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The grand duchy of Blanc, which Lionel rules over, was large enough to cover the capital, but in fact, only around one-third of the land was inhabited.
Not only that, its location at the northern edge made it so that other than the short summers, it experiences a cold climate all year round and the land is barren.
Although they had the honour of having the blood of the Imperial Family in their veins, such honour didn’t feed them.
Was that the reason?
After Lionel took the reins, the most pressing concern of the Imperial aristocrats was where the enormous capital of the Grand Duchy came from.
There were various speculations about that, but to sum them up.
“Apparently they often receive demon subjugation requests from other countries, perhaps they’re given a generous reward for that?”
“They can’t have accumulated money in an honest way. They must have sent looters to the Empire. The Northerners are adept at fighting. Major and minor damages are caused by unidentified looters every year.”
The various speculations were supported by many, and have now become a fait accompli.
“It’s obvious that the Grand Duke of Blanc has his hands on the underground activities.”
In other words, the Grand Duke was involved in the gray area.
In fact, after Lionel ascended to the position of Grand Duke, the number of criminal organisations reached levels the Empire had never seen before.
The most famous amongst them was Argo, headed by Atalante, but the level of evil deeds they committed wasn’t as severe as the evil deeds of other organisations.
There was even exaggerated speculation that the capital from their illegal earnings is equivalent to half a year of the Empire’s budget.
Lionel’s brutal nature was widely known, and such speculation gradually gained momentum.
It was then that the ruler of a country gained the dishonourable nickname of a ‘villain’.
Of course, Lionel didn’t bat an eyelid when he heard of such a rumour.
Thanks to that, the rumour became a doubt, and the doubt solidified it into a fact.
However, rumours were only rumours, and there were only a few citizens of the Grand Duchy that had actually met Lionel.
The same goes for the servants working in Blanc’s villa.
It didn’t bother them that their employer was a villain. This was because the grand duke had no intention of leaving the Grand Duchy.
To describe working in a villa where the master didn’t walk around in with a phrase, would be ‘so nice’.
However… Just yesterday, the originally peaceful Western Blanc villa entered a state of emergency.
This was because the master, who never appeared before, suddenly visited the villa.
The grand duke of Blanc was much more beautiful than the rumours say… He was as scary as he was beautiful.
He might have directly brought the cold from the North, and the surrounding temperature would drop a few degrees.
The servants hoped that incidents going against the grand duke’s mood while he was staying at the villa wouldn’t happen.
But their hopes were shattered in less than a day.
As soon as breakfast ended, the generous head chef of the villa was taken away by a stern-looking knight.
The identity of the person calling him was obvious.
Their master, Grand Duke Lionel Blanc.
“Aah, Mr Head Chef!”
All of the kitchen maids had sullen faces, repeatedly saying, “What do I do?”
Tears even fell from a few fainthearted people.
“What in the world was the problem? Was it too strong? Apparently the Grand Duke likes simple food, so he tried to reduce the seasoning as much as possible.
“That can’t be. Mr Head Chef’s cooking and instructions are perfect. Ah, maybe he didn’t like the plating.”
“Why isn’t he coming? I’m going crazy worrying about this.”
In the end, the maids that couldn’t identify the problem with the brunch they had served this morning pulled out their hair.
One of them spoke cautiously.
“Shall we… take a look secretly?”
“You! Say something that makes sense! What if we further anger His Highness?”
The maid that was rebuked on the spot bowed her head with a sullen expression.
“I hope that he’ll return safely. Who knows… the head chef was called to be complimented for the delicious fo…od?”
The maid that brought up hopeful words ended speaking in a mutter.
“Fat chance of the Grand Duke of Blanc doing that.”
The maid that immediately agreed let out an exclamation of “Ah!”, and changed the subject.
“But then, I heard this from Amy, who’s in charge of the bedrooms… The Duke told her to keep the guest room in order yesterday.”
“The guest room? Are you talking about the second largest room on the second floor?”
“Yes, isn’t that strange? The Grand Duke came here alone, but he ordered for the guest room to be tidied up. Isn’t the lord chamberlain also using a different room?”
“Now that you’ve mentioned it, I prepared two sets of tableware too.”
The maids’ faces were coloured with suspicion.
The maid that started the conversation looked around warily.
“As it was so strange, I pretended to help Amy this morning and cleaned the guest room together.”
After confirming that they were the only ones in the vicinity, she rummaged through her pockets.
“What’s this? Hair?”
The object between her fingers was a long strand of dark red coloured hair.
None of the villa’s servants had crimson hair.
“Something like that appeared from a guest room where no one was using…?”
As the atmosphere became heated, the maid that found the strand of hair lowered her voice and continued.
“This is my opinion, but… I wonder if the grand duke had come with a woman secretly.”
“That’s a lie!”
The maid that couldn’t help but scream, immediately covered her mouth.
