Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
Thank you for the Kofi, Yona ! (2/8) 💖
Carlos didn’t answer immediately and looked around first. She had sensed it from the last time seeing him, that Carlos was such a haughty and self-centered person.
Even so, he still deserved to be the male lead because he only showed his warm side to his woman, wasn’t it like that?
Carlos’ gaze landed on Nelia, who was sticking her head slightly from the stairs.
Nelia was startled for a moment, but fortunately Carlos quickly turned away.
“The duke didn’t come in and out of the imperial palace these days, therefore I came to visit you personally.”
The reason was suspicious. Perhaps Duke Hart felt the same way upon hearing it.
“I recently injured my foot and had asked His Majesty to excuse me for managing work from home.”
“I heard about that.”
Carlos’ nonchalant gaze turned to Duke Hart’s gaze.
“From the way you look, you seem fine…….”
“My injury is not visible on the surface.”
Duke Hart returned his words with a smirk.
“Come in for now, Your Highness. You’ve come all the way here, so let me treat you with a cup of tea.”
Duke Hart stepped back and led Carlos inside.
“Ton, please lead us to the drawing room.”
Carlos lightly shook his hand.
“I don’t want to go to the drawing room, take me to the duke’s office instead.”
Duke Hart’s eyes hardened subtly.
After observing the man closely for the past few days, she was able to quickly catch the changes of duke’s emotion.
It was merely a small change of expression on his face, but she felt that Duke Hart wasn’t pleased by Carlos’ request.
“It must not be a difficult task, can you do that?”
Duke Hart was good at hiding his emotions.
Even though he obviously wasn’t pleased with the request, it looked amazing how he responded calmly, as if he had no problem doing it.
“Ton, bring the tea to my study.”
“Yes, I understand.”
Nelia hurriedly marched up the stairs before the two climbed up the stairs.
Nelia quickly took a seat in her place. The duke and Carlos entered the study shortly after.
Carlos’ eyes turned to her again.
“Who is she?”
“She’s my handmaiden. She’s here to help me with simple tasks.”
Carlos smiled and snickered after Duke Hart explained about her.
“Your face looks familiar.”
That…….. Is because we’re acquaintances.
Nelia recalled the incident in which she dropped the necklace.
Duke Hart saved her that day, but it dawned on her that Carlos might still be suspicious and wondering about the real culprit who dropped the necklace on that day.
Her mouth felt like drying up by thinking that way.
“You’ve known her because you two met at the party.”
“Oh, the young lady from that day.”
Carlos exaggeratedly pretended to remember her.
“What a coincidence, Duke Hart? It turned out the young lady on that day was the handmaiden of the duke.”
He talked in a sharp manner. She felt like raking over the incident on that day.
“Nelia was hired recently. My foot was injured and it made me struggle to move around, and my servant just happened to take a leave to return to his hometown for a while.”
After the maid left the tray with teacups and a teapot on it, Duke Hart poured the tea while explaining to him.
Carlos turned his eyes away after looking constantly at Nelia and asked.
“Did the duke originally know the young lady before?”
“No. We just coincidentally met.”
Their speaking manner was calm, but the atmosphere somehow felt cold.
Carlos, who was trying to dig into something strange in one way or another, and Duke Hart, who was trying to not show even an inch of gap for him to dig into.
Like a battle between a spear and a shield.
When Duke Hart handed him the cup, Carlos extended her hand to take it without muttering a word of gratitude.
Carlos slowly opened his mouth after he was done taking a sip of the tea.
“About the day when the necklace was broken.”
Carlos stopped taking interest in Nelia and brought up another topic.
“That day, I went to see the monitoring sphere in the showroom just to be sure, but it seemed to be broken as well.”
Duke Hart looked surprised.
The same with Nelia who didn’t look less surprised as well.
She didn’t think about that day ever since because she was all over the place at that time, but if the monitoring sphere hadn’t broken, Leighton would have been caught as the real culprit by now.
Carlos held the tea steadily in his hand as if attempting to cool down the tea a bit and fixed his gaze on the calm surface.
“It’s astonishing……… that there could be so many odd coincidences happening only to the duke.”
Carlos’ eyes, which had previously fixed on the tea, turned to the duke. Duke Hart put down his teacup.
“God will be the only one who can explain those coincidences.”
Carlos’ sharp attitude might be confusing in a way, but Duke Hart remained relaxed as if he was facing a child.
“Well, I don’t intend to find fault with you anymore for the past incident. Since the necklace is completely restored now.”
“Thank you for your understanding of my mistake.”
Duke Hart gave a light smile.
On the other hand, Nelia forcefully lowered her head because her guilty conscience was pricked at the sight of someone, who was completely innocent, had to apologize instead.
That d*mn*d Leighton………
“Did you say your name was Nelia?”
Nelia raised her head again when Carlos suddenly called her.
“Come and take a seat.”
Nelia blinked like an idiot.
‘Was he implying that they should drink tea together……….?’
She didn’t mean to divide people into their respective ranks, but it was just a bit strange. A maid like her was caught in the place where the crown prince and the duke were having a conversation.
Just as Nelia began to panic, Duke Hart answered for her.
“Your Highness, there is a lot of work that Nelia has to get done with. I kindly seek your understanding………”
“Are you so busy that you have to turn down my offer?”
Carlos cut Duke Hart off.
Duke Hart’s face hardened. He didn’t reply with a smile like he usually did. The air in the study became heavy.
Nelia finally rose from her seat.
“That’s fine. I will do it later.”
