Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
Nelia grabbed the duke by the shoulder and brought his face closer. His eyelids were trembling slightly.
She had never seen the duke in such pain.
“Your Grace, come back to your senses!”
However, Nelia’s voice didn’t seem to reach the duke. The duke couldn’t open his eyes.
Soon, the duke fell to the ground. He didn’t seem unconscious, but he could neither open his eyes or move.
Nelia looked around for help. People only glanced and walked past Nelia and the duke.
Then, Zenuit walked to them.
“Step back, Nelia.”
Zenuit muttered something as he leaned close to the duke, who had fallen to the ground.
Then, a spark of light appeared between the duke and Zenuit. In response, the duke’s eyelids trembled slowly.
At last, his silver eyes came into sight hazily.
Nelia sat beside the duke. Then, the duke’s hand twitched.
He opened his lips.
“Yes, I’m here. Your Grace.”
Nelia answered in a trembling voice. Her heart beat fast, and her head was pounding.
The duke didn’t seem to have come to his senses completely yet. He couldn’t say anything other than Nelia’s name.
Zenuit watched the duke without saying anything.
The duke recited Nelia’s name over and over again. Then, focus seemed to slowly return to his eyes.
He sat up slowly.
His eyes were completely zeroed on Nelia.
When she looked into the duke’s eyes, Nelia felt as though her suffocating chest, which was about to burst at any moment, had opened a bit.
“What happened to you all of a sudden?”
Nelia asked while assisting the duke. He released a deep sigh.
“I don’t know.”
Nelia looked at the duke with a guilty look on her face.
“You’ve been in a bad state for a while now……”
“Let’s go back to the castle first. That would be good for you.”
The duke replied while placing his hand on his forehead.
“That would be good.”
Darkness casted over the castle, and the duchess walked down the hallway hurriedly and opened one of the doors in it.
There was the duke lying in the bed, Nelia and Zenuit stood beside the duke.
“Shilin collapsed at the festival and he had to come back early?”
The duchess’ face turned pale as she came right after hearing the news belatedly.
The duke was already fast asleep, and Nelia didn’t know how to answer her.
“Yes. Therefore, I called the doctor in a hurry to examine His Grace, and His Grace has just fallen asleep.”
The duchess, who finally got confirmation that the duke was asleep, lowered her voice.
“What did the doctor say?”
Nelia hesitated, adjusted her fingertips and clasped her hands.
“He said there was nothing wrong with His Grace.”
That was what Nelia wanted to ask.
A while ago, the doctor paid a visit, but he said the duke was fine.
So I was more anxious. There is no abnormality, but why did he show the same symptoms earlier? That made her more anxious. There was nothing wrong with him, but why did he turn that way?
The duke, who experienced it, reassured her by saying that he was fine as always.
He looked too exhausted. Eventually, he fell asleep as soon as saying he felt like getting a shuteye.
“Can you go to the capital city tomorrow?”
The duchess asked Nelia while looking down at the duke, who was fast asleep.
“Although it’s going to be hard for him, we have to go to the capital.”
Nelia was also worried at the thought of having to return tomorrow, but the duke said that they must return tomorrow, whether he was worried about the upcoming total lunar eclipse or other things.
The room to restrain him when he turned into a monster was only in the mansion in the capital.
Nelia didn’t really oppose the duke’s thoughts.
It wasn’t necessarily because of the upcoming total lunar eclipse, but because the duke decided that it would be better for him to see a competent doctor in the capital.
The duke’s symptoms occurred very suddenly and seemed to bring severe pain to himself. There was no way that he was fine if he felt severe pain that was enough to make him collapse.
The duchess grabbed Nelia’s hand.
“Young Lady Nelia, please take care of Shilian.”
Her eyes were filled with fear at the thought something wrong happened to her only remaining family.
Nelia held back the duchess’ hand.
She was worried about him, but there was only one thing she could say.
“Yes, please don’t worry too much.”
After returning to the room with Zenuit, Nelia flopped on the bed.
The room was quiet. Zenuit remained silent from the moment they returned from the festival.
Come to think of it, she was distracted by the duke, so she couldn’t check on Zenuit whether he followed her properly on their return to the castle.
Nelia asked, making sure.
“Zenuit, are you hurt somewhere?”
Januit replied with his usual gesture.
Looking at him, Nelia belatedly recalled that Zenuit had helped the duke from his unconsciousness earlier.
She didn’t know what he had done earlier, but she saw him approaching the duke, who fell to the ground, and muttered something, and then a small spark of light appeared, and the duke gradually came back to his senses.
“Thank you for earlier, Zenuit. Thanks to you, the duke was able to return to his senses quickly.”
“I didn’t do anything big to him.”
“What did you do to make him come to his senses?”
“I casted a spell on him to block all external stimulation.”
“Blocking all external stimulation……?”
“Yes. for a moment, His Grace couldn’t see or hear anything.”
That explained why the duke’s eyes seemed to lack focus. The duke had muttered her name the whole time.
As if her name was his lifestrings.
When she recalled that, she wrinkled her nose for no reason.
“Why did you decide to cast such a spell?”
Zenuit didn’t answer right away, but scratched his head. Then, he spoke up slowly.
