CH 4.1

Lobelia turned the doorknob carefully and opened the door slightly to peek through the crack. Suddenly, the door swung open before she could even identify the guest. She hurriedly took a few steps back to avoid the door from hitting her.

“Sister, sister!”

A young and cheerful voice erupted from the door. Her blonde hair shone under the sunlight like melted honey while her blue eyes glittered like the deep ocean.

“Miss Aina,” Lobelia muttered in greeting. She was not expecting a visit from Aina. Even though they were blood-related cousins, Lobelia had to treat Aina with formality. She was an illegitimate child, after all.

Supposedly, Aina should treat Lobelia as her subordinate, but Aina only said she was happy to have a friend at her age and started to call Lobelia as her sister since she first saw her. Lobelia didn’t like the way Aina addressed her, as whenever Aina called her “sister,” Josephine glared at her fiercely, and sometimes punished her for being presumptuous. Lobelia had told Aina to address her properly many times, but Aina wouldn’t listen. She would ask her with despondent eyes, “Why? Does my sister hate me?”

If you call me sister, I get hurt, Lobelia had thought. Time and again, Lobelia indirectly told her that Josephine was abusing her every time she summoned her. But Aina simply shook her head and denied the atrocities she claimed that her mother did to her, saying, “What are you talking about? That can’t happen. Everyone in Evelentia feels sorry for you!” She’d look at Lobelia sadly.

Though it was not so much a denial, for she sincerely believed that her mother would do no such things. Aina looked at the world with innocent eyes, but her naivety only led to her ignorance. For her, who grew up as fine as a flower, the world was like a perfectly trimmed garden from the beginning. She never thought that insects and worms hid under the blossoming bushes.

So Lobelia decided that when Aina came to her, she would be moderately sympathetic and quickly send her back. Now that she was determined to take revenge on Marlon and Josephine, she was even more annoyed at Aina’s frequent visits.

Aina was only a year old when Marlon stripped Lobelia of her lineage and inherited the fortune that should have been Lobelia’s. Though Lobelia found it unfair, her anger was not directed at her.

Thinking that she should deal with Aina properly today, Lobelia turned to Aina as she spoke.

“I heard you went to the temple. You’re having a hard time because of Julia’s death, aren’t you?” Aina clasped her hands together and looked at Lobelia with sullen eyes. “I’m thinking of having a simple tea party at the mansion in two days. Do you want to come?” she asked. “It’ll be a diversion.”

Lobelia chuckled unknowingly. She didn’t have to witness with her own eyes to know what kind of humiliation she would suffer if she attended a tea party where noble ladies gathered. It was already obvious, but Aina, as expected, was always oblivious. She couldn’t simply see the hostility of the nobles toward Lobelia even though it was as plain as day.

Lobelia politely refused her invitation. “I don’t think I can fit in there, Miss Aina,” she said.

“Why?” Aina asked cluelessly.

“It’s a place where Lady Aina’s friends gather. If I go, the guests will be uncomfortable.”

Aina widened her eyes at Lobelia’s words and shook her head. “Absolutely not, sister! My friends wouldn’t be uncomfortable with my sister. I’ll scold them if they are! So don’t humble yourself like that.”

Humble myself? Lobelia thought. She had no intention of doing so, but Aina had misrepresented Lobelia’s intentions. Lobelia couldn’t say anything more, so she just kept her mouth shut in hopes that Aina would get annoyed at her disengagement and leave on her own accord.

Aina’s lively chatter lasted for a while until her excitement gradually waned. When she suddenly exclaimed, Lobelia thought she’d finally declare her leave.

“Sister, can I be by your side today?” Aina said, clinging close to Lobelia. “Tell me interesting stories while we eat delicious foods. I’m sure it’ll comfort you, too.

“I don’t think so, miss. I feel exhausted because I had walked to the temple earlier.” Lobelia flatly refused, realizing that she could no longer push Aina away with just silence.

“Oh…” Aina mumbled. She couldn’t hide her frustration and kept staring at Lobelia. Even now, she was waiting for Lobelia to change her mind and play with her. But Lobelia has had enough, so she decided to be frank.

“Can you go back now?” she said.

Aina eventually relented and walked out of the outhouse. Lobelia let out a long sigh and stared at Aina’s back as she disappeared into the mansion. The desire to drink tea had long disappeared. Lobelia wondered if she had been nervous during her audience with the duke until she felt a heavy rush of fatigue. If I fall asleep like this, I’ll definitely skip dinner, she thought, but what does it matter? No one cares anyway. She lay flat on the bed and closed her eyes. Not long, she fell into a deep slumber with the hope that she would no longer be involved with Aina.

Little did she know that tomorrow she still wouldn’t be freed from Aina’s existence, and that she wasn’t as innocent as she thought she was.

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