Not too long ago, Elody began reading books in a private study that belonged to one of her predecessors.
There were a lot of studies in the Cernois Mansion, but the rooms were far apart.
‘It’s quite inefficient… I’d rather read them in one place.’
After the former duke died, the books in his study were kept intact and the room was regularly cleaned.
It seemed that cleaning every study in the mansion was a rule that must be passed down generations after generations.
In one of the studies, Elody found a particular book that piqued her interests.
It was a book containing the history of the first Duke of Cernois. Elody ended up learning a couple of things about the duke.
‘He had extraordinary power… what could it be?’
It is said that the first duke used his special abilities through ancient artifacts.
Of course, the artifact was handed down as a family heirloom.
To find out what the artifact was, Elody went out of her way to check out every old and worn-out portrait.
Only then, did she find out that the artifact was in fact a red brooch. The first duke could be seen wearing it on his chest in every portrait.
‘The former duke was incompetent… he might have sold it.’
Elody searched for the brooch in one of the dressing rooms where the jewels of the family were stored.
If the artifact actually existed, it could help Caville a lot.
As the war approached, Elody became even more obsessed with ’helping Caville.’
“Ouch, my back,” Elody complained.
After searching for a long time, Elody decided to head back to the study where she first found the book.
Elody pushed open the heavy swing door and approached the big desk on one side of the room.
‘Don’t tell me……’
It occurred to her that she had previously found a hidden vault located underneath the study desk.
And now, right before her very eyes was a wooden door similar to the one she had found before.
‘Doesn’t that mean that I just have to check every desk in the study? Is this a blessing from the gods?’
The dukes seemed to think that it was safe to hide precious items under their desks.
‘It’s somewhat fair, as they do sit on their desks all day long.’
Elody let out a soft chuckle as she brought another piece of a long iron rod.
She can tear open the wooden door more skillfully than before.
But to her dismay, there were only a few old jewels stored inside a wooden box.
‘I thought it was another vault…’
But amongst the old jewels, was a brooch that looked similar to the one she saw in the portrait.
‘What is this? Is this fake?’ she thought in disbelief.
How did it become like this…?
The book, which contained the history of the Duke of Cernois, described the artifact as a brooch that emits a vibrant red glow.
However, the brooch in front of her was nothing of the sort. It was broken and the color was a soulless dark red.
“How unfortunate…” Elody sighed in disappointment.
Suddenly, something astonishing happened.
〈Discovered 1 vanishing life, use the unknown item (1)?〉
Elody widened her eyes and stared at the text box that had just appeared.
It was the same window she had seen in her previous life right before she died. Elody almost screamed because it’s been so long since she last saw it.
‘An unknown item… I think I’ve seen this word before.’
- 9. 8. 7…
〈If nothing is selected, then the item will automatically be used.〉
Her heart thumped as she hesitated.
‘Isn’t it fine? I didn’t even know it existed anyway.’
And so, Elody chose to press the ‘Yes’ button with her trembling hands.
〈Unknown item (1), phoenix feather has been used.〉
A moment later, the brooch started emitting a vivid glow.
The light seared into Elody’s eyes, making her close them in reflex.
Then, she opened her eyes and slowly turned her head.
“Wow…” Elody stared in awe.
The gem was emitting a bright reddish color, casting a crepuscular glow within the room. The metal which was dull and rusty now looked as shiny as new.
The brooch she thought was fake turned to look exactly like the one in the portrait.
Just like in the history book of the Duke of Cernois, the gem was radiating a vibrant color.
It had the sort of radiance that kindled something beautiful within as if actual blood was flowing from inside the gem. It succeeded in captivating Elody’s eyes.
The thought of the ancient artifact by Caville’s side, protecting him in the war, reassured parts of Elody’s concerns.
Ever since that day, Elody became even more enthusiastic to continue on her preparations.
She poured her heart and soul to it as if she was taking care of her brother who’s about to go on his first field trip.
A year later…
Elody turned 19, and Caville finally turned 13.
It was a peaceful day… until an imperial messenger arrived at the Cernois mansion, bearing the imperial family’s orders.
〈We are under attack from eastern invaders. By edict of his Imperial Majesty, The Duke of Cernois must contribute to war. He is to lead his own knights and join the war of the Heklos Empire with blessings from the God of Nature, Tvekra.〉
* * *
The duke, who had always been lively, was now immersed in a gloomy atmosphere.
The butler and other servants could not comfort him. They could only watch his despondent mood with a heavy heart.
Elody sat in front of the warm fireplace, looking at Caville’s dispirited face.
