Chapter 20 - The Crushed Gift
“The Estevan Duchy is excellent at welcoming guests.”
The Grand Duke approached her as he spoke, brushing off his clothes, looking dissatisfied. While he walked gracefully, his movements were quick, and he reached her quickly.
“It’s nice to come here after being treated with impressive hospitality.”
After all that waiting, he really did come. Laila couldn’t quite understand. She felt that the happiness she received from waiting was enough, and that was also one of the treasures that Venio, the Grand Duke, provided for Laila.
And now, he really was here.
“You must be surprised. I thought I already told you that we’ll meet again officially.”
He seemed cold and nonchalant when he spoke about the Estevan Duchy’s hospitality, but now, as he smiled slightly when their eyes met, it was hard to tell what he was thinking.
Suddenly, there was a floral scent in the air, and a flower filled Laila’s vision. It was a very small, white, and beautiful flower.
“I’m not sure if it’s proper for me to say this when I’m handing you a flower, but did you have a peaceful night, my lady?” Venio gave a gentle smile after he spoke.
She desperately wanted to escape, but her body wasn’t letting her. Laila didn’t know what to do, but when she saw Venio making a move to retract the flower, she reflexively reached both hands out.
Venio watched quietly as Laila’s eyes widened with surprise at her own action. For a moment, his expression was unreadable, then he reached his hand out to her with one corner of his lips lifted.
Laila didn’t even breathe as the flower was being tucked in her hair.
The flower’s scent had faded and now, a new, unfamiliar scent was lingering around her nose. Laila stared blankly at the Grand Duke’s shoulder that was closer to her.
Just then, she heard a small laugh.
Laila couldn’t even raise her head. She blinked at the laugh that burst out. The Grand Duke held his laughter back and said in her ear, “It won’t fly away even if you moved.”
She looked very cute. Laila lifted her head slightly, a little less nervous when she heard the Grand Duke speaking to her more gently. He had a smile on his face and seemed to be enjoying the moment.
His eyes sparkled deeply like velvet sprinkled with violet pearls, with the end of a smile smouldering through his eyes.
“The flower is not as fragile as it seems to be.”
“Is that so?”
Laila finally opened her lips and responded. At last, Venio got to hear her voice. He smiled contentedly and moved slowly away from her respectfully, then looked at Laila and saw that she was tucking the flower into the end of her braided hair.
“Yes, that’s right.”
Even though Laila said she didn’t mind, he felt it necessary to make up for what he did yesterday because he couldn’t forgive himself.
But his choice brought on a more excellent result than he had expected. While it was nighttime, it wasn’t as dark as midnight. He was now able to see Laila properly. In the dusky evening air, the little lady was like a fairy.
She still didn’t really make a very vivid impression, but her precariousness was what attracted him to her. Her gray hair which was close to white was what he liked about her, rather than the silver hair of her family.
Her hair was more than just ashy; it looked soft and lovely. Her small and lean face wasn’t very distinct, her facial features were delicate and beautiful, including her pure and soft ashy-colored eyes.
“It looks lovely on you, my lady.”
The man who spoke maliciously to the tick who wore flashy gold and red hair accessories was now saying something like this to Laila.
Every moment seemed surreal, so Laila took a little while before responding.
* * *
“If you’d allow me to, I’d like to place some chairs in this desolate garden,” said Venio, as he spread out the cloth Laila had been sitting on earlier. Laila began to mull over this seriously.
Venio felt a little awkward that Laila was reacting so seriously to his somewhat sarcastic comment as if it were the most important question of her life. He had never seen anyone reacting this way before.
“You can take your time to think about it, and please let me know when you’ve decided.”
“Okay.” Laila nodded, unconsciously clenching her small fists.
Venio stared at her without realizing. Suddenly, their eyes met. Laila’s ashy eyes widened a little.
‘She looks like she might faint.’
He was in a rather strange mood.
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