Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
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The duchess looked spaced out. Nelia took advantage of the opportunity at that moment to bring up what she had been wanting to say.
“So, if I may ask the duchess one thing, that is to not think rashly about marriage. That will allow His Grace to come to a bit more of a subdued conclusion.”
She knew the mother had a fear for her cursed son, that he would grow old and die alone for the rest of his life. However, there was absolutely no chance that pressuring the duke would be a help to him. It only added to his anxiety.
Luckily, the duke didn’t seem to be affected, but he would be in unconscious distress.
Of course, Nelia has her own reason on why she spoke out for herself. She was perturbed because both the duke and his mother talked about marriage, so she had to calm down at least one of them.
“Nelia thinks a lot about our Shilian more than I do.”
The duchess gave a faint smile.
“That’s right. Perhaps, I was more desperate to soothe my own anxiety than Shilian’s.”
Nelia was grateful that the duchess was saying this. She accepted it calmly despite having the chance to be offended over it.
“Thank you for thinking that way.”
Nelia expressed her honest feelings and the duchess shook her head.
“I’m the one who should be expressing my gratitude. Thanks to you, I knew what I had forgotten all this time.”
The duchess came over to Nelia’s seat and held her hand tightly.
“I’m so glad to know that he has someone like Lady Nelia beside him.”
Her sweet smile was contained with a sense of relief. Nelia read the sincerity from her expression.
Marquis Clint said the same thing.
‘I feel somewhat reassured that he has Lady Nelia beside him.’
She honestly didn’t know. She didn’t know if she deserved this.
It was definitely her fault to step on the duke’s foot and cause his injury, and she was being responsible by becoming his handmaiden. It was obviously her choice to help him after knowing the serpent curse, but she didn’t help much. It was unclear what kind of contribution she made for the duke to return to his human form.
“My husband once said so. He was able to endure it because you didn’t run away after knowing about the curse.”
The duchess looked at Nelia as if she knew what was on her mind upon saying that.
“Nelia is a strength to Shilian.”
The duchess’ hold on her hand tightened. She could feel the warmth through her soft gloves.
But soon she took her hand away.
“Now it’s time for Shilian to come back.”
Like her prediction, footsteps were heard from outside right after that. The duke appeared from the opened door.
The duke walked up and placed a carafe and tea leaves on the table.
“There is nothing more high-quality than this. If you still need better tea, you’d better go back to the duchy.”
The duchess also had a pleasant smile upon hearing the duke’s irritated tone.
“No need to, just pour me the tea you’ve brought.”
Nelia reached out in a hurry.
“Oh, Lady Nelia, You don’t need to take charge. Shilian is really good at brewing tea.”
The duchess took Nelia’s hand that was heading to the teapot. The duke also nodded.
“Yes, I’ll take care of the tea.”
She was the maid, but the owner of this mansion said he would brew the tea.
She knew this was not right, but both of their attitudes were too determined to leave her jobless.
Nelia retracted herself in a daze.
The duke poured the tea with a graceful gesture as usual. The jade-green liquid from the teapot flowed to the teacup.
The duchess smiled and took a sip of the tea in the teacup handed over to her.
“Uhm, the tea is very nice.”
She finally looked satisfied.
After that, they exchanged several normal talks.
Even so, Nelia soon became tired and wilted slightly because of what she went through yesterday and today was very dynamic for her.
Realizing the tired-looking Nelia, the duke told her to hurry back to the room. Nelia didn’t refuse him.
“Yes…… I’m going to head back to the room now.”
Since the mother and son have met again for the first time after a long while, they would definitely have a lot to talk about. She, the outsider, should’ve been out of the way.
As Nelia closed the door and walked away, a moment of silence engulfed the room.
“Did you have a pleasant conversation with Nelia?”
“Yes, thanks to you for leaving both of us in the room.”
“If you didn’t leave, I would have kicked you out.”
The duchess laughed secretly.
“The reason I came all the way here is to see Lady Nelia, but isn’t it okay I’m here for a little while?”
The duke wasn’t really okay with that. She barged in and opened the door. It wouldn’t be a big deal if he were alone, but Nelia must have been so embarrassed.
“You didn’t say anything strange, right?”
“We’ve talked about you.”
The duchess looked at the duke with a satisfied face.
“She’s a good person.”
But soon his expression became fierce.
“But you deceived such a nice person very impertinently.”
“……It was you who told me not to miss the opportunity, Mother.”
Meanwhile the duchess gave an aghast look on her face.
“I told you not to miss the opportunity, when did I tell you to act like your father?”
The duchess clicked her tongue and muttered, ‘You tricked someone with your uninjured foot’.
“…….I will tell her someday.”
“Yeah, lies are bound to be caught anyway.”
The duchess pressed him with a rigid voice. The duke also didn’t respond to the remark, he must have no doubt.
“Anyway, didn’t I almost misunderstand you due to the situation I witnessed this morning?”
“It’s mother who barged in at your own accord.”
The duchess remained quiet for a moment as if she had been at loss for words. And then he opened his mouth again as if he just returned to his senses.
