Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
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“Oh, I’m sorry if it’s burdening you, young lady.”
The knight bowed her head at Nelia in a modest manner as a way to apologize before averting his eyes to Duke Hart.
“I need to talk to Your Grace regarding the monsters subjugation in the eadtern desert.”
“Yes, the emperor requested it to be captured.”
The Duke of Hart’s tone seemed somewhat tired. Duke Hart’s tone seemed somewhat weary.
“But there’s no monster in sight no matter how hard I look for it. I think I reported it to you after mistaking the haze as one……”
“I think so, too.”
Duke Hart handed the teacup to the knight. The knight thanked him when he handed the cup.
The solid-looking armor attached on the knight’s body and the elegant and cute teacup created an interesting sense of disparity.
Nelia managed to suppress her laughter.
Then Duke Hart’s eyes met her.
‘……They’re in the middle of talking about important stuff, so it isn’t wise of me to laugh.’
She managed to suppress the corner of her mouth which was about to rise. Luckily, Duke Hart quietly turned his eyes away.
“The giant snake that attacked His Majesty from ten years ago is certainly dead. However, it seems that His Majesty is still obsessed with snakes…….”
The knight let out a sigh.
Nelia overheard the conversation and thought to herself.
‘It will definitely be embarrassing if I do that in this kind of situation.’
How is it any different from picking raspberries in winter? It would only result in the perishing of his subordinate personnel.
Considering the fact that he was able to see Duke Hart privately, he didn’t seem like an average-ranked knight, he had work cut out for him.
Nelia looked at the knight with a pitiful face without realizing it.
“I will report it again to His Majesty. There are no snakes left.”
The duke spoke in a calm voice. His voice was beyond calm and it somehow sounded cold.
On the contrary, the knight’s face became much brighter because of the duke’s positive response.
“It’s very thoughtful of you, Your Grace. As you may have noticed…… I came to see Your Grace urgently due to this matter. After all, His Majesty listens to no one other than you.”
Upon hearing the whining knight, Duke Hart gave off a light smile, taking away the cold aura that surrounded him from a moment ago.
“It’s true that he listens to me more, but he’s never going to be in favor of everything I say to him.”
“You don’t have to be so humble. The fact that His Majesty only trusts and relies on you is known by every noble in the capital.”
Once again, Nelia was able to sense Duke Hart’s strong position within the empire.
After working as a maid who served Duke Hart for the time being, her perception of the duke also has gradually changed over time.
At their first meeting, the duke became the savior who saved her for no reason, and on their second meeting, he was the person she stepped foot on.
And now…… a mysterious and extremely handsome villain.
He did his job perfectly well and earned respectful gazes from others.
“You must be busy, therefore please go ahead, Commander.”
Nelia, who was busy redefining her brains about Duke Hart, snapped her head at the knight upon hearing the word ‘commander’.
So this man is the commander of the Imperial Knight?
Nelia’s eyes widened.
Since Duke Hart was the only duke within the empire, all of his guests consisted of important people.
Then, Duke Hart made eye contact with her again.
It was just a moment, but the Knight Commander definitely caught her staring blankly at himself.
Nelia hurriedly looked away and shifted her pen, looking down at the paper again as if nothing had happened just now.
“It’s been a while since I came to see Your Grace, so I want to talk a bit more……”
The Knight Commander seemed to have no intention of leaving because it’s been a while since the duke left the imperial palace.
Then, Duke Hart started to show an awkward look.
“I have to apologize. Commander. I already had an appointment with another guest of mine.”
“Oh, then I definitely should get going. Excuse me.”
The Knight Commander rose up from his seat.
“You don’t need to send me off. After all, your foot is injured.”
“Then I apologize for that, I will bid you goodbye here.”
Duke Hart rose from the sofa he sat on and bowed slightly toward the Knight Commander to bid him farewell.
When the door closed, it was just them again.
Nelia got up from her seat to assist him. She then approached Duke Hart and reached out to him.
Duke Hart stared at her hand before holding it tightly.
Now she had to retreat, but his eyes were still fixed on her.
The duke slowly began to speak again.
Duke Hart’s voice sounded so serious. It felt a lot heavier than his usual voice.
