The man who protected Lydia was a gentleman with a hat, a flock coat, and a stick. His voice indicated that he was quite young, but Lydia couldn’t see his face because his back was turned.
Losing himself, Jerome headed for the young man with bloodshot eyes. The young man suddenly dodged, then twisted his arm around Jerome’s back. He steadied his feet and put Jerome on the ground.
Dumbfounded, Lydia forgot to stand up.
“I… my father is Baron Nevel! And I know people from the military police. I’m gonna stuff you into a jail, so get ready!” Jerome didn’t stop threatening while rambling.
This man was clearly a person who had earned nothing by his own efforts. His father was a baron. He was a nobleman and knew powerful people. Therefore, his words did not move people in a good way.
The young man who helped Lydia didn’t seem intimidated by the threat.
“Thank you for introducing yourself… Still, Baron Nevel wishes to arrest his opponent because a woman dumped him? That’s quite embarrassing, is it not?”
Several of those on the sidelines erupted into laughter at this statement.
“What did you say!?”
“I feel sorry for the military police, you know, who help with such crimes… but, well, that’s fine. I’m not a big fan of this kind of thing. Still, it works against bad guys who wield power.”
The young man pushed Jerome down with his knee and searched his jacket’s inner pocket. He took out a gold pocket watch and hung it where Jerome could see it.
Jerome stared at the pocket watch for a moment and suddenly turned pale. It was as if his blood had left his body after his face had been bright red just a few minutes earlier.
“The Lily Crest?”
“I’m glad you know of it. We have a bit of a connection, and we will do our best to eliminate anyone who tries to mess with Miss Lydia at the Hicks Art Store.”
From Jerome’s appearance, it was somewhat obvious that the sigil symbolized a nobler family than his. Even without showing a coat of arms, it was easy to guess that he was a nobleman by looking at his clothes and behavior.
Jerome was getting worked up because he was acting like a king in a very small galleria compared to the city’s size. A great divide separated the commoners and the nobility. Still, the Nevel family was insignificant among the elite.
“No… umm… why?”
“I don’t feel the need to tell you. Now, if you understand, stand up and disappear, please.”
“Y-yes, right away…”
When the young man released his restraint, Jerome quickly stood up and faithfully executed his orders. The bystanders, except for Lydia, were stunned by the refreshing change.
“But, I haven’t forgiven you. Fortunately, we know who you are, and we have many witnesses. Don’t worry. I’m sure the military police you know will come to you soon. Differently, than you thought, of course,” the young man said to Jerome, who was about to get into the Baron’s carriage with his legs tangled.
As the carriage began to move, the young man turned to Lydia.
“Please give me your hand.”
He removed his hat and held out his free hand. Lydia finally stood up with his help. Then, she saw the young man’s face up close for the first time.
“Thank you for saving me…”
The young man’s appearance struck Lydia. His hair was black and shiny. His eyes were blue and looked intelligent. He was tall and undoubtedly a man, but that was unrelated to his bravery.
He had long eyelashes and beautifully shaped eyebrows. Lydia knew it was impolite, but she observed him for a while, looking at his face.
What a beautiful person…
Lydia was convinced that what was here was a flawless work of art.
“Were you hurt?”
“Uhm… This is a bit sudden, but could you model for me? I’ve never seen such a beautiful person like you.”
Lydia grabbed the hand she was offered. Driven by a strong urge not to release him, Lydia couldn’t see anything around her. She was desperate to remember his figure by burning it into her eyes.
“I am glad you are doing well. Still, I don’t think you should worry about him even after almost being kidnapped. Besides, you are the one the word ‘beautiful’ would be fitting for, Lady Lydia.” The young man smiled joyfully.
“Lady? Why do you know my name?”
“I haven’t introduced myself. My name is Brad Cranval.”
“I am from the Duchy of Cranval.”
“A Duchy!? How did a family like yours come to know my name?”
The Cranval family was a famed family that hailed from a royal family several generations ago.
“It may become complicated, so let’s move somewhere else, shall we? We have to rendezvous with your grandpa.”
By grandfather, Brad was surely talking about Hicks.
“Well, in the meantime, let us go to your home.”