“When I was having a conversation with Lady Nelia, she didn’t seem to be committed to marriage yet.”
The duke answered vaguely, but the duchess seemed to know the outcome ahead of time.
That it would all go his way.
The reason for it was because she knew the tenacious devotion of Duke Hart.
Upon her husband’s death, Shilian became a child who had no interest in the world and did anything in moderation.
Perhaps that was the reason why he wanted to get married more. He had a weakness, which was curse, and had no great interest in marriage, therefore he would rather grow old and die alone.
That’s why she was delighted to hear about Nelia.
She couldn’t believe there was a woman her son had interest in, no, has appeared!
However, the duchess’ face soon darkened.
On one hand, it was because she was worried.
As far as she knew, Shilian’s devotion had been directed elsewhere. His devotion was dark and shady, so she didn’t dare to stop her even though she was a mother.
However, she realized it was time to speak up when she looked at Nelia, who exuded somewhat bright energy.
The duchess stared at Duke Hart with a serious expression.
The duke met eyes with the duchess.
“Isn’t it time to leave what you’re going to do?”
The duke’s expression hardened as he understood what the duchess was talking about.
“……So you knew.”
“You’re my son. I can’t help but to take a hint of the sudden flash of life on your dying face.”
The duchess spoke calmly, but she didn’t feel that way at all mentally.
The ‘thing’ she mentioned was Shilian’s revenge on the emperor. She knew how much his father meant to him. Because he was a loving and tough father.
When her husband died a miserable death, she was sad and angry as Shilian, no, even more than him.
But she soon tried to comprehend the situation with a collected mind. If the mother also lost her mind, there would be no one to raise her young son properly.
Unfortunately, Shilian didn’t understand her efforts. The child gradually has a dead look on his face. As if his world had fallen apart.
She remembered what her son said one day when he regained his strength.
‘Mother, I’m going to develop my strength.’
Although it was an acknowledged declaration of war, her son’s eyes were finally alive.
It didn’t take her long to realize it. Her son was preparing to avenge the emperor.
Even so, she knew it was the driving force for her son to keep living his life, so she couldn’t think it would be easy to stop him.
‘And then…… I made a mistake.’
The duchess closed her eyes for a moment. Her eyelashes were trembling slightly.
However, it’s time to stop her son.
Actually, she was looking forward to the moment when the duke met his pair because she expected her to be able to control his twisted ambition. Watching her son doting on Nelia today gave her hope.
The duchess opened her closed eyes.
“If you want to have a serious relationship with Lady Nelia, you do know you’ll have to open up to her firsthand, don’t you?”
The duke avoided her eyes for a moment and became quiet. Perhaps, there was chaos in his mind.
“So, isn’t it time to not dwell on your revenge anymore?”
When the duchess added, a faint crack appeared on the duke’s forehead.
Actually, this thought has haunted the duke continuously after he met Nelia. It’s gotten worse recently.
Revenge has become the reason why he lived all this time, but then a new person appeared.
Its existence alone was just like the warm sunshine, warm and cozy.
He liked that her thoughts were strangely pliable, the way she looked when savoring her dessert bit by bit, and kept back her exclamations secretly.
He felt the love that he never had before last night.
Not just a mere pleasure, but a warm feeling being loved by someone.
This is what it is. This is the reason why people get so obsessed with doing this kind of behavior.
Probably not. Of course, he wasn’t sure if Nelia felt the same way.
But he was convinced that he would be able to change Nelia’s mind if he kept trying.
But it was just as his mother said.
He had lived with determination to avenge the emperor, but his will broke down after Nelia appeared in his life.-
Actually, he had no idea. He was determined that he would break down like a sand castle if she deserted him, but why was it so hard to relinquish?
It was also a difficult decision to make right away.
“……I don’t really know.”
The duke spoke out his true feelings with a distressed face. When the duchess saw it, she gave a bitter smile.
“Shilian, you’re a wise child, so you will understand what I’m saying soon.”
The duchess was waiting for the right time, but then she realized it was still too early upon taking a look at her son’s expression.
However, after seeing the lovely Nelia, she was hopeful that her son would abandon that useless obsession and live like everyone else one day. She should be satisfied with that for now.
The Duke of Hart closed his eyes for a moment as if he were organizing his thoughts. Then, he opened his eyes again after a while and looked at the duchess.
“I can tell you for sure to make up for it, but I’m going to break this ancient curse.”
The duchess raised her head.
It was nearly impossible to lift the curse that has aged centuries.
It wasn’t something the Hart Family never tried before. What would they not do with overflowing money under their possession?
However, they were unable to lift the curse no matter what.
A moment ago, it was said that Shilian, who turned into a snake, was able to return to his human form influenced by Lady Nelia, but she didn’t expect it would ultimately solve the curse.
Therefore, she was worried at the same time. Perhaps Shilian would be more disappointed if he kept up a false expectation.
Despite that, Duke Hart smiled softly at the complicated look on the duchess’ face.
“I know what mother is worried about. But it won’t be long.”
Duke Hart’s words that it would take long were not an expectation, but close to ambition.
The duke recalled Nelia’s small face.
‘Because it must be, no matter what.’