“You’re up early today, miss.”
Delphia’s short hair was wet–probably because it had not been long since she washed up.
Did you get up early today as well, Miss Delphia?”
“Yes, we had training at dawn.”
Squinting an eye, Delphia took the seat next to the sofa.
She spoke as she stretched her other arm.
“I had been toiling away at the training hall right before coming here.
Ugh! I thought I could finally sleep till morning now that I’m in the capital.”
Irina smiled wordlessly as she listened to Delphia lament semi-sincerely.
Upon glancing at her, Irina noticed Delphia leaning towards herself.
“But what brings you all the way here?”
“Of course it’s to bring you to your meal! Let us head to the dining hall together!”
Dining hall, Irina nodded upon hearing the word.
To tell the truth, she had been starving for some time now.
If she could exaggerate a little, it felt like her stomach had shrivelled and stuck itself to the back of her insides.
“Our chef’s cooking is seriously out of this world.
I could fight another day on the battlefield with the mere sight of his meals.”
“Seriously, you won’t be able to find yourself stopping once you take the first bite, miss.
Especially his meat dishes.”
Meat, at that word, Irina gulped in anticipation.
When he was in a good mood, which was once a year, Ben would bring her delicious foods to eat too.
One of those foods was meat.
Although the portions were small and barely whet her appetite, it really was tasty.
It would be much tastier here, wouldn’t it?
After taking her time to praise their chef’s skills in the kitchen, Delphia finally turned to Irina.
“And since you don’t know your way around the estate yet, I shall be giving you a tour of it after your breakfast today.
For a townhouse, this place is pretty big so you might get lost if you take a wrong turn.”
Delphia further added that this estate originally used to belong to some aristocratic house.
However, Irina did not manage to catch what else Delphia said because she was lost in her own thoughts.
… She could get lost in a house?
She learnt something new.
In the meantime, upon finishing her chatter, Delphia tossed her head around for a bit.
“Young miss, sorry but I’m not very good at beating about the bush.
But did you have a good chat with his grace yesterday?”
“He told me a lot of things–about this and that.
He talked about my parents… Ah, he also said that I could stay in this estate.”
“So, you heard about Sir Azen and Dame Leira.”
I heard that they loved me lots and were wonderful people.”
Hearing that, Delphia seemed to only have gotten more curious.
“Did he mention anything else?”
Staring at Delphia, Irina nodded.
But why was she asking like that?
As Irina nodded, Delphia narrowed her brows and scratched her head.
She looked agitated.
“Did the duke forget to mention something to me?”
“Now that you mention it, it did seem like the duke was about to tell me something but he stopped himself.”
Delphia’s eyes then began to dart about.
It was clear from her gaze that she seemed to be vehemently worrying about something.
Quickly, Delphia jumped up as though she had been sitting all this while.
“Uhm, uh! Alright! That’s what I’ve been meaning to talk about, uhm!”
“I was wondering if you had heard anything about Viscount Ventlen!”
Another person she had never heard of before.
Irina shook her head.
“Viscount Covin Ventlen is your uncle.
Meaning he is Sir Azen’s younger brother.”
Rubbing her neck, Delphia spoke.
“And he is the one who abandoned you.”
Delphia donned a hardened expression which was much unlike her usual disposition.
“Sir Azen and Dame Leira thought that if they left you behind alone, they couldn’t be certain of their young daughter’s safety.”
It was not as though they did not have people loyal to them by their side.
However, they merely became overly anxious leaving their brightly smiling child behind wrapped in cloth.
“They had decided to leave you with Viscount Ventlen.”
Because he was their younger brother, he was their family.
They trusted him.
That was how they left their daughter behind.
“But as soon as he received you, miss, Viscount Ventlen had immediately travelled to the capital and abandoned you in the slums.”
Sighing, Delphia combed through her hair.
“That was why it took us so long to find you too.
We had actually travelled to the capital much earlier to find you but…”
Viscount Ventlen, along with his wife, had told the Duke of Winfried and his accompanying knights who came to visit.
“She is… dead.”
When she was two, she died of a fever.
They did everything in their power to save her.
But the child…
“And when I heard the news that even brother had passed…! I feel so ashamed to be alive!”
Delphia’s expression contorted.
“To be honest with you, we believed him at first.”
Viscount Ventlen had fainted after that line and they had confirmed that Irina did have a terrible fever when she was two.
On behalf of the collapsed viscount, the viscountess even showed them a grave they had erected for the child in the corner of their estate.
“But those were all lies.”
They had left Viscount Ventlen’s estate with hearts heavy with sorrow but the Duke of Winfried had whispered softly.
