40. Why do you like me?
Atalante swallowed dryly, and slowly moved her hand away from the purple lace.
“I’m sorry, but I’d like another main dress instead of this.”
“What? Why all of a sudden?”
As Atalante gave a cold answer, her face crumpled in an instant.
“What do you mean by just because, you can’t just choose another dress without any reason. This is a piece of work that I’ve poured my heart and soul into making.”
Please reconsider after trying it on, Gianna added while staring at Atalante with a determined gaze.
“I’ve changed my mind. I want a dress that covers my upper body and back.”
“No, this isn’t even a ball gown. Why in the world are you being like this?”
Even if she hadn’t seen Atalante wearing it, she could tell.
At the debutante, Atalante would be the most beautiful in this dress.
Gianna couldn’t guess the reason for her capriciousness.
The quarrel between the two lasted a long while. Instead of stopping them, Lionel just watched Atalante with a curious gaze.
“I must be crazy. What was I expecting from a villain who doesn’t even appreciate the true value of clothes! What’s the point of me bringing a proper dress to you, with this kind of absurd and capricious behaviour of yours!”
“Why are you even attending the debutante? Continue your evil doing in a dreary corner as befitting of your status!”
Unable to bear the frustration and disappointment, Gianna unintentionally drawing Atalante’s ire.
“She’ll be a beauty when she grows up. Let’s mark her as ours in advance!”
A dreary corner. Evil doing.
Even though Atalante knew that those words were referring to her, the appearance of the assailants that starred in her nightmares came to mind.
Due to the harrowing traces that they left behind, she…
She’d normally laugh off the word villain, but today… she wasn’t in the mood to do so.
She felt the burning sensation of that day, of her skin being dug into, on her back again.
In order to disregard that nauseating feeling, Atalante turned her attention to a different emotion.
“Say that again.”
Before her murderous voice registered, Atalante’s gun was already aimed at Gianna’s head.
The moment Gianna realised the identity of the black object she was holding, she paled and was rooted to her spot.
In the end, no matter what the relationship was, it always ended like this. A relationship based on intimidation and obedience. In fact, the members of Argo weren’t an exception.
‘Without violence and intimidation, I’m incompetent at establishing any kind of relationship.’
With a quirk of her lips, Atalante stared at Gianna, who had turned even paler, with an even more cutting gaze.
“Don’t make me say it again……”
Before she could finish speaking, the trembling gun was secured firmly while an affectionate voice resounded.
Lionel drew closer to Atalante without her realisation, and he wrapped a bare hand around the end of the gun that she was aiming with.
“Let go of this.”
Atalante only realised the fact that hot liquid was dripping down her leg after hearing his words.
“All of you over there, bring the Madame to the guest room. She seemed to be very shocked, so prepare warm tea and scented candles.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
The ladies-in-waiting left the room with Gianna, who was still rooted at her position, upon hearing their master’s order.
After Gianna disappeared, Paul came into view and bowed towards the grand duke’s back.
“Bring the tools that are necessary to treat wounds over to Atalante’s room.”
Paul turned and disappeared soon after a brief response.
As Atalante breathed heavily, Lionel continued to support her body in an upright posture, until the weapon fell from her hand.
For being a member of the grand duchy, Lionel was good at treating wounds.
His skills were on par with Argo’s medical officer, Mia.
Lionel disinfected the torn wound carefully, occasionally checking Atalante’s expression.
Her head was still muddled as it has been a while since she had reached the peak of her anger.
Perhaps it was precisely because of that that caused Atalante to just entrust her legs to his hands and stare blankly at the fluttering silver hair beneath her.
She didn’t even feel ashamed that her legs were being seen by a man who wasn’t even a member of the organisation.
“You still can’t overdo it yet. Please refrain from carrying a gun here until the wound has fully healed.”
“No, I’m used to this position.”
“Do you still need a weapon when I’m right by your side?”
“Of course I do. You’re the one that’s the most dangerous.”
“Those words are a little bit disappointing.”
Lionel couldn’t help but let out a faint laugh suddenly, before finishing the treatment by wrapping a white bandage tightly around her wound.
“I can really see that you’re afraid of blood.”
“How would it be scary when it’s flowing from you? On the contrary, it’s saddening.”
After adding his strange thoughts, Lionel dragged a simple chair over and sat facing her.
At first glance, the way he hugged the backrest while sitting on the chair suddenly gave him the appearance of a youthful adolescent, and not the only grand duke.
Once again realising that Lionel was around her age, Atalante started to fiddle with the bedsheets that her hand was touching.
With a serious look on his face, Lionel soon opened his mouth while meeting her purple eyes directly.
“Atalante, could you tell me what happened that made you do that earlier?”
“What about me?”