The Galleria also had cafés, but the two had attracted much attention, so it seemed better to avoid talking in public places. Lydia grabbed the nearby umbrella, then tried to pick up the trunk that was lying around. However, Brad quickly took it away before she could. It seemed he would carry it for her.
This person really is a gentleman, huh?
Even if he had come for a little commoner girl, Brad had no reason to go out of his way to carry Lydia’s luggage. One could guess that he usually treated women this way. His attitude was natural and respectful.
As they walked to the store, they saw Hicks running from the other side.
“Oh, thank goodness! The young man protected you, didn’t he? I thought it was too late since I wasn’t home…”
His hair was a little disheveled, and his tie was crooked. This ruined his finest jacket, but one could tell that he had been desperately searching for Lydia.
Perhaps Brad and Hicks returned to the store shortly after Lydia had left. That summarized an idea of the situation: Lydia was not there, so they had to split up to find her.
“I’m sorry to have bothered you, Grandpa.”
“Lydia, what’s with that outfit… and the trunk!? You weren’t going to leave, were you?”
Even without a blood tie, Hicks was Lydia’s grandfather. He could see through everything, including his grandchild’s behavior.
“I told you to stay at home quietly today! I knew the Baron’s son said something to you, so I… the Duke…”
“Grandpa, did you ask the Duke for help? Are you acquainted with him? I thought you said you were coming home in the afternoon,” Lydia asked in rapid succession, her confusion evident.
“Despite my midnight visit, I was able to return early because the young master met me right away.”
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
The three of them moved through the store to the living space in the back. Since the ground floor only had a kitchen, running water, and a dining table and chairs, Lydia suggested that Brad take a chair.
Yet, he did not sit down right away.
“It seems you have been injured, so let’s treat you first. Does your grandfather have any medical supplies?”
“One moment, please.”
Hicks was about to bring a stand to get the tools from the high shelf.
“Are they over here? I can reach up there.”
“Yes… Ah, young master, I’m sorry for the bother…”
Without allowing Hicks to stop him, Brad quickly and easily took the supplies from the shelf.
Not a servant of the duke’s house, but “young master,” huh? He’s tall, his face is a national treasure, and he’s a hard worker?
Lydia was sitting on a chair when she noticed Brad holding the anti-septic solution and gauze.
“I can do it myself! Rather, I don’t need any medical attention, so I would feel terrible if I had you tending to me.”
She was about to let Brad’s uncanny overcome her, but she held her ground. Lydia tried to grab the anti-septic solution from Brad, but her efforts were foiled.
“For now, let’s just disinfect it.”
The man called Brad was soft-spoken but surprisingly forceful. It felt rude to reject him so strongly, so Lydia had no choice but to remain quiet. Strangely, the young man who knelt on one knee on the floor of a commoner’s house was the “young master” of a duke’s family, even if it was a clean house.
His eyelashes are so long too… I can’t believe a nobleman wanted to see me. He must be the painting’s commissioner! But then, why did grandpa bring him here? No, more importantly, a request! If there was a request for a portrait painting…
Lydia observed the beautiful young man and imagined what kind of portrait she would paint as he concentrated on the treatment. She had not even heard his story yet. Still, her heart was filled with the desire to paint Brad’s portrait.
“I am finished. When the bleeding stops, please remove the gauze as soon as possible, alright?”
Brad stored the medical kit and then sat across from Lydia, just in time for Hicks to bring tea for three.
“Now, please let me explain. First of all, I am the son of Isaac, the head of the Cranval Duchy… Specifically, I was adopted from a distant relative. And, you… are the Duke’s only daughter.”
“You aren’t… asking for a portrait?”
Lydia didn’t quite understand what he was saying. Even though she knew the words, she could not comprehend their meanings. He was talking about something outrageous. Lydia knew that her expectation of a portrait commission was off, but that was all.
“Hey, Lydia! Listen to him properly.”
“It is no wonder that she is surprised. Let me explain once again. Your father is Isaac, the Duke of Cranval.”
Lydia should have already known that her father might be a nobleman and that he had probably toyed with and abandoned her mother, Amy, who worked in a nobleman’s mansion. Yet, Lydia could not accept the sudden revelation of her father’s existence with a simple “Indeed. I see.”