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About 20 years ago, it was commonplace for nobility to get divorced based on their whims. By the time Elisha was born, Count Laurent Lor and his wife had also divorced.
Shortly after her birth, her father abandoned her mother. The old kingdom had collapsed, and he needed a wife who was of an imperial aristocratic family. Her mother took Elisha to the monastery.
She said, ‘For people like your father, a wife is like an outfit; it’s easy to change.’
Elisha acknowledged that fact without much sympathy. Growing up and living with her mother at the Mugwort Monastery was all she knew. Her mother grew sickly from a lung disease, and by the time Elisha was six years old, her mother had passed away. And she was left all alone in this world.
She continued to live in the monastery, and although she was lonely, she was able to eat and study. She lived, thinking that her father just didn’t exist.
‘If I just think of myself as an orphan, this is a life worth living.’
When her life was ruined by the father she never knew, her feelings were full of fathomless resentment and detestation.
‘Now that there are 30,000 gold coins to repay, I’m suddenly your daughter?’
The ducal house of Cartier was a family that prospered throughout the empire. From the most expensive real estate in the capital to the smallest shop in the countryside, there was no locale where their influence didn’t touch.
They were a family of greedy snakes. A family that consumed everything.
The family’s eldest son, Jacob, was the one who captured Elisha.
‘You are now the last remaining blood of Lord Lor. Congratulations on becoming the Countess. First, sign here. You’ll need to pay for the war your father had caused.”
Elisha sat down on the floor haphazardly— bound by her cursed blood and bad luck — and the succession ceremony to succeed the Count seat took place right then. There, Elisha became the Countess with nothing to her name but a preposterous amount of debt.
Elisha was 14 years old.
Elisha was confined to a corner of the vast Cartier estate where women, like Elisha, who had become indentured servants, were brought in.
Women in her situation were called ‘collaterals.’
All of the women belonged to Jacob, the eldest son of the Cartier family. Jacob was their first master, and if he died, ownership would be transferred to another member of the family. In truth, they were their slaves.
So Elisha turned 20 without hope or expectation. Somehow, she had managed to live for another year.
‘I’ve really survived hell….but how long can I endure? Will I just become like the others who disappeared without a word?’
Elisha lived poorly in her monastery and had to rely on herself. To earn a couple of pennies, she made her own way by learning skills from transcribing to sewing. Her lace and embroidery were especially popular in the monastery and continued to be useful in the Cartier mansion.
‘That’s why I happen to be alive, but it’s not enough to extend my life for long.’
There wasn’t enough work, so she kept herself busy with laundry and cleaning of the main mansion. She worked like an ant.
And at the age of 20, her life was like a flame of a candle in the wind.
One day, the twenty-year-old Elisha went to pray at a small temple. That day, Elisha had an ominous omen.
‘Oye, a person fell here!’
Elisha fell in front of the temple as she passed by a slippery icy road. She wasn’t injured, but she had a full day ahead. The next day, on New Year’s Day, she got up early and started working.
Her fall might have been a sign of misfortune. Since that year, Elisha’s life had fallen even further.
The twenty-year-old Elisha was broke. Once her property was stolen, it was inevitable that she would be sold.
A distraught Elisha, who was on the verge of being sold to a madame, seized the head maid and begged:
‘I am good at embroidery, I can speak and write foreign languages, and I am good at calculating sums. Please, I’ll do anything.’
The maid, who had been her supervisor, contemplated for a while. After she had gathered her thoughts, she told Elisha to follow her and took her to meet someone. The person she faced was someone she had never wanted to meet again.
Jacob. He was the eldest son of the Cartier family and the one who imprisoned Elisha here.
‘It’s been a while. Have you gotten prettier? Let me see. Is she a virgin?’
As if he was doing her great kindness, he entrusted Elisha to organize his books.
Jacob had a dark heart to covet and sell Elisha several times. Not knowing that, Elisha desperately did the job she was given.
Her first misfortune came quickly.
‘My w-wife. I don’t know what’s going on.’
‘You said that noble seduced Carola’s husband? A bitch like you should be punished!’
One day, Jacob’s wife, Carola, came in at a menacingly slow pace and made the maids hold down Elisha as she smeared a strange liquid on her face. It was so unbearable that Elisha screamed and rolled on the floor in pain until she passed out.
‘My face…… It’s burning……. Somebody please give me water … Please I’ll take…….’
After a few days, she woke up with an agonizing scar that covered the entire right side of her face.
Her beautiful white skin became like melted wax; a blue eye became a glass egg; her blonde hair became dull and brittle. After that day, her life lost meaning. After seeing Elisha’s skeletal state, Jacob exploded.
‘What happened to you? Before I went on my business trip, I should have eaten you earlier.’
It was by mere chance that Elisha’s mathematical ability was discovered, thereby prolonging her life.
When she lived in the monastery, seeing Elisha having soaked up math concepts like a sponge, the Archbishop had told her that she was a genius. That talent of hers lifted her debts in the face of her death.
Seeing the books Elisha had completed, Jacob said with relish:
‘Well, they say accounting should be done by ugly bitches like you. There is a myth that half-hearted things run away with money because of an affair. I’ll let you keep working.’
At that time, she felt fortunate that she extended her lifespan, even though she struggled with a deep despair. Even though she knew that her life was torture, she had no choice but to keep going.
‘If you make a mistake, it’s death. I can’t sell you to a brothel, so your life is even cheaper.’
Elisha was competent. In her third year, she became Jacob’s secretary, and in her fourth, she became Jacob’s assistant housekeeper.
Elisha carried secret notes from the spy network at Jacob’s orders, and she was also a maid to Jacob’s wife. Elisha’s formal position was a housekeeper, but she did whatever that was asked of her. Truthfully, she was closer to an errand boy.
Suddenly, strange rumors about her began to circulate.
‘They say Sir Jacob, the eldest son of the Cartier family, is in love with a disfigured woman!’
‘He has a perverted hobby like that? People’s nightly amusements are truly surprising!’
Elisha was known as the clown pitied by Jacob. Thousands of people mocked and spit on her while they saluted him.
It was almost a miracle that Elisha wasn’t forced into such a situation. There were many beauties around Jacob, and so Elisha’s existence didn’t need to be touched.
What Elisha’s life taught her was that every Cartier family member was the same.
The Cartiers, who had all the wealth in the world, would decide a successor, not through birthright, but through a series of tests and trials. Only one person could win and inherit everything, in order not to divide their cumulative wealth. As a result, there was a fierce competition for the head of the house.
Elisha was well-known as Jacob’s confidant, so many members of the Cartier clan threatened her.
She was sometimes beaten and nearly murdered by the successor candidates, who held grudges against Jacob.
Shortly before her death, Elisha was so miserable that she couldn’t even entertain the thoughts of what was right. She was so impoverished that morality wasn’t something she could afford.