“……Blocking external stimulation helps straighten someone’s mind. If they close their eyes when feeling dizzy, it will also help to make it better. That’s the principle.”
Though it’s not that the duke was dizzy, his quick assessment proved to be of help anyway.
“Why did His Grace collapse all of a sudden?”
Nelia spoke in sorrow and dropped her head.
“I hope it’s just a temporary symptom.”
“I don’t understand why this only happens to His Grace. Sometimes, I blame fate for that.”
Zenuit walked toward Nelia and stood in front of her. Then, he extended his small hand like a fern to stroke Nelia’s head.
“I know you are upset. However, there will come a day when everything will be fine.”
Nelia slowly raised her head after receiving comfort from Zenuit.
His eyes had a sense of benevolence just as an elder comforting others, she couldn’t believe he was the same person whose eyes sparkling at the sight of cookies.
“Nelia, you can believe me.”
He was usually the unreliable Zenuit, but now she feels like she can rely on his words for some reason.
Nelia felt her anxious mind gradually calmed down after wandering aimlessly.
Meanwhile, Duke Hart was falling into a deep dream in his sleep.
The duke stood in the middle of a cabin, which had been on fire and seemed disastrous.
The entire wooden hut had been caught in fire, and it was flashing red, he felt much like in hell.
The duke thought he should get out of there quickly. When he was about to run, someone grabbed his wrist.
Looking behind him, there was a man who looked just like Duke Hart, just like himself.
He grinned ear to ear.
“We finally met.”
Duke Hart knew this situation was just in his dream, but somehow he felt a sense of danger.
“Who are you?”
“Someone who has been constantly talking to you for the past few days.”
Duke Hart’s eyes widened.
Although he hasn’t told anyone yet, he experienced a strange situation after reading the book hidden in the basement of the duchy’s castle. He suddenly heard the voice of a strange man, as though hallucinating.
The men whispered suggestively to him. Don’t you feel hot? If you destroy something, you will be fine again. That’s what he said.
The duke couldn’t get what he was saying.
‘He’s asking if I feel hot……?’
He didn’t feel heat in his stomach or any desire to destroy anything.
Therefore, he ignored the man’s voice at first.
However, the persistent voice quickly engulfed his mind.
Even when he tried to ignore it as he initially wanted to, the man kept making him wary of his voice.
The man’s voice was heard more frequently and getting clearer as time passed by.
This man was strange, so he couldn’t tell Nelia about him. No, he didn’t want to confide in her. He wouldn’t want her small face to be stained with worry.
So…… the owner of the voice that bothered him lately is this man?
The man obviously had the same face as him, but he also looked completely different because of the atmosphere around him.
“Who are you?”
The man smiled faintly.
“Your another self.”
“Am I ridiculous? Then, how can I appear in your head?”
Duke Hart thought there was no need to continue this useless conversation. Whoever this man was, he had to get rid of him if he really bothered him.
As soon as the duke tried to reach out to the main standing before him, the man spoke up again.
You want to get rid of it.” “You’ve been bothered a lot by my voice lately, haven’t you?”
The man knew exactly, he probably read his thoughts.
Smiling faintly, he said.
“But what can I do? It will be more painful for you in the future.”
“What do you want from me?”
“Accept your original self and express the anger in your heart.”
“Just like when you tried to kill the emperor.”
Duke Hart replied with a cold stare.
“I don’t want to do that anymore.”
The man smiled menacingly.
“It’s ridiculous. Do you really believe that your nature has changed because of one woman?”
The duke’s fierce voice slipped out through his teeth.
“Don’t talk about Nelia like that.”
“I think she will be a hindrance for you to return to your original self.”
“If you teach even one of Nelia’s fingertips, I won’t let you go.”
The man put his hand on the duke’s shoulder, approached his face and whispered.
“Don’t worry, it won’t be me, but you, who is going to touch her.”
The duke eventually grabbed the man. The man laughed in spite of being strangled.
“……Yes, this is who you really are. You can never change.”
“Why on earth are you doing this to me?”
“I can’t be the only one living with an unquenchable fire like this forever.”
The man finally wiped the smile off his face.
“You’ll become me soon, and I’ll become you soon.”
Duke Hart tightened his choke on the man.
“Don’t be ridiculous, who’s gonna become you……!”
Then, fire broke out all over the place right at that moment. Duke Hart narrowed his brows when he felt the strong heat.
The fire quickly engulfed the cabin and spread to the duke’s body. He felt hot. The duke had to let go of his hold on the man because it was too hot.
Falling to the floor, the man was gradually eaten up by the fire.
The duke thought he shouldn’t let go of the man, but he couldn’t move because of the pain on his burning body.
‘D*mn it, at this point……’
Then, the duke opened his eyes, the view that came into his sight completely changed.
The view, which was so red that it was blinding, turned dark before he realized it.
It was quiet. When the duke looked around, he realized that he was currently in his bedroom.
Though he had just dreaming, he didn’t have strength as though he was sprinting. Cold sweat was flowing down from his forehead.
“What kind of dream was that……”
“The situation you just went through is not just a dream.”
The voice came from the darkness. The duke spotted Zenuit when he turned his head to the direction of the voice.
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