Caville tried to stop his tears and slowly released the arm that wrapped around Elody’s waist.
‘I can’t bother my wife any longer. If I keep bothering her, I’ll get thrown away.’
Caville thought he might have gotten too comfortable with Elody. Every day, all he did was cry and asked for help. He felt as if he had become… a burden.
He felt unworthy of being loved but he still clung to it. He clung to her kindness, her hugs, and even the smallest whispers of her love. He knew that this happiness was not everlasting but he didn’t want her to leave him. He would rather be abused again than be abandoned because he fully comprehended the pain that it would cause.
‘You can hit and harass me….’
“I’ll listen to you….”
“I won’t bother you anymore.”
‘So don’t throw me away.’
Caville wept bitter tears. Fear crept over him like some hungry beast, holding him captive. He feared being abandoned, he feared rejection, but most of all, he feared to lose the person that loved him the most.
“What’s wrong, Caville?”
Elody stared at Caville with a worried look and stroked his head.
‘Why is he so retrospective all of a sudden?’
“It must have been very scary…”
Brien looked at them pitifully and said, “I guess so…:”
Elody held Caville in her arms again and stroked his back. The weariness originating from his face could be seen clearly during this time. It made Elody’s stomach congeal in sadness as the heavy burden appears.
“Speaking of which, are there many children like that here? Seems like they were stealing to survive,” said Brien, curious as to how many children were living in poverty.
“Well, I’ve seen a lot of homeless children. But the numbers have increased lately. I don’t think there’s enough food for them to eat…” Elody said with a sigh.
As soon as the construction of the greenhouse’s finished, Elody thought she’d have to take a look around the territory. She had to do something to reduce poverty and help the poor get back on their feet.
Suddenly, approaching footsteps could be heard echoing down the concrete walls. From around the corner came a man wearing fancy clothes. He had tanned skin and a tall build, but his expression showed desperation and anxiety.
Sweat rolled down his skin in thick, salty beads, and his breath came in short gasps. As he tried to catch his breath, he asked with anxious eyes.
“Excuse me, have you seen these two little boys?”
Brien and Elody exchanged glances at the man’s words.
“Were you perhaps pickpocketed?” Brien inquired.
‘Those children stole from him too?’
Hearing Brien’s words, the man’s eyebrows rose in surprise and yelled, “That’s right! Did you get robbed, too? Those thieving scoundrels…,” he said, “Damn it! What’s wrong with this place?”
Then, Elody asked the man with a wry face.
“What did you lose?”
“…It’s my mother’s legacy… a brooch… with a gem in the middle… It’s precious to me….”
“Is this it?”
When Elody lifted the artifact, the man quickly took the brooch from her hands.
“That’s right! Mother’s brooch! Oh…thank heavens!”
Unexpectedly, the man was so overjoyed that he started to cry. His tears burst forth like water from a dam, spilling down his face. Everyone went silent, casting uneasy glances, not knowing what to do in such an awkward situation. Despite being a grown-up, the man still cried like a baby. Even Caville was embarrassed to see him cry.
Brien crumpled his forehead at the mortifying scene and said, “Let’s go back, madame.”
“Alright. Caville, do you want a piggyback ride?”
At Elody’s question, Caville shook his head.
“Then Brien shall carry you.”
“…Alright,” Caville said, not looking up from the floor as he spoke.
Brien gently lifted Caville and put him on his back. Caville seemed dissatisfied, but he kept his mouth shut. He didn’t want to trouble Elody anymore, so he let Brien carry him instead. Besides, he’d be safer with Brien as he was a full-fledged adult.
“Please wait!” the man shouted as he caught the three who were about to turn their backs to leave.
“How did you find this?”
The man’s eyes were stern and he had a serious look on his face.
“Are you doubting us now?” Brien irked, smoldering underneath his stony expression. The man’s words seemed to have irritated him.
Frightened, the man quickly shook his hand and spoke, “N-no! That’s not it! Just… I mean, I was just curious. I’m sure those two boys stole this earlier… but… it’s possible that you… ordered them to do it….”
“I am a proud knight of Cernois, and second in command of the knights,” Brien said through clenched teeth, trying to control his frustration “How dare you to doubt a person such as I….”
As he was about to grab him by the collar. Elody stepped up and stopped him.
“I was the one who picked it up!” Elody explained. “The two boys dropped it when they were running away earlier.”
The man, startled by Brien’s sudden aggression, shifted his gaze towards Elody, and said.
“Oh… this little lady is very smart. Thank you for finding my belongings and I apologize for not recognizing you, sir knight.”
‘Little lady…? Why you little…’
Elody turned 14 this year and she was still a short girl. Even so, the title “little lady” was quite offensive to hear.
‘I am not a little lady. I can’t believe the words that come out of his mouth.’
Not being able to read the mood and see Elody’s unpleasant expression, the man continued to introduce himself. He kept smiling as if everything was fine.
“My name is Sirka, the owner of Rhondia,” he said as he politely introduced himself.
Brien made a short, chortling sound, “I see. Let’s go, your grace.”
“Wait!” Elody blinked at him, astonished.
“You’re the owner of the famous merchant guild? Rhondia?”
Elody’s eyes brightened, and she immediately thought, ‘This is an opportunity!’
“Hmm… I returned your brooch, so does that mean that you owe me a favor?.”
“Yes, of course. You found my mother’s memento…. I’d like to return the favor by offering you a gift.”
“Thank you for your courtesy, but there’s no need for that.” Elody replied, “Instead, why don’t you pay a visit to the duke’s mansion?”
