Alice wanted to study about so many things. There was so much to know about. When she was Kim Eun-seo, she hadn’t the privilege of a proper education, but Alice did. She had been brought up well in a noble family, and she might as well make the most of it. She knew she wanted to begin with plants, recognizing important, poisonous plants. It wouldn’t seem strange if anyone saw her studying plants, they didn’t need to know the ‘why’ of it. And a simple weapon would do, even her hairpin. She could have the pin made thinner, slantier and sharper. She would have to keep that a secret.
It wasn’t that Alice was going to be killing people though. She just wanted to be prepared to defend herself and her family if the situation came to it. She didn’t want to be helpless anymore. That was a thought for another time. Right now, she was bracing for the repercussions of her getaway today. She had a mother, a father, and two brothers to face. Sigh. How did people manage to protect and care for a bone-headed and stubborn family like hers? She had no idea. She was dreaming of a warm bath and her cozy bed.
“Let’s head back, alright Aaron?” she said cautiously, “If Mother sees you this way, she is going to have a stroke. How is Alex?”
Her brother grabbed her wrist and turned her to him rather harshly as she was just trying to get back to her horse. Seeing her surprised face, he let go of her hand and rubbed his eyes, groaning.
“There is no time, you are right about that,” he said, subdued, “We have got to get back to the castle and leave for the capital right away.”
“The capital?” she asked, stunned. “Why?”
They went to the capital only about once a year. Their father went there regularly to handle the matters of the estate, since all their essentials were delivered from there. Alex, as the eldest, had made his own trips to the capital with father multiple times to learn the tropes of his duties as the future Marquess. But Aaron and Alice rarely went there.
Excitement filled Alice. She was breathless. Being in the capital was a vastly different experience than being in Wishburn. The Royal Palace was at the capital! It was a place of noise and events and experiences.
In fact, most nobles lived in the capital for the most part and left their estate to be taken care of by their subordinates, visiting once in a while for peace and quiet. Most preferred to live in the capital, not only for their enormous educational institution but also because nobles developed and made new acquaintances and connections, sometimes even mixing with the members of the Royal family.
But her father, Marquess of Wishburn, Jeremiah Warwick, had always loved his estate and his people residing here. He believed that leaving one’s estate to spend a majority of time at the capital not only reduced productivity but also distanced one from their own people and surroundings. The lord has to be present as a figure of familiarity and comfort for the residents to develop trust and confidence with the ruling family. Even if he could not stay for a long time, he made sure that either his wife or his children were there in his steed.
Wishburn had flourished in this manner. It had become a happy and relaxing estate for the residents. But for Aaron, who wished to gain advanced knowledge first-hand from the capitol and Alice, who wanted to mix with other aristocratic young ladies, the estate itself was very limiting for them.
“Why the capital all of a sudden?” asked Alice again.
“Well, after everything that happened with Count Thoreau, father wishes to have us with him there,” said Aaron, “Father can’t come back on such short notice, but he has instructed for all of us to go there so that he can keep us safe. We were going to go for the party anyway, no harm reaching there a bit early. When things settle down a little, we will come back and father will deal with Count Thoreau. It’s the safest way.”
He sounded much calmer now. He looked at her, relief was written clearly across his face for having found his sister safe.
“It doesn’t matter that Count Thoreau cannot directly attack our estate, he will find ways to kidnap any of us,” he said, “What the hell were you thinking riding out alone? If taking soldiers and maids were a hassle, you could have told me. I could have come with you.”
Alice was grateful that her brother cared so much about her. She debated whether to tell him the truth but decided against it. That would only make them more stressed. It was better for them not to know. What’s done is done. Later when the Count’s body is discovered, their minds will be at ease.
“I hadn’t thought that far,” said Alice, lowering her head, “I think I was in a hurry not only for things to buy, you know. I wanted to be away for a while. I am sorry.”
Aaron sighed and nodded. He looked at her with eyes full of sympathy. “Tell Alex you are sorry too,” he said gently, “When he found out you were gone, he panicked. Had I not held him back, he would have ridden out to find you.”
Alice nodded. “Thanks. You know I love you,” she said jokingly. Aaron rolled his eyes but couldn’t suppress a smile.
Alice Warwick, the only daughter of the Marquess of Wishburn, fifteen years of age. She wasn’t just that now. She had deeper knowledge of her own nature and a new perspective on life. She would enjoy the life she had to the fullest, while being loved by her family. And she would do anything to protect them, no matter what the cost. She smiled and got back on her horse and galloped towards the castle.