Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
Thank you for the Kofi, Yona ! (6/8) 💖
She must be familiar with the duke’s curse by now.
Just in time, Marquis Clint put down the teacup and fumbled in his pocket, taking out the glass bottle containing medicine.
“I came to give this. I’ll give it to you as I’m afraid I might forget to give it directly to him.”
“Yes, I will pass it to His Grace.”
Nelia stared at the bottle of white pills that was handed to her for a moment.
In the past, she used to misunderstand that they shared secrets with each other, but now she knew it for sure.
They are brothers and best friends who take care of each other.
‘My pity for Duke Hart is useless.’
How unpleasant it must have been knowing people thought that way about him and his cousin.
Her thoughts were wandering everywhere when hearing Marquis Clint’s voice.
“It seems that Lady Nelia has recently been settling down completely in this mansion for a while now.”
Nellia raised her head.
“How, how did you know?”
She definitely asked Duke Hart to keep this as a secret only to himself……! Or did the employees here talk about it?
Everyone kept their mouth shut as the duke said and didn’t look like people who would gossip for her to think that way.
“Duke Hart recently ordered a bed with a canopy.”
Marquis Clint laughed as if it was funny.
“There’s no way the duke would use such a bed.”
Nellia remained silent.
She didn’t expect this kind of rumor to spread out.
“Oh, I’m the only one who knows about this, so you don’t need to worry, Nelia. The owner of the furniture store asked me if Duke Hart was going to get married, so I covered it up.”
“……. Thank you.”
Nelia could be relieved only after that.
But then Marquis Clint asked with a piercing look.
“May I ask you a question?”
“What is it?”
“Why did you suddenly stay here?”
Nelia’s eyes wandered around in the air for a moment when she was asked such an unexpected question. She lacked reason to appropriately cover it up.
One on hand, she had that kind of thought.
‘Since the marquis knows everything, I can just be honest with him, right?’
On the other hand, she wanted to ask Marquis Clint for his opinion.
When Duke Hart was having a hard time due to the lack of efficiency of the drug lately, she accidentally found out about the duke’s secret and decided to help him. However, she had no idea what to do. She didn’t know where she should start helping him with the curse.
Nelia replied with a sigh.
“Actually, I saw the duke turn into a snake.”
Marquis Clint was calmer than she thought.
As if he had anticipated it.
Nelia thought his stance was strange, but the first thing she needed to do was to finish her words.
“But…… Somehow for unknown reasons, the duke was able to return from his snake form to human form.”
Marquis Clint’s eyes widened slightly as he listened to her words seriously.
“He returned to his human form…….?”
“Yes, he said he has never returned in such a short time before.”
Marquis Clint stared at Nelia.
“That’s really amazing. He had never been like that before.”
“Therefore…… I decided to stay here for a while to help His Grace find out why he was able to return to his human form.”
Nelia fidgeted with her fingers and smoothed down the sofa seat.
“Actually…… I have a bit of concern. No matter how hard I think about it, it seems to be a coincidence, but I think His Grace has high expectations of me.”
Marquis Clint showed a smile.
“You don’t have to worry about that, Lady Nelia. Even though this won’t result in anything, Duke Hart is not the person to be blamed.”
A hint of bitterness was reflected in his smile.
“I became close to Duke Hart as his playmate when I was a child. Duke Hart was especially quiet and timid when he was young.”
It came as a complete surprise to think about how he dominated people now.
“The reason the duke was timid was due to the serpent curse. Even if it can be controlled by taking medicine, still it’s not easy to live with such a big secret.”
“I think so……”
Even now she was struggling, trampled by the weight of the secret, but how could Duke Hart, the person directly involved, feel all this time?
“And I don’t know how far Duke Hart has told you…… but when he turns into a snake, he often loses control of his personality.”
That was what Duke Hart said. She was doubtful when he said it, but she just found the truth in Marquis Clint’s words.
“That’s probably the part where Duke Hart suffers the most.”
That made Nelia’s mind a little uneasy.
The duke was also sorry, and she wondered if she was too harsh to him.
The image of the droopy Duke Hart from earlier overlapped in her head.
“It’s shameless of me to ask this, but I hope Lady Nelia will take good care of him. He’s a man with a lot of pain.”
Nelia swallowed through his dry mouth.
“Yes…… I shall do my utmost.”
Marquis Clint finally showed a bright smile on his face.
“I feel reassured to know Nelia is beside him.”
“As I said, there’s not much I can do.”
“Don’t speak like that, Lady Nelia. It is of great relief to have someone who understands us in this large land.”
Marquis Clint was someone who had a truly pleasant energy. Thanks to him, many worries she recently endured on her own have been resolved.
“I’ve given you medicine and advice, so I will have to take my leave.”
Marquis Clint slurped the tea from the cup and got up vigorously from his seat.
“Yes, I’ll hand the medicine to His Grace.”
“Thank you, Lady Nelia.”
The marquis walked up to the door. Nelia followed him out to walk him until the front gate.
“It’s enough for me if you walk me until here.”
However, the marquis bid goodbye in front of the door of the study.
“We’ll see each other again next time.”
“Feel free to come again.”
The marquis’ voice was heard over Nelia’s head when he bowed his head.
“Oh, there’s one thing I forget……”
“There will be a total lunar eclipse soon.”
The marquis hesitated and spoke.
“You must return home that day.”
He said it out of the blue, but the marquis’ voice and expression were more serious than before.
As if to warn of danger that was about to occur.
Marquis Clint disappeared after leaving such a vague remark.
