The Duke's Passion

Chapter 782 Uncle, are you crying?

Chapter 782 Uncle, are you crying?

"You're alright," said Klaus, offering Claude a warm smile as he knelt on his knees while the little prince was sitting on the edge of the bed. "That madwoman won't do anything to you. Just… just… stay here for now. This place is safe for you."

Klaus ruffled the young boy's hair in hopes that would comfort him a bit. Being back in time and staying in the royal palace was not the best time for the two of them. Even though Stefan and Samael were now on the same boat, things for this child were still the same, and Klaus would still say the same things he used to tell his nephew. But Klaus had to. He had to repeat these painful words, which only reminded him and Claude how little their world was. That in this world, the surface was thin as eggshells. Hence, each step should be careful and their weight calculated.

Hence, it had always been safe for Claude to stay within this cold palace where no one ever bothered to go. Claude's safe zone.

"Uncle, are you going to leave now?" asked the young boy after mustering enough courage to speak. "Mhm." Klaus nodded, smiling subtly at him. "I need to do something."

Claude's little mouth opened, only to close it again. His uncle hadn't been on good terms with the king, but even so, Klaus had always followed Stefan's orders without questions asked. Klaus was a good man; he was the only nice person in this place. And because Klaus cared for him so much, he had to do things that were out of his principles for Claude. "Will you be away for a long time again?" came out his tiny voice, and heaved a sigh of relief when Klaus shook his head. "I'll just be around for a while." Klaus retrieved his hand from his nephew's head, and then rested his arm on his leg. "Don't worry. I'll come and visit you every day."

"Really?" Claude's eyes glimmered; unlike the sharp look he cast at Silvia, Claude was just like any other boy with his reaction. "Of course! Since when did I disappoint you?" Klaus chuckled, tapping the surface of the bed. "Claude, remember. You have me. Always. Even if I go on a mission, I will surely come back and accompany you here."

Claude's expression softened as he nodded. "Once I grow up, I will always go on a mission with you."

"Haha! Well, I do not mind being the mentor of the crown prince." Klaus winked playfully. "I'll make you a great man!"

Both of them smiled at each other for a moment before Klaus tapped the soft bed again. "Now, time for you to sleep," said Klaus, pushing himself up while Claude crawled to his spot. After Klaus tucked the little boy in, he sat down on the edge of the mattress, eyes on Claude. "Bedtime stories?" he asked the little boy, only to see Claude shake his head. "Uncle, can you take me out of the palace one day?" Claude inquired curiously. He had outgrown bedtime stories but had grown fond of talking to Klaus; asking questions to sate his curiosity. "Of course. I told you. I'll take you out of the palace one day." Klaus smiled. "One day, Claude. One day."

He then slowly peeled his eyes away from the little boy to look around the chamber. His hands were on either side of him, pursing his lips into a thin line. "Someday… I will take you on an inspection with me," Klaus continued with a hum along with it, recalling that time the two of them went to Cunningham. That was probably the turning point for the two of them, meeting Lilou for the first time, whom both of them were so fond of. Klaus couldn't help but smile as he looked back at Claude. Even though many things happened after that event in Cunningham, the result was overall good. Claude would break free from his royal duties as a prince and would get the title of the earl in Monarey. Monarey might be a place where it was cold all year round, but they had a good time there. There might be problems here and there, but the two of them managed.

Staring at Claude's young and adorable face, Klaus couldn't help but feel a little sentimental. The older Claude grew, the more he had become mischievous, having Fabian as his role model. But at the same time, Claude might be mischievous, but he had also become a fine young man; an earl everyone, even in the south Minowa, admired. "We'll be fine, Claude." Klaus sniffed hard as he fixed the blanket over the boy's chest. "Uncle, are you crying?"

"No, of course not."

"Who made you sad?" "No one. I'm not crying." Klaus chuckled as he forced a smile on the young boy's face. "I'm just… very proud of you — that's all."

"What did I do to make you proud?"

Many. That was the first word that came into Klaus' head upon Claude's curious question.

"For existing." Klaus's expression softened, knowing how this child went through so much at such a young age. Yet, Claude didn't let everything drag him down. And that… bring equal pain and relief in Klaus' heart. Because the current Claude, the one he left with Lilou and Samael, blamed himself for their situation right now. Claude even lost a good friend, but he couldn't even grieve properly.

Life surely has a sick and twisted sense of humor. It wouldn't even cut them some slack. Claude smiled, moved by his uncle's short yet heartwarming answer. No one had ever thanked him for existing or appreciated his existence. Hence, this meant a lot to him. "Don't cry, uncle. I am a La Crox, and I will surely make everyone proud and love me." Claude sported a reassuring smile. "Until then, I will stay safe in the cold palace."

"Mhm." Klaus ruffled his head. "Good boy."

Klaus fixed the blanket again properly and inspected the room lest there was an open window. The night could be very cold, and leaving one open would freeze Claude to death — he was exaggerating. After snuffing out the last candle, Klaus bid his nephew a good night and left. Standing in front of the door with his back against it, a deep exhale slipped past his lips. "I will surely make everyone proud and love me." Claude's remarks hovered over him, causing Klaus to reveal the bitterness in them. 'There's no need to feel sorry,' he told himself as he took a step away. 'He might not achieve that in this place even if he does everything, but Lilou would surely love him at first sight.'

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