Upon hearing Chloe, who had never once talked back her whole life, the duchess’ piercing gaze became ever more sharper.

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“Would something like you have a reason? It probably was just an attempt to capture the marquess’ heart! You really are pathetic.
You have been married for 5 years already and yet you still go around doing that!”

“No.”

Chloe shook her head.
She grabbed onto her skirt with clammy hands.

“You were the reason I decided on the divorce.”

“What?”

“To be more exact, you and brother were the reasons.
Do you not take my husband’s money almost every day? How much have you taken for yourselves? And how much more will you take? Do you have any idea how miserable that makes me?”

Chloe asked without pausing.
These questions were not only for her mother but for Eric as well.

What is the reason you do not cast away my family who treat you like scum, why are you so kind with mother, why do you not just chase her away…….
Chloe asked such questions.

Though Eric was not here, she wished to at least hear from her mother a proper answer.
While in her head she knew that there was nothing more to expect from her family, her heart still hoped.

However.

“Is it important whether it makes you miserable? Your husband is our source of money! You cannot let that go!”

Her hopes were shattered to pieces yet again.
The duchess was still the same as ever, as expected.
As she always was.

“Do you want to obstruct your brother’s future that much? When you very well know how Joseph will live without the marquess!”

Joseph, again.
Joseph.
Joseph.
Joseph.
She had no idea why the duchess was shielding him to this extent.
Chloe made a disgusted expression and spoke, emphasising each and every word.

“He is also an adult.
He has to be able to look after himself.
Start working.”

“Work? Did you just say work?”

The duchess became even more outraged as soon as Chloe’s words left her mouth.
For it was extremely disgraceful for an aristocrat to work.
It was an option that the duchess had never considered even once.

An aristocrat should never work their whole life.
They should do nothing other than collect taxes from their land and become cultured.
But work? Make him work? My very own son? The duchess lost her temper.

“Joseph is the Duke of Rolphe! He should be treated properly and with respect wherever he is.
He should not be doing something trivial and unimportant like work!”

“Then what about my husband?”

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Chloe gripped onto her skirt harder as she spoke.

“Is my husband one who can work?”

“Well of course! Is your husband not some commoner or something? Though he may have received the title of Marquess, there is no change to his origins! He has to work with that dirty blood of his! Is that not how it should be?”

“We really do not speak the same language.”

Chloe pressed her forehead.
It felt as if their dialogue continued on like parallel lines that would never meet.

While she thought that she had to bring the conversation to a close, at the same time felt the desire to push back against her mother.

She felt a sort of liberation while talking back to her mother, and it was probably this which stirred her up.

Whatever it was Chloe chose to provoke the duchess’ anger instead of ending the conversation.

“My husband is a marquess.
He is not a commoner.”

“He earned that title from your marriage.”

“He already had a title even before our marriage.”

“That was what the king personally bestowed upon him.
But does that change his blood? He will forever be a commoner! One who can never be on par with us!”

“Then you are a person who begs from a mere commoner for money.”

“Wh, what?”

“Is that not true? You came running over to borrow money today as well.
From my husband who is a mere commoner!”

“You, you, you blasted girl!”

Slap!

Chloe’s face turned.
Her mind went blank for a moment as she could not believe the fact that she had been slapped, but she felt her cheek sting and eventually came back to reality.

Her mother had slapped her.
Though she may have caned her, she had never raised her hand on her.
Chloe wrapped her cheek and stared at the duchess.

The duchess had a small look of surprise as well.
For she had slapped Chloe before she even knew it.

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However, she quickly justified her own actions with that rationalising attitude of hers.
There is no difference between a cane and her hand if she had to educate her arrogant daughter.
If she were to place the focus on educating her child, there seemed to be no problem with slapping her now.

But whatever it was, the duchess quickly came to her senses as raising her hand was an uncultured act.

“It seems you have forgotten many things while living outside, Chloe.
Do wake up.”

