Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
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“According to the records, I heard that the first head of the family was the war hero. He was originally a commoner, but considering his excellent swordsmanship, he climbed up to the rank of Knight Commander.”
“Wow, that’s amazing.”
Nelia was purely in awe.
Although there is always the first time for everything, it was great to hear that he rose from the commoner to the title of duke.
“The first head of the family started as a knight, and rose to the rank of minister before being granted the title of Duke in recognition of his achievements.”
“Then you must’ve produced knights for generations now.”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
Such an image didn’t suit the current head of Hart Duchy.
The duke has an image that looks a bit more delicate and intelligent than the appearance of a firm knight.
“Do you know how to use a sword?”
“Pardon me? Well…….”
Duke Hart trailed the end of his words……
Nelia’s eyes trenchantly examined the duke at the ambiguous answer. He probably couldn’t use a sword at all, or he could only do the basics.
The duke added, she wondered if he read her thoughts from her face.
“The reason I don’t learn to fight is because I don’t need to.”
Even swordsmanship……. The duke spatted out his last remark.
“…….At some point, the head of the Hart Family didn’t have to learn swordsmanship. From then on, they have been involved in other national duties.”
When she thinks about it like that, it is.
Usually, if the first head of the family was a war hero and became a duke because of it, they should have continued to produce knights, but at some point, they switched to acquiring administrative positions.
Moreover, the duke was achieving the prime minister position which was perfectly unprecedented.
So the dukedom’s lineage is that almighty?
As soon as Nelia thought the world was so unfair, she realized that quite a while had passed.
“By the way, Your Grace.”
“You didn’t take the medicine, did you?”
“Of course. I’ve decided to run a different test with Nelia when I turn into a snake.”
Nelia glanced at her watch. An hour passed by quickly as they chatted.
“But why don’t you turn into a snake?”
The duke seemed a little surprised, as if he just came to notice it.
“Come to think of it, I am.”
Although it’s a good thing, Nelia was aghast. Why has the duke not turned into a snake yet?
It was as if the reason was her.
Nelia hoped the duke wouldn’t think that way.
That’s because she had an ominous hunch that it would be another shackle for her, different from leaving the aftereffects on his foot.
“It must be……. because Your Grace’s condition is good!”
“I’m not sure. I don’t think it would have been affected by my body’s condition.”
The duke stroked his chin and replied.
“……. It’s not! It’s a good thing.”
Nelia hurriedly got up from her seat before he thought the duke didn’t turn into a snake because of her.
“Let’s end today’s test here.”
But the duke didn’t stand up and only looked at Nelia.
As if he had no intention of returning to his room.
Nelia was anxious because of his low voice.
“I think the reason I didn’t turn into a snake is because of Nelia……..”
His eyes glanced sharply at Nelia.
“How can you think so?”
Nelia thought the same way, but she couldn’t just nod along. If she agreed with him, there was an ominous feeling that the duke might never want to part with her.
“I…… don’t know for sure.”
Nelia averted her eyes to avoid answering him. The duke then got up from his seat.
“Then I can’t be helped.”
The duke took Nelia’s arm and led her to the bed.
“I have no choice but to stay with Nelia tonight.”
Nelia immediately shook her head.
“I don’t want to!”
There was no guarantee that the same accident as last night wouldn’t happen again.
The duke quickly showed a hurtful gaze.
“You’re saying it so harshly……”
But Nelia’s feeling was unwavered. She must not comply with his request.
He asked her to simply sleep together as well yesterday, but wasn’t she being fobbed to spend her first night with him? Thanks to him, they have to talk about marriage after that.
He asked her to stay with him again this time, but she didn’t know how this sly-fox man would wheedle her.
“…… Do you really hate it?”
Nelia sighed with folded arms.
“You can sleep alone today since you didn’t turn into a snake. When you turn into a snake……. Only then will I consider it again.”
The duke got up with a sullen face. He looked down just like when he was rejected the other day.
Nelia tried to ignore it even though she was shaken again by the sight of him.
The duke smiled weakly and left the room.
Nelia was able to relax once the door closed.
Then, she moved quickly to get ready for sleep. She was so exhausted because she wasn’t able to sleep well yesterday.
Nelia changed into her pajamas after washing up briefly. As she fell powerlessly on the bed, the spring bed heaved on its own.
The soft texture of the bed gently enveloped her.
Nelia crawled to the pillow and put her head on it, pulling the blanket and wrapping her body with it.
It’s perfect. She thought she could fall asleep in a minute at this rate.
As a matter of fact, as soon as she closed her eyes, she felt like being sucked into it. And it was the moment when she almost fell asleep.
Someone knocked on the door as if intending to disturb her rest. Nelia’s eyebrows lifted slightly.
The workers don’t usually come to the fourth floor after dinner time. Meanwhile, the duchess has returned to the duchy.
So, there is only one person who would knock on the door…….
Pretending to have already fallen asleep, Nelia raised herself with the probability in mind.
Because there would be an emergency.
When she walked to the door and opened it, the person she had expected was standing there.
Duke Hart. He came back here in less than half an hour after leaving the room earlier.
Besides, he didn’t seem to be in an urgent situation at all.
