The Viscount of Ventlen ground his teeth.
He should have made sure she had breathed her last back then.
He should have shown her mercy, not by throwing her in the slums because they were blood-related, but by dealing with her definitively.
Gritting his teeth, Viscount Ventlen followed after the butler escorting him.
‘Something did seem amiss the last time we met.’
Was the duke really going to hand the title, the Count of Leonid, to that eyesore?
To be frank, it was not too difficult to imagine what it must have been like for her growing up in the slums.
She must be an idiot because she had been uneducated, improper because she had no one to teach her otherwise and vulgar because she did anything she could to live.
To think he was handing the title, the Count of Leonid, of all things to a nobody like her?
That could absolutely not happen.
He had to stop it.
That vulgar thing, who had grown up not knowing anything, could never be allowed to tarnish the Leonid County’s pristine reputation.
Viscount Ventlen let out a long breath.
Now, if he walked a few more steps, he would come face-to-face with the Duke of Winfried.
He had to start controlling his anger now.
‘That lowly thing cannot be allowed to make problems.’
Since she was an inferior and ignorant girl, there should not be any issue taking care of her.
She must have been desperate for familial affection having grown up without a family as he expected.
He would take care of her once and for all after making her lower her guard by being nice to her for a bit.
However, the Duke of Winfried, who supported her, was a formidable opponent.
Viscount Ventlen’s eyes narrowed.
‘I can understand why the Duke of Winfried was searching for her and why he’s encroaching on me like this.’
But understanding him did not mean that he could tolerate this transgression.
This was the reason why Viscount Ventlen was visiting the Duke of Winfried today.
To caution the man who only had fortune.
Stomp! In spite of himself, Viscount Ventlen placed a little more weight in his next step.
The butler glanced backwards upon hearing the noise.
“Is there something the matter?”
Ahem, after clearing his throat once, Viscount Ventlen shook his head.
“Nothing. Besides, is his grace any further?”
“We have arrived. His grace is currently in the drawing room, waiting for your arrival.”
“Your grace, the Viscount, Covin Ventlen has arrived.”
“Let him in.”
It had not been long since he last heard that gruff voice.
The butler opened the door to the drawing room and the Viscount of Ventlen entered.
The Duke of Winfried had been sitting on a long sofa.
“It has been a long time, Duke of Winfried.”
Lowering his back, the Viscount of Ventlen curtsied.
On the other hand, the Duke of Winfried merely nodded in response.
“This is our first time seeing each other since we last met in the teahouse. Isn’t it?”
He prematurely terminated their conversation.
Leaning back on his seat, the duke did not seem to have any intention of continuing the conversation any further.
The Viscount of Ventlen furrowed his brows.
The duke did not ask him to sit or bring him tea.
He was being utterly rude.
Trying to hint at something, the Viscount of Ventlen gave a slight cough but the duke did not respond.
Rather, he merely started reading the documents that had been strewn on the table.
The viscount had never before been disregarded as such.
‘… He should be bowing his head right now.’
Gritting his teeth inwardly, the Viscount of Ventlen gave another desperate attempt at conversation.
“You must have been surprised by my sudden visit. Please pardon me for my offence. But there is something I have to speak to you about.”
The Viscount of Ventlen, who had been trying to sit opposite the duke, froze.
Those red eyes stared at him.
“I have yet to give you permission to take a seat.”
“Viscount, have you always taken a seat and watched without the host having granted any sort of permission?”
After being nitpicked for his basic manners of all else, Viscount Ventlen’s face reddened.
“You seem to have a tendency of gravitating towards what does not belong to you.”
“It will not end well for you if your greed continues.”
As he spoke, a corner of the Duke of Winfried’s lips rose albeit extremely slightly.
Still, his expression remained otherwise cold and empty.
And that was why even though his smile was so miniscule, it was bound to stand out.
“… My apologies, your grace. I made a mistake.”
Uttering a disingenuous apology, the Viscount Ventlen clenched his cane.
“That is all I need to know.”
Another moment of silence.
Viscount Ventlen could neither sit nor speak to him and could only stay standing in the drawing room.
The duke’s gaze remained fixed on the documents he was perusing and he did not spare Viscount Ventlen even one glance.
Another bout of humiliation.
“… Your grace.”
A long time had passed before he could finally open his mouth again.
“The reason for my sudden visit today is because I have something important to discuss with you.”
The Duke of Winfried nodded his head.
As though seeing through what the viscount could possibly want to speak to him about tauntingly.
“You mentioned the last time we met that you found my niece.”
“And it wasn’t too long ago that I heard rumours that you were looking into my house.”
“I’m relieved to hear that there is nothing clogging your ears.”
Placing the documents he had been reading down, the duke turned his head to face the viscount.
“Though it did take some time for you to find out.”
