Chapter 14

 

In an instant, a seemingly never ending storm of bad thoughts flooded my mind.

If Adrian hadn’t left in time, if Benson decided to turn around and call after Adrian as he walked away…

What would have happened to me? 

When I thought that, my vision went dark.

For a moment, it felt like I’d been doused with ice water and wasn’t able to properly breathe.

“I…”

What did I do that was so wrong?

Words full of resentment almost escaped my lips, but I bit the tip of my tongue and barely escaped the crisis. 

‘Be careful with what you say.’ 

If I had to point out the cause of this, it was ultimately my fault. My fault for being carefree and thoughtless. 

I was caught off guard by the sight of Helena embracing me, and my heart became too excited.

I thought they were giving in to me. 

I thought they were accepting me, that I had “my own story” that wasn’t part of the original work. 

Without knowing anything, I became excited at the thought of having the male lead. 

“Your Highness.” 

“Should I interrupt His Highness’ precious schedule?”

“But Your Highness, monitoring your health is also important.”

“Dr. Benson. I appreciate your concern, but as you can see, I’m fine right now. Is it really alright to interfere with His Highness’ work over something as trivial as this? Everyone must be overly worried because I’m the newly appointed Grand Duchess, but this incident does not need to be a cause of great concern.” 

Benson and Helena’s faces turned dark at my quiet words. 

It was too late to take back my words, and I couldn’t afford to look at them. 

“Your Highness.”

I turned away, pretending not to notice Benson, whose complexion had darkened considerably and who continued to stare at me. 

“If you’ll excuse me, I have business to attend to.”

“What? Your Highness, what business do you have…”

“Now that I’m feeling better, I’d like to finish my tour of the castle. Helena, please send me one of the maids.”

***

“Let’s go.”

At Adrian’s brief words, Orgen and the messenger were immediately teleported near where the knights were stationed. 

“Guide.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

Upon his arrival, the Grand Duke immediately spurred his horse into a gallop with the messenger leading the way.

At least on the outside, his appearance as he rode through the cold was the same as usual. 

His face as he was staring ahead was beautiful, and the way he wore his armour and rode his horse was skillful. 

But Adrian found it difficult to shake off the feeling that something was off. 

‘What is it?’

Orgen, who was riding next to him, kept giving him watchful glances, but he himself couldn’t figure out what was strange. 

How long had he been riding like that? 

Feeling wary, Orgen called out to Adrian.

“Your Highness, are you in a bad mood?”

Adrian raised an eyebrow at his words. 

“What does that mean?”

The dragon’s blessing didn’t allow for any emotions at all. 

Among those who were blessed, it was Adrian who displayed the greatest power of all time and had the highest emotional deficit rate.

Adrian couldn’t understand Orgen’s words when he asked whether he was “in a bad mood”. 

“I know you’re not, but it just seems like you’re angry.”

“Me?”

“It’s strange, Your Highness.”

“Did I frown or yell?”

“No, but you looked strangely upset…”

What did this mean?

The more they spoke, the less he understood. 

Not only that, but he could feel this “alien sensation” he had been feeling since earlier was growing. 

The inside of his chest felt hot and tight and it felt like there was a lump in his throat. 

This…

While concentrating on the formless sensation he was feeling, at a moment where it seemed like he might find a clue as to what this was…

“Your Highness the Grand Duke!”

The seemingly possible clue was blown away at once when the first knight commander, who recognized the party from afar, called out to Adrian. 

“Sh!t.”

In his frustration, profanities that he normally didn’t use began to flow out as if it were natural.

“Your Highness!” 

The commander called out to Adrian again in a loud voice, announcing something unexpected. 

“I found a nest.”

“Nest?”

“A nest?”

At the words of the first knight commander, Orgen burst out in astonishment. 

“Why already?”

A nest was a generic name for a cave, one where a demon laid its eggs. 

Was that why he had requested for the Grand Duke to come instead of sending a letter asking for reinforcement…?

“Isn’t midwinter still far away?”

Orgen’s question was valid. 

The demons’ breeding season was in the middle of winter, in the depths of the extreme cold. 

To put it simply, it was still too early for a demon to build its nest. 

