“Sir Jereminus.”

Lobelia bowed her head slightly in greeting.
Joheim, on the other hand, stiffened in shock and couldn’t return her greeting.
Lobelia cocked her head in wonder.

“Your face,” Joheim mumbled as he stared at her.
Only then did Lobelia realize why he was surprised.
It was because of her tired complexion that even makeup couldn’t hide.
“Are you uncomfortable staying at the Duke of Ferrado? I am aware that the servants are not fond of Miss Lobelia’s presence,” he said cautiously.
He hesitated, but eventually inquired, “Are they harassing you?”

“Not at all,” Lobelia replied, recalling how the three handmaidens repeatedly apologized for having done a terrible job at her make-up.
Joheim, however, did not readily believe her.
Apparently, the image of Lobelia abused by the Evelentia Family still lingered strongly in his mind.
“I assure you,” she said, “Everyone here is good to me.” It was a lie and the truth at the same time.

The majority of the servants in the mansion, with the exception of the three maidservants, were indifferent to Lobelia.
They were hostile, but they weren’t interested enough to harass her.
They all believed it was purely Jade’s whim to take her as his lover and he would eventually grow tired of her.

“Is that so?”

Joheim was still skeptical, but he nodded.
Lobelia was relieved her denial dispelled Joheim’s worries.
As someone who did not believe in good faith or chivalry, the favor and consideration that Joheim had on her was burdensome.
Lobelia prepared to leave and said, “Then I’ll go.
The Duke is waiting for me in the dining hall.”

As she turned around, Joheim hastily called her.

“Miss Lobelia!” He put out a hand to grab Lobelia but realized he couldn’t.
“If something happens…” he trailed off, “Please come to me.
I will protect Miss Lobelia.”

Lobelia stared blankly at Joheim in surprise.
She couldn’t understand his unflinching generosity despite her endless rejections.
Such favor was beyond her wildest dreams.
Many men had already tried to help Lobelia.
Most of them were aristocrats whom she encountered in social circles while acting as Aina’s handmaiden, all of whom were affectionate at first.
She would constantly wonder what was pulling them in.

But she couldn’t have known that her gypsy ancestry would give her an exotic and attractive appearance, that being born out of wedlock and having a history of abuse would give her a dramatic backstory that would appeal to men with a savior complex.

There was a time when she had innocently believed their goodness.
The second son of Count Domingo had once approached Lobelia and said that he would save her and Julia if she would be his lover.
But when Lobelia rejected his advances, he fiercely slapped her cheek.

No matter how often you’re exposed to it, violence is something that can never become normal.
The image of the large large man who glared  menacingly at her with his hands clenched was still vivid in her mind.

“Thank you for saying that.” Lobelia suddenly spoke with an icy tone.
“But I am not going to ask Sir Jereminus for help.”

At Lobelia’s firm refusal, Joheim looked conflicted and his eyes revealed his sadness.


“I have to leave right now.
I appreciate your kind concern, Sir Jereminus.”

Lobelia turned her back against Joheim, unwilling to listen to his offerings of help any longer.
Her uncoordinated feet got the better of her, but she continued to walk forward.

* * *

As usual, Jade was alone in the dining hall.
He had ordered all the servants to vacate the room.
Lobelia took a seat across from him.
“After all, you don’t look well,” Jade blurted out as soon as she sat down.
Lobelia laughed.
It was the third time someone had told her that.

“Didn’t you say that breaking the curse isn’t too much for your body?” Jade said.

“It’s because I can’t sleep,” Lobelia replied, “Just because I’m in your dream doesn’t mean I can fall asleep.”

“I see,” Jade nodded.
Unlike Joheim, his response was simple and dry.

Lobelia, having skipped breakfast, grabbed a silver spoon and took a sip of the clam soup, warming her insides.
As she cautiously tried other dishes, Jade spoke.
“So you do eat food,” he said.
Speaking of which, it was the first time she had a proper meal in front of him.
At previous dinners, they simply discussed the details of their deal until the food on the table had gone cold.
Jade also started eating.
A calm lunch ensued this time, rather than a business discussion.
Halfway through the meal, Jade opened his mouth to speak.

“I wrote a letter of recommendation for the Academy,” he said, “Let’s go there right after lunch.”

“That’s fast,” Lobelia commented, swallowing the food in her mouth.

“Count Evelentia will be suspicious if you don’t enter the Academy immediately,” Jade replied, and Lobelia nodded in agreement.
“You’ll be staying in the east wing of the Academy,” he added.

“East wing?” Lobelia tilted her head.

“Oh, you don’t know? The academy is divided into the east wing, the west wing, and the north wing,” explained Jade.
“You are assigned to the east wing.
A lot of my entourage is there.”


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