Please be Patient, Grand Duke - Chapter 117
Lia couldn’t remember how she made her way down to the banquet hall. Absentmindedly, she linked arms with Claude, and as they entered the dining area, thunderous applause erupted like a storm.
With every step she took, unfamiliar noble faces bestowed gracious smiles and cleared a path for her. Yet, even as she met their gaze, Lia’s attention was solely focused on the child. Should she trust Betty’s words completely or secretly summon a physician to confirm the truth? She pondered this dilemma intensely.
Fortunately, her preoccupation prevented her from succumbing to nausea. She ate the delicately arranged dishes before her without discomfort, and Jasmine breathed a sigh of relief at her ease.
“Behold, the face that will see a million. Let us pray today for the beautiful Duke and Duchess.”
The Emperor’s proclamation was followed by various noble toasts. Each time, applause erupted, and everyone clinked their glasses.
Congratulations on your pregnancy.
Repeating those words to herself, Lia smoothly accepted the congratulatory wine offered by the nobles. If she hadn’t known about the pregnancy, she might have hesitated to refuse and ended up drinking several glasses.
Just the thought made her spine tingle, and she quickly downed the glass of apple juice placed in front of her.
“May I briefly pay my respects?”
Starting with the distinguished lady with a prominent beauty mark on her lip, the ladies-in-waiting gestured their desire for an audience. Their eyes shimmered with great curiosity.
However, it was already late in the evening. Using the excuse of not being in the best condition to hold an audience with everyone, Lia postponed the meetings.
Though they appeared dissatisfied, Rosina, who had remained silent throughout, quickly made up for it.
“I haven’t had the chance to converse with Duchess Canilia yet either. I apologize, but it would be wonderful if you could hold off on the audience for now.”
Rosina’s smile carried the weight of unyielding authority, like a resolute lily. It was a side of her that Lia was not accustomed to. In front of them, Rosina often displayed a verbose and loquacious demeanor, but to them, Rosina was the one and only imperial princess.
“Thank you, Your Highness.”
Lia whispered to Rosina, who was sitting close by. In response, Rosina gently caressed her cheek as if she were quite concerned.
“Why does your face look so troubled? It saddens me.”
“Well, you see…”
She couldn’t bring herself to say that it was because of her dry mouth. It was partly because of Claude, who didn’t take his eyes off her even as he accepted the drink served by someone else, and partly because she was worried about Rosina’s reaction.
“I’m just too nervous. Honestly, I still can’t believe it’s real.”
“Your mother couldn’t attend…?”
“Probably not. It’s alright. I saw her not too long ago.”
Rosina swept Lia’s arm away as if to dismiss her concerns. As she did, she pursed her lips, observing the parched skin that felt as dry as bones.
And unfortunately, it was Claude who became the target of her outburst. Rosina interrogated him with a touch of sarcasm, asking how much he had tormented Canilia to make her lose so much weight.
Claude only clenched his jaw and wrapped his arm around Lia’s shoulder. Of course, he didn’t forget to glare at Rosina as well.
“Alright, let’s call it a day and rest. You’ve come a long way, so enjoy the famous Tang Bath of Del Casa.”
Jasmine tapped her wine glass with a fork, signaling the end of the banquet. It was getting late, but the dinner was kept as short and concise as possible in preparation for the main ceremony the next day.
In truth, it was Jasmine’s grand plan for Lia, but the guests believed it was done out of consideration for their long journey.
“Are you alright?”
Lia returned to her room and collapsed onto the bed, feeling drained. Pepe quickly removed her dress and took out the pins that held her hair in place. Only then did a relieved expression finally appear on her face as she was supported by Pepe and led into the bathroom.
“The Duke will have a drink with the Crown Prince and the King today. So, can we turn off all the lanterns except one?”
“Yes, of course.”
Pepe helped her sit in the warm bath and tidied up the bedroom. Lia submerged herself in the deep bathtub, running her fingers over her bloated belly. The tension that had been pressing on her shoulders seemed to dissipate thanks to the warmth.
