Even the littlest movement was difficult for Norman to do.
In the state that he was in, he looked horribly sick, or perhaps he looked like he had collapsed—or perhaps that he had shed too many tears.
Clicking his tongue, the marquis commanded.
“Since Norman was hurt like this, even if she’s in a life or death crisis, she should have run back home barefoot just to nurse her older brother. Useless thing. That feeble wench.”
Just the fact that Norman was hurt was enough to push Marquis Kafrenn into an angry tirade.
In any case, he was inside his own mansion, and the butler was one of his people. He had no need to mind his surroundings.
“That dull-witted tramp. So goddamn stupid that she just had to get injured like that. Absolutely useless. Just like her mother.”
“Of all places, she got hurt at House Blacke, what a spectacle that blockheaded wench must have made.”
The marquis criticized Grace nonstop.
However, suddenly, he changed his mind.
‘No. If Grace got injured due to House Blacke’s mistake, I can use this. It’s not a loss.’
House Blacke was one of the kingdom’s founding families.
Currently, there were forty-two noble households, but only seven among them wielded the most power.
Unsurprisingly, House Blacke was one of them.
Compared to the tremendous amount of power behind their name, their family was closed off and had a propensity to be conservative, so they weren’t very active in the social and political scene.
Nevertheless, the great amount of land and wealth that the household had amassed was considered to be the best in the entire country.
It’s said that even the king could not estimate just how much property the household had.
House Blacke was no different than a beast that’s keeping its teeth hidden.
But they couldn’t be considered to be completely dangerous.
As long as its stomach was kept full, and as long as all those around it were adjusting properly to its mood, then the beast would have no reason to attack.
Rather, having such a beast on his side was something for Kafrenn to boast about.
‘It’s awkward, but that side seems to be fond enough of Grace.’
This could be an opportunity.
An opportunity for him to ride the coattails of House Blacke.
And an opportunity for him to gain more power.
Pressing down on the shady thoughts that were filling his mind, the marquis huffed out as though he was incredibly upset.
“Hah! If he injured a woman, it’s only a matter of course that he’d take responsibility. Tell them to make sure that she’s properly treated.”
So, the butler immediately replied to House Blacke.
Soon after, a maid came running to announce that Norman had regained consciousness.
“You look terrible! Why the hell did you go outside at dawn!”
When his father yelled at him first thing, Norman answered back with indignation.
“It wasn’t an ordinary horse, Father. It had eyes that shone like gemstones, and its body was even bigger than a birch tree! And that punk somehow bewitched me to go downstairs!”
“T-This was surely a scheme! I just know that someone sent that horse to try and kill me!”
In spite of himself, Norman spouted words that didn’t make sense and said confided it all to the marquis.
He knew from the get-go that he’d have to make up some kind of secret assassination attack before rumors would spread that he got pummeled by a horse at the break of dawn.
“Father, please find the culprit!”
Marquis O’Ellin visibly shook in anger.
He thought that Norman was right.
This must have been a malicious scheme by someone who’s against House O’Ellin.
‘It’s an insult to me, no to my household. I cannot just sit back and take this. How dare they… Towards the eldest son of the family!’
After seeing Norman lying in his sickbed like that, Kafrenn immediately stormed out of the mansion.
As he climbed into a carriage, he urgently barked out an order.
“Head to Corso. Now!”
Marquis O’Ellin gritted his teeth and clenched his fist.
His mind was occupied by no thoughts of concern for his daughter, who had also gotten injured at House Blacke.
Not even a single grain of salt’s worth.
* * *
“That guy’s completely hopeless, isn’t he?”
“You don’t even have to tell me. He asked for cold water earlier, so I brought a glass to him—but then he threw it away because it’s too cold. Said that the cold water hurts his chest.”
“Ugh, ugh. He really is a nutcase. A nutcase, I say. Norman the nutcase—that Notcase, uuugh, seriously.”
“Who came up with that nickname though? It’s perfect for that guy.”
“I know right?”
The three young maids who were sitting together giggled as they mocked the marquis’ successor.
As they were looked down upon and persecuted by him, Norman O’Ellin was akin to scrumptious beef jerky for them to chew over with insults.
“That guy’s absolutely hopeless. But I heard he’s going to the temple? What came over him, wow. Our dear Young Marquis of Salt is out to spend big bucks, isn’t he.”
“That’s what I’m saying! Since he’s off to do whatever at the temple, it’s a good thing since we won’t need to serve him for a while!”
“Don’t come back forever, please!”
“Eyy, ‘ya think our Ever-Salty Young Marquis’ll last long in that place? Wanna make a bet? He’ll be back here in just three days, I’m sure of it.”
“Two days for me!”
“Fine, then I’ll bet on a single day.”
“Aww, hey. That’s too harsh!”
The very effective treatment that could be received from the temple was extremely expensive.
Commoners could not even dare to think about getting it. Only aristocrats or the wealthy upper class could use their services.
Marquis O’Ellin went there only once in his life.
He didn’t ask for the temple’s help even when his former wives were at their deathbeds.
After realizing that his son might have turned into a retarded fool, Marquis O’Ellin knocked frantically on the temple’s doors.
“Did you see the hand of His Dear Cantankerous Excellency shaking so much like that? Ah, please oh please, I hope that black horse never gets caught!”
