Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
She was about to get up, leaving Duke Hardt, who was sleeping, but his firm arms tightened as it wrapped around her waist.
“Aren’t you sleeping……..?”
Duke Hardt carefully opened his closed eyes.
“I was woken up.”
No, at least he should have woken up when hearing the sound of her footsteps. Isn’t it too much to wake up as soon as she was about to get her body up?
“It’s because Nelia is attempting to run away again.”
Duke Hardt glanced perseveringly at Nelia. Then he pulled her by the waist.
Nelia, unable to beat his strength, ended up lying down on the bed again.
“Why do you keep running away?”
“Because it looks like you’re asleep….”
As Nelia muttered apologetically, Duke Hardt proceeded to bury his face on her shoulder.
The murmuring voice tickled and brushed against her collarbone.
“Without Nelia by my side, I would change again.”
“I know, but….”
The end of Nelia’s words were unclear as she looked at the gorgeous man who was leaning on her.
The innocent-looking man who was hugging her without letting even just a little gap separating them, was actually the cold-blooded villain in the novel, Duke Hardt.
Hiding his identity as the cold-blooded villain, he had a reputation of being a handsome man who was admired by everyone in the empire.
However, beside the fact that he was the cold-blooded villain, he also had a huge secret that no one would believe.
Nelia shook her head mentally, recalling the day when she learned about his secret.
‘I never imagined it.’
She, the supporting character, would find out about the villain’s secret.
Just as the flapping of the butterfly’s wings caused the typhoon on the opposite side of the earth, the beginning of all this event was coming from a very trivial issue.
It was back when she hadn’t met the villain just yet.
In her past life, Nelia lived as a college student in South Korea.
She has to say that it was very unfortunate, too.
She experienced death from overworking when she was just twenty-one years old, and no one could deny it.
Due to the moneylender who came to see her every single day, there has been no part-time job that she didn’t do since she was a student, and her life as an adult turned to be even more difficult.
Others say that they would buy nice clothes and drink alcohol after they became adults, but it was just like a dream to her.
Anyway, her wish and goal everyday was just ‘filling herself with plenty of food’.
And then, one day.
While filling the convenience store shelves, she found a book that someone had left there.
No matter how much time had passed, no one came there to look for a book with a pretty pink rose illustration.
Due to that, she decided to read the book in her spare time when there were no customers around.
Now that she thought about it, there was nothing particularly special in the ‘Andrian’s Flower’, but she seemed to read it while feeling fascinated since it was her first time reading a romance novel.
‘Of course, until I realized I would be possessed into this novel.’
Upon her death, she was possessed by the character of this novel, ‘Nelia’.
At first, she had no idea what this was all about. All the hair was varied in colors and the houses here were western-style.
In her previous life, she was quite good at adapting to any strange and tricky situation quickly, but this time was an exception.
The environment that surrounded her, people, even her face looked really strange to her whenever she looked at the mirror, therefore it was hard to adapt to everything.
It was when the maid muttered the name ‘Andrian’ that she finally figured it out, after holding her breath for a while to concentrate on her attempt to apprehend the situation.
“I was talking about the celebration of Andrian’s country establishment!”
Andrian was the name of the empire in ‘Andrian’s Flower’.
‘Don’t tell me it, it’s….’
She asked back again to confirm.
“Who is the current emperor….?”
“His Majesty the Emperor Arjen……?”
Arjen was the Emperor of Andrian Empire.
Nelia returned the maid’s gaze with a pale face, and got lost in thought.
Now, she was in a book called ‘Andrian’s Flower’. She learned that the empire’s name and its emperor in the book matched with what had just come out of the maid’s mouth.
‘Andrian’s Flower’ was a romance novel in which Charlotte, the pretty and kind-hearted female protagonist, fell in love while embracing Carlos, the feisty male lead who suffered a lot of pain mentally.
It seemed to be a common romance novel, but the fantasy-tinged universe was quite unique, the male lead’s impecunious past and the love triangle that would gradually lead to the destruction, which gave off a somewhat dark atmosphere.
Nelia, who recalled the content of the book, realized that there was one thing she was able to point out right away.
“They referred to me as ‘Nelia’……..”
……. Who is Nellia?
Her eyes opened widely when she thought about her own name.
She remembered it! Nelia!
However, Nelia’s expression soon turned grim.
Based on the original story, she would die soon.
In the book, Nelia grew up in a wealthy and harmonious family, but her personality was not really pleasant. Since she had been spoiled way too much by her family, she was childish.
