Chapter 99 – Riding in Coldly
“Are you truly alright, my lady?”
Ruth discreetly glanced at her mistress as she smoothed the bedsheet.
The young lady held a chess piece in one hand and a textbook in the other, her eyes never leaving the chessboard.
Is she truly fine?
Perhaps noticing the quizzical look, the young lady signed briefly and spoke.
“How many times must I say it? The carriage wheel has granted me enlightenment.”
“Why would a perfectly fine wheel suddenly break? It was a warning from the heavens. To realize how rude and demeaning it is to secretly meet a man in such a manner.”
The chess pieces moved about on the board, seemingly without purpose, but Ruth failed to grasp their significance.
“It was a foolish notion. Fortunately, I realized before it was too late.”
“But why, then, do you refuse to leave the room? Why do you tell lies about being ill?”
Bianca laughed lightly, as if a breeze escaped her.
“It’s a predictable and tiresome trick, isn’t it? Sometimes, one must also reject. Thanks to that, I even received such a lavish gift.”
Ruth followed her mistress’ gaze to the opulent bouquet of flowers nestled in a vase.
An hour ago, Tobias, Basilion’s butler, appeared carrying a bouquet of flowers and a large box of chocolates.
“His lordship is greatly concerned about the lady’s health. He wishes for her to recover quickly and hopes to see her in good health,” he conveyed.
Ruth felt deeply disappointed, but the lady seemed unaffected. She appeared as if she wanted to avoid Lord Meyer altogether.
“Shall we read a book? Something like ‘The Lady’s Art of Courtship.’ It says you need to push and pull, but I don’t seem to have the knack for it.”
Nodding her head vigorously, the lady refocused on the chessboard, successfully quelling Ruth’s suspicions.
Indeed… Until that day when the lady suddenly declared that she must return home, nothing significant had happened aside from the carriage accident.
It was the right decision.
Although Ruth, who had never properly experienced romance for over forty years, found it pitiful and unattractive to suddenly seek out a man who wanted to be alone.
“Take it easy with the show and come out of your room for a while. It makes me worried when you stay in bed like that.”
Grumbling, Ruth crumpled the sheets into a basket. The lady remained silent, furrowing her brows as she focused solely on the chessboard.
“If anything happens, please call for me. I won’t disturb you.”
The door closed, and the maid disappeared.
Left alone, Bianca stared fixedly at some indeterminate spot on the chessboard with unfocused eyes. A chilling coldness twisted her spine, creeping up to her forehead.
Whoooosh, the wind suddenly grew rough, seeping through the gaps in the window and whispering eerily deep into her bones.
Bianca sat on the chair in front of the fireplace. As she watched the crackling firewood, her heart felt endlessly melancholic.
It must have been Hadii. There was no one else it could be.
Then, who was the woman? The small and pale woman who clung to his shoulder like a doll…
Various possibilities came to mind, from noble ladies to courtesans.
Regardless of the answer, Bianca’s thoughts were consumed by darkness. Just the mere recollection of that scene made her surroundings grow dim, and her thoughts refused to move forward.
She was well aware that such a reaction was far from desirable.
He was a nobleman. For a nobleman, affairs of the heart were as natural as fruit and needle.
Wasn’t her father also surrounded by countless women? If you included one-night stands, they couldn’t even be counted on the fingers of both hands.
Yet her mother and father were called an ideal couple. They had their own order and rules, and they cherished and loved each other in their own way.
Bianca had thought that she, too, would be able to accept that. But she was arrogant. She was conceited and mistaken.
Hadii’s lover, or a one-night stand, or a temporary partner.
No matter what words were attached, her hands trembled, and it felt as if her heart would burst.
The person who flirted with women against a wall was completely different from the boy Bianca had known all this time.
He was a man.
The profound desire that he had never even imagined would exist within him plunged Bianca into despair.
“Lady Meyer seems subtly concerned. She thinks the heir has been raised with excessive restraint. But I approve of it. I can’t stand those worthless sons-in-law.”
Mother always said that. Father, too, had no complaints when it came to this matter.
“Men, they reveal their true colors by the age of fifteen. Hadius is different, though. I believe the influence of Duke Meyer played a significant role in that. He seems to deliberately act differently, so as not to become like his father.”
Everyone believed it, but they were completely deceived.
Who is that woman, exactly…?
For the past three days, Bianca had been repeating the question that never left her mind for a single moment. Each time, there was one presence that remained until the very end, like a residue filtered through her senses.
The woman who captivated men at every social gathering.
Blonde hair, fair skin as pure as a doll, rumored to be incredibly beautiful, and the fiancée of Duke Meyer in name only.
“He planned to arrange an investigation against that countryside woman.”
“To prevent the worsening of public opinion, Duke Meyer pretended to conform to the woman’s desires and acted as if he was fulfilling the engagement in front of others.”
“If only she had been a cunning and greedy woman, it would have been easy to deal with, but it was the opposite. For five years, she had faithfully obeyed the king’s orders, and even at the royal banquet, she displayed an impeccable attitude.”
