Chapter 16

***

 

I wanted to go to a quiet place where there were no people, so I asked the coachman to take me to such a place. 

 

The coachman took me to a deserted mountain outside the capital.

 

It was a beautiful place with a clear view of the capital. I liked it even more because there were no people and it was quiet.

 

“Go back now. You can pick me up in about two hours.”

 

“But My Lady, there’s no escort knight, no maid, and leaving My Lady alone…”

 

“It’s okay. I want to be alone, so please leave me alone.”

 

At my order, the coachman was forced to go.

 

Being left alone, I sat under a tree that was too large to be hugged by several men and looked at the capital.

 

It was closer to being carried away than looking at it.

 

I gave up thinking because when I thought of something, Cecily and Philen would come to my mind. And yet, I kept thinking of what they said. In particular, what Philen said became a sharp dagger and shredded my heart.

 

I knew that Philen didn’t mean to say anything bad. I bet he had no idea what Cecily did wrong. 

 

That’s why I hated it even more. I would rather hate him openly if he said it with malice, but I couldn’t because it came from ignorance.

 

“Our Philen isn’t very tactful, but please understand him with a broad mind.”

 

Suddenly, I remembered what the predecessor Duchess had said.

 

“He doesn’t have a bad heart. So please, teach him well. Okay?”

 

The young me naively believed it. I had no choice but to believe. Young Philen was stubborn as the predecessor Duchess said, but he listened well when I told him.

 

So, even though it’s frustrating once in a while, even though I was hurt by what he said casually, I thought it was okay to stay this way because this place was better than Count Thebesa’s.

 

But I’m wrong.

 

It was as painful as it was at Count Thebesa’s. It was so painful that my tears flowed down on their own.

 

There’s no one around, but someone could hear me. So, I buried my face between my knees and cried as loudly as I could.

 

I was crying desperately, hoping that the wounds of my heart would be washed away as much as the tears poured out.

 

As I was crying, I suddenly felt someone’s presence.

 

“…?”

 

I looked up and saw a luxurious handkerchief. When I looked up a little more, I saw a familiar face.

 

It was that man. The man who saved me from that rude. 

 

But, why was this man here?

 

“Why are you crying in a place like this?”

 

Ah, right. I was crying.

 

I hurriedly wiped my tears because I was embarrassed for showing this ugly appearance to someone I wasn’t even close to. 

 

“You’ll hurt your eyes.” 

 

The man grabbed my urgent hand. Then he gently pressed my tearful eyes with his handkerchief. It was a kind touch.

 

“….I will do it.”

 

I was not used to receiving such kindness from a stranger. So I took the handkerchief irreverently from the man. 

 

The man looked slightly embarrassed. “Sorry…”

 

“It’s okay.”

 

When he realized his mistake a little late and tried to apologize, the man loosened his mouth. “Go ahead and wipe your tears.”

 

I wiped my tears with his handkerchief without refusing the man’s consideration. 

 

In the meantime, the man sitting casually next to me looked at the clear sky without a single cloud and asked.

 

“May I ask what made you cry so sadly?”

 

“…if I tell you, will you solve it?”

 

“If it’s something I can do.”

 

I was just asking, but his answer was a little comforting. I smiled dimly and responded to him, who was smiling.

 

“Thank you for saying that.”

 

“I meant it.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Nothing. The tears here are still less wiped.”

 

The man’s fingertips grazed my cheek. On the outside, they were clean hands without any calluses, but they were surprisingly hard. Was it because of swordsmanship?

 

I looked sideways at the sword the man was wearing on his waist. The handle was worn out a lot. It seemed that it wasn’t just for self-defense.

 

Suddenly, the sword that Philen was using came to mind. His sword handle was also very old.

 

“My Lady.”

 

“Yes…?!”

 

I opened my eyes wide in surprise when something slipped through my open lips. Soon the sweet strawberry flavor spread in my mouth.

 

This is… strawberry candy?

 

“When I was depressed, eating strawberry candy made me feel better.”

 

The man’s eyes were beautifully curved. I never knew a man could make such a fascinating eye smile. 

 

“I hope it works for the Lady, too.”

 

This man, he’s worried about me. His kind favor made me feel better. Maybe it’s because of the sweet strawberry candy rolling in my mouth.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Don’t mention it. By the way… “

 

The man’s eyes suddenly stuck on the handkerchief box next to me.

 

I hurriedly tried to hide the box, but it was already found by the man. To make matters worse, the handkerchief inside came out as the box was opened by my urgent hand. 

 

The tacky embroidery was clearly revealed.