The character eventually raised a great hackle.
The incident began when she attended a party hosted by the imperial family. That day, the Emperor was going to make an important announcement and requested all nobles in the capital to attend it.
“Nobody knew that the announcement was to introduce Prince Carlos, who had never appeared in public.”
It was the same for Nelia in the original story.
Nelia, whose eyes were wandering toward the imperial family’s bright jewel, had the guts to touch and damage it, and of all people, she was discovered by Carlos.
If she lowered her head in an apologetic manner there, she wouldn’t have provoked his temper, instead Nelia raised her voice without being aware that Carlos was the crown prince.
‘Tell me, what’s so great about this?’
Due to that, she was imprisoned for various charges of crimes, such as contempt toward the imperial family, breakage of jewels, demoralizing behavior, and was executed.
Just like that, Nelia in the original story was just a stupid one extra who failed to recognize Prince Carlos.
She was just a tool in order to show Carlos’ cruel personality, the male lead.
However, it was too early to lose hope.
Despite how Nelia acted in the original story, it would be fine if she didn’t act that way.
Above anything else, she knew how Prince Carlos looked like, and she wouldn’t be doing anything stupid to damage the imperial family’s jewels without necessary.
She got a new life at most, and she didn’t want to die in a ridiculous way anymore.
Although what happened to her at this moment was confusing, the circumstance she was currently living in was incomparably rich and stable rather than in her previous life.
‘Yeah, let’s see.’
Nelia heard her mother’s voice, Lily, downstairs as she clenched her fist and made a determined decision.
“Nelia, come down here and enjoy the strawberry tart.”
When she entered the dining room, there was a bright glistening strawberry tart on the table.
“I bought it since you seemed to run out of energy lately.”
Mother must have been worried about her daughter’s strange condition lately.
In fact, her daughter, who had been wandering around outside every single day, had locked herself up in the room for several days, therefore the parents were bound to be worried.
Nelia felt awkward with others, so she was afraid to talk to them. Therefore, she spoke as little as possible to others and stayed in her room.
But now, after she realized that this world was in the book I’ve read before with the sufficient amount of information about her identity, she didn’t have to keep hiding inside her room.
However, the truth was he felt a little gloomy.
It wasn’t easy for her to adapt to the changing circumstances, and moreover, becoming the daughter of some stranger.
They didn’t know, but for her, they were complete strangers.
So, sometimes she was lonely and felt confused.
Though, the frequency [of it happening] was decreasing bit by bit.
“Hurry up and eat.”
However, her mother, Lily, was speaking in a tone laced with worries regarding her daughter.
Nelia put aside her stinking thoughts and moved her fork to pick up the tart.
The sweet smell that stimulated her nose tip seemed to make her feel even more gloomy than before.
‘…… Oh, It’s delicious.’
The tart was more delicious than she thought.
As she took a bite of it, the tart disappeared faster than she expected.
Then, she heard someone trotting down the stairs.
A man with light brown hair, similar to Nelia’s, came into the view in no time.
“What, You ate it by yourself?”
He was Leighton, Nelia’s the one and only brother.
“This is not the tart from Pashu Bakery! I’m disappointed, mother. Just take care of Nelia!”
While living her life as Nelia, there was one thing that pierced deeply in her mind.
This household certainly failed in raising the children.
It was surprising how not just Nelia, but also her brother, Leighton could be so childish despite being that old in the original story.
Look at him, he was piercing daggers into her mother with his eyes after finding out that her sister had been trying out a little slice of tart.
“I bought this because Nelia didn’t seem energized. Why don’t you just buy it as well if you want to.”
“You have to stand in line if you want to buy the tart! Go and tell Dina to buy it for me!”
Lily stroked her cheek at Leighton’s viciousness.
“Dina just left to do some errand, so she’s not here….”
Dina was the mansion’s maid. Dina often ran errands where she had to go to the bakery, and she just happened to be away at that moment.
‘Oh, that pathetic guy.’
“Mother, I will go to the bakery.”
She could have requested another maid, but she thought she’d go there while taking a walk. Since she decided to adapt here, it seemed to be a good idea to leave the house and look around outside.
“All right, you should buy it for me if you have some conscience in yourself.”
As Nelia came forward, Leighton nodded as if she naturally had to do that.
Nelia also acted that way in the original story, so she wondered how upset her mother was to both of them.
Nelia clicked her tongue and prepared to go out.
“Hurry up and return. I have to go out in the afternoon.”
She clenched her fist once Leighton, who spoke in a mean way, revealed the back of his head to her.