It was only the beginning of winter. 

“That’s right. I suppose I should be glad that I discovered this early on…”

The knight commander’s voice didn’t hide how distraught he felt. 

“Where is it?”

“It’ll take us two hours to get there from here.”

“How big is it?”

“There appears to be more than one mother.”

“Follow me, but be an hour behind.”

“Will you be going alone?” 

“Did you forget? During the breeding season, they become incredibly ferocious. Follow me after I’ve finished cleaning up the mess and organizing everything.”

As he gave his orders to the knight commander, Adrian spurred his horse on. 

The strange sensation that’d been troubling him just a moment ago was now completely forgotten by the news of the premature appearance of a nest. 

All of his senses were back to normal.

The surroundings were cold and white as always, and the sky was dark as expected. It was the usual.

***

The maid Helena had assigned to me was named Catherine, and though she was young, she was bright and perceptive. 

Catherine guided me through the castle while making sure that I did not overexert myself, given my physical strength at the present moment. 

‘I couldn’t even finish touring one floor.’ 

I’d been shouting that I was now completely healed, but now I was sitting here at this table, embarrassed. 

But that gloom was short-lived. 

I marveled at what was set at the table. It was incredibly rich and could even be considered extravagant for a meal in the middle of a barren land. 

“Wow, I never thought I’d be eating a salad at this time of year.”

Forgetting how depressed I was a moment ago, I dug into the finely cut salad with my fork and chewed. 

It was crunchy and delicious, as if it had just been picked fresh from the garden. 

“How is this possible?”

“Because we have a greenhouse.”

I nodded my head in response before calling Helena over and showing her what was in my salad. 

“But what is this thing called?”

It looked like a sea urchin. 

Vegetables native to the north looked unusual, I suppose. 

As I blinked my eyes, the sound of Helena’s scream rang out. 

“That’s dangerous, Your Highness!” 

At that moment, eyes sprouted from the spines of the sea urchin-like creature. 

…Yes? 

Thud!

A dagger hit the table, sounding all too familiar. 

“W-w-what’s going on here!” 

Helena was a noble lady. 

That meant she spoke in a dignified manner, even while she was crushing an eyeballed sea urchin with her dagger. 

“Why a demon!” 

Helena looked shocked, as if the sky had fallen just now, but I was not. 

‘I knew it would be like this.’ 

The only person who did not receive the “seal” that allowed them to avoid monsters was me. How could the original work miss this opportunity? 

“Helena.”

I quietly got up from my seat and stepped behind her. 

“Does this suck blood too?”

“Yes. Your Highness, you must not move away from me until I have finished!” 

Of course! 

Helena was the only one with a weapon here, why would I stray away from her! 

I was even gently grabbing onto the hem of Helena’s skirt. 

“Is it very dangerous?”

“It’s not dangerous, but once it latches onto something, it’s hard to get off.”

Was it something like a warm iced Americano…?

I tried very hard not to make a face. 

“The ends of their spines are hooked, so they don’t come off easily, but it’s easy to get rid of them. You just have to break their core.”

Wow.

Helena twisted the blade of her dagger, and at the sound of something breaking, the urchin-like creature’s spines withered away in an instant. 

“Is it dead?” 

“Yes, the core has been broken.”

“What is this… thing?”

“They’re called ‘Little Thorn’. I wonder if it got stuck on the messenger’s clothes earlier. They’re quite common in the Black Forest.” 

Helena explained, picking up the dead creature with her fingertips and tossing it into the trash.

“But don’t worry. These guys don’t attack those who have had a seal engraved on them. Your Highness will be fine once you get your seal engraved.”

She looked so calm that it was hard to believe that this was the very person who had been yelling a moment ago. 

But, at this moment, I could not be calm at all. After all, I was the only person without a seal. 

“Excuse me…”

I didn’t want to say this. 

There just wasn’t any other way. 

“When will His Highness be back?”

“Oh my.”

The emotions packed into those two syllables were so clear that I couldn’t help but to grit my teeth. 

‘You’re really misunderstanding me.’ 

I know she wouldn’t believe me, but I really wanted to shout.

I definitely am not someone obsessed!

***

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