Episode 38.
The Duchess’ Outing (1)

“I heard that you’re preparing for an outing.”


Dooha looked up at her husband’s words.


Leonhart, who was quietly eating breakfast in his seat across from her, asked casually.


“How’s the preparation going?”


“It’s going well.”


Just as she’d said, the outing’s preparations were going smoothly.


This was due to the hard work of Sylvia, who was the most competent head maid in the Duchy, and was well-versed in the culture of imperial aristocrats.


“Let me know if there’s anything else that you require.
I’ll prepare them.”


“Thank you.”


“When will the outing be held?”


“The day after tomorrow.”


When he heard that it’ll be on the day after tomorrow, Leonhart’s brows furrowed slightly.


That’s because he would be absent by the day after tomorrow due to the monster subjugation.


At the sight of the duke’s troubled look, Dooha beamed like she was telling him not to worry. 


“There’s nothing you have to worry about.
I definitely wouldn’t make a mistake that would bring shame upon the Duchess of Esbaden’s name.”


“Do I seem like I was worried about your mistakes?”


“Of course?”


“…You would be aware of this as per your experiences, but the prejudices that the Imperial citizens possess against Bashal are stronger than you think.
The same goes for the women in this place.”


Leonhart placed his glass of water down.


“If the wives behave impolitely because you’re from Bashal…”


“Don’t worry.
That’s what I wanted.”


Her response caused Leonhart’s eyes to widen slightly. 


“The first picnic organised by the Duchess is a place meant for socialisation with the vassal’s wives and at the same time to distinguish between allies and enemies.”


If her opponent showed open hostility at a location meant to distinguish between the allies and enemies, it would be something that Dooha welcomed.


Rather, those that pretended to be friendly without revealing their innermost thoughts were the problematic ones. 


“As such, instead of worrying about that, why don’t you give me some useful information?”


“Useful information.”


Dooha waved her fork in the air and asked slyly.


“Are there any vassal’s wives that I need to be especially careful around?”


“They’re all vassals.
You should be careful of them all.”


While the vassals swore their allegiance, in the end, people are driven by their own interests.


“If I had to point out, someone like Count Jive’s wife.”


Count Jive is the duke’s uncle, Nate’s, right-hand man, and a key figure of the conservatives, so he was the first person to be cautious of.


Like Nate, he disapproved of Leonhart’s ascension to the duke’s seat.


The same goes for his wife, Countess Jive.


“In fact, before your arrival, she was responsible for leading the ladies of aristocratic families that followed the Ducal family.”


Dooha’s presence would be quite the eyesore to Countess Jive.


She would see it as losing all the invisible power that she had been enjoying to a princess from Bashal, a barbaric tribe.


“It’s unlikely that I’ll be welcomed.”


“That’s right.
However, keep the fact that you’re the mistress of this castle in mind.”


Leonhart easily agreed that the duchess would be facing difficulties, but immediately added a request.


“It doesn’t mean that you should bear with any excessive impoliteness.
There’s no reason for you to bear with it.”


She wasn’t used to the slightly concerned voice. 


Dooha opened her mouth awkwardly.


“But you’ll be troubled again if I don’t bear with it.
Don’t you dislike being annoyed at the Lord’s conference?”


“Do I look like an inferior man that can’t put up with that much?”


“It’s not like that.
It’s just that I’m not used to it.”


Dooha leaned against her chair’s backrest deeply and spoke.


“I don’t think you’ve ever been this kind before.”


“Unfortunately, I’ve always been very kind to you.”


“You’re kidding, right?”


“…Well, other than on the first day we met.”


Indeed, when she recalled the events that transpired, the Duke had never done anything bad to Dooha, whether it’s for her sake or not.


In the first place, he had a cold attitude, and it wasn’t like he’s a heartless person.


“But you aren’t mistaken if you feel like I’ve become kinder to you.
It’s definitely different from the past.”


Leonhart stared straight at Dooha and spoke.


“It’s because I trust you now.”


“…You trust me?”


It was rare to find people in this world that would throw themselves into dangerous situations that could lead to death for others without hesitation.


“If I can’t trust someone like that, who can I trust?”


Why did she feel like she was being treated like a trustworthy vassal and not a wife?


For some reason, she didn’t feel bad.


Dooha stared blankly at her husband.


“I don’t really trust people, my wife.
But once I’ve placed my trust in them, I won’t desert my trust easily.” 


Leonhart continued, confessing about his strength and terrible shortcomings.


“And I’m the type to be kind to those that I trust, more than anyone else.


“…That’s a big problem.
Excessive kindness is burdensome.”


“You’ll get used to that burden.
Of course, on the condition that you don’t plan on betraying me.”


Just as Dooha was about to respond to the duke’s mean joke.


Claude entered like had known in advance when the duke would finish his meal. 


“Duke, it’s time to depart.”




Leonhart rose from his seat and picked up the sword that he had set aside.


He was fully armed so that he could leave the castle for the monster subjugation immediately.


“I’ll be leaving first.
You can have your meal slowly…”


“Wait a minute!”


Then, Dooha followed the duke and sprang up from her seat. 


“Layla, come on in.”


Layla, who had been standing outside the dining room, came in with hurried steps at Dooha’s words.


