My mind went blank for a moment.
'Why does the Duke come to me at this hour...?' As soon as the thought came to my mind.
He knocked one more time. "Penelope, may I come in?" "Ah, yes, yes. Come on in."
I couldn't keep the Duke outside forever, so I hurried. Click.-
The door opened right away. As he entered the room, he suddenly stopped walking when he saw me. The Duke's eyes shook slightly.
When I called out to the frozen Duke, he soon closed the door and entered completely.
The Duke went to the table in front of the window and sat down, exactly like when he came to talk about the transfer of the mine the other day. Standing in front of the desk, I followed him and sat on the opposite side.
When I tried to deal with the Duke in an unknown situation, I felt like I was in a quandary and hopeless. I took several deep breaths to calm my trembling heart. And when my breathing became a little calmer, I opened my mouth.
"...Shall I ask for some refreshments?" "It's fine."
The Duke dismissed me briefly. An awkward feeling settled in the room. When he showed no sign of speaking first, I reluctantly spoke again.
"What...brings you here?"
At my words the Duke made a rare embarrassed face.
"Didn't you ask me to come and greet you on the morning of your coming-of-age ceremony?" "Ah."
I did ask him to do that, yeah. That's what I said before the heroine appeared. I had forgotten. It didn't actually mean it that much.
At that time, I was a little sad for the Duke who was about to lose his foster daughter, who pretended to be mature for a while, and I was still hopeful that I would be able to escape today.
'I don't know what's going to happen now...'
Of course, now that I think about it, it's all bullshit. I answered casually, trying not to show my prickly feelings.
"Thank you for listening." "Today..."
The Duke hesitated a little.
"You are very beautiful today, Penelope."
The Duke wasn't originally able to express the feelings of praise. So I was a little surprised by his praise, which he had unexpectedly said, but soon I became a little wretched.
"Thank you, Father."
The appearance of a grown Duke was indeed overflowing with grand aristocratic dignity. Looking at the black jacket with the Eckart's silver pattern clearly engraved, I answered in a dull, dry manner.
"Father looks handsome today, too."
"I've never seen this dress and accessories before... You said you didn't want to get it through the Empress' tailor, did you buy it separately?"
"It looks good on you. It's pretty."
The Duke repeated the same words twice but I just accepted his words because I couldn't tell him it was a gift from the Crown Prince.
I felt more and more strange. My stomach was about to feel nauseous again, so I tightened the grip on my fist.
"By the way, what's in your hand?"
Suddenly, the Duke glanced at one of my hands. I lowered my gaze along with his, and saw a long string of silver sticking out between my clenched fists.
I let out a disconcerted sound. I was so nervous that I barely remembered that I still held the necklace tightly in my hand.
The end of the star ornament was sticking out between my fingers. "Is it a necklace?"
The Duke's eyes were filled with interest because of its unusual appearance at a glance. I hurriedly loosened my hand and hung it around my neck.
"Yes, I got it as a gift." "Gift? From whom?"
"The owner of the weapons shop that I went to, sent me a magic necklace to celebrate my coming-of- age. It's the place where I bought father's amulet."
"Oh, there. That's a pretty good service. I'll have to buy my arrows there next time." Fortunately, the Duke readily accepted my response.
"But I don't think it fits the dress you're wearing today."
"But I'm going to wear it because of the sincerity behind the gift."
Of course I didn't mean to. I was going to take it off as soon as the Duke left. "...You have a good heart."
But his reaction was strange. 'What's wrong with him today?'
I looked up at him with strange eyes and asked him carefully. "...Do you have anything to say to me?"
"No, not really. I just wanted to do what you asked me to do..."
"I see. It's nice to see you before the meal, Father. I'm afraid I'm taking away too much of your time since you're busy greeting the guests."
I was subtly telling him to leave now, that it was enough. The Duke, however, hesitated, as if he had something else to say. After a long time, he soon spit out something with a deep breath.
It was an unexpected apology. I asked back with a puzzled look. "What is it?"
"...Didn't you feel frustrated because of the guards I had arranged to you? After the coming-of-age ceremony, I'll replace all of them."
Oh, that. The time when I was about to go crazy because I was frustrated was already past. "I understand, Father. I would do the same."
A cliche voice flowed out. After the conversation with me, he seemed to have a guilty conscience. The Duke was often like that. If he thought it was a little too much, he'd give me materialistic compensation. That was his way of apologizing.
