Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
A question along with a bewildered tone escaped Nelia’s mouth.
“Wh-what are you doing here?”
“I waited until Nelia came out of the room.”
Nelia blinked at the duke’s calm remark.
She didn’t know how long he would continue to do that, but looking at the duke who seemed to be a bit absentminded, she knew for sure that he didn’t wait there for a short while.
“……Why did you wait for me?”
I broke up with the Duke yesterday, but it wasn’t worth waiting for at the door. I made an excuse that I wasn’t feeling well.
“Are you feeling well?”
The duke didn’t answer Nelia’s question, but asked another question.
His slightly smiling expression somehow looked weak.
Nelia answered while looking at the duke after returning to her senses.
“I was worried about you all night.”
Nelia’s resentful heart softened when she saw the weak smile of the duke. Actually, she had no reason to be resentful to him.
“I’m sorry for making you worry…….”
“It’s all right, as long as you’re not sick anymore.”
His affectionate voice made her want to cry again.
She felt diffident to spend time with the duke as usual today because of yesterday.
Nelia looked up at the duke upon building up a deep determination.
“Your Grace, can I……. rest in my room tonight?”
There was a pause before the duke answered.
“Of course. Nelia has been working hard for me until the holidays recently.”
Considering she was going around the library and tried hard to find information related to Sigrid even during holidays and read books, it was a good excuse for her.
“Nelia, please get some rest.”
Nelia nodded her head slightly.
As she waited for the duke to leave, but he barely moved.
He sighed and ruffled his hair, then grabbed Nelia by the wrist.
Those silver eyes looked somewhat nervous when facing her.
“…….Nelia, is there anything you want to say to me?”
Nelia nibbled on her lip.
She had a lot of things to say, but she couldn’t say anything because she didn’t have any courage.
However, she was worried about the duke’s gaze that seemed anxious from a moment ago.
The duke might not know what she was thinking now, so why did he show such a sentiment?
“Nelia……. If you have something to say, you can tell me.”
Nelia’s eyes gleamed in melancholy at his desperate attitude.
‘If you ask me what you’re thinking about when doing the background check on Charlotte, what would you say, Your Grace?’
It seemed that she knew the reason without having to ask him.
“It should be you, Your Grace……. Don’t you have anything to say to me?”
This time, the duke’s eyes were trembling slightly. But he dropped his gaze shortly after as if avoiding her eyes.
“……. No, I don’t.”
The duke’s words brought relief upon Nelia.
He had no intention of telling her about why he ran a background check on Charlotte.
Although she felt as if there was a lump in her throat, Nelia still managed to answer as if nothing happened.
“Yes……. I understand.”
Being alone didn’t do her any good.
Only bad thoughts keep creeping into her head.
She should have just asked the duke earnestly when he asked earlier. Does he care about Charlotte?
Nelia regretted it quickly.
However, time passed quickly and a rumbling sound came from her stomach.
The maid left a meal for her during the day, but she didn’t eat it since she had no appetite.
But as time passed by, the hungry stomach announced her of its starving state as if disobeying her.
Nelia eventually got up from her seat and went out of the room.
She was worried that Duke Hart might be in the hallway again, but there wasn’t any sight of him around.
‘Should I go downstairs…….’
Nelia carefully walked through the corridor and climbed down the stairs.
When she reached the first floor, there was a delicious smell lingering in the air. The servants seemed to be preparing dinner.
Indeed, the servants of this house and Duke Hart must have dinner.
Nelia looked for the duke again.
‘What if we meet…….’
It would be very embarrassing to run into him. But she thought she would be starving if I just went back upstairs, and she would meet the duke if she stayed here.
Not eating lunch brought by the maid during the day was her biggest mistake.
As she was wandering around the dining room while agonizing, a voice came from behind her.
Turning her head, she spotted Duke Hart standing there.
They reunited after a few hours.
Although this mansion was large, it was a natural occurrence to encounter each other because they literally lived under one roof.
She was just a little embarrassed.
No, actually…….. A lot.
“I was worried because you skipped lunch, do you think you can digest dinner?”
There was no intention to make fun of her from the duke’s slightly widened eyes.
However, Nelia’s face heated up because she felt guilty.
“Yes……. I think I can digest it.”
Nelia answered as she was barely able to control her reddened face, meanwhile the duke took her hands and led her.
“Come on, Nelia. You must be hungry.”
Nelia followed the duke as if she didn’t actually want to.
When she entered the dining room, she could smell the savory soup.
“I thought Nelia would have dinner, so I asked them to prepare something mild. It won’t hurt your stomach as you didn’t eat for the whole day.”
Nelia was touched again at the duke’s attentive remark. Nelia had a lump in her throat as she nodded slowly instead of answering.
The meal session went by quietly.
The duke didn’t say anything during the meal which wasn’t like his usual self. It seemed that he didn’t speak on purpose.
She could only feel the way he occasionally looked at her.
Due to that, Nelia was able to finish her meal without difficulty.
The duke, who was sipping on his tea, checked that Nelia had finished eating before talking to her.
