“Just as I expected, it’s empty.”
Delphia swung the doors wide open before sticking her head behind the sturdy wooden doors.
I mean, Lady Irina.
This is the dining hall of our Winfried Townhouse.
Isn’t it almost, I mean, isn’t it huge?”
Irina entered the dining hall through the door Delphia had opened for her and took her first look around.
“Wow, it really is.”
Irina nodded her head.
And it was.
But that was all it was.
Other than its size, there was nothing much else she could say about it.
She thought that the dining hall, being that of an aristocrat’s, would look classier and more furnished.
Within the hall, there were three long wooden tables with benches that she had only seen before in restaurants along busy streets.
Barrels could be seen lining along one wall and they seemed to be filled with food.
“There just wasn’t a good place to eat here.
This space had originally been used for something else but we turned it into a dining hall.
The dining place used to be a lot smaller than this.”
Delphia and Irina both entered the dining hall.
Hm? Noticing something, Delphia widened her eyes.
“Oh, who’s that I see? Leo! Why are you still here?”
In the corner of the dining hall, a man could be spotted chowing down stew.
Delphia strode towards the man.
“You’re asking why I’m eating this late?”
Upon Delphia’s questioning, the man whose long brown hair cascaded down to his waist nodded nonchalantly before he continued to slurp his stew.
It was as though he was trying to tell her that he did not want to be bothered while he was eating.
But, pretending to be tactless, Delphia continued to ask him questions.
“… Leave me alone.”
“… I had something to do.”
“Aha, I bet Leighton, that bastard, caused an accident again.
You can eat with us then.
Lady Irina! This way!”
It was only then did the man named Leo turn away from his bowl to look at Irina.
Shuffling forward, Irina approached the two.
Delphia introduced themselves to each other cheerily.
“Lady Irina, this is…”
“I’ll introduce myself.
You can just bring her food.”
Clatter, the man rose from his seat, stared at Irina and held out his hand.
“I am Leo Harte.
You can just call me Sir Leo.”
“I’m Irina, Leonid.
You may call me Irina.”
This time round, she did not hesitate nor fumble when she introduced her name.
Satisfied, Irina grinned inwardly.
The knight, who introduced himself to be Leo, stared at Irina for a beat longer before sitting back down.
‘What’s going on?’
While Irina stared at Leo as she felt something amiss, Delphia who had gone to get their food returned.
Her hands were filled with plates of food.
“Irina! I brought you your breakfast!”
With a bright smile, Delphia placed a plate in front of Leo and placed a tray stacked with food in front of Irina who sat across from him.
On the tray, there was a bowl of red stew filled with meat, two pieces of white bread, jam and butter.
‘It looks delicious.’
Irina gulped in anticipation.
When was the last time she had such a filling meal? Irina could not even remember anymore.
With half of the stew being meat, Irina did not notice the bread that had been spread with jam and butter at first.
It was such an extravagant meal.
Amazed, Irina immediately lifted a wooden spoon and scooped up a huge spoon of the meat stew before taking a bite.
Hm? Irina’s head tilted to the side.
The more she chewed on the meat, the darker Irina’s expression became.
“Hm? Is there anything wrong?”
Delphia, who had been in the midst of conversation with Leo, immediately asked her.
“Well, it tastes strange.”
“The meat… It doesn’t taste sour and it’s not tough.
I can swallow it easily after only chewing it a couple of times.”
Sniff, Irina placed another piece of meat on her spoon before smelling it.
“The smell doesn’t irk me either… is this what it’s supposed to taste like?”
“Yes, it is.”
Because Delphia was too flabbergasted to reply, Leo was the one who did.
“Meat of the highest quality is delivered to the Winfried Duchy every day.”
Irina’s eyes glistened.
“So, you’re saying that this is good meat?”
And it’s not tough because you are eating it warm.
There’s nothing strange about it so eat as much as you want.”
As though she had just learned something new, Irina nodded with her eyes still glistening.
“Thank you for telling me.”
It was only then did Irina start eating the stew heartily.
“What on earth happened…”
Bewildered, Delphia muttered before Leo tapped her side.
“She must have eaten fake meat before this.”
“Not anyone can eat meat.
People would mix things you don’t usually eat with grains like millet.”
Leo continued to explain slowly.
“Actually, there’s nothing wrong with millet but I heard that folks would put anything with it.
I even heard of some mixing it with the leather of worn-out shoes.”
“She must have eaten ones made with old leather seeing as she tasted something sour.”
Delphia’s eyes turned to Irina who continued eating her stew happily.
“I can’t take this anymore!”
Delphia sprung to her feet.
Irina sat there blinking as Leo stared at her wondering if there was anything wrong with her.
“Miss, you should be eating something way more delicious! Please wait here!”
Shouting without a care, Delphia dashed off somewhere before returning with her shoulders sunken.
“… The chef has left the estate to get ingredients.”
It seemed as though she had run to the kitchen during the short time she was away.
Leo had continued to eat his meal, unruffled, before speaking.
“Didn’t he leave on a carriage earlier?”
He had dropped by the training hall earlier to ask for an escort and a porter.”
“Why didn’t you say anything…”
“Well, that’s because you never asked.”
