“Duke Lucas, I’m begging you.”
Iris pleaded, her words directed at the perplexed Duke.
“It doesn’t sit well with me either, but the decision has already been made.”
The lives of my friends are in your hands, Duke.”
Iris implored, clasping her hands together and casting an earnest gaze his way.
Carinne couldn’t help but notice the significant height difference between the two of them.
They would actually make quite a well-matched pair if seen together later.
“A forest is a home for animals and fairies, and yet, you intend to destroy it and construct a separate building.
It’s simply absurd.”
The Duke was about to say something, but he stopped himself, letting out a sigh.
Avoiding Iris’ burdensome gaze, he turned his head and saw a familiar face.
“Archenas, where have you been? What were you doing… were you with the Young Lady?”
“It was a coincidence.”
Archen lied without batting an eye.
Understanding his reluctance to reveal what happened, Carinne remained silent and didn’t intervene.
He probably didn’t want his actions to be known.
‘So, it was a secret between the two of us?’
It was an idle thought that made her heart skip a beat.
“Carinne! Will you listen to me, too?”
At that moment, Iris’ earnest gaze turned toward her as she walked past Archen while the Duke approached Iris.
The commemoration party for Esmeril’s National Founding Day was an event attended by all the nobles in the capital, so it was only natural that Iris was invited to attend.
“What’s the matter?”
“It was decided by the state council that they would destroy the forest and build a separate building… that’s why I approached the Duke, asking him to reconsider the plans.
After all, the forest is home to my friends.”
Carinne listened to Iris’ words nonchalantly.
She already knew the situation too well without needing an explanation.
‘Protecting the Forest’ was the second event in〈 Even if I’m a Ditzy Lady, I Want to Fall in Love! 〉 In this event, Iris pleaded with Duke Lucas to stop the construction of the separate building and protect the forest.
At that time, the Duke, who had fallen deeply for Iris, readily agreed to her request.
During the process, the Duke also uncovered the corruption among the nobility, exploited their weaknesses, and through threats and persuasion, successfully canceled the construction plans for the building.
“Duke, I beg you, please.”
“You should seek help from someone else.”
“Among the people I know, you’re the only one who attends the cabinet meetings.”
“There’s also the option for you to attend the meeting and speak for yourself.”
“Though I’ve never been to a cabinet meeting before.”
Unlike the original story, the Duke didn’t give serious consideration to Iris’ plea.
Everything went awry because the first event unfolded differently.
Perhaps, on the day when the heavy rain poured, if Iris had gone to the cabin instead of coming to her mansion, the story would have taken a different turn.
Carinne couldn’t help but feel a slight pang of guilt as she realized that things had turned out this way because she and Iris had become friends.
“This isn’t something that can be resolved just because you ask me to, Iris.
I’ve done what I can.
If you want to protect the forest, find another way.”
It was a gentle refusal that didn’t match the Duke’s personality.
It was probably because the request came from Iris.
If it were her who was asking, he would’ve replied differently.
‘…Why was he acting like that? It’s ridiculous.’
She couldn’t help but feel frustrated, even if she pretended not to care.
When the Duke didn’t seem inclined to fulfill her request, Iris slumped her shoulders.
She looked pitiful, like a puppy that had its snack taken away.
‘There is one way, but should I say it?’
Carinne pondered over the situation, her mind drifting to a scenario she had imagined several times before as she read the novel before transmigrating into it.
During those moments, she wondered whether it would’ve been easier to solve the problem that way.
From her perspective, there was a simpler way to prevent the construction of the separate building, one that didn’t involve the arduous task of persuading the nobles.
The only catch was that it required the cooperation of the Duke.
However, considering Iris’ involvement, she thought that perhaps the Duke would be more willing to listen and consider her idea.
After a while, she decided to take a chance and propose her idea.
“Iris, you know, there might just be another way…”
“Really? What is it?”
“Well, you see…”
Carinne checked if there was anyone else around and adjusted her voice to be audible only to the person next to her.
Still, she also had to make sure the Duke could hear it so her voice wasn’t too low either.
“We just need to seek cooperation from Knight Commander Marta.”
The Duke, who was about to leave his seat, froze at her words.
“We need to persuade Marta to attend the meeting and ask her to speak on our behalf, only then can you cancel the construction of the separate building.
“You’re talking nonsense.”
The Duke retorted coldly.
As she presented her idea, Carinne couldn’t help but notice the Duke’s reaction, resembling a fish biting a bait and thrashing about.
Regardless, unfazed by his response, she chose to ignore his words and proceeded with her statement.
“I can convince Marta, but it might be challenging for her to do it alone at the meeting.
We need someone influential who regularly attends the meetings to assist her.”
“Oh! In that case…”
Iris clapped her hands with a cheerful expression and then smiled widely at the Duke.
“Duke Lucas, can you help us?”
The corners of the Duke’s lips twisted in an unusual way, and Archen, standing beside him, had an expression as if he had just heard something absurd.
