The grand duke was silent while the aide beside him was too dumbfounded to even speak.
Usually, children would be too frightened to see Tristan, the grand duke of Valentine, because of his bad temper and mischievous pranks.
‘Other children would cry and run away, but she willingly came over to him in person.
What kind of life did the young miss have…
Dwaynes expression was sympathetic.
[Good to see you again.]
Aria held the card tightly with both hands and grinned.
She wasnt used to smiling.
However, when she remembered Diana, Betty, and the other servants who took care of her, a genuine smile blossomed on her lips.
She had never done it before.
The mere thought of their kindness made her insides feel warm and fuzzy.
As she smiled brightly, the grand duke laughed in a teasing manner.
“You missed me, so you came to me while riding on the hounds back”
Honestly, she hadnt seen the grand duke ever since their first encounter.
So she wondered where he was and what he was doing.
Though she wasnt that curious.
“I see,” he said as his lips twisted into a wry smile.
The prince had never spoken such words to the grand duke, so he was quite surprised.
But hearing these kinds of things wasnt as bad as he thought.
“So what, you want to play with me”
“What do you want”
Aria didnt know how to answer him.
‘I should have thought of a purpose before coming here…
They had no choice but to stare at each other.
The grand duke had never played with a child before, and Aria had never played as a child either.
“Should I play with you like how I play with my son” the grand duke asked, tapping his red lips with his finger.
“Please reconsider, Your Grace! Its not a normal game for a child to play!”
Dwayne, who had been silent for a while, interfered with the conversation.
“The lady came from outside the border.
Besides, I heard that she had just recovered from a fever a few days ago.”
‘What kind of game do they usually play to make him so nervous
Aria pondered for a moment.
‘I cant even imagine them playing like a normal family.
If she had to imagine, they would probably play a violent game with blood splashing all over.
“She was sick as soon as she came to the grand duchy.
She looks weaker than an insect.”
The grand duke finally lowered and released Aria back to the ground.
He stared at her, curious as to how she was still alive after all this time.
Lloyd had never stared at her like that.
Neither did Diana and Betty…
“So, youre all better now”
Aria nodded without hesitation.
[I want to play with the wolves here.]
“If youre only here to play with the wolves, why are you here Tch—! Kids are quite erratic these days,” he muttered discontently, clicking his tongue with an unpleasant expression.
I didnt come to see you in the first place.
Arias eyes darted around the room while trying to figure out the perfect reply.
Then, she began to write on the card.
[Id like to stay next to father.]
At that moment, she hurriedly covered her mouth with her tiny hand.
The air was filled with cigarette smoke, and it almost made her cough.
Fortunately, she was mindful enough not to cough in front of the grand duke.
‘Ah, I forgot about the smoke because it had always been part of my daily routine in my previous life.
Her throat burned.
As she held back her cough, tears began to accumulate around her eyes—Dwayne, who noticed Arias condition, whispered into the grand dukes ear.
“Your Grace, I dont think inhaling secondhand smoke is good for the lady.
Furthermore, shes already weak.
There are also a lot of documents thats due today.”
“Why dont you tell her to come back some other time.”
“Forget it,” he said, extinguishing his smoke in the provided ashtray.
Then he leaned on the chair and spoke, “Ventilate the air.”
Dwayne quickly opened the windows to ventilate the room.
The smoke quickly escaped, but the breeze made the curtains flutter.
Aria unconsciously wrapped her arms around her trembling shoulders due to the cold wind.
The grand duke stared at her.
“You sure have a lot of needs,” he said as he got up, took off his coat, and dropped it on Arias head.
Out of reflex, she unconsciously dropped the card she was holding to the ground.
Aria got buried inside the coat and she struggled for a while before she was able to poke her face out of the thick cloth.
Then, she looked at the grand duke.
He had taken the card that said, [Id like to stay next to father.] and strangely, he put it in his pocket.
‘Why is he taking that
The coat was so huge that she had to keep pulling just to prevent it from dropping down and obstructing her face.
“Then, just breathe well next to me,” the grand duke said.
He made a request instead of playing with her.
Aria wondered why he mentioned about breathing at all.
‘Im always breathing, obviously.
Because of that, she was now conscious of it and it suddenly became more difficult to breathe.
‘Inhale and exhale…
Aria started counting the intervals of each breath with her fingers.
The grand duke chuckled since she looked like she was having a hard time breathing.
“Youll run out of breath if you keep that up.”
Aria thought he was unfair.
She was breathing just fine until he pointed it out.
“Its rare to see Your Grace so relaxed as if theres no more work,” Dwayne said, bringing back a stack of papers and placing them all on his desk.
“These are the documents youll need to approve by today.”
“I need some time to breathe.”
“Your Grace can survive even if you stop breathing for a while.”
“Are you telling me to keep working even if I cant breathe”
“Not at all.”
The grand duke kept acting as if he was dying, but surprisingly, he continued to skim through the documents and handled them in good order.
Aria had nothing to do, so being the curious girl she was, she stood closer to the grand duke and peeked at the documents he was reading while stroking the hounds head.
It was a document related to Viscount Cavendish.
The report said that all the envoys who had been dispatched to the Grand Duchy of Valentine were dead.
Although people feared the grand dukes power, they were more afraid that the devils curse would spread.
‘So this was that incident.
Aria recalled Viscount Cavendishs eerie smile…
“The people that left for the grand duchy had died.
It could have been an accident, but the grand duke was willing to cooperate when I asked him to give me a huge amount of compensation.
I guess he isnt such a big deal after all!”
Viscount Cavendish had argued that the vassals were sick because of Valentines curse.
The viscount was actually on the verge of ruin.
But thanks to the grand dukes compensation money, he was able to pay off his debts and live a lavish life.
“They werent allowed entry into our territory, but they still barged in and got themselves cursed…” Dwayne said.
“What about the investigation” The grand duke asked.
“There are traces of fire in the forest.
I couldnt gather more details other than that.”
I should just kill him.”
Aria was taken back at his cruel words.
“This much money should be enough to kill him a hundred times.”
“Itll be even more of a hassle if you murder people carelessly.”
“Is that something I should care about”
“Of course not,” Dwayne replied with an irritated look.
Judging by the expression on his face, Dwayne seemed to say that it would trouble him, not the grand duke.
‘Does this mean that the consequences of him recklessly killing people arent his problem, but the aides
The Grand Duchy of Valentine must have had their own regulations.
Aria was amazed once again.
Come to think of it, its not bad to give him money,” the grand duke said, changing his mind like the flip of a coin.
Dwaynes expression finally brightened.
He seemed to anticipate the words that would follow.
“I cant wait to see how far hell hang on to that false hope.
Ill make him fall until he crawls at my feet while begging for me to kill him.”
“Cough! Your Grace.
The lady is listening.”
Aria silently listened to their conversation and fell into deep thoughts.
‘There must be a better way.
Do we really need to give money to the scammers
Viscount Cavendish was a gambler, so it would have been better to make him go bankrupt.
‘Humans dont change so easily.
After receiving the compensation in the past, the Viscount would visit Aria whenever he had time because her songs were worth a lot.
Even if he had the money, he would just squander it before long.
Aria took out her fountain pen and started writing.
At the same time, the grand duke and Dwaynes gazes turned to her.
[I know how to fix this.]
The grand duke seemed surprised for a moment, then put his hand on his chin as if waiting for her to do something.
[They should take vermicides.]
Aria came up with a solution.
She was very serious.
However, the grand duke, who had been silent for a while, burst into laughter.