A few days later, the story of Teramore going insane amidst his imprisonment spread out. I tried to snoop around in front of the underground prison to confirm the truth of the rumor.

‘Since Henry’s incident, Teramore has been having suspicion regarding my identity. It would be very convenient for me if he really lost his mind, although even if he did lose his mind, it’d still better to stay low for a while.’

As I kept pacing around the entrance. I lowered my head and tried to steal a glance at the slight opening of the door.

Someone’s leg suddenly obstructed my vision and Viscount Dubos, the head of the advisor, came out from the underground prison. He was standing tall in front of me.

“Little miss.”

“Hellow, mistew…. Awe you swill scodwing gwandpa Tewamoe?” (Hello, mister…. Are you still scolding grandpa Teramore?)

The question concealed my real intention that, ‘Is it true that Teramore has lost his mind?’, burying the truth within the innocent probing.

“No, His mind is…not in the right place. That man should’ve waited for me to butchered off his ankle slowly and throw it outside—ahem,”

Sir Dubois tried to fake a small cough when he realized his real thoughts slipped through his mouth in front of the small LeBlaine.

Dubos saw her innocent eyes blinking as if his words were too foreign for her little mind to comprehend. He laughed awkwardly and scratched his head.

“The questioning is over. I’ve made sure he won’t do anything bad anymore to you or Henry. I promise.”

“Wow! Thwank you, Mistew Dubos!” (Wow! Thank you, Mister Dubos!)

Feeling the burden that has been weighing my mind lifted, I skipped away from the prison’s entrance jubilantly.

‘I’ve been wondering what to do with Teramore since he suspected my identity. It was a slip of mine when I showed him I was too mature for my age. With this one of my problems was resolved. This is a real stroke of luck.’

After I parted with Viscount Dubos, I walked around the castle, feeling the cold breeze gently caressing my warm cheek. The garden and the flowers looked even more vibrant than yesterday. Everything seemed more so beautiful than usual as the bad guy Teramore disappeared.

‘Ah, it feels good to loosen up once in a while….’

The passing employees smiled and greeted me cheerfully when they saw me strolling around the castle mirthfully.

“Hello, young miss. You’re in a good mood today. Where are you going?”

“I’m gwoing to look for snwacks.” (I’m going to look for snacks.)

Since the incident with Teramore, Lea and the maids had been giving me a lot of snacks. Fearing Teramore’s abusive means would scar me; the maids became more pampering than ever.

“Scumbag.”

“Die!”

“Fuck you!”

The maids hurled out vicious scary insults towards Teramore whenever they remembered what the rotten man did to me. Lea was the only quiet one amidst the storm of curses. All of sudden, her chair clattered as she stood up and paced into the kitchen. The other maids went silent. They looked at Lea’s sudden action with dismay.

‘What on earth?’

Only then Leah came out.

With a kitchen knife….

“I’ll kill Teramore,” her menacing look shocked the maids out of their wits.

If only Lea wasn’t afraid of the Duke, Teramore might’ve left the world that same night.

‘Her eyes were frighteningly ablaze with anger….’

When the thought of Lea with a kitchen knife flashed my mind, I couldn’t help but feel shivered down my spine.
After venting out their suppressed anger, the maids encircled me within their embrace and suddenly burst into tears. One of the maids broke the sobbing and sounded out a question that has been plaguing her mind.

“What…what if the child got traumatized?”

“What?”

“Doesn’t that often happen? When you can’t trust people all your life because of childhood trauma.”

Since that night, they’ve showered me with snacks and told me things such as:

“Young miss is the most precious.”

“Don’t worry little miss, the bad guys will be punished!”

“You don’t need to be scared, little miss.” and so on.

‘Their overindulgence towards me felt a little burdensome, although I didn’t mind the amount of snacks they gave me….’

I hummed a happy tune as I capered into my room.

‘Today’s snack is a sweet pickled peach pie. I can’t wait to savor one of those delicious pie.’

As I hopped onto the chair, the maids quickly surrounded me like a bee and began to chant out their usual encouragement.

“You’re so brave, young miss.”

“Our young miss is the smartest.”

“Young miss is the most precious.”

I could only nod at their adoring praises. I tapped my feet in impatience as I waited for the plate of snacks.

