His tall figure, his method of slaughter, his overwhelming power, and murderous intent.
Even with his hood on, Aria could easily recognize this man as Lloyds father.
‘The way they ruthlessly kill people… its similar.
She observed him intently.
He looked just like Lloyd.
Their hair was jet-black and coiffed to perfection.
Furthermore, they had the same shape of eyes.
But they also had their own differences.
Lloyds hair was short, and it stopped right above his nape.
On the other hand, his father had hair that flowed right up till his chest.
They rested on his shoulders, straight yet soft, swaying like prairie grass in the breeze.
The Grand Duke stared back at Aria, not avoiding her gaze.
He had eyes like a pool of pure crimson blood.
As Aria peered into his eyes, she felt as if he was searching deep into her very soul.
But for the Grand Duke, her gaze was different.
It was a curious gaze that he had never received except from his children.
“Youre a strange kid.
Havent you heard rumors of me feeding humans to my dogs”
“I even tried to kill you.”
Aria, of course, was prepared to die, so she nodded and grabbed the Grand Dukes cuff.
His eyes widened, and he was at a loss for words.
He seemed genuinely surprised.
Aria was also confused.
She didnt expect him to react that way.
The Grand Duke glanced down at the little girl holding his sleeve.
“I will deposit the down payment immediately.
William, handle all the procedures.” He beckoned the butler, ordering him as per usual.
“Your Grace is very impulsive sometimes…” The butler sighed, tired of the Grand Dukes spontaneous decisions.
“Are you dissatisfied with my decision”
“Not at all, I am actually quite fond of the young lady here.
One who is loved by animals could never be evil.”
‘Im not so sure about that… Aria thought.
After that, William ordered the rest of the servants to prepare the money.
“As Count Cortez had affirmed previously, you are not to set foot in this mansion ever again.
The butler will erase your memories, and you will forget about todays events.” The Grand Duke said in a cold tone.
“If you were ever to break your promise, I will not hesitate to erase the Cortez Family name from the face of this country.
Think wisely, for your family is at stake.”
Despite his outrageous remarks to erase the genius maestro, Cortez, from all history, no one doubted his words.
For he was the infamous Grand Duke of Valentine.
“W-wait, I have one more condition!” Count Cortez spoke, holding his twisted arm.
“What more do you have to say”
The Grand Dukes tone was full of malice and hatred.
He seemed offended by the Count, who dared to ask for more.
The Count was terrified, but he still managed to muster his courage and spoke, “When Aria gives birth, you must give the child to me.”
“Thats all that I want.”
If a Siren gives birth, theres a high possibility that the child would be a Siren as well.
‘To think that hed still be greedy even though Ive brainwashed him…
“I see that youre willing to become dog-food,” the Grand Duke hissed at the Count.
“Ill let you disappear from the face of the earth if youd like,” he threatened.
The beasts growled, baring their sharp fangs.
Petrified, Count Cortez froze at his seat.
He no longer had the audacity to ask for more ridiculous requests.
The Grand Duke gestured for William to proceed with the payment procedure.
“Escort the Count out.”
“Is it not obvious Your words might emotionally affect Little Miss Aria here, and I refuse to be in the same room with the likes of you.”
“Had you not spit out those last words, I wouldve been able to at least kick you out nicely.”
“Erase his memories, including the fact that he had a daughter,” the Grand Duke ordered his knights.
Aria didnt know that erasing the memories of a person was possible.
Then, the butler spoke, “The Valentines are very skilled at erasing memories.
You will only feel a slight tingling sensation on your skin.”
At the end of his words, a couple of knights dragged the Count to a separate room.
A moment later, a blood-curdling scream broke out.
“Shall we go, miss” William said, still smiling.
* * *
“I ask for your understanding over the lack of preparations.
The Grand Dukes decision was so sudden that we did not have the time to prepare.
Young Miss will be staying here for a while until your room is fully furnished.”
The room was breathtaking and spacious.
It was decorated with lavish furniture, and the decorations consisted of luxurious items and sculptures.
The colors were like nothing else; vivid and bright.
But above all else, the most distinguished part of the room was undeniably its art.
The House of Valentine genuinely treasured art.
Infamous and expensive artworks graced the room, and paintings that spoke of their profound history were displayed on the walls.
The entire room resembled an art gallery.
Aria was in awe.
Her impression of the Grand Duke changed immediately…
She expected the room to be dark and gloomy.
‘Rather, this is more beautiful than the Imperial Palace.
Indeed, it was more gorgeous and vibrant than the Imperial Palace.
‘Perhaps the rumor about the Valentines having authority over the Imperial Family was true Aria wondered.
‘I thought it was just a baseless rumor.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.
William entered the room with a rosy-cheeked middle-aged-lady.
“Good evening Young Miss.
My name is Diana, and I am the head maid and the caretaker of the Grand Dukes son.
I will be serving you from now on,” Diana spoke with smiling eyes.
Her smile was as bright as the sun, blinding anyone who looked at her in the face.
Aria fiddled her fingers, trying to relax herself.