Even on a day like today, how much more chaotic will tomorrow be?
Lia, who was crushing the faint herbs in the water, looked up as she sensed someone approaching the bathroom.
“If you’re done tidying up, go and rest. I’ll pretend to sleep now.”
She thought it was Pepe, who had finished arranging things. However, it was Claude who entered the bathroom.
Lia’s mouth hung open in surprise.
“Pretending to sleep?”
Caught in the act.
His eyes, as he untied his cuffs, narrowed. Today, his blue irises felt unusually deep.
Under his intense gaze, her entire body turned red in an instant. He took off his cream-colored jacket, hung his cravat and shirt one by one on the chair, and swiftly undressed to enter the bathtub.
Lia instinctively covered her face with both hands.
The overflowing water hit the tiles, making a refreshing sound.
“Tell me again. Why pretend to sleep?”
His tone revealed a clear emotion. It couldn’t be said that he was angry or annoyed, but his dissatisfaction was evident.
“You said you were going to have a drink.”
Lia met Claude’s gaze through the gaps between her slightly spread fingers. He sighed as if to say, ‘What kind of absurdity is this?’ and brushed aside the wet hair with his hand.
“I was worried. You’re not in good health, and you can’t afford to get drunk.”
His high, prominent nose and the stubbornly firm chin below it soon flowed out through his lips, as red as an apple.
It felt like a sigh.
No wonder no one had tried to tell me about the pregnancy. What should I do now?
Canilia wanted to confess the fact she had tried so hard to hide, so she had to bite her lips as if she were chewing on them.
Because they had chosen a small bathtub meant for one person, the two of them were close enough that their hands could touch if they reached out.
He finally reached out his hand and firmly pressed his trembling lips together, revealing a slightly parted gap where his red tongue appeared.
Claude leaned halfway on his bent knee and leaned closer, tilting his upper body. Lia looked down at his body submerged in the water and gathered her resolve.
If there is a child in her womb, Claude… is the father. He could become a bad father to the child. So…
“How could I tell you not to touch?”
With a desire to scream, her arm, which had only been rolling her eyes in frustration, was caught. Lia grabbed the edge of the bathtub and was pulled in the direction where he was. The swirling water forcefully pushed their bodies together.
Claude, with his eyes narrowed, leaned against the back of the bathtub and placed her on top of him.
“It’s suspicious, you.”
“I-it is suspicious. No, not really. Pretending to sleep. It’s because of the ladies of the house. Because of a few stubborn ones who insisted on coming to greet…”
Even she finds it a feeble excuse.
Lia wiggled her body to get off him. Then Claude groaned deeply and furrowed his brow, wrapping his arms around her waist.
“Damn it. Don’t move. I know that the ladies’ requests were cut off by Rosina.”
“But there were some who didn’t listen. Really!”
As she boldly told a fairly blatant lie, her voice gained strength.
Suspecting her confident response, Claude explored her slender waist with his fingertips.
“Tell me who they are. I won’t let it slide.”
Lia obediently nodded, and as she turned her head away, she quickly bit the finger that touched her lips. Then the man’s gaze lingered on her white teeth marks on his finger.
In an instant, he inhaled sharply and straightened his upper body, pulling her closer.
Startled, Canilia instinctively jumped out of the bathtub. However, she remained seated on the floor with her arm caught. Claude chuckled, as if finding her ridiculous.
“What on earth? Why are you like this? Are you trying to avoid me?”
“A-avoid? No, not really! It’s just that… I have a lot of dresses to wear tomorrow, and I can’t leave any marks.”
“Hah, you expect me to believe that?”
With a flushed face, Lia forcefully pushed his arm away. Then she hurriedly put on her robe and shouted at Claude, who was sitting in the bathtub with a bewildered expression.
As Lia rushed into the bedroom, a helpless cry shot through the air.
“What did I do?”
For the first time, they fell asleep with their backs against each other. It was the day before the wedding, and it wasn’t a deep sleep either.
