TL: Zimmings, PR: Ann
“One, two, three,” I said while I gazed out the window. I was counting the leaves on the tree from my bedroom. It was a welcome sight to see fresh, green new leaves emerging from the branch in spring time. However, it will ultimately dry up and die. That is its fate. Their future has already been decided, and it is unavoidable.
“Madam, what are you doing?”
The maid was confused and approached me. I didn’t glance back at her as I pointed out the window.
“Louise, look at that. I was counting the leaves of that tree. If the last leaf falls, I’ll… die too.”
I murmured quietly as if I was a time-limited lady awaiting her demise. I also gently laid my hands on my chest, like a heroine of a tragic love affair. If I raised the corners of my mouth slightly, I would undoubtedly look sad and lonely.
The maid Louise’s eyes darted between me and the window as soon as I said so.
“What are you talking about, madam? Isn’t it spring now?”
I averted my eyes, feeling awkward as she pointed it out harshly. How could she possibly know about ‘The Last Leaf’1 ? It’s a novel from ‘the world outside this novel’, so she couldn’t have understood what I meant.
I shrugged my shoulders and opened the window.
Yes, the season is spring and young leaves sprouted on the trees. But when the last leaf falls, the garden will be engulfed in darkness, as if the sun never rose. A gentle breeze blew across the garden, causing my long hair to flutter.
“I know that I’m just trying in vain to be the female lead.”
“Pardon? The female lead?”
I shook my head gently. It’s fun to pretend to be the main character despite me being an extra. Louise, who had no idea what I was feeling, tilted her head.
I turned away from her inquisitive gaze and sat down in a chair.
“What about the duke? Have you heard from him yet?”
“No, I haven’t heard anything yet.”
My husband had been away for many days. He made it clear that he didn’t care whether his wife was ill or not.
At the very least, he should have informed me of his whereabouts and why he had left. He had not been in the mansion since I opened my eyes after a few days of being sick.
‘He’s really indifferent to his wife.’
But still, how could he leave the mansion for so many days without saying a word? Is there something urgent?
Even though I knew it was a useless concern, I kept feeling uneasy. I wanted to see him soon, but on the other hand, I also didn’t want to see him forever, because seeing Rashid Pennon would serve as proof that I am trapped inside a novel.
Therefore, when I think of him, I have no choice but to feel uneasy. I decided to think of something else for a change.
“I want to go out tomorrow. It’s frustrating to stay inside.”
“Certainly not, madam. Please listen to me.”
“I simply feel stuffy. That’s all.”
“If anything happens again, I’ll be in big trouble.”
“If that happens, I’ll protect you.”
Louise, unconvinced, laughed as if telling me to stop saying nonsense. It seems like she didn’t want to be blamed for my actions.
‘She’s looking down on me.’
It bothered me that she talked to me as if I was a kid, and it was really unsettling to watch her smile as if nothing had happened.
She wasn’t worried about me. Instead, she was more concerned about what the duke might say.
This is due to the fact that Alyssa Pennon is worthless in the duke’s eyes. The duchess was a woman whom the duke was forced to welcome. Alyssa didn’t have a choice, yet she was nonetheless ridiculed.
I wish I could get a nicer maid to serve me. This mansion, however, did not have a large number of servants. Moreover, Louise Garnett was someone from the Imperial Palace, so she couldn’t be replaced.
As a congratulation, the emperor gave her to Alyssa. Because she is quick-witted, she completed all tasks without being asked. For instance, she would drape a shawl on her in advance, and she could tell when she wasn’t feeling well and would make her a suitable cup of tea.
At the same time, before the duchess spoke, she would open the invitations, sort them out, and decide where she would go.
She also prepared her dress without discussing it first. As if that weren’t enough, she also planned events behind the duchess’ back. ‘It’s not a consideration. It’s just presumptuous.’ I thought for a moment as I reflected on Alyssa’s memory.
It bothered me that Louise always acted as if she was superior to her. The original Alyssa was pleased with Louise’s care.
Alyssa grew up in Count Regentia’s territory, located on the northwest border of the empire. She was born in barren land in their small territory, so she couldn’t have known many things about the nobles.