 

The man’s hand touched the handkerchief before my rushing hand. He checked the handkerchief and whistled a little.

 

“It’s a handkerchief. Such a simple handkerchief, right?”

 

As expected, I immediately recognized him as a noble’s son.

 

I nodded and held out my hands. “Please give it back.”

 

“Looking at the crest, is it for your fiancé?”

 

I was confused about how to make him return it without being ridiculous. 

 

I replied with a sigh. “No. It’s something to throw away. So please give it back to me.”

 

“It’s a decent handkerchief. Why do you want to throw it away?”

 

That’s because it’s a handkerchief that I didn’t need anymore.

 

As I hesitated, unable to tell the truth, the man’s eyes narrowly folded. His gaze went a little down.

 

I wondered what he was looking at, but I soon realized that what he was looking at was my left hand, which had become a beehive. I hurriedly wrapped my hand.

 

“Hmmm…” 

 

The man made a strange sound and tilted his head. Then, he grabbed the handkerchief.

 

“Let’s do this. I’ll have this handkerchief.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Ah, I will correct it. You throw it to me.”

 

What kind of nonsense is this?

 

I refuted the man’s words. “Don’t be weird. Why does the Lord have it?”

 

“Because I want to have it.”

 

The man answered as if I was asking what was so obvious. I shook my head and held out my hand again. Of course, I only extended my right hand without a wound.

 

It was rude, but I couldn’t help it because my left hand was covered with wounds. 

 

“It’s a tacky handkerchief. It’s not something the Lord would have. So please give it back.”

 

“It’s not a tacky handkerchief.”

 

Unlike the beautifully raised corner of his mouth, the man’s eyes looking at me were terribly serious.

 

“It’s a handkerchief that the lady has worked so hard on, so it couldn’t be tacky, right?”

 

“But the embroidery is weird…”

 

“It’s not weird. It’s just pretty.”

 

Pretty? It can’t be.

 

As I looked at him with disbelief, the man burst into small laughter.

 

“My eyes are correct.”

 

The man suddenly reached out and kissed the back of my left hand lightly, which was covered with wounds.

 

“Don’t think of me like a bunch of idiots who are fooled by its fancy appearance and throw it away without knowing the true value.” 

 

“I, I don’t think so.”

 

I was embarrassed, letting him see my wounded hand, so I hurriedly pulled out my hand.

 

The man smiled slightly and slipped the handkerchief into his inner chest pocket.

 

I’d like to ask if it’s a handkerchief that was embarrassing to show other people, but I gave up because I wouldn’t be willing to hear about it. 

 

It’s not very important, and I didn’t want to spend my energy. I was too tired for that. And that handkerchief would be better off going to someone who needed it than being thrown away.

 

“Come to think of it, there are a few things I want to ask when I see the Lady.”

 

“What is it?”

 

“It’s about taxes. I have a problem, and I hope that the Lady can help me.”

 

“If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be faster to ask the official in charge?”

 

“I already asked. But it doesn’t work out, so it’s a problem.”

 

You’re asking me, a Lady, about things that even the officials in charge couldn’t solve?

 

It was strange. Usually, noble’s sons didn’t talk about this with a Lady.

 

At best, it was all about gossip around the social world, gossip of nobles, or useless love stories.

 

Of course, my aides asked me a lot of things, such as the welfare of the estate and taxation, but that was because I was acting as a Duchess and Duke’s representative.

 

“I don’t know if I can be of any help.”

 

“You don’t have to feel too pressured. I’m just asking for your opinions.”

 

If that’s the case, I nodded in the sense of course.

 

After that, we exchanged questions and answers. When I said what I thought about the problem the man came up with, he put his ideas out, and I put my thoughts on it.

 

It was a rather tiresome and tiring discussion method that could be done at meetings, but oddly enough, it didn’t feel like that at all.

 

Rather, it was pleasant and fun. I had a good conversation with the man. I’ve never met such a good conversation partner. 

 

It seemed to be the first time other than the former Duke of Williot and his wife.

 

“I have a good conversation with the Lady.”

 

Fortunately, the man also thought so.

 

“I know, right? But I’m sorry for not being able to help.”

 

“No. It was helpful enough. Thank you, Lady Thebesa.”

 

“No. It was a pleasant conversation for me.”

 

Ah, come to think of it, I don’t know the name of this man yet.

 

“If you don’t mind, may I ask your name, My Lord?”

 

When I asked his name, I noticed it. The man smiled strangely.

 

“Let’s guess it.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“I got the Lady’s name right, so My Lady, guess my name.”