But…something seemed strange. No matter how long I waited, no snacks came in, and the maids began to brush my hair.

I tugged the sleeve of Dahlia, one of the attending maids, and asked, “Whewe’ e the snwacks?” (Where’re the snacks?)

“Today’s snack will be served in the afternoon. The Duke will have lunch with you, so he’s going to come earlier than usual.”

‘Why!!!’

I could feel imaginary tears running down my cheeks. It’s already disheartening enough that the snack time has been delayed, but having to eat with the Duke as the addition…. I couldn’t help but shudder.

My mind flashed to yesterday’s accidental meeting. When I unintentionally bumped into the Duke yesterday, his chilling expression was more terrifying than usual. Perhaps, because the meetings with the vassals went worse than his expectations, his usual intense bearing became worse.

‘I think I got a stomach ache.’

At this rate, I’d have to take digestive medicine in advance. With a huge despondent sigh, I got up and fumbled through the elephant bag.

*

Dubbled was already sitting at the table when I finally made my arrival at the dining room. Foods were set on the long table, waiting to be feasted upon. As I was about to get onto my seat, the door opened. Isaac’s figure was revealed through the gap on the wooden door.

“Good afternoon, Duke.”

Isaac bowed as he greeted the Duke. The poised Duke gave a slight nod towards his direction.

‘Isaac’s here. Is Henry coming to the supper, as well?’

Just after I thought about Henry, promptly, the door to the large dining room opened once more and a light step approaching from outside the room was heard.

“Good afternoon, Duke.”

The incoming person bowed his head to the Duke. As usual, Henry appeared impeccably neat and elegant in his simple attire.

“Have a seat.”

Instead of returning Henry’s greeting, the Duke simply sighed and gestured towards the empty chair. Henry could only raise his head and walked approached his designated seat.

‘Are you all right now?’

Question regarding Henry’s well-being was flooding from my concerned mind.

Throughout the whole week since Teramore confinement, Henry has been confining himself in his room while the castle was stirred up in a storm. All the servants that previously served him were temporarily banned from entering his room. The only people allowed inside was a maid and a doctor. To serve him food and check up on his health. Other than them, none of the people in this estate were allowed to go past the door.

‘The bruised arm… hmm… thankfully, it looks much better.’

‘Teramore’s abusive ways towards Henry deeply concerned me as I used to be the victim of similarly horrendous people and it was the worst thing that I ever experienced. I sat down and glanced at the Duke and Henry. The last time I saw the two of them interact was when the Duke interrogated Henry before he ran away, not wanting to tell everyone what Teramore did to him. Was it possible for them to become more estranged ever since?’

Breaking the lasting silence, Henry spoke.

“Duke, I would like to ask for your permission to take a leave of absence from the academy and be educated here for a while.”

‘Huh?’

‘Is he keeping an eye on Teramores’ case? Is that why he would rather stay here?’

I was surprised by his sudden request, but the Duke responded unperturbed.

“Why?”

“I’m sure there would be many difficulties for a child as young as me to manage the fief, but I think I should start to learn step-by-step.”

Only then did the Duke look at Henry. His eyes weren’t full of anger, instead it was filled with gentleness.

“Alright,” that short reply ended the conversation between those two.

While all the eyes in the room were looking at the two, the concerned parties were unbothered by the gaze. I could only force myself to swallow my complaints.

‘No matter how bad their environment was when they grew up, isn’t it too much for the Duke, as an adult, to behave this way?’

It wasn’t that I didn’t understand where they both were coming from. The Duke and Henry, both grew up under a reputable family. The Duke, at Henry’s age, almost died in the war; meanwhile, Henry was abused by his own teacher in these past years.

‘That would somewhat explain the reason they don’t know much about family relationships.’

‘But how can they know less than me? I, who had shed so much blood, life by life, only to finally find some happiness in my fourth life?’
I looked at the Duke with glaring eyes, and the Duke, who felt the gaze, thought I was glaring at the glazed strawberries on his plate.

“You love sweets, right? Give me your plate. I’ll give you some.”

He then brought my plate towards his side before moving his strawberries onto it. All while not realizing the intense glare I was giving him. I couldn’t help but kept worrying about Henry.