Canilia was bothered by the dark circles under her eyes and pressed them with her hand because she could not sleep properly due to Claude’s misunderstanding.
“Am I ugly?”
“Just, should I tell His Highness the truth? Since we have to go on a honeymoon trip anyway…”
“How can I casually bring it up?”
“Miss, you only found out now, didn’t you? You can say you didn’t know. That you accidentally found out. I hope he won’t tie you to the bed. Well, it’s a bit… imaginable, though.”
Lia closed her eyes as his hand brushed through her hair.
“I know your body isn’t well. I don’t want to make things difficult for you. I hope he realizes that he’s not a shameless man.”
As he said that, he placed his hand on her hunched shoulder. Even if she hadn’t been startled, she wouldn’t have pulled her hand away.
Canilia quietly recalled his figure leaving the room in the early morning.
“If only I had been honest…”
While combing her hair, Edit, the beautician, and the seamstress took turns entering the room. The grand estate had already completed the preparations for the wedding. A white carpet was laid out in front of the chapel, adorned with vibrant flowers.
Since early morning, musicians have been scattered throughout the gardens and mansion, creating beautiful melodies. Lia couldn’t hide her excitement as she observed her transformation into a bride.
Kneeling on the floor, Pepe helped her put on silk gloves that extended up to her elbows and adjusted the spread of her lace veil.
“Oh my goodness…”
Even the exclamation, which had become commonplace and ingrained in her ears, sounded somewhat different today. The sinking feeling, as if trapped in a swamp, gradually lifted. In the mirror, she looked like a princess who had stepped out of a fairytale.
“Shall we go to the chapel now? It’s time,” Edit said, taking Lia’s hand with a touched expression. The rosy cheeks, lips as tempting as fruit, were all created by their hands.
After expressing her gratitude to them, Lia left the room and headed towards the chapel. White flower petals were scattered along her path. As people caught sight of the bride, they showered her with admiration and applause.
The surreal and ethereal sunlight reflected off the jewels adorning her dress, creating a radiant glow. With a dreamy expression on her face, she made her way to the chapel and noticed Claude standing at the entrance. Upon spotting her, he stood upright and gazed at her intently.
In a pristine white uniform, engraved with the insignia of Ihar, Claude looked as if a sculptor had breathed life into him—graceful and beautiful. Canilia approached him slowly, her lips curving into a gentle smile. The chapel was already filled with nobles, including the emperor, waiting for the ceremony to begin.
As she looked at him, the man, who smiled and tugged at the corner of his mouth, extended his hand. His exquisite appearance left her breathless. Her heart pounded so hard that it was almost painful to stand properly.
Canilia placed her hand on his arm.
“You look beautiful today, Canilia.”
His sweet voice seemed to erase all memories of yesterday. His voice was so gentle that it melted the worries that had plagued her since the early morning.
“I have something to say…”
Why did the courage only arise now? Why at this moment, when her heart was growing impatient? Knights lined up on both sides of the Virgin Road, drawing their swords high. It was the signal to begin the entrance.
“We can talk later. Our wedding comes first.”
As the elegant processional march began to play, Claude kissed the back of her hand. Lia stared directly into the affectionate eyes of the man and lifted her head with great effort.
“No, I want to say it.”
In that moment, the unease he felt at her stubbornness became apparent. Claude hardened his expression and raised his voice in excitement.
“Canilia, we absolutely cannot postpone this wedding!”
Time seemed to freeze for a moment. She couldn’t hear a sound. Only a gentle breeze brushed through their hair. Then, a strong fragrance of blooming spring flowers drifted in from somewhere.
Claude’s lips slowly parted, and his previously furrowed brow turned red.
Trembling, he cupped her cheek with his hands and asked, his voice choked.
“What did you say…?”
“I think we’re expecting a child.”
His Adam’s apple moved heavily, and the muscles in his jaw stiffened. His slightly parted lips trembled, and deep lines appeared on his nose.
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