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Chapter 37

“You smell like blood.”

“……”

Dullan was lounging in a chair as he frowned at Carynne. During the seven days connected to the festival, he would pick up one sacrificial offering per day, slit its throat, let it bleed out, then set it on fire in front of the public.

Unlike him, who had the mixed smell of blood and medicine wafting around him, Carynne seemed radiant. With a displeased look directed at Carynne, Dullan spoke.

“…Y-You seem to be free.”

“Because Sir Raymond is such a capable man.”

Carynne shrugged as she saw the gutted rabbit in front of Dullan.

During festival season, a priest was to take on the role of a butcher. How ironic it was for a devout believer to smear blood on his hands in the name of showing gratitude towards God.

The preparations for the sacrificial ritual, which seemed to go on forever, ended sooner than expected. The preparation period was expected to be at about two weeks, but it ended in three days due to the combined efforts of Raymond and Xenon.

Carynne had planned to meet her father during this preparation period and find some traces of Nancy, but she had to give up on this because of the unexpected change in the schedule.

On the fourth day of water, Isella and Raymond’s engagement ceremony shall be held.

This new agenda on the schedule turned the entire mansion upside down. The work had blown up several times over, and the hired hands and the maids were all practically running here and there. An engagement ceremony was to be held along with the festival, though even without the ceremony, the festival was already cropping up to be grander than that of recent years.

The engagement was something that Carynne didn’t expect. She couldn’t believe that Isella and Raymond were getting engaged this soon. Not once did this ever happen before.

Maybe it was Isella’s whining towards Verdic that did it, maybe it wasn’t, but it was exciting for Carynne to think that she somehow caused this to happen.

Nancy’s death made Isella grow terrified and Raymond’s cold shoulder exacerbated her anxiety, so Verdic was then tasked to take up a hundred-year-old effort to soothe his daughter. But more than that, there was something else that’s more exciting.

“D…o you feel that it’s a shame he’s going to be married?”

“Kinda.”

Carynne giggled as she rubbed Dullan’s shoulder for a moment, then wrapped her arms around his neck in an embrace.

“Isn’t he handsome? He’s talented, too. And rich.”

She tightened her hold on him. She wondered if she could strangle him to death like this.

Though of course, her offhand expectations were dampened soon enough, and Dullan didn’t even need to exert much force to do so.

To the shame of Carynne’s efforts, Dullan easily loosened Carynne’s hold. She put a lot of power into it, but really, there’s a huge difference in strength between a man and a woman.

“I can’t believe you refused my embrace. I’m sad.”

“…Crazy.”

Dullan said this, though it didn’t seem like he’s totally displeased. Dullan seemed strangely more relaxed now compared to how he was in past iterations, even when they had gotten married. Carynne didn’t like this very much.

It’s laughable how complacent men become the moment they manage to sleep with women.

Carynne wanted him to show a bit more jealousy. Or maybe the reason he’s like this was because of Raymond and Isella’s engagement? If that’s so, then this change in schedule was just all the more unpleasant to Carynne.

“…On the fo…urth day of ashes, the body must be k-kept clean.”

Excuse me, what are you expecting? Carynne strangled Dullan tightly. A weak groan came out of his lips.

“Urk.”

“You don’t seem to have any gray hairs.”

“Y-You, really.”

She wanted him to cling to her more. But still, compared to Dullan’s jealousy, Carynne had something else slated that’s more interesting. Raymond was just finishing his work quietly, so while that’s happening, she could search her father’s study for any traces of Nancy.

This was even more exciting than Raymond’s engagement.

“Aren’t you the one playing hooky? Anyway, Father’s so busy that his schedule won’t permit even a short meeting. Ask him to give me some time. He doesn’t come out during mealtimes either, so how else can I see him?”

“…His Lordship is busy.”

“Then give me the key to his study.”

“…Why?”

“Helen said she doesn’t have it. How is it possible that the housekeeper doesn’t have it, hm?”

“T-The study should be open right now.”

“Not that study. Father’s private study. Not the one that’s open—I heard he has another one.”

Touching his forehead, Dullan frowned.

“…Why are you going there?”

Carynne had an answer prepared, so she responded without any hesitation.

“I want to see a portrait of my mother. The entire mansion’s devoid of any of her portraits.”

“…If things go missing……”

“What kind of delusion are you thinking when this is my house?”

Dullan looked away, but soon took out a key from the drawer of his desk and gave it to her. Looking at it, Carynne thought that it might be difficult to replicate because of how complicated its structure was. As Dullan stared at her, Carynne immediately lowered the key and asked him.

“Are you going on a slaughter-fest tomorrow, too?”

“That… Don’t talk about the ceremony like that. How insincere, absurd…”

“Sorry.”

Carynne cut him off with a short apology. Dullan tried to continue, but he soon gave up on his sermon and moved on.

“…T-To be exact, it’ll be tomorrow onwards. Today, the sacrificial rites of grain will be held.”

“Then what’s that?”

“…Practice.”

“The stench is no joke. Seriously, go and wash up right now. I’m going out tomorrow. That’s what I came here to say. I’m going with Raymond and Miss Isella. Ah, I mean Sir Raymond. Don’t use the cherry wood carriage. We’re using it tomorrow.”

“You’re qu, ite familiar with him.”

“Are you jealous?”

Come on.

But against Carynne’s expectations, Dullan just frowned and criticized Carynne.

“…I-I’d like it if you don’t treat this matter so simply. Have some sense, Carynne Hare. Miss Evans is also preparing for her engage…ment.”

“She’s the one who asked me to open up my schedule for her though.”

Of course, this was a lie. Isella asked Carynne about some good spots to go to during the festival, but she never asked Carynne to come with her. They planned to go there together, but also agreed to come back separately.

Then, this would give Carynne the chance to slip away and go back to the manor alone, and it would be easy for her to roam around. Telling Dullan that she’d be out was more convenient for Carynne.

“Towards you? A favor?”

Dullan turned around, looking at her as if he couldn’t understand Isella’s request. There was a perplexed look on his face.

“Sir Raymond doesn’t seem to like her at all, you see.”

“…Is that so?”

“It’s not to the extent that it’s apparent to other people. But they’re the people directly involved, so what could be done. Anyway, we’re going to the festival with Sir Raymond. Isn’t it my duty to take care of our troubled guests? Getting those two closer together would be helpful to our fief, too.”

“…This would also spark the embers of sin.”

Then that’s even better. Shrugging, Carynne grinned, and Dullan no longer raised any objections. He was much too exhausted to do that.

* * *

“No, but, why are you lot following me again?”

“Huh? Milady, Lord Dullan said that I should accompany you since you’ll be alone while Lord Raymond and Miss Isella will spend time together…”

So damn annoying to the point of death.

When Carynne frowned, Donna made a teary expression. Borwen averted his gaze and looked far away. Since it’s like this, it was going to be impossible for Carynne to slip away and go back to the mansion alone to search the study.

“That finicky little…”

“The Lord gave quite a lot of pocket money, Milady.”

Carynne hit Borwen’s leg with her folded parasol.

“How many times have I told you. Dullan isn’t Fief Lord yet, is he?”

Donna took a step back, looking around.

“And I’m the lady of the house. Don’t make it sound like Dullan’s the one giving me money.”

“I-I apologize.”

The attendants were different compared to the maids, perhaps because they weren’t under the direct command of the lady of the house, Carynne.

Her time was cut short, and now she was being surveilled to boot. This couldn’t go on.

After rebuking Borwen, Carynne turned to Donna with a smile on her lips.

“Then, shall we pay Missus Deere a visit?”

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