“Youll have to get married soon.”
Aria dropped the book in her hand as soon as she heard the grand dukes words.
‘Why so suddenly
“Your wedding will be as luxurious as the empress,” Tristan spoke.
Aria tugged the hem of her dress and tilted her head, feigning ignorance at what he said.
While playing with her rabbit ears, the grand duke continued, “Dont you like extravagant weddings”
[But what about Lloyd]
“Its a child marriage anyway.
Marriage is just a means of laying the groundwork for you.
If you dont like my son, you can divorce each other once you become adults.”
Under the imperial law, it was possible to request for an annulment and declare the marriage invalid after the pair reached adulthood.
Divorce was allowed within the empire so that they could prevent nobles from recklessly forging their powers and economic status under the pretext of marriage.
‘Thats not what I meant.
I want to ask what Lloyd feels about all of this…
Aria was troubled.
She wondered if the grand duke was intentionally ignoring Lloyds opinion and forcing him into an arranged marriage he didnt even want.
‘If its true, then Ill never be able to get closer to him…
Even back then, she had barely escaped from his threats.
Aria wondered if he truly wanted to murder her.
She shook her head, still clutching the fringe of her dress.
“Hmm Do you not like my eldest son Then, how about my second son Hes in the academy right now, but hell come back soon.”
Aria shook her head even more violently.
She just wanted to meet Lloyd.
She didnt want to marry him.
It would have been better for her to get a job as a maid than to become someones fiancé.
[I dont want to be forced into a loveless marriage.]
Lloyd was a vigilant person, and he was tough to approach.
Aria decided to write on her card to distract the grand duke from discussing the topic of imposing Lloyd into an arranged marriage.
[If I dont get married, then I can always play with father.]
At that moment, the grand duke fell in deep thought.
It seemed he finally realized that his pursuit of Arias marriage was at the expense of her own happiness.
Then, all that was left was to find a place where Aria could settle in peace.
‘Its not bad to have a daughter.
The grand duke smiled and wondered if it would be better to just go through the adoption process if his son still had no feelings for her in the future.
“I heard from the doctor.
He said that you have trouble eating.”
Aria widened her eyes.
Although the grand duke brought up marriage first, this topic was what he truly wanted to talk about.
“Im not sure what it means to be unable to express ones feelings…”
His midwinter eyes were like the grey of the last ashes on a fire.
It accentuated every feature of his, glistening like stars melted in platinum.
“If anyone has ever hurt you, I will tear them apart.”
‘Why would he say that Dwayne thought as he shook his head in disappointment.
But Tristan didnt stop there.
“If there is someone who looks at you with an unpleasant expression, I will pluck out their eyes.”
“If anyone dares to touch you, I will cut off their wrist.”
‘Oh my word…
Dwayne was frustrated, covering both eyes with his palms.
He respected his lord more than anyone else in the world, but he was a man who could not make good judgment sometimes.
His remarks could make a normal person cry, let alone a young lady such as Aria!
“So, if you could open up your heart, you can cry.”
“Its alright to laugh and to be angry.”
‘Its too late to say that once youve said things that could cause her to become more emotionally unstable, Your Grace!
Dwayne closed his eyes tightly because he couldnt dare to see Arias reaction.
But out of curiosity, he slowly raised his fingertips.
And as he expected, Aria was dripping with tears.
‘Look at her.
That poor thing is crying in… fear
She sobbed into his chest unceasingly, hands clutching at his blazer.
He held her in silence, rocking her slowly as her tears soaked his chest.
She was desperate.
Desperate like an imprinted bird who was gripping onto strangers in an attempt to survive.
Whether that person was a criminal, a murderer, or even a devil, everything seemed to be irrelevant to her.
If it were the same as before, Dwayne would have thought,Shes a lady with a peculiar personality.
However, he couldnt say that this time.
The grand dukes aide, who watched with an unsure heart, waited quietly for the childs tears to cease.
* * *
[I want to eat breakfast.]
Aria stuck out her card.
“Yes, here is miladys soup…”
[Something other than soup.]
Then, Dianas mouth was agape at the shocking words of the young miss.
Soon she covered her mouth with both hands.
She couldnt help but feel thrilled at the sight of Aria wanting to eat something other than soup.