She easily ignored Claude, who was looking at her with an unfriendly gaze, and approached her master. 


Layla handed the package she was holding to Dooha.


Leonhart raised an eyebrow at that scene.


“What is it?”


At the Duke’s question, Dooha seemed rather embarrassed as she held the package out to him with lowered eyes.


“…It’s an outer garment.”


Leonhart opened the package and an outer garment appeared as she had said.


It was a long winter cloak decorated with cream coloured and soft goat hair.


The goat hair, which seemed to only be attached around the shoulders, was also overlaid on the inner lining made of black woollen cloth.


On top of that, there was delicate embroidery at the edge of the cape.


It was truly a beautiful and practical garment.


Leonhart’s eyes widened slightly.


“In Bashal, the bride would present her groom with handmade clothes as a wedding gift.
I was originally going to prepare it before coming, but the wedding date was set quite hurriedly, so I came here and made it hastily.”


As Dooha was unwilling to do sedentary work, Dooha’s skill in making clothes was much lesser than that of a bow.


Although she received Layla’s nagging and help, was it because she had only seen handicrafts that were made by artisans in Bashal?


To Dooha, the clothes she made looked more unseemly than she’d thought.


Her voice, which seemed less confident than usual, became smaller and smaller.


“I was going to touch it up a little more, but I thought that I should give it to you before you went on the monster subjugation.
I hope that you like it…”


Before Dooha finished speaking. 


Leonhart wore the cape over his armour and moved his limbs little by little. 


“Your hands are injured, when did you make something like this?”


“I’ve been making it before that happened.
I finished it a few days ago, and all that’s left is to deliver it.”


The fur cape wound gently around the Duke’s movements.


Dooha stared blankly at her husband in the cloak.


She thought that his delicate face wouldn’t match with animal fur.


On the contrary, the oddly tough atmosphere seemed to fit him more than the Empire’s formal uniform. 


For some reason, Leonhart remained still with a firmer face than usual.


She thought that he’d at least give her words of thanks. 


Just as the smile on Dooha’s face gradually faded, the duke slowly opened his mouth. 


“I heard the snow has yet to melt in the subjugation area, so I won’t be shivering in the cold.”


Leonhart added a blunt remark.


“I’ll make good use of it.”


“…Don’t mention it.
It’s just a belated wedding present.”


Dooha’s voice subsided slightly due to the unexpectedly lukewarm response. 


However, unlike the atmosphere between the duke and his wife, which was rapidly turning awkward, Claude couldn’t help but be stunned by the duke’s lie that he wouldn’t be cold.


“What are you doing blankly standing there for, Claude? Aren’t you going to take the lead?”


“Huh? Ah, I’m going!”


After rebuking him for standing with a gaping mouth like a fool, Leonhart turned his head around. 


“Then I wish you the best of luck, wife.”


“…you too, Duke.”


The two people that wished each other the best of luck in their upcoming battles turned around without hesitation.


When the duke turned around, a faint smile was on his face. 


* * *


“How arrogant.”


A lady that seemed particular threw an invitation to the outing onto the table.


It was an invitation with the Duke of Esbaden’s emblem.


“Your invitation came very early.
Isn’t it?”


“I guess it’s because she hasn’t learnt everything yet.”


“I’m not exactly happy either.
If she wasn’t belittling us, she wouldn’t have extended an invitation to us after being a duchess for a long time.”


The wives of the vassals that served the Duchy of Esbaden were present in Count Jive’s reception room.


They were dressed in luxurious silk dresses, drinking the finest of wines, and belittling the new Duchess, while half-lying on top of a fluffy sofa.


“I can’t believe that a lass from a barbaric tribe is occupying the position of mistress of one of the Empire’s most prestigious families.
This tragedy wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the alliance.”


“In the first place, if those barbarians hadn’t made such a big fuss about establishing a kingdom all of a sudden, His Majesty the Emperor wouldn’t have made the Duke into a pawn.”


“Those savages will become slaves when they’re caught anyways, and does all sorts of things.”


“That’s enough, everyone.”


The crisp voice caused the ladies, who had been chattering to their heart’s content, to close their mouths quietly.


The voice belonged to ‘Leoni Jive’, the mistress of Count Jive.


“I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to read the Imperial language as she’s from Bashal, but she had even personally penned the invitations.
Don’t you think she’s quite sincere?”


The corners of Leoni’s lips curled up as she glanced at the invitation card that was thrown onto the table.


“However, she doesn’t seem to know about the Ducal house’s etiquette yet, so we should educate her.”


She looked at ladies that were watching her mood, and smiled quietly.


“I’m sure you ladies will assist as well, right?”


“Of course.
If she behaves in such an unreasonable manner, she must be educated, even if she’s the duchess.”


“Isn’t it too wasteful for that barbaric lass to be taught by the most senior lady amongst the vassals’ wives?”


Leoni listened to their flattery and turned her gaze away instead of bringing her glass of wine close to her mouth. 


“Come to think of it, you’re unusually quiet today, Young Lady Blair.”


She spoke to the young lady that hadn’t spoken for a while with a voice that held a hint of laughter.


“I can’t even describe how you, who had almost become the Duke’s fiancée, would feel.”

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