“That’s a relief to hear.”
The Duke of Winfried handed his coat to one of the waiters before sitting opposite him.
After pouring the tea into a teacup in front of the newly-arrived customer, the waiter stepped back.
A while passed before Viscount Ventlen took the initiative to speak.
“Your Grace, the Duke of Winfried, may I ask why you have called me all the way to the capital?”
A few days ago, Viscount Ventlen had received a letter.
There had only been one line written on the letter bearing the symbol of the Duke of Winfried, the blue bird.
[I shall see you at the Leraziel Teahouse in 10 days.]
The duke had not stated any rhyme or reason for this meeting other than that one line.
Though it might only be one line, the fact that it was the Duke of Winfried who asked for this meeting, he could only drop all that he was doing to travel to the capital.
“I’m sure you have an important reason for wanting to meet me.”
The time he needed to reach the capital from the Lowell estate in the Ventlen Viscounty was exactly 10 days.
It would have been impossible for him to send a letter to the Duke of Winfried asking for the reason for their meeting or to request a reschedule.
Thus, Viscount Ventlen had no choice but to hoist himself up a carriage and head to the capital.
“Some issues had arisen as a result.
It is merely because the letter had arrived while I was swamped with work.”
The Duke of Winfried looked composed despite the fact that the viscount insinuating that he had been troubled because of the meeting the duke had arranged on a whim.
“But you did mention that you had encountered some issues, viscount.”
No, it felt more like…
“Still, I cannot travel all the way down to Lowell.”
He was looking down on Viscount Ventlen.
“Am I wrong, Viscount Ventlen?”
“… You are correct, your grace.”
Viscount Ventlen resisted contorting his expression and almost bit his tongue as a result.
However, he still could not hide his trembling hands placed on the armrest of his seat.
After that exchange, only silence ensued.
The Duke of Winfried merely continued to savour his tea.
‘Why on earth did he call me here?’
The composure that he had been maintaining was starting to crack.
Viscount Ventlen felt as though his head was about to explode again.
Travelling from Lowell, the Viscounty of Ventlen, to the capital.
He had nothing to do sitting in that carriage for 10 days and during that extensive amount of time, Viscount Ventlen had naturally pondered about possible reasons the duke would have called for him.
Was it because the duke wanted to do business with him or perhaps to notify him of the passage of his knights through the Lowell estate?
Or was he trying to buy grains from him for the refugees?
He came up with various reasons but he could only think of one that was the most plausible.
‘It must be about that eyesore.’
At the end of last winter, the Duke of Winfried had approached him and announced that he was searching for Azen’s daughter.
There was no way she could still be alive.
It had been in the middle of winter–a season during which even adults would fail to overcome the cold and die.
On such a day, he disposed of a thing he could not even raise on some street in the slums before turning back.
Especially since Azen and Leira had been dispatched during a time when the end of the war was in sight and when a problem that had been festering thus far had exploded.
The aristocrats tried to reduce their spending on luxury and maintain a more frugal appearance while the commoners were anxious as they struggled to even get bread.
There was no way that the eyesore he had abandoned in the slums could have survived back then.
‘I had also dealt with that servant.’
There had only been one person who witnessed him abandoning her.
Didn’t he intentionally choose someone who would be easy to dispose of to accompany him?
Thus, there was no way that eyesore could be alive and no one knew that he had abandoned her.
That was what he certainly thought.
He had to.
The Duke of Winfried stared at him.
He had been too lost in thought.
He did not hear the duke calling him.
“Yes, did you call for me?”
“You must be exhausted.”
The duke slowly continued as he tapped his fingers against the table.
“You must be if you did not hear me even after I called you several times.”
I have been sitting in a carriage for 10 days and it seems as though I have yet to relieve my fatigue.”
“That’s a shame.”
The Duke of Winfried chuckled as he crossed one leg over the other.
“Then, for you, viscount, I’ll have to explain why I called you here as quickly as I can.”
He had been dragging this conversation and at this point, viscount could feel his anxiety on the edge of exploding but now, the duke was going to tell him what he was here for.
“I have been curious what this meeting would be about.”
His fists might be clenched but Viscount Ventlen was all smiles.
The man sitting across him was none other than the Duke of Winfried.
‘Are they going to start rebuilding the east soon?’
The war which had lasted for more than 100 years had ended.
The vast east had been scheduled to have its devastated lands rebuilt.
It was clear to him that he could strike gold there.
If he could buy just a thin strip of land there, he could have a huge pile of money fall into his lap.
He might even be able to become Count Leonid a little faster than he anticipated.
‘The Duke of Winfried will be the one to decide.’
It was none other the man sitting in front of him now.
‘If it weren’t for the rebuilding of our eastern lands, I wouldn’t still be sitting here trying to please this brazen boy.”
He would have left his seat immediately.
No, he would not have even travelled all the way here.
If he had done that in the first place, he would not have had to sit through this torturous anxiety.
From the ten days he spent travelling from the Viscounty of Ventlen to the capital till the moment he entered the teahouse and met the duke.
