Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
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Zenuit asked as he approached the bed.
“You just met a man with the same face as you in your dream, right?”
The duke had a doubt that he hadn’t woken up from his dream yet.
“How do you know that……?”
“Didn’t you ask me what to do if you heard a strange voice in your head?”
Duke Hart looked at Zenuit without saying anything.
“I guess you know the part of me that I don’t even know about, don’t you?”
“Yes, I knew it from the first moment I saw you.”
Although it was just for a moment, the duke felt those distant years back in Zenuit’s eyes, who had the appearance of a child. To the extent that he dare not to guess the boy’s actual age.
“I know not only who you are, but also the existence of the man you met in your dream.”
“He said he was me.”
When Zenuit affirmed calmly, the duke’s displeasure rose again.
The duke knew what kind of man he had met in his dream earlier.
An extremely self-pitying man who thought of himself as the most unhappy person in the world. However, the duke didn’t care whether he was a narcissist pretending to be unhappy or whoever he was.
The only thing that bothers him greatly is that he spoke as if he would hurt Nelia.
However, it was hard to believe that he was the same person as that man.
As soon as he tried to deny it, Zenuit added.
“To be exact, he’s your past and previous life.”
“…My previous life?”
“Yes. you have made a mistake in your previous life, and you’ve repeated your unhappy life as a punishment. Therefore, anger settles deep within you which you aren’t aware of.”
“You’re saying things that I can’t understand.”
He mentioned about his past life and anger out of the blue. These stories couldn’t be comprehended by the duke.
“It doesn’t matter whether you understand or not. The important thing is that you must break the chain of your own misery in this life.”
“Otherwise, you will be consumed by that voice and hurt Nelia with your own hands.”
Zenuit continued in a calm voice.
“If you don’t want to do that, try to do your best not to be consumed by the voice until the day of total lunar eclipse. Then, the day when you can face your previous life and clear your long-lived anger will come.”
The duke looked down with his fist clenched.
“Who am I?”
“You know that you can’t afford to find out the truth right now.”
Zenuit turned around.
“You’ll find out soon anyway, so don’t rush just for the sake of your own curiosity.”
Zenuit, who trudged straight to the door and grabbed the doorknob, turned his head and spoke to the duke again, the duke was sitting on the bed with his head drooping.
“And……, try not to say anything to Nelia about this. She already has too much on her plate because of you. If you talk about this to her now, she will only be more worried about you.”
Zenet stared quietly at the duke, who didn’t give any answer, and soon left the room.
Nelia departed for the capital the day after the duke collapsed and arrived at the duke’s mansion after two days.
The duke was too quiet on their journey, making Nelia uneasy.
After arriving at the duke’s mansion, Ton was informed of the situation and was asked to call in the best doctor in the capital to examine the duke, but he also said that he couldn’t find any illness in the duke.
However, the weird thing is that the duke didn’t seem to be bothered by his physical condition at all.
Instead, he said he shouldn’t do anything and just rest for the time being. Of course, his time to go to work was delayed for now. He would never be able to work at this rate.
Nelia looked at the duke as he was lying on the bed.
The duke smiled affectionately.
“Didn’t you hear the doctor? There’s nothing wrong with my physical condition, so you don’t have to put on that kind of face.”
“That’s why I’m worried about you…… Although there is no problem, I wonder why you are so weak?”
“Perhaps, it’s because the total lunar eclipse is near. That happened to me before. It’s a very burdensome day for me.”
The total lunar eclipse…… Come to think of it, it was less than a week away from now.
Moreover, it was a very important day because the door of the dimension would be opened, but she forgot about it for a while because she was distracted by the duke’s condition.
‘The door of the dimension is going to be opened. Will His Grace be able to respond to the test he must take to get Sigrit’s heart with this kind of body?’
“Nelia, I’d like to get some sleep.”
Nelia, who was concerned, could barely answer his words.
“Yes…… I understand. Please take a rest.”
Nelia left the duke’s room and returned to her room. She saw Zenuit looking out the window.
Zenuit has also been very quiet in the carriage on their way back to the mansion.
He asked, his eyes still directed outside the window.
“What did the doctor say about the duke’s condition?”
“There’s nothing wrong with his physical condition, but I think he needs to rest for a while.”
“Yes, I think so, too.”
Zenuit spoke again when Nelia heaved out a deep sigh.
“The ground is going to collapse.”
“My chest feels stuffy. There are only a few days left until the door of the dimension opens, and I didn’t expect that the duke would be in such a poor condition.”
Zenuit, who was listening to her, turned and asked.
“You said His Grace would turn into a monster on the day of total lunar eclipse, right?”
“That’s right. That’s why I feel more anxious. It’s too much.”
“When humans turn into monsters, it will consume so much energy in them. Therefore, it’s not strange that he is sick all the time before the day of the total lunar eclipse.”
Zenuit explained with a serious look, and Nelia muttered, ‘Is that so……?’
“If that’s the case, I’d rather be relieved.”
“Yes, so it’s unnecessary to worry about it ahead of time.”
She got comforted a lot by Zenuit lately.
She didn’t know when she became so close to Zenuit, but now she thought it was a relief to have met him.
Nelia looked at Januit and said.
“Thank you. If it weren’t for you, I would have been in a disarray and couldn’t do anything, Zenuit.”
Zenuit shrugged nonchalantly.
“I just told the truth.”
Then someone knocked on the door.
“Nelia, are you inside? This is Ton.”
Nelia approached and opened the door.
“Good morning, Nelia.”
Come to think of it, she realized that she hadn’t even talked to Ton properly yet after her arrival in the duke’s residence.
“Hasn’t anything happened in the meantime?”
“Yes, nothing happened in the mansion. Although we had a few guests……”
“People from the Imperial Palace who visit to meet His Grace, and Marquis Clint, also…… Nelia’s brother.”
