Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
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As her thoughts deepened, the duke’s gentle voice went through her ears as usual.
“I’m joking, Nelia. We originally kept unused furniture and art collections, but all of them have been delivered to the duchy and it’s empty.”
Despite the believable explanation, Nelia thought to herself.
Who do you think she is to be fooled like that?
Then, what was with the person who wore the suspicious robe, and what did he mean by saying that earlier?
Nelia narrowed her eyes at the duke, but he naturally changed topic.
“Is tomorrow the day Nelia returns home?”
“Yes. Since tomorrow is the total lunar eclipse.”
As if letting it slide, Nelia answered the duke’s question accordingly, and stared at the full moon in the sky.
The moon, which appeared gracefully in the darkness of the night sky, would disappear tomorrow night.
Thanks to that, Nelia would have vacation outside the weekend.
But for some reason, she wasn’t very content with it.
Was it because it’s an unlucky day when people protected themselves? Even if she knew nothing would possibly happen if she shut herself up in the house.
Nelia looked at the duke.
‘It might be because of him.’
The duke didn’t seem to really mind the total lunar eclipse like everyone else, but she sensed it in his strangely different manner.
There’s obviously something on that day that was bothering him.
She could tell he was stupefied for a moment when he was writing, the pen nib was crushed because he pressed it too much while writing, or when the reducing amount of food he consumed each time.
It might be caused by other concerns, but it was simply her hunch that it was caused by the upcoming total lunar eclipse.
The total lunar eclipse was also the death anniversary of his father to Duke Hart.
Nelia stopped after looking at the duke for a moment.
The duke halted at the call of his name and looked at Nelia. His thin silver hair fluttered gently through the evening breeze.
She guessed she just couldn’t help but feel anxious even though he looked as gorgeous as usual.
Nelia eventually continued after quite contemplation.
“Well……. Should I not go home tomorrow?”
She was worried as the duke looked different from usual.
Perhaps, something was about to happen, or he might have a hard time on the day of total lunar eclipse as if it was a rainy day.
“Why are you saying that, Nelia?”
“Your Grace looks uneasy.”
Nelia revealed her honest feelings, and the duke blinked ever so slowly.
“Do I look uneasy to Nelia?”
Nelia stared at the duke’s expression and expressed it into words.
“We’re together the whole day, so there’s no way I don’t know.”
The duke blanked out for a moment before giving her a gentle smile.
As if he was happy.
“As expected, Nelia is so kind.”
Nelia was a little embarrassed at the unexpected compliment.
She was just saying he looked anxious because you look anxious, but he was saying that she’s kind with such a gorgeous face…….
“I would have accepted Nelia’s offer immediately on a normal basis, but not this time.”
The duke shook his head and wore a smile as gentle as ever.
“It’s a problem I have to overcome.”
The determined voice echoed quietly in the air.
“For me, and for Nelia.”
The ambiguous words only added to her curiosity, but Nelia put aside the question she had upon hearing the duke’s determined attitude.
Everyone kept secrets that they couldn’t tell to others, so it was also the same for the duke.
As if she couldn’t go anywhere and said, ‘I actually got possessed into this book I was reading and I know the future to some extent.’
So Nelia was bathing in the moonlight while praying that the duke would be safe and sound on the day of the total lunar eclipse.
It was getting deeper into the evening.
On the day of the total lunar eclipse.
When Nelia woke up in the morning, she felt the dampness on her clothes. Sweat was dripping from her forehead.
That was weird. It has never happened to her.
She felt the temperature of her forehead with her hand, wondering if she just caught a cold, but the temperature she felt there was lukewarm.
Of course, she didn’t feel sick or chilly.
And then, a slight headache hit her head. The intensity was small, but the impact it left on her was big.
The memory of her dream came with a headache.
Come to think of it, she had a dream yesterday.
A very bizarre dream.
It started with the duke who appeared in his snake form.
As usual when the duke appeared in her dream, he was in the large and terrifying form, which was no different for today. She was keeping a lookout in case it might come at her like last time, but the snake curled up and didn’t budge.
When she paid a closer look to it, its closed eyelids twitched. Its figure somehow looked as if it was in pain.
Nelia forgot for a moment that she was afraid of it, she put her hand on slick scales and softly shook it.
The snake could barely open its eyes and met her eyes. The bright silver eyes trembled slightly.
“Your Grace……. Where does it hurt?”
Nelia asked carefully once more, and the snake blinked, its eyes soon opened widely.
Then he thrashed around as if in pain.
“Your Grace, Your Grace!”
She called out urgently, but she couldn’t seem to reach the duke with her voice.
The shaking snake suddenly stopped.
Stopping unnaturally, the snake looked like a controlled doll. Suddenly it turned its head.
The eyes that met hers again were dull.
Nelia was filled with ominous energy.
It didn’t seem like the duke she knew.
Nelia unconsciously withdrew on her own. The snake stared at her figure with its tongue sticking out.
She knew for sure. This time, that snake was not the duke she knew.
She had to run away.
Nelia glanced behind her once.
There was a forest. If she hid well in the tree, she would escape the snake successfully.
