Hearing what the Duke of Winfried said, Rhett jumped up from her seat.
After slamming her hands against the low table, she glared at the duke.
His red eyes seemed to widen a little in surprise but he did not seem the least bit concerned.
“Did I, did I have p-parents?”
No, that wasn’t it.
Rhett shook her head.
She managed to regain the rationality she almost lost.
Silently sitting back down, she asked again.
“Uhm, how are you so sure that I’m the one you’ve been searching for?”
Because of the prolonged war, orphans had flooded the streets.
The slum was also not safe from the onslaught.
Didn’t she used to see new faces settle into the slums everyday?
When Rhett glanced at him warily, the duke spoke once again.
“Because of what the two often said.
They would speak of their daughter having bright gold hair, eyes bluer than the sea and–”
Rogan reached out towards her and grabbed Rhett’s left wrist.
“That she had a star-like mark on the inside of her left wrist.”
Rogan’s thumb slowly caressed the star-shaped birthmark situated on the inside of Rhett’s left wrist.
“So, there really was one.”
He raised his head so that they both made eye contact.
“I believe that you are their daughter.”
His words left some questions unanswered but they sounded confident.
Under his gaze that was probing her for a response, Rhett lowered her head.
To escape the slums and find out who her parents were.
Unbelievably wonderful things were occurring one after the other.
“I don’t know how to feel about this.”
It was at times like these, one should be cautious.
She shouldn’t have gotten excited over something like this.
Shouldn’t she already be painfully aware how agonising and heart-wrenching it was to have expectations–that had grown to form a mountain–shatter?
“This mole is definitely unique but it’s still difficult for me to ascertain whether you speak the truth… don’t you think so?”
Rhett bit her lower lip.
Staring at Rhett, Rogan’s head tilted.
“No, you’re right.’
Looking at Rhett who remained still at her spot, he fished out something he had been holding and handed it out to her.
Atop his calloused hands sat a necklace embellished with a silver locket.
Rhett carefully took the necklace from his hand.
‘What necklace is this?’
Tilting his head, the Duke of Winfried reached out his hand and, this time, pressed a spot behind the locket. Click, the silver locket sprung open and the portrait of three immediately captured her attention.
A man with gold hair and green eyes and a woman with red hair and blue eyes.
And the baby the two were holding in their arms.
Blue eyes and golden hair with a small star-shaped mole on her left wrist.
He sounded unabashedly confident.
“Sir Azen and Dame Leira were both outstanding and honourable knights.”
Rhett could only sit there blinking as she could not bring to believe him but his soft voice washed over her head.
“Azen Leonid was the lord of the Leonid County and was known as Count Leonid.
Leira Leonid was also well respected by her people.”
Rhett looked up at the Duke of Winfried.
For some reason, he was glowing.
“And the two really loved you.”
Her parents who had searched for her.
A family that loved her.
Her heart began thumping.
“Where are they now?”
Rogan stared at Rhett who had tightly clutched onto the necklace.
“I would like to meet them.”
She no longer tried to hide her feelings.
Rhett honestly revealed her inner thoughts.
“Where are my parents? W-when can I see them?”
She could hear her voice rising.
If she could, she would sprint to wherever they were right away.
“… Sir Azen and Dame Leira.”
The silence was long.
Answering her, Rogan’s voice hung in the air with tangible weight.
“The two had fought in the war against Luberg.”
Hearing what Winfried had to say next, Rhett’s expression stiffened.
“They had passed on the battlefield.”
Rhett blinked her eyes slowly.
When she first heard them, the duke’s words did not register.
So, was he saying that… her parents had died?
“They died? Both of them?”
The duke nodded.
“Did they die fighting?”
The duke nodded again.
“… Can they not come see me?”
She knew that was a foolish question.
But she could not stop the words leaving her lips.
Ha, Rhett softly scoffed at the duke’s reply.
Had she expected anything else?
Well, that was what her life had been thus far…
That was why she shouldn’t have had any expectations but she acted like a fool.
Rhett swept her hand across her face a couple of times before letting out a deep sigh.
How much time had passed?
Slowly blinking her eyes, Rhett lowered her head.
“Thank you for letting me know what had happened to my parents.
It’s thanks to you that I learned more about my parents.”
Alright, she should focus on the positive.
She should only think about positive things.
The fact that her parents were dead… was sad to hear.
But hadn’t her parents only existed in her imagination thus far?
They had been aristocrats and even died fighting for peace.
That piece of information alone told her that they were more dashing and capable than she ever imagined them to be.
Even if she thought realistically.
She had just escaped the slums and perhaps she could settle down after receiving some assistance from the Duke of Winfried.
Alright, that sounded good enough.
That was a good place to stop thinking about the future.
Rhett took a deep breath and smiled.
“Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.”
The moment those words left her lips, Rhett noticed that her tumultuous thoughts had calmed a lot by that point.
But the duke did not feel the same.
Winfried’s expression darkened every time Rhett spoke.
Soon after she spoke her last words, his entire expression had contorted.
Staring at Rhett, Winfried pursed his lips.
He held his breath momentarily, as though he was about to speak, but his breath continued to hitch for a long while.
“Does the duke perhaps have anything to say to me?”
Finally, unable to wait for him to speak any longer, Rhett tilted her head and asked.