“Caville here is the Duke of Cernois. It’d be wonderful if you’re able to visit the mansion. When are you planning to leave the duchy?”
“Uh… I’m thinking of staying here for another month or more…,” his words trailed off, “The scenery here is very beautiful, so….”
Sirka seemed perplexed at Elody’s sudden invitation to the duke’s mansion.
“Then you must come to the mansion a few days before you leave.”
“…H-huh?” he stammered.
“Now, let us go, Sir Vedos!”
As Elody ended the conversation, she held Brien’s arm and dragged him outside the alleyway.
“Are you sure about this, your grace?” Brien asked, perplexed.
Truthfully, Elody was also puzzled by her sudden and rash decision. She knows that it was ignorant and impulsive to have invited a stranger into their home.
Having business partners was an important factor in making money. To do so, she had to establish connections with the merchants.
The larger their influences were, the better. That was why Elody did not have second thoughts, as he was the owner of the famous merchant guild, Rhondia.
Regrettably, Eloldy didn’t have anything to trade.
‘But there’s still a month….’
Elody had to prepare something worthy of trading before the month ends.
There were some things she had thought about, but she hadn’t experimented with them yet so she wasn’t sure.
Of course, even if Elody failed to make the trade, it was still a good opportunity to get acquainted with the owner of the famous merchant guild.
Suddenly, Elody remembered the reason she visited the market in the first place.
“Hurry up! We must go!” said Elody, as she hurried to the place where the herbal dealer was.
“W-wait, Your grace!”
As they ran, the three bumped into Marie, who looked surprised after seeing Caville’s puffy eyes.
“Oh?! Your grace! Why are your eyes… did you cry?”
In response, Caville buried his head on Brien’s shoulders and covered his face in shame.
“Oh, come on! We have no time!”
Elody was in such a hurry that Marie failed to get a proper explanation regarding Caville’s swollen eyes.
It seemed that Elody’s impatience ended the market outing instantaneously.
* * *
As soon as Elody returned to the mansion, the first thing she did was to organize the samples she had collected. Meanwhile, Caville went to wash off the dirt from their trip.
Elody had stopped bathing Caville a few months ago. She couldn’t keep washing him, as his body started to develop. As her replacement, Elody ordered the butler, Norman, to bathe him.
‘He’s grown a lot, much more than last year.’
Norman was one of the few adults Caville had a friendly relationship with. That’s why she entrusted the job to him. She thought he’d be perfect for it.
Then, Elody organized a list of the purchased herbs and magic pills on the market.
Most of the magic pills on the market were either fake or had low efficacy. Some of the low-quality ones might even cause the user to have permanent side effects.
There were magic pills like therapies and painkillers that did work, alas they cost way too much.
‘It’s too expensive.’
Therefore, commoners could only receive herbs from local merchants. But due to their lack of knowledge, they would dry the herbs and drink them with tea. Unbeknownst to them, by doing so the herbs would lose its effects.
Moreover, the number of the sick and wounded increased greatly over the years so they had no choice but to go to the priest to ask for a cure.
Unfortunately, there was no priest in Cernoir’s territory. There used to be some, but now, only an empty temple remained.
‘What should I make…?’
If I didn’t make a product of value in a month, I would have to put up a facade and do the best I can to establish a connection with them.
I’ll tell the servants to treat Sirka the best they can and I’ll have to convince him to come again at a later time.
‘I can’t upset the guest, so it’s better to treat them in high regard. I shall notify the chefs of the visit, and make them prepare some extravagant foods prior to the merchants’ arrival.’
There was a reason as to why Elody wanted to cooperate with the merchants. She wanted the trading system in the land to be developed so that even relatively small communities had access to the markets. By doing so, she hoped to gain some revenue from stallholder fees and boost the local economy as shoppers used the peripheral services.
However, other aristocrats would not be pleased with the idea. The reason was simple.
The nobles scorned the merchants. If artisans and merchants controlled the trade of the land. It could pose a threat to their power and wealth.
The same could be said of the previous duke. That’s why, usually in the regions, the commercial districts have not been developed. Leaving the potential for economic growth untouched.
In Elody’s eyes, the nobles were making themselves look like fools who only had greed for money and power.
Elody turned around and saw Caville, who’s all washed up, entered the bedroom.
“Are you done washing, Caville?”
Caville seemed to still be traumatized by the incident in the market. He had been depressed ever since they arrived at the castle.
“Come on, let’s go to bed early tonight. I’ll put you to sleep.”
“What about you, wife? Aren’t you sleeping now?”
“I will sleep later, I still have things to do. I won’t go anywhere since I’ll be working here, so you don’t have to worry.”
“Really? You’re not leaving, are you?”
“Of course not. Where would I go? I’ll always be by your side.”
“Okay…,” Caville reluctantly said as he laid on the bed.
Elody tucked Caville with a blanket and slid into the bed next to him. She held his hand and said, “Do you want me to sing you a lullaby?”
“…Yes, please,” he smiled at the idea.
Then, Elody began to sing the lullaby she’d always sung to him at bedtime and stroked his hair. Caville’s breathing slowed as he sank into the gentle lullaby.
“Good night, my dear….”
After only minutes, the sleep pooled on his eyelids as his snuffles settled to a steady rhythm and wrapped in profound sleep.
His sleeping figure was as cute as an angel.
Elody kissed the back of Caville’s hand, then gently peeled his hand off, and went back to continue on her work.
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