The Viscount of Ventlen bit into his lips.
He just has to hang his low for now. This would only be for a while.
He only managed to find the words to speak after repeating that to himself a couple of times.
A strange glint appeared in Viscount’s eyes as he stared at the duke.
“To tell you the truth, I came today to apologise and give reasons for my past actions.”
“An apology and reasons.”
Deliberately lowering his voice as much as he could, the Viscount of Ventlen continued.
“Back when the Duke of Winfried visited my wife and I, I had informed you that my niece had died of a fever.”
Dropping his cane onto the ground, Viscount Ventlen covered his face with his hands.
His body started to tremble.
“Actually, I have been keeping something from you.”
“My niece has a weak body. She would often fall sick and be stricken with fever. But she would often bounce back and I thought that would be the case that time again. I had called for the usual doctor but nothing he did worked.”
Ha, the Viscount of Ventlen let out a long breath.
“The fever-stricken child had suddenly started foaming at the mouth. We hurriedly tried to call for a doctor from another fief but we weren’t–”
He stopped mid-sentence. The Duke of Winfried looked at him as though he wanted the viscount to continue.
“And in the end, my niece had taken her last breath.”
His voice sounded like it was choked with tears.
“To be honest, I wanted to die myself. All I could think about was what would happen if I had called for a doctor a little earlier. I couldn’t hear or see anything…”
“So was that why you hadn’t inspected your niece’s body?”
Hearing the duke, the viscount nodded.
“When she heard that our niece had supposedly died, my wife had been so shocked that she had fainted. That was why I had believed my doctor when I was informed that she had taken her last breath.”
You can call me a coward if you so wish, the Viscount added with much difficulty mid-cry.
“I had sent my niece off when the doctor advised us to hold a funeral for her.”
Viscount Ventlen lowered the hand covering her face.
Tears flowed from his green eyes.
“Did he… to my niece…”
The Viscount of Ventlen was at a loss for words.
He broke down crying.
“… I’m begging you, your grace.”
Thud! He knelt on the ground and pleaded.
“If my niece is really alive, please let me see her face.”
“What are you planning on doing once you see her?”
He gripped onto the armrest of his seat as he struggled to get up.
“I can only continue to apologise and pray for forgiveness for my faults. If the child could accept my apology, I would ask her to come back with me to our estate.”
“… You mean to the Ventlen Visounty?”
“Yes, she probably hasn’t had her debut yet.”
The viscount continued without putting much effort into wiping his tears away.
His green eyes looked drenched in remorse, forlornness and tears.
“I would want to take good care of her until next year and hold a debutante for her. For a girl, their debutante would be the most important day of their life.”
The Viscount of Ventlen clenched his fist.
Tears streamed down his cheeks and collected at his chin before dropping on the ground.
“And I will try my darndest to find her a good husband and make her happy.”
He was not lying.
If his niece was to return to him, he would try his darndest.
Try his darndest to take care of her once and for all!
‘If that doesn’t work, I’ll just marry her off.’
He already had two sons under him.
She could marry one of them.
And that doctor?
He did not name-drop him without a plan.
If he couldn’t manage to convince her…
‘I can just put her in one of my son’s rooms.’
Wasn’t she bound to feel an attraction for the man she spent her first night with?
But if she still dared to protest against him, he could make her spend a few more nights with him.
A few more nights would definitely force her to cave in.
It would be even better if she ended up bearing a child.
While pretending to wipe his tears away, the Viscount of Ventlen grinned.
But when he lowered his hands, his smile had been wiped from his face as though it had never been there in the first place.
“So, could I ask you for this favour?”
What was going on?
This was certainly easier than he thought it would be.
However, the Duke of Winfried’s eyes only frosted over more.
“Please, if you know where that child is.”
Winfried rose to his feet.
Viscount Ventlen was startled when the duke stood up as he was at least a head taller than an average knight.
“I have something I’m curious about.”
“W-what is it? What could you curious about, your grace?”
Winfired took a step closer.
But Ventlen did not move from his spot as though his legs had been frozen in place.
“Do you perhaps happen to recall your niece’s name?”
“Of course, I do.”
He never thought the duke would ask him this.
Did he look like someone who would slip up like that?
He had actually tried to hint at the fact that he even remembered how old she would be to show that he had never forgotten about his niece.
Grinning inwardly, Ventlen uttered a name.
“Her name is Irina. A name that brings peace, Irina Leonid. She had turned 20 and she will be an adult this year.”
The duke smiled.
Just as he expected, he was right.
He gave a flawless, impeccable answer.
But why was he still getting cold sweat when the duke was clearly smiling?
“Well then, viscount. Let me ask you one more question.”
As he stood in front of the viscount, Winfried asked.
“Do you remember what colour your niece’s hair is?”