Lia opened the window to air out the smoky room.
Cold air blew in.
It was so cold, it could easily snow.
She snuggled into the thick wool blanket draped around her shoulders, put down her pen, and folded the letter neatly.
This will be delivered to Louvre by courier.
But throughout the change of seasons, her letters had not been delivered successfully.
Most of the eleven she sent had been returned and the others went unanswered.
Lia opened the drawer containing the returned communiques.
“Tomorrow will be different,” she muttered as she stood up.
She wore flowy pajamas and her bare white feet touched the floor.
Her wavy hair had grown past her shoulders.
The fire burning in the fireplace reflected her pure skin and beautiful face.
Her eyes shone like marbles.
She looked out the window noticing how few lights brightened the dark sky.
These dark, dull nights have been the norm for the last few years.
Three years ago, the Empire started a war with Geore.
It happened not too long after she had returned to the Capital from the neutral territory.
The Empire’s army marched to the North without hesitation, taking over Valencia.
The young noblemen were motivated by Duke Claude’s unstoppable strength and dynamism.
They went to the battlefield and the Academy stopped operating, delaying graduation.
Lia was able to stay in the Capital because of it, but the Marchioness went back to Cosoar with Kieran.
As Marquis Gliad’s whereabouts were unknown, the people in their territory needed a strong heir to look to.
“Please have tea with me tomorrow, Lia.
When will this long war end”
Lia frowned after she remembered the promise she had made to Rosina while sitting by the window.
“What is she going to make me wear this time,” Lia said aloud to herself.
After Kieran had gone to Cosoar, Rosina summoned her to the Palace at any given moment.
They swam together and at times played tennis.
Lia finally learned proper horseback riding.
Lia tried to avoid these get-togethers by claiming she had to care for Eli, Claude’s horse.
But Rosina continued to treat Canillia like a sister.
That wasn’t all.
Rosina enjoyed secretly dressing Lia in woman’s clothes.
As a child, Lia far more enjoyed chess than dolls, so she was both fascinated and tired by Rosina, who, in this respect, was similar to Pepe.
Lia saw that the others looked at her oddly.
How could Rosina’s future brother-in-law be her favorite companion Each day brought more fodder for the rumor mill.
Lia closed the window and got settled in bed.
“Miss!” Pepe called as she ran to Lia.
“What What happened”
“The graduation date is set! The Academy is opening up again.
A messenger from the Academy just came.”
“He said the war might be ending.”
Pepe smiled brightly with tears in her eyes.
It was something she found out after the fact, but Pepe’s younger sibling had gone to the war at the orders of the Baron he served.
Pepe became very thin from worry over these few years.
Lia got teary as she saw Pepe’s reaction.
“That’s wonderful news, Pepe.
Your brother will definitely come back.”
“Miss,” Pepe said with a sniffle.
As Lia hugged her, Pepe sobbed.
If the war ends, would the Duke come back
The newspaper listed casualties from the front lines every day.
And a few months ago, everyone in the Empire was saddened to see the list take up the entire front page.
The Empire successfully shelled Geore’s Eaton, but the Empire army also sustained numerous casualties and ended up retreating.
It was the largest and most costly battle since the start of the war.
That day, for the first time, Lia prayed to God for everyone to return safely.
That the Duke remain safe.
“Marilyn Shelby was seen in Louvre.
I thought she’d become someone’s maid, but in Louvre What a girl,” gossiped Isabella, the gentrified wife of Count Rosen.
She scoffed at Marilyn’s shameful and forward attempt to marry the Duke, only to face rejection.
Isabella was using more and more vile language lately.
“Well,” Isabella prattled, “she is a young lady of the Marquis family so she’d never become a maid.
She’s just lucky her entire family hadn’t been executed.”
Yes, Princess Rosina had punished the Shelbys but all the while Rosina remembered that she and Marilyn had been playmates from a young age.
Rosina had once considered Marilyn her favorite.
So, when Isabella laughed loudly, Rosina and the other noble ladies did not join in, but conversed about other topics.
Rosina finished her last bite of lemon curd pie and smiled as she called a maid.
“Is Sir Canillian yet to arrive”
“He’s waiting in the drawing room.”
“What Why didn’t you tell me earlier”
Rosina’s face lit up.
At this, the ladies were torn from their conversation.
They looked at each other.
“Then, shall we be dismissed”
“Then let’s be off.”
“Could you Go on.”
The ladies aimed to exit casually, but were struck by how they were encouraged to leave.
Rosina could see what they were thinking but didn’t bother to refute their misinterpretation of the events.
She was simply getting anxious to show Canillia, who was getting prettier each day, to the Duke.
Rosina, bored by the ladies, sent them off and hurried to meet Canillia.
The maids took note of Rosina’s excitement as they bowed before exiting.
Rosina parted the white velvet curtain trimmed with gold to find Canillia looking out the window into the garden.
Her honey-colored hair was in an upsweep.
She was wearing a red riding vest with white jodhpurs and held a thin riding crop.