Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
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“Even if it’s Your Highness the Crown Prince, it’s hard to overlook this.”
His cold eyes were directed to Carlos.
It was hard to say that any kind of expression was erased off his face. Because there was a rough hostility in his eyes.
“Your face is scary.”
But instead, Carlos sneered at him.
“If you lay a hand on something precious that is mine, anyone is bound to bring it to light.”
“Even if it’s me?”
“Yes. Even if it’s God, not Your Highness anymore. I cannot allow you to put Nelia in trouble.”
It was a narrow remark.
But there was a chance the duke would do a lot more as he seemed to have intention of backing off.
Nelia wanted Carlos to stop at this point.
But that wish scattered terrifically when Carlos opened his mouth.
“But duke, you’re mistaken. I’ve never intended to put Nelia in trouble for being my handmaiden.”
Their eyes collided in the air.
“So I’m really serious with everything I said.”
Nelia was extremely shocked as she listened to them.
‘Really…… was he really serious with those words?’
It was probably because Carlos has a bad image that the offers he has proposed so far were only treated as provoking words.
Therefore, Nelia didn’t even take the offer seriously.
The atmosphere in the Imperial Sala took even more turn for the worse.
Nelia thought she had to interfere now.
“I’m really grateful to you for offering me to work as a court lady. However, like I said before, I’m satisfied by being the handmaiden to the duke. And…….”
Nelia’s eyes met Carlos with difficulty.
“I hope you won’t propose such an offer anymore from now on. I’ll take this opportunity to clearly state my refusal for your offer.”
She gathered the courage from the depth of her heart and managed to say it all, but it was a fact that she was worried about Carlos’ reaction after hearing her statement.
It just happened that Carlos’ personality wasn’t on the good side, but what if somewhere inside, the noble side of him would push him to say something petty about her impertinent refusal?
Nelia gathered her courage again and stole a glance at Carlos. Luckily, she found no sign of anger on his face.
Gulp. Nelia’s throat shook with anticipation.
It took some time for Carlos to open his mouth.
“I will back off this time.”
She was worried about what he was going to say, but Carlos threw off the superheated atmosphere.
‘So easily like this…….?’
Even though the word ‘this time’ was a little unpleasant, it was still fine. There wouldn’t be another time anyway.
Through this event, Nelia learned a lesson that no matter what, she would never allow a situation where three of them happened to be in the same circumstances, no, even she would never come face to face with Carlos by herself.
“The food has been cooling down.”
Who is going to be blamed for this……..!
But Carlos seemed to have some conscience about the situation because he ordered the maid to return the cold food.
When the food was served again, the quiet meal continued for a while.
She couldn’t fully savor the taste of the food, but still, she didn’t think she would suffer from an upset stomach like before.
“It’s a steak made from veals in Mount Brinkley, which were just a few years old when we caught them. It’s very light.”
Carlos explained the main dish as if to stir up the stiffened atmosphere.
Nelia was surprised that Carlos was already there earlier, and now he was introducing the menu.
She thought he probably attempted a sloppy apology for what happened earlier.
Nelia picked up her knife and fork before slicing the steak.
Like he said, she could understand that it’s exceptionally tender when seeing the shape of the smooth cut.
And it definitely had a wonderful taste. It’s made of this ingredients, so it would be weird if it doesn’t taste good.
However, the only thing that made her disappointed was the seasoning, which was a little strong for her taste. Nevertheless, it didn’t really bother her because it’s already delicious enough.
“Did the veal steak I’ve prepared suit your taste?”
Carlos suddenly asked her.
“Yes, it’s delicious.”
Nelia answered, thinking to herself.
‘It would have tasted better if I ate it in a comfortable atmosphere on my own.’
Then Duke Hart, who was gracefully savoring the taste of the veal, interfered.
“The taste of the salt in the food here is a little strong. The cuisine here itself is made to suit the Emperor’s taste, so it just can’t be helped, but it’s simply a little disappointing…….”
Duke Hart smiled and looked at Nelia.
“Nelia prefers bland food.”
Nelia involuntarily affirmed at the sudden question. And the Duke of Hart also pointed it out correctly.
Did she just see one corner of Duke Hart’s mouth rise deridingly, or was it simply her imagination?
But the duke showed a smile shortly after and spoke to Carlos again.
“But the meal is quite good. There are only the best chefs here, so of course the meal is considered the best in the empire.”
Is this what they called ‘a game of cat and mouse’…….
Skillfully opening up and ending it with a compliment to keep the opponent quiet.
Nelia admired the subtle demeaning which the duke has done.
But Carlos didn’t reveal his true feelings this time. Rather, he smiled nonchalantly.
“I feel bad it didn’t suit your taste. But I hope you can look forward to the dessert.”
Nelia’s brown eyes sparkled for a moment. As soon as she finished her meal, she was already eager for something that would be served as dessert at the Imperial Palace.
“Didn’t the duke recently buy the completely famous bakery in the capital?”
Carlos knew more than she expected.
“I didn’t expect you to be interested in bakeries.”
“There are moments in my life when I get interested in new things.”
The duke answered nonchalantly as he wiped his mouth.
“That’s partly the reason why I’m interested. There is nothing better than delicious desserts to entertain the guests.”
Proper choice. Nothing can beat the delicious dessert to win someone’s favor.
Nelia internally agreed.
Carlos spoke to the servant who bowed before disappearing.
