lotte whispered to me as she pointed at one side of the library.

It was a narrow space between two bookshelves, so I only stared at Charlotte for a moment, then I pulled out the chair next to me.

“You don’t have to do that.
Just sit here.”

“Pardon? But I…”

I simply opened a book and gestured for her to sit down.
There was no one else around, but Charlotte still hesitates to sit beside me.
I pushed a book towards her.

Charlotte knew how to read.
She grew up in an abbey when she was younger and learned how to read and write from the friars there.

However, the fact that an orphaned maid could read was something that her work environment didn’t consider good, that’s why while we were still in the Everett estate, she wasn’t given enough tasks to maximize her ability to read.

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It was the same after we came to the Valentino Castle, even when she had become a lady-in-waiting.

Most of the ladies-in-waiting were daughters from knight households or from houses of respectable social ranks, so they were automatically allowed to use the library whenever they wanted to without having to ask for permission.

On the other hand, since Charlotte had no such affluent background, she found it difficult to go here to the library because she was wary of how others would perceive her.
That’s why I often brought Charlotte in like this and let her read as much as she wanted.

“Thank you, Madam…”

“……”

Charlotte whispered again in a low voice.
I nodded lightly and then concentrated on reading.
After a while, only the sound of pages being turned could be heard occasionally inside the library.
It was a peaceful, quiet time.

 

* * *

 

Strange rumors have recently been circulating in the Francia Kingdom.
The main focus of these rumors were the Duke and Duchess of Valentino who were reportedly on good terms.

The Ducal Princess Adeline Alvinith glanced down at her teacup with a smile on her lips as she listened to the other noble ladies whispering amongst themselves.

Her mood had already plummeted even earlier in the afternoon, but she did not show this because she was very good at managing her countenance.

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“Isn’t it that there were a lot of rumors that those two would be getting divorced soon? That’s what I thought as well…”

“But did you know that Duke Valentino recently gifted the Duchess a blue opal necklace from Laquia? I heard the necklace had been auctioned off the other day.”

“I heard that the Duke himself attended the auction and had bid a staggering amount of money just to win the necklace.”

The blue opal necklace in question was a precious treasure that was more than three centuries old, and it was famous for how it was worn by the last princess of the already fallen country of Laquia.

Its whereabouts were a mystery these last fifty years, but it suddenly appeared at an auction in the capital.

None other than Theodore Valentino had stepped up to bid for such a rare treasure, as if to prove also that House Valentino had recently recovered their wealth and power.

This caused quite a stir in high society for a while, but their recovery wasn’t all that surprising.

What surprised them all was the fact that Duke Valentino had presented the blue opal necklace to the Duchess.

“I thought that the blue opal was going to be for Ducal Princess Alvinith…”

“Shh, she’s going to hear.”

All the whispers from the next table over made their way to Adeline’s ears.
Everyone was looking at her, but Adeline calmly sipped her tea as if nothing happened.

It was a perfectly aloof attitude that it would be difficult to tell from her outward appearance that she was, in fact, in a foul mood.

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