Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
But Nelia erased her thoughts about the duke and Charlotte shortly after. She thought she would act awkwardly if she kept being restless.
Nelia looked at the duke sitting on the sofa.
Considering that he wasn’t doing anything in particular, he must have been waiting for her to come in after seeing Charlotte off.
The duke got up from the sofa.
“Shall we have dinner now?”
“I’m sorry. You must have been hungry since earlier.”
Nelia said while approaching him, to which the duke responded with a chuckle.
“You know, Nelia. I’m not really attached to food. I’m just afraid Nelia will be hungry.”
Nelia walked along with the duke, touched by his affectionate remark.
As they walked together, Nelia took a peek at the duke’s face.
The duke really had no appetite at all. At first, Nelia initially thought it was just his personal preference, but later she realized that duke’s body was like an efficiently-fueled car.
The duke used to skip meals voluntarily when he was busy with work, but his stomach never growled.
He was taller than ordinary men and has a good physique, so she thought he would have a big appetite, but it’s astonishing because he was the opposite.
Whenever she saw his figure, Nelia questioned the duke’s existence.
She completely saw him as a not-so-ordinary person due to the serpent curse and turning into a ferocious monster once a year.
But there were many other unique things about him as well.
Like when he won the recent fight against the Swordmaster, Carlos, without any scratch, and when he wasn’t really attached to food like now.
“Not to mention his unrealistic appearance……”
The duke met her eyes.
“Why are you looking at me like that, Nelia?”
“Oh, it’s nothing.”
Nelia was caught peeping at him for no reason, so she hurriedly sat down on the table.
“You can take a look at it more.”
“I mean, my face.”
Nelia’s face reddened slightly when she realized the duke was teasing her.
“I feel happy when Nelia looks at my face.”
…….Such a weird person.
Nellia thought so when she saw the Duke with a very happy smile.
But the duke smiled broadly, unaware of Nelia’s thoughts.
“It seems that I completely caught Nelia’s sight during that moment.”
She felt weird again.
Her heart pounded abnormally.
She didn’t feel bad to chase away the imagination of the duke meeting Charlotte.
If she might say this, she felt a bit anxious.
Nelia shook her fingers with head lowered when she felt like in the strange mood.
“Did you see your friend off properly?”
However, when Charlotte’s name escaped the duke’s mouth, her rapidly beating heart quickly subsided.
Nelia tried not to show this perturbed feeling on her face.
“Yes. Charlotte returned well. She’s grateful that I’m being so kind to her, even though she came so suddenly.”
The duke took a sip of water before putting the glass back.
“It’s Nelia’s friend, not just anyone else, so I should be treating her well.”
The duke looked down at the cup for a moment and looked up at Nelia.
“But I don’t think Nelia’s friend is a priest.”
“Yes. Charlotte is not a priest, but I think…… a courier who runs errands in the monastery.”
Although she originally didn’t have a private tutor in the monastery, Charlotte was an uncommon case and vague to explain.
Charlotte was not a priest, but they let her stay in the capital’s city monastery only due to the request of the monastery in her hometown.”
Charlotte was running errands for the monastery and helping with chores.
“May I ask how you two met?”
Upon the duke’s question, Nelia’s spoon stopped mid-air when she was enjoying the soup.
She only met Charlotte for the second time today, so it didn’t matter if she was being honest to him. It’s a bit embarrassing though.
Nelia spoke with a hum.
“……I told you the other day, I picked up a stranger, brought her into the carriage and took her into a monastery.”
One of the duke’s eyebrows rose slightly. He might have noticed the backstory by now.
“It was Charlotte whom I picked up at that time. I think she was wandering around the capital city.”
“I suppose so.”
The duke nodded.
“On that day…… I couldn’t bring myself to tell you the details.”
At that time, she was quite perturbed by the unexpected encounter with the female lead.
“It’s fine. She didn’t look like an ill-mannered person.”
The duke said with a grin.
‘She didn’t look like a bad person…….’
Anyone would have said so when they saw Charlotte.
However, such a remark came from the duke’s mouth, so Nelia became somewhat irked.
The duke’s gaze shifted to the acorn which Nelia had placed on the table. The acorn was given by Charlotte earlier.
“It doesn’t feel so good to find out that you think the same way as I do.”
Nelia couldn’t understand what the unpleasant thing the duke was talking about, but she felt better when those words sunk in.
Every word of the duke’s judgment about Charlotte felt like going back and forth between hot and cold water.
‘What’s wrong with me…….?’
Nelia felt down again when she realized the fact.
It was the first time in her life that she felt affected by someone else’s words.
“How’s Nelia? Do you like your new friend?”
“Do you like her?”
“It seems that she really likes Nelia.”
Nelia pondered how to answer.
Although she felt affected when the duke was entangled with Charlotte, she never hated Charlotte. She was too pretty and adorable to be hated.
This is his first crush after all.
“I like……. Charlotte, too.”
Nelia answered and looked at the duke.
The delicately bent eyebrows looked somewhat displeased.