Caville stared at the edict issued to him. He pored over the letter and pondered on it over and over again.
“I don’t want to leave my wife…” he agonized.
“Do I have to go? I don’t want to go…” Caville fretted, his eyes filled with anxiety and despair.
When she saw tears welling up in his eyes, her heart ached.
“Come here,” she said as she pulled Caville into a hug and patted his small back.
Caville cried in her arms. He was still a child but he had to go to such a dangerous place.
“I don’t want to go…” he said, still sobbing, “I’m scared… please don’t send me away.”
“You don’t have to be afraid, Caville.”
“But I’m scared of being separated from you,” he cried.
Elody continued to hug Caville even tighter. Tears began to form in Elody’s eyes.
She felt the same as Caville. She didn’t want him to leave. She had to say goodbye to the only person that she cared for, to the person that she felt happy with. How was she supposed to do that without feeling like she had just lost a part of her?
Nevertheless, the decree had been made ever since the first duke reigned the territory. So Caville had no choice but to fulfill his responsibilities as the lord of the land.
“Caville, I’ll be here until you come back. I will always wait for you,” she sniffled.
Elody slowly began to explain the situation to Caville. She wanted to comfort him even if it was just a bit.
It may seem cruel, but it was the duty of the duke to participate in war and to defend the empire.
Elody had explained all of this before, so Caville was able to understand most of her words.
However, it wasn’t enough to mend his broken heart. And so was Elody’s.
If she could, Elody would step in to take the place of her poor husband.
* * *
The preparations proceeded quickly.
The majority of the knights had to participate in the war. The same could be said about the commoners.
The emperor issued a decree which said that at least one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Eastern invaders.
Thus, everyone fell to depression.
To part with their loved ones… it wasn’t an easy task.
Even so, Elody decided to do what she does best.
She carefully checked the weapons, foods, and supplies that would be needed on the battlefield.
As the duchess stepped forward and took leadership, the servants rushed to work, giving all of their energy to help the duke prepare for war.
Elody also packed dozens of medicines that she had developed.
Of course, she hoped for the medicines to be used as little as possible as she didn’t want anyone to get hurt.
Lastly, with the help of the butler, Elody sent an order under Caville’s name to summon the vassals.
‘Though I’m not sure they’d come.’
After Caville became the successor of the dukedom, they did not come to congratulate him on his new title.
Elody was afraid that they would ignore the order.
Nonetheless, she still instructed Norman to send it to the vassals.
* * *
It was time.
The time she knew would come sooner or later but dreaded.
As expected, there were only a fraction of the vassals who followed her orders.
Elody watched everyone saying goodbye to their loved ones.
Marie and Brien hugged each other, Solar wiped away her younger sister’s tears, while Ren tried to console his grandmother who lived alone.
With swollen eyes, Elody gazed at Caville.
She called out to him who tried to hold himself back from crying.
Elody bent her knees and faced Caville. She took out the artifact and placed the brooch on his chest.
“This will protect you.”
“You have to be strong. You have to make sure that you don’t get hurt and you can’t get sick! Alright?” Elody said, worried.
Elody tried to hold back the tears, however, there was such a flood of them that she could not control it any longer.
The tears kept coming out as she sobbed her pain away.
Elody was embarrassed by her crying face, so she hugged Caville tightly and buried her head in his tiny arms. Caville tried to console her by stroking her hair.
“Caville, I-I’ll be sure to write you letters…” she sniffed.
“You must write to me often.”
“Yes, of course,” Elody said as she put a letter inside the pocket of Caville’s coat.
It would’ve been fine if he had shed a tear, for this was his last farewell before going to war. However, it was admirable to see him holding back despite the sorrow in his heart.
He seemed to have remembered that he should not show his weakness in front of the knights and soldiers.
“Sir Vedos, please take good care of the duke.”
“Don’t worry, Your Grace. We’ll return safely.”
Elody smiled bitterly at his remark.
The war lasted for ten years.
It took a long time to get to the Catan Mountains where the war broke out, and the Urta Empire was not an easy opponent.
Furthermore, the imperial government and the temple were caught in an internal dispute so the war took longer than expected.
‘I wish it would be over soon….’
Everyone on the duchy watched the cavalcade.
Elody shifted her gaze towards Caville. He was sitting on his black horse with a proud posture.
Even though he was still young, his expression showed natural elegance and dignity.
Caville would grow into a wonderful man, a duke who was respected by everyone.
Elody was ready to do anything for him.
Even if it meant her leaving the duke’s mansion.
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