Please be Patient, Grand Duke - Chapter 97.1
Was there something inherently special about noble horses, or was it just Eli who was exceptional? Despite the long break, Eli sauntered elegantly through the woods, displaying no signs of excitement. Lia opted for a light walk, still wary even though her leg had almost fully healed. She didn’t want to startle Eli, who was sensitive and delicate, with any unexpected problems.
As they strolled through the misty forest, a strange yet enchanting atmosphere enveloped them. Gunshots could be heard periodically emanating from the eastern edge of the woods, where the men were hunting. Surprisingly, Eli didn’t seem to flinch at the sound. Canillia, on the other hand, was startled by them, feeling foolish in the process.
Lia laughed and wrapped her arms around Eli’s neck, comforted by his presence. He was a clever horse, slowing his pace to match her own. They treaded on damp soil and rustled through the leaves, heading towards the source of the fragrant, watery scent that filled the air. The fresh aroma of sprouting leaves and grass cleared their muddled minds.
Gazing up at the misty sky, Lia closed her eyes and took in the serenity of the forest. The area was well-marked, with signs thoughtfully installed from the first all the way up to the tenth. They could navigate their way through the forest with ease, never losing their way.
Who had installed these signs? Lia wondered if they were made for someone who cherished the forest as much as she did. After passing by the signs installed at a child’s height and venturing deeper into the woods, they stumbled upon a small stream. It was a breathtaking sight, with hyacinths nodding their heads and the mist swirling about them.
Just as Lia was about to dismount from Eli to take a closer look, a sharp pain jolted through her ankle and up her thigh. She grabbed onto Eli’s body for support, stunned by the sudden discomfort.
“Are you okay?”
Lia froze at the sound of the unfamiliar voice. She spun around to see a young man standing up from a tree stump, his bright blond hair glinting in the sun. It took her a moment to place him, but then she remembered. He was Claude’s brother, the one she had met at dinner last night. Was his name Carso?
Trying to keep her composure, Lia stood up straight and forced a respectful nod towards the young man. “I’m okay,” she replied.
Carso’s piercing blue eyes flickered over her figure, and he leaned forward with a small smile. “Your leg seems to be uncomfortable,” he remarked.
“It’s probably just because I haven’t ridden in a while,” Lia said, trying to sound nonchalant.
As Carso moved closer, Lia couldn’t help but notice the striking resemblance he bore to Claude. They were the only two male relatives she had met who had any similarities at all. With a curious expression, Carso continued to study her. Lia turned her head and walked towards the nearby stream, where she saw Carso’s black horse tethered on the opposite side.
“Did you not go hunting?” Lia asked, trying to make polite conversation.
“I dislike anything barbaric,” Carso replied with a shake of his head. “I prefer things to be peaceful. But what brings Lady to this deep forest?”
“I came out for a walk and ended up here following the signs,” Lia explained.
“Oh, the signs. My grandfather installed those for my brother and me so we could study without being disturbed. If we didn’t want to study, we’d run away to the forest. You must have been worried. That was when I was very young… but they’re still being well maintained,” Carso reminisced.
“As I expected,” Lia murmured, feeling a sense of pride at Duke Maximilian’s careful attention to detail.
As she sat next to Eli and dipped her hands into the icy-cold water, Lia felt a sense of calm wash over her. The refreshing and clean water tickled her palm and cleared her mind.
“Eli was a horse coveted by everyone, but I couldn’t have him. My grandfather took great care of him,” Carso said. “Do you know how jealous everyone was when they heard that the horse had changed owners? The Duke gave Eli to a woman who couldn’t even ride properly at first,” he recounted, “but it seems we were wrong. Eli chose Lady as his owner.”
Lia felt overwhelmed by Carso’s exaggeration. She tentatively reached out to stroke Eli, her fingers dancing across his soft coat with a new touch. “I could never deserve such a gift,” she murmured. “I’m forever grateful to the Duke.”
Carso merely shook his head, his charming ability to make people feel good never failing him. “My grandmother relies on Lady more than anyone,” he said with a chuckle. “Thanks to her, my mother finally told me to get new clothes. But is finding someone to love as easy?”
Lia couldn’t help but let out a small laugh, the tension in her body beginning to ease. As they rode on, she gazed up at the sky, full of dark, ominous clouds.
“It looks like it’s going to rain,” she remarked.
Carso shrugged. “For now, it’s just cloudy.”
“On days like this, it always pours,” Lia mused, her thoughts trailing off.
Carso extended his hand, as if to help her mount her horse, but Lia declined with a small smile. She gracefully mounted her horse, Canillia, and Carso followed suit with his own. They rode side by side, following the direction of the fast-moving clouds. As the sun shone through the branches overhead, it illuminated Lia’s skin, and her wet hair sparkled with each soft ray of light.
Carso cleared his throat, drawing Lia’s attention to him as they walked together.
“Well, then, I’ll excuse myself first. If my brother finds out that we were together, I’ll be in trouble. I’m afraid of him,” he admitted.
Lia smiled, dismissing his concerns. “Your Highness is very generous. He won’t do that.”
Carso’s smile faltered. “Did you not see him yesterday? He prevented me from even asking for a dance. I was scared out of my wits.” He urged his black horse forward, the wet dirt flying as its tail swayed.
Lia tensed, sensing Eli’s excitement as Carso’s horse picked up speed. But before she could even react, Eli snorted and began to run alongside Carso’s horse, catching Lia off-guard.
“Eli!” she cried out in surprise, bursting into a nervous laugh as they sped through the forest.
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