Chapter 35: Resolution
When I saw that Diana and Marion had left out through the gate, I depressingly returned back to my room.
“Claire, thank you for bringing the perfume. I was finally able to pass it to her thanks to you,” I thanked her again and Claire became bashful. Then, she suddenly changed and looked serious, “Umm, Madam… What did you talk to Diana-sama about?”
Oh right ―――.
I recalled my conversation with Diana and sighed in front of Claire who was staring at me anxiously.
“She told me to return to Orpheus if I want her to marry Juris. She wants my answer by tomorrow. If I refuse or don’t answer her, then she’ll leave the mansion the day after tomorrow.
Claire widened her eyes, and her mouth was agape, but she returned to her senses and said while staring at me in astonishment, “Th-that’s… Diana-sama also bravely took the plunge.”
I walked around the room restlessly, but I quickly felt tired, so I sat down on the bed and fell backwards.
“It’s good that she did, but she’s surprisingly stubborn about it. She’s the type of person who doesn’t listen to anything else once she’s made up her mind.”
“Madam, umm…” Claire said.
She lowered her eyes and put her hands uneasily on her chest.
“What are you going to do?”
I relaxed my body and sunk into the blankets.
It’s hard to convince Diana.
I have no choice to but to go back to the Rosenstein mansion like she told me to and start over with Orpheus.
I can’t let Diana and Juris’s lives and happiness be ruined because of atonement.
And, more importantly…
I moved my face and stared at the sky through the window.
“The truth is… I know.”
What a beautiful blue sky, I thought.
The way the clouds drifted away was so peaceful and contrasted how I was feeling so much that I wanted to laugh.
“I know that I should stop saying annoying things and go back to start over with Orpheus. That way, everything will fall into place, and the foolish actions that I have taken will become a funny story in the future.”
I know this, so I couldn’t talk back to Diana.
The moment she brought up her terms, I knew that I had lost.
I saw that Claire was surprised and raised the edge of my lips up slightly.
“In the end, it’s my own troubles. I want to atone for my sins because I can’t forgive myself. I couldn’t help but blame myself since none of those things would have happened if I had been more level-headed.”
I can’t pretend that nothing had happened and live by Orpheus’s side.
But those are my own problems, and it would be fine if I just shake free from them.
Should I shake off my guilt? Or swallow it down and continue to endure it until the day I’m gone―――?
“Actually, I already know how I can atone. I didn’t have to think about it in the first place. There are only so many ways I can atone.”
Divorcing Orpheus after paying back the money I had wasted away and leaving the Rosenstein mansion doesn’t make up for my actions.
It’s pointless to enter a monastery and pray to God.
There is only one thing I can do to atone.
“I have no choice but to go back to that house and start over again. I have no choice but to explain my actions to the people who I got involved, apologise until they forgive me and restore my reputation and the honour of the Rosenstein house in social circles. I have no choice but to clear my name myself.”
It’s easy to put it into words.
But doing it is going to be difficult.
If it weren’t for the title of Countess Rosenstein, then I would have been expelled from high society a long time ago.
I might only receive unreasonable criticism no matter how well-behaved I am, how harmonious my relationship with Orpheus is, or how much I devote myself to charity work.
Still, I have to do this…
I sighed again and sat up.
“And I’ll make Orpheus happy this time. I’ll love him as much as I can and give him my all. That’s the only way I can atone.”
I finally had the answer.
I know how I can atone.
It will be far harder than acting as a bad wife.
It’ll probably take a long time and be mentally draining.
But I’m confident that I can endure any hardship.
If I can be by his side and he smiles at me even a little bit, then I’ll do whatever it takes.
I’ll even crawl in mud.
“If you have your answer, then why did you do that? Master is waiting for your return. He wants to start over with you, Madam.”
Even though I knew the truth and even though I understood all this calmly in my head, I didn’t go back even though Orpheus asked me to ――― and kept saying that I wanted to think of a way to make amends because…
“Maybe I just wanted to be punished. Punished for my foolishness.”
Orpheus, Diana, Juris, Claire, and Claude;\… Everyone around me are good people.
No one blamed me.
They even said that it wasn’t my fault and that they were the ones who were at fault.
However, I didn’t think that way.
I was probably the worst of us all.
I wanted them to blame me, not easily forgive me.
I wanted to be criticised.
I wanted to be punished.
No one did that, so I felt that I had no choice but to criticise and punish myself.
“I was trying to figure out a way to be unhappy instead of how to atone, I wanted to find a way to make myself unhappy and suffer. Diana said that I was ‘atoning for my own self-satisfaction’, and in my case, that’s exactly what it was.”
That way of thinking isn’t normal.
I’m abnormally warped.