“Yeah! But if it was going to hit the guy anyway, it should have hit him with its hind leg. Why bother just headbutting him? What a waste.”
“No way. Hey, if it kicked him instead, the Notcase’ll be dead by now!”
“’Ya think I don’t know? That’s exactly what I’m wishing for.”
The three maids paused and made eye contact for a moment, then they burst into a peal of giggles.
The Young Marquis, who gritted his teeth countless times.
It was a joke that wouldn’t come true, but if they were to get caught saying it, their heads would surely get lopped off.
In that sense, they were horrified to hear the head maid’s voice calling the three young women who had been whispering secretly.
“If you’re going to say such things, why not just leave before chatting. Unless you want your heads to be separated from your shoulders.”
Alia’s brutal warning made the young maids duck their heads.
Glaring at them, Alia eventually sighed and shook her head. Then, she went back upstairs.
As soon as she disappeared, the three young maids huddled again.
“Hmph. Does the head maid really hate it so much when we talk about the Young Master behind his back?”
“I know right. That was so scary!”
Behind the startled maids though, a smiling chef came out and comforted them.
“You guys, I’m just warning you, but you’d have been in big trouble if it was the butler who overheard you. Shouldn’t you feel relieved that it was just Alia? If you think you’ve been hit enough already, what more in the years to come.”
“Huh? The head maid’s being hit? By whom?”
“Who else? That guy you call Notcase.”
The chef’s voice dropped to a hush.
“Don’t you know why Alia limps whenever it rains?”
“Because a certain someone pushed her down the stairs. Just because he got pissed off.”
Three pairs of eyes went wide open at the same time.
The chef smirked and slapped a palm on the table.
“Alia ate two bowls of today’s meal. Maybe she found it delicious. She even drank cold water in one gulp and burped refreshingly.”
Oh my, oh my!
The three maids giggled.
Their clueless laughter echoed until the stairs just beyond the kitchen.
Still standing at the end of the staircase was Alia, and she shook her head.
“Goodness, you’ll all get in big trouble for doing that.”
No matter how many warnings she had already given them, they’d really only learn their lesson if they experience it themselves.
There’s nothing else she could do.
“Do as you please then.”
Alia gave up and went to Grace’s room on the second floor.
Julie was at the foyer.
She’s here to fetch some of the lady’s things, so she asked Alia to get them from her room.
Alia quickly filled a chest of the items that Grace usually liked to use.
Thanks to her good sense, everything she picked out were the things that Grace cherished or was fond of using.
Just before the chest was all filled up and before the lid was closed, one of the drawers caught her eye.
She squinted at one that was very minutely skewed.
After contemplating for a long time, she eventually opened the drawer to examine it.
And she soon frowned.
* * *
‘Why isn’t she back yet?’
Julie knew how quick and efficient Alia was when it came to work, so it’s strange that she hadn’t come back downstairs after a long time.
‘Should I have gone up instead?’
She had asked Alia to fetch the items as quickly as possible.
As Julie was hanging around downstairs now, she was just about to climb the stairs towards the second floor, but—
Alia came down with a chest full of Grace’s things.
“Now, this should do. If there’s anything else that Milady needs, just come over and take them any time.”
“Thank you, Head Maid! You’re the one who packed all this up, so you must have been very meticulous anyway, right?”
When Julie smiled, the corners of Alia’s lips curved up as well.
It was originally Alia who took care of Grace.
That is, until four years ago when the former head maid left the mansion after an accident. That’s when Alia was promoted from exclusive maid to head maid.
Alia seemed to be curt, but she actually cared for Grace very much.
Alia was a maid who was brought to the household by the late marchioness herself, and it was Alia who took care of Grace while she was a child.
Just around that time, the young Julie arrived at the mansion as a kitchen maid.
“You’re too small to work in the kitchen.”
Alia took one glance at Julie’s tiny, fumbling hands, then soon assigned her as Grace’s maid.
Julie coincidentally stood out to Alia because it was around that time when she was looking for a young maid of a similar age to the lady.
It was through Grace that Julie and Alia developed a deep bond with each other.
It had become all too natural for the two maids to take care of their frail master, the young lady, who also took care of those two people however she could with her meager power.
“Please don’t be too bored without me here.”
“As if. It’s too noisy when you’re around anyway. Take good care of the Lady. If you need anything, just contact me discreetly.”
Alia glimpsed furtively at the long shadow over the staircase.
Thomas, the mansion’s butler and the marquis’ faithful henchman, was keeping a watchful eye over the foyer.
“I understand. I’ll get going now!”
“Julie, wait a second.”
Alia hurriedly grabbed Julie’s wrist.
And, mindful of their surroundings, secretly slipped into the younger maid’s palm.
¹ ‘Salt’ in Korean rhymes with the word for ‘big fortune’ or ‘big bucks’, and its first syllable (소) can also mean ‘small’; the maids were making a double-layered pun here since it’s also the first syllable in the Korean word for ‘young marquis’ a.k.a. the marquis’s successor.
I decided to just use salt anyway though since it could be connected to the how Grace was called a ‘salt doll’ before, and the maids generally call him ‘salty’ lol ↩
Don’t forget to rate and leave a review for this series on novel updates!
For update pings, novel discussions and/or to send mistake reports, join our discord server~