It had taken Countess Viviana several days to reply to her first request. But this time it was different. Within hours of Elena’s second letter, Michael returned.
“My Lady! Countess Viviana has requested to meet you soon!”
Elena was quite satisfied with herself.
“But what did you say that suddenly made her change her mind?”
“Well…That’s top secret.”
Elena didn’t say anything further. In any case, Michael was more pleased than curious that Countess Viviana’s high-nosed attitude had changed so quickly. On his first visit he had been ignored by the servants there, but on the second he was treated like a valued guest. He wondered what caused the change, but he put his trust in Elena.
“Send someone to Countess Viviana and ask her if she can see me today.”
“Yes, My Lady!”
Although Stella wanted meet soon, an appointment this same day would still be difficult to secure. Michael followed Elena’s orders any objection. That was how much confidence he had in her.
‘If this is what she orders me…there must be a reason.’
This time Michael did not visit Countess Viviana herself, but rushed a servant to deliver Elena’s request.
Night fell, and the servant finally returned with the message that Countess Viviana would see her immediately. Elena prepared to leave despite the lateness of the hour. With only a few more days left before the social gathering, she needed Stella’s support as soon as possible.
“I’ll be back.”
“Yes. Take care, My Lady.”
Michael saw her off as she boarded the carriage.
Stella had proposed to meet at a fancy salon called “The Secret.” Elena knew of it. As its name suggested, it had a closed membership system and was favored by high-ranking nobles as a place to have private conversations.
The swift carriage bearing her towards her destination halted.
“We have arrived, My Lady.”
The coachman opened the door and she stepped outside. She glanced at the sign bearing the words “The Secret” before entering the establishment. The atmosphere inside was gloomy, and the corridors narrow. Seeing as she didn’t meet anyone in the hallway, it seemed to be constructed so that visitors wouldn’t run into each other easily. A faint smell of tobacco smoke scented the air. As she followed the dark corridor, she finally came across a clerk standing behind a desk.
“Do you have a reservation?”
“Who did you come to see?”
“I’m here to see Countess Viviana.”
The clerk gestured to Elena as if he had done this a hundred times before.
“Come this way, please.”
The employee seemed exceptionally experienced and meticulous. She knew it was a secretive establishment, but it there was more thorough attention to detail than she expected. The clerk guided her inside the depths of the building, finally arriving at an antique door which opened with only the slightest sound of friction. Inside the room was middle-aged woman seated rigidly in her chair. After Elena stepped inside, the clerk closed the door behind her. The two women stared at each other.
It was Elena who first shattered the silence.
“How do you do? I am Elena Blaise.”
“I know. You are the most talked-about person these days.”
Her tone was harsh, and her gaze was full of thorns.
“Let me ask you straightforwardly. What you wrote to me…How did you know?”
Elena couldn’t honestly answer that question.
“The question is not how I learned the secret of Countess Viviana, but whether or not I tell someone about it. Am I wrong? “
The letter Elena had sent to Stella was brief.
[I know about your hidden son.]
Before Stella became a countess and a leading figure of society, she lay with a man as a young woman and had secretly given birth to a son. Stella’s parents thoroughly covered up the incident, and Countess Viviana had married without anyone else having knowledge of it. When the truth was revealed in Elena’s previous life, Countess Viviana’s reputation had plummeted. However, that was not the end of the story. There was further tragedy after that.
“Are you threatening me?”
Elena answered unblinkingly.
“You will do something for me in exchange for my secrecy.”