A Saint who was Adopted by the Grand Duke - Chapter 20
“Kill you… What?”
Darwin’s eyes were stained with shock.
At the same time, he recalled the first time they met. During that event, she had spoken the same thing, asking him to kill herself.
“Maybe now is the time. Please kill me.”
As Esther begged, the thunder struck, and she covered her ears while burying her face in her knees.
‘What in the world did this small child go through?’
Darwin was overwhelmed by anger. These weren’t words that should originate from a twelve-year-old.
He’d rather her tell him to stay by her side instead of cruel statements.
He said he would give her anything she wanted, but the first thing this child asked for was her death.
“Why on earth…”
Darwin couldn’t keep up with the terrible words. What made this little child so desperate?
“I have a knife. I’ll give it to you if you need it.”
As if to prove that she was not just bluffing, she violently pressed on her hand.
Darwin stared at Esther’s hand, which had gone pale. Countless emotions sprang within him.
If only they had met earlier. If only they could’ve been a family sooner. He felt so painful, and his heart hurt severely.
“No. That’s not going to happen.”
“No. No one, not me, can hurt you.”
Darwin drew out the sweetest voice he could produce and whispered gently.
Esther flinched and shut her eyes at Darwin’s raised hand, which intended to comfort and soothe her.
Darwin felt the surge of murder rush through him and clenched his fists.
“Who hit you?”
Esther mumbled and shook her head. Darwin felt even more emotional.
“Esther, look at me.”
Darwin bent his knees and adjusted his eye level to match Esther’s. Then he slowly recognized.
He had never soothed a crying child. When the twins wept, the nanny would only hug them.
Nevertheless, he made clumsy eye contact to calm the frightened Esther.
“Who am I?”
“The Grand Duke.”
“Yes. This is the Grand Duke’s residence, your home. It is a very safe place.”
Esther nodded slowly at Darwin’s words.
“No one can hurt you. I will protect you.”
As she listened to his sincere tone, Ether slowly began to return to her senses.
“Are you afraid of lightning?”
This time, she answered simply and honestly.
It was not easy to block the lightning this instant. The sound would continue to leak inside, no matter how many times it would be blocked with curtains.
“For now, I’ll stay by your side.”
“The Grand Duke?”
Esther’s eyes widened. It struck her that the cold-hearted Darwin would be there for her.
“Let’s go to bed for now. It’s too cold here.”
When Esther didn’t help herself up, Darwin gently lifted her, assuring her it would be alright.
To keep the thunder from being heard as much as possible, he wrapped the blanket tightly around her while embracing the small girl.
“Since when were you afraid of thunder?”
“It’s been a while.”
Esther spoke quietly.
“Did something happen?”
“I’ve been locked up all the time. But on rainy days, Rabienne would always… Ah, nothing.”
Was it because she was happy that someone was there for her? Her mind uplifted, and hidden memories unconsciously spilled out.
“Because of Rabienne?”
“Huh? I must have spoken the wrong thing.”
Esther roughly equivocated her reasoning and marked her words as a mistake. It wasn’t something she could tell Darwin.
But Darwin didn’t listen to anything Esther said.
He was planning to send a person to the temple to investigate as soon as the day dawned.
Darwin gently laid Esther on top of the bed and grabbed a chair next to the bedside.
His sleeve was still clenched in Esther’s grasp.
It was then.
Footsteps could be heard from the hallway. It wasn’t long after Judy burst into the room.
Judy was hugging a pillow with one arm while rubbing his sleepy eyes with the other hand.
“Father? Esther? Why are you with her?”
“Did you wake up from the thunder?”
“No, I was worried about Esther since there was too much thunder striking.”
Judy opened his mouth and yawned. Then, without hesitation, he ran up to the bed.
“Huh? Esther, did you cry? Your eyes are red.”
When Esther avoided looking at him, Judy snorted and stretched her cheeks.
“What, you’re still a baby.”
Of course, when Darwin rebuked him, he grumbled and let go.
“But did father come because he was worried about Esther?”
“Tch. You never came to me.”
Judy puffed his cheeks and threw a fit. It was evident he was upset.
Bewildered by him, Darwin unconsciously responded coldly.
“You weren’t afraid of lighting.”
“No, I was scared when I was a kid. That’s why I came here to check on Esther.”
Eventually, Darwin lowered his head.
Since it was true that he had not cared for the twins, it was heartbreaking to realize it only belatedly.
“Forget it. I’m already hurt.”
Judy admitted that he was hurt and swung his head to the other side.
“Judy, if I knew you were scared, I would do the same for you. I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
“Just with words?”
“Give me a present.”
Judy stretched out his hands while pouting. A line formed between Darwin’s forehead.
“What do you want to receive?”
“The immunity right. No scolding me!”
“You said you were sorry just now!”
Eventually, Judy pulled out a voucher from Darwin. Then he laughed as if nothing had happened.
