The oldest memory she owned was one of her envying something she did not have.
“… Baby! You can’t run like that.”
She could not recall what the name of the boy running towards his parents was.
However, she still remembered sniffling for no reason because she was jealous of the boy who possessed two things she did not.
Parents and a name.
For the longest time, people called for her with ‘Oi!”.
She would also often be called demeaning words and for a while, her name was ‘idiot’.
Hating her lack of a name so much, for the first time in her life, she asked for a favour.
Could you give me a name?
Even if she didn’t have parents, she thought she could at least get a name.
Ben, who had been drinking too much, heard the favour Rhett was asking for and cackled for the longest time before saying.
“For sleeping on the ground rats scurry upon, you shall be called Rhett.
From this moment forth, you are Rhett.
Ben’s mockery had become her name.
She licked her lips.
She did not want to share her name.
People in the slums might smirk at the sound of it but the reactions of these people might be worse.
At the pressure that felt overbearing but not at the same time, Rhett’s expression got darker and darker.
“You have no more need for your old name.”
It was the familiar voice that erased Rhett’s worries one by one.
It was the same voice she heard at the end, just before the memories of her rescue ended.
Quickly, Rhett raised her head which she had unconsciously lowered and, at last, she came face to face with the man behind the voice.
“She will have a new name soon.”
He was huge.
That was her first impression of him.
He looked at least two heads taller than an ordinary young man with a sculpted body that could not be hidden beneath his shirt and thick limbs.
Finally, even amidst the shadows casted over his face, his red eyes glowed coldly.
It was only then did Rhett grasp the memories that had been crossing her mind in bits and pieces since earlier.
“I heard the hero of the war has returned?”
Wasn’t that what she overheard whilst serving liquor at the inn a few days ago?
“What hero, tsk! He was born on the battlefield and grew up there so how could he be an actual human being?”
“I heard that there’s something wrong up here too?”
Giggling, the bearded man tapped his head with his fingers.
“That’s why he would kill anyone who bothered him.
That’s the problem, he doesn’t know that he’s not supposed to be killing people.”
“True, it must be because he had always been killing people.
And his parents are too dead to teach him otherwise.”
“That’s not all.”
The man softened his voice as much as he could to shake off anyone who could be eavesdropping.
“There are people saying that he gets excited seeing blood, you know?”
The man downed his whole mug of beer before guffawing.
“If you happened to meet the Duke of Winfried, be careful not to offend him.
If not, you might find your head flying away in an instant, hahaha!”
Did she just cling onto someone like that for her dear life?
Hiccups burst out of her.
Rhett quickly pressed her lips together but those red eyes had already turned to her.
Her hiccups echoed louder than it ever had before, making her desperate suppression worthless.
Surprised, Delphia stared at Rhett.
Muffled, the hiccups sounded strange yet they echoed, resonating through the gaps of her tightly clasped hands.
However, as her hiccups continued, the Duke of Winfriend’s eyes only narrowed further.
On the other hand, Rhett’s face started to smoulder in red.
Rhett closed her eyes tightly.
Her hiccups should have stopped immediately, why wasn’t her body listening to her?
However, instead of stopping her merciless hiccups, Rhett only managed to forget to breathe.
Her brows furrowed in agony.
Uh, I mean, this–”
Finding herself caught in the middle of the two, Delphia, who thought she had to do something, alternated her gaze rapidly between them.
A soft, fatigued voice left from his slightly parted lips.
When she was called, Delphia almost yelled ‘Yes!’ by reflex.
“Bring her water.”
She did not know when he managed to get past her.
With light steps, the Duke of Winfried walked past Delphia before striding into the room.
Amazingly enough, he even managed to simply gesture with his one arm for Rhett to follow after him as well.
Out of pure coincidence, they returned to the sofa in the room she had just been sitting on with Rhett still covering her mouth with her hands.
What was going on?
“I have brought water!”
In the meantime, Delphia brought a washbowl filled with water.
With Delphia’s every movement, the water within wobbled precariously as though it might spill out at any given moment.
Winfried’s eyes narrowed again.
“I meant water to drink.”
Delphia slapped her forehead before scurrying off somewhere and soon returning with a glass of cool water.
The water Delphia brought was soon placed in Rhett’s hands.
Rhett, who found herself unexpectedly holding a glass, blinked.
“Use this hand.”
As he spoke, the Duke of Winfried pulled off one of Rhett’s hands which had been clasped over her mouth.
