The Otome Game's Bad Ending - Chapter 50
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The debutante ball’s first day was chaotic.
On the surface, it appeared to be attractive and harmonious.
In truth, everyone was disguising their expressions behind fans and whispering all sorts of things.
The prince and princess walked in together.
Lady Elodie, who had selected Lady Windrose as her chaperone and Lord Raretis as her cavalier, resembled the late Ophelia.
She was a young lady who shone brighter than any other lady who made her debut that year, so much so that she received intense pursuit from Edmund Gloucester, Ophelia’s suitor.
Furthermore, speculations about ‘Emilia’ began to circulate.
Ophelia’s only friend was Lady Emilia, who had entered with Cassio Brahamdorff as her partner.
Emilia’s location had become unknown after her death, and her existence had been the focus of countless social talks.
Some claimed she vanished overnight, like a runaway.
Some claimed that the Marquis had expelled her.
Some speculated that she vanished to avoid being caught embezzling the Marquis’s riches, which she had been doing since before Ophelia’s murder.
There was a lot of speculation.
Some claimed she married a nouveau riche who paid for his title.
Some claimed she had traveled abroad.
All of these, however, remained rumors in the end.
Because Ophelia was so well-known, reports about Emilia did circulate, but following Ophelia’s death, there was no need for her narrative to continue.
After two years, people would ask, ‘Who was Emilia again?’ when her name was mentioned in a discussion.
And then there came Emilia, making her debut with the Brahamdorff family’s help.
At the same moment, a young woman who looked precisely like the deceased young lady of the Marquis, and another young woman who was believed to have been the late young lady’s closest friend, both brought companions who were known to be Ophelia’s suitors.
Although no one stated it out, everyone was anticipating something spectacular to occur.
There was special excitement among them for a battle between Emilia and Elodie.
People assumed Emilia had left the Marquis’s house because she had something to be ashamed of.
People assumed she must have taken off with a large sum of money.
Then there was Elodie in front of her, who had the same appearance as the departed Ophelia but a sweet and gentle attitude opposite her and who was claimed to be treasured by the Marchioness as if she were her own daughter.
What would occur?
Everyone’s gaze was fixed on something.
However, the actual event differed slightly from everyone’s predictions.
Edmund Gloucester was the one who disagreed with Lady Emilia.
Of course, everyone knew that Edmund Gloucester was preoccupied with the death of Ophelia.
Similarly, it was well known that he was Elodie’s passionate lover.
However, Edmund Gloucester had a good reputation.
There were no slanderous rumors about women.
Despite being barred from furthering his career, he invested personal finances in esoteric academic activities to project a scholarly and intellectual image.
However, Edmund Gloucester heatedly argued with Lady Emilia, eventually smacking her.
Bystanders who intervened quickly restrained him.
Emilia and her companion, Cassio, fled the scene immediately.
It was a formal ball, specifically one for debutantes.
Because it was the occasion for this year’s high society debutantes to be the center of attention, any little incident would normally be kept to a minimum.
Not only was Edmund Gloucester’s harsh act of slapping a debutante shocking, but everyone was curious about what the two had talked about.
Lady Elodie, evidently furious, demanded answers from Edmund but received none as a servant who approached to bring champagne attested.
Even the normally placid Lord Raretis seemed agitated.
Many assumed that Lord Raretis, being the gentleman he is, was irritated by the young lady’s injury.
In any event, any other minor annoyances were entirely ignored.
Despite her brilliant gown, Princess Alosia kept peering around uneasily, while Queen Patricia, who maintained a lovely grin throughout, left her seat abnormally frequently, unknowing to most.
Even when the lady she supported was in peril, Countess McGinty remained calm, but Marchioness Windrose could not.
She returned from the lounge looking like she had seen a ghost, owing to her poor health.
Lord Raretis rushed over to aid her.
Elodie, maybe concerned, denied all dance invites to remain by the Marchioness’ side.
Hearing the news, Marquis Windrose came late to the ballroom to console his pale and scared wife.
However, the Marchioness, who appeared to be half insane, pulled the Marquis away and searched desperately throughout the ballroom.
She eventually asked Lord Raretis, frightened, “Raretis, why is there such chaos? What does it all mean? Nobody is saying anything to me. What exactly is going on?”
“Did you know that she was coming?”
The Marchioness had a pale complexion and was evidently in poor health.
Her eyes darted about eagerly, and her lipstick-smudged lips were dry and cracked.
Even though she was being supported, her movements were shaky.
This was unusual for her, as she had usually maintained her elegance and poise.
Lord Raretis closed his mouth for a minute, a very complex expression on his face.
The Marchioness’ pupils trembled again when she saw his anger.
Her body shook as if she was losing power, forcing Elodie to inquire hastily,
“Marchioness, are you okay?”
“Did you know, Raretis? Did you know that? How…?”
The man’s expression seemed weird.
His eyes were incredibly complex and seemed devastated, even regretful.
It wasn’t apparent whether it was remorse, resentment, or another mixed emotion.
“…I didn’t know.”
“Is that correct? How could this be? Didn’t you know her?”
Elodie cast her wide green eyes to the ground.
“…Marchioness, you appear to be in poor health. Wouldn’t it be better if you went home and rested for the day?”