Nellia was dumbfounded.
Perhaps, it was because she stared at the Knight Commander in the middle of working…….?
If that is so, Nelia wanted to mentally argue with herself.
She was not a robot in the first place, so how could he expect her to only do her work?
No, it seemed to be the case with Ton, the butler, and the servants who cleaned this house.
Nelia looked up at Duke Hart nervously, as if waiting for what he was about to say.
However, a completely unexpected question escaped his mouth.
“Do you happen to ……like that man?”
Nelia, who was bewildered, choked on her own saliva.
Her cough continued, and Duke Hart patted Nelia on her back in surprise.
“Nelia, are you okay?”
Nelia’s cough eventually came to an end and she stared at Duke Hart.
“What do you mean?”
Contrary to Nelia’s voice, which was mixed with bewilderment, the duke was definitely serious.
“Of course! When did I look at him?”
Duke Hart removed his hand from Nelia’s back.
“I can feel the strong attraction coming from you even though you just meet him for the first time.”
Nelia was skeptical when he talked about destiny.
She has thought those sort of fateful events, such as falling in love at first sight, was only possible for the main characters in the novel.
She probably thought so because her previous life was so tough.
Her urgent problem was always to eke out her living, so love was just like the story she once heard from a faraway country.
Now although she had belonged to one of the conspicuous positions in nobility, she still found it hard to change her long-standing thoughts in an instant.
“That’s not necessarily the case.”
Duke Hart asserted as if he had experienced it before.
“Although it rarely happens, that’s how people are connected with each other. Someone who suddenly comes to me as if knocking on the door of my heart.”
His gaze grew more serious as they peeked through his slightly lowered eyelashes.
‘He’s more of a romanticist than I thought.’
As a matter of fact, when she recalled the plot in the original book, Duke Hart fell in love at first sight the moment he saw Charlotte, whom he happened to meet one day.
However, the female lead has been set up to have an incredibly beautiful face.
Then, could he say it was fate after seeing her? After all, he’s one of the people who likes beautiful-looking people.
Nelia was still skeptical at the idea of falling in love at first sight.
“Therefore, I was worried. Knight Commander Helio might be that kind of person to Nelia……”
Nellia firmly denied it.
“Then why did you keep looking at him earlier?”
“The Knight Commander of the Imperial Palace was cool. I have never seen the people who work in the Imperial Palace before.”
Duke Hart looked relieved upon hearing Nelia’s explanation.
His grip on her hand also relaxed a bit.
“So that’s what it was……”
Nelia tilted her head.
“Your Grace…… why are you asking such a question?”
If by chance he would say that he likes him, she would connect them. He didn’t look like such a meddlesome person anyway.
“Because I don’t like it.”
What……? What did he just say?”
Nelia’s forehead narrowed at the vague answer without any subject.
“I don’t like it when Nelia likes other people.”
Nelia thought she was mistaken that she nearly choked again upon the unexpected remark.
“……. Nelia is my handmaiden.”
Is he……. The kind of person who’s obsessed with his own employee?
“Anyhow, Nelia, not him. According to the rumor, he’s not a good man.”
Oh, well, she wasn’t even interested in him.
Nelia hurriedly changed the subject because she desperately wanted to stop the conversation about the Knight Commander.
“Yes, I will keep it in mind. I have to clean up the table quickly. You said the next guests will be coming.”
“I don’t have any guests after this.”
“What……? But you said to the Knight Commander that you already have an appointment with the next guest…….”
He sent him away as if kicking him out.
“You don’t have to worry about that. It’s quiet now, so shall we take a break?”
Nelia thought as she looked at Duke Hart, who she led with her hand to sit back on the sofa.
‘What is he really like?’
She only found out today that taking a break meant sitting face to face while looking at the duke.
She has been asking some sparse questions, but there were more times when silence engulfed them.
Just like this time, Nelia was awkward and felt the need to talk first. It was her turn again.
‘What should I ask?’
Nelia rolled her eyes to think about something.
Then she remembered what Leighton said the other day.
‘I want you to ask the duke to do one thing. Maybe he could refrain from mentioning my name …….after what happened to the broken necklace that day and why it has to be restored.’
