It was unknown whether he knew about Alice’s incident from last year. For now, however, Alice’s reputation would go up through the single fact that she had received an invitation from him. If word got out that she had connections with him, she would get a lot of attention from many aristocrats, increasing the possibility of her finding a good potential husband tomorrow. However, Chloe was concerned. Swan’s rose-scented summer wind, instead of freshness, left a strange feeling behind. After closing and locking the loud rattling door Alice turned around.
“Let me check your leg. Is it hereditary?”
Her cane leaning calmly on the wall suddenly fell to the floor with a thud. Chloe looked down at the rolling cane as she gently bit her lip. Even after all this time, she could not forget his cold voice.
“If you operate through emotion, you’re destined to lose. Just like if you let emotions get in the way of order, you can lose a battle.”
“Sir, I am not a soldier in a battle.”
Chloe staggered up, missing the point of his words. Slowly approaching while stepping on the fallen petals, Duke Teece bowed his head and made eye contact with her.
“As long as you’re alive, life itself is a battle. For people like you especially, it’s harder.”
“Even so, there is no reason for you to interfere with my life, Duke Teece.”
“You call this interfering? I’m only giving you advice, but seeing that you don’t even thank me I guess you’re pretty torn up inside.”
The young duke smiled at Chloe, who opened her eyes wide to prevent herself from crying. Though beautiful like a gift from the heavens, it was a smile she did not want to meet again. From that moment, she understood the words ‘the devil is beautiful’ for the first time.
That winter, three years ago, a tiny estate in Swanton Kingdom’s southwest region suddenly became active. It was because of this the 3rd Royal Army, which had retreated from the war, stayed there to reorganize the battle lines. Viscount Verdier, the owner of the small castle on the estate, was willing to open the gates for the soldiers and commanders.
In this war that continued much longer than expected, soldiers were terribly exhausted and had become sensitive and grumpy due to difficulties in the battles. Inside the castle, cries from the injured were constantly heard, and those who were uninjured also walked around with half-charred faces, threatening the others. Eventually turning it into a hospital and barracks, the Viscount provided as much supplies and food as possible for them in his castle.
He had two daughters. Alice, the younger one, was studying in the capital city of Swan; his older daughter Chloe has never left the castle since she was young, due to health issues. Chloe also claimed to play a role in nursing injured soldiers, along with her father’s own efforts to help them as much as possible with a positive attitude. Some injured soldiers mistook Chloe for a servant that spared no effort in dire situations, and they sometimes talked harshly to her. When one of them called her a cripple, Gray, another helper, grabbed him by the collar.
“Don’t do that, Gray. Isn’t it true?”
The reason Chloe tried to stop him was that the ones talking bad about her were severely injured and sensitive. Her mother, up until her death, had emphasized to her: “Helping the poor and injured is an aristocrat’s duty, Chloe.” Though she had a disability, she had learned not only the knowledge of aristocratic spirituality from an early age but also how to hide her agitated emotions and maintain calmness.
“Chloe, how about letting the other helpers take over?”
However, she decided to listen to her father when he brought that up with mixed feelings on his face. It hurt her to see the noticeably grim change in her father’s face when the soldiers talked rudely about her. They stayed in the castle for about half a month. And for the final five days, Chloe quietly stayed in her room to read. She couldn’t fully concentrate, however, as the ruffling and shuffling of feet outside her door weren’t completely shut off. Whenever they sometimes said bad words about the enemy troops or made distasteful s*x jokes about her, she shut the curtains and loudly played a melody on her piano.
That night. The night she met Duke Teece for the first time was an exceptionally quiet one. Normally it was noisy until the campfire keeping everyone at the barracks warm went out, but for some reason, a strange silence began to flow among the soldiers from noon that day.
Chloe lifted her head at the sound of someone’s loud voice coming through the window where she was reading. When she pulled the curtain back a little and looked out, someone was seen walking out of the backyard of the torch-lit castle.