Taking a deep breath, Nelia ran through that way.
Nelia, who was running breathlessly, soon realized that her judgment was wrong.
The snake was incredibly fast, and it was hot on her tail and immediately wrapped itself around her when she started to run, as if it had been triggered by the escaping prey.
Crack. Nelia felt the pain as if her broken rib when the snake’s hard body twisted around her.
There was no snake that licked her cheek like a puppy as before. There was only a ferocious monster in front of her.
The fire erupted around the snake. The blue background quickly became red.
The smell of burning fire caught her nose, as if she was in hell.
The smell was unusually strong and she couldn’t breathe.
Nelia was anxious when she realized this strange smell was because of the snake.
The duke was originally a small, trifling snake, but where did this power come from?
What is this huge body?
Nelia could barely look into the snake’s eyes.
Its eyes were still hazy as if they were covered by mist. As if it was possessed.
But the snake opened its mouth as if indicating that she had no time to tell him that.
The sharp teeth shone fiercely as if it was ready to pierce any kind of armor at once.
There was no time to call for help due to the tremendous force.
Nelia closed her eyes.
And it was the moment when she accepted her end piously.
She woke up from a dream.
That was why when she woke up, her whole body was covered with sweat.
Nelia, who was recalling her dream, rubbed the goosebumps formed on her forearm.
‘An ominous dream.’
Is it because of the total lunar eclipse? Being the reason she had a particularly unpleasant dream.
Nelia got up powerlessly and approached the window, drawing the curtains.
The sky has been dawdling since morning. As if it was about to rain.
Will it rain again?
Andrian’s climate was dry, so it did not rain frequently, but today, of all days.
‘No, it could be just a dark cloud hanging in the sky.’
Nelia tried to erase the anxiousness inside her.
First, she intended to bathe in warm water. Her whole body was covered with sweat.
Luckily, when she finished taking a bath, she felt refreshed and her anxiousness disappeared.
After dressing up, Nelia went down to the first floor.
It was weekend today, so she didn’t have to go to work in the Imperial Palace, but she knew that the duke would wake up early and read the newspaper gracefully while waiting for her to wake up like he did every day.
However, the duke was not seen in the hall.
Around this time, he should be sitting leisurely under the painting of the moon goddess.
Nelia was looking around for his figure when Ton walked up to her.
“His Grace is not up yet.”
For the duke, this time in the morning was considered late. Was it because of the weather that looked as if it was about to pour?
If that was the case, Nelia would have stopped by his room beside hers. She regretted not doing that.
But, she quickly cleared up those thoughts and looked at Ton.
Since she finally met Ton, it was her opportunity to ask the awkward question she couldn’t ask the duke.
“Yes, Lady Nelia.”
“I guess today is the death anniversary of the previous head of Hart Duchy, so just in case, will His Grace hold a private memorial service?”
Ton shook his head.
So he isn’t doing it……..
She knew that Duke Hart loved his father very much. That’s why he wanted to avenge the emperor who took away his father.
Therefore, she thought he would be doing something special on his death anniversary, but it didn’t seem to be the case. There must be a way to commemorate the duke’s death.
She hasn’t been able to ask because she felt like the duke was a bit reluctant to talk about the death anniversary of the previous head of the Hart Duchy.
Nelia’s face was stiff, and Ton’s voice snapped her back to reality.
“Excuse me, Lady Nelia.”
Turning her head to him, he was looking at Nelia with a hopeless look on his face.
Ton, whose mouth had been twitching for a few times, managed to speak.
“The duke told me yesterday that you don’t have to greet him goodbye, so you can go home right away.”
Nelia listened to his voice vividly, but she blanked out in the next moment. Because it took quite a while to comprehend his words.
So now, Duke Hart…….
“He told me to return right away without saying a greeting……? No need to see each other before my return?”
Ton replied with a frown.
There must be a problem if Ton, who had an immoderately firm personality, looked so troubled when conveying the duke’s words. Ton certainly knew how special she was to the duke.
Nelia was actually taken aback, too.
Last time, he said he didn’t want to let her go because twelve hours was too long even though she only went away for one night.
“If I may add, today is a little……. Difficult for His Grace. So please don’t be too disappointed.”
Nelia was disappointed, but she accepted Ton’s words.
Because like he said, the duke seemed to have a hard time not only today, but since a few days ago…….
Moreover, the weather was bad today.
“I apologize since I won’t be able to see you off, I have a lot of things that need to be done today. We already have the carriage waiting in the front, so you can get home.”
“Yes. Don’t mind me and go ahead.”
When Nelia’s permission fell, Ton bowed his head once and disappeared at a quick pace.
Ton headed to the warehouse beside the main building.
As the duke said, they seemed to be preparing to put something in the warehouse, and she wondered what it was that made them work so hard like that?
Nelia stretched out her neck and peeped.
There seemed to be a glimpse of metal objects such as iron between those people, but she had no clue what it was.
Nelia quickly gave up. It was because the raindrops started to fall one by one. She’d better go home before it pours. Nelia opened her umbrella and walked past the warehouse.
Failing to predict what is going to happen there.