“To pinch your nose and drink the water.”
“… L-like this?”
Rhett stared at her awkwardly pinched nose
“Ah, yes… Hick!”
Was this tight enough? The moment she pinched her nose so tightly she couldn’t breath, the Duke of Winfried bent over and leaned closer.
With this strange position he had placed them in, what on earth was he trying to make her do?
When Rhett looked up at the duke warily, the Duke of Winfried glanced at the glass of water and nodded.
‘He’s telling me to drink it, right?’
But could she even drink water like this? But her agonising was only temporary.
As soon as she noticed the duke seemingly asking her why she wasn’t drinking with his eyes, Rhett gulped down the water at one go.
This time, she choked. Cough, cough! Water spilled with her every cough.
Delphia quickly ran towards her before patting Rhett’s back.
Rhett’s eyes filled with tears as she coughed.
Why was he making her do this? Why did she cling onto the duke for dear life? Was it because she had offended him by thinking that this was Baron Barrodon’s estate?
With her face as red as a tomato and tears hanging onto the corner of her eyes, Rhett glanced at the duke who was standing in front of her and staring down at her.
His expression looked grave.
She did not know why.
Her mind started spinning.
Continuing to pat her back, Delphia spoke.
“Her hiccups stopped.”
The hiccups that had been tormenting her just earlier had disappeared.
Rhett sat there blinking.
Was it because she had drunk water in a strange position? Or did they put something special in the duchy’s water?
Whatever it was, she felt as though she could finally live when the hiccups that had been choking her disappeared.
… It seems like her plan to not offend the Duke of Winfried had been ruined.
She might have hung her head in a daze but his voice washed over her head.
“Why did you hurt your hand?”
The space between the duke’s brows wrinkled.
“It smells like blood too.”
“What happened was, your grace.”
Delphia sounded troubled.
“I-I was responsible.”
Rhett raised her head before making eye contact with the Duke of Winfried.
“I was the one responsible.
I thought this was Baron Barrodon’s estate…”
The Duke of Winfried asked.
Did he really not know him? Baron Barrodon was a wealthy man who had lived in a fairly large mansion near the slums.
He even owned some nice shops in the downtown area.
So, there was no one around her who had not heard of his name.
But, on this day alone, she met two people who hadn’t heard of him.
“Who is that?”
“I don’t know him either.
Should I find out who he is?”
The Duke of Winfried shook his head when he heard Delphia’s reply.
No matter who Baron Barrodon was, he was not someone the duke found the need to put in effort to learn.
The baron should be the one to approach the duke to introduce himself.
The duke only found the need to know and feel the urge to approach a few people.
And one of them was the woman sitting in front of him now.
Rhett sat there blinking.
Why were they looking at her like that? She was getting scared.
For some reason, she could feel a heavy stone land in her chest which prompted her to press her hand against her stomach.
‘Did I do something wrong?’
“You must have questions for me.”
Upon hearing the duke’s voice, she straightened her posture.
She did have questions.
That made it harder to ask any so casually.
What should she ask? Why did he bring me here? Why did he save her from Ben?
Or why did he promise to protect me? Should she ask that first?
As Rhett agonised over her dilemma, the Duke of Winfrey’s gaze turned to Delphia.
Springing up out of reflex, Delphia froze as though she was still processing the command she had just heard.
“Uhm, your grace.
I’m sure it’s already on its way, you already know that…”
Unlike her usual cheerful and lively deposition, Delphia mumbled her words.
She excelled at everything else but the same could not be said about cooking.
What was even more shameful was the fact that the mere act of tea preparation also fell under the list of what she cannot do.
Winfried nodded as though he already knew and Delphia was prompted to exclaim ‘I’ll be back soon’ before rushing out the door.
Rhett inhaled sharply as she stared at the door that had been closed shut.
She wanted her to stay.
She was scared to be alone with him.
“I’m here to explain why I brought you here.”
In the meantime, the duke walked away before burying himself into the sofa.
The two sat across a low table and faced each other.
“Let me introduce myself first.
I am Rogan Winfried.
The Duke of Winfried and the one who owns the Order of the Winfried Duchy.”
She should introduce herself too, right?
However, Rogan had continued speaking nonchalantly before Rhett could finish worrying.
“The reason I was looking for you and brought you here is because you are the daughter of Azen and Leira.”
“Azen and… Leira?”
Rhett muttered their names in spite of herself.
They were names she had never heard of before.
“Those are your parents’ names.”
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