༺ What a Long Vacation (4) ༻
A few more days passed after I received the report from the Senior Manager, and it became difficult to stay any longer. It was time to return to the capital.
The main reason I came to the territory was because Mother wanted to see me for a bit, and having the others join was more of a bonus. If there was no more reason to stay, heading back to the capital made sense.
Honestly, it was hard to stay in the County of Tailglehen, which wasn’t known for its tourism. Right now, the victims of Rutis’s Five Knight Play were quietly seething for a rematch, but who knew when these fools would clamor to go out again?
“I’m thinking of heading back to the capital.”
“Then I’ll let the others know!”
So, I tasked Louise with spreading the news. No one would probably want to stay in the territory if Louise said that we were going back to the capital. Anyone who wouldn’t be cooperative didn’t deserve to be in the pastry club.
Even Marghetta, who I was worried about, agreed to return to the capital. She seemed a bit sad, but it wasn’t like we could stay in the territory forever. We had to go back eventually, so she readily agreed.
“You’re going back?”
“Yes. Since everyone is staying in the Empire for the trip, it’s difficult to stay in one place.”
Mother just nodded without much reaction. The eldest son she summoned for marriage discussions was using his career as a shield, so there was no point in holding him back.
Just like that, we suddenly decided to return to the capital like how we suddenly came to the territory. Life was full of such sudden changes, wasn’t it?
“You must eat it every day. It’s ineffective if eaten irregularly.”
This was also sudden.
On the morning of our departure to the capital, Mother bombarded us with a ton of gifts. After receiving the Mage Duchess’s potions, I was now receiving healthy foods. It was really too much.
Even the head maid, and not just any maid, personally explained and handed me each item. When to eat this for the best effect, when to eat that, what it does for me, and so on.
“If you think you’ll forget, tell the butler. He’ll give it to you at the right time.”
I glanced sideways and saw that Erich was barely holding the growing pile in his arms. I thought about offloading some of my items to Erich, but that seemed difficult to do now.
Then, Mother followed my gaze to Erich and shifted her target to him.
“I heard that the Academy’s training can be intense, so make sure to take these.”
Erich nodded blankly. With that much, there might still be leftovers even at his graduation.
‘It’s Mother’s way of caring.’
It was heartwarming to see her consideration for the undutiful sons who rarely got in touch.
‘If only it had been like this earlier.’
Honestly, it would have been better if she had been like this before Erich entered the Academy. Perhaps she only realized the importance of her child who was always around after he’d gone off to a faraway Academy.
But still, it was good that she was changing now. The Patriarch might not change over time, but a warm-hearted mother would surely make Erich happy.
“I have to go now, but I’ll be in touch.”
After confirming the farewells from the Patriarch and the members, I bowed to Mother. Yeah, let’s keep in touch, even if it’s just occasionally. Erich might not contact Mother if I didn’t, and that would be troublesome.
The initial trip to the territory with those idiots felt daunting, but I was able to leave with a light heart in the end. If Erich and Mother’s relationship improved, then that alone made the trip to the territory worthwhile.
They’re leaving. I want to hold them back for just one more day, but I can’t.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling sad. I’ve just started to have normal, happy conversations with those kids, and I wanted to enjoy that happiness more.
But I managed to send them off, suppressing that regret. The happiness I’ve experienced now won’t disappear like bubbles; I’m confident that I’ll be able to experience it again.
‘When they return…’
The kids will come back. They had to leave home temporarily due to their roles as a civil servant and a student, but they will return someday.
And then, I can enjoy that happiness again. Clinging to the present and being stubborn would only worsen our slightly repaired relationship.
I neglected those kids for nearly 20 years. The time I actually looked at them properly was less than 20 days, and yet, I was able to restore a relationship that I never dared to dream of in that brief moment.
I mustn’t act hastily, for the sake of those kids who approached me as their mother even though I didn’t deserve to be treated so. And also for the sake of my daughter-in-law, who helped mend our relationship.
It was only possible because of them, not me. So, I need to proceed carefully and gradually.
As I watched the children walk away, Billy approached.