Nelia immediately frowned.
“Yes, I told him that you were on a business trip with the duke, and he returned without saying anything else.”
Leighton thought he would have to lie down for quite a while because of the crack on his backbone, but it seemed he had recovered sooner than she expected.
“More than that, I’m concerned about His Grace.”
At Ton’s words, Nelia dissolved the thought of Leighton. It was better to not care about Leighton now.
“I think we’ll have to wait and watch over his condition for now.”
This was all she could say now because she couldn’t convey what she just heard from Zenuit.
When the atmosphere subsided, Nelia asked Ton, changing the subject.
“You said there were people from the Imperial Palace a while ago. Did you say His Grace has to take a few more days off?”
“Yes. I told them, but they were in a difficult situation.”
“I heard that the Crown Prince is not involved in the government at all, so the overall affairs of the Imperial Palace left undone.”
“Is His Highness hiding in seclusion like he did last time?”
Ton shook his head.
“No. it’s not that he doesn’t come out to the public, but he can’t come out to the public. I heard he’s not feeling well.”
“Excuse me? How is he all of a sudden……”
“I don’t know. More than that, I think he’s being secretive.”
Then, Zenuit suddenly stepped in.
“How long has it been since His Highness started not showing up?”
Zenuit’s voice was serious as he asked, not matching his appearance at all. Since he’s pretending to be a child, Ton must find the way he talks quite unfamiliar.
“……I heard it’s been about a week.”
As expected, Ton replied a beat later because he was quite taken aback by Zenuit’s low voice, which was different from usual. Zenuit seemed to be deep in his thought, he said nothing more.
Nelia expected Ton would think him strange, so she added a reasonable explanation.
“Zenu has always admired His Highness Carlos. Perhaps, that’s the reason he’s worried about His Highness.”
Ton held out something wrapped in a circle which he took from his pocket to Zenuit.
“His Highness will be alright soon. You can eat this candy and cheer up.”
When Zenuit was handed over the candy, Ton bowed and left the room.
He would usually open his eyes wide and put the candy in his mouth in an instant, but Zenuit stood motionless for a good few seconds with the candy in his hand.
Looking at the sight of Zenuit, Nelia realized that he had once said he felt sorry for Carlos.
“Are you worried about His highness Carlos?”
His eyebrows twitched. It seemed to be true.
Having met once or twice, Zenuit was quite concerned about Carlos.
‘Well, there are people who are engraved on other’s hearts like that sometimes.’
Wasn’t he supposed to be like that to the duke? Her mood seemed to drop again when she thought about the duke.
Combined with Zenuit’s heavy atmosphere, Nelia’s room was quiet for a while.
Until the next day, the duke’s residence was surrounded with a clandestine atmosphere as if there were a dark cloud above it.
Nelia had to quell her rising anxiety as she watched the door of the duke’s bedroom, which was still closed tightly.
Then, Ton approached Nelia. His usually expressionless face now seemed to be filled with a hint of embarrassment.
“Excuse me…… young Lady Nelia.”
“Yes, Ton. What is it?”
Nelia asked, tilting her head sideways.
“I forgot to tell you something.”
“What is it?”
“A few days ago, I received a letter from young Lady Charlotte, but I couldn’t reply to her because young Lady Nelia was away at the duke’s castle. I was about to inform you as soon as you arrived, but it slipped my mind.”
That could happen anytime. However, she wondered why he seemed so embarrassed as if he had made such a big mistake.
“However…… I think she grew worried because young Lady Nelia didn’t reply, so young Lady Charlotte personally visited the duke’s residence.”
“What? No way……”
“She’s downstairs now.”
She had no idea why Charlotte always visits without a foreword.
Nelia didn’t know what to do, but on the other hand, she thought it might be a good thing.
If she remained alone, she would only worry about the duke laying in bed. Even Zenuit, whom she usually talks with, has been quiet since yesterday.
It would be better to spend time talking with Charlotte.
“If my Lady doesn’t want to meet her now, I’ll explain it properly and send the young Lady back.”
“No, I’m going to go downstairs now.”
It’s been a long time since she saw Charlotte, so she was a little glad despite being in this situation. Nelia tried to shake off her depressing thoughts as she went downstairs to meet Charlotte.
When she arrived at the first floor, she saw Charlotte standing awkwardly in front of the front door.
Charlotte smiled brightly when she spotted Nelia.
When she approached Charlotte, she immediately hugged Nelia. Nelia was surprised by her strong form of physical contact for a moment and proceeded to greet her.
“How are you, Charlotte?”
Charlotte replied as she bent Nelia’s body to match her height.
“Of course…… How have you been, Nelia?”
Nelia couldn’t reply with a ‘yes’ right away. What has happened flashed through her mind like a flashlight.
She was kidnapped by Carlos and almost got locked up, learned the duke’s huge secret, and the duke fainted……
But Nelia knew how to answer now. However, Nelia knew the way to answer it now.
“I’ve been well, too.”
She had decided to meet Charlotte to divert her mind, so there was no use bringing up those dark stuff.
Charlotte smiled beautifully and said it was a relief to know. When Nelia and Charlotte shifted to the drawing room, Ton soon served tea and dessert for them. Nelia poured the tea.
Charlotte said while staring at the red liquid that has been smeared with tea leaves.
“I don’t see His Grace around today.”
“Oh…… His Grace is not feeling well today, so he’s currently resting in his room.”
“I see. His Grace always came out with you to greet me, so I asked because there was no sight of him today.”
When the Duke talked about it, Nelia realized that her expression was getting dark again. When the duke was brought up, Nelia realized that her own expression had darkened again.
Nelia tried to pull herself together and spoke first.
“Charlotte, what brings you here today?”
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