It Was A Wrong Marriage From The Beginning - Chapter 5
“I don’t know what to do…”
A resigned sigh escaped Lucy’s throat.
“In my despondent state, that’s what my father said to me. He insisted that he would find that man. He’s still searching, he says. And he told me not to worry and just continue living as usual. Can you even imagine?”
Even though it was clear that her father was in cahoots with the estate manager, his act of pretending to be innocent was disgusting enough to make her grind her teeth.
As she recalled that moment, a surge of anger welled up in her again.
“Still, I endured it. I thought that maybe there was some possibility his words were true, that there might be some way out.”
She felt a sense of despair again. Ana loved her father more than she realized, more than her thoughts would admit. So, she wanted to believe all his feeble excuses and justifications. Even though she knew better than to trust the words of a gambler…
Ana shrugged her shoulders.
“Out of nowhere, the Marquis of Nomen expressed his intention to invest and mentioned a marriage proposal between us.”
Lucy’s eyes, nose, and mouth all widened in shock.
“T-the Marquis of Nomen? That old nobleman that’s known for devouring his wives…?”
Ana absentmindedly nodded.
“Exactly. You know him well.”
Lucy’s eyes shook uncontrollably. The Marquis of Nomen was a common subject in popular novels, a character who was portrayed as an antagonist, luring the protagonists into various trials.
To think that a villainous character from a seemingly distant novel had suddenly appeared as a potential husband for the beloved lady she served.
“This is unbelievable!”
Lucy exclaimed a beat late, clenching her fists tightly and shouting.
“How could the count even consider such a thing for you, my lady?”
Honestly, if it weren’t for the young lady, he wouldn’t have become a count at all, considering he was a fallen noble. He could have merely played a role in maintaining the position until the rightful heir, either the young lady herself or her future husband, inherited the title…
Ana’s sadness resurfaced once more. Why didn’t her father understand what even a child could comprehend?
“Of course, I declined. Marquis Nomen backed down without resistance, so I thought it was over with that…”
“But then, yesterday’s incident…?”
The memory of her lady who had left with Lord Evercline that evening, only to return unconscious and held in the arms of someone along with Mr. Henry in the dead of night, flashed back into her mind. Lucy’s complexion paled belatedly.
Ana lowered her gaze and nodded.
“Yes, I went to Lily Street. To meet with Marquis Nomen face-to-face.”
“What? Did you just say Lily Street?”
Lucy’s eyes bulged again, as though they might pop out of their sockets any moment. She was flabbergasted, to the point where she almost lost her breath. How could any parent in the world lead their precious daughter to a pleasure district, and not just any, but the most corrupt one in the empire?
“Of course, my lady… you didn’t say you’d go see him, did you?”
Lucy trembled, trying to suppress her anger. Ana patted her back as if calming her.
“Of course not. I merely wanted to see if there were any other options since he mentioned that if I lost the opportunity with Marquis Nomen, there would be no way out except for bankruptcy.”
“The count seems truly mad.”
Lucy asserted with a level-headed tone, then stared at her mistress with a sympathetic expression.
“So, that’s why you mentioned your mother’s inheritance.”
Ana nodded with a strained expression.
“Yes, part of it. If I don’t repay at least some of it, Marquis Nomen could end up purchasing all the bonds and eventually drag us down…”
Lucy couldn’t help but sigh in response.
“We need to find that estate manager as soon as possible.”
She had pinned her hopes on the property deeds. The properties owned by the Evercline family were quite numerous and substantial in size. To acquire them would require a tremendous amount of money, and the process of negotiation would take a considerable amount of time.
“Regardless, there’s no time to be idle…”
Ana mumbled anxiously, turning her head. Sunlight streaming in through the window cast a dazzling kaleidoscope of colors on the glass art pieces placed on the table. Ana stared absentmindedly at the sight. It was beautiful. And like such moments of awe, it always reminded her of someone.
The most beautiful person in her world.
Almost inadvertently, the name slipped from her lips, causing Lucy’s ears to perk up.
‘Raiden? Where have I heard that name before…?’
Lucy’s cute face scrunched in thought, puzzled by the familiar name. Ana let out a soft sigh, not knowing she was being overheard.
‘I did believe he would come back, but seeing him again in this situation, I can’t feel as happy as I thought.’
Her emotions were a whirlwind. She resented him for leaving without a word, yet she was thankful that he had returned, not forgetting her. She was curious about how he’d been all this time, even though now she wanted to avoid him since she hated how casually he was able to call her his “bride.”