“They are lying.”
“… How did he know that?”
Delphia hesitated momentarily before answering her.
“His grace said he saw it.
When he had raised his head to cover his sobs, he saw him smile behind his hands.”
Huh, Irina inhaled sharply.
He smiled? He acted like he was crying but he was actually smiling?
Was he really human?
“Afterward… we conducted an extremely thorough search.
Fortunately, we managed to track down a servant who had been fired from their estate a long time ago and found you.”
Irina heard her say a couple more things after but she wasn’t listening.
Because all she could hear was the fact that she had been abandoned.
“How can someone be so evil?”
It felt like a fire was stoking within her.
This being the first time she had encountered such emotions, Irina grabbed her chest and hung her head low.
“How could he… to his family, abandon a child….”
“Just as I thought, I should have pretended to have gone mad and killed him back then.”
Irina raised her head.
But Delphia continued to mumble.
“I tried looking it up myself afterward, you know? For those who had been fighting in the war for a long time, they are kind of lenient even if the said people accidentally commit murder.
You just need to claim that you had mistaken the victim for an enemy soldier.
Ah! If I had known I could I would have struck his neck and pretended that it was an accident.
Well, I would have been thrown in jail but…”
“But his grace will bail me out.”
“The next time I see him, I’d definitely pluck his head off and bring it to you as a gift.”
“No, thank you!”
They meant it.
Both Irina and Delphia meant what they were each saying.
“If… If that happens, Miss Delphia will be punished.
I don’t want someone as good as you to be punished because of someone as evil as him.”
Irina clenched her fists.
“Rather, I’ll hit you if you do.”
Delphia sniffled as though she was moved.
She immediately nodded.
“You’re right! I don’t need to be punished! His grace has already begun investigating the corruption around Viscount Ventlen.
“Now it would only be a matter of time before that bastard is punished”, Delphia continued while grinning.
“Yes! He has to return them to you, miss.”
“All of Sir Azen and Dame Leira’s assets and estates as well as the title, ‘Count Leonid’.”
Irina could only blink when she heard something she had never associated with herself.
“After we dispose of Viscount Ventlen, you will become Count Leonid.”
“What? How could I become a count?”
No, if she thought about it again, it was only a given.
Because she was a count’s daughter.
However, the unfamiliarity arising from how the distance she had perceived between herself and aristocracy had narrowed in an instant made it hard to believe.
“You are their daughter.
That alone is enough to prove your claim.”
But she didn’t even know how to write and she was ashamed to admit that she couldn’t even count properly.
But her lips stopped herself from confessing.
“His grace will help you with whatever you need”
Delphia smiled and clasped Irina’s hands tightly.
“All you have to do is to regain what was originally yours and enjoy it.”
What was originally hers.
Irina, who mouthed along with her words, nodded.
Even if being a count seemed to be too distant to be true right now, she wanted to find a little, just a little of what was hers.
Seeing Irina like that, Delphia smiled.
“Great! Now, shall we go and eat some breakfast?”
“I shall lead you to the dining hall.
Let’s eat together!”
With a hop in her step, Delphia started walking towards the door as she held Irina’s hand.
In spite of herself, Irina followed Delphia.
“I’d like to introduce you to the rest of the knights but they must already be finishing their breakfast.”
Irina glanced at the window.
The sun just started rising.
This was usually the time diligent workers got up and started their day.
But they already ate their breakfast?
“Of course! Seeing the time, I’m sure they’ve already digested all their food.
They consume bread like it’s water.”
Bread like water? Was that even possible?
As Irina’s mouth was left agape at that unbelievable fact, Delphia smiled brightly.
“We can eat slowly.
I’ll tell you some things over our meal.
Like about the structure of our estate and where the training hall and food stores are…”
Seeing Delphia walk ahead of her whilst brainstorming what more she needed to tell Irina, Irina was suddenly reminded of something she had yet to tell her.
“Excuse me, Miss Delphia.”
Delphia turned her head and stared at her as though waiting for Irina to speak.
“I have something I would like to say.”
Irina parted her lips.
It was a name she had muttered over hundreds of times yesterday.
When she thought of introducing herself to someone else, for some reason, she could not say it easily.
Irina was frustrated at how she kept hesitating.
Still, Delphia patiently waited for Irina to find herself comfortable.
She could hear her name out loud.
Irina blushed as she smiled.
“Irina Leonid, that’s my name.”
A smile slowly stretched across Delphia’s lips from cheek to cheek.
She smiled brightly.
“What a really nice name! It’s super cute!”
Right? Irina thought so too.
Mirroring Delphia, Irina also smiled brightly.
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