Chapter 26.2

Expressing her thoughts to Cura seemed an impossible feat. How could she admit to harboring feelings for the Grand Duke? The mere idea of confessing such emotions felt audacious. How could she convey to Cura that the contemplation of the Grand Duke’s potential imprinting, whether it had already transpired, left her chest constricted with an indescribable tightness?

With a reassuring smile directed at Cura, who remained filled with concern, Elena redirected her focus to the next painting. However, the tranquility was disrupted by the distinct sound of approaching footsteps echoing from the end of the corridor.

Coming to a halt, Elena turned around, her attention drawn to two unfamiliar women making their way towards her. Among them, Elena particularly recognized a woman dressed in opulence—a realization that resonated with Cura’s previous mention of the young lady of the Duke of Blade.

This lady’s hair was intricately woven into various braids, adorned with a novel style of decoration and long ruby accessories. Her dress, featuring rich and voluminous lace layers covering her shoulders from just below her face, accentuated her ample chest and slender waist. Intricately embedded pearls adorned the dress from top to hem, where velvet, silk, and lace intersected. Even the seemingly simple cloak she wore on top bore a display of various jewels.

The woman accompanying her, adorned in an extravagant and costly dress, sported a more understated headpiece compared to the daughter of Duke Blade. As Elena gradually regained her mobility in this setting, memories flooded back of the luxurious dresses Kennard had sent her during her recovery.

The initial garments, as opulent as the headpiece worn by the woman beside her, exuded extravagance and radiance. However, considering her current circumstances, Elena found them impractical and refused to wear such ostentatious attire. Subsequent deliveries, resembling the attire of her present companion, were marginally less extravagant but still carried a hefty price tag. Even these, however, proved burdensome, leading to repeated refusals. It was only when she received a dress devoid of expensive jewelry or accessories, featuring a simple pattern, that she reluctantly accepted it. Even then, compliance was compelled by the unspoken ‘warning’ from Kennard, conveyed through Cura, leaving Elena with no choice but to wear the more understated attire.

The two women approached, coming to a stop nearby.

“I didn’t realize there were other noble ladies in this castle besides us.” 

Elena exchanged wary glances with Cura.

“I am Hazel, the daughter of Duke Blade. This is Carmen Menelph, the daughter of Count Menelph,” Hazel introduced herself, her soft voice abruptly cutting off at the end. When she gestured towards Carmen, the latter offered a slight nod in greeting to Elena.

“I’m Elena.”

“Your surname? Which family do you belong to?”

Surname… I don’t have one. In her present state, Kennard had only provided her with a first name, deeming a surname unnecessary. The lack of a surname had never been inconvenient.

As Elena prepared to answer Hazel’s inquiry, an uneasy feeling settled in her chest. Despite having committed no wrongdoing, her heart inexplicably sank.

Unable to conjure a non-existent surname, the response was already determined.

“What’s wrong? Is there any reason you cannot disclose your family name?” Hazel persisted, indicating that she wouldn’t relent without a clear answer.

“I am indebted to the Grand Duke due to certain circumstances, but I am not of noble birth. So, please remember my name only; I would appreciate it.” Elena swiftly bowed her head in greeting to both women.

“Not of noble birth?”

“That’s correct.”

As Hazel raised her head and scrutinized Elena, her lowered eyelids assessed Elena from top to bottom, accompanied by a peculiar twist of her gaze and the corners of her mouth. Carmen, too, tilted her chin up, openly examining Elena.

“Not a noble, yet dressed like this? Or are you a daughter of a wealthy man?” Hazel’s tone turned colder upon learning of Elena’s non-noble status. Although unspoken, it undeniably carried a condescending air, addressing Elena as someone of lower status.

Aware that her attire didn’t align with expected decorum, Elena diverted her gaze from Hazel and offered a slight bow of her head. She understood that attributing her clothing to Kennard could potentially escalate the situation.

Elena’s silence elicited a cold freeze on Hazel’s face. “Whatever the case may be, I am also a guest here, so I won’t say more,” Hazel declared, her tone holding a trace of disdain.

Once again, Elena chose not to respond. Her only resolution was to start borrowing clothes from Cura henceforth. Otherwise, every encounter with Hazel seemed poised to invite unnecessary trouble.

Carmen, sensing the tension, inclined her body towards Hazel, gently urging her. “Hazel, let’s stop here. The Grand Duke is waiting.”

For some inexplicable reason, Elena felt as if those words were directed at her. With a bitter smile, dismissing her own unfounded thoughts, she could do nothing but keep her head bowed.



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