When she heard the destination that Claude instructed the coachman to take them to, she was not surprised.
Her prediction that the end of this trip would end in Louvre had been correct.
Lia looked at Claude facing forward and visibly hunched her back, exaggerating the motion somewhat.
Is it the region I know” She queried.
Hearing her fearful voice, he cast his eyes down, “Which is the Louvre you know”
“What do you mean by which I heard it is a place you should never go near.
And that one shouldn’t even think of stepping a foot in there,” she hurriedly replied.
Claude’s expression remained calm.
So calm that she didn’t know what he was thinking.
Lia felt like her insides were burning from frustration.
She didn’t know what Claude wanted to see there, but she didn’t like how he was going about things.
“Then do you know this The town that you can see from your window, behind the Leon River, is Louvre.”
“Is that true That dark place is Louvre” Lia asked, pretending not to know.
Claude nodded in response, and Lia quivered as if frightened.
She mumbled that she wasn’t aware of this as she scanned the surroundings.
And just in time to end the uncomfortable conversation, the coachman slowed down the carriage as he turned to look at the two.
Claude’s eyes paused on the dark red bell tower, then returned to her.
“Louvre starts from here.
The empire’s biggest mistake and shame.
It is also known as Ataer’s nuisance.
Mistake, shame, and nuisance, these words felt like they described her because she strongly sensed that she was born by mistake and felt like she brought shame to those close to her.
In Cosoar, with no choice but to become an unmanageable nuisance, she was like the living example of Louvre.
Light and shadow had to exist together.
If Kieran was the light, then she was the shadow; the brighter Cosoar shone, the darker the shadow of Louvre became.
“I am scared,” Lia whimpered.
Louvre was a silent, cold place, where it seemed that even the light that entered into the alleyways could not find a way out and was home to many people who hid themselves during the day.
As if to show what an unpleasant area they were in, a stench wafted under her nostrils, and she dry-heaved when seeing a decomposing dog’s body.
Suddenly startled, she turned around to see a dirty-looking beggar with gaps in his rotting teeth, right next to them, asking for money.
As all of this was happening, the carriage slowed down and stopped at the north entrance.
It was the exact spot from where she’d run away from Claude, only yesterday.
A scruffy-looking tortoiseshell cat was disturbed from its nap, no doubt from the sound of horses hooves, and dashed across the road.
In that instant, Lia grabbed Claude’s arm and buried her face in his shoulder.
“Lord Claude, this place is not good.
The smell is making me nauseous, and I’m scared.”
“Still, have a look around.
Even though the area is neglected, it is still a place where people live.
Diverse people at that.”
“I don’t want to.
Let’s go back, please,” Lia whined.
“It is a shadow that is cast by bright light, is it not” Claude stared at her shaking body and raised an eyebrow.
Seeing his expression, enhanced by the shimmering decoration in the carriage, Lia was sure she was being tested by the unreadable, and cunning Duke.
With her face still in his shoulder, she peeked only her eyes out, and they began to water.
She knew Louvre was considered a danger zone.
But she also knew that there was more to this place than danger.
Because of this, tears welled up in her eyes in sorrow.
“I suggest that you don’t go wandering around at night.
Especially beyond the Leon River,” Claude said, sounding almost as if he were accusing her of something.
“Yes.” Lia nodded obediently.
“Then, we shall go,” Claude said frankly as his large hand wrapped around her shaking shoulders.
His expression looked serious as he stared ahead and instructed the coachman to take them to another destination.
Lia didn’t straighten her body until they were far from Louvre.
Her head throbbed, and she pressed it with both hands, hiding her teary eyes.
“Were you badly frightened” Hearing his voice above her head, she nodded.
“Why did I think you would know the way” His rhetorical question made Lia look up and glare at him.
“I have never been near or inside Louvre,” Lia said defensively.
“It seems so,” Claude said as he smirked.
She wasn’t sure if he genuinely believed her or if he was only pretending to.
Lia said nothing more and moved away from Claude to look out onto the road.
He gently turned his head, and his eyes landed on the space where she’d been sitting.
Unexpectedly, he felt a strange sense of longing but he pushed it aside and returned his gaze forward.
“I have an appointment with Count Garion, so let’s drop you off at home.”
Lia smiled openly because this was the best news she’d heard today, and she couldn’t wait to get away from the Duke as soon as possible.
“Your time is precious, so let us hurry to my home.”
Most of their time together this morning, Claude had been looking at her harshly, but he suddenly burst into laughter.
Then he sighed and shook his head.
“It’s no fun if people don’t change at all.”
“What do you mean”
“Are you that happy You seem ecstatic whenever I say I am leaving.”
“No, not at all.
I am deeply disappointed.
You misunderstand me,” Lia replied, trying to keep a straight face.
“Is that so You don’t seem sad at all.”
Lia disliked the fact that he was so observant of her mood changes.
Like she did with Kieran, she pulled on the Duke’s sleeve, opened her eyes wide, and bluffed, “I want to have a meal with you, Lord Claude.
Not by myself, but rather, a meal together.
But you already have plans, so I mustn’t hold on to you too long.”
Claude knew Canillian was fibbing and laughed to himself.
“I can push forward my plans.”