Alex frowned and looked at me with his arms crossed. “I saw my sister kill an attacker. You are so drastically different from who you used to be,” said Alex, “It just… doesn’t seem surprising to me that you might have been a killer in your past life and….” Alex glanced at the Grand Duke. “Perhaps you were a guard investigating her case.”
Ah… a guard. That was plausible. I looked at the Grand Duke for a while. He smiled at me shamelessly. You have really changed Jang Seong-hoon.
“Anyway, I think the purpose of this meeting will change thanks to the sudden appearance of the princess,” I said.
“Not much,” said the Grand Duke, “I held this gathering in the first place so I could meet you, Miss Alice.” I glared at him. What’s with him? I wish I could rip that smile off his face.
“I guess I should follow you two around as a chaperone but I am not very good at that,” said Alex, “Can I trust you to keep good intentions and treat Alice with good manners, Grand Duke?”
I looked at Alex, speechless. “Now you are tossing me away as a scapegoat so you can be free and comfortable?” I snapped.
“Well… you did exactly that to Aaron,” said Alex with a sly smile. “And I think I deserve the comfort. Besides this is all happening because you had to be so charming.”
“You just watch…,” I said, “I am going to find the most talkative girl and make her stick with you the whole time we are here.”
The threat hung in the air. It certainly made Alex reconsider. He was quiet for quite a while. “No girl could be worse than you,” he said and shook his head. “Plus, the most talkative and annoying person is with Aaron right now. Anything other than that sounds like a treat. So… enjoy!” He slowly backed away towards the stairs, waving at me animatedly. “I will take your leave now.”
One of the Rice siblings had followed Aaron, another followed Alex. I was left with Amy, who looked uncertain.
“You can go and sort out your Lady’s luggage in the meantime,” said the Grand Duke to Amy. “I promise to be gentlemanly and keep my intentions noble.”
Amy looked at me. Bless her heart. “It’s alright,” I told her. “Go. I will be fine. I can take care of myself.”
Amy still looked anxious but she followed the stairs that Alex had taken moments before. I turned to the Grand Duke, with my hands crossed. “Did you really tell Alex everything?”
“I thought he would believe my story if he believed his sister’s.”
“That’s not what I am saying,” I said. He looked at me as though asking what I wanted to say.
I sighed. “Never you mind, it’s done anyway,” I said. “Where are you planning on taking me?”
“The Glouster Gardens,” he said, “They are very beautiful.”
After sitting inside the carriage for so long, stretching out my legs didn’t seem like a bad idea, but I didn’t feel like going to the garden, where anyone might wander around.
“I’d rather stay inside. I am a bit tired. I’d like a cup of tea too, if you don’t mind.”
“Of course,” said the Grand Duke, “Let’s go to the sunroom. We can have tea and some snacks.” The Grand Duke sent a servant to the kitchen with the orders and offered me an arm. I was used to walking arm in arm with men. It was standard etiquette but with him, I always hesitated.
He led me to the uppermost floor of the castle through a hallway. I looked around. “This castle is truly beautiful. Wishburn castle is beautiful too but this castle is lovely in a warm way.”
Wishburn castle was all grandeur. It was almost cold in its colossal dignified and classic appearance. This place was filled with sunlight and warmth. Wishburn felt like a burly and protective father with a kind heart, Glouster castle felt like a lenient and nurturing nanny.
He smiled vaguely. “I was also very surprised when I was sent here for the first time,” he said. “This was usually a hide-out for the ones turned away from the royal palace. Those the royals wanted to keep an eye on but didn’t want them around. I expected some down-trodden, cold and abandoned place but it is so comfortable and easy here. I like it her far better than the royal palace. That’s why I rarely like going to Schway.”
That was understandable. Schway was where everything happened. It was a busy hub of a place but the atmosphere here was more tranquil. The trees, the endless fields and blue sky through the hallway windows took my breath away. The hill was ready for the grains to ripen. The paddy swayed like a wave whenever the wind rustled by. A few farmers worked in the fields. The air smelled of grass and green fields. This is what beauty feels like.
The Grand Duke walked up to me. “Isn’t it beautiful?” he said. “I had never had a moment free to look at something like this in another life. This place puts my heart at ease.”
It was true. I was so familiar with the Wishburn farms and lands that I didn’t give them a second glance until I regained the memories of my past life and was blown away by the beauty of the lands. I learned the value of tranquility only when I knew about my past.
How beautiful the Wishburn lands had felt compared to the Thoreau lands. I wanted to stay the rest of my life in Wishburn.
“Please come this way,” he said. “You can have a better view from the sunroom. I remodeled it after I got my title.”
Sunrooms usually had a very private feel to them. The sunroom at my home held my mother’s paintings. I had spent the majority of my childhood there, reading and playing. Now it was almost a private room for my mother, while the study became a private room for father.
The Grand Duke’s sunroom had a different feel to it. It was spacious and sunlight streamed through the windows and the terrace. There were flowerpots in rows beneath the windows. The room had so many flowers it almost looked like a greenhouse with tables and chairs on the terrace. On the shelves, there were lots of books and many interesting items.
A servant entered and placed a tray of tea and snacks. The Grand Duke gestured for the servant to leave. He poured a cup of tea and set it before me on the table. I watched him do so.
“The world has changed and you aren’t the same person you were,” I said, “So why are you doing this? Wouldn’t it be better if we forget about whatever we went through and live our present lives and pretend we have never met?”