If Lia had been in a dream state, this would surely be a nightmare.
She sat at the vanity table and applied her make-up as quickly as she could while Pepe rushed about helping her to choose an outfit.
After dashing out of the bedroom, they walked down the long corridor toward the staircase, and Lia felt as stiff as a wooden block.
She was not looking forward to the meeting with Claude.
Upon entering the restaurant, Lia noticed the soft lighting and saw Claude sitting slanted at the circular table with a newspaper in his hand.
“You’re late.” He spoke without bothering to look up from the paper.
Lia was astounded by the way he calmly sipped his coffee.
Wearing a white jacket with a light blue vest and pants, he looked more gentlemanly than he did in the uniform he wore yesterday.
She also noticed that the restaurant seemed to look smaller than usual, which could be because of the Duke’s height.
Lia approached him nervously and saw how the waitress standing next to Claude became red in the cheeks because of her proximity to him.
“My apologies,” Lia replied.
“I did not sleep well last night.
Why did you call me in these early hours”
“I don’t know.
Why do you think so”
“Even if you ask me, I am not you, My Lord, so I do not know your intentions.” Lia returned the cheeky wordplay and stepped forward once more.
Claude looked up and chuckled at her daring response.
Lia then boldly brushed past the newspaper he was reading while subtly glancing at it before she sat in the seat on the opposite side of the table.
The article on the front page of the newspaper, which was about the daughter of Count Garion getting engaged, caught Lia’s eye.
She was only thirteen, but age was not a factor to royals, who wanted connections to good families.
Suddenly, she became curious.
Kieran was only fifteen when a decision had been made by the family that he would marry a princess.
She then wondered about Claude’s romantic situation.
When did his relationship with Marilyn Shelby become like that
“Would you like to eat together” Claude asked.
“No, thank you.
Coffee is enough for me.”
Claude ignored her reply and lifted his coffee pot, gesturing to the waitress, who then placed a pancake with a generous amount of fig jam on it, fresh juice, and a colorful goblet in front of Lia.
Her mouth watered from the sweet scent of the honey, and Lia tried everything in her power to stop looking at the plate.
Liking sweet things was just a preference, but Claude sometimes teased her for smelling sweet.
She hated how her face always went red at those words, and she didn’t want to be made fun of for seeming like a child, at least not by Claude.
Lia didn’t touch her fork, regardless of all the delicious food in front of her, and Claude watched in amusement, smiling crookedly, “Don’t be stubborn.
Eat until you are full because I have somewhere we need to go.”
“And where may that be” Lia asked, staring at him quizzically.
She found it hard to meet his eyes, probably due to the night in the alley, but she tried to act normal.
Even if she had suspicions, she couldn’t make accusations without having any evidence.
“I received a request from Kieran.”
“My brother” She asked, looking surprised.
As Lia ate a boiled peach with sticky syrup dripping off it, Claude whispered, “So adorable.”
She was unaware of what she was eating because a storm raged in her mind.
It could’ve been a peach, a stone, or a candy in her mouth for all she knew.
But on the outside, she looked calm as she munched on her food.
“He requested earnestly to tell his younger brother, Canillian, about life in the capital.”
Lia’s eyes shook like an earthquake.
“My Lord, I,”
“Claude,” he interrupted.
“Sorry, My Lord.”
“Stop calling me ‘My Lord’ I don’t want to hear it!”
She didn’t know what this unpredicted manner of his was, but Claude’s face looked serious.
Lia coughed dryly and fixed his title with difficulty, “Claude, my brother asked you to do that”
“Why Don’t you like the fact that he spoke to me”
“No, of course not.
It’s not that but,”
Claude interrupted her once again, “If you don’t hate the idea, just finish eating then, Canillian.”
She was getting angry, but she kept her composure.
Claude was sometimes rude, but that was how the royals were.
They’d say what they had to say without listening to the other person and then expected an immediate answer.
Claude leaned over and pushed the plate towards Lia, whose hands had stopped moving.
With a leisurely and dangerous smile, just like the time when he gave her sandwiches, he said, “Let’s eat first and then leave.
Starving is not good.
Eat as much as you need.”
In the center of Ataer City, the Duke’s black stallion came to a halt.
The sturdy carriage, built with thick black wood, drew the attention of passers-by.
It seemed like they were curious about who would step out from the elegant carriage.
Before he stepped out, Claude observed Canillian’s face.
His features looked child-like, and his irises became a shade lighter, twinkling in the sunlight.
He knew how soft Canillian’s platinum blond hair was.
But other than that, he didn’t know much about him.
As he sat next to him, he was also comparing Canillian’s face to that of the girl he’d bumped into the night before.
Hearing his name, he looked at Canillian again, seeing that his eyes looked fearful, and he smiled kindly, “Let’s get off.” Canillian glanced at him briefly and then exited from the carriage.
As the two got out, the people looking at the carriage erupted into a cheer.
The rumors that sprouted from the academy had spread throughout Ataer of the arrival of the Marquis’ second son, Canillian Vale, also known as the “Shadow Boy” in the capital.
The news about the beautiful and intelligent boy, who suppressed the arrogance of the teachers, made the middle-class people, who didn’t even have titles, feel more enthusiastic.
He had unintentionally proved that titles and status were not that important.
One could even say his existence alone was dangerous.
The confused Claude headed to the center of Ataer City, to the Cohen Bank.
Starting from the bank, the roundabout trip, lined with the museum, art gallery, and opera house, along with post offices, were landmarks that almost everyone visiting Ataer went to see.
“Try to remember this road, Canillian.
Everyone will explain directions using the Cohen Bank as a landmark.
You have a good memory, so this will be easy.”
“I think I have heard of it before.
Two-point seven miles north from the bank is the academy, and three miles from the bank is the palace,” Canillian replied confidently.
“Hmm, not bad.”