“I’m talking about the dress. You had definitely liked it, but which part of it offended you?”
“…Didn’t I say so earlier? It’s just because.”
The grand duke hummed at her insincere reply, and with a snort, he propped his chin up in a hand and continued.
“In that case, let’s do this. Instead of just answering my questions honestly, I’ll give you an honest answer to one thing that you’re curious about.”
“I don’t have anything that I’m curious about though.”
“That can’t be true.”
How could he speak with such confidence?
Well, it was indeed the truth. Atalante did have many things about him that she’s curious about. There was probably much more than she could think of currently.
After staring at his playfully curved eyes for a moment, Atalante opened her mouth with a subdued voice.
“Fine. In that case, how did you… manage to come back to life despite having breathed your last?”
Out of the many questions she had, she chose the one that she was most curious about, and waited for Lionel’s answer.
His eyes widened roundly as if the question was something unexpected.
His bewildered blue eyes only remained visible for a moment, before his playfully lowered eyelashes drowned out his pupils.
“It’s regrettable, but anything other than that. Didn’t we make a promise that I’d let you know when you married me.”
“Other than that, I’ll answer anything else with the utmost sincerity.”
While hugging the backrest, he leaned his upper body a little more towards Atalante while whispering softly.
Before she could prudently choose the question that would be the most beneficial, she asked something foolish unknowingly.
“Why do you like me?”
‘……That, why did I ask that? Even though I clearly knew the answer.’
Although her question also caught herself by surprise, her mouth kept moving with abandon.
“I’m of a lowly status, have a bad personality, and I’ve actually done a lot of bad things.”
I’ll continue to do so in the future, and make a living out of it.
As soon as she finished those last words that were like a resolution, Atalante’s face flushed red.
‘What am I saying right now……?’
Was there a problem with the medicine that he had applied? Since love potions existed, it wouldn’t be weird for a truth serum to exist.
As Lionel looked at Atalante’s blushing appearance with a mysterious gaze, the most radiant smile that he had ever given appeared on his face.
How can he smile so brightly?
She wasn’t his yet, and he didn’t even get a promise for the future.
Lionel gave such a smile, as if it was enough for Atalante to be by his side.
Although that smile seemed to be a replacement for his answer, the grand duke was insistent on conveying his thoughts with words.
“You don’t seem to know much about yourself.”
Because you’re pretty, because you’re lovely, or perhaps just because.
She had expected those words, but the words that came out of Lionel’s mouth were disconcerting.
“You’d know if you think a little about it. How dazzling of a person you are.”
Atalante’s face crumpled as soon as Lionel finished speaking.
It was the face of someone that has heard of something weird.
“There’s no reason why I can’t tell you all of the reasons that caused me to fall for you one by one, but you’ll have to stay up all night, so you’ll be tired from listening.”
‘I know, isn’t it because of the drug.’
Atalante was already aware of the right answer, but she merely stared at his well-shaped lips.
Without knowing what was it that she’s expecting from this man.
“As such, let me explain briefly. Honestly… I can only say that I fell in love with you at first sight. The moment I saw you standing in the moonlight, I felt an unreasonable attraction.”
“You were strangling me.”
“…The room was too dark then. And the one that swung the knife first was you. My beloved Atalante.”
Lionel, who gave a ridiculous excuse and a playful reprimand at the same time, smiled awkwardly and continued.
“I thought about you many times a day, no, perhaps the entire day. As if I’ve been bewitched by something.”
The drug was quite an effective one.
Atalante, who held back the urge to react sarcastically, listened carefully to him even though she regretted asking a futile question.
“I thought that I had already fallen sufficiently, but the more I’m with you, the more I like you.”
“At first, I imagined you as I wished. Your personality, your manner of speaking, your manner of thinking, what kind of person would you be like, things like that.”
“But you, who I’ve personally gotten to know, was much more lovelier than my imaginations. Though you pretend to be indifferent, you have a kind gaze, and it makes me wonder had you survived working in your line despite your warmhearted personality. From the smallest of your trivial habits to everything, the more I know about you, the more I like you, Atalante.”
Why? She clearly knew that it was all a fantasy generated from the drug, but his words… made her happy, to the point where the corners of her eyes were stinging.
“I’m… not that kind of person.”
“Didn’t I just tell you? You don’t seem to know much about yourself.”
“I—I said I’m not…”
Atalante couldn’t figure out why she was stuttering. She just wanted to hide somewhere.
Her face burned as red as her hair, and her gem-like eyes continued to roll around.
Lionel looked at her for a moment, before handing over the hair that was clinging to Atalante’s cheek with a hand that had killed countless people.
“In that case, I’ll inform you of many things from now on. About the kind of person that you are.”
No matter how much she thought about it, whispering such words in that kind of voice was a foul.
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