The servants appeared again with the trolley and they quickly rearranged the table, laying a new tablecloth matching the teacup.
Even though the pretty teacup with pigeons caught her eyes, what caught Nelia’s eyes the most was the dessert on the plate.
There were a lot of fancy desserts that looked too nice to eat.
Nelia looked at the table for a moment in awe.
She thought she had seen the zenith of dessert in the ducal residence, but this was passing the limit.
Each fancy dessert was close to being a work of art.
“Don’t just ogling around, hurry up and try it.”
Hearing what Carlos said, Nelia immediately picked up a fork as if she was controlled by a villain wizard.
And she dug in the nearest cake and took it to her mouth after poking her fork into it and cut it into bite size so that it was easier to eat.
When it landed in her mouth, the sweet taste spread out along with the rich caramel scent.
It tasted as good as its beautiful appearance. To the point she couldn’t think of anything else.
Nelia chewed the dessert thoroughly in her mouth, and slowly opened her eyes much to her dismay.
When the spell of the dessert unraveled, she came to realize that the two men were staring at him for the whole time.
Carlos looked at her with a fascinated expression as if he was looking at animals in the zoo, and Duke Hart seemed…… how to say it, like someone who was annoyed?
‘Why is he annoyed…….?’
Was it embarrassing to accept it without hesitation?
Although she knew the duke wouldn’t be that annoyed to her, it still perturbed her seeing his face looked like that for no reason.
“It’s exceeding the expectations.”
Carlos gave a vague comment.
“I thought you’d like it, but I didn’t expect you would like it so much.”
Nelia just realized when he said, ‘exceeding the expectations’ was referring to how she ate.
When Carlos wasn’t just admiring her, she felt embarrassed.
‘I’ve been starving every day in my previous life, and would I turn away from these desserts?’
Her obsession with food has grown particularly stronger due to her previous life where she lived poorly.
Obviously, she still has quite a craving for regular food, the dessert was much more attractive. Despite living a lavish life, this craving did not disappear easily.
“I now understand for sure why the duke bought a bakery all of a sudden.”
Carlos mumbled with a light smile on his face.
Nelia fidgeted with the fork in her hand.
She wanted to taste another dessert, but she couldn’t bring herself to reach out because their eyes were watching her.
It was then.
“Why aren’t you eating? Go ahead, eat more.”
Carlos pushed the plate toward her, and at that moment, his hand shifted unnaturally.
The plate, which was pushed toward her with more force than he intended, knocked over the teacup.
The spilled tea stained the tablecloth and dripped down, soaking Nelia’s clothes.
“Nelia, are you alright?”
Duke Hart and Carlos jumped out of their seats at the same time.
Nelia was more surprised at the reaction of the two men than the spilled tea. She quickly tried to calm them down.
“Yes, I’m alright.”
“Did you not get burned by the tea?”
Duke Hart walked up to her seat and carefully examined Nelia.
“It’s a little hot, but it’s not enough to get me burned.”
Duke Hart seemingly relieved at Nelia’s words.
“It’s a relief to hear.”
“More than that, I think I’ll have to wipe the dress.”
The light yellow dress was stained by the red tea water. It’s kind of uncomfortable to wear.
Carlos called for someone, then a servant opened the door shortly after and came in.
“Take this young lady to my room, help her clean briefly and bring her new clothes.”
The servant bowed slightly to Carlos and looked at Nelia.
“Please follow me.”
“She doesn’t have to change.”
“No. Even after the tea water wipes off the clothes, it will take a while to dry.”
The maid was polite and firm.
Nelia eyed the duke. If she left, he would be alone with Carlos, and it concerned her.
But the duke smiled and nodded as if they just communicated through telepathy with each other.
“Then……. I’ll be back.”
Nelia eventually got up from her seat.
After Nelia’s absence, the Imperial Sala was engulfed in silence.
The duke was drinking tea leisurely in the silent room, and Carlos was looking at the door where Nelia had left with crossed arms.
The first person to speak was Duke Hart after slowly putting down the teacup.
“Looks like your arm is causing a lot of troubles, so are you fine not receiving any treatments?”
It just happened for a split second, but Duke Hart didn’t miss Carlos’ unnatural movement of his arm.
That’s why he knocked over the teacup. For a moment, he pushed the plate too hard because his arm was out of control, and as a result, it collided with a teacup.
The duke thought it wouldn’t matter if he brought it up first because Carlos himself said before that his arm was paralyzed.
“Treatment doesn’t change anything, so what. They’re all quackers anyway.”
Carlos held up his teacup and spoke cynically. Duke Hart was internally surprised to see that.
He always reacted very sensitively to the mention of his arm. But this time, his response was more aloof than expected.
“What are you going to do with that arm?”
“I’m going to find another way.”
A faint smile hung across Carlos’ mouth when he said that.
Seeing the expression on the man’s face, Duke Hart was instinctively displeased.
Cold remark escaped shortly after.
“If I may warn you beforehand, do not involve Nelia for what you’re going to do with your arm.”
“When we talk about that handmaiden, you really growl naturally.”
Carlos snickered at the unnecessary remark.
“Duke, do you know why I hate you?”
The duke replied calmly despite the blatant question.
“It’s because of His Majesty the King, who trusted me too much. And you recently hated me even more because of Nelia.”
“That’s true, but……..”
Carlos’ expression quickly turned cold as he nodded.
“There’s another reason.”
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