Damian with eyes wide open, quickly averted his gaze as soon as our eyes met.
His lips were slightly twisted.
“Today is my birthday…..”
I just can’t catch a break today, can I
I sighed deeply, dismissed myself and made my way outside.
Until that ship has sailed, I was thinking of doing some laps around the palace garden.
There was just one problem.
“Where are you going, kid”
The Duke was right beside me before I even knew it.
I was going to have a comforting walk alone.
That’s out the window now.
I moved at a brisk pace, feeling uneasy.
I couldn’t stand it and immediately looked back at the Duke.
“Why do you keep following me!”
“Can’t you see I’m going for a walk as well” The Duke replied.
I wanted to burst when I heard that but even if I did get mad, all I could get back would be a frivolous answer.
In short, there’s nothing I can do.
I’m a powerless maid.
I tried to not pay attention to the Duke as much as I could by being quick on my feet.
But it still nagged me especially when it was quiet….
…..It was awkwardly quiet.
This silent atmosphere is so suffocating.
Unable to bear it, in the end I admitted defeat by opening my mouth.
“Thank you for celebrating the crown prince’s birthday with us.”
“Well, finally a greeting but yes, the crown prince’s celebration was in order.”
He’s so annoying! I hate him so much I want to hit him!
I glanced up at the Duke.
…..it is true that I’m grateful.
“Actually, I thought that the Duke didn’t like the crown prince.”
Lost in thought, I had unwittingly blurted out my unfiltered most inner thoughts.
Ahh, me and big mouth!
The moment I reflexively shut my mouth, I heard the Duke’s voice.
However, his voice was calm, the opposite of what I thought it would be.
“Is there a reason why I should”
I inadvertently stopped.
The Duke was looking straight at me when I paused.
His eyes resembled the dark green of a forest in summer, his gaze piercing.
“On the contrary, I think you have a reason to.
I think you’re at fault.”
His expression at the moment…..was eerily similar to the Empress’s expression when I asked about Damian the other day.
“As head of the Duke’s family, it’s natural that I bear the sins of my family.”
“Hah, but…her Majesty, the Empress said you didn’t like caring for the crown prince”
I asked the Duke spontaneously without realizing it was impolite.
The Duke shrugged his shoulders lightly.
“Well, that’s about it.”
“My beloved sister said she was going down a difficult road, can’t I express some dissatisfaction as her older brother”
As he said so, the Duke gave a playful smile and even chuckled.
Oh, so there are times when the Duke can smile.
I looked at the Duke in a new light.
“However….Rose is right.”
“I’ve kept my eyes closed on what’s right and wrong for the sake of my family’s longevity.”
….The Duke’s family had helped the current Emperor usurp the throne.
He himself had taken over the mantle from the previous duke, who was a collaborator of the current Emperor.
I have little doubt though that the current Duke will ever think the same as the Duke prior.
After all, even fathers and sons can have different opinions.
Just as the Empress and the Duke have different ideas.
Once again there was silence but it wasn’t the unnerving silence like before.
I don’t know what to say, I’ve seen an unexpected side of the Duke.
Meanwhile, there was a scene that caught my eye.
Nestled in a tree, was a new family.
The baby birds were chirping away with their little yellow beaks wide open.
For its young, the mother bird diligently fed bits and pieces of a caterpillar.
When I first came to the crown prince’s palace, I was scared from the thought of a ghost jumping out at any moment.
Then not long after, the palace was given new life when the Empress intervened between me and Damian.
“What are you so focused on” said the Duke interrupting my train of thought.
The Duke narrowed his eyes and looked in the direction I was staring at.
I smiled awkwardly.
“Oh, I’m just a little jealous.”
“Those birds up there, aren’t they very close”
I lifted my hand, pointing towards the new family.
“The mother bird, she’s taking great care of her babies.”
“…..Is it not natural for the mother to care for her chicks”
To the Duke’s question, I answered in a soft voice.
But there are many people who don’t have families in the world, right”
In response, the Duke fell silent for a moment.
After a while.
Dark green eyes looked down at me obliquely.
“So, you want a family”
“Yes, I always wanted a family.”
I nodded repeatedly.
“If I had a family, I would be really nice to them.”
“Is that so…”