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Master of the house

“Cursed?” I repeated, shifting my gaze to the amulet. The expression I wanted to make wasn’t a simple one, so I imagined being found out and eliminated right there and then, rendering all the work I had done up to that point void.

Remington’s next words were spoken in a softer tone, and I knew I had succeeded in painting on my face a look of pale fright.

“He obtained this knowing what it was...didn’t he? I can’t imagine a merchant such as he trading goods without having full knowledge of them.”

Without speaking, I reached out with an open palm. Taking the cue, Remington placed the amulet into my hand. I nodded slowly, just once—enough to answer his question, and convey that the possibilities of this issue troubled me greatly. For the record, it did not trouble me at all.

“How would you prefer to manage this?” he asked.

I closed my fist around the amulet. “What would you do in my place?” I asked instead, “Would you kill him?”

His silence answered the question—and it was necessary to ask, even though I needed not have asked it to know what he would have done. It was after all what he did in my last life: without hesitation, Remington had ordered for my execution; and in this life, he had also cancelled his arrangements with Ellerie despite their many years of friendship and relationship. Remington would rather eliminate an innocent man by mistake than accidentally set free a guilty one. Ha. Well, at least he didn’t lie—should I be saying that?

A knave is a knave, no matter how polished he looks.

“What will you do, if I do nothing?” I asked again, now looking up at him.

He didn’t answer that verbally either, instead lowering his gaze.

“There was always a possibility, from the moment I stepped into your castle with my luggage, that this amulet would end up in your hands,” I said, “I dare not let my sentiments get the better of me, but I would like to have, with him first.”

Remington nodded. This seemed to be the exact response he was hoping for. “I’ll accompany you.”

Arula passed that night, safe and sound, and returned with us to Remington’s castle, as matters regarding Ellerie were not yet settled. Ellerie’s incident served as a spark, igniting a fire that had been waiting under the earth for years. The maid Amelia—my first sacrifice—had memories of stealing Ellerie’s core, but she was expectedly confused, unable to recall ever having the knowledge or will to do so. No one would believe her when she denied having the intention to hurt her mistress, especially since she didn’t deny having actually done it.

Alas, I would be confused too if that happened to me. Not really.

Anyhow, in her frenzy, Amelia decided—as any human being would—to bring down with her a chain of other servants and staff members that she did not like. About a dozen people suddenly found themselves involved with Ellerie’s incident, none of whom actually knew how to steal magical cores. Being the tyrant that he was, Remington did not care at all about the innocence of those he had absolutely no sentiment for. He sent them all to the dungeons, keeping them in separate cells lest they should conspire against him.

I’d said, from the first day, that it was Remington himself who created a competitive atmosphere among his staff, had I not?

Now, Ellerie’s closest servants were all sent to the dungeons—without me having to lift a finger. In fact, I only heard of these events when I passed by the staff gossiping in hallways; and this was a good sign, because it meant I was not suspected in the least of being related to the incident.

After the night Remington “revealed” the curse of the amulet to me, I purposefully grew quiet, ditching my semi-smirk for a solemn expression, keeping to myself in the library more than ever before. I would either be reading or looking out the window whenever Remington came in. Without a word, he would sit beside me for a while, sometimes bringing in maps and documents that he would have worked with in his own study otherwise. Each time he walked in, I would acknowledge him with a glance, then let a thoughtful somberness cloud over my eyes—and make sure that he saw—before returning to whatever I was doing. He never said much, for two reasons: Remington was never a talkative man to begin with, and he knew very well he was in no position to console anyone on eve of betrayal.

Meanwhile, I wrote a letter to my father requesting a meeting. I didn’t specify what it was I wanted to talk about, but he replied promptly, keeping in mind my subtle warning to him right before my departure, and cordially invited both Remington and I to his home.

When the day came, the two of us traveled with a few of Remington’s bodyguards. As we arrived at the door, he gave me a look of concern, and in response, I gave him a half-hearted smile. Remington, my father, and I then entered the meeting room, as Remington claimed that we had to make haste—skipping all the pleasantries with this claim. Perhaps he thought that I didn’t want to spend more time there than what was necessary, or perhaps he was simply uncomfortable with the sight of me being in my own home.

Either way, I began by putting the amulet on the table.

“Did you give this to her?” Remington asked calmly.

“I did,” my poor father replied, quite bewildered.

“I found that it was cursed when she finally used it,” Remington continued, “Were you aware?”

“What? No,” my father said, genuinely alarmed. He glanced at me, looking for help, but I did not meet his gaze.

“You have a good reputation, sir,” Remington said, “I do not believe that you would have something in your possession if you did not first know what exactly it is.”

“Well…” He looked at me again, and I could have sworn that the thought of me being the one who cursed it occurred to him right then. It was at that moment that I returned my father’s gaze with a cold one of my own—undoubtedly normal in Remington’s eyes, from the way I had been behaving. But to the older man, it was instead another warning, a reminder of what I had said to him.

Of course, I wasn’t there to let Remington slaughter him in the meeting room.

“My lord,” I said to Remington then, “May I have a word with my father in private?”

“Of course.”

With that said, the blueblood stood up and took his leave.

“Larissa, what—” My father began to protest as soon as Remington was outside.

I put a finger to my lips. “I didn’t come to grill you about the cursed amulet,” I told him quietly, quite certain that Remington was actually right outside the door, listening in. “If you wanted me dead so as to remove all threat of your power, I don’t want to know; if you wanted to take down the most powerful blueblood across the land, I don’t want to know that either.”

He fell silent then, waiting for me to state my true purpose.

I stood up and walked to him. Upon reaching him, I reached forward for the pendant he wore around his neck—the symbol of the patriarch. Granted, it wasn’t that the pendant made him master of the house, but it symbolized that he was. I lifted it out of his shirt, exposing it to the rest of the room, empty except for us two.

“Lord Remington would not hesitate to have you killed if he is convinced that you are up to no good, father, and I’m afraid he kind of is,” I said, my casual smirk on full display. As a reminder that we were not really alone, I nodded to the door, indicating that Remington was perhaps right outside.

The patriarch then removed the pendant necklace from himself and gave it to me. “Take this,” he said, opting reasonably for his life over power—my father, after all, was an honest man, and he cared nothing for power. “I will continue to run the business, since that can hardly be transferred in a day, but you are now the mistress of the house. Do with it what you will, just...please try to convince Lord Remington to spare my life.”

Truth be told, the pendant would have been mine eventually anyway. I only acquired it now for my next purpose.

Because, elementally, being an heir was not the same as being the actual head of the house.

“Are you sure about this?” I asked, feigning concern in my voice but not bothering with my expression.

“I made a mistake, it is only natural that I fix it.”

That mistake was naturally not referring to the amulet.

Thus, I put on the pendant necklace.

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