“I’m warped. There’s a lot of things about me that aren’t right. Even if I can usually hide it well, my real personality, the warped parts of me, come out at times like these.”
“Still, I…!” Claire exclaimed loudly.
When I looked up in surprise at her sudden exclamation, her small body had approached me, and she clung to my neck vigorously.
No matter how petite she was, I couldn’t catch her.
I was pushed back while Claire was clinging to me.
“Still, I like you, Madam! I also like your warped personality! It’s not just me, but Master should love it too! It doesn’t matter if you’re warped or a bit different from other people! You are you!”
It never occurred to me that a day would come when I would be pushed down by someone of the same sex. I was so stunned that only half of Claire’s encouraging words reached my ears.
“Madam has already tasted a lifetime of misery! You’ve already had a hard time! So that’s enough! I’m begging you, don’t think that way! Don’t suffer alone!”
Ah, what a good girl she is ―――.
She’s always there for me and cheers me up.
She always says warm words to me and saves me.
“Thanks. Thanks, Claire.”
“Madam…. ――― Huh, woah! I’m sorry! I am so sorry!”
Claire turned bright red when she finally realised what she was doing, and quickly jumped off the bed.
“A-are you alright?! Did you get hurt?!”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I was surprised, but I’m fine.”
As she helped me get up, a strange urge rose up out of nowhere.
Normally, I would swallow it down or endure it, but as soon as I remembered Claire’s drastic action, I snapped.
“Uoah, I’m sorry.”
“Fufufu. It’s fine. It’s fine, Claire. You were cheering me up. Thanks.”
How many years has it been since I’ve laughed out loud?
My depression was completely blown away thanks to her.
Me brooding over things was like a lie.
I only just laughed a little ―――.
Claire loitered around while covering her reddened face with her hand, then she suddenly stopped and approached me.
“Claire, you don’t have to worry about what happened earlier ―――.”
“Madam, let’s go back home.”
There was sincerity in her dreamy amber eyes.
“You don’t have to worry now that you have your answer. Let’s go back and start over from the beginning. Do it for Master, Diana-sama and Juris.”
A small hand, which was rough and showed evidence of hard work, reached out and wrapped around my pale hand.
“I know that it’s not easy to apologise to a lot of people and restore your honour, but I’m sure you can do it. And I’d like to help you as much as I can. Madam, you love Master and have been working hard to make him happy, so let’s make it through to the end. Even if a lot of things happen in between, it’s all good as long as the results are good.”
“It’s all good as long as the results are good…”
Claire nodded and smiled mischievously.
“It’s taken me a long time, but I wonder if he’ll forgive me.”
“I’m sure he’ll forgive you.”
I stood up and looked around the room.
Red, white, yellow, light pink and orange.
The roses that Orpheus had given me were blooming in vivid colours and were fragrant.
I really want to see him.
I want to see him.
I want to meet him and tell him how I feel.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet. But I’m done dwelling on it,” I declared to myself, not anybody else.
I’m done dwelling on it.
I’ll look forward even if I have to force myself to do so.
That’s what I have to do now.
I won’t hesitate anymore.
“I’ll go back. Go back and start over. I’m going to make that person happy this time.”
Claire and I immediately started to pack our bags.
If Orpheus would allow it, then I’ll return to the mansion tomorrow.
I wanted to tell Claude all this right away, but unfortunately, he wasn’t home, so I asked Susanna to let me know when he got home.
Susanna came to inform me that he was back when Claire was getting dinner ready.
“Master has returned. He’s in the study.”
I nodded while worrying about what to do with the roses and exchanged glances with Claire.
“I don’t think it’ll take that long. I’ll go talk to him.”
“Understood. I’ll see you soon, Madam.”
I went out of my room as Claire and Susanna saw me off and walked across the dark garden to get to the main wing.
I wonder how Claude will react ―――.
With that thought in mind, I knocked on the door of his study. He quickly replied and I was given permission to enter, so I pushed the heavy door open.
His study was brightly lit despite it being night-time.
A big chandelier hung from the ceiling and a number of candles were burning brightly.
“Ah, Phelia, it’s you?”
Claude leaned against the massive desk and his face grew gloomy as soon as he saw me.
I wonder what happened ―――.
It’s unusual for him to make a face like that since he’s usually cheerful.
I was going to ask him what happened, but I apologised when I realised that the old butler was by his side and that a person was sitting on the coach in front of his desk as well.
Apparently, he was in the middle of something.
“I’ll come back later ―――,” the person sitting on the coach stood up and turned around just as he said that.
He was a medium built man dressed in a black uniform, and he looked familiar.
He was Daniel, a servant of the Rosenstein House.
“You… Why are you here?”