She didn’t mean to do what Leighton had asked, but it was the perfect time if she wanted to ask him, and she also had some responsibility for herself……
Nelia asked cautiously.
“Your Grace, how is the restoration of the necklace going?”
“The restoration is almost done. I forgot to tell Nelia about it.”
Duke Hart, who was leaning slightly on the sofa, straightened his back.
“…….What about the cost?”
Duke Hart closed his eyes and smiled.
“It’s a secret.”
“You don’t have to be burdened by that, Nelia. It’s a relief that the gemstone wasn’t damaged.”
Huft, just thinking about it made her head swim.
Nelia looked at Duke Hart before asking the next question.
“Perhaps, has His Highness Carlos…… said anything else since then?”
“Yes. You don’t have to be concerned about that.”
Nelia was relieved upon seeing the innocuous look on Duke Hart’s face.
Leighton was the one who caused that accident, but she was involved anyway.
It suddenly dawned on her that there was one thing she had forgotten completely.
“His Highness wouldn’t have looked at the monitoring sphere, or had he……?”
“He said the monitoring sphere was broken that day.”
Holy cats, did heaven really help her?
Nelia was really relieved.
But she didn’t think of telling Leighton this. It was necessary for him to reflect on the accident he had caused and go through a hard time for a while.
He tried to coax her with Duke Hart’s secret, but it must have been nonsense.
Besides, she already knew Duke Hart’s secret. Nelia threw a glance at Duke Hart’s handsome face.
‘Is the villain always been this kind of man?’
No one in the empire probably thought so. It was enough that she knew this much of his secret.
Time passed by more smoothly than she thought.
As of today, it has been only two weeks since she worked as Duke Hart’s handmaiden.
Surprisingly, nothing has happened along the way. Rather, she felt a bit more comfortable with her work.
The major difference was the change in her perception of Duke Hart which brought peace to her mind.
Contrary to what she thought before, he worked harder than others and even treated the people around him with kindness.
In particular, the duke behaved toward his subordinates that way.
Is this the kind of strong and weak where the strong is against the strong, and the weak against the weak?
Nelia even suspected there might be another twist in the second half of the novel she hadn’t read in her previous life.
That the duke was actually not the villain.
Besides that, there was a major reason why she thought he might not be a bad person.
“Today is apple pie.”
It was because of the dessert that the duke brought every morning for her.
Whenever he appeared in the morning, he always brought a small box containing high-class desserts that were rarely found anywhere in his left hand.
Not just the desserts from Posh Bakery, but also the best one among the high-class desserts that came from the places she didn’t even know existed.
She had told Duke Hart several times, who served her desserts every morning as if it was an offering, that he need not to do this.
‘I like to watch Nelia eat deliciously.’
That’s what Duke Hart said every time she tried to refuse.
So now she has reached the point where she would enjoy the desserts he gave her without feeling awkward.
“Thank you for the food.”
Nelia picked up a slice of pie. The corner of her mouth almost rose lightly and beautifully.
‘……. I shouldn’t.’
Nelia braced her expression as if controlling them.
It’s because she knew Duke Hart would watch her eat again.
Even when he was busy, he would always watch her eat until she finished.
She was uncomfortable at first, but she somehow got used to it, so she was able to eat without being conscious of him by now.
Nelia closed her eyes and took the sliced pie. The sweet and sour taste spread all over her mouth at the red apple on the top.
‘Where did he get this kind of food?’
Nelia glanced at Duke Hart while admiring the heavenly taste in her mouth.
He usually put a smile across his mouth whenever he watched her eat, but today he had a slightly strange expression on his face.
Duke Hart stared at Nelia and spoke.
“Can I have a bite?”
One of Nelia’s eyebrows rose slightly.
Duke Hart had never said he wanted a bite of the dessert he bought for her.
‘So it means we’re eating it together…….?’
His appearance, which was different than usual, was suspicious, but she put a slice of pie on the plate and pushed it toward him.
“Please go ahead.”
But he didn’t grab the fork, instead he just stared down at the pie.
“Why are you not eating yet?”
When Nelia asked out of bewilderment, Duke Hart slowly lifted his head.
“Please feed me, Nelia.”