Come to think of it.
This was the first time someone had actually regarded Aria as who she was and not her identity as a Siren.
“The Grand Dukes son….He must be caring for the Madame right now.”
‘Madame… she must be Lloyds mother.
She was one of the few people who will soon be killed byThe Devils Curse.
She will die soon.
“I hope you arent too shocked by the Grand Dukes sudden decision,” Diana said in a soothing tone.
‘Seems like Lloyd wont welcome me upon my arrival.
Well, who would welcome their contracted fiance
“First of all, hmm…” Diana said, eyeing Aria.
Aria was very skinny and frail.
Upon meeting her, she couldnt believe that she was ten years old with that tiny body.
“Please write the types of dishes you prefer so that I can prepare them for you in the future.”
Baffled, Aria blinked her eyes.
Then, Diana dipped a quill to the ink and handed it over to Arias slender fingers.
Dishes I prefer My favorite food
‘I dont have any preference….
Aria had a lack of appetite.
The only food she had ever eaten was cold pork porridge, and she would further lose her appetite whenever she was called a Siren.
She didnt even bother anymore.
Eating was just a means to survive.
‘My knowledge regarding food is limited.
The only things she knew about was alcohol and drugs.
She didnt want to know, but couldnt help it.
Aria often met nobles who held illegal parties.
They were involved in prostitution, drug trafficking, and political corruption.
The parties were dangerous and obscene.
There was even a rumor that said the Siren would only sing in corrupted places.
‘It was tough for me…
Ink smeared the white card.
Aria took too long to think, so the ink droplets dripped to the floor.
She had no choice but to write down whatever she could think of.
‘Is this enough
She thought that it was alright as long as the soup did not smell and was served while still warm.
Unfortunately, Diana was not satisfied.
She had hoped that Aria would write more, so she glanced at her with a despondent face.
And so Aria pondered some more, and after a while, she noted down another menu on her card.
[Bread and cheese.]
‘Is this enough Aria thought.
But contrary to her expectations, Dianas expression sank even more.
So she wrote another one…
Tastes like melon.]
“Tastes like melon” Diana asked.
Aria turned her head towards William, hoping he would explain it in her stead.
He bit his lips with a subtle expression, neither smiling nor frowning.
Aria gave the butler a few glances but to no avail.
She had no choice but to explain it in writing.
[Soft, white clouds floating on top.]
“Pfft—! Ahem, I apologize.”
William turned around, holding back his laughter.
Diana burst into laughter as well, seemed like she and William figured something out.
“Oh! Haha! The taste is like melon,” she nodded eagerly.
“Yes, Ill get it for you right away.”
“Is there anything else you need”
Diana kept asking with an anticipating look, and Aria had no choice but to answer frankly.
[I dont know the names of any kind of dishes.]
Diana had a tearful countenance plastered on her face.
Aria was embarrassed by the sudden change in the maids facial expressions.
‘Is she crying
Aria quickly thrust out another card.
[If you let me know, Ill memorize it right away.]
Shocked, Diana hugged her.
The card slipped out of Arias hand.
She was bewildered.
For the first time in her life, someone had actually embraced her.
‘What a strange person.
At that point, the arms squeezed a fraction tighter, and Aria breathed slower, her body melting into Dianas as all her muscles relaxed, giving in to her warmth.
It was warm and cozy, just like that time she stroked the hounds.
Strange enough, she had no intention to push her away.
“Young Miss,” she sniffled.
“It must have been so hard.
Youre in good hands now.”
‘Is shes trying to comfort me Aria thought, puzzled.
No one had ever regarded her as family.
Everyone abused her, treating her like a worthless puppet.
‘Its always like that ever since I was young…
There were times where shed cry a lot.
But now, even her tears had dried out.
She felt nothing.
Not even despair.
She was detached.
Aria wrapped an arm around her shoulders and buried her head into her chest.
“Its all right now.
You didnt do anything wrong.” Diana said while patting her head.
Diana continued to console her.
The maid of the devils mansion emitted a strange aroma.
‘The smell of sun-dried blankets…
She smelled like the lingering scent of spring on a blanket that was dried underneath the sun.
* * *
Diana was surprised.
She was startled because Aria had been standing beside the window since dawn.
“Did you have a nightmare”
Aria shook her head.
Diana looked her in the eyes and concluded that she, in fact, did.
“Its my fault!” She wailed.
“I shouldve stayed with you awhile longer…”
“Youre still a baby, but I was careless! You were scared, right It rained all night too…”
Aria didnt usually sleep till morning.
Aria tried to gain back her dignity by holding her [No.] card over and over again, but Diana didnt listen.
She kept treating her like a baby, and Aria couldnt help but blush in embarrassment.
Even if she did travel to the past, her conscience was certainly not that of a ten-year-old.
[My body may be small, but Im definitely not a baby.]
Aria tried to explain that she was not a baby.
Dianas lips rose into a grin, and she lightly stroked her head.
“Ho-ho, arent you still a baby”
Aria was flustered.