Unbeknownst to Marlon, Jade and Lobelia had strategized to combine the contract relationship with the sponsorship system.
Marlon would never allow Lobelia to leave because of a mere relationship no matter who the suitor was.
However, if Ferrado declared that he would be Lobelia’s patron, Marlon wouldn’t be able to refuse because he would make himself a hypocrite, turning against his own promise to provide the best environment for his niece.


Suddenly, Marlon burst out laughing; Jade frowned at his unexpected reaction.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“No, this is really amazing,” Marlon snickered, “Just a few days ago, Lobelia was an orphan who had nothing, but now she became the lover of the Great Duke Ferrado and even received his patronage…” Marlon’s sharp, serpentine gaze turned to Lobelia.
He was suspicious of her.
Even though she constantly endured humiliation and even admitted herself that she was an illegitimate child who mustn’t live presumptuously, Marlon did not dispel his doubts.

Lobelia bit the inside of her lips.
She needed to be more believable to fool Marlon. What can I do? Lobelia calmly recalled the contents of the Original.

Marlon feared that Lobelia would come to know the truth and rebel against him.
All he wanted was Lobelia’s complete submission to him.

“Then,” Lobelia spoke in a timid voice, “If the Count does not allow it, I will stay in Evelentia.”

Jade whipped his head to Lobelia.
They had not agreed about this.
Lobelia shook her hands to release herself from Jade’s grip.
Jade hesitated for a moment, but eventually let Lobelia go.

“He’s been taking care of me,” Lobelia said as he approached Marlon, “It was my mother’s will to remain loyal to the Count’s wishes.” Lobelia knelt before Marlon and looked up at him with innocent eyes and bowed her head.

“I’m sorry for causing such a fuss.
I won’t let this happen in the future.
Even with Duke Ferrado…” Lobelia looked back at Jade with regret written all over her face, hinting at the despair of having to let go of the new hope she had barely held on to after her mother’s death.
“I won’t interact with Duke Ferrado anymore,” she muttered weakly.

If Marlon were to acknowledge Lobelia’s surrender here, he might feel at ease, but it would not stop the growing rumors that he was mistreating Lobelia.
Perhaps it might even only aggravate the situation.
Secrets were bound to be revealed, eventually.
But if he accepted Ferrado’s offer…

Marlon was intrigued.
The Academy is a great educational institution and it is also a private space.
Moreover, the Academy doesn’t teach women real education.
Women are taught what they call ‘women’s virtues’, such as painting, embroidery, and playing musical instruments.

If he accepted the duke’s generosity, Marlon would rid himself of the troubles of Lobelia for years to come, and if the Academy transformed Lobelia into a suitable bride (she would have to work hard to compensate for her gypsy blood), then he could sell her at a high price when she reached a marriageable age.
In the Original, Marlon had sold Lobelia to another man to free himself from his worries.
Lobelia took advantage of that knowledge.

Marlon’s face relaxed.
He smiled lovingly and opened his mouth.
“I must have been mistaken,” he said as he reached out and stroked Lobelia’s head.
Lobelia felt her skin prickle at his touch and clenched her jaw.

“Even if Lobelia goes to the Academy, even if her name is on Ferrado’s patronage list, she is still my ward,” Marlon said to Jade, patting the back of Lobelia’s head.
“If you keep that in mind, you can take this child with you.”

“Count…” Lobelia looked up at Marlon with teary eyes.
She was elated not from his permission, but at the fact that she could leave this house.
She had always wished to break free from Josephine’s leash.
Above all, to be able to move a step further in her revenge was rewarding.

“Then come with me now.” Jade held out his hand, which Lobelia accepted, and helped her up.

“Thank you, Count Marlon.” Lobelia bowed deeply before Marlon before walking out of the drawing room.

The moment she crossed the threshold of the drawing room, past Madame Terrine and the handmaidens gathered in the hall, and stepped foot outside the mansion, Lobelia felt she could finally breathe.

This day would be Marlon’s biggest mistake.

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