Please, if only it weren’t that woman… I would rather she be a promiscuous harlot rolling in the brothel’s chaos.
Bianca couldn’t suppress the feeling of her entire being crumbling and buried her face in her knees.
That woman cannot be trusted. She is nothing more than a trap concocted by the deceitful Joseph to undermine the alliance.
As the successor of House Meyer, she should never get close to such existence. But that was not the only issue.
Her father had firmly insisted that no expense should be spared for her desires until Bianca bore her first child. There was a reason behind her father’s excessive demands. It was because of Hadius’ father, Duke Meyer, who had nearly ruined the family by indulging his desires even before marriage.
Lady Meyer also agreed to that condition. Hadius must be well aware of that fact.
But what if it’s that woman?
Even so, even if Hadius made that woman his own against all odds?
Bianca inhaled as her breathing became erratic.
What should she do now?
Should she just accept it? Accept it as her husband’s desires?
Tears welled up in her eyes, stained with the crimson hue of her flushed cheeks. Bianca sobbed pathetically, not even attempting to wipe them away.
Damn it, Hadii… Can’t you hold back? Can’t you?
The wind howled like a beast, shaking the windows.
The master never went to visit the sick. Nor did he head toward the chestnut forest.
Lost in his thoughts, he had been walking the stone path leading to the garden for over half an hour.
Unable to shake off his unease, the butler followed the young lord, his footsteps rustling on the fallen leaves.
A few days ago, he heard the news from Pip that the young lord had taken Miss Bern and her sister to the festival. It was undoubtedly a heart-wrenching matter.
If it had been before the cancellation, they could have easily brushed it off. Even if they were discovered, they could have come up with various excuses, whether it was public opinion or the king himself.
But now they were canceled.
Thanks to the revised “Rochester Bill,” parliament no longer spoke of the “abandoned fiancée.” There was no reason for the two to meet anymore.
Yet the butler couldn’t fathom why the young lord had acted so recklessly and impulsively.
It was not simply a matter of emotions or desires. Wasn’t it no different from endangering the woman he had protected with all his might for five years?
Hadius suddenly stopped in his tracks.
“Are we sure that the chimney sweepers in Crambits have completed their preparations?”
“Yes, as I mentioned before, we have planted evidence throughout the villa, and everything is ready to tail Jetson.”
Hadius stared at the falling leaves, lost in thought for a while. And when he spoke again,
“…We should go to Kunt.”
The butler couldn’t help but ask, surprised by the sudden statement.
“You mean right now?”
“Yes, right now. Prepare the carriage.”
Exactly three hours later, the two of them found themselves in the midst of a chestnut forest, buffeted by gusts of wind. Along the river that ran through the forest, there were various large and small factory buildings. Unlike the silent entrance, the sound of machinery in motion and the crackling of forges echoed continuously.
Hadius raised his collar to shield himself from the wind and entered the factory.
One of the men who were smoking at the entrance noticed the arrival of the two people stepping from the carriage and squinted. Then, as if unable to believe it, he shouted,
He rushed forward and stood in front of Hadius in a hurry. It was Bermer, the head of Kunt and an inventor, with his unkempt hair and long beard.
“How… how can this be? Why did you suddenly come?”
“You’ve been through a lot.”
Hadius looked around the workshop, filled with various extensions, machinery, and noise. Then he extended his hand, drenched in sweat, to the grimy Bermer for a handshake.
A few laborers, who were putting coal into the large furnace, glanced at them curiously. Of course, they couldn’t imagine that the unfamiliar visitor was the representative of Meyer Steel. His true identity was known only to Bermer.
Hadius followed Bermer as they looked around the inside of the factory.
“Do you have some time? Can we talk for a moment?”
“…Yes, please come this way.”
They left the factory and headed toward a secluded courtyard. Bermer was extremely particular and offered Hadius the only chair available before leaning against a large wooden pillar himself.
“Is it impossible to shorten the time frame?”
“Yes, unfortunately, that’s the case.”
Bermer wiped his greasy hands on his pants and replied quietly.
“What if we increase the number of workers? Would it be possible to shorten the production period of the forge?”
“Yes, it could be possible, but…”
“Tell me exactly. How many more workers would be needed to produce steel within a month?”
Bermer looked up at the sky, murmuring to himself as he calculated something. Then he answered.
According to Bermer’s calculations, it was an absolutely impossible number, but Hadius stood up straight and said, “Alright.”
“I’ll provide the necessary manpower, ensuring its success no matter what.”
The workshop manager and Bermer couldn’t help but stare at each other in astonishment.
This place was operated in utmost secrecy. The necessary capital and materials were discreetly delivered through the royal family, and the laborers had even sworn an oath of secrecy. Bringing in more workers in such a situation would increase the risk of exposure. Above all, money was needed.
According to what Bermer knew, Hadius Meyer had used all the funds he could surreptitiously gather to establish this secret workshop in this abandoned land. No matter how much of a successor he was, he wouldn’t be able to withdraw company funds secretly and at will.
How on earth was he going to recruit the necessary workforce?
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