Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
“What is it?”
“May I ask what kind of work the handmaiden does……? There was one who worked as a handmaiden in the area I lived in.”
Nelia understood Charlotte’s curiosity.
Growing up in a small rural monastery among the commoner, she must be unfamiliar with the handmaiden job.
But at the same time, the question was awkward.
The duke was controlled by the serpent curse, so she had to stick around him everyday, and her main job was to prevent him from slyly crossing the line. She couldn’t tell the truth.
Nellia glanced at the duke.
The duke spoke in her stead when he read Nelia’s awkward expression.
“Nelia does a lot of work, but she mostly helps me with my work.”
The duke made an excuse naturally without showing any signs of embarrassment on his face. He was good at lying.
Thinking so, Nelia suddenly became curious about the duke.
He might have lied to her before. She might have no idea because he was such a smooth talker.
When she was trapped in such a reasonable doubt, Charlotte lowered her head and whispered to Nelia.
“Don’t tell me…… He’s not trying to overwork Nelia, is he…….?”
“The day I got into the carriage, I remembered Nelia heading here late at night……”
Even though she was saying that out of concern for her (Nelia), she was asking this in front of her employer, the duke. Nelia admired Charlotte’s innocence again.
Although she obviously spoke quietly, the duke must have heard it all.
“Charlotte, as I said that day, it’s because the duke was not feeling well.”
Nelia recited the excuse she gave that day.
She was staying and eating here, so she couldn’t say that she was on the way back late at night.
‘If the information that I stay here reaches the ears of busybodies, I can’t afford to become popular among people.’
Charlotte doesn’t look like someone who would be talking around, but there was no harm in being careful.
“Charlotte doesn’t have to be worried. She’s my one and only handmaiden who serves me.”
The duke replied with a smile, he probably heard Charlotte’s words again.
Nelia was more concerned about the bright smile of the duke rather than his explanation.
There were moments when he smiled like that at others, and she knew that smile was meant to be shown to the outside world, and it was probably for Charlotte because he faced her now.
“……… Then, that’s a relief.”
Charlotte nodded quietly.
And with that, Charlotte picked up her outerwear.
“I’m going to go now.”
Nelia glanced at the clock on the wall. Only half an hour has passed. She came to see her (Nelia), but they just talked a little bit.
Charlotte’s sudden visit was obviously surprising, and although she was bothered by what the duke said and did to Charlotte, she was reluctant to let her leave so soon.
“You can stay a little longer.”
Nelia stopped Charlotte, but she shook her head.
“I appreciate your effort, but…… if I leave the monastery without notice and return late, I will be in trouble.”
With that being said, Nelia couldn’t demand Charlotte to stay a bit more.
Charlotte was in a position to be looked over by the monastery, so it must be difficult to act as she pleased.
Instead, she was intending to give Charlotte some helpful advice before she left.
Nelia looked at the duke.
“Your Grace, I will see Charlotte off.”
She was worried thinking that he might follow her again, but somehow the duke walked away with a pleasant smile hung on his lips.
‘Thank God he isn’t following me anymore…….’
Should I be grateful now?
Nelia thought the duke’s manner was a bit strange, and she ushered Charlotte out.
Charlotte said in a low voice while looking at Nelia who followed her out.
“You don’t have to see me off…….”
“No, you came all the way here to meet me.”
“I have a hard time, so I decided to see Nelia…….”
Nelia pitied Charlotte.
She was looked over by the people in the monastery and she even got her money stolen.
Of course, she wouldn’t be having a hard time because the monastery provided accommodations and meals for her, but how devastated must she be?
So she decided.
She couldn’t take the role of someone who would willingly give money to her, so she had to help Charlotte find it.
Nelia spoke carefully.
“Charlotte, about the stolen money…….”
“That’s fine if it were that…… because I get paid if I work in the monastery……..”
Charlotte said with a bewildered expression, thinking she has burdened Nelia for no reason.
But Nelia shook her head.
Charlotte tilted her head while staring at Nelia. Nelia swallowed through her dry mouth and continued calmly.
“I think the priest who shares a room with you might have stolen your money, Charlotte.”
Charlotte blinked. The red eyes repeatedly appeared and disappeared.
“……But she told me where the thief disappeared?”
“Hm…… that’s because they can lie as much as they want. The room is locked, and the priest is the only one who can access it.”
Charlotte’s eyes trembled faintly. She dropped her gaze with an anxious look shortly after.
With such a quiet and timid personality, Charlotte trusted people easily.
Or she might have wanted to believe it wasn’t the case. Charlotte, the female lead, tried to see the world in a positive light.
Nelia quickly regretted it.
“Did I say something wrong?”
But if she hadn’t said it, Charlotte would have continued to believe what they said without knowing that they deceived her. Like the content of the original story.
“It’s just my thought, so you don’t have to take it too seriously.”
Nelia stepped back with a smile, as if to arouse the atmosphere.
And it was when Charlotte slowly raised her downcasted gaze.
“No… Delia is right. I was actually thinking it was weird…”
It was quite unexpected that she agreed with she (Nelia) said.
When she saw her (Charlotte) expression just now, she seemed quite taken aback, but she agreed to it so easily.
