A wave of unrestrained laughter echoed inside the room.
Dwayne also turned his head pretending to look away, but his shoulders were shaking uncontrollably.
She saw that he was desperately holding back his laughter.
‘Whats so funny
Aria looked at the cards again but found nothing unusual.
The forest was filled with actual parasitic worms that could threaten ones life.
“She means that those idiots suffered from parasites,” the grand duke said, rubbing his chin with his fingers.
Arias words really surprised him.
She caught him off guard as he wasnt ready to laugh this hard.
“If what she says is correct, then we can roughly predict the situation.
The Duchy of Valentine was known for its abundant natural resources.
Among them, was the Diamante Mine.
‘The mine has ores that can be turned into mana stones.
Although mines were found all around the world, most minerals didnt have the same hardness, streak, and luster as those in the Diamante Mine.
Thus, the price of minerals and ores from the Diamante Mine was far higher than those from other mines.
Viscount Cavendish also tried to obtain the rights to trade from the Diamante Mine.
However, he unfortunately failed, and upon being restrained, the viscount shamelessly retaliated and tried extorting large sums of money from the grand duchy.
‘The problem is that the duchy is rich in natural resources.
The living beings that resided in the grand duchy were strong as well.
Both humans and animals.
‘…Even the parasites.
Once, Viscount Cavendishs vassals accidentally found a peculiar snake.
The snakes scales shone like a rainbow with vivid luster.
It was considered a sacred creature and without having second thoughts, the vassals cooked and ate it on the spot.
The results were, of course, disastrous.
Some of them got paralyzed.
Their whole body hardened like stone and they lost their sight forever.
In the end, they all died a gruesome death.
These were all words spoken by the viscount when he was spending his leisure time inside Count Cortezs salon.
‘Ah, I see why they laughed.
They invaded another mans land without permission, carelessly ate wild animals, and now, they were fighting between life and death.
On top of that, they even asked for compensation when in fact, their misfortunes were all due to their own negligent acts.
It was so ridiculous that you could only laugh.
“I heard that outsiders will suffer from stomach aches if they dont boil the forests water before drinking it.
Apparently, they also deem all living creatures in this land as monsters,” the grand duke explained as he shifted his gaze towards Aria.
“But how did you know that”
[Diana said that I am weak because I am from outside the border.
Betty said that if I eat raw food, I will get infected.]
“I am amazed.
Did you deduce that conclusion after hearing that there was a forest fire” The grand duke asked in admiration.
‘Thats not it…
Aria felt like she was internally stabbed, so she hugged the wolf tightly as it licked her cheeks.
“Yes, Your Grace.”
“Give this message to the viscount.
They can get rid of the parasitic worms in their stomach with vermicides manufactured by the grand duchy.
So tell them to pay the corresponding price for the cure.”
“And they have to pay monetary compensation for trespassing into the Ingo Mountains without my permission.
The amount is… ”
He tapped his finger on the desk while in thought.
He seemed to be contemplating over the amount the viscount should pay.
To help him make a decision, Aria stretched out her arm and pointed exactly to the money that Viscount Cavendish requested, written at the end of the documents.
‘1 billion zahr.
The grand duke moved his gaze along the direction of her hand, then stared at her again.
The viscount finally reaped what he sowed.
“You are wise indeed.”
At that time, a smile rose around the grand dukes lips.
Though it was a devilish smile that undoubtedly made Arias spine shudder.
This was what happened when someone dared to belittle the Grand Duke of Valentine.
In fact, the grand duke might be imagining Viscount Cavendish crawling under his feet and begging for mercy right at this moment.
‘Hes scary… at least… I would have thought so in the past.
Arias train of thought was different from back then.
She had no mercy for those who violate and trample on other peoples rights in an unjust manner, all to satisfy their own greed.
‘Only when theyve experienced it for themselves will people realize how their greed can cause miserable pain to the victims.
Aria looked at the grand duke with respect.
She thought she should learn about the demonic grand dukes personal principles in which he enacted his revenge ten times harsher than what he received.
