Fortunately, God was on her side.
“Oh, look over there!”
Carinne pointed with all her might out the window.
Suddenly, the rain stopped as the sun peeked through the clouds, and it seemed like the rain had never happened.
“The sun’s out! The rain has stopped!”
She spoke in an exaggerated tone as if performing a play, clapping her hands lightly to attract people’s attention.
“Everyone, it’s time to go home!”
“The rain really stopped.
Carinne, I’m going now.
Fortunately, Iris stood up abruptly, taking a step closer to the door.
“Iris, see you next time.”
As Carinne finished her farewell, Archen watched the situation and, remarkably, rushed over swiftly, opening the door.
Iris, who had risen from her seat, turned around and headed towards the door with a flip of her hair.
‘Okay, one person was sent off.
Two more to go.’
“You two, let’s move quickly.
How long will you stay here, being a burden to someone else’s house?”
However, the Duke seemed to have no intention of getting up.
“When did the Princess come?”
The Duke sat cross-legged on the sofa, casually talking to Archen.
There seemed to be an invisible glass wall between the Duke, Archen, and Carinne.
“It was earlier this week.
Archen was just about to make the crucial remark.
Should she stay quiet about it? As she thought so, Carinne broke through the invisible glass wall with ease and cut between the two with her hands.
“Excuse me? Are you listening to me? I want you to leave my house.”
In her haste, there was no time for courtesy or anything else.
“Hello? Can you hear me? I want you to leave my house.”
At those words, the Duke’s face wrinkled.
It must have been the umpteenth time she had seen the Duke’s frown.
‘Please, please go now.’
His face was distorted hearing her.
“How rude of you.”
The Duke glared at her with a furrowed brow.
How dare he speak rudely to her? If that was the case, she had a lot to say as well.
Carinne stood tall with her arms crossed.
“You are the one being rude.
You didn’t even say thank you for taking shelter from the rain in someone else’s house.”
Since it was a situation, she omitted the title ‘Duke.’ Perhaps because of that, the Duke’s gaze became even more hostile.
It felt like a beam of lasers was coming out of his eyes.
‘You’re rude to me? I’ll do the same.’
“I wish you would hurry up and leave.”
“I will do as you wish.”
The Duke spat out his words.
His gaze did not leave her until she walked to the door from the sofa.
Now, there was only one person left.
Fortunately, Archen had already stood up and was walking outside.
She had bought some time by delaying him with the conversation.
As she pushed her hand onto his back towards the door, Archen flinched at the unexpected contact.
‘Oh my, how cute.’
As she touched him, he walked faster.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
“I thought you were a turtle! So slow!”
As soon as he stepped outside, Carinne slammed the door shut.
It was fortunate that the rain had stopped.
Every time she thought of what had happened in the mansion, she wanted to shrink into a hole and disappear.
If Archen had said what happened himself, she would have died of embarrassment.
‘Let’s stay calm.’
Carinne slumped on the armrest of the sofa and sighed.
She knew that going to the mansion in itself was not a problem.
The problem was whether the Duke knew what she had said.
Archen wouldn’t go into detail about what happened due to his personality.
Still, there was a possibility that the Duke could pry and pester him about it with his persistent nature.
In addition, from Archen’s point of view, he had no reason not to answer the Duke’s questions.
If he were to tell the Duke every single thing she said, such as not liking the Duke, and in fact liking Archen…
‘I’ll be embarrassed to death.’
However, there was still a glimmer of hope, as the fact that the Duke was unaware of her visit to this mansion suggested that Archen may not have intentionally revealed what happened at that time.
Was he trying to hide that fact from the Duke?
…Or did he just forget to mention it because he thought it was trivial?
‘I have no idea what he’s thinking.’
Thinking about it any further would only give her a headache.
Carinne vigorously shook off her useless thoughts, and despite the recent commotion, the hall was quiet as if nothing had happened.
There were four teacups and a teapot on the drawing room table and water stains on the floor.
The maids would have a hard time cleaning it up.
Marie had already brought a cloth and started wiping the sofa.
The gaze that had been fixed on Marie shifted to the sofa.
Unlike the Duke’s seat, which was wet, Archen’s seat was smooth as if it was a new one.