“Perhaps, I wanted to deny it…… because I didn’t want to doubt anyone around me.”
Right, Charlotte was that type of person.
Nelia recalled Charlotte’s personality and understood what she was saying.
Although she had a dazed characteristic in her, that doesn’t mean she’s bad at using her brain.
Given the circumstances of the disappearance of the money, she must have known it didn’t make sense…… and she must have had a guilty conscience to suspect the priest who shared the room with her.
But by listening to her, it must have been hard to deny either.
“As Nelia said, I will ask the priest who shares the room with me.”
Nelia shouted out, blinking with dazed eyes at Charlotte.
“Charlotte…… you don’t mean to ask her straightforwardly if she stole it, do you?”
Charlotte tilted her head slowly.
“Yes, so what if I’m going to do that…….”
“You can’t do that!”
Nelia shouted, meanwhile Charlotte blinked dumbfoundedly.
“If you ask her that, I’m sure she won’t say that she’s the culprit. Moreover, she would most likely leap up and down because you suspect her!”
At that moment, Charlotte’s expression became more serious than ever.
“Then…… what should I do?”
Phew. Nelia took a short breath.
Charlotte nodded quietly and brought her utmost attention to Nelia.
“Go on and tell the priest you share the room with that you weren’t able to catch the culprit in the end, but it’s okay because you still have a lot of money left.”
Nod, nod. Charlotte’s head moved up and down hastily.
“If the priest is the culprit, she might wonder where you hid that additional money. Then, tell her you kept it under the bed.”
“And for a while, try to observe her secretly whenever you’re away.”
Charlotte might have picked up on Nelia’s plan because she uttered, ‘Ah……!’.
“If the priest is the one who stole your money, she would definitely try to steal it again……!”
Charlotte’s eyes were filled with unusual thrill. Nelia nodded.
“Yes, if you catch her the moment she’s about to steal it, she’ll definitely not be able to escape.”
Charlotte took Nelia’s hands and wrapped it with both her hands.
“How can Nelia be this smart…….? It’s amazing that you can come up with this…….”
What is she talking about this time? Nelia was a little bewildered by Charlotte’s response to just a small piece of advice.
However, Charlotte’s twinkling eyes quickly turned grim.
“But, I’m worried if I can do what Nelia suggested……”
Nellia patted Charlotte on the shoulder.
“Have some confidence in yourself. Or we don’t know what else she’s going to steal next time.”
“…… I suppose so.”
Charlotte gently grabbed the pendant of the necklace she was wearing around her neck.
Nelia’s eyes turned to Charlotte’s pendant.
In the original story, that pendant appeared to have been given by the priest who took care of Charlotte.
The priest was nothing short of a mother figure to Charlotte, and before she died, she handed that pendant to her.
So that thing was very important for Charlotte.
Charlotte made up her mind shortly after, and a rather powerful tone escaped her red lips.
“Nelia…… I can do this.”
“Like you should.”
When Nelia drew a smile around her mouth, Charlotte also smiled slightly.
They smiled at each other for a moment, and Charlotte spoke in a serious voice as soon as the smile erased from her face.
“Lastly……. Before I go, there’s something I want to say to Nelia as well……”
“What is it?”
Charlotte glanced around and approached Nelia to whisper quietly in her ear.
“Though I feel the similar energy to a human being, the duke Nelia serves is different from ordinary people.”
“He’s filled with ferocious energy. Like an angry snake……”
Nellia was momentarily baffled.
Charlotte had never thought like this when she saw the duke for the first time in the original story.
There was a subtle atmosphere in the middle of their conversation earlier, but the duke was kind and polite enough to Charlotte, so she didn’t expect her (Charlotte) to feel this way just from his energy.
“On the other hand, Nelia is like a herbivore living in a peaceful world…… and I think you’re going to be devoured.”
Be devoured……. She might have been eaten already in another sense.
Charlotte, who didn’t know about his secret, spoke in a concerned voice.
“That’s why I’m worried about Nelia.”
Nelia suppressed her bewilderment and tried to bring solace to Charlotte.
“The duke is not a bad person. He’s really nice to me.”
It was a problem because he went too far.
Only then did Charlotte’s serious look improve slightly.
“I’m glad to hear that……”
“Yes, please don’t worry about me and return as quickly as possible.”
While they were talking for a while, the sun had set even more.
“I will go now, Nelia. See you again…….!”
Charlotte looked wistful when she finally left the duke.
A sigh of relief escaped Nelia’s mouth after she sent Charlotte off and left alone there.
Her reason for being relieved was complicated.
As the awkward meeting finally came to an end, she thought Charlotte would be able to find her stolen money.
Also…… Charlotte didn’t seem very interested in the duke.
But on the other hand, she felt kind of bad. Why did she become nervous and relieved on her own?
It sounded like she was running a one-man band during this time.
“You must have had a lot of words to exchange with each other.”
When Nelia entered the mansion, the duke immediately spat out while sitting on the sofa in the hall. Quite a lot of time must have passed when she was talking to Charlotte.
“She said she didn’t know the way back.”
Nelia lacked the energy to explain the long conversation she had with Charlotte a moment ago, so she equivocated adequately.
Seeing the duke reminded her of the strange relief that washed over her earlier, and she felt weird.
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