A Saint who was Adopted by the Grand Duke - Chapter 72
This was what Ben experienced every day upon Esther’s coming to the mansion.
A sense of joy rose within his heart as he observed Gordon reacting in the same way as he did during those foreign times.
“We are here. You may enter.”
Upon Gordon’s appearance, the knights on duty moved to make space.
Darwin’s grasp on Esther’s small hand tightened.
“Are you ready?”
Esther nodded vigorously.
She lowered her head to greet Gordon and entered the reception room alongside Darwin.
Upon their entry, a significant aura radiated the room. Her mouth dried up as she embraced the fact that she would be standing in front of the Emperor any second.
‘What will he be like?’
She often heard of the Emperor during her stay at the temple. Most of the talk regarded him as a dishonorable tyrant. However, this was simply due to the temple’s bad relationship with the Imperial family.
The Emperor, a person said to be self-righteous and selfish, existed as a malicious figure in Esther’s mind.
“Oh, Duke Darwin! Welcome.”
However, the Emperor’s voice as he welcomed the two was pleasant to the point she doubted her ears.
He approached them in a disorderly manner. He seemed occupied with work.
Esther stared blankly at the approaching figure, scarcely meeting his eyes before hurriedly lowering her head.
Rather than being terrified, she was embarrassed at how his impression was so positive and outgoing. He was the type of person who’d attract you with their bright, smiling face.
In contrast to when she first met Darwin, he was far from intimidating; he was filled with warmth. “How have you been?”
“As you can see, I’m not doing very well because of the amount of work thrown at me. I think I’ll be able to rest well if the Duke assists me.”
Noah resembled the Emperor as he joked with a carefree expression on his face. Esther couldn’t help but smile at the comparison.
The Emperor halted his conversation with Darwin and turned to face Esther.
“Is this your daughter?”
“H-Hello, I’m Esther of Tersia.”
Esther calmly greeted him. A smile crept onto the Emperor’s lips as he observed the child courageously greeting him.
“Yes. It’s nice to meet you. You did a great job coming a long way.”
The Emperor recommended they head to the sofa. The three moved and sat face to face.
“Anyhow, I was very curious about you. It was a bit surprising to hear that the Duke adopted a child while I was also given the cold shoulder.”
Esther glanced upward and made eye contact with the Emperor. His black eyes were like Noah’s.
Her mind stood blank for a moment. She then bowed, shocked that she had made eye contact with the Emperor.
“You don’t have to have such a hard time.”
The Emperor chuckled and continued.
“But how can you manage to be such a lovely lady? I can see why you stole Duke Darwin’s heart.”
“Thank you for the kind words.”
Thanks to his endless kindness, Esther’s tension gradually eased.
Besides, the Emperor was already fully aware of Esther’s talents. He brought up a conversation about the exhibition hall they hosted during the recent anniversary.
“I heard this young child has exceedingly good drawing skills. I’ve heard the news of the exhibition from all over the place, Duke.”
“Is that so? I’m not just saying this because she’s my daughter, but Esther is a bit outstanding.”
Darwin accepted the Emperor’s praise as if everything he said were natural. Esther stood flustered between the two, unbeknownst of what to do.
“Let me know the next time you hold another exhibition. I am very curious.”
Esther used the Emperor’s interest as an excuse to interrupt their talk.
“Even if there isn’t an exhibition, if there is another chance for me to visit the Imperial Palace, I’ll be sure to present his Majesty with my hard work.”
Esther intended to grow closer with the Imperial family. For that, she needed any possible justification.
The Emperor’s smile deepened as he saw the tension from earlier had disappeared from Esther’s face.
“Will you? Hoho, then I will have to repay you generously.”
“Of course, we can’t let that happen.”
Darwin, pleased with Esther, pushed a drink in front of her. The Emperor’s eyes lit as he witnessed the act.
“On that topic, I didn’t expect what occurred at the ball, knowing the Duke didn’t have a daughter.”
The Emperor took a sip from his coffee, a mischievous expression on his face.
Darwin’s expression stiffened as he awaited the Emperor’s next words.
“Jim does have a few children. How about we settle for a serious conversation at a later time?”
He continued as if it were nothing special. On the other hand, both Darwin and Esther’s facial expressions rapidly changed.
Flustered, Esther blinked and recalled Noah. It was embarrassing how her cheeks blushed uncontrollably.
“What do you mean? She is still far too young for us to think about that.”
Darwin hardened, his face grave.
“Hoho, isn’t it customary for the process to be set from a young age? One of my sons was 7 years old when he… Ah, never mind.”
