ew steps away, Irina stopped.
She paused for a moment.
What did she want to say now? Winfried swept his tired face down again.
It was clear from her voice that she was hesitant.
“Your meal, it’s warm.”
He had not expected her to say that.
And when Winfried whipped his head around in surprise, Irina had already left the room.
‘T-that shocked me.’
Leaving the room, Irina glanced at the hem of her clothes.
Just as she expected.
Under the fabric she had been tightly grasping were two red handprints.
Upon inspecting her wound, Irina frowned.
‘He was clearly sweet to me yesterday.’
Stopping in front of a window that was well-lit thanks to the sunlight streaming through, Irina gently rubbed those handprints with her wrists.
He had saved her, allowed her to stay in his estate and just yesterday, he had helped her stop her hiccups.
That was why even though she was scared of him, she believed him to be a sweet person.
Irina let out a long sigh.
She combed her hands through her hair and gathered them in a bunch before releasing them.
Just a moment ago, she was upset.
But after calming down a little, she realised that it had been her mistake all along.
Hadn’t Delphia and Leo tell her to leave his food by the door from the start?
It was her fault for ignoring their advice and entering the room.
Irina inhaled sharply.
If they manage to run into each other later, she should apologise for startling him.
Lifting her head, Irina stared out the window.
In the garden in the Winfried Duchy, spring flowers were in bloom, signalling that spring was right around the corner.
Some of the flowers that had been planted in past seasons seemed to have survived the cold winter and blossomed again.
Other seeds must have travelled in the winds, gotten caught in someone’s clothes before falling into the ground and sprouting once more.
Amidst the flowers she could see, the daffodils stood out to her the most.
Had someone planted a bulb in the past winter or had it just bloomed?
White and yellow daffodils were blooming in clusters.
Irina stared at the small groups of daffodils and muttered to herself as though she was possessed.
She was so startled her body jumped.
“Do you still look like a mess because you hadn’t noticed the state of your hands? You’ve barely tidied yourself.”
Turning around, she found the exhausted-looking Duke of Winfried standing before her.
Almost screaming in surprise, Irina quickly covered her mouth.
“Why are you…”
“I must have scared you earlier.”’
The Duke of Winfried seemed to have something to say.
but his words barely registered in Irina’s mind.
She had not noticed because it was dark earlier, but the clothes the duke was currently wearing…
Irina’s eyes slowly lowered.
And her face began to redden when she spotted something.
As he continued speaking, Winfried frowned.
“Do you have a fever? I can call someone over…”
At this point, her eyes were spiralling as Irina exclaimed.
“How can you walk around wearing this!”
“… What do you mean ‘this’? And I am merely walking about my estate.”
Winfried was currently wearing a nightgown aristocrats commonly wore before they slept.
He did not think he looked too bad but he did look dishevelled because he had been tossing and turning earlier.
“No, you cannot!”
But Irina did not hear a word of his explanation.
She continued to shake her head vigorously as her flush now reached the nape of her neck.
“You dressed so properly yesterday! So, why did you, today, why!”
“… Please don’t make me out to be such a flagrant man.”
Ha, but no matter what he did, it seemed as though Irina would continue to protest until he adjusted his attire.
Winfried pulled up his sleeves before re-tying the knot around his waist.
“Is this alright now?”
Irina shook her head.
Her face was still as red as a ripe tomato.
“I can still see something there.”
The duke scanned his clothes again.
But he could not figure out what Irina was referring to.
She waved her hand as though she was beckoning him to lower his head.
In spite of themselves, they lowered their heads and their faces got a little bit closer.
“It’s still a little loose here.”
She was still feeling shy but her pale hands continued to gesture.
Winfried stared at Irina’s face from afar.
As though she had just been running around outside, her cheeks were flushed and bright red, her lips were tightly pursed, and her shy gaze below her drooping eyebrows made her look flustered.
‘She has pretty eyes.’
The blue eyes hidden beneath her long eyelashes were the colour of the blue sea, just as Count Leonid and his wife had always described them to be.
The colour of freedom.
Winfried stared blankly into Irina’s eyes.
He could feel himself getting strangled.
Because Irina had grabbed his clothes as if she was trying to grab his collar and wrapped them tightly around his neck.
“It’s still loose here!”
“That’s how it’s supposed to be!”
Gasp, the strangler and the one being strangled.
Both their heads turned to one side at the same time.
At the other end of their gazes stood a stunned Delphia and a pale Leo.
“What the hell are you doing in the middle of the hallway?”
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