The next day, the butler reported the fief’s financial status to Elody and gave her the documents. Meanwhile, Caville, who was eating beside her, had his mind up in the clouds.
The sound of Caville chewing his food could be perceived throughout the room, and as Elody started reviewing the ledger. Her expression turned dark.
Elody was shocked to see how terrible the house’s financial condition was.
Seeing the young lady’s distasteful look, Norman started to sweat.
“It’s because the former duke raised the taxes too high…”
Elody sighed at Norman’s evasive remarks. The situation was not good because the former Duke wasted a considerable amount of money for his own self-indulgence. To cover the expenses, he raised the tax rate drastically and because of that, the number of residents decreased a lot.
The duke was imprudent and selfish. He couldn’t care less for the poor.
“At this rate, we’ll have to collect more taxes next year,” Norman said with a worried look.
“Alright, thank you. I’ll ask you if I have more questions. ”
At Elody’s words, Norman bowed his head and excused himself out. Seeing Elody’s serious expression, the butler’s heart swelled with hope. For some reason, everything seemed to be going well under the young lady’s supervision.
‘It’s nice to be free from worries….’
The butler had a lot of concerns when the duke took charge of the fief. The former duke and his wife were both alcoholics. They had no interest in managing the land’s affair. Their thoughts were only filled with ways to quench their addiction.
Under these circumstances, it was a blessing to receive Elody into the estate as she was mature for her age. Not only did she help resolve the budgetary problems, but Elody also aided the young lord so that he can adjust to normal life. Norman once again thanked his insight for choosing the perfect person as the young duke’s wife.
When Caville moved into the mansion, he used to cry and lock himself up inside his room. Nowadays, he is more relaxed around adults. In fact, he can even see the young duke’s smile from time to time.
The way Elody kept her composure ignited Norman’s hope. Her mature countenance calmed his anxious mind. The indifferent look on the little girl gave him the assurance he much needed. Elody really had an unusual knack of making people feel comfortable. People would quickly warm up to her. Even the servants of the castle, who were concerned about Elody’s arrival, seemed to have eased up their guard.
Aside from her warm presence, Elody would greet every servant she encountered with a curtsy.
‘That’s why all the servants like her.’
Norman took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes. As he grew older, he easily teared up on the smallest things. He had a feeling that the House of Cernoir will reign in prosperity once again.
‘Yes, everything’s going to be fine…..Definitely!’
Unexpectedly, his hunch came true.
“What? Hidden gold?”
A few days later, Norman looked at Elody with a blank look on his face.
“Yes! If you would care to follow me, I’ll take you to the vault.”
Elody brought Norman along, saying she had found the duke’s hidden vault. Norman with his mouth agape followed Elody, who was walking towards the safe’s direction.
* * *
Elody had spent a lot of effort in finding the safe. She even left all of her affairs aside, just to search for the hidden vault.
‘Where could it be? How did the former Elody find it?’
She had a hard time finding it with no explicit information detailed in the novel.
The gold vault was left by the former Duke’s father or Caville’s grandfather. The room was hidden beneath an unused study, which was made exclusively for Caville’s grandfather. In the middle of the study, was a desk covered in mountains of dust. At first glance, it might look like a normal desk. But underneath that desk, lies a door that leads to the secret vault.
‘I found it! But… it’s locked. Where’s the key?’
The safe was locked tight, but Elody couldn’t find any clue regarding the key’s location. So instead of finding the key, she used an iron rod to break open the door. With Norman’s help, Elody proceeded to pry open the wooden lid. Then, the door unlatched with a thud.
The vault was magnificent. It contained thousands of gold bars, gold coins, and jewelry. Just the sight of it would leave everyone mesmerized.
Of course, it wasn’t enough for the people to live the rest of their life leisurely, but it was enough to guarantee their livelihood for the coming year.
Amongst the pile of gold, a letter was placed on top. It was written by Caville’s grandfather for the former Duke. Perhaps after he passed away, he had hoped his son would find the safe.
“Ah, …..I can’t believe it.”
Norman wept as he read the letter. He could not be more grateful.
Meanwhile, Elody began to contemplate.
‘At present, the House of Cernoir’s reputation is at its worst. In order to recover the house’s honor. I’ll have to influence society into thinking that the House of Cernoir isn’t one to trifle with. In order to create positive rumors, I’ll have to spend this money wisely.’
First of all, this should be spent on Caville.
“Norman, am I allowed to use this?”
“Of course, the duke’s property naturally belongs to the reigning duke and duchess.”
“Then please reinforce the estate with more knights.”
