You don’t like a man that smiles easily?
While it was good enough to just ask a question brazenly, her effort was in vain as the corners of her eyes immediately wrinkled unpleasantly.
This was because it wasn’t her nature to change her words or be unreasonable according to her mood.
However, there’s a wide spectrum of ‘mean behaviour’.
Atalante was testing out the most trivial yet the most annoying ‘mean behaviour’ first.
She barely managed to conceal her embarrassment, and looked up at Lionel.
“Don’t you want to go to the capital?”
Lionel asked, looking a little surprised. She couldn’t decide whether it was fortunate or disappointing, but he didn’t detect any signs of her irritation.
“Why did you think that I’d want to go to the capital?”
“Because Miss Atalante is from the capital.”
“To be more accurate, it’s a slum located by the capital.”
Atalante replied in a sharp voice, inadvertently flaring up.
However, it seemed that Lionel wasn’t too clear of the differences, and continued to speak with an amicable smile.
“But aren’t you more familiar with the capital than this place or the West? I thought that you’d feel better to return back to the place you were from.”
“You can’t have forgotten about the reason why I came all the way here, can you?”
“Of course. It’s because of the Emperor’s pursuit.”
“I’m sure you’re well aware, but everyone knows that the capital has tighter security than here. I heard that my wanted posters are covering the roads there.”
Suddenly remembering the rumour she heard, Atalante couldn’t help but laugh. As her current visage landed upon Lionel’s eyes, he let out a genial smile.
“You don’t have to worry. If you’d trust me and come with me to the capital, you’ll be able to tread through those search areas.”
“You’re quite confident, aren’t you?”
She was obviously being sarcastic, but Lionel managed to reply slyly with, “Of course.”
Staring at the face that was harmful to her in various ways, Atalante decided to test him again with trifling matters.
“…What if I just don’t want to go, despite the guarantee of my safety?”
“What if I said that I don’t want to go, without any reason in particular?”
Atalante imitated the type that she typically hated the most.
The type where conversations didn’t work and was wilfully unreasonable, which didn’t match with her at all.
No matter how much he cared about her, his feelings would definitely lessen if she acted like this.
‘Hopefully Lionel doesn’t hate this type of mean behaviour too much.’
If she had to act like this everyday, Atalante might combust out of anger first.
Hoping that she could move on to the next level of mean behaviour, Atalante stared straight at him.
“Haah”, with a soft sigh, the grand duke’s mouth slowly opened.
In a slow and graceful manner as if trying to soothe anxieties.
“In that case, we don’t have to go.”
The answer that appeared from between white teeth was very simple.
As the words were overly firm and clear, Atalante was rather bewildered.
The preparations for departure towards the capital had already reached the final stages.
Apparently the townhouse of the capital was also in chaos preparing to receive him, but everything would be for naught just because of Atalante’s whims?
Atalante folded her arms as she asked, a doubtful look on her face.
“As I’ve told you previously, your opinion is the most important thing to me.”
Atalante, along with Lionel adding her name, as his eyes gleamed vividly.
“It’s just…a little regrettable.”
“I thought that I would be able to provide something better for you if we went to the capital. As you can see, this place… it’s not fitting for Atalante.”
As if he was discovered to be living in poverty, the corners of Lionel’s mouth rose awkwardly.
“If I could justify myself, I haven’t had the time to worry about the Empire’s wealth lately. But… I didn’t realise that it would be so neglected. Be it the food or the mansion, both are unfit for your eyes.”
Atalante tutted, wondering if he was making fun of her, but Lionel seemed to be sincere.
Atalante barely managed to contain the words ‘those b*stard nobles’ almost left her mouth inadvertently.
It was regrettable that it wasn’t the end of it, and Lionel, whose lips were crooked, continued speaking.
“And… because there’s going to be a banquet soon.”
“A banquet? Ah.”
Contrary to the brief ‘Ah’ pretending to know what he’s referring to, Atalante’s eyes were questionably lowered.
The banquet he was referring to was clearly the banquet for the Empire’s Founding Festival
The Empire’s Founding Festival was a grand festival that’s held once every three years, and took place over a month, from the preheats to the end.
Not only the capital, but also the whole country was infected by the excitement of the festival, while other countries would send envoys to attend the founding festival.
The highlight of the event was that the Young Ladies and Young Lords that have just come of age from each family were invited to a debutante in the Imperial Palace.
While the usual debutante would be held every year, having the coming-of-age ceremony along with the founding festival was considered by many to be a blessing.
While Atalante has just become an adult this year, she didn’t even know the date of the founding festival.
‘The commoners enjoy the founding festival together, but the debutante was prime amusement for the aristocrats.’
Unable to guess the reason why he had to bring up the ‘banquet’, Atalante’s brows narrowed even further.