The count’s mansion, which was located in the capital, happened to be close to the city.
Nelia was not in the bad mood anymore once she left the house after a long time.
However, as soon as she arrived in front of the bakery, she had to receive disappointing news that made her lose the strength in her body.
“Oh my, what to do. We just ran out of strawberry tart.”
Nelia bowed her head at the shopkeeper’s words, who was speaking as if they pitied her.
‘I’ve come all the way here……!’
It was when Nelia left the shop and was about to return back home.
The scream of a slender woman came from behind her. Nelia reflexively turned her head around in a flash.
Several people gathered in one place and formed a circle.
“No problem. I got this!”
The man held the sack in his hand as he shouted confidently.
The sack seemed to shake slightly as if there was something alive inside.
“What is it?”
Nelia, who was curious, came closer to her.
“Phew, it’s monstrous. Come here, tie this up.”
The woman, who was assumed to have screamed earlier, took out a handkerchief and passed them over to the man who held the sack.
“That’s a good idea.”
The man coiled the sack with the handkerchief. Nelia asked with the gaze directed at the sack.
The man, who was coiling the opening of the sack, threw a glance at Nelia.
“It’s better for you not to be concerned about that. Although it’s a superstition, there’s also some saying that if you have eye contact with it, you’ll be cursed.”
His tone was so stern that Nelia couldn’t bring herself to ask more questions.
“I wonder why they came all the way down to the city when they live in the mountains. Anyway, I’ll take care of this, so you don’t have to worry about it, young lady.”
It bothered Nelia a lot when he said that he was going to take care of that.
It seemed like a wild animal had come through the wrong path and was bound to be inevitably killed……
Then, Nelia came up with something.
That a wild animal had wandered off and got lost, it came down the wrong way which was similar to her situation.
A week ago, if she wandered around this unfamiliar city, it would not have been any different from that wild animal.
“From the size of the sack, it looks like a small animal…”
Perhaps, that was why Delia concealed herself and went after him.
He stopped at the stream that ran through the downtown.
The sack was thrown to the stream.
As he shook his hands and disappeared without any regret, Nelia hurriedly followed the sack that was drifting away.
The wild animal inside the sack thrashed around as if sensing a threat.
The thought that the animal in the sack might drown made Nelia’s heart racing.
Even though she extended her hand, she wasn’t able to easily reach it, so she turned around and looked for a long branch.
The matching branch came into her sight in no time. She grabbed the branch quickly and held it out toward the sack.
The sack barely reached the end of the branch. The sack was pulled back bit by bit by Nelia’s hand.
The sack was wet. The bag would get wet and sink down quickly if it hadn’t been pulled back by her.
‘It’s a relief.’
Nelia glanced around to look for a spot to release it.
However, this is in the middle of the city, so there was no suitable place to release it.
‘Right, now that I’ve gotten it away from the stream.’
Nelia took the hassle of riding a stagecoach on the street, traveling all the way to the outskirts of the town.
While on the way, Nelia stared at the bag with squinted eyes.
‘What kind of animal is inside…….?’
The sack was thick, so she couldn’t really feel the shape of it. However, she was certain that it’s quite light and not round.
While staring at the sack, the shaking movement inside the sack gradually subsided.
‘You’re not dead, are you?’
Nelia muttered in frustration as she looked down at the sack.
“Wait a minute, I will release in a moment. You can’t just die.”
Nelia stepped forward hurriedly as soon as she got out of the carriage.
The place where she arrived was a forest where there were only a few people in sight.
The bag flinched inside. Nelia crouched down and put down the sack in a haste.
Fortunately, it seemed to be alive.
Nelia, feeling relieved, now wondered how to release the animal inside it.
It might be dangerous since it’s a wild animal, and what the man said before was bothering her.
‘Although it’s a superstition, there’s also some saying that if you have eye contact with it, you’ll be cursed.’
Okay, let’s just untie the coil. Then, let it come out on its own.
Nelia, who made up her mind, untied the coil that had tied the opening of the bag and quickly got up.
“This is probably not where you used to live, but I think you will be able to adapt well.”
Nelia hoped so.
Perhaps, it was an encouragement that she wanted to say to herself.
“Don’t ever come down to the city.”
After that, Nelia ran to the place where the stagecoach had been parked earlier.
Without knowing the identity of the living creature that she just saved today.
When the sack was left there alone, something came out from it.
Even if the surroundings were dark, its bright eyes were glued on Nelia’s back, which was fading away.
Until Nelia was completely out of its sight.