Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
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“This never happened before……..”
“I’ve put up a few layers of magic shields, so it will never be able to come out.”
Nelia figured out the identity of the suspicious people who wore robes. Seeing that they talked about magic, they must be mages.
Moreover, it’s so clamorous inside the mansion even though it was so quiet outside, so it seemed that the magic was formed on the mansion itself to prevent the noise from being heard outside.
Nelia looked into the warehouse.
Leighton said he saw the duke go inside with his arms tied by a chain.
That meant it’s Duke Hart who made such noises in the warehouse.
It was just the noise that no human could make.
“As you’ve heard, you know……. When a total lunar eclipse occurs, he will be stuck in that building.”
Ton, who drew close, explained the situation just in time.
Nelia’s mouth was opened slightly at the unbelievable remark.
‘He’s really there…….?’
However, she quickly got a hold of her expression.
In order to understand the situation better, she had to lead Ton on.
“But……. I guess it doesn’t work out the way you prepared it?”
Nelia asked, recalling the conversation of the mages she had just heard.
“We have been serving Dukedom of Hart for a long time, but this has never happened before. I didn’t expect him to lose his mind and go on a rampage…….”
Nelia’s expression grew even darker at the bizarre remark. The loud noise was still coming from the warehouse.
Nelia stared uncomfortably at the building.
“Then shouldn’t we go inside…….? Something might happen to him…….”
“You cannot do that.”
Ton snapped at Nelia in a stern tone.
“There was no one who could go in and calm him down, and the duke had given an order to not come in.”
Nelia acknowledged Ton’s performance in doing his job every time, but she found it difficult to accept his words now.
There were so many noises coming from inside the building, and it was hard to believe that they didn’t even think about checking it out.
“If you go into the warehouse and get injured, that will make it harder for His Grace.”
Ton, who finished his words, closed his eyes for a moment.
Looking at him trying to suppress his emotions, she seemed to think it was the best decision.
Nelia had no choice but to retract after hearing the firmness in his tone.
Although she had been trying to pretend to know what was on Ton’s mind, she didn’t know what was happening inside.
“I appreciate that you’re worried about His Grace, but I think you should return home quickly……. If he knew Lady Nelia was here…….”
*Sound of something breaking*
While Ton was speaking, there was a loud clashing sound somewhere.
Nelia’s gaze turned toward the sound.
As expected, it was coming from the warehouse. There was a slight crack on one side of the wall.
“Oh, oh goodness.”
The mage stooped down while looking at the warehouse.
Ton, who saw the crack on the wall of the warehouse, rushed to the mage.
“What is happening!”
“It looks like one of the restraints…… has been broken.”
The mage’s face was hidden by the robe, so it was hard to take a look at him, but she could sense how distraught he was from his frustrated voice.
“Then what are we going to do? If it has been untangled, then…….”
“I’ve put up a shield around the warehouse, so even if it manages to leave the warehouse, it won’t be able to get out easily.”
“Ha……… Even so, we still need another way……”
There was another crash.
The mage looked around after straightening up his stooping body.
“I think we should evacuate all of the people in this mansion first.”
Ton didn’t seem to be pleased at the mage’s suggestion, but in the end, he nodded nonetheless.
“I will evacuate the people in this mansion. In the meantime, please strengthen the shield of the mansion. If His Grace manages to leave the warehouse and mansion, the capital city will be in a mess.”
Ton’s expression was as dark as it was. Then, as if he had snapped out of it, he turned to Nelia.
“Lady Nelia. You heard it, right? Please hurry up and evacuate now. It looks like His Grace will manage to leave the warehouse.”
Nelia stood still for a moment and looked at the warehouse as Ton left to evacuate the others.
At that moment, she spotted something silver sparkling between the cracking walls. It looked like the eyes of a giant monster.
Its long pupil was seen inside the sharp silver eyes like a long shard of glass.
Nelia was paralyzed for a moment.
Just by making eye contact with it, she felt like a rat in front of a beast.
When she managed to collect a little bit of her senses, Nelia questioned its existence after catching a glimpse of it a moment ago.
The size of its eyes were equal to a human’s head, so its body must be enormous.
It was difficult to think that the evil being was Duke Hart, but the silver eyes were so identical to his at a single glance.
‘……That’s really……. His Grace?’
She knew the duke was under the control of the serpent curse, but that creature didn’t seem to be fit to be called a snake.
Looking at its enormous size and ferocious energy, it seemed more like a monster that people often talked about in this world.
Nelia, who was absent-minded for a while, suddenly realized that almost everyone had been evacuated.
“Nelia, you are still here…… you have to get out of here…….”
At that moment, the walls of the warehouse were broken.
A snake of enormous size appeared in no time. Its huge head looked around as if looking for prey.
Nelia realized that she was familiar with the snake’s appearance.
Because she had seen that huge, scary-looking snake a few times in her dreams.
She wondered why the duke appeared in her dream as a monster, not a small and ordinary snake like before, but those dreams seemed to have informed her about the duke ahead of time.