“I don’t mean to sound extravagant but I have something I’d like to do.”
“…As you wish, your grace.”
Norman, who stopped crying, nodded as he looked at Elody.
‘This person is trustworthy. But isn’t he too naive?’
Norman was a man full of loyalty and honor. It was reasonable for me to trust him. But it’s kind of uncanny to see how credulous he is. Norman didn’t even question my decision for reinforcing the knights.
‘Why does he think so highly of me? Is he not worried about me ruining it all?’
Elody intended to use part of the money for military power. The former duke had many knights, but ever since he passed away, the knights hadn’t undergone any proper training. In order to aid Caville in battle, Elody needed elite soldiers. Therefore, reinforcing the knights was a necessity.
‘That way, it will be safer for Caville and the knights.’
Of course, there was another reason behind her order. The former duke was an irresponsible man and he had no interest in the land. Nevertheless, he was still a duke. Meanwhile, the current duke is nothing but a young child. Hence, it is inevitable that the house might be looked down upon by other nobles. By reinforcing the knights, they might be able to protect the house from other noble’s schemes. Besides, Elody had found the perfect person to lead the knights.
“You want me to be the commander of the knights?”
Brien Vedos was dumbfounded by this preposition.
“Yes, you will hold the responsibility as the commander of the knights until Caville matures.
“… With utmost respect, your grace. I barely have enough time to teach the young child. I do not think I have the capability nor the time to train an entire army of knights.”
“You say you are occupied, but I don’t recall you ever having a wife and children?”
Brien paused and looked at Elody with astonishment.
He was bewildered as it was the first time he got called out for lying.
“You don’t even have a lover.”
She might sound collected, but her words felt like blades, stabbing into his guilty conscience.
Brien then glanced at Elody with a distressed look.
“Sir Vedos, I humbly ask you to consider my request. At least, for Caville.”
“However, to maintain the knights, the amount of money…..”
“Don’t worry, I’ve taken care of that. You just need to call the knights and start their training. You’re allowed to choose your apprentices and reinforce them before you begin.”
Elody smiled with relief.
‘This is what you call appointing the right person to the right place.’
After succeeding in recruiting Sir Vedos, Elody excused herself and headed back to the castle.
She also had a duty of her own.
“So, the princess and the prince lived happily in the cookie house.”
Precisely, it was Elody’s duty to read a book to Caville during tea time.
If Brien had seen this, he would’ve deemed her actions as useless. But Elody knew for a fact that reading and storytelling are essential for children. It promotes brain development, sparks imagination, teaches language, and a lot more. For Caville’s future, storytelling was important.
Caville was now seven years old, but he was still very dependent on Elody. So Elody spent a whole day with Caville. She played with him in the garden, built things out of soil, and made simple toys out of hand-me-down fabrics.
“It was fun, wasn’t it? Do you want to read another story today?”
After reading all the fairy tales, Elody closed the book. When she looked towards Caville, his eyes kept sparkling.
“It’s nice to have a cookie house. Wife! Why don’t we have a house?”
“Can we have our own house?”
Caville asked with an innocent face.
“What are you talking about? This is your house. ”
“Yes. The place you’re living in right now. This is your house, Caville.”
‘I’m going to get a divorce, so I won’t live here forever.’
At Elody’s words, Caville tilted his head.
“Then I won’t go back to the orphanage?”
“Of course not. You live here now, Caville. This is your home.”
Elody’s reassuring words brightened Caville’s face.
“I love living here! I want to live here with my wife for the rest of my life!”
Elody felt bitter when he said that.
She couldn’t help it, knowing Caville will fall in love with the princess in the future.
“I wish I had a cookie house, too!”
Hearing Caville’s childish words, a smile returned to Elody’s face.
“No, Caville. The cookie house….”
“There are many ants in there.”
“I hate ants….”
With Elody’s firmness, Caville looked a little sullen. She felt bad for destroying his childhood.
Ever since he lived in the mansion, Caville developed a sweet tooth. He enjoys eating the sweets Elody gave to him. Of course, it’s never too good to eat things excessively. Which is why Elody strictly controls Caville’s diet.
‘Huh? Come to think of it,’
“Caville, can you stand up?”
“You got taller…”
‘He grows up so fast… I’m proud of him.’
Elody told Caville to lean on a wall, then she drew a mark above his head.
“Let’s record your height here every year.”
“When you grow up, you will be taller than me. ”
Caville opened his eyes, they widened with amazement.
In the original story, Caville was described as a very tall handsome man. Imagining the grown-up version of himself made her very pleased.
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