True to his word, he waited for Carl to tell me he was going back on his own. I felt a little embarrassed after remembering how I shook him by the collar during that process.
“I’m glad the collar-grabbing was worth it.”
Billy spoke, reading my thoughts. I quietly looked down. No matter how excited I was and how angry I was with Billy, I was too harsh.
Still, I would do it all over again if I had to. How could he say such harsh words about sending those kids, who were just starting to talk, back? And especially when I hadn’t even properly connected his son with his daughter-in-law?
‘She’s quite impressive for her age.’
Thinking of my daughter-in-law, a mix of regret and pride surged within me. I wanted her to at least be engaged to Carl, but it failed. How could I blame her, though? She was a child filled with a commitment to serve the Empire.
I already knew she was deep and mature. I didn’t expect her to aim to be a civil servant despite being a noblewoman, but that was a pleasant miscalculation.
Of course, as Carl’s mother, I wish she had chosen marriage to Carl over her career. The problem was that I couldn’t bring myself to say that. After all, I owed her a favor.
If Carl can convince her to choose marriage over being a civil servant and they come to Tailglehen after her graduation—
‘I’ll have to teach her the duties of a hostess.’
She’d been preparing for a government position, so she’d learn quickly.
The dissonance of being at home in the morning and at work by lunchtime was more heart-wrenching than expected, especially since it wasn’t from the mansion in the capital but from the territory. It felt like working on a holiday.
‘He’s always bothering other people.’
This was all because of the former Count Horfeld. I wouldn’t have had to go to work if he hadn’t retired so suddenly.
“Is he healthy?”
“Yes, he even enjoyed hunting yesterday.”
“So he’s still strong. I see.”
I brushed through my hair roughly at the Senior Manager’s calm response. A person whose health was so bad that they needed to hand over their title to a 19-year-old wouldn’t be capable of extreme sports like hunting. What’s the real story? Did he just retire to have fun?
If he had officially handed over the title, then the Emperor must have approved it. However, we had to figure out why, regardless of the approval. After all, there might be some schemes or backdoor dealings with the other nobles.
But no matter how much I looked, I couldn’t find anything. It’s most likely that he retired just to relax.
From now on, the former Count Horfeld would be my role model.
Anyway, I moved on from the sudden escapade of the former count to the other documents. The reason for the escapade was less important than the aftermath.
“He seems capable.”
And the aftermath was quieter than expected. The Imperial Council fluttered a bit with the sudden replacement of a member, then settled down again.
“Most of the former Count’s shares have been inherited. It seems he consulted with his vassals before retiring.”
“That makes sense.”
Abruptly announcing his retirement publicly was one thing, but keeping it a secret from even his own vassals would be crazy.
Looking closely at the details, the Count’s vassals remained mostly the same, with the addition of just a few young subordinates. The amount of money circulated to the other members of the imperial council to celebrate their succession to the council was exactly as I expected.
And an appropriate amount of ‘friendship money’ was deposited to the Prosecutors’ Office.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was worried that he might go on a ‘young hothead’ spree, refusing to give any under-the-table money.
‘There are no issues.’
I felt unjustly upset for having to come to work when there was no problem. It was fortunate, but why do I feel this bittersweet feeling?
Rubbing my stiff neck, I turned my attention to the Senior Manager. I came to work in a hurry today because of Count Horfeld, but I might as well handle any pending matters since I was already here.
“Is there anything unusual?”
The Senior Manager trembled at my question and cautiously opened his mouth.
“The 2nd Manager contacted me first.”
Damn it. I was just checking, but something popped up right away.
Just hearing that there was a call from the 2nd Manager, who was stationed in the north, was enough to make my mouth go dry.
“He asked for more liquor.”
I was an idiot for worrying.
“…Send it over.”
I had the urge to call the 2nd Manager right away and curse him out, but I barely restrained myself.
Right, I should send it. He was struggling in the north, so that was the least I could do. I wouldn’t have let it slide if he was just lounging around here and made that demand.
It was just regrettable that the last thing I had to hear before reporting to the Minister was the 2nd Manager’s nonsense.
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