her room, and the Duke went straight to see her. He knocked on her door and heard a strained voice from inside.
“Who is it?”
“It’s me, my wife.”
“…Come in.” Her tone wasn’t all that welcoming, but Duke Ephreney opened the door regardless. Inside the room, he saw a grieving Duchess dressed entirely in black.
“I heard you arrived a few hours ago. I’m sorry I couldn’t meet you,” he said.
“…You were busy. It’s fine.”
“Are you alright? It must have been a big shock.”
“Am I the only one with a big shock?” Duchess Ephreney stared accusingly at the Duke. They both had lost their child, but the Duke appeared unshaken. Duchess Ephreney’s heart trembled.
“My son is dead. He yearned for his home country while on his deathbed. It’s a pity that he couldn’t die here!”
“How could I not be sad, my wife? I, too, feel sad now—” the Duke started, but the Duchess cut him off.
“Really?” Her eyes were as sharp as knives. “Are you really grieving?”
“Because in my eyes, you don’t appear sad.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m now—”
“I didn’t like the fact that David was sent abroad in the first place. You sent him away to study, but was it really for his benefit?”
“Izu, what are you talking about? Of course I—”
“Did you love David?” Duchess Ephreney lashed at him.
The Duke fought to keep his face calm. “Of course I do. I told you. I, too, am sad now.”
“I don’t see it in your eyes,” Duchess Ephreney said cynically. “You’re lying right now. Of course you are sad to some degree. But it doesn’t hurt you like you’re going to die. Isn’t that right? It’s because you have another son. You’re going to let him succeed the Ephreney family now, won’t you?”
“Izu, calm down. You’re overly agitated.”
“Agitated,” she sneered. “Why don’t you just call me crazy instead?”
“Don’t call me by my name.” Duchess Ephreney leapt out of her seat, shuddering in anger. When Duke Ephreney wordlessly looked at her, she continued her attack.
“I’m not going to adopt that boy. Jacob will remain your illegitimate child forever. There’s nothing you can do about that bitch’s bloodline! She cannot provide a successor to the family. Understand?”
With that, she stormed out of the room. She called for the butler and told him to contact the family’s blood clans. The butler faithfully followed her, and Duke Ephreney soon caught up from behind.
“What are you doing? We’re in the middle of mourning!” he yelled.
“My son is dead, and the son of that concubine will become the heir to the family. Is that important now?” Duchess Ephreney said coldly. “You should be careful too. I am the master of this family. There’s no reason why I can’t divorce you even when David is dead.”
Duke Ephreney sensed the threat in her words and shut his mouth. If she divorced him, he would no longer be part of the great Ephreney family, nor a duke of the Ephreney estate. He would have to rewrite his name as part of the Hedwig house, which was formerly his own. Since his brother already inherited the noble title, he would not even be baron. A divorce would mean the destruction of Duke Ephreney.
“Let me take this opportunity to warn you. Get that woman and her son out of here.”
“I didn’t divorce you thus far because of David, but now he’s gone, I won’t tolerate this anymore.”
The Duke held his ground. “Divorce is not that simple. That reason is insufficient in court. Strictly speaking, having a concubine is not grounds for separation.”
“So you’re not going to let the mother and son go?”
“Jacob is still a young boy. How could I just kick the child out—?”
“I warned you,” Duchess Ephreney said with an icy voice. “After the funeral is over, get that disgusting mother and son out of the house immediately. Otherwise, I won’t just stand by.”
She whirled around and left the room, leaving the Duke alone. He sighed wearily. Unbeknownst to him, there was a figure watching from behind a pillar.
‘What should I do?’
It was January. She bit her lip in frustration and silently padded back into her room. After she closed the door, she paced the floor and muttered to herself.
“Rosemond is detained, and Duke Ephreney will be divorced.”
At some point, everything started to crumble around her. How did this happen? January continued talking to herself, trying to hold back her tears.
“Rosemond will likely be executed. But what if she bites me too?”
Her eyes alighted on the jewelry box containing the letters from Rosemond. She had to burn them. She quickly opened the box and unfolded one of the letters. The latest one asked January to kill the Queen. She immediately tossed it into the fireplace, then dumped the rest of the letters into the flames.
Because she did not confirm all the contents of the letters, she did not realize that they had already been replaced by Petronilla.