“She isn’t here… She is not seated… Is she leaving because she despises me? Because she refuses to even look at me…?”
The Marchioness managed to arrange her contorted, almost crying expression only after the stern-faced Marquis Windrose called out to her as if to restrain her.
Elodie smiled gently, her face serene, and supported the Marchioness’s arm as if embracing her.
She said quietly,
“Marchioness, you don’t appear to be in good health, and you appear very tired from staying out so late. Should we return to the mansion for a cup of steaming tea? I can’t tolerate how concerned I am.”
“But, but today is your debutante ball…”
“There’s tomorrow and the day after that. I’ve already done enough dancing. I’d be more concerned if the Marchioness stayed longer and her health deteriorated.”
“Yes, my dear. Go ahead, but don’t overdo it.”
The Marchioness quietly nodded her head, encouraged by those surrounding her.
She appeared to be someone whose soul had left her body.
On either side of the Marchioness, Raretis and the Marquis escorted her.
Elodie also swiftly shared a glance with Edmund Gloucester, who had kept his distance due to an earlier incident.
The look indicated that she should leave right now.
When the blue-eyed gentleman caught Elodie’s stare, his expression twisted for a moment, but he grudgingly nodded in agreement.
Elodie, pretending not to notice his reaction, left him with a sweet smile until the end.
Elodie tucked her head on the Marchioness’s shoulder as she boarded the waiting carriage, which still appeared worried and unsettled.
She threw her arm around the lady’s slender, weak, and shaking shoulder.
“Do you feel very upset?”
“…Yes, that’s right, my child.”
“A strong tea with three drops of brandy is a panacea. My late grandmother used to adore it. Drink it, then immerse your body in hot water for a good night’s sleep.”
“Uh, yes. That’s something I should do…”
Elodie closed her eyes, comforted by the Marchioness’s somewhat relieved voice.
Normally, the Marchioness would have hugged Elodie and thanked her, saying, ‘There was no one else who worried about me like you did,’ and crying.
They would have hugged each other’s shoulders and tucked their heads together like a mother bird protecting her young.
The Marchioness appreciated physical affection.
The Marchioness had acted stiff the first time Elodie held her hand and warily placed her head on her as if she was experiencing such a gesture for the first time.
But that only lasted a few moments before the Marchioness enthusiastically extended her hand to Elodie.
Elodie was glad and happy to hear that even a mother and daughter couldn’t be as close as they were and that the Marchioness had become extremely vivacious.
When the Marchioness glanced at Elodie, her eyes were filled with joy and ecstasy.
Today, however, was different.
Elodie realized what was clouding the Marchioness’ eyes as she avoided Elodie’s gaze while stuttering. It felt oddly familiar.
It wasn’t familiar at first, then… it was.
It was a tense atmosphere.
Nobody explained to her the residue of emotions that lay like grains of sand in their eyes and gestures.
As a result, she should not have known what it was.
However, everyone was nice to her.
They were nice and loving.
They were serious in their feelings for her.
That’s why she was perplexed.
It made no sense.
It was not logically possible.
She did not need to feel bad about herself.
What sort of guilt?
Even if she admitted to feeling the same way from Edmund Gloucester’s eyes, not just the Marchioness’.
It made no sense.
It was something that anyone would find amusing.
Miss Elodie, you appear to be unconvinced in your own appeal.
She’d undoubtedly be chastised for distorting the sincere hearts of people who diligently court her.
Elodie became aware of Marquis Windrose’s chilly stare from the opposite side.
The Marquis’s eyes were frigid if she could sense the Marchioness sincerely cherishing her when she looked into hers.
Should she call it calculating?
The Marquis did not openly oppose whatever the Marchioness desired.
He appeared eager to do practically everything the Marchioness requested, but that didn’t imply he embraced everything.
Elodie could still see Marquis Windrose’s eyes light up with excitement when the Marchioness presented her.
It remained the same.
Elodie had some thoughts.
What if she wasn’t pleasant?
What if she wasn’t romantic?
What if she wasn’t plain and easy to get along with like a daughter, allowing the Marchioness to comfortably appreciate her?
What if she had a distinct personality like ‘that’ Ophelia, who caused the Marchioness grief?
Would she have been permitted back then?
When Emilia rejected Raretis Hope, he crumbled.
The Marchioness avoids Elodie’s gaze.
Edmund Gloucester was adamant about not explaining why he hit Emilia.
Others were envious of Elodie.
They believed she was fortunate to have won the heart of the Marchioness, who had lost her daughter and came from a noble family with few opponents.
What could she lack, even with top groom candidate Raretis Hope and the flashy suitor Edmund Gloucester?
But Elodie occasionally experienced an odd sensation.
Something out of a nightmare, moist and pervasive like doom.
This is not to say that the attachment or goodwill was wholly phony.
They had nothing against her.
They weren’t obligated to keep her by their side because of someone else’s duress.
However, she only sensed something unclean.
In the way, her eyes avoid hers, in the motions that avoid words, in the gestures that don’t transmit affection.
Ironically, the only person who didn’t make her feel the gritty emotion that had long left a bitter taste in her mouth, like grains of sand, was one.