The Emperor’s kind eyes blurred. He had recalled Noah, the very same son who was engaged at the age of seven but left.
‘What does this all mean?’
Esther fiddled with the glass drink before her.
Darwin noticed her discomfort and expressed his opinion firmly.
“My daughter seems uncomfortable, so let’s speak separately next time.”
“You are still the same, Duke. Alright. We will put this off until a later date… There is something I must tell you, but I’m afraid it will take some time.”
The Emperor glanced at Esther with a friendly smile.
It bothered him to send her off now, but he couldn’t afford to put off important matters to keep her here.
The Emperor fiddled with his chin and grinned.
“Right. Why don’t you meet our Reina? She is very gloomy these days, so I think it’ll help to meet peers her age. Can I ask you for this favor?”
Esther’s eyes widened. Her eyes twinkled at the thought of meeting Princess Reina.
Esther nodded violently to express her eagerness.
Darwin seemed uncomfortable, unable to leave her alone. Esther quickly jumped from her seat.
“Then, you two can talk comfortably.”
“Let’s meet again next time.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty.”
Esther politely put her hands together and bowed to the Emperor.
“…You must be careful.”
Then, before Darwin could change his mind, she hurriedly left the room.
A knight guided Esther to the garden where the Princess was said to be.
From a distance, she could see a girl’s silhouette by the pond.
“That is Princess Reina.”
The knight stood in place and left Esther to enter the area.
Esther slowly approached the pond and glanced at Princess Reina.
She could distinguish her beauty even from a distance. However, her *jaded eyes stood out.
*TL/N: Jaded eyes is described as sad and deep
As the space between the two narrowed, Princess Reina looked back.
Esther could feel a subtle elegance as she faced her. She appeared a reserved person who could not be approached thoughtlessly.
Esther lowered her head.
“Hello, Princess. I am Esther of Tersia.”
“I heard about you a while ago. Nice to meet you. I’m Reina.”
Reina held out her hand and sniffled. It looked like she had been crying until a moment ago.
Reina’s gaze returned to the pond after a light handshake.
Esther approached the Princess as she showed no interest in speaking to her.
“Are you worried about something?”
“Yes, there’s much.”
A series of sighs left the Princess’s mouth. Just standing beside her attracted a melancholy air.
The conversations she had with Dolores flashed through Esther’s head as she pondered what to say next.
‘That’s right. She said the Princess was sad because of her ill younger brother.’
And that brother was Noah.
Esther silently thanked her luck and thought to soothe the Princess’s heart a bit.
“Is it because of the Seventh Prince?”
Reina’s eyes glimmered momentarily when she heard of the Seventh Prince. However, that light soon disappeared and she shook her head.
“I don’t know where you heard this, but there is no need for your comfort.”
There were quite a few people who approached her with this means, so Reina’s guard stood high.
Reina didn’t wish to see anyone today, but she had no choice before the daughter of the Grand Duke.
“It’s not like that… I hold news of Prince Noah.”
Esther smiled and took a step closer to Reina.
Reina straightened her crouching posture and jumped, unsure whether or not Esther was being truthful.
“Is that true? How?”
Reina’s expression changed in an instant. She held Esther’s hand and urged her.
“I ran into him at the sanctuary.”
Esther omitted the details and only briefly recounted her first meeting with Noah.
She hid the fact that he was cured and resided at the Tersia residence, as Noah might not wish for anyone to be aware of his movements.
“How did he look?”
Reina anxiously gazed at Esther, her eyes filled with worry.
After the restraining order was issued, Reina wasn’t able to meet Noah and heard little from him. She was more worried now that there was no news of him.
“He is doing better than your Highness thinks.”
“Really? The last time I heard anything, they told me to prepare…”
“His Highness wasn’t feeling well for a while, but he is now in healthier shape. Please don’t worry too much.”
“Yes, Why would I lie about this?”
Esther made eye contact to relieve Reina’s suspicion. She hoped the young girl would feel her sincerity.
If not, there was no reason for the Duke’s daughter to lie in such a blatant way.
In the end, Reina burst into tears.
“I didn’t expect to hear about Noah. I’m so happy right now.”
Reina had attempted to leave the Imperial Palace in secret to visit her brother, but she was repeatedly caught every time.
Even as she cried and whined to see him, it was to no avail. Everyone advised her to stop because ‘Noah did not exist’.
So, to the despairing Reina, Esther appeared like a savior and delivered the information she longer for.
“If you happen to meet Noah again… Could you please tell him that I’m worried about him and that I didn’t throw him away?”
Reina held onto Esther, tears streaming from her face to the point where she appeared pitiful.