“What are you talking about? I don’t understand why you would mention Marta.”
After remaining silent with his mouth slightly ajar, Archen finally asked.
“It’s difficult to explain.
Let’s call it a trade secret.”
Carinne moved her index finger to her mouth.
Even if he was Archen, she couldn’t simply reveal the truth.
In the current situation, Marta’s help would be a game-changer, and Carinne was the only one who held the reins since showing that to others would be reckless.
Life had already been tough since the possession, and she didn’t want to incur any more losses by revealing the cards she had.
“Duke, what do you think?”
Iris persisted in asking the Duke again, but he pretended not to hear her, lost in his own thoughts.
She brought her hands together and sent another pleading gaze, but it was in vain.
‘Well, I’ll try another approach then.’
Mentioning Marta alone wasn’t enough, so there must be another way.
“Well, you don’t have to if you’re not confident.”
Carinne spat out casually.
The reaction was immediate.
The Duke’s face suddenly contorted in an unflattering manner.
“What does the Young Lady have to do with this?”
“I am confident in persuading Marta.
Still, it seems… you, Duke—”
Carinne covered her mouth with her hand and laughed mockingly.
“You seem to be confident.”
“Well, I suppose you could say that.
Once I persuade Marta, the rest will be a piece of cake, although difficult tasks vary from person to person.
Some might find it difficult to scoop soup with a spoon and put it in their mouth.”
“I might not know, but considering the Duke’s usual behavior, it’s quite plausible it might be a bit difficult…”
“Stop right there.
Do you think I wouldn’t notice that you’re deliberately provoking me?”
Caught off guard by his sharp words, Carinne was taken aback, however, she sensed her success by seeing the Duke’s visibly agitated state.
Indeed, the Duke was truly agitated.
“I don’t understand how the Young Lady could persuade the Knight Commander.”
“I could do it.”
When she retorted naively, the Duke, seeing her confidence, initially frowned but soon formed a chilling smile on his lips.
“Very well then.
Let the lady persuade the Knight Commander first.
I will assist Marta during the meeting.”
Finally, he took the bait.
It worked like a charm.
Despite the Duke’s seemingly mocking response, she was confident in persuading Marta, so Carinne nodded vigorously.
The Duke gestured at her, then blatantly sneered.
“I wonder what you’re so confident about.
It would be quite entertaining to witness the Young Lady’s disappointed face.
It’s not a bad deal to experience it.”
His attitude was incredibly insolent.
It was apparent that he was retaliating against her earlier provocation.
The stress surged through Carinne, causing tension in her neck and aching in her lower back.
She clenched her fist and faced him, meeting his eyes with determination.
“Fine! Just watch and see.”
She pledged firmly, her face resolute, and then a good idea popped into her mind, prompting a mischievous smile.
“How about we make a bet while we’re at it? If I fail to persuade Marta, I’ll give you one of the Kingdom’s mines.”
Upon hearing her words, the Duke scoffed loudly.
“Ha! So, I’ll get a free mine, huh? Then I…”
As the Duke confidently opened his mouth, he couldn’t easily conclude his sentence.
It seemed as though he was pondering which of his possessions was worth as much as the mine.
“What will you give me? I won’t give you any time to think.”
Carinne smiled sweetly, her eyes forming crescents.
Just as she thought he was about to reject her irresistible offer…
“…I’ll wager the territory beneath the northern mountains.”
The Duke responded.
Carinne had to close her mouth that had opened.
‘Ugh, he didn’t give me a chance to interject.’
She wished she had spoken a little faster.
It was an undeniable fact that she could persuade Martha, so no matter what the Duke wagered, it would become her possession.
‘I was going to tell him to wager his aide!”
Carinne had thought of suggesting Archen as the bet.
It was the best way to quickly achieve her goal of becoming friends with Archen since they would spend a lot of time together in the mansion.
“Why are you silent? Are you afraid, Young Lady?”
It wasn’t fear.
She simply had something to think about.
In a moment of contemplation, Carinne wondered whether she should ask the Duke to change the wager to Archen instead of the territory.
‘…Should I ask him to change it now?’
Oh, why did the image of Archen looking at the Duke with a bewildered expression come to mind? If she suggested Archen as the wager, those perplexed eyes would be directed at Carinne.
“I understand what you’re thinking, but it’s fine.”
‘Since I’ll win anyway.’
After a while, she decided to dismiss her intention of using Archen as the bet.
‘It seemed like we were getting closer, so I can’t ruin what we have with my own hands.’
There were controversies surrounding using people as wagers.
“If you want to cancel it now, it’s not too late…”
“When did I say I wanted to cancel?”
Now that it had come to this, she would obtain the northern territory and contribute it to the second duchy’s prosperity.
Interrupting the Duke’s excited rambling and his mistaken assumption, she shouted with determination.
“I accept the bet.”
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