Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
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What is it, what are they whispering about? I want to know, too…!
Nelia’s ears pricked up when they talked about Duke Hart, as she was concerned about the matter regarding him.
She could barely hear Sean’s low voice.
“I heard he liked…… man.”
That’s right. It couldn’t have been true.
She didn’t know how it became a rumor, but the duke definitely liked women.
‘In the original story, Duke Hart was attracted to the female lead, Charlotte.’
The reason why he hasn’t got married yet was because he was waiting for their real fate to meet each other soon.
“Anyway, I heard that kind of rumor spread because he delayed his marriage so much.”
“It’s probably because he is busy with work. After all, he held so many heavy responsibilities in the empire……”
“I agree. There’s even a saying that if the duke gets injured, the empire won’t run as it is.”
Nelia, who had been listening to her parents’ conversation, instantly flinched.
“That’s right. Duke Hart is the cogwheel of the empire. He should never be harmed.”
Nelia’s heart pounded at Lily’s determined voice.
She recalled what happened earlier.
‘He didn’t hurt his feet because of me, right?’
It was obvious since the duke was in charge of being the prime minister of the country, making him one of the important figures in the empire.
If it’s not too much, it would be right to call him the gear of the country.
On top of that, she recalled the fact that she had forgotten for a while.
Although she had received unintended help from Duke Hart, he has never been depicted as a good man by his nature.
In the original story, Duke Hart was often bound in disputes due to his beautiful appearance and gentle aura.
Each time it happened, he inflicted severe punishment to them.
One day, when Duke Hart was insulted by a backstreet gangster, he grabbed one of their chin firmly and spoke.
‘You’ll be better off without a tongue.’
And then, in an instant.
Upon recalling that scene, Nelia got goosebumps on her arms.
Duke Hart paid back what he had received.
Yeah…… She forgot that Duke Hart was that kind of person for a moment.
An anxious thought bloomed in her mind.
‘If there’s something wrong with his stepped feet, he would probably harass me……’
Nelia shook her head and blinked nervously.
She shouldn’t be too worried about it ahead of time.
She felt guilty for stepping on his feet, but it’s not like she did it on purpose and she would make sure to apologize.
And moreover, even though her shoe heels were sharp, they wouldn’t have broken the top of his feet, and at worst, he would’ve suffered from a fracture.
Definitely! For sure! It’s possible! She must be able to afford as much as Duke Hart demanded if he asked for compensation.
‘Although it’s not my own money, father won’t pretend to not have any money considering that I’m the only daughter.’
Even if she told herself repeatedly that it would be okay, a sigh quickly escaped her mouth upon recalling Duke Hart’s nature.
Nelia’s mind rose and sank like a seesaw repeatedly for a while.
Shortly after they returned home, Nelia told her parents about the mistake Leighton had committed at the party.
Of course, her parents were stunned, and her father sent Leighton off to the monastery on the next day.
They must have sent him there to become a proper human being, but Nelia didn’t expect much from it.
People are incapable of changing easily.
Moreover, she didn’t think it would take long for him to return.
At this moment, both of her parents seemed very angry and acted like there’s no promise for Leighton to come back, but they’re actually parents with hearts as soft as a tofu, so they would be wondering if what they did to their child was too much soon.
[Tofu: a soft, pale food that has very little flavor but is high in protein, made from the seed of the soya plant <Cambridge Online Dictionary>]
Actually, Nelia wasn’t really interested in whatever situation Leighton was in.
Duke Hart’s feet was the only person in her mind at this moment.
Ever since the day of the party, she had been on edge continuously.
However, Nelia’s worries gradually subsided.
Contrary to what she had expected, Duke Hart didn’t come to her on the next day or the day after that.
‘Huft, I shouldn’t have been so worried.’
Nelia thought as she closed the book.
She learned a lot from this accident. Among them, what she learned deeply was to avoid social gatherings as hard as she could.
Her scaffold-disguised-as party had passed, but instead of her, it was Leighton who committed the mistake.
Because she falsely accused herself before Leighton made a fool of himself, she almost became the person who ultimately damaged the necklace.
‘Even though the leading scene was different, the ending was similar to the original.’
It seems like a fate that happens one way or another.
If Duke Hart hadn’t come forward, she didn’t know what would have happened after that.
Therefore, the right answer was to remain quiet just like now, then meet a decent man and get married.
Of course, she still had plenty of time before it happened.
As the only daughter of a count, there’s so many things that she should enjoy before that.
She woke up late again today and had brunch in the warm sunlight. The maids even brought her meal to the bed.
In the afternoon, there was art class for culture.
There was a particular monster painted on the canvas when she was clearly asked to draw a cat.
She felt sorry for the teacher who was dripping with sweat, but what else should she do?
She had never held a brush in her entire life.
Of course, not all noble young ladies lived leisurely like her.
Generally, they would work hard to take care of themselves and get married to the rich or highly respected noble.
If one despises that idea, there’s also another way for them to advance into society.
Families who didn’t have any sons to inherit their peerage title were still able to manage their territory and things.
Ambitious noble young ladies might choose to become a maid either for the imperial family or high-ranking nobles.
Either way, it’s how to widen their connection or be of help to the family.
‘Of course, I don’t want to get married or get a job though.’
The ant, who had learned how to loaf around, has already become a grasshopper.
And because Leighton was away in the monastery, this luxurious place felt more like heaven.
At that moment, someone knocked on the door.
Nelia, who was sprawling on the bed, raised her upper body.
She thought it would be Dinah, who said to bring her tea.
But the maid was not Dinah. The door immediately opened, and the face of a maid appeared.
“Excuse me, my lady. You have a guest.”
“Me…….? Who is it?”
The maid shook her head.