But the duke could not bring himself to speak.
After hesitating for a long time, the duke sighed and got up from his seat as if he had given up on what he had initially wanted to say.
“I owe a lot to the Leonid couple for their help on the battlefield.”
Standing, he looked down at Rhett with a grim gaze.
“Now, it is my turn to pay my due.”
Rhett could only stare at Winfried.
“And I mean it.”
With an intense gaze, the Duke of Winfried stared at Rhett.
“Miss Irina Leonid, I wish for your happiness.”
He wished for her happiness.
There were some who wished her well when they greeted her but this was her first time hearing someone tell her that.
That was why she had not noticed at first.
“… My name.”
He had just called her Irina Leonid.
She realised that that was her name a little late.
“Is that my name?”
The Duke of Winfried nodded.
“Irina Leonid, that is your name.”
Not knowing how to react or what to reply, Rhett’s expression hardened.
Her name, that was her name.
I also have a name!
A real name, one that was not given because of a rat!
She covered her mouth just in case she screamed.
“Irina means peace.”
The Duke of Winfried stretched his hand out to Irina.
“Live your life in peace as your name calls for and be as happy as I wish you to be for.”
He pressed his lips upon her sullied hands.
“From the bottom of my heart.”
As he loomed over her hand, the Duke of Winfried smiled gently.
“You may remain in my mansion until you are happy.
Please do not hold yourself back from receiving all of my help.”
She felt as though she should say something in response but she couldn’t because she was choking on her emotions.
The most she could do was to nod.
The Duke of Winfried, who pulled the corners of his lips to a smile once again, straightened his back.
“Get some rest.”
Heading towards the door, the Duke of Winfried then turned as though he was just reminded of something.
“Welcome to the Winfried Duchy, Daughter of Count Leonid, Miss Irina Leonid.”
The door closed.
Even after she was left alone, Irina stared at the door blankly.
And it was only after some time passed did she register the fortune she had been blessed with a joyful cheer.
What the Duke of Winfried had been hesitating to say earlier had already been pushed to the back of her mind.
In a teahouse in the capital.
Sitting in the seat he had been guided towards, Viscount Ventlen fidgeted with his lapel without much reason.
He continued to remove and put on his gloves as he could not stop his hands from sweating.
‘How long has it been?’
He could not remember how many years had passed since he was last in the capital.
It might have been the first time he travelled to the city since he last visited for that silver mine.
Was that a couple years back?
As he scoured through his vague memories, Viscount Ventlen glanced around his surroundings.
‘I was told that this was a luxury teahouse that even only a handful of the central nobles use and that does seem to be the case.’
Every customer he could see sitting in that teahouse was someone whose name he had heard at least once before.
They were famous for their businesses, outstanding contributions to the country or had made a name for themselves in high society.
There were people here whom ordinary aristocrats would not be able to easily strike up conversation with.
He had hailed from Count Leonid as well but although he had been granted an entrance pass to the Imperial Palace, this was a high-end teahouse that even that pass could not grant entry to.
Looking around the teahouse, Viscount Ventlen clenched the fists he had rested atop the table.
He too could have belonged to such a scene.
If only he had not been deprived of opportunity because he was the second choice, he would have belonged here a long time ago.
Crack, Viscount Ventlen ground his teeth.
‘How much was I discriminated against, how much humiliation had I been subjected to for only being the second son?’
Obviously, he had lost all of his parents’ love to that bastard, Azen.
His house’s support had also been monopolised by him.
Didn’t he struggle in the academy because everyone only knew him as ‘Azen’s little brother?’
There was also that time.
“Let Azen become Count Leonid.”
“What? Father, what about me?”
“Kovin, you shall be granted the title ‘Viscount Ventlen.’”
“… You’re only granting me a viscounty?”
“The Viscounty of Ventlen is also in a good location.
Doesn’t it also house the small but reliable Lowell estate? Their wheat fields are sizeable and there are many who lived there for a while, you will not find it difficult to collect taxes from them.”
Hadn’t the title of ‘Count Leonid’ also been taken away by Azen?
Just because he was the second son!
‘Skill-wise, I am much better than him.’
If he had been granted the title, Count Leonid would have long moved from the western country into the city.
He could have erased the fact that the Leonid house was weak and only had honour to their name from history!
‘This is all his fault…’
That moron who laughed like a fool was more interested in wielding his sword and following his ideals than ruling the county.
He was so foolish that he had bought into the vain idea that he could extinguish the flames of war and threw himself into the said flames.
To think he would jump into those flames on his own.
And place his daughter in Ventlen’s hands.
Those were the two best things Azen had ever done with his life.
When Azen died, when the sole heir had passed, didn’t those cronies, like Baron and Baroness Kerrick, lose hope and leave the county one after the other in despair?
“Just a little more now.’
If he just hung on for a little while more, he would be able to swallow all of Leonid County and finally become Count Leonid.
Then, he would be one of the elites who could sit here.
He had no need to fret.
Still, he thought he needed to become more vigilant in case of any unexpected variables.
“I’m not late, am I?”
That wretched thing the war hero was searching for.
Looking up to face the Duke of Winfried, Viscount Ventlen flashed a broad smile.
“I had just reached as well.”
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