'He came to apologize in person. I didn't know he would say it in the end.'
I uttered words that would relieve the Duke of his remorse, as he always wanted. It'll be the last time anyway, so I won't be able to do it later.
"You had no choice but to keep an eye on me if you wanted to stop me from harming Yvonne. I didn't have to go out anyway, and I was fine."
The Duke paused and looked back at me with a surprised look. "What are you talking about, Penelope? My dear, it's not like that." "Then?"
"I did it for you. Because I was worried about you." "...Yes?"
"You brought that guy here with you... You... looked at me with that look on your face." "What..."
I felt a sense of incompatibility in the Duke's dark blue eyes. The answer was subtly changed from when we talked about the same topic a few days ago.
Previously, he didn't confirm it, but he didn't deny my words that I might have been escorted not to harm Yvonne. But....
"Thatwhat do you mean, Father?"
I asked back with a confused face. After a long silence, the Duke opened his mouth heavily...
"It was right after the hunting competition."
"Renald came to see me. He said he had something to confess." "What is it?"
"Do you remember what happened not long after you came with me to Dukedom? The reason why we closed the third floor."
"Yes, of course"
The real Penelope could never forget, not even myself. The injustice she felt at that time, the misery, she had no choice but to call him Duke, and not Father.
"Renaldtold me about what happened then. In fact, he said that you didn't steal Yvonne's necklace."
I opened my eyes wide. I never imagined it would happen. "Doyou know everything?"
Even though I didn't personally experience it, a seething anger soared up my throat in that moment.
In the game, Penelope was to blame until she was died. Otherwise, she could not go through the routes and throw herself out of the quest, turning in terrible corpse.
"That I didn't do it...but Renald who did it all...?"
My trembling voice asked. The Duke nodded with a dark face. "I want to punish him right away. What's more."
I couldn't stand it any longer, so I shook my head. The Duke spoke slowly.
"...I couldn't punish him properly. All I could do was make him train intensely." "..."
"I wanted to beat him with all my might, but I suddenly wondered if I was the one who deserved it." "..."
The Duke stared at me with reddened eyes full of remorse and regret.
"When I first saw you, you were so small and skinny. You came to me with barren eyes to beg for something to eat, those were not a child's eyes. Somewhere I kept getting caught myself for fear that Yvonne had to go through the same as you did."
"Sometimes whenever you came to beg, I tried to get you to eat something, but one day you got a gold coin and you smiled for the first time. It was so pretty."
"I couldn't leave you, who was starving to death beside your dead mother. So I decided. I'd take you away so you wouldn't starve."
It was the first meeting between Penelope and the Duke I heard for the first time. It didn't even appear in the game.
"But I was stupid and impulsively brought you here when I didn't even know how to take care of you. Not only you, but Derick and Renald."
"So at that time, I just thought you wanted accessories too. As a Father, I thought I should cover up for your faults."
"If I had known you'd call me the Duke for six years after that, I wouldn't have done that." The Duke muttered in a lonely face as if recalling that day.
I bit my lips hard, it's already too late. That's when the first meeting with sons of the Duke went wrong, and Penelope was abused, and she got out of control and ended up with the worst ending.
When I looked at him vacantly without saying anything, he managed to open his mouth again. "...I've forgotten about it for a long time. But the look you were looking at me that day is still clear." "..."
"And a few days ago, when you saw the guy who brought Yvonne, you had the same look on your face."
"At that moment, all I could think about was getting him far away from you."
"What... kind of facial expression did I make?" "That..."
The Duke glanced at me and couldn't speak properly. "...You didn't make any expression."
He hesitated and struggled to spit it out.
"Since you were a child, you have often been angry, but when your anger reached its limits, you would rather shut up and erase your feelings."
I was a little surprised. Because I was originally trying to kill my emotions. If I held my breath until I oppress the things that pop out, and suffocate until I stop choking, everything would disappear a little later, and peace came.
As if he was recalling that time, the Duke glanced at me and looked confused.
"But your eyes... are like as if they are fading away, and they become strangely lifeless..." "..."
"That's when it feels like as if you became a dead person..." The Duke frowned and couldn't finish speaking.
At that moment, a violent realization like lightning, came to me. I could instinctively know.
Penelope was already dead. To kill her feelings, she held her breath, held her feelings, and endured it, until she finally died from it.
In the game where the villainess lost her life, I came to possess her body.