Chapter 23 - Friends
It seemed like Laila was talking more than usual as she believed she was dreaming. This was Venio’s assumption, but he was usually right about things. He decided not to pursue the topic of dreams, and instead, asked about something else.
“But, Laila? For me to perform well, I think I need to know more about you.”
At this, Laila hunched over slightly. Carefully observing her behavior, he continued more nonchalantly, “I’ve been curious about it since last night— what’s so special about that leaf?”
“You mean, the leaf?”
Venio smiled slightly when he saw Laila relax a little.
“Yes. It seemed you were almost putting your cheek on the leaf, both yesterday and today.”
“That’s because the wind…”
Venio listened carefully to her finishing her words after hesitating a few times.
“The wind was all gathered on the leaf.”
Venio calmly closed his eyes, then opened them and tilted his head. Laila noticed that Venio didn’t seem to understand, so she continued quietly with an embarrassed and unsure expression, “I thought I might irritate it if I touched it.”
“Irritate…? Hmm… Okay.”
Venio decided to just agree with her for now and grew thoughtful. As he stared at her unblinkingly, Laila lowered her gaze, feeling awkward. Venio noticed her behavior and took his eyes off her.
It was hard to describe his feelings, but he felt moved by what she said. Just then, Venio recalled how the duke’s family had treated him earlier.
It was a problem that he just said he was there to see the lady without much explanation about why he was visiting, but the moment they exchanged strange looks was upon hearing the word ‘lady’ from Venio.
He was able to find out how Laila Estevan was being treated by her family after observing their glances, actions, and tone. It was honestly easy enough for him to understand, without using any manpower, that their hostile treatment towards her was blunt. They were openly showing their treatment of her as if they were not malicious behaviors.
Because of that, he didn’t expect Laila to respond this way, so he couldn’t continue to speak.
‘This shows how she has been living so far.’
This answer was more than he expected from the personality he had surmised, her appearance, and other things. And the conclusion he drew was making him frown.
It was hard to know yet why she wanted the contract for just a month.
“Oh I see,” he responded after making an effort to calm down. While concealing his anger, he smiled at her as if nothing was wrong.
It didn’t matter before, but as long as she was in a contract with him, she wasn’t just anyone to him. And so, it was natural for him to be angry.
It was almost dusk. While getting up, he gently assisted Laila to stand. He gazed at the gloves that she was wearing, then said in a low voice, “What do you think about us being friends as we’d talked earlier?”
If he was just thinking about the tick, it would be best to show that their relationship was one of friends who weren’t very close. However, Laila Estevan was carrying bigger problems than his issue with the tick. After Venio came to a decision about it, he politely asked Laila, hoping she would allow him to be a friend.
“But, Your Excellency, will you be alright if we do that?” Laila asked, looking worried.
“Will there be any problem?” asked Venio in return as he frowned upon hearing Laila’s strange question, even though he knew it was true. If it was Lady Nevira Bedelium, her imagination would surely be provoked upon constantly seeing Venio with Laila, and she was bound to become hostile.
“It is my first time having a male friend. It’s interesting.”
Laila thought for sure that she must be dreaming. It was a dream that didn’t even make sense. Letting others know about their relationship would be different since it wasn’t just a matter between them. She was well aware of this, but Venio, the Grand Duke, didn’t seem to mind others knowing about how close they were.
This was impossible for Laila to understand since she had been living among people who loathed even her existence. And Venio was someone to whom she felt incredibly grateful. Laila didn’t let what was collecting in her eyes fall, and nodded while holding herself together.
“I’ll be fine too if it’s just going to be for a month.”
“Thank you, my lady.”
Venio paused for a moment when he heard ‘a month,’ but soon, he smiled beautifully and kissed her gloves gently. Then, his smile grew a little more dangerous and he said to her, “Also, my lady, as I think more about it, what if we just call each other by name next time?”
“I…I’ll be okay with that too,” Laila stuttered after a brief hesitation. Venio wanted to celebrate the fact that Laila believed she was dreaming. After hearing the answer he wanted, he escorted her to her dwelling, then turned to her.
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