Adele scoffed and pinched his cheek with her fingers. Oh, she had long wanted to do this!
The boy glanced at her in disbelief as his left cheek reddened from all her enthusiastic squishing.
“Aren’t you scared of me?”
The boy looked at Adele with trembling eyes, but it wasn’t because of fear. No, it was something else entirely.
She blinked. Then she swiftly used both of her hands to grab the cheeks of the boy who still had yet to shed his baby fats. When his black, baby eyes widened and peered at her adorably, Adele felt her heart tickle.
Acckkk, how cute!
“I’m scary, right?” Unbeknownst to him, he has already devolved into a helpless baby to be doted upon and pampered as she watched him with a maternal gaze.
“No, you’re too cute for that.”
Ah, my heart is satisfied! His cheeks are like little buns!
Meanwhile, the poor victim: “…let go!”
His dignity was gone, and his pride was practically nonexistent. The boy was so heartbroken he felt like he could cry.
He tried to pry off Adele’s arm, but his wounds weakened him, and he plopped backwards. She burst into laughter at his ridiculously funny appearance.
When he saw Adele’s laughing side profile, instead of getting angry, he blushed.
For some reason, his heart kept pounding that he felt like she would hear his own heart beating if he paid closer attention to him, so he took a step back. But he didn’t go far, nay, he didn’t want to be too far from her.
The boy lowered his head and muttered in confusion, “Pretty? Mn, that must be it.”
“Hm? What did you say?”
It was that time before autumn.
The warm breath of the summer wind blew and the zelkova leaves fluttered, like pixies dancing underneath the sun in merriment. Forget-me-nots in full bloom drifted across the air, adding another mystical touch to the ensemble.
With her back to the warm sunlight, Adele glanced at him and gave a dazzling smile.
The defenseless boy could do nothing but stare at the resplendent scenery, completely mesmerized, and it was something that would forever be etched into his mind as one of the most beautiful moments of his life.
“Adele!” came a familiar voice, “I’m sorry for calling for you when you’re busy outside.”
“It’s alright, father. But what’s going on?”
Adele was tailoring a dress at a boutique downtown when she was hurriedly told to return to the castle by her father’s summons. She thought it was a pity, but seeing her father’s somewhat desperate expression, she thought it was an emergency.
“That is… the Duke and Duchess Maktus from the capital had just visited our castle.”
Even though there is a lot of powerful nobles, their reputations varied greatly depending on their title and achievements. Among them, the Maktus’ noble household was one that even the emperor should handle with utmost caution.
Adele felt a little intimidated.
But why would they visit our little castle here in the south?
As if he had read Adele’s mind, her father smiled sheepishly. “Well, it was mentioned that the duke and his wife were on a summer vacation at a nearby villa when their youngest son, who came with them, disappeared. There aren’t many qualified monks available on command, so they must have come to seek help from the ruling baron.”
“His youngest son?”
He nodded, “I heard that he would be entering the academy this year.”
For some reason, Adele had a certain boy’s face pictured inside her head. Was it him?
“The problem is, I already have an appointment scheduled with the merchants of Tellen and I think it will take a while before I’m done with them. It would be terribly impolite to make a duke of his stature to wait for a lowly baron like me.”
He pouted and Adele laughed. Her father really loved jokes.
“Alright, alright. I’ll host them for the time being. Take your time with those merchants.”
Adele hurriedly shooed him away and returned to the castle. Assisted by her maid, she was able to dress herself quite decently for the occasion. She headed to the living room where her guests were.
Her servants told the duchess that the little missus of the place had come and opened the door for her. They took the initiative to stand and greet Adele.
“Miss Liliand, nice to meet you.”
“It is an honor to meet the venerated Duke Maktus and his wife, the Duchess.”
“No need to be so formal, you can speak as comfortably as you’d like.”
Adele sat down at the table, grateful of the fact that they weren’t like those types of overbearing nobles.
As she drank tea, Adele listened to the story of the Duke and Duchess about losing sight of their youngest son.
Adele had a constipated expression pasted onto her face and hesitantly asked, “This youngest son of yours… is he a little boy about ‘this’ tall with dark hair? And was he carrying a golden-lined sword studded with jewels?”
The duchess was surprised, “Right! Have you seen him before?”
“If my eyes did not deceive me, then yes I have. I met him by chance within the mountain the other day and told him it was dangerous because it was teeming with monsters. Therefore, I suggested for us to leave together. But… he was too preoccupied with hunting.”
Adele quickly reassured them, “But please do not worry, he is fine. Currently, he is staying at a place within the mountain located behind our castle.”
The Duchess sighed with a pale face. It’s just that, it didn’t seem to be a sigh of relief, nor was she expressing an attitude of concern for her son. She had a look on her face that was somehow… afraid.
As a result, she really couldn’t find it in her to say a word of thanks to Adele for helping her son.
Duke Maktus slightly touched his temples when his wife slackened her hand. Then he answered Adele with a bitter smile.
“She has been worrying a lot recently. Fortunately, your words bear good news. Now, it seems that my wife’s anxious heart can finally be at ease.”