Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
Thank you for the Kofi, Yona ! (8/8) 💖
Meanwhile, Nelia’s time went by easily.
She has gotten used to the unfamiliar room quite a bit. Especially after a few days, she couldn’t help but admit that the food and everything she used here were much better than in her original house.
and there was more she had gotten used to, that was Duke Hart.
Even if the thought about him being a villain and fearful couldn’t completely disappear, he became too affectionate after clinging to her all day.
Of course, sometimes she was caught off guard at his excessive skinship, but it’s not like she didn’t understand him at all.
‘I’m sorry, Nelia. I often miss people’s warmth because my father died during my early age and I lived separately from my mother for a long time.’
When he slowly lifted his eyelids and apologized to her with pitiful eyes like now, she tried to say something but she closed her mouth tightly.
However, there was a big problem within these peaceful days.
It was that the medicine preventing the curse was not as effective anymore.
The intensity was increasing. Although he had recently increased the medicine to three doses, Duke Hart turned into a snake once a week during the night.
‘But I’m glad it happens at night.’
He had to go working at the Imperial Palace soon, and if he turned into a snake there…… She got a headache just by imagining it.
Within the empire, the snake was a loathed animal. Therefore, no matter how much respect the duke gets, he is bound to be seen in a different light when they see him turning into a snake.
She wondered if Duke Hart in the original story was also afraid to suddenly turn into a snake in such places?
She only read through the middle part, so she couldn’t know how Duke Hart would have dealt with the transformation caused by his curse.
When Nelia called Duke Hart, who was working, his answer was surprisingly quick.
“What are you going to do about it in the future?”
“May I know what you are talking about?”
Nelia thought the duke was not keen on this important matter.
He’s obviously been busy working as a prime minister until late in the evening, but she guessed he might bring it up when he wasn’t busy and didn’t have much to do, yet he never mentioned about the curse first.
So, she threw an even more intense tantrum than before.
“The curse, it’s a big deal if you turn into a snake inside the palace. What if not just people, but also the emperor whom you see frequently, find out?”
She recently found out that the emperor particularly despised snakes much more than ordinary people.
She was aware of it because the Knight Commander paid a visit here several times to complain about how the emperor kept telling him to catch a snake that didn’t even appear in the desert.
Obviously, the snake that the knight was implying seemed to be a giant monster, not just a mere snake, but he was obsessed with it anyway.
“Hm…… I think so.”
Nelia was getting frustrated as he only came back with a light answer.
“Your Grace! It’s not just a matter of thinking. Your Grace might be in danger if you are to get caught.”
The duke looked a little serious after that.
“Then, I have to figure out a solution right from today.”
But this guy…… How could he when he just perceived the problem?
“As I asked Nelia before, I think I need your help.”
Fortunately, it seemed that he had no idea.
“What are you going to do?”
“I won’t be taking any medicine today.”
“If you don’t take medicine, you’ll turn into a snake……”
The duke nodded.
“I will have to figure it out in that state. The last time I returned to my human form was because of Nelia’s influence, I might be able to return by doing it again this time.”
Nelia fixed her forehead while secretly staring at Duke Hart. His face looked very serious.
‘Does he really think it’s going to work?’
If he returned as a human because of her that day, it would have been normal if he hadn’t turned into a snake since he has been with her almost all day. Duke Hart often turned into a snake, so she put aside such thoughts.
‘Even so, it’s better than not doing anything at all……’
At last, Nelia nodded.
“Yes. Then, let’s work together tonight.”
“Thank you, Nelia.”
Duke Hart showed a beautiful smile upon hearing the positive response.
His face was something that she could never get used to. She felt like it wasn’t realistic at times. Sometimes, he felt like he came from a different race.
Not only his appearance, but his personality also made her think that way. He seemed strong when she saw that he was able to do difficult things and lifted heavy objects with one hand without difficulty.
So she became more curious.
What in the world did he do wrong for such a gorgeous and excellent person to be put under such a cruel curse?
This couldn’t have been done without incurring the wrath of God.
Nelia’s gaze landed on Duke Hart.
“Have you ever thought about why you got cursed?”
The duke was probably planning to rest as he got up from his seat behind the desk and sat himself on the sofa.
“I’m not sure…… It’s a curse that has been passed down in the family for so long that she can’t even imagine.”
He supported his chin with his arm that was placed on the armrest of the sofa.
“But, I’m guessing it’s because we committed a very big mistake a long time ago.”
A big mistake……
As the duke said, he couldn’t even guess what mistake they had committed for the curse had lasted for so long.
“How do you break the curse? It seems that you’ve been trying continuously.”
Thinking for the response to Nelia’s question, Duke Hart stared in the air without words and spoke.
“Of course, I’ve tried countless different things all this time. But nothing could lift the curse. The only solution I’ve found is this pill. So now, I don’t even expect to lift this curse anymore.”
The duke smiled almost invisibly.
“I just hope no one has to witness my demonic appearance.”
The duke’s words were echoing in Nelia’s head all day long.
‘I just hope no one has to witness my demonic appearance.’
She might feel that way to an ordinary snake, but the duke’s appearance when he turned into a snake never seemed demonic to her.
Therefore, the duke’s words sounded like something she should consider.
It seemed as if he was hiding something else from her…….?
It might be because she’s been a bundle of nerves. Nelia shook her head and looked down at the duke who had turned into a snake.
The duke deliberately didn’t take his medicine today. He eventually turned into a snake.
