Thank you to raw provider: angelstars5 and proofreader: matindi of SRC
Elisha was studying the painting.
It was a large art piece that covered the wall above the stairs on the second floor. It depicted numerous snakes wriggling around each other.
“What are you looking at, come on, bring me the finished sewing!”
The maid shouted at her, pulling her out of her reverie.
Elisha’s shoulders moved with her deep, but quiet sigh. She walked away from the scene with stitching and lace hanging off her arm.
Arriving in the maid’s room, Elisha held out the cloth she was holding.
“This is the laced dress you’ve asked for.” Stitching layers of lace on a dress was difficult work. She was able to receive one silver coin more than the usual pay.
“Let’s see······. This is our lady’s clothes. You’ve done it right, I’ll put it in the ledger.”
The maid looked carefully over the clothes and nodded her head.
“Now go do the laundry. Work hard and pay off every penny. If you take a rest under the pretext of being sick again, you’ll only accumulate more debt. You should always be grateful for our generosity!”
Elisha usually replied to the maid’s chastisements with a caustic “Thank you.”
But today, the girl was different.
Elisha touched her needle-pricked hand and donned a peaceful visage.
Elisha agreed promptly and headed to the laundry behind the mansion.
A girl was working on washing a mountain of clothes piled up behind her.
Elisha recognized her face. She was a girl who came in a few months ago and was called, “Freckles,” because of her cute face and freckles.
“Are you okay? You’ve been looking weak lately. I thought you were dying.”
“I’m all right. It doesn’t hurt anymore,”
Elisha replied as she silently sorted out the laundry, which accumulated all the dirty things in this mansion. It was their plight to have to deal with the terrible stench.
“It’s hard to die. Doing this will help me reduce my debt.”
Freckles patted her on the shoulder and asked,
“You said your name is Elisha, right? How much debt do you owe?”
Elisha answered expressionlessly while shaking out the laundry.
“30,000 gold coins.”
One silver coin could sustain a whole commoner’s family for a day. Ten silver coins were equal to one gold coin.
Out of all the people in the mansion, Elisha had the most debt.
“Eeeek! That’s awful. Even if you worked your whole life, you wouldn’t be able to pay that back. What kind of family did you hail from that you are so much in debt?”
Thirty thousand gold coins could purchase a small parcel of land.
“It’s reparations from war.”
“My father injured a knight from the Cartier family, and a war broke out on the pretext of that. Of course, we lost.”
Instead of her father, who died in the war, the responsibility of compensating — including the costs of the war — fell on Elisha
Freckles, who was listening to Elisha, duly nodded.
“So, you’re an aristocrat.”
“I used to be the daughter of a Count. Now, I’m the Countess.”
Freckles gawked with fresh eyes at the marvel of a noblewoman— namely Elisha— doing laundry alongside her humble self.
“Is it because you’re from a noble family….? You are pretty. With plentiful blonde hair and clear white skin. It’s a shame you are doing something like this.”
Elisha wanted to laugh.
She was rather grateful that she could pay off her debt this way, or she would have had to sell her body.
“I owe 2,000 gold coins. At least my situation is better than yours. My father ran a small business, but he got addicted to gambling, so I was sold here,” said Freckles evenly. “Even if we work here all day long, we’ll only earn one silver coin. Meh, why didn’t I kill him when I had the chance?”
“When can we pay off our debts? Have you heard of someone paying off their debt?”
Elisha finally looked away from her task and met Freckles’ eyes.
Elisha spoke calmly, “I can’t pay back my debt, even if I worked my whole life and died.”
“My debt. I said it is 30,000 gold coins. It would take me 821 years to pay it back. That’s without dying. That’s how long it would take me to pay back everything, without rest or sickness.”
Elisha clarified with repose. Moreover, her debt, after all this time, did not decrease.
At the end of every year, the cost of food, clothing, medicine, and traveling to the temple for prayer were calculated.
The sum was revealed all at once, and it was all added to her debt.
“At the end of the year, when our costs of living are added, sometimes my earnings turn negative.”
Freckles’ face turned white.
“Then why are we working here?”
It was a very obvious question with a very obvious answer.
The Cartier family took the weakest of them all and squeezed out every last drop of their usefulness.
Elisha spoke softly:
“The debt is just a formality—an excuse.”
“Usually, after destroying a family, they spare only a young woman to take responsibility for the family’s debt and bring them here. Then, they write up a memorandum to transfer all of the property to them and make you sign it. No matter how small, poor, or petty your family is. Being here means they have already seized all of your assets. For example, land, rights, patents, trades, or commercial associations.”
In Elisha’s case, it was the fertile territory of the Count.
“And the name of a living person is used for more than you think. If you are nobility······· a title is another thing they can bargain with.”
“Yes, in the future… it will be rather eventful.”
Freckles’ countenance turned paler.
“Transfer of property can only happen after the age of 19, so they give us a little bit of work and food until then. After that, our survival is based on our luck.”
Freckles was here for several months now. She bit her lips.
“Isn’t there any way? What if someone pays off our debts and saves us….. A mighty and strong man.”
“This is the Cartier family; plenty of powerful people come in and out of here. What if we were to seduce….”
Elisha knew why Freckles was saying that and clinging to such a dream.
There was a legend amongst the women here.
Jacob, the eldest son of the Cartier family, awarded a knight with an indentured servant from the Cartier’s mansion.
“It is said the knight made a great contribution·······. That’s the story.”
Jacob tried to reward the knight with gold, silver, all sorts of treasures—even beauties—but the knight only wanted one of the collateral servants trapped within the Cartier mansion.
For a long time, he had been in love with a woman who did the laundry here, as they were doing now.
It was said that the woman was now happily living with the knight as his wife – what a groundless story.
“It won’t be easy.”
Elisha answered shortly, standing up and stretching.
Numerous clothes hanging on the clothesline were fluttering in the wind. Elisha began to walk between the laundry lines, ready to assist Freckles. But Freckles’ gaze was fixed in the distance.
“Yes, for example ····.”
“That kind of person.”
Then, there was the sound of a carriage running in the distance. The back of the mansion was so quiet that they could hear all the voices chattering in the distance.
Elisha approached the road with a dry cloth as if possessed by something.
“Come with me, Elisha!”
An eye-catching black carriage was approaching from afar.
It was built with the finest ebony wood, finished with a glossy glaze, and decorated with gilded gold ornaments. The carriage’s presence on the dark forest road was heavy. There was a flag.
-‘There’s no way a man like that would look at debtors like us. Besides, what would he take us for?’
In her previous life, that was what Elisha said to Freckles when this same scene occurred for the first time. But this time it was different. Elisha didn’t say that this time.
Because she had her memories.
Hot tears flowed out from Elisha’s eyes.
“What’s—are you crying? What’s wrong? What happened?”
“Exactly······ you’re right.”
“That’s right. Yes. You weren’t mistaken.”
Elisha wept in sorrow. What she had been going through until now was nothing compared to what she would have to face in the future.
‘All those things really did happen.’
It was the third day since Elisha had turned back time.