While Delphia rushed towards Leo and tried to grab him by his collar, Irina remained in her seat and furrowed her brows.
‘Are there no servants here?’
On top of the condition of the room she slept in, the fact that the chef also had to personally buy the ingredients he was going to use made her doubt that they had other help.
There had been someone in charge of the cooking in Ben’s inn.
Didn’t that man always complain that he barely had enough time to cook so not only did he not buy his own ingredients, but he also ordered everyone else to do his bidding?
‘Though he never ordered me to do anything.’
Because being able to leave the slums and go downtown had been a privilege for her.
Ben even used to accuse Irina of being blinded by money and that she would steal the money like a thief if she had been given any.
That was why he had prevented Irina from being involved in any errand that needed money.
Back then, she had been so upset at Ben that she would make excuses to go.
‘Thinking about it again, maybe I was planning on running away with that small lump of coins.’
Smiling bitterly to herself for a moment, Irina asked.
“Dame Delphia, is there anyone else around?’
Although Irina had only known of life in the slums and was very much ignorant of the rest of the world, she knew that there should be many, many people working in aristocratic estates.
But here in the Winfried Townhouse, Irina had only met three people so far, much less those who worked here.
Delphia, Leo and the Duke of Winfried.
“I don’t think I’ve met a single person who actually works here yet.”
“That’s a fantastic question!”
As though she had finished venting all her anger on Leo, Delphia’s eyes shone.
She leaned towards Irina and began to lament.
“You want to know something! No one wants to come work in the townhouse! As you may already know, miss, it has already been a really, re–ally long time since the Duke of Winfried had arrived in the capital.”
“Yes! The war started in the east, didn’t it? It was a war that only began because Luberg was eyeing our eastern granaries.”
Tearing into her bread, Delphia continued.
“But the Winfried Duchy is right in the east.
It was because of our location that the duchy was thrown into the battlefield.”
“That is also why the previous duke and the duke before him could not visit the capital often because of the war.”
Leo interjected as he tore his white bread apart.
“I heard that he had only visited the capital once or twice.”
“That’s right! Because he faced some financial issues funding the war, the late duke had even ordered for upkeep of the townhouse to be kept to the minimum.”
‘Ah, that’s why I haven’t seen people.’
But don’t people who work in aristocratic mansions get paid a lot of money? That was why most of the children living in the slums dreamed of working in aristocratic mansions.
‘So that’s the reason why.’
The chef who had gone to buy ingredients himself, the lack of people in this spacious mansion and the fact that Delphia, a knight, was the one taking care of her.
So, that was the reason why.
A candle lit up in Irina’s head.
‘If they just need help cleaning, I can help, can’t I?”
She had planned on meeting the duke today to ask what she could do to help anyway.
She never expected such a perfect opportunity to fall on her lap.
‘I’m confident that ’ll be good at cleaning.’
Ever since she was young, she had been working in the inn every day.
Even Ben, who was greatly displeased with Irina, never chastised her cleaning.
‘Both the duke and Dame Delphia.
They don’t look like bad people, do they?’
That was why she had to show them her worth so that she could stay here longer.
Great, she had something to do now.
She found a good reason for them to let her stay.
Irina’s eyes began to sparkle.
However, Delphia, who continued to lament as she ate her stew, did not notice that sparkle.
“Yes, that’s right! It is thanks to him that we are here but there’s not a single person left here! The estate is a mess.”
Delphia sounded frustrated as she explained that they were the ones who cleaned the townhouse.
“We tried to hire servants but it took too long because we had to keep looking for them from scratch, urghhh.
Fortunately, we have a chef because he accompanied us to the capital but we still don’t have enough hands in this estate!”
Leo pushed the last piece of his bread into his mouth before getting up.
“Huh, are you leaving?”
“I have places to be, well then.”
“Oi, you know.”
Delphia pulled the hem of Leo’s clothes just when he was about to leave without turning back.
Leo’s body reeled as he fumbled.
He looked pissed but Delphia did not seem to care.
On the contrary, she only pulled his clothes harder and pointed at something.
Following her gaze to see what she was pointing at, Irina turned to spot a dish that had been covered by silver cloche.
With a spoon hanging from her mouth, Delphia’s eyes sparkled.
“Can I give Irina that?”
Thud, Leo lightly flicked Delphia’s head before continuing.
“That’s his grace’s food.”
So, I can’t give that to her.”
Just as she was about to give up quickly, Delphia glanced at her sides before pulling Leo closer again as though she could not get over her dismay.
“But why is it still here? Why hasn’t it been sent up to his room?”
“Leighton had already tried to bring him food.
That’s a new plate.”
Weirdly enough, he stopped walking away.
However, Delphia groaned as though that was enough for her to understand what was going on.
“You’ve crossed the line.”
“He shouldn’t be skipping his meals so often… He didn’t have dinner last night, did he?”
“I don’t think he did.”
“The chances that his grace would come down to eat…”
“There are none.”
“Then, what else can we do?”
Urgh, Delphia winced painfully before her eyes glinted mischievously.
“Then, it’s simple! The loser has to go!”
“That’s not simple at all.”
A voice interrupted Delphia and Leo’s conversation.
Both of their heads turned to face its owner.
“I can send it to him.”
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