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“What if someone takes care of our debt and saves us? A very powerful and strong person.”
Freckles’ fairytale words were utterances that she would have laughed at in the past. But now, those very same words lit a fire in Elisha’s heart.
‘After all, I can’t get out of here, even if I die and rise from the dead, again.’
Elisha touched her neck where there was a small tattoo. It was a seal indicating that the Duke of Cartier owned her. As long as this existed, she would be followed to the ends of the earth.
Elisha once saw the end of a collateral caught running away when she was 16 years old. Two years after she ran away, she was eventually caught again.
‘Oh, no. I’m scared… … .’
She had never seen such a terrible and cruel death before or since. Several times she had nightmares.
‘What was my debt before I died? I had a lot, but… … . there was no way to pay it back.’
It was only a form of slavery, with the excuse of owing the people of the Cartier family. However, that form alone was enough to crush and destroy a person’s life. Elisha earned 100 gold coins a month, working as a secretary and aide to Jacob.
It was a huge salary, but…… It didn’t matter anyway. Since she had never really been paid the money with the intention of writing off the debt, it was outrageously not enough to get rid of her debt of 30,000 gold coins.
‘In the end, it’s money. Even if I’m the Countess… … . .in the end, without any money, you can easily become a slave,’
All of the women who became collaterals met bad ends. Even Elisha, who worked harder and suffered more than the other collaterals in her past life was met with a miserable dog-like death similarly to the others –who at least in the meantime did not die by struggling like her.
‘Will I end up living like that in this life, too?’
Becoming Jacob’s lackey would prolong her life by several years. But it didn’t mean anything.
Elisha bit her lips. There was nothing different from her previous life.
‘But now…….. I know some of the secrets and information of this family.’
Anyone interested in the duchy would covet her information. In her previous life, Elisha had considerable insights into the hidden secrets of the Cartier family.
‘I need to find a person who has a grudge against Jacob…. a person who has the considerable power to deal with him…. and a person who will pay him my ransom of 30,000 gold coins… … ,’
The answer was obvious.
‘Besides……. Lucerne is the only one inside the family who didn’t screw with me in my previous life.”
Elisha recalled Lucerne’s face.
‘Can I persuade that man?’
Elisha’s stomach twisted and turned as she recalled Lucerne’s reputation. There was a reason people were afraid of him.
‘But he is known as a person who was fond of his subordinates and would reward them. What if I begged him to use the information I got in my last life as a bait?’
Lucerne had trained famous knights, regardless of their status or gender. The Knights of the Black Lion under Lucerne were celebrated throughout the empire.
‘Because he was also considered as someone of low-status.’
Elisha swept her hair to the side, trying to organize her thoughts,
‘The information I have is explosive……. it will set off all the battles of this family’s war of succession for the head of the household. Maybe such knowledge could turn that man into a family heir. If I persuade him easily, I could even make him pay my debt…’
Elisha breathed evenly.
The only problem was just……
‘That man is dangerous. He is a man who makes plans to smash his family by joining the imperial family’s side just because he can’t be the Duke.’
However, no matter how many times she thought about it, there was no other way. If she didn’t want to die in debt like this, she had to throw herself onto Lucerne; there was no other way… … .
‘In the end, if Jacob will still be alive, I’ll never be able to escape him—instead, I have to approach his enemy and archrival.’
“Are you really okay? In the last few days, you keep writing things down… … . . Huh, what is this, did you even sketch a maze garden?”
In just a few days with a short pencil, Elisha wrote down so much in a notebook that there was barely any room left. If one looked at it closely, indeed, it looked like a map of a labyrinth. Elisha closed the notebook and hid it.
She remembered. Freckles’ real name was Lottie.
“If you seduce someone, you’re not selfish. He doesn’t take responsibility for women; he is just an inactive coward. In the past, I thought you were foolish, but now I know you’re one of us who tried to escape this horrible situation.”
Elisha knew the future of Freckles, Lottie. Always on the prowl for new women, she would seduce Jacob. Lottie would become Jacob’s girlfriend and would finally leave this small villa.
‘It was a long time ago that we were close. Don’t pretend you know me, I’m ashamed to have known you.’
Some people change with the tide of hardship. Lottie was such a person. Once Lottie became a favorite of Jacob, she pretended not to know Elisha and laughed at her, who had become ugly.
‘I understand. At that time, I was a shabby pathetic woman who covered my whole body with a cloak and only looked for protective shade amidst the hardship I was going through.’
Due to gastritis, Elisha, in her previous life, could not eat properly. Her face was increasingly dull like a corpse. She had always lived in anxiety, barely holding to her nerves. Her expression looked as cold as ice, and there was no smile.
Jacob called Elisha a witch. Later, following Jacob’s example, everyone called Elisha, the Witch.
‘You must’ve been looking down at me like that because you started eating good food and wearing fancy clothes.’
But it was all meaningless.
Lottie lived just like that for a three mere months when she was living within Carola’s grasp, and one day, Carola tightened her grip on Lottie, and she died as food for wild dogs.
No matter how many women there were, Carola was the only wife Jacob had, and no one could match her, who was armed with her narcissism, her crazy bitch-like madness, and wealthy parents.
‘Yes, in the end, no one gets away.’
Still, Elisha was saddened by Lottie’s death. That was her last memory of her before her untimely death.
“Do you understand? Remember what I told you—If I disappear one day, you can take all my stuff. I secretly collect some silver coins. Under my bed, there’s an empty space beneath the floorboard. Take it.”
It seemed like turning back time also got her spirit to return to what it was like in the past.
Before her demise, Elisha was always on the verge of dying, invariably numb to emotions– let alone compassion or sympathy. However, after turning back in time, Elisha’s personality returned to its moral, empathic, and ordinary state; additionally with her regression came calmness and maturity.
“What is it? You are acting like someone who will die tomorrow.”
With just those words, Elisha turned her head. This favour was all she could do for her.
‘Tonight, let’s approach Lucerne.’
Luckily, there was little sewing work. Elisha quit working early, feeling her eyes blur. She waited for everyone to fall asleep without wrapping herself in a blanket and waited for the dawn to come.