Alfred probed further, “Are these official documents you mentioned related to budgets or policy proposals from the Argan royal palace?”
Elise nodded, her thoughts drifting to Andrei. Whenever she wasn’t feeling well, her brother would bring work to her bedroom. He had even taken the time to teach her how to review financial statements when she felt restless.
Sobeul leaned in eagerly, hope lighting up his expression. “If you’re familiar with those documents, you should be more than capable of reviewing ours. After all, all the accounting ledgers from the northern region follow a similar format!”
Elise faced a dilemma. She needed to dedicate time to practice her magic, and on top of that, reviewing Rotiara’s financial records seemed like a daunting task. However, Alfred interjected urgently, trying to persuade her.
“Just give it a quick look, and if you can help prove our innocence early on, it will expedite the process of identifying the culprit.”
He appended a few words, apparently trying to nudge her toward accepting the role of hostess, but it remained uncertain if she had indeed agreed.
“And, naturally, we will also inform the Duke, but wouldn’t it be more prudent if Her Highness the Princess took the lead in handling this matter…? If His Grace were to learn of this independently, it might lead to unfavorable consequences.”
Sobeul, nearly at the point of tears, clung to her sleeve.
“Especially when he returns after his cycle, he tends to be exceptionally sensitive for about a week. During that period, his mood swings can be quite pronounced…”
“Mood swings?” Elise turned to him with a puzzled expression. She anticipated Lady Petisson to swiftly rebuke this comment, but curiously, she remained silent. In fact, her typically stern and resolute gaze appeared noticeably unsettled.
“What are you all talking about…” Elise muttered. “The matters within the castle should be resolved by the master. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to interfere in Rotiara’s affairs.”
She might have been defeated, but she was still the Princess of an enemy nation. Furthermore, Elise harbored no desire to assume the role of a duchess, especially considering her uncertain future in Rotiara come autumn.
Elise knew that she couldn’t avoid being connected to Rezette, but she had no intention of forming close bonds with others. Even if everything went smoothly and they managed to navigate through the autumn, Elise’s ultimate destination was Argan. So, there was little point in carving out a permanent place for herself here.
These people, who should have been aware…
“Well, you see…” Alfred hesitated and cast a quick glance at Lady Petisson. With an irritated click of her tongue, Lady Petisson stepped in to clarify on behalf of the three of them.
“The Duke has a tendency to favor rather drastic solutions,” she revealed.
“Drastic?” Elise cocked her head in confusion, the reason provided feeling unexpected and somewhat nebulous.
Is he someone who resorts to extreme measures? she wondered silently.
In Elise’s eyes, Rezette appeared sharp and stoic, akin to a finely honed blade. He exuded an aura of calm and sternness, akin to an unyielding frozen sea. At least, that was the impression Elise had formed.
However, it quickly became apparent that her observation carried significant implications. Alfred, Sobeul, and Lady Petisson fell into an uneasy silence all at once.
“Occasionally… he exhibits such traits,” Lady Petisson eventually responded with a voice tightly controlled after a prolonged pause.
“Of course, he wouldn’t reveal this side of himself unnecessarily in front of Her Highness the Princess. However, when he deems something amiss, he doesn’t hesitate to take drastic action. Even if someone has been with us for a long time, he doesn’t grant second chances. It’s certainly an effective and efficient approach, but it can sometimes result in unnecessary sacrifices…”
“That seems to be a reasonable approach,” replied Elise. “Why unnecessarily sow the seeds of turmoil?”
As she grappled with the conversation’s nuances, Lady Petisson regarded her with eyes that appeared weighed down by a burden.
“And, as you are aware, the current circumstances are quite tumultuous for His Grace. We cannot foresee how he might react if we were to report to him at this moment.”
“…During these times, he tends to become somewhat… I mean…”
Was it a shift in his demeanor? Yet, the notion of the consistently impassive man undergoing such a dramatic transformation was challenging for Elise to fathom.
Ah, she remembered feeling distinctly intimidated when he exhibited such a contrasting persona immediately after uncovering her deception at the Imperial Palace. But how could a person change so drastically?
Lady Petisson made a polite request, “Your Highness, please pen a brief letter.”
“What difference would it make if I write it instead?” Elise inquired.
“He will respond differently. Most certainly.”
Ultimately, Elise had little choice but to agree. It wouldn’t be overly taxing to briefly peruse the ledger and compose a single letter.
If I write the letter myself, perhaps it will hasten his return, Elise speculated as she contemplated the letter’s opening. Typically, the first line of a letter contained the recipient’s name. Rezette. Rezette… For some inexplicable reason, she found herself silently repeating his name in her mind, as though it had been stuck on her tongue for some time.
Although only two days had elapsed since his departure, it felt like an eternity since she had last spoken his name.