Every moment of silence that hung in the air was sucking his blood dry.
As though he could read his mind, the Duke of Winfried smiled by only raising one corner of his lips.
But that smile disappeared as soon as it appeared.
“It’s nothing much.
I just wanted to give you a piece of advice.”
With his hands still placed on the table, Winfried stood up.
‘What’s going on?’
Had he always been this big? He thought he had been of a bigger build when he had been sitting earlier but he never imagined that he would be this big.
Looking up at the duke, Viscount Ventlen held his breath.
However, shock had overcome his fear at the words that the duke soon uttered.
“You will have an eligible heir soon.”
At the duke’s shocking statement, Viscount Ventlen asked again.
“Pardon, what do you mean by that?”
Though he asked, the duke did not answer.
He merely stared back at him as though to ask, “Don’t you already know what I’m talking about?’
Viscount Ventlen gulped nervously.
“I am not fond of conniving things.”
Upon Winfried’s beckoning, the waiter ran over and helped him with his coat as though they had been waiting.
“Well then, take your time with your meal and be on your way.”
That was the end of it.
Winfried left his seat and after a moment of silence, thud, something had fallen on the ground.
The startled waiters hurried past the duke towards the noise.
“Did you manage to wrap up your meeting?”
Leaving the teahouse behind, his coachman who had been waiting at its front asked.
He was a man with memorably long brown hair.
The duke gave a slight nod.
“In any case, will you be alright threatening him like this so openly?”
The brown-haired coachman furrowed his brows as he stared at the teahouse from which commotion could still be heard.
“I’m sure he will be retaliating now that he knows that the Lady of the Leonid House is still alive.”
“I suppose he will.”
“It would have been better if we had hidden her existence till she was ready…”
“If we wait to prepare, there will be things we miss.”
They were all shrewder than rats.
Viscount Ventlen had left traces of his bold moves–ones that made him almost seem like he was taking a gamble.
It was possible that he moved recklessly because Azen and Leira had died in battle.
If only one of them had still survived, Viscount Ventlen’s plan would have failed.
But the god of fortune smiled upon Viscount Ventlen.
That was why he had to shake him.
So that he would do something he had never done before, so that he would make mistakes.
“Leo, I’ll leave this to you.
Put pressure on the viscount by cutting him off from his investors and partners.”
The more viscount struggled, the more he would reveal his faults and weaknesses.
Understanding the Duke of Winfried’s command, the knight, named Leo, loosely interpreted his words.
“Yes, your grace.”
Nodding, Winfried climbed up the steps to the carriage.
‘I couldn’t sleep a wink.’
Irina could only blink at the sunlight peeking through the window.
This was the first time she could not bring herself to sleep.
Irina had always lacked sleep.
She would have to serve liquor in Ben’s inn till dawn and then wait on tables for food early in the morning.
It was because of that, Irina only had a few hours in a day to sleep.
That was why she would knock out the moment she laid down.
To think that she would not be able to sleep on this soft bed of all places.
Rising from the bed, Irina fished out the locket she had hidden underneath her pillow.
‘What did the duke press again?’
There it was.
When she pressed on a protruding lever, the locket popped open.
Within was the portrait of the amicable family she saw yesterday.
Pursing her lips a couple times, Irina struggled to find the words to say.
“… Good morning.
That was the first time she had ever said that before.
Mom and dad.
She could not understand why she found it difficult to say words others could so easily utter.
Still, after such a long time, she could finally say them.
Irina stared at the portrait for a while with her lips tightly closed before soon getting out of bed.
Maybe it was because it had only been a day since she discovered her real name along with her parents’.
Even though she had not slept a wink, her body felt light as a feather.
Slipping her feet into fluffy slippers, Irina looked around the room.
She had been too frazzled yesterday to look around her room.
She had first thought she was in Baron Barodon’s estate only to learn about her parents from the duke afterward.
She even learned her real name.
That was why it took a whole day for her to take in her room’s interior.
Not only the furniture in the room, but every small ornament and even the walls.
Even though she knew nothing about luxury, she could tell that the room was adorned with expensive items.
However, what caught Irina’s eyes was something else entirely.
‘There’s dust here?’
In a nutshell, the cleaning in this room was a mess.
Should she say that it was clear that the room had only been briefly swept and only places that were visible were wiped?
She spotted dust between the creases in the curtain and the windows were not thoroughly cleaned either as there were handprints along its frame.
Even though the low table looked wiped, there were still water stains as it was not thoroughly cleaned.
Noticing the traces of someone who was inexperienced and had cleaned in a hurry, Irina tilted her head.
Shouldn’t people cleaning up after aristocrats usually be good at cleaning?
But why was the room tidied so haphazardly?
While she inspected the room, she heard something from the door.
Instead of actually knocking, the visitor announced her arrival with ‘knocks’.
It was Delphia.
“Young miss, are you perhaps awake?”
Shaking the dust off her hands, Irina answered.
“Then, I shall be coming in!”
The door opened and Delphia, dressed in a light tunic, entered.
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