The firm voice escaped Nelia’s lips because her sleep was disturbed.
“Why are you here again?”
The duke said with an anxious look.
“I can’t sleep on my own.”
“You slept just fine on your own before.”
She knew he was suffering from insomnia. But it’s not like he can’t sleep entirely.
Nelia’s gaze was wary.
She wondered what kind of trick he was pulling this time.
“Ever since I slept with Nelia, I can’t sleep on my own anymore.”
“We slept together for just once.”
She didn’t even sleep for a few hours the other day. If anything…… she would need to sleep much longer than usual.
“It’s not just once, but twice. After turning into a snake, I slept beside Nelia.”
“It’s still the same, whether it’s once or twice…….”
Duke Hart mumbled and grabbed Nelia’s hand. Nelia immediately flinched at the cool hand brushing against her skin.
“I know what Nelia is concerned about.”
The duke’s gaze was desperate.
“I promise nothing will happen, unlike yesterday. I promised on the honor of the Hart Family.”
Nelia swallowed through her dry throat. The honor of the Hart Family……
“Really, when I slept with Nelia, I still remembered that I was able to have a good sleep.”
At the desperate request, her heart nearly weakened. Nelia’s eyes, which had been opened fiercely, gradually softened.
The duke dropped his gaze. The last anchorage of his gaze was his feet.
“My foot is throbbing, so it’s hard for me to fall asleep.”
Nelia was immediately taken aback when he brought up his foot.
“You said that happens when you return from your snake form to your human form! You didn’t even turn into a snake today…….”
“I don’t know……. Maybe I’m in the process of turning?”
Following the movement of his gently raised eyelids, the silver eyes gazed at Nelia emitted an elegant gleam.
She felt weak again once looking into those eyes.
The subtle gleam on his eyes made her heart, which was armed with iron walls, soften.
His behavior of falling sick only during this time was becoming suspicious, but it was difficult to act indifferent.
After all, she stepped on his foot and threw him in an uncomfortable state for a while, and even he had to suffer the aftereffects.
Bringing up the foot was like a cheat key to move her feelings.
Some might think that it was just a foot that they stepped on, but actually if they were unlucky, you could possibly die with your head fell down after tripping over the rock.
Therefore, it was something that could never be said lightly without being on the receiving end.
Nelia finally gave up on her thought.
The duke’s grip on her hand strengthened.
“Thank you, Nelia.”
She received his dazzling smile as a bonus along with his thanks.
Nelia lifted one of her fingers, vowing to be swayed by his face no more.
“In return, don’t ever think about doing anything…….!”
The duke smirked. Then he led Nelia to bed by hand.
“We slept in my room yesterday, so shall we sleep in Nelia’s room today?”
The room, bed, and bedding were all the same, so the place where she slept didn’t really matter.
“Lie down first.”
The duke kindly lifted the blanket for Nelia as if asking her to lie down first.
Nelia laid down on her bed, thinking even the princess wouldn’t be treated so kindly like this.
The duke walked to the other side of the bed and climbed onto it. When both of them finally laid down on the bed, it filled up the emptiness quite a bit.
Nelia thought for a moment about whether to warn him not to cross the line that separated their spaces again, but she decided to believe him because the duke clearly said he would not do it today.
Moreover, the duke invaded the territory on the bed immediately, so it was pointless because he was shameless to begin with.
Of course, if her heart was firm, it didn’t matter whether the duke seduced her or simply slept there, but she wondered if the head of the Hart Family learned to control others’ mind with their beauty when they’re tired and failed to melt people’s hearts.
That’s why she also fell for him yesterday.
Nelia glanced at Duke Hart with resentment.
‘……Wow, he’s really sleeping.’
The duke, whose eyes closed and even breaths, seemed to be in a deep sleep.
She was more dejected than relieved. If she had known he would fall asleep this easily, what is she worried about so much?
Nelia looked at the peaceful face of the duke for a moment.
His face looked so handsome that she felt it was out of this world with his eyes closed.
The face, which was completely stripped off any expression, looked a little unfamiliar. Is this how the duke’s expressionless face looked like? Nelia reached out and touched the end of his long eyelashes. The act was quite impulsive.
The silver eyelashes were as neat and long as a doll. She could touch him like this only when he was asleep.
The duke frowned slightly. He seemed to be responding to her touch on his eyelashes.
Nelia hurriedly retracted her hand. There was no slightest desire in her to wake him from his slumber.
After that, Nelia looked at the duke’s face for a moment because she couldn’t sleep.
Looking at his handsome face, which was out of this world, and recalling the hot night they shared yesterday still felt like a dream.
‘Did I really sleep with this man?’
With Duke Hart, the villain inside the novel……?
She suddenly got curious.
Why did Duke Hart wind up his stubborn attitude about marriage?
She wondered what’s gotten into him? He gave up his stubborn attitude toward marriage, which he had kept up until this morning.
Is it because he’s being considerate to her? She probably wasn’t really sure. Although it’s a good thing, she still wondered about the reason.
The duke frowned again. As if something was distressing him. A ragged breathing escaped his lips.
He seemed to be having a nightmare.
“……why did father…….”
The duke then mumbled in his sleep. Even though he was dreaming, she could sense the anger in his voice.