Nelia normally would have been curious about his reaction, but that wasn’t the case now. This was because she can’t afford it, and she also had a question for the duke.
“What do you think about Charlotte, Your Grace?”
From earlier on, Nelia wondered how the duke must have thought about Charlotte.
‘Because she’s extremely pretty, she must have been surprised by her appearance.’
She expected that his mood would depend on the answer that she would give now, but she wanted to know more about what the duke thought about Charlotte.
She didn’t know the reason for her cruel curiosity, even if she thought she could have a peaceful sleep today only if she knew perfectly what the duke thought of Charlotte.
Nelia waited nervously for the Duke’s answer. But the duke could not easily answer.
He seemed to find it difficult to ask questions. Nelia waited nervously for the duke to answer. But the duke didn’t answer readily.
He seemed to find it difficult to answer.
‘The range of questions was too wide.’
Nelia thought of a more specific question.
“Such as her first impression.”
Upon the more detailed question, the duke seemed to be in agony and answered.
“As I said, she didn’t seem like a bad person.”
Nelia was getting frustrated by the clueless answer.
Actually, what she wanted to ask was, ‘Wasn’t Charlotte pretty?’
Since Charlotte had a look that could make everyone gasped in awe, she thought the duke would feel the same way.
However, she thought the duke would find it strange to ask so bluntly.
Nelia used her head to find a way.
“When I saw Charlotte’s face for the first time, I was astonished because her face looked so pretty. I’ve never seen such a pretty person before.”
Nelia eventually recited her first impression of Charlotte, as if speaking up for the duke.
“Human’s looks are not everything. You have to look into them.”
“Of course that’s true, but……”
She got a completely unexpected answer in return. The duke looked somewhat displeased.
Nelia wanted to say, ‘This is not it……’
But Nelia continued, thinking she couldn’t give up now.
“Charlotte is a kind-hearted person. She’s as kind as her angelic face.”
At Nelia’s complimenting remark, the duke put down his tableware.
“Nelia, how many times have you seen her that you’re able to come up with such a remark?”
He sounded quite displeased.
Rather than that, Nelia found her words didn’t make sense.
“You said she doesn’t seem like a bad person either.”
“I said she doesn’t seem like a bad person, but I never said she’d be as kind as an angel.”
Nelia was momentarily quiet at the contradictory logic that made her speechless.
“So…… you don’t like Charlotte?”
“Yes, now that I think about it again, I don’t like Charlotte.”
She was relieved by his uninterested attitude to Charlotte, but she found his sudden change of attitude quite unsettling and weird.
The duke even looked not so good.
The duke said to Nelia, who was wondering because she couldn’t understand his intention.
“Nelia, I’d love to accompany you when meeting her from now on.”
“You’d better not ask me why.”
She wasn’t very pleased to hear that he would accompany her, but Nelia had no choice but nodded at the sight of the somewhat keen duke that came out of nowhere.
A few days after Charlotte visited, there was a letter from her.
It’s a relief that she didn’t come abruptly again, but according to Charlotte’s letter, it was said that she would visit the day after tomorrow.
‘If she’s going to notify me like this, it’s no different than a surprise visit……’
Nevertheless, she must be able to not feel burdened or despise Charlotte.
Also, her vigilance toward Charlotte naturally subsided.
Besides the fact that nothing happened on the day the duke met Charlotte, after that he didn’t ask any questions about Charlotte.
Therefore, Charlotte’s letter about coming to visit shouldn’t be surprising or unpleasant.
However, she was just a bit worn out because she couldn’t get her hands on the information about Sigrid’s heart these days.
Nelia sighed and folded the letter, then the duke asked.
“From whom did that letter come from?”
The duke’s eyes narrowed slightly.
“What did you just say?”
“On the morning of the day after tomorrow, she wishes to visit me.”
Nelia watched the duke’s expression closely when saying so.
“Is she not allowed …….?”
The duke never said no to her when she wished for something, but the owner of this residence was Duke Hart, so it’s only right to ask him first.
“Certainly, no problem.”
The duke nodded, though there was a brief pause in between.
“Thank you, Your Grace.”
After finishing breakfast, Nelia and the duke headed to his study.
Recently, she has been looking for a lot of books related to Sigrid’s heart, or even bought them on her day-off.
She hasn’t found any clues yet.
“As expected, I think the best way is to get close to Elena’s Tears and talk to Zenuit again…….”
And ask him about the holy dew.
Then, the duke looked up in the midst of the very attentive reading session.
Nelia averted her eyes from the book at the very serious voice.
“Have you ever heard about the existence of holy dew?”
Nelia widened her eyes at the mention of ‘Holy Dew’ which came out of the duke’s mouth.
She didn’t expect the duke to mention the holy dew.
She only found out about Zenuit when she encountered him recently.
But as she couldn’t pretend to know about Zenuit, Nelia tried to answer as if she had no idea.
“No, I’ve never heard of it.”
“I just found out about it for the first time, and it’s said that the last tears Elena shed before she died were split up.”
Nelia asked with a light frown.