As she took a seat beside the duke, Duke Hart tugged at the bell rope to tell the servant to bring another cup, it seemed that he had accepted the situation.
The maid returned with a cup in no time and served it, Duke Hart then proceeded to pour the tea into it.
Carlos spoke as Nelia said ‘thank you’ when handed over the tea by the duke.
“It was impressive to see the young lady on her knees on that day.”
If I didn’t, Leighton would have attempted to lunge at you and knocked you out.
Of course, his fit wouldn’t even touch him because the crown prince, his opponent, was a swordmaster.
“Haha…… I thought I had broken the necklace that day.”
Nelia responded adequately.
“From which family are you, young lady?”
“Benedict…… The Count Family.”
Even so, she was grateful at the fact that her voice was quite soft.
“How do you feel working as the handmaiden of Duke Hart?”
There was Duke Hart beside her, and if he asked that, didn’t he know she had no choice but to answer it like that?
“If Duke Hart hired the young lady as a maid, the young lady must be doing her job perfectly.”
Nelia almost lost her grip on the cup.
‘Ah…… That’s not entirely true.’
Although she didn’t make any big mistakes, she could tell that her assistance was sloppy if she looked at Ton, the butler.
Nelia was looking back at her work when Carlos spat out an unexpected remark.
“If I’m given a chance, I would like to hire the young lady as my handmaiden.”
Nelia lifted her head.
“What do you think? You’ll get to be paid twice as much as Duke Hart gives you.”
She read an unusual ecstasy in Carlos’ eyes. Nelia knew he had something up his sleeve for offering this.
“……No. Thank you for your kind words, but I’m happy to work as a handmaiden for Duke Hart.”
Carlos leaned his back on the sofa in a disappointed manner when she turned down his offer.
“You’re such a faithful handmaiden. What do you think, are you content with this handmaiden?”
Carlos had a nasty habit of asking questions in front of the person he was referring to in that kind of manner.
Nelia looked anxiously at Duke Hart when he was asked about her.
The duke gave his usual smile.
“Of course. I don’t wish for her to be taken away by anyone.”
Contrary to his gentle expression, the calm voice that escaped his mouth was as cold as a frost in the middle of winter.
“It’s not like you, duke.”
Duke Hart simply laughed at Carlos’ abstruse remark.
Nelia nodded inside.
“That’s right, Duke Hart is emotional unlike usual.”
She presumed that this was the part Carlos criticized.
But Nelia soon understood his sharp attitude. After all, she was the helper to Duke Hart for solving the curse now.
But he [Duke Hart] would be angry if he [Carlos] was speaking as if he [Carlos] was going to take her to the palace.
By the time the atmosphere turned cold, Carlos had risen from his seat.
“I have to go now.”
“I will walk you to the door.”
Duke Hart rose from his seat as well. Nelia followed by also getting up in an awkward manner.
In front of the main gate, there was a large imperial carriage that she saw earlier.
“I’ll visit again next time.”
“Please do as much as you like.”
On the surface, it seemed like they were very close, but somehow Nelia knew there was a bone in their words.
Carlos’ next visit meant that he would come at an unexpected moment like today and said something that would lead the atmosphere to become chilly, and it was meant to be done if Duke Hart also would do it.
Their personalities were the opposite like Carlos’ gray hair that looked black at the first glance and Duke Hart’s silver hair that was close to white.
“Come to think of it, is your hand alright?”
Nellia’s gaze followed. Duke Hart asked while looking down at Carlos’ hand.
Carlos in the original story was actually born with a disability.
He couldn’t move his right arm very well, but he struggled to overcome it. Although his nature was raucous and unsociable, she had to admit this one was impressive at the very least.
With a single determination to overcome his situation by any means, he passed the obstacle and managed to reach the stage of swordmaster.
But Carlos thought his right arm was a blemish on himself. In reality, Carlos was reluctant to go to the parties or meet people when he was young because of his arms.
Now he could reveal himself confidently since he was able to act like he was fine all along.
“I’ve been busy with matters with the emperor, so I haven’t been able to see Your Highness properly lately.”
Carlos wriggled his eyebrows. As if he didn’t like it when Duke Hart dared to bring up his right arm.
The duke probably already predicted this situation and planned to bring that up.
Nelia read all the hidden meanings in his remark as she knew their relationship in the original story.
“You’re worrying about nothing.”
“I’m glad if you’re alright.”
Duke Hart replied while showing his genial smile. Carlos casted a sidelong scowl before getting into the carriage.
The carriage left with the sonorous sounds of horses’ hoofs. When Carlos left, she was so out of it that she would be taken away by the small gust of wind.
The duke turned his head and looked at Nelia.
“You’re not going to leave me, right…….?”
What is he talking about?
“The handmaids in the palace have a lot of work. The imperial family is more fastidious than people thought.”
“I’ll pay you as much as I call you. If necessary, even this mansion……”
Nelia hurriedly stopped Duke Hart’s mouth from speaking.
“If this is because of the prince’s suggestion, I don’t have any thought of transferring there. I told you before.”
Duke Hart rushed to put Nelia in his arms. Nelia let out a yelp at the imposing pressure on her body in an instant.
“As expected of Nelia.”
She assumed he has frequent skinship with others. Nelia pushed away Duke Hart, who rushed to her.
Though, the duke immediately loosened his arms when she pushed him away.
“I’m sorry. I’m just so happy.”
He even made sure to apologize with that innocent face of his.
‘This fox…… No, I mean snake!’
Phew, she had no idea what she was supposed to do with this man, who smiled with his eyes blinking beautifully.