Lydia’s mother, Amy, was a maid to Duke Cranval. She would go to parks with beautiful scenery and paint on her days off.
The young Duke, Isaac, called out when he saw the figure of a maid whom he happened to know while walking. That prompted the two sometimes to talk, and it didn’t take long before they became lovers.
However, Amy suddenly disappeared without saying anything. Isaac had constantly looked for Amy. Unfortunately, she had already died when he discovered where she was. It was only then that Isaac learned of his daughter’s existence.
Isaac immediately contacted Hicks but could not decide whether to tell Lydia the truth. In the meantime, a year passed, and this disturbance erupted.
Hicks guessed what Jerome was likely to do based on Lydia’s appearance yesterday and headed to the Duke’s residence in the Lylefield region to ask for Duke Clanval’s help. Arriving late at night, he gave a hurried letter to the Duke’s retainer. The Duke responded to the visit even though it was at an absurd time. Then, he immediately ordered Brad to protect Lydia. That was what Brad had disclosed so far.
“I had not told you my name because the Duke of Cranval did not want to disrupt your life.”
While it was a well-crafted story, Lydia was not so naive to believe everything Brad had told her.
“This is all only from the point of view of the man who calls himself my father, right? That Baron Nevel’s son treated me like a lover. If the Duke really was my mother’s lover, I don’t see why she would have run away.”
Was the Duke, who might have been Lydia’s father, really her mother’s lover? Lydia was suspicious. According to Brad, Amy let herself go missing. Was there any reason to run away if they hadn’t fallen out? Not to mention that she was pregnant.
“That’s… it’s true. However, your eyes are a rare color commonly seen in the direct lineage of the Duke of Cranval. Nobles can be relatives for generations, so I can’t say that this color would never appear in other families. However, Lady Lydia, whichever way you think about it, you are his daughter.”
“These eyes… they’re the same as the Duke’s… I see…”
Lydia’s hair and eye color were different from her mother’s. To Lydia, her father was an evil man who toyed with and abandoned her mother. Being inherited from such a man, she didn’t like the colors.
“Do you hate them?”
“This may be an insulting statement, but my father is not an object of… unconditional favor for me. So, what does the Duke intend to do with me now?”
“He officially wants to take you as his daughter.”
With what happened, the Duke saved Lydia’s life. She surely must show her gratitude. Yet, Lydia could not live in the Duke’s house after all this time. Lydia was well aware of the different world she lived in because of her work with the nobility, albeit slightly.
“I showed that Baron’s son the crest of the Duke of Cranval. It is easy to imagine what kind of a person you were born to be, Lady Lydia, given your distinctive eye color.”
“So, then, he can’t touch me anymore, right? If he does anything to me, he will become the enemy of the Duke’s house! That’s a pretty good threat.”
“That’s true in the sense of protection against violence. However, the Duchy cannot intervene in his freedom to love. Besides, they say that you can’t let rumors get in the way of a good story… so someone other than that man may be after you.”
This time, Jerome was rough with Lydia. However, if the other person only wanted a friendly romantic relationship, it was not something that the Duke could bud into. If the Duke’s daughter lived in an art shop, what would the people around her do? A case of vile people kidnapping Lydia and demanding a ransom might even arise.
Or, someone might seek to befriend the Duke through Lydia. Second and third Jeromes were likely to appear. It would be sad to live with suspicion just because her father’s identity was revealed. This only made Lydia increasingly disgusted with her father, whom she had never met.
“He can throw me away again, can’t he?”
Brad shook his head vehemently.
“The Duke will not tolerate such inhumane behavior. You should know that already now.”
“That may be true, but…”
Regardless of what the Duke thought, it was not very convincing to insist that he would abandon her after helping her. After the spreading of the fact that Lydia was Duke Cranval’s daughter, a scandal would surface if the Duke abandoned his daughter.
“Would you like to come to the Duke’s mansion first? Since you are parent and child, you should hear his side of the story directly.”
If Lydia continued staying at Hicks’s house, it was easy to imagine that the existence of the “daughter of the Duke” would cause trouble for Hicks and his cherished art shop. She wanted to avoid anything that would harm Hicks, who loved her like a real grandchild.
Lydia concluded that she had to meet her father to start figuring out what to do.
“Y-yeah… However, I am confident that all I will do is complain to the Duke. Is that alright?”
“Yes. You have the right to do so.”
Brad’s behavior was sincere. If this young man were a witness, it might not be necessary to reject the meeting.
“Then I will come to the Duke’s residence!” Lydia declared, feeling prepared to go and hit him.
Since she was planning to travel anyway, she had already packed. Lydia would really like Hicks to accompany her. Still, she didn’t intend to prevent the store from opening, so she didn’t ask him.
“Grandpa, I’ll be back shortly! Farewell for now.”
“Don’t be too stubborn, all right? Grandpa’s always here, but be careful.”
For her part, Lydia was aware of her stubborn nature. Hicks probably told her not to start the reunion with a quarrel because the person she would meet was her birth father.
Lydia wanted to accept her grandfather’s advice. However, her feelings were complicated when her father was involved, so she nodded vaguely, unable to be earnest. Lydia then headed to Lylefield in the carriage in which Brad had arrived.
“Please rest assured that the Duke’s family will take care of your grandfather, for the time being, taking care not to disturb his life. As for the union in the Galleria… I’ll keep that Baron’s son in check to ensure he doesn’t do anything strange.”
“I am reluctant to ask for help at my convenience even though I am against the man who calls himself my father, but grandpa and our neighbors… I can’t protect them… so… Thank you, Master Brad.”
Lydia had no way of knowing what kind of man her father was. However, her intuition told her that she could trust this young man called Brad.
Since Lydia was a direct descendant of the Duke’s family, Brad would not allow the lives of people close to him to be threatened. So he earnestly bowed his head.
“Certainly. I will not involve those people in the Duke’s affairs. I will promise that much, at least.”
Brad seemed to be honest, after all.
“By the way, please stop calling me by my title. There is no need to be formal,” he uttered suddenly.
“I can not speak rudely to a nobleman.”
Lydia was puzzled and rejected his request with an exaggerated gesture.
“The Duke’s family adopted me, and you’re their actual child, so you have no choice but to get used to it.”
He did not want to stop being respectful, but he told Lydia to do so. Lydia thought an adopted child should not have a lower position than a natural child.
“Master Brad, how old are you?”
As expected, he was four years older.
“If the day comes when I will be treated as a noble daughter, will you be my step-brother?”
In Lydia’s values, it seemed natural to show respect for the elderly. So she was unconvinced and unlikely to change her attitude so easily.
“Well, that’s right. But, come on. Here, ‘Brad’… let us practice a little.”
“Ah… no way.”
“We have as much time as needed.”
Brad was polite and pliant but quite imposing. From Lydia’s perspective, she was a commoner and a fledgling female painter, and Brad was a young man of noble birth who lived in a different world. If such a young man strongly demanded a change in how he was called, resisting would be difficult.
“All right, then… Brad.”
After an hour of futile resistance, Lydia had no choice but to comply with the ban on honorifics.
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