Similarly, unlike the teacups in front of the Duke’s seat that were placed randomly, the teacup in front of his seat was placed exactly in the middle of the table.
“…As expected, he’s perfect.”
“What did you say, lady?”
“Oh, it’s nothing.”
Her determination to win him over grew even stronger.
After all, he would be her lifelong companion.
She would save Archen’s life and, at the same time, win him over, leading to a happy ending.
It felt like hitting an iron door with a steel bar due to his impenetrable wall but looking back, she hadn’t been misunderstood today.
So, it would be okay.
Carinne tried to be as positive as possible and chased away the dark clouds in her mind.
* * *
The Duke, who had left the mansion as if he were being chased, discovered Iris waiting for him with a shy smile, and eventually, he was able to head back home with her.
After sending her home, he led the way, with Archen following behind.
It was time for the conversation they had been putting off.
“So, what did the Princess come to say?”
“She came to see you and said she was looking for you.
I sent her away.”
“Ah, so there was a reason for her to act so arrogantly.
Did she say anything else?”
There was something swirling around in his mind, but for some reason, he didn’t want to say it out loud.
“No, she didn’t.”
The Duke chuckled as if it was amusing.
“She came to me not long ago and confessed her feelings.
Even though she wanted to have a connection, now, she says she doesn’t want to.”
“She even came to my house and thought I was going to see her.
She really is a funny woman.”
Lost in deep thought, Archen couldn’t hear the Duke’s words.
His mind was tangled like a ball of string.
Why was the Princess trying so hard to look good in front of him these days? Today’s incident was one thing, but even before that, she had been acting strangely.
When there was a small argument with Viscount Frank, she didn’t just let it go but intervened and chased him away.
At first, he thought she was angry because of the disturbance, but when she explained the misunderstanding and started babbling, he realized that wasn’t the case.
The Princess had stood up for him… Why?
Today, she even made him change out from his soaked clothes, giving ridiculous reasons and even smiling at him for no reason.
That smile was…
Archen found himself smiling unconsciously as he remembered the Princess’ bright face.
She also smiled like that when she came to the mansion looking for him.
…Also, his name.
He wondered how she knew about his nickname, Archen.
Archen was a nickname that the Duke had not used for years.
Was that all?
The Princess also knew a lot about his past.
She knew that he graduated top of his class from the academy.
…Did she ever ask about his past before?
However, why did she spend so much time and effort on this? The most likely possibility was that she was using him to get closer to the Duke, though it seemed strange to go to such lengths for just that reason.
Or maybe, this was a completely ridiculous idea, but what if…
“Archenas, are you listening?”
At the Duke’s question, Archen snapped out of his thoughts.
“I guess you didn’t hear me.”
“I’ll ask again.
There’s something in your room that I haven’t seen before.
What is it?”
Archen had already prepared an answer in case the Duke asked about something he didn’t need to know.
He answered calmly without changing his expression.
“It’s nothing much.
I’ve just been buying some items I need for alchemy these days.”
Let me know if you make any progress.”
As expected, the Duke didn’t seem to pay much attention to his words.
Archen merely closed his mouth.
Thanks to the Duke’s words, he felt a sudden clarity as if he had just washed his face with cold water.
He had other things to do besides figuring out why the Princess was trying to impress him.
With the Ashite Flower Festival coming up soon, there was no time for useless worries.
As he reached this conclusion, he recalled the conclusion he had almost come to earlier and laughed to himself.
This time, it was not a frivolous laugh but a self-deprecating one.
‘…What was I thinking?’
He almost came up with an absurd idea… something that wouldn’t happen in reality, like a fairy tale or a play, or even a cheap romance novel.
Above all, he had learned through years of experience to keep one thing in mind.
‘Having false hopes is not worth it.’
He did not want to risk it because he knew how miserable and pathetic the process of hope being shattered was.
Archen tried to forget about Carinne.
However, even if he tried to do something about it, the persistent thought kept coming back and bothering him.
In the end, he had to wrestle with his thoughts until he fell asleep that night.
The next day, he could finally heave a sigh of relief, but that was all.
He didn’t even know how the fight ended or if he succeeded in forgetting the green eyes that had been haunting him in his mind.
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