‘Ah, perhaps he meant the banquets by commoners.’
Making a plausible assumption, Atalante spoke with an arrogant smile.
“Are you curious about how commoners play? I would participate in the night market held during the founding festival every year, so if you’re willing to, would you like to come with me? However, I would be incurring the displeasure of the noble Grand Duke.”
Daring to ask the head of the Grand Duchy to participate in a festival for commoners, it was something that anyone would fall backwards upon hearing it.
She might even be accused of defaming the grand duke if she continued to bring up a variety.
She had expected him to frown a little, but this time Atalante’s guess was completely mistaken again.
“Are you sure?”
“It’s the first time you’ve ever suggested something to me. What I’m saying is, very well, let’s go together.”
Ah, that’s not it.
Although her regret surged up belatedly, there wasn’t a way to reverse Lionel’s thrilled expression.
“It’s a promise.”
Atalante had only frowned at the words he added, but Lionel seemed to be convinced, and gave a bright smile.
“Well… please don’t smile like that.”
Whenever the grand duke smiled like that, she felt sick in the stomach. Defining the sensation as unpleasant, Atalante spoke with reddened ears.
“You don’t like a man that smiles easily?”
Lionel asked with a serious look on his face.
Does she dislike men that smile easily? The type of man that smiles easily beats a man with a stiff face.
Do I hate guys who laugh a lot? It would have been better to laugh carelessly than to a man with a stiff face.
‘Just like our Yuffie is much cuter than Devon.’
While Devon wasn’t the reserved type, he was picky about everything.
Even though he fell a little short of Devon, Yuffie, who smiled readily and nonsensically, was a little more to her liking.
Atalante, who has yet to give an answer, shook her head.
“Then do you dislike the way I smile?”
The smile that seemed to be made for bewitching women was really annoying.
Atalante managed to swallow down the words that had risen up her throat.
This was because if she wasn’t careful, it might sound like she’s bewitched.
Unable to read Atalante’s mind, Lionel continued with a serious expression.
“…Understood. Starting from now, I’ll be smiling in various ways, so please choose your favourite.”
Before she could ask what kind of nonsense he was talking about, Lionel had already started with the test.
With his lips slightly curved, Lionel looked at Atlante with affectionate eyes and whispered.
“This is the first.”
It was surprising that such a faint smile was also eye-catching.
As soon as Atalante came to her senses, his teeth appeared and his smile deepened.
Ever since then, Lionel’s ‘Selection of Smiling Faces’ has continued without pause.
By the time his count reached double digits, Atalante’s cheeks were already bright red in colour.
It’s the first time that Atalante has looked at someone that’s staring at her with a bright and dazzling smile for so long.
It was somewhat different from Yuffie’s habitual smile.
That’s probably why her heart was beating so quickly.
In the end, Atalante couldn’t bear the uncomfortable palpitations, and reached out to cover his mouth that was forming an arrogant arc.
Although his mouth was suddenly sealed, Lionel unexpectedly showed consideration for her by bending down and allowing her to cover his mouth comfortably.
Unable to hide the vivid redness, Atalante took her hand off with a frustrated look.
“Which number is your favourite?”
“Has it not ended yet…”
Lionel’s eyes shone, intent on seeking an answer. His pupils were dyed the colour of the afternoon sky.
“If I had to choose, the first.”
Atalante sighed and chose the faintest smile. The faint smile that was barely present was still… It was because the others seemed to be too harmful in various ways.
As if he was enlightened, unique glimmers appeared in his eyes.
Perhaps he had remembered all the expressions he made, the first smile immediately appeared on Lionel’s face as he placed his hands behind his back and tilted his head backwards.
“This is the one that’s to your liking, right?”
“…It isn’t to my liking, but it’s better.”
“I’ll try my best to make you satisfied.”
With the same faint smile on his face, Lionel continued speaking.
“Let me continue explaining. The other reason I want to escort Miss Atalante to the capital is because of the upcoming Imperial Banquet.”
Atalante had forgotten about it momentarily as they strayed from the point, but the earlier conversation about the ‘banquet’ doesn’t seem to be over yet.
“That event has nothing to do with me.”
“Why do you think about it like that? It just so happens that you’re coming of age this year, so naturally you should enjoy the banquet.”
“…Are you making fun of me? I’m not an aristocrat.”
“Yes, you’re much more noble than those aristocrats.”
This man had a knack for making Atalante, who’s famous for her glib tongue, speechless.
He then lowered his upper body, speaking while staring straight at Atalante’s eyes.
“When we go to the capital, I would like to attend the debutante as your partner.”
“What do you mean…”
“You said you’d leave me a little leeway, so please keep your promise.”
With the faint smile she had chosen, Lionel raised his little finger gracefully.
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