Amidst all this, there was one thing that did not change. That fact that she still loved him.
The man who had tried to console her in the carriage was composed and mature. He was so different from the young boy who had shared his first kiss with her, like the difference between heaven and earth.
‘But all I did was cry, and to top it off, I ended up falling asleep as if I’d fainted…’
Her face flushed. How foolish she must have seemed.
‘Maybe he’s grown tired of me.’
He hadn’t left a message when they parted yesterday, and now with no contact either, he might have truly decided to cut ties…
“Now’s not the time for these thoughts!”
Ana scolded herself, giving her cheeks a light slap to regain focus. Startled, Lucy stared at her as she suddenly stood up.
“I’m going to Somerset House. Let Henry know.”
“My lady, at least eat something before you go.”
Although she had no appetite, Ana forced down a bowl of porridge since neither Henry or Lucy would let her go out on an empty stomach.
As the carriage sped down the road, she opened the window and looked outside. She saw many couples strolling side by side in the park. Seeing their smiles made her heart ache even more.
Eventually, she closed the window.
“Lady Aliana, correct? The person in charge is currently consulting with someone who arrived earlier, so you’ll need to wait a moment.”
Somerset House was bustling with people. Ana sat in the designated reception room for distinguished guests, feeling gloomy.
‘Normally, the person in charge would have rushed over to greet me…’
In the empire, the Evercline family held such a position. However, the change in their attitude made her concerned that they might already know about their financial difficulties.
‘Edward mentioned that rumors of our family’s troubles have been circulating for a while.’
It was bitter, but there was nothing she could do. Ana tried to calm her thoughts by sipping her tea and looking around the room. Besides her, quite a few others were waiting as well, and snippets of conversations among the wealthy individuals caught her ear.
“Marquis Marcus purchased a box seat at the Queen Eleanor Opera House, which belonged to Viscount Marvin as soon as he arrived in the capital, didn’t he?”
“Wasn’t it Marquis Marcus who purchased a box seat at the Queen Eleanor Opera House as soon as he arrived in the capital? It used to belong to Viscount Marvin.”
“Is that all? I heard he also bought all of Viscount Marvin’s racehorses.”
“Oh my, wasn’t there a rumor that Viscount Marvin was on the brink of bankruptcy?”
“How wealthy must the lord of the desert-facing territory be to afford all these changes in the west…”
Who is Marquis Marcus? Even to Ana, whose knowledge was confined to the capital, the name was unfamiliar. As she tilted her head, suddenly the main hall erupted in commotion. People turned their attention, conversations halted mid-sentence, and everyone leaned in one direction.
‘What’s going on?’
As Ana turned her head, her gaze met with someone who was walking out alongside the president of the Imperial Bank. The moment he stopped in his tracks, she recognized him: it was Raiden.
Although the president continued speaking beside him, Raiden kept his gaze fixed on Ana, standing there motionless. Ana felt her throat tighten and slowly rose from her seat as if in a daze. Raiden blinked, seemingly breaking free from a spell, and without glancing at the president, he spoke.
“I’ll excuse myself first.”
“Oh, of course. We’ll meet again next time.”
Though his demeanor was indifferent, the president still gave Raiden a casual farewell. Raiden then strode toward Ana. She tightly clasped her hands together, desperately composing her expression. Her heart was racing so wildly that she felt she might collapse at any moment.
Finally, he halted right in front of her, narrowed his eyes, and stared at her.
“…What are you doing here?”
Silence hung heavily like a shroud. Ana broke it by speaking first. Unlike before, she spoke formally. Raiden, his face expressionless as if wearing a mask, responded.
“I had some business.”
“Ah, business. I see.”
Ana lowered her gaze and nervously touched her heated throat with her hand.
‘What an idiot. Obviously, he’s here for business.’
Internally screaming at her foolishness, she forced a bright smile. Her radiant smile elicited admiring gasps from those around them.
“That lady, isn’t she the daughter of House Evercline?”
Someone who recognized her spoke up.
“Oh my, it’s really her… She truly carries the resemblance of her ancestors.”
Whispers about her started to emerge from various corners.
“It’s Lady Aliana. She’s the one who instantly stole the heart of the famous Lord Tyler at her debutante banquet…”
“You mean the biggest flirt of high society? My goodness, did he leave the country because of Lady Aliana?”
“That’s right. He was so devastated after her swift rejection that Lord Tyler was practically bedridden. Then he fled overseas for his studies. High society was in quite an uproar back then…”
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