‘I’ve been deceived.’
Darwin belatedly realized that he had fallen for Judy’s trick, but he could not take back what had already occurred.
“But Esther. I’m not scared now. So if you grow up a little more, you won’t be afraid of that sound.”
Judy bragged that he wasn’t scared anymore. Nevertheless, those words somehow comforted Esther.
“Yes. I mean it. But since you’re scared, I’ll protect you until you’re not anymore!”
It hadn’t been long since both met, yet he was already acting like an older brother.
A smile hung around Darwin’s mouth as he observed the scene. It was lovely to watch him taking care of Esther.
“Good. In the future, let’s all sleep together on rainy days.”
“You don’t have to…”
“Really? Yay! I hope it rains all the time.”
Esther tried to assure it was alright as she was uncomfortable with the care surrounding her, but was blocked by Judy’s excited voice.
Darwin frowned and gave Judy a big flick on his forehead.
Esther’s face as she stared at them slowly turned to normal.
“Ahm, I… I have brought a candle.”
Ben, who had entered after waiting for the right time to make appear, sniffled in emotion.
He had never seen such a rare sight during his entire career serving Darwin and hence was deeply moved.
“Place it there.”
After he placed the candle on the table, their surroundings brightened in a flash. Esther’s eyes reflected the glimmering light as she gazed at the lamp.
“Ah, it’s bright.”
“Yes. The darker the place, the better the light penetrates. Darkness is nowhere near when the light has driven it out.”
Darwin patted Esther’s chest with his large palm.
“So sleep well.”
“Me too. I’ll do it too.”
Judy also proceeded to pat Esther’s stomach with his hand alongside Darwin.
Though both their rhythms were offbeat and not a wink of sleep hit Esther, it felt more peaceful than ever.
Come to think of it, she couldn’t hear the sound of the lighting from some point on. It was the same despite the heavy rain.
“I’m sorry. You can’t sleep because of me.”
“No, I feel at ease watching you.”
Darwin gently fixed Esther’s bangs which tilted forward.
“Look, Judy is already asleep. You should too.”
Judy fell asleep as soon as he closed his eyes.
“Are you going to leave when I fall asleep?”
“No. I’ll stay until the rain stops.”
“You can’t go… If you leave me alone…”
Was it because she was relieved by those words? Or, perhaps it was due to Darwin’s warm voice.
Esther slowly closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
“Now you are asleep.”
Darwin sorrowfully observed Esther, who still clutched his pinky in fear of it disappearing.
‘Will you rest here?’
‘I will bring you a blanket.’
For fear that the children would wake up, Ben and Darwin conversed while whispering to each other.
‘But… She strangely hated the thunder.’
‘It seems like she had a trauma. She seemed to have been abused… and trapped somewhere.’
‘Young lady? That’s strange. There was no such thing while I investigated.’
Ben lowered his head.
Esther was thoroughly examined before adoption. Nothing strange had happened since she entered the temple.
‘There’s no way the temple will speak the truth. Aren’t they the ones who hide all secrets?’
‘That’s true, but… it doesn’t seem like they could have done anything to a low-ranking temple candidate.’
‘Check once more. There may be someone in the temple named Rabienne.’
‘Rabienne? It’s a name I’ve heard of many times… Ah, isn’t she the daughter of Duke Brions?’
‘ …It turns out the daughter of that bastard is Rabienne. It’s a common name, isn’t it? Find out if there’s anyone else.’
After he finished instructing Ben, Darwin’s eyes sank deeply.
‘If Esther had been abused, they should pay the price.’
‘How frightening. Are you planning to go to war with the temple?’
‘Do you think I am not capable?’
Ben, feeling appalled by Darwin’s expression, gulped and shook his head.
‘…I’ll make sure to find out.’
Even after Ben left, Darwin continued to sit by the bedside and watch the sleeping children.
He was going to stay until the rain stopped, as he promised Esther.
‘This isn’t bad either.’
Judy seemed to be in an uncomfortable position as he snored amidst his sleep, while the calm Esther breathed in and out leisurely. Darwin felt strange as he observed them.
He had never witnessed his children sleeping. He didn’t feel the need to.
But, as he observed their cute, angel-like faces, a corner of his heart flickered.
He thought it would be tedious, but time flew by just staring at them.
‘Does this refer to the saying, *‘it doesn’t hurt even if I put them into my eyes’?’
*TL/N: This term is used to describe someone precious, such as one’s offspring. The phrase implies a willingness to endure the pain because he or she is precious. He/she is the apple of my eye.
Darwin laughed at the words that he had never thought to empathize with. It was strange to think of it himself.
At the same time, he looked back on how indifferent he had been to the twins.
He regretted and wished he had watched the children grow up more.
He felt bitter when he realized how much he had been pushed away by his work.
“I was a fool.”
Darwin watched them sleep, deciding that he would spend more time with his three children.