“Total lunar eclipse……”
Did he mean the phenomenon where the moon is completely blocked by the shadow of earth?
So there is such a phenomenon in this world.
But why did he tell her to be careful? From the serious look on his face, it seemed to be a serious matter.
‘If he’s going to tell me that, he should at least tell me the reason…….’
He seemed to know something was going to occur, but she didn’t ask any further because she thought it would be wise to ask the house owner in order to get the most accurate explanation.
The duke returned when the sun set and the sky had gone dark.
“Nelia, I’m home.”
Nelia raised her gaze from the table. Duke Hart was sticking his face through the door.
Nelia deliberately spoke in a softer tone. Duke Hart slowly blinked as if he had noticed the change.
Then he swung the door open and walked up to Nelia. Duke Hart held a white box in his hand.
“On the way here, I stopped by a bakery and brought strawberry tart.”
He didn’t buy it, but brought it…… and then Nelia suddenly remembered one fact that had left her mind since earlier.
Oh, Posh Bakery…… he bought it.
Nelia asked while staring down at the white box.
“Is this a bribe?”
“This is not enough as a bribe. I can give Nelia the whole bakery if it can relieve your anger.”
Indeed. That would make her as rich as her father. Faint giggle escaped Nelia’s mouth at the absurd imagination.
“Shall we eat together, Nelia?”
“I would like to.”
Nelia nodded readily. The two sat facing each other with the table between them.
When the duke opened the white box, she saw the strawberry tart that she hadn’t seen in a long time.
Its appearance was truly admirable.
‘Strawberry tart? This is cheating.’
The duke used to buy desserts for her frequently, but he bought them very evenly, perhaps out of consideration for her. Due to that, from desserts topped with exotic fruits that she didn’t know where to get them, to the only one handmade dessert in the world. She was able to look at many of them.
When Nelia looked at the strawberry tart in front of her with a drooling look, the duke handed her a fork.
“Hurry up and eat.”
“Yes…… Of course.”
Without any hesitation,
Nelia moved her fork. She cut the tart with a fork and took the slice to her mouth.
Nelia glanced at Duke Hart while mumbling.
“Would you like to eat some, too?”
“No, I’m fine.”
As expected, she was faced with rejection.
He always asked her to eat together, and she would end up eating alone.
‘Well, it doesn’t matter.”
She was lucky enough to have this delicious dessert to herself.
Nevertheless, she felt a little guilty at the duke because she enjoyed this happiness by herself every time.
Nelia asked with a mumble.
“What is your favorite food?”
The duke asked back as if it was his first time . And he didn’t say anything for a moment.
“I don’t know.”
Didn’t know? Does he have no favorite food?
Nelia almost dropped her fork. This world is full of delicious food……!
“I don’t have a big appetite.”
When she thought back to the usual Duke Hart, she could understand him stating that he had no appetite.
He always eats food in a graceful and collected manner just to get the nutritious benefit from it. That’s how she felt when she saw him not enjoying whatever he ate.
“Is there not anything else you like?”
Nelia asked with a tilted head. The duke stared at Nelia.
Then he raised the corners of his mouth and released a laugh.
“Did you like animals?”
“No, I don’t like animals, I like squirrels.”
Nelia found it strange that the duke liked squirrels.
‘Snake are natural enemies of squirrel……’
Duke Hart was not obviously a real snake, but how scary would it be from the squirrel’s side knowing that the duke liked it?
But Duke Hart drew a pleasant smile as if thinking about the squirrel brought a pleasant feeling to him.
“……Do you want me to get you one?”
“No. I don’t need another squirrel.”
“Another squirrel……? Did you already raise a squirrel?”
“Well, I don’t raise them, but it’s similar to that.”
The mansion’s yard was large, so he might be talking about squirrels that come and go there.
Nelia stopped talking about squirrels.
Because she had to focus on the tart.
The tart that melted in her mouth quickly disappeared.
“Oh, thank you for the meal.”
She leaned on the back of the sofa with a satisfied expression, and she felt something unusual in my pocket. When she fumbled through her pocket with her hand, she felt something blunt in there. It was the medicine Marquis Clint handed to her earlier.
Nelia held it out to Duke Hart after taking out the medicine bottle out of her pocket.
“Your Grace, here’s your medicine. Marquis Clint gave it to me earlier.”
“Did Marquis Clint come and leave again earlier? He didn’t say he was going to come by……”
The duke frowned slightly as if he didn’t treat the marquis’ visit as a pleasant thing.
But he immediately loosened his expression and asked again.
“When did he come by?”
“About two hours ago……”
The duke took out his watch and looked at it. And he tucked the watch back in.
“Did he say anything else to Nelia?”
Nelia rolled her eyes to fumble through the memories in her head.
“Uhm……. He said he knew I was staying in the mansion, and we were talking about medicine and the curse of His Grace.”
The duke’s forehead crumpled once again.
“The marquis, does he know Nelia is staying here?”
“Yes. He said he knew it when he found out about His Grace buying furniture.”
When Marquis Clint barged into Duke Hart’s business, he would sometimes show a look of hatred on his face.
It’s probably because it was someone else’s business, it was both strange and interesting when she saw Duke Hart showing that kind of expression sometimes.
The duke sighed.
The duke looked at Nelia with a smile.
“I was a little worried that the marquis would talk crap to my mother.”
Crap……. That was the roughest thing the duke had ever said.
There was something that bothered her more than that.
‘What would Marquis Clint say to the duchess…….?’