Daniel bowed politely and glanced at Claude. Claude nodded and Daniel took a step forward.
“Phelia, I need you to calm down and listen to me.”
I already had a bad feeling at the moment.
Claude looked unhappy, and Daniel looked extremely depressed. Something bad must have happened.
“What… is it?”
Did something happen to Orpheus ―――?
“Lord Rosenstein’s cousin has gone missing.”
“Huh… Cou… sin…?”
The moment I understood the meaning of what he had said, my whole body made a noise and blood drained from my body.
“You’re… joking, right?”
I tried to laugh, but couldn’t.
Claude looked away awkwardly.
“No way,” I shrieked.
“How can Diana… I just met her at noon…”
“She was abducted by someone on her way back from this mansion. Along with the carriage. People at the Rosenstein mansion and the guards have been searching for her, but they only found the coachman…” Claude said that much before cutting his words off unnaturally and then fell silent.
“What is it? Continue. Tell me.”
“The coachman had been killed. They killed him and dumped him on the side of the road.”
Ah, why ―――?
My vision wobbled and I couldn’t stand up straight.
Someone called my name, and I saw Claude rushed towards me.
“Are you alright? ――― Marcel, bring me a chair.”
Before I knew it, he was grabbing my arms and holding me up so I wouldn’t collapse on the floor.
I exhaled as I sat down on the chair that the butler had brought me and pressed my hand against my palpitating chest.
Why did this happen?
Diana was supposed to marry Juris and have her long held wish come true.
She was so close to being happy.
And yet ―――.
I was also determined to start over with Orpheus for her ―――.
“It’s… my fault. This happened because I wrote her a letter.”
Diana would never have come to visit me if it hadn’t been for that letter. She wouldn’t go missing on her way home either.
So, it’s my fault.
It’s my fault.
“Why, Claude? I… I…”
“It’s not your fault. Phelia, it’s not. It’s the kidnappers’ fault. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Who… who the heck would… Why Diana…?”
“I don’t know. Lord Rosenstein has many enemies, and it might simply be a ransom. Everyone knows that he keeps his cousin by his side and looks after her.”
I don’t remember much about what happened after.
After a few comforting words from Claude, he accompanied me back to my room.
Claire and Susanne were waiting for my return and had prepared dinner in my room, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat and just collapsed into a chair.
They both desperately tried to say something, but when I didn’t reply, Claude explained what had happened to them.
“I’ll let you know if there’s any progress,” he said before going back to his study straight away.
“Madam,” I looked up when I heard the weak voice and saw a worried-looking Claire kneeling by my chair.
“I’m fine,” I wanted to say, but my voice wouldn’t come out.
I couldn’t even force myself to smile even though I was good at it.
When I pressed my forehead and looked down, a steaming cup of tea was offered to me.
“Ophelia-sama, please drink this. It’ll calm you down a little,” Susanna said.
I nodded weakly and took the cup, then sipped on it.
Susanna had made me a cup of tea with brandy. It wasn’t too hot, so I drank it all at once.
As the warmth flowed through my body, my throat moistened, and my heart palpitations calmed down.
My stagnated thoughts began to move again.
“Thanks. Like you said, I’ve calmed down a lot.”
The alcohol took away my tension and I was finally able to smile.
“I’m sorry for being absent minded. I’m fine now.”
Being upset won’t make things better.
There’s no point in blaming myself.
Instead of regretting what had happened, I should stay positive and think about what I can do to help.
“I’m… going to eat. I need to eat dinner and get my brain going. ――― Claire, I’m sorry, but can you pack the rest of the things yourself?”
“You’re packing?” Susanna said.
She didn’t know that I had made up my mind and tilted her head wondering why I was doing such a thing.
“No way, Ophelia-sama… Are you going back?”
“Yes. I have to go back and support Orpheus. That was what I was originally going to do.”
Susanna widened her eyes, but she eventually smiled faintly and said, “I see.”
“You’ve made up your mind, haven’t you?”
“Yes. I wanted to talk to Claude about this, but I couldn’t in the end. I never imagined that something like this would happen.”
“Shall I tell him?”
No, I shook my head.
It’s a very important conversation.
I have to tell him with my own mouth instead of leaving a message.
“I don’t think I’ll have time to talk to him today, or tomorrow morning.”
I was still upset. My heart was raging, and my limbs were trembling. My stomach felt heavy.
――― But for now, I’ll do what I can.
I’ll eat well and get a good night’s sleep to build up my strength.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell Claude my decision and go back to the Rosenstein mansion to support Orpheus.
I hope Diana and Marion are okay.
Those are the only things I can do now.
I reached the table where the food was laid out and picked up a knife and fork, then I forced the appetiser into my mouth that didn’t want to open.