Dwayne, who was watching her while standing next to him the whole time, finally coughed.
Then he whispered into Tristans ear, with a trembling smile.
“Well, please watch your expressions.
It seems that the young lady is still afraid.”
‘What How did he reach such a misunderstanding
Aria overheard Dwayne and quickly pulled out another card.
She quickly wrote down the words she wanted to say.
[Father is cool.]
‘What is she thinking
Dwayne seriously wondered if something was wrong with the child.
In particular, she seemed to have lost her sense of fear.
“She says Im cool.”
After reading the card, the grand duke took it from her hands too.
Aria looked down at her empty hand as a question mark appeared in her head.
“Turns out, I am surprisingly talented in caring for my child.”
Dwayne let out an exasperated sigh as he thought badly about his master.
Whether or not his aide viewed him respectfully, the grand duke chose to not care and continued to ask Aria.
“You have helped me, so Ill have to repay you.
Is there anything you want”
Truthfully, Aria had a wish.
That wish was for her to not be kicked out.
‘Because Lloyd told her to leave when hes gone.
However, even if she asked him not to banish her, there was a possibility of her getting no response at all.
Furthermore, just surviving and living in the palace was not enough.
If she was not accepted as part of the family, then Aria would not be able to get involved in anything until the day of the massacre came.
She needed to get close to the grand duchess as soon as possible.
‘It would be better to get her to my side.
Her help would lead Aria to a greater opportunity.
Aria contemplated for a moment, then blinked before smiling widely.
[I want to meet and play with my father every day.]
As she lifted her head upwards, the rabbit ears also bounced along.
The scene was lovely.
It was so adorable that everyones heart tightened, but…
With a serious look on his face, Dwayne whispered into the grand dukes ear.
“This makes it clear.
She has never been cared for by a decent adult.”
“So, among many of the other adults, I have no choice but to rely on Your Gra—Argh!”
Dwayne, the grand dukes trusted aide who had always said whatever he wanted even with a blade at his throat, was finally punished today as he rolled on the floor.
Aria had no idea what and how he was beaten by the grand duke as he just suddenly fell.
However, the sound of his groaning seemed painful, so she looked down at him pitifully and started patting him in comfort.
‘Ah, my lady.
What an angel…
But before Dwayne could thank her, the grand duke grabbed Aria and lifted her up.
Dont touch him, hes dirty,” Tristan said as he treated his aide like a germ.
“You can directly come to me.
Or… if you come with my hounds like today, youll be able to find me wherever you are,” he said while taking another card from Arias grasp.
Unexpectedly, the grand duke had allowed her to visit again.
* * *
“If you come with my hounds like today, youll be able to find me wherever you are,” is what the grand duke said.
So, Aria rode on top of the wolf without much thought.
However, Aria was mortified.
Contrary to her expectations, the wolf ran to the opposite side of his office.
‘This road leads to the mountain range.
This was the road to the Ingo mountains that Aria had passed through to get to the palace.
Aria brooded on whether she should stop the wolf or not.
She wondered what the grand duke was doing in the mountains.
‘He told me to come and see him in person whenever I wanted, so he shouldnt be in a dangerous place.
The wolf finally stopped in front of a familiar mansion.
The mansion was built in the forest near the borders of the grand duchy.
It was the place where the grand duke had first bought Aria.
‘So this is the place where they inspect the outsiders.
There were knights in black armors guarding the entrance of the mansion.
They were the 1st Order of Knights called the Black Falcon.
They were considered as elite soldiers of the Valentines knights and their armors were engraved with the insignia of a black falcon.
‘Everyone in the empire knew that insignia.
If people saw the Black Falcons in the capital, the streets would be buzzing in astonishment at the sight of them.
Furthermore, due to Valentines reputation, the Black Falcons were also known as a symbol of evil and ominousness throughout the empire.
Suddenly, one of the knights reached out to Aria.
“Oh, young miss… ”
Aria held her index finger over her lips, gesturing for him to be quiet.
Then she put her ear on the door and heard a sound from the inside.