Having lost her mother early, she was so quiet and timid that she didn’t even go out to socialize properly. I’m sure she was relieved that someone as friendly as Louise, who was also well-versed in the ways of high society, took care of her.
“I’ll pick your dress, madam. You can’t look tacky.”
Alyssa thought Louise was considerate to her since she grew up in the countryside and didn’t want her to be teased for wearing an out-of-style dress.
“Madam, you don’t know where to go, do you?”
She always picked a party for her, who wasn’t familiar with the ways of high society.
“It’s all for your sake, madam.”
She was always straightforward when saying something to her, an incompetent duchess. If Louise orders her to go, she will comply. If she told her to wear something, she’d do it. That has been the case for a year.
It seemed like Alyssa never expressed her dissatisfaction, but right now, the duchess is no longer who she used to be.
‘I don’t have to do what Louise tells me to do, do I?’
It wasn’t because of the duchess’s position that the maid was like this. She kept suffocating me with the malice underneath her voice. If I had to stay with her, it seemed necessary to talk about what kind of attitude she should have going forward.
She raised her head at my call.
Just then, knock, knock.
A knock was heard on my door. Who is it? The doctor came and went earlier, and no one would come to see me at this hour. Is it Madam Ronan, the head maid, or the butler?
I tilted my head in confusion. Louise, who approached the door, appeared to be taken aback by the person standing outside the door. She knelt down to show respect to my guests. If Louise acted in such a way, it must be…
The sudden, unexpected situation sent a chill down my spine. Of course, I thought we’d meet one day, but not now. No! I’m not ready yet!
“His Excellency is here, madam.”
I rushed into my bed as soon as Louise finished speaking.
* * *
ALYSSA Pennon was considered to be a fortunate woman by many. However, behind it lay malice, implying that she was just fortunate to have the opportunity to become a duchess. That’s not wrong.
How could an ordinary lady from an unknown count family become a hostess in Pennon’s family? Isn’t that entirely because of luck? However, is that really true? Is it true that it was something that people should be jealous of?
I stared at the ‘luck’ God had given to me suspiciously. He’s a handsome man. He had the look of an elegant black leopard, and his appearance could capture our attention at first glance. He’s the most powerful duke in the empire and is an unparalleled sword mage in history. He was indeed a man who had everything.
Because of Alyssa’s memories, I was already familiar with his appearance, but when I saw him for the first time, I was rendered speechless by his overwhelming presence. I sat down and stared at him while blinking. He was looking at me too. His black hair resembled the darkness of the night, and his golden eyes glowed like a full moon in the sky.
The first person to speak was him. My husband, Duke Rashid Pennon, the male lead of the story said, “I thought you weren’t feeling well, but you seem quite well.”
“… Well, many days have gone by after all,” He looked at me and said calmly.
I also replied in a similar manner, “Thank you for your concern. I am also relieved for your safe return.”
I said formally. I wonder if Alyssa would have answered the way I did now. I wanted to imitate her as much as possible, but it was difficult to be exactly the same. I can’t help it. Even if I had Alyssa’s memory, I wasn’t really Alyssa, so speaking and acting exactly like her was difficult.
“You feel relieved?”
Rashid frowned slightly. No way. Did I choose the wrong answer? But that was a standard answer.
I felt nervous and replied cautiously, “Yes, I’m worried that something might happen……”
“You’re worried about me?”
He glanced at me with a cold expression on his face.
It reminded me of the moon I had seen when I first came into this world. He gave me a terrible and piercing stare.
Rashid inquired once again. A look of contempt pierced me sharply as if he wanted to find out my true intentions. I was suffocated by the pressure he exuded. Does he doubt me?
Did he wonder what the woman he married because of the emperor’s command was up to? Or did he even notice that I wasn’t Alyssa?
I answered cautiously, trying to suppress my anxiety. “Why do you ask that… I’m your wife after all.”
Repeating a word I said, Rashid smiled somewhat suspiciously. Even though he smiled, it didn’t always mean something positive. The emotions in his expression were obviously distrust and doubt.
“You could tell me the truth. I wouldn’t blame you if you said you didn’t care about my return.”
“My wife is very nice.”
1. A 1907 novel by O’Henry, famous for its tragic, unexpected ending.↩