Do you have something you want to eat”
As soon as she opened her eyes in the morning, she remembered a few captivating dishes from the cookbook that Diana had shown before.
She didnt know why.
But she really wanted to eat it.
With that, the workers in the kitchen were in a huge scurry.
This was because the grand duke, who found out that Aria wasnt eating well, had already warned them to serve her only the finest quality of food.
‘I have to make the best-scrambled eggs on earth…!
Chef Baker, who poured his soul into making the eggs, came to Arias room with a nervous expression.
The kitchen maids pulled the trolley inside with trembling hands and set the food on the table.
It was a scrambled egg.
Just like what Aria had requested.
‘It looks tasty…
It was as soft and creamy as the picture she saw in the cookbook.
Unlike the picture, however, it smelled very appetizing.
After hesitating for a moment, she scooped a little of the food with a spoon and put it in her mouth.
The soft texture wrapped around the tip of the tongue and melted in an instant.
Something I never cared about previously.
She thought that eating was useless.
Eating was just a means to live… to survive.
‘This… So it was like this.
Aria bit her lips.
Was it because the grand duke had comforted her
She felt like everything was finally alright.
Then, Aria gulped it down and took another bite.
Somehow, she wanted to tear up again.
Aria scooped up the next bite and put it in her mouth.
She dug into the rich food, stuffing her cheeks until it was too full.
And before she knew it, there was none left.
“Does it suit miladys taste” Chef Baker asked.
Weirdly enough, if the emperor were the one who directly assessed the taste of the food, he would not be as nervous as this.
After thinking for a while, Aria replied.
[Its very mushy and chewy.]
She did her best to describe the taste.
This was the best she could do.
She had never savored the flavors of her food while she was eating.
At that time, the kitchen maids who had been silently holding their breath jumped as if they were revived.
“Young miss, do you want some desserts”
“There is chocolate ice cream!”
“How about the chefs special macarons”
“How about cheesecake”
“These are pears coated in honey.”
“And candies too…!”
Everyone exclaimed with lots of enthusiasm.
Aria took a piece of candy from one of the kitchen maids and put it in her mouth.
The fresh scent of mint filled into her mouth.
It was delicious, indeed.
Aria took a card out of her bag and lifted it up.
Because she had used it often, the edges of the cards were worn out.
“How can I finally see that card…”
The kitchen maid, who had handed Aria the candy, trembled with an impressed expression, then struck the arm of the person next to her with her fists.
“Wh-what are you doing”
The servant, who stood next to her, was dumbfounded and confused.
However, the rest of the servants nodded and patted her shoulder as if they understood the reason for the kitchen maids odd actions.
* * *
Spring was over, and summer had come.
After the first semester of the academy was over, Lloyd returned to the estate for his summer vacation.
“Are you coming back too”
Its my long-awaited vacation.”
Lloyds carriage arrived at precisely the same time as his half-brothers.
His soft smile was in contrast to Lloyds indifferent gaze.
“Youre still the same.”
“You havent changed either, brother.”
“Ill take that as a compliment.”
Vincent laughed and eagerly followed Lloyd from behind.
“The servants seemed to be preoccupied today.”
The two masters arrived at the same time, but everyone in the palace seemed busy over something.
“Looks like theyre constructing a new building.”
At that time, a figure presumed to be an architect stood nearby them.
Lloyd raised his head towards him and made eye-contact.
Even though he didnt say a word, the architect came to him in a flash.
“D-did you call for me Your Highness.”
“Give it to me.”
“Huh Ah, yes!”
He opened the paper and handed Lloyd the blueprints.
It was a huge scale, even for those who were not familiar with architecture.
He wondered if the grand duke was planning to build another palace.
“Are you building an amusement park” Vincent asked, watching the architectural drawings closely.
He was a talented person who studied with the most prestigious professors at the academy.
Thus he had in-depth knowledge in all fields.
‘In the grand duchy Lloyd thought.
It was absurd.
‘Why would anyone build an amusement park in a secluded place where no one can enter
“Its like making a luxurious cruise ship in the mountains.” Vincent added.
Then, the architect spoke, “His Grace instructed us to build a playroom for the young miss.”
Lloyd halted the architects words and stared at him with his dark eyes.
“Shes still here” He asked with a stern look.