“Is there a problem?”
“I heard that Brad is my stepbrother.”
Lydia looked toward Brad, who seemed to know more than her father, and asked for help. However, he remained silent, merely smiling.
“Right. Stepbrother… Actually, he’s an adopted child taken from a distant family, and if the relationship is more than four kinships apart, you may get married.”
“Don’t decide that by yourself!”
“I don’t think anyone beats him in appearance, ability, and personality, though. If you’re unsatisfied, you can switch to the partner of your choice. Of course, only those who deserve to be connected to the Duke’s house… So, have him by your side as protection for now.”
Indeed, Brad’s looks were very favorable. Even if he came at Lydia’s father’s command, he was also a benefactor who protected Lydia from a stubborn man’s hands.
Polite, attentive, and though his personality’s imposing parts were surprising, she could not find anything faulty. She felt thrilled to be escorted by him. It was as if she were a princess.
Still, this wasn’t about love yet. No matter how good he was, one couldn’t be asked to make a future companion of someone one talked to for the first time a few hours ago.
“What about his wishes?”
Even if Brad was not the Duke’s natural child and was a distant relative, he was also a genuine nobleman. He would not want to be told suddenly to marry a commoner’s little girl who lacked courtesy.
“Brad doesn’t have any complaints.”
Lydia realized that Isaac was as expressionless as ever and did not question his own statements.
“Why are you the one deciding that!? Also, as I recall, a bastard child of a noble family is not in a position to take over the family, right? It would be a shame for Brad, wouldn’t it?”
Lydia was a commoner and knew that a bastard had no legal rights just because her father was rumored to be an aristocrat. If Isaac didn’t have a real child, the one with the right to succeed him was Isaac’s adopted child, Brad.
“Why are you set on me? Is it the color of my eyes?”
Brad did not inherit the distinctive Cranval eye color. Wouldn’t Isaac’s goal be to preserve the colors typical of Cranval for the next generation? After a single word that could not be judged as a denial or a deception, he fell silent, which seemed to be evidence of this.
“Father. With all due respect…” Brad, who had been silent since his father and Lydia met face-to-face, started speaking for the first time.
“Lady Lydia is worried. It would be nice to learn some etiquette, but it would be impossible to explain and convince her of everything right now.”
“So, let’s start with tea time and chat—”
“That’s quite alright! Small talk with someone to whom you feel only a sense of mutual obligation is quite stifling,” Lydia interrupted Brad’s suggestion and turned to leave the room.
Upon closer inspection, she saw a sofa and table in the study, where a teapot and colorful baked goods had been prepared. However, she pretended not to see them. Lydia was convinced that if she continued the conversation with Isaac, she would surely dislike her father more.
So, after picking up her skirt a little and bowing formally, Lydia left the study. Brad quickly caught up with her.
“Please wait. I think you misunderstood… My father…”
The young man, Brad, seemed more like an excellent secretary than Isaac’s son.
“Oh, I didn’t misunderstand anything. I know that the Duke has been in touch with my grandfather for some time now, and I know he’s not lying. Grandpa probably sent me away because he trusted the Duke.”
When Hicks noticed that Lydia’s attitude had changed after being approached by the Baron’s son, he immediately went to the Duke’s mansion to ask for help. Perhaps he had been told to turn to him if Lydia had any problems.
In fact, the Duke—or rather Brad—was quick to respond to Hicks’s sudden appearance, a commoner, at the mansion, without an appointment.
Still, in the end, her grandfather was mistaken. Isaac’s reason for protecting Lydia was not because she was the forgotten child of someone he once loved or because he wanted to cherish her as his daughter.
“It’s his duty as an aristocrat, isn’t it? That’s all there is to it… By the way, Brad. You need to be a bit more defiant to the Duke too,” Lydia puffed out her cheeks and protested.
“Will you not call him father?”
“That’s up to me. Better yet, let’s somehow pretend that our engagement never happened.”
“Why? I don’t really see the need for that.”
Brad tilted his head in puzzlement.
“Do you… want to marry me? It must be hard to be an adopted child, huh…”
Lydia knew that she had reasonably good looks, but only to a certain extent. Brad was as handsome as if he had materialized from a fairy tale, so Lydia was just one of many from his point of view.
Lydia was just a town girl with a strong temper and not an ounce of grace in her behavior compared to a noble lady. Her specialty was drawing. Still, she was often considered “cheeky for a woman” for engaging in artistic activities beyond the scope of her hobbies and culture.
Given these facts, it would be strange for Brad to fancy Lydia.
“I know that aristocratic marriages are not free, but I…”
“It’s fine! I know… The Duke is all about duty and responsibility… that’s all he thinks about. I fully understand that you are in no position to ignore the Duke’s wishes.”
Because of Isaac, the trust Lydia had in Brad was completely erased. He was, after all, a genuine aristocrat and, as an adopted son, had no hesitation in accepting the engagement that Isaac had arranged for him.
“I guess it’s useless to say anything now. However, I have become your fiancé, albeit tentatively. I’ll act like it, so be prepared, alright?”
Even though he did not look angry, Brad’s words held a sense of intimidation. Lydia could not firmly argue back. Instead, she just turned away in a huff and insisted that she did not acknowledge his existence.
After all, it is unthinkable for me to be taken care of in this mansion.
Lydia quickly began to think of ways to escape. She could do nothing without her luggage or the coins meant for travel expenses. They were taken to the private room where Lydia would live.
Lydia’s room was a corner room on the second floor. When she opened the door, she found a room furnished with brightly colored furniture, just the way a young lady would like.
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