‘Well, it is strange that he never had a woman despite having a face like that.’
Contrary to the rumours that he wouldn’t bleed even if he was stabbed, he too, seems to be interested in women.
“You’ve also heard of the rumour, right? The grand duke went to the capital in order to find his companion.”
Completely absorbed in her story, the maids nodded with a gleam in their eyes.
Who was going to be the next Grand Duchess of Blanc?
It was the hottest topic not only in the capital, but also throughout the Empire.
“Perhaps the owner of this hair is the person that will become his companion?”
“Were there any Young Ladies from the Western nobility that possesses crimson hair?”
“I think I’d heard before that the young lady of Count Sera in the capital has crimson hair.”
As their murmuring grew louder, the sole maid with a cold expression on her face, said in a negative voice.
“It could also be a partner for a single night. Perhaps the Grand Duke wanted to participate in those vulgar deviations before his marriage.”
Her extremely biting manner of speech caused silence to settle between the maids.
“Io, why are you speaking so brutally?”
Io replied with a “What did I do?”, and turned her head away.
A chilly silence reigned for a moment, before another maid changed the subject with a slight blush on her face.
“I don’t know who she is, but… I’m a little jealous.”
“Whether it’s being His Highness’s companion, or a fleeting encounter as what Io had said, in any case, that Grand Duke had taken a fancy to her.”
The other maids, who immediately thought of the grand duke’s gorgeous face and his strong physique, turned rosy.
“I–I don’t know about anything else, but the rumour of him being the sun god in the flesh wasn’t an exaggeration. Right?”
At those words, the maids nodded at the same time.
As the fact that the grand duke’s handsomeness was clear as day, even Io, who spoke biting words, also expressed her acknowledgement.
As their idle chatter was about to end, the sound of familiar footsteps could be heard.
“Mr Head Chef!”
The person that appeared before them was Rubel, the head chef of the Western villa.
He had a somewhat dazed look on his face.
“What in the world happened to you?”
“What did the Grand Duke say? Are you alright?”
At the flurry of questions directed at him, Rubel blinked without answering.
After a long moment, the first words that came out of Rubel’s mouth were extremely absurd.
“I’m glad that I cooked.”
Rubel, who kept muttering the absurd words, “I’m glad I cooked,” suddenly burst into laughter.
Could he have been tortured in the meantime?
The faces of the maids, who were looking at the head chef as if a screw had been missing, quickly crumpled.
A few minutes ago, Rubel, who received the sudden summons from the grand duke, followed the knights anxiously.
“W–Why has the Grand Duke summoned me all of a sudden…?”
“Unfortunately, we don’t know.”
The knights, who expressed their feelings of sympathy without censor, stared at Rubel like they were looking at their departed colleagues.
The place they brought the poor head chef towards was a tea table in the middle of the garden.
While the Blanc villa’s garden wasn’t large, beautiful flowers grew throughout the year, making it a feast for the eyes.
However, such a beautiful landscape couldn’t enter Rubel’s vision at this moment.
“The head chef of the Western Manor House, Rubel Mikhatti, greets H, H, H–His Highness, the Grand Duke.”
As soon as Rubel noticed his brilliant silver hair, he fell flat onto the floor.
A simple order was issued, but it wasn’t easy for him to raise his head.
Just the sight of his hair made him shudder, so he might lose his mind if he actually faced him.
Rubel longed for time to stop at this moment, but the heartless God didn’t listen to his wishes.
“Is your head very heavy?”
Shall I help you hold it?
At that, Rubel sprang up to his feet like a spring.
The appearance of his vigour was only momentarily, and as soon as he met the grand duke’s azure eyes, his entire body stiffened.
“The meal you served today was quite surprising.”
Lionel spoke words that were unclear whether it was a compliment or a curse, and the corners of his mouth drew a smooth curve.
He was clearly smiling, but he seemed angry about something.
Rubel didn’t even dare to ask what he meant.
As he stood before Lionel, it was like he could feel the chill of the north, which was known for its harshness.
Just before Rubel was about to lose consciousness, a pleasant voice resounded, as if a bird was singing.
“I’ll continue speaking, so please give us a moment.”
Due to Lionel’s pressuring energy, he didn’t even realise that someone else was present.
A girl with crimson hair like a rose in full bloom sat in the direction Rubel turned his head hastily towards.
The girl, who looked a little younger than Lionel, had a pure and lovely face, but gave off a somewhat dangerous atmosphere.
‘Should it be described as…seductive? No, what kind of thoughts am I having towards a young lady?’
Shaking off his strange thoughts, Rubel couldn’t help but stare at her.
The girl gave him an odd smile.
For a moment, he was fascinated by her brilliant smile, and only when he met the chilly eyes of Lionel, who was seated next to her, did Rubel retract his gaze from the girl.
Was she perhaps a princess from another country? She even dared to urge the grand duke.
And in a tone that’s filled with irritation at that.
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