The duchess continued.

“The reason your father arranged the marriage was solely because of money.
You do know that, don’t you?”

“He said that he was investing in the future.”

It is of course also true that her father had sold her off.
But she did not want to acknowledge that here.
She wanted to refute her mother even if she had to use superficial words.

So while Chloe grit her teeth and spoke, it instead seemed to appear as a sign of weakness to the duchess.

The duchess put on a nasty sneer on her face as she looked at Chloe.

“It is just an illusion.
Our future in the hands of a commoner? I really do hope that that future does not come.
I do not want that.
If that future comes I’ll just bite on my own tongue and die on the spot.”

“Mother!”

“So, Chloe.
Just do what you ought to do.
Alright?”

What she ought to do.

Chloe took in a deep breath.
She slowly brought down her hand which wrapped her cheek and met the duchess’ eyes.

“What is it that I ought to do?”

“What do you think?”

The duchess folded her eyes.
She covered Chloe’s right hand with both of hers and spoke.

“Take the money.”

She grabbed onto Chloe’s hands hard, as if not letting her break free.

“There is no other reason that you married your husband aside from that, is there?”

She broke into a laughter.

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Chloe took in a deep breath.

No.

No, mother.

I married him because of love.

‘That money……’

I never wanted to take it.

Chloe tried her best to hold in her tears and lowered her head.

Her cheek hurt.
Her calves hurt.
But it was her heart that hurt the most.

 

* * *

 

The next day, Chloe dragged her aching body and woke up from the bed.

She pulled up her dress and examined her calves.
The blood had not even dried to form a crust as she had not treated it properly.
There were still drops of blood.

Chloe agonised for a moment.
Should she just leave it, or should she ask Andrea to bring some medication.
If she were to choose the latter it would be no different from exposing her weakness to Andrea.
But…….

‘Ouch.’

It hurt.
It hurt so bad.
It hurt not from her physical pain.
It hurt as her heart ached.
Chloe self-mockingly thought that it was because her heart was sick therefore her body hurt too.

Whatever it was, she could not leave both in pain.
As she decided to treat the wound on her calves, she also decided to cool down her swollen cheek from her mother’s slap yesterday.
She pulled on the bell rope.
Not long after, Andrea showed up.

“Is there anything you need, mistress?”

“Bring me some salve that is good for wounds.
As well as some tools to help with applying an ice pack.”

“Sorry?”

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Andrea raised her head in shock.
She immediately saw Chloe’s swollen cheek.
Her eyes trembled.
For, that amount of swelling undoubtedly meant that she must have gotten hit by someone!

“Mistress, are you alright?”

Andrea worriedly asked.
Chloe turned her cheek the opposite side and shook her head.

“I am fine.
So bring me the things I told you to bring.”

“Ah! Okay.”

“And this is a secret from my husband.”

Chloe made a ssh sound and said.

“That means to never tell my husband.
I would have to fire you if my husband knows about this.”

As it was generally Andrea’s job to inform the master about the condition of the lady of the house, she hesitated for a while.

However, as Chloe was that adamant it was difficult to speak so flippantly.
Therefore she had no other choice but to nod.

“Alright.
I will keep that in mind.”

“Good.”

Andrea hurriedly left the room after saying that she would bring the medication and ice.

Chloe sat down and watched out the window.
The carriage that she guessed her mother had taken here was still there.
Which would mean that she had not yet left.

How much longer was she planning to stay here? As mother had noticed that Chloe was not like before, she may have decided to stay for an extended time.

Though Chloe did not wish for it, she was resigned as she knew that there was no suitable excuse to send her mother back.

She turned her gaze and this time picked up the newspaper on the table.

The first page was an article about the labourers on a strike.
Chloe read the article more carefully.

As expected, there was mention of Eric’s name.

The labourers at Eric’s factory were also part of the protest.
Eric was probably suffering a headache over this issue.

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