But Nelia had no time to admire the appearance of the enormous snake she saw in her dreams that really stood in front of her at that moment.
The snake was staring in her direction. Just like before it started to hunt for its prey. Before long, it seemed that the snake was attempting to move its flexible body in an instant to approach her.
As soon as she thought she was doomed, the snake bounced back into the warehouse.
The snake’s scream sounded like it would pierce the eardrum.
When she looked at it again, the snake was still chained. Only one of them has been broken, but it was still restrained by the other chains.
“Is that chain the restraints that the mage talked about earlier?”
According to Leighton, the duke was chained, so he must have it attached to him before turning into a snake.
Then, Ton came up to her and said,
“It’s not going to hold out for long.”
Like Ton said, the restraints that were attached to the duke’s body seemed risky, as if they were about to break in no time.
“Most of them seemed to have left the mansion, so we also have to get out of here.”
She was concerned seeing that the snake seemed to scream in pain, but there was nothing she could do right now.
Nelia and Ton rushed toward the gate.
And when they were finally about to get out, the gate slammed shut right before them.
Nelia looked at Ton in surprise. Ton also seemed to be distraught at the current situation.
Ton urgently banged on the gate. But there was no noise coming from outside.
It was said there was a magic shield around the mansion, so no matter how much they knocked on the gate from the inside, no one would be able to hear it outside.
“Why did it suddenly close?”
“I don’t know either.”
There’s no way they would have closed to prevent people from seeing the situation inside the mansion…….. But she was sure people who had been evacuated knew Ton hadn’t come out yet.
Ignoring her anxiously pounding heart, Nelia turned her head around slightly.
At that moment, Nelia finally figured out why the gate was closed.
The snake had already cut off all the remaining restraints on its body.
It seemed to have a lot of power to break through such a powerful spell, but it wasn’t difficult to trap the prey to soothe its hunger.
“Ton, I don’t think you should be here and keep banging on the gate.”
Nelia tugged Ton, who kept banging on the gate, by the clothes.
Ton turned around, and seemed to have figured it out as well.
“……There’s a basement in the backside of the main building. It’s hard to say it’s safe, but I think that’s the best place to go right now.”
“Yes, let’s do that.”
Nelia asked as she moved and followed his lead.
“When will His Grace return to his human form?”
“When the sun rises.”
There’s quite a lot of time left until then, but they couldn’t continue to escape, so the best thing they could figure out was hiding somewhere right now, as Ton said.
Nelia figured out the shortest distance to get to the back of the main building and told Ton.
“Let’s run on the count of three.”
One, two, three. She looked at Ton and quietly counted the numbers before running off.
The snake screamed and crawled in their direction at a great speed.
She was almost certain that its speed was faster than anything that existed on earth.
Even though she knew it wasn’t exactly the time to admire that, Nelia had doubts about this supreme existence.
She was able to think calmly about what kind of creature it was, it might be because she thought it would be over now. As if she felt infinitely small in front of such a strong and great being.
It was still like that even now.
Would she dare to stand face to face and confront this menacing monster?
However, Ton didn’t seem to think it was all over yet.
“Lady Nelia, I’m going to give you more time……. Please make a run into the basement.”
Ton stood in front of Nelia and said quietly. Nelia, who had been mesmerized at the creature for a while, snapped out of the daze.
“What are you saying…….! What about you, Ton?”
“I’m fine. I’ve been serving the Hart Family all my life, I kind of expected this at some point.”
Nelia shook her head.
“Who would expect themselves to die…….! I can’t run away alone without Ton!”
“Lady Nelia, I personally owe you a lot. It won’t be enough even if I pay you back by this.”
A faint smile hung around Ton’s mouth.
Nelia was blaming the situation. Seeing his robotic smile the moment before the death struck him.
“More than anything else, if Lady Nelia gets hurt or killed by His Grace……. He won’t be able to live normally.”
Nelia’s heart twitched upon that remark.
‘If someone who he cherished gets hurt because of him, he will feel guilty about it…….’
Nelia couldn’t escape any more. Some of the people, whom the duke considered as precious, including Ton, have been with him all his life.
“Ton, I can’t run away by myself.”
Ton released a deep sigh at Nelia’s firm voice.
He could no longer persuade Nelia. He knew he couldn’t persuade her.
“What are we going to do?”
“I……. I will stroke his head. I also did that when he was in his snake form, so he could return to his human form.”
Ton, who was watching the snake, turned his head in a flash. Ton’s eyebrows crumbled while gazing at her as if he wasn’t content with her idea.
“It’s suicide. His Grace’s appearance is not a little snake right now.”
“You don’t know if you don’t try.”
On a normal basis, when the duke turned into a snake, she stroked his head and he would be able to return to his human form.
Recently, he hadn’t turned into a snake when he was sticking with her, so she didn’t get to stroke the snake’s bald head either.
After all, wouldn’t that little snake and that snake monster, or Duke Hart’s spirit were the same?
“Anyway, I can’t run away any more. No matter what I do, my death will be the same no matter what I do, so I have to try it now.”