Nelia took a seat on the duke’s bed and asked him.
“……What are we going to do?”
“Please give me a moment to recall how I return as a human.”
The relieving thing is that the duke is still able to talk even after turning into a snake.
Of course, the duke said that he couldn’t speak properly whenever he was in his snake form. Surely other people would think it’s weird.
“Oh, I remember.”
The snake blinked and soon talked again. Its appearance looked lively and felt cute.
“I saw Nelia slip, and I returned when I ran to help you.”
The situation they were in was vague.
Nelia sprang up from her spot.
“Then, Your Grace. I will attempt to slip, please watch properly.”
The snake was flustered while shaking its head from side to side.
“There’s no other way.”
Nelia spoke firmly and walked away from the bed. As if to reenact that day, she closed her eyes tightly and bent her body toward the floor on the opposite side of the bed.
The duke sprang up and dashed toward Nelia. The snake slammed its head into Nelia’s body.
Nelia rubbed her slammed buttocks that kissed the floor.
She looked at him to make sure, but the duke in her arms was still in his snake form like before.
Nelia spoke while looking at the duke who was still in his snake form.
“Looks like this doesn’t work…….”
“How can you act so ignorant like this!”
The duke’s reprimanding voice was heard. She couldn’t read the expression on the snake’s face, but he seemed pretty angry.
“You needn’t try something like that.”
The duke didn’t say anything, as if he found it unpleasant. Nelia lifted the duke gently and put him back on the bed. Since he couldn’t go up there by himself.
The duke stared at Nelia.
“……I asked Nelia for help, not to do anything risky like that.”
“……I see. I don’t think it has anything to do with me slipping down and the duke’s transformation, so I will make sure to not do it anymore.”
Nelia answered and the duke finally let go of his anger.
Why is she looking at the snake’s face and reading his feelings?
Nelia thought it was strange, but soon shook her head.
She still had a long way to go.
After that, she made various attempts with the duke. Such as grabbing the duke in his snake form and tugging it from both sides, throwing it, and even feeding it different things.
However, the duke didn’t return as a human regardless.
“Should we end this here?”
The duke spoke while looking at Nelia. The snake looked quite exhausted already.
“I think that would be a good idea.”
“Good job, Nelia.”
“The same to you, Your Grace.”
They tried hard, but ended up being exhausted because it all went in vain.
How can she not feel bad for Duke Hart, the person involved?
She wasn’t sure if she was just imagining things, but somehow his silver eyes looked sullen.
Nelia reached out and stroked the snake’s bald head.
“Don’t be too concerned, Your Grace. Every cloud has a silver lining.”
Actually, Nelia used to think that there was a cloud that didn’t have a silver lining, but right now she needed to tell him a white lie. She solely wanted to comfort Duke Hart because she pitied him.
But at that moment, the hand stroking the snake’s head trembled and slipped away.
She was met with a pair of silver eyes.
The duke has returned to his human form!
Nelia hugged Duke Hart in joy.
“Your Grace! You’ve returned as a human!”
“It’s all thanks to Nelia.”
Duke Hart hugged Nelia back cautiously. Nelia’s little body was flung into the duke’s arms.
Then, she felt the firm muscles of someone’s back on her hand.
Come to think of it, this guy hasn’t dressed again.
Nelia pulled away in surprise. She then looked at him as if putting the blame on him.
“Your Grace, again……!”
The duke smiled lightly and shrugged his shoulders.
“I can’t help it when I just return from my snake form.”
“I get it, so now please get dressed first.”
His revealed torso left her no place to lay her eyes at.
‘He has an unnecessarily good body.’
Firm chest, broad shoulders, and back muscles she touched earlier.
She rarely saw the body of a man, but she knew his body was similar to the most trained knights out there.
Gulp. Nelia unwittingly swallowed in her dry mouth. Then, she made eye contact with Duke Hart, who was in the process of wearing pants and shirt.
Nelia was embarrassed because she felt like he had read her thoughts. As she intentionally lowered her head, the bed leapt slightly.
She looked up and found the duke settled near her. His shirt has been buttoned up.
“Nelia, your face is red.”
“I’m, I’m fine.”
Nelia deliberately looked elsewhere, feeling embarrassed.
“No, you don’t look really good. Can you look at me for a second?”
Nelia could barely look up upon hearing Duke Hart’s urging. His silver eyes were staring at her.
Her heart was beating like a thief who had been caught stealing.
“Do you suffer from a fever?”
The duke gently grasped Nelia’s chin. And the duke put his forehead on Nelia’s.
Her heat was transferred to his cool skin.
“You’re hot, Nelia.”
[t/n: sigh, this line could have another meaning if the novel rating is 15+…..]
The duke said quietly with their forehead pressed against each other.
She felt like her face was about to explode at the gentle voice that tickled her ears.
Nelia pushed Duke Hart away as she could barely gather back her senses.
“……That’s because Your Grace’s skin is cold.”
The duke smiled.
But how come? The way he smiled with his eyes closed today seemed like a nine-tailed fox that was on the verge of possessing a human being and taking advantage of them.
Nelia had to escape from this room right away.
If she remained motionless like this, the feeling of the unknown ominous premonition that was about to happen surrounding her whole body.
“It’s already late at night, so we can stop here…….”
As soon as Nelia got up from the bed, Duke Hart crumbled in his spot.
There was a frown on the duke’s face.
“What, what happened to you, Your Grace?”
“My instep suddenly……”
His instep, all of a sudden?