“I’m afraid I don’t know. The carriage arrived at the gate, and they was just saying that they came to see you.”
Upon being told about the stranger’s visit, Nelia slowly got up. Lily and Sean were already downstairs when she went down.
‘What, everyone is downstairs.’
Nelia felt like wondering at her parents’ attitude, who stood as if they were attending to a VIP guest at a stranger’s visit whom she didn’t even know.
Lily beckoned once she spotted Nelia.
“Aren’t they my guest? Why are you all downstairs?”
At Nelia’s puzzled look, Lily proceeded to explain.
“I heard there’s a gray dragon pattern on the carriage, did you know anyone from the imperial palace?”
The gray dragon was the symbol of Andrian Empire. Therefore, only high-ranking officials could attach such a pattern on their carriage.
‘Someone from the imperial palace came to see me…? For what reason…….’
Nelia was even more confused at this point.
However, soon there was a knock on the door that would eventually solve all of her questions.
Sean threw a glance at Nelia before putting his hand on the doorknob.
The door opened slowly, and Nelia’s eyes gradually widened at the sight.
The person standing in front of the door was,
‘Why is this man……!’
The unrealistic appearance that seemed to brighten up the surroundings was definitely Duke Hart.
Nelia wasn’t the only one who was surprised. Voice filled with bewilderment escaped Sean’s mouth.
“Your Grace, may I know the matter that brought you here….”
“Like I said before, I have something to do with Nelia.”
Duke Hart spoke very politely with a smile on his face.
“First of all, please come inside.”
Sean opened the door wider and ushered him inside.
By the way… the way Duke Hart walked seemed a little strange. Nelia’s gaze slowly went down toward his feet.
Her gaze started at his waist and finally halted at his feet.
There was a thick bandage on his right foot.
‘Don’t tell me, it’s…….’
“Looks like your foot got injured.”
As soon as they settled in the drawing room, Lily asked in a voice laced with worries.
Then, Duke Hart looked at Nelia before muttering an answer.
“I came here because of this.”
Nelia closed her eyes tightly. Her heart was pounding in her chest.
Lily asked, shock was apparent on her face.
“Considering you came here to see Nelia…. Perhaps, did our Nelia inflict that injury on you?”
Nelia closed her eyes and thought to herself.
‘It seems so, Mother.’
In the end, she made a problem.
Why did she wear high-pointed heels that day?
Even if she had to look like a couple with Leighton, she should have chosen low-heeled black shoes instead……
Nelia waited reverently like a prisoner who was about to face her miserable death.
‘Yeah, I did th…… Huh?’
Nelia opened her closed eyes upon hearing the unexpected answer.
“On the contrary, Nelia was the one who helped me.”
Nelia coughed at the completely different answer.
First of all, she appreciated him for speaking the opposite of the truth, but what the h*ll is this trick……?
She certainly stepped on his foot on the day of the party and that was the reason he came to see her.
‘If you aren’t sure right now, you may tell me later.’
‘How should I tell you?’
‘Find me at the house of Count Benedict. At 135 Chante Street, downtown.’
Nelia recalled their conversation from that day.
“On the day of the imperial family’s welcoming party, something fell and hurt my foot. However, Lady Nelia, who was around, helped me deal with it.”
Nelia’s eyes blinked in confusion at the completely made-up story.
“Therefore, I came here today to express my gratitude.”
He came…… to express his gratitude……. To the person who made his feet like that…….
Sean, not knowing the truth, smiled in satisfaction.
“Our Nelia usually couldn’t bring herself to just walk past someone who is in need of help.”
“That’s true, hoho.”
Lily went along and spoke again after taking a look at his injured foot.
“Anyway, it must be troublesome for you. It’s uncomfortable when you can’t use your feet properly.”
Duke Hart replied with a slightly subdued voice.
“It’s a little troublesome. I’m at the peak of my busy time, but my leg’s injured and it’s hard for me to move around, moreover……”
The duke’s remark seemed to pierce her right in the chest.
“Around this time of the year, my head attendant went back to his hometown……”
At Duke Hart’s trailing voice, Nelia realized there was another hidden intention in it.
The common noble families did not really hire the maids and servants from noble households, but Duke Hart was the only duke from the grand noble families in the empire.
And on top of that, it wasn’t surprising that he hired a noble as his maid or servant, considering that he was a high-ranking official and the prime minister of the empire.
Actually, if it’s from someone who had the position of the duke, young women around the capital would willingly form a line to become his maids. With his outstanding position in the empire, that makes it even more possible to happen.
‘But, it’s very suspicious that he brought it up here………’
Nellia couldn’t help but cast a suspicious glance at him.
However, Sean, who always admired the duke, seemed to have already fallen into his trap.
“It would be very difficult for you, Your Grace.”
Lily, who was sitting beside Sean, responded with a concerned voice.
“That’s true. If there is anything we can do for you, please don’t hesitate to tell us. After all, the prime minister is carrying out a very important job for the empire.”
At the couple’s passionate will, Duke Hart slowly raised his lowered gaze.
His gentle voice was attractive.
“This is practically shameless of me, but may I ask you for a favor?”
Sean and Lily nodded as if they were sailors who had been possessed by sirens.
“We are in need of someone to replace the attendant right away, but I just can’t hire anyone.”
Duke Hart said while looking at Nelia.
“Since they will be the closest person to me, they have to be a trustworthy person.”
“While I was agonizing over it, I recalled getting help from Nelia. And I can easily trust someone who has been so kind to me………”
And he spoke in a soft voice.
“So, I was wondering,”
Duke Hart looked at the count and Lily while seeking their approval.
“If you don’t mind, I would like to hire Lady Nelia as my handmaiden.”