Nelia looked at the duke while groveling heavily as she wondered if she should get up first.
“I actually……. Have something to talk about with Nelia.”
She felt as if the meal she had digested was about to come out again at the duke’s serious demeanor.
“I’ve been trying to talk about this with you…….”
Nelia unknowingly gripped the handle of the teacup in her hand.
She had a hunch that the duke would reveal the fact that he had run a background check behind Charlotte.
Perhaps, he would also tell her about his feelings for Charlotte……..
Otherwise, there was no reason for him to speak so seriously.
If the duke confessed to the truth, how is she going to react?
She thought she was going to cry right at this moment, but when she thought about doing that, it was too unsightly.
What kind of relationship do they have?
But she didn’t have any confidence to give an indifferent response.
If he said, ‘Actually, I have feelings for Charlotte.’ with such a warm face…….
“Nelia, please don’t get involved in breaking my curse from now on.”
Nelia, whose thought was heading to Andromeda, raised her head at the duke’s words, it was completely different from what she had expected.
She thought he would confess his feelings for Charlotte, but he suddenly asked her not to be involved in breaking his curse anymore.
“What do you mean?”
The duke gave her a weak smile.
“I’ve been thinking about this lately. Perhaps, I shouldn’t have put the burden on Nelia, too. The curse is my problem…….”
“I told you I’m perfectly fine.”
“No. Because of that, Nelia can’t even take a proper rest even on holidays.”
It’s true that she couldn’t get rest on holiday, but it’s not like she hated it.
It was fun to hop around from place to place to look for information with the duke, such as the library, the shabby bookstore.
“I will look for the way by myself from now on. You’ve worked hard all this time, Nelia.”
Nelia hurriedly spoke up at his drastic conclusion.
“You can’t even go out without me…….! If you grow apart from me, you will turn into a snake………”
The duke shook his head.
“I will be alright if I take more than three pills.”
“It’s going to put pressure on your body, Your Grace!”
“I will do it if I have to.”
Nelia frowned at the duke’s determined remark.
“Why do you have to go this far……..”
The duke smiled bitterly.
“I’ve been so content and happy to be with Nelia all this time that I failed to take good care of you.”
Nelia still thought it was difficult to comprehend what the duke was implying.
“It’s not that lifting the curse is not important……..”
But the duke already seemed to think that Nelia was tired of looking for a way to lift the curse.
The duke stared at Nelia.
“Nelia, I don’t really care if I can’t lift the curse for the rest of my life. I only desire one thing.”
The voice that came out of his mouth was infinitely desperate.
“That Nelia doesn’t leave me.”
Nelia blinked absentmindedly.
The duke continued while still putting on an anxious look on his face.
Nelia cut him off to sort out the situation.
The duke seemed to have been worrying about the wrong things.
That she might have grown tired of the duke and got enough of him after being involved in his curse……..
How did he come up with such a ridiculous misunderstanding?
She wondered about the reason, but first of all, resolving this misunderstanding was the first thing she had to do.
Nelia managed to collect herself and talked.
“Your Grace. To say the truth, I don’t want to give up on the matter of lifting your curse. I don’t hate it either.”
The duke’s eyes widened slightly.
Then why? She wanted to ask him that.
Nelia furrowed her eyebrows.
“Why did Your Grace suddenly have that thought?”
“Recently, there have been times when Nelia’s face darkened. You seemed somewhat tired by the look on your face…….. And looked like you were having a hard time…….”
Nelia recalled back on herself.
Thinking back on these days, she supposed so.
But it wasn’t because of Duke Hart, it was due to other things.
Such as, about how to get in touch with Zenuit again, what the holy dew might be.
Of course, Charlotte was the biggest influence among many worries she had in mind.
She was feeling down because she thought the duke might have fallen for Charlotte.
But the problem was that she didn’t have any concern which she could reveal to the duke at this moment.
The existence of Zenuit and the holy dew, the confusing feeling toward Charlotte, everything.
After contemplating, Nelia spat it out.
“……It’s not like that.”
“Nelia is a warm-hearted person, so I know you won’t tell me that it’s hard for you.”
A wry smile hung over the duke’s mouth.
Nelia was growing frustrated at the sight.
‘I said it’s not!’
But Nelia patiently opened her mouth again in a calm demeanor.
“I used to feel tired or sick for no reason. And that was the case yesterday.”
She couldn’t say it was because she was in a bad mood because of Charlotte, and she made up that lie in a haste.
She wasn’t actually sick…….. But she locked herself in the room since she felt upset.
However, it seemed that she couldn’t persuade the duke with this kind of excuse. The grim expression still lingered on the duke’s face.
“Nelia, I’m really fine with…….”
“It’s not like that……..!”
In the end, Nelia was unable to contain her erupting heart and eventually cut off the duke’s words.
The duke’s gaze turned to Nelia.
“The reason I behaved strangely…….”
Nelia continued while shutting her eyes tightly.
“Was because of Charlotte.”
Nelia confessed her feelings out of desperation.
“I thought……. Your Grace might have feelings for Charlotte.”