I, as a child, didn’t really like peoples’ attention, yet I still believe that every child needs their parents’ attention. Especially a kid like Henry, who preferred to keep everything to themselves.

‘What should I do?’

I hastily shook the Duke’s sleeves and said, “Henwy woves stwawbewys, too.” (Henry loves strawberries, too.)

“….”

‘Does Henry like strawberries? I hope he does or all my effort would be for nothing.’

The Duke looked at me, but there was no answer, so I told him one more time.

“Henwy too, stwawbewy.” (Henry too, strawberry)

“….”

“Henwy! stwawbewy!” (Henry! strawberry!)

I cried out in frustration until somehow the Duke flinched. He looked at Henry and moved his fork slowly. His movement was stiff, as if it was the first time he ever used the cutlery.

And….

“….”

Henry’s eyes trembled as he scrutinized the strawberries the Duke had left on his plate as if it was unreal. Neither of them had any change of expression and none of them spoke. The stifling awkwardness could be felt miles away. I endured the discomfiture and braced myself as I shook the Duke’s sleeve once more. After a moment, he finally broke the silence.

“…Eat.”

“…Thank you….”

I was pleased.

‘All right, all right.’

This won’t break down the high wall between the Duke and Henry, but I hope it will improve their relationship slightly.
I looked at the two alternately with a big happy grin on my face.
With a childish smile, I said to the Duke, “Wat’s woung? Dyuke, you shoul giwe swome to Isyac two.” (What’s wrong? Duke, you should give some to Isaac too.)

You shouldn’t discriminate as a parent.

“…….”

The Duke moved his cutlery again, his eloquence was nowhere to be found and only rigidness remained, when he moved the piece of strawberries on Isaac’s plate.

*

I rubbed my stomach with a sigh as I left the dining room after the suffocating supper.

‘The atmosphere was a bit too much for my nerves.’

I shook my head while contemplating if I should request Lea for more food. Today’s snack was a pie with sweet pickled peaches… maybe I should just wait for it?

‘Hmm…what should I do while I wait for the snacks?’

It was comical to see myself pondering over what to do in my free time.

In my first and second life, I was desperate to take a day off, but now I had too much free time and was mulling over what to fill it with.

‘What should I do?’

Such liberties used to be a dream, which I never would’ve thought could happen.

‘Am I actually in heaven?’

I pondered with serious consideration.
The sudden sight in front of me woke me up from the daydream, the door at the end of the corridor on the first floor had opened.

‘Huh?’

That door was what separated the east and west wing of the estate. The east wing was where outsiders could come and go, such as the office, the conference hall and the guest library.

On the other hand, the west wing was a space exclusive only for Dubbled’s relatives. It’s where the Duke’s bedroom and brothers’ room were.

Thus, the door at the end of the first-floor corridor connecting the east and west gates would always be closed.

‘The west wing. What kind of place is it?’

I’ve just been adopted, and the Duke has prepared my room in the west wing, but my room is currently undergoing renovation, so until the refurbishing was completed, I’d still be living in the east wing’s VIP room.

‘I’m going to live there eventually anyway, so can’t I go in and take a look?’

I glanced around once I made sure no one was around. Stealthily, I crossed the corridor and opened the door that would eventually lead me to the west wing.

“Wow….”

I burst out with admiration at the sight in front of me. Of course, the east wing was excellent in every way, but it was decorated as a front to maintain the Dukedom’s dignity and virtue as outsiders came and went. The west wing was completely different from the east wing.

The warm-colored smooth marble shines brilliantly, reflecting the sunlight pouring in from the tall windows. The trees planted on the floor at the end of the hall gave off a pleasant forest kind of smell.
If a fairy king lived in a castle, this was what his castle would be like.
While looking around frantically at the majestic hall, I found a doorless passage with an arch-shaped passageway. I poked my head out from behind the wall.

‘Painting?’

A giant portrait took over one side of the wall. But the room was too shabby, contrasting the majestic hall, it was only decorated with a painting. There was only an old embroidery tablet embedded in the top center of the frame. I looked up at the huge artwork. The face that filled the picture was of an old man. Though his hair was gray and wrinkles were all over